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My Five Most Antipated Games (and why)!

Time to welcome the new year with an uplifting "My Five Most Antipated Games" article to get me looking forward to the year that is 2014. The end of holidays tends to make me rather sad, having to spend less time with family and in that period where friends are all off on summer jobs or are still on holidays, I hope that you make a resolution to spend more time with family and friends (if you haven't been already) because there's nothing more meaningful than that! .

Apart from these 5 games, lets go!

5. Broken Age

Oh Tim Schafer you funny SOB. There's few things I appreciate more than fine comedy and there aren't many games that can pull off great character comedy than Tim Schafer and Double Fine. That this game harks back to time of old when we were all clicking away adds some good nostalgic excitement, but what fascinates me is whether Double Fine will live up to the crazy expectations as one of the first great Kickstarter successes of its time. It's great at telling stories filled with wimsy and laughs, but how will it's own turn out?

4.The Witness

Jonathan's The Witness has been a great mystery to a lot of people, considering he's shown so little of it. It's been mostly theory, which paints The Witness as a game that will push the boundaries of interactivity by focusing on it's strong points (curiosity, exploration and discovery), which to a lot of people is not enough to get a grasp on what it will be. So it will be exploration, puzzle solving? Umm... okay... But Jonathan Blow has a good track record (of one game) of putting theory into practice, and the theory is solid, but will it make the impact that its reknowned developer and lengthy development suggests? This is one to watch.

3.Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes

Time for a confession: I'd never played a Metal Gear game! This makes Kojima productions first true "Metal Gear" PC release that ever more exciting. That it's an open world, stealth and most importantly, that it's Japanese developed only makes it more intriguing. Japanese games tend to either ignore Western conventions and is therefore very interesting, or it poorly imitates them (looking at you resident evil 6!) but Kojima has a reputation of innovating and successfully combining elements of Western and Japanese style games. I have a feeling this one's going to blow some minds, and not just for it's crazy ass post-Modern story!

2.Dark Souls 2

During this holiday break me and my brother bonded over tales of Dark Souls, one of my favourite games of all time, up beside the likes of GTAIV. We discussed it's insane difficulty, or reputation there of, and how it affected our enjoyment of it. Being it's attached to a nice memory helped Dark Souls attain this position, but it's possible it could have done so on its own. No game hooked me as hard with it's precise combat and terrifying corners that emphasised skill, patience and spatial awareness. Traversing through its incredibly designed interlocking maze-like world was a joy and at its core, punishing failure, pushing me to be better player kept me questioning how I played and the way I played it (especially my incredible arrogance and disregard for detail). It taught me that sometimes the player's worse enemy is himself.

1.Grand Theft Auto V

It's not out on PC yet! Being a PC only gamer by necessity, not choice I've missed out on my 2013's most anticipated game. This is a weirder one because the reviews are already out, and its not what I was hoping it would be particularly in the story department. But that's okay, because any time in one of Rockstar's meticulously design worlds is heaven, and any focus on crazy optional activities like skydiving is a big plus. I've been waiting for a San Andreas 2.0 and I think this is it! Still waiting for that inevitable official release date though....

What do I want from video games?

note: this editorial is my attempt at formulating ideas; its not perfect. I need to think it through carefully and probably spend more time on the phrasing of my sentences. It's a personal thing, but if you stumbled on here I would like your opinion so comment below!


Video games have a special place in my heart. They've given me thrills and excitement, they've shown me stories that will stay with me forever, and they've taken me to places I've only dreamed of. These are not to be taken for granted, but I sense that video games can be much more. I'm not just a video gamer, my love extends to movies, movies and books. When I compare how much they mean to me personally, video games fall behind. I've spent more time in video games than probably any other past time, I love it to bits, but what I get out of the experience is significantlly less than what I've gotten from say, "To Kill A Mockingbird", or "Life of Pi". Why don't video games give me the same life lessons, knowledge of humanity, thoughts on life, and death, empathy for people?

Let's look at what we have now. Clearly there is a problem with this industry when it comes to being an artistic medium. Let's define quickly what I mean by artistic; a way for human expression and social and cultural significance. That'll do. Look at what is around us; mindlessness. Lot's of death, lots of killing, lot's of broisms and booth babes. Very little soul, very little telling of the human condition. Games that do come by like a hit in the face, such as Journey, and remind us that we are as a medium, incredibly lacking in artistic expression and meaningful pursuits. Games can just be fun, there's nothing wrong with that. But there is a striking imbalance that will keep our beloved medium from being accepted broadly.

There are many reasons for this, and we must identify them before we can solve them.

Firstly, the medium is a new one and we have yet to fully understand the language of interactivity. This gives artists and those who want to tell stories very little in terms of tools to do so. I'm not talking about technology that gives us sparkly graphics, photorealistic faces or densely populated cities; I refer to the fundemental ideas of what it means to be "interacting", or a participant. Movies developed camera techniques, editing techniques, actors and frame work; a length and a story arch, for the artist to use. This happened in a quick  50 year period, and is still developing now although it has slowed. Video game are still young.

Secondly and relevant to this is the people who lead these teams; they are computer scientists, system anaylists, managers and video gamers. We rarely have the person yearning to tell a story, or to spread a message; Ken Levine is an example. At this stage the only people equiped to handle development of a medium so infantile are those who can master the development process and the juggling of complicated systems, and those who are passionate about recreating those feelings they had playing games as a child. This makes unearthing this secret language a slow and arduous process.

Thirdly, the problem is the consumers. Unlike film where the audience was wide and reached people of all ages and backgrounds, video games are targeted towards a depressingly narrow demographic; young, adolecent staight males. The singular demographic already restricts experiences available, but this is the one demographic that results in the most banal and stupid products. Lot's of klling and power fantasies, that is what sells the most and so long as large publishers think this way it will be a long time before change can take place.

Lastly, its the cost. Game development isn't as easy as making movies; all you need to make a film is a camera and a willing audeince, and even that is easy with the advent of youtube and social media. Game development takes time which takes money, and people who want to tell stories are better off being writers or movie makers. To be in such a position to create something meaningful takes a bizzare amount of luck. Publishers are haste to publish it; people don't want to stick around risky development, and there are few paths to get there in the first place. Someone like Ken Levine, is very rare and even he cannot believe it. Spec Ops: The Line required to be a dumb shooter first and foremost, with requirements that it be set in an exotic location and have a generic military name to even get the green light. Costs go to talented individuals as well; requirements in this catagory are steep. Film makers benefit from movie editing knowledge, writers should know how to type, but game developers need a specialist team of programmers and writers. It can be done, but it's another obstacle for the budding visionary among the many others.

It's a rare medium however mainly because of its potential. Unlike comic books; video games have potential and I do believe it is the medium of the 21st Century. This means that so long as people care, it will live on, and it will. But it will be slow. What are the cures for this ailment and what are the movements that are speeding up the innovation? I discuss it in the next blog.



Life Lessons From Ebert

'Kindness' covers all of my political beliefs, he wrote, at the end of his memoirs. No need to spell them out. I believe that if, at the end, according to our abilities, we have done something to make others a little happier, and something to make ourselves a little happier, that is about the best we can do. To make others less happy is a crime. To make ourselves unhappy is where all crime starts. We must try to contribute joy to the world. That is true no matter what our problems, our health, our circumstances. We must try. I didn't always know this and am happy I lived long enough to find it out.

Roger Ebert

How to express how I feel about Roger's death?

It's hard to really summarise his influence on my life, how I view and understand movies and even games, because it's so personal and so interwoven with experiences. I'm so full of emotion that I don't want to think about it too much, because I can't.

I wrote a little comment about him under his last blog a few minutes ago. Something I wished I had done before, but no regrets. That's something Ebert taught me. It's the best I can do on short notice.

"Mr Ebert.

How I wished I had written to you, but I know that others have done it for me.

You're life, your words you're existence made me a better person. In times I had felt down, I realized that people like you exist. When I ponder my bad fortune, I remember how you dealt with cancer, how you were so incredibly courageous and most importantly, a wonderful person. I will never forget you. You're thoughts and ideas will forever foster in how I think of movies and how I approach making my own creative work. Those ideas live on in the people who were inspired by you and who call you colleagues today. I can only hope to one day make such a meaningful and positive impact on people, if only for the one reason you gave; kindness.

You are my hero Roger, I cry today but I know I tomorrow I still live on with you as my guide. "

I am ready, Bioshock Infinite

I'm ready.

This is in response to the previous entry.

The answer is that I have been feeling a little down and negative about... life. Playing games that deal with serious issues doesn't bode well with a negative mindset because it usually results in doom and gloom, especially where Bioshock Infinite deals with contemporary issues it could have me lose faith in humanity. So I'm in a good mindset to play Bioshock Infinite. I have to stave off dangerous expectations though. Such thinking lead me to dislike GTA4 on my first attempt, and anybody who has read any of my other posts, or can see my profile picture knows that I love that game to bits. I came to GTA4 expecting more San Andreas crazy. I came to GTA4 expecting more role playing and more grandious missions, especially as I had just tried Saints Row 2. This stopped me from enjoying what GTA4 was as a game, and it's an experience that far surpassed San Andreas or Saints Row in my books, but took it in a direction I was not expecting.

So the same goes with Infinite. I played Bioshock and loved it, but won't be thinking about it coming in. The same goes for all this discussion about the themes that it deals with. I will take it on like I should any other game; i won't bring any baggage along for this journey.

Also I've said this before, but I don't think anyone reads these posts. I had a comment a few times, which I admit surprised me. The prupose of these blogs are to log my journey as a gamer. If anyone wants to come a long, welcome! But I warn that it will be a bumpy ride. My writing is all over the place and I am stop by infrequently. I'm not all that interesting either. But then again, there aren't a lot of blogs that are.

Am I ready for Bioshock Infinite?

Wow, Bioshock Infinite is getting great reviews! Once again Kevin refuses to think that the game could be as great as Dark Souls hence the elusive 9.5 remains elusive, but the general consensus and from Kevin's words its clear that this is a game that must be played.

I'm a little worried though. I don't know how I will react to its themes. I'm someone who is an adament humanist and I get very worked up when people discriminate against others for whatever reason. I'm also non-religious, but believe that faith is a good thing so long as its not taken to its extreme, as in any belief system. From what I've heard, BI displays the extremes of nationalism in the form of institutionlised Racism (as it was 100 years ago in most countries) and deals with the religious cults of personality that turn people into sheep, and to be honest, I'm worried I'll be hurt personally by these things.

It's weird I know! But seeing people behave horribly to other people digs under my skin; I get angry, or depressed depending on how my neurotic mind works (I think its just losing faith in humanity). Some people can distance themselves from these acts, I've never been good at that. Now that its in a game where I'm WATCHING IT UNFOLD BEFORE MY EYES, I don't know what I would do.

Hopefully Ken Levine's world view is simialar to mine so the story turns out to be hopeful, but honest depiction of these real issues that seem intrinsic to us. I hope that it makes me angry for the right reasons and doesn't mnipulate my emotions or let these (in what I believe) innately bad characteristics of people off easily. I just hope  it pulls me into the world rather than pushes me away from making me too unconfortable. I had a similar reaction reading about the Holocaust in my studies. My stomach became quezy and I couldn't sleep well for a long time. The same goes for reading about psychopathic serial killers.

But the game is set to me memorable and important to me. It's also set to be enthralling and fun. I will play the game. More games need to be brave enough to deal with such issues. It's just... am I ready? It's a question that needs questioning. It's a question with no answer as of now. I need to think it over... is my reaction to these themes in everyday life got to do with me somehow? Am I weird to feel so insecure when humans behave badly?

In other news I just bought Dark Souls on steam in its half price sale! Got to buy a controller for it though but damn I am excited as hell. I'll play Dark Souls before Infinite.

Then I will have thoughts on Kevin's adament refusal to hand out the goddamn 9.5!


Most Anticipated-to-play games of 2013 List!

I've been holding off playing games because I've been busy, and a few games I've held off just because I want to play it on a powerful rig and will probably get one soon enough. You can tell that I'm a PC gamer, and have been intrigued about some games that have recieved aclaim and have/will be ported to PC. Hence the half and half of games that have been released and will be released. Skyrim, uniquelly was held off because I wanted an experience ironed out of bugs and enhanced with DLC, like a fine wine it gets better over time!

10. Trials Evolution (PC)

9. Resident Evil 6 (PC)

8. Sim City

7. Battlefield 4

6. Dragon Age 3

5. Bioshock Infinite

4. Dark Souls: PTD

3. Mass Effect 3

2. Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

1. Grand Theft Auto V

Knee-Jerk Reaction to Life of Pi

Life of Pi is a movie about a man, and his life and how he sees the world. Its also the strongest argument one can make for God as well, or whatever God means in the context of being irrational.

Here is a movie that shook my very perception that the rational scientific way of thinking is the only way to view the world, there is a side to life much more spiritual it seems that is more pleasant, and more meaningful, and at the end of the day, how important is rationality to living life anyway?

Pis journey is hard. Its full of loss and unbearable realities. But he survives it with the help of a tiger. The tiger keeps him sane alone on this long, tortuous voyage. Although at the end we question the existence of this tiger, due to how he retells a more rational version of the tale, we dont seem to mind. The tiger looked and felt more real that anything Ive ever seen.

We believe his tale, although that is the licence that the movie holds on the viewer. But the marvellous journey that we had witness was so compelling and beautiful and much more digestable than his real story, does it matter which one we choose?

But the answer is still not as clear as I just put it. We dont know for sure which story is real, we can only determine it through either our feelings, or our rational brain. I must admit, as an atheist, rational thinker, and strong believer in the miracles of science, like Pis father, I also choose the story with the Benghal tiger.

What did I choose exactly? Is it a way to view the world? Does it mean anything at all?

At the end of the day Ive never felt more propelled through my senses and my emotions through another mans experiences than I have with this movie, and Ang Lee reveals himself to be a master filmmaker. Life of Pi showed me another way of thinking about life, a more spiritual one, and for that I feel blessed.

//Note this was written 30 ish minutes after the ending and I did exagerate some effects it had on me. I still feel my rational way of thinking is for me, but its the closest I've ever come to understanding the more irrational way of thinking. It was also written like a train of thought, completely unedited.

Why we need to speak up and how the meeting with Biden is just the beginning.

Its understandable that the general reaction from video game world at the news that VP Joe Biden was talking with video games industry heads about the effects of violent video games would be negative. Games are not the cause, we think, youre shifting the blame.

But to combat ignorance isnt to run away from it. The only solution is to deal with it through becoming part of this tilted discussion. Gripping news stories that appeal to parents worried about their children flog the airwaves while politicians grandstand over tragedies like Sandy Hook. To solve this issue, we must argue back. To not offer counter arguments would be an admission of guilt, in other words theyll think they are right.

Thats why I disagree that talking to Biden is an admission of any guilt because I believe that adversely, not talking to him would be the same. If we are in the right, we have nothing to fear. The NRAs general reaction to the Sandy Hook tragedy was to throw everything not guns under the bus, games (which they have usually been supportive of), violent media, mental illness, the kitchen sink. That hasnt worked out well for them.

We are the only people able to bring the appropriate arguments to the table because we have actually played violent video games. The same concept has occurred in history; rock music is slammed by aging parents, violent movies are demonised by the people who are scared of them, its strange how these sentiments always come from those who dont participate In them, youd think that people who watch violent movies, or listen to rock music wouldnt be so consumed in bias that they wouldnt feel the adverse effects working through their minds and bodies.

At the same time, its understandable that parents and non-gamers would hold anti-violent video game sentiments, the media is to blame, but then again havent we been quite pointed in our attacks against the NRA? Their sheepishness has been puerile, but there is good arguments to be made from reasonable gun owners, the problem is that from the outside its hard to empathise and understand a perspective that does take a certain lifestyle and experience to comprehend. Playing violent games is one of them.

This is why we must make our voices and perspective heard over the sensationalist journalist, or non-gamer journalism or the grand=standing politician or overwhelming majority of understandably concerned parents.

I have faith that the ESA which acts as the game industries main lobby group has the tools and weapons available to make our point heard, but its also up to us to talk to people and tell them our experiences, to point to the statistics from around the world, to the available scientific experiments not debunked as technically flawed political fodder. This meeting is just the start.

Which Path will I choose?

With the sun now gone to sleep beyond the horizon, on your stroll home you discover that the local mall's doors are still open wide, letting out the flourencent light indicating activity from within. A gush of wind from between those two steel frames, plastered with ads for furniture and chinese massages, waltzes across your face as you decide, on a whim, to follow your curiosity and look inside.

Upon entering, you notice an unusually large and rowdy crowd outside your local game store. You tap the shoulder of one of now seemingly hundred in attendance. "Excuse me" you inquire, "What exactly is going on?". As the man turns around, you quickly realise that is in fact a teenage boy complete with pimples and long fringe. "It's the Call of Duty Black Ops II midnight lauch dude, haha".

These events fascinate me. What exactly makes people so passionate about a game about shooting and exploding things. Why is Halo and Call of Duty such worldwide phenomena that eclipse the likes of arguably more interesting, innovative games?

I've looked closer at this. Some interviews with the crowd at the EB games midnight launch for Black Ops 2 tells me that gamers like the characters, they like the zombie mode, they like the awesomeness and they think that its like the best game in the world, and that they are looking forward to skipping school the next day to complete the entire game.

Now, this is weird to me, because those are things that are pretty unnattached to what you'd call "game design", per se. Awesomeness and characters like Master Chief seem to stem from more age old concepts like story and art than interactivity.I look upon the gaming landscape and wonder whether, as an aspiring game designer, I would look to impress the rowdy group in from the the EB store, to do my own thing that is to create games that, without sounding pretentious, "push the boundaries of games into uncharted territory, or do I attempt to do both?

It depends on what I want of course, but that leads me to a decision that I will have to make at some point. Do I make games because of the art, or do I make games because I want to entertain and liven up the lives of as many people as possible? Both I think are noble aspirations.

I preface this by saying that I don't think that Halo and Call Of Duty are bad games, but they aren't special anymore. Halo and Call of Duty's basic blueprint has existed since its first title back a zillion years ago, improvements to the graphics engine, the movement mechanics and story telling are all well and good, but still, the fundemental game idea runs through all of them. It's not surprising because it's a sequel, you should expect no less, but it is concerning that the majority of gamers of the world ONLY play those titles.

When I make a game, I really want to be proud of it and what it does, but what if the only people to appreciate it are the small enthusiastic gamers who scour game sires and forums?

I look to inspiration from games like Journey. I don't know how well it sold, I hope ALOT. It's the type of game that makes me have faith that my interesting game that doesn't focus on killing and cool characters can make an impact, both for the artform and in the marketplace. I think ultimately I will want to try and master a balance between the two points, to make a game to appeals to the gaming consciousness and does something new and exciting with interactivity.

Maybe there can be a way to make my new exciting idea the new great thing that millions of people flock to, the difficulty then I guess would be to not instinctively sequelize the thing. Oh these conundrums.

The problem only is a reality if I am a game designer great enough to even come up ideas that push boundaries and attract those millions, of course. For now it remains an interesting hypothetical.

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