Posts tagged ‘video games’
You see the ads and referal programs for play-asia on almost any anime related site, anyways just a word of warning: what is listed on their site is not actually what they have in stock. If you order from them do not pay for next day or expedited shipping. What you are paying for is a service where in they locate a system or game for you, order it, and then ship it to you from their Hong Kong base. I ordered a 3DS from them only to be a tad shocked to have wait a week only to find they were still “preparing my order”. They did refund my money, and were quite nice, but their website is a little deceptive and be forewarned: you might be waiting weeks for items you can get other players or from an eshop day of.
A long time ago in a Korean town far from the enticements of Soeul I discovered the pc bar and Korean pc bar culture. I lost (according to battle net) 350 games of Starcraft and won one. With such unescalating returns I decided to try the other games at the pc bar only to find a Korean I’d was required to get into the average kart game. However there was an exception. Guild Wars was everywhere, billboards advertised it on the sides of buildings, Korean newspapers reported on Nc Soft’s acquiring some of the original developers from Blizzard, The game was everywhere and unlike nexon’s cafe games it was open to all. I logged in as a woman and began to play. The server was derelict, a few npcs strolled around, some large town houses loomed in the fields, and worms were everywhere. I was supposed to kill the worms. I turned it off and sold my account. Mmos weren’t for me.
Desire is, in psychoanalytic theory, a creation. We learn to desire and it’s origins are often frivolous. A film might teach a girl how to desire as a woman, a role model might inspire a boy to a life in mathematics, but games (outside of their filmic parts) inspire desire in very different ways. We often don’t identify with games the way we identify with other art forms. If you watch a film you empathize, you hate, you love, characters in the film. Their behavior forms a fabricate that becomes the agent of desire and spreads wide ideas of how and what desire should be used, maintained, and sublimated. In games desire is often created by sensation or rewards. If you play chess and you win, you will probably want to play chess more. If you play a first person shooter, even if you detest the main character and story, the sheer spectacle of rocketing into combat might be enough to make the game stick and hence, to use the Deluezean term, a desiring machine is born. Games work in other ways too, and their cinematic elements can make the game stick too (I love the characters in hunted: the demon’s forge, but detest the game play), however I will maintain the three central ideas of sensation, rewards, and identification for the remainder of this review, even though final fantasy xiv has a strong social element to it, and that selfishness vs selflessness of the game is often not explored.
After Guild Wars I didn’t bother with mmos. I looked at them and just thought, that’s not for me. A friend however installed Skyrim on my pc and while I didn’t like it at first, the game quickly became an obsession, the thought of sending my Mage to Mage school, of developing npc control techniques, and just the general expansiveness of the world drew me in. What does Skyrim teach me? To desire character growth, branching skill trees, and to bear with repetive actions for a minor reward. The the results of these labor gave me a few valuable moments, such as when I learned I could take down trolls in a few hits, or casting an illusion spell that enraged guests at a wedding enough that they killed the bride (who I in turn took the dress off of and then enchanted with a 100% discount on destruction spells). Skyrim taught me that building a character can be rewarding and highly empowering… Perhaps a little bit to much so I took down the final boss with no problem. After Skyrim I fell in love with Spore which attenuated me to the click and wait tactics of many mmos, when I began to realize the strategy lies outside of the actions you are taking the game took on a new light, and well it gave me the fortitude to make it through my first few levels in ff xiv.
So that takes me to almost up to Final Fantasy xiv 1.2.3. I bought the game from amazon and downloaded it, then downloaded the patches from another server. I placed my bets on FF XIV because unlike every other mmo, it launched with an absolutely abysmal reputation, but as the game was patched and fixed YouTube videos led me to believe it was getting better, hence for 19.99 I would be entering into a game that come October would retail for 59.99 on the ps3 and a game where the developers seem to be in consistent communication with the fan base. If it turned out I didn’t like I just had to wait a month or so and then sell my key for more.
The first thing ff xiv did right was drop me into a storyline. The Gridania storyline opens with an absolutely beautiful cinematic backdrop and then introduces us to two fairly comical characters with British accents. I know that British accent = fantasy world, but somehow I always feels that final fantasy characters aren’t quite indebted to such Tolkein like lineages to require the Queen’s lisp. I would have preferred an American accent on some of the characters, but the voice acting is above average, and the humor pretty good. So score one ff xiv, you didn’t make me kill worms. Next the game went into a quick combat tutorial which my thaumaturge went through pretty quickly, then even more story and finally I was dropped off in the woods with a good sense of how to get home. I grinned a little and quickly leveled up to 5 in no time before hitting the adventurer’s guild and be introduced to Mom. Mom is an npc who gives you you’re initial quests. In Gridania people develop Woodsin, a kinda karmic retribution for harming the woods. In other words all those lingering doubts about litter, recycling, are made into game form and form a rather good impetus to continue the quest line and avoid being eaten by an elemental. However the game devolves a little here, instead of being given more story quests, it becomes centered around guidleves. Guidleves are simple quests that involve doing repetive things for exp. Battlecraft fieldleves produce orange hotspots on the map were you can battle enemies at levels you set at a crystal. The leves are based around camps and include crafting leves and battle leves. I found the grinding to be not overly hard, but just a little grueling. I really would have preferred more content and less battling for exp, but until you hit 50, the game requires a little grinding. The grinding however doesn’t take terribly long provided you get in a party, choose a leve that’s just a little above your parties’ level, and then manage to chew through your creeps in time to get a chain exp bonus. Chain bonuses are awarded by battle time, the faster you kill creeps above your level the faster your bonus grows. Chain bonuses can level up a class pretty quickly, but do slow a tad at times if your party is lower level than you. You can grind about 2 levels an hour after level 10. Before level 10 you can do more than 5 an hour. Parties have the advantage of leve sharing so your four leves plus the other party members leves quickly add up and because they’re adjustable as you level up you can make the enemies more difficult meaning exp doesn’t shrink as you get higher. The leve system is pretty good and is more efficient than using a macro bot to level you, but I still feel it needs more variety, a little more storyline tie in, and could give a slightly bigger exp bonus when you hit the dreaded mid levels where exp remains constant, but the amount needed to level grows. At first combat annoyed me, the click and wait method really got on my nerves, but around level 20 all these things dissipated and the reward of smack, kill, run away!! Begins to fall into place, mmos reveals the dissonance between a player’s first reaction and the developers over exposure to the game. The combat in ff xiv is really offsetting if you haven’t already played similar games. I will not even begin to discuss the crafting which is just an awful game mechanic that needs to be done away with as quickly as possible, combat has the incentive of being social: parties are fun, strategic: you have to make decisions about which enemies to take on, who to heal, and other questions, and your characters attributes factor highly into their damage output and input. Crafting on the other hand is just a set of menus. I actually just created an autohotkey script that presses enter once every 5 seconds and let it run for 3 hours, this usually nets me about 2 levels in crafting and 99 of whatever thing I am making.
The major lesson mmos teach us is that systems attract game players, the question one should be asking then is, what systems are worth it and why? What mechanics should input and export from the system and why? A lot of the design principles in ff xiv are based off ideas of the real and not so much on fun, using a menu is not fun regardless of how much worth a high level crafter might bring to the game, crafting needs to be a game in itself and not just a bunch of menus off setting to first timers. Addtionally crafting is complicated by necessary items, in gridania for instance a culinarian can create marmot steaks. Marmot steaks require marmot meat and gridania walnuts, two things the forest is full of, however the recipe also requires garlean garlic an item only found far from gridania, hence marmot steak, an item intended for low level culinarians and to buff low-level melee players can not be made until a player has reached the their 20s or 30s. This additionally complicated by an undesirable gathering system that while slightly more interactive and interesting than crafting is still sub-par. A botanist for instance is presented with a simple interface (not even mapped onto the in question) in which they set a notch in the tree and then have to time their button presses to swing as close to the notch as possible, the game breaks all sorts of video game logics, it rarely nets you wood (believe it or not you can get garlic by swinging an axe at a tree), but it also takes a possibly interesting part of the in game economy and boils it down to a mini-game that is less well developed than many prototypes on new grounds.
This brings me to one really nice part of ff xiv: the economy. Ff xiv has a huge crafting economy. All the little trinkets you collect from battles or gathering leves become items sellable at the market wards or craftable if you have the complimentary items. The market wards are still problematic, while asking an npc will search all available items in the wards, npc still compete for space in the wards, but talking to an npc in the main room bring up a search function which shows how much an item just sold for and quantities. I am not sure if it includes all the npcs In the wards, but I believe it does connect you to other npcs. This means that the game supports a rather impressive player driven economy. I find myself buying almost all my gear from the wards because someone high on virtual life just produced the exact staff my conjuror needs and is selling at half the price of npcs, other items though might not be as profitable, cotton for instance is priced at twice it’s npc price because apparently many players don’t know that cotton is sold by npcs at the weaver’s guild in ul’dah. The wards additionally are difficult to access and make little sense in the game’s world (I would prefer to have an npc at a shop that takes down what you’re selling at makes a big searchable list of all the items players are selling in game and let’s you stay in the city you’re in), but square should be complimented for creating a recipe for almost every in game item. The possibilities are amazing and it makes crafting a humanitarian gesture, another player on a quest with me crafted two diremite rings for my conjuror when she saw some of my spells slip. The ability to make items on the fly is cool, it’s just boring.
Crafting only creates desire with in social networks, not by the crafting game itself. Additionally motives of profit or sharing bear down on this menu based sub-game (hint if your item glows red wait, only use careful synthesis when you at 80% and have over 30 durability remaining). We learn to desire crafting by coercion outside of the game itself. I can think of few games I play regularly just to impress others.
Learning to desire with in the limits of an mmo is hard, but once there the space of availability is huge, the character builds diverse, etc. mmo are peculiar Once you get into the game enough to care about your character, the crafting becomes a minuscule, but necessary chore, but you may as well disable the option till you reach at least 20, the game simply isn’t any fun when all you’re doing is menus. Crafting bots for ff xiv exist on the net and can be downloaded easily, but I wrote one in autohotkey in about 10 minutes just using their API, but it does have the disadvantage of producing the same item over and over again something which the game punishes with diminishing exp for each serial item made.
Right now ff xiv is flush with players trying to grind to 30 and get a goobbue mount before the goobbue mount is removed in 1.2.3a because of this I might have come into the game during a grind heavy time instead of a story centric period, I have done two storyline quests with other players and both went the same way. For Imperial Devices you make your way to a remote location in gridania and then your party is granted one hour in the dungeon. The dungeon is beautiful. A swooping cinematic introduces it and then you the actual layout lacks inspiration, but is serviceable as a dungeon. My party included one level 42 gladiator who pummeled us through the mission in o time. I think it would have been more fun with just level 30s, but the final boss is quite hard and really takes a tank. Seeds of Initiative went similarly a level 50 killed the boss for me, however this added on job quest tied into the main storyline perfectly and made sense in the context of the game which furthers adds to my claim that the game is fairly well written. Square has over twenty years experience creating fantasy content, and their writing has improved remarkably since the NES days. However right after an elemental protesting killing in the name of the forest you are given a mission to “take down” an over grown bird in another land, hence non-lethal missions for the white Mage are necessary according to the story line, but chafe with the games combat mechanics. However support classes can definitely play non-lethally and in fact might prosper if you place your attribute points along such a line.
Ff xiv is one of the few games in which the support class is really important and necessary. Once one is attenuated to the game, the actual act of proceeding through dungeons becomes strategical and the conjuror becomes a fairly important class. Less then 28% percent of players choose support as their role hence a good white Mage is in demand. In the game the white Mage has to balance casting and cool down times with estimations of when party members will take damage, and who to prioritize. This is more demanding that it seems and I really loved my time healing other level 30s and sacred prisming into stone skin for my exp party. The game’s supporters will have their hands full mending every scrap, while managing a dwindling mp pool and enemies intelligent enough to go for the healer’s throat. That is once you get past that initial discomfort of click and wait, the oddness of the crafting system, the unfamiliar elements in recipes, the necessary linkshells never explained in a tutorial, the mending and repair systems, the sparse story line, the pressures to help your friends, and all the other desires you become attenuated to in the games initial hours.
Johanthan Blow at a talk at rice university gets into the idea of skinner boxes and creating desire. Desire is certainly created, the mechanisms of desiring machines are various, but the problem with skinner boxes is how they reveal how blatantly desire can be produced. The act of positively reinforcing something causes a subject to desire. Given such a blank state, the ethics of desire comes up. We can for instance create a desiring machine between a child and an interest or between a child and a commercial product. Capitalism often prefers addictions that lead back into consumption and production is often left on the sidelines. If the games that mmos make us play are actually beneficial is a question I struggle to answer. Currently I am incensed that my server is down , I had an entire to do list of crafts and quests to do, but to critique mmos purely off their skinner box like means of producing desire loses the fact that other games attenuate us to tasks that might not be beneficial either. Additionally mmos make their means of producing desire blatant, a player goes away knowing that they were in a way conned into liking something, but the result of all this clicking, waiting, and calculating is a game that’s surprisingly deep and varied. Players have built and rebuilt classes to discover the algorithms behind spells, the effects of leveling, the most efficient means to achieve 50 in a class and the diversity of builds is immense that for parts of the game one must become dependent on others, and that is where the game really shines: in dependency. On one of my linkshells a cat gives me all her food so I can level up my culinarian class, on another I am asking a blacksmith for cooking knives. All of this is so satisfying I don’t find myself wondering to other games, trying other things, yet I do not feel strongly enough to feel overwhelmed. These games crudely produce mechanics that are terribly offsetting to first timers, but grow into emotional worlds and kinships, they became minor tasks in a social order, mmos show us how far we’ll go for friends.
When I was growing up companies were large wise beasts, not necessarily moral, but rather consensus builders that based their products off mass taste. What I realize later on is that companies are in fact replicators of a single person’s taste. The ipad is simply a device built for a Californian buddhist, it is that said Buddhist simply controlled the means of production that ensure it ends up in our hands. Communism worried about the means of production, capitalism simply accumulates it in hegemonic clumps. Some of these clumps spread out over time, video game production has become a reality for even us digital gleaners. When we begin to see a product as what it is, a single group’s answer to a question, corporate products begin to take on a new light. Vogue is Anna Wintour’s popularity sheet, etc. That said things design for an amazingly small group of people can satiate millions. Nintendo’ Wii u idea is simply to link your tablet isolated family together into one TV while providing some basic options already available in Steam. If it will all work out as it does Iwata’s imagination is another problem. Games as a shared social space is a nice idea though and using your tv to share what you’re browsing is cool too.
Text games have been growing on me and Varytales is a new collection of them. Text is crack and the act of reading is quite fun, Emily Short’s tale of home schooling is cool and I enjoyed it. A Hate Story by Christine Love is another text based game I like. What I find myself thinking about is interaction in these stories. Ms.Short’s game is simply a choice based narrative, Ms. Love’s game is rather a search engine that queried requires you to present evidence to an A.I. Ms. Love’s game is great and would make an awesome addition to any library. I continue to find myself thinking in this direction, it’s funny to find literary theory coming down into games, but the question of the reader is an important one, and these games differ from big budget ones only in that the (usually more than) binaries in Ms. Short’s story are navigated (in theory) in big budget games by space, bullets, and dialog trees. How stories will morph to meet the not necessary, but tempting option of nonlinear narratives is another idea, especially if we’re all so similar that Steve Job’s device can make us happy, why would what Goethe wrote need to branch into cosmopolitanism if everyone enjoys Goethe? The act of choice in narrative is simply there to enrich and not necessary for difference.
There are a lot of games I’ve been thinking about recently.
Megarun is a free to play ipad game that faithfully recreates
the jumps and smashes of Yoshi’s Island or other Super Mario brothers games.
I am not that familiar with Endless Runners, I have never played Canabalt and only know the Hunger Games e.r. and a rather bad one starring a knight, but Megarun does the formula right, while also doing that super cute animal thing that makes anything shine. The game’s possibilities when it comes to paths are rather enticing, the enemies are fun to smash, and the variability of the jumps makes it shine.
Anyway, I am downloading Crysis 2 now that it’s on steam, am still unable to play Battlefield 3 despite having the entire game on my pc and having paid for it (I believe E.A. will be fixing origin’s drm problems around 2030) and other wise finishing up with my programming classes on udacity.com
Also still can not watch the new Flaming Lip’s video on vimeo due to shitty south east asian support on the part of vimeo. Was thinking about something else, but anyways another year goes by and the desktop at work stand unused as we fiddle around on our phones and the digital addictions grow larger, what ethnicities will we pass down to the next kids to deal with all of this? How will we distribute the ever expanding profits pie so at to enable us grow? Questions we’re all asking.
By now, if you’re familiar with games, you’ve probably heard of the Assassin’s Creed games.
Each game takes place in the present, and a subject, Miles Desmond, is hooked up to a machine
and forced to replay “genetic memories” of his ancestors. Miles belongs to a smallish order called Assassins.
the Assassin’s are in eternal peril from Templars, an order that usually represents reigning hegemons in a particular period.
In the third game, Brotherhood, the Templars were the Borgia.
The Borgia kinda worked as villians because they’re part of the Papacy and you know the church.
If you haven’t played the latest game Revelations, the video below contains a lot of spoiler and most of the ending
however it also contains the Assassin’s Creed:
Nothing is true, Everything is permitted
As Ezio explains, “To say nothing is true is to realize the foundations of society are fragile and that we must be the shepherds of our civilization. To say that everything is permitted is to understand that we are the architects of our actions we must live with the consequences of our actions.”
I know, what a great reading. Ezio has taken in essence the void Nietzsche found after religion and expanded it into a creed which has a surface of nihilism but a consequence of liberation.
And that’s what the game really is: consummate deconstructionists battling the hegemonic forces of stabilizing truth, the ethics of today moving back and rewriting the past. And that’s the greatest anachronism of the game who, in an era before even mass literacy or numeracy, would have had the imagination to form an entire order around an ethics that precludes religion? It’s like an Übermensch got a time machine and gets to go back and rewrite the past, battling all those institutions that wrote certainty into being in the first place. Assassin’s Creed is pop post-modernism at its most cringe inducing (you actually get to base jump with Niccolò Machiavelli in one of the games), but it shows how far the morals of Nietzsche have come, that we would want to rewrite the past and find in it anti-heroes worthy of today.
That said, Revelations as a game isn’t terribly exciting. AC2 introduced us to our beloved protagonist, Brotherhood brought of his greatest triumph, Revelations is merely a closing note and one not very satisfying. The game introduces us to a group of Turkish Assassins only to have them disappear a few minutes later. While the Sultanate storyline is interesting (and has a few good twists) it lacks the frantic twists and consequences of Brotherhood. Revelations also promised us that: Revelations. Instead it delivers a few optional side quests exploring Desmond’s memories and a so-so tale of Ezio’s exploits in Costantinople, it also provides us with Ezio’s greatest moment of infamy: he sets fire to a weapon’s cache in Cappadocia only to escape as the civilivians choke to death on their fumes. After this it becomes hard to believe in Ezio’s quest as much, the Sultan simply wants to use the templars to bring peace to a divided Turkey. Revelations takes an anti-hero and makes him a hero only to have him slaughter innocents. The story line suffers a little do to this scene.
The game additionally suffers from a dearth of new mechanics. The hook blade is introduced and as zip lines, two useful additions to Ezio’s arsenal, but hardly game changing. Bombs are useful, but rarely necessary. The game in other hands plays remarkably similar to the last 3 games… which in turn played a little to similar to each other to begin with. Rome was a pleasure to clamber around, Istanbul is exotic, but feels small in juxtaposition and is broken into districts to boot. What the game really fails at though is delivering on the cliffhanger of the last game. We don’t learn why the apple made Desmond do what he did, we don’t learn much about subject 16 ( although you can pay for dlc to do so), and all the energy in the last game’s finale is dissipated so Ezio can finally find a wife basically. That’s what the game really is: Ezio gets a wife and a very charming one at that. It lets us know that the beloved Assassin made it out ok.
The game contains small optional Desmond sequences in which you play in future person. These sequences didn’t get very good reviews, but I actually really enjoyed them. They might be the only really original thing about the game. Desmond is given two blocks which he can spawn to navigated various data scapes. As you progress this becomes harder because the computer has flow, currents push and pull you, and security programs zap your blocks away, in order words you have to think to get through it. It’s not quite portal, but honestly I enjoyed these sequences more than Portal 2 or many of the games that have cloned or copied its fps puzzler elements. While I still wish the Desmond sequences had provided some fractured visuals or navigating the emotional landscape of his adolescence in more than abstract visuals it was an enjoyable experience all the same. The same can’t be said for Ezio’s last days which bored me, but thankfully I beat the game in a couple of days.
A couple notes on Rage. One I picked it back up and really enjoyed it. The melee segments are immaculate, ID really knows how to produce a variety of enemies with good abilities. The mutants are also scary and ammo is scarce enough and your mortality real enough that I actually worry about each bend. the stort hasn’t picked up and could have been dispensed with, but the game over all is actually quite fun once you get used to it. Each clan is a different challenge, each weapon needs ammo, and the weapons are quite good too. I usually run out of pistol ammo before I beat a level and die at least once. That’s more than I can say for a lot of FPSs out there.
The Next Big Thing:
Pendulu is a Spanish developer that has been doing point and click games in the vein of Grim Fandango for awhile now. The Next Big Thing is a great game, but one that really drives home the bigotry of its characters. Our intrepid male reporter is a misogynist, despairs hanging out with minorities, and the female lead is at times… “disquieting”. Over all though, these fine folks know how to tell a story, even if it’s heavily invested in the gender wars.
To the Moon:
I did not expect this one to draw me in, but unlike almost every other game on the market, this one actually got me to play it for 59 minutes before the demo expired. To the Moon is a story, less a game and much more a story, told in retro snes style graphics that borrows from square. It’s a story about a magical device not unlike that found in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. I’ll leave it at that, it’s to memorynauts that must travel back in memories and raise an astronaut one little trinket at a time. The demo is here. I recommend you check it out.
Forgive me my few faithful readers… (apparently I do actually have readers now! Wow… an improvement), but my life as of late has been a battle with the old colonial master nicotine and the PC. Two addictions equally compelling, these mass hallucinogens are administered via Steam an equally virtual market place that occasionally dips into the absurdity of the marketplace by pricing good by popularity and less by production costs. Rage, a once mighty 59.99 USD game could be had over the holidays for a meager 6.99 as could L.A. Noire. I am having trouble writing because I haven’t smoked in two weeks and a sudden rush of nicotine today has taken my breath and attention away. It’s funny to realize how much the nicotine cloud takes away from your daily self. The other day I read about a tribe in India previously uncontacted, now they’re being sold tobacco for dances.
Anyway some thoughts on the blockbuster drugs on hard drive:
Skyrim is the latest open world game to conform to our expectations of a video game. It’s narrative is deep, I counted at least 4 fantasy novels contained with in and ones actions determine what’s leveled up in the game, hence if you punch a lot like Robbaz you end up an unarmed badass, If you go to the mage’s college like me you end up with high level destruction spells and invisibility. Skyrim’s major flaw, in my eyes, might be it’s realism. My husband for instance runs everyday from my home in Whiterun to his work south of Windhelm a distance several days in the making in game time, hence he is rarely home. The game is full of wholes that make the fiction less convincing, and writing that can be at times pathetic, but what it excels at around level 20 is a sense of genuine empowerment. Your dragonborn becomes a kinda god, able to take out dragons in a few bounds, cast spells in some cases infinitely and other acts of remarkable… questing. This is what Skyrim really is, an ego trip. The mechanics aren’t really that fun, Fable and the up coming Kingdoms of Amalur appear to be working towards a more satisfying sense of combat. The Assassin’s Creed games have made traversing a city into a virtual parkour.Yet, the game eventually takes you in, and you buy it. You obey allegiances to military fronts, make deals with devils and werewolves, and the variety of spells and means of taking people down are varied, in one city I have an eternal bounty on my head due to a glitch, so I simply leveled up frenzy and make the guards fight themselves instead of me and then I go about town. What the game excels at is the idea of shaping yourself, you becomes a fully centric being full of capability, but from most of the videos I’ve seen the the daedric armour and heavy weapons seem to be the norm. At one point I googled about domesticating animals and found a forum of women playing through the game, but my little khajit mage and her argonian husband appear to be abnormalities in the geography of Skyrim’s possibilities (the game does try to power down mages apparently). Anyway, it’s a full trip and I’m grinding a few more levels before I don a wedding dress and wreath, enchant them up to their full potential and ride the back of a dragon to the final battle. All of which sounds exciting, but by this point it seems inane.
Saint’s Row the Third is another open world game which I actually snagged here in Thailand and then registered on steam. The above video about gets the possibility of the game. Saint’s Row the third isn’t about becoming the way Skyrim is, rather it’s about lugging bullets in a comic world. I think it’s funny at times, but over all kinda bland in terms of gameplay. Again Robbaz proves his worth as a gamer Big Barbara rules.
Prom Week is a small little flash game made by folks at a university in California. It is a dating sim… kinda. You click on one character to make them the active conversationalist and then you click on another character to make them the recipient. Now, the above two games were made with multi-million dollar budgets, took years and huge staffs to make, but Prom Week nailed in one sitting what all those games lack: manipulation. In Prom Week you have a set goal, such as getting someone to go out with you. In the tutorial this is quite easy, but in the free form mode it’s quite hard. In the first game you simply click on the favoured boy and flirt with him, he flirts back and mission accomplished. You have a set amount of time to wonder through dialogue bubbles and find the right words of the job, it actually bears a similarity with Skyrim in this regard, in one mission in Skyrim for instance I had to convince a monk to come back to a cave with me so my guests could eat him. I failed to persuade him so in the end I had to bribe him. Prom Week takes this basic idea to a higher level. You see you can click on anyone and get them to talk to anyone else. Hence if you make friends with person A then person A might be able to help patch things up with person B. You could never have healed such a social wound on your own. But hey that’s not what makes Prom Week great, it’s this: it makes simple social interaction into a slightly tense and engaging war. Getting folks to do what you want is hard, but where Skyrim and Saint’s Row the Third rarely make an emotional impact, I really wanted to make peace with my estranged friend and save my boyfriend some drama on prom night. The game in other words realizes that simple decisions and petty rivalries are perfectly suitable plot devices. Not once in Skyrim did the orb threatening the mage’s college make me rush to do anything, in fact the absence of a timer for missions in Skyrim can lead to absurd situations such as completing a totally different quest line while another quest’s apocalypse looms. Prom Week (granted I’ve only played one story and a free form game) is a much more open game with situations you actually might care about. If it can be used a model for future open world games, we might see some progress.
This one actually kinda took me by surprise, the introduction to Rage is awful. The voice acting, even the graphics, seem sub par. John Goodman is quite nice as the local sheriff, but the story begins implausibly. Here’s the thing though, the game is actually ok after awhile. It hasn’t grown on me the way Skyrim has, but for a teenage apocalyptic fantasy full of beer and auto parts it has some charms.
I hate to say this, but I don’t have anything deep to say about these games, and that might be the lesson about these games. The spectacle of gaming is our society’s sistine chapel. We are slowly building towards a realism in computer graphics that will startle the mind with its possibilities, but if I can draw anything from these games its that perspective isn’t important for these folks (prom week is an exception to this). These aren’t game of consideration, but rather of action. No Hamlets all Fortenbras. At that’s what makes this last game all the more disturbing.
Battlefield 3 is the winner of this year’s movement forward in graphics. The game constructs a body directly out of Cronenburg. Our protagonist has eyes full of lens flare and dirt clogs. His vision is news footage eyes, youtube queries, Iranian protest videos compacted into phones and tweeted, these are the eyes of warfare, at least how we depict it today: subvert and a delivered behind the backs of Government regulations. He has illicit camera eyes as if the video drome replaced his eyes with the cam corders of war correspondents. Horror films are made from such troupes, yet we never see this abonimation, instead his remarkably beautiful eyes are the windows into a game which keeps the enemy at sniper scope, you almost never come upon the enemy hand on hand, you never hear about the children in the Iranian school you storm neither does the game provide much information about their lives. These are Iraqis in Storm Trooper gear, we never even get to see their smiles. Field after field of middle eastern soldiers flood your vision and you gun them down in unrivaled fashion while the spectacle of having filmic vision seduces the eye. Imagine for a second if you had a machine that made arguments into flesh, now imagine the politics of Bush era America dipped in chrome and slightly photo shopped, that’s what Battlefield 3 is. The game makes a compelling case for war fare in the middle east through some clever optics and a means of making soldiers into storm troopers. Going to war is fucking cool in this game, and even though it tries to subvert the authorities behind this madness through some terrorist subplots and dick investigators it still compels in the idea of violence as a right of a man.
War was in the 1960s an old instrument with honorable intentions. We fought the Nazis, ya know a good old fashioned war. Battlefield 3 is the future of military progoganda, not because it justifies war, but because it justifies the culture of the military and dips the war machine in nanomites and other hardware. Conflict is a natural extension of technology in this game. It lingers on the peripheries, we realize that conflict is a deep seated fantasy, one that we actively seek, but the problem with this game is the way it links it to the contemporary. It is such a fine veil between Iraq and Iran in this game that the game ends up making a case for Iraq as war dream as a fantasy necessary and unavoidable.
One of the developers for Harmonix has recently commented on the absence of political messages in video games. Hollywood is full of agendas, gay marriage, racial inclusion, environmental concerns, but games are for the most part the last respite for politics that would not pass elsewhere. Would Collette, the flustered and aggravated mage of restoration make it in a hollywood film? No, her role is riveted with sexisms and bigotries. Would Bulletstorm’s excessive potty mouthed juvenilisms touch down on a global scale? No, the company knows its audience and that is primarily males ranging from 16 to 40. These games are in many ways gendered, and in that exclusion they allow for republican throw downs, misogynist readings, and other matters not suitable for prime time. Even the extremity of their violence is a hallmark of the lack of regulation on them.
Tobacco is one of the world’s most addictive drugs. It didn’t start out that way. Tobacco 200 years ago didn’t contain enough nicotine to make it dependent (over 4mg is required in a small number of doses). But the drug was never regulated, it has uses. It’s easy to store, easy to transport, and once introduced into a native population it acts as a kinda crowd control. We don’t experience nicotine as a drug, it’s not thought of in the same terms as cocaine or morphine, even though the later substances are less addictive. The major problem is that it is an outlet that (and I am a major addict) find it hard to imagine the world with out. Nicotine is a necessary manifestation of the death drive, it allows us to kill ourselves slowly and with self-loathing to boot. Video Games obviously contain moral messages that go beyond the norm of what is acceptable in any other medium even pornography. But when introduced to the public, they allow for a private expression of politics and emotions that are rarely let out. While some of this might be healthy (I do believe we need an outlet for rage… just not maybe the game rage…) this little sewer in which we’re allowed to piss all the unspeakables of politics is becoming a tad to wide, and video game publishers could do with a little liberalism in there games. After all Dubois is as close as we’ve gotten to a transgender character although Cicero in Skyrim is another example too:
but what I see in video games is a primarily an expression of either Japanese or American patriarchal conservative values. Contrary to what that developer from Harmonix might say, games have plenty of politics in them, it’s just that they preach the same biases that make up the everyday, it’s perhaps due to the immersion the form provides that we don’t demand of games the same cleverness and depth of investigation found in other art forms. Games are a sewer of the right wing, and like nicotine they provide certain authorities with power, the same ones that refuse to regulate them.
p.s. loved Deep Far back in the day, especially the mutant cow… and Dubois. BTW Dubois is actually a better effeminate “male” than Cicero is.
Papa and yo
Psn / ps3
Sony has quietly built a huge stable of interesting games over the years from Patapon to Parappa the Rapper, but this one stuck in my mind mostly due to setting, a Brazilian favella, and ambitions, the game aims to capture the dysfunctional father son relations of a drug addict and his boy. The father figure is a rhino, the boy has a pet robot. The game looks great, and the world is imaginative from the videos, although something seems slightly flawed, I somehow sense a video artist with a great sense of the line, a programmer that is normally talented, but no writer worthy of such a relation. How the multidimensional axis of parent and progeny will make the leap over to the meager constraints of the game world is what ultimately worries, but I might be wrong about this one, it might be more than a rehash of bigger companies’ ideas, it might be a pyschonauts in the making.
Also of note from Sony is this PS Vita gem:
Gravity lets you use any surface in the game as your floor, which is similar to another fps coming out, but is a nice use of the game world and a good extension of imagination into the reality of games in lieu of simply mimiking our own world. One wonders why the radial gravity of Mario Galaxy has proven to be only slightly infectious, the real still has prominence in the game world.
Prey 2 and Rage
The original prey I remember weakly as a walk on walls shooter, the sequel apparently takes all the open world fun of Assassin’s Creed and blends it with a chase ‘m FPS. The bounty hunter premise gives them free reign to create a city worthy of free running, corridor shoot ‘m ups, and other thing cities aren’t designed for. What made Prey and for that matter Rage notable to me, is the design of their environments.
The game has gone non-linear (note every review from people who actually went to e3 suggests rage is just a borrowing good looking fallout 3 clone), or more accurately if you look at a standard FPS from the past decade the levels have increasingly challenged us down linear corridors and created interest in ways that keep us from discovering that the sky is just a texture scrolling by a few feet from our faces. The FPS has managed to create environments that center attention, Prey and Rage decent it, you don’t feel hemmed in, you could move around and even better it looks like there is a lot of fun stuff to do out there. Open world games like L.A. Noire or A.C. Brotherhood are great at having big cities, but for the most part one is channeled by story to place to place, it really feels like one might get lost in a particular side alley in Prey 2 and find something more interesting there. A.C. is a great open world game, because clambering over its various precipes is fun to do, but the game doesn’t provide surprise around every corner, rather the city becomes an impediment to story. Something in the way these games are crafted, Prey 2 and Rage, suggests a great non-linearity, or perhaps it’s just the more powerful engine?
Other notes I made about E3: nothing Nintendo showed excited me. The Wii U lacks a good exclusive title, Killer Freaks looks ok, but it has the same pedigree as Red Steel, meaning I’m not expecting much. What really burned me about the Wii U was Nintendo’s complete absence of an app. The Wii had tons of little games with great ideas on it day one, the Wii U premiered along with what the Wii should have had day one: the legend of zelda: skyward sword
Getting to see the Wii’s potential really come through with intuitive flight controls and apparently great sword fighting is a good idea, it’s a shame that the Wii U couldn’t have had its own game, but what Nintendo seems to understand is that hardware released with little fanfare sits there, but the games will arrive soon enough. Nintendo’s other problem is a lack of original IPs, will skyward sword looks original enough to interest me, the mario remake for 3DS leaves me cold as does the idea of playing an old Metal Gear on the system. Resident Evil remains the only game (outside of pilot wings) I really want on that console so far. Nintendo always feels a tad strapped, while Sony works on hardware, it’s developers develop exclusive content for its systems, Microsoft has similarly managed such a feat especially with Bungie and Epic. In fact Microsoft’s exclusives might carry further than any other chain in games today, Nintendo desperately needs developers like these, but often seems burdened with exclusives that fail to capture my imagination. They are so taxed with the Wii, the 3DS, their failing financial position, the Wii U, and managing about 20 second party studios that their weariness shows. While both Skyward Sword and Mario 3DS were given rave reviews, I fail to see anything original outside of a Kid Icarus remake on the horizon. Some of the concepts they had with the wii, namely project hammer, should be fleshed out, and I hope to never see a Star Fox game again. Still, a system’s premiere is a company’s chance to prove the possibilities of it contains, and the Wii U gave us a lot of notes, but no finished narrative to really sink into, that golf game looks cool, having had one that journalists could actually try would have been better. Still, ideas are flowing and next year the big N will come in strong with new ideas and new games for their consoles. I’m still sold on the Wii U even though my ipad is eating through my sanity. One positive, I do like the strategy of super powered console keeps core gamer happy, while keeping the balance boards and wii motes we already own. I want a wii u just to play skyward sword and pandora’s tower on it.
Addendum: Super Mario 3DS does look really cool:
and the mario kart, appears to feel like the original just with underwater tracks and some barrel like interfaces ala the ipad:
mario kart appears to have gone back to the drift of the original which is an improvement, I suppose fun never gets old unfortunately, but the basic realizations the n had when making the game all those years ago have been barely touched except by slightly more dangerous tracks.
p.s. Nintendo really should open up development for the 3DS, will restricting quality control. They have an app store and the strangle hold on some really cool hardware, seeing box2d and other open source game libraries make the leap to the 3DS, after all home brew libs opened the nintendo DS awhile back. Nintendo has expressed concern with not working with garage developers, but what they don’t understand is that they hold the keys to the market, they curate the games on the system. A simple division of testers and comments could turn the 3DS into a worthy publication submitting to. Consoles, fuck ipads, are increasingly like magazines, multiple people want to write for them, but only a few should really be allowed to the top. Such is the problem with most app stores, because we believe in the infinity of digital storage (which in reality is an illusion, after all how many resources are expended per day to keep that ebook available for purchase?) developers allow a huge gamut of quality to flop into our laps, and the quality of the apps is often hard to gauge, my reviews on the ipad’s app store have yet to be logged. Nintendo has the keys to taste in their hand. They proved the Wii’s digital downloads could be exclusive and fun, it’s just the sdk they control that’s the problem.
Play is a state between seriousness, it is the necessary stuff, the kinda oreo creme filling of that deadly serious thing meaning. Play enables cross combinations, mutations of possibility, it just happens to dead end in the profound or at least that’s how its supposed to work.
You’ve spent the last 8 hours building up a relationship with a group of space marines. You trawled through the Galatic space pit, into the solar winter, outside the black hole you had a moment with your a.i. and the alien commando you escort back home. You remember how sarge was supposed to retire yesterday. Sweets is barking your mother jokes into his handset and sarge is now ordering pizza. Just as the symphonic choral waves signal the significance of this battle your character breaks out in a run, he jumps over a barrier and kicks a jeep into the enemy hulk, he snags a missile launcher stashes under some chairs and then he fires to soon, his body rises into the air with the octaves of the chorus and symphonic-ally breaks through some planks as a long tonal stretch sentences this scene to the profound and then he dies several small midget like aliens shoot feathers into his ass and giggle in high pitch voices. Restart!
Games lack the stability to ensure the profound, like the Derridaen sense of play mentioned early, they suspend seriousness with a huge field of possibility, it becomes harder to write for them when your a ok space marine might end up ass first hanging out of a glitched waste barrel in the midst of a serious fight. In other words all the adornments of cinema’s spiritual build into violence as resolution become confused and convoluted, linear media enables the stable build of events that produce those grandiose triumphs with ease and an amazing level of tension, games need replays.
The replay is an obvious failure on the game’s part to meet the standards of cinema or literature in terms of story telling. We simply ignore them and play again. In Bioshock I often respawned 6 – 7 times before passing through an otherwise normal story even. What’s worse is that space has become the means of enforcing the character in a game into the cinematic frame. Watch this duty calls clip below it about captures the ridiculousness of many games.
Games in other words need stories and spaces that don’t strangle the possibilities of game play. If you have to fight the shark let it come to you just please don’t make it so we have to swim into its jaws. Its here that Valve comes into play. The half-life games caught one of video games major differences from cinema: in the fps we don’t identify with the main character. Gordon Freeman is mute, nerdy, and thankfully unseen. His deaths in the game seem accidental, again he’s a dweeb so we don’t care. You can’t make a movie out of him because no one would ever want to spend two hours locked on a nerdy mit grad who has taken a crow bar to another dimension.
Valve has nailed how to write a story around a shooter. Their purchased property Portal gave us a suitably silent protagonist and a world that was creepy, disturbing, and highly playable. Portal succeeded because we don’t mind our main character dying, and the warping through space portion of the game was wonderful.
The game managed to make a comedy out of an fps while producing a world that’s disturbing reality gave the architecture its menace and the play its edge. Portal’s world would work in film just not its protagonist. It here that video game designers are learning a property of nonlinear story telling: the player needs to be disposable the world, on the other hand, needs to be what we’re attached to.