Friday, June 28, 2013

Jail Time Trolls

Not going to talk about Google developing a console. Because you can Google it and all of the info will be right there for at least 5 pages. But hey, it’ll be out sometime this fall with an Android based system. I already foresee it competing with the Ouya and bumping down some of Apple’s devices for developers.

What I wanted to direct this blog posting towards today is the power of words and how hypersensitive our society is becoming.  A teenager (though legally an adult at 19) in Texas (of course it would be Texas, if not then Alabama), is being held in jail over a comment made during an online rumble in League of Legends. He responded to another player’s comment saying he would shoot up school, followed by ‘lol’ and ‘jk’. That was enough for someone to call in, report it, and now he’s facing up to 8 years in prison for making a terroristic threat.

Now I understand that with the increase in mass shootings in the US that people are more on edge than normal. Are the words of this person should elicit some form of a response. Was it wrong for him to have been reported? No. Are the authorities being a little too up-tight with their response? Absolutely. In fact, I’m just waiting on Fox News to jump all over this story about “violence in games is causing real world violence” and “ZOMG!”. The overzealousness of the authorities to lock this man up without reviewing the facts is, well, silly. We slap the “terror” card down and the laws of the land are disregarded.

It also doesn’t excuse this person from not know that saying what he said was not a good idea. At all. His father comments in the story that he wasn’t the type of kid (person, he’s an adult afterall) that would read the paper, watch the news, or have any awareness of current events. “These kids, they don’t realize what they’re doing.” Absence of knowledge does not excuse absence of common sense. You don’t make a claim that you’re going to shoot up a school and expect to not have some form of repercussion. And given that he is 19, he would have most definitely have gone through several years (at least starting in middle school) of drills on what to do should someone attempt to take over the school. Hell, they began doing this in schools starting in 2000 after Columbine. I remember those drills thinking “this is not going to stop a shotgun from blowing a hole through the door.” That falls back on the person and the parents for not making him more aware of the world around him.

It’s a set of circumstances where multiple parties are at fault. But are we becoming a society that is so hypersensitive that nothing can be taken in jest anymore? Just the other day I overheard someone making light about the construction on one of the highways in the area (and it’s a 10 year project with no end in sight at this rate). But someone got so irate at their comments that they threatened to slap the person if they couldn’t show respect to the workers. I still don’t know how to comprehend that particular situation. The man made no judgments towards the employees. It was strictly about how much of a pain it is to drive through that traffic.

Something to think about…and wait while this story airs on Fox News.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

This Was On Fox News???

I think…we are in an alternate realm. There is someone on Fox News who believes that video games and real world violence are not linked. Can someone get me a shot of whisky? I think my mind just exploded. Or at least double check to make sure that we are not in the Matrix. K? Thanks.

The Fox News Correspondent is John Stossel who considers himself a Libertarian. I think that’s Fox News way of trying to seem more “fair” with their reporting standards. He’s the type of man that says there are worse things out there then the NSA breaking into our phones, but he also wants to lower defense spending. So…he’s not really a Fox News type of guy. He’s just confused on what a Libertarian means. Still, the fact that Fox News even allowed him to talk about violent video games without having the offensive position is…well…remarkable.

He held his show recently and asked Franklin Graham, son of infamous televangelist Billy Graham, and argued about violent video games contributing to an “epidemic” of violence in America. And at every point Franklin brought up, John turned it down. “Nope. There is no direct evidence that video games cause violence. Yes there are a lot of studies, but most of them are flawed and very contradictory. And the fact is, as video game sales have gone up, violence has gone down. Not to mention there are a number of first world, game playing countries, where violence is low. So it’s something in our culture that’s spurring the violence, but it’s not games.”

Holy crap John. Why are you on Fox News? You must be so underpaid or about to get the boot. But…man…thanks. Someone with common sense is on the news. Who knew.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Feel The Game?

In this awkward Tron-suit wanna-be, you too can feel what it’s like to play a game. Okay, so there’s a Kickstarter called ARAIG (As Real As It Gets) to develop a multi-sensory feedback suit that allows you to feel what you’re seeing on the screen as you play a game. There are speakers imbedded throughout the shirt that allow you to have full surround-sound access. So basically…you feel like you’re in the game because the sounds are always with you.

But it also has vibration sensors along the torso and arms to provide feedback. So when a character is shot, you’ll feel a vibration on your arm. Or if you shoot a high-powered weapon, you’ll get feedback by the sensors on the weapon’s kickback. One idea, and this is kind of unique and why I initially read the full story, on the Kickstarter page is that if you get poisoned in a game, for example, the sensors can resonate throughout your body as the venom spreads until you heal…or die.

The Kickstarter itself is not going all that well. It has a $900k goal and has only drummed up $100k. This is where Kickstarter doesn’t focus as well as other projects. When you have such a high dollar item that requires years of testing and production, people are not going to 1-pony up the money, or 2-be willing to wait for so long. The projects that succeed in their fundraising goals start out small. They don’t ask for more than 50k, and that’s more than to get people to donate/support. Beyond that and the attention of the audience falters.

As video games evolve, we’re going to be looking towards newer, better, different ideas to help with the immersion process. Motion gaming and 3D was in the last wave. While I doubt that it will be a while until we get a full virtual reality experience (some of us want to remember that there is a real world), it’s an interesting concept. I just think that the ARAIG is asking for too much, too soon.This is a project that needs to start smaller and develop over time. A lot of us are just not ready to make that leap forward into full sensory mode, yet.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The Feminist Stance on Bayonetta

Confident. Bold. Dynamic. And in charge of herself.
Yep. Feminist.

It’s no surprise to me that I am a fan of Bayonetta. But it’s probably a huge shock to a few people who read my blog because of all of the things I speak about, Bayonetta is so far over on the line of rational feminist sanity that I should be bashing on it left and right.

From the first CGI sequence, Bayonetta is all out there in the glory of being over-sexualized and saturated for the eyes that they cannot comprehend the vision of austere lush being thrown into their faces. And then you have to shake your head out of its sexualized-coma and start fighting the bad angels. It is so blatantly obvious that Platinum Games designed the game in such a style that you’d need to be hit with a hammer if you don’t realize it. And if you are that dense well then you probably shouldn’t be reading this blog anyway. In all of its hyper-sexed up senses, Bayonetta forces the gamer to look at how the industry has grown in some aspects, changed very little in others, and to confront our views of sexism. For all intents and purposes, the only way for the community to see how bad sexism is, is to be confronted with it head on and Bayonetta does just that.

One of the features to the game that I feel a number of people overlook is just how authoritative Bayonetta is. When she speaks to Rodin, it’s on an even playing field. He respects her just as she respects him as business partners and equals. There is no mussing about with her looks and charm. She acquires the tools that she needs through him without any jokes about her image. In fact as you play the game, you’ll find how little, to almost non-existent, that characters comment on her appearance. It’s not until Bayonetta blatantly throws her sexuality at the gamer, that we are confronted with her image and how little people within the game world fawn over it. She commands that much respect that people don’t see her as eye candy. She’s a bad ass witch that will kill you in no-time flat if you mess with her. Her image isn’t an issue. It’s how deadly she is in combat.

Next point to bring the first one home: Bayonetta’s attire is completely of her own design. Why? Well her outfit is made of her hair, along with a few attack combos. She has the ability o add, subtract, hell even completely remove her outfit at a whim because of the control she has over it. She’s willingly and thoughtfully wearing that outfit. It wasn’t imposed on her by her environment, like so many female game characters can attribute their looks too. Hell even the gun on the heels is totally unnecessary, and yet, that was her choice. She’s choosing to be feminine. She’s choosing to flaunt her sexuality. If anything, that helps support feminism in leaps and bounds beyond what any other game has shown so far. Why? Feminism is about equality; letting men and women express themselves without harm. Bayonetta’s form as sexy as it is, in her game world she’s viewed as a person. She’s neither male, nor female. She’s given the same rights as everyone else around her and not viewed any differently by her comrades because of her looks. The only other person I can equate that too is Leila from Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust, but even then she’s still left vulnerable to be cared for and defended by her companions and D in order to make it through the movie. This is more from an image stand-point where Leila is a sexy woman; there is no doubt about it. But she’s portrayed in a manner that allows the viewer to see her as a strong, confidant person. Not just a woman.

Glasses can be hot. Just saying guys.
And really, for as sexy as Bayonetta is, she’s pretty well covered up. Compare her image to that of any RPG female. Yep, bikini armor. Bayonetta’s sexuality is in her actions, her emotions, her touch, and her figure. What better way to argue equality then to make a character that isn’t dressed anything like we come to expect from a female protagonist. So much of what the game focuses on is trying to trick you. We become absorbed at how sexy Bayonetta is that we get blinded by the increasing difficulty of the game-play, the challenge of the story, and the dynamic character interactions. In many ways, Bayonetta is showing how powerful women are by showing how easily distracting she can be.

By the way, Bayonetta is so campy. I mean, so we really need to have a boss that’s the size of 20 football fields, with one eye, 3 mouths, and 2 noses, with wings, spewing fire? I mean…really…if that’s an angel then I don’t want to go to Heaven. But in the land of excess, Bayonetta’s message of equality becomes stronger. We see her and she becomes that beacon of hope for greater things. We want out video game women to be like Bayonetta, in that they can be females, they can say and do girly things, and not become victims of circumstance due to their gender. (SPOILER WARNING) Even towards the end of the game when she is trapped by her “father,” her state of detainment has nothing to do with her gender like so many other games willingly fall into that pit. Her situation is very matter-of-fact: she’s the last one, she’s the key to the beginning and the end, and she has to be stopped. If it were a male character, he would have ended up in the exact same situation. Gender is not an issue in that scenario. (And isn’t it all the more appropriate that Jeanne is the one to break Bayonetta free?)

Look, I could go on for pages about how I feel Bayonetta exudes feminism. But I won’t because you all would get bored and wander off to Kotaku. And I realize that a lot of people are not going to agree with me. I get that. But I see what Bayonetta has done to the culture of gaming. It’s allowed us to ask questions about sexism and really, that’s a big leap forward for a medium that we want to mature. Hell, my experiences cosplaying as Bayoentta and Jeanne have taught me that women love that game. Way more than men. The fan base speaks volumes towards the end result.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Overturning Stereotype For Women Gamers

A friend of mine, who isn’t video game savvy, asked me a pretty harmless question. Why am I into games and do I have suggestions? Sure! Loads of them! I enjoy playing video games because they offer a different perspective on telling a story. They allow users to transcend traditional story models and create new, different, exciting, unique experiences unlike anything you could ever get at a movie or a book. But suggestions…okay well maybe I need to tailor them for you.

It’s important to note that this friend of mine is female. Her experience with games is Angry Birds in her iPhone. That’s about the full extent. So to throw her into the deep with The Last of Us or Metal Gear Solid would be a waste of our time. She wouldn’t experience gaming that best fit her needs and pursuits, and it’d leave a bad taste in her mouth. And really, I don’t want to be the one to discourage another woman from playing video games.

To note: I’m not saying that phone games and casual games are terrible nor am I being an elitist. I feel that they hold an importance in our current entertainment culture. It would be silly to not recognize them as valid forms of gaming. But my friend wanted to move beyond that and get into more of the console realm. She’s perfectly happy sticking to her phone and tablet games, but wanted to try something new. And we should discourage that.

Since I didn’t really know what her play-style with her phone games were like, I started out with a few questions. What games do you enjoy on your phone? Do you prefer strategy or puzzle? Do you like the action of the games? Do you have any squeamish tendencies? Are you okay with blood and gore, within moderation? I know the answers to some of these already, but it didn’t hurt to get an affirmative response. She’s the type of friend that I can talk about “scary” movies with and they don’t freak her out. (Tip 1: When introducing a gamer into the world, ask what their interests are! Don’t immediately force them to play a game that you like because they may have 0 interest in it and be turned off of gaming.) So she rattled off the list. Apparently she was really big into ParadiseIsland, which is a SimCity-like simulation game where you build a resort island and work to keep it maintained. But there was also Angry Birds and Tetris. Tetris…that surprised me too.

She was inheriting a DSi from a friend, so I rattled off a few suggestions, and that she was welcome to stop by and try out Journey. When I thought all was said and done, she threw another question at me: are the women all naked in these games?

Um…what? Thrown into the loop, I have been.

Her reasoning was pretty simple, and sadly straight-forward: That she has heard so much about games and how they portray women, that they are mostly naked or nearly-naked in every game. While we know that’s not true, the way games are advertised and discussed these days, that assertion really shouldn’t have been surprising.

My initial response was: No. I like men. Boobs are okay and the female body is a beautiful thing. But if there, honestly, that much nudity in video games, I would have bowed out ages ago.

My follow-up response was to address her concerns. (Tip 2: Be honest about games if someone has a genuine question. Many of the reasons that women and girls are turned away from gaming are due to inaccurate stereotypes.)

Yes, there are quite a few games that feature scantily clad, large breasted women. Yes, there are a small minority that feature full-on nudity (99.99% of the time female, .01% male thank you GTA4). But for the most part, women are dressed. The titles that I provided her had women that were fully clothed or not in an outlandish bikini armor set. But it was important for her to understand that these are real concerns. Women shouldn’t always be portrayed in such a manner; they deserve the same respect as their male counterparts. The biggest issue is that women are typically side-characters acting as damsels in distress, trophies, or objects of desire. This doesn’t mean that females should always be the primary protagonist, but by subjecting them to such a closed-minded point of view, we are devaluing their status. That’s what so many of us are unhappy about the direction of the gaming industry.

And that’s how I explained it to her. You are going to find games out there where women are scantily clad and are merely there as eye candy. And you’re going to find some games where are scantily clad, but they are dominant, powerful, strong, feminism-enlightened characters. It’s an unfortunate fact that many games are not directly marketed towards women and girls. The industry is very much under the assumption still that the target audience, and the only ones that play their games, are 18-25 white men. The industry won’t change overnight, but there are plenty of options available that are female friendly and don’t make you feel like you’re garbage at the end of the day.

She mentioned that someone suggested she play Gears of War. Immediately I put my foot down and said no. Her style of play was more geared towards platforms and puzzles. First Person Shooters are not the way to go. Although if she were looking for something in the gory, horror genre, Dead Rising would be a good place to start.

This conversation made me realize how powerful the stereotypes in the industry have taken hold. It’s more than simple advertising techniques that focus on the male audience. Video games have become so pervasive in our society that women expect them to not be played by anyone but men. And that…that just isn’t the right way to approach any market. By ignoring women you’re overlooking 50% of the world’s population. That’s a pretty big market to not consider. (Tip 3: Don’t suggest Barbie or Imagine series games. Women are insulted such items exist on the market.)

I was honest with her. I said that these are things that are part of the gaming culture. It's not fair and it's not something that we should be forced to deal with, but there it is. As games mature, we'll see more changes. And there are a lot of great games out there that don't involve any of this sexism crap. It's just unfortunate that a number of them do, and tend to get the most media exposure. So don't focus on the negative. Think of the positive. Think of all of the fun times you had with Angry Birds or talking to someone you met in ParadiseIsland. Those experiences are what makes gaming worth it.

Happy gaming!

Friday, June 21, 2013

XBoxOne NOT The Worse Thing To Happen In Gaming

I understand why the XBoxOne and Microsoft have made total asses of themselves. But declaring it as one of the “10 Greatest Disasters” in gaming history is a bit…presumptuous. Well that’s’ what the UK Guardian decided to do, along with a myriad of other really bad examples on their list. It’s almost as though they want the XBoxOne debacle to have top billing.

Listen. I get it. I know that we all freaked out about the XBoxOne and Sony became our savior. Hell they still are, offering us a myriad of features that the Xbox just can’t compete with, and for $100 less! But this is just the start of the new console wars. We haven’t even seen how it will be accepted on the marketplace now that the non-DRM, DRM has been removed. Let’s at least give the system a chance to redeem itself before we start throwing it on the “worse moment ever” bus along with the craptacular suggestions on the list. Seriously. Guardian…try harder next time. If the Nintendo 64 cartridges are the best you can come up with, you need to get someone who can research beyond 5 seconds of looking at Google, or knows video games. Last I checked, the N64 sold pretty damn well and cartridges were still a preferred method of gaming at that time while CD’s were new and had multiple issues. Just saying…better examples next time.
 
Now. Back onto the Xbox bashing wagon. Not for “worse event ever” but  it still is enjoyable to capitalize on Microsoft’s faux-paus moment.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Microsoft Listened! DRM Out of XboxOne

It was the big story yesterday and I totally didn’t talk about it. But you all already knew so why rehash the same stuff over and over again? Well now that the push to “break the story first” has died down, we can start analyzing Microsoft’s decision.

Oh for those of you who haven’t read, they’re reversing some of their decisions with the XBoxOne after seeing the post-E3 reaction and Sony clearly dominating them in some fantastic web-marketing. And holy crap was everyone talking about it. Everyone. Talking. About. It

That’s a lot of links, and I didn’t even waver into FoxNews territory. Though I’m sure they have a story too.  (Eh, close enough.)

Microsoft has decided to completely drop their non-DRM, DRM policy. So no more of that 24-hour (or 1-hour if you’re on a friend’s XboxOne) system check. There is a one-time initial set-up that does require an internet connection, but that’s it. No more after that. Games can be played offline, just as you can with any system today. Now that is a major win not only for us, but for a huge portion of Microsoft’s market, the military. Traded, borrowed, used games? Restrictions removed as well. You can play to your hearts content without the system checking and spamming you for money just to play a game you borrowed or purchased used.  

Great! There are the things so many gamers were concerned about and Microsoft listened to our feedback. While I do think that it’s a little too late, and it will take effort for Microsoft to rebuild its brand, this assurance to customers is quite nice. Guess what people? As consumers, we have power! If enough of us make our voices known and provide a reasonable response to something we don’t like, companies can change their products.

The internet memes will not die.
Sorry Microsoft.
Of course with the good comes the bad. Part of the reason Microsoft had this non-DRM, DRM policy was to allow for a virtual library to be available to consumers. Well now that’s gone. Apparently there isn’t a better way to authenticate that you are the owner of said games without directly connecting to the system every 24 hours. *shrugs* Also, the “share” game feature will be out too. Since the used game market is back on the list, you have to do it like we do now, or the old days, and physically hand your disc to your friend and not have a digital version you can send to their system.

Truthfully, the exclusion of some features is fine by me. While the lack of a travelling digital library seems silly considering how simple it would be to set one up AND have a valid verification system, I’m willing to accept that loss in order to remove their non-DRM, DRM policy. While many of us are resigned to the PS4 since Sony gave us, well, everything we wanted and expected without flip-flopping, Microsoft may just have a chance to save themselves. Maybe not this holiday season, but next? Next year they might have a chance. The system is still $100 more than the PS4 and now comes with less features. The PS4, from a value standpoint, is offering more for less. Not to play favorites, but Microsoft, you probably should have done some focus groups before developing the XboxOne (still, a stupid, name).

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The Problem with Superhero Games

Superman will save citizens with puzzles!!
It’s a known fact (well maybe more like a really accurate theory) that superhero games, like movie-based games, tend to suck. We’ll get the gem every now and then such as Batman:Arkham Asylum, but most of our history with superheroes are plagued with the likes of Superman 64, and Aquaman: Battle for Atlantis. In truth, some of the best superhero games that are out there are not properties that fit within their realm. They are fighting games such as Marvel vs. Capcom, or a new hero entirely that has no comic origins like Infamous or Prototype. Outside of those…superhero games kind of suck.

For a number of us, we look at comic books in the same way that we do movies. We want to get a great recreation in the form of a video game and it just doesn’t happen. A lot of it has to do with the source material: there are aspects of a comic or graphic novel that just don’t translate into a game. We may be able to spend more time on the lore and history of a character in a book, but in a game this can lead to hundreds of hours of content that turns players away. While the medium of gaming allows for more cohesion with comics, a lot of the content will still need to be removed in order for the game to exist.

Which brings me to my next point: how do you make a superhero worth playing? Part of what drives us to play a game is to level up, garner achievements, and improve your character in order to reach the end-goal. With a number of heroes such as Thor, Superman, Wonder Woman, they are already super-human. It’s impossible to level them up or have them stumble upon new powers. They have been gifted with these aspects from birth. So…what’s the fun in running around a town being a demi-god? Unless you’re playing The Sims, not a lot. At least with Batman or The Green Lantern they are human and part of the journey is discovering their strengths and weaknesses. Superman doesn’t have a weakness. Okay well he has Kryptonite, but that’s such a rarity. On Earth, he’s a god, basically. He has no health bar. He has no hit points. He already has all of his powers. So…what’s there to do when you’re Superman? What’s the end goal? What purpose do I have to run through a game and save people if I achieve nothing else out of it?

I realize that’s a shallow view when saving people is an important, and noble, aspect. But that’s not enough for a gamer. We need multiple goals and reasons to keep moving forward. Saving someone’s life who may, or may not be grateful for it, who doesn’t offer anything in return other than a possible “thank you” is not worth it. If you couple it with a life-altering decision of killing the few to save the many, that could be interesting. (I didn’t realize people were so up in arms about Man of Steel for having this premise-Spoiler Alert if you click on the link.)

Again we’re stuck in this wonderful catch-22. We want games for Deadpool and a proper Superman, but the reality is that without goals to obtain and a proper re-telling of the comics, we won’t play them.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Games I Miss

Today felt like a good day to reminisce. While people continue their debate on why the Playstation 4 is going to blow the XboxOne away at release, it’s a good time to take a step back and remember the days of old. There are a number of games, series, and franchises that, more often than not, are no longer their former selves. Or they were only given one shot to make a stance and were shelved before they had a chance to blossom into something more. So here are a few of my favorites, that are infamously being remade into crap knows what, or they have fallen to the way-side.

Sonic the Hedgehog

Basically anything past Sonic 3 is questionable. The images released for Sonic: Lost World, the newest in the series is what prompted me to write this blog piece today. Because Sonic is in a world of donuts. I really don’t know what to make of it. The charm and grit that Sonic brought to the Sega Genesis is long gone. The hedgehog is a shell of his former-self. While him and Mario still duke it out at the Olympics, Sonic is no longer…well, Sonic.

I’d pinpoint the downfall around Sonic Adventure. It was a push to get more DreamCast systems out of the store and while it’s not a bad game, it changed the way we looked at Sonic. He started talking. He was more flippant, more relaxed, and trying way too hard to appeal to kids and being “cool.” His realm had from the multi-tiered flat background to a full 3D landscape and Sonic just felt slower. The pace, the excitement, everything that made Sonic who he was somehow vanished when he changed dimensions. I don’t know how that was possible, but it was. And the stories became overly complicated. It wasn’t the simple good vs. evil, stop the Eggman and get the Chaos Emeralds back. Now there were plots and sub plots and extra characters and…too much for anyone to handle. It took away the fun of being Sonic, zipping across a level and snatching rings. Now it’s donuts. Pass.

Crash Bandicoot

This is one of those where I don’t know what happened and why Sony dropped Crash. He was the response for Mario and Sonic. He was the Playstation mascot. Even now when I think of the PS and PS2, I think of Crash.

His descent from the golden years felt forced. I think it was a combo of the developers not wanting to release a bunch of crappy games and end up like Sonic, and the system moving into a new direction to capture more mature audiences. Funny enough, a lot of us “mature” adults love Crash for his zaniness and the unique gameplay.

Crash really started to dissapate when the reigns were handed over to Vivendi: Crash: Twinsanity, which takes place 3 years after Wrath of Cortex, but the gameplay and style were altered in a way that the fun of Crash wasn’t fully there. The levels were better and the humor was over-the-top, some may say too much, but the essence of Crash was at a lost. And it’s been downhill since then. Now granted, Crash hasn’t been repurposed like Sonic so many times that he can’t be saved. It’s very possible for Naughty Dog to take back the reigns and make a proper Crash game again. He can have his cameos for now. It’s possible to save Crash.

Beyond Good and Evil

I’ll start off by saying that yes, I’m fully aware that Ubisoft is developing a sequel. I’m not fully convinced on it yet because the art style looks so different (one of the defining characteristics of the original was the cartoonish textures), but I’ll keep an open mind. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beyond_Good_%26_Evil_2

BGE was one of the few games that brought us genre mixing that worked so well together that you had to enjoy. It was action-adventure with puzzle solving, and stealth. And the idea behind the game was so pure and simple that I fell in love with it: design a meaningful story amid player freedom. The game isn’t about the main plot but the in-between moments. Everything that Jade says, does, or how she interacts creates the universe. Many of today’s games (see anything BioWare related) follows this formula, and we can thank BGE for that. I’ll be interested to see what Ubisoft does with 2, even if I don’t agree with the visuals. But I miss this game because it took them nearly a decade to crop up with a squeal, will the charm and magic of the first one be returned?

NiGHTS

My beloved NiGHTS…your sequal sucked. The only upgrade to that was your collar looked like it was more appropriately attached to your neck. I’m a huge fan of the first game, and it will always be my favorite. So when I heard about the sequel, of course I flipped out! But then it was released, and the voice acting was terrible (when did NiGHTS become a British woman? It’s suppose to be this androgynous character), and the controls were choppy, and the levels were meaningless. Okay well the levels in the first game were kind of silly too, but they had a thread of connection that made much more sense then what Journey of Dreams was trying to convey. NiGHTS 2 became more about colors and tricking  the eye to overlook the fact that the game is not so good. I’ll just continue playing the updated version of the original. A million times better.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Why The XBoxOne Doesn't Work For The Military

Jay Johnson is a member of the U.S. Navy. And like so many of our armed forces, they play video games in their downtime. Seriously if you knew how many games and systems GameStop sells to bases around the country, it’d make your eyes pop out of your skull. And really who could blame them? Anything to take away from looking at the real world around them, games are a great method for distressing and relaxing.

From experience, a number of these soldiers are Xbox fans. I think a lot of it had to do with the relatively cheap price, but there are also a lot more first person shooter, sports, and action games in comparison to the Playstation. I realize that may seem weird that a soldier would want to play an FPS, but it’s not the fact that it’s an FPS. They need something that is quick and easy to get into. They don’t have the time to devote to an RPG where they need to spend 100+ hours to complete the game. Because  they need to be ready at a moment’s notice, an RPG doesn’t offer the freedom to just stop and go as need-be in comparison to an FPS.

Video games are also a great way to have fun without the need of an internet connection. This is kind of big. It’s a pain in the butt to get online at bases. You’re lucky if you can send out an e-mail to your family and friends sometimes. A number of bases have a rationing system where you get a ticket and turn it in for an allotted amount of time daily or weekly. Even with the pervasiveness of technology today, the military has restrictions.

So when the XboxOne announced a need to connect to the home base every 24 hours to check that your system is still “valid,” I could already hear the voices of the military men and women in a collective sigh of disappointment. Microsoft is really going to be kicking themselves over this decision. The military makes up a nice chunk of their game sales. With the XboxOne having this restriction in order to play, it’s going to turn more of those gamers to the Playstation and/or stop buying from Microsoft all-together once Xbox360 games are discontinued.

Let’s see how Microsoft plans to address this concern, if at all.

Friday, June 14, 2013

See - Women Can Be Great Leads

I’m going to keep this a brief posting today to direct your attention to this NY Times article about The Last of Us, a survival horror story from NaughtyDog where you have to, well, survive. The majority of the gameplay focuses on a male adult character and his relationship with his young daughter, along with others that he meets along the journey.

What struck me was how the writer, a man, approached this game. He didn’t want to play as the main character, but as the young girl because she was so much more interesting and compelling. It’s interesting to read his take on this game that so many people have been clamoring over for the past year.

For a brief time, The Last of Us does become Ellie’s game, and the player is asked to direct her journey. As you would expect — it is the magic of the medium — I identified more with her character when I was playing as her. I became more interested in her. Her feelings became my feelings. And then she — or at least my ability to inhabit her — was gone. For a second time, the game surprised me, did something wonderful, and then took it away.”

We need more games with female leads that can create such an experience that this particular writer had. It could change the industry for the better.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Gaming Hera - Why Female Protagonists Are Needed

Sad that it can be a challenge to find a
picture of a female game character that isn't "sexified."

When I read some of the comments from the FeministFrequency twitter about the Microsoft conference not showcasing games with primary female protagonists (there are a few on the floor this year, but Microsoft didn’t feel it was necessary to actually have them at their main press conference), it really makes me wonder about the sanity of humanity. We really haven’t evolved over the last 5 million years have we? Many hold the ape-like mind-set and feel the need to bash and maim until they regain control and have their way.

The responses left for Anita are appalling. I cannot believe that any human being would seriously react in such a manner as to threaten physical harm…over video games.  

Guys. They. Are. Video. Games.

I realize that it’s a lifestyle to some, but holy sh*t. They are games. GAMES. I can only imagine how men will react when a female president is finally elected in the U.S.

But it does bring a point home that the issue of sexism within the industry and amongst gamers is still a very big deal and it’s not going away.

The article originally written for Slate.com was trying to go off the premise of ‘why more video game women are needed as protagonists’ and that didn’t really happen. Like most of these articles, they typically fall off into how bad the sexism is in gaming. The comment from the Killer Instinct demo has already made it’s rounds on the internet (and seriously people...more comments regarding “teaching that woman a lesson”? What are we, animals? No actually that’s being kind. Animals would never stoop so low to be so abusive to another female. Most species on this planet actually revere females, just not humans). However you wish to take the comment isn’t the point. It’s the fact that it was said in a demeaning manner directly towards a woman. The entire segment felt scripted that the woman wasn’t able to play the game well and had to be dominated by her male counterpart.

Since the Slate article doesn’t really address reasons why we need more female protagonists in video games, I’m going to start listing a few. I still feel that we are a way off before we see the changes needed to improve the community, but this is a start.

How having More Female Lead Protagonists Will Help the Industry:

Feminist and Feminism will no longer be a dirty word. Somewhere between the 1960’s and the 1980’s feminism became associated with all things extreme when it comes to fighting for women’s rights. Here’s the fact: Most feminists are not in the super crazy category. Most, and by most I mean 95% of us, just want equality. Equal pay for equal work. The right to the same jobs as a man and the same healthcare, and the same laws and rules that are afforded to men but not women. That’s what feminist and feminism is about: equality. It is not about women wanting to take over the world and killing all men. We want to work together and become cohesive. Gaming could help turn that around by showcasing women in more positive roles. It’s a subconscious effort but It would help promote the strength of women over time.

Change the attitudes of those working in the industry. EvenEA has stated that they are making games that will sell. And right now those are products geared towards the 18-24 male crowd, in turn glorifying the idea of sexism. By allowing more women to take the role of a lead character and be featured as a real human (not oversized head, boobs, butt, and skimpy clothing) we’ll see the industry change from the inside out for the better.

Women and girls will feel more empowered to game, interact, and be a part of the industry. One look at Fat, Ugly, or Slutty and you’ll quickly see that anything not male will typically be dismissed and harassed the moment you try to game online. I realize this doesn’t happen to everyone, but for a lot of women and girls, this is a daily occurrence to where you have to shut off your mic, change your user name, and your avatar to not look female: or just not play online at all. By introducing more strong, adept female characters into the mix, we’ll see out girls becoming more confident and willing to tackle the issue head on. And a few more in the business couldn’t hurt either.

Create better stories. Okay I’m not the first to say that a lot of the content out there now is copy/paste, rinse/repeat, and sequels galore. New games and ideas are difficult to find. Female characters could be a great way to start a new movement towards unique, innovative gaming. Beyond Good and Evil and Mirror’s Edge are fantastic examples of games that went into whole new directions because of their female leads. I’d love to have more unique games out there.

These are just a few points out of many. More action is needed.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Virtually Unanimous: PS4


I think this says it all.
With the flood of photos, gif’s, and memes hitting the internet from the Monday E3 Press Conferences, it’s safe to assume that consumers are going to be betting on, and buying, the PS4 this winter

And why shouldn’t they? Not only is it $100 less than the XboxOne, there are much less restrictions. No need for an always online connection or a 24 hour check-up (or a 1 hour check-up if you are logging in from another system). No limits on used games. Backwards compatability, just to name a few of the differences. Oh yeah…and the internet connection is still free unlike Microsoft’s weird Silver/Gold system with XboxLive.
I’ll let the images speak for themselves.




Tuesday, June 11, 2013

EA Doesn't Want To Be Hated

EA wants to put it out there that they do hate being labeled as the Worst Company in America 2 years running. So Frank Gibeau, EA’s President of labels, sat down with the BBC (a non-American news organization that has no influence on The Consumerist or anything EA U.S. related) to talk about it. In general, employees at EA seem to like being at EA. Oh, and they’re “not tone deaf.” So they see the reaction from customers regarding their business practices and want to handle it.

On the subject of Generic Games: Gibeau says EA is a scapegoat because it is the largest company out there. Which okay, I admit I do blame EA on a lot of things such as the homogenization of today’s content. However EA owns a lot of companies. If you purchase anything at a store or online, there’s a pretty good chance you’re getting an EA game or one of its companies. It’s difficult to not make the comparison that EA can be responsible for a lot of the “generic” games that are out there.

It has also become standard issue to have DLC with games, starting on day one, along with online passes, and all of that crap (i.e. paying more for a game you’ve already paid for). While EA has recently made changes regarding their online passes, there is still DLC, micro-transactions, and the like, all of which the company defends as part of the growth of the industry.

For New Products: I’m going to summarize what was said in the article. EA wants to make new products, but there isn’t a market outside of the top games for new ideas. They want their products to reach as wide of an audience as possible. So you’re going to get sports games every year, another Halo, another Call of Duty, etc. because they sell. So really, they’re not really about making new games, just satisfying the mass market that wants the same stuff over and over again.

EA and the Wii-U: While EA will not be announcing new titles for the Wii-U, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the partnership is going to end. It’s just the newer stuff with the better software won’t be on the Wii-U. They are watching, waiting, and seeing what the Wii-U develops into.

The final segment of the piece was, well, amusing. The BBC linked a newspaper article from EA back in the 80’s asking the question “can computers make your cry?” So the BBC proposed that to  Gibeau. His response?

"I think we're right about there. Certainly the Mass Effect 3 ending caused a few people to cry, so I think we achieved some level of emotional impact towards the end of the last cycle."

Um, I’m pretty sure that people were crying at the end of ME3 because of how horrible the conclusion was. The emotional response you were looking for was more out of anger at the company, not the game itself. But nice try.

Monday, June 10, 2013

XboxOne Gets ANOTHER Halo game.

This is coming from a Halo fan who has a deep appreciation for the series.

But can we seriously stop making Halo games? It was all suppose to end after 3. It's just...gimmicky now. I realize that the numbers are saying otherwise in regards to purchases, but there's not really anything amazing and new on the market so of course people are going to keep buying the same things.

I'm sure there are a few employees at Bungie that would be happy to just move on.

It's an E3 Monday.

It’s another Monday in the gaming world.

But not a normal Monday. It’s E3 week! And of course the big guys jump off one day earlier from the start of the trade show, which would be today.  Well except Nintendo. They’re not making a presentation this year. So instead we have Microsoft, Sony, EA, and Ubisoft. SpikeTV (which is now the new G4) will be carrying all of these with the exception of Ubisoft. Ubi will have a livestream of their press conference on their website.

What to expect? Well we know Microsoft and Sony will talk about their new systems. And…yeah. Though I do hope that they discuss how they intend to keep the current gen systems in play. The 360 and PS3 are not ‘that’ old in terms of hardware. Well okay maybe the 360, but newer content being developed can still be placed onto these consoles. Sony is good about keeping their older system up to date, and I hope they don’t disappoint.

EA and Ubisoft will talk about their games, probably the myriad of sequels that they’re known for. And um, yeah. There we go.

Can you tell that I’m not as interested in E3 as I have been in the past years? With the lackluster performance and reception, it’s difficult to be all into the hype.

Let’s talk about Twitch instead! Twitch.tv is offering it’s toolkit to all game developers now. It’ll allow everyone from the top of the game ladder to start-ups to easily integrate the Twitch.tv technology into their games. Because instant replay, live-streaming, and gaming events are moving in this direction. Twitch.tv is really trying to stay on top of things as the new consoles prepare to release under different streaming media. For those interested, check out the Twitch dev site

The benefit to live streaming and replays for developers is they can see first-hand what the gamers are experiencing. Everything from glitches to content overhaul, it’s no longer limited to a letter or a few blog posts. Now they can see and hear everything. It’s an evolution in the business/consumer relationship that is needed to push the medium forward.

Friday, June 07, 2013

An Inevitable “WTF Microsoft?”

So Microsoft has taken the time to sit down and explain some of its actions with the XboxOne. We’re sure to hear more about it at E3 this year, but clarification time is turning into horror. Guess who isn’t buying this system at launch? *raises hand*

Always Online: The XboxOne is designed to run at a low-power, online state so that games and apps will be updated constantly. A connection isn’t always required in order to play games. However, you get a 24 hour window. Yep. You can only game for 24 hours before the XboxOne forces you to connect online and verify your system and game. And you only get 1 hour if you are logged in from a different console.

It gets better. The XboxOne has this restriction to check your games. I.E. it will be able to detect when you have a new product, if you have sold a game, or are using a used copy, effectively trying to screw over any used game businesses. It’s a backwards ass DRM. Microsoft, please don’t try to sugar coat it any other way.

DRM isn’t the only concern. The connection itself can be daunting. There are a number of gamers who don’t have access to lightning speed internet. There are parts of the U.S. that still only use dial-up because it’s the only medium available. Can you imagine having to dial in and check your system every 24 hours just to verify that it’s still a legit system with legal copies of games you’ve purchased? Not to mention the updates…my god the updates already take long enough for me and I have FiOS. But Microsoft doesn’t seem too worried. Why?


"[B]ecause every Xbox One owner has a broadband connection, developers can create massive, persistent worlds that evolve even when you’re not playing."

Access as of 2013. Note: Access /= Cost.
Many of these places the only reasonable pricing is for
below 10mbps.
Um…what? Everyone has broadband now? When did that happen?

Used Games: So while we’re on the subject of always online, what happens to those used games? Well Microsoft has stated that publishers can still impose their fees for access to content. They won’t make any money off of them. It also means that if you play a used game you have to register it somehow with the system because of that “online” requirement. So guess what? Even if you don’t want any of the extras to a game, you’re going to have to pay for them in order to verify that your used game is now yours. Example: Mass Effect 2 created the Cerberus Network as a backwards-ass method to verify that you purchased a legit copy. Now you don’t need it to play the game, but you do need it if you want to get any of the DLC. ME3 has a similar system if you want to play multi-player. How do you get said access? By paying $5-10 bucks to EA and getting their code.

Now how is this an issue? Well if Microsoft’s system needs to verify that you have a legitimate copy of a game, they’re going to need codes. How do you get those codes? By paying more money. It’s a vicious cycle that no one seems interested in stopping because someone is making money off of it, somewhere.

Oh, and you can trade your games digitally to your friends, only if they have been on your friend’s list for 30 days or more. And you can only give out the game once. Not once to a friend, one time and one time only. They clarified that.

Game Installs and Downloads: A lot of the hype with the XboxOne is that physical games are going to be phased out. This is true, but discs will still be available for those wanting box purchases. This will probably dwindle over the years, but at launch you can get games from stores without having to buy online.

Kinect: So the XboxOne requires you to use a Kinect. And not the one you bought for your 360, but a brand new Kinect. Microsoft is enabling privacy settings for the Kinect because the damn thing needs to be on all the time. It will also record your movements and conversations to upload online…red flag! If they didn’t add in these privacy settings I would be flipping tables. But they will have them in place at launch so people can still play in their underwear without worry that video of their gaming ways will be uploaded. You can also turn the Kinect off, but most apps and games will require it.


With these clarifications, are gamers ready for the XboxOne? I think I’ll let the Twitter responses speak for themselves. Check out the one about EA. So true!


If you want something a little more lighthearted after that train-wreck, Kotaku posted a few things that game publishers have patented. For example, that Mass Effect dialogue wheel? EA has that patented so no one else can use it without paying loads of money. Genius and silly. Or Blur’ “social interaction” system with Activision. Ahhh patents. There are no limits!

Thursday, June 06, 2013

Save Money-Post E3 High

E3 will be soon upon us, and as the slew of new consoles and titles are announced, a lot of people look to June/July to start making purchases of systems they don't have. But Wait! This time of year is usually the worse when it comes to buying anything, even though sales are always up (seriously, look at GameStop's numbers during this time, they are always high and not just because of Madden) because people are in a post E3-high.

Awh man...Luke on Kotaku already beat me too it this morning. Dangit! Whelp...I'm still posting!

I know it's tempting to buy stuff now when you really want to game, because E3 really makes all of us want to game every year even during the crappy shows, but trust us when we say to wait it out.

Reason 1: Price Cuts. Knowing that a PS4 and Xbox One is on the horizon for the winter, the current gen PS3 and Xbox360 will get a price cut. But not now. Right now those consoles are still selling well at their price range. We won't see the cuts until this holiday season when companies focus on pushing the new systems, and letting the "older" ones get away with a lower dollar. It happens every time there is a new system. There will be price cuts. Just wait them out.

Reason 2: Holiday Season = Bundles. What better way to get some of the AAA title games then to bundle it with a system. If you're looking for a new 360, just wait until September/October. Sony and Microsoft have consistently been offering a new system with 2-3 games and an extra controller for about the same price as the system by itself. And now with a probably price-cut, you're going to get more for your money.

Reason 3: New Models? There is a photo floating around of a new Wii console that is smaller, slimmer, and lighter, and because of it, it will be cheaper at retail. Sony has been at the forefront of offering smaller systems of their predecessor. The Playstation spawned the PSOne. The PS2 created the PS2 Slim. These offshoots have always been cheaper for the same content. Cheaper is good, so wait it out. E3 may add in a few of these on the floor show.

Reason 4: The PS4 and XboxOne may not be all that they are cracked up to be. Look what happened to the Playstation Vita and the Nintendo non-iPad iPad. Systems with potential but have faltered. And knowing that the XboxOne will have 0 backwards compatibility a lot of gamers are going to sit back and wait until Microsoft changes their minds (guys...look what happened when Sony did it. It was stupid). I know that waiting doesn't always work. The PS3 went through their early models at 60/80 gig that WERE back compat before phasing them out. But why waste money on a product that you may not enjoy? Give it time. Let the reviews come out. Then make a decision.

Key point: Patience. It is a virtue and necessary as E3 hits us.

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Twitch Partner With ReedPOP (PAX)

Twitch.tv has become the official live streaming partner of ReedPOP, the company who handles conventions such as PAX, PAX East, and New York Comic Con. Twitch.tv has been assisting with live streaming events from these conventions for the past few years, but now it’s officially official. Twitch.tv will be expanding to Chicago’s Comic & Entertainment Expo (C2E2) and possibly PAX Australia, though word on that is still not confirmed.

As we prepare for the release of new consoles this winter, Twitch.tv is trying to stand out and make a name for itself as a competitor. UStream has lined up a deal with Sony’s Playstation 4, and the Xbox One (guys…stupid name, super cereal) will have its own services. Twitch.tv wants to be the name that you think of when it comes to gaming events and streaming at expos and conventions. And it’s been good so far. I remember them at RTX last year and they were very professional and a well-run group. If they can lock up the convention and expo floors, they won’t have to worry about the onslaught of UStream.

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Contessing the ConTessa

As I have returned from a 3 weekend stretch of convention romping, I was forwarded a link to another: ConTessa Online. An online gaming con by women for everyone, as their tagline reads. I was curious so I had to take a look at the site and see what was up.

ConTessa will take place June 21-24th via Google Hangout with panels, live gaming, and live drawing/programming events. Okay maybe Google Hangout isn’t the best option if you’re looking for audience participation. It’s fine for a handful of people, but if you’re looking for hundreds of comments, then you’re likely to see some lagging and/or crashing of the Hangout. They may need to put in a disclaimer that audience members should watch directly on YouTube and not through Google+.

In theory this sounds like a good idea. A convention made by women to include everyone and not have it focused on male-centric attitudes. My concerns are similar to what Zoe Hawkins points out on Lazy Gamer. Such as the “cute” avatars and banners to promote the convention showing hyper-stylized women instead of normal gamers. Or that they are trying to play the “neutral” card by not allowing ConTessa to be a ground for debate about gender issues in gaming. However the convention itself was made by women and all of the advertisements for it are female-centric, even if they are sexualized and prettied-up. We call this a conflicting position. On the one hand, they want to stand out and be female oriented, on the other, they want everyone to be included. You can’t do both. It’s one or the other.

I don’t want to come off as though I’m being sensitive about the topic. I feel it’s important to talk about the gender divide in video games, and that women deserve an equal footing as men. But I’m not really sure what ConTessa is trying to achieve. They don’t want to get into the debate and yet they clearly want to stand out and say they are female friendly. *scratches head*

I may watch a panel or two out of curiosity, but the conflicting point of views make it difficult to take it seriously.