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Halo 4: Evolution or Regression?

Recently GI (Game Informer) recently did a cover story on the next installment in the Halo franchise. Halo 4 is slated to return players to the boots of John 117 and opens a new trilogy. The campaign is somthing I'm looking forward to with far less apprehension as the multiplayer component. Since Halo 2 introduced the world to Halo online multiplayer it as been a force. Millions of gamers have dedicated hundreds of thousands of hours of in game time because the multiplayer was both unique and compelling.

Halo 4 is going to take one step further and actually intergrate multiplayer into the story. While details about exactly what that means are scarce, but basically you're a new breed of spartan training on a UNSC ship called Infinty. This ship comes to interact with the MC at some point and there's your single player tie in. All that being said I worry about some of the details that have come to light.

The top of my consern list isn't even in the competitive portion of the game. "Spartan Ops" is a co-op game mode designed to be an episodic romp much in the same vein of "Spec Ops" of Call of Duty. As the only direct rival to the Call of Duty juggernaut, I don't feel that directly ripping ideas out of their playbook is the way to wrestle the strangle hold they have on the first person shooter genre. I like the idea of weekly episodes, but that name has got to go to be able to claim any legitimacy to an original idea.

The next thing that bothers me is loadout. In Halo Reach was the first Halo game to attempt this and I though while a little out of place it was at least executed effectively. That being said Halo 4 looks to take that to the next level by giving the player choices in starting weapon, attachments, and armor abilities. This is another nod to the game they are directly trying to compete against and to me it's a mistake to make this game more like it.

Finally they are messing the a huge part of high level gameplay in Halo games. The power weapons are not going to be spawning in the same locations over and over again. With this added level of randomless it takes away the one advantage that experienced players have over newbies and once again against the idea that Halo is fundamentally different from Call of Duty.

In closing while my conserns at this point are minor and while I still believe that Halo 4 will be a great game, I have to wonder if the burden of being so successful is starting to sacrifice the spirit of the other core games in the series. Halo has always carved out it's own path with innovation and high quality development standards and I hope this will live on in this 343 Industries developed game.

Games are like books, meant to be enjoyed for a lifetime!

I have been addicted to trading in games for as long as Gamestop has existed. I do have an extensive list of games that I have finished but almost no physical media to show for it. Then laying in bed this morning it dawned on me, games should be considered like a good book. You don't read a good book only once and then never return to the well. You keep that book on a shelf until the mood strikes to take up that epic quest once again.

This revelation has reminded me how many times I have returned to said game stop and repurchased games I already owned. I have brought Kingdom Hearts on 4 seperate occations and would buy it a 5th time if the price is right because I simply love that game. Turning off this cycle will not only save myself money in the long run, but I'll hopefully build a legacy of great gaming experience that my son will be able to play and enjoy as well.

Stepping toward to horizon of a new console generation has made me see that physical media, trading games with friends, and multiplayer as we all know it is going to be changing and not all the changes will be for the betterment of gaming as a entertainment medium. I feel like now is the perfect time to start building collections of games. I don't even have a PS3 yet six years in and I just got a Wii in 2012. I literally have a huge amount of gaming experiences to be had and had again that a new console is the last thing I need right now.

Gaming has been great in the last couple of decades and I think I will take my time to seek out and enjoy experiences that I have either missed or revisit those that captivated me back in the day. The next gen could wait for all I care because this current era of gaming is the golden age and the future is not always more prosperous!

Competitive Gaming: Why you should watch!

Competitive gaming is bigger now then it has ever been and arecent article from a Kotaku contributorignited a fire storm of fans firing back to what to them seemed like an attack on something they have grown to love. Personally, I only have a small amount of experience with the profession. I watch the Madden Challege on ESPN and I know who "Fatality" is. Mostly though I haven't been able to follow the progress of the sport, largely due to the fact that it isn't really thrust forward into the public eye.

Major League Gaming is the largest collection of professional gamers on the planet. They host Tourneyments that are packed with spectators and boast huge cash prizes to the winner. MLG has had a few television specials dedicated to their largest tourneyments, but has yet to find a consistant place on network TV. This isn't really due to lack of demand, but rather an inabilty to make watching these tourneyments compelling.

It's difficult to convince someone that watching other people play video games is something appealing to do with their time. After watching some of the tourneyments on television, I can see why they feel that way. There's next to nothing exciting to the average viewer, a no-scope kill or well-place grenade is lost on the regular gamer because they play just for the fun. Understanding all the naunces in gamesand trying to convey that as entertainment is something that is difficult to do.

That's not to say that they can't make an interesting show out of what they have. The Madden challenge for example has the drama of sports in general adding to the tension of each match. If you follow football at all, you know that the best moments are the last second comebacks. Michael Vick's amazing fourth quarter to bring the Eagles to a win was one of the moments that defined the 2010 season. This easily translates to the Madden Challenge because people have a real world moment that they can draw real emotion from.

To achieve this for Major League Gaming, they need a big personality and plenty of fan interaction to give them the feeling that they have something tied into each individual or team. Better branding for each team, get their names out there, have them go on shows like ESPN's "First Take" and kind of explain to a broader audience what professional gaming is all about. Once people become emotionally invested, then explaining the small stuff becomes secondary and people live and die with their favorite teams.

There's plenty of potential in professional gaming to become a bigger draw for television, but there has to be a shift in the focus of what content is important. It won't happen overnight, but if competitive eating can make it, I'm sure video games can!

Gaming is a joke to some

I saw a fairly interesting thing in Target where I work nightly. Mega Blocks has a line of Halo Wars items and while being a Halo fan made me giddy seeing these, I had a thought. Why is a Halo game which is a Mature title for the most part is subject of a children's toy? Obviously there are people that age with access to the Halo games but the reality is that they shouldn't be playing them and they are largely the reason that the Halo community has lost loads of credibility over the last few game releases.

Then I though about other things like who agreed to this? Did Bungie talk with Mega Blocks before this was done? Does the Mega Block CEO know anything about the franchise other then it's popular and they can make a quick buck off merchandise? I doubt anything of the sort took place and paperwork was sign without thinking and that's largely why no one thinks much of the industry.

If a Film is rated R, you will not find a toy of the lead character in your local store's toy section. That's because parents take the content in films seriously but when it comes to gaming they think that everything that's released is OK for little Timmy to play and the reality is that it's not.

The ESRB has failed to catch the parents attention in what game to chose for there children and as a result, adults such as myself are left to suffer with them yelling "headshot" into my headset. As a gamer I'm very unhappy with paying for a service like Xbox Live, only to have mine and others experience tainted due to the inability of gaming to police who it does and who it doesn't advertise to. Why not run ads for Mature rated games at night like they do for Girls Gone Wild?

The reason is that the heads of the gaming industry have tasted the money and they will do anything even if it hurts the core user base (gamers 20-35) and until some drastic changes are made they will continue to act almost like the Tobacco Industry and keep on trucking until gaming is unable to legitimize itself as the craft it truly is.

Will a republican president hurt the gaming industry?

pRick Santorum, a self proclaimed religious man used his political platform to take aim at the Adult Film Industry. He argues that this business corrupts the family structure of americans and that he would do everything in his power to drive them out of business. We all know that he is a fringe canidate, but the fact that he continues to garner delagates is unnerving to say the least.

What is to stop this man and others who believe in his warped message from moving on to attacking video games as the source of all the world's ills? They already argue that violence in gaming directly correlates to a more violent individuals. So whats to stop them from forming a piece of legislation that outright bans the games that they find objectionable to the "moral fiber" of their version of america.

This is why the GOP can't be trusted and why I will vote for president Obama in this election cycle. Not so much because he has been 100% perfect, but the alternative scares me in more ways then I can imagine.

The Stereotype of the Black Gamer.

Ever since my mother got me a Sega Genesis and Sonic the Hedgehog for X-mas in 1992, I have been playing video games. I have tried every genre there is to have tried and while I prefer RPG's more then any other genre, I still enjoy a wide variety of games. That being said there exist a stereotype among gamers that all black men only enjoy sports games and the major FPS games. I have been in many chat rooms and forums on the web that have this same notion and when they find out that I am black they always make the same remarks. "Oh you play Final Fantasy?" and "You play Mass Effect" or "You know about Elder Scrolls?". While these comments maybe few and far between, the fact that they still exist is insane to me. I do have a fondness for sports games that many white gamers don't share, hell a lot them actually detest the genre as a money grab because they release every year. I think the reason people assume this is because this is all they see from athletes, which lets be honest here are predominantly black. All the time they are asked to be on the cover of sports games (obviously) and to do spots for the latest Call of Duty, but never have they been asked to talk about what they think of the latest JRPG or Strategy game. So I think if they want to change this, the starting point would be the let athletes do more inside of other genres. Being able to reduce this stereotype would go a long way to making gaming a much more communal experience that the manufacturers are looking for and it would also open up lines of communication that haven't been explored. This would ultimately expand the ideas that each genre has and maybe can grow the gameplay into new and exciting directions.

Nintendo: Don't Hate the Games, Hate the Players!

Nintendo has just annouced the next in a long line of successful home entertainment consoles. Since 2006, the Nintendo Wii has been in a dominant position in terms of worldwide sales. While the Wii has had much more third party support then it's predessor, it has been first party titles that have carried the console to unparrelled success. If anyone is keeping score, Nintendo was in dead last in the previous console generation and the lack of any interesting third party games is something that continues to haunt them until this day. To deal with this issue, Nintendo created the Wii as a console that focused on providing an experience that everyone in the family can appreciate. They achieved this by simplfying interaction with the game and making motion and gestures a way to control the action on screen. They also successfully marketed the Wii as a gateway to fitness with the Wii-fit balance board. This helped Nintendo tap into a new base of gamers known as "casual" and allowed them to move many more units then both Sony and Microsoft. There's a segment of gamers out there and resent the strategy that was used to create this massive hit. They feel like Nintendo has abandoned the "core" gamers in an effort to simply run a cash and grab. While there is some truth to this arguement, the reality is there are plenty of games on the Wii that cater to the more demanding needs of the core gamer. Just because Nintendo is willing to think outside of the box and bring us experiences that up until recently couldn't be had anywhere else, doesn't mean that core gamers can't find enjoyment with motion controls. I have grown tired of the same arguement that motion controls are inferior to a traditional control pad. This is true, but that doesn't mean motion controls can't or won't improve. It's the same thing with keyboard and mouse versus controller in first person shooters. This is something that won't happen overnight or even in this first wave of motion gaming, but I believe that it is here to stay and will be the future of how we interact with games. The 3DS is also recieving critism for having 3D as the major feature of the handheld. People are quick to call it a gimmick and right off the narrow viewing angle. People tend to forget that Ninendo has one of the first touch screen devices on the market with the DS long before the Iphone. We have seen how much that technology has taken off since then with almost every smart phone sporting a touch screen interface. I'm not saying Nintendo was responsible, but clearly they had some insight on what would be the next big then in the realm of consumer eletronics. I feel like 3D is the same thing and it won't be long before it's intergrated into smart phones (there's already one on the market). Give Nintendo some credit for taking risks and having forward thinking, because if it's one compliant I heard more then any when this gen launch. It was systems just getting more under the hood, but no real innovation when it comes to gameplay. Nintendo is the only house where creativity lives and now that the next system is on the horizon, it's time for gamers to give respect, where respect is due!