It's two a.m. and I just finished playing Splinter Cell: Double Agent (a fantasitc game). More than just an extremely well done stealth game, Double Agent is a great example of what games could and should be--a great plot that makes sense rather than a random string of missions, near flawless mechanics, and a personal, moral connection with the player.
What Double Agent is best at is the morality aspect--your choices can and will have a real, lasting effect on the way the game plays in the coming missions. More pertinent to the player, however, is the effect that your choices will have on relationships with your employers--strain one enough and the game will end.
Beyond the outcome of your actions, however, most players will feel a moral obligation to choose the high ground, whatever the cost. By doing this, Ubisoft has created a game where players feel compelled to play a certain path based on their own real world values, and not any in game mechanic or random plot point.
History has shown that an element of morality can be as successful as impressive graphics. Think about how you felt finishing Sniper Wolf or when fighting Meryl in Metal Gear Solid, or even in Super Mario, when you finally saved the Princess. When faced with a moral dilemma of their own, the player will form a much stronger connection with the characters than could ever be possible otherwise.
The first one may not seem obvious at first, but when you think about it, a robust, wi-fi capable handheld without a plethora of game titles to preview is practically heresy. This is made especially apparent to me by the Xbox 360, which has approximately 80 game demos to choose from. This wide selection of playable content adds enormous value to the platform, as anyone with an Internet connection can instantly have something to play without having to make a trip to the store or buy a magazine to get the demos. Additionally, offering a wide range of first and third party demos will boost the declining game sales for the PSP, all at an effectively zero cost to Sony.
The second step Sony needs to take is to get rid of the PS3 requirement for PlayStation Store titles. While it may seem to them as a clever ploy to lure buyers into purchasing the $600 behemoth, I can't imagine dropping that kind of cash simply to play a five dollar PSOne game. What I would be willing to do, however, is pay a few bucks to download my favorite titles from yesteryear directly to the handheld, sans PS3, even if it's a limited deal.
By this point in the game, however, Sony may have already dug its hole too deep. With decreasing PSP hardware sales, lack of interest in the PS3 (for the time being, at least) and recently the Jack Tretton fiasco, Sony may never be able to reclaim it's lost turf in the console wars.
Dead Beat Thumbs
In those early days of writing, my topics were varied and sparse (a few of many factors contributing to the blog's demise). One day, I would write a post about a cool gadget that I saw, the next about a trend in video games. I even remember devoting several posts to a potato powered, PIC based web server that I came across on Digg. It only took a couple of weeks for it to become conscious that my labor of love was going nowhere, and fast (my single digit readership actually decreased during that period). In hindsight I can see that I might have garnered some success and a small following had I stuck with it, but instead I bailed early on.
My next foray into the world of professional writing came in the form of an internship at a local newspaper-- the Loveland Daily Reporter Herald. Every Wednesday I would spend my afternoon writing the business briefs page, a soul killing job that involved reading literally hundreds of press releases from companies that I didn't care about and by people that couldn't write as well as I could. While this nearly killed my love of journalism (I still hate press releases to this day), I pressed on. This six-month gig was culminated by a review of Star Wars Battlefront II for the PSP.
While this was short lived, I did gain a few valuable insights about the business. One, it's easier than it looks, and two, newspapers don't know that they need people to cover the games beat. Armed with this information, I knew that I would have to go it on my own. I would have to become a blogger. So within a year I had started Dead Beat Thumbs with my friend Neroku (he runs the forums, I write the content).
But, through all this, I have learned that all of the education in the world and all of the journalism experience in the world won't make you a better blogger. In fact, blogging, especially about video games, is a much rougher process than traditional print media. While print media retains all of the polish and objectivity of a college textbook, blogging is often dependent on the characters and immediacy of Gonzo Journalism. Just as scoring high on my AP exam requires breaking out of the traditional mode of summary and paraphrase, blogging requires breaking out of the traditional journalistic conventions and strive for a more entertaining voice.
However, despite my best efforts, there's still no one who reads my blog.
Dead Beat Thumbs
Anywho, if you're interested, check it out at www.deadbeatthumbs.com.
I just thought I'd mention it and spread the love-- my regards to everyone.
Some of us in Colorado are hosting a BYOC LAN Party on Jan. 13, 2007. The cost is $15 online, $20 at the door. Max. 40 people. Consoles/PSPs welcome (must bring you're own TV). Expect random amusements throughout the party.
If you're in the area, then you should definitely check it out, it'll be a blast!