Category Archives: Game Talk

Cloaks and Daggers – Catharsis Through Digital Storytelling

Catharsis: the act or process of releasing a strong emotion; especially by expressing it in an art form

Sometimes you just need to feel something…anything really.

Sorrow.

Joy.

Happiness.

Rage.

So, sometimes I just put in a game…

——————–

I didn’t know how long we had been traveling together.  We had met in the desert, and though we said very little to each other, we both agreed that the company was nice.  Most of the world had fallen into ruin, and rumor was that there weren’t many of us left.  I guess that is why we stuck together.

Maybe we just didn’t want to be lonely…

We had kept heading towards the mountain; remembering the legends of the hope that resided on its distant peak.  He never had to say he was going there too.  Of course he was going there, where else was there left for any of us to go?  That question seemed to haunt us both.  Neither of us had a good answer, and so we had chosen to continue traveling despite our reservations.

Fear hadn’t gotten the best of us yet…

The desert was only the beginning.  From there, an abandoned tower gave us a moment of respite and reflection, but that was short lived as best.  Our pilgrimage took us through a cavern of beasts such as the eye had never seen; both terrifying and awe inspiring all the same.  Yet, still we travelled on and still we watched over each other.  Many a moment came when one of us might have died and left this world were it not for the other.  Through the silence and the stoic looks, something had developed between us.

A bond, perhaps? Brotherhood, then?

It is a dangerous thing to allow yourself to have such thoughts; it breeds recklessness.

For many different reasons…

As we reached the snow line, we had stumbled upon the ruins of a fallen city.  It had seemed that the ancients had hoped to live in the light of the mountain, but the mountain had rejected them for their arrogance.  My fellow traveller decided to step ahead, to scout the area and determine our next move.  He disappeared into the snow, as I continued to search through the rubble; hoping to find some new piece of information about who we were and where we were going.  He was always the more adventurous type, but I was fine with that.  It was what made us work.

When I looked back up, I saw him coming back towards me, smiling as best one could being covered in snow.  I guess, for that same reason, he wasn’t able to see the look of horror on my face as I saw what was coming behind him.  One of the creatures that we had thought we had left behind in the caverns was rising overhead.

I screamed.

I screamed over and over again.  I called out his name.  Tried to warn him in any way I could, but through the harsh wind of the snow storm I knew nothing I could do would get through.  All I had to do was get him to turn around, to see what was coming up behind him, and I know we would make it.  We had made it through worse things, there was no way we weren’t going to get through this…So I kept screaming, trying to reach out to him.

Until, still with a smile on his face, the beast took him…

Tears filled my eyes.  I felt myself still screaming, but I no longer heard anything coming out.  Regardless of my own safety, I ran out, hoping that something was left, that he was left.  It was a stupid thing to do.  There were more creatures in waiting, and where I thought there was just one, there were now five.  I didn’t want to move, but I knew I had to.  I saw an opening in the ruins, a safe haven, and so I ran.  I heard the monsters behind me, heard their ominous howl and heard in it their desire to destroy all who came near.  Nonetheless, I made it to the entrance and I stopped…and allowed myself to weep.

There was no hope on this mountain…

—————-

What makes certain games magical are the stories that come out of them, and the emotions that it can draw out of the player. This is one of my stories that grew out of my experience with Journey on the PS3. What makes the game so intriguing is that though there is a small narrative thread that goes through the whole game; the majority of the story is pieced together and created by the player during one’s play through.  Everything that happened, the emotions I felt, were all because of my actions and how I responded to the world I was given.

Journey and games like it don’t have an atypical narrative; they have one that you help create along the way via the player’s interaction within the world.  It is in that creation that the story becomes all the more personal to the player and more memorable in the telling. This type of process is more commonly called “emergent gameplay,” or “player driven storytelling.”

Unlike other forms of entertainment, games don’t have to abide by a strict narrative construction.  Whereas films and novels have a set series of events that always play out the same way for the characters, many games give the player the ability to shape their own story and have it play out differently in each subsequent playthrough.  It is the experience and the player’s feelings that become the story in many of these cases. More simply put, the story/gameplay emerges out of the player’s actions.

Note: The game is actually about survival + NSW Language

Games like Rust and Day Z have no discernible story of their own outside of what the player base creates for them. The “story” of those games are the personal tales of the players and how they interacted with others while in that world. Of course, for every game of this nature there is a Last of Us or Bioshock: Infinite that has a very specific story to tell, and proceeds to follow a standard narrative path.  This is not a bad thing. It shows the depth and breadth of gaming as a medium for different styles of storytelling.

Even in a game with a more directed narrative, a genuine emotional catharsis can be achieved, if done well. The Last of Us is a fantastic example of this in the AAA space; and Thomas Was Alone shines in the indie arena. In one game it is the story of loss, redemption, and questionable morality; and the other is about small geometric cubes, friendship, and the nature of truth and sacrifice. Despite their differing styles and mechanics, by the end of both I had felt emotionally drained and had shed tears on multiple occasions.

To paraphrase Neil Gaiman, just because something isn’t “real” doesn’t mean it isn’t powerful.  Games can have the ability to reach into us and draw out emotions and responses that other mediums cannot; because we help craft the story.  By making the choices our own, by creating our stories within the world that has been handed to us or acting out or part in the greater narrative; we invest in the moment and engage in a way that no other form of entertainment can match.

To put it simpler; the more we put in, the more we get out.

So like I said…

…sometimes you just need to feel something.

To have a good cry.

To work out some anger.

To remember why we should care about others.

No matter what it is, try a game next time. You’d be surprised what you might get out of it.

As the kids say, “enjoy the feels,” everyone.

Suggested Play: Journey, The Unfinished Swan, Thomas was Alone, Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, Dear Esther, and Gone Home

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My Favorites of 2013 – or Yeah, You Should Totally Play These Games

Let’s be honest.

You don’t care about what my, “Top Ten Games of the Year,” are.

I mean, there might be a small majority of you who do (and I thank you for caring,) but most of you don’t and probably stumbled onto this column one way or another. That’s fine too.

Yet, because you are here and I have your attention; here are my favorite games of the year. A couple of things first; they are in no particular order, these are totally my opinions, and yes, some games were left off because I never played them.

-Cookie Clicker

I sank way too much time into this monstrosity. Cookie Clicker is the definition of a mindless game. You click the cookie. Then you don’t have to click the cookie, it’s clicked for you. Grandmas are then hired, cookie portals opened, you’ve prestiged twice, and you don’t know what you’ve been doing for weeks of your life. In the newest version, they’ve added dungeons. It’s almost enough to bring me back in. Nonetheless, this became a great conversation among me and friends this year, as we all began to click the cookies. It became a bit of a competition, as we all tried to make more and more. We couldn’t even eat them if we wanted to. It was a weird time for all of us.

Cookie Clicker

-Rayman Legends

This is the best 2D platformer in years. Yeah, I throwing it up against that New Super Mario Bros. nonsense. Rayman Origins was a surprise when it came out. It had old school difficulty, tight controls, and a fantastic art style. Fast forward to this year. Legends comes out with even tighter controls, a better perfected difficulty curve, and improved art that makes your jaw drop. It was a wonderful throwback to a simpler time of gaming; and when played with friends, one of the best co-op experiences of the year. Did I mention there were musical levels? Yeah, those were cool too.

-DmC

Man, I love Ninja Theory. Heavenly Sword was a fun, if flawed game. Enslaved really sold me on how that studio can tell a story. Now, Capcom gave them the reigns to Devil May Cry. This game is the definition of metal. The music hits hard, the action hits harder, and even the environment tries to kill you. They even give you a story that actually makes sense and makes you care about the world and these characters. I really can’t emphasize how much I dug the art style this game has. It oozes character and is easily one of the more visually diverse games I played this year. It also has one of the best boss fight encounters in a game in who knows how long. You fight Fox News. Seriously. Youtube it.

-Injustice

I love fighting games. I love DC Comics. Do I need to say more? LOOK AT ALL THE COSTUMES!!!!

-Tomb Raider

This was a bit of a surprise. Not that I wasn’t expecting the game to be good, but that I would enjoy it as much as I did. Tomb Raider goes back to the beginning of our heroine’s story and gives us a new take on the classic franchise. It’s a story about the loss of innocence as much as it is about Lara exploring this lost island. Gameplay wise, it’s less Uncharted and  more Arkham Asylum, but the change was a good one. Uncharted had already out Tomb Raider’ed Tomb Raider, and the game had to do something different. Yeah, I think we all could have done with more raiding of tombs, but let’s save that for the sequel. Also, the game gave us TressFX…that’s awesome.

-Resogun

I just want to say upfront that I am terrible at this game, but man is it addictive. From the moment that it yells at you to, “save the last human,” you are sucked into this visually stunning arcade homage to games like Defender. Between the leaderboards, the multiple ships, and challenge levels; Resogun is one that I keep coming back to on my PS4. There’s also voxels…all the voxels

-Grand Theft Auto 5

Like you’re surprised that I put this here. GTAV gives the player a world to play in. You can go to therapy, bike, golf, steal a tanker truck, dive for treasure, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The game also gave us the most insane, over the top, and possibly evil character in existence; Trevor. Dear lord, I love Trevor. Not because of the terrible malcontent that he is; but because how much he doesn’t care and revels in it. GTAV is a mixed bag for most people. Despite it’s somewhat lackluster mission structure and over the top maybe-it’s-satire-or-maybe-they’re-just-crude humor; I found something to enjoy there.

-Bioshock Infinite

Elizabeth. The Songbird. God Only Knows. There are so many magical moments in Bioshock Infinite that it is hard to narrow down what really grabbed onto me. Even though the story may fall apart towards the end, the roller coaster that Infinite takes its players on is a wonderful one. From your baptism into Colombia to the first time you meet Elizabeth, Bioshock Infinite takes the player on an emotional journey that goes places few games dare to go.

-Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag

Being a pirate and terrorizing the sea is completely fantastic. Sailing around, searching for treasure, and razing ships just hits a chord with me…albeit an evidently sinister one. From the sea shanties, to the well created locales, the game’s atmosphere is designed to bring you into that world. What’s more amazing is that this game brought be back into Assassin’s Creed. ACIII was a terrible mess, and I had sworn off any future installments because of the foul taste that it had left. Yet, as the reviews came in, and the word of mouth spread, I found myself looking at Black Flag. I’m really glad I did. Playing it on the PS4, the graphics are gorgeous and sound design is incredible. Nothing is more terrifying than the thunder of a rogue wave coming at you in surround sound. More than anything, the game is simply fun.

-The Last of Us

How could this not be on my list? The Last of Us is an incredible experience. Joel and Ellie’s story is one of heartache, anger, and loss. It is a story of a broken world filled with broken people; where even the best of intentions ends in pain. There is no happy ending, but there is resolution. It’s easily one the top games of the generation. The gameplay and the story come together in ways that few games do; and it draws the player deeper because of it. For me, this is the reason why I love gaming; and why I believe that this is a growing art form. The Last of Us made me laugh, cry, and rage with its characters; and there were nights where I had to stop playing because I was so emotionally drained. I can’t remember any game in recent memory that has had that sort of effect on me. I cannot recommend this game enough. If you have a Playstation 3, you need to play The Last of Us.

So there you have it; the games I enjoyed this year. There are some great ones that I didn’t get around to for various reasons, but you should play:

-The Stanley Parable

-Gone Home

-Super Mario 3D World

-Papers, Please

Nonetheless, last year was a great year for gaming and this year is shaping up to be something special too. Here’s to 2014 and the magic it will invariably bring!

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Trust Me, I am not a Fungi or Why The Last of Us is My Game of the Year

BIG GIANT-SERIOUSLY DON’T READ THIS SPOILER WARNING FOR THE LAST OF US

I killed a man yesterday…and I am okay with it.

What’s more concerning is that I felt righteous in my act of violence.

But let’s backtrack a bit shall we?

TLoU1

The Last of Us is a Playstation 3 exclusive from Naughty Dog, makers of Uncharted, Jak and Daxter, and the original Crash Bandicoot. The game takes place in a near future setting where cordyceps have ravaged the planet by mutating and infecting humanity and society, as we know it, is struggling to survive. It’s not a happy place, and Joel, our main character, is not a happy person.

We meet him at the beginning of the outbreak, living in Austin with his daughter and his brother living nearby. Within minutes of starting the game, we see Austin crumble, his daughter shot, and time jump ahead years and years into the future…

…with him staring at an empty bottle.

Yeah, Joel is not in a good place.

TLoU2

Nonetheless, the game continues and through a series of events you end up traveling with Ellie. She’s a young girl who never knew the world before things went to hell, has a mouth like a sailor, and a secret of her own. She’s immune to the infection. Thus the real thrust of the adventure kicks in; you are to take Ellie cross country to the base of “The Fireflies;” a resistance group still working on a cure.

Suffice it to say, you both make it, but not unscathed. Joel wakes up in a room surrounded by guards, and is told in no certain terms that he cannot see Ellie. The reason being, she is being prepped for surgery to remove her brain to find out what causes her immunity. They tell me I can do nothing about it. They’re wrong.

I kill the first guard without thinking; after he tells me where Ellie is…

I snap the necks of a couple of guards who see me as I continue to get closer…

and once the alarms sound, I make sure no one is left to tell where I went…

…because NOTHING is going to stand between me and that girl.

TLoU3

I finally get to the operating room, where two nurses and the surgeon await. I shoot one of the nurses to prove I am not joking around, hoping that they will get the picture, but the Doc pulls a scalpel on me. So I drop him and the other remaining nurse, and take Ellie away from there.

I killed those men and didn’t bat an eye. I felt righteous in my vengeance, and I KNEW I was doing the “right” thing. That’s what it felt like, at least. After all this time, I couldn’t let them lay a hand on this little girl that I had come to love and care for. Hell itself could not stop me in that moment.

Yet; let’s look at this objectively…

-I murdered the only people left looking for a cure to the infection

-I killed one of the last brain surgeons on the planet

-Any hope humanity may have had, is now gone because of my actions

I am not the “good guy.” I am most definitely the “villain.”   ….and I am okay with that.

————————————————————————

TLoU6

This is not the first time that a “protagonist” turns out to be something “other,” in any art form. One only has to look to The Road (a big inspiration for the game) and stories like Watchmen to see the trope used in similar ways. Yet, what makes The Last of Us so amazing and worth the discussion is that it puts the actions in the hands of the player.

In other media, we see the drama play out, and we are merely observers to the actions.  We see the characters rationalize their behavior, and we follow along. Yet, in a game-space it is the player that acts and rationalizes the actions that he/she must take. The greatest games have narratives that ensure that the player rationalizes those actions.

Nothing could be worse for game’s narrative than ludonarrative dissonance. In other words, for there to be a disconnect between player actions and narrative direction. It is jarring and can take the player out of the moment; to the detriment of the game. An easy example of this is Grand Theft Auto IV‘s Niko Belic, who bemoans his life of violence; but continues to commit heinous acts. Because there is a perceived gap between the Niko that the player sees and the Niko the player controls, there is less investment in the proceedings.

GTAIV

What The Last of Us does so incredibly well is not only remove that dissonance, but have such a strong narrative and emotional component that by the time end game occurs there is no question of what needs to be done. For hours and hours of gameplay, TLoU actively builds the player’s relationship with Ellie. There are optional conversations with her, comics you can pick up for her, and small personal moments that draw you into this relationship.

It is a credit to the creators and writers that by the end of the game, you not only want to protect Ellie, but are willing to kill for her. A few games go that far and are that successful with their stories; but none have ever staked the future of humanity on them.

TLoU5

In a world full of terribly tragic things, gore, and violence; Ellie gives Joel and the player hope. You see people die all around you, you kill just to survive, and one little girl and her book of bad jokes is the only thing that makes this place a little brighter.

The true horror of The Last of Us isn’t the violence, but rather the fact that it is a world that makes good men do bad things…

…it makes the player do BAD things.

TLoU4

This is something that only this type of art form can do. The player is complicit in the actions of the character, rationalizes those actions, and completes them. That’s not something that can be done in books or movies, and is one of the reasons this story is so powerful for so many.

As gaming continues to “grow up,” we’ll continue to see more mature and different types of stories come out of that growth. The Last of Us isn’t a flash in the pan, but the vanguard of a new type of storytelling. It is definitely something to experience on your own, and something to look forward to in the future…

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Gamestop’s Shares Drop in the Wake of Playstation Now Announcement

Well, it’s good to know that Sony has follow through.

Announced at CES today; Sony revealed what that Gakai purchase they made years ago was all about. Playstation Now is the streaming service that is going to be coming to just about all Sony platforms. To gamers, it is what is going to give that shiny new PS4 of yours that backwards compatibility that you’ve been dying for. To Gamestop investors, well, it signals a changing tide.

Analyst Michael Pachter said it like this,

“It is important to note that PS4 has no backwards compatibility with PS3 discs, meaning that the availability of PS3 digitally streamed games will not directly result in lower used sales of PS3 games to PS4 owners. GameStop’s used gaming sales from PS3 discs on PS3 consoles are most likely to be impacted; however, until we know more about game availability, timing, and pricing, among other factors, we do not see a meaningfully negative impact to GameStop in the near-term. Our bias is that this service will attract fewer than 1 million subscribers, and will impact overall game sales by 1 — 2 percent in the aggregate over the next five years.”

In other words, Gamestop’s investors are overreacting at the moment. Until we know more, they shouldn’t be too worried. That doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t be worried at all. This is another swing towards a completely digital medium, and will be one more thing that Gamestop will have to adapt to. For better or for worse, Gamestop, as we know it, has an expiration date. Things are moving more and more towards digital, and Playstation Now may be just another standard bearer for the digital future to come. So Gamestop’s choice to is evolve or die; it’s going to be an interesting next couple of years.

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Grand Theft Art – GTA and Its Place in Culture

$800 Million in a single day…

$1 Billion in three days…

Think about that for a bit.

Whether you care to admit or not, Grand Theft Auto V is a cultural event. A zeitgeist that transcends the medium it resides in and reaches out to the culture as a whole. By its nature, it is a lightning rod for controversy, and it willingly takes the target that gets painted on its back.

It is a game about crime, its consequences, and the morally reprehensible men that succeed and suffer from it. The player steals cars, robs banks, visits the strip club, tortures, assassinates, and so much more in the name of finally getting that “big score.” It is dark, twisted, and completely unabashed about all of it.

In other words, it’s a fantastic work of art.

Grand Theft Auto V is a technical achievement on many different levels, and for that it should be lauded, but the real accomplishment is what it does for gaming as a medium. It elevates the conversation beyond mechanics and gameplay; to ideas, to public reaction, and to proper criticism.

The game is a critique of the American present. A breakdown of a post 9/11, occupy Wall Street, economically collapsed world; where everyone is entitled and even the government is seen in shades of grey. It is where your teenage son plays “Righteous Kill” on his video game system all day, with “Entitled” tattooed around his neck. It is a place where the paparazzi beg for your help to make the next big celebrity sex tape. It shows the player a beautiful Los Angeles skyline, riddled with empty homes from a housing crisis that took the city. It is a rage fueled satire of America that hits the mark far more often than it misses.

Yet, for all of its achievements, for all of its technical prowess; all that the majority of America hears about Grand Theft Auto V is this…

If it doesn’t load properly, skip ahead to 2.03

News stories like this flourish in the echo chamber that is the public media. Anytime a video game console is found in the home of an assailant it is instantly correlated to the act of violence perpetrated. The video game is instantly seen as the cause, or at least an enabler of some sort.

Yet, is this fair? Should we be throwing this at the feet of Grand Theft Auto and other pieces of this fledgeling art form? More appropriately, should we be passing blame on these creative endeavors or should we be looking more closely at ourselves?

Steven Ogg plays the voice of Trevor, the most sociopathic character in GTAV. He said it like this…

“The hypocrisy drives me crazy, it just sets the wrong focus. Why not talk about gun control? Why not talk about parenting? Why not talk of lack of family values? There are so many other things to talk about. Look at what’s on TV. Breaking Bad had that episode where ******** got his face blown off. There’s a lot of intense stuff out there. Video games are just an easy scapegoat.”

In America, we have a hobby of not accepting blame for our own actions. For us, it is always someone else’s fault. It is not the fact that the parents had no interest in their teen’s life and didn’t know what he was spending his time doing. It was not the issue that someone who had a mental dysfunction had easy access to firearms. No, it was because they played video games.

The silver lining in all of this is that this is not unique to this modern art form. All recent forms of entertainment have gone through such superfluous scrutiny and come out on the other side successful. Yet, for each it took time and, in some cases, generations to pass before popular consensus changed.

Warren Spector is one of the most influential and prolific game makers of our generation. His work includes names like Wing CommanderThiefSystem ShockEpic Mickey, and most famously Deus Ex. His influence can be felt even in modern games. In an article he wrote for GamesIndustry.biz, he summed up this generational issue concisely.

“More recently, many of you reading this will remember a time when comic books, pinball, television and that evil known as “rock n roll” music spelled the end of western civilization as we knew it.

For some time now it’s been gaming’s turn in the cultural crosshairs. We’re the ones blamed for all the things earlier media supposedly caused. Sigh.

On the one hand, we could all just sit back and wait for the hysteria to pass – I mean, once everyone became a film fan, a TV viewer, a rock music listener, a reader, it became awfully hard to say with a straight face – “That thing we all do… um… er… well… it turns people into monsters!… Not me, of course, or you… or those 200 million consumers who are just fine… But THEM… THEY… THEY’RE monsters and it’s all Mario Kart’s fault!”

As it should, this brings me back to Grand Theft Auto. GTAV is not to blame for the societal ills that plague us, and nor should it be blamed. It, and many other games like it, do not turn perfectly normal people into murder machines bent on getting a “high score.” Humanity was fully capable of committing terrible acts long before video game existed, and we still are just as capable today regardless of the existence of video games.

Shakespeare wrote about suicide, murder, treachery, sex, and was celebrated for it during his lifetime. His work was never blamed for the suicide, murder, etc. that happened around him. Now, I would never compare Grand Theft Auto to Hamlet. Mainly because, GTA still has a tendency to lean towards misogyny, homophobia, and crude humor, but the argument still stands.

It is easy to cast stones at a game where you can senselessly run down hundreds of pedestrians. It’s easy to cast blame for society’s violence on a piece of art where simulacrums of that violence can be experienced. It is much much harder to examine one’s self in the mirror and ask the tough questions.

So before the “evils” of video games are decried again, keep in mind that at some point many of the hobbies that you enjoy today were considered to be rotting society years ago. So if you’ll excuse me, I have a game waiting for me to play.

Rotting away society’s core has never been so much fun…

NSFW: Language

Read All of Warren Spector’s Article HERE

Read More of GTA’s Actor’s Thoughts on the Game HERE

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Grand Theft Diary – Entry Two

I Need a New Shrink

 

I’ve been seeing  a psychiatrist for my anger management problems. I figure, for a guy who has the occasional psychotic tendency, it’s probably good to go ahead and talk to someone about all that you are going through. I’d like to think that we’ve had a couple of breakthroughs, but it’s hard to say.

 

Most recently, I had relapsed into some…well…let’s just say I was being a ne’er-do-well. After laying everything out for my doc, he said that I was a prime candidate for buying my sessions in bulk….

 

…because I obviously have a lot of issues

 

…and he’s a money grubbing piece of ______ .

 

This obviously didn’t put me in a good place and he and I had, what is becoming quite a regular occurrence, a yelling match. This ended with me storming out.  As left his place, in a fit of rage, did what only came natural…

 

I stole his red sports car.

 

Yeah, it was petty, but it definitely put me in a better place. Hell, I saw someone get mugged and I got their purse back for them. It was a kind gesture, for sure.

 

Albeit, I ran the thief over…and then backed over him…a couple of times..

 

but nonetheless…

 

maybe this therapy thing is working after all.

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Grand Theft Diary – Entry 1

So, it’s been a bit since I’ve posted anything substantial here; and I greatly apologize for that. Nonetheless, one of the giants of the industry was released recently, and it already has broke records by making over 800 Million Dollars in ONE DAY.

 

So yeah, if you thought that Grand Theft Auto V wasn’t a big deal…sorry, you’re terribly mistaken.

 

Because the game is so large, and so much of the fun is created just by being a part of the world; for the next couple of days I am going to be putting up some of my more ridiculous misadventures. I will try to keep it spoiler free, but I’ll make sure to warn you before hand. So without further adieu,

 

Entry 1 – or I just wanted a haircut

 

The game had just opened up for me, and one of the main characters had just been dumped by his girlfriend. Feeling his pain, I decided that he was in need of a new look to help him move on, or at least to make her jealous. So I started driving around looking for a barber.

 

Eventually, I stumbled across one. Now, I try to be a good citizen when I am not acting the criminal. So I parked nicely in front of the shop, I had followed all the red lights, and just walked on into the place.

 

What I didn’t notice was the group of thugs just outside the building.

 

I had just walked past them, but if I had taken the chance to stop and hear what they were saying, I might have reconsidered my choice of establishment. Almost immediately after walking in, one of the guys rushes in and tells me to “f*** off,” and proceeds to take a swing at me.

 

So, I punch him in the face.

 

And all his buddies.

 

I didn’t want to kill them, I just wanted a haircut. So, when the police finally show up, I assume that they are here to rescue me. Just a small man in a violent world, where all I want is to look good for whatever girl I may find at the bar. Sadly, the police officer had a different worldview and I took a shotgun blast to the chest.

 

Alas.

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The Joys of “Dumb” Fun

I love Dynasty Warriors.  It is completely ridiculous, hard to follow, and the voice work is so bad it makes you cringe. Yet, I cannot get enough of that game. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t buy every iteration of the series, but it is one I come back to every handful of years. It is completely brainless in its action, and it doesn’t take much to understand what the game wants you to do.  Its the video game equivalent of a “popcorn flick.”  There’s no real substance to it, and that’s okay by me.

 

Dynasty-Warriors-8

Screw Lu Bu. Seriously, for eight games the guy has been a total dick…

 

Normally, the games I play (and then in turn write about) are the types that are trying to convey some sort of message or tell a story in one fashion or another.  Usually, these games are fantastic, and move the art form forward.  This is always a good thing.  Yet, like the movies, not every game can be Oscar bait; there always has to be a Transformers.  A movie, or in this case a game, that reminds us that the medium can just be about “fun.”

The More You Know...

The More You Know…

Frank O’Connor of 343 Studios said that Halo was about finding the five seconds of fun, and then repeating it throughout the course of the player’s experience in the game.  In that game’s case its about that combination of shoot, grenade, melee, repeat.  They built a whole multi-million dollar franchise on that simple concept.  Dynasty Warriors is about taking on and defeating multitudes of nameless enemies by the hundreds and Gears of War is about chainsaws and “bros.”  None of these games are bad by any stretch of the imagination; in fact, its quite the opposite.  Yet, the majority of these are not game of the year contenders either.  They exist purely for the fun of the player.

 

Just a little bit of chin music...

Just a little bit of chin music…

 

Games like these are good for the industry. They exist as “palette cleansers,” “guilty pleasures,” and many other things.  Games like Halo and Gears of War are the summer blockbusters of the gaming world and are amazing experiences.  We need games like this.  Not everything needs to strive to be a Journey or Thomas was Alone.  Sometimes, we just want to play a game.

 

 

Escapism doesn’t have to be a bad word, and for many people who play games, that is the number one reason they choose to.  They want to experience something fantastic, they want to try something new, to see some strange new world and be the big damn hero.  That’s why Destiny and Infamous Second Son looks so appealing to me; they are both taking me to a different place and time and letting me experience something that I never will.

 

The only thing this game needs is Tauntauns...

The only thing this game needs is Tauntauns…

 

For every Fez, Hotline Miami, and The Witness; there needs to be a Call of Duty, Titanfall, or Ratchet game.  There is a place for all types of stories and mechanics in this industry, and with the upcoming generation there will be even more opportunity to see all sides of this entertainment medium explored.  So whatever your tastes; now more than ever, is a great time to be a gamer.  Enjoy it for how it makes you think…and how is sometimes gloriously doesn’t.

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Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes and What Could They Mean

The XBOX ONE is not the system that was announced months ago.  So many things have changed since that initial showcase.  It is no longer “always-on,” it can now play used games, and even most recently, it no longer needs the Kinect 2.0 to function.  For all intents and purposes, the system that was promised initially is no more.  What we have now is a system that is nearly identical to Sony’s PS4.  What does this mean? For gamers, for casual players, and for the future?

 

For Gamers

 

Regardless of your feelings towards Sony or Microsoft, this is a win for all of us.  With all of the focus now off hardware considerations, it is now a conversation about the games.  Though most games are not exclusive to any one console, those that are become of even greater importance to the fanboy audience.  Do you want to play Titanfall? Does Infamous Second Son speak to your sensibilities?  Once again, we can talk about the games, and not the drama surrounding the systems and their issues.  It will make this holiday all the more interesting; especially as parents find out what their kids’ friends are playing.  Speaking of…

For Casuals

 

Well, it means that the holiday marketing for each is going to be very important.  Now that both systems are seemingly on an equal playing field (sans price), it will be up to the PR departments to make sure that Mom and Pop know which system is the “right” choice.  Sony’s price point might not make that much of a difference when Joe Average knows that he and his buddies have always played Madden on the Xbox.  Sony will have to show why PSN is the better choice now, and Microsoft will need to remind gamers why they are on top when it comes to online play.  The X1 will also have a possible edge in the family market with the Kinect 2.0, but that speculative at best, especially now that the Kinect is no longer mandatory…

For the Future

 

Eventually, everything will be digital.  For better or for worse, Microsoft’s vision of that future will not come this fall.  The changes that have been made have completely wiped out any chance of some of the more interesting and genuinely cool features the X1 had initially promised.  Who knows what gaming would have looked like in a couple of years had the system launched as intended?  Nonetheless, this is world we live in, and we will get to see this fall how this all plays out.  My money is still on Sony, but never count Microsoft out.  They were backed into a corner and been coming back swinging since E3.  This fall will be a slugfest; and I couldn’t be more excited.

 

For Now…

We wait and see..

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Here are Some Reasons to NOT get a New Console This Fall

I know. I know.

 

We’re all excited for what is coming out this fall.  Regardless of your feelings on which one you may think is better or which one you may be purchasing, this holiday is a big deal because of the launches of the Playstation 4 and the XBOXONE.  They each have a pretty solid launch lineup, and adopting early is a guaranteed “in” to the conversations that will be circulating the industry.  Yet, despite all that; there are some pretty solid reasons for not grabbing one on day one.

 

Games, Games, and Games…

 

Like last generation, both platforms are still going to be releasing new products on each of their previous gen systems, and many of those games have the potential to be amazing experiences.  There are titles coming out, big and small, that will be only coming out on the 360 and PS3.  Games with names like, Grand Theft Auto V, Splinter Cell: Blacklist, Beyond: Two Souls, Puppeteer, and Ratchet & Clank: Into the Nexus.  These are titles that will still have an impact, but won’t be on their newer big brothers (or sisters if you prefer.)  I am just as excited for these titles as I am for some of the big launch titles.  Both companies are making an excellent case for you to upgrade this fall, but they are giving you an equally compelling case to make sure that you hold onto your old system as well.

 

 

The Possibilities of New Hardware

 

I know that this sounds like a positive…and it is; but do we all need to be reminded of the “red ring of death?”  For all the excitement that builds around a new console launch, we all seem to forget the problems that happen.  I know people who went through four 360s, and people whose launch model PS3s ran as hot as a jet engine.  These types of problems happen at the beginning of a life cycle.  Hardware will always have kinks to be worked out, and there will always be a small number of people who draw the proverbial “short straw,” and end up with a dud.  It completely sucks, but statistically speaking; it is bound to happen.  Buying a new console has the possibility of being like russian roulette, and it can be just as nerve wracking.

 

 

 

Cross-Gen, Split-Gen, but is it Really Next-Gen?

 

The interesting thing about a launch are the games that seem to be on both sets of systems.  This year games like Assassin’s Creed IV, Watch Dogs, Fifa, Call of Duty, and many more will be on both the old and next generation systems.  I won’t deny that the PS4 and XBOXONE versions will be prettier, and probably have some more features than their older counterparts; but for some that isn’t enough to justify a new console purchase.  This can be especially true when you think of the horror stories from last launch, games like GUN, Tony Hawk’s American Wasteland, and Just Cause that were just higher resolution ports of the other versions.  We’re not going to truly see some actual “next-gen” gaming until next year, when we start to see games that were made exclusively for the new systems from the ground up.  Until then, these split-gen games only muddy the waters and make the decision to upgrade a difficult one.

 

Price

 

Lastly, do you simply have the money?  With all the above reasons, do you really want to drop anywhere from $400-$600 on a new system this fall?  In the end, I guess you weigh all the previous factors together and factor them in to this one final decision.  So, in the end, it all comes down to spending your hard earned cash.  Is it worth it?

 

So there you go; my attempt to talk you out of buying the “new hotness” this fall.  Albeit, I am getting a PS4, and my own arguments mean nothing to me.  So, what are you doing this holiday?  Are you sticking with your old system or taking the next gen dive? Comment below or just use the nifty poll I put up. (Also, this was our 101st post, so thanks everyone for supporting us thus far and continuing to share us with your friends.  Hopefully we’ll still be doing this for another 100!)

 

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