Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Incoming E3. Does Anyone Care?

Convention #2. And then E3 next week.

Anyone else not excited about E3 like they have been in past years? It just seems so meh. Not many companies are showing up like they use to, and even the big names are not bringing new products. It’s things we already know about. SE will be talking about Tomb Raider and the FF DS rhythm game. There won’t be info about BioShock Infinity and a lot of newer releases are dropping off the radar.

It’s not the show that it use to be. The past few years have been plagued with lackluster performances and interest. My favorite last year are the kids, who you NEVER SHOULD GIVE LINES TOO, doing very terrible dialogue for the Disney Theme Park game. And then you have Jack Tretton trying to be apologetic with the PSN Home not working. And EA attempting too damn hard to be funny after the South Park episode was released (which was only a week or two earlier). Lame.

Honestly? I’m more excited about TGS. Last year was a blast and I can’t wait to see what they have this round. Which of course I’ll be watching online. At work. *coughs* >.>

Movies That Should Be Games

I know I bash on games based on movies a lot. More then a person probably should. Let’s face it. Video games based on movies kind of suck. The only decent one I can remember is Super Star Wars for the SNES. Anyone remember that? Anyone? Didn’t think so.

While I don’t believe that there will ever be a movie based game that will work, I have a few ideas that might come pretty close.

Seriously. The PS3 was MADE for Blade Runner.
Blade Runner. I know there’s a point and click adventure game for the PC from Westwood released in 1997, but it’s not direct from the movie. You don’t get to be Harrison Ford. I want to be Harrison Ford, rounding up the rogue replicants while questioning my own humanity. A psychological action first person adventure. Imagine that world of Blade Runner done on a PS3. Gorgeous! Spending hours hunting and solving puzzles would fit in well. If you’ve seen the Director’s Cut of the movie, you know it’s a total mind f*ck. The game could easily handle that territory.

I’d like to see a Gainex/SE pairing on this one. That would totally blow away any sense of reality or sanity.

This type of animated style isn't need,
but it's still hella cool.
Kill Bill (Volume 1 and 2). The movies are already awesome, so why would I want to make them into a game? The real question you should be asking yourself is, why wouldn’t you want this to be a game? But I wouldn’t do this from the perspective of The Bride. I would rather take the PoV of the other assassin’s prior to the ambush at the chapel, and afterwards. O-Ren’s story is incredible in Volume 1. That little snippet would be fantastic to play out in full. There you go. Game 1 is set.

Konami would be the best fit for the Kill Bill games. Their brand of action and stylization could meet the Tarantino expectations.

Creepy David Bowie...
Labyrinth. It’s a 1986 dungeon crawler with David Bowie. Very D&D-like. The goblin king steals the younger brother of a woman and she must fight her way through a maze to get him back. It’s a game waiting to happen. And with the creative mind of Jim Henson behind the helm, you know it has some crazy creatures to fill those hallways.

WB Interactive/Entertainment, whom currently work on the Lord of the Rings Online would be a good fit. Labrynith could easily start out as a single story-mode game and expand into an MMO once the main story-arc was completed.

This looks like the CoD commercial,
doesn't it?
Gamer. You remember that crappy Gerard Butler movie? Totally would have been much better as a video game. This is an instance where the movie is so bad, that the game would have to be more entertaining. A gamer playing the video game Gamer while trying to determine the difference between reality and fantasy. Mind f*uck #2! You wouldn’t see I coming, but this really has a lot of potential of being one of those games that could change the way we perceive future content.

Totally a Capcom game. If they could put their spin on it, we’d have something great.

Serenity. What? Don’t tell me that you wouldn’t play a FireFly/Serenity video game. We all know you would. It’s Joss Whedon. You’re on a ship with an eclectic cast of characters, exploring the galaxy and reliving those moments you wanted to play out in the tv show and movie. It’s all about playing a cowboy in space. And fans have been clamoring for more ever since the series was cancelled.

Who should make it? I’m torn between NaughtyDog (I’m sure they would love to get more into the sci-fi business) and Irrational Games (the guys that did BioShock). Both would have their own, unique approaches to the game. IG of course has a history of taking things into the unexpected, but providing great character development. ND would give us lots of character and charm that we would want from Serenity. Tough call.

Oh. A character with a distinguished
nose. That's important too.
Charcter development. Go!
Chinatown. It’s LA Noire but with more gut churning, kick in the pants story telling. This classic movie is still one of my favorites, cycling around in my top 3 on a monthly basis. Why would it make a good game? Exploration. As a viewer of the film, I really wanted to dig deep into the gritty world our detective “hero” lived in. We only got a glimpse of downtown, the orange fields, and the clock towers. It would be a completely new experience and give a more in-depth look into what’s truly going on at the core of the story. Just take out the days worth of “following” people. That would get a little boring.

RockStar could easily make this. Just don’t turn it into LA Noire 2. This has to be a separate game with its own feel.

A bad ass man deserves a bad ass game.
 Escape From New York. Or LA. You. Snake Plissken, aka the formation of Solid Snake, aka Kurt Russell have 24 hours to save the President from Manhattan, which has been transformed into a large prison. Guess where the President is and where you’re going? The movies are a John Carpenter classic, and the inspiration for so many of today’s action movies and video games. The story is perfect for the gaming world. You’re fighting an endless throng of convicted felon’s in a post-apocalyptic land. And you have an eye patch. Those are always cool.

Who should make it? Kojima. Duh. It’s obvious wrapped in a taco shell.

You figure it out. I don’t know where I was going with that one.

Nick. Stop playing around.
We have to make explosions happen!
The Rock. This is one of those Michael Bay movies where you have to scratch your head and wonder why didn’t they make this into a game already? It’s got big guns, big explosions, cool car chases, hot girls, and lots of action! A team of Navy SEALs has stolen a chemical weapon and taken hostages at Alcatraz. You either as the former inmate to only escape from Alcatraz or the chem. weapon expert need to break back in to save the hostages.

Pandemic would have been great to make this game…until they went kaput. But really, when you think about it, The Rock could easily play out like Mercenaries 2. Add in that super cool slow motion button to cause more mayhem and destruction and it’s oh-so-worth it.

50 points for a head shot.
Zombieland. Another one of those where “it seems so obvious.” I bet they blew the rest of their budget just to get the rights to the Metallica song used in the opening credits (still one of the best opening sequences I have seen in decades). You, one of the few non-zombies left in the world, must make your way home without becoming the next meal. It’d be a game of both stealth and how crazy can you kill a zombie. Anyone remember the nun that dropped a piano on a zombie? Or how about decapitating a big boy with garden sheers? Good times.

Capcom’s history with zombies would be a good fit for Zombieland. Take the crazy look of Dead Rising and mix it in with the stealth and complexity of Resident Evil. The formula won’t fail.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Needed Shift In Sales of Games

The title could be a little less ambiguous, but sales for GameStop and other retailers selling hard copies haven’t been good this year.

The article attributes it to digital downloads which, yes, had an impact when it came to the Diablo 3 release but that’s not the only reason. As a whole, there isn’t much going on in the gaming world these past few months. The big releases won’t be happening until later this year, i.e. Halo Fing 4. And D3 is a PC game with a big push from Blizzard for online ordering to help with falling WoW subscriptions. Most retailers have moved away from PC games because of lack of sales. What’s that? WoW sells a lot with each expansion? Well considering that they come on a 2-3 year interval, selling that many copies every few years doesn’t make up for the billions in revenue for console games sold every year. It’s more cost efficient to stock fewer PC games and more console, while making space for the large PC releases when needed.

In the case of GameStop, the used game market is with console. The bulk of their sales are used. You can’t sell a used PC game because of the cd key issues that arise (boxes arrive with the codes, the codes are invalid, the codes have limited uses-aka DRM, etc.).

Diablo 3 selling more copies online is not the end for standard retailers. If anything, they can use this as a call to look for upgrading their services. What makes the physical stores stand out over online are the sales staff. If they can find a way to integrate that into an online aspect while maintain a good service in-store, people will be willing to go to them.

After I left GameStop, I stopped going to their stores. Not because of my dislike for the company, but the lack of service. The only reason I kept pre-ordering was for the employee discount. Now it’s full on Amazon. When I go to a store, I want the employees to be helpful, knowledgeable, and not pushy. I rarely ask for help, but when I do, I want to be able to talk to the person and expect an answer that will resolve my issue. When they are rude, overbearing, or annoying, I’m less inclined to give them my business. Online ordering all the way!

This isn’t to say that all GameStop, BestBuy, Walmarts etc. are like this. I know there are good employees and well managed stores. I just happen to not have any in my area.

In any case, there are still the purists like myself. I want a hard copy of my game. I don’t trust a soft copy. I know things happen to a hard copy, but things can happen to your soft copy too. Just look at EA and the sh*tfest that is Oracle. You can get screwed over for buying digital just as you can for getting a physical disc.

Diablo 3 isn’t the start of the downfall of brick stores. If anything, it should be a notice that things need to change with the digital age taking over.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

ITC Votes for Motorola Against Microsoft

The International Trade Commission judges have ruled in the feud between Microsoft and Motorola. If you don’t know about it, you can read it here.

Basically Motorola claims that the Xbox systems are infringing upon patents created by Motorola, to which they haven’t been paid for or received compensation. The problem is there is a lack of concrete evidence to prove otherwise. So while this may play out in a court in California, from a world-wide perspective, the ITC has recommended that Microsoft stop all sales of the Xbox 360 system.

It’s recommended. Not a hard, fast, enforced rule. Unlike court rooms, the ITC judges are just guides. They can’t uphold any ruling they make, nor do they have a police force to handle it. They exist as an “economic conscious”, so to speak. So chances are, Microsoft will still have their systems sold at a local store near you. And they’ll still be exported, within reason. No need to worry until it hits a state court room.

If you all didn’t know, Microsoft is actually pretty tight on the reins when it comes to foreign sales. Part of the reason that they aren’t selling as hot in Japan is because of it (on top of lack of interest). BestBuy, GameStop, WalMart, Target, none of these companies can ship Microsoft products overseas from their US locations. They have to be purchased within that particular country. They couldn’t even ship to Canada for Microsoft stuff for the longest time, and just to get that allowed was a strain on everyone’s sanity. So really, half the blame is Microsoft. I wouldn’t be surprised if they were using Motorola technology in their systems that was unknown.

Basic Cosplay Convention Prep

Uhoh. Tangent topic. Run away!

Hey this is The Geek Spot. I realize that most of the content is video game based, but we can dabble in different subjects.

You know what my biggest hitting post is of all time? My summary of two panels I taught at AnimeFest 2011 – Anime Theory and Anime in the Classroom.

Second to that is my list of my 10 favorite video games, ever.
I like to mix it up on occasion.

Since I’m spending this weekend in California, hanging with my bro and checking out Fanime, and the following weekend is A-Kon, I’m coslaytastic right now.

It’s destroying my body. Go look at my hands on Cosplay in America.
The day after those photos were taken I managed to get another scratch from a straight pin (it was a stray that somehow got sewn INTO the garment-never had that happen before) and a glob of gold paint on my palm.

Amongst this mess, I’ve seen more questions pop up on forums asking how to prep for a convention, what to pack, etc. and felt like this would be a good time to throw out some general rules for cosplayers.

In fact our next episode of CosPod, the cosplay podcast, will have a layout just about that.

These are in order, particularly number 1 as a pet peeve:

1. Iron. Your. Costume.

Why would you let your very pretty ball-gown, that you spent 200 hours on and hand-beaded, prance around being all wrinkly? I know you have to take travelling into consideration, but really? It just makes you look sloppy. It’s nothing against the person or the circumstances. If you had a really good reason, and it better be a fantastic excuse, I’ll let it slide. Just iron your clothes. It’s not difficult and generally not time consuming.

Wrinkles are not easy to get out through Photoshop. It’s doable, but it’s very time consuming and a lot of cosplay photographers will do very little in post. They want to send it out with minor adjustments, because they have thousands of photos to go through.

It even annoys judges when you don’t iron your clothes. Seriously. Nothing is worse than trying to determine what seam you used on a shirt if we can’t see the hem due to the wrinkles.

If your costume is suppose to be wrinkly, that’s one thing. If it’s because of lack of care or time management, that’s a problem.

2. Practice your poses.

Just like a sport, or a play, or a dance, or learning how to play Link’s theme, you have to practice to get better. Cosplay works the same way. Even if you have “natural talent” with the camera, practice, practice, practice. This will allow you to really be creative and dead on with the character. Nothing is worse than having someone take your photo and you run out of poses to use.

3. Know your limits.

This is everything from eating when your body tells you to eat, to not wearing stilts without a spotter. If you need to take a break and sit down, do it. If that means you have to tell a few people “no” for photos, then so be it. You’d be surprised how understanding they can be if they see you resting. The same goes for big/bulky/large costumes.

If you know that you can’t wear high heels because of health/foot issues, then don’t do it. Does a corset make it impossible to breathe? Then don’t look for an alternative. Don’t force yourself into a costume if it’s going to be too painful. Cosplay is suppose to be about fun. Pain does happen, yes, but you should enjoy your costume.

4. Try your costume before the convention.

This will help you determine if it’s ready to be worn. Test its weak points. Learn how you can or can’t bend and move. If you can wear it for a few hours at home, then you’ll be good at a con.

5. Better to have and not need…

The old adage. This doesn’t mean bring your entire sewing room, but a small kit that can fit into a gallon size ziplock bag will work. Have an extra needle, thread, buttons, Velcro, and hot glue for emergency in case something happens to your costume. That way you can run up to your room, fix it, and be back in a few minutes. If it’s a major problem with the costume, change into something else. Don’t risk damaging the costume further. Most of the time, you probably won’t use it. (It took me 3 ½ years before I finally had to use mine, and that only took 2 minutes to fix).

6. Keep it simple.

If you are going alone or can’t get a friend to act as your bag buddy, don’t wear the crazy complicated costumes. The easier it is on you, the easier it’ll be on everyone else. When it comes to larger costumes, the convention is way better if you have someone act as a handler. This can be anything from holding your things, to opening doors, helping get you food and drink, and making a path in the crowds. If you can’t get someone to help you, don’t try to do it on your own. It’s just an endless headache. In those cases, just wear a costume that’s easier to walk in and try another time.

This also goes with packing. If you are travelling a long distance to a convention, say on an airplane, you probably don’t want to take 6 costumes and 5 battle axes with you. Your luggage will cost more than the flight and con tickets combined. Be reasonable about your luggage use. Pack the necessities first, costumes second.

7. Respect your fellow cosplayers.

I say this with the caveat that trash-talking in our community is pretty rare. And when it does happen, we all know about it and that person/people get brought back to reality. But it goes without saying, be polite to one another. Respect each other’s space and privacy. Respect each other’s costumes and props. If you want to touch or hold something, ask first. Don’t hug unless you are given permission to do so. And especially no glomps. Some costumes are made to be visually accurate and not convention friendly. As such, you hug that person you might break their costume. Don’t do it.

8. Lend a helping hand.

This goes in line with the last rule, but if you see a cosplayer needing help, ask if you can assist. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve acted as a bodyguard for bags, purses, and people (my brother and I saved Captain America from photographers for about 5 minutes while he took an emergency call. Ok I realize that sounded silly, but he did have an emergency crop up and couldn’t get to his cell with people spamming him for photos). It’s not just good karma, but good manners. You’ll find that the kindness will be returned in one form or another. We’re all cosplayers and we all experience the same problems. Helping each other makes our community stronger.

9. No photo bombing.

On the rare occasion they are really funny. I have one where Doctor Who accidently photo bombed a Sailor Moon gathering. He was incredibly apologetic about it afterwards, but the look on his face was perfect. However most of the time, they are annoying. I don’t care if you didn’t get a single picture of you taken that day of the convention, photo bombing is not a reason to get attention. It’s distracting, annoying, and rude to the photographer and the cosplayer. Try photo bombing a private shoot. You will never hear the end of it from the photographer.

10. Have fun.

This seems obvious, but some people like to go overboard on competition and having a superior attitude. When it comes down to it, this is a hobby. We’re all here to have fun. If you’re not having fun, then you need to dig deep and determine what the issues are. Are friends putting you down for cosplaying? Are the costumes not interesting enough? Are you unhappy with your costume choices? Because in the end, it comes down to you and your happiness. That’s what matter. Cosplay is about having fun. What’s not fun about dress-up? :D

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Zombie Master George Voicing In Zombie Game!

Master Zombie Overlord (yes I realize that’s redundant) George A. Romero will be voicing a character in a kickstarter game, ZombieSquash. Already, this is awesome.

The kickstarter campaign started this morning and they are giving themselves 30 days to raise the funds. Just $10 grand with hopes for a Halloween release this year.
Godfather Romero will voice the primary antagonist, a mad scientist who experiments on veggies (hence the Squash) and uses them to try and do more evil things, and such. The game is more of a tower defense with your lead character being a rabbit. Because who else eats veggies but bunnies?

ACW games have been developing the product over the last 2 years and had a demo last Halloween. Romero liked it and so did a few other people. Now it’s at the point where they need just a few more bucks to finish the product. The game will initially release on PC and MAC with plans to expand to phones after.

Ok yeah. I realize that this seems kind of cutsy so that kids can play too. But It’s George Romero. Zombie king. He’s in a zombie game. It’s a win-win.
Aside: I'll be sad if this is a joke. So far all the material looks legit. So yea for that.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Nintendo "Online" at E3 2012

This isn’t new since E3 has been “online” through multiple outlets for at least 5 years now. It’s just now Nintendo is finally catching up and playing ball. Usually you’ll get one or two “exclusive access feeds” through G4 and Kotaku liveblogging it. But this year, Nintendo is controlling it all.

They have partnered with Viacom for all-access to their presentation to SpikeTV (ew) and MTV2 (double ew). Their website right now is already providing previews of what to expect, and during E3 you’ll have booth access. Ok the booth is pretty cool; that’s one aspect of E3 coverage that always seems to be lacking. Except for the booth babes. Remember when they tried to ban the booth babes? That’s still funny to think about.

And of course Facebook and Twitter will be busy with updates during their press conference and videos of upcoming products.

Again, none of this is really new. This has been going on for years. Nintendo is just finally catching up. Which is kind of nice to see the inner workings of Nintendo. Hopefully it’ll run more smoothly then Sony’s attempt to stream online through Playstation Home last year.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Untitled For Random

Articles like these annoy me. Not that video game addiction can’t happen (though according to the national Psychological review, the rules are being updated to reflect that this particular addiction, along with sex, may no longer qualify) rather, the content is incredibly lacking.

It doesn’t go into any detail about how he started his “addiction”, what allowed him to become more involved, how his life “deteriorated” and how he overcame the issue.

No facts. No research. Just, I know this guy in my family with this problem. He said it ruined his life.

Ok. Great. Thanks for posting that. Now we’re going to have people on the bandwagon again against video games when you have no evidence to back it up. Good job!

People are stupid. But that’s the internet for you. You don’t have to be a decent writer or journalist to post online. People will still read and get scared over nothing. Go go America!

Ok anyway, I want to give a promo-moment to MegaRan, the video game rapper who has recently released a concept album that includes music, a comic book, and a video game. Very cool. Recommended purchase, not because MegaRan is an good musician and a cool guy (met him once, lucky me!), but he really is about giving back to the nerds. A three in one deal, can’t pass that up!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

What To Play...

Fair warning, the next two weeks my blogging will be light. I’m sure a few of you are rejoicing. I’ve been typing up some long ass posts lately. >.> You know. You get into the groove and it’s hard to quit.
I post this in search of gaming creativity. I’m in a rut right now. I don’t know what to play.
Diablo 3 is out, but seeing the issues Blizzard is still having and the price tag, I’m opting to wait until the sale’s hit (because we know it’ll happen). I’ve finished up my stack of PS1 re-releases on PS3. Even 13-2 is FINALLY done. It took me a while…it came out during convention/cosplay season. Bad form, but worth the wait.
I still have my The Old Republic subscription and fiddle with my characters from time to time. But I need something…new.
That’s the problem. I can’t find anything new.
I see first person shooters, the rpg’s, the action adventure, the puzzles, the platformers. They are all the same. If not in design then in content. If not in content, then in graphics, or story, or studios. Too much sameness.
I don’t remember it being this difficult to find a new video game. There was always something out there that was different. It didn’t have to be good, but it wasn’t mainstream.
Phoenix Wright was like that for me. So totally not mainstream. It still isn’t. At times, it’s a weird game. At others, it’s not. It’s not the greatest game, and not the worse. Just somewhere in the middle. But it’s unique. It provided a different type of gaming beyond the norm. That’s why I still find myself picking it up from time to time. I know the cases. I know how the end, but the journey is still enjoyable.
So that’s what I need. A new game. Let’s hear them.

(Aside: Don’t you hate it when I force people to provide me with a response? lol)

Friday, May 18, 2012

Are Reviewers Defending The Devs?

I had to laugh at this article due to the sadness of truth and the catch 22 it tip-toes around.

A lot of gaming review magazines, websites, and message boards suck. A number of them say good things to get their tag lines published by the game developers in their commercials and marketing products. In return, the magazine might get a “thank you” (aka read that as kickback). Movies do this all the time. Whoever said “This is the funniest movie all year” for the horrific Adam Sandler comedy Jack and Jill was someone who wanted attention. And was probably from a really small town in the middle of nowhere. Studios love to dig up reviews that are from tiny newspapers that have 0 influence on intelligence.

Gaming reviewers do it to. They may pretend that they don’t, but they do. A lot of them don’t. The vast majority don’t, but there are some that do. It is what it is.

So yes, there are times where they defend publishers for their shitty products and/or services when they should be saying no. They are consumers too and deserve a better response. There is a relationship between the industry and the reviewers that, even on a subconscious level, everyone has to play along. We may not like it, but we have to be nice to them. Without them, we don’t get games. And without us, people don’t know their products exist. It’s a cycle.

And like many of us, we’ve been in the industry previously either as the retailer or the devs themselves. We know the stress and pressure they are under to get products out to consumers. As such, we give them a little slack if something isn’t quite right. I know I’ve done it a few times. When people “nerd rage” about a product being delayed, I take a moment to defend the studio. BioShock Infinate for example; I’d rather they take the time to make the game as good as it can be before they release it. Some people don’t understand that. Some do.

At the same time, I don’t cave in to pressure. EA for example. I still hate their company polices and do everything in my power to not support their products. I know I’m just one person that really doesn’t make a dent in their sales, but to go from loyal consumer to non-existent participant says a lot. And I’m a pretty patient person.

Man I talk a lot of smack about EA. I wouldn’t say it if it weren’t true. Though I do defend them on the rare occasion. See. unbiased reporting, which is what William Usher, the writer of said Diablo 3 piece, is trying to get at. Reviewers shouldn’t cave to the industry and act as the moderator between the consumers and the developers.

I’ll agree with that to a point. It’s funny when I read some gaming sites telling everyone to chill out if something didn’t go right with a game. People have the right to be unhappy about a product that they did or did not receive. We shouldn’t let developers “get away” with treating their customers like crap. Even with the Diablo 3 fiasco and trying to be reasonable, it’s still too much. I can’t play a game unless I’m online on the servers, which are up and down constantly? Then why did I spend $59.99 (tax excluded) when I can’t play the game when I want to? That’s a waste. And it’s frustrating. Consumers shouldn’t deal with that, and reviewers shouldn’t put up with it either.

While Blizzard has apologized, it should have been something that was considered before release. Take a look at the pre-order numbers a month out, and then figure out from there how to handle the server load. It sounds simple, but you’d be surprised how often little things like that are overlooked. *coughEAnotsendinganycodesforWarhammeringameitemsforpreorderingandthenblamingitontheretailer*. We, as a community shouldn’t put up with it. We have the right to make our complaints heard and addressed by the developers. It’s the only way to ensure that changes will happen.

Here’s the Catch 22.

There are a lot of internet trolls that love to start trouble.

While there are some people who are legitimately upset, a number of them either don’t have the ability to convey their thoughts in a calm, reasonable, logical manner. They lash out in ways that are unnecessary and it becomes the gaming website’s turn to try and bring them back down to a normal level before they hurt themselves. Or they are trolls.

I got this a lot at GameStop. Some people get incredibly worked up over nothing. People throw controllers if they can’t jump on a box correctly. I know those are the extremes, but it happens and you can’t really reason with them until they calm down.

And the mob mentality. If one person starts, and another hops in, it’s only a matter of time before you have a group ready to storm the castle. One person is easy to hold a discussion with. In a group, chaos can take over. In that aspect, I can completely understand where the developers are coming from. To quote Tommy Lee Jones from Men in Black:

A person is smart. Reasonable. Intelligent. People are dumb, panicky dangerous animals and you know it.

So true. If it weren’t for the trolls of the world and people being…people, gaming websites wouldn’t have to play the middle-man. They can do their job, act as reporters, and go about their business. It’s a rough life being in the middle.

I’m all for not letting developers skate by and having less moderation of the gaming community by the reviewers. But people need to not act like 2 year olds and have a fit or troll when they can’t get Mario to jump on a box. That’s not the developers issue, and they get tired hearing about it.

Here’s how you can help get your concerns across to developers if you are unhappy about a product or service:

  • Write in legible, understandable, proper English. I.E. Sentences should contain a verb, adjective, and a noun.
  • Do not write or type in leet.
  • Do not use vulgar language. Even damn and hell should not be used.
  • Think about the issue through before starting to write it out. Let your brain process the concern so that you can convey your problem more effectively.
  • And don’t threaten the customer service staff. They don’t like it. It won’t help you. And it’ll probably get the police called to your home.

Reviewers don’t have a problem if there are real concerns about a game. But if you can’t clearly state the issue and it falls into “this sucks, blah, blah, blah” then of course they are not going to side with you. Be reasonable. Be smart. Think before you speak. Do that and we might accomplish some needed changes.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

What Xbox 360 Games Aren't In Japan

I’m always curious to find out what isn’t released in other countries. Usually it’s the Japanese games holding out on Western audiences. But it goes the other way around too. Having a not-so-heathly Microsoft market probably impacts this as well.

A lot of these are obvious, movie-based games (particularly the American comic-book ones which don’t hold a high popularity as they do here in the U.S.) for example. Call of Duty: World at War I’m going to side with Activision and say it’s because that’s the year that they moved out their Japan office.

But what surprised me is Silent Hill: Homecoming. It’s a game from Konami. They’re based in Japan. The heck? It may have to do with the fact that this particular installment of the series was developed by Double Helix Games, a Western company. And while a release to Japan was expected, it was later cancelled. It also had to be toned down to meet censorship guidelines in other countries so it may have been a case of “we’ve already dealt with so much of this, we’re broke and/or can’t continue making edits.” Even still, it’s been a popular import.

I’m not surprised by Dead Space, however. The whole “I can have it but no one else can” marketing worked. Dead Space was released originally as a U.S. only game. Originally it was a ploy that Japan and Germany banned the game. Well hell. If they banned it, it’s gotta be good!  Yeah they didn’t, but it boosted sales in a way they didn’t expect. It’s still a hot item to get through imports in Japan.

See people. The Japanese play Xbox games. Just not as often as we do.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Peter Molyneux, Correspondent.

This sounds like an insanely late April Fool’s joke. Peter M, the Jesus of GOD games, behind Will Wright (Sorry Peter, but you know it’s true) is going to be providing a play-by-play-esque analysis of E3 on Spike TV this year. Say wha?

Ok first off, why Spike? Has G4 lost street cred since Adam Sessler left? Spike might be “cool” with the brogamers, but for the majority of us, we really don’t care. But also, Geoff and Stephen from Kotaku are going to be joining him.

So I guess the real question is, when did Spike become cool? Because they haven’t been in a while. Last time is when they ran those all-day James Bond marathons 5-6 years ago.

But, um, yea. That could be kind of fun to watch Peter’s take on E3. I like his view on interviews:


Really depends on who you interview, so:

In Press Briefings it's all about what it means for the future, spotting the trends and asking why they didn't do the obvious. In my experience of EA and Msft its spotting the paranoia which is most fun.

For developers its getting though the desperation and finding the real passion (if any)

For publishers its understanding what's at stake and understanding motivation.

For PR people, I guess it's about poking and having fun with their often over the top PR speak.

In every developers heart is the fear that their work will be measured against the ‘Pillars' used in Publisher meetings when a project is green lit. If there is enough time going into detail about what the Pillars are and what they say about why a game/sequel is made, I think is fascinating.


Tuesday, May 15, 2012

What's Wrong With Today's Games?

Has the golden age of video games come and gone? Are we really lusting for the past where games were just about fun?

Zach Starr thinks so. His article focuses on how today’s games are not like the games we have come to expect. While I agree with him about not needing a Call of Duty or Madden every year (I’d like to play something different for once!), I’ll have to side with Steven Johnson, author of Everything Bad is Good for You, on this one. Johnson’s basic argument is that today’s popular cultures, including video games, are making us smarter. Though we as a gaming community see repetitive products, Johnson sees progress.

All of that button mashing that we need to do for Call of Duty just to throw a grenade, and running in circles in a seemingly endless manner to “farm” experience has a purpose. That aspect of luring the gamer in is creating a much greater immersive quality then the games released 10 years ago. It’s why a few people would consider earlier games archaic, not in terms of graphics but design and cognitive ability needed to achieve a goal.

Take Super Mario Bros (the original NES game) versus Super Mario Galaxy. I’m going within the genre and series to prove the point, so bare with me.

In SMB, your path of logic is something like this:

Your goal is to save the princess. To save the princess you walk right across the screen. To walk right you push the right arrow on the controller. Sometimes you have to jump to kill an enemy.

It’s very basic in terms of what’s expected for the player. This isn’t a limit on technology but in game design. Look at Crono Trigger or Legend of Zelda. You need to keep track of dozens of quests just to get from Point A to Point B. With SMB your only goal is to get to the end of the stage without losing all of your lives. You don’t even have to kill any enemies or collect coins if you choose to do so. Now let’s show how SMG works:

To save the galaxy you need to collect stars. To collect stars you need to learn how to fly. To learn how to fly you have to use your controller to move up, down, left, right, a, b, x, y, z in a myriad of sequences. To get to the stars you have to travel through stages multiple times. To get to the first star, you need to find so-and-so and bring him a brush. To locate the brush you have to go to the green planet.

By comparison, there is a lot of crap you have to remember just to get to the first star in SMG and keep track of in subsequent plays because you can’t access some stars until you have obtained new abilities. So inevitably you’ll have to run back through those earlier stages just to get that one star you missed, because now you have the water power, and the extra jump, and the brush, and the map, and the hat to get that star.

Want a Call of Duty example? Ok. Seeing how I bash on them enough, I can show how it works for their franchise too.

Call of Duty has always been a series about complex tactical maneuvers. Even in the earliest iteration you had to know which buttons to mash for which weapon to finish your objectives. Take the first game, you have to calibrate your movements based on the recoil of the gun, your position, and the trajectory of the bullets. In Modern Warefare, you now have the quest and online element. There are extra tasks that are involved outside of your primary mission to accumulate more points. Not only are the guns a little more tasking to master, you have more of them. And the introduction of going online means you now have to think much faster. You can’t take your time to pause and review the scenario, you need to be on your feet and ready to move in an instant. Now not only do you have to think about your mission and mastering your weapons, you have to think about everyone else too.

As much crap I give Call of Duty for using the same formula over and over again, they have expanded upon the immersive and detailed nature of the game play.

And for a lot of us, the complexity of playing these newer games is fun. Its self-inflicted pain, but we enjoy it. I like spending 100 hours in an RPG just to get to level 100. It’s crazy, I know, but I find fun in it. For Starr to say that today’s games have lost the “fun” aspect is a bit far-fetched. Fun is what you make of it. One person can have fun solving complex math equations while another would see fun as researching the current supreme court justices.

Is there a lack of creativity and originality in today’s games? Absolutely. But to say they are no longer fun and we need to return to the old days is undercutting the value of current games. Starr’s article should focus more on the need for new ideas to be introduced into the industry. Cognitive development and fun are not a problem.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Delay on BioShock Infinite Release

BioShock Infinite will be released a little later then expected. The new 2013 date is to help “tweak” some things in the game according to Ken Lavgine, one of the founding designers of BioShock.

It was originally slated for October, which would have helped boost this years gaming numbers considering the low sales retailers are reporting. That’s ok. There’s Halo 4 on Election Day to look forward too. >.>

In the end, it’ll be a better game. Which is good. I’d rather wait for a good game then to have a not-so-finished product pushed out just before Christmas. EA, I’m looking at you.

What I’m taking away from the story is that Ken says they won’t be showcasing this at E3 or Gamerscon. That’s…pretty big. Considering that this is something that you want to sneak in some extra hype if it can net you a few more sales or pre-orders. E3 is going to be taken a hit this year with content. Valve has already stated that they’re bowing out.

The few Japanese devs that do come over are scaling back immensely this year according to reports from the studios directly, and redirecting it to the Tokyo Game Show. Aside from the big three consoles, EA, and Ubisoft starting the show 2 days early like they always do, E3 is looking to turn into another crap hole. Having a full-time job again, I don’t feel disappointed that I’ll be missing coverage live. I’ll just click on IGN or GameSpot when I get home. *shrugs* The allure of E3 has faded quite a bit in the past few years. TGS is taking over.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Post To Mom About Games. Of Course It's About Games.

My mom does not play video games.
She’ll admit that she’s not technically apt. I still need to help her with the computer from time to time. Though she’s gotten better. She knows how to work the basic functions of her iPhone and Kindle. That’s all that she really needs. She doesn’t get video games and that’s fine. Being my hobby, she doesn’t have to understand. But she respects me and allows me to do what I want to do. My brother turned his gaming into a career. He loves it.
I’m not going to try to get her to play a game. Ever. It’s not her thing. We have been able to convert our dad and now he’s an MMO addict. In the good sense of course. Maybe one day she’ll want to play Brain Age, but I’m not holding my breath. And that’s fine.
So mom, thanks for letting us be…us. We really appreciate it. And thanks for not being a crazy mom and instilling a load of restrictions on us, but still were there to teach and explain things we didn’t understand. If anything, we didn’t turn out as screwed up as we could have.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Still Can't Police Games Properly

So England is attempting to do something to get fewer kids to buy “violent” video games. The rating system is being tweaked and anyone found selling a 12, 17, 18 PEG tagged product to anyone under the required ages could be jailed and face up to a 5,000 pound fine. That’s roughly $8,600 in the U.S. Owie.

Of course the article, and all of the others like it, show 0 information on how they expect to police this new law. Oh yes. It has passed. It sounds awfully like the one the Supreme Court overturned in California in terms of the language. Except this one went a step further and redesigned the rating system used in England.

What I appreciate the most in this article are the comments. They echo the same issues that I have regarding these laws: how to police the law and what’s to stop parents and legal guardians from buying the products for their kids?

Even one comment came from a former gaming employee who did exactly what every employee at a store does. They tell the kid no. The kid brings back a parent. They tell the parent what’s in the game. Just a year ago the FTC conducted a research regarding M/Parental Guidance/R movies, music, and games. Video game stores were some of the best at policing their own policies on what to sell to kids. Not government policies. Their Own.
I won’t even begin to go into the number of store issues and BBB complaints from parents saying that GameStop did one of the following: wouldn’t sell an M game to someone under 17, or wouldn’t sell an M product to the parent that acknowledged that it was a “gift/toy/babysitter” to someone under 17. I may have a lot of unhappy things to say about my former employer, but they were hard asses about that rule and would back up their employees for refusing sale. And that’s something I appreciated.

So what does the British government plan to do to police this new law? Well apparently nothing. Nothing has been updated on official websites. Game dealers are going to do the things they’ve always done. Kids are still going to get the 12/17/18 games through their parents or relatives.

The law will serve no benefit to the system. It will just cause more work to law enforcement, whom probably have little to go off of for fines if it’s just here-say. “This boy says you sold the game to him.” “Well I didn’t. I sold it to his mother.” Mom and dad won’t get fined. They’ll still buy the game and give it to their children. So…where do we draw the line?

Laws like these annoy me. If we have to police games, then we need to police music, movies, art, books, plays, clothing. You name it. It’s offensive and could possibly “hurt” children, then it needs to be stopped! May as well get the plastic bubble out and never move, because that’s what they’re pushing for.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Avengers Game, Assemble!

And there you go. Ubisoft is working on The Avengers game. Why the heck did they not beef this up to a same-date release as the movie? It’s still odd to me, but whatever floats their boat.

Oh. That’s why. It’s not based on the movie. Shock! Awe! *hums the Flash Gordon theme song*

The game will be titled “Marvel Avengers: Battle for Earth” and will feature not only the main cast of the movie, but at least 20 other Marvel characters that exist in the Avengers time-frame. The game will be based on the “Secret Invasion” comic series for the Wii-U (sometime later this year) and Xbox 360 Kinect.

Why those two? Well Ubisoft wants it to be fully motion controlled, that’s why! And they have a history of focusing on Microsoft and Nintendo products.

I’m not entirely sure what to think of that. It makes sense for Hulk. You pick up and throw things with your large green self. Captain America…well you block things with your shield and fling it at bad guys, so that might be ok. Thor, hammer whack? Iron Man…yeah other then the light beams from his hand, I’ve got nothing. It seems like they’re forcing the motion control on this one. I’d be more interested in it for X-Men, when you have a wider variety of abilities. The Avengers has 4 humans (Iron, Black, Hawk, Captain) with 0 super powers. I’m not seeing how motion control would work. But whatever Ubisoft. I’m sure you’re happy to have nailed the contract.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Games As Art - Instaillation

This isn’t a new concept, but it’s nice to see that other cities are expanding and incorporating live instillations of video games as art. We’ve been doing this a while at UTD and in the Dallas area. I think we’re at the point now where games as art is becoming more accepted that we’ll start to see other cities jump in.

Starting tonight and running through tomorrow, the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles is holding a Game Art Festival. It’ll showcase games that are free to play as well as art pieces involving or working with games.

“The atmosphere is kind of like a party. It’s a mix between a conference and an art show,” lab manager and co-producer of the event David Elliott stated.

Which is basically what it’s like around here. It’s a fun event where you can play games and experience a new vision of what games can become. Some of the installation’s projects will include the Kinect, a Do It Yourself Cardboard arcade, and an augmented reality simulation using video cameras.

One aspect that I appreciate from the director of the project Eddo Stern, is that hopefully the person experiences the projects in a way that you couldn’t on a computer or gaming system. As well as give light to the endless artistic possibilities that games can provide us. It’s an aspect of my personal work that I have been involved in for years. My time to shine! >.>

I’d be interested in seeing photographs, wall hangings, or video/screen projections of screen shots. It’s amazing the little things that you can find in a video game that most people wouldn’t consider the first time through.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Walking Dead Game - Not Normal Zombies

I guess you could call this the Heavy Rain approach. It’s a zombie apocalypse game that makes you care about the zombies that you’re killing. Based off the Walking Dead graphic novels turned television show, we now have a game. Instead of a point by point retelling of the book/show it takes in the perspective of a new character. The story will be drawn out over 5 mini-episodes on the PS3 and 360, one a month.

I had a chance to try it early this morning. It’s a nice departure from traditional gaming and first person shooters. Again, more of a Heavy Rain game than anything. You’re given choices that can affect the outcome of the rest of the story, and may cause you to question your personal views.

Games that make you think!

You start out in the back of a police vehicle, your happy ass being sent to prison for murdering your wife’s lover. We’re not going to point out that you’re African-American and we all know what happens in any “horror” movie. And bam! You smack head on into a zombie. Taking advantage of the situation, your character escapes, and now you’re on your own to not become a fleshy meal.

The controls are very minimal. Usually it’s “press x to kill zombie” or walking back and forth. There’s not a lot of sophistication with the scheme here. The focal point is the story and your decisions. You’re not expected to rack up loads of trophies and achievements for killing 500 zombies with a lawnmower (I’m looking at your Dead Rising). Instead, you need to think about your actions and how they will affect the rest of the story. Do you give the hand-gun to the woman that wants to kill herself before she turns into a zombie, or do you let her suffer as she transforms? That’s some powerful s*** right there.

Controls are crap, but the story is quite interesting. It’s nice to see the other side of the zombie terror. It’s not pretty, but it is what it is. I’ll probably pick up the next installment to see where it goes from there. Hopefully it does alter the story, as they hinted that it would.

Monday, May 07, 2012

May = Another Slow Game Month

We have another slow news month, ladies and gentlemen. Today’s top stories: Be like Steve Jobs and play video games to go after the career you want in Asia, and why don’t we have an Avengers video game.

That’s it. Pick your poison.

I can kind of see where they’re going for the Avengers topic. It’s a big, blockbuster movie. It should, with ease, have a game tie-in. I mean…the other super hero movies do. Except Batman. Arkham Asylum is not a direct link to the movie. Captain America and a couple iterations of The Hulk have had their games. It seems like a win-win. Issue? Those games suck. People don’t play them. I remember when they were really trying to push the Captain America game last year at WonderCon. It looked nice, but the game was lifeless. It’s the same shtick over and over again. What else can you give me in a super hero game that we haven’t already seen? And of course, can’t do a point by point copy/paste from a movie. No one wants to pay $59.99 for a 2 hour and 30 minute video game.

Honestly, I think it’s a licensing and content issue. While all of the characters are owned by Marvel, and now Disney, they all have their own separate “deals”. They can’t easily be transported from one genre to another without negotiating rights. It sounds silly, I know, but its business. Business has a funny way of working.

If we do get an Avengers game, don’t expect the magic of the movie. If anything I hope it’s one of those “before they all gathered” or “after the movie” type of tie-ins. A different perspective and more content then would could be generated in the film itself.

Ok. So I chose which one to talk about. Go forth and be bored online today. Maybe Kotaku will have something interesting appear soon.

Friday, May 04, 2012

May 4th~ Support The Empire!

What better way to celebrate then to give another list of favorites.

I’ve given you my favorite games, my favorite songs, and a few lists on what games have taught us (with plenty more to add; that’s a promise).

Today’s topic. Characters. In particular villains. My top favorites (in no particular order). Because as we know, evil is cool and good is dumb. They get the best outfits. The best lines. The best technology. And while they are certain to meet a glorious or comical defeat, you wouldn’t be playing without the bad guy. Because a game without a villain would be The Sims. And even then, you are the villain. You have the final say in what happens to your Sim. Does he eat today or do you lock him in a room with 4 fireplaces and no exit and leave him to his own devices? In fact, that sounds like the first villain on the list.

1.) You! While you’re not a digitized creation, you are in charge of the game and your character’s destiny. You can decide to go forth and save the world, or tell your character to keep slaying an endless barrage of boars in the forest for 2xp until your toon levels up. Or dies. Your call. You’re denying your character the joy of continuing on with the game. That’s evil. Or you set your Sim City ‘Toddland’ ablaze with monsters and alien invasions. That’s really evil. Or, you let your RPG companion die in battle and never raise them. Ever. Brutal! If anyone is a villain out of all of this, it’s you.

No other FF character
can pull off this color combo.
2.) Kefka (Final Fantasy VI). He’s a psychopathic clown type of evil. I’m sure whomever came up with the fear of clown theory was looking at Kefka. It’s not just that he has a dark sense of humor, or slaughters thousands at a whim while laughing. He has one of the best boss theme songs ever. You remember it and it still gives you nightmares, fighting his demi-god self.

And let's not forget he turns into a god and technically WINS THE GAME. No other Final Fantasy villain has come close to this. And few video game villains manage to accomplish that level of evilness.

You grow into a badass. With shades. 
3.) Albert Wesker (Resident Evil Series). He’s the fallen hero type of villain. Starting with good intentions and then slipping into crazy ass cool man land. Even his wardrobe became way cooler. That bulky uniform from Raccoon City? Now he's sleek, The Matrix before it went silly, action man! And no bad guy uniform is complete without some shades. Though his seems to be a more practical reason: to not freak out the normies with his red eyes. He gets cooler and evil-er with each game. And crazier. His goal is to infect the entire planet with a deadly virus that would probably wipe out every living thing. Only the strong survive. Right. Only Wesker would survive. Not even lava can kill him.

4.) Dahlia Hawthorne (Ace Attorney: Trials and Tribulations). Psychopathic bitch. I love her. But not in that kind of way. In the “she’s so creepy and cute” fashion. Definitely plays up the “I’m cute, so I can’t be bad.” Why is she a great villain? Cute? Check. Good sense of style? Check. Twin to coerce into evil plots? Check Check. Murderous intent? Check. Mama’s girl? Check. Daddy issues? Major check. And she progressively gets more psycho as the game continues. She even comes back from the dead to get her revenge. And makes butterflies implode. The hell!?! Death can’t stop her, then who can?

5.) Vamp (Metal Gear Solid Series). Fing psycho in an awesome way. Just watch the clip and you’ll see what I mean. Also handsome. Why are the pretty ones crazy?

They may not look intimidating,
but wait until they begin swarming.
6.) The Flood (Halo Series). The Flood took the concept of Zerg Rush to a new level. If you were concerned about the Covenant coming after you and your human friends, The Flood took you to a whole new place of scary evil. They act like insects, feeding off of everything that moves, and build a nest as they move from one planet to the next. And there are a lot of them. A. LOT. You’ll have one of those “oh my god what the f* so many” moments when you first meet these guys. By Halo 3, you know the deal, but unless you remembered to pack more ammo, you are sol good bucko. Not to mention, they are butt ugly and like to splode their baby Floods all over you. I still freak out when that happens when they’re right behind me and I’m busy taking care of whatever is in front of me. Flood juice is nasty.

7.) M. Bison (Street Fighter Series). Never has a villain been so full of himself. He can be an ass too. I mean, look at his “crew.” Every chance he can, he throws them to the heroes to have them fight his battles. He doesn’t care if they live or die. As long as he’s the last man standing to rule the world, Bison permeates the essence of what is an a-hole bad guy. With much respect to Raul Julia, the movie didn’t help his position as villain. He’s more of a loony bad guy. Less of a super villain. But what style! Who doesn’t want an M. Bison hat and cape?

And capes. Capes = evil with red hair.
8.) Ganondorf (Legend of Zelda). Pipe organ of evil! Not to mention, he looks evil, he acts evil, he sounds evil, and he says evil things. He is the master of all villainy.

9.) Darmas Pollaran (Star Wars: The Old Repulic). If you haven’t played or know the ending to the Smuggler class story line, then consider this a massive spoiler alert.
Darmas is a jackhole.

Especially if you play a female character. He’s a major jackhole then.

He does what a bad guy should do, make you care about what happens to him. Only to turn around, stab you in the back, and rub it in your face. If he wasn’t so suave when you first meet him… Sure he might be a little old for you, but he had all the good-bad guy check points. Rich, snappy dresser, influential in both politics and the underbelly of Coruscant, and British! Have to make the bad guys sound foreign; Star Wars bad guys are always British. The real kicker? You don’t know until the very end that he’s the one running the whole show. Damn him for making us believe he was one of the good ones! Prick points +20 for that.

10.)Team Rocket (Pokemon Series). This counts. Pokemon was a video game long before a tv show. It falls more into goofy, comedy villain then anything. Because really, Team Rocket is nothing more than a group of buffoons. They fail at being bad guys. They are constantly outwitted by a 10 year old kid and his yellow pudgy buddy. In fact, they do better at being good when they work together with Ash and Pikachu to outwit another evil source (in order to maintain their status as being the only evil power in Pokemon). But why do we play Pokemon? It’s not to catch all of them monsters. We want to see how much Team R goofs up this time around. Not to mention, AWESOME HAIR. All of the Team Rocket crew, even the top boss, has some of the best hairstyles. They blow the “good” trainers out of the water on looks alone.

Thursday, May 03, 2012

The Current State of Game Bosses

Ok. After my giant piece yesterday I'm going to give you all a break. Because that was a long ass post. I'm sure a number of you took a break about halfway through. Sorry about that. I'll be more aware next time.

But to keep the void filled, here's a frank discussion about video game bosses.

I don't know if I have a favorite boss battle/sequence/fight/etc. I have a list of annoying fights, but none that were incredibly memorable enough to make me go "wow, that was awesome. I want to do that again!" In many ways they were a gratifiying end to an intensive fight. The kind of thing where you feel happy to stand over their corpse and say "Yep. I did that." I like the battles that require you to think. MGS style. Sure you can shoot at them until they're dead, but the really good ones need you to utalize your environment, or solve a puzzle in order to progress.

So there you go. Enjoy the reading break!

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Do you have to play video games well to be a good reviewer?

I ask this question because it randomly popped in my head today while perusing this weeks Gamasutra video game criticism bundle.

There are a lot of people in the internet that write, review, discuss, and involved themselves in video games. So many that it can be difficult to tell who is from a paying publication versus the forum trolls. Quite a few write quite well. They compose their thesis in a manner that best sums up their argument and present their position about said game to the online masses that are interested, or at least willing, to lend their eyes. A number of them spout crap for the sake of being noticed. I mean, how many times can someone make fun of Final Fantasy XIII before it gets boring? But there are a growing number that are able to provide insight into games that you don’t typically see from magazines and online articles.

Take for example the comments on this recent Brainy Gamer article to counter Taylor Clark’s essay in The Atlantic about dumb games.

Yes you have the random crap, but there are quite a few thoughtful responses both in support of Clark and Michael Abbot’s article. In particular I’m calling out this guy’s submission to the smart-games catalogue:

Final Fantasy XI
Square Enix 2002
PS2, PC, Xbox360
FFXI is an MMORPG that, until recently, was very unforgiving to casual gamers and as a result had a very limited fan base. The mechanics in the game were almost entirely hidden, to become a better player you had to experiment and discover things yourself. This was not only evident within the core mechanics, but even basic equipment in the game often had hidden stats and effects that the player had to discover themselves; oftentimes these hidden effects had something to do with the name of the item, or where you got the item from. To that extent, the game's world was riddled with historical Easter eggs and the like... oftentimes you could find npcs from ancient greek mythology and items from similar backgrounds. Indeed, just browsing the wiki pages for this game is full of cool and fun history related to the items you might find, and understanding their background will sometimes help you understand the item's hidden effects.

On a continuous basis the game promoted and rewarded an atmosphere of players that were constantly trying to push limits and think critically. Not because they were elitists, but because it was necessary. Vana'diel is, indeed, a world where nothing is exactly as it seems, very little is handed to you, and there is always some complex little mystery to be unraveled alongside your travels... if you're keen enough to notice it, that is. Chris Guardiola

I know I’m an FF fan-girl, but I didn’t pick this one because of my love for all things Final Fantasy. This is by far one of the best, comprehensive summaries of why FFXI works as an MMO and how it pushes gamers to think and fend for themselves. And he’s not a professional reviewer! Just a random person on the internet. That man needs to be given a job with a gaming magazine, online or other.

So how do we know that these reviewers, both professional and bloggers such as myself, are playing the game correctly? Is there a right or wrong way to play a game? Should we trust someone’s opinion if they played a game differently from the intended manner? Or should we listen to their thoughts at all if they are “bad” at playing video games?

Those are all loaded questions.

Let’s start with the obvious; is there a right or wrong way to play a game?

I’m going to argue both sides of this.

Yes there is a right way to play if the developer has an intended story-line, path, and system that forces the player to follow. While they don’t have full control over the player’s actions, they can influence where and when the players do what they should be doing.

No, there isn’t one “right way” to play a game. Take Grand Theft Auto for example. The developers created the game to allow people more options in order to complete the predetermined missions. They didn’t program the hooker cheat (i.e. regain your health via hooker, then beat them down to get your money back) with that intent. Nor did they expect people to treat it like a driving simulator. Or a hack and slash. Or, my favorite, car pole vaulting. These modes of play were not the intent of the original game. They are aspects that gamers figured out for themselves. It doesn’t mean that they are playing the game incorrectly. Rather, they are taking the mechanics of the game to create their own experience.

A wonderful example of this is from a comment on a Kotaku article many years ago. So long ago I’ve lost the link and have yet to find it. But I’ve talked about it on the blog before. A father letting his child, younger than 10, play GTA. How? He turns on the language and blood filter (I believe this was for Vice City) and turned it into a driving game. His son was required to follow the rules of the road. He couldn’t speed past cars, swerve into oncoming traffic, run over pedestrians, or hit other things. If he nudged a cop car, he had to wait to be arrested. And he had fun! They took the open-world of GTA and turned it into a driving game for kids!

Whether you follow the game’s path with the dev’s forcing it upon you, or take that open road and run like a mad man, shooting pigeons (I’m looking at you Nikko and Raiden) and not falling to the main plot line, you are playing the game in your own way.

This is why I will side more with “no there isn’t a right way to play a game”. In the end, once the product is in your hands, you determine how you want to play. Do you spend those 99 hours, 99 minutes, and 99 seconds grinding in an RPG to reach level 99 on everything, or run through the game in less then 5 hours, get the ending cut scene and move to the next title? It’s up to you. And who’s to tell us otherwise? Unless it’s a dev getting pissy that we’re not doing it right. Those guys need to get a grip.

Another example: pick an MMO. Any of them. Ignoring the money farmers, think about how you approach that game. Are you the grinder trying to get to level 50/70/80/99 before everyone else? Or are you the crafter, focusing on making the best gear for your character? Or are you the explorer, wanting to see every edge of the map before moving forward to the next quest? Just because you’re a grinder doesn’t mean that the crafter or the explorer are incorrectly playing the game. It happens to be their style.

A perfect time to lead into the next question I proposed: Should we trust someone’s opinion if they played a game differently from the intended manner?

This is assuming that there is only one right way to play a game, but roll with it for a moment. Ask yourself honestly if you are willing to read and consider another person’s point of view about a game if they didn’t play the same way as you? You’re an MMO grinder, but you’re reading a review from the perspective of an MMO crafter. They don’t discuss the best areas to level up, where to get the cheapest gear, or the epic bosses. They talk about the delicate nature of the economy, where to pick up your tools, and crafting moon phases.

You probably tuned out after I said “You’re a grinder and you’re reading a review from a crafter.”

If you stuck with it, good for you!

I don’t feel that it makes a person’s opinion any less valid if they played the game differently from how you would have approached it. But be honest. You probably wouldn’t give them as much credit. It’s our nature to focus on the aspects that we want to see and hear and look over the ones that we’re not as interested it. Take your favorite video game. How many times have you read a review or opinion and either argued to the bitter end against the writer that you disagree with their point of view or didn’t pay attention to their “negative points?” Whether intentional or not, you’ve done it. I have. The writers at Kotaku, Gamasutra, and Game Informer have. We all do it.

Ultimately it boils down to you and if you choose to read the opinions of others. Support keeping an open mind. Just because you may not agree with it doesn’t mean it’s incorrect or wrong. If we focus too much on “this is right, this is wrong” then we lose the aspect of gaming that brings us all together: fun.

So, should we continue to listen to them if they play a game badly?

Well, what is considered good or bad? Is it bad that they play an RPG and don’t get past level 50 when they beat the game? Or is it bad that they play an FPS and don’t pick up the ultra-extra rare weapon that is really difficult to find? What makes a gamer a bad player?

When you define “bad” we can better argue this point. But really it all ties in with my previous points that there is no right or wrong. What I think is a “bad gamer” and what you think of can be completely different. And who’s to say either one of us are right? It doesn’t make us wrong for thinking that way, but it also doesn’t give us the right to trump each others play style.

Writing a review for any genre isn’t easy. Games in particular are much more open to interpretation. Unlike a book or a movie that has a linear path, a video game can allow the user to go anywhere and do anything (within the context of the game's design, of course). Just because you may play and review a game differently then how I would, it doesn’t discredit your point of view. There is no one perfect way to review a game, and no great reviewer who gets it all. It’s you and your opinions. If we can start with that basic understanding, then we will all be able to grow as game aficionados.