Well-equipped for the zombie apocalypse

Physics students from the University of Leicester worked out that it would take only 100 days for zombies to take over planet Earth. With a hypothesis that a member of the undead army has a 90% chance of turning a human and they’d each find at least one person to munch on a day, they predicted how long the population could hold out using an epidemiological model that describes the spread of a disease throughout a population.

A mere 300 humans would remain alive and uninfected at the end of the 100-day period and I wouldn’t mind betting that the majority of these would be gamers. I mean, we’ve had plenty of experience dealing with the apocalypse in video games so what better training? The lovely The Dragon’s Tea Party kindly nominated Later Levels for the Sunshine Blogger award at the end of April, and asked her nominees to share the video game character and three items we’d take into the zombie apocalypse.

Character: Guybrush Threepwood

The Secret of Monkey Island, video game, Guybrush Threepwood, pirate, man, surprised

I know what’s going through your head: “Kim’s a big fan of Monkey Island, so this answer is really predictable.” But think about it: Guybrush is the original zombie slayer! He took on the fearsome LeChuck with nothing more than a bottle of root beer and still came out on top. Some may say his victory was nothing more than an extremely fortuitous accident; but I’d feel much better during an apocalypse with someone with experience of the undead around. Plus there’s the advantage of yelling ‘look behind you, a three-headed monkey!’ whenever you need to quickly escape from a tricky situation.

Item 1: laptop

No self-respecting blogger would be caught in an apocalypse without their laptop. How else are you going to inform the rest of the blogosphere about what’s going on in your corner of the chaos – as well as continue to manage your social media and rack up those views on YouTube? Of course, there’s the small issue of keeping the battery powered after the electricity is cut off. But until then, at least you’d get to binge-watch zombie movies on Netflix in order to pick up additional survival tips.

Item 2: medkit

As Kevin from The Mental Attic rightly pointed out to me last week, every zombie video game features a medkit as one of its items. I’m therefore pretty certain I’d need one in times of an apocalypse although I’m not entirely sure why: I’ve not yet had to face an undead hoard in my life (although some of my work colleagues could possibly be considered as such), but I’m under the impression that even a minor bite would be fatal and not having a medkit would be the least of your worries. Video game logic can’t be wrong though, surely?

Item 3: Ethan

Ethan, sword, fight, scowl

Playing Dad Quest during the Gamely Giving marathon stream last month taught me one very important lesson: your child can be a lethal weapon. Surely this applies to stepchildren too so I’m taking mine into the apocalypse with me. Some may say it’s cruel to drag a nine-year old into such a dire situation but not so; Sundae Month’s title shows is that a child is an indestructible force of nature and able to destroy an object within seconds, particularly when you give them level-up attacks such as ‘shank’. The zombies wouldn’t even stand a chance.

In the original study mentioned at the start of this post, only a small number of the population were left alive over the duration of the zombie apocalypse. But a more hopeful follow-up study revealed that we could prolong the survival of the species by killing off the undead and having babies: we’d become less likely infected over time as we grew used to the risks and more able to deal with them. You’ll be pleased to know the students worked out that, under these conditions, it was feasible for the zombie virus to die out and for humans to survive.

Guybrush Threepwood and the items above might just give us an advantage. Which character and objects would you choose?

Rocket League: winning and losing

Back in March I wrote a post about competitive gaming after an article entitled entitled Fun vs. Competition: Can you enjoy gaming if you suck? was published by Lyte Bytes. The author stated he felt as though there was a limit to how much enjoyment could be had with a video game due to the presence of competition in certain genres.

I had to agree: I concluded that you can have fun even if you’re not the best player, but in a competitive environment your teammates may make it extremely difficult.

That’s one of the reasons why I was hesitant when my stepson Ethan asked if we’d take him shopping so he could buy Rocket League with his pocket-money. I didn’t want our nine-year old to have to deal with any of the abuse that seems commonplace in competitive gaming, regardless of the fact my other-half and I would be supervising. But as he wanted to play online with his school friends, and Psyonix’s release generally seemed like quite a ‘friendly’ game, I pushed my fears aside and we went to visit a local toy-shop one Saturday afternoon.

Once we’d got home, Pete and Ethan spent the rest of the day racing around the pitch, scoring goals when they could and decorating their car with mohawks. There was something about Rocket League that captured their attention and they stayed enraptured in front of the screen all afternoon. We didn’t come into contact with any of my stepson’s friends but didn’t experience any negativity either; perhaps I was wrong about the whole competitive gaming malarkey?

After Ethan had grown tired and we’d seen him up to bed, Pete literally ran back to the sofa and immediately picked up the controller. A few ranked 3v3 matches later and we realised something: as soon as the opposing team scored a goal or two, the rest of his teammates sent requests to forfeit or dropped out completely. There was barely a single game where this didn’t happen and we soon began to expect it – the only difference between the matches was just how quickly it would occur.

I’m not a competitive gamer myself: I don’t get much enjoyment from competition (although I do like a local multiplayer every once in a while) and Rocket League really isn’t my thing. Titles such as League of Legends and Overwatch have never held much appeal and I’d rather go for something with a strong narrative. Maybe that explains why I couldn’t understand the mentality behind these actions; why put forward a forfeit request when there was still several minutes of the game to go and every opportunity to turn it around?

It seemed pointless for a player to get involved in a competitive, team-based title when they appeared to want nothing of the sort. The word ‘competition’ implies that sometimes you’ll win and sometimes you’ll lose, and participating in it fully means accepting both sides of the coin gracefully when they happen. I can’t help but feel that choosing to drop out while your team are still fighting shows a certain amount of disrespect for them; it’s as if you’re saying they aren’t good enough to play on your side or worthy of your time.

Rocket League, video game, car, truck, football, soccer, pitch, goal, jump

Due to my lack of knowledge about Rocket League and competitive gaming in general, I asked a couple of friends to help me understand this situation. They explained that some players would rather take a loss than a blow to their stats so they can appear more appealing to professional teams. But there’s something I don’t get about that either: why play for the sole purpose of reaching a certain rank? You’ll get the rank you deserve by playing well rather than by artificially maintaining it and, if you learn from your mistakes when you lose, you can only keep getting better and better.

Maybe I’ll never understand the way competitive gaming works and so these are the words of an outsider. But it seems to me that losing in a game is ultimately no big deal because there’ll always be another match. If you find yourself down a couple of goals just smile, take a wild shot in case it breaks through, and give the other team a high-five if they play well.

The Bunker in real life

As part of the Charming and Open event, I asked writer Ian to tell us about the place from a video game he’d most like to visit. There are so many great settings in games that our itinerary is likely to become pretty full, and it would be a good idea to sort out your travel insurance.

I recently had the opportunity to visit a location that stars in a video game and it was a pretty surreal experience. Full motion video (FMV) adventure-horror The Bunker was developed by Splendy Games and Wales Interactive, and published by Green Man Gaming last year. John is the last remaining survivor in a nuclear bunker and it’s only his daily routine that keeps him sane; but when an alarm goes off, his mind starts to self-destruct. It’s up to the player to guide him through long-forgotten areas in order to unlock his repressed memories and uncover the secrets of this dark place he calls home.

The Bunker was filmed entirely at the Kelvedon Hatch Secret Nuclear Bunker in Essex over a period of 15 days. This place was built in 1952-1953 and maintained during the cold war as a potential regional government headquarters. In the event of a nuclear strike, the hundreds of military and civilian personnel housed there would be tasked to organise the survival of the population and continue government operations. It has been open to the public since being decommissioned in 1992 and the ‘Secret Nuclear Bunker’ signs dotted around the area now make its location a bit of a giveaway.

Kelvedon Hatch isn’t too far away from me and my stepson has a huge interest in anything historic or related to war (he’s at that age) so we took a trip there and I played The Bunker the following evening. It was such a weird experience, seeing somewhere we’d stood only yesterday appear on-screen – particularly when parts of the plot feature a hooded villain with an axe! The layout shown in the game itself isn’t strictly true and we weren’t allowed access to some areas, but we visited many of the rooms shown in the game. The atmosphere in real life is just as heavy as the feeling you get when playing The Bunker: dark, and full of memories and ghosts.

I purchased a permit to take the photographs below and you can compare them with my playthrough video above. As for the game itself, it’s one I’d recommend if you’re into atmospheric adventures or FMV; but I’d suggest either waiting for a sale due to its short completion time and lack of challenge, or until you’re able to visit Kelvedon Hatch yourself to get the most out of it. Well done to the developers though for making one of the most engrossing live-action video games I’ve played.

If only visiting all game locations was that easy. Right now I could do with heading to the beaches of Banoi… well, before the zombie outbreak anyway.

Kelvedon Hatch Secret Nuclear Bunker photo gallery

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Versatile Blogger Award: getting to know you

At the beginning of April, Recreational Hobbyist nominated Later Levels for the Versatile Blogger Award. Head over to the site to find posts on a different hobby each month – and make sure you check out this one about the trials of being a gamer mom.

I was caught up in the arrangements for the GameBlast17 marathon stream with the Gamely Giving team last month, and I’m now finally getting the time to catch up. There are several outstanding posts I need to finish (apologies to the Recreational Hobbyist for taking so long to publish this); and even more on your amazing blogs that I need to find the time to read!

There’s a part of the Versatile Blogger Award I really like: the rules state that nominees have to share a number of facts about themselves and this is a great way for getting to know one another better. But there’s also a side I don’t like: one of the requirements is that you have to nominate ten other bloggers in return. How can I possibly nominate that few when I currently have over 130 in my WordPress reader that I thoroughly enjoy?

That’s why I’d like to do this post a little differently, if I may: I’d like to ask everyone reading this to add their mark by leaving their answers to the following questions in the comments below. Hopefully this will act as a channel that enables bloggers to find others with similar interests, and increase the number they follow in their reader!

  • Location
  • Currently playing
  • Best gaming memory
  • Worst gaming habit
  • Favourite soundtrack from a video game
  • Dream cosplay
  • Preferred ice-cream flavour
  • A link to the most-liked post on your site

  • It isn’t right to ask something I wouldn’t feel comfortable answering myself, so it would only be fair of me to share my answers too. Here goes:

  • Essex in the south-east of the UK
  • Horizon Zero Dawn and Jalopy
  • Meeting Ragnar Tørnquist and Martin Bruusgaard
  • Saving… then saving again, just in case
  • Everything’s Alright from To The Moon
  • Cheetara from the original ThunderCats
  • Mint choc-chip or anything with white-chocolate
  • So many games, so little time

  • A big thank you to the Recreational Hobbyist for our nomination, and to all of you gorgeous people for your support. I look forward to seeing your answers below!

    The real secret of Monkey Island

    At the end of last month, the lovely Ian over at Adventure Rules ran the first Charming and Open event. For an entire week he invited readers to ask him questions in connection with video games, tabletop games and blogging but there was one catch.

    In return, he could ask them a question of his choosing and both parties had to answer honestly! It was such a great idea and a number of us jumped on board. Mossaica asked how him felt games should handle falling off ledges while Luke from Hundstrasse asked him to reveal his gaming guilty pleasure; head over to the Adventure Rules website to check out more of the great posts published as a result of the event.

    The quandary I put to Ian was: if you could visit any would within in video game, where would you go? He chose to take a vacation to the city of Rogueport and surrounding areas from Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door. Who wouldn’t want to play some games at Don Pianta’s Pianta Parlor in Rogueport Proper, catch a fight at the Glitz Pit in Glitzville and watch the waves at the Keelhaul Key beach? Of course, you’d have to deal with occasional malevolent spirit and a bunch of undead pirates, but a stay at Poshley Heights would more than make up for it.

    The question I was asked in return was this: what is The Secret of Monkey Island, and what are your memories with it? It’s a lovely one to answer. This post (and all the nostalgia contained within it) is dedicated to Adventure Rules.

    What is The Secret of Monkey Island?

    Let’s start at the beginning: the original The Secret of Monkey Island was a point-and-click adventure developed and published in 1990 by LucasArts. It takes place in the Caribbean and is set in the age of piracy, centering around a naive young man who dreams of becoming a pirate. Guybrush Threepwood’s ‘razor-sharp wit’ gets him out of some risky situations and his unique ability of being able to hold his breath for 10 minutes saves him from watery death.

    The first game in the series begins when Guybrush arrives on Mêlée Island and is told he needs to seek out the pirate leaders at the Scumm Bar. They give him three trials to complete – Sword-Fighting, Thievery and Treasure Huntery – but when returns to claim his rightful place as a bucaneer, he discovers that everyone has vanished. The evil ghost pirate Le-Chuck has raided the island and kidnapped the beautiful governor Elaine Marley while he was busy! It’s left up to our hero to save the day so he heads to the fabled Monkey Island to track down his nemesis’ secret hideout.

    The Secret of Monkey Island spawned four sequels, three of which were the work of LucasArts and the latest which was released in 2009 by Telltale. There’s one character who pops up throughout the series who’s worth a mention in his own right. Murray the skull may have had his skeletal-body blown to pieces by a cannon but instead of letting this tragic accident hold him back, he turned it into the opportunity he’d been waiting for: to become a demonic overlord and conquer the land of the living. We could all learn a few valuable life lessons from Murray.

    What are my memories of it?

    When I was a kid, my dad wanted my younger brother to get into coding and bought a Commodore 64 to encourage him. He really wasn’t drawn however; it was beating up the baddies in Double Dragon and rescuing Tina in Wonder Boy that caught his attention more than lines of code. For me though, there was something fascinating about all those words and numbers that seemed like jibberish but could do magical things, and eventually the Commodore fell into my hands.

    My dad then decided he wanted to upgrade to an Amiga 500 when I was nine-years old and the only way to get mum’s seal of approval was to say that the purchase was for me, to further my interest in computers. That saw me excitedly unwrapping it on Christmas day and us spending most of the morning hooking the new machine up to the television. Being asked what I wanted to try out first was obviously a big decision for a little kid so I carefully looked through all of floppy discs before making my selection: it was a box with a a mysterious skull in the centre, surrounded by a ghostly ship, fierce-looking pirates and a young swashbuckling hero that caught my eye.

    We’d never heard of The Secret of Monkey Island before but after slipping the floppy into the Amiga, my young life changed. My nine-year-old mind was entirely blown after realising that worlds I thought only existed inside of books could be brought to life through a video game. My dad and I spent the rest of the day going up against dangerous-looking yaks in the governor’s mansion and insulting pirates by telling them they fought like cows; we even managed to rope my granddad into playing with us when we came up against the grog-mug puzzle.

    Bonus question: what’s the real secret of Monkey Island?

    That day begun a lifelong love of gaming and a childhood crush on Guybrush Threepwood. I’d played other games previously on the Commodore 64 and NES but it was The Secret of Monkey Island that I first played for myself – I mean, all the way through to the end and without a lot of help – and the adventure that made me a fan of video games. At one point as a kid I even wanted to work for LucasArts and get into animation; that was until I realised that I have no artistic talent whatsoever, but the dream was alive for a few years.

    Even to this day my go-to genre is adventure. Every now and again I’ll try out something different with a little more action and lately, the charms of the robotic monsters in Horizon Zero Dawn have caused me to spend almost 50 hours in Aloy’s gorgeous-looking world so far. But it’s the point-and-clicks I always return to and hold a special place in my heart. The Gaming Teacher recently asked whether the games we played as children define what you play today and I think that’s definitely true in my case.

    The Secret of Monkey Island, video game, Guybrush Threepwood, pirate, man, surprised

    During last year’s GameBlast event with the Gamely Giving team I actually played The Secret of Monkey Island and my stepson Ethan joined me half-way through. I’d never shown it to him before, thinking he wouldn’t be interested due to the lack of weapons and explosions, but surprisingly he was captivated – and ended up taking over my part of the stream.

    I think that’s the real secret of Monkey Island: it can show a nine-year old girl that magical worlds exist and enable a dad to spend time with his daughter. It can convince a granddad to get involved with something he wouldn’t usually be interested in and play a game. It can explain to a ten-year old stepson that video games don’t have to be all about guns and violence, and can contain an element of humour. And it proves that all you really need to defeat an evil zombie pirate is a bottle of root beer.

    Question of the Month: May 2017 edition

    It’s that time again: the question of the month is back and will see us attempt to answer a quandary that has been puzzling the gaming community since it first turned on the NES. We’re going up against our friends and blogging neighbours in order to find the ultimate response in less than 100 words – and we’re asking you to choose the winner by voting in our poll.

    But first, let’s take a look at last month’s question and find out who won…

    Last month’s results: what’s the best Easter-egg within a video game?

    We received 18 votes in our poll – slightly less than in previous months but still great nonetheless – and received a range of additional answers from the community. Here’s the breakdown:

    Poll answers:

  • 3 votes: ‘Romero’s Head’ in Doom II: Hell on Earth, submitted by Kevin from The Mental Attic
  • 3 votes: ‘There are no Easter Eggs up here’ in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, submitted by Tim from GeekOut South-West
  • 3 votes: ‘Ask me about Loom’ in The Secret of Monkey Island, submitted by Kim from Later Levels
  • 2 votes: ‘The End’ in Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, submitted by Chris from OverThinker Y
  • 1 vote: ‘Makemeapirate’ in Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine, submitted by NekoJonez from NekoJonez’s Gaming Blog
  • 1 vote: ‘Dog ending’ in Silent Hill 2, submitted by Luke from Hundstrasse
  • 0 votes: ‘React Gwen’s Head’ in Borderlands 2, submitted by Nathan

  • Additional answers:

  • ‘The Easter Egg Cheat’ from Indy3D
  • ‘Dark Souls Sword’ in Overwatch
  • ‘Mario pictures in Zelda’s Castle’ in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, submitted by Geddy from nostalgia trigger
  • ‘Star Wars Kid’ in Tony Hawk’s Underground 2, submitted by Kiara Everglot
  • ‘Nightmare levels’ in Wolfenstein: The New Order, submitted by Rob from I Played The Game!

  • So it was a tie last month! A big thank you to everyone who voted, and now let’s see some competition going for the next question…

    May’s question: what video game would you recommend to a non-gamer?

    One of the best things about video games is that there’s an experience out there for everyone: from explosive releases for those who want action, to narrative adventures for individuals who prefer a good story. But what title would you suggest for somebody who has never picked up a controller or been interested in gaming? Let’s reveal our contenders for the May 2017 trophy…

    Answer 1:   BioShock

    Nathan from Gamely Giving says: “This one was a tough one for me at first, then I was reunited with my game of choice during the Gamely Giving marathon stream! BioShock is such a well-rounded title. It covers a big chunk of gaming genres – FPS, RPG, horror, action, adventure – so as a first-time gamer, you’re sorted. Who doesn’t love running around Rapture making hard choices, trying to figure out what went wrong whilst hacking machines and gaining powers to defend yourself against the dreaded splicers! It’s a great seed which grows and branches out into the great world of gaming. Big Daddy out!”

    Answer 2:   Broken Sword: Shadow of the Templars

    Kevin is a geek and proud of it: no matter the situation, no matter the environment or the people around him, you’ll hear him discuss novels, games and films with anyone who’ll listen. He’ll also discuss his answer if you ask him nicely and you can find out why he chose Broken Sword: The Shadow of the Templars on The Mental Attic.

    Answer 3:   Journey

    Kim from Later Levels says: “Video games are usually assumed to be competitive, violent gore fests, so what better way to show a non-gamer otherwise than by giving them Journey? With no weapons or enemies as such, your aim is to make your way across the sparkling desert using only your chime to occasionally communicate with other players. It’s a great example of how it doesn’t take a complicated control scheme or non-stop action to pull you in; and it shows that video games can be beautiful experiences that invoke plenty of feeling and emotion.”

    Answer 4:   LEGO Jurassic World

    Luke’s biggest gaming blunder was lending his Tomytronic 3D Sky Attack game to a neighbour… then the neighbour moved away… and now he misses those LCD tanks and TRON-esque aliens. He also posts a gaming blog over at Hundstrasse and has chosen LEGO Jurassic World as his answer this month. Head over there to find out why.

    Answer 5:   Tetris

    NekoJonez from NekoJonez’s Gaming Blog says: “I would recommend a game that’s easy to pick up and play. Like Tetris or Super Mario Bros. They are great games to introduce non-gamers to the world of gaming. Maybe a game that’s easy to learn but difficult to master.”

    Answer 6:   The Last Guardian

    Chris from OverThinker Y says: “For this one, I thought about something simple like Mario or classic like Tetris, but I’m settling on The Last Guardian. While it isn’t perfect and it can be frustrating at times – and I can see a non-gamer having real trouble with the camera – the basic gameplay is simple enough not to distract from the genuine emotional connection the game fosters between Trico and the protagonist (and by extension the player). It’s a great advertisement for the kinds of stories games can tell if given a chance, a real surprise to any non-gamers who think it’s all either Call of Duty or Guitar Hero.”

    So who’s got it right, and who’s got it so wrong that they deserve to never be allowed to play video games again for the rest of eternity? Cast your votes in the poll opposite or give your own suggestion and we’ll reveal the most popular answer on Friday, 02 June 2017 along with the next question.

    Got a question you’d like to see us struggle over next month? Or would you like to join in and add your own answer into our polls on a regular basis? Leave us a message in the comments below or get in touch!