Tag Archives: opinion

The 2DS: A Point/Counterpoint brought to you by Gamasutra

Nintendo’s announcement of the 2DS came as a shock to many of us, and just as many are wondering what their thought process must be. I’m decidedly sure that this is a Pokemon machine (because it is coincidentally launching on the the same day) aimed at little kids.

 

Gamasutra has had two write-ups since the announcement, one speaking of Nintendo’s already confusing messaging, and another saying what Nintendo is probably trying to actually get across. Give them both a read, and comment here, there, wherever. Being a part of the conversation is cool…or so I am told.

 

What’s so confusing about the Nintendo 2DS?

 

Nintendo’s 2DS is brand confusion in a box

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Atari to Xbox – A Dad’s Journey or “Why Halo is Fine by Me”

For me, edging close to thirty and he, being in his fifties, my dad and I get along quite a bit.  Some would argue too well; as we both have a penchant for being a complete smart-asses.  Nonetheless, he and I have always had a strong relationship.  Thus, it’s not that surprising that he has an opinion on this whole, “violent games” thing.  This might be because he bankrolled my early exploits, or he has a pretty good head on his shoulders with some good ideas.  He recently emailed me his thoughts on the matter, and what follows are one dad’s perspective on the argument.  I hope you enjoy….

Before you talk about the evils of video games and how they hurt our kids, maybe you should listen to my story.

     My first and only video game “console” was an Atari 2600™.  Every “console” that came after that was not mine, it was my son’s.  His first “console” for his third birthday was an NES.  I wanted the best for him and he had mastered my Atari 2600™ games and it was time to move forward.  The NES™ was followed by the Super Nintendo™, Game Boy™ and the Nintendo 64™.  However, I couldn’t be satisfied…I mean HE couldn’t be satisfied with just one console.  So, it was 1995 and my son wanted a PlayStation™.  It was important. It was great father-son bonding time to sit on the couch and play video games; I mean sometimes he would even let me win; it was quality time.  

     My son quickly learned that the more buttons on the controller, the lower the odds of dad winning the game; which is why I felt we should only play racing games.  Steer, gas and brake; I could handle that. I was an adult, I had a driver’s license and had been driving for years.  Yet, even on the driving games, he beat me like a drum; except when he would stop on the track and let me pass just before I wrecked crossing the finish line.  First person shooters were completely beyond me: what do I push to walk, run, jump, look left, look up or even how do I aim the gun?  But for my son, these things were all second nature.  Fighting games were again beyond what I could do; with their need to press X,X, O, ∆ to do the super move and take down the opponent. In those moments how I longed for my 2600 joystick with just one button.  

     I will admit we did share more quality time “father-son bonding” as we would play through all the characters in Soul Caliber, Tekken, Street Fighter, or what have you.  I would start in the upper left hand corner of the character screen and he would start in the lower right and we would fight until we had gone through all the characters.  I was a button masher and he was a tactician, and sometimes I got lucky and hit the buttons fast enough in the right sequence and would pull of the super move.  We bonded, we laughed, it was good.  

    He continued to play more and we moved on to the PlayStation 2™ and eventually to an X-box™.  In Halo™ I was the “Old Man” and I learned about spawn killing the hard way.  I don’t know, was I a bad dad?  Should I have allowed my son to spend so much time on video games?  Should I have allowed his friends over to play well into the night and supplied them with pizza and Cokes?  I knew his friends (they never let the “Old Man” win), they knew me, I know they didn’t get into drugs and I know they are all doing well as well-adjusted young adults; many with kids of their own now.  In the end, maybe I didn’t do too bad and maybe it is HOW you play the game, and how you see it.  It’s bonding time…

Whenever I’m able to visit my folks, I always try to make sure that my dad and I find time to do a race together.  Recently, it was Split/Second,  as our inner middle-schoolers were delighted to be bringing down buildings as we circled along the track.  For the longest time it was Hot Pursuit 2, where we’d claim that the Opal Speedster was the greatest car in video game history.  I don’t get to see the family all that often, which is why those small moments of stupid fun seem to reverberate through my own personal memory.  The more I consider it all, the more I believe that in some small way, my father stumbled onto part of the answer to this “violent media” issue.

He simply took enough time to care what I was doing…

There have been so many times where I have seen parents take no interest in what their own children care about; take no interest in the content or substance of what their kid is putting into their head.  It makes no difference if it is Mario or Grand Theft Auto as long as it is occupying them just a little bit longer.  There is no problem with kid playing a violent or “adult” game; the problem is when the parent doesn’t care and has no clue what their child is playing.  For my friends and myself, there was never once that our parents didn’t know what “nonsense” we were putting into our heads.  They could talk Halo strategy, Final Fantasy spells, and Risk tactics along with all of us; all because they took a vested interest in what their kids found fun.  We all played violent games, we all shot fireworks at each other, and we all turned out relatively well adjusted.

 Obviously, not everybody has a solid family life; and there will never be one definitive answer to this sort of issue.  Yet, every little bit of what we can offer in the way of solutions can only help.  We live in a world that is coming together more and more because of technology, yet it is that same technology that insulates us from each other on occasion.  So, if you’re a parent reading this, talk to your kids tonight.  Find out WHY they play what they play; what’s in it, and what makes that so damn fun for them.  You’ll probably learn something, and if you’re lucky, find something that you can share with them.

 

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The Line: Spec Ops and Intelligent Narrative Design

I want to start this off by saying one thing;

Spec Ops: The Line is not a bad game. I might even be inclined to say it is better than many others that infest the “shooter” genre.  Of course, that’s not to say I wasn’t disappointed with it.

 

SPOILERS FOR SPEC OPS: THE LINE – YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED 

 

It’s like he’s welcoming the bullet with open arms…

 

Spec Ops is a game that wants you the think about what you are doing; and to care about the narrative.  Caring about the story beats in a game is hard enough; compound that with it being a shooter and shackled with those game mechanics and you can see where this can start to seem difficult.  What makes Spec Ops so tragic is that fact that it almost does it. Almost.

 

The doesn’t need to be explained in its entirety to see the problem.  You follow Cap. Walker and his squad as they work their way through Dubai; slowing watching everything spiral out of control as they search for answers and the enigmatic Gen. Conrad.  It is obvious from the beginning that the game designers pull heavily from darker war movies like Apocalypse Now and others like it; and that they want you to be an active part in this narrative experience.  As the situation progressively gets worse and worse; the game forces the player to do more and more heinous acts to further their own goals.  This climaxes, to an extent, when the player is forced to burn the enemy soldiers alive; and in the process kill a large group of civilians .  It is a truly dark moment in a game that is full of dark moments; and that it where it struggles.

 

That’s a fellow American that you just burned alive….do you care?

 

 

Spec Ops is a dark game with incredibly mature themes; and for that I applaud it, but it needed to be something more; it wanted to be something more.  Never once in the game do you see your squad happily bantering; you never know what life was like for these guys before there were metaphorically sent into hell.  Part of what makes those darker war movies work are those moments of “down time,” to let you know that maybe these men are not monsters, that they are indeed human.  It is that humanization of these characters that not only makes you care about them; but causes the view to relate to them as well.  From the very get go in Spec Ops, nothing is good and it never lets up.  These characters are never given a chance to resonate with the player.  We are supposed to care about Walker’s mental stability, and the lives of his squadmates; but without the requisite characterization; these soldiers just fall into “dude-bro” stereotypes that we see all the time in the genre.   Thus, when these intense moments arrive ; the player feels nothing.  You see it on the screen; acknowledge that darkness; but you don’t feel the emotion that game striving for you to achieve.

 

In the end; I still think that you should play the game.  The fact is; any game that creates this sort of discussion is worth checking out.  Gaming is growing up; and Spec Ops is sure sign of that growth; yet it is also an example of how we are not there yet.  I think we are on the cusp of something amazing in our chosen medium. Games like The Last of Us, Beyond: Two Souls, and the new Tomb Raider are looking to push that envelope and give us some of the first truly “mature” games.  That’s not to say that they will reach those heights; or that they will be good, but again; the fact that this is happening at all can only be a good thing.

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