So Mr Kemp put up a – and I’d like you to picture me air-quoting here – “game shame list”, in which he laments about all the games he never got for free (I kid, I kid).
But let’s be frank, dear reader: it can hardly be called shameful. After all, we all have games we never got around to playing. I think it’s far more interesting (and manly, I’d like to stress right now. And gutsy. And ultra-cool.) to delve into the shameful games you DID play. Don’t look so bemused. You know the ones I’m talking about; lurking in bargain bins at your local Pick ‘n Pay and within obscure Flash game portals. Bundle bait.
They don’t get major coverage and you wouldn’t be caught bringing them home; you’d stick them deep into a brown paper bag and tell any acquaintances you encounter that it’s just hardcore pornography, really. You set your Steam friends list status to offline to play them and… well, you get the drift.
I’d ask what your games are, but I’m not expecting any responses. So I’ll go first, shall I? Committing social suicide in three, two, one…
Ever wanted a game in which you play a spunky teenage girl advancing through the cheerleading ranks, waving your pom-poms to pumping remixes of Eye of the Tiger? Totes, me neither! [Did he really just write out the pseudo-word "totes"? Wow. – Ed.] Seriously, it’s a bit of a mystery how I came to think this might be good idea. But I bought it and I love it. It’s also a Wii title, which obviously makes the confession equally scandalous.
We Cheer has you waggling dual Wii remotes around, matching the choreographic gesticulations of your super deformed character and your pro cheerleading team to hardcore hits like Calabria 2008 and Footloose. Its sucrose presentation is a warning label for diabetics, but its also unforgiving in its scoring expectations. It’s not a game for little girls, but men. Rugged men. Frontier men exploring the fringes of video game taste. Men like myself, and this guy:
I regret nothing. It’s fun, and I’ll be damned if I hear anything else. It’s certainly better than Just Dance. It joins my other favourite music rhythm series, Project Diva, in which I mash buttons to the caterwauling of a virtual green-haired idol with a penchant for leeks. My only disappointment is that We Cheer 2 never made it to Europe.
I regret everything.
Shame level: Track 7 – C’mon N’ Ride It/10
Princess Maker 2
I’m ridiculous when it comes to the virtual wellbeing of my video game characters. For example, whenever I get one of those RTS missions where I need to use a small, limited regiment of units to complete it, I start feeling anxious and genuinely bad for the ones that don’t make it.
I suspect this is due to the lingering guilt from my younger years when I murdered my sister’s Tamagotchi by overfeeding it (remember Tamagotchis? They’re like Pokémon, except when you throw down the ball within which they reside, they die for reals) when she explicitly asked me to care for it while she was away on some camp or whatever who cares it’s just a stupid toy please don’t cry I’m really sorry.
Anyway, foreshadowing adequately covered, I stumbled across life simulator Princess Maker 2, in which you – a wandering swordsman who defeated the demon hordes threatening the kingdomzzzzzzzz – are either a) visited by a divine goddess who delivers unto you a young girl from the heavens to raise in her stead or b) suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder from your supposed encounters with hell’s legions and abduct a street urchin while hallucinating.
Given the above you may be feeling some trepidation. Surprisingly, however, the gameplay works perfectly to support the game’s titular activity, and I became quite enamoured with it: Princess Maker 2 had a gameplay loop which was immensely satisfying, in that there was a limited time to raise your daughter combined with immediate feedback on every single decision you made, which lends weight to the whole affair.
She ended up a farmer, by the way. Most Princess Makers’ (as we refer to ourselves in the Inner Circle) daughters ended up as farmers; turns out one of the easiest ways to make money was to pull them out of school and have them work the fields. Prospective fathers, take note.
I’ve got nothing; my Defense stat is still pretty low. I’ll add it to my training schedule…
Shame: 99 / Happiness: 60 / Guilt: 79 / Agriculture: 9,000
While others are content to immerse themselves in fantastical and grand online RPGs, shaping the very destiny of Oddly Apostrophised Multisyllable World, you’ll instead find me wielding my 1-wood… driving golf balls onto flying battleships and attempting to cheer up complete strangers with gentle encouragement when they fail to do the same.
I’m talking, of course, about the free-to-play fantasy golf game, PangYa. PangYa is the opposite of hardcore – dress up your golfer, employ cute mascot caddies, play against other players in a non-confrontational turn-by-turn mode or solo via tournaments, and be genuinely perturbed when you miss a putt and no one makes aspersions regarding your sexual preferences or threatens to rape your face.
It was pleasantly dull in 2006 when I started playing it and it remains pleasantly dull now. Like a fungus, though, it spreads insidiously: in spite of it being free to play on PC, I somehow have versions of it on two other platforms.
Come now, chaps. Let’s not argue over this one. Maybe after the 18th hole, what?
Shame handicap: -10. To life.
Non-free mobile games
Yes, I’ve bought mobile games. With actual money. Like, not in-game purchases within free games or whatnot. Honest-to-goodness mobile games that had a price tag attached.
I know, right?
I am financially irresponsible and a dirty casual.
Shame: Infinite + 1. Tired of waiting for your Shame to dwindle? Buy Validation now to reduce your Shame for just $0.99, or click on this ad.
So look, I think we can all agree that many Japanese visual novels can be pretty shameless, with devious sexual content and creepy undertones. Even worse, they’re Japanese, and as Phil “Fez” Fish (rest in peace his tortured, artistic soul) indicated once upon a time, all Japanese games suck.
So of course it would take a Western developer to improve upon the formula. Give it a leg up, so to speak.
Enter Katawa Shoujo by Four Leaf Studios, a visual novel in which you attempt to date and woo disabled girls who are quite expressly OVER 18 IT SAYS SO RIGHT IN THE GAME DISCLAIMER SO IT MUST BE TRUE. I’m not one to disparage players of dating games – I’m a fan myself, and different strokes for different folks, really. I’m also no prude when it comes to sexual content in games, having played enough JRPGS, Leisure Suit Larrys and deviant Flash titles in my day. But even I felt a little uncomfortable booting up Katawa Shoujo.
As it turns out, it’s a prosaic, down-to-earth portrayal of a guy with a heart condition and girls with disabilities who aren’t defined by them. It’s treated with a subtleness that may surprise you – it certainly surprised a number of game journalists who were willing to give it a go.
While there are some sexual scenes (so the game is 18+, kids. You know, like GTA V.), they’re awkward and completely disposable – players have the option of skipping them entirely when they start the game.
That a game like this could exist at all, given its subject matter, is amazing to me. That it deals with said premise in a completely mature way is laudable. It’s not exactly the best game in the world, but I’m okay with it existing.
What’s your real game shame? Casual block-matching games? Find the hidden object adventures? Facebook titles? BioShock Infinite? Let me know, or just pass judgement in the comments below.
PS. Don’t share this on any social media sites, kthx.
PPS. Seriously, don’t do it.