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Screen Shot 2016-04-13 at 9.29.57 AMBy Karen Shortle

The video game industry is booming these days with story driven adventure games.  Whether it is a story piece driven by you as the player with minimal button interaction, or a “choose-your-own-adventure” QTE (Quick Time Event) type, or something else entirely, they are popping up everywhere.

I was drawn into this video gaming genre by DONTNOD’s Life Is Strange, where you play as Max, an eighteen-year-old photography student who just realized she has the power to rewind time and change some shit.  Yes, I realize I was late to this genre, with hits such as Telltale’s The Walking Dead having been around far before this.  However, it was Life is Strange that sparked up the embers in me to begin playing video games again.  This spark continued to keep me charged, well after my first play-through, with a drive to play any story rich game I could get my hands on, so the kudos goes to them.

I’ve wondered during this fantastic new journey into the story-rich what it was about this type of game that got me into playing again.  What was it about them that they always begin as a mere curiosity, but always end with a fully committed emotional eruption by the time the final credits roll?  Was it the story unraveling before my eyes?  The mystery? The control I was given as a player that significantly affected the outcome?  The connection that you feel to the character due to excellent scripting and tough choices you have to make?

I’ll make it easy for you: The answer is it was all of the above.  When a story game’s doing it right, that’s all you really want from it.  Before I play a game, I don’t want anyone to tell me anything about the story, or the characters aside from high-level teaser information. Give me enough of a peck for me to come back for a make-out session.  Once the game is in my clutches, I love to pick it all apart and watch the mysteries unravel.  When that’s exhausted, I’ll play it again, differently, and see what other secrets are hiding in the lives of these characters I have come to identify with.

And after I exhaust that?

I play to wander.  I make sure I have explored every area of the entire game. That I’ve made every possible choice. When I do this, I’ll find some interesting, fun, scary, or silly tidbits the developers threw in, whether intentionally or by accident.  Some call them Easter Eggs. I’ve never been a trophy hound, but I have always been an information hound.  I adore little treats the developers leave for the gamers who really like to explore (sometimes arduously) just to see what else they can learn about the story. After Life Is Strange, other games like Supermassive’s Until Dawn, Campo Santo’s Firewatch, even Jonathan Blow’s The Witness (not really a story game, but the thick air is pungent with mystery in that one) made their way into my game library.

In the first of the Diamonds in the Rough articles, I’ll be sharing three of my favorite rarely seen diamonds I encountered while exploring the world of Until Dawn.
POSSIBLE SPOILERS FOLLOW. PROCEED WITH CAUTION.

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In case you’ve been out of the loop, Until Dawn is a “choose your own adventure” survival horror game.  The story uses many horror movie tropes which can be groan-worthy, but also nostalgically comforting to horror fans.  The best part is, depending on what you select your characters to do, they all may live or they all may die.  This game has serious replay value, since almost every choice you make has an alternate branch you can follow, and several twigs that can follow from that branch.  The characters are relatable in the sense that you have seen them all before. They’ve lurked in the closets of every teen scream horror movie you’ve ever watched.  You want to slap them and hug them at the same time.  Sometimes, they can be so terrible you jump at every chance to intentionally kill them.  All that being said, you always want to know how their story is going to turn out, even if they come from your worst high school memories.

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I can assure you I played through this entire game at least four times before I stumbled (literally) across this horrifying little secret found in Chapter 4.  SPOILER WARNING: Mike, the “BMOC” of the game, is chasing after Jessica, his sleeper hit Gal Friday.  This run has an intense QTE sequence that goes on just long enough to possibly provoke a heart attack, but not long enough to actually make that happen, depending on your choices. If Mikey-boy takes all of the slow routes (you have the option to choose), finds Jessica most likely dead, and then misses the closing gate (a quick QTE button finger is required) while chasing the FTG (Flame Thrower Guy), he has no choice but to take an alternate route, deeper into the mines.  It gets dark down in the mines…better use your lighter, Mikey-boy!

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Mike doesn’t even notice this dude staring intensely at his butt through a wooden palette, as he wanders the mines, lost, with no bone zone in sight. You do though, for the split-second Mike lights his lighter, which creates a very creepy intimate moment between you two.  Aww.

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Chapter 2:  Sam and Josh are looking to turn on the heat in the cabin and their groins. SPOILER ALERT: Right before they get “monked” by Chris, there is a sequence where Sam has to turn on the generator.  Immediately after Sam clicks the generator button, if you are quick enough (or panic stricken enough to vibrate like a Chihuahua) you can direct your eyes to the right side of the screen, and you will be able to see a fully monk-hooded Chris.  He’s sneaking around in the background getting in place for the big jump scare.  He’s only there for about half a second, so look quickly if you want to see this one.

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DAMN IT, PAY MORE ATTENTION, SAM!!!  When the aforementioned heat issue has been resolved, Sam finally begins to “party like a porn star” by taking a nap in a warm bath while listening to classical music.  Unfortunately, Sam is being watched by Josh The Psycho, who disturbs her bathing several hours of game play later (how was this girl not killed by morphing into a prune?).  He steals her clothes and forces her to walk around the cavernous cabin in her painted-on bath towel.  As Sam is walking along the creepy “follow the balloons” path to the basement, you can see The Psycho descending the next set of stairs.  Again, only you as the player can see this, so it’s especially chilling.  This little treat is the hardest one on this list to notice.  If you listen closely to the score of the game, when Sam descends there is a sudden chilling, but subtle string note.  It is at that moment that you can peek in between the stair slats and see the top of the mask belonging to The Psycho. (NERD LEVEL = 2300)

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There are plenty more secrets to be found in this game, but I don’t want to ruin all of the fun. These little treats I came across serve as a representation of the types of diamonds to look for in Until Dawn if you play your games like me, as an exploring information hound.
Until next time…keep digging!

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