xerxys_81 / Member

Forum Posts Following Followers
37 2 2

xerxys_81 Blog

VideoGame Limbo and Language Barriers

For me, the release of any major game is marked by this strange period of limbo. VideoGame Limbo. Because I'm an English ex-pat living in Germany, I order all of my games from Amazon.co.uk. This is fine when purchasing a game that's been around for a little while, but on a day like today, the major weakness Amazon has over physical, real-life shops is made painfully clear.

At almost midnight last night, an Amazon worker lovingly wrapped my copy of Fallout 3 in that well-known Amazon cradboard game box, slapped on the sticker and shipped it out. I felt a little thrill, as the estimated dispatch date was the 30th, and that Amazon worker had managed to ship it a day early (or 23 minutes early if you want to nit-pick). But it doesn't arrive until tomorrow.

I know it's out there, floating around various European postal services. To their credit, Amazon seem to have a very harmonious relationship with the British and German postal services. Apart from a cock-up leaving me in agony for almost two weeks waiting for Oblivion, deliveries have always met or exceeed my expectations.

But still nothing can beat getting up early, walking into the shop just after it opens and playing the game a half hour later. When it comes to waiting for a game pre-release, I have endless patience. I'd rather developers take their time to develop a well-rounded game that's as bug-free as possible (but to be fair, I do appreciate realistic release dates to accompany such thorough development). However, I suddenly turn into one of those snotty little kids on christmas eve as soon as the game leaves the warehouse, ever close to throwing a tantrum until my doorbell rings.

So why not just walk into a German shop and pick up a copy? Firstly, the price is higher here than buying on amazon. But for me, the greatest barrier is language. I'm pretty fluent in my host nation's tongue, but I've found that all creative works should be enjoyed as much as possible in their original form. Books, films, videogames; so much is lost in translation. These days, many games are translated pre-release to allow uniform europe- and worldwide launches, but not all of them. One major game release may have completely new voice acting, rewritten menus, newly typed-up subtitles, whilst another bigrelease is thrown to the entire European market in just its original English form. For most games these days, burgeoning space requirements mean limiting a game to one language version per disk.

The other problem is that most of the time, they don't tell you which is which. On some games these days, you'll find little flags telling what language the manual, audio and subtitles are in. But by no means all. Imagine my surprise when I rented out BioShock for the PS3 the other day, to get it home and find that not a word had been translated, it was still exactly as the developers had intended it.

So, there you have it. Two quite different problems that, due to my living arrangements, conspire to keep me away from my beloved games for that agonizing final few extra hours.

It's all about the... ... ...timing.

GTA is, and has always been, a game for adults. At first, this was more or less a clever marketing trick: become the first mainstream game to receive an 18 rating from the censors, and you make headlines. Ergo, free publicity. The original GTA was timed perfectly to take advantage of this one-time opportunity, and the series probably would have never been the success it is today if that first game hadn't arrived in a storm of negative publicity. Or maybe it would, we'll never know.

What we do know is that Rockstar got their timing just a little off this time around, or they did for me at least. A game for adults means you have to take into consideration adult life, and one of the common features of modern life is that many of us adults are paid on the first or last day of each month (except for those fortuitous months when a well-placed weekend means the money fairy comes and craps a wad of cash in your account a day or two early). Now, being the avid fan I am, I had my order placed with Amazon almost as soon as the game showed up on the site, and was pleased to note that they would be dispatching games before the release date, to ensure delivery on the day, or as near as could be. I was not as pleased to note that the funds in my account to which I was to be charged for the game resembled passengers on a sinking ship, and to my utter dismay, received an email from Amazon the day before dispatch, cheerily notifying me that my order had been frozen as my card didn't seem to be working. They of course explained that it could be any number of reasons: misspelled name, a missing digit in the card number, maybe I'd told them I was using the wrong card type. If I hadn't been so appalled at my own inability not to spend money quicker than I earn it, I would have found the fact that Amazon were so tactful in letting me know that my card was running on fumes, and even gave me the option to retry my card.

Which I have just done, two days after receiving the email, now that the last day of the month has arrived and the money fairy has once again done her business. Amazon will recheck my card and, lo! It will mysteriously be working once again. And two days of GTA4 are lost to me forever, not only because of my incredibly poor money sense (which I fully acknowledge and embrace), but also because Rockstar seemed to believe that the best time to release the biggest game of the year a day or two before most of the working world receive their wages.

Timing. Amazing when it works, devastating when it doesn't.

P*n*s envy? Try avatar envy...

Ah, modern technology. Those were the days when the best one could hope from their gaming heroes was a roughly person-shaped cluster of blocks who had two or three pre-defined animations and they were herded through from level to level until game over (here's looking at you, Mario).

Well, where's the game over? Where are the stock animations? And where in heaven's name are the cubist interpretations of what a person should be? The saying is that art imitates life, and video games are pioneers in this field. We can do pretty much anything we want to from the safety of our junked-up desks... any business venture is now ours to become a tycoon in; pop and rock stardom requires merely plugging in a peripheral piece of hardware, and for those of us who can't face building an ordinary, balanced life of their own?

The Sims.

I do own every Sims 2 expansion and stuff pack available. It's true, and I even enjoy long sessions of career, relationship and house building. But lately the game has been having quite the opposite effect that it should have. At first I thought it was just the news that TS3 had appeared on the horizon... suddenly that 15-high pile of boxes was hurtling towards that enormous and growing mountain called Obsolete. But, in fact, I've figured out the source of my growing melancholy and frustration with the game to stem from the Kitchen & Bathroom stuff pack. It's the ease with which these guys have everything brought into their lives. Hey, I know that the Sims are not real people, but when you've raised four or five generations of a family, you do start thinking of them in terms of individuals. And what amazing individuals they are... genetically perfect, happy, successful, a selection of outfits that is enough to make Paris Hilton swoon (and even more infuriatingly, every single outfit fit's into one single wardrobe!), and a home to die for.

Once again, I'll state here for the record that I know all of this isn't real, but every time I upgrade a family with a brand new, colour-coordinated and ultra-modern kitchen with matching appliances and decorative items, I can't help feeling a little jealous. If only some benevolent benefactor would see fit to expand my living space by 500%, complete with top of the range furniture, and all that without any noise, construction work, or time passing...

GTA had better get here soon....

GTA: Violence and killing, and that's just the gamers.

A highlight of my year is definitely the release of GTA4. Big surprise, you cry. A fan since its early days, its open gameplay has always appealed, and when it came onto the PlayStation 2, I bought one and spent several years shooting my way through first Liberty then Vice City, before getting in touch with my inner gangbanger and rampaging through a whole state. What fun.

But my choice of console was pure fluke. If the XBox had gotten there first, I would be an owner of an XBox 360 right now, rather than a PlayStation 3. Fanboyism, much like social adroitness, is something I appear to lack. Those comparison screenshots they show you? They both look bloody amazing, and I'm not going to pledge allegiance to one camp just because they can offer me soft shadows. So, on the eve of GTA's next big release, how about we all just concentrate on gunning down computer generated pedestrians in a pseudo-city, rather than our fellow gamers in the forums? Hey, I'm under no illusions that this sort of thing will ever end; us humans apparently display a knack for seeing what's rocking our neighbour's world, then taking a complete opposite stance.

This incarnation of the murderous series also features fully-realised multiplayer capabilities... yay. (San Andreas really doesn't count) You finally get to use those intricately crafted cities to run around in, completely ignoring the plethora of details afforded by months of modelling and texturing, fragging some kid from Ohio. Sounds like you paid for another copy of Unreal Tournament without realising it. The questline in GTA, coupled with running around and finding all those little hidden extras, has always been more than enough to sustain me with one of these games until a worthy successor is found. The quests are by-the-by very good, making full use of the game's boundaries, and are always loaded with dark humour. Why do you need to go head-to-head with someone you've never met and probably would not want to meet, who's idea of humour is 'LOL!!11!!! U suXX0rZ!!!111!!' But I guess everyone is different.

And so we begin...

Connecting with people isn't one of my strengths. Gaming is my passion. Thus, multiplayer gaming is, for me, something akin to arriving at a party with all your peers and realising that you're the only one who read the invite as 'fancy dress.'

I'm not quite sure why I have such an aversion to playing with other people. I hope to use this blog to do a little self-discovery, and maybe give some insight into my solitary inclinations. I'm really not sure how to go about making a blog, so hopefully I'll not mess it up.