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Summercontest Blog

Losing Interest: Why I feel too old for video games

I'm too old for this sh*t. I never thought I'd say it, but the video game industry is practically forcing me to. The Explosions and Evisceration Expo (also known as E3) was the last straw for this old killer who's had his fill of wet work. Don't get me wrong, I love video games; my mind thinks primarily in terms of how to turn things into video games; I've had more LANs in my lifetime than I can count; I've steadfastly written about video games for over three years with a readership smaller than the number of pizza slices I can eat, and I don't regret a day of it. But as I age and take on more responsibilities and passions, I find it incredibly hard to justify being a video game enthusiast.

Let's start this rant with E3, since that's what really made me question what the hell I've been doing with my time. When did our beloved industry become the equivalent of modern day horror movies (read: more interested in gratuitous violence than anything of substance)? Of all the millions of brain dead virtual mooks I've gunned down in my day, I remember...none of them? Shooting dudes isn't a particularly interesting, let alone relatable activity for me these days. But wait! Stabbing dudes in the face is the new hotness. Surely you can find some form of deep stimulation in this cutting edge (oh, I went there) gameplay mechanic!

I'll concede that in general, the games about stabbing people tend to be more open-ended than the mindless Shooters that may as well play themselves (looking at you Splinter Cell: Blacklist), but are we really content as an industry to pretend that Shooters are going to spearhead the movement to cultural significance and artistic sophistication? Is there truly no creative mind out there capable of thinking outside of the genres we've used for the past twenty years? Obviously there are, but the publishers won't back them, so their only option is to make indie games that will never appeal to the mainstream because they look like they could have been made twenty years ago. And until some unforeseen technological leap makes AAA game development about 100 times cheaper than it is now, the situation is only going to get worse. Don't believe me? Let?s look at just how original the most promising new IPs shown at E3 are.

Beyond: Two Souls: Heavy Rain, but with big actors and more violence! Sure, it's not too far removed from a genre-blazer, but the problem is that its predecessor blazed all the way out of the realm of video games and into that of film. David Cage and Quantic Dream have no understanding of what sets video games apart from other mediums and while appreciated simply for being different, his approach to game design is not the future we should be pursuing.

Dishonored: It's BioShock meets Deus Ex! Granted, that's a pretty awesome combination, but how fresh is this game really going to feel? Its primary hook seems to be the ability to stab lots of people through the throat, and the tagline "Revenge solves everything" doesn't inspire much confidence in a narrative that would give meaning to all of that know, kind of like what the games it draws from do.

The Last of Us: Let's combine Uncharted and post-apocalypse game X! Kudos to Naughty Dog for utilizing the ole ultra-violence toward a thematic end (at least I really hope that's the idea), but with Uncharted?s on-rails formula, is this really going to offer a unique meditation on violence and survival that I couldn't find in another medium? Because when video games stray from their fundamental strengths and use the language of foreign mediums, they are never any where close to as proficient in that language.

Watch Dogs: Okay, GTA parallels aside, this is one new IP that actually feels new. Even with its shootouts and super-hacker protagonist, it feels more grounded in reality and relatable than anything else shown at E3 because of its examination of the digital age and the invisible world where we spend most of our time these days.

Now as a gamer, I actually am excited about all of the above titles. But as someone who also reads books, watches films, and listens to music, I can only muster a disappointed sigh for a beloved pastime that only manages to absorb and engage me on the same level as other mediums maybe once a year (if it's an especially good year). For every game that actually makes me think, there are probably a hundred movies. The fact is that the vast majority of games today play to adolescent male power fantasies that are nauseating to most people. Maybe if the average human being spent his or her day doing nothing but murdering people then the "choice" and "freedom" of games that offer so many different ways to do it would seem meaningful, but as it is, dead is dead to us healthy folk.

I'm not saying here that I want all games to be about puppies and lollipops (although...); life and death stakes are what has made literature and drama so compelling for as long as humans have written such fictional stories down. But genre conventions and settings have trained us to equate life and death stakes with minor inconveniences like having to stop for gas. As an example, I'm currently grinding through The Witcher 2. Over 25 hours in, and I'm not even done with Act II (of five). I spend a lot of time stabbing things and leveling up so I'm better at stabbing things. The characters around me all tell long drawn-out stories (it's like they don't understand how regular conversations work) about how important my stabbing escapades are. I reckon that when I stab enough people and monsters, the game will end and I'll forget why anybody needed to be stabbed in the first place.

Now, The Witcher 2 is supposedly an example of mature story-telling in our medium. To that, I say, "What?" Does adding completely unnecessary t*ts and lots of swearing make something mature to us? Or maybe it's because the story's political? Maybe at a certain point in the game it won't feel like I'm just going from place to place because people need to be stabbed there and the conclusion will leave me deeply pondering the morality of regicide. But wait...we don't have kings anymore. And even if assassinating a president affected commoners' lives in a way remotely close to the assassination of a king (it wouldn't), politicians have moved onto more sophisticated social methods of destroying their enemies. Fantasy settings, and to a large degree Sci-Fi settings (it's funny how Sci-Fi settings are so relevant and groundbreaking in literature, but mostly space-marine orgies in games) are fairytale worlds for children. They have almost nothing to offer a 21st century adult besides mindless escape, yet they are the dominant settings in video games.

And I think that the ridiculous amount of time RPGs (and Shooters if you count multiplayer) feel like they have to take up speaks to the childish escape they're offering. Most busy adults get upset when a movie runs past two and a half hours (not necessarily a good thing, but it illustrates my point); we're all very busy people with very little free time. The healthy among us like to spend a fair chunk of that free time socializing in the sorts of places where a controller in your hands wouldn't serve much purpose besides a conversation piece. So why are developers padding out games to last 40, 60, 100, or more hours? Countless studies have told us time and time again that the average age of a gamer is somewhere in the early thirties, so why won't developers believe that and stop treating us like we have 180 vacation days a year? I want to remember the beginning of a game by time I finish it for crying out loud.

I could go on and on, but the point is that adults don't need an escape or time-waster. There are other, more effective means to those ends. What we need are video games that offer some kind of emotional or intellectual stimulation. We need something that we can talk to other human beings about without them slowly backing away after we gloat over how awesome it was when we tore some guy's head off with our bare hands. And I'm just not seeing that in video games today. In fact, I see the preposterous cost of video game development leading to a homogenized market of linear violence-coasters that will cease to exist entirely once multiplayer and single player experiences start selling separately and the type of people who only want an escape migrate to the sport of cyber-murder to satisfy their needs. Without an artistic initiative from publishers or a technological leap that makes AAA game development affordable for small teams, single-player gaming has as much of a future as comic books.

So am I done gaming? No. Like I said, I love games. And there are still innovative and engaging games out there, even if you have to look. And that's where I'm coming to a crossroads: do I go on devoting my time to keeping up with the industry's latest and (not) greatest, maintaining my personal training to one day become a game journalist? Or do I realize that it doesn't matter if me, GameSpot, 1UP, or anyone else posts another trailer for Resident Evil 6 because the people who are going to buy it are going to buy it regardless of what critics say?

I don't know if "critic" is really the right word for most professionals writing about video games today, because to be honest, they aren't very critical. We regurgitate press releases and trailers with no thought as to what's best for the industry. Some people will say that it's a game journalist/critic's job to inform the readership of anything and everything, but I'm convinced that JoyStiq could run stories on Black Ops 2 for a month straight and it wouldn't affect sales because the people who are going to buy it have made up their minds and the new adopters aren't the types to browse enthusiast gaming sites. Critics should start getting critical, filtering their reporting through the lens of what direction they'd like to see the industry head (because publishers certainly aren't looking out for the medium's future). From now on, I'm only reporting on the unknown games that break the mold and deserve to be recognized for it. I might only muster up one post a week, but it will be a meaningful, positive post. And I'm sick of this mindset that games are to be forgotten six months after release. How are we to ever build a canon when we refer to games in the past tense like they lose all meaning after one playthrough? I want to stir discussions on the classics.

I want to get enthused about video games again, and I think the only way to do that is to step back and realize that less is more. I think that I'll be doing a greater service to myself and the industry as a whole by looking to the past, the fringes, and the overlooked. Following every new release is no way to feed my passion for the medium of video games, because most new releases are just copying each other. It takes time to see which games truly pushed the medium forward. And the ones that do can rarely be seen from a mile away plastered on billboards. Rant over.

Lord of the (Halo) Rings

I'll start off by saying that I'm a huge movie geek and just love doing marathons. My viewing endurance has been put to the test with Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Indiana Jones, X-Men, James Bond, 24, and more. The longest such marathon was Star Wars, which just so happened to take exactly 13 hours 37 minutes(Bond was done in groups of 4 or 5 over the course of a month, while 24 was done over a weekend). Earlier in the month I had an intriguing idea that I'm surprised hadn't come to mind sooner...a video game marathon. The franchise of choice, Halo. A friend and I discussed the pros and cons of the feat and decided to put it into action last night. Estimated time, 24 hours- 8 hours per game. This would leave my previous record of 15 hours straight spent with KOTOR in the dust. So I packed my tv and my 360, dug out my hub and some ethernet cables, grabbed my games and made the pre-requisite trip to wal-mart. The ensueing treasure hunt cumulated in a 12 pack of pepsi, a 12 pack of code red, an 8 pack of green apple jones, a 4 pack of orange monster, a 4 pack of red bull, a 4 pack of amp, a bag of salt and vinegar chips, a bag of bbq chips, and a pack of peanutbutter chocolate chunk cookies. That set us back $40, but was well worth 24 hours of entertainment. From there it was onward to my friend's house where we would set up our system link in his basement so we could play without bothering anyone with our monument to gaming. Considering I woke up around 11am, I wanted to get the whole show on the road a little sooner, but we ended up popping halo 1 in around 2:45pm. And thus the gauntlet began. NOT FINISHED...TAKING A BREAK.

Okay, so the past week has shown me that I'm never going to find the time and/or motivation to finish writing this, so here's the condensed version.

Halo 1- Best campaign, hardest game of the 3, during the Silent Cartographer an elite leapt into a great abyss...HILARIOUS!, explosions were really big for some reason, Captain Keyes is awesome, some kerosene heater mishaps resulted in a basement full of carbon monoxidey smoke...that was fun, realized we couldn't system link halo 1...kinda gay but it all worked out.

Halo 2- Nada for the system link here as well, made me realize how bad the campaign was and how much it drags on towards the end, generally not that fun, began to see our breath, so cold, my friend was fortunate enough to have extra clothes which resulted in him wearing literally 5 layers of socks etc, I had to suffer in my thin loin cloth...err, normal clothes, had some funky taco bell...didn't sit too well, strange conversations about Miranda Keyes getting to "know" Cortana began, did I mention how much it dragged on towards the end?

Halo 3- Home stretch, cracked into our first energy drinks, which were sadly our last as well, disappointingly short...only took us like 5 hours, hence only needing one energy drink a piece, despite the shortness it was by far the most fun because of campaign scoring, soooooo fun, so cold, did I mention we can see our breath every time we open our mouths at this point?, actually lanning it now, that made it better too, anybody else start rofling when the Arbiter roars after killing Truth?, I take the campaign scoring crown in a 5 to 4 contest.

End Result- Awesome time that won't be soon forgotten. There were certainly bumps in the road, like a smoke filled basement, lack of system link for Halo 1 and 2, bad tacos, and sub zero temps, but it all worked out in the end. Sadly it only took like 19 hours and wasn't quite as epic as we had hoped, but it's still a pretty sweet achievement...hmmm, bungie should make an achievement for that. Anyways, there was like half a case of dew, half a case of pepsi, and a crap load of energy drinks left afterwards, but those will definately be put to use some other time. Probably the weirdest part of it all, even moreso than the fact that we were locking ourselves in a basement for an entire day just to play video stereotypical is that?...was the fact that my buddy's friends/family watched a good portion of it. Everybody always talks crap about such a loserish feat, yet they were all there watching history in the making. But that's not the point, the point is we stayed up for around 28 hours straight to test our mettle in a testament to our gaming fortitude and are better gamers for it. I would gladly do it again and highly suggest that all of you other gamers out there try out a gaming marathon as well. It's wicked fun, and you can write a crappy blog about it afterwards. Tell me what you think of my feat, and if any of you guys have ever participated in a gaming marathon. I'd love to hear some other ideas.

What do achievements really achieve? them, hate them, you just can't deny their awesome presence in today's games. Every 360 game has around 50 or so, and the ps3 is trying to jump on the bandwagon with their whole trophy room in "home" too. How could such a simplistic idea have such runaway success? There aren't even any prizes for a high gamer score! It seems that the only draw with achievements is bragging rights, and shouldn't being better at the game be the real source of bragging rights? Apparently not.

I'll start off by saying that I didn't really see the potential in achievements when I first heard about them. But that all changed when I heard that first quirky beep...I think it was in Call of Duty 2...maybe Perfect Dark Zero. Anyways, I had become enlightened. Achievements gave me a sense of, well achievement. Never before had I felt so great about completing seemingly inconsequential tasks. This feeling awoke a previously dormant motivation and determination to further experience the game in my quest for a higher gamerscore. That's the cool thing about achievements, they made me play through games again that I usually wouldn't have. They made me play differently than I usually would have. They made me play on different settings than I usually would have. The extended and enhanced my enjoyment of the game through nothing more than a cool sound and a number. Then things changed.

As I previously stated, achievements can alter the way one might go about playing a game. This is a great thing in single player, where it's all just fun and games. But when applied to multiplayer, achievements can have adverse effects. Take for example the Halo franchise. Halo 2- Ultra competitive and balanced multiplayer that made us the best gamers we could be. Halo 3- (Besides the fact that Halo 2's multiplayer mechanics are superior) Tainted multiplayer that trades sportsmanship for gamerscore. How many of us have entered a Halo 3 lobby to hear, "You guys wanna just do achievements?" It completely ruins the original intent of the game. But it's what happens. And I won't lie, at first, I scoffed at such requests and said I wanted to play the game...but those last couple achievements started eating at me. I'm kinda OCD, I need to complete everything(Mass Effect will consume my life). I finally caved and wrongfully unlocked the Mongoose Mowdown achievement. I've still got to get the double kill with the spartan laser and the triple with the elite sword. But after trying to get these and realizing that I was doing the very thing I scolded at not too long ago, I realized the dangers that lie within the achievement machine. The same thing happened to me with Gears of War. I kept playing it long after I'd lost interest simply because I wanted more achievements, but I eventually broke its hold. I've seen how achievements can ruin even the best games.

Now I'm hoping to complete the cycle of achievments. Indifference, fascination, obsession, indifference. I've seen both edges of the blade and hope the knowledge I've gained will help me put achievements into perspective. I certainly don't want them to go away, they've really made some games more enjoyable for me and encouraged me to challenge myself. But I won't allow them to control me anymore. I want to see innovative achievements that truly enhance a game, rather than achievements for achievements' sake. Single player campaignes seem to be in a better place than multiplayer regarding achievements, but I still think developers can come up with more original and interesting achivements that both extend and enhance single player games. As for multiplayer achievements, maybe developers should just go with something simple yet rewarding, like having a certain kills to deaths ratio. I know this would be dynamic and ever changing, so I'm not sure if it could actually be done. But wouldn't it be great if achievements encouraged players to play the game correctly and be the best they can be? How awesome would it be to have an achievement for never killing a team mate...err, excluding with rockets...that'd be kinda hard to do i guess? My point is that achievements have the power for both good and evil. Developers are taking the easy path with mundane, pointless, or counter-intuitive achievements. Nothing good in life comes without hard work. Maybe if developers truly thought out their achievements, then they could elevate games as a whole. Am I just a crazy achievement wh*re?

P.S. On a completely unrelated note, game trailers with licensed music are an awesome trend that I really hope continues to grow. Anybody who's seen the the Gears of War Mad World trailer or the Assassin's Creed Lonely Souls trailer can attest to that. What sort of trailers would everybody else like to see?

Prophet of Hype *Spoilers*

Now before I get my head taken off for writing this, I'd just like to state that Halo 3 truly is a great game that I'm having a blast with and I'm completely happy with my purchase. But after just beating the game a few hours ago, there's this taste that I can't get out of my mouth. No, it's not the taste of betrayal and hatred left by Halo 2's ending, but something that some would say is more sinister...disappointment. Now maybe I had already doomed this game from the start, holding it in the highest esteem for almost three years and believing that the epic finish to the Master Chief's fight could be nothing short of legendary, but I don't think I bare all of the blame here. As we all know, Halo 3 is Microsoft's Ace of Spades and Bill and Co. certainly went all in with promoting their baby. I'm not one to complain about special flavors of mountain dew or specially marked bags of chips or even Halo themed NASCARS, but MS and Bungie went beyond just getting the Halo name and image out there, they planted an image in my head. One ad campagine in particular, the touching "Believe" series raised my heart rate more than any of the others. It wasn't merely the excellent production values or the profound human connection I felt with the old man at the memorial, but Master Chief's implied self-sacrifce at the end of the commercial that excited me so much. No hero commands more respect and honor than the sacrificial one and in my own opinion the best stories always feature such a hero. Sadly video games rarely take this angle, instead opting for the Hollywood one-man-army that slays all in his path on his way home to a glorious victory ceremony. Halo 3 is no different. The sequence in the "Believe" series isn't even in the game. There is no final epic battle on Earth where the brutes vastly out number the humans and the only shred of hope is that the Chief is willing to sacrifice himself in order to slay the treachorous brute chieftan. In fact, the Chief doesn't die at all. His survival is revealed after the credits much to my dismay. I love the Chief, don't get me wrong, but how loud can you shout "sell out"? Bungie could have made a better story by letting the Chief die and just using the Halo universe in a different context the next time they wanted to make a Halo game. But instead, the Chief will return and his epic tale just isn't as powerful because of it. Maybe I only feel this way because the "Believe" ads planted this idea in my head, but if that's the case then Bungie is actually hurting their game experience with all the hype.

On a purely gameplay based evaluation, I still believe that Halo 3 comes up short. I remember every single level of Halo 1 very fondly...excpet for the Library. Halo 3 just doesn't have any levels that stick in my memory. Maybe I'm the only one, but I tend to like wide open out doors levels that involve a lot of vehicle combat mixed in with great tactical fights against the Covenant(Flood sucks!). I also enjoyed the early Earth levels of Halo 2 that featured great urban combat in tight quarters. Maybe I'll gain a greater appreciation for the levels of Halo 3 on my second play through, but right now the only things that really stick out to me are the fights against the Scarabs.

Lastly, I haven't tried out the multiplayer yet, but from what I've seen the menus and such seem pretty in depth. I'm sure once I learn everything I'll be loving it every single day, but right now it seems a little complex. The beauty of Halo 2's multiplayer was it's stream-lined simplicity paired with tightly refined combat. Speaking of combat, if equipment in multiplayer is anything like it was in single player, then Bungie is just adding stuff in for the sake of adding new stuff. The equipment was virtually useless to me and actually annoyed me a few times as I'd try hitting X to reload instead of the new right bumper reload. I also think it was a bad idea to take out the Rocket Launcher lock-on feature, which was a terrific balance to the great power of the vehicles.

I guess that last one wasn't really lastly, because this one is...anyways. Halo 3's enemies(the Brutes) pale in comparison to the great adversaries that were the Elites. There was almost no real sense of the Brutes being a personal enemy in the story(Halo 2 did a good job of it however) and they feel tacked on in general. Their weapons, while okay, are nothing I'd recommend over a good BR or AR, and don't even get me started on the Brute Chopper. The Brutes were a major missed opportunity on what could have been a great enemy. They had a good start in Halo 2, but Halo 3 never fully fleshed them out.

To conclude(finally), Halo 3 was sadly disappointing to me for more reasons than I can list off. But I don't want you to get the idea that I'm some kind of cynical Halo hater, I love Halo. That's why I hold it to such a high standard. And I love Halo 3. I really am having a great time with it, and I have the feeling I'll learn to like in more as I play it more. But the extraordinary hype machine that MS and Bungie ran Halo 3 through set the bar beyond the realm of possibility and actually deterred from my Halo 3 experience because of some misleading ads. The Prophet of Hype may have prevented a great game from being a masterpiece. But then again, maybe it was Halo 1 that set the bar too high...(Sorry for the extreme length of this, I just felt the need to get all of these points across.)

The new and (insert your own adjective here) E3

E3 2007 has come to a close and the time for reflection has come upon us. Going into the show I was doubtful to say the least. But in the end the changes may be for the better. I can not recall ever seeing this much terrific game coverage on gamespot and have really enjoyed all the information. To be honest, I'll never get around to reading/watching half of the content available because there's so much, but I've tried to take a look at every good looking game. But I don't know if this improved coverage really replaces the prospect of going to the specticle to see it in person. It's really the type of thing a gamer dreams about and to have that taken away seems like taking mardi-gras out of New Orleans. But no sense in fretting over it now. So onto the show, and my reactions.

Microsoft Press Conference- I didn't actually watch any of the press conferences so this is based purely on the content of the show that was reported, not the presentation of it. I'd have to say MS takes the trophy home for this E3 while doing as little as possible. No big announcements were made, no big surprises, no price cut(I didn't think there'd be one any ways. I figure they'll wait the even two years and do it in November. That way they get as much as they can from the people who will buy a 360 for Halo 3 no matter what but then they're still competitive come holiday shopping season in November.), just games. Oh, and games there were. It was like an all you can eat buffet of top notch games all slated for 2007. Games will win this console war, not hardware. MS seems to understand that.

Sony Press Conference- I can't believe I'm saying this, but it actually looks like there's hope on the horizen for the PS3. It's looking like some solid exclusives will finally be rolling out in the next year or so. Games like MGS 4, Lair, Heavenly Sword, Uncharted: Drake's Fortune, and more are all on the way. But this brings me to my next point. Sony was involved in two shady deeds this E3 that show the true shape the company's in. First off, a couple days before E3 a Konami offical publicly questioned MGS 4's exclusivity to the PS3 and said that the $100 price drop wasn't enough. Then at Sony's press conference, the announcement of MGS 4's exclusivity makes big news. That shouldn't be big news, it should be a given. This whole thing seems fishy to me. I think Sony cooked up the whole thing to make it seem like they had some bigger news than a crappy PSP redesign. Secondly, the aforemented $100 price drop doesn't even least not for long. Sony very loudly boasted the price drop and then very quietly discontinued the 60 GB model that it pertained to. So in a couple months, $600 is your only choice.

Nintendo Press Conference- Grand old Nintendo. Home of the best fanboys in the wolrd(my self included) and for good reason. They always have something up their sleeve that catches the competition off guard and satisfies the faithful. And this year they present us with...Wii Fit...are you serious? Now I get Nintedo's whole approach with expanding the market and all, but it just seems like they're leaving behind their loyalist for their new customers who may or may not continue buying Nintendo products. I want the market to expand, but not at the cost of quality for us core gamers. It seems like the only hardcore games Nintendo had this year were Super Mario Galaxy, Mario Kart, Phantom Hour Glass, Metroid Prime, and the new Smash Bros. And when examined closely, they're not even that geared towards the hardcore, any casual player could enjoy the ease of said titles. I really feel that if Nintendo doesn't ramp up the quality of the games on the Wii(how long can stupid mini-games last?) they're going to get burned in the long run. I really hope not though.

Also, if I had to rank the PC as a platform in here, I'd put it at number 2 because of it's solid showing of games. Crysis, Hellgate: London, The Witcher, and more all look to remind us that the PC is a viable gaming platform.

On to the honors, some good and some not so good.

Biggest Surprise: Call of Duty 4- I was a big fan of the COD series but didn't buy COD3 because Infinity Ward didn't make it and when a new developer picks up another's property, the game usually tends to stay the same in quality rather than escalate. So I hadn't been keeping tabs on the 4th installment in the series until now. The impressive slickness and sexiness of the visuals drew me in and when I saw that Infinity Ward was back on board, I knew that I'll probably be getting this game that was relatively under my radar.

Most Over-Hyped: Killzone 2- Yeah, I saw the trailer and gameplay video. Big deal. Everybody says this game looks so amazing...why? It barely looked better than any 360 titles graphically and Crysis blows them both away anyways. Then when you start to actually think about the gameplay...well it stops at the controller. That controller is not meant for an FPS.

Biggest No-Show: Alan Wake- I was really looking forward to seeing more on this story driven thriller and there wasn't a peep on it. This game is going to be big, I guess we'll just have to wait until next E3 to see it.

Game of the Show: Mass Effect- It didn't have the most glamorous showing or any jaw dropping surprises, but what I did see simply re-assured me of my previous opinion that this will be the game of the year(and this is coming from a die hard Halo fan). I won't bother trying to explain the awesomeness of this game, so just go watch the stage demo.

Well that's about it kids. I tried to give a brief reflection on the events that transpired over the weekend and my opinions on them. So to conclude, there will be an E3 next year(don't know why everybody thinks there won't be) and we'll probably get even more awesome game coverage. But never again will i innocently dream of a glamorous road trip to the LACC where all my gaming fantasies will come true.

Where's option C?: Breaking into the gaming industry

Quickly, answer without thinking, what do you want to do with your life? I'd imagine a healthy portion of ye faithful gamers out there said something along the lines of, "Designing games would be like totally rad!"...Maybe not in such a stereotypical 80's surfer way though. But the point is, we've all dreamed about it as gamers. How many times have you been playing that FPS you love so much and thought, "I really think I could design some pretty sweet maps for this."? Or how about when you're sitting around and enjoying a classic RPG and think to yourself, "I love my RPG's and all, but how many times has this story been used? I could totally write a better one."? Or maybe you're playing a certain party game starring an overweight plumber and his friends and you say, "I could make a set of mini-games that would blow this crap to high heaven!" The point is, every last gamer has had a thought on how to make a game more fun. Whether it be simple game mechanics, new gametypes, more engaging stories, or just a different look, we all think we have something to bring to the table. And we wait, no we don't.

I'm very serious about getting into the gaming industry when I leave college. Games are my most cherished and enjoyed pastime, and I can't think of any other way to spend the rest of my life but to actually make them. So I started taking steps to achieve that goal last year(my junior year in high school) by taking some basic computer programming classes. From what I have heard, there are only two paths into the gaming biz. Either you're a good programmer or a good artist. Enter the problem...I just recently found out, I'm neither. Could it be true? Is there no other way? My dream, is crushed?

So after this revealation I started thinking about the qualities I do bring to the table and if there was any chance they could get me in. When I think of designing games, I envision a few things as my strong suits.

1. Story Writing- I like to believe I'm a pretty damn good writer and I think that's mainly because it's such a passion for me. When I write, I can just keep going and going because it never gets boring. I plan on majoring in English when I enter college so I can hone my raw skill more. And lastly, I believe I'd know how to write for a game. Writing for a game is not like writing a movie or book, you have to write a story that the player can dictate. Through my experiences of "game mastering" for several pen and paper RPG's, I believe I possess this skill.

2. Creative Game Type Design- When I look at most mainstream FPS's today, I see a sore lacking of creative gametypes. I love Halo as much as the next guy, probably more, but is Juggernaut really the most innovative gametype Bungie can come up with. I realize there's a limit to how radical a gametype can be, but there's no way Juggernaut is the most creative thing the public will accept. Some recent games that have done a decent job of offering exciting, different gametypes are Perfect Dark Zero and the fantastic Time Splitters series.

3. Implementing Balance- When it comes to FPS's, I think I could be good at level design but wouldn't really know, the only game I've ever played with a map designer was Time Splitters 2...and it's been so long I don't even know if that statement is correct. But as for weapons, one only has to use common sense. When designing a level, you don't put a plasma pistol with well over 60 degrees of tracking ability and a leathally accurate long range battle rifle together. You don't make a sniper rifle so easy to use that said sniper can fire four shots without pause, miss two, and still notch a kill. And you certainly don't make power weapons so scarce that they end up determining the victor of the match. I really think I could make balanced and fun gameplay that rewards the more skilled player, not the one with the best weapon.(All smg's! Haha, just kidding.)

4. Honing the Fun- Any gamer can claim this attribute. Simply take what's fun, expand on it, and drop what isn't fun. Tweak the little things that really propel a game from good to great.

As it stands now, I'm under the impression that most games are written collectively by the top dogs of the staff, but I could be wrong. I know some games hire authors to pen a script(Supposedly Gears of War, but it's got to be a hoax. A real author could not have possibly written such a...well, it's kind of hard to insult something that isn't there.) but I think that's the exception, not the norm. However, I do think this trend will change over the next decade, as games will be forced to mature if they are to survive and therefore story will be pushed to the forefront. As for the other three attributes, I'm not really sure who would address those issues because I've never really been informed much on how a game studio works internally. I'd imagine QA testers have a lot to do with the balance, but maybe not.

So from what I can infer, I'd say my best shot is to wait ten years and maybe if I have a good enough reputation as a writer I could be brought on to pen a script. But is that really smart of me to let my hopes and dreams rest in the hands of assumption? Surely there must be another way to get in. Do they offer gaming school's that teach more than programming or art design? Could quality assurance testing really ever lead to a higher position? Please, if anybody has any knowledge regarding the struggle to get into the business, inform me!

P.S. How hard is it to get a job as a game reviewer like the wonderful fellows here at gamespot? I'm starting to think that could be a great way to utilize my love of games and writing ability, while at the same time avoiding the weaknesses that are holding me back from actually creating games.