Friday, December 19, 2014

Halo 5 Beta Test Available Today For Some

343 Industries and Microsoft have released a beta of Halo 5:Guardians starting this morning to XBox One Preview Program Participants. The beta will be available until 11:59pm PST December 21 (or December 22 if you're in the UK). Consider this early access beta for Preview Program members. It will contain week 1 content of the full beta. For those who purchased the Halo: Master Chief Collection, you probably already know about the full beta (which contains a code for people to try out the full beta December 29).

Halo 5 is a continuation of the Halo franchise, minus Master Chief. Supposedly. Halo 3 was suppose to be the last of it, and then they had spin-offs, then Halo 4, and more spin-offs, and it just keeps going and going and going like the Energizer Bunny. Five is listed as a single player and multi-player online game, being touted as a possible MMO. It's hard to say for certain. It is 343 and they do enjoy staying tight-lipped. Given the content presented to us previously, we do know that it is taking place in the Halo Universe, it'll be an XBox One exclusive because a new engine was developed for the game, and there will be online multi-player content.

Whatever the story or the game play may be, there will be a number of gamers keeping busy this weekend and over the New Years holiday.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

DA:Inquisition "Review" Inaccuracies Worry Me With New Gamers

I don't know why I did, but I clicked on the Breitbart "review" of Dragon Age: Inquisition written by Milo Yiannopoulos. I'm using the term review lightly because of Yiannopoulos previous work. Breitbart News Network, for those who don't know, is a conservative news and opinion site that tends to lean very much towards the political right. If you weren't certain, scroll down their page and look at their "See Also" sections that link right back to Fox News. It initially was a wire go-to site for the Associated Press, Reuters, etc. and became a good source for quick picks. But it has evolved since then into a  Republican, politically minded opinion site.

Because of this, I haven't linked to Breitbart before. Particularly with the #GamerGate hashtag, as Yiannopoulos was one of the primary "reporters" on the stories and was, well, let's just say less then objective.

"The video game community is...a strange choice of target for feminist culture warriors, who heaved ominously into view a few years ago, like the genocidal, psychopathic aliens in Independence Day.

It was time to do away with all that “fun” people were having, said these grievance-mongering killjoy arrivistes, and start taking seriously the overwhelmingly clear moral obligation to include at least six minorities, four gay dudes and a paraplegic illegal immigrant lesbian in every major video game release.

I’m exaggerating, obviously. But not by much: these bizarre campaigners, deploying a series of disingenuous and morally questionable tactics, such as goading people into making unpleasant remarks and then using those statements to publicly beg for sympathy and cash, have made gamers’ lives a misery these last few years." From the article GamerGate: Angry Feminists, Unethical Journalists Are the Ones Not Welcome In the Gaming Community. (With the URL noting that GamerGate is making terrific progress, don't stop now!)

Yiannopoulos announced on December 15th that as a "social warrior of justice," and one of the first to break the news about the secretive mailing list (that publishers pay for reviews, sex favors, and the industry is trying to push a political agenda onto millions), is writing a book about #GamerGate.


This is why I don't take their opinions seriously enough to link them here. Their objectiveness scale is a bit off-kilter.

So I don't really have a good reason as to why I decided to read Yiannopoulos' Dragon Age review, knowing that it was going to be a mess in composition, thought, and would probably lack in factual information. Checking his history on Breitbart shows that he has yet to write a game review.

I think it was the Mass Effect image used as the screen cap for the article. Because Mass Effect is the same game as Dragon Age. Absolutely.

Sarcasm aside, the first 3 paragraphs would turn a Bioware fan, or any gamer in fact, away from reading onward. It starts out bashing Canadians followed up by labeling Bioware as a developer of “average games that perform well with customers." You can feel the hatred oozing. Let it flow through you.

As one who has not played Inquisition yet (no time!), I can see the mountain of inaccuracies that the review brings by how Yiannopoulos talks about the other games in the Bioware catalog. "Mass Effect 2 wasn’t a critical success with ordinary gamers either; they called it “filler” and said it was “uninspiring.” It, too, bored players with politics." I'm trying to figure out where he found the quotes as his sources are not mentioned. According to reviewers across the board it's lauded as one of the best in the Mass Effect franchise. While it simplified combat and equipment compared to the first game, it expanded a story that begged to be told. And it's one of the highest user score's you'll find on Metacritic, so I don't know where Yiannopoulous found his facts regarding gamers impressions. Three million in sales is nothing to balk at.

Reading the disgust (I can't think of a better word to describe his words) Yiannopoulos has for Bioware's past games, with information that is not accurate, it's easy to assume that what he writes about for Inquisition is probably untrue as well. Not just easy, but most likely a safe assumption. He also takes jabs at other game sites like Polygon but doesn't provide content to back up why he's making the insult. (I know, I know. I do this sometimes too with Fox News but at least I explain myself instead of blindly bashing them.) What kicked it over for me was his section about the "forced romances." Never played Inquisition, but knowing Bioware as well as I do with how they develop their content, having a romantic relationship with characters in the game is never forced. They are always optional. Always. They are extra components to the story to help develop your personal Inquisitor, but they are not required to proceed to the next plot point.

Yiannopoulos has completely missed the mark if he couldn't convey the basic romance premise to the readers. How are his readers to know fact from fiction if he can't provide accurate content?

And THAT is why I'm discussing this article today.

Since published, the article has received 240 comments and, after some searching, at least 12 thousand hits (roughly-since the stats on this will change from search engine to search engine). My biggest concern is that this quick to judge reaction over a video game and a gaming company is causing a rift between gamers and conservatives that follow the Breitbart website. The responses from gaming communities like Giant Bomb are, essentially, mocking the review. There are a few posts here and there mentioning that Yiannopoulos makes one or two valid points about Inquisition, but when it's seeped in the sea of discontent and hatred, it's very easy to blow off the review. And because the writer is coming from the position of social Conservative, he's isolating himself and others from gamers. They're becoming outcasts when the gaming community is (generally) a place of inclusion. Yiannopoulos has taken a mantle as the one to save the world from the corruption of games - in turn people are associating all Republicans as game haters. We know that's not the reality, but when you read articles like that, it's difficult to find a good side.

My other concern is that those who know nothing about video games, who have heard a lot about Inquisition and thought they might try it but decide to check reviews first, stumble upon this one - what is their reaction going to be? With the lack of facts, and a heavily swayed opinion about anything that isn't white-male-Republican, my worry is that new gamers are going to be turned off from gaming entirely because of this one man's interpretation. It is vitriol. While game reviews are known by the masses to be more laxed, humorous and witty with their honesty, they at least provide more objective commentary then what Yiannopoulos provided with his article. The piece is more of a gay-bashing, lesbian-hating, Canadian destroying, fear-monger writing style.

I have to wonder if he even played the game based on how fairly inaccurate his description of game content was. Looking over the entirety of the piece, the only section I could find as factual was the game's pricing at the very bottom of the review: "Dragon Age: Inquisition, $59.99 (PC); prices for console editions vary." Yep. Inquisition is on PC and on other platforms, priced at $59.99 on PC - console editions may vary.

While I know that the majority of the internet understands that this article should not be taken seriously, my concern lies to those few who do not - who are missing out on the experience of gaming in general because of writing such as Yiannopoulos'. It's not a review. It's a hate-filled speech against anything Yiannopoulos feels does not fit his point of view. That is my worry. I dislike it when people are afraid to try something because of the words of one individual are telling them "no."

Also, underwear as your rating system? Really? Is that really an appropriate way to gauge a product? I have to wonder if he even cares about media content if he is quick to relegate it to clothing that covers ones bum as a means of rating it. Stay classy Yiannopoulos.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The Interview - Why Are We Not More Concerned About Freedom of Speech Being Censored?

You can relax Sony lawyers. I won't be discussing any of the e-mails or information leaked from the hacking attack.

I post this piece out of concern for the movie The Interview. Starring Seth Rogen and James Franco, it is essentially Argo but comedic. The plot revolves around two producers (Rogen and Franco) of a celebrity tabloid show, who score their biggest interview from one of their fans: North Korean Dictator Kim Jong-un. The CIA catches wind of this and attempts to recruit the two men into assassinating the Jong-un. 

Since the hacking of Sony Entertainment, many believe it was in reaction to the release of The Interview. Currently there is a threat spreading to theaters that show the movie may face retaliation. Sony is still promoting the film, but there will be no repercussions to those theaters that opt to not show the film. As of this post, Cinemark and AMC, two of the largest chains in the U.S., have removed it from their marquee.

But what is everyone else interested in right now? The scandal of the e-mails. Did you hear what the Sony exec said about X person? Or how much they hate Mister Y? And Z! Oh my goodness! Z was trash talked about in Sony's last meeting. She is so mad right now!

It's a bit sad when you think about. We're more interested in the content of the e-mails and trash-talking in Hollywood, something that has been a part of the business for centuries (not saying I condone it, by the way - it's, unfortunately, a part of the culture), then the fact that our freedom of speech is being infringed upon. Yep. By giving in to the demands of an unknown, unnamed source threatening violence, our speech, our right to produce and show a movie, has been violated.

Let's roll this back just a bit, because this isn't the first time The Interview has stirred up trouble. In June, when initial promotion began, a statement was released by the North Korean government regarding the movie - essentially calling Americans cowards for stooping to that level of fiction, making vague references to President Obama and his safety, and promising retaliation if the film is released. In July, North Korea's UN Ambassador, Ja Song Nam, vehemently protested the movie and demanded their intervention. The commotion died down briefly before it picked back up again with the hack attack.

This also isn't the first time a North Korean leader has been parodied. There was a minor scuffle with Kim Jong-il, who is the primary antagonist in Team America: World Police. While he never publicly commented on the movie nor mentioned if he watched it (he's a noted film buff, apparently), it's well-know the the movie is considered an insult to the region. So much so that they attempted to push the Czech Republic, an area where they had influence at one time, to ban the film.

Why is this a big deal that theaters are pulling a movie? As Republicans might say, we're letting the terrorists win by giving in to their demands. What I'm arguing is that by making this decision we're slowly having our freedoms stripped away because we are allowing others to dictate what is and is not acceptable in our country.

I'll give an example to help better explain my thoughts. There is a two-part series of episodes from the television show South Park titled "Cartoon Wars" (also made by Trey Parker and Matt Stone, producers of Team America). The episode parodies Family Guy and an episode being edited because a group of unknown terrorists were offended that the series would show the face of Muslim Profit Muhammad. When the network heads attempt to air the episode again without editing, Eric and Kyle (two of the four main characters in South Park) attempt to reach the studio and stop the show from airing altogether. Kyle for altruistic reasons to end violence, Eric because he hates Family Guy and knows that if the episode is pulled the series will end forever. 

Now that you know the setup, I want to focus on the end of the second episode, where Kyle and Eric confront the Fox Network executive. Kyle, after seeing Eric's plans, understands that this one incident means so much more. It's about freedom of speech. It's about allowing people to speak their minds, create their art, and divulge their opinions - to be human without repercussions. By giving in to the terrorists, we're saying it's okay to stomp on that founding freedom. When the network exec mentions he can just censor the image, well that's no better, now is it? We're basically saying only certain things are okay to show and say. To quote Kyle, "[i]t's either all okay, or none of it."

Time for the irony. In the end, the Fox exec aired the show without editing. And what did Comedy Central, the network that hosts South Park, do? They edited the scene out after a terrorist threat was made against their headquarters. (It was found to be a lone man who never intended to carry though on his threat. He's currently in jail after pleading guilty.) Double irony that fans of South Park are fully aware of: the show has showed Muhammad before. There was an episode title "Super Best Friends" that had a number of infamous religious figures, Jesus, Muhammad, Buddha, and Joseph Smith, to name a few, as a fictional super hero group. No one was up in arms over that. There was no retaliation. There was no threat against Comedy Central or endangering innocent lives. The show was aired on multiple occasions until "Cartoon Wars." Now you can't find it online. It's no longer apart of the Season 5 DVD and will no longer be on television.

This is what happens when you allow threats to dictate what is and is not okay. We are loosing our freedom of speech - a core product that our country was founded upon. 

If you don't like something? You don't have to watch or listen. Outright banning and creating censorship police is not the answer. Then we go down this slope of nitpicking every little thing (yes I'm looking at you Australia with your swear bans) that freedom of speech is no longer allowed - it's oppression of a basic human right.

We have enough to worry about in this world. Is a movie parodying Kim Jong-un really worth making threats against? 

Our freedom of speech is at stake. It's not about what the Sony execs said in their e-mails. It's about our First Amendment Right. Do you want that taken away over a movie? I know that I don't, and I will fight to protect my right to speak.

At least the staff marketing The Interview is maintaining their sense of humor.

"From the Western capitalist pigs who brought you Neighbors and This Is The End, comes #TheInterviewMovie - In Theaters This Christmas."

Edit #1: Variety has reported that The Interview will not be released. /sigh I don't know what to say...our freedom of speech has been trampled again.

Edit #2: The Verge stole my idea. I was talking about this with my supervisor just before I began writing this article, that Sony should release the movie online. Given it's recent publicity, they have nothing to lose and could regain the loss of funds for having the film pulled from theaters.

CBS. Scaring Your Kids With ​Nintendonitis

' "First there was "Nintendo epilepsy." '

And then the world ceased to exist! CBS must have taken a page from FOX News, because this is one story that will not go away. Within a few hours of posting, it's sweeping the internet and gaming blogs, mostly to people shaking their head and some poking fun at it. Some show some concern, but if you've played a game you already know the key things: eat, drink water, stand up and walk around every hour or so, and listen to your body. If you need to pee, pause and go to the bathroom. Even hardcore gamers who make a living off of this hobby know to answer their body's please first. The game comes second.

Nintendo epilepsy. Nintendo neck. Nintendo elbow. Nintendonitis.

Not just funny to say, but cultural terms that are real medical issues. They may be coined differently in the field, but we all know better. You got that "tennis elbow" by playing too much Wii. In the 1980's there were a few isolated cases of children reacting to the NES with seizures because of the rapidly changing screens and intense flashes. Over time the few instances caused game distributors to change their manuals to include health warnings. A study released yesterday focused on the cases where games were listed as the cause for health issues, and cautioned safety to those purchasing Nintendo products as holiday gifts. Because it's that darn Nintendo that causes so many problems. The XBox and PlayStation? Those are fine.

Here's the reality: the vast majority of people playing video games are not going to experience problems. Those who have suffered seizures have been cases where there was another underlying health condition where their bodies are predisposed to react to lights and sounds differently.

Don't let the CBS article freak you out. Any gamer can tell you that it's easy to listen to your body. The hard part is following-through. If your wrist starts to hurt, pause the game and stop playing. If your thumb feels sore, pull back and put the controller down. It is just a game and you can stop it at any time. Do so and don't be a dummy about it. Enjoy your games this holiday season!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Link/List Round-Up of 2014

Tis' the season of unruly shoppers. I ran into one last night. Well, more like he nearly ran into me. I don't know why he felt it was necessary to get right against my personal space and breathe down my neck where there was 10 feet of space to his right wide open for his use.

People are jerks.

Today brings another link-round up for listings for your gaming enjoyment. Consider this an apology for yesterday. Unless something insane happens with the Take-Two/Rockstar lawsuit, I will not bring up those 'celebrity' names again. Because this blog needs class again, even if it's in the form of lists. :)

- Game Bias created a list of the 10 Worst Games of 2014. Feel free to give Jeff Pressgrove a lot of quizzical looks, because this list is scary. South Park: The Stick of Truth is on there, a game that makes up 25% of Ubisoft's digital sales. I'm confused about some of the choices, but the name of the blog is Game Bias. Obviously you're going in knowing it's going to be a one-sided, harsh opinion.

- The New Yorker, a publication that is infamous for it's high-brow commentary and satire, is taking a stab at video games as well with their 2014 Best Of list. It does take a few minutes to get through to the list as the majority of the introduction focuses on the "conflicts" the game industry has had this year, including #GamerGate. The list includes the heavy hitters, Mario Kart 8, Shadow of Mordor, Dark Souls II, but it also includes some mobile games like Threes!, a Tetris-esque puzzle game. You might find something new on this list to try out for the holidays.

- And as more of mainstream media jumps on board the gaming train, The International Business Times has their Top 5 Video Games of 2014. Look at that. Games are becoming the it news. Sadly, this one lacks the clout of The New Yorker. The list reads exactly as you expect it. In fact. Don't even click on the link. I'll tell you the results in descending order: The Last of Us: Remastered, DragonAge: Inquisition, Mario Kart 8, Destiny, and Shadow of Mordor. I think they borrowed the list from a generic gaming blog and put little other thought into it.

- The Guardian gives us the Top 25 Games of 2014. Well it's only 25-16, but let's see if there's anything new on this list. *starts scrolling* Yeah. Nope. About what you expect-Titanfall, Shadows of Mordor, with a mention of Fifa 15.

I wonder if these groups just copy/paste content from fan blogs. I don't see any reporting or reviewing going on with these sites.

- At least Kotaku is keeping it classy with their list of the Best Video Game Concept Art of 2014. And the art here runs the gambit. Platinum Games with Bayonetta 2 (still one of the best studios out there if you ever need reference photos for their characters), Aliens: Isolation, The Banner Saga, and even Thief makes it onto the podium. Those are some pretty art pieces...

- If you need more math and accounting on your lists, The Fiscal Times will aim to please you with their 10 Best-Selling Video Games of 2014 list. Unsurprisingly Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare ranked in at the top with 5.8 million units sold. GTA5's re-release for the PS4 and XBox One made it to slot number 3, but with over 3 million units out the door at a fraction of the time that AW was on the shelves, that's damn impressive - particularly from a game that made over a billion dollars in sales in 2013.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Mobile Game In The Neverending Story of Lohan

In a twist to all things Lindsay Lohan, on December 12th a mobile game tied to her likeness was released on iTunes and Google Play called "Lindsay Lohan's Price of Fame." Yes, this was done with her consent - her name is in the title after all. Maybe this is the proverbial middle finger to Take-Two and Rockstar for GTA5. Or it's a chance to grab cash after seeing the huge success of Kim Kardashian's mobile game.

My god...what is happening to this blog? I have talked about Kim Kardashian twice, and Lindsay Lohan 3 times this year. Media personalities need to get out of games and off my blog.

Just like the Kardashian game, you start out from the bottom of the chain and work your way to the top to become famous. Lohan's game is quote-unquote more drama ridden, according to the game's description and her website. The game was developed by Space Inch and works like every other freemium title out there. You can download the product for free and play for a bit, but if you want to speed things up or get trendier clothes for your avatar, you've gotta pay.

Well...if this is your type of game go for it. I need to find something digital and fuzzy to shoot to regain my sanity. Maybe a romp through Diablo 3 will help.

Friday, December 12, 2014

XBox Now Accepting Bitcoin Payments

Bitcoin, the ever-evolving, ever-confusing digital currency, has been making waves over the past year, but it hasn't stopped the feature from growing. Now Microsoft has jumped into the fray and will accept Bitcoin for XBox and Windows-based devices to pay for games, music, movies, and apps.

Surprisingly, they were very quiet about the whole thing. The news broke over a Reddit thread regarding the currency trade, of all places. But for the new CEO of Microsoft, Satya Nadella, it's a necessary step forward for the company to be accepted as more modern. Being the third largest company in the world, Microsoft isn't known for innovation. They have staple products and we know what works with them, and what doesn't. And we're content with it. They don't drive technology forward like Google. Being a world-wide force that now takes digital currency? That's bold.

There are caveats, of course. Bitcoin is only available for US purchases. It can only be applied to digital, non-software purchases. So no, you can't get Microsoft Office with digital funds. And all sales are final. Because Bitcoins exchange rate fluctuates almost daily and can change from retail location to retail location, unlike paper money, your initial purchase could result in a larger or smaller refund depending upon what the current "rate" is. It's too much of a grey area to handle, so if you want that game you are keeping it. The system sounds very similar to how you accumulate XBox Live points. You make a purchase of points to load to your account. Then you take the points and spend it on the content you want to own. I'm curious to see how well people take to using this alternate means of payment.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Video Game Social Experiment

This is brilliant and sadistic. I foresee a future Marvel bad guy in the making. Andy Baio has been performing a social experiment on his son that was planned before his birth! The test? Make his son, Eliot, work through the history of games before getting to today's newer content. The hope was that Eliot would appreciate games for what they are and not take for granted the achievements developers have been striving for, for decades.

"Before my son was born in 2004, I was prepared. I’d brainstormed a long list of sociological and psychological experiments with friends and coworkers, ready to unleash my inner Milgram on my unborn offspring."

The "experiment" began when Eliot turned 4 in 2008. He was given games such as Pac-Man, Dig Dug, and Galaxian. By 2010, age 6, the kid beat the original NES Legend of Zelda all on his own. Based off of Baio's tweets, Eliot is going to be one hell of a gaming threat when he becomes old enough to compete. This year was the finals for the test, when Eliot reached age 10. Baio finished it off with games that were released at the time of his son's birth, such as Katamari and Shadow of the Colossus.

Like any nerdy parent, he had his concerns that the test would fail from the get go. "In the days leading up to his birth, I’d jolt awake in a cold sweat from nightmares of raising a six-year-old athlete, begging me to go outside to play football or baseball or some other dreaded physical activity." None of us want the child athlete. My biggest concern for my cosplayer friends whom are parents is that their children will despise all of the dress-up times.

Like any kid today, he does love the games that his peers do - aka Minecraft. But he also appreciates game that provide him with mental and dexterity challenges. The kid beat Spelunky. That game is a bitch. I want to see Eliot go after Ghosts & Goblins. I'd love to see his speed run on that.

This is a fun read. I love the interjection of tweets when Eliot hits a milestone. "He just gathered all 120 stars in Super Mario 64!" I'm sure some people would be horrified that someone created and acted upon a social experiment on their own child, but is teaching one to appreciate history all that bad?

"So I gave my son a crash course in video game history, compressing 25 years of gaming history into about four years. At this point, you’re probably either thinking I’m a monster or a pretty awesome dad. Maybe a little of both. That’s okay with me. My son is amazing, he loves video games, and more than anything, he loves playing them with me."

That's "father of the year" material, ladies and gentlemen.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

A Prostitue Is Someone Who Will Love You No Matter Who You Are...Or What You Look Like

In an interesting twists of twists, sex workers are proclaiming that Anita Sarkeesian's Tropes vs. Women videos, particularly the segment involving prostitutes, are not helping in the fight against real-world violence. In fact, they claim that the videos contribute to the objectification and stigma of being in a sex oriented job. So says and former sex worker, now author, Maggie McNeil.

Much of the concern is around the terms Sarkeesian uses when describing the digital characters. Sex workers are labeled as "prostitutes," which McNeil says devalues the men and women of the trade into commodities. By being a "worker" it's looked upon as a job. Where as the word "prostitute" has negative connotation in a number of cultures. The logic is people are more likely to be aggressive and abusive if you're labeled as a "prostitute." But if you're a "sex worker" that sounds like you have a real job.

I dummed down the language, but that's how it reads in the article on Reason.

But there are just as many sex workers that agree with Sarkeesian's position. N'jaila Rhee, adult web model, is also a gamer. Many of the things Sarkeesian has pointed out with her web series resonated with Rhee, but that the true concern is how "Feminism 101" Sarkeesian's points are. The issue Rhee and others have is not about the use of the word prostitute, but how simple Sarkeesian is making her stance. Now I would argue this is to help with public consumption, because most people in the U.S. never learn about feminism outside of the 19th Amendment in the Constitution giving women the right to vote.

The piece is Safe for Work and worth the read. Though it is interesting to see how a number of other groups outside of the #GamerGate hashtag are rallying against Sarkeesian. While I appreciate the effort and what she is trying to accomplish, I don't agree with her on a lot of points. Some of it feels like it's grasping at straws and other times it's almost like "tell me what we can do to fix this?" Because that's the bigger problem. No one has a solution and we're all looking for a way to resolve it.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Game Music Conference

This January, TCU (that's Texas Christan University in Ft. Worth, Texas) will be holding the North American Conference on Video Game Music. This is the second year the conference will be held and they chose to do it in Ft. Worth. I'm not sure why, but we'll roll with it. If you're a student or faculty member of TCU, you get in for free. The rest of us will have to pay $100. $75 for a graduate student...psh. How much of a kick in the butt is that? You're paying more money for an advanced degree and you still don't get the perks of being a student.

The keynote speaker is Winfred Phillips, who has a longstanding history with Sony and Media Molecule, helping design the music for all of the Little Bit Planet, God of War, and Assassin's Creed: Liberation. The rest of the speakers are all university related, most from the Texas region, and all under musical theory. This is an academic outing on a fun topic.

I may attend. There is no listing yet on what the topics for each panel will be, so I'll wait until that's released before deciding. But hey, if you're in the area, you're bored the weekend of January 17th, then go for it.

Monday, December 08, 2014

The Game Awards...With Lasers!

The Game Awards!

Airing on Friday evening, I decided to give this one a chance and Live Tweet during the event.

If you don't want to read the full review/synopsis here is my general response: It was better then Spike's Video Game Awards but could use a better balance on "premiers" and award presentations.

Initially I was hesitant to watch - real hesitant. The new show was produced by Geoff Knightly who had a major role in developing the Spike version of gaming awards. Needless to say, I was expecting a slew of D List Celebrities with 0 interest in gaming to come out and start making fun of gamers for having "lazy, fat, slob lifestyles."

To my surprise, they tried to class it up.

Iconic game composer Koji Kondo (the man behind the themes to Super Mario and Legend of Zelda) opened up the event with a quicky diddy on the piano with Mario. I wish they had made it longer then 45 seconds. It was too short and felt like a brush off to the legend. Thankfully the show redeemed itself at the end by bringing Kondo back on the stage. We were about to have a nerd throw-down after that intro.

And for 21 minutes, the screen was filled with "World Premiers" before reaching the first award of the evening. This is where the E3 component of the show overtook the stage. It felt like the majority of the evening was about releasing new trailers and footage for content coming out in 2015. Which is fine, but about an hour into it and I was already annoyed with hearing the "World Premier" voice. It was so consistent that it overshadowed the few on-stage speeches. I couldn't focus on the awards because I was timing the mute button.

"Look dude. We get it. It's another World Premier. We can read. Can you shut up already, please?"

That is my biggest complaint with The Game Awards. It was too much emphasis on "premiers" less on awards. In fact, most of the awards were given off stage! Knightly had a booth behind the audience (small attendance which probably, in part, was due to the last minute announcement of the show) where he handed out trophies in a multitude of categories - and because they were quick quips, you missed out on the developers reaction. Hell I have no idea who the other entries were in the categories. I have a vague recollection that one of the awards was for Best World Changing Innovation or something like that. It's a game that causes us to think beyond the normal boundaries and asks us to react. And I only remember that because the winners were two men from France who were humbled to be honored and would not give up the microphone to Knightly. Good on you two!  The rest was a blur.

The most memorable speech of the night came from the first award 21 minutes into the event. Trey Parker won best performance for South Park: The Stick of Truth as a multitude of voices in the cast. He gave thanks to the panel and for loving video games, because they allow a man like him to win an acting award over Kevin Spacey. Damn right, sir.

Another issue I felt was apparent was the amount of downtime in the show when winners walked up to the stage. The layout of the seating was an open, standing room only, floor at the front for paying fans. Towards the back was a section walled off for developers and winners, who had to traverse a series of stairs and wrap around the wall before reaching the floor. Note to the show: When you know someone is going to win, and we know that you do else you wouldn't have those awards personalized, put the winners close to the front. That will shave off the 15 minutes of downtime of people walking.

The performances by various musicians were also a highlight. The Game Awards went all out, getting a collection of old school and new talent by bringing gaming to an artistic level. Lindsay Sterling classed up the joint with her melody from Dragon Age: Inquisition. Imagine Dragons closed out the show with Koji Kondo by playing Zelda music and incorporating some of their hit tunes. And the light show. Oh that light show...maybe not so classy but it was entertaining and very gamer-esque.

I was also a bit unnerved by the "Trending Gamer" award. I didn't understand the purpose of it, other then to give YouTube stars a chance to be involved in the awards. That's all I could derive from it. Here's my thing: as gamers we're a fairly tight knit group. There isn't one person more important then the other. We do our best to treat each other as equals. So I find it a bit of an oxymoron when they show promotes inclusion, diversity, and acceptance of everyone, but wants to single out particular gamers for "trending." Confusing.

And a personal pet peeve was the breaking of the 180 rule in Knightly's booth. A few times the camera's would swap to one that sat behind the area and focused on the award winner. I dubbed it Awkward Reggie Angle because it flipped his position on the screen (from left to far right) and zoomed on his face. In film and television we have this imaginary line in front of the camera. You can pan and move the camera safely without crossing the line because no matter where you go or what you do (short of flipping the rig completely upside down) the person on the left will always be on the left and the person on the right will always be on the right. It allows for spatial awareness with the viewer and less of a paradoxical jump on the screen; which is what happens when you cross that line. When you allow yourself to break the 180 line, that's when the filming looks weird. Reggie went from the left, to the right, to the left within a handful of seconds and it was visually jarring. It does not make for "cool, artistic" visuals. Rather, it's annoying and causes more confusion to the casual viewer that a man jumped positions.

Overall, it was an improvement on what Spike would typically give us. The show is better then Spike by leaps and bounds, but it definitely had it's growing pains. If they can tighten up their schedule, have less "World Premiers" and more awards presented on the stage and more developer involvement, this could be something worthy of mainstream entertainment to take into consideration.

Ralph Baer - Gaming Origins

Let's have a moment of silence for Ralph Baer today. For those who don't know their video game history, he is considered the grand creator of video games. An engineer, he immigrated from Germany and created the first console in the late 1960's, to be re-branded and sold as the Magnavox Odyssey in 1972. Since then he has held over 150 patents, received numerous of awards, and many console developers see his pioneering work as inspiration. He passed away yesterday at the age of 92. Rest in peace, good sir. Thank you for your innovations.