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Amethystine's blog

12:24 PM on 08.04.2007

You Fail at Video Games! But that's a good thing.

Spoiler alert! Vague Eternal Darkness spoilers in this post. You should still play it, though, I don't go into specifics.

After my last posts, the commenters mentionned that games never have you fail at the end, or die at the end, since that would piss off the player and be unsatisfying. Mostly, I agree, but writing a satisfying ending where your player accomplishes what they set out to do, perhaps in the moment of their deaths, can be done, too. I'm not so sure about the inverse.. a satisfying ending where you survive the ordeal, but are not able to complete what you apparently were setting out to do in the start. Maybe there'll be a game where, right at the end, you choose to either win and die in the process, or save yourself and fail at your mission in the process.

Anyway, like I said, games aren't able to have the main character die, I'll agree for the most part, which is unfortunate. But I can also think of one example where it worked pretty well to have your character die or fail. Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem.

In Eternal Darkness, you played as a progression of people throughout history, who have had dealings with the evil force that made up the antagonistic element of the game. Several of these characters died or failed in their quests, but they served to educate the main character, who was reading (and playing through) their stories. It was shocking when your current avatar would fail, die or end up in an asylum (the best part), but it was done very well, in that in the end, you used the combined efforts to vanquish the evil. I'll never forget the way that one guy gets.. well, I won't spoil that one for you.

This also left you bereft of that comfy notion that: 'I'm the main character, I can't die, haha!' Because after playing for a little while, you weren't too sure what might happen to you. Which is what helped make it that much scarier at times. In Resident Evil, you pretty much know you'll get out alive, in the end, since the point is to 'survive the horror'.

Of course, when you 'won', you have a vision of the next bit of evil in line succeeding, and you've failed once again, ultimately! Only by playing through and failing at the end of the game 3 times or so, setting up a rock, paper, scissors cycle of the 3 forces of evil destroying each other, could you truly defeat all of the darkness and "win" the game.

I think it was an awesome game, failing characters and all. Not to mention that your first character fails, dies and winds up an earthly avatar for the evil you spend the rest of the game trying to kill. That was classic, utterly.

After I finish playing 'The Darkness', I'll probably play 'Eternal Darkness' again. No, I don't see a pattern there. It's just a coincedence! Anyway, I'd like to see how many people out there played Eternal Darkness and maybe agree with me? Anybody? Everybody?!   read

3:38 AM on 08.04.2007

But is it ART? Part 2: Art and Games, Games and Art

This is/was something of a responce to this post, but then things got out of hand and I kept writing and writing and then it wouldn't all fit in the comment box and it got all off topic, so I'm throwing it up here!

Gauger wrote: "I think one could argue that a painting could be high art, even if it compels you to stop looking at it, but I opine that the looking is as much a part of the experience of the painting as what the painting itself portrays. If one is not looking at a painting, one is not experiencing it. The same goes for games. The minute I stop wanting to play a game, my experience with the art of it is crippled."

You could make the argument that it's possible for a piece of art, be it a book or a painting or a piece of music, be shocking or repelling in some ways and cause you to want to look away or stop it, but also compels one to look, read or listen further.

Or, in the case of stopping and not looking back again, there's certainly been art that is meant to shock.. to have a person see it once, then look away, never to see it again, the initial shock value being the only intended effect/result. Even if you're not actively looking at it, the memory of it could be considered part of the artistic intent and emotional effect it has on the viewer.

So if there was a truly artful game that made you want to stop playing it at a specific point as its intent, you could say your experience with the art of it was complete.. as long as it was designed that way, anyway. For example, you might reach a certain point in the game and something truly horrible happens. Then the game stops everything asks you to choose between two simple things: To stop or to go on. If implemented correctly and built up to well enough with emotional involvement to seriously give the player pause as the tradegy befalls them and about half of the audience does stop there, they'd be given a satisfactory ending and left to wonder what would have happened had they gone on. I would hope they'd be left wondering with lingering doubts for a least a while after they had put the game away. That sort of interactivity is exactly what games can do, as opposed to books or other media.

(Of course, most gamers would just save before the decision and do both, with the ingrained notion of finding/reaching the 'true, proper' ending, thus ruining the effect.)

As for an artistic game that tries to shock the audience, I imagine a gristly scene of gore to disgust/repel a player (as opposed to give them a visceral thrill, as it seems that's the only use for gore these days), perhaps in a crime scene you come upon as a cop.. the desire of wanting to capture and see the prepetrator of the foul act brought to justice being the hook for the rest of the game.

Anyway, now I'm struck with a concept for a murder mystery sort of game. A detective story. You play the police detective, of course. You're thrust into your role with a nasty murder crime-scene and left to try and hunt down the killer with the old flatfoot routine and basic forensics like fingerprints and blood types. Nothing too CSI fancy. Anyway, my sudden idea was that after ages of searching and digging and hunting for clues and all that jazz, you realize you're never going to catch the killer. The case will go unsolved. Maybe throw it into a game that has other, solvable, cases, to make the game seem less 'cheap', overall. With the one unsolvable case, the artistic merit comes in it forcing you, the player, to realize that good doesn't always win and things aren't always resolved. (but lack of closure sucks!) You tell your police superior you're giving up the case and it all ends.

Of course, I just had another idea while writing that.. once you give up the case, an alternate mode of play is opened while the other is closed and you play as the criminal and must evade the police endlessly, in a reflection of what when on during your investigation as the police.

Would that qualify as an artistic game, if produced with enough style and well-balanced story telling? As long as it doesn't jerk you around too much, I think it would be compelling without being traditionally 'fun'.

(This Part 2 was also written at about 6 in the morning after being up all night, what is wrong with me? I bet I'll come back and see that it makes no sense to me later.)   read

2:54 AM on 08.04.2007

But is it ART? Part 1: Fun VS Entertainment

This is/was something of a responce to this post, but then things got out of hand and I kept writing and writing and then it wouldn't all fit in the comment box and it got all off topic, so I'm throwing it up here!

The article asks how the definitions of "art", "fun", and/or "gaming" would have to change to have games be taken as seriously as other mediums like books, movies, music and paintings. I'm going to look at 'fun' and 'entertainment', mostly.

I realized when I saw Black Hawk Down, and tried to define its qualities afterwards, that I could not call it 'fun', or even exactly 'entertaining' in my somewhat limited definition of the word, back then.

I came to appreciate film critics' use of words like 'gripping' or 'compelling', since movies about war or atrocities like genocide aren't exactly uplifting or highspirited.. but they do make you think. Hense the often used term 'thought-provoking'. So, I realized I could be 'entertained' without something being 'fun' or exciting in the 'f***-yeah!' action movie sort of way.

The question is if games can do the same thing, and be compelling enough to keep us playing (or should I say 'participating', as 'play' suggests something 'fun') even if they're simply thought-provoking. I suppose it would come down to what people go to games to receive. Do we, as a culture want anything other than FUN from our games? Some do, but I think the majority use games only for pleasant distractions as opposed to more serious, dramatic fare. (The majority of all the people who play games, at least, not just the cool, art supporting people on Dtoid)

Yes, it's always been that games are just distractions for kids, at least, that's the image that's been applied to gaming. Probably because of the name. Just like 'comic books', which for the most part should be called something else since they've evolved past being more than cartoons on paper for kids.. more and more, they're called 'graphic novels'. So too should 'video games' be called something more mature now that we've moved so far past cartoons in pixels. The best I can come up with is 'Electronic Interactive Entertainment' or something of the sort. Maybe a clever acronym?

So, my answer to the question above about what would have to change is; Gaming would need a new image, one that's about more than just frivolous fun, and we'd need lots and lots of games that are serious and thought-provoking, whose elements were less about game'play', but more about participation in the entertainment to drive the activities.

--Unfortunately, I can't think of any activites in the average game that aren't already inherently fun when performing them vicariously through an electronic avatar. Driving fast cars, shooting stuff, running around places.. it's always been that way, that all the jumping and stuff we do is supposed to be the 'fun' part of a game.. but I'm sure there's a bunch, I just can't think of any, since it's 5:30am now. Help me out, will you? What stuff can we do in a game that's not simple fun, but is engaging? Exploration?--   read

11:13 PM on 08.01.2007

Thoughts on Zombies & Racism

This will be my attempt to convey my views on the recent 'Racism in Resident Evil 5' debacle. I say 'attempt' because the whole thing is quite the quagmire which really comes down to personal views on the state of segregation/racism in America and the rest of the world. So I'm going to try and get to the root of the controversy instead of the actual problem itself, the preview video.

{If you want to skip some boring analytical stuff, "Hit the Jump" and slide on down to the next place you see these brackets.}

First of all, obviously the setting is a very big part of the current scandal. Everyone is reacting to the fact that it takes place in Africa. (While I have heard that it's possibly somewhere else, like an island nation, let's assume for the sake of argument that it is, indeed, Africa.) I suppose I should mention that no one has said anything about the video's portrayal of the setting in the first place. The area is depicted as harsh and alien, with the bright sun and silent footage, save for the music, as well as admittedly creepy glances towards the camera (and therefore, the viewer) aimed at making the entire environment seem hostile. A scene of an angry mob lynching someone, should garner them no sympathy from the viewers, whether the audience believes the victim to be one of the villagers or an outsider, a public hanging is generally disapproved of.

Only after this is established is the main focus of the preview introduced, Chris Redfield. It may be true that he is the only caucasian present and is dressed vaguely like an authority figure, I think it should be apparent to most that he is supposed to appear as a stranger or an outsider. Since we hear his voice and are introduced to him by name, the viewer is supposed to attach to him as our protagonist. Fans of the series of games will already know who he is by name and know his motivations, but someone unfamiliar with the story should still realize that he is an established person, since he is given a name. If he were a new character, there would be no point in naming him in a simple preview, as no one would know who he is. If this realization is made by someone who doesn't know who he is immediately, they should realize also that he must have already been set up as a white male, stopping protests declaring he should be black as well.

Getting back on track, we then see Chris looking perhaps a little scared at suddenly being alone in the midst of the formerly busy village he was just walking through. More evidence that he is out of his element or in danger. This is meant to be a scary bit of CG animation, afterall.

The next thing we see is Chris coming upon what would look to an unfamiliar viewer as (I think) two men torturing or otherwise assaulting a third man. After the first two flee, the third man obviously has been harmed, due to the visual of the blood coming from his eyes, and is obviously not aware of what he's doing as he attacks Chris. For his part, the protagonist does not move to stop the victim, simply holding him off, grappling with him.

Again attempting to analyze the content as though I was not aware of the mechanics of the game, we then see Chris backing away from groups of advancing threatening people bearing bladed weapons. The next several scenes depict our 'hero' being surrounded and attacked, forced to the ground and targeted by people throwing what look to be fairly large knives seen earlier being used to chop meat. During these scenes, Chris appears to be taking a fairly pacifistic stance, backing away while warding off attacks with a small fire-arm as well as throwing off people who grab him and pushing them away. Admittedly, there are a few pistol shots used, one of which was only to deflect the course of an inbound knife, and one punch thrown by him, but overall, the idea that he is defending himself while trying to escape seems completely plausible and acceptable.

If this trailer tells a story, we then see escalating violence on both sides of the conflict as the game progresses as Chris uses a shotgun and then a rifle very briefly, interspersed with him being completely surrounded, trapped and cornered and sliced at with blades several times, as well as more shots of him trying to escape up some stairs or into different places.

The whole thing ends with Chris running and leaping off of an undefined wall/building/embankment, possibly injuring himself rather than facing the hordes of hostile pursuers.

{Jump down to here!}

First of all, I want to respond to what I saw of the article Jim Sterling was responding to in his post (which inspired me to write my own). They mention a white man "killing Black people", even though there is surprisingly little violence on Chris' part. The only instance of a death in the video being the lynching at the beginning, committed by the villagers and perhaps Chris' single shotgun blast and burst of fire from an assault rifle (which didn't appear to hit anything, as I recall). His shots with the pistol are all rather ineffective looking. As for 'killing', it seems very much that that is what the large number of villagers is trying to do to the protagonist.

Next, the article says, "The Black people are supposed to be zombies". This shows that the author of the article in question realizes that the beings in the video have become something other than human beings, as it is widely known that zombies are more than walking corpses. Honestly, stopping a zombie is only desecrating a corpse. Having acknowledged that the people present are 'supposed to be zombies' might explain away and justify their actions in that they are no longer in control of themselves. Furthermore the fact that Chris is reluctant to attack said monsters should only further garner sympathy for him.

They go on to mention "depiction of Black people as inhuman savages". As I said, they have already established that the black people present are zombies. Since they already pointed this out, it opens the door to the argument that zombies are altogether different from a 'savage'. Saying someone is a 'savage' implies that they are less intelligent and barbaric.. but depicting someone as a zombie gives no bearing on their life or actions before succumbing to the great equalizer of death, then rising as a mythological being that classically has only one motivation, which is hunger. Denoting that they ARE zombies only proves that they're just hungry, and are depicted attempting to eat the protagonist.

(I know they're actually not zombies, but Ganados. But that distinction is only important to people who are already fans of the games)

Lastly, the article attempts to accuse Capcom with the statement that "this video game is marketed to children and young adults". I don't think I need to say anything to convince you that this game is not trying to attract children. The scary overtones and the violence devoid of bright colours or cartoony antics of any kind should be proof enough. And, more than likely the game will receive an 'M' rating upon release, hopefully limiting the 'young adult' range that should be able to purchase it to those people already on the verge of adulthood.

Once more looking at it in a purely non-Resident Evil way.. it's entirely possible to imagine that Redfield is only attempting to survive the horrible situation in which he's placed (wait.. survive.. horrible.. that sounds familiar). Or perhaps, if one must infer an ulterior motive, it might be that he's attempting to stop the men that first attacked the third man in the initial encounter. Or maybe he's there to stop the man with the megaphone and his criminal followers. At this point, it's useless speculation.

What isn't useless OR speculative is this: Since the setting is one that, by all logic, would only have black people living there, it makes no sense that any character would be anything but african. The only reason the main character is not black as well is because he's an established character continuing the story that he is a part of. Since there's a giant 5 in the title, people who don't know the story should assume he's the same main character there's always been. If they checked and found that the previous 4 RE games had black heroes, only to be replaced by a white one when the series is set in Africa, then I would agree that something is fishy.

What would be controversial is if this game was set in an American city and had a white male walking amongst normal, everyday people as they went about their daily lives without attacking him, and he simply sought out and attacked black people as opposed to white people for no reason as they went by. If that was the object of the game in question, then yes, this scandal would probably be justified.

(Also, to a lesser extent, if the game was as it was, in Africa, with the same africans everywhere, but they DIDN'T attack him and he suddenly begins a slaughter, it would only prove that he wanted to kill a lot of people and didn't discriminate within the parameters set before him.)

Holy crap, this is way too long, no one is going to read this, what have I done??!?! Oh well. Hope I didn't bore you to death by now and thanks for reading.


PS - On a lighter note, it's also widely known that black cultures invented zombies, in a way. So shouldn't they have been more offended at all zombies in popular culture up to this point for NOT being black? Everyone was ripping off a clearly Voodoo originated IP! j/k   read

2:44 AM on 07.30.2007

My First Blog EVAR in the history of time. Also, Responce to "The Casual Conflict"

Hey intertrons, I'm only making this blog post because the comment I was writing to post onto 'The Casual Conflict' written by Lewzr got waaaaay out of hand, and since it's happened in the past, I figured I'd try to start a blog here in case I ever feel the need to write so much about a topic that's brought up here in our lovely site of discussion on all things Gaming.

So here's what was going to be my comment on that thread I linked above:

As always, there are two sides to all the arguments presented here.

We can say having more and more 'casual' gamers is a good thing, to have the general population realize games aren't all super violent and won't make you into a killer. But then you can also say that the 'casual' games are too easy/reptitive/childish, making these new gamers believe that all games are that simplistic.

But then you can also declare, that from that situation, a new casual gamer, perhaps someone in their 20s who just never was into games before now (I mean, you didn't think all the new gamers are actually babies, grannies and your mother, right?), picks up a Wii or a PS2 on the cheap and plays something nice and simple and easy.. then finishes with it quickly, the 'overly-simple' game leaving them wanting more and drawing them into slowly more mature titles.

I'm also surprised no over-sexed male here has made the point that the casual demographic that companies like Nintendo are aiming for is the female one. Having more women playing games can't be a bad thing, right guys?

(I'm finding it hard to resist writing what I think some jock might say to this. Something about a girl playing with a Wii. Never mind.)

Anyway, my intial thought was simply that we shouldn't care so much about 'resources' being put into casual games, since they take less work to make, I believe. So let the game developpers make casual fare! If it brings in a multitude of new wallets that'll feed the monsters that are the big franchises we're so desperate to see made, all the better!

Lastly, I think the negative reaction about this new trend supposedly 'legitimizing games' through new casual stuff has to do with how the average gamer wanted to be 'accepted' and the desire to remain a bit of an 'underground', half-secreted culture.

The everyday hardcore gamer wanted the rest of the world to finally realize that games just ARE cool, without the industry having to pander to the 'outsiders' to get them to see the light. The fact that we had to go as far as creating something like the Wii to do it is frustrating to some people, I think. The fact that some people, -like anyone older than 40- just can't get a grip on traditional controllers (yes, that was a pun) escapes a fair number of us, I believe. We just wanted everyone we know to wake up one day and say, "Oh! Blowing stuff up IS cool, okay. And games ARE pretty artistic, I get it." It's just not that easy, though.

The other thing I mentionned was that there's a subconscious desire to have gaming remain a niche market. We want other people to understand.. just not butt in on our industry. There's a trend these days that seems to be that if something is really really popular with a lot of people, it's not cool anymore. Things are only cool when it's your own little secret and the whole world doesn't know about it. Like a friend of mine's opinion of Halo, in a sense. He thought it was so cool back when it was the Mac computer gamers little secret.. but then Microsoft bought Bungie and turned it into this giant, hate-absorbing franchise, just because half the people out there don't want to like the mainstream because they think it makes them average, they think it makes them normal, like everyone else. So now my friend doesn't like it as much anymore, even though it's the same game it always was, and then improved through it's sequels.

Halo continues to be a bad example, but I'm sure you can think of something else appropriate to replace it with in my ancedote, and it'll make the same point about people losing interest in something once it becomes popular.

So, yeah.. a lot of gamers think their past-time is being taken away from them in a way, but we don't have to worry because the big three are never going to give up on the big hardcore titles they know we love. They're just going to make a pretty penny on the side with casual games. And hey, maybe because of that side-dish, you'll have a new hardcore buddy that broke his gaming teeth late in life (22 years old, ZOMG) on the Wii.

PS - Not me, though! I got a NES when I was 5 or something. :P   read

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