Thursday, September 29, 2011

Continuing the subject...

I'm just going to leave this here:

http://kotaku.com/5844986/being-a-female-professional-starcraft-player-aint-easy

Didn't I just have a discussion about this issue like a week and a half ago? Photoshopping this woman into pornography crosses the line into insanity for hating her.

And this one here (NSFW due to language):

http://kotaku.com/5844981/why-japanese-cosplay-is-moving-closer-to-porn

I'm all for being a sexy geek female, but stay classy ladies. You don't need to show the world your goodies and say "hey I'm smart too!" because most people will never see that. They look at the cover and decide from there. Very easily goes back to the Slave Leia argument that many dress in that manner to get attention. If done well, a costume can be sexy and classy. The same applies to daily wear. A shirt that fits (not tight, but fits) says a lot about you and how you value yourself. That is way more sexy then a bikini. Women of the geek universe, you are allowed to feel good about who you are. You are allowed to be sexy. Just keep it classy and you'll make every geek woman's lives a little better.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Sexism and Video Games. Followed By...

Hey look. Other people are talking about it too. One thing I'd like to comment: I do believe that there is very much an aspect of "sex sells" as marketing techniques. While there are no games or movies that have a direct correlation between sexual performance and gaming, scantily clad women do sell products. I link you to a video that Destructoid posted (and I re-posted) not that long ago! Clearly that's sex being sold to raise awareness of a small company via pole dancing. Just because there is a sexy woman eating a bag of chips doesn't mean we equate those chips with sexual performance (as they are trying to delineate nerdcore from sexy objects). That's all.

Actually my blog post was intended to be a rant on rental movies from services such as Netflix no longer allowing you to skip the commercials. The last 5 movies I've rented have been like this. Super lame. And yes I know about all of the tricks on how to get past them, but none of them have worked! Even the all-powerful PS3 can not skip the commercials. I just clocked this DVD at 23 minutes of commercials. o_O Nice to know that no matter how much I pay, I will always have commercials in my life. Thank you democracy and corporate America!

Monday, September 26, 2011

A Different Spin On War

Tony Maniaty, a former ABC correspondent, believes that training is needed for today's war correspondents. After spending decades in the field, he has seen the world of reporting change. Instead of major news stations sending out seasoned veterans into the field, it's very easy for someone with a couple grand to get a small, HD camera, fly out to a warzone, and freelance for a break into the industry.

Thus he has teamed up with a small studio, Defiant Development, to create Warco. Short for war correspondent, it's meant to provide an experience of being out in the field with a camera in your hand. (Recently getting more buzz as ABC has released the story...impartial much?)



In the game, players are to capture footage of the scene playing out before them while walking/running through warzones, edit the footage, and create a news package. Scenes range from intense violence to talking to fellow reporters in your hotel. While most of the game focuses on the action, it also allows for the player to decide what moments are best to film. What about those morally ambiguous shades of grey? Is it ok to edit footage to tell a different story then what is shown in the footage? Can we really show a man being killed to the world?

While it's a good spin on the traditional war games, so far the studio has not found a publisher wanting to buy. It's a hard sell. It looks like an FPS, but it's not really an FPS. You get to see war and violence through a game, but you can't fight back because you are an "impartial" observer. There isn't a point system, or a right or wrong type of sentiment built into the game. Right now it's a low-rez version of Call of Duty where you don't attack anyone. With it's buzz on ABC, maybe a smaller publisher bill interested in the rights. Warco just needs a little more fine-tuning to make it more attractive to the gaming community.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

SW:TOR Release Date and Stupid Pre-Order Bonuses Again

SW:TOR release date announced along with pricing plans. Which seem a little much if you're only going for a one month subscription. Prices go down if you get the 3 month or 6 month plan, but there you go. Discussion about it can be found on the game's forums. That's about all I can really comment on it; just information that's been released to the public. lol

For the past day or so, the Arkham City bonus if you pre-order from GameStop has been airing on TV (Comedy Central mostly), and this is one that truly annoys me. I enjoyed Arkham Asylum. It was a twistedly fun game. So I've been looking forward to City and the insanity that is bound to ensue. Instead of the typical bonus of a weapon, or character skin changes, this bonus is an entire level:




Not cool.

I really hate pre-order bonuses like that. It really means that I have no way of completing the game. Ever. Because people will have access to that special content only if they pre-order with GameStop. Which, with my past with the company, I no longer use. Even better is if you get the Collector's Edition, there's another map/level that "normal" copies won't have access too. Can't blame SE this time. WB Interactive got the rights back to make this version. Thanks for screwing over your customers again. Another game that I will never be able to complete. Whoopie

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Video Games Are Not Movies

That should be obvious. But a quick Google search, or even just a blip in any gaming magazine it would be easy to see why the people get the two confused. Blogs, such as mine, are more likely to show cut-scene footage of a game instead because they are compelling moments, meant to draw the audience into the scene, and get them to want to buy that game.

A lot of what we discuss these days are the cut-scenes. Our impressions of a video game typically revolve around the graphics. Most of the critical story moments in a video game will be shown through a cut-scene.

So when I see an article such as Wired's 5 Film-School Violations in Videogame Cut-Scenes, it makes me go "huh?" As far as I'm concerned, the laws of film-making are not required in order to make a videogame cut-scene. If you're trying to obtain a very realistic setting and make the gamer question if it's a game, then I would encourage the developers to use basic film techniques. If you're trying to go for over the top, sci-fi action, being as supernatural as possible, then don't use film rules as a crutch.

It's probably best to explain the use of a cut-scene. It's meant to act as cut away from the action to other scenes happening around the player that they are not interacting with, such as a flash-back to help build exposition. This has evolved into showing pieces of the story as a connector between one sequence of action to another. And in some games it's a reward/break for all of your hard work. You've spent 10 hours battling zombies and goblins, so here's a cut-scene for your troubles. Sure there is a story in those scenes, but some developers see it as a reward system.

How is a film different? It's not just content but context. Film began as a means of seeing reality through a moving image (and still works on this principle today). Even "stories" that were concocted were based around real events. Cameras acted as the eyes of the viewers. And the viewer wants to see everything. That's where cuts and such come into play. But people also don't seem to realize is that a lot of the techniques developed by the early film-makers were made to keep production cheap and not to bend the laws of reality. The point of movies is to provide a voyeuristic view into the lives of people without breaking reality with the viewer. (See Diegesis as an example.) It may not be obvious as our brains have been trained to look at the world as if it were a film camera, but think about those big budget Hollywood movies the next time you want to see one. What aspects of the story are visually missing from the film? How often do you see character reaction shots? How many times are we subjected to character close-ups instead of the action happening around them? Always fun to think about your movies...and make you hate them. >.>

For a number of video games, the purpose is to tell a story (not all as some are purely entertainment, puzzles, educational, and the like).  What a film does is provide an up-close look to characters in a story. Video games do this as well, but cut-scenes provide more context and visual information about the world around the characters that movies never explore.

This is why video games as movies, and vice-versa, do not work. Aside from the lack of interactivity with a movie.

Video games don't need to restrain themselves to film techniques to tell their story. There are no limits in a gaming world. It's physically impossible to use a real film camera in certain situations (such as shooting it into a black hole-and I mean a real camera into a real black hole, not CGI), but a video game can do it. Video games have an unlimited potential to do all sorts of crazy things and can achieve their insanity while telling their stories. Restraining cut-scenes into "it needs to be like a film" limits what video games can provide to us. Video games are about fantasy, even in the most realistic of stories. Taking that away from them is just subduing the creativity.

I'm going to use the Wired article to provide counter-points to why it's perfectly fine for the developers to have made the cut-scenes the way that they did.

Probably best that Serah didn't talk too much anyway...
First up, FFXIII and the rule "Enter Late, Leave Early". This is one of those concepts developed to save money by having the audience piece together what happened before and what happens after a character leaves a scene, without directly telling the audience. It also applies to the real-world in situations-ever been to a party and jumped into a conversation with no clue what they were talking about?

In the scene the article uses from FFXIII it shows a lot of the, um, scenery. There is little dialogue, and a lot of pretty pictures. The point? To help us, the gamer, develop some sense of sympathy at the plight of the two young lovers and the impending destruction of the coastal town by the "good" and bad-guys. We see how the town is before The Purge. We see how the character's lives all become interwoven by fate long before their current predicament. It's meant to entice empathy from the gamer, to give you a reason to continue playing. For a movie, the point is to keep the story moving forward to reach an endpoint in 2 hours or less (in most cases). With a video game? There is no time limit. So build up that sympathy for the Purged victims and let that scenery fly.

MGS4 and Endless Exposition. Ok. This reads as though the writer has never played, seen, or heard of a Kojima game. MGS in particular is the lord of exposition in all of video games. Exposition is a means of providing background information, character notes, and the like to help advance the story. Think character monologues in plays, or voice-overs at the beginning of a movie.
MGS would not be MGS without exposition.

Now in the realm of MGS, there is a lot of stuff going on. Like lots and lots of stuff. And to be honest, is Kojima used normal film techniques for these games, we probably wouldn't understand a third of what the hell is going on. Because the MGS realm is so detailed, the leaving things up to the imagination of the audiences, as the Wired article suggests, would never provide us with the full story. We'd be stuck with a lot of unanswered questions and get thrown into the realm of confusion as to what the heck is going on.

Also, exposition is a stylistic choice by the creator. Some games don't really need exposition, but they choose to use it to help convey an emotion or throw a curve-ball at the player. Catherine comes to mind with it's use of exposition to both guide and confuse the player into questioning the reality of the game. MGS is no different. The use of exposition is done to lessen confusion (as long as they may be sometimes) and provide greater context as to why you should spend the next 50 hours playing the game.

Oh no! 10 seconds dancing! Save me!
Infinite Undiscovery and Only Show What Is Necessary. The article is correct that there are only 2 reasons on why you show a scene in a movie: to advance the plot and/or characterize the protagonist. That's film 101 right there people. However the example they used in Infinite is not really the best. It's called the "Dinner Dance" scene. The actual dance only takes about 8-10 seconds as those characters are leaving the scene to go to dinner, with the primary characters following soon after, about 10 seconds later at the most. Everything leading up to the dance are story plot points and helping develop the gamers relationship to the protagonist.

I think this is more of the writer of the article just not liking the "Dinner Dance." The dance itself is merely a tool to help explain the personality of those side-characters without going into a monologue (holy crap, there's that exposition again!). The scene itself also shows more about the type of character the protagonist is, and advances the story. So, I fault this one on a lame example. Gears of War 3's Easter Egg might qualify. You're fighting a really big alien bug, so why the hell are you spending 5 seconds going down a kiddy slide? Because it shows who that character really is, a big kid on the inside while being the savior of mankind. There we go. Good example followed up by why it's ok in a video game. We don't see it as stupid in a game but as a part of the experience. In a movie? We might question reality and break that 4th wall that they don't want us to break.

2 plumbers out to save a princess in a shroom
infested kingdom, from a giant spiked
turtle/man thing. The last thing I'm sure they're worried
about is time management.
Super Paper Mario and Every Second Matters. This ties in well with the last concept of "only show what is necessary." With a film, there is a definite beginning, middle, and end. The timing and pacing help determine the speed of a film, and whether it is successful. In a game this isn't necessary. Part of the point of the game is for you, the gamer, to explore and determine all of that for yourself. In most cases, you know the beginning; your purpose is to provide the middle potion to get to a pre-generated ending. What the writer seems to forget is that there is no time limit in a game. You can speed through in 10 hours if you wish or spend 99 hours. It's up to you as the gamer to decide. Thus, a need to time and pace out a cut-scene is unnecessary. You're going to spend the next 40 hours playing the game, so what difference does it make if they explain to you that a prophetic book is a mysterious tomb of stories predicting the future? Time has no limit in a video game. In film, you need to always be aware of time. Big difference.

Mass Effect 2 and the 180 Degree Rule. The 180 Rule works like this: Two characters or objects should always have the same spatial relationship to one another. If the camera were to cross over this imaginary line, it can cause the character to look flipped or reversed on the screen, providing a jarring experience for the viewer.

Even this close-up is a little too tight for a movie.
Only games can do this without freaking us out.
Here's the thing, filmmakers break this rule a lot too. Look at Transformers or Star Wars battle scenes. So to limit it to just gaming is silly. Film can break their own rules too if they are to serve a purpose. But to do so in the manner of video games might cause for motion sickness. There still needs to be a flow to the camera where it feels seamless. Because again the camera is acting as the viewer's eyes, and our eyeballs surely don't jump from the sky to the ground, and then inside a building a mile away, in half a second.

The scene used in Mass Effect is meant to feel disjointed. Why? The characters are running for their lives. To help increase the severity of the situation and give more of a high-action jolt, the camera angles will jump around the screen. It's not so all over the place that you can't follow the action; more of it's meant to help increase the intensity. You still know who Sheppard is on the screen, and his companions. Again I'd argue that this was a stylistic choice. Which would you rather have? The current ME2 scene or one where's it's just one shot of the characters running to their spaceship with no cuts? I vote for the former to help aid the action of the story. It's also good to keep in mind that this is a game, not a movie. There isn't a need to have the camera be still, or just tilting/panning across the screen. It's meant to move. It's meant to provide emotion or excitement to the gamer. It doesn't need to be our eyes, but our thoughts.

While I can appreciate the effort the writer put into his article and getting us to think about games on a deeper level, by simply comparing film to video game cut-scenes doesn't work. The purpose of a film and the purpose of a game are two different aspects that should not be required to mirror one another. Video games stand on their own as a unique form of art, entertainment, and story-telling.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Thanks Capcom. Now Get Back To MegaMan

 The full trailer for Resident Evil: Revelations has been released. A lot of us are really happy with the outcome.




If you don't want to watch, I'll give you the recap. The lady with the worse haircut imaginable for a military operative doesn't last for long. In fact, she's not even a playable character. She's just cannon fodder for the virus infected crew of the ship.

I realize that I'm further enhancing the negative points of view regarding this character, but in all honesty this was pretty lame for Capcom in the creation department. She's a blond-headed, long hair, big chested woman being overly exposed, on a boat of god knows what, and she's expected to defend herself? On the one hand, I'm glad Capcom went with the silly and did kill this woman off. On the other, the same impact would have been achieved if they used someone who didn't look so blatantly sexualized. In fact, let's make it a S.T.A.R.S. operative. That would have made the story a little more enticing. Unless she is from the same team, then they really need to be more strict about their hair/clothing requirements.

Is it necessary to call her a bimbo? No. Does her attire reinforce the negative stereotype? Absolutely. Capcom in the future if you want to do something like this, at least make the characters looks practical. Could have done a Jill on this one and have the hair pulled back. Would it have been that hard? Well if they wanted unnecessary attention for marketing, they got it.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

This List Brought To You By The Word FUN.

TGS made my brain explode with all of the goodies expected to release over the next year. And Sony made me sad by retracting a release of Chrono Trigger and FFVI from the PSN. Hopefully it'll still happen.

But while my brain pulls back into normal mode, it's time for another one of my lists!

I think I'm the only one that's enjoying them.

My 10 favorite games of all time!

I know I've done a top 10 favorite cartridge games, but this is all encompassing. Though it should be of no surprise that some of those cartridges will make an appearance.



10.) Halo: Combat Evolved

I’ve played Doom, Half-Life, and Call of Duty (as much as I rag on the franchise it started out with good intentions). None of them hooked me as much as Halo. It took the FPS genre to a new level of game play, design, graphics, user interface, and multiplayer action. Which resulted in solidifying the Xbox console into the gaming market (for us Westerners at least). The XBrick wouldn’t have survived without Halo.

What I love about it: It transformed the FPS into a new, fun experience.
What I hate about it: Popularized the Xbox and caused a surge of headset rage.


9.) The Sims 2

I thought The Sims was a fantastic entry into the Will Wright legacy. The Sims 2 made everything a million times better. The concept of The Sims was meant to be a building simulation derived from Sim City. What emerged was an interest in the everyday lives of the Sims in this city that we have created for them. You could create the character of your dreams, still sporting one of the best cc systems to date. You can give them their dream job, or the worse job ever (and follow them to work too!). You can teach them to cook, to sing, to garden, or shove them into a pool with no stairs and watch them drown (it’s ok! They’re just computer characters). This is simulation gaming at it’s finest.

What I love about it: Endless story possibilities.
What I hate about it: Spawned the mess that is The Sims 3, Sims Online, and Medieval Sims.


8.) Chrono Trigger

Widely argued as one of the best RPG’s of all time. It’s a Square masterpiece. You are a group of travelers through time and space attempting to stop impending doom. With a wide array of unusual characters (Frog comes to mind), the ability to time travel, and see monsters on the screen (this was pretty new at the time; random battles were normal for RPG’s), and 13 unique endings, not to mention an awesome story that you could manipulate, it really was an innovation for games back then and today.

What I love about it: Every decision you make in the game affects what happens next. You can never play the same game twice!
What I hate about it: The Chrono franchise never took off like it should have. Which has nothing to do with the game, but more of the reality that we live in where innovation can sometimes cause death to a series.


I love and hate Rainbow Road so much.
7.) Mario Kart DS

I’ve love Mario Kart since it was first released on the SNES. It’s a simple concept. Memorable Nintendo characters from the Mario series race against one another in go-karts that shoot turtle shells and mushroom speed boosts. It’s also the first time we saw Mario rendered in more of a 3D environment, allowing you to see all of the characters from multiple angles amongst the roaming background. What I love about the DS version is that it captures the joy of the SNES game while bringing it into modern times. And the online play. By far the best use of online gaming for any Nintendo system.

What I love about it: It’s Mario fun for all ages.
What I hate about it: Needs more retro inspired levels.
 

6.) Resident Evil 4/Biohazard 4

The Merchant always creeped me out.
Long time RE fan, but this is the one game that put fear back into horror games. Past versions focused more on the exploration aspect, with minimal zombies. RE4 incorporated fast gun-play, quick controls and button cutscene, massive shootouts, and hoards of enemies in open areas. This is also when the series removed the “slow-moving, dimwitted zombie element.” Las Plagas gave a zombie-like appearance, but those infected still retained some intelligence. They were fast, strong, and wielded weapons. Shot-gun farmer not so fun to play against. And it was the type of story fans have been wanting from an RE game.

What I love about it: It’s still a great game after all of these years.
What I hate about it: Ashley Graham.
 

5.) GTA: Vice City

I’m one of those people that has played GTA from the beginning, back when it was only a PC game with a top-down view. It’s one of those games that is deceptively simple. With the release of Vice City, I found a whole new respect for the series. By far this is one of my favorite stories of all of the GTA games. And it perfectly captured the essence of the 1980’s in the U.S. The clothing, the colors, the music, the cars, the people, the dialogue, everything was SO TOTALLY 80’s. But it maintained the action, drama, and creativity we’ve come to expect from Rockstar. I can play this game a million times and never tire of it.

What I love about it: Retro done right.
What I hate about it: 80’s songs get stuck in my head for months on end.


4.) LittleBigPlanet 2

This is my only entry for games made for current gen consoles because it is the most innovative, imaginative, outspoken game in decades. LBP2 captures the magic of the first game, and really ramps it up. The story line for 2 felt more compelling. Sure you wanted to finish it to get all the stickers and items, but it wasn’t a grind doing so (like the first game). It also provide a wide array of new gadgets to play with for level design, including microchips, complex coding statements, and larger thermometer space. The things people have managed to create could easily rival some of the top games being made today. It is simply awe-inspiring what MediaMolecule has unleashed to the masses.

What I love about it: It allows you to explore your creativity in your way. Design a level, make music, make costumes, make stickers, whatever it is to your hearts content!
What I hate about it: The levels that get the most plays are copy/paste/h2h from LBP1.


Real sneaking requires a croc head.
3.) MGS 3: Snake Eater

My favorite in the series. It had the best story, the best characters, the best game play, and a wonderful nod to the NES sneaking style. This was the first game to use camouflage (I know, it only took 3 games for them to do this?), close quarters combat, a stamina gauge, and an injury-treatment system. Something that a real soldier in Naked Snake’s position would probably have to utilize. It was smart, witty, and the perfect game for the PS2. It’s also the first time you truly feel that this is a stealth game, deep in a jungle, making use of the materials around you as you try to stop an evil threat from nuclear war.

What I love about it: Hide and seek done right.
What I hate about it: There are 4 versions of this game.


2.) Final Fantasy IV

Anyone who reads my blog, you’ll probably ask why the heck I have FF4 on here and not 6, seeing as I listed it above 6 in my favoritecartridge games. Truthfully? I always have a debate between 4 and 6. They swap positions on fav at least once every 2 months. But I also didn’t want this list to be an homage to Square and Final Fantasy as I have a great appreciation for other games out there. FF4 was the first game that I remember playing where I gave a damn about the characters, this mission, and the fate of the world they lived in. It was the first time the music really captured the majesty and power of the events transpiring. I felt sad when certain characters died, and triumph when others succeeded at their goals. This game became everything that I loved about Final Fantasy.

What I love about it: Story, characters, music, and originality even in the repetition of the RPG universe.
What I hate about it: Why did so many people have to die?


This isn't the Wii version. This is the Saturn image!
1.) NiGHTS: Into Dreams

Clearly I’m a FF geek and I have sold my soul to SquareEnix. But even my love for FF can not compare to the power that is NiGHTS: Into Dreams. This game was the reason why I wanted a Sega Saturn. I remember the day when my mom and I went to Toys R’Us and purchased this game as I jumped up and down with glee when the man behind the counter handed me NiGHTS to take to the register. We got the special controller too. It was magic in a CD.

The story is a pretty simple concept with a emphasis on the importance of doubles (light and dark, two kids releasing the power of NiGHTS, twin seed city, two dream realms, etc.). The game controls were very intuitive as you fly around the level, with its strange nightmare creatures, collecting orbs to form high chains, in these elaborate and colorful levels. The game is just beautiful to watch and listen to. Smart level design and control schematics, catchy music, colorful levels, and a simple story make it a winning combo. It’s the one game I can play over and over again and it will always put a smile on my face.

What I love about it: Just about everything.
What I hate about it: Spawned Journey into Dreams (Wii game), and if you lose against a boss you had to start the level all over again.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

To Prove A Point

This is why some women don't want to play video games:

http://www.destructoid.com/tgs-and-suddenly-strippers--211679.phtml

Clearly pandering to a male audience to objectify women. And it's not even for a game. It's for a company called R-Force Entertainment. What pole dancing has to do with the company? I have no idea. But do we need to continually make women into objects to sell a product? It's as bad as the name calling.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Women in Gaming - Verbal Assaults APlenty

First, I don't know why people make such a big deal out of nothing. However in the mess that ensued, it brought up some interesting concerns regarding sexism and how women are treated. If you want the full story start by reading this: Gizmodo starting point. And then this: Letter to unborn daughter. Followed by this: Kotaku response. And finally this: PAX Panel - Fatuglyorslutty.com.

I know that's a LOT of reading. But you can do it. If you are willing to sit through hours of dialogue and reading for a video game, this is nothing. And the last one is a video!

Why am I bringing this up? Well we were having a thoughtful discussion about this on cosplay.com (which rarely happens without turning into a flame war). And with TGS this week, the cosplayers are out in full force. Sure people are oogling the women (and some of the men too!), but in Japan they practice this thing called being polite. It's a foreign concept to some so let me explain. Photographers, even the non-professional ones, must ask before taking a picture. They need to gain the cosplayers permission to post the photo online. They need to get the cosplayer's contact information to provide them with a copy of the picture. And they need to show respect to the cosplayer, i.e. no insults, no profanity, no verbal abuse, no physical assaults, etc. They have rules to ensure everyone is safe and has a good time. Nothing wrong with it. So why the heck can't we do the same thing with gaming?

Well anyway, I'm always curious to find out people's opinions (even the 4 of you that are watching). Has anyone (men and women) experienced verbal assault through gaming? Has it forced you to change your gaming habits to remove yourself from those situations? How do you handle those situations? Is it right to call someone a 'bitch' without knowing a thing about them? Are the insults in gaming as common as we think or are they obscure?

One thing I hope we can all agree on is that verbally assaulting someone, both over mic and through a messaging system, for their race, gender, religion, sexual preference, etc. is not ok. It's a video game that you're playing with someone living somewhere else and the chances of meeting are next to none. How does it help you if you insult them? You're just perpetuating the stereotype that all gamers are 13 year old immature boys, when stats show that is totally not the case. Games are played by everyone!

While I think the initial article on Gizmodo was not really necessary, nor the right outlet, the woman didn't need to be called a bitch 43,000+ times. It's just further enforcing the gamer stereotypes and causing a halt in the gaming evolution to be taken as art.

I'm keeping this short and to the point, though I may draft up a giant posting in the near future. So discuss!

Friday, September 16, 2011

TGS Madness Continues!

This is one of those years that I wish I could be there. After the let-down of E3, we needed a strong showing of games for the next year. TGS isn't disappointing. Another round-up heading your way, but there's so much news it's making my brain go crazy!

Dragon Quest X - Do want! Gameplay footage in the movie posted on Kotaku. Think of it as Phantasy Star Online, in that you can go online with DQX, but it's not an MMO. Downside? It's on the Wii. Not exactly the strongest system in the universe to handle online play, but hey, it's online. Hopefully it's not local only. -_- I'm looking at you Nintendo. Fix that please. Now. SE will also be releasing a DQ Anniversary pack of games 1-3 on a disc for the Wii as part of their 25th anniversary. SE is going to be busy this upcoming year.

RE Revelations - Other then the one character with the ridiculously impracticable haircut and the open wetsuit (not the best thing to wear while fighting zombies missy), this looks to be really clean for a 3DS game. On the plus, you don't get to play the stupid haircut woman. You get to play as Jill. It is the bridge game between 4 and 5, since 5 does start out a tad wonky. Even the back story they try to present to you still feels out of place with how 4 ties in.

Katamari for the Vita - New features and taking full advantage of the touch screen system. I know all Katamari games may look the same, but they really do add some new stuff with each addition. You can now stretch and squeeze the Katarmai to have it pick up objects in the world in new ways. You know those flat pieces on the floor that you never could get to attach, such as chalk drawings or paper? Well now you can squish your Katamari to pick those pieces up! I'm curious to try this game out with the touch screen and see how it feels.

MGS3 Snake Eater 3D - New screenshots. Based on the footage, this is turning into a very pretty looking game, possibly better then the original. But what I have been reading is that the controls suck without a second thumb-stick. Which is probably why Nintendo is releasing an add-on. I can only hope that the game will play better that way, because I want this.

Ni No Kuni coming to the U.S. - The beautiful collaboration between Level 5 and Studio Ghibli will be making a U.S. appearance. Here is their trailer from last year, so you can imagine how much more gorgeous it looks now. As for price...well I hope that $115 tag won't transfer over.

More SE Nerdgasims - FF Theatrhythm Game. (It's a rhythm game like Elite Beat Agent, so don't expect award winning battle game play.) Chrono Trigger, DQ, and Ithadaki Street for android along with FF Legends. Army Corpse of Hell, a hack and slash with a touch of Pikmin where you control an army of Goblins to do your bidding. Bravely Default: Flying Fairy is a new 3DS game (RPG of course) that takes advantage of the motion controls for the system AND cool use of AR cards; good job guys now I really want a 3DS.

Team Ninja - Dead or Alive 5 has been announced as well as new details for Ninja Gaiden 3. The game-play for NG3 will have 2 modes, Ninja and Hero. Ninja focuses more on the action, Hero focuses more on the story. Definitely different from what I experienced when I had a chance to see it in person. But it would also explain why the game play felt a little easier then it should. I do hope that the final version will allow the player to choose easy/normal/hard core/WTF modes along with the style of play.

Ok so...I need to get a 3DS (after the peripheral is released) and a Vita. Damn you TGS! You make my wallet cry.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

New TOS for Sony Online - You Can't Sue!

He's totally trying to sue Sony.
Understandably so after the trouble with their online services this year, their new Terms of Service has a clause that if you sign, you can't sue. Which you need to sign in order to play online.

Basically it's an arbitration clause, something many companies are jumping on the bandwagon for these days. It states that you can't sue Sony for any issues regarding their online service. However you can pursue the matter via small claims court through an arbiter. No not the alien thing in Halo. It'll be someone in a suit from a law firm that Sony chooses and pays for. They listen to your arguments and make a decision from there. Why companies like this? Well since they're paying for the arbiter and making wonderful contributions to that law firm, they're going to win just about every single time. A poster on Kotaku asked if it was legal. It certainly, and unfortunately, is.

But that's just a summary. I'd like to direct you to a documentary I saw on HBO a month or so ago, and is coming to DVD November 1st. Hot Coffee. It's about how the legal system really works in the U.S. and how much of a dick corporations can really be. If you need a specific subject that could directly relate to arbiters, Jamie Leigh Jones and her former employer Halliburton are brought up in the Hot Coffee documentary. Because of a contract that she signed in order to work for the company, she wasn't allowed to sue them for any wrongdoing and would have to present her case before an arbiter. They sided with  Halliburton. Yeah...their asses need to be sent to prison for that mess.

Welcome to the world of fine print, where you can't even accept a job without reading the 50 page no sue document that you need to sign. >.>Anyway, there is the ability to option out if you don't agree with the TOS, other then not accepting them and not playing online. At the bottom of page 17 it outlines what you need to do, and it must be within the first 30 days of signing the contract. Though they can still reject it if your reason is invalid.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

TGS Is Here

Whew! We're already getting pummeled with gaming news and we still have a good full 4 solid days of TGS awesomeness. Time for a mini-view.

Nostalgia moment: Wing Commander III. If you've never played, it's been re-released for digital download at $6.00. And it is awesome. Yes, it's the one with Mark Hamill in it. It started a revolution in the way games were produced and changed how we play games today. Go buy it. It's only 6 bucks.

Year of the crappy battery: The Vita specs have been sort of released. And what we're getting is another handheld system with some pretty bad battery. 3-5 hours at the most, just like the 3DS. Clearly we need to figure out some new methods of powering these things. 3 hours isn't enough.

Final Fantasy Tidbits: FFX will be coming to the Vita and PS3 in HD as part of a 10th anniversary celebration from the original game's release. 10 years of X. Before there are any groans, for a lot of today's teens-early 20's gamers, X was their first. That's why we see so many cosplayers for that game. Still waiting on that FF7 remake...ok not really. I think they should put 7 to bed after all the prequels and sequels. It's been 10 years and we only have 4 games into the franchise. They need to pick up the pace.

Rumors about my lady: They're been cropping up on Twitter and other blogs. Sega has something in the works for Bayonetta, but we're not entirely sure yet. TGS is already slated to be the year of Sony, so anything else that crops up will be a surprise. We're hoping for a new game, which I imagine would have to be a prequel otherwise we're going to get this odd-ball buddy comedy after the ending of Bayonetta.

Monday, September 12, 2011

NHL12 Now Featuring Female Hockey Players

This is one of those little guy stories that doesn't make EA sound like pretentious a-holes, like they typically are.

A young girl from New York loves hockey and enjoys playing NHL from EA Sports. One day she wondered why there was no option to make a female character. So she wrote a letter to EA. The first response was "the NHL has to approve of it," which is true. They own the rights to their name and any changes made to the roster, including the addition of women, have to be approved. It ended up on David Littman's desk, the lead producer for the NHL franchise, and saw a need for the series to branch out.

Women in hockey is a real thing. The stats posted in the article (In 1990, there were about 5,000 women and girls playing the sport. Today, there are more than 100,000 in Canada) are quite interesting. The most recent Winter Olympics has put a spotlight on women's hockey in numbers never seen before. There is clearly an audience. Heck, I'm a hockey girl. Played street hockey with friends so it never was on a competition level, but I do enjoy watching the games on tv.

Of course the cynic in me is saying "this is EA just trying to get more money because they're hitting a new audience." But it also speaks at how the actions of one can really make a difference and age is just a number. A young girl took it upon herself to type a letter and mail it to EA Sports to at least encourage the idea of change. And it happened. Yea warm and fuzzies all around! As an extra bonus, the default female look will be the girl that wrote the letter. No creepers please. But it's good to see that EA aren't totally butt-holes all the time.

Now if we can just get them to stop harassing BioWare...

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Something Out of Nothing

You know when it's a slow news week when people feel that a small flash game should warrant deep discussion about real world violence. A website called Technorati is doing just that. The game? Tea Party Zombies Must Die.

What Technorati is insinuating in their piece is that games such as this are promoting real world violence. One look at the game developers website and you'll find that it's meant to be humorous entertainment. With other games such as Celebrity Kung Fu and Killa Kitties, it's clear that the website is not trying to endorse the killing of people. In fact, they're zombies. They're already dead. Maybe they're making a political statement, but is a flash game no different from the black and white drawings we see in the Sunday paper making satirizing the nation? If you saw a horde of zombie "Tea Party" members in the NY Times as a political drawing, you might chuckle and move on. I'd argue that Tea Party Zombies is no different. Discuss!

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Back From Con

I really am happy, but how can you
not love Droopy Dog.
And I didn't get a t-shirt! Convention purchases have been nonexistent as of late. While I had a lot of fun, I did get sick on Sunday and it really hasn't gone away. Apparently there's a stomach virus going around as a few people managed to catch it. And my camera went silly and I lost about half of my photos. But, it is what it is. What I did save has been posted to my Flickr account. If you're curious about my adventures, you can check out my DA.


But the reason for this posting is to upload summaries for the 2 academic panels that I hosted. Even though I was sick, these were amazing panels. I was quite surprised at the turn-out, and even more astonished at the audience participation. It was great to see so many people interested in the same subjects as myself. I’ve received quite a bit of feedback so far, and I know next time that I want to do more panels geared towards specific topics (there’s one about the technological body I’d love to share), and expand the discussion panel to at least an hour and 30 minutes, or 2 hours.

So if you're here for the summaries, you can find them linked below within the blog:

Academic Anime - Anime in the Classroom Summary

This was more of an open-discussion panel after having to completely change my content at the last minute. There was another group hosting academic panels that weekend, and even though I attempted to contact them via e-mail and Facebook, they never responded to me. Showed up to one of their panels and oh look, they were saying everything I was going to say. On the positive, this ended up working out a lot better then expected, and now I’m wanting to expand this into a 2 hour panel. Everyone was getting really involved with the subject and it was a great experience! Here is the summary from the panel that occurred at AnimeFest 2011.

Should we have anime in the classroom, yes or no?

Pretty much everyone said yes. One man said yes, if it’s used appropriately. Most of us at a convention would argue yes, but there are equally as many who say it shouldn’t. So I asked everyone to provide their thoughts on why it shouldn’t be in the classroom. And we came up with a good list:

Not everyone is into anime – lack of popularity
Not as available to teachers
Subject matter can deter greatly - pron
It can be distracting
“Just for kids”
Copyright infringement
Shallow content
Emphasis can change from one teacher to another
Presentation of content
Serialized stories can be easily taken out of context (think Naruto or DBZ)
Textbook and conservative values
Benefits of implementing versus the cost – Requires changing the current curriculum

Two more that I contributed were that anime is considered non-genre by many academics, as well as not art.

Many of the responses were geared towards social reasons, along with academic acceptance. Our vision of animation here in the West is strongly focused on cartoons and it being only for kids. We grew up watching Disney and Loony Tunes. Japan has had some version of animation in their lives since the Edo period with manga and has a few hundred years on us on growing into anime from an academic stand-point. We’re getting there in the West, but it will take some time. In many ways our history of animation and comic books mimics the Japanese history, but we’re still quite a young country with a lot of growing to do.

From here it became a great discussion on how people have used anime in their own school work, as well as the need for change in our school system. It was quite compelling to hear that people really did take this topic as seriously as me, thinking I was one of the few crazy ones that did so. One individual mentioned that a friend of theirs was influenced by the Phoenix Wright games that he wanted to be a laywer. I myself fell in love with Princess Mononoke and that helped propel me to want to study film.

I wish I had expanded this to a 2 hour panel, as we didn’t even cover a 1/10th of the material that I had brought in to discuss. This was an amazing experience and I was really glad to see so many people participate. I’d like to give a special thanks to the gentlemen, whose name I didn’t catch, for wanting to discuss how we should apply anime into the classroom to give it, it’s greatest chance to succeed. That is a brilliant topic that I wish we had more time for. Next round I will be sure to use it and give you full credit, as soon as I find out your name!

Anime Theory Crash Course Summary

A quick overview of what was discussed during my Anime Theory panel at AnimeFest 2011.

Anime theory is a focus on themes and cultural identification in Japanese animations throughout their history. Because it’s considered a non-genre category, such as documentaries or silent films, having it mirror with traditional film study isn’t the best method. It has to be studied on its own. So to simply lump anime into specific genres in terms of study would be too easy. Anime theory has more definable focuses that make it a unique study. But because they deal with a lot of the commonalities with film, we can use pieces of film theory to process anime theory. Such as the auteur theory, formalist theory, and screen theory.

Anime history can be traced back to the Edo period and early manga, but the anime we know today first developed in the 1950’s and 60’s, post WWII. Anime theory began to develop into the themes we commonly see in the 1980’s. It is the mix of East meets West that really help anime stand out from other entertainment mediums. From here, we began to break down some of the common themes.

Why is anime obsessed with nature?

Nature can be attributed to cultural context. Childhood stories of animals with an emphasis on finding balance as well as teaching morals, where as Western fairy tales tended to focus on more black and white, good and evil. Anime also tends to be more up-front about their ties with nature in comparison to other mediums.

Post-apocalyptic and end of the world stories.

Susan J. Napier, Anime: From Akira to Princess Mononoke, states that the apocalyptic mode is not just a part of anime, but also deeply ingrained within the contemporary Japanese national identity. Apocalyptic imagery tends to increase during times of social and cultural change, such as post WWII, thus it’s easy to see how it became a part of anime. For anime, end of the world disasters tend to focus more on the after-math and how will humanity continue, not so much the spectacle of the event as those in the West (think Armageddon or Deep Impact). In many ways this ties in to Buddhism and Shintoism teachings. We could also argue that Japan’s size and location contribute to apocalypse stories, being a series of islands, on the ring of fire, and susceptible to multiple natural disasters.

Is there another dimension to Pokémon other then animals squeaking their names?

Now trying to find “theory” in Pokemon is not easy. Even a Google search and book readings will give you pages about the Pokemon epileptic episode. For many people, Pokemon is viewed as a children’s oriented tv show about cute monsters that fight each other, but don’t really do anything violent. And I won’t argue that it’s not, because clearly that’s the target audience.

But Pokemon does apply the theme of nature quite heavily both in the video games and in the anime. Towns are nothing more then towns. Pokemon trainers don’t destroy the environment to catch their Pokemon, and animals are treated in a humane way. Forests are lush, waters are plentiful, and it’s a lovely place to live.

There is also a very strong David and Goliath thread throughout Pokemon. Ash is a 10 year old, scrawny boy with small Pokemon who has to overcome these great obstacles. And what better message to kids and adults then to say “no matter what your size, if you work hard you can achieve your goals.” In many ways, this mimics Japan’s place in the world. A series of small islands, surrounded by large countries and a huge ocean, and yet they consistently do their best to top everyone and everything around them.

To relate these back to some of the film theory buzz words, Satoshi Tajiri who created Pokemon could be considered an auteur. He has used many of the same concepts of nature and friendship in his other video game projects such as Legend of Zelda and Yoshi.

Now I can’t explain why Pokemon squeak their names. I’m sure it would require a very deep psychological study beyond my brains comprehension. But I hope at least I have shown just a little at why Pokemon could be viewed as a viable entry into anime theory.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

18:58 of torture

No point in discussing the Team Bondi thing because everyone's already talking about it.

But yesterday a failed Comedy Central pilot was plopped up onto Kotaku. Basically it's The Soup meets Web Soup but about gaming. It's pretty bad. The humor is very forced, a little vulgar (because saying the f word is always funny!), and a jumbled sequence of stories.

The host is Jonah Ray from The Nerdist podcasts. He's pretty good when he's not trying to be funny. Emphasis on not trying. When he is, it's pretty sour.

And after watching the first minute of his "show" I can see why it wasn't picked up. A few commenters suggested he try Spike TV or G4, but this seems like it would have potential as a web series if changes were made. Such as not jumping from news to web videos to game play and using information that's more then a year old. Better format and a different host and we'd have some potential.

So go watch if you have time to kill and see how long you can last!

And with that, I'm out for the weekend and I'll see you all on Tuesday.