If the phrase “Live Action Fan Film” in the world of gaming makes you cringe, it would be hard to blame you. Often times they are poorly produced (if generally well meaning) works of minimal effort that remind us all that the world of gaming and film do not easily mesh.
Even if you are adamant in that belief though, you do yourself a tremendous disservice if you don’t take about 30 minutes of your time today and check out that fan film presented by the folks at Machinima set in the “Fallout” universe.
Beyond impressive for a fan film, it’s actually a genuinely entertaining, and surprisingly well made, piece that somehow manages to maintain the things that make the “Fallout” series so great, while just transferring them to another medium. While some production hiccups are found (the super mutant fight stands out), even the low points are enjoyable in a campy sort of way, and in no way diminish the incredible writing, pacing, direction, and yes, even acting to be found. It’s perhaps the best example ever made of the magic that can happen when you give a filmmaker with a true passion for gaming even the most modest of budgets to work with.
Made by the same people responsible for the also entertaining, if less dramatic, “Fallout” series “Nuka Break,” “Red Star” is apparently the first in a series of fan made live action adaptations planned by Machinima, with games like “League of Legends,” “Half-Life,” and even “Minecraft” all getting the celluloid treatment.
While the quality of those additional adaptations remains to be seen, this was an excellent way to present the idea, as “Red Star” is the greatest live action video game film I’ve ever seen. Give it a shot, and start dreaming again of the day when a network like AMC, FX, or even HBO realizes the creative potential inherit in a “Fallout” TV series.
Besides a joyous bearing of free printer paper, the other intent, and message, of the script was a simple one. It was to make everyone take notice that “Beyond Two Souls” will be different.
It was the late Roger Ebert who famously raised the question if gaming could ever truly become art. Mind you he didn’t say it wasn’t art, and he didn’t say it couldn’t be art as is popularly cited, but rather it was more of a challenge to the medium to silence the doubters, himself included.
Now any gamer knows that storytelling in games is impressively unique and blazes its own path to create a quality that only the medium is capable of. To summarize the idea, think of “Bioshock.”
What gaming has lacked up until now though is a title that makes people who neither care about or respect video games (but very much do care about and respect films) to pause for a moment and consider the same growth that gamers have been seeing for decades now. Of course for that to truly work, the game must not just impact film lovers in that way, but gamers as well.
“L.A. Noire” came close, as did “Beyond Two Souls” predecessor “Heavy Rain.” Before that, “Grand Theft Auto IV” and as host of others.
However, “Beyond Two Souls” may be the first title that truly needs to be that game. It doesn’t want to be that game because it can, and it doesn’t dream about being that game because it may, but rather it needs to be that game to be considered a success by all parties involved.
And what a coup that would be if it was. While gaming doesn’t necessarily need that game to continue to exist, just imagine the world that would be left in its wake. Just imagine what the world of video games would be like if a game was released that would both satisfy the creative desires of the fans, the financial needs of the industry (like “Heavy Rain” did in a big way), and make people who couldn’t give a damn about either suddenly take notice, and be forced to really look at a video game with artistic respect.
It would be gaming’s Trojan horse. A rebel to even games themselves, under the guise of an expected appeal to the so considered higher authorities.
Then again, it may not be. It’s entirely possible that “Beyond Two Souls” will be a flop, or worse nothing at all. Even if it isn’t the game that shifts the perspective of video gaming though, it is a harbinger that a day is coming where even the most resolute of gamers must question their expectations regarding the capabilities of the medium. A day you could argue hasn’t been experienced sine “Grand Theft Auto III.”
Of course, much like that 2,000 page script, that day may come as soon as “Beyond Two Soul’s” October 18th release date when that very game will be delivered, to the amazement of all, right at the doorstep.
In a perfect world, there would be no need to tout the virtues of a game like “Guacamelee!” because you would already be hopelessly obsessed with it, and relaying your experience to others with conversations no more elaborate than “Dude!” and “I know.”
Instead there’s probably a pretty good chance you haven’t heard of “Guacamelee!,” and don’t know that you should be playing it, and not reading this, right now. Since you’re already here though (thanks by the way), let me skip the traditional review and just give you five quick reasons to experience the brilliance of a game where you play a dead peasant turned Mexican professional wrestler super hero, on a quest for revenge and love (actually…make that six reasons).
Style…Now In Color!
It takes all of a glance at “Guacamelee!” to notice that this game is a looker. Its Mexican culture and folklore motif is rarely used in major games (the great “Grim Fandango” is the only other that jumps to mind), and here is gloriously captured in every single aspect of the title, right down to the font. It makes every frame instantly recognizable, and turns the game into something truly great. If you cut “Gucamelee!,” it would bleed style and charm.
More importantly it would bleed it in vibrant colors. We’re still in the black, brown, and gray age of video game color palates, so when a title like “Guacamelee!” comes along and presents an already creative style in full Technicolor, it’s worth considering a purchase just to experience the brilliance that transpires when 16 bit art philosophy meets the hardware power of the modern age.
It’s Actually Really, Really Funny
It’s not all classic day of the dead style though, as the world of “Guacamelee!” also sports nods to cartoons like “Samurai Jack,” video games like “Mega Man,” internet programs like “Homestar Runner” and much, much, more. Nearly all of these references are well hidden in the game’s art style, and recognizing them is sure to lead to uncontrollable grins for anyone in the know.
Yet the game’s best jokes come from its own devices. Whether it’s your ability to morph into a chicken to get into small spaces, or the lamentations of a gun toting villain who realizes he’s wasted all of his bullets shooting the floor for emphasis, at its best, “Guacamelee!” feels like a lost golden age Disney movie when it comes to accessible, yet genuinely funny, humor.
Challenging, Yet Rewarding
As much as I love a game like “Dark Souls,” it’s hard to ignore that at a certain point the risk/reward factor becomes painfully uneven. However, even though “Guacamelee!” pays tribute to many classically challenging games like “Dark Souls” does, you never feel like you are being cruelly punished.
Even though it’s not exactly the most difficult game ever created, “Guacamelee!” does sport sections that require above average skill and patience. However, as long as you are willing to develop your skills and creatively explore the extent of those abilities, you won’t get hung up on too many sections due to unfair play. Even if you do though, the payoff always equals the effort. It’s difficult to find a game that can hit the mark when it comes to a balanced, yet progressive challenge, but that’s exactly what “Guacamelee!” offers.
Fresh Combat, Classic Adventure
“Guacamelee!’s” biggest gameplay feature would have to be its Metroidvania 2D adventure style, where a large map becomes more and more open to you as new abilities are earned. Yet that classic 2D trope isn’t the only familiar concept, as the better part of the gameplay is largely just a creative tribute to a video game age gone by.
The one aspect that feels like much more than an homage though is the combat. It’s a combination of Mexican lucha-libre and old fashioned brawling, all based around a fighting game combo system, and at its best produces moments previously unseen. Most enemies require you to use a variety of maneuvers to best them, and exploring the destructive potential the system is capable of is just as fun as exploring the levels themselves.
It’s Basically this Year’s “Journey”
Alright, so it probably won’t be nominated for a Grammy, and it’s potential to make grow men weep at its beauty is slightly less than “Journey,” but when playing “Guacamelee!” you get the same distinct impression that you’re playing something that exists well outside of the norm, and is artistically significant for the medium.
Though to be honest, “Guacamelee!” also resembles “Journey” in that it is very short. It’s not quite as short as last year’s indie sensation, but even if you are going for 100%, you’ll maybe get 10 hours out of it. While that is a little heartbreaking, considering the game’s bargain $14.99 price, it shouldn’t prevent you from playing “Guacamelee!”, and this year be the one who recommends that great indie game to everybody, and not the one who hears about it from everybody else.
Don’t attempt to adjust your computers folks, this is still a video game site.
But just for today, I don’t want to talk about video games. Instead, I want to share with you an interesting story about…well…just a game.
If it makes you feel any more comfortable, it comes from Japan, like many video games do, but it’s an extremely detailed hand crafted maze that fits on a 35 X 23 inch piece of paper. It’s already being considered perhaps the most complicated maze of its type ever designed, and is not only impossibly detailed, and impossibly beautiful, it may actually be impossible to beat.
That little tidbit comes to us via the Twitter user Kya7y who introduced this maze to the world, along with the fact that, so far as she knows, there is a good chance that the maze cannot be beaten. That’s not just because it is so mind boggling complex, but because a winning scenario may not even exist within its confines. She would know too, as her father is the inventor of the maze, and he spent 7 long years working on the design, without even being sure if it is possible to finish.
While not much is known about the inventor, we do know that he is not a mathematician, architect, or graphic designer, but rather, in a moment of “Good Will Hunting” imagery, is a janitor at a public university. Who, it’s worth pointing out again, spent 7 whole years designing this maze almost 30 years ago, without the aid of quite a few modern technological conveniences.
Which brings us to an interesting point. There are 50 copies of this maze available at the moment, and a rumored second, alternate maze in existence, and already there is a bit of a craze as people formulate ideas on how to try to solve it. While many theories involve computer scanning the maze and using algorithms and programs to see if it is possible, I say to hell with that. If anyone wants to solve this, they need to do so with the same tools available to the creator. If that means we never know if it is possible, then that only means that this incredible design will forever maintain the mystique it so greatly deserves.
Kind of makes “Contra” seem like a walk in the park huh?
Though to be Fair I Still Haven’t Beaten That One Without Cheating
There has been a recent flood of information leaking the technical aspects of the new Playstation (and Xbox), that suddenly has everyone realizing that the official unveiling of Sony’s new system is indeed imminent. While we’ve learned a lot more about that new Playstation in the last week thanks to those leaks, there is still a great deal of the unknown as gamers eagerly await to see what Sony’s next gen system will bring them.
One thing that is becoming clear though is that the classic DualShock controller will not be part of that unveiling, as several sites, citing internal sources, are now reporting that Sony will be ditching their tried and true DualShock controller design and coming up with a fresh model. While it is unknown if the new Playstation controller will maintain basic elements of that old controller, already there are rumors of new features like a built-in touch LCD screen, and biometric sensors in the controller that would allow for readings of player’s certain physical properties such as sweat and nerves that could affect things like the character’s aim.
Obviously with Nintendo going bonkers with the Wii U remote (and redefining what a controller meant to a system with the Wii) every other company was going to have to step up their designs, and so this announcement is a bittersweet one, due in large part to the DualShock controller being the greatest video game controller of all time.
Even if you ignore the most basic features of the controller like it’s smart layout and curvy features that just naturally felt right in your hands, it’s the dual analog sticks and vibration ability that secures that lofty title for the DualShock. It’s easy to forget that the re-design from the original Playststion was a response to the analog stick on the N64, as it became quickly evident that the traditional four direction D Pad was not going to be enough to properly handle a new generation of 3D gaming. Humorously though, with the original dual analog controller re-design (minus the rumble feature) Sony still included a little button that would turn the analog feature on and off so gamers wouldn’t feel overwhelmed or burdened by the new technology. They in fact wouldn’t make a game that fully required its use until the brilliant “Ape Escape” which made considerable beneficiary use of the new design.
Slowly though, the gainful advantages of the dual stick design became immediately evident as it allowed for an unimpeded 360 degree movement system that was still as precise as any single direction direct input. Just imagine trying to play a modern FPS on a console without the dual stick layout, or a third person action or platform game without the freedom of movement and camera control at the same time. As for the built in rumble feature, you just need to recall “Metal Gear Solid“, and that moment where “Psycho Mantis” moves your controller by activating the rumble at a high capacity. It was an all time classic moment in video games that wouldn’t have been possible without the feature, and is just an example of the new level of interaction that the device was capable of providing.
It all came together to form the perfect gaming controller. When you look back at certain controllers, they’re often too simple, too cluttered, or too specifically remembered for their value in certain titles (the N64 and “Goldeneye” or the original Xbox controller and “Halo” for instance). Games always found a way to smartly use just about every button on the DualShock, and it worked for every style of game, not making itself noteworthy for one title above any other. It’s why Sony felt there was no need to change the design for the Playstation 2 or Playstation 3 (slight modifications and wireless functionality aside), and truthfully if they wanted to, it could still hold up for the next generation some 15 + years after the original design’s retail release.
It’s hard to fault Sony for reconsidering the controller for their next system, but even if they don’t maintain the design of the DualShock, we can only hope they remember the spirit of it, and engineer a controller that doesn’t strive to change gaming, but instead accounts for the natural evolution of the medium and inadvertently does so in the process.
When I think back to some of gaming’s greatest beginnings, I think of “Uncharted 2“, “Batman: Arkham City“, and “Bioshock“. They’re great games that let you know from the very start that you are in for an experience like no other.
But not all games have that luxury. In fact, the only way to appreciate games with truly great beginnings, is to play games that struggled to get started. If you’re looking for some suggestions, here are some of the greatest games of all time, that took a while to really get good.
Star Wars Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast
One of the top 5 Star Wars games, and one of the most underrated games period, “Jedi Outcast” was an absolutely brilliant tale that saw retired Jedi Kyle Katarn (who went through some absolute hell in the earlier game to want to give up being a friggin Jedi), wrapped up in the newest plot to take over the galaxy, and forced to go back into the Jedi life to solve it, while taking a little vengeance along the way. Sound pretty bad ass? Oh yeah, it is.
However, before you even get to use the force young padawan, you must slog through the game’s first few missions using nothing but guns, as the early moments are nothing but a first person shooter set in the Star Wars universe. This is actually a trademark of the series, since the second game, but you see the thing is that at its design worst, “Jedi Outcast” features horrible flip switching puzzles, bad jumping sections, and aimless wandering. The first half of the game exemplifies all of these flaws, and doesn’t even give you a lightsaber or force powers to help ease the pain. It’s not like it’s the worst first person shooter ever, but it’s fairly far from the best and takes some time, and patience, to get through.
But here’s the thing. Without the dullness of that first half, that moment you meet Luke Skywalker, grab your lightsaber, use the force, and hear that beautiful “Star Wars” music swell wouldn’t be near as sweet. Earning the right to that moment is what makes it, and the game in general, so incredible. Even on subsequent playthroughs though, when you know the reward, it is still difficult to force yourself through that first half.
I hate to admit this, but embarrassingly I never found the words to adequately describe “Deus Ex.” Instead, I’d refer you to the mounds of accolades and awards it accumulated, and confirm with you that it was indeed a revolutionary breath of fresh air that’s influences wouldn’t be properly noticed for years to come, as even leading developers seemingly couldn’t appreciate exactly what it was.
The average gamer may have never gotten the chance to experience that though. “Deus Ex” was a first person game, but it wasn’t really a first person shooter, and trying to play the game like that, as many at the time surely did, only led to a swift demise. That’s because while you can play the game guns blazing, in that first mission you’re forced to take a more stealthy, very careful approach as you worked though what was essentially a tutorial of the game. What hurt is that it lacked many of the character enhancement options and various tactics that made “Deus Ex” so much of what it would be. Your methodical approach towards liberating the terrorist controlled statue of liberty is the game’s lowpoint, and doesn’t lend much encouragement to seeing the rest of the game through.
Even after that lengthy intro, it takes a mission or two for the game, and plot, to find its groove and for the series RPG and strategy elements to kick in properly. Once it all comes together though (which occurs around the time of a major plot twist), its inescapable brilliance is a constant onslaught to your senses. You can retrospectively laugh at gamers that didn’t stick through the beginning of “Deus Ex”, but really the game did itself no favors in immediately making itself welcome. Read the rest of this entry »
If you can get past the irony of someone on Yahoo calling anything else outdated and irrelevant, there was an interesting article up on there recently, where writer Jay Yarrow of Yahoo’s business section painted a doomsday picture of Microsoft’s future in the video game industry. In it, the idea is presented that the PC giant may no longer have the clout and financial stability needed to stay in the video game industry.
His points are numerous, but they all center around the same basic idea that in a world that is constantly adapting more to the idea of smartphone and tablet use, the field of personal computer operations the Redmond based PC royalty once called its kingdom is no longer strong enough to keep them relevant. What’s worse is that they are not only losing ground in the home market, but more and more businesses are turning to using Macs as well. He adds to both these points by noting that Microsoft’s latest attempts to reclaim the tech throne with Windows 8 (and the systems that support it) as well as the surface tablet aren’t exactly making the impact culturally or financially to take a bite of Apple.
It’s hard to argue with any of those claims, as Microsoft’s recent financial shortcomings are well documented. However, the controversial idea presented is that as Microsoft looks to shore up its base operations for the changes of the coming world, the gaming division may be seen as expendable. The exact figure presented is that of Microsoft’s $21 billion income last year, only $364 million of it came from the Xbox division.
How I View $364 Million is, Apparently, Inaccurate
It’s a damning argument with a lot of big numbers behind it, but I find it to be ultimately flawed. For one thing, the biggest problem facing Microsoft right now is that they weren’t able to anticipate the coming changes in the technological world and make the necessary operational adaptions to keep up with them.
While it’s true the Microsoft Xbox division launched in more prosperous financial times, since then in one mere generation it has managed to become a symbol of modern gaming, a household name, and the most consistent and inventive aspect of all of Microsoft’s operations in the last few years in terms of finances and public reception. While Microsoft’s current situation make the next Xbox a tricky prospect that may become more dependent on more gimmicky aspects like Kinect to become a more complete entertainment set piece and not “just” a gaming console in order to take a calculated risk in maintaining its position without breaking the bank, the fact remains that they would be stupid to write off the only part of their company that isn’t seriously lagging behind another major competitor.
Instead the reality is a little more frightening. If Microsoft can’t pick up the slack in every other field but gaming, then, and only then, will the Xbox fall. Even though the Xbox can’t claim responsibility for Microsoft’s current situation, it’s fate is still directly tied into the company overall, and all things considered, that’s not necessarily a brighter future.
So Valve has been busy updating some games recently to include support for their “Big Picture” mode that will allow Steam to be used on TV. It’s a welcome update for those with the capabilities and, for most games, is taking nothing more than a 70 MB update to help incorporate.
Except for one game though. For some reason “Half-Life 2: Episode 2” is requiring a 400 MB update. This being the internet, suddenly everyone started having a theory of how this would lead to “Half-Life 2: Episode 3” or even “Half-Life 3”. Nobody has any real idea about how this works, but hey, since 400 is a way bigger number than 70, it can only mean the release of one of the most anticipated games of all time right? The madness surrounding the update is so consuming, that a completely unrelated video from Machinima featuring a series of binary code, and vaguely “Half-Life” music playing throughout, was thought to be part of the conspiracy, and players are now feverishly scouring “Half-Life 2: Episode 2” to find any changes.
The “Magic Bullet” Of the “Half-Life 3″ Conspiracy
Of course, the whole thing is nonsense to the sane mind, but it does bring up a very real problem for Valve, in that the next “Half-Life” (in whatever form it may take) is slowly reaching some pretty unrealistic expectations. Whenever an extra 330 MB of unspecified, probably insignificant data can bring the entire PC gaming community to a furor, the hype meter has definitely spiked, and that’s not necessarily a good thing.
Valve’s exhibited an uncommon level of craftsmanship over the years, but even they are setting themselves up for a scenario where gamers are having years to craft their own game in their minds that even Valve might not be able to match. While this doesn’t mean they should rush the development of a game, it may be time to give gamers something (anything) regarding the next title in the beloved series before the hype machine claims another victim ala “Diablo III”.
While you can put a book down, or tell yourself its just a movie, there is an element of participation involved in games that makes the scary ones that much worse. Even if it is in the virtual sense, you are the one in the game, and the horrors are happening to you.It may have taken a while for developers to truly catch on to the potential of the genre, but ever since there has been a tidal wave of terror that has left many a gamer fumbling their controllers in a cold sweat.
As October rolls around then, and Halloween dawns on us, it is time to celebrate the greatest horror games of all time. I’ve got a list of 31 total, starting here, one for each day of the month. They are loosely ranked, with the main factor being the overall experience.
Although, being absolutely terrifying also doesn’t hurt its standings.
31. Deadly Premonition – Awful graphics, controls, gameplay ideas, acting, and just about every other technical malady you can think of plague this game. But, just like horror movies, not everything has to be perfect for a title to be memorable. There is just something so compelling in the way that “Deadly Premonition” handles itself, as it clumsily (but oddly beautifully) blends horror and black comedy in an open world environment. The game’s story is completely out there, and sucks you in just to see what’s next. It’s almost like the developers intended to make a bad game, but accidentally ended up with something greater than the sum of its parts (much like many a great B-Movie). You’ll either love this game or despise it, but it is impossible to forget, and makes for something every gamer must try even if you hate yourself for doing so.
30. Nocturne – In what will be something of a reoccurring theme on this list, “Nocturne” is brimming with flaws. Sporting one of the worst cameras ever in a video game, and some equally bad controls to match, “Nocturne” is slightly unplayable these days. But if you gut your way through it you will find some of the best horror environments of all time. Carried by the games great story, “Nocturne” comes off like a mix of the “X-Files” and the old Hammer horror films of the 50s. A technical disaster that did so much else right, this is one game that is begging to be revisited.
29. Dino Crisis 2 – The first “Dino Crisis” looked and felt a lot like “Resident Evil” with dinosaurs. It was fun, and had moments of genuine creativity, but the series peaked with “Dino Crisis 2.” The survival concept of the first game went almost completely out of the window, and in its place came pure action bliss, as “Dino Crisis 2″ became one of the few, and greatest, arcade style horror games of all time. The variety of weapons, enemies, and levels turns the game into one new fist pumping moment after another throughout the, all too brief, runtime. It may not be scary enough to go higher on my list, but it’s fun enough to still warrant playing through to this day, which is not something you can say for a lot of similar games from that era
28. Siren- The Japanese have a good mind for horror, and “Siren” is definitely a pure Japanese horror game. While the game more than liberally borrows from “Silent Hill” in many aspects (especially the story) the look and feel of the game carry an appropriate level of dread. Bonus points are applied for the great “Sightjack” feature that allows you to take over the view of an enemy in order to best avoid them, which is necessary as they can’t be killed in the strict sense. At the end of the day, “Siren” is undeniably a clone of many superior works, but the things it copies are so rarely copied in video games that it still feels fresh.
27. Alone in the Dark – In general, video games do not share the same luxury of fine wines, and tend to age horribly. Long cited as the first survival horror game in the pure sense, “Alone in the Dark” isn’t necessarily unplayable, but its dated gameplay and graphics take much of the original impact away. More than just a textbook video game entry however, there is still a lot of great design decisions to be found in “Alone in the Dark’s” carefully constructed house of scares. Much like an old black and white horror flick, what this game has lost in fright, it makes up for with an odd charm and timeless sense of style. It’s impossible to call yourself a horror fan and not give the original “Alone in the Dark” a go.
26. Rule of Rose – If famed horror director Dario Argento made a horror game, it may look like ‘Rule of Rose.” One of gaming’s few entrants in the psychological horror genre, “Rule of Rose” is a disturbing romp through an abandoned orphanage that features an almost incomprehensible plot that actually makes the entire experience better for the dreamy effect it creates. I’ve rarely played a game that felt so unnerving, and makes you feel as unwelcome. Unfortunately this is another case of bad design ruining the overall game, as “Rule of Rose” puts its full effort into story and style and leaves players to suffer through a general gameplay hell that will make all but the most patient give up in disgust. It still remains too unique to be anything less than noteworthy, though.
25. Slender: The Eight Pages – I almost feel bad putting such a new and simple title above something like “Alone in the Dark.” However, “Slender” truly is horror design at its most pure. Featuring one enemy, and no combat system, the only thing you can really do in “Slender” is walk and collect the eight pages that are scattered about. But every turn could make you face to face with the Slender Man himself, which could spell your doom, and ensures you will be jumping constantly while playing. Uncompromisingly terrifying, this is minimalist game design at its very best, and with any luck will start a new trend of horror games not trying to rely entirely on action gameplay as a backbone.
Of all of the concepts in video game history, only one seems to have the unique attribute of being both completely irrelevant, and strangely everlasting.
It’s the concept of high scores.
Long ago (I would say even into the Super Nintendo era) the need and use for high scores in video games as a dominate means of measuring achievement feel to the wayside. In its place came the greater ideas of narrative, exploration, and eventually direct competition, creativity and, of course, unique individual game achievements. In other words, pretty much everything but a rolling tally of numbers is used to judge gamers, and games, by skill and merit.
And yet, even as gaming spreads more and more into the public conscious, the idea of a high score and video games still goes hand and hand. To this day, you still hear movies and other mediums throw out the line “I beat my high score!” or something similar when the story calls for a gaming reference. In a way it’s no surprise. The idea of one set of numbers being greater than another is used in so many other fields to declare a winner that its natural for that same feature to be the defining characteristic of victory for gaming as well in the eyes of many.
Of course, with the explosion of mobile gaming, the idea of a high score is becoming slightly less barbaric than it once was. Those simple app games are re-exploring the concept and, thanks to the global communication devices they often run off of, are also bringing back the idea of the classic arcade concept of communal high score competition. Just like an arcade, there are of course those gamers that shine above all others, and whose names remain such fixtures on the tops of leaderboards that you would think they were programmed there. Also, much like an arcade, every now and then a small group of those superior scorers will engage in a back and forth over the top spots that creates one of the competitive concepts that you see in just about every other field with regularity except for gaming. Genuine, individual player vs individual player rivalry.
Right now on the leaderboards of “Super Hexagon,” this rare moment is occurring. Even better, it’s not two civilians that are engaging, but two heavyweight players. In one corner is Terry Cavanagh. Terry has the unique “Super Hexagon” advantage of not only having programmed “Super Hexagon”, but creating the damn thing in the first place. The game’s challenge of moving a small triangle through a pulsating and vibrant tunnel of constant death is his doing. Actually, allow me a quick sidebar here before we move any further. If you’ve never played it, “Super Hexagon” can be sadistic. Think, “Dark Souls” without the thrill of accomplishment, because there rarely is accomplishment to be found within its impossible confines.
Yet this common idea doesn’t hold for Cavanagh who constantly finds himself atop the leaderboard. He isn’t doing it through any programming advantages either. The man is just that good and, even more important, is obsessed with remaining the best player in the world. He constantly checks in to see if anyone is eyeing the throne, and smites all those who would seek to replace him.
It’s a madness that has worked so far and, were it not for Jason Killingsworth, Mr. Cavanagh may be a man without rival.
“I have near-crippling levels of perfectionism,” Killingsworth says, and a penchant for exquisite challenges. “Most games these days feel like cow-tipping — the only requirement to succeed is to possess at least one working arm,” he says. “I want to spend my gaming hours breaking crazy-eyed, bucking stallions.”
Yet, like all great champions, he is still gracious in defeat as he is quick to praise Killingsworth for accomplishing what few, if any more, ever will. He does this for the same reason he is so adamant about maintaining his spot on the leaderboard. Because he just wants to promote the game he is so proud of.
That, is the biggest reason this one of my favorite gaming stories of the year. Someday someone is going to have to invent a better phrase for it, but until then this is simply old school gaming at its purest. It brings back such glorious concepts of arcade spirit and high score competitions, that aren’t marred by things like cheap tactics, glitch exploitation, or the dreaded pre-pubescent bewildering smack talk that plagues so many other competitive games either. No, somehow in an industry that is becoming more and more obsessed with corporate ideas, lies a high profile back and forth between a game creator who just wants everyone to love his game as much as he does, and a hardcore gamer who welcomes challenges that take no prisoners.
In other competitive fields they refer to events such as this as being for “the love of the game”, or representing “the integrity of the sport”. Video games don’t really have a similar phrase, but the beauty of it is they don’t need one. Because in a simpler time, we just called this gaming. In a more complex age, that’s thankfully all this still is.