All About sayonaragalaxy
Look, look, I posted a YouTube video because I'm a dweeb!
Who can relate to space marines? That's right, no one. I consider myself to be an average gamer, and if I look at my own body, the only thing as large as my head is my pot belly. The things I could medically refer to as my biceps are way down the list of 'large, round things on my body', and yet time and time again we jump into the boots of some bulging, semiliterate man-burger who has seemingly been training in every military discipline since a couple of weeks before his conception.
Not only are space marines trained in every form of combat, from close range fighting to sniper rifle assassinations, but they can also pilot any kind of military vehicle, including the alien ones, tanks, jeeps, ATVs, helicopters and any weird combinations thereof. No mode of transport is too complicated for these militaristic savants, and yet each and every one of them looks and sounds like they would outright fail an IQ test on the 'name' section of the form.
Walking over stuff
See those things on the bottom of your legs with the opposable big toe and finger length digits? Of course you don't, because if you did you'd be a monkey, and as everyone knows, monkeys rarely use the Internet (not enough porn). So, having established that our common-or-garden, non-freakish feet are only capable of picking up a pencil or the occasional verruca, how do videogame feet work?
We've all been there. You're down to your last bullet, with hostiles all around you. You're behind cover. To the side of you is one of your fallen enemies, the agony of the killing bullet etched onto his death mask. You move over to him and an ammo clip and two hand grenades get sucked up your trouser leg and into your inventory. Problem solved, you bound away to make nasty puddles of his friends.
Maybe it's just me, but I don't mind walking over whatever item I want to procure and pressing a button to get it. At least then I can imagine I have told my character to rummage through the corpse's bomber jacket for bullets. I don't have to see it, but it's just nice to have a say in these things.
You've destroyed armies of the undead, numerous feral woodland creatures and only moments ago put an end to an unholy union twixt dragon and cactus. And yet, at certain points the game decides that if one poorly-armed guard gets a glimpse of so much as a heavily armored toe, the alarm is raised and you're thrown out of the castle or disemboweled by guards before you can say 'hang on a minute'.
The enforced stealth section grates for a few reasons, not least of which is 'if I wanted Splinter Cell, I'd buy Splinter Cell'. They never add to the story and always feel like a chore to get through before returning to the business of killing things.
Add to this the fact that you know, if the game would just let you, you could be sitting atop a huge pile of guard corpses, swigging nonchalantly on a heath potion in less than thirty seconds, and you know it's just the product of some evil level designer's sadistic mind.
Bad voice acting
Back on the original PlayStation, you were delighted enough that actual speech seemed to be coming from the pixelated lips of your hideous slab-faced hero to worry about whether their voice acting was any good. But now games look more like films, and most voice acting is done by actual actors.
With modern high production values, it's even worse when a bad voice actor from the Sean Bean school of acting (don't get me started) turns up and starts gurning through their lines whilst simultaneously chewing virtual furniture. It simply cheapens the entire experience.
During Resident Evil 5, where its protagonists have to kill Irving on a boat, Chris Redfield and I had very different motivations for doing so. Chris was understandably interested in defending his and Sheva's life, while all I wanted to do was shut him up.
You're a hired gun in a local crime syndicate. Your last hit saw you make a mere hundred dollars, and you're only armed with a standard pistol and a nightstick you took from a policeman's twitching corpse.
Why then would your next mission involve escorting your boss' daughter through enemy territory in an open topped sports car? Have these people not the slightest bit of self-preservation? How do they survive their criminal life**** How many children did they used to have?
Whatever the scenario, your charge will be roughly as intelligent as the mailbox they keep running up against, finding danger where there is none and trapping themselves behind bushes, walls, benches, zombies and the occasional curb.
The chaperone sections in Dead Rising are some of the most tense and frustrating parts of any game ever. Forget the zombies or raging psychos that could be around every corner, it's the screaming simpletons that would rather try to walk through a wall than around it that get your nerves on edge.
Yes, shooting a barrel to make it explode and kill lots of enemies is as cool as bow ties, but we all know it can't happen. Explosions need pressure, fuel and ignition. The worst that will happen if you shoot a barrel full of highly flammable petrol is that the floor will get a new damp combustible covering that you wouldn't want to stub a cigarette out on. But it wouldn't explode, not even a little bit.
The otherwise fantastic Borderlands took this premise to new levels of stupidity with exploding barrels filled with static in what I am forced to assume was an attempt to make the most impossible game object ever.
After saving a village or town from the very brink of destruction at the hands of a gang of villainous rogues or a multi-headed dog monster, you'd expect a bit of a fuss made of you. A party, parade or naked townswoman jumping out of a cake would be nice. And generally you get some of these things in the usual cutscene following a boss battle.
After the celebrations is where the idiot townspeople come into their own. Often having no clue who you are, the local gonks resume asking you to find their lost dog/child/hat, deliver a message to someone in another part of town because they presumably can't be bothered, or simply tell you to get lost because they're dancing.
And the shopkeepers, seemingly oblivious to the fact that they wouldn't even have a shop if it wasn't for you, will not even give you a discount when you go to stock up on equipment used in the defense of their town.
Rhythm action ****mini games
Similar to the stealth sections and different from Quick Time Events, these little breaks from the usual gameplay are as welcome as a pus stained plaster in your half eaten burger.
I've got Rock Band and I'm not playing it at the moment, so why are you trying to make me dance/diffuse a bomb/collect souls with a very similar but decidedly inferior gameplay mechanic?
If I wanted to play turgid mini games, my Wii wouldn't have been under a pile of socks for the last eight months....
Unless you are terminally unemployed or one of the idle rich, chances are you haven't got time to get through your average 18 hour story-driven game in one or two sittings. Most of us have to indulge in our favourite hobby when we get the chance.
When you have got past work, food and basic hygiene and you finally do get to start a new game, it usually begins with a twenty-minute cutscene, then roughly ten minutes of tutorial-based action before another ten minutes of watching the plot unfurl. After a while, the frequency of the cutscenes dies down, and the story is usually told through missions given by NPCs, lots of NPCs, all confusing and convoluting the story in new and exciting ways.
I love playing first person shooters, and have played every Halo game from beginning to end, but my comprehension of the story goes something like 'humans are at war with some aliens, there are rings in space that need to be turned off or sometimes on, and there are more aliens that everyone is at war with'.
Imagine how hard it would be to understand the plot of most films if you only watched them in ten minute segments every couple of days...
Have some clichés of your own that are wearing your gaming joy thin? Share them in the comments!
I like words. Particularly English words, seeing as English has the most different words/phrases/expression of just about any languages; you have to be a lover of words if you speak English, because English simply gives you so many options in ways you can convey whatever message you're attempting to get across; not loving the words merely inhibits your expression. Not that you can't be understood if you start jabbering in LOLspeak. But the simple fact that there is a words for a form of writing such as LOLspeak, or the fact that the creation of new terms seems almost limitless, words are a thing to be loved in the English speaking world.
Which is part of the reason I use "terroir" as often as possible. If you've never heard the phrase terroir [tear-wawr], I wouldn't necessarily be surprised, and the only place you'd probably be reprimanded is Napa Valley or on an SAT test. As Wikipedia defines terroir as, "originally a French term in wine, coffee and tea used to denote the special characteristics that geography bestowed upon particular varieties." Put simply: terroir is the distinct regional characteristics of something; the idea that where something is made effects what it is.
So let me illuminate by example: my belief is everything has a terroir. Music has a terroir, so bands from Texas will sound completely different from Korean bands, while Korean will sound different from French, French sounds different from Canadian, Canadian sounds different that Brazilian, et. al. Sounds are shared at times; the musical terroir of the UK often shares characteristics with that of Australia, and some bands (such as The Pillows from Japan) can sound like American based rock bands. But there are motifs and **** that the regions appreciate and emulate. Which is why when we hear a songs that uses lots of hollow drums with a fast beat and rhythm, we might say, "Hey, that's an African song." African music has a distinct terroir, simply because the music itself came from Africa.
Used in a more official capacity, the terroir of a wine helps make wine from all over the world interesting. It's hard to pick out the subtle differences in the tastes of grapes with all the loads of unnecessary preservatives that they dump into wine, but that's a completely different topic; all wine has a unique taste. That's why California wines taste different from French wines, and why when we go to shop for a bottle of alcoholic grape juice, there are so many options from all over the world. Different places spawn subtle differences - their individual terroir.
Everything has a terroir, and I don't feel that video games are any different. In fact, I feel as if with video games, it more noticeable. This entire subject was brought about in my mind due to Sophia Tong's article from the Game Developers Conference on Final Fantasy XIII.
"The intention was to make Final Fantasy XIII a cutscene-driven game.... [Toriyama] went over some focus-group data that was collected in Japan and the United States, and it seemed that the Japanese audience liked the story and characters more than the American audience. He felt like the team made the right choice by focusing on cutscenes and the battle system, because players in both regions responded well in those categories.... Toriyama also compared Japanese RPGs to Western RPGs by using screenshots of Hit Man and Tomb Raider as examples. His point was that in Western games, the game is played through the player's perspective, not the character's. In Japanese RPGs, the view is a third-party bird's-eye view. He said that in Japan, people want to see a film and not necessarily identify with the character but observe and enjoy the movement and emotions of the character. The Japanese feel comfortable as third-party bystanders."
There are miles of literature, both official and unofficial, strewn across the internet about the differences between Japanese RPGs and Western RPGs. Words and words about which is better, which better conveys the story, which is more fun, which is more inventive, which is more interesting, and so forth. The differences between Japanese and - particularly - American RPGs is no new topic, and the clear disparity between them has all but been in plain site for any gamer who has been playing since the late 90s.
This is not a discussion about whether Japanese or American RPGs (or any game, regardless of its geographic origin, for that matter) are better for worse. This is a discussion to show WHY they are different. And that distinct difference that is ever-so present in these games, for me, is their terroir.
Different motifs, different standards, are held in different countries, and these countries expect to see these standards met in their video games. Speaking on the realm of modern gaming, right now in the United States, we are obsessed with the Sandbox concept: the idea that while playing the game, the player should have complete freedom: freedom to do what he wants, freedom to go where he wants, freedom to play the game at their own pace, freedom to play the story in different ways, and freedom to potentially alter the story by your actions, if only slightly. We see the Sandbox in games all the time, and while some games may use the idea better than others, the popularity of the freedom is definitely there. Simultaneously, a popular motif of Japanese gaming - as mentioned by Sophia - is storytelling. Japanese games are known for their incredibly rich, dense, powerful storylines. Everything from Metal Gear to Star Ocean has a long, compelling story that tries to wrap the player up in a blanket of fiction and put them to bed for the night, dreaming some pretty wild dreams.
The point of contrasting these two motif stains is to show the disparity of the regional differences. Do Japanese gamers like the Sandbox concept of gaming? I'm sure they do! But you tend not to see this mode of gameplay used in Japanese games, and therefore, it is less of a popular mode of expression within video games, within Japanese culture. And don't get me wrong, before you begin to say I'm acusing American gaming of having lower than par storylines. What I mean to convey is that Japanese games are immensely more story driven than American games. Think of Left 4 Dead. The premise was resoundingly simple: here you are, here zombies are, go here to be rescued, the end. Now think of Grand Theft Auto (any one of them, starting with III). The premise, though more complex than Left 4 Dead's plot, is still resoundingly simple: you are a person who is somehow involved in crime, returning/entering a big, fancy city; then, through a series of minor plot twists, you slowly rise up in the ranks and become one of the most dominate crime figures in the city. The ****of the GTA games ALWAYS represents this simple storyline. The GTA series is also one of the most successful I can think of in contemporary history, selling millions of copies, and entertaining millions of people. But GTA and Left 4 Dead and GTA are distinctly American games, and they meet the American standards of a more simplistic storyline, with a further emphasis on Sandbox features and direct interaction with the gameplay mechanics.
It's the terroir of gaming. Japanese games love their vibrant, complex plotlines, while Americans enjoy the way games are played. Japanese gamers enjoy playing games for their personal experience of the story, while Americans enjoy their gameplay experience. Which is better or worse is a non-issue; simply, the distinction and understanding of this distinction between the regionality of video games is something we - as educated, intrigued gameplayers - should all be aware of. Being aware of gaming terroir opens up new doors. If game developers become more aware of the terroir that gaming has, they will be able to make huge advancements in the way their games are made. Because in a growing international community, where nearly everything is shareable, the gaming community is going to begin to evolve. American games may begin to alter the gameplay, attempting to offer an extremely complex story while allowing gamers their freedom; Japanese games may become increasingly less linear, offering more options of player-alterations in story or more freedom in general.
Then again, maybe there will be a resistance to any change from any region; maybe this difference in terroir - while definitely important - is something both regions will strive to maintain, for it definitely opens up the palette for different, unique games which offer two vibrantly different experiences. And with the growing popularity of games, new ideas and markets are quickly beginning to open: the ideals of absolute freedom and the activism of players in the overall gaming experience, as seen by the Icelandic CCP Games - developers of EVE Online - have completely changed the way people look at MMORPGs; the new concepts of the 'interactive cinematic experience' as seen from the French Quantic Dream, who developed Heavy Rain, are changing the way gamers and developers think of gameplay and what a game is; and the concepts of intense customization and ability to have your own personal, completely unique experience with a game, as expressed with British games - from developers such as Lionhead Studios and Media Molecule - also completely revolutionize the way people can experience their games. As more regional developers begin to release big-name games to the international public, and these countries individual terroirs begin to be expressed to a wider audience, people will have to learn to fathom completely new ideas in the way games are played. What would a Brazilian game be like? How would one play a Czech game? What sort of motifs would a Russian game use? The options are nearly infinite, which is exactly why the terroir of video games is such a fascinating topic, one that many should attempt to become aware of as we play through our favourite games. The world around us is unique, and not merely due to geography, but also do to the distinct cultural differences between us. And it is the differences that can help us - all united by our love for gaming - closer together to discover new experiences, and ways of playing the games we love.
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