Gaming and the Bank
- Feb 11, 2011 8:37 am GMT
- 88 Comments
Money. Dirty word these days, isn't it? With the economy taking a turn for the worse, people losing jobs, and prices slowly creeping up, the last thing most of us want to think about is our financial burdens. If you're reading this, you're probably a gamer, and as you know, it takes money to fuel the gaming hobby. Like all material things, games eventually lose their appeal. No matter how many achievements, secret bosses, and multiplayer features you stuff inside a title, gamers will always be looking for new gaming opportunities. But hey, let's face it. Games are expensive. New PS3 and 360 titles run a cool sixty bucks a pop, with Wii titles running just ten under that. I work at a Chick-Fil-A in my city, and only work about 8-9 hours a week because of school. My paycheck's range just around ninety bucks every two weeks after tax, but that's not much counting the fifty percent I put away for the future. I know it's the right thing to save for the future, but I'll admit: Sometimes I wish I made a bit more. Forty-five bucks spending money sounds like quite a bit, but money slips through your fingers fast. After some Starbucks with Mom, a couple rounds of Pac-Man and pinball at my local arcade (which I hit up about once a week), and the miscellaneous item here and there, you realize that money wasn't as much as you though it was. I've always had an itchy trigger finger when it comes to spending. When Grammy would give us a twenty upon arriving at her house, the very first thing I wanted to do was run out and spend it up on a GBA game as fast as I possibly could. I've developed better self-control than that since then of course, but when I see money that I could be spending sitting in my bank account, the desire to shell it out for a new game creeps up. Recently though I've looked around and done some thinking--Let me share a few recent revelations with you guys that have kept me gaming on, and haven't made for a thin wallet.Look Around You
----------------------- And I mean literally. If I was to look at my gaming collection right now, I would find a lot more opportunities for a new game than I might realize. Transformers: War For Cybertron sits on my shelf for one-I haven't touched it since my friend loaned it to me. I could start that. As I check the PSN, I notice that for being a Playstation Plus member I've received Double Fine's "Stacking" for free! I realize that a couple months back, GOG.com had given me a copy of Jagged Alliance: Deadly Games free-just for being a valued customer. I had bought Doom 1 and 2 with all their expansion packs for a mere $5 around Christmas time off Steam due to a huge sale. A lot of times there are gaming opportunities sitting all around you that you've forgotten about. A game you bought from a yard sale and forgot about, or that title you made it half-through but then another game distracted you. Take a careful look and make sure there aren't any games your missing that are right under your nose. The Downloadable Market --------------------------------- Yeah, yeah we've all heard this one before: PSN and Live games are all so much cheaper. Well, there's actually more to expand on here. But yeah. PSN and Live are great places to hit up when you're feeling low on cash. Titles like the legendary Braid and Castle Crashers are available for only fifteen dollars, and there are more great titles ranging from a market of $5-$10. PSN has a slew of original PS1 titles to choose from that are only $6-Sometimes $10 if it's a longer and more popular game (e.g. Any Final Fantasy title). And let's not exclude the Wii Shop channel. If it's a recently made game you're looking to download, WiiWare probably isn't the place to look. The service's titles are…Lacking to say the least. But there are a couple titles on the service that are practically musts. The entire Bit. Trip series is a joy, and everyone knows about World of Goo. The real focus of the Wii Shop channel, though, is its huge selection of retro Nintendo and Sega titles. You'd be hard pressed to not be able to find a superb title from Nintendo's past. The drawback? Nintendo requires deposits of ten dollars minimum. This is a drawback, which I admit, keeps me buying off PSN quite a bit more. Even still, I can't help but pick up an SNES classic from time to time. There's more places to look on the downloadable front than just The Big Three, however. The popular PC platform Steam offers a gigantic selection of titles to choose from-including cheap ones. The cheaper titles on Steam run anywhere from five to ten bucks as well, and there's some high quality stuff to be found. Doom, Jedi Knight: Dark Forces, and Plants Vs. Zombies rank among these prices. Go up five and grab a game like the groundbreaking Valve title Portal. The best part about all these titles I just named off, is that these will all run fine on a standard PC. No suped up gaming rig required. I run all these titles perfectly on my 1G RAM Windows XP: Media Edition (Portal gets a tad skippy every so often). Another great PC download front is a website I mentioned earlier: GOG.com. GOG, for those who don't know, stands for Good Old Games and is simply an awesome site to say the least. The guys over at GOG take old PC games, retool them to run without trouble on new PCs, and release them as downloadable titles that are totally DRM free. GOG has permission to do this from every single publisher, so it's totally legal (check out Game Informer's article) and the best part? No game goes beyond the price of ten dollars, and once again, these games will run on even Grandma's dinosaur. So go grab Heroes of Might and Magic, or the King's Quest 1, 2, and 3 bundle and kick it old school. These games still shine even today. iPods and Smartphones ----------------------------- I just recently made my spending account sob--First by refraining to spend much of it until I hit a mark of $290, and then shelling every cent of that amount out and purchasing myself a 32G Fourth Gen iPod Touch. To say I've been loving it would be and understatement. Finally having all my music on one device is like heaven, and a device that can do that AND text, do Facebook, check e-mail, watch movies and TV, etc. is just more that I could ask for. And as most of you know: It does games. I wasn't expecting too much on that front, but let me tell you--This thing is just about a full-fledge gaming platform as far as I'm concerned. Titles like Cut The Rope, Bit. Trip Beat, and League of Evil are all full-fledged games. Are they shorter than usual? Yes. But are they extremely high quality? Also yes. And the titles I just named are only ninety-nine cents. For the price of a song, you can grab yourself a new game. And it gets better. With a handy app called BargainBin, one like it, or a website such as AppShopper, you can stay on the watch for titles when they go on sale or better--free. I cannot tell you how many good games I've gotten for free since I've gotten this thing. The App Store includes every genre it seems. Platformers, RTSs, puzzlers, shmups, racers, and just plain unique stuff. So if your wallet's softly weeping for better days, your smartphone or iTouch may be just the place to look. Just because your low on funds doesn't mean you have to stop getting new games. I hope I was able to at least shed a bit of a brighter outlook on the gaming market, and show you that there are plenty of means to turn to in order to scratch the itch for a new game. Peace, guys! ~Naut
The NGP Forecast: How A Simple Price Point Could Determine The Next Gen Consoles
- Feb 1, 2011 1:25 pm GMT
- 151 Comments
As many, if not all, know by now, the successor of the PSP (Playstation Portable), codenamed the NGP (Next Generation Portable) was announced by Sony as the next line of PGH (Portable Gaming Hardware) for HCG (Hardcore Gamers), which could make the next few years very interesting for the VGI (Video Games Industry).
And yes, I'll stop with the acronyms now.
I've had time to sit on this for a week or so. but I couldn't shake this rather odd, somewhat uneasy feeling. It's not an issue with the hardware, since it is by far one of the most impressive pieces of gaming tech in terms of graphical power and in the sheer amount of creative power it could incite, with its numerous touch capabilities and its ability to touch the very soul of those who come across it.
Nor is it a software issue. Despite a number of issues the PSP had when it came to have a robust library, there are a number of games that came out on the system that could easily be better on the NGP. The announcements of previous PSP games being remade for NGP also seems like a great idea, since some popular games on PSP are considered devisive due to the systems lack of a second analog stick.
Not only do remade versions of Monster Hunter and Metal Gear games sound like a win, but the numerous popular brands that didn't find success in the PSP (Call of Duty) or altogether skipped that system can find a new home and possibly a new avenue to distribute their merch.
Yes, my friends, the problem seems to be with the one variable that we can't account for at this very moment: Price.
And trust me, I've read through numerous news posts, blogs and stories how the price can be anywhere between $200 - $500 because of x, y and z. I've also listened to the "special" podcasts that cover this breaking news and their opinions on such.
And honestly, the eventual price, whether it is $200 or $500 or anything in between, doesn't entirely bother me either.
No, what gets me is that no one is asking the question that only people seem to ask around E3 time: What does this mean for the new next generation consoles?
Confused? OK, so let's explain a few things.
Before the announcement of the NGP, The 3DS made a huge splash in E3 and made the announcement of the price and release date of the system itself: $250; coming late March.
At this point, Sony has lost tons of money in not only its console but in its portable by lack of sales, cost of system and with piracy.
With Nintendo making money on day one with both the Wii and the DS, Nintendo is taking a risk with the 3DS since it's reportedly operating on a loss with its first run of 3DS'. Sony could do what Nintendo did this generation and create a portable that is cheap, cost-effective and add the one thing everyone was asking for (Dual Analog Sticks) and would have been fine with near iPhone/iPad graphics.
As you can tell, Sony didn't do that. Sony decided to, instead, be that pathetic friend that everyone knows who did something wrong to somebody and just bombard them with gifts. You know the guy: "Oh, you want Roses? Sure! And have Chocolate! And have Jewelry! And have this car! Why? Cuz I need you back so badly!!"
What's with Sony and giving us everything and the kitchen sink, yet again? It's quite simple, really: It's the rope-in effect. Sony won the past two generations by giving us superfulous additions into a gaming console to get our attention, come up with one game that could make our eyes melt and our mouths salivate and then make several games like that one game until we all realize...well, it's the same damn thing I've been playing since that game that got me in this system in the first place.
(And yes, I was saying Final Fantasy VII)
The NGP is your PS3, Xbox 360, iPod Touch and possibly iPad all rolled into one with the "POWER OF THE PLAYSTATION BRAND!!!!"
...which honestly, hasn't had that much "power" since the PS1 era. (Go ahead and say PS2, but we all know if Grand Theft Auto III didn't become the blow-up, drag down hit it was, the GameCube would have kicked so much ass, right?!)
(...right?) [Edit Note: The Gamecube comment was sarcastic...jeez people]
Which leads back to the price. What is so significant about the price of this system? The price, in essence, could signify the beginning or the estimated time table of the next generation of consoles. How so?
If the price hits the $200 - $300 range, Sony is taking a definite price hit for this system and may need to recoup on this investment fast. Barring that the system doesn't have a multi billion dollar seller that takes Monster Hunter and Call of Duty and turns it into a sports game that is fun for the whole family and has crazy animals running into brick walls, Sony may be considering this to be a stopgap for an inevitable bigger launch, to recoup those costs.
If the system hits between $200 and $300, as soon as E3 will we hear about the new generation platform and by early next year will it be released. Sony needs to then release asystem that is "Wii-like" but has hardcore gaming ties for the first two years in order to recoup the initial investment, then come up with some kind of marketing strategy to get more software push and a bigger install base.
Of course, this is a huge image shift."It Only Does Everything" is thrown out the window and Sony needs to come up with something ingenious to rope as many people in as possible.
if the price hits $400, it reaches the price point not of a gaming handheld but of a multi-use device, such as an iPod Touch or Tablet. This price could also be used just to make the system feel much more elite in the eyes of hardcore gamers, which would up the demand significantly while Sony makes limited quantities of the system itself. They would eseentially pull a "high demand/low supply" run, while they wait an additional year to research and develop a new console.
However, right out of the gate, Sony needs to show that its much more than just a game system, which it could very well do. This is still problematic because it could show the weakness of the NGP right out of the gate, that it can't exactly be an iPad or iPhone.
If it's $500+, then Sony is trying to do as much of a recoup on all systems that come out as possible and trying to distinguish the NGP as not an add-on ora suppliment of their games division, but as a wholly owned system filled with unique features.
The PSP had one big problem: This overall feeling that, in the U.S., it was a rather superfulous system. Nearly all games that came out on the PSP could have easily been made on all consoles, which to some was a strength but to others a major weakness.
Sure, the system can still be this and be priced at much less, but if Sony is getting more money out of the system in its initial run and investment, the more they will want to put more R&D into creating games that utilize its system and its features.
The NGP looks like a very impressive system to have in your hands...but honestly, why would you spend $300 on a little portable PS3 when you can have the PS3 lock, stock and barrel for the same price? And wouldn't spending more on the same thing be absolute overkill?
In the next 12 months, Sony could land some impressive properties that will make it less like a PS3 mini and more like a bona-fide piece of hardware, but if the price ends up being more than a 3DS, it is a tough sell, especially with it being released with limiited software support (unless you bought your games digitally on the PSP, which if you did I have two things to say to you: "I'm sorry" and "Why did you buy a PSPgo?")
But there is this uneasy feeling I have and it's simply this: The NGP may just be the start of a new generation...whether we are ready or not.
Feel free to comment on the bottom, I will respond to everyone's comments. Also, if I feel it should be spotlighted, I'll edit this post and add your comments to the top.
A lot of you have commented on the fact that the PS2 had more system sellers than GTA3 and I'm more than inclined to agree with all of you. But, as great as Final Fantasy X, Metal Gear Solid 2, Jak and Daxter, Ratchet and Clank and all of the great games the PS2 had, they didn't have the pull or the attention that brought the massive amount of sales that Grand Theft Auto 3 had.
If it wasn't for Grand Theft Auto 3, we'd have a strong debate on whether the Xbox and the PS2 was the best system of that generation...actually, we'd probably be ending that generation around last year if that was the case.
I'm actually surprised about all the comments being biased since I haven't said one word about a system being awesome or failing lol.
Anyway, since it seems that a lot of people are taking the Gamecube comment seriously, I thought I'd clarify that it was actually supposed to be a humorous dig at the Gamecube. Apparently, I was the only who got the joke.
I guess writing humor and sarcasm is harder than I thought lol.
On Censorship and Tentacles
- Jan 25, 2011 4:50 am GMT
- 206 Comments
WARNING: this blog is about the video game RapeLay and as such may contain content that you may find confronting. However I felt that I could not write a blog about a subject like this (censorship) without going into some details of the game in question, and offering interpretation of it and the reaction to the game's content without the blog becoming hypocritical and without much merit. However for those of you would rather not hear about the game in detail I have separated them from the rest of the blog with asterisks so that you may skip ahead from asterisk to asterisk. I tried to use spoilers, but could not get them to work due to the dreaded HTML error. If anyone with the power would like to fix that, feel free to do so.
This blog in no way condones or encourages sexual assault of any form: there is a difference between reality and virtual reality.
Gamers are a surprisingly liberal group. At least when it comes to censorship. One of the favourite pass times of the international gaming media is writing impassioned editorials about how terrible it must be for those living under the almost fascist-like states of Germany, Australia and the like where violent video games are banned. The likes of such tragedy video game journalists have never seen before. This is wonderful as I can assure you that living under the Australian dictatorship is every bit as bad as you might imagine! I had to import Mark Ecko's Getting Up for Guy Fawkes' sake and it took more than a month to arrive! I was so distressed by this fact that I went on a post-modern anti-government Marxist glue graffiti spree.
But the thing about censorship is that if you want to oppose it you can hardly pick and choose what should and shouldn't be supported in your cause; if you do then you've become what you hate...kinda like Skeme. He does have a lot of children to feed, though so I won't judge. Bearing all this in mind it was with some surprise that I watched the reaction to the RapeLay controversy unfold. Could it be that gamers were perhaps a little hypocritical? That for all their anti-censorship vitriol they were really more pissed off that something they were interested in was being denied to others that they related to? (A commendable, selfless attitude to be sure!)Well, I should have figured that out for myself given that whenever a bad game is banned it is met with apathy and jokes.
Now, for those unaware, RapeLay is a Japanese game in which you play as a chikan (chickan_117 always made me uneasy, now I know why!) who over the course of the game stalks and rapes a young woman and her two daughters. I imagine many of you are already pretty shocked by this. As you should be! It's the expected, understandable reaction. Oh, did I mention that it's possible for the protagonist to die? And not just die—be murdered. Sure he's a rapist, but murder is murder! However we kill people constantly in games, and sometimes we even torture them too! So we're used to that form of violence. Plus it's fun!
Anyway to make matters worse the game is, according to reviewers, disturbingly realistic. For example during the scenes of rape the women may cry. And afterwards say stuff like: "
"Sniff... sniff... I w-w-want to die..." Now disturbing might be one way to describe the dialogue, but realistic? I'm not sure. Apart from the terrible writing, I cannot imagine many men or women who after being raped are going to be crying and stuttering out poorly written dialogue while their rapist still lingers around, at least not in the way they do in the game. They'll probably be far too scared: real fear, the sort of paralysing fear that makes many rapes or sexual assaults possible in the first place.
In fact, funnily enough, I can't find any screenshots where any of the characters seem fearful at all. Even the infamous tears are really the only sign of any genuine distress. I mean, literally the tears. The poor girl does not seem too distraught in any other way. I imagine it would be quite hard to make her look so given the quality of the graphics, but does this mean that the Western reviewer of the game is projecting his or her own preconceived notions of rape, and how they should react to any fictional depiction of it, regardless of context and intent, just as a Japanese man or woman may do the same and come to a completely different conclusion?
Of course there is nothing wrong with this sort of discussion. Indeed, it is surely what free speech is all about? If you find something abhorrent say so. But just because you find it abhorrent does not mean you should react apathetically, or even positively to news that said game is no longer going to be sold on Amazon after pressure by the same people who complain about the violent video games that gaming activists hold so close to their political hearts.
Indeed, I remember one discussion about RapeLay on GSAU. Most people were merely disgusted by it, but some thought that a game like that should not even be allowed to exist; some of them who I had seen enraged by the censoring of Manhunt 2! One put forth that what if it was about a real event: what if it was about your sister being raped? A rather irrelevant argument of course, but an interesting because these things already exist in other mediums.
True crime television shows, books and films tastelessly exploit real events in a way that can be genuinely damaging to those involved, but because these are an accepted part of media in the West no one is going to feel any disgust as the family of a murder victim is dragged through the media circus with or without their permission; and if the former their permission was most likely gained at a rather sensitive time when bad decisions are likely to be made. But, Underbelly was totally cool!
This is understandable. Much of our morality is gained from the world around us, rather than from our own personal sense of right or wrong, which is exactly why it is so important to have a non-exclusive stance when it comes to censorship. No matter how disgusting you find a harmless expression that does no measurable harm to anyone except make your heart beat a little faster with rage, someone else may find it a fulfilling experience. Your own sense of moral outrage should not come into it.
There is another thing to take from this experience. If we hardened gamers can feel disgust and moral outrage over a game like RapeLay, then perhaps we should treat those who have the same reaction to violent video games with a little more empathy? In many ways the way Western gamers' experience of RapeLay is the way that all those mother groups and activists experience violent games: through fear and ignorance without context. If you had never seen a video game in your life and you stumbled onto Soldier of Fortune you may well be pretty disturbed and frightened by it, and if you had kids, then your immediate reaction may be that you would not want your children to see such a disturbing piece of media under any circumstances. Then you'd switch on the news and watch it over dinner with the kids and the hubby...
But for gamers who are familiar with violent games you will have been exposed to it enough to know that the old ultra-violence isn't so realistic or violent at all: it's a visceral, visual expression of competition and struggle, sure, but an inherently cartoony depiction of violence that won't necessarily come across as such immediately to those unfamiliar with the medium. The simple fact is, though, that if the violence was realistic suddenly Gears of War and the like would cease to have a market because few people would enjoy, let alone buy a game depicting realistic violence that you, the player, acts out and the same applies to RapeLay. Remember this is not just some random, tiny game released into a market that is not even as big as niche. It may not be a huge release, but it's a big enough one to require a market and there are few markets large enough to sustain the production of a video game that are into real, confronting and disturbing suffering.
Of course it is something of a fallacy to tell you what you should do; really, I do not mean to. I am merely disappointed in you. Yes, you. For I cannot think of a better case of censorship to take on! Japan has recently been very repressive with their treatment of sex in the media. You know all those pixels in that totally hawt Japanese video you're trying to watch where the gal is trying her best to sound in pain while in the raptures of se—oh crap! You're watching a Japanese "rape" video, umm anyway I mean those pixels are the same reason that there are tentacles in manga and anime. (Hokusai's influence aside.) Those pixels are the same reason that a hell of a lot of stuff from Japan is so awesomely ****ed up, so long as it doesn't morally outrage you of course. Oh, and let's not forget that even in Western erotic fiction and the like submission and even rape can be part of sexual fantasy for both men and women.
But what happened in Japan because of these sticky beaks? These unopposed, apathetically met sticky beaks? (Not that activism necessarily makes much difference. There's still no R-18 rating in fascist Australia, zombie protest guyz!) The Ethics Organization of Computer Software made it so that it is now effectively impossible to buy RapeLay, setting a precedent for all future releases. Something for Jack Thompson to take heart in: sometimes campaigning does work.
More recently we've seen further censorship taking place in anime and manga on another en vogue moral issue in the West. So perhaps it wasn't just the sticky beak's campaigning that led to this, but a larger societal shift in Japan towards further repression of sexual media.
On the bright side that'll just result in some even more crazy stuff coming out of Japan. Can you imagine just how crazy Shintaro Kago and the like's art is going to get in the coming few years? Bring on censorship I say! It results in some wonderful fashionable paranoia. Or as he calls it himself: ****.
Sadly that's a rather optimistic position to take given that Japan has been largely insane since the beginning of recent history.
So thank you censorship for some of the best media to bypass the censors (just ignore the above, hmm I should have censored that out, actually). Thank you gamers for picking your battles; it makes you look better in the mainstream media (the mainstream media that often supports the censoring of violent video games) that is so important to us.
The State of the PS3
- Jan 19, 2011 4:30 pm GMT
- 437 Comments
It has been a relatively crime free life inside the circuits of Sony's PS3. The pipelines were clear of dubious data and the servers were protected from nefarious killjoys. Life was, however, thrown into turmoil for a brief period of time at the beginning of 2010 by a youngster from New Jersey. Sony quickly patched the leak, the hacker fled, and all was well.
Sony has done a great job keeping its system boarded from the numerous hacking groups and kid wonders. Apparently, they can't stop them when they join forces. The best of the first and the most famous of the second collaborated and their goals have been realized. The PS3 is completely and utterly defenseless. No firmware will patch this security leak. It is only a matter of time before numerous hacks become available.
January 26, 2010: George Hotz exposes the OtherOS exploit to the public, the first PS3 hack.
March 28, 2010: Sony kills the OtherOS feature effectively disabling the hack. Hotz vows to find a work around.
July 13, 2010: Hotz decides to give up on the PS3.
~End of Dec, 2010: fail0verflow gives presentation on security exploit in PS3.
January 6, 2011: Hotz shows homebrew running on current PS3 firmware and the internet exploded.
Piracy is the obvious implication of this security exploit. On the first of January there were practically no pirated copies of PS3 games on the various torrent sites. Sony has been worry-free from pirates for over 3 years while MS and Nintendo have had to contend with pirated games almost since day one. If we look at it generally, we would think this isn't that big of a deal since MS and Nintendo do fine with hacked systems. However, if we take a closer look, we see a difference in this scenario which puts Sony in trouble.
The 360 and Wii have been hacked for quite awhile. The saving grace is that the hacks are not trivial to perform for a "lay person." The 360 requires either hardware modification or a tedious reflash of the hard drive that can only be done if the HDD is directly connected to a PC. The Wii requires hardware modifications as well or a software modification which requires very particular steps. The scary part for Sony and non-pirates is theoretically the PS3 needs no modification, software or hardware. They have the encryption keys and could use software on a burnt disc or USB to run the game/programs.
The Wii may be easy to mod, but the Wii made money on every console sold for Nintendo. This is not the case for the PS3. Sony took a large hit on each console sold and hopes to make up for that cost by the consumer purchasing games or movies. With this hack, Sony not only loses potential game sales they also take a massive hit on the consoles which never paid for themselves.
As early as January 13th the first developer confirmed the security exploits are causing major problems for players playing on their gaming servers. From annoying hacks such as curse words on status bars to major stat hacks, the Call of Duty franchise is being bombarded by cheaters and hacks. Activision thought the problem was exclusive to the Modern Warfare series of games because they rely on the standard PS3 encryption, but Black Opts is also having major problems. Some have even reported rumors of the servers potentially being brought down due to rampant hacking issues.
On top of poor multiplayer experiences, there are also people fudging their trophy scores. Hackers are unlocking trophies without completing them.
When the Dust Settles
A lot has happened in the last 2 weeks and more is sure to come. One thing is certain; PS3 will never be the same. I've been a supporter of Sony's PS3, MS's 360, and Nintendo's Wii since they launched. I've never pirated a game on any of those systems. It is sad to see the PS3 in its current form and, as a supporter; I feel these pirates are only raising the cost while simultaneously lowering the experience for the legal gamers. Botched multiplayer, totally compromised security and a future of free games flying off the web are all things Sony is going to have to deal with.
The worst part is Sony being punished for releasing a relatively open system from the start. The launch PS3 had the OtherOS feature which allowed users to install a linux based system on the console. They let the user connect practically any blue tooth device without proprietary hook ups. The user could also install any standard sized HDD without paying a huge Sony tax.
Hackers exploited OtherOS forcing Sony to can the feature.
I bet the next PS (if there is one) will be entirely closed. Thanks hackers…
What's your point of view?
2011: Year of the Indie Game
- Dec 26, 2010 4:39 pm GMT
- 110 Comments
2011 will be a year of turbulent change in the video game industry. As we all know, and can easily tell by the comments section of many news articles here on gamespot, many gamers are becoming fed up with the gaming industry as it stands. Anti-corporate sentiment is strong and lawsuits are flying back and forth, leaving the gamer with not much more than a repackaging of the same game they played last year. Not to say all games made by EA or Blactivision are terrible, I have enjoyed a lot of Starcraft 2, and at a friends house played a lot of Battlefield: Bad Company 2. But even these games are surrounded by corporate controversy, and that is the first reason why things are going to change in the coming year.
What will gamers turn to after they tire of these large companies charging high prices for re-packaged content? The independent game development scene, of course. It has become obvious that this is the direction the video game industry is headed, and 2011 will be the year that it explodes. Lets start with a definition of an indie game, and then analyze exactly how we can tell that we are entering the year of the indie game.
While most people have heard of and probably played indie games, it can still be confusing exactly what an independent game is. The most concrete way to define it is any game not published or developed by a major game developer, such as EA or Blizzard Activision. So technically, anything not by one of the major publishers is independent. However, the smaller the company gets, the "more independent" the game becomes. When the company is smaller, there is less pressure to meet deadlines, and less pressure to make the game adhere to whatever guidelines the big companies have decided makes a comercially viable game. This gives independent developers a lot more space for freedom and creativity, which can result in some unique, and often some incredibly fun games. Independent can range anywhere from a 50-man team working in an office to Cousin Steve working out of Auntie Ann's basement.
I have made the bold statement that 2011 will be the year independent games take over the scene. How can I back up this claim? There are several trends I have recently noticed that all tie together:
1. Higher sales of downloadable games: With online platforms such as Steam, downloads have risen dramatically. In fact, 2010 was the first year that more downloadable games were sold then retail games(I singlehandedly led this push). However, not all games downloaded are independent. In fact, most are probably major games(though no one can be sure). However, this does prove that, as gamers start to download more and buy in a box less, that independent games will have a lot easier time selling their games, as it is much easier to simply sell a game through Steam, or through your own website then in a store.
2. Dramatic rise in sales of Xbox indie games: Most xbox 360 owners have seen the indie game section of their game marketplace. And statistics show that in the past year, more of them have actually been purchasing these games, possibly due to Microsoft's implementation of a ratings feature for these games. Arcade games have also been on a steady rise since the release of the xbox 360, and while not all arcade games are independent(such as Battlefield 1943), many of them are.
3. Massive success of recent PC indie games: While Xbox has its way of distributing independent games, PC is where indie games will have their greatest growth. Or I should say, are already having their greatest growth. The best example of this is the ridiculously high sales of Minecraft, the java-written cube shaped sandbox sensation(minecraft.net). Since the release of a paid version last June, nearly 900,000 purchases have been made, making Notch(minecraft's creator) one of the richest men in independent game development. He has since started up a company to help with the development of minecraft and other projects. Another example I just recently have heard about is haxball, a free online flash soccer meets air hockey game(haxball.appspot.com). In 4 short months, haxball has spread across the internet like wildfire, and despite its ridiculously simple controls has consumed thousands of man hours(and many hours of my own). This trend will surely continue, and don't be surprised when more games such as minecraft sell hundreds of thousands of copies.
While the success of notch may make it appear otherwise, indie game development is a poor career choice. Even the most succesful Xbox Live indie developers can hardly make a living for one person. However, the low prices attract a lot of players, and as more and more people discover the wonders of indie gaming, those sales numbers will continue to grow, and more and more indie games will be produced as more people realize they too want a slice of the pie. While they will never break the sales records of Black Ops, indie games are definitely the thing to watch(and play) in 2011.
Is it my turn to hand out trivial awards yet?
- Dec 15, 2010 6:18 pm GMT
- 182 Comments
Once again it's that time of year when gamers of all backgrounds enjoy bashing each other over the head with their take on game of the year selections. Even with the slightest of glances past the user comment sections when voting on various categories I was welcomed with well more than a years worth of the painfully repetitive "your picks suck" / "my picks are indisputable!" / "you like__ too much" / "you don't appreciate __ enough" nonsense.
I must admit that even after all these years it still continues to amaze me how even the most seasoned gamers can sometimes fall into taking these yearly game awards a bit too seriously.. as well as forget that dispensing any significant amount of time and energy trying to force ideals and preference onto other fans of probably the most subjective of all modern entertainment mediums is rather superfluous.
Anyways, I've had more than my fill of gaming related annoyances and headaches this year.. which is why I am planning to take a bit of a break. But before that I suppose I shall grace the internet with the 2010 Old Skoolies . Happy holidays.
GOTY Nominees: Red Dead Redemption (multi), Mass Effect 2 (multi), Super Mario Galaxy 2 (Wii), God of War III (PS3)
My Game Of The Year -
Multi-Platform Game Of The Year - Mass Effect 2
(Only exclusives are eligible)
Best PS3 Game - God of War III
Best XBOX360 Game - Halo Reach
Best Wii Game - Super Mario Galaxy 2
Best PSP Game - Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker
Best DS Game - Dragon Quest IX
Best PC Game - Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty
Best Action/Adventure - Red Dead Redemption (multi.)
Best Thriller/Mystery - Heavy Rain (PS3)
Best Horror - Amnesia: The Dark Descent (PC)
Best Shooter - Battlefield: Bad Company 2 (multi.)
Best RPG - Mass Effect 2 (multi.)
Best Platformer - Super Mario Galaxy 2 (Wii)
Best Fighting Game - Super Street Fighter IV (multi.)
Best Racing Game - Gran Turismo 5 (PS3)
Best Sports Game - "Tie" NHL 11 & NBA 2k11 (multi.)
Best Puzzle Game - Limbo (XBOX360)
Best Rhythm/Music Game - Rock Band 3 (multi.)
Best Strategy game - Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty (PC)
Best Downloadable Console Game - Pac-Man: Championship Edition DX (multi.)
Best Piece of Downloadable Content - Minerva's Den, Bioshock 2 (multi.)
Best Expansion Pack - Awakening, Dragon Age: Origins (multi.)
Special Achievement Awards
Best Story - Mass Effect 2 (multi.)
Best Ending - Red Dead Redemption (multi.)
Best Graphics, Technical - God of War III (PS3)
Best Graphics, Artistic - Kirby's Epic Yarn (Wii)
Best Atmosphere - Amnesia: The Dark Descent (PC)
*Horribly under covered by mainstream media
Best Sound Design - Amnesia: The Dark Descent (PC)
Best Original Music - Heavy Rain (PS3)
*One of the defining soundtracks of this console generation
Best Licensed Music - Rock Band 3 (multi.)
Best Voice Acting - Mass Effect 2 (multi.)
Best Writing & Dialogue - Red Dead Redemption (multi.)
Best Competitive Multiplayer - Battlefield: Bad Company 2 (multi.)
*I actually enjoyed the Vietnam expansion even more than the base game
Best Cooperative Multiplayer - Halo Reach (XBOX360)
Best Boss Fights - God of War III (PS3)
Best New Character - John Marston, Red Dead Redemption (multi.)
Best Use Of A Creative License - Lego Harry Potter: Years 1-4 (multi.)
Best Original IP - Heavy Rain (PS3)
Most Improved Sequel - Red Dead Redemption (multi.)
Most Surprisingly Good Game - Deadly Premonition (multi.)
Most Memorable Moment - Revealing of the Origami Killer's identity, Heavy Rain (PS3)
Honorable Mentions - Xenoblade (Wii), Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood (multi.), Fallout: New Vegas (multi.), Bayonetta (multi.), Super Meat Boy (multi.)
Best Game No One Played - Vanquish (multi.)
Most Surprising Game to Make It Past Aussie Censors - Splatterhouse (multi.)
Most Disappointing Game - Final Fantasy XIII (multi.)
*All of the franchise's flaws and cliches with none of it's execution and charm
Most Annoying Characters - Vanille, Hope, girl Cloud, etc. Final Fantasy XIII (multi.)
Least Welcomed Genre Introduction - Corridor RPG, Final Fantasy XIII (multi.)
Least Improved Sequel - Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II (multi.)
Worst Game - Fighters Uncaged (XBOX360)
Worst Game Everyone Played - Final Fantasy XIV Online (PC)
*Getting the hint yet about the kind of year Square Enix had?
Worst Piece of DLC - Sinclair Solutions Test Pack, Bioshock 2 (multi.)
*Less to do with quality, more to do with paying 400 MSP/$5 to activate a very modest amount of on- disc content.
Most Despicable Use of In-Game Avertising - Energizer + Verizon, Alan Wake (XBOX360)
*Anyone who played the game for more than 15 minutes knows this won by a landslide.
Most Anticipated Game of 2011 - The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (multi.)
Most Anticipated Piece of Hardware/Accessory - Sony PSP2
Most Important Trend to Continue - Strong support for Indie gaming
Which Trend Should Be Done Away With First - Paid DLC overload (especially "Day 1" DLC)
A Single Player Gamer's Lament
- Dec 14, 2010 4:41 pm GMT
- 429 Comments
I can't remember a time when video games weren't a part of my life. Some of my earliest childhood memories are of afternoons spent in my parent's basement playing their Atari 2600. I've owned at least one console from each generation since then. My closet full of video games is a constant reminder of the countless hours and thousands of dollars I've invested in this hobby over the last 3 decades.
That's why this current trend of shoehorning online multiplayer into every video game regardless of whether or not it actually makes the game better saddens me. I don't care for multiplayer, and devoting resources to that feature means a shorter and less polished single player portion of the game. More and more often recently, I have found myself questioning the wisdom of game purchases that would force me to pay for online multiplayer features that I will never use in order to enjoy single player experiences that are getting shorter and shorter. I understand that online multiplayer is very popular, and there is certainly a place for it in gaming, but must there be a place for it in *every single game*?
According to Frank Gibeau, president of the EA Games Label, the answer is yes. He recently declared that single player only games are finished. Here's my favorite portion of the article I just linked to:
Asked as to whether EA demand that their studios add a multiplayer component to every game, Gibeau said his job is more to "inspire" developers to consider the commercial ramifications.
Translation: Yes, EA is demanding that their studios add a multiplayer component to every game.
I can't imagine what "commercial ramifications" Gibeau could be talking about. Though single player only games are becoming a smaller and smaller portion of overall game releases each year, I can still point to recent games with no multiplayer content that have sold quite well. Games like EA's own Dead Space, Dragon Age: Origins, and Mass Effect 2 have sold several million copies each. This proves there is still an audience that wants games completely devoted to the single player experience. So why shut them out? Shouldn't a giant publisher like EA want to reach the broadest audience possible instead of catering solely to players who want mulitplayer? Gibeau's statement reads like a message for me and gamers like me. That message is "We don't care about you anymore. Take your disposable income elsewhere".
I should have been happy with last week's announcement of Mass Effect 3. As one of the few game franchises left where I could enjoy the entire game, the Mass Effect series holds a special place in my heart. But after reading about EA's policy of pushing multiplayer on its studios, my anticipation for this game has turned to dread. The announcement of a multiplayer add on for Mass Effect 3 seems inevitable. The only question is whether they will get my hopes up by delaying the announcement until we're near the game's release or kill my enthusiasm immediately by showing the press the multiplayer mode early next year. These days, delayed bad news is all I can hope for.
The day when the major publishers abandon single player games and force me to give up the hobby I have enjoyed for almost my entire life is coming. EA has made me more sure of that then ever.
A Review of Reviews
- Dec 14, 2010 2:46 am GMT
- 55 Comments
Aberinkulas and I decided to write an editorial about game reviews. We kinda failed but hopefully the back and forth rambling will still be enjoyable enough, if ultimately pointless...much like a review.
We take it in turns, starting with Aberinkulas. If I interrupt him my text will be in bold.
A professional journalist.
Come See the Repression Inherent in the System
I can remember it quite fondly. It was back when the nSider forums were still alive and well, thriving even; there were so many people posting reviews and discussing Nintendo games in embarrassing, revealing ways that it was probably for the best that it died off. The reviews board was one of the watering holes for me: interesting, more intelligent than, say, the Animal Crossing forum, and there was always someone that would tell you that your review was pretty great, no matter how bad it really was.
My first review was a three paragraph bit on the Lord of the Rings: Return of the King for the Game Boy Advance. In the first paragraph, there was a header with the word "graphics" and below, I talked about the graphics. The second paragraph, "gameplay" and the third, "value."
Comment one told me my review was very good. That was certainly predictable. Comment two told me I had forgot to talk about the sound.
"The sound doesn't matter in a game like this," I said in response. "It's fairly boring and most people are going to turn it off."
"No," they responded back. "You have to talk about the sound. That's how reviews are done."
At the time, you had to have a high enough posting score to be able to edit your posts, so I couldn't just go back and edit the review again. So I decided to go write a new review, and that's when the cycle began.
Much of my time at nSider was spent reading posts written in mangled English about how my reviews were not really reviews, because of this or that or another thing. I read the guides they had, posted by well intentioned but otherwise clueless twelve year olds. Basically, if you didn't have headers over every section of the review labelling your subject, and you didn't include every section they wanted you to, it wasn't a review.
We got headers. 8)
Then some dude (I do not recall his name) posted a review of Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney by recreating the sprites and placing text next to their picture, which in turn allowed him to create his own court case. The characters fooled around a bit and debated back and forth, in a fairly predictable way that probably wouldn't have surprised anyone that had read any fan fiction.
"That wasn't a review," I said. "That was cool, but that wasn't a review."
"Yeah it was a review!" he said.
"No it was not," I responded. "I am no closer to understanding this game than I was before I read it. I do not know if I should buy it or what it is about. All I know now is that the characters are funny and the back and forth between them is silly."
Hmm, funny characters? Silly back and forth? Sounds exactly like Phoenix Wright to me! But then what happened?! I'm dying here.
I'm glad you asked. It became one of the most popular reviews ever posted on nSider. Funnily enough, you needed to have a certain amount of post page views before you could "rank up" and that single discussion gave me thousands. It was glorious.
Oh lovely, always pimping the system I see!
A professional critic.
Objectively Speaking There is Only Subjectivity
And our poor old Aberinkulas' experience is not a rare one. I can scientifically prove this fact with anecdotal evidence by pointing out that I have been through similar things. I started writing my reviews without much direction or styIe but slowly I developed my theory of reality through reviews (patent pending) which means that in my reviews I attempt two things: the first is to express my personal feelings and observations (which consistent of complaining about the technical failures of games like Arkham Asylum and people hate me for it!), and secondly to create a tone or something contained in my review which for me is synonymous with my experience of the game. For example my Half-Life 2 review was long and boring, because Half-Life 2 was long and boring.
Alas it was criticised. It was called overly-long and boring. This criticism was obviously the highest praise I could receive, though from a marketing perspective perhaps not. The theory of reality through reviews may not be entirely suitable for commercial reviews as they are as much a product as the game they are reviewing. More recently I posted a review composed like a collection of messages from twitter. This review was deleted from GS's reviews. A user review deleted due to it being different! Is it any wonder that reviews have stagnated so much if there is so much pressure put on even user reviews? We shall not get into an argument of what constitute reviews because the definition is quite simple, and leaves the writer with a great deal of freedom of how to express their thoughts: "a critical article or report, as in a periodical, on a book, play, recital, or the like; critique; evaluation." And what is an article you ask? "A written composition in prose, usually nonfiction, on a specific topic, forming an independent part of a book or other publication, as a newspaper or magazine."
So with this amount of freedom why is it that we find the large majority of mainstream reviews to follow the simple formula of attempting to objectively (which is a fallacy in and of itself) describe the game broken down into several elements: gameplay, graphics, sound and presentation. All this comes to the final conclusion of the review which is not a numerical score as some might have you believe but a simple yes or no question: should you buy this game? The sum total of the review is one of two words. Yes or no.
It's false to assume that other media are just as bad. Certainly the majority of film, music and book reviews have a similar pretense: simple consumer recommendation, but even mainstream outlets such as Pitchfork Media do not review all music in this styIe nor are their over the top comical reviews reserved solely reserved for their lowest scoring albums.
There's also not this great desire to be seen as objective. When Roger Ebert talks about inherently subjective things such as the visual presentation of morality in a film nobody bats and eyelid. And that's not to say he doesn't back up his subjective ideas: this is obviously an important part of a review, and video game reviewers do it all the time except that they present their subjective analysis as objective. Now naturally there is a difference between representation of morality and technique, but the analogy still stands because:
It is an objective statement to say that Gears of Wars graphics supports high definition resolution. It is objective to state that Gears of Wars' graphics are technically of a high standard, but this technique we are talking about is inherently subjective. Why is it that we appreciate graphics of high technical quality (which is objectively quantifiable through things such as pixel counts and frame rates, resolutions etc.)? Because they are pretty and culturally appreciated. Now, what if it was culturally appreciated to use as few pixels as possible, and indeed to design effective graphics with fewer pixels? This would require technique and suddenly graphics with high pixel count would be of low technical quality. It's a terrible hypothetical, but helps (I hope) to show that, while objectively observable, the result and emotions that technique results in (and why we praise them as being objectively good) are entirely subjective.
Build it and…
I'll be honest, writing about reviews at this point feels like you're just trying to beat a dead horse but you really ran it over with your car twenty miles back. The conversation is so overdone it's overdone. I'm literally running out of bloody metaphors.
"Writing about music is like dancing about architecture," a good quote goes, and so we'll smash it on its head and make it confused so that it now says "writing about games is like writing about music."
Writing about games IS like dancing about architecture, more than we'd initially think. Architecture is a massive component to nearly every game out there; world design can make or break a blockbuster. Even if the ways in which we interact with world design aren't perfect, we can usually ignore or get around them for the sake of experiencing a world apart from our own. How do you write about architecture?
The problem with writing about games is that reading is linear, while games are generally not. Certainly, a game like Final Fantasy XIII would give the modern novel a run for its lack-of-substantial-interactivity money, but by and large you'll find the large majority of games that people like to think about and discuss in text are games that aren't linear, have little structure, or at the very least allow the player to experience its world with some
sort of freedom.
Text does not have that! If you really like the idea I've just presented for example, you can't just gaze around looking at the surrounding landscape considering the points and looking at things you may have missed! Unless you're skipping paragraphs (in which case: you're doing it wrong) then you're going to be given my text in a linear format and there's no exploration, and no set sort of way for you to experience it any other way.
The number of things that the current styIe of game review assumes is astronomical, but the main one is that the path that each player chooses throughout the course of their playtime will be identical, to the point where you can make some sort of claim as to rating your theoretical experience. Consider Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, a popular RPG made by Bioware. It was critically acclaimed for having choice and experimentation with both the light and the dark side. The assumption there is that the player themselves chose to accept that choice. The player could have been a very hardcore Jedi that refused options at the slightest hint of the Dark Side. That choice didn't exist for that person.
Interactivity is such a hard discussion because you have a massive realm of possibilities. Despite many games being carefully crafted and the players funnelled along by their programming overlords, many times you simply cannot translate the breadth of all the endless possibilities into text. Granting judgements with the sensibility of faux officialism and intelligence? It seems almost trite.
Kieron Gillen, famous ex-Rock Paper Shotgun Brit-funny man wrote the New Gaming Journalism Manifesto many moons ago discussing a solution to this very problem. Instead of assuming that a single gamer can experience and put a label upon every perspective and play-through, the review is treated like a travel diary, and as such the review stops assuming this grand point of view, narrowing into something smaller, more focused, and, yes, linear for the benefit of text. A travel diary can be subjective in the superior way that to make a claim about the experience, the perspective offering that subjectivity is not only well documented, but trivial to dissect. If above Jedi Knight gamer lambastes KOTOR for a lack of choice in the narrative, it's only a matter of a few scrolls of the mouse wheel to point out
the various (personal) is sues in coming to such a conclusion.
Gamers are irrational. Gamers are moody and change their minds. Gamers never vote with their wallets en masse, and as a cluster they're even more unpredictable. The ways in which they work are impenetrable behind the façade of the modern dissection of gaming because we don't get to see why they think what they do, or where they are drawing their conclusions from. Short, sentence long examples sometimes do the trick, but they can't really sum up complex, drawn out experiences that fundamentally change the way a gamer experiences a game. A reviewer who powered through the main campaign of Oblivion will have a very different experience from a person who explored the world so many times he's got the map memorized, yet you'd never get acknowledgement of the differences between the perspectives in an everyday review.
Writing about games is a silly, odd and difficult proposition. A travel diary with interesting and well documented considerations on the game's design, flaws and strengths is probably the best suggestion I've seen. But that's just me.
...They Will Come
Oh, so you skipped ahead and want a conclusion? Let me do it in the traditional 10 scale: stagnant, derivative reviews are not worth buying/10. But because I have some empathy here's a proper one for those of you gamers who are capable of reading more than just menus and scores:
"But that's just me." Case in point. Four words that sum it up perfectly. Personally I imagine that a video game travel journal might turn out like a real one, and by that I mean it would be a piece of trivial writing that is hardly even interesting if you are planning a journey to wherever the writer is showing off about. But by God it would be nice if there were a few more of those around so that poor old Aberinkulas doesn't have to write them all himself! Variety is the spice of life, they say, and while salt and sugar are both on the way out in cooking so that we are left with commercial food as vapid and soulless as reviews, could we not add a little pepper to what we say about games?
Oh, and those opinion pieces about games being art don't count. Even written by old fuddy-duds such as Ebert.
The Perfect World Scenario
- Dec 8, 2010 5:07 pm GMT
- 49 Comments
You know - gamers are now living in what can be best described as "The Perfect World". Gamers are getting more bang for their buck - are able to play games on a wide variety of gaming consoles, and even when game series cross platforms, or even cross genres - are getting a cohesive experience. The Perfect World scenario is evidently an important part of today's gaming - but it has its roots as far back as even the earliest MMO's.
The Perfect World Scenario is simple. It's the feedback we give the developers. It's the fan community's united voice. It's the contributions of the wiki community - hungering for the next information to stow away - to compare, contrast and eventually slot in it's place in the game's world and storyline. It's the gamers themselves - helping make their games better.
Developers have never had it easier. Of course - developing large budget titles is getting more and more financially risky. We're seeing amalgamations of once great teams. Australia has been particularly burdened by this - without financial support from the Government, we're seeing developers die - as they live project to project. A single bad game can be enough to kill a studio and hundreds of employees who depend on that studio. It's a mess - but it has also given rise to the great independents.
As little as a decade ago, the "Indie" community was largely ignored. Nintendo, Sega and Sony were all working to keep their loyal fanbases and build respectability for gaming, but the vocal indie community of basement dwelling coders was largely ignored. The Net Yaroze system from Sony was a step in the right direction, but it wasn't until the advent of selling downloadable games cheaply did this community finally find a voice and a platform. And oh boy - did the sales come in!
But it's these large titles - games that can require hundreds of employees and years of development that suggest, no, require, a level of community involvement beyond that of "when's it coming out?". Which is where the game's fiction organiser or "lorekeeper" comes in. It's his/her job to ensure that the games numerous employees keep the games vision the same - even when it diverges from it's original gameplay.
For instance - Assassin's Creed. Here is a title which screams multi-faceted, multi-media approach. So far we've seen 3 console games, each of which were on the PS3, Xbox 360 and PC, 2 Nintendo DS games (since been ported to iPhone and Android), an upcoming 3DS game, a facebook game, a PSP game, several DLC packs, 2 short films, 2 graphic novels, a novel, a comic book series and an art book. Obviously it's gone far beyond the development studio who first began to produce the games - Assassin's Creed has become such a property, and such a monopoly (the series so far has sold over 20 million games) - that developer Ubisoft is actually illiciting gamer's opinions about where the series should head next.
The power is in our hands! No more do developers turn a blind eye to our ideas - our opinions matter more than ever! Developers and Publishers are listening hard to their fan bases - their communities, their forums and their surveys than ever before. Gaming has become a collaborative effort of hundreds of developers and behind the scenes people - and now gamers are contributing their part. What we say in this game affects the vision for what comes next.
Bioware fans were upset about the absence of Liara from Mass Effect 2. Bioware responded with the best DLC they have ever crafted. Epic fans were vocal about the absence of strong women in Gears of War. Gears of War 3 will see them fighting along side you. Fallout fans were spending hundreds of man-hours creating the most comprehensive database of information online on the series - and Bethesda took full advantage. These are just a few examples of how gamers are helping craft the games they play.
The future is bright for the gamer. They have a direct link to those that craft the games they play, and developers are taking full advantage of gaming console's ability to keep tabs on what gamers are enjoying in their games. More than heat maps, they are able to see just how long we spend checking out certain scenes. This kind of feedback is invaluable. We now have a platform to state what we like and dont like about games, and what we feel could make them better. This kind of power to help weild the games we play is only going to get stronger. The line between gamer and developer is fading - especially when we play games like LittleBigPlanet and The Sims 3.
We are becoming a society of gamers living in a Perfect World - a world of gaming that encourages us to help developers make their games the best they can be. It's an exciting time indeed.
What is fun? Why do we play?
- Dec 5, 2010 4:53 pm GMT
- 6 Comments
Lately I've been thinking. What is the way we perceive fun? In what ways do we indulge in it? What is its meaning, and why do we yearn for it? When does it turn into addiction or work? Video-games and gaming are ripe for this type of analyzing.
Art, or drug?
When we read books, watch movies or play games, our brain gets stimulated and the connections we make while thinking and virtually experiencing are rewarding. In gaming more than with former arts, since it is a direct consequence of our actions and is generally more frequent and condescending. Heck, games are even rewarding us when we don't deserve it. We stop being satisfied with the fulfilling revelations of our own contemplations and want more of the raw stimulation from the outside. Dumbed down games of today support this kind of mentality in gamers: inducing raw emotions while requiring no creative thinking and little or no reflexes. Games like Farmville (or World of Warcraft in some aspects) go further: people get caught in a cycle of repetitive tasks; upon completing those tasks nothing in the player changes. No involvement other than time was required. The game tells us we are better than some players and worse than others. Being treated like this, we get a false sense of superiority and accomplishment. We are greedy, and the game knows it: the inner hedonistic child gets what it wants, and there is always a new carrot behind the next corner.
This, from my point of view, is when a game stops being an art and becomes a drug. Those of you addicted to gaming, always one step behind the sought-out dose of pleasure you so desperately need, need to recognize what you are doing wrong. It's about attitude towards life itself. Your experience in gaming or any other art is, quite simply, what you make of it. It is highly subjective. So how to make the best of it? Start by comprehending what drives you in the first place.
Art, or sport?
Games started as sports. There is no denying it. In the begining of videogames, it was all about besting the AI or another player. No artistic expression/experience involved. With time though, they became more complex and deep. Games were starting to resemble art. Soon, some of them weren't about competition at all. Today, two main branches are existent in gaming: art games and sport games. Themes and franchises overlap, but these are THE two ways of experiencing interactive fun. Why do I say this? I'll explain.
My awesome MS Paint skills were put to use, and lo and behold, above is the masterful result. It shows the main point of what I'm getting at - games can be whatever we make of them.
Fun = thrill
If we game to PERFECT OURSELVES in more physical ways (often through competition), we game to win. This requires a combination of intelligent thinking and REFLEXES, and a great deal of automatizing various physical/mental processes through practice until they come naturally. Genres like RTS, FPS, platformer and racing come to mind.
If we game to PERFECT THE (ingame) CHARACTER, to hear stories and dream of adventures, we game to experience. This requires a combination of intelligent thinking and EMOTIONS, which is more true to the basic definition of art. Genres like RPG and adventure come to mind.
If we game for the intelligent thinking alone, we seek no improvement of our reflexes and no emotional impact; we game to think. Genres like turn-based strategy and pure logic games like chess come to mind.
Thou speaketh of unintelligible things
Obviously, games cannot be divided like this. 'I use my reflexes when I pop potions in a random role-playing game I like!', you squeak. 'I get emotionally involved when I score some headshots in a loosely realistic reenactment of world war 1.5 or when cops bust me in a prehistoric Need For Speed!', you howl. Well, of course you do. Life is not a formula where all the variables are unambiguous and easily distinguished. Gaming isn't either. It is an imitation of life, exaggerated and mendacious, giving us a glimpse of the truth.
My division of games (art/sport) wasn't an effort to define genres. It was a way of defining the primary motives for experiencing fun, for any kind of playing at all.
We seek in provoked experiences what we lack in everyday life. This is painfully obvious in one major gaming example.
WRPG versus JRPG
Yep, I'm going there. There are so many verbal internet conflicts regarding this topic, yet it mounts down to this: need for balance. Western RPG's are plot driven. This means the story needs to be complex and convoluted but at the same time meaningful and believable. Japanese RPG's are character driven. It's all about emotional connection with little regard for explaining motives or plot details. One is rational with focus on details. The other is an emotional rollercoaster. One comes from a culture with not enough rational/scientific thought. The other comes from a culture burdened by rationality, lacking real human contact and real emotions. Western culture is having fun when exercising rational thought spiced with emotions. Japanese culture is having fun when drowning in surges of various emotions. It may not have been like this 20 years ago, but it is now. Culture always tries to balance itself, as do the people it consists of. While needing an escape from reality, we find it in art.
If you need a conclusion after all I've said, you better read it again.
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