Gamers are More Divided Than Ever…And That’s a Good Thing
Become enthralled by one thing long enough and regardless of whatever the thing itself may be, the same set of questions tends to present themselves when you began to look back on it.
While the questions are too varied to cover in full, a host of them will inevitably concern comparing that thing as it once was, to how the thing is now. When doing so it’s often essential to use your experience to properly separate the past as it actually occurred, and the past as you perceive it through the eyes of nostalgia.
That’s a distinction that’s been running through my mind recently as I look at how games have changed from both the day one origins of the medium, and from my personal start as a gamer, to where they are now. In doing so, it’s interesting to discover and distinguish the things that have actually changed, as opposed to the things that you heart tells you are different.
Specifically, lately I’ve been wondering if the gaming community really is more hostile to each other and divided than it has been ever before.
My heart tells me the answer is yes. After all, it seemed like the cultural divide among gamers when I was young didn’t extend far past Sega v.s. Nintendo. Now, though, we have issues like AAA v.s. indies, Digital Rights Management, the treatment of women in video games, the validity of YouTube gaming as a career, the ethics of micro-transactions, gaming as art, and many, many, more. All of those issues cause a nigh infinite series of divides among the gamers of the world, and that’s before you even get into the traditional Xbox, PS4, Wii U, and PC debates.
The question then is, are we really more divided as a gaming community than ever before? Is there really more of a hostile environment between gamers everywhere than there was back in the old days? Or instead, has this always been the case and its only the rapid speed the internet carries information and opinions at from all corners that causes the perception that there is more arguments than ever before?
Even when you approach that topic from an unbiased perspective, the answer will almost always be yes. Gamers are more divided and hostile than ever. The once popular idea of a community of gamers united against the rest of the world’s upturned noses at the very idea of gaming, has given way to a civil war with infighting on nearly every front. While you could argue if the embodiment of a gaming community with an “us against the world” mentality ever did truly exist at all, there’s little doubt that certainly isn’t the case now.
And you know what? In many ways we’re better off this way.
Well…Most of the Time Anyway
Oh sure from time to time I see a topic or viewpoint that I personally consider to be outlandish get very heated, and want to cite the always popular (yet rarely practical) “Can’t we all just get along?” belief, but for the most part I’ve come to accept the constant presence of various heated debates to be a good thing for gaming, and not a detriment.
The reason being is that complacency in any industry is never a good thing. No matter what else you can say against the average gamer, one this that’s for sure is that they are not a complacent lot. Not only are they quick to turn against something the moment it becomes a little too commonplace and comfortable, but they are always seeking out and confronting hot button issues without much in the way of fear hindering them. These may not always lead to the most sophisticated and intelligent debates mind you, but they are debates nonetheless.
It’s that constant stream of debate that ensures that developers, publishers, journalists, bloggers, websites, and anyone else on the creation side of the industry can never rest on their laurels. If there weren’t the dissension that exists on so many topics that we currently enjoy today, it’s possible that many of those in gaming wouldn’t feel the pressure (or even obligation) to create a variety of experiences that can cater to any number of personal tastes, preferences and beliefs.
There is a real passion behind many of the various viewpoints in the gaming world that is more and more leading to gamers from all walks of life getting creative and making something that perfectly represents their own particular set of thoughts. That not only serves as great entertainment for those that agree, but fuel for those who do not to do the same and create something of their own in opposition.
Sure its a general attitude that doesn’t really lead to a perfect gaming world (and there are, perhaps, some topics we would be better off being unified on), but its never really been a perfect world has it? The one we have now, though where gaming is essentially forced to constantly mature, re-invent itself, and provide a variety of experiences precisely because the role and image of a gamer is no longer a caricature, but rather a group of increasingly outspoken and discerning individuals is a pretty damn exciting one to live in, at least in lieu of perfection.
If there is one warning that all divided gamers need to heed though, its that we should all be careful to remember that at the end of the day, games are first and foremost meant for enjoyment and to be experienced. In that regard, it’s important to never be afraid to challenge your own views by actively seeking a variety of games in order to ensure that your beliefs (whatever they may be, on whatever topic or whatever style) are ones formed by trying all of the different experiences that games have to offer, and not limit yourself at all times to those that only serve your particular notions, thus undoing all of the good the current sometimes hostile and divided culture we enjoy as gamers is actually doing.
Is there a certain appeal to a utopian world where gamers come together to form a “Pleasantville” like community based on shared essential beliefs? Perhaps. But there’s also an appeal in a more gotham like gaming community where hostility and divided beliefs may rule the day, but they ultimately come together to form an impressive world that can only be forged from the fires of such a variety of passions.
Whether that’s your idea gaming world or not, it’s time we all stood back and appreciated the beauty and quality that world can so often lead to.
Posted in: Editorial
Tags: divisive gamers, gamers arguing, games, gaming, gaming blogs, gaming news, hostile gamers, video game arguments, Video Game Blogs, Video game news, Video Game Opinions, Video Games
Five Goals Gaming Still Has Left to Pursue
As we approach 2014, it’s hard to not feel proud of the gaming industry and how far it’s come. Every year it seems that gaming is knocking down pre-conceived limitations, and defying the expectations of naysayers who thought that certain gaming accomplishments would never be realized.
That being said, though, its important to remember that there is always more ground to cover. While everyone’s personal industry wide wishlists for the future are sure to vary wildly, here are five goals both minor and major that I feel that gaming as a whole still has left to achieve.
Establish a True Comedy Genre
Comedy, as a genre, has been around for essentially as long as the act of storytelling has. While it rarely gets the same level of critical or artistic praise that drama does, anyone who knows even the basics of storytelling knows that the two have a yin and yang relationship where the absence of one tends to throw the other out of balance.
Gaming’s relationship with comedy is somewhat less traditional. While there have been funny games before, and there have been plenty of funny moments in video games, there isn’t really a recognized independent comedy genre in gaming, as there isn’t really a steady enough stream of pure comedy game to justify its existence.
While you can’t fairly make a blanket statement on why that is, in general I feel that the underlying issue is similar to the one that faces the pure horror genre. By that I mean that there is a growing feeling among major publishers that comedy games aren’t viable financial investments. In the increasingly more expensive world of AAA game design, that’s pretty much the kiss of death.
It’s also an incredible shame as comedy is one of the most essential aspects of any entertainment medium, and gaming seems to be trending in a way that is discouraging the pursuit of it as a primary concept more and more. While modern titles like “The Stanley Parable,” give hope that indie developers may give new life to the creative pursuit of this idea, should that prove to not be the case then you have to consider gaming’s inability to really establish a true recognized comedy genre to be among the industry’s more notable failures.
Make Sports Announcers Sound Human
Man, this one just irks me.
We’ve come a long, long way in the world of gaming technology to the point that the law of diminishing returns is becoming a more and more popular citation when addressing the subject. Yet despite those innovations, modern sports game announcers still sound like a group of particularly antisocial robot reading lines off the sweaty palms of someone just barely in their range of sight.
I understand that as many sports announcers are pre-recorded personalities its incredibly difficult for them to account for the many variables that can occur during a typical game. However, you can’t convince me that the quality of video game sports announcers today is the apex of the technology.
What’s really needed is greater incorporation of some dynamic commentary elements. For instance, if my quarterback in “Madden” is having a bad year and throws another interception, it’d be nice to hear the announcers mention a potential QB controversy brewing. Similarly, if a QB is in a contract year and putting up career numbers, there should be some acknowledgment of the situation.
Regardless of the specifics, the general idea is that announcers need to start occasionally sounding like human beings. Some games are better than others (the WWE games are a great example of video game announcers at their worst), but in general this is a flaw that has plagued gaming for far too long.
Mature the Incorporation of Sex In Games
See, gaming has actually done historically well with the subjects of romance and relationships over the years. However, once things start to go beyond a platonic level, the quality of the subject gets more and more murky.
Historically speaking many games have either treated the subject of sex with the maturity of a particularly horny teenage male, or with the prudishness of a wasp couple. There haven’t really been many attempts to incorporate sex into a game (even one that would seem to naturally include it) in a way that feels organic.
It’s a bit of an embarrassment, honestly. There is still an unfortunate perception amongst the casual observer regarding the maturity and social skills of the average gamer, and the fact that there haven’t been many titles that handle such a basic topic in a mature, non-exploitative, yet still entertaining way does that image no favors.
Now, I could be wrong on this matter and there could be some game, or games, out there that actually covers sex in a way similar to what I’ve described. However, even if that is the case, the absence of that approach as a standard is the larger issue as it concerns gaming and sex.
Create or Discover the “Citizen Kane” of Gaming
I’m hesitant to include this entry because of the vague nature of the entire idea behind it. However, since this is among the most popular topics of discussion as it concerns the advancement of gaming, I’ll play devil’s advocate and give it a shot.
The basic idea behind the “Citizen Kane” of video games is that a game will come along that will make the average game fan (and society at large) recognize games as a legitimate potential art form, in the same way that “Citizen Kane” is recognized as the film that helped movies get established as a legitimate potential art form.
It’s a fundamentally faulty notion, but the spirit of the idea does have an air of truth to it. The average person doesn’t typically view gaming as an art form, and elements of gaming in mass media coverage tend to be about gaming controversies, or are otherwise cheap and insulting attention grabbers like the VGX awards, which actively harm the idea that there is a higher calling in gaming as a potential art form among more casual, or even indifferent, users.
Of course, what people tend to forget is that “Citizen Kane” was not an overnight game changer for many. Instead it would only fulfill that role in hindsight after a flood of ambitious, artistic, and financially successful titles that were directly influenced by it would make “Citizen Kane” the generally accepted turning point.
So perhaps instead the question of whether of not gaming will get its “Citizen Kane” shouldn’t just be a lookout for an individual release on the horizon, but a careful examination of the past to see if it’s already been released.
Improve the Current Video Game Property and Licensing System, or Create a New One
Have you ever wondered why a certain favorite game has never seen a sequel, or why that original game no longer seems to be available for digital download? Well it could honestly be for any number of reasons, but more often than not the problem is one of licensing.
Gaming has long had serious issues with property licensing. While this is sometimes tied into the inclusion of a third party property (like the one that faced “The Simpsons” Konami games), there are a disturbing amount of completely independent properties that are handcuffed by archaic, or even non-existent, laws.
The entire system regarding property video game rights and license acquisition is one of the most convoluted and mysterious in all of entertainment. While many might think it’s a simple matter of contacting the right party and offering the right figure, the truth is rarely so simple.
Good Old Games shed some light on this issue earlier in the year when they revealed that the process to acquire “System Shock 2” for digital distribution took years of concentrated effort, most of which involved navigating a system shrouded in confusion where even the people who were the right ones to contact, didn’t know they were the ones who should be contacted. During the course of their lengthy legal battles they were often working without a net, as precedent for such an effort is almost non-existent.
In some cases, the situation surrounding property rights of games would be hilarious if they weren’t so sad. For example, the popular “No One Lives Forever” series has long been unavailable to modern users due to the simple fact that no one knows who has the rights to it, even among the small group of people that potentially could. In other words, under the current system, entire game licenses can be lost as easy as a set of car keys.
It’s an embarrassing mess of bureaucracy and incompetence. Recent years have seen some major improvements in this area, but unless a concise and through overhaul of this entire system is undergone, we run the risk of making a sizable part of gaming history inaccessible.
Posted in: Editorial
Tags: better sports announcers in gaming, better video game sports announcers, citizen kane of gaming, comedy games, comedy genre in gaming, gaming, gaming blogs, gaming news, improving sex in video games, No One Lives Forever licence, sex in video games, things gaming hasn't done, things gaming still has left to accomplish, Video Game Blogs, video game goals, Video game news, video game pursuits, what hasn't been done in gaming
“South Park: Stick of Truth” Gets Approved in Australia Thanks to Some Creative Censoring
We may never know what exactly is up the collective butts of Australian video game censors, but that hilariously misinformed and outdated group of do gooders is at it again.
The target this time is “South Park: Stick of Truth.” Specifically the censors rejected the game on the basis of a scene involving penis shaped anal probes, and an abortion scene involving vacuums and a wire.
On a side note, isn’t it nice when game adaptations stay so true to the source material?
Anyway developer Obsidian tried re-submitting the game under some slightly toned down conditions, but were rejected at each turn. Finally they submitted an impressively sarcastic version of the probing scene where the image of the scene is replaced with a crying koala while on screen text informs you as to what is actually happening in the original scene.
Unsurprisingly, considering the board’s traditionally misinformed interpretation of comedy, this version was accepted.
So it looks like the fair Australian gamers of the world will get to play “Stick of Truth,” albeit with more static images of Koalas in place than were originally intended, as well as some minor mini-games axed entirely, thanks to some creative skirting of the censors.
Seriously though, what is the logic behind the extreme censorship of gaming in Australia? Considering it’s the year 2013 and I can probably pull up a YouTube video of mass genocides set to a dubstep soundtrack and intercut with images of “My Little Pony” fan porn on my phone, does a cartoon video game character’s anal probe encounter really constitute the ultimate line of morality?
Video Game Auxiliary Awards for 2013
Game of the year awards? Yeah those are fun. But in a year as full as 2013, I didn’t feel satisfied with the amount of games I got to talk about in that mere top ten collection.
As such, I’ve created a number of auxiliary awards in an effort to cover more ground. Some are good, some are bad, and some are so specific they could only be dreamed up after a six beer self medication session following another traumatic Dallas Cowboys loss on Sunday. These are those awards.
Game That Proves You Can Turn Anything Into a Videogame – Viscera Cleanup Detail
Are games about farming and driving a truck across Europe weird? Yeah but at least there is some potential for excitement in those scenarios, as they allow you to do something you may not otherwise get to in real life.
It’s “Viscera Cleanup Detail” that proves that no topic is incapable of being gameified, though. In it you play a janitor tasked with cleaning up the aftermath of video game levels, with gameplay consisting largely of mopping. At this rate I wouldn’t be surprised if we get a game about data entry where you are actually doing data entry for a company, but pay them to do it.
Most Overrated Game – Tomb Raider
I tend to shy away from this topic, as by its very nature it requires you to take shots at a game that’s generally well liked. It’s difficult to not sound like kind of an ass in the process.
However, the love train for “Tomb Raider” is getting a little too crowded this awards season. It’s by far the best “Tomb Raider” game made in years, but is also burdened by uneven action sequences, a meandering plot, a host of half implemented ideas, and not enough platforming, puzzle solving, and actual tomb raiding. It’s a very good game, but certainly not a great one.
Best System of The Year – Nintendo 3DS
Hey believe me, I’m just as shocked as you are.
The 3DS has still yet to really prove that its 3D capabilities are worthwhile, but when you look at the system’s murder row lineup this year (“Fire Emblem,” “Pokemon,” “Zelda,” “Animal Crossing,” etc.) its hard to deny that the handheld provided better exclusive entertainment than any other platform in 2013.
Most Intriguing Developer Not Getting Enough Attention – Simogo
Mobile gaming is, by and large, bastardized by the “hardcore” gaming community. As such, many great mobile games tend to go unnoticed and unappreciated by that particular contingent.
In the case of Simogo that’s an incredible shame. From the entertainingly inventive “Beat Sneak Bandit” to genre, and even medium, defying experiences like “Year Walk” and “Device 6,” Simogo is proving to be one of the most inventive and original studios in all of gaming. It’s a crime that they aren’t getting more attention.
Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in: Editorial
Tags: best games of 2013, game blogs, game news, game of the year awards, gaming, GOTY 2013, other game awards 2013, other games of 2013, overrated games of 2013, specific game awards 2013, specific rewards of 2013, underrated games of 2013, Video Game Blogs, worst games of 2013
If They’re Not Careful, Telltale Games Runs The Risk of Overexerting Themselves
Ever since their acquisition of the “Sam and Max” license, Telltale has garnered a reputation as a studio that does things a little bit differently.
It was with that series that the studio kicked off their unique episodic format, where a series is released in monthly or bi-monthly installments over the course of a season. While the quality of their individual installments varied from great to “meh” with some regularity, for the most part the approach was viewed as a gimmick by many.
That was until the release of “The Walking Dead.”
With that series Telltale finally made it all click. The series of choices and consequences in those games made the episodic format actually matter, while the quality of the writing and direction made “The Walking Dead” the first series from the studio to maintain a standard of excellence throughout. The general consensus winner of the 2012 game of the year awards, “The Walking Dead” was a runaway success.
Much like the runaway success “Walking Dead” TV show, however, its increased attention also drew increased criticism. Many gamers lashed out against “The Walking Dead” games for not actually being games. Instead they saw them as a series of story sequences loosely strung together by the occasional dialogue choice or QTE section. As a result, “The Walking Dead” became one of the most cited titles in the growing debate of whether or not the term video game is still appropriate when describing the state of the medium today.
Regardless of where you stand on that particular issue though, the sales numbers don’t lie, and the numbers tell us that “The Walking Dead,” was a success. It was such a success, in fact, that it allowed TellTalle to not only continue “The Walking Dead” series, but begin entirely new series within the high profile worlds of “Fables,” “Borderlands,” and “Game of Thrones.”
And that’s what worries me.
See, I’m firmly in the crowd that loved “The Walking Dead.” While that’s mostly due to the quality of the game’s storytelling, I also attribute that to the fact that there wasn’t really anything like “The Walking Dead” series, even in the TellTalle canon. It was a breath of fresh air in the gaming world, and made the choice to buy “The Wolf Among Us” a no brainer.
By the end of the first episode of that game, though, it became pretty obvious that Telltale had no intentions of abandoning the gold mine of design they stumbled on during “The Walking Dead.” I don’t want to sound like I’m writing off “Wolf” as a re-skinned “Walking Dead,” but rather want to point out that if the appeal of “The Walking Dead” lied in it’s uniqueness and quality storytelling, the appeal of “Wolf” lies just in its storytelling.
That’s fine, but it does raise the question of whether or not TellTalle can justify releasing several high profile series in succession that all follow that “Walking Dead” style. After all, how many times can you hope to catch lightning in a bottle?
Now it’s not like I think Telltale should look at the success of “The Walking Dead” and say “Well, we made a good game so its time to shut down production,” but they already have both “The Walking Dead Season 2” and “The Wolf Among Us” releasing concurrently and now apparently have “Game of Thrones” and “Borderlands” titles in the works as well.
There’s no studio in the world that can possibly handle that amount of production and maintain a consistent level of quality, especially if the games they are making all follow the same basic template. We’ve seen before what happens to studios who feel the obligation to make annual releases of the same series and, with few exceptions, the results are not pretty.
In the case of Telltale, however, it’s even more tragic. Here’s a studio that made their namesake by releasing a game that shook the foundations of gaming and had some questioning the validity of the classification gaming itself. Going from that, to just continuing to do that but in new worlds reminds me of the executives from “South Park” who surmised that if saying shit in a TV show was popular and revolutionary, then saying shit even more and in different episodes is sure to be just as popular and revolutionary.
I believe that TellTalle is a great developer, and will never intentionally start banging out games routinely in the “Call of Duty” style. However, whether it is their intention or not, unless they start exploring a style beyond that of “The Walking Dead,” or at the very least limit their releases to a series at a time, they run the risk of overexerting themselves and learning a lesson that entertainers everywhere have learned the hard way for years.
After a while, the same act starts to get old.
Posted in: Editorial
Tags: gaming, gaming blogs, gaming news, Telltale, Telltale Borderlands, Telltale Game of Thrones, telltale games, Telltale VGX, The Walking Dead, The Wolf Among Us, Too many Telltale games, Video Games