In this portion Head Games, I’m going to be talking about what games I have played have taught me about a variety of topics and issues. This is a chance for me to get away from criticism and mindless gameplay and come to grips with the themes the game posits. What ______ Taught Me? is my favorite part about gaming and gaming culture.
Intentions are not everything. We may want to save the world but the manner in which we do it is as important as the motivation. Motivation can have a funny way of changing actions and justifying horrors. AC draws parallels between the world today and the world of the Middle Ages in many ways that make us think twice about our own ‘enlightened’ place in history. Are we really so advanced? As wars continually rage on in this area of the world we are clearly not.
And what of the stereotypes that we encounter today? The violent Islamist, or the Christian Fundamentalist? What is lacking between these seemingly mortal enemies is communication and compromise. Neither seems willing to listen or learn from the other making it possible for them to justify terrorist acts or all out invasion. The Templars used this misinformation and fear to their advantage by rallying both sides against the Assassins. Altair saw through their scheme to a better way of dealing with the violence. He sought King Richard and with brutal honesty and integrity laid out the Templar’s deceitful plans. We should be more like Altair and seek to extinguish the fires of fear and doubt rather than stoke those flames that give rise to hatred and violence. And we should do it with honesty.
Well, I just finished the first Assassin’s Creed and I wanted to share my thoughts on the game and its greater contribution to gaming. I was really pleased in many aspects of the story, although some characters felt very flat and the story lacked any serious development until the final third of the game. What I enjoyed most about this title was the way in which characters were manipulated and had their good intentions used for ill. Such is the way of the world and, exceptions aside, most people in power want what’s best for the world without rethinking their actions. Motives, as pure as they may be, cannot absolve wrong doing.
This game, however, lacked in the most basic of gaming principles and seemed to be rushed in many ways. The characters are all static archetypes save for Altair (and eventually Malek). The villains act as though they had been torn from a He-Man episode writhing their hands as they gloat about victories they have yet to achieve. Collectables are far too many to even care about searching out because the game does very little to incentivize the player for taking the task. It also gets annoying that no matter how often you must repeat a mission or have seen thugs come to your aid after a rescue the game still suspends play to allow these events to repeat. The random dialogue in the streets will also have you tearing your ears off when you’re continually asked for, “just a few coins.”
Now I did see some parts shine in the gameplay, but I hope the next iteration takes what has worked and pulls it together on the other elements. Battles should be fluid and not reactive but proactive. It often felt like I was just waiting for the AI to make a mistake. By far, assassinations and the dialogues that follow were the stand outs in this game but that came as no surprise. In all, I would say this was a good first outing for the series and hope that it continues to grow in positive ways and not falter like other yearly series’. If you haven’t played it, it’s worth the asking price of ‘just a few coins.’
Recently the developer of Angry Birds, Peter Vesterbacka, has gone on the offensive predicting the end of console gaming. There’s no doubt that his recent success in the app markets has led him to this conclusion, but it is simply an untested and unfounded opinion.
He may bolster his “100 million” sales as a badge of honor, but how many of those sales came from lite and commercially supported apps. On top of this, how many times can one repackage the same idea and consider it to be a sign of growth. I recently played the latest iteration of Angry Birds which is a movie tie in with Rio, due out in April. It was nothing more than the same premise with different pigs, in this case caged birds. In comparison we have stalwart iconic console franchises like Mario and Final Fantasy which while retaining their character always provide the audience with new, fresh, and inventive ways to play (though not always with a 100% success rate). Without growth a franchise is doomed to lose its audience. Which leads me to my next point, which is the risk involved in creating a game.
Vesterbacka sees console games as a waste because he believes that gamers in the future will not be willing to shell out the higher price for the software. What he doesn’t realize is that anything really worth the play is worth the price. Angry Birds may be a good time waster, but for serious gamers looking to become engrossed in a title there needs to be more. The boom in the video game industry the past decade, despite the economic collapse, has a been a resounding and supportive force for console games.
These games are a risk for the companies that create them. These risks do pay off in big ways. I believe the difference between these two industries, the console game and app game markets, is that there is very little risk in the app market. So little in fact that profits can be made doing next to nothing and believing that success will always be just one app away.
Audiences are attracted to various forms of entertainment, performance, and expression for different reasons. Some like to be delighted by laughter or excited by action. Others like to have their accepted notions challenged by thoughtful media. Then there are audiences that take pleasure in imagining themselves as the hero, villain, or someone in between. Films, television, music, art, dance. All of these have provided satiation of these needs and desires of audiences everywhere but if there’s one thing that is not always demanded of them is that they are fun. So why do we continue to demand that our video games be fun.
Let’s first remember that often times the games we play are themselves not fun at all but are the manifestation of the competitive human drive to better ourselves or excel over others (which can have intrinsic value that we define as having fun). We play games and call them sports but do not always demand fun as a prerequisite. Reporters don’t rush onto the field and ask the losing quarterback if the game was worth it because it was fun.
Then we pose this same scenario to other forms of artistic expression and popular entertainment we are met with the same conundrum. Although they may be enjoyable to visualize or partake in, do we demand that a movie or painting be fun? If this same criteria were applied to these mediums there would be a melange of mediocrity and the truly exceptional would never be recognized for what it offers. Artists like Van Gogh, a severely depressed man, didn’t make art to tickle our amusement. Directors like Akira Kurosawa did not make films for the sake of giving us a rush of fun. People like these and many others in the history of human expression didn’t limit their potential by whether or not the audience would have a good time while viewing their work.
This isn’t to say that fun should be stricken from the pages as a non-sequitur. The work of creators like Shigeru Miyamoto and Dave Jaffe speak to the importance of good gameplay mechanics and fun factor. Let’s not forget that many artists also concern themselves with the fun their audiences will have while viewing. Creators like Quintin Tarantino and Christo and Jeanne-Claude express their visions in fun and creative ways, sometimes including their audiences just as video game creators do.
The big difference is that for the majority of the video game medium there have been constrictions on how video game creators could create an interactive experience, so limited that amusement became one of the only human conditions that they could manipulate and appeal to. That simply is not the case nowadays. The Fun Factor should not be a requirement to the importance of a game, and without letting go of this ever present prerequisite to gaming we can never fully enjoy the value and meaning of games like Heavy Rain and Homefront.
After having ample time to play with my new iPhone 4, I can now say with confidence that if this is the future of gaming I will cast myself out of the community. This platform presents many innovative features but there are so many draw backs that I cannot see it overtaking the more traditional routes for electronic and interactive games.
My biggest concern is the fact that the controls are all on the screen itself. This is what lends it some of its innovativeness, until you realize that your thumbs and fingers will constantly be in your line of sight. Nintendo has been accomplishing this function with greater success by utilizing two screens (the DS) and including actual button controls. They’ve now stepped up the playability by introducing 3D in their latest handheld, the 3DS.
The only mobile I see a real glimmer of hope in is the upcoming PSP phone, the Xperia Play. But even this phone stands the chance of going the way of the Nokia Ngage if not marketed and supported correctly.
You Ever Wish You Hadn’t Done That?
We’ve all been there. But what if you could change what had happened? A disastrous night of drinking, a fight with a significant other, or just plain bad decisions could just disappear or be reworked with the clarity that hindsight brings. This is the world that Braid offers us, but it’s an interesting one given the context that Braid deals with and what that tells us about life and the important decisions we make and how we deal with the unchangeable ramifications of them.
To begin with, there are a multitude of ways that time and space are manipulated in this game. Time can be altered backward and forward, objects can appear in several places at once, and Tim’s ring is the key to all of this. He tries desperately to repair the devastation he has wrought with his poor decisions but in the end it is all for nought since he must learn to live with his mistake.
I know this is sort of contrived to talk about, but I’ve been in this predicament time and time again. The difference between Tim and I is that he has the luxury of that ring, but it is a fleeting vain luxury at best. While it is capable of changing events before his eyes, the truth is that just like you and I, Tim must also live with the repercussions of his mistakes as shown that in the end all that he could do was watch as his good intentions met with the most gruesome of ends.
So what interest would anyone outside of entertainment have for exploring this title and its topics? Well for one it deals with a complex story that is both moving and richly layered. There are multiple ways of interpreting this story, like most good novels and films. There is also the characteristic way that the music emotes the personality of each stage so truthfully. The eloquence and beauty of the painterly style that Blow uses is truly something to behold. All of these factors and more lend credibility to the growing argument that videogames are moving quickly into the realm of acceptable forms of artistic medium. Even if that never happens, I will always treasure this adventure as a precious gift, like a ring.
So I was thinking tonight how I’ve traversed so many places, even those places that are fictional or impossible to reach. I’m being serious when I say that gaming has afforded me the opportunity to experience things that would otherwise be impossible. This isn’t just an escapist’s dream to enter into the world of gaming, but it’s a recognition of what gaming can provide for us that real life is lacking.
Is there any other way to travel to other worlds at this time? Can we hope to meet such wondrous creatures and take in the vast settings that games can place us into? No, since in reality we are bound by the limitations of physics, economics, and practicality. But gaming changes all of that. So I know it’s been a long time since I’ve updated this blog, but I’m coming back into it with this premise at the forefront of every post. What does gaming bring to humanity that is unique and how can we utilize it to learn about ourselves? I’ll be back soon with my first take on this new approach.
Last year Mute Math released their second album and with it a powerful song about the disillusionment they had and how it almost broke them up. It’s called Odds, and here are some of the lyrics to keep in mind while you read this.
Cast another vote In our sad terminal Democracy Democracy
The word is out on us we have gone delirious The floor is falling out from under us It always does!
I know it’s hard to say we’ll throw it all away But the odds are
we’ll be better off
We all need to work towards putting an end to this partisan government impasse we are all experiencing. I urge all of us to educate ourselves. Don’t be a liberal or conservative by default. Try to understand what motivates the other side. Make your decisions based on research and credible facts. Don’t be afraid to admit that you may have been wrong. Vote for who and what you want, not for someone you’re simply told to by adds, friends, or authorities.
Welcome back, today I wanted to discuss a topic which I find very interesting. A few years ago this man known the world over for his incredible contributions to gaming made a very provocative statement about the current status and future of video games. Hideo Kojima stated in an interview with Game Informer magazine that, “I believe that games are not art, and will never be art.” He went on substantiating his claim by comparing video games to cars in the sense that they reflect more about the era that they come from rather than an overarching representation of the human experience. His claim also rested upon the reason for developing, publishing, and playing games being a form of entertainment above all else.
Let it be known that I respect this man not only for his contributions but also for his forthrightness in expressing his opinions. That said, there are many parts of this statement that do not sit well with me and I believe many other like minded gamers agree. We’ll begin with a challenge to the statement itself and then lead into examples of gaming that has progressed into the realm of art.
When I took a look at what fellow gamers across the internet have said about this quote, I was shocked to find that so many agreed with him. Many were convinced by the argument that video games are just a form of entertainment. If that argument holds true, than why don’t we deny movie directors or musicians the right to be part of the artistic community. Just because we entertain ourselves with video games this does not limit their potential as an artistic medium.
We also must consider what Kojima here means by art. If he only considers art to be that which is created for its own sake than he is missing out on some of the most incredible contributions to art in all of history. What do Michelangelo’s David and the majority of works considered high art have in common? They are the fruits of an artist who was patronized by entities not always in collusion with their own efforts.
I’ll return to this topic in the future but for now we should all consider some important topics, such as what constitutes art? Who reserves the right to deem a work art? Could a work be art even if it’s creator denies that claim?
I was taking a look around the net today when I happened upon this little gem. It made me think back to when I had donned each of these outfits vicariously through Mario. It also made me think about all the different sort of suits we put on in our normal everyday lives. While they may not be as outlandish and funny as these, do we act the same around our loved ones as we do at work? Does our professor know our sweet club dance moves?
These questions merely scratch the surface of what I want to ask today, and it is this. If we act differently, talk differently, and dress differently given the right circumstances, who are we? Which if any of these are our true selves? And is there a way to reconcile all of these different personas into an entity we can label as “self”?