What I’m Playing Wednesday – Gray Matter

Gray Matter – Estimated Length 11-15 hours.

Since finishing Danganronpa 2 (and the prequel/sequel anime), I’ve been kind of floundering around, trying to find something else to fill that niche. I soared through both Danganronpa games in a matter of days because I had to know what happened next. A mystery-focused point-and-click adventure seemed like a good choice to keep that story-focused delight going.

Enter Gray Matter, a point-and-click adventure game, written by Jane Jensen (who also wrote the Gabriel Knight series in the early 90s).

Now, it’s been a long time since I’ve played an old school style adventure game, and I had forgotten just how frustrating adventure game logic can be. I didn’t even make it through the first chapter before I was hunting for a walkthrough (which is now just hanging out on my second monitor, waiting for me to desperately need it again).

Over the past few days, I’ve put in about 2.5 hours, some of which was trying to get the persnickety thing to run smoothly and not like a scratched up DVD. After an uninstall – reinstall – reboot loop, I was able to actually watch the opening cutscene, and kind of revel in how glorious the artwork is.

A still of Samantha Everett from the introductory cut scene.

Music and sound, at least so far, is pretty fantastic. Voice acting ranges from decent to really really good. The puzzles themselves are satisfyingly challenging but not obtuse, at least as far as I’ve played, although at least a couple felt entirely too simple. Since your player character is a street magician, I thought the addition of the “magic trick” interface was brilliant, although it initially felt needlessly fiddly, once it clicked for me, I realized it was quite well put together.

I even like the dual story aspect, at least so far. Seeing how (or even if) the stories come together as I progress through the game may or may not change my mind on that one.

Gray Matter also has an interesting progress meter, which would be more useful if it gave you any real way to know what activities encompassed each section title. Since I’m not the type to admonish myself for using a walkthrough, I don’t see myself struggling too much to complete this game.

Gray Matter’s Progress Meter for Chapter 2.

Other than a few niggling grumps (like long cut scenes that aren’t pauseable and are key to understanding the story), so far, I’m content with my choice. It’s certainly not the most difficult point-and-click adventure game out there, and it’s holding my interest.

The Difficulties of Being a Generalist

I’ve always been mildly envious of people who know exactly what they want. Who love a thing so unabashedly and completely that they rarely get distracted. Those people tend to excel in whatever their chosen discipline is – or for our purposes, their chosen hobby.

I am a generalist. I have been a generalist for as long as I can remember. There are so many things I love and adore, I would need ten lifetimes to get even reasonably competent in all of them, and at least half a dozen to even experience all the things I would like to experience.

Yep, that’s a nerd girl problem for sure.

My house is cluttered with supplies for a multitude of arts & crafts projects. The list of movies and TV shows I want to watch is so long and overwhelming, I frequently find myself tossing something on the television that I’ve seen a million times over because it’s easier than choosing from all of the worthy (and perhaps the not-so-worthy) options I haven’t seen. The only reason my TBR pile isn’t scattered over every flat surface is that I went primarily digital years ago.

And then, there’s the video game library.

While that’s not a completely accurate number, it’s close enough for our purposes.

When I started my game-a-day blog back in 2016, I though my library (which was certainly less than 500 games) was unmanageable. And it probably was. Just over three years later, it has become such a mighty and unwieldy thing, I find I do even LESS gaming than I did before. It’s become my “What to Watch” conundrum all over again.

It would be easy to blame deep discounts, and the proliferation of bundle options, but let’s be real. It’s a problem that comes from being a generalist*. I want to play ALL THE GAMES, but honestly, who has time for that?

So I keep building up my digital library at a faster pace than I could possibly work through it, and then, when I have time to play, I frequently find myself suffering from paralysis of choice, unable to commit the precious commodity of leisure time to any one suitor.

I’ve joked for years that my Steam library isn’t a backlog. It’s a retirement plan. It’s a security blanket for the time when time is abundant.

Yet I also understand that there’s a deep flaw in that reasoning – new games will keep being made, put on sale, tossed into the Humble Monthly, and I will keep acquiring faster than I can enjoy. It’s a hoarding behavior I haven’t been able to overcome, and one that’s been enabled by the digital marketplace (because can you imagine having that many physical games – where would you put them???).

In the past year, I’ve tried to remind myself that some games are not for me. I have stopped adding things to my library that are praised for being “fiendishly difficult” – I know my reaction times are not what they were 20 years ago, and they weren’t great then. All the critical acclaim in the world isn’t going to make that any less true, and I’m not here for frustration.

What I want from games is an experience. Challenge my mind. Tell me a story. Show me something beautiful. Make me think. Make me smile. Hell, make me cry like a baby.

I’m ready to play now.

*Ok, time to say what you’re all thinking. The real problem is a lack of self control when it comes to things that are cheap or free. I’m a damn Yankee, and I’m not going to apologize for that. I’m 41 years old – I’ve learned to love that part of myself.

Not My First Rodeo – An Introduction of Sorts

Part of me can’t believing I’m jumping into the blog-life again, and part of me wonders why it took so long (and an event like Blaugust) to come back to it.

Let’s ignore for a moment my time on Diaryland, my time on LiveJournal, and a couple brief flirtations with Blogger. Let’s just take a quick trip back through my WordPress blogs.

First there was “So Much WoW, So Little Time” – which was, as you might expect, entirely focused on World of Warcraft. I started the blog in February of 2010, and updated it more or less regularly through the middle of 2011. Not the longest blog-run ever, I’ll admit, but it was certainly an interesting time. I did my share of cute little screenshot posts with just a few words here and there, but I also did some pretty detailed tutorials, and more than a couple really emotional posts about the people and guild stuff and many thoughts I had about the more human side of Warcraft.

I didn’t really get the blogging bug again until late 2015, and hoo boy, I had a doozy of an idea. Thus was born “366 Days of Gaming“, an absurdly ambitious project where I decided to play a different game every day and blog my experiences. Occasionally, that blog made me miserable, but at the end? It was such a feeling of accomplishment. I’m glad I did it, but oh lordy, I would never ever do it again.

But the problem with a blog project with a hard end date is that, maybe, you hit that end date, but you still want to do more. Thus “The Completion Chronicles” was born. Unfortunately, it only lasted about 3 months before I resubbed to WoW and stopped finishing anything else (or playing anything else really).

So, since all of my previous blogs have had a very clear focus, you might be wondering why I decided to just go with Nerd Girl Thoughts this time. Me too, if we’re being honest. Mostly, I’m hoping that a broader focus will give this blog some longevity past whatever happens to be the thing of the moment*. I actually enjoy more broadly focused blogs when I’m looking for something to read, so I’m not sure why I always need to have laser focus when I’m coming up with something to write.

So yeah. Here’s to Blaugust and beyond.

*For anyone wondering, the thing of the moment right now is Elder Scrolls Online.