Posts tagged ‘steam’

Shelter by might and delight

We’re supposed to use words to describe things.

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Shelter is a game by Might and Delight. Might and Delight’s history is unknown to me beyond their last game P.I.D. Which was a disaster in some sense, but a compelling one in another. Shelter is a far more focused game. You are a badger mom. Now I know you just went out and bought the game based out that fact alone, but maybe we should discuss the mechanics?

You know that little grey baby at your side? It needs food. Your cubs will starve to death if not given enough food and that makes up a healthy portion of the game. Shelter is not a stress inducing game, what it does right is realize the potential of ambient play. It’s also really really linear, but the linearity ensures you don’t get lost. There are a few thankfully small sections were the anxiety bird descends and the play mechanics change to scurrying from cover to cover.

Creatively the game derives from nature documentaries, Disney films, and Metal Gear Solid. Mechanics include a well done night level, flash floods, and using brush to hunt foxes. The game is more than it’s parts by a long shot. It is propelled by a soundtrack that’s indolence and any meanderings capture the experience of a nature walk perfectly. The outdoors are meant to be relaxing, Shelter understands that.

When you’re in the wilderness thought often ceases. Nature still provides enough for the mind to see that our attention often shifts elsewhere, we become attuned to the asymmetrical ambience that surrounds us. Nature is a form of meditation and Shelter realizes this. The game is as charming as a nature walk. It reminds me of a 3 day hike I took into the Grand Tetons, the stillness of that horizon. With ambient play becoming so vast Shelter does something important: it doesn’t risk atmosphere for mechanics.

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    On another note I recently bought SMB2 aka Yume Kojo: Doki Doki Panic from the 3DS eshop and am enjoying it immensely. It got me thinking about platformers and the way they ended up going. Yume Kojo is not an inherently violent game, each and every critter can be chocked out of the way, playing as the princess you can politely put them down in another space. This creates an interesting tension because enemies require skill to be squashed. The game preserves a slightly more complicated ecosystem of ostriches, shy guys, ninjas, and ninnies. The game also has some interesting mechanics, things pulled up from roots include bombs, a watch that stops time, and a potion that makes a door and what with those doors anyways? Do the coins in the alternative dimension do anything? I collect them like rare gems Hoping they increase my score a bit. Yume Kojo is a lot like Quack Shot, it’s not necessarily lethal and it also makes riding enemies a breeze. It suggests a different place platformers could have gone to a less lethal and more constructive world. One where gender is a choice, and platforms are cosmopolitan accommodators. The vertical levels designs still give me the chills, those pauses as we adjust to the next free fall sections. I love this game even if it’s not as adrenaline pounding as Mario Brothers be. I want to make a spiritual sequel with horses and dragons and mice, a gravity system, an insane race to awesome. So many of these ideas need to be fleshed out, but instead we’re getting a 4 player 3D Mario that looks awful.

    Also have been playing this game a bit:

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    It took a little bit to get it and I won’t get in depth this early through, but the hype is worth it on this one.

    September 30, 2013 at 4:00 am Leave a comment

    Dishonored

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    When I wasn’t rolling around drunk trying to get Ladyboys to sleep with me this weekend I was in Dishonored. Dishonored is in actuality a revenge story and less a return to honor. If Corvo loses his merit badge is entirely up to the player. The game centers around Chaos, a meter that fills each time you kill an enemy in the game. Higher chaos means more bloodshed while lower chaos implies more stealth and fewer rats. The plot is fairly simple: Corvo Attano is a bodyguard to the empress, the empress is killed and you’re framed for it. A prison escape ensues and while the game progresses we learn more about a whale oil run Victorian metropolis infected by a foreign born rat plague that leaves it victims Zombie like and the city desolate in it’s wake. Corvo is rescued by a group of “loyalists” eager to return the crown to it’s rightful heir. Moral decisions await you.

    The game is brilliant for a manor of reasons. The plot is only slight above comic book level, in fact it could be an Xmen comic except it lacks as many super powers and surprisingly the protagonist is rather frail. The mechanics are original, but derived from similar stealth game play techniques found in Thief and Assassin’s Creed. Drop from heights to kill, choke hold from the back, and of course the magic shhh I am ducking down so you can’t see me or hear me. Bottles can be thrown to attract or distract attention. Additions to this usual crew of abilities include possessing animals and later humans, an X-ray vision ability, the ability to summon rats, and blink a short range teleport. The later is almost required by the game. These abilities aren’t what makes it brilliant, but their originality, especially possession, make the game play more endearing than most FPS games. What is brilliant is the way the game consistently frames violence and vengeance.

    Corvo is given a lethal and non-lethal option of solving his assassination targets. In one level for instance a street gang offers to kidnap the aristocratic / lecherous owners of a stone mine and put them to work in their own mines, or you can lethally kill them in person or via steam bath. Most of the non-lethal options are interesting, and tie into the story well. Dishonored is a game that allows justice, not in the form of violence, but rather in retribution. The man who staged the empress’ death can be eliminated by airing his personal confessions on the air waves and more disturbingly his mistress can effectively be trafficked into the hands of a lecherous noble (I choose murder on that one). The game lets you navigate moral depth at your leisure and often makes the less violent approach the more entertaining. It also frequently drops empathy on you, the empress’ assassin turns out to be a reluctant killer, the head of the royal order you can allow to be poisoned or branded with a heretical mark. Granted this is a game where being a serial choker somehow puts you in the right, but it is also a game that lets you decide wether to sacrifice a man to a witch or fight her after (I went with witchcraft on this one). The binaries lead up to a much more emergent whole. Dishonored’s last moments anticipate the player’s moral compass really well. That’s what’s brilliant about the whole thing, in the end I wasn’t confronted by a murderous psychopath, but a man who did the right thing, but just went a little to far and was in paranoid company. I had planned to kill my final target, but his guilt ridden bleary eyed insanity convinced me otherwise. I let him live and a golden age prospered.

    Btw the next dlc for the game came out today, but it’s not up on steam yet.

    August 13, 2013 at 1:40 pm Leave a comment

    Bad Games: Steam Trading Cards / Guardian Cross

    Villian had begun to simply leave the games open. “Sell them immediately,” he told me. jas concurred. In the second day of the Steam sale they discovered Steam Trading cards, a new currency Valve has introduced that sounds odious on paper. Cards work like this: you open a game and let it sit there. Every half hour you get a new card. The cards are worth 0.40 to 0.12 u.s. cents. The wages of play are low. The case gets worse when you look at the trading card’s FAQ: be sure to login in every week to be eligible for boosters, the FAQ advises. So not only do we need to play more games for puny material rewards, we need to use steam weekly to qualify for more cards. The problem is, the system works fine when you’re actually playing a game. I opened Dust: An Elysian Tale as my first trading card game and immediately got engrossed. Every hour or so a new card would pop up in my inventory. The cards were carefully made, the art work expressive and exactly like the thing on collectible trading games in my youth. The promotion worked in other words, instead of sitting there waiting on cards, I played Dust for a few hours. Trading Cards are only available in certain games, but they work as a reason to open games. You are rewarded with a nice piece of artwork and the possibility of netting a u.s. quarter in profit for doing so. The cards are then in turn grindable for experience points on your steam profile. Get to a higher level receive rarer cards. My level was already well above many other players, I have the 8 years of service badge and numerous holiday sales behind me.

    The gamification of Steam, the way it has become a RPG is questionable. Gamification often makes Things competitive that shouldn’t be. Karma fishers (I am one btw) race to get their links on reddit before others do. Particularly avaricious fishers down vote other Fisher’s links and often triple post links to several reddit’s to score better. Both of the later behaviors I do not engage in. Points systems are great, but introduce stress in places we go to relax and converse in. In the case of stackoverflow teenagers racing for guru status in a particular nerdy field often troll each other just to gain an advantage in status or merely take out deep seated frustrations. Long before quantization became a norm, delicious made links… Delicious, I loved posting to it as much as I enjoy the new followers on my blog. The problem with Steam’s exp is that it doesn’t seem to introduce anything: reddit at least encourages timely link drops while sadly degrading conversation with fishers looking to score high points in comment threads. In other words points encourage better coverage of the net outside of reddit while making conversing inside of reddit less tenable. Steam exp can do something worse: it can inspire game gluttony and completely enjoyable stings of literally watching a menu screen for nothing more than 0.15 cent card drop.

    As it turns out Dust: An Elysian Tale is far more than I anticipated. The combat is breezy, but the three enemy types require strategies to get through and the story line picks up amazingly well around chapter 2. Questions of ethics and genocide, of situational violence and the greater good come to the fore. It’s a really well done game with a very well rounded ethical compass. The only problem is, I wasn’t really playing Dust: An Elysian tail I was playing Steam Trading Cards. You see, steam only allows you to collect half of the cards required for a badge from a game by playing the game. The other cards need to come from different games. In order to complete my mission and try out these new badges I had to get out of an engrossing platformer just opening up to a dimension most games don’t touch and get into another game.

    As I said Steam Trading Cards is an advertisement, it promotes playing through a multitude of games. Most of these games I already own. In order to get my Dust badge I needed to sell cards acquired from other games in a marketplace and then turn them into the cards I required. This turned out to be a 6 hour affair. I opened The Binding of Issac and sacrificed my badge in that game and almost four of my life in order to shift 4 more cards out of that. The gave me enough for 1 or 2 more cards for Dust. I like The Blinding of Isaac, but I have to admit, I really just wanted to play Dust. Isaac expended I moved onto Monaco. Now Monaco is not a game I enjoy and even worse all my progress had been lost in an update that enforces online play. I struggled through Monaco, but ultimately left it and Isaac running on the PC while I went out and paid bills and ate dinner etc. promotion avoided, I got the cards and didn’t even play the game. What’s worse is that the game I was playing was the most heinous of con jobs, it incentives spending time with media I would rather not consume while discouraging you from using any other service except Steam for long periods of time. Ludology needs ethics, capitalism needs more than trade laws and bankruptcy courts: it needs a moral conscience. Steam Cards work great as a reward for playing media you enjoy playing. Really, I wish I still had my fidget card as a memento of my play through, but their design also degrades the practice of games while turning a game into time sink, players simply open an application and wait on money to come through. As a game it subverts the practice of gaming, and me more skeptical of digital marketplaces as a whole. It also turns out my friends list is now limited, expandable only by grinding a useless quest unless I happen to like trading card enabled games. Yet we see these games so often now. On iOS Square-Enix had turned Hiroyuki Ito from a game designer into a cash machine.

    Ito was the director of Final Fantasy 9, the game that in many ways Introduced jrpgs to the more serious plots and writing that mark Final Fantasy today. He did this by directing a game that had great characterization, all of the characters were enjoyable to interact with and their role well realized. He did the Sam thing win Final Fantasy 12. Both games made us aware of what it’s like to care for digital characters and then made this link part of a slice of atmosphere miles long in length. Ito is a master of intention, his characters inhabit real understandable states, they are relatable and often down trodden, their worlds are perfect simulacrum of our own presumptions of what a fantasy world should be, he gives us what we want with out the power fantasies that usually permeate gaming, although his games do build into power trips eventually. What makes this situation devastating is that Ito’s last game is Guardian Cross, a pay to play iOS title that nickels and dimes you at every turn. You have lose 5 points per battle, gaining 3 of you win. When you run out of points, you need to purchase more. The game is based on cards (again cards!) that you must squire from a shooting range. The gun game is so rudimentary it almost feels like a budget hunting sim. In addition to this, the hunts are also limited, you need to pay for them too eventually. Graphically the game has the production values of third rate Church booklet. It looks like a piece of crappy propoganda more than the exaggerated details of his previous games.

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    Ito is clearly being under utilized, and seeing his work being degraded to this stature is alarming in the extreme. The artwork on the cards though is beautiful.

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    Cards are not gaming’s oldest medium and the simplified combat system in Guardian Cross is sickening. However trading cards are a more recent medium. Wikipedia claims trading cards came about in the 19th century and then picked up popularity in the 1950s with Topps trading cards. Trading Cards hold literally no intrinsic value. They are an abstract commodity, like money, reliant on a group of users who assign value to them. In the case of sports cards value is often determined by performance of player although personal preference comes into play too. In the case of purely made up cards like the Garbage Pail Kids, they are simply collectible because they work as miniature artwork. In a country such as America that lacks pronounced art galleries, they work as a totem for children to trade in for their image needs. Cards have artificial rarities, Topps trading cards makes sure that some cards are rare, foil, common, etc. their artificial scarcity makes them desirable. Yet, despite this asymmetry, despite the fact we could easily produce a more lenient and less competitive world of trading cards where consumers can just buy the cards they desire, we continue to buy into an artificial market that scars us, rewards us, and disappoints us. What we want is winners, but we all agree to be regular losers in order to do so. Asymmetrical markets, scarcity, and inequality are part of the discourse of these markets. trading cards are a cruel world, but the exact hell we desire. If they are anything to go by, we’ll be designing games with even more punishing systems of control, with scarcity that truly envelops entire wholes, with the exact necessary cruelty we all seek to produce by purchasing them.

    July 20, 2013 at 1:18 pm Leave a comment

    Quickies: PID the castle levels

    PID is a newish indie platformer from a company with the amazing name Might and Delight. Two things I usually like together, however PID suffers a bit from the unity syndrome. The unity syndrome is when an indie game bears such similarity to another unity game that one simply feels one is playing the same game. In the case of PID it bears a resemblance to the equally excellent Rochard. Both are 2d platformers done in Unity only with remarkably different storylines, aesthetics, and play mechanics. PID involves a boy who over sleeps in an intergalactic school bus and finds himself immersed in the politics of an alien world. The game features co-op with both players using the same pc which is cool, but unlikely for someone like me.

    PID is the story of various distractions, as the game begins our protagonist is looking for a bus back to his planet, only to be promised one in the first few minutes and then to discover that the old man in question is merely delusional, and a bus can only be caught from in town. From there PID grows into a gravity based platformer. Kurt, the plucky Pixar like protagonist of this surrealist epic, quickly acquires the ability to shoot two little gravity beams that will either send him up or to the side. These abilities aren’t terribly exciting, Rochard for features a gravity mechanic as well, but so far the game has made rather good use of them. You will flip plates, have to time throw to levitate boxes, and occasionally lob one into a tube to deal with an enemy.

    And that might be where the game’s problems begin. PID has great surrealist design. It reminds of Windowsill:

    But where Windowsill’s joy was the discovery of its surrealist mechanics PID is sadly more mundane in its play style. Kurt will be avoiding a surprisingly mundane group of machines in the castle level (confession I have not made it out of the castle yet). However the later parts of the castle introduce some creepy automatons that stalk Kurt through levels and have to be dealt with bombs, lasers, or other methods. These newer enemies suggest the game gets much more involved later. Truth be told I enjoyed the dining room levels quite a bit, because they reminded me of Mickey mouse in castle of illusion which was a major game for me when I was younger and the sitting room where I now reside is turning out to be wonderful as well. But PID initially in sound track and over all vibe is a bit of downer, propelled by jazz / surf rock bass lines the game’s opening levels seem almost sedate and the world around PID is often standing still.

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    Despite this, or maybe due to a love of platformers, I plundered through the first levels in a two hour binge arriving this morning at a really cool boss fight which involved smashing plates. I can only tentatively recommend PID, it’s design is fabulous, but the play mechanics are only now building to something truly exemplary. Might and Delight might have produced a gem, but nearing the end of the first section I am only now starting to get intrigued. The story, which in the trailer sounds awesome, is another problem, while an interesting idea it lacks execution and often falters in places, PID is a great could have been with story. The sound track only gets darker as one plays which is strange because PID is so much a game of surprise, it’s world is fairly original and it’s story book premise have great potential, but hey I haven’t even reached this guy yet: so who knows what is has in store. So to recap: it looks like a unity game, that same ethereal glow resounds around the game’s graphics. The world is greatly realized, but the enemies only become interesting towards the end of the first section. The game’s hook is gravity manipulation which works like lobbing a soft ball, it doesn’t quite have a fast pace to it, but it does lend to some ok puzzles.

    Available from their website or Steam.

    November 2, 2012 at 8:37 am Leave a comment

    Nietzsche’s little holograms Assassin’s Creed Revelation’s projection into the past

    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
    Nihilism right?
    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.

    RAGE
    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.

    March 18, 2012 at 1:01 pm Leave a comment

    Big Budget Hallucinogens and the illuminated shooting optics of Iraq

    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
    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.

    Rage
    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.

    January 16, 2012 at 2:22 pm Leave a comment


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