I'm Halfway There Adam
- Apr 8, 2013 4:06 am GMT
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Do you remember when there was all that fuss about always-online DRM? Companies like Ubisoft pushed it with their PC ports of Prince of Persia and Assassins Creed but nobody was worried. No big exclusives would bother with it surely? Then Diablo 3 was released and furious gamers reacted in force. The massive boycott that followed saw Blizzard taking a massive hit, having to can a World of Warcraft expansion that allegedly had cute kung fu pandas. As if that would have worked! Six months later they patched the game so that Diablo fans could finally purchase the game without having to worry about a constant internet connection and always-online DRM became a footnote in history next to 3D or virtual reality. Now if you don't mind I am off to play the excellent Sim City, have you seen it? Its enormous!
Wait, that's not how it happened.
A few days ago a Microsoft exec went on Twitter and made some insensitive comments surrounding the idea of always-online DRM and how we should all just deal with it. Personal reservations about how throwaway, brain-dead Twitter comments are given far more attention that they deserve aside (I am looking at you Joey Barton), this sort of press couldn't come at a worse time for Microsoft as Sony has been winning the hearts and minds of gamers everywhere by abandoning the always-online model, not blocking second hand games and embracing the indie market. However, the most frustrating part of Adam Orth's banal comments was that they represented, to some extent, the truth.
The fact is that most people ARE online all the time. What's the first thing you do when starting your new console for the first time? It's not playing a game, it's setting up a PSN or Xbox Live account. My consoles are online all the time and Microsoft know it. They know my gaming habits, they know what I buy, when I play, what I play, how long for and who with. In fact this month's Xbox Live Reward is for playing and buying Live Arcade titles. We are not just already dealing with it but actively embracing it! Games companies want us online all the time and will sneak it in the back door whenever they can. Surely though, this brazen move by MS is one step too far and as consumers we will exert the power of veto.
Well the track record says otherwise. When Diablo 3 came out we did just #dealwithit, we made sure that we would #dealwithit when EA insisted on Origin or when Blizzard pushed Battlenet and although we hated the idea that we needed to #dealwithit with Sim City we did that too. How is it that we are all happy to take to Facebook or Twitter or Gamespot or whatever digital mouthpiece to legitimately moan about all the unpleasant business practices that big companies engage in, but when it comes to the real opportunity to exert some power, the boycott, we don't. Despite all the big-boy claims that Blizzard or EA or whoever can go and do one, we still give them our cash. Its a model that not only works but one whose success we are all complicit in.
Microsoft have distanced themselves from, but not denied Adam Orth's comments and they now face an uphill PR battle. Although nothing has been confirmed, if they do announce that they are putting out an always-online console then there will be a lot of frustration but when it comes down to it are they really just using the stick when Sony are using the carrot? If you want to play Halo you have to get a Microsoft product. Want the full Journey experience? Then get a PS3 and then get online. In principle I hate the idea of always-online DRM but now I realise it is harder than ever to distance myself from it as I am already a part of it.
Always online..... or nothing at all
- Apr 7, 2013 10:13 pm GMT
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Both the PS4 and the XBOX 720 aren't even released yet and already they're getting a lot of buzz for things outside of what is typically expected. Thus, anticipation is heavily overshadowed by an enamored sense of worry over how these consoles are putting measures in place that might stop them from even playing games at all. The PS4 has had to deal with rumors regarding pre-owned games not running on the unit, and although Sony assured consumers that used games can be played on a PS4, it is far too early to tell at this point. Today, the rumor mill is churning over Microsoft's upcoming new console, and the issue stems with the concept of "always-online", requiring a game or a machine to be fully connected to the internet to function. A notable Microsoft employee took to his Twitter account to call into question gamer's concerns about 'always online', concluding with a rather snarky hashtag "#dealwithit". Granted, the tweet wasn't specifically aimed at the new XBox in particular, but his comments prompted an immediate pouring of outrage from both gamers and developers like Bioware, citing the launch disasters of both Diablo 3 and Sim City; two high-profile PC games associated with DRM (digital-rights management), which is the defacto technical term for "always-online". It also raised questions over whether or not the XBox 720 will fully adopt the feature, and that's not including the other possible fact that it, too, may not play used games. The Microsoft employee in question later apologized for his comments before changing his Twitter profile from public to private to avoid further scorn. So far, Microsoft hasn't publicly commented on the rumors and speculation. The so-called XBOX 720 is due to be revealed in a few short months, leaving many to wonder if Microsoft is purposely waiting until then to either confirm or dispel the rumors.
The industry never duly intended for "always-online" to be an affront to honest gamers, though it is certainly understandable why gamers may feel that way given the circumstances. It may have been designed as a countermeasure against potential hackers, pirates and opportunistic cheaters. These unsavory elements have been a collective thorn in the backside for both companies and their consumers, costing the industry millions---if not billions---every year. It may be that the industry is pushing for more social aspects to their games. They might have this assumption that gamers who play with others have more fun than people who game by themselves. Whether you like it or not, we're living in an era of Facebook and Twitter, where more and more people are glued to their smartphones and tablets, wirelessly keeping in touch with friends and strangers from every corner of the world. In a gaming sense, the industry probably wanted to force the idea of social networking in single-player games because they viewed solitary experiences as no longer being relevant or profitable in this day and age. Companies have made it abundantly clear that they are willing to adopt any newfound idea if it has the potential to generate a foreseeable profit margin, and you can only guess that they're also crossing their fingers hoping gamers will not cause too much of a fuss over it. Looking back, most ideas and proposals forced by the industry have been met with fierce resistance and criticism for fixing what was never broken, only to end up breaking it.
If every internet connection worked perfectly 100% of the time and every household on the face of the planet had access to the internet, always-online DRM would have been a fine idea. The reality is not every person can use the internet in their home, and it doesn't always work as intended; even for those who have top-of-the-line connections like DSL and FIOs. Another thing to consider is that not everybody wants to embrace the social aspects of gaming right away---if at all. That doesn't necessarily make them anti-social; it is merely their preference. When you think about these things, you come to understand why DRM and always-online is problematic in its current stages. Even more troubling is the possibility of games refusing to work at all if the internet decides to have a bad day. Case in point games like Diablo 3 and Sim City, and consoles like the XBOX 720.
When Diablo 3 first launched with the DRM component firmly intact, the high volume of people who purchased the game on day one lead to its in-game servers suffering from immense overcrowding, ultimately shutting down in various portions and preventing the entire game (even the single player modes) from running for a good several hours. Disgruntled consumers took to the message boards to vent their frustrations before Blizzard finally addressed the issue, but the damage had already been done. The same goes for the recently released Sim City reboot. The game launched with an impressive out-of-the-gate sales record, and that also lead to a debilitating server flood that crippled the single-player portion of the game almost entirely. Maxis argued that they could have deemphasized the digital-rights management, but they ultimately chose not to because it didn't fit with their vision. Angry gamers took to task those comments, claiming that their so-called "vision" of Sim City didn't correlate well with their own experience because disparaged servers stopped them from even accessing the game in the first place.
It's often said that the video game industry is slow to learn from their mistakes. In theory, there's some truth to that claim. The industry is aware of the problems associated with DRM and "always-online" components for single player games. Yet, I tend to think that they're more insistent and stubborn in their own beliefs than they are dumb or uneducated. They insist the idea can work, because they likely poured a lot of money into the idea, and their reputation in on an invisible thread. And, by God, they'll see to it that it's either their way or no way at all. So it's really not so much the industry turning an intentional blind eye to the concerns of gamers but, rather, the industry giving you a plate of lima beans and doing everything they can to convince you to eat them so that, maybe, you'd one day grow to like them. Otherwise, you won't be getting dessert.
However, it needs to be clearly understood by both game companies and gamers that, as it stands now, DRM and "always-online" is fundamentally and technically flawed. It becomes an even greater issue if an internet connection is required to even play games at all, and this is a concern that I have for Microsoft's upcoming console. If the rumors prove to be true, then Microsoft will need to answer to an influx of angry gamers who have thrown their lima beans to their puppies begging for scraps underneath the kitchen table. There's nothing inherently wrong with playing games with an internet connection so long as it fulfills its intended purpose well and doesn't serve as a distraction to the experience. But an internet connection shouldn't be a requirement to even run a game at all, because if it only takes a modem to ruin the fun for every single gamer on the planet, regardless of your preference, then we as consumers face a very bleak outcome. As I alluded to before with the industry in general, I don't believe Microsoft is stupid. I think it's very likely that they're perhaps stubborn and insistent. If all the speculation and rumors are to be believed, and should they be confirmed, then they're going to sell you the notion that DRM and always-online is the "way of the gaming future"---an appropriate and necessary measure that protects consumers and the industry at large. And they're hoping against hope that gamers will see it their way.
I can tell you right now that is far from being the case.
Is The Vita Failing That Badly?
- Apr 4, 2013 4:53 pm GMT
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So today I was in Wal-Mart and I stopped by the electronics section just to see if they had any good deals. As usual they didn't. As I was looking through the gaming section I passed by the 360 section, the Wii section, the Wii U section, the DS and 3DS section, and the PS3 section before arriving at the end of the row. I couldn't help but feel like I was missing something. Then it hit me. Where was the PSP and Vita section? I walked back along the row thinking I must have missed it among the PS3 section but it wasn't there. I searched the accessory section, the new releases section, the strategy guide section, and even the discount PC games section but couldn't find any trace of Sony's handhelds.
Then I happened to look at an odd angle at a glass cabinet that mostly contained big box stuff that no one wanted. Sitting on a shelf that was certainly not viewable when normally walking by were the Vita games thrown hapazardly in no order and with no prices on them. There were no accessories for the system, and I honestly didn't even see any traces of the system itself. Just a handful of games tossed out of sight and out of mind. The PSP meanwhile, was nowhere to be found. I knew the Vita was struggling but is it really doing so bad that Wal-Mart has more shelf space for discount DS games than it does for brand new Vita games? I've heard Wal-Mart has been having shelving issues across the US so maybe this is just a case of not having anyone to shelve the games properly. But it was kind of shocking to see a system that is only a year old shoved out of sight while the DS had half a row worth of shovelware that must have been sitting there for several years.
So I'm curious. Has anyone else experienced anything similar at their local Wal-Mart? How about other stores? Is the Vita really doing that bad or was this just a single case of a poorly run store?
Chinese Knock-Off Gaming: Pikachu Y2K
- Apr 4, 2013 1:56 pm GMT
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Gaming has evolved quite a bit over the years, hasn't it? Big franchises have popped up like fleas on a mangy junkyard mutt and, like fleas, there are some black sheep (or black fleas, whatever I dunno) in the family that are considered completely foreign from their family. Case in point: Chinese knock-off games.
Chinese knock-offs span every category of product, so it's probably not going to shock you that games are not exempt from its scope. However, what's really shocking is what kind of bizarre, crappy, and sometimes even cool games you can find on the Chinese knock-off market. The first in this series of spotlights is a fun little platformer called Pikachu Y2K:
Pikachu Y2K is, in all essence, a classic Mario-styIe platformer starring the titular electric pocket monster mouse thing. Going by the aforementioned description, you'd think that this all would be a fun, neat little game that, in essence, would give you a generic experience. HA, joke's on you: this game is nuttier than squirrel feces.
First off, Pikachu Y2K doesn't immediately drop you into the action. To start off with, you're given a short cutscene in which a mad scientist and his pet cat phone Pikachu at his home because they want a magic purse back. Oh, by the way: did I mention that the text says that Pikachu's real name is Felix?
So, er, I guess Pikachu will now be referred to as "Felix?"
After promptly hanging up and using the force to reel in his magical purse, Felixchu sets out on an adventure to...erm...not try to let the mad scientist guy get the bag from him? Honestly, he could have just stayed home and called the cops on him, leading to an arrest and avoiding all the ensuing nonsense but hey, I'm talking about a Chinese knock-off 8-bit platformer so why should I be caring so much?
Anywho, Pikachu Y2K's gameplay is pretty standard platforming fare, ridiculous premise aside. Sadly, it's a little sub-par for a side-scrolling platformer since its rules aren't very in line with Mario, as you can die from jumping on enemies. With stomping on their heads out of the equation, how can Felix-the-Pikachu deter people from snatching his purse?
The purse, of course!
Yes, instead of jumping on enemies, PikaFelix disposes of his foes via a Tom and Jerry-styIe boxing glove that pops out from his bag of wonders.
The animation doesn't include the bag, though...
Given all this, the game seems pretty disappointing, right? Well, what makes Pikachu Y2K a little bit cooler is the ability to collect power-ups that transform the bag into various weapons such as singing, driving a car, riding an air balloon, and even driving a freaking tank.
Also, it shoots bombs with faces.
Take a moment to soak all this in: there's Felixchu in that image up there driving a tank in a happy pixelated 8-bit world. Yes, there exists a game where you can actually play as Pikachu driving a tank. Why hasn't anyone thought of this before? Seriously, the war game market is virtually untapped for the entire Pokemon franchise and here you have the Chinese knock-off market taking the initiative while Nintendo sits on their duffs, scratches their heads, and puts out a Gamecube game consisting entirely of watching fake television shows with Pikachu all day. Y'know, because we really need something like THAT on the market, while the idea of Tankemon goes completely over their heads. In a way, this instantly makes Pikachu Y2K better than a good deal of the franchise's official games from recent years.
Aside from the brilliant idea of putting Pikachu in a freaking tank, the rest of the game, like I said before, is pretty generic. The regular enemies aren't even other Pokemon, just some stupid little bird sprites and regular fishes...though there are a few walking trees here and there for no real reason. Ents aside, there isn't really that much to talk about in terms of enemy design and, on that note, there isn't much to say about the level layout. Really, the only thing on showcase here is how bizarre the overall premise of the game is and, beyond that, it's a sub-par platformer.
One last thing, though: the Game Over screen kind of bugs me:
...What's in that garbage can to the left? Seriously, can anyone give me an idea? I don't have one.
Graphics: 8 - Pretty decent representation of Pikachu. Besides, the entire thing's running on an NES, so I'm not that picky.
Sound: 6 - There's a fun little tune in the first level, then it repeats in the second, the third, fourth....yeah.
Gameplay: 6 - It's functional, but there's no pizzazz beyond the power-ups.
Story: 10 - PIKACHU IN A FREAKING MAGIC PURSE TANK!
Overall: 7 - It's worth checking out for about an hour, but not farther beyond that.
So that's all for Pikachu Y2K! Be sure to stay tuned for more showcased Chinese knock-off games!
(also, please someone tell me what's in that garbage can)
Bioshock Infinite: Baptism of the Human Heart
- Apr 4, 2013 12:39 pm GMT
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SPOILER WARNING: Reading this article will spoil the ending of Bioshock Infinite. If you haven't finished the game and dont want to know what happens, dont read this article. Nothing in the content of Bioshock Infinite is off limits in what follows.
One of the toughest questions people ask me is the question, why? Why did my daughter die? Why do I have cancer? Why cant I find a job? Why are people sometimes so nasty to one another? I work in a church. And a church is supposed to be a safe place. It's supposed to be a place where those genuinely longing for meaningful answers can go to sincerely struggle. So, naturally, as the caretaker of a local church, much of that struggling happens right in front of me, and I consider it a privilege to sit with people in the trenches of their inner wars. It is a war indeed, for the question that needs an answer, that persistent question, why, often has no answer accessible to finite human beings. And so in the absence of any kind of peace with God over his, sometimes inscrutable, often painful plan, people of faith struggle. That's not always a bad thing, I think.
So what does that have to do with a video game? I finished Irrational's excellent game this past Sunday night, and I have had a couple of sleeps since then for my mind to process the intense, Levinian (after Ken Levine, the games lead writer and creative director) spaghetti of story, character, setting, and atmosphere. My mind has gone to the places it is prone to wander to, the theological. Religion is a huge theme of Infinite. Religion touches almost every aspect of the games narrative. The antagonist, Comstock, is a self-styled prophet and leader of a pseudo-Christian, religious cult-city, Columbia, suspended twenty thousand feet in the sky by a mysterious, quantum, science-fiction-y, force. Booker DeWitt, the protagonist, seems at first to be motivated by a desire to wipe away a financial debt by rescuing a young lady from a tower in Columbia but the game wastes no time at all in indicating that DeWitt has a deeper, moral debt that is not so easily erased. Images and language of water, baptism, washing, rebirth, etc. all build upon one another in the telling of this story. Theres even a baby who turns out to be the lamb of Comstock's prophecy.
Let me stop here and say that as a Christian and an ordained pastor, I was not in the least bit offended by the use of these decidedly Christian themes. For the most part things like Christian Baptism, for example, were used to move the story as well as I have ever seen them used in secular media. Levine appropriately tied rebirth to baptism. Part of what Baptism represents in Christianity is dying to an old self and being raised to a new life. In Infinite, baptism is explicitly used three times as far as I can remember. As of the writing of this blog I have only played through the game once. The first time is when DeWitt is admitted into the city of Columbia. The second time is at the end of the game when DeWitt is offered baptism, which he rejects. The third and final time is when it is revealed that DeWitt and Comstock are really the same person, Comstock being the seemingly inevitable product of Booker's religious rebirth in baptism. Baptism in that instance is the means by which DeWitt dies for the sake of undoing all the evil which he/Comstock will bring about.
In each instance, baptism is used as an appropriate symbolic plot device for the point at which the players find themselves in the story. It's the initiation of a new and profound mission, a rebirth of DeWitt towards an ultimate destiny. It's the rejection of a salvation which DeWitt finds cheap and inadequate, preferring to seek the accomplishment of his mission in order to wipe away his debt, an ultimately futile effort. It takes Elizabeth (the aforementioned girl needing rescue) bringing him back to the baptismal pool for him to fully grasp the profundity of his true debt and what that debt has earned him as a result. Even though there is death but no new life in the final baptism which ends DeWitt/Comstock's life/lives (head asplode!!), it functions quite well as a plot devise given the kind of setting which these characters and their story inhabit. Levine wasn't aiming to speak theologically about the true meaning and use of Christian Baptism. Therefore, I have no problem with him taking baptism and using it to tell another story separate from the Christian story.
These Christian themes and the religious tone of Infinite serves a story that seeks, I think, to answer a fundamental question about human existence; What effect does my free will have on reality? One of the huge revelations of Infinite was that the setting of this Bioshock game and previous Bioshock games exist in the same universe. So that in an instant the players find themselves transported from Columbia, the city in the clouds, to Rapture, the city from the original Bioshock at the bottom of the sea. These two dystopian cities exist in this universe in which the will of man has created an infinite number of branching universes. There is no road untraveled by the choices of humankind. Each road and each fork is itself a separate reality, a distinct universe of existence.
In case you are thoroughly confused, welcome to the club. Let me try to explain. The premise behind Infinite is that every choice each person makes leads to a new reality, much like the reboot of the Star Trek movies. Spock traveling back in time started the new cast and crew of the Enterprise on an entirely new timeline and new set of adventures, a new Star Trek universe if you will. Similarly, in Infinite, the reality of Comstock's Columbia and all the evils that flow out of that city in the clouds exist in a universe created along one branch of one choice made by one man, Booker DeWitt. Interestingly, it is baptism that is the vehicle by which this choice is made. If DeWitt accepts baptism, he will rise from the water having taken a new name and new life. He is no longer Booker DeWitt, but he comes out of the water Zachary Hale Comstock, the Prophet of Columbia. And so reality branches for the millionth time in a nanosecond and another new universe of existence is born, this one not so pleasant as the games opening hour would lead you to believe.
So what does this game have to do with the person in the pastor's office asking the hard questions of life? What does it have to do with you as you try to be a good friend to someone who is hurting? Or what does it have to do with your own struggles? Why is my life like this and not the way I want it to be? I think this game is an attempt, in a purely secular way (I dont mean that disparagingly), to offer hope and comfort when our lives branch in a way that we dont expect or in a way that brings suffering. It offers hope for us to think that there is a reality and a version of us that isn't suffering in whatever crisis we find ourselves. At any moment and with every choice we are creating universes of possibilities of happiness, misery or something in between. What we do has meaning outside of ourselves.
As I experienced Bioshock Infinite I found hidden within the story it was telling a narrative of human choosing apart from the existence of God. It was a moment both precious and profoundly sad. It is precious because I believe that behind the searching questions this story has explored through the medium of video games is an impulse that comes directly from our creator. It is the impulse to search, explore, and pierce to the marrow of the mystery of our existence as human beings and seek an answer to the question, why are things not the way they are supposed to be? This game has left me thankful for Ken Levine and his team at Irrational Games for so beautifully telling this story, and taking me along as they explore creatively. It is sad to me because the multiverse their exploration has led them to is hellish. Just below the luminescent, idyllic surface of Comstock's Columbia is a nightmare of racism, oppression, greed, and violence which the player must survive to reach the end only to find out that the whole time Booker was doing battle with the products of his own heart.
What do you want from Gaming Journalism?
- Apr 2, 2013 6:04 am GMT
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At the start of this generation, I came to Gamespot because it was one of about three websites that did decent video reviews. I wasn't one for reading hundreds of words on games and the sight of Jeff Gerstmann making hand gestures and saying "kind of" a lot satisfied all my requirements for gaming information.
As the generation progressed, so have my 'tastes' regarding the kind of editorial content I like to consume. We've all progressed from the video review to the livestream, from the 40 second gameplay clip to the hour-long demo and long-form writing about games is back in fashion. The question is, does Gamespot or any other gaming site provide what you want regarding gaming-related content?
Come November when the new consoles roll out, do you want a slick set of videos detailing every inch of each console's relative strengths or do you want some guy with an iPhone filming a hasty unboxing of a PS4? Because blogs, twitter, reddit and forums can get you the nuts and bolts of what's going on in video games faster and more efficiently than anything that professionals are paid to provide. If you're coming to a gaming site you're not just coming for editorial integrity and accurate reporting, you want something more than that.
What is that special something? Why are you reading this on Gamespot rather than on Eurogamer or IGN? You obviously came to this site in particular because it does something you like. What is it? And is that the sort of editorial content you want to continue to see in the future?
Personally I spend more time on Giant Bomb than I do on Gamespot because what I want out of my gaming-related journalism and content consumption is getting honest and frank opinions from people I feel like I know. I like to know what those knuckleheads are thinking about and because I identify with their tastes I find what they have to say about games interesting and insightful. The work that Gamespot UK does here also scratches that itch, delivering that same raw slice of personality-infused coverage that's both entertaining and informative that I find so appealing. I like long videos, lengthy editorials and terrible in-jokes in that order. That's what I want out of gaming journalism, but some people may prefer the exact opposite.
When this industry explodes again in seven months time with the excitement of a new generation; what kind of content, editorial or otherwise, do you want from the professionals?
I know how much my tastes and preferences for editorial content have changed over the years and I know what I want from the professionals in the years to come. I'm just interested in what you want from gaming sites in the future, especially when there are so many other ways for you to read opinions and find out what's going on in the industry without coming to a site about videogames.
This is purely a human interest piece on my part. I couldn't find a better way to express "content" so everything editorial or otherwise that a site like Gamespot does I've grouped under "journalism" so hopefully that all makes sense.
This is also technically not an editorial. However, somebody gave this soapbox to stand on so until they yank it out from under me I'll use it to ask these questions because I want answers en masse. Maybe someone important on this site will read your comments and make a few notes, maybe.
My Love/Hate Relationship with First Person Shooters
- Mar 30, 2013 9:00 am GMT
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I don't think I've ever beat a first person shooter. I've played many FPS' from GoldenEye to Far Cry 3, andI don't think I've finished one. My experience with first person shooters goes like this:
Start a First Person Shooter.
Become Bored by the
It makes me hesitant to spend any money towards playing a critically acclaimed first person shooter. The last first person shooter I played was Far Cry 3. That game was nowhere on my radar screen, but things were boring in December 2012, and Far Cry 3 was getting some pretty impressive reviews. I played the solo campaign, and found myself turning it off every 20 minutes. The game had plenty of fun things to do, but I just wasn't enjoying the experience. I traded it in a week after I bought it. All of those positive reviews, and I didn't enjoy Far Cry 3. Shame. I didn't enjoy Far Cry 3 because I hate first person shooters.
I Hate First Person Shooters.
Well that's not entirely true. I enjoy watching people play First Person Shooters. I would have no problem watching someone play Far Cry 3. I probably would have gotten more into the game if I had watched someone do their thing. If one of my friends had gotten into Far Cry 3, I would've been right there watching it like a movie. Heck, I'd even play the game for a little if my friend wanted to take a break.
Come to think of it, I enjoy playing First Person Shooters with other people. I spent months playing Turok Evolution with my friends back in the day. Multiplayer is where it's at. My friends and I would meet up after school and play deathmatches for hours. I remember I would pack my Wavebird controller in my backpack so I could go straight to my friend Brian's house from school.
I Love Multiplayer Tho...
Hanging out with friends and playing a first person shooter has always been a joy for me. It goes back to the days of GoldenEye on the Nintendo 64. Four people playing split screen on a 13 inch TV having a blast. Those were the days. There's something about being in the same room with a person while I play a First Person Shooter. Maybe it's just being able to hang out and play videogames you know? I hope Split Screen games never goes away.
These days I find myself having the most fun playing Split Screen Co-op with one other player. Modern Warfare 3 surprised me with its Spec Ops mode. My friend Tino and I finished every mission in two nights. I thought Borderlands was best when I played it split screen with my friend Blake. I found it boring when I played by it online, but when Blake and I played together it was magic. We played it until 7 in the morning one night. It was crazy.
Not So Much
While I enjoy playing with other people, I'm not a fan of playing First Person Shooters Online. Not only do I suck, but I just don't have a lot of fun playing. I'm a different kind of gamer in an online environment My focus is completely different. When I play any game offline I find myself trying to be stylish when I play. For example, in Grand Theft Auto IV, I'll always have a rare or exotic car in my garage. When I'm online my only focus is not to die. It's different. It makes it worse when the game I'm playing is a first person shooter. I'm never see anything coming. It's the worst.
I thought maybe playing online with friends would help, but it doesn't. It's just not the same when I can't accuse anyone of looking at my screen. This is one of the reasons why I consider GoldenEye for the N64 to be the best First Person Shooter ever. Multiplayer games weren't online back then so you were forced to play in the same room with people. I've got nothing but good memories from those days.
BioShock Infinite is set to be released at midnight. I don't think I'm going to play it. The good reviews Infinite has received are doing little to influence my decision to play it. I don't want to end up disappointed like I did with Far Cry 3. Who knows? I might end up bored enough to give Bioshock: Infinite a shot. When there's nothing else, a first person shooter will have to do.
It's not just women that are part of the "new core"
- Mar 28, 2013 12:07 am GMT
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"YOU ARE GOING TO PUT ELLIE ON THAT DAMN COVER!"
Well here we go with this topic again. A narrative designer by the name of Tom Abernathy has made a bold declaration: Women are the new core audience in gaming. Shortly after, Gamespots own Carolyn Petit posted an article backing the guy up and adding her own two cents. They both make a very good point, and there is a lot of truth in their words. But there's one thing I think they're both missing here. Or to be fair, one thing they don't emphasize as much as "Women are the new core"
Abernathy claims that women are the new core and that we should be making a more diverse range of games that appeal to this new core. But women are just one part of that new core. Thinking ONLY about women ignores the wide variety of other groups that are also a part of gaming, yet are seen as equally unimportant or even nonexistent. The groups hardly get any games that specifically speak to them because those types of games "aren't profitable." These groups are a wide variety of races, backgrounds, ages, and can be of either gender. They also have a wide variety of things they want more of in gaming, including but not limited to: more complex and diverse gameplay, more interesting tones and worlds, and richer narratives.
Now, there are two reasons why this subject gets people angry and up in arms. One: they think this is secretly a "men vs. women," or "whites vs. minorities issue." Two: They think anyone who dares to suggest that maybe games can be a little better is a nut who wants to get rid of wildly popular games like Call of Duty and God of War. Because "Ew David Cage, I dont want all games to be interactive movies" or "Ew female game designer, I don't want to play girly games." The point of this blog is to debunk both of those beliefs. That, and point to what the real issue is here. And the real issue has nothing to do with race or gender. And the real solution doesn't mean the death of AAA games aimed at teenage boys and young adult men.
It's no secret that games are primarily geared toward 15-25 year old males. Or at least, that's mainly how publishers see it when deciding which kind of games they want to throw their money at. And these publishers are intent on catering to this crowd in the most stereotypical way possible: with big guns, extreme violence, blood, and carnage, all done by the big burly male main character. Oh and breasts. Can't forget the breasts.
The problem isn't that these games exist. After all, movies and literature that contain the exact same content exist. And people love it. They eat it up. But movies and TV shows allow for more than just adrenaline pumping action flicks. They cover a wider variety of themes and genres. That's not to say that video games don't have variety. They do. But no matter how you paint it, the variety in gaming is quite limited when compared to movies, television shows, and literature. Those other mediums cater to wider variety of people of all demographics. And they're rolling in money while doing it.
Now don't get me wrong, I'm not out to demonize men and make it seem like games are idiotic and childish because of them. As I stated above, people tend to get all heated about this subject due to gender factoring into the discussions. But here's what I think is the real problem here. And guess what? It has nothing to do with this whole Men vs. Women gender debate:
By pandering to one demographic, you're severely limiting the variety of entertainment that you can put out there. You're stifling potentially creative and innovative new ideas by rejecting anything that doesn't cater to that demographic. You're alienating large groups of people and their piles of cash. This isn't really worrisome if its just a few games. After all, not every game needs to appeal to everyone. But its a problem when it spans across most of an industry. So you see the problem isn't gender. I'd still be making this blog even if I was in a parallel universe where video games catered to mostly 15-25 year old women, or mostly 65 year old grandparents, or mostly 10 year old kids.
Creativity cannot flourish and new ideas cannot spring about when developers are told that they cannot do something that doesn't please this one group of people. Nor can it flourish when they are expected to resort to stereotypes and common tropes to please said group of people. They cannot even gain confidence in their ideas if publishers are going to laugh in their face and say that "You can't do that! No dude wants to see that!"
Also, a lot of people tend to get all bent out of shape when this subject arises because they think people want to get rid of any game that caters to the 15-25 year old male demographic. But really the solution is not to get rid of AAA games like Call of Duty, God of War, Gears of War, or Assassins Creed. And anyone who says that that is the solution is delusional. New and creative games that don't cater to the same demographic can coexist peacefully alongside these games. Why should we need to compromise either? There is room for both. "Variety is the spice of life" after all.
Its just a matter of convincing publishers of this fact. Crap like this should not be happening. Creative new IPs should not be refused just because they don't cater to the same demographic that a million other games are. Creative new games should not be given less advertising than generic and formulaic games that don't do anything new. Of course, businesses are businesses after all. Its hard to ignore that fact.
Even still, it feels as if theres a shift in attitudes coming along in gaming. Sure there are some companies, publishers, and developers intent on churning out the same old boring tripe. But some others are speaking out. They're saying that maybe, just maybe, games could be much more than they are. They're going against the archaic attitudes of the publishers. Which is why when articles like this or this pop up, I feel like the developers aren't even saying that to us gamers (since the collective "DURRR" that always ends up in the comments implies that gamers already know that). I feel like they're saying it to the publishers who rejected them and told them to "take the lady off the cover."
And thankfully, when they decide to branch out to bigger and better things, they have alternatives like steam/psn/xbl and kickstarter to back them up when no publisher wants to. For all peoples talk of nothing new happening in the coming gen, I'm seeing a lot of potential for change. It seems we're witnessing a complete shift in attitudes that's in its very early stages.
Look at this issue from another perspective as well. How long are we going to stereotype every single male as someone who will automatically drool with pleasure over anything that has violence, blood, and breasts? Who's to say that male gamers don't want more variety too? What if a 40 year old male gamer, who's been gaming since he was at the wee age of 10, is also getting just a little bit tired of the same old story of an emotionless man with a gun, devoid of any personality, who's only goal is to mow down aliens or other people? What if there are several male gamers who are about 30 and up and want a game that doesn't have juvenile humor and dialogue that sounds like it was written by someone half his age?
Anyway, that's really what it boils down too. This isn't about sexism, racism, gender roles, or being politically correct, even though people try to make it out to be like it is. Its about a medium we all love growing and maturing into something bigger and better. A medium that expands beyond pandering to the stereotypes of only one demographic. A medium that can satisfy the wide variety of people it attracts. Women aren't the only new core. It's also the wide range of both men and women who don't fall into the "15-25 year old male who won't touch anything that has no explosions, violence, and guns" demographic. They're the ones who want something more from the medium than only blood, violence, gratuitous profanity, and inappropriately placed sex scenes. We are all the new core.
And it'll be interesting to see what kind of games we'll get once this realization finally takes root in all of the industry.
Are game publishers singled out?
- Mar 26, 2013 4:50 am GMT
- 0 Comments
Before I dive into what I'm sure will probably end up in a barrage of flames, I need to say that I am in no way defending game publishers, I am just pointing out something I have noticed, and it bothers me.
Three weeks ago SimCity was released, unless you just returned from a month long dive in the Mariana Trench, then you know the launch did not go well. Many gamers, including myself, experienced multiple issues with the horrid, evil, always on DRM and game bugs. The ensuing uproar, and shouts of "down with EA" could be heard through the vacuum of space.
Lets be honest, we have all bought SOMETHING in the past that either did not work the way it was supposed to, or just did not meet our expectations. We have all had to return something, or exchange a item for one that worked, or for one of a equal value. I am willing to bet that in 99.99% of those situations, you did not also keep the item/product that you originally bought.
So, what I'm asking is.... why do gamers demand, and EXPECT a publisher to not only FIX the game that was released with bugs (as they should), but also then ask for something "free" in return for all the pain, suffering and mental anguish that they were subjected to? Why should you get more in return? If you bought a shirt, and when you got home you noticed a small tear in it, do you return to where you bought it demanding a replacement shirt, plus another shirt? Do you go after the people that made the shirt, or just the place where you bought it from?
If you go see a movie, and you walk out afterwards disapointed, do you go see the manager asking for ticket to a different move, along with a refund of the money you already paid? Do you then also contact the studio that made the movie, demanding a ticket to a current, or future release?
Why does it seem to me that game studios and publishers are unfairly singeld out when situations like this happen? I understand that things like this should not happen, but at the same time I don't feel that I am owed "more" than a working product once the issues have been pointed out.
I know the argument is "Well if we don't complain, and don't demand, then we will continue to get poor quality products". I'm sure there is some truth to that, I just don't know if demanding more than our initial investment is the right way to go about it.
On Not Having a Pile of Shame
- Mar 25, 2013 10:10 am GMT
- 0 Comments
Hi, I am Dan, I am 31 with a full time job in IT support and a wife. I also do not have what is known as a 'Pile of Shame'. For those who don't know what I am talking about, the Pile of Shame is a collection of games/movies/books/albums that are considered classics or must haves that you know you should play/watch/read/listen to but simply haven't and that brings about a shame you apparently cannot escape.
Well you know what? You can escape it, and very easily. All you have to do it forget the concept of the pile of shame altogether and realise an inscrutable fact: There simply isnt enough time. Great works come out on a nearly daily basis - games, books, albums, movies - there is already a ton of these this year that will be great things that should be enjoyed, but you do not have the time to consume them all and that is no bad thing at all.
Life is a complex thing where everything is competeing for your time and attention. The things I have already mentioned, plus wifes/girlfriends/boyfriends, regular friends, family are all wanting to grab some of your attention, eating away at available time in any given day. How you deal with life relies your ability to juggle all these attention seekers and carve out your own way of dealing with each.
I spend time with my wife cuddled up on the sofa watching various TV shows, current favourites are The Walking Dead, Dexter, Arrow, Hawaii Five-0, Glee, NCIS: Los Angles. Some great things in there, some total fluff, but those are what I am into at present. They all allow me to spend time with the wife while also consuming some TV, killing two birds with one stone. Are they the truly important TV shows on at the moment? Hell no. Well maybe one is, but I dont have time to consume those shows, and I haven't seen anything in recent memory that fits anyway.
Those shows I miss out on would count towards my pile of shame. I haven't seen some of the truely great movies ever made: 2001, Apocalypse Now, Blazing Saddles, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Exorcist, The French Connection, again all adding to the pile. Movies I have seen include Space Balls, BASEketball, Die Hard 1-5 and hundreds of others including some of the big names. These are movies I can receit lines from off by heart but get no credit for, I just get crap thrown for not seeing the other ones.
I haven't listen to Dark side of the Moon, The Saturday Night Fever Soundtrack, Achtung Baby, Off the wall - great albums that haven't graced my ears before due to either a lack of interest or, more likely, a lack of time. My musical tastes are probably not worth going into in much since I am fully aware my affinities are not to everyone's taste, but those albums would make the pile.
I haven't played To the Moon, Psychonaughts, System Shock, Super Meat Boy, Katamari Damacy, Call of Duty 4, Nights Into Dreams and any Castlevania title. Do I still consider myself very knowledgable when it comes to games? yes I do. Looking down the list of 100 games to play before you die that I took the above examples from, there are just as many games I have played if not more, but because those are the cult classics, thats ones that people can trace most of moden game design back to they would go on the pile.
However, I chose to not have a pile of shame. I have limited time, and if I am ever graced with kids, that time will go down even more. If my job, like the good folks here at Gamespot, were games journalist, then it wouldnt be so much of a problem and I would be able to see many more great games than I get to at present. My job isn't that and it isn't for lack of trying, but I just accept that some things slip through the net.
These are things that will not radically change my life had I actually consumed them, and I can live happily in the knowledge that I have limited time and cannot see/hear/read/play everything I probably should. This because I consume enough for me, to make me happy and feel satisfied, and therefore I do not have a pile of shame.
My hope, as idealistic and futile as it is, is that people reading this editorial will say "Ya know, that dude is right. I don't need this pile of shame I have in my head or even physically in my room. I just need to be happy in what I do consume". It is not going to happen, but I hope I have at least given you some food for thought.
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