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Blindfire's blog

12:54 PM on 02.02.2015

A Digital History of "America's Gun"

The 1911. Ol' Slabsides. The handgun almost everyone knows universally as "The .45", so much so that many don't know any other firearms chambered in .45 ACP. One of the most prolific, iconic firearms in the history of the United States of America. Along with that pedigree comes a lot of homages, imitations, and references in all sorts of media. Today I'm here to talk about why the 1911 was the first firearm I ever purchased, and some of the games I've played over the years that have featured this wondrous piece of American engineering, sometimes portrayed realistically, other times... less so.

I've always more or less been into firearms. I grew up and live in the American southwest, in Arizona. My state has always been defined by firearms and their use to tame the wild and spike the lawless. It's damn near impossible to grow up in the shadow of legends like Wyatt Earp and Tombstone without a healthy respect and more than a little bit of reverence for guns. My granddad was a fan of revolvers, and with the combination of Arizona's historical status as the "wild west" with the wheelgun and my granddad's influence, it should be no surprise that I'm a big revolver fan myself. In fact, nearly all of my trigger time up until I purchased my first handgun was on wheelguns. My 1911 was actually the first semi-automatic handgun I'd ever shot.

Speaking of firsts...

The first shooting game I ever played was Syphon Filter on the Playstation. At that time I didn't possess the skill to get very far; I never got further than the Washington Park without cheating. But I will always remember the sense of intense satisfaction I got from finally getting out of that flaming mess of a subway station and into the hedge rows of the Washington Park level. That's the first time in the game that you can acquire the ".45", and it was amazing.

Up until that point the pistol you are restricted to using is a silenced 9mm, which fires fast, but takes a minimum of 3 hits on unarmored enemies (without factoring in head shots). Once you pick up that .45, the game changes. Suddenly, up close, a single shot with that pistol will drop an unarmored enemy instantly, and that shot comes with a nice big "BLAM" to punctuate how powerful this handcannon is.

That was sort of how I felt when I first went to the range with my 1911. It was an experience I know I will never forget. Thankfully what I'd shot the most was .357 Magnums that my granddad reloaded with meticulous attention to detail and the same level of care he'd have used to tend to an infant. So when I slid the first loaded magazine into my 1911, racked the slide, alligned the sights on my target, and pressed the trigger I was pretty well prepared for the blast that came with it. But it was still my first .45, and my first semi-automatic, so the changes from shooting a revolver were distinct for me and that's probably what stuck with me the most in Syphon Filter and in my own experience. There was a change here, and it was distinct: what I'd shot before was undeniably capable and certainly lethal, but what I held in my hands that day had upped the ante considerably. I emptied the first magazine, slid in the second, and put another seven rounds into my target with a huge smile on my face. I consider the .357 Magnum to be one of the greatest, most capable cartridges ever created, but I couldn't fire 14 rounds of .357 Magnum in a matter of a handful of seconds. As my first semi-automatic, the 1911 opened my eyes to all new levels of capability lacking in my beloved revolver shooting.

Anybody who has played the Metal Gear Solid series knows that there's a love affair between Hideo Kojima and the .45 ACP cartridge. There's been a handgun chambered in .45 ACP in every Metal Gear Solid, and in some cases multiple handguns in that caliber are used. But there is no moment in Metal Gear history where that affection for the .45 is more clear than Big Boss's custom 1911 scene.

When EVA first hands Big Boss his shiny new 1911, he just about loses it, and I know exactly how he feels. (Wanted to find the scene where this happens, but I couldn't get an isolated clip of it, so here's the CODEC on it instead):

The 1911 in Metal Gear Solid 3 isn't the powerhouse of Syphon Filter, however. It's a more realistic portrayal of what a handgun should be in combat: reliable, portable, more effective than nothing, but nevertheless pales in comparrison to shoulder-fired weapons. Metal Gear Solid 3's portrayal of the 1911 is probably the one of the best in gaming, highlighting some of the history and the custom options, without taking its capabilities up to mythical proportions. Inaccurate shots with the 1911 in Metal Gear Solid 3 yield poor incapacitation, making accuracy the key without relying solely on an unrealistic portrayal of stopping power.

The 1911 love in this series continues on into Metal Gear Solid 4, with Old Snake's Springfield Armory Operator, and again it's portrayed with a fair degree of realism, without the silly fanfare of the .45 ACP's mythic capabilities of knocking grown men down with one shot. Snake approaches his own 1911 with less of Big Boss's reverence, though he makes good use of the Operator throughout the campaign.

My 1911 doesn't have a whole lot of bells and whistles on it. I bought something a little more standard, a Springfield Armory Mil-Spec (stock photo at the start of this article), lacking in about 99% of the modifications/changes Big Boss goes on about here (and about 70% of the stuff in Old Snake's Operator). Nonetheless, there's something about a 1911 when you put it up against other handguns. The second handgun I ever bought was a Glock 21 (Glock's pistol for the .45 ACP enthusiast). When I stack the two up side by side, there's just something special about my 1911 I can't quite describe. I love my Glock, and I carry it, but it doesn't quite have what my 1911 does; some inexplicable little sense of identity. Or perhaps it's just my connection to guns and american history that makes the 1911 feel different for me, but it just feels like there's a soul there that more modern designs haven't had the time to develop.

If there's a game out there that has a soul, it's probably Resident Evil 4. This game remains one of the most impressive transformations any longstanding series has ever undergone. It completely reinvented the Resident Evil series and took it somewhere entirely new for that series, with nothing short of spectacular results.

The Resident Evil series trends strongly toward the use of 9mm handguns. Essentially every main Resident Evil game's protagonist has carried a 9mm handgun, perhaps most notably the Samurai Edge custom Beretta M9s used by the STARS members. Leon Kennedy's primary handgun in every Resident Evil he's been featured may have been a 9mm, but he's the only main Resident Evil protagonist I know of that's ever had access to a 1911. And Goddamn, it was a good one.

The Killer7 Magnum in Resident Evil is probably my favorite Magnum in any game of the series. A double-reference to the game Killer7 as well as a bit of an homage to the 1911 wielded by Arnold Schwarzenegger in the original Terminator, this gun is just dripping with badass and campy cheese.

The moment Leon picks it up and you equip it for the first time, you know you're in for a good time. Everything about this gun in Resident Evil 4 is gold, from the shooting animations that make Leon look like a weak little pipsqueak of a man to anyone who's ever shot a .45 (my wife manages that cartridge better than he does!), to the crisp and clean reload animations and the utterly indescribabe destructive force it represents. Is it even vaguely realistic in its portrayal? Not even close. But picking it up and firing it reminded me of Syphon Filter and a dozen other games where realism takes the backseat to fun which, in my opinion, it damn well ought to most of the time.

When it comes down to it, that was probably the main factor in my decision to buy a 1911 as my first handgun: fun. I bought it to take it to the range and reconnect with my love of shooting after my granddad passed away. Prior to that purchase, I'd never shot at a range without my granddad or my brother, and after he passed I swore I'd not step onto a range until I'd bought something that belonged to me. It seemed wrong to me to take any of his guns out of storage or shoot his ammo until I'd taken that step for myself, demonstrated my sufficiency and my capability to survive and provide, and add to the family collection. It was a choice I made to show myself that I was still here, and moving on with my life. And furthermore, taking responsibility for that life I intended to live. When I made that choice I knew in my heart that first gun would have to be something special, something precious to me that would be with me for the rest of my life, much like my memories of packing up the lever- and bolt-action rifles, the sixguns, and going to the range with my granddad.

So, with all that said, what are some of your favorite firearms in videogames? Do you prefer realism to cheesy action, or vice-versa? Have videogames ever had impacts on your own firearms choices, or ones you'd like to own?


12:32 PM on 12.23.2014

Hat Trick: 2012

While everyone is working on and debating their Game of the Year choices for 2014, I'm going to be turning the dial back a couple notches and looking back. Partly because I didn't write a single blog in 2012, and partly because of my New Year's Resolution. My goal this coming year is to identify some key factors in games I enjoy and continue to play long after I've beaten them, and use what I find to narrow down my game purchases. In keeping with that general theme, I welcome you to Hat Trick, a blog series where I'm going to be examining a year of game releases and purchases, and identifying three games from that year that I'm still playing today, or I'm still captivated by the original experience of playing them.

2012 was an interesting year for me as far as gaming goes. I played one or two of the "Game of the Year" titles in 2012, but frankly the games that have stuck with me the longest weren't on that list or anywhere near it.

No. 1:

I'm just gonna say what everyone is thinking (or should be thinking): "Mech suits are awesome."

Armored Core V gets on this list because, frankly, the time I put into that game was worth three or four times what I paid for it. The sheer volume of entertainment I got out of Armored Core V is hard to quantify, but why did it capture me so? Was it purely mech suits smashing eachother to bits? Autocannons the size of school busses? The endless possibilities of dick/ass jokes inherent in a rudimentary version of MS Paint?

Armored Core V was a landmark of the series in many ways, but perhaps more than anything else, the shift into a team-based multiplayer arena shook up the Armored Core formula and took it somewhere new and interesting. Along with that shift came something of a return to form in the gameplay, by dialing back the breakneck speed and flight mechanics present in its predecessor, Armored Core 4. Armored Core V also changed up some of the series traditional customization and building, and allowed for the placement of custom emblems physically on the parts making up the AC, giving the player the opportunity to truly visually design their personal walking death tank in an entirely new way. The end result of all these changes was mechanical magic.

I spent more time than I really care to think about fine tuning everything about my AC, and everything from the booster, generator, weapons choices, to the very last decal I put together and carefully placed on it, had a purpose. It took almost six months of tinkering before I was able to really create exactly what I wanted, and then another three weeks to design logos and emblems to compliment what my design turned out to be. It was an unweildly and difficult to use hunk of battle steel, with a weapon selection that wasn't terribly effective, but I loved everything about that damn AC. Even today, I'll boot up Armored Core V (or its follow-on expansion, Verdict Day), just to [i]look[/i] at the end result of all that tinkering and testing.

Looking back, I think the reason Armored Core V captured so much of my attention and my time had a lot to do with the visual design of the game. The shift from AC4's lightning fast, sleek designs back to something more like a walking tank appeals to me on an aesthetic level, and the sense of weight returning to the series was something I greatly appreciated. Beyond that, Armored Core V provided almost unprecidented levels of customization even for an Armored Core game, and once I dug into that, there was no turning back. A trend I find in many games I play long after I've beaten them is customization, and I've come to value the trend in modern games to allow the player to really create something unique of their own to utilize in the game's environment.

No. 2

I feel like Dragon's Dogma is a game a lot of folks forget about. It was a title loaded with style, epic fights, interesting mechanics, and a decidedly odd take on the cooperative experience.

My love affair with Dragon's Dogma began with the demo, where I was screwing around in the character creator prior to the game's release (my love of customization strikes again), when I crafted a character that would transcend Dragon's Dogma and find an iteration in almost every RPG I played from that day forward: Jack Danger. Battle Ranger.

The concept for Jack was pretty straitforward. Jack is sort of a Don Quixote analogue; not the true hero of our story, but a man who is utterly convinced he is the savior of the world and must meet the challenges set before him with zeal and courage, and almost no sense of self preservation. Because those are not windmills, those are giants and chimaeras and dragons. Oh, and goblins, Arisen. So many goblins. Jack's pawns were actually real adventurers who chose to look after him in his mad quest to save the world, whom he steadfastly ignored/misinterpreted, as "pawns" are all a figment of his overactive imagination.

While I was playing Dragon's Dogma, I shared certain events that happened with friends and family in the form of Jack Danger's Adventure Journal, Jack's recounting of events which were worth discussing. The most memorable of which I'll share here:

We have word that there are a group of bandits hiding out at the ruins of a watchtower up the mountain path. Alice (Alice was Jack's main pawn, actually an old friend from his village trying desperately to keep him out of trouble) thinks we should leave them be, but there will be no raiding of honest commerce on Jack Danger's watch!

Arrived at the ruins. They appear to have either tamed a cyclops, or they have one man who is the biggest, ugliest gentleman I have ever laid eyes on. If it is a man, I wonder what they fed him to do that. And where I can get some that won't make me look quite that ugly.

First attempt was less than successful. We did learn that it was a cyclops and not a man, and I would be lying if I said I wasn't a little disappointed. The battle was going well, with the bandits dispatched by my extremely talented hands from a distance, though it was difficult with Hector (My brother's pawn; he killed Death once) carving them up like Christmas hams. We were able to set about half of the cyclops on fire with some oil and a bit of fire magic, but then it punched me off the cliff.

Alice seemed mildly upset while I was falling. I don't blame her, if I'd been in her position, I would have expected me to die as well, and a world without Jack Danger is no world I'd want to live in. But she forgot the little trinket I spent all of our grocery money on the last time we were in Gran Soren. "That's worthless," she said. "We need bread and meat, and you buy a yellow stone from a man who specializes in forgeries?" Well, once again, Jack Danger is right, and she is wrong, for when I finally struck the ground, my "worthless little forgery trinket" shattered and all was well in Jack Danger's body. I admit, feeling my ribs and spine re-assemble was a little disconcerting, but everything seems to be back where it was supposed to go.

To celebrate my survival, Hector jumped off the cliff to assist me with (save Jack's life from) the chimaera I landed next to. Tomorrow, we'll see about that cyclops. I need to go sleep off a death hangover.

Stories like that are what made Dragon's Dogma such a wonderful game for me. I have so many memories of the adventures of Jack Danger, Alice and Hector that it's still a surprise to me that I haven't spent even more time with Dragon's Dogma than I already have. Jack Danger, Battle Ranger, has since made appearances in Skyrim, FFXIV, Dark Souls, and just about anything else I can wedge him into. He remains insufferably sure of himself, and on occasion still gets punched off of cliffs.

No. 3

The most surprising of my Hat Trick for 2012, Mark of the Ninja came completely out of nowhere as one of the most memorable side-scrolling experiences I've ever played.

I still remember with remarkable clarity the exact thought I had when I bought it and downloaded it: "How are they going to do a stealth side-scroller?" Several hours later, when I'd finished the story and sat back with a sense of intense satisfaction, I knew I'd just finished something truly special and unique. And promptly went back to play it all over again, varying up my playstyle from mission to mission with every combination of ninja outfit and equipment I could imagine, and no matter what selection I used, it all pretty much worked and worked well.

Since then, I've gone back and played it over again several more times and each time I come away impressed by what this little title brings to the table. Like the other two games on my Hat Trick 2012 list, Mark of the Ninja has customization, but it's a game which focuses almost exclusively on making the gameplay itself adaptable. The player decides how, and the game offers every opportunity it can find to grant the player their own unique experience. It was a unique and sublime experience that I will remember as long as I can, and continue to play as long as I have access to it.

Even more impressive is that, despite its meager price tag and short story, I still consider it to be one of the most fully realized games I've ever played. The emphasis on gameplay is what really cements this title in this list, and is a reminder for me that while a so-called "Triple-A" title may have a bigger budget to throw around, what makes a game good is the underlying philosophy of its design team, and how well that team can bring the ideas in their heads out into a functional, playable, fun experience. It's well worth it to remember going into 2014 that some of the best games being made aren't necessarily coming from major studios or development companies, and some of the best ideas won't come with a $60 price tag on them.


So, that's Hat Trick 2012 all wrapped up. You've seen mine, now show me yours: tell me three games from any year that put a major mark on your library, and if you don't have enough space to do it in a comment box, write up a blog with Hat Trick in the title and link it in the comment section.


2:45 AM on 12.19.2014

Long Time No See

Do you... [b]see[/b] what I did there?


That was terrible and I should apologize. I won't, but I should.

So, hello again Destructoid. It's been a long time. Like, [i]3 years[/i] long. An amazing amount of shit can happen in three years. I'll hit the high points:

I lost my computer. I lost my grandfather. My girlfriend and I started living together. I went from being an unemployed college student to working out of the food and beverage department at a major resort. We got two cats. I got a driver's license. I got a truck. I joined the next gen. I started what I hope will be a magnificently expensive (and extensive) firearm collection. I discovered a love (nay, obsession) for a wonderful concoction called "bourbon", though I admit I liked it before, I just got enough money to really try some good stuff. I went from food and beverage to security at the same resort, which is now what I do for a living (a wonderfully colorful job which has some... interesting stories). The girlfriend is now my wife. Our wedding colors were Renegade/Paragon and everybody who was in on the selection had to wear their Shepard's respective color (I was the only Renegade. Someday I will convince one of them to convert). Somewhere in all of that I found little snippets of time to play videogames.

So that's my last three years in a horribly insignificant sounding little paragraph which does not even remotely describe the actual impact of any of those things. (Also, I like parenthesis!)

Now we come to why I'm back despite having less time than ever to indulge in videogames, which have been a vital part of me for about as long as I'd care to remember.

Like the last three years, there's a lot behind these words, but here's the simple version:

I missed it. I missed Destructoid, I missed games, I missed community, and maybe more than anything else I think I missed writing on a regular basis. So I suppose I'm back for selfish reasons and I'm hoping that wherever Destructoid has gone in the last three years, and whomever makes up the rank and file these days, will enjoy my rambling, babbling, two parts esoteric vocabulary one part obnoxious videogame snob three parts wikipedia blogging style. I'm also hoping to see some old faces, I'm sure there's some still around writing up a storm. No doubt I've got a lot of catching up to do, which brings me to my next paragraph.

I've got a New Years' Resolution and it runs a little bit counter-intuitive, but hear me out. I want to play less games next year. Now, don't get me wrong, I played some [i]really[/i] amazing games this past year, and I wouldn't trade a moment of those experiences for all the gold in Fort Knox, but I also wasted an abysmal amount of money on games I frankly knew I wasn't going to play, knew I wasn't going to like, but I picked them up because, hey, I wanted to try to keep up with the industry and what was goin' on that week. Then, as my collection grew, I started to find myself wondering what the point was. Why did I buy so many games that I didn't even have the time or the interest in? I didn't have an answer. I still don't, but what I did discover is, I want more out of my games than I got this past year.

So the goal of this blog of mine, for the great year of two thousand and fifteen, is to buy fewer games, and take a lot harder look at what I enjoy, and what I want out of a game. And while I could definitely make that journey of self-discovery entirely on my own, I think I'd like to share it with an audience. You know, for fun and also possibly to have a teeming mass of unforgiving people who don't know me well enough to feel bad when they smack me back into line should I start dropping into bad old habits. While I'm at it, I also want to showcase some of the other things I intend to do with that surplus of money I won't be spending, though I'm going to do my best to link those things and experiences to videogames in some meaningful way.

That's pretty much it. Uh... anybody want to bring [b]me[/b] up to speed on the last three years for Destructoid?


4:15 PM on 08.29.2011

Deus Ex and the Perils of the Multiple Choice Protagonist

[This Article has been scrubbed by top Counter-Spoiler Software to ensure a Spoiler-Free experience.]

So, I finally got my copy of Deus Ex: Human Revolution. I pre-ordered the Augmented Edition from GameStop for the art book and the special features disk; I love little things like that which give you an insight into game design. It's fascinating for me to get an idea of how a game is formulated, how each element in the mixture comes together harmoniously into a whole. There are some little things in that design that I want to talk about, but we'll get into the nitty-gritty of that in a moment.

It took me three days for my first playthrough, with around 8 to 10 hours logged each day back-to-back, and probably around 15 to 20 on the final day. It's just one of those games that is impossible to put down once you begin. Like a great novel that keeps you up half the night always dying to see what's on the next page. My time with the game was always tense, with each next step toward the finish line revealing dozens of different ways to approach each goal. I'm now a few hours into the game on the Give Me Deus Ex difficulty, and there literally hasn't been a single thing I've done the same yet. The level of work put into the options given to you as a player is just staggering compared to most games on the market. I love this more than anything about Deus Ex: Human Revolution: it's a game which is first and foremost about the gameplay.

That's not to say that the story isn't present in everything the game throws at you as well. Nearly every nook and cranny of the game seems to have been carefully formulated, nurtured, and selected to serve the greater narrative. Which is excellent in its own right, especially insofar as the game's propensity for taking the bulk of that narrative out of cutscenes and into the game world, making it present if you want it and unobtrusive if you don't. The story provides a framework for the superb gameplay without getting in the way of it. It's a subtle touch that's lost on a lot of games. You can see the opposite effect in games like Final Fantasy XIII, where the story is overwhelming and propagates itself into the gameplay rather than creating a web which supports the game. One of the most difficult things about game design is the marriage of gameplay and story into something coherent and enjoyable for the player. Some games get it wrong. Some games get it right. Some games split the difference. Deus Ex: Human Revolution generally gets it more right than wrong, but it's the wrong part that I really want to talk about today.

The only real bone I have to pick with Deus Ex: Human Revolution, is Adam Jensen, and in a greater sense the trend in certain games to leave a character's motivations and intentions open ended.

My problem is this: in a game that is as story dependent as Deus Ex: Human Revolution, it is nearly impossible to execute a Multiple Choice Protagonist properly. What is a Multiple Choice Protagonist, you ask? It's pretty simple: any time a character is written in such a way as to leave their motivations and methods up to the player, you have a Multiple Choice Protagonist. The idea being to give the player the ability to formulate their own interpretation of the character in question rather than having the writer pre-define it for the player. In a deep and rich story driven environment this presents problems because the story of the game must be written in such a way that any individual player's interpretation of the character and their choices must be accounted for somewhere in the narrative.

Some games are entirely based around this phenomena. inFAMOUS did a pretty good job with the concept, but it sidestepped the actual part where the player gets to form their own interpretations of Cole. inFAMOUS at its core was just two stories, and depending on which route you took you got one story or the other. Other games which give the player the ability to define their protagonist include The Witcher, Dragon Age: Origins, Dragon Age II and Mass Effect. All of these games are narrative frameworks which are built from the ground up around a player's choice in the narrative. Some elements of the story are out of the player's reach, but in their interaction with the story through their character they are able to define the motive and method of the protagonist. Unfortunately, they all share the same troubles I'm about to point out in the portrayal of Adam Jensen in Deus Ex: Human Revolution.

Adam Jensen is purposefully played as close to blank as possible in order to facilitate the Multiple Choice Protagonist phenomenon. He isn't completely devoid of personality, though. He retains a slight sense of humor, and an intense amount of anger and drive. There are even moments when this invisible badass/walking arsenal is vulnerable in surprisingly human ways. It's quite pleasant to watch and find a new facet to him you hadn't seen or noticed before. Furthermore, the dialogue options which you have to choose from are varied and each one seems plausible as a response from your custom-tuned security chief. They remain individual enough for you to choose from them, seeking to define Adam as you want him to be, while never quite stepping outside the boundaries of who he is within the greater story of the game.

The problem only creeps into view as you get deeper into the game and you begin to pick up strange, counter-intuitive vibes from Jensen as he converses with other characters. As Jensen's vested emotional interest in the story grows, his interaction with other characters likewise becomes more volatile and direct. This leads to the inevitable problem of the Multiple Choice Protagonist, in which the character you play appears to become almost bipolar and flip-flops between all the defined roles and ideologies at the player's disposal. Despite all that the player has built upon the framework of Jensen, through learning more about him and simultaneously defining him by actions and dialogue choices, when the emotion finally starts coming out that illusion of the player-defined Jensen melts away and utterly shatters immersion.

Jensen angrily questions ideals which the player may have previously had Jensen accept with the absolute certainty of faith. He gives thought to ideas that the player may have stringently avoided, and their perceived version of Jensen would never even consider. It becomes impossible to track your Jensen through to the end of the game; he gets lost somewhere in all the jockeying to satisfy everyone's version.

I like risks and new things in games. I think it keeps them fresh, exciting, and interesting. Deus Ex: Human Revolution followed in the footsteps of a lot of games which seek to provide the player with as much choice as humanly (or inhumanly) possible, chief among these influences being the original Deus Ex. It takes some exciting steps in the writing department; when Jensen is not being played in such a way as to seem to be the polar opposite of the vision you have of him, he can be one of the most surprisingly intuitive Multiple Choice Protagonists I have ever played, and much of that satisfaction is thanks to some absolutely stellar writing and acting. Even so, Deus Ex: Human Revolution is unable to avoid one of the biggest pitfalls of the Multiple Choice Protagonist route, namely that when the character is presented with multiple options, he must be played in such a way that leaves him disgusted and simultaneously compelled by all of them in order to justify all possible decisions at the player's disposal.

This problem is something Deus Ex: Human Revolution very nearly avoided aside from a few very particular conversations and scenes. Unfortunately for everyone who gets pulled into the tale of Adam Jensen there will inevitably be a moment which breaks their immersion in the world and the character. All it takes is a receptive stance on the wrong side of an issue, emphasis and tone in a strange place, or some other subtle conversational cue. This game, and Adam Jensen in particular, came about as close to perfectly playing the part of the Multiple Choice Protagonist as any other game I've played which features the phenomena. It's just a pity that it eventually, perhaps inevitably, drops that carefully and immaculately maintained ball.   read

7:33 AM on 08.07.2011

Cataracts, Terror, and Deus Ex

I know, I've been away for awhile. Longer than I'd have liked, but I haven't been able to muster the urge to write more than a few lines in comments lately. Today, though, I think I want to sit down and talk about what's been going on in my life lately, and how it relates to my gaming experience.

Recently I underwent cataract surgery, and I know what you're thinking. "24 years old and you have cataracts bad enough to warrant surgery? Isn't that something old people get?" Well, yeah, it is. My doctor tells me it's an occasional side effect, though, for people who undergo medical treatment for asthma at an early age due to the steroids in the medications. My lungs work great now, but my eyes? Not so hot.

I've actually been having trouble with it for the past few years. Due to multiple complications any kind of treatment had to be put off until I was able to either afford insurance on my own or get back onto my father's company insurance. Couldn't afford it on my own, job market was terrible. Couldn't get back on my father's insurance, we didn't have money to send me back to school to finish up my term. So any attempt to combat or treat the problem had to wait for awhile. Then awhile longer. Then awhile longer than that. I'd grown surprisingly proficient despite essentially being blind in one eye, but there are certain activities (in particular, driving, a necessity, and shooting, a hobby) I had to habitually avoid.

The issues with the cataracts were exacerbated by sunlight, so I gradually began to spend more and more time indoors, and countered with very dark sunglasses for being out and about. Thankfully the problems I was having were not nearly as bad with things like screens or televisions, though they still proved to be difficult from time to time. It made it a lot easier to function through that period where nothing could really be done for my eyes.

After the revised Health Care bill went through Congress, which extended the time dependents could be placed on a parent's insurance, it was finally time to get down to business. One visit to an ophthalmologist, and I was set for my surgery the very next day. 24 hours between me and clear vision in one eye.

I don't have a problem telling you, I was fucking terrified. The laundry list of shit that could go wrong coupled with the already debilitating effects of the cataract in that eye and the knowledge that recovery would mean wrapping my brain around an entirely new way of seeing compared to the adaptations I had made to the cataracts being present, it was all pretty difficult to take in. No matter what nightmare scenario actually happened when I was under the knife, though, nothing could be worse than the actual blindness I was experiencing and the havoc it was wreaking when my brain tried to mesh the conflicting images from both eyes in my head. It was necessary. It never ceases to amaze me what human beings are capable of when something is necessary.

The surgery itself was a pants-wetting experience mainly because it's a personal nightmare to have my eyes messed with in any way, shape or form. Near as I can tell this stems from an experience I had as a kid where another boy threw sand at me and it got into both my eyes. Trying to blink it out caused it to get under the lids and I could feel it scraping against my eyeballs. Ever since then, anything about the eyes bothers me and I tend to tear up very easily even in empathetic situations, like seeing a person on TV in a dust storm. Most likely psychosomatic but it's still there and still irritating as all Hell. Once they had me drugged up I calmed down a bit, but not quite all the way down. Memory gets a little fuzzy there, though.

Post-surgery they taped an eyepatch to my face and sent me on my way for another day. A day of itching, irritation, and general fear, wondering if things would work properly when all was said and done. All is said and done now, and things worked... pretty good. Adjusting is difficult. My left eye is now essentially permanently set at a certain range, about arms' length. It was supposed to be closer but the astigmatism in the eye caused a very slight misalignment with the artificial lens they gave me. The strangest thing about it is, I can't focus on things with that eye any more. (This isn't a complication, it's just the nature of the artificial lens, it doesn't focus.) It's like looking through binoculars that you can't adjust. Surprisingly frustrating.

My doctor says it's going to be difficult adjusting to having the "vision of a 65 year old man," and I have to say I agree at this point. It's a very strange experience overall. For the rest of my life, one part of me will always be synthetic. There will likely be more as I go on, but 24 is kind of a young age for that kind of initiation and it's still very weird.

So far it's had a somewhat negative impact on my ability to game. I have to be sitting at just the right distance in order to make out subtitles, which makes any story-based game more difficult to follow. The same trouble has cropped up in shooting games, having trouble discerning what's what, particularly friend or foe. As a result I've been playing a lot of fighting games, where things tend to be a bit more straightforward even when they're blurry. Thankfully this will be rectified as soon as I'm able to get my new prescriptions written for glasses, which I'll have to wear the rest of my life. It's still weird wrapping my brain around that idea, too.

Now at this point you might be wondering to yourself, "What the fuck does any of this have to do with Deus Ex?" The answer is simple. When I started thinking about the unexpected necessity of having something in my body replaced in order to function, I felt a strange sort of kinship with the new Deus Ex: Human Revolution protagonist. I came to the conclusion that I might actually enjoy having that unique thing in common with a character, and began to wonder how many little traits and experiences in our lives provide us with those personal connections to things, whether they be fictional or otherwise.

So, now that I've shared one little idiosyncratic connection my life has, I'd like to hear about how all you other D-Toiders relate to and find common ground with characters in the medium. What little things do you have in common with, or seek out in game personalities? Who do you feel the most common ground with among the casts of your favorite games? Share in the comments!   read

2:17 PM on 06.12.2011

Untapped Potential Revisited: Genre Generalization

Two years ago today I wrote and posted my first blog on Destructoid. I'd been wondering after two years here on the C-Blog circuit what I could do to adequately commemorate this "blog birthday". Then it hit me. Two years. Two years. TWO YEARS! Two years' worth of material ripe for the picking on this subject. So here I am, two years later, two years wiser, and with a whole new slew of games to dissect with entirely new connotations of genre generalization, both good and bad.

For those of you who didn't read the original blog, and don't want to bother reading it now, genre generalization is my term for what happens when a game tries to mix, connect, or combine two different archetypes of game design and fails. In practical terms, we're talking about games like Mass Effect, which pushes together third person shooting mechanics with RPG design but doesn't deliver on either front. Just so we're clear: I'm not saying that this leads explicitly to bad games, though that does happen, just that it tends to result in a watered down experience of the two extremes. Mass Effect is good, but lacks the punch of a meaty, satisfying shooter. Likewise, it misses the mark on a truly deep character building experience of an RPG. This mixing of two extremes produces something unique, but lacking in really developed gameplay.

I think genre generalization is where the industry as a whole is headed. Every individual person has a distinct and unique appetite for everything, from food to colors to games. Mixing and matching game design philosophies allows game companies to capture larger demographics and get deeper market penetration by appealing to a wider audience with a variety of features. And with that definition over with, let's start digging into the guts of these games to get a better idea of what I'm talking about in practice.

The Good

Valkyria Chronicles is a poster child for what can go right when you mix genres. Welding together turn-based RPG style, real time consequences, rapidly shifting and dynamic objectives requiring teamwork between your units and careful management of your command points, this game creates a unique environment and an extremely satisfying mix of RTS and RPG mechanics. The main thing to take away from Valkyria Chronicles' success is that it actually uses its root genres to make something new and exciting. Valkyria Chronicles isn't a victim of genre generalization because its mix is used to produce something unique; it doesn't try to be both an RPG and an RTS at once.

One word. Well, two, actually. Borderlands. This game is a kind of polarizing lightning in a bottle; I only ever see pure love or pure hate for it. Personally I like the idea more than I like it in practice but that alone isn't reason enough to slide it off the good example list. Borderlands blends first person shooting, good level up and skill mechanics, an amazing loot system, and reasonably satisfying co-op.

Borderlands, more than anything else, manages to dip its fingers into the RPG world and draw influence from completely unexpected sources. Leaning more toward Diablo style mechanics, by focusing on loot drops and dungeons, Borderlands connects two very different genres and styles. The most surprising thing about it is, Borderlands does it successfully. Well-managed shooting, huge variety in loot drops (with each new weapon opening up potentially new gameplay styles and questions to the player), all sewn up with a slick but rough sense of humor.

It's not the deepest shooter, and it's far from the deepest RPG, but Borderlands manages to not cock up the mixture and produce something sub-par; it's more than I can say for a lot of games which try to blend genres and create a big ol' mess o' slop, which brings me to...

The Bad

Brutal Legend. Sort of the opposite of Valkyria Chronicles, Brutal Legend never quite tells you that you're signing up for an RTS and not a brawler, and it's a painfully shallow RTS at that. This is a case of two genres slapped together to carry an idea, and it just doesn't get the job done. Not a bad game, but the gameplay on both fronts is generic and uninspired. The world is great, but the game itself is just lacking something more developed and satisfying.

Hunted: The Demon's Forge isn't what I would call your attention to if I wanted you to play a good shooter. Or a good RPG. It's a ballsy title that tries to mix cover based shooting mechanics with hack & slash gameplay and dungeon crawling, and only the dungeon crawling aspect actually provides any kind of satisfaction. The cover system is haphazard, the aiming is sluggish, the melee is slow and lacks depth, and the puzzles are mostly of the "get this thing, bring it here" variety.

Brink is... complicated. It tries to blend more than two genres, and sort of gets one of the four right. It's a shooter, mixed with an RPG. It also tries to mix singleplayer and multiplayer, which goes pretty poorly overall. So much so that most reviewers and most people who've played the game consider it essentially just a multiplayer shooter. What's more, it's a multiplayer shooter that was inspired and influenced by games which normally don't get talked about or looked at very often. Blending the first-person-platforming style proposed by Mirror's Edge, the extremely tight class-based team mayhem on display in Team Fortress 2, all curled up around the objective style of Enemy Territory. And it also borrows heavily from RPG concepts; there's a progression system with levels, powers, and abilities, all of which are obtained by earning experience points for performing a variety of tasks, such as missions, slaying enemies, and assisting teammates.

The problem isn't that games like Brink, Brutal Legend, and Hunted: The Demon's Forge try to branch out and appeal to a wider audience. The problem is that they generally do it very badly. Brink is a pretty good example of this because it misses the mark on most of the things it stuck in the mixing bowl.

The platforming is sketchy and loose, and being tied completely to one button basically makes their fancy parkour system a glorified sprint button. Hold sprint to jump over obstacles in your way, hold sprint to run on walls, hold sprint to sprint, so on and so on. It takes out almost all of the sense of actively maneuvering through a space, replacing it with a "hold this down to get to your objective faster" button. Likewise, the shooting leaves a lot to be desired for me personally by removing the additional damage of things like headshots; Team Fortress 2 does a similar thing, but retains it for certain classes and weapons, and it bothers me there, too. Both games, to different degrees, lack a certain incentive for players to step up their game. Finally, the progression and character building is satisfying but swift and when it's over a lot of the game's previous momentum seems lost. When you're no longer playing for the next level you're just playing Brink, and that alone seems surprisingly unsatisfying.

Even riddled with all these problems, these games still manage to be a passable experience. Muddy and unpredictable, but still pleasant to play if you get a taste for it. They're not explicitly broken games. This is genre generalization in action; a mediocre product that's dime-a-dozen and forgettable trying to do so many things at once that nothing ever gets the love and attention it needs to develop into something truly amazing.

Threading the Needle

Every now and then there is a game which manages to do something incredible. There are very few of these, I consider them to be the most impressive productions of the game world. These are games which manage to completely retain their original genre, in an entirely new medium or fashion. This is not genre generalization; genre generalization is a strait up mix of two genres in almost equal measure, which damages the depth or the playability of the final product. These games don't mix genres, they somehow manage to thread the needle and produce an experience which does not truly hamper or inhibit either influence. This is a very small pool of games, but there is one that I think almost anyone can relate to pretty easily, so we'll talk about Deus Ex.

Deus Ex is an RPG. It can also be a shooter, but let's not beat around the bush. It's an RPG first and a shooter second. Skill selection and leveling up can be used to turn Deus Ex into a shooter, but from the very beginning this game cracks you over the head with a sign that says "I AM AN RPG", and expects you to treat it as such. Somehow this combination of RPG and shooter isn't a contradiction. Here we are 11 years later, and I'm still not sure why that is.

So much of what you can do in Deus Ex is dependent upon your selection of skills and your chosen augments. Entirely new options open up for the player that focuses on hacking instead of heavy weapons. For each skill there is a purpose, a style, or a unique edge offered to the player to wield and use in the challenges presented by the game. It is pure RPG expressed in an entirely unexpected, non-traditional medium. More important than anything, Deus Ex manages to never lose or diminish its RPG feel in the maelstrom of first person perspective design. It avoids the problem of genre generalization by fine-tuning both of its influences into the final product, changing shooter mechanics to fit its RPG feel, rather than arbitrarily throwing both design directions up against eachother.

The next game in the series, and for many what is shaping to be the only true successor to the Deus Ex lineage is set to be released in August. Only time will tell whether Deus Ex: Human Revolution truly lives up to its namesake. If it does, we'll be treated once again to that strangely perfectly tuned game which retains depth without sacrificing anything in the transition to a different medium. This is where I'd like to see the games industry go. Away from generalization and toward a new generation of games which utilize a combination of influences to create something entirely new and fresh.   read

6:28 PM on 04.25.2011

Aaamaazing: Conflict: Desert WTF?

Conflict: Desert Storm. How many of you have played it? I hope every last person who reads this blog has played that piece of shit. It was one of the worst games I've ever touched. Looking back on it now, I can say without any reserve or doubt, Conflict: Desert Storm sucked hairy bull balls the size of goddamned coconuts. And I loved it.

For those of you who haven't played this awful gem, the Conflict series started here, mired in mediocrity, stiff animation, lousy controls, bad voice acting, crawling with game stopping bugs and some of the most awful AI you ever imagined there could be. Each successive game did its best to preserve this legacy of shitty design, the same as its predecessors; one great big lineage of failure. Somehow, all of these terrible things came together to form a perfect storm of crap, the final product being by some miracle of ingenuity or blind luck, enjoyable. Like, bad movie night enjoyable. Street Fighter: The Movie enjoyable.

Conflict: Desert Storm and I met in 2003. My best friend had picked it up on impulse, because we were both military mad at the time; any game that revolved around soldiers was a sure bet for our collective library. We also had a hunger for any game set in the desert, because we enjoyed anything that centered on an environment like our own. Jungles aren't something you find in Arizona; at least not any jungle you've ever imagined. Rolling hills, lots of rocks, and lots of little plants that can get right fucking unpleasant if you brush up against 'em. To me, that's home, and Conflict: Desert Storm delivered on all fronts for us. The last nail in the coffin was a lengthy co-operative campaign, a delight, because we'd both been playing SOCOM: U.S. Navy SEALs and felt the absence of true tactical cooperation. We had no idea what we were in for when we spun the game up in his PlayStation 2.

What followed was two solid years of aaamaazing memories. (See what I did there?)

I honestly can't tell you much about the game now. I don't remember a lot of specifics about it. What I can recall are at least two dozen moments of glorious stupidity, bugs, and various good-but-bad ideas that will forever mark Conflict: Desert Storm as one of my favorite games of all time. So, for your sick voyeuristic pleasure, I give you some of the grand highlights that still make me laugh, years after they occurred.

The first go we had at Conflict: Desert Storm was surprising at the least. The opening mission starts off one player humping through the environment to free the other. Interesting, but it leaves one player out of the loop completely. So, while my buddy was learning how to play, I was puttering around doing nothing and waiting for release. This led to some stupid mid-level problems with controls in which I accidentally took a knife to my poor friend. I don't remember how that happened, exactly, but I vaguely recall trying to read the instruction booklet while he tried to fight off half the Iraqi army single-handedly. He retreated back toward me and I promptly gutted him. This friendly fire discovery led to a little game we played within the game.

During the course of a mission, you can use medkits to heal the soldiers up and revive fallen allies if you reach them in time. The time you're given is generous, and it was the first time I ever played a game where you could revive a fallen ally, and if you weren't fast enough, you could lose a comrade forever. If you lost them, a new version of that "class" would be assigned to your squad in the next mission. Keeping the original soldiers alive had added benefits, leveling up their skills and changing certain dynamics of the game. Our little game within the game was simple and stupid; one of us always used every medkit we had, while the other hung onto them. When we reached the end of the level, there would be a knife fight that served as a kind of coin-toss. If the one with the medkits won, he revived the loser and on we went to the next level. If the one without medkits won, we were off to restart the mission. This stupid little game within a game was one of the ways we were able to extend the lifetime of Conflict: Desert Storm far beyond its own meager offerings. I can still hear the dumb giggling as we each shot our AI buddy, circled eachother, jockeyed for position, and struck.

The revival system and the desire to keep our original team alive led to a lot of other amusing moments. More than a few missions were restarted because we lost somebody, but two incidents in particular stand out in my mind.

Earlier, I mentioned that the AI is appallingly bad. Allow me to elaborate this for you, dear reader. In the cooperative campaign on the PS2 version of Conflict: Desert Storm, each player is given control of two characters. The original team of four in the single player is split right down the middle, with each player taking responsibility for two soldiers with different skillsets. I had the Sniper and Demolitions, my buddy had Assault and Heavy Gunner. In order to facilitate stealth in some segments, we discovered it was best to force a Hold Position order on our respective AI flunkies, and go it alone.

About a third of the way into one mission, we encountered such an opening for a little stealth operation. It wasn't until we were almost finished that I discovered I hadn't told my second character to return to formation and keep up with us. Some boneheaded Iraqi soldiers had shown up out of the blue and were giving us the business, so rather than the safe and time consuming way of switching to my alternate and walking him to us, I ordered an immediate regroup. Two minutes later, my little AI buddy was screaming out for help, in need of a little quick and clean videogame surgery by way of a convenient medpack. We figured he'd gotten ambushed somewhere along the way by a group of enemies we missed.

I doubled back to look for the body and give him a little pat on the back to keep him going, but I couldn't find the runt. Something was screwy about it, so I switched to him, only to find that my order to regroup had completely wrecked his positronic brain. His need to return to my location overrode his desire to live, and he plotted the quickest course to me available: a strait line that walked him right off a cliff to his death. We couldn't get to him, and I was already thoroughly sick of the mission from winning the knife fight coin toss on our first run, thus forcing a restart, and then backtracking and then wandering aimlessly for five minutes trying to find my wayward robot companion. By that point we agreed his death was out of sheer stupidity, and even a rookie would be a drastic improvement. We were wrong, by the way, there was no improvement to be had.

Finally, the last, and still the most amusing Conflict: Desert Storm moment I can remember. This one also revolved around the reviving mechanic.

I'd gotten very attached to my sniper rifle, and splitting up our teams had become a standard way of dealing with challenges. My friend's dynamic duo would start a fight, and I would help him end it with ludicrously high caliber sniper rounds. It was a strategy that worked. Well, most of the time.

The scene is simple. I'm sure you've seen it before. There's a courtyard on the other side of a row of buildings. In that courtyard is every breed of nasty this game can throw at you; soldiers with rockets, machine guns, mortars, tanks, ballistas, battlecruisers, high powered laser cannons, and all other manner of mythical weaponry and sorcery known to man. There's a building, just one building, you can enter which has a good view of the shooting gallery below. It was so patently obvious, that's where I needed to be. My .50 sniper rifle could reach out and touch anything in that area that posed a threat. Our plan was as simple as it could get; I would go up onto the roof of that building, and he would circle around and hit the heart of the group with everything he had. In our heads, this worked out perfectly, but no plan survives first contact with the enemy.

First contact, in this case, was me jumping the gun. I slid out from behind cover, ready to drop death on anything that threatened my partner in military derring-do, and began to put rounds down range. I watched the tanks maneuver, and silently chuckled to myself about how useless they would be without infantry support. I mentally catalogued the slow, lumbering movements of one Russian made T-72 as it slowly oriented itself to me, promptly wrote it off, and dropped another soldier. I was unstoppable. The MVP. By the time I was done, the tank would be all that was left.

Only after the tank's main gun had lifted beyond a point I thought possible, did it appear on my radar as a threat. By then it was far, far too late. A noise erupted from me, somewhere between a wail and a gurgle, as the tank round struck the overhang behind me and dropped me. I wasn't sure what happened at first, and relayed my last known coordinates to my friend, so he could come and revive me. He wandered up to the top of the building, threw a smoke grenade for cover, and failed to find my body there. It took a moment, but we eventually determined my location when I switched to the lifeless corpse lying in the street below. The tank shell had struck behind me and blown me right off the roof. I sighed with resignation and switched back to my other character, to find him in mid flight, having determined the path of least resistance to come to my aid: a strait line, leading directly off the roof and down to the ground. I watched in slow-motion as he plummeted, so intent on his duty that he ignored the danger and died in a shriek as he struck pavement. This was the rookie replacement for the one who'd previously navigated himself off a cliff.

I laughed so hard I cried. I can count on one hand how many times I've laughed that hard in my entire life. The pressure of my neck, my own blood, and the convulsion of my lungs nearly made me black out. My whole body seized up and I fell helplessly to the floor in incredible pain, unable to stop. This fucking game made me ROFL. An awful embarrassment I have never been able to live down.

Conflict: Desert Storm wasn't the best game I ever played. But it was still the best game I ever played, if you know what I mean.   read

3:44 PM on 10.01.2010

Changes: Fear and Loathing in Silicon Valley (And... introductions?!)

I remember unboxing my first gaming console. The PlayStation. The palpable excitement of hooking the little bastard up and clicking the first disk into place. The months that followed, hours of digital joy chock-full of dragons, bandicoots, ninjas, and guns. Platformers and shooters and beat-em-ups that ignited the fire that still burns inside me today; unmitigated, unfiltered, unsoiled love of games.

For years before that I'd spent time with friends and family alike who who had enough income to support such a pastime during the days of the SNES and the Genesis. I had previously tasted videogames and I had a distinct suspicion that I would be smitten with them forever if I had a console of my own. The PlayStation proved my suspicions had merit. I would never be the same.

Around the same time, we assembled our first computer. An unwieldy, ugly beast of cobbled together parts crammed together in an IBM case. Through this maniacal contraption of backdoors and half-working parts, I learned to love entirely new games. WarCraft II and StarCraft became some of the greatest games I had ever played. They were sewed in with Metal Gear Solid, Syphon Filter, and Doom as the games that shaped me.

When the PlayStation 2 came around, I had not yet matured enough as a gamer to know the difference between a good game and a bad one. I sought out anything that piqued my interest, and played it all with the same joyous reverence as I had before. It didn't matter if the game froze occasionally, or I slipped through a wall, or if the difficulty was utterly mind-shatteringly punishing. All I needed was for something on the screen to move when I pressed a button.

Eventually, though, I developed a nose for good and for bad. My adolescence as a gamer made itself known quite suddenly and without warning. Tastes had developed entirely without my realizing it. I ceased to be content with simplicity in my games, and began to research games on the internet, purchase magazines, and therein made my first discovery of entire communities dedicated to videogames. Not so surprising now, looking back on it, but I found the notion of this utterly shocking at the time. More games came, more games went. My library expanded, and Blockbuster became a weekly event of testing the waters for gems slated for future purchase.

The Xbox arrived on the scene and like so many others smitten with Sony, I wrote it off as a fool's errand. Time would prove me very wrong but I was unwilling to see it at the time. I continued to build upon my library, gathering classics like Onimusha to sit on my shelf, proudly displayed alongside a plethora of Mobile Suit Gundam titles, Metal Gear games, and a dozen others that had intrigued me enough to warrant a purchase. The first and second Splinter Cell titles passed through my PlayStation 2. The third would change gaming for me once again.

Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory was the game that changed my mind about the Xbox. It would not be the only game that would force me to enter a platform I had concerns about; later, the Metal Gear Solid siren song would entice me to both the PlayStation Portable and PlayStation 3 systems long before I felt they were viable. My gamble on Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory was about faith, and that faith was rewarded with one of the most incredible games I'd ever played. When my week long journey through its story had come to an end, I found my faith had been rewarded. Halo, Halo 2, Ghost Recon 2, and Ninja Gaiden rounded out my Xbox library in its entirety. I only played five games on the Xbox, and I have never regretted it once.

When the Xbox 360 came it was received with open arms. I said a fond goodbye to my Xbox and bid an excited hello to the next generation.

And now we arrive at one of the most important changes in my life as a gamer. Somewhere along the way, I had lost that giddiness about gaming. It had been replaced with a sort of grim suspicion. Each game I played suddenly lacked that joy I so fondly remembered. It had been replaced by a series of experienced filters, sampling, tasting, touching, and examining what I played in very minute detail; the whole experience had become uncomfortably mechanical. The grand sense of pleasure had been misplaced somewhere and in its stead was merely the sensory input without any of the eager, pleased interpretation.

I still don't know exactly how that happened. For a terrible moment I thought I had outgrown games.

I started to search for anything that could reawaken that sensation. I crawled back to news sites and game magazines in an effort to find something in the works that could ignite that spark again. I returned to old games with feigned vigor, trying my hands at speed runs and other more challenging attempts. The Hard mode became my new Normal setting. Something would flip the switch and I'd be back to enjoying games again instead of looking at them as a time-wasting chore; a second appetite I had to occasionally appease in order to feel whole. My era of fear and loathing had begun.

Every new game was met with my grim expectation of failure. Studios closed, Sony's profit margins dropped, Nintendo started making shitloads of money off of fitness products, and I lost track of what games actually looked good to me. My own tastes had left me. I was staring at a smorgasbord of delights but nothing looked good anymore. I was about as dreary as I could be when it came to games.

And then... Destructoid.

I don't even remember how I got here. Google, probably. I'm just happy I did. I lurked for awhile, watching the news roll in. This and that going on in the industry. A preview here, an editorial there. The occasional interesting community blog. Eventually I started to feel my own excitement return to me. I registered to make the occasional comment. I wrote my first blog ever, an event that was confusing and more than a little hypocritical (I had previously sworn that I thought the practice of blogging was ridiculous). You can even see my pessimistic attitude in action if you read it. Even now it's a little hard to believe I wrote that.

Slowly but surely, Destructoid turned my unhappy state of stagnation around. Surrounded on all sides by people who love videogames the same way I used to, it was only a matter of time before that overwhelming collective joy infected me again. Games became about fun again. The fire was back.

We've known one another for awhile now, but it seemed like the right time to make the formal introduction.

So, hello Destructoid. Hello, and thank you.   read

11:03 PM on 06.01.2010

The Great Escape: Grief

My dog died a few days ago. Not something I was interested in calling attention to here, or discussing at all at length with anyone. But then I saw this monthís musing post, and thought Iíd write this up.

I met Charlie more than 11 years ago, when I was 12. I was spending a weekend at a friendís house with my brother, who just so happened to live within walking distance of a decent little park and the elementary school where weíd first met one another. Together we would often go up to the park, or to the school, simply to be free of our parents and enjoy the weather when it was nice enough not to burn us through and through.

Charlie was a stray. My family has always had a thing about stray animals, as far as I know everyone in my family has had at least one pet that was a stray (or "foundling", as we call them). My grandparents on my motherís side have always been nearly overrun by stray cats; either neighborhood cats that come to spend time with them, or strays that became part of the family. My mother has personally taken in a few animals over the years. My brother, too, stumbled upon a cat one Halloween and came home with him the next day. Charlie was mine.

On our trip up to the school, my friend and I were surprised to find two stray dogs picking at the large dumpsters at the rear of the school. I have always been naturally sympathetic to animals, and resolved myself to provide some food to these two. We wandered back to the house and procured some slices of bologna, which we then hand-fed to the two strays. Both of them were good sized dogs, certainly adults based on their structure, and both mutts. The smaller and leaner of the two was more excited at the prospect of people and food than the larger dog. I fed him the last slice of bologna and as my friends walked away, I quietly apologized that we didnít have more. Then I walked away. It broke my heart, but I couldnít do anything about it.

The next Monday I was waiting patiently at the edge of the parking lot of my junior high, entertaining the thought of videogames upon my return home. I was wrested from that thought as my mother pulled up, and in the backseat of the car sat that skinny, excited, dirty mutt that Iíd hand-fed slices of bologna a few days before. As I entered the vehicle, sitting next to that smelly pile of fur in the back seat, I listened to the tale of how heíd come to be there.

My mother worked for the school district at the time as a teacherís aide. She worked in a variety of roles, including as an assistant for special needs kids. At the time it was convenient because my younger brother was proceeding through elementary school, and she was able to take him in every morning and leave with him every afternoon before picking me up. That Monday, she had exited the school with my brother to find a scraggly looking dog sniffing around the rear doors of her car. My brother told her the story of the weekend, and how nice the dogs had been. My mother was bewildered, but sheís always been a quiet believer in fate. She opened up the back door, and with hardly any coaxing, the mutt jumped inside.

He was never trained, but only because we didnít really have to train him. Under nearly any circumstances he would mind whatever I said; the rest of the family not so much. We came to have a solid bond.

Charlie wasnít young by any stretch of the imagination. He lived a full life, and Iíd like to think a very happy one. He was having trouble; constant heavy breathing, difficulty walking, sleeping often. Nothing any vet could do. For two days the issues were bad, and I spent most of my time checking up on him until finally on the evening of the second day, he went. Those two days were mercifully nice for desert weather, and that evening had been unusually calm and cool.

We buried him the next morning.

I wasnít sure what I wanted to do with myself for awhile. I thought about having a drink. Or two. Or three. But the desire passed quickly, as I do not find inebriation terribly liberating so much as irritating. Eventually I just sat and stared at my TV for awhile before starting up my Xbox and inserting Mass Effect 2. I played for a few hours, and it helped me to put some time between myself and the event.

I escaped grief for awhile. A few hours away from thinking about something as destructive as death is can soothe a person in a lot of ways. They say that time heals all wounds; I donít necessarily believe that it does but it certainly does help. Gaming granted me that time to occupy my mind with something more constructive, which significantly lessened the sense of pain and loss that had consumed me.

Time that granted me perspective, and perspective that eventually granted me peace.

Edit: Yes, that is Charlie in the picture, being lazy on the back porch a few years back. As for how he got the name, well, he's mostly brown. So, Charlie Brown.   read

8:17 AM on 01.16.2010

Top 5 Reasons Why I Hate MGS4

Spoilers will be present in this. You have been warned.

Please donít confuse the word ďhateĒ with ďI think this is a bad gameĒ. Metal Gear Solid 4 is anything but a bad game. Itís a pretty damn good one overall. I literally bought a PS3 just to play this game. But this fact does not save it from my loathing, because I must weigh it up against the rest of the seriesÖ and for me, it comes up far short of its brethren. Far short.

It doesnít even make it to the motherfucking starting line.

Ladies and gentlemen of Destructoid, these are the top 5 reasons why I hate Metal Gear Solid 4.

Number 5: C.Q.C.

The C.Q.C. system in MGS4 was great. It added complexity from MGS3, and felt like a real upgrade. The problem I have with C.Q.C. is the bullshit write-off reason given for Solid Snake suddenly using a technique that isnít even referred to until MGS3. Thereís a codec scene that tries to explain Solid Snakeís use of C.Q.C. in MGS4 and not previously, but it falls flat on its face.


I hope Iím not the only one who thought this was a complete load. Iím not saying I donít understand why C.Q.C. made the jump from MGS3 to MGS4, itís natural to assume a system introduced in a previous game would be coming back. Iím just dumbstruck about the awful, multi-layered explanation that explains nothing at all. C.Q.C. was obviously a technique that Solid Snake made a decision not to use; for him to explain his use of it now as bodily reaction is foolish because he could obviously control himself enough to avoid using it before. Itís a total copout, and a lousy one at that. Iíd have been more happy with Solid Snake coming to the realization that no matter where you get a weapon, itís foolish not to use it if it can save your life. That would have at least made some sense.

Number 4: Acts.

While I understand that in order to get Snake into a wider variety of locations, breaking the game up into 5 acts makes a lot of sense. However, this approach still rubs me the wrong way.

Giving each act its own distinct opening and closing scenes made the game feel very disjointed to me, as if each narrative sequence is occurring in its own little vacuum. Previous MGS games have been broken up into parts (MGS2ís Tanker and Plant chapters, MGS3ís Virtuous Mission and Operation Snake Eater), but neither of these instances interfere too greatly with the overall flow of the narrative. Also, in both of these cases the starting chapter/act was fairly short, a light precursor for the real operation to come. In MGS4, it feels like the acts are getting shorter as time goes on (or at least thatís how it felt to me).

In MGS4, each Act is its own self-contained story and has its own unique terrain and gameplay. This is a good thing, but I think it could have been done in a more seamless way with less stops and starts. MGS3, for example, was able to maintain one consistent narrative, and yet still managed to seriously vary up its environment quite a bit without impacting the story with rather sudden stops and starts.

Number 3: Enemy Types/Difficulty Curve.

Iíve grouped these two things together, but this also includes (to a certain extent) elements from the previous two things on the list: C.Q.C. and Acts.

If there is one thing that drives me nuts about the gameplay of MGS4, itís the fact that Snake is handed so many interesting and fun tools for dealing with enemy soldiers, only to suddenly stop seeing them after Act 3. Even during Act 3 itís not wise to engage the soldiers in the areas, so letís just go ahead and toss Act 3 in there too. So for more than half of the game, all of these new tools and toys Snake has come by become essentially useless (especially C.Q.C.).

Act 3 through 5 are basically defined by sneaking. This isnít something I have a problem with, especially in a stealth-action game. No, the problem I have is that Acts 4 and 5 basically negate most of Snakeís newfound abilities and force you to lay on the ground and crawl to the end of the game.

In Act 4, the only normal patrol enemies you encounter are Gekko and Dwarf Gekko. Essentially your only option for this part of the game is to get through without being spotted, or get close enough to the exit of the area to get out just after getting spotted. With the exception of the boss fight in Act 4, there arenít any soldiers on the field at any time, and the soldiers present during the boss fight are FROGS, which are very difficult to sneak up on/C.Q.C./engage. I donít have a problem with them being difficult, just that theyíre the only flesh-and-blood enemies in the entire Act, and theyíre a bitch and a half to sneak up on and take out on top of that. In Act 5, itís pretty much just the FROGS and a couple of Gekko, plus a couple of boss fights and one Hell of a quicktime event.

To be clear: Iím not complaining that the game gets more difficult as it goes on. I donít mind that at all. What irritates me here is that the enemy types negate about half of Snakeís capabilities, and essentially reduce your tactics to crawling around everywhere. Itís pretty exciting from time to time, but it really kills off the action part of the game. I donít want to be sneaking around because if I get spotted Iím going to get my ass toggled repeatedly by large caliber bullets six ways from Sunday, I want to be sneaking around because I am the predator and my enemies are the prey. Sneaking around your enemies isnít very satisfying without the sense that you get to decide who goes home alive and who goes home in a body bag.

MGS3 got this sensation perfect. If youíve ever played through The Endís boss fight (both normal and when heís replaced by the Ocelot Unit), you know exactly what Iím talking about. Crawling through that jungle not as the target but as the hunter is a sensation thatís very hard to match. This is what I think of when I think stealth action, and itís what I think of when I play any other MGS game. Youíre not there to play hide-and-go-seek, youíre there to kill; youíve got the skills, the weapons, and the equipment to do it, and do it with brutal, lethal efficiency without being seen.

Number 2: The B&B Corps.

There are a lot of reasons I hate the B&Bs. Compared to MGS3ís Cobra Unit, theyíre more fleshed out as individual characters. Thatís a plus for meÖ but thatís pretty much the only plus.

The biggest thing I hate, though, has to be the background music for each boss fight. I donít know about you, but I generally prefer my boss fights to have a kind of tempo to them. Some embodiment in the music of how intense the fight should be, how much action it should contain. How this one character is standing in the way of my goals, and I absolutely have to take them out, thereís just no other way. Do you want to know what I donít think of when I think of background music for a boss fight? Giggling, screaming, and crying babies. I know, right? I must be crazy.

In all seriousness, the kind of audio stuff going on in the background is very important in a game. Especially one thatís as story and set piece driven as the MGS series has been. The previous games have always had exceptional choices when it comes to standoff moments. The music during the boss fight with Ocelot in MGS3 comes to mind or the choices for the boss fight with Liquid Ocelot in MGS4, but every fight with the B&B Corps is punctuated by the disembodied sounds of the event each B&B is linked to. Youíre stuck listening to fucked up giggling, angry shouting, bawling children, or screaming until you beat each one. I sort of get the vibe that each boss fight is more a mental battle, a clash of wills between Snake and the B&B heís fighting, and that the choice of audio is supposed to either enlighten the player about the feelings of the B&B, or that itís supposed to be a sort of window into their insanity. No matter what the reason, though, the use of these effects didnít get the desired response from me, unless it was to piss me off and make me mute my TV for every boss fight. Seriously, after two minutes of wailing babies I just couldnít take it anymore.

Number 1: Drebin.

Drebin doesnít bother me so much as a character. Taken singularly, I think he would have been an interesting addition to the cast. Heís unique, heís likeable, heís pretty well written.

The problems I have with Drebin relate mostly to his connection to the greater story and gameplay of MGS4.

The first (and biggest) problem I have with Drebin himself is his profession and how it relates to the gameplay of MGS4. Drebinís presence demolishes one of the classic systems of MGS games: not being able to use enemy weapons. The inclusion of this system takes away that sense that Snake is outgunned when he starts the mission. You have an automatic weapon in your hands within ten seconds of starting the first act. Ten SECONDS! This only gets worse as time goes on and you can purchase grenades, ammunition and weapons on the fly as youíre fighting. I realize that itís odd that I donít have a problem with Snake carrying around a proverbial armory in his invisible backpack, but it still bothers the shit out of me that if you have enough imaginary currency you can just crap out ammo whenever and wherever you want.

While you can (and I do) ignore this system, it represents a fundamental design change in the game which, at least in my estimation, resulted in the sudden change of enemy types less than halfway through the game. It is almost as if it occurred to them that giving the player an invisible armory filled with infinite bullets was kind of cheap if they only went up against enemy soldiers and the occasional Gekko or team of FROGS, so to counter the cheapness of this system they turned Act 3 into a situation where you wouldnít really utilize the system, Act 4 into a gauntlet of stealth or BFG levels of destruction, and Act 5 into a mix of the two. A better idea would have been to toss the whole buying guns/ammo/explosives idea out the window, and stick to the system of the previous games. In short, if it works, donít try to fucking fix it.

The second problem I have with Drebin is linked to the B&Bs. Remember how I said there were a lot of reasons I hate the B&Bs? Well, this is another reason, but itís also pretty heavily connected to Drebin.

Drebinís calls after defeating the B&Bs are completely worthless.

I donít hate the content contained within the codec calls. The backstory for each B&B is fleshed out quite nicely, and it all adds to the overall theme of the game. The problem I have with this is the method used for its delivery: a blank codec screen and voiceovers. This is the final chapter of Solid Snakeís saga. Why in the name of all that is holy am I getting a voiceover - without even so much as a character portrait - to explain the tragic backstories of some of the main enemy characters? Furthermore, why is this news being delivered by the newcomer to the series, and not at least by a character more connected to Snake? Or even Rose, for Christís sake, sheís there for psychological shit anyway isnít she?

This was a huge opportunity to delve into the personalities of the B&Bs. Previous boss fights in MGS have often featured at least some revealing dialogue or information. Small tidbits of interaction between Snake and the bosses provide insight and character building, both positive things for the overall narrative. They offer chances for the player to get to know both Snake and the boss better. Look at the classic battles from MGS between Psycho Mantis and Snake, or his hand-to-hand bout with Gray Fox/The Ninja, for Godís sake. We went from that to a generic history channel voiceover; I call bullshit. It seemed to me that the purpose of Drebinís calls wasnít even really to provide backstory on the characters themselves so much as they were there to reinforce the common thread throughout the MGS series: War is bad.

Exposition on the B&Bís themselves appears to have been a secondary effect of delivering this message, and itís really a pity because some potentially amazing scenes between Snake and the demons of his past (the B&Bís codenames being links to FoxHound) and present (the B&Bís themselves and their connection to war and Liquid Ocelot/The Patriots) have been lost in favor of giving a new character more air time, almost as if to justify Drebinís existence to the player beyond ďthat gun guyĒ.

In the end, I think MGS4 was a decent ending to an amazing series. Some of the scenes really blew me away, and had me totally floored. While I keep going back again and again to other games in the series, MGS4 keeps getting left by the wayside, because it just doesnít quite measure up with the rest. That doesnít make it a bad game, just not as good as the rest of the series. The moral of the story, I guess, is: You canít win Ďem all. And also I hate MGS4.   read

5:22 PM on 01.11.2010

RANT: Unlocking Content in Fighting Games

Iíll just come right out and say it: I fucking hate unlocking shit in fighting games. Usually I consider unlocking items/weapons/equipment/costumes in games to be something pleasant. I like the challenge it represents. Just recently I finally went back and unlocked all the characters for Resident Evil 5ís Mercenaries mode. It took awhile, but every defeat made victory seem that much close. Iím the kind of guy who looks at 98% and thinks ďThatís just not good enough.Ē I want every weapon upgrade, every alternate costume, every color scheme, every area on the map picked clean of its hidden treasures.

But when it comes to fighting gamesÖ

Unlocking shit drives me fucking bonkers.

Todayís offender is Street Fighter IV. I love this game. I love the characters, I love the combat, I love the special moves, and there are few things I find more satisfying than sitting down for a few hours to tear it up with Guile. There are also few things I find more aggravating than Street Fighter IVís approach to unlocking character colors and taunts.

For those of you that donít know, the process for unlocking colors and taunts is to proceed through the gameís challenge modes, Survival and Time Trial. Normally these are the kinds of modes I would spend most of my time with (Iíve thrown away countless hours on Dead or Alive 4ís Survival mode), but this is not the case with Street Fighter IV and that is one reason and one reason alone: Special Rules.

I have made somewhere around 50 attempts at beating Time Trial 11. Time Trial 11 has been my own personal purgatory for quite some time now; you start with 50 seconds, +30 for every defeat. Not so hard, right? Hereís the kicker: No Ultra Combo, no EX attacks, no Throw Escape, no Focus Attack, no dash, no Target Combo. The lack of an Ultra Combo isnít really a problem for me under usual circumstances because I main Guile, and his Ultra is almost prohibitively difficult to pull off under most circumstances anyway. However, everything else this Time Trial takes away basically destroys my ability to play; lacking the ability to tech out of throws, lacking EX attacks (which have different properties than normal attacks, allowing you to set up longer/more complex combo strings), lacking the Focus Attack (which allows for canceling out of moves to lengthen combos/go for a throw), lacking the ability to dash (which removes my ability to dash in for a quick combo), all of these things completely destroy my ability to play.

Normally I would have given up around attempt 25, but in order to unlock the last two colors and taunts, Iíve got to make it through to Time Trial 20. This presents a unique problem for me, because Iíd really like to have every option available to me upon selecting a character, but in order to do that Iíll have to push through Time Trial 11 - 20 to achieve that goal. This is a potential gauntlet of agony for me.

So, after 50 times of trying to beat Time Trial 11 with a variety of characters and methods, I decided to sit down and ponder what really made me so angry about this, and I discovered that it wasnít just that it was difficult. It was something thatís always driven me nuts: unlocking content in fighting games.

No quarter-munching arcade machine Iíve ever played on required this unlocking horseshit. The things to be unlocked in most fighting games are costumes and colors, which have no functional impact on the actual gameplay experience. Whereas other unlocks in games often have some kind of effect beyond aesthetic, either increasing some sort of stat, granting special abilities, or changing the capabilities of a weapon, in fighting games unlocks serve no real practical purpose. So why in the fuck must they be unlocked?

I understand the purpose behind unlocking the fighters themselves, as each fighter adds a new dynamic to the game. I still think itís stupid to require them to be unlocked in the first place, but I at least understand the logic behind it. With colors and costumes, itís beyond my understanding. I canít even fathom why someone - why anyone - would think up something so stupid.

How about you, Destructoid? What do you think about unlocking content in fighters, yes or no?   read

12:23 AM on 01.05.2010

On Parenting, Gaming, Violence, and Society

Two things I need to get out of the way before I get started here:

First, I am not of the belief that people are inherently good or evil; nothing I am about to say is an attempt to paint people or their actions as good or bad. Itís merely action and reaction, no moral compass to be found. I think that people are people and they simply do what suits them. Their freedom to do so forms the very basis of society. What I am about to say, the opinions I will express, and the conclusions that I draw are all things that apply to my world view alone. I am not trying to change anyoneís mind on any subject I discuss, I am merely expressing my views. I'm not trying to preach, just talk.

Second, if you are offended by anything that follows, thatís fine, but Iím not going to apologize for anything Iím about to say. If it bothers you, take it for what it is; the opinion of someone you probably didnít know existed yesterday, and wonít give a shit about tomorrow. Thatís the glory of the internet, basically nothing anybody says here really matters in day-to-day life.

Also (I know I said two, but this oneís a small one): This is probably gonna be a long read, so if youíre gonna stick in it Ďtil the end, you should probably make yourself some popcorn or something, or at least prepare for a bathroom break halfway through.

Now, with all that said, letís get started here.

Thereís a list of phrases I absolutely hate. This ranks in at number two: ďTheyíre gonna do it anyway.Ē

This phrase is a prelude to a painfully foolish argument. What this phrase amounts to is a justification for either being too lazy, too stupid, or just too damn self interested to exhibit some backbone and some discipline.

The argument is brutally simple. ďTheyíre gonna do it anyway, so why try to stop them?Ē It usually comes out of people talking about raising children. Usually from people who have no idea what theyíre fucking doing with children. ďTheyíre gonna drink anyway, so why not let them do it at home, where I donít have to worry about them going somewhere dangerous to do it?Ē ďTheyíre gonna have sex anyway, so why not get them some condoms, so they can do it safely?Ē ďTheyíre gonna play violent videogames no matter what I do, so I might as well just buy them.Ē

Hereís what happens when you apply this argument to something else. Letís go ahead and do society. ďPeople are going to kill each other. I mean, theyíre going to do it. You canít stop them. You really, really want to, but you canít. So why try?Ē

Do you understand how amazingly stupid this is now?

This phrase, and its argument, is the product of a generation of ďfreedomĒ in parenting. Parents who were either too self-interested and career-driven to spend their valuable time raising their children, or too freedom-loving, bucking the trend of the corporate society by raising their child free of boundaries. The latch key kids who walked home alone from the bus stop, made their own lunch, and sat down to watch TV alone for a few hours while they waited for the parents to get home, only to be ignored just long enough for dinner to get cooked, and then itĎs off to bed because mommy and daddy are tired.

Most of them turned out as pretty decent human beings. A tribute to the human will to survive and succeed. They treat others with a reasonable amount of respect. They go to work every day, they keep good friends, good relationships. Just generally good people on the whole. The problem is, they wound up with no idea how to raise their kids. There was little to no discipline in their lives, and as a result, when itís time to put a family together, itís a Goddamn crapshoot. The sense of morality, right and wrong, and understanding of society they gained with classmates in school during their generationís upbringing isnít there today to shepherd their children into adulthood. Schools are a mess, over budget, under funded, overpopulated and chock full of kids who have to learn most of their values on the streets, not in the home. Potentially good kids wasted not because nobody cared, not because their parents didnít love them, but because the load-bearing structure of our society that cradled their parents into decent human beings wasnít prepared for the next waveís weight too.

The parents are clueless; theyíve got no idea how to discipline their kids. Theyíve never seen it before in their lives. Their parents didnít do it, the books canít teach it, and theyíre lost. They donít know the first thing about keeping their kids safe and molding them into law-abiding, productive citizens. From this, we get about half a generation of use-it-or-lose-it men and women who spend more time trying to find a shrink to make all their problems go away than actually confronting those problems like reasonable adults.

It is from this God awful mess that we get ďTheyíre gonna do it anyway.Ē Two generations of misshapen, misguided, misunderstood, and generally sub-par parenting techniques culminating in one big pile of ďWho gives a shit what happens to my kids, nobody gave a shit what happened to me and I turned out just fine.Ē

Itís my belief that this is whatís most responsible for putting violent games in the hands of kids. Children make demands and under-equipped, limp-wristed, weak-kneed parents who are practically children themselves, give in. Itís not that the parents are well informed about what theyíre doing. Itís not that they understand whatís occurring to their children. Itís just that they arenít steeled to their childrenís screams. Nobody gave them anything, so why should they deny their child now if it will make them happy? They care about their kids and what happens to them, they care so much that theyíll give them anything, they just donít know that itís a profoundly stupid thing to do.

Letís be clear here: I donít think the content is that awful without context. But itís a context that needs to be provided by a loving parent, or at least an adult that is aware of whatís occurring. It canít simply be presented and left; you canít throw a kid in a pool and then walk away and expect them to learn how to swim, can you?

And now, we come to the heart of what I really wanted to talk with you all about.

There has been a lot of talk about the role of violence in media for essentially as long as any form of media has been available. It spans from the first printed media, books, newspapers, art, photographs, film, television, music and todayís supposed ďhot buttonĒ issue is videogames.

Itís important to note that videogames are the latest in a long line of widely available mediums consumed by the public; when the subject of content and videogames comes up, it is often stated that this ďhappenedĒ with music, television, movies, and so on. It is just as important to note that, while the majority of the attention about certain types of content is typically focused on one particular medium or another, the criticism and proposed censorship on other types of mediums does not simply go away. Example: Do you read Stephen King novels to a 10 year old as bedtime stories?

While we do not often see discussion focused on the potentially violent content shown on television programs, it is still uncommon if not unheard of to see graphic footage of actual violence, death, and war on television programs. The occasional story is covered, and footage is sometimes shown of actual violence and events, but very rarely is it shown in entirety, and never, never, never without surrounding context. Even the most horrific of crime-focused programs are censored for the public; the concern about such content reaching the viewer has never receded. It has dulled, perhaps, to include certain allowances, but it has never (and likely never will) disappear, because the content itself remains offensive and potentially dangerous. We have merely adjusted our social practices to accept the information, and interpret it in a way that is not harmful.

I feel it is deeply misleading to simply state that videogames will follow in the same vein as these other mediums without fully exploring what has occurred. People think, ďOh, well, I remember people getting into a lot of arguments over music some years back. Now I donít hear that much anymore, unless somethingís really offensive. Thatíll probably happen to videogames. Letís just say that.Ē And while it is a fair assumption that videogames will be added to the list of ďapproved content not destroying our childrenĒ, itís not accurate to believe that this will lead to less scrutiny, only that less national attention will be paid to it as attention drifts elsewhere.

I also feel that this is a pretty horrific cop-out, and itís taken advantage of in the gaming community far, far too often.

Simply stating that videogames will be (or already are) like TV/Music/Film allows us to distance ourselves from taking a serious, hard look at the content contained within, and how it should be considered. Tossing videogames in with other forms of mass-consumed media is like writing a blank check to yourself: ďI donít have to think about this anymore, itís the (media/government/active group/lawyer)ís fault videogames are getting all this negative attention. Itís not my fault for demanding more/being desensitized to more obscene content. Itís not my fault for allowing my children to view/play it.Ē

Itís a get-out-of-jail-free card for the gamer to not have to take these things seriously; because if we did force ourselves to take it seriously, we might not actually get the kind of content we want. We might actually have to take a hard look at ourselves and we might not like what we see. As long as violence has no impact in media, it has no impact on us, and it doesnít matter if we demand it to be satisfied. If, instead, we throw up our hands and say, ďitís the nature of society, itíll be over eventually,Ē we can keep getting what we want while making a convincing argument and letting people ďbitch and whineĒ about it in the background, on the periphery.

Itís pathetic to take such a hands-off approach on something you claim to love so much. If you love games, then I call on you to be the voice of reason. Turn yourself into a gaming interpreter. Teach friends, family, and even strangers how to understand this medium of digital entertainment like we do; show them the cynicism we approach these products with. Donít just buy the new releases when they come out and hole up with them. Take them to your friends, take them to your family. Take them to your parents, your grandparents, and their grandparents if you can, and while youíre there, why donít you ask them if theyíd have let you play that damn game in your hands when you were 10, 11, 12, or even 15.

Forcing yourself to believe that others are simply ignorant of what you hold in your hands is the act of a fool. Instead, teach them to interpret games as you do. Show them the good that comes out of this medium that we love. The communities it compels us to build, like this fabulous one here at Destructoid. The companionship we share in our love (and sometimes hate) of videogames. Teach them that itís never about just one game for us; itís a living archive of experiences we can call upon at all times. The satisfaction of that hat-trick of headshots in Team Fortress 2, the crescendo that chimes in at that perfect moment, that wonderful sensation of completion after getting that 100th feather.

If you canít even muster up the courage to do that, then I think you already know what theyíd have to say about the content in your games, donít you? If you donít feel comfortable sharing your best shot at a high score in Mad World with your mom, but you can both sit down and watch Cold Case Files together and not bat an eye, then why the fuck is it okay to throw the content of videogames in with what happened to TV? If you canít scream ďYOU FUCKING NIGGER FAGGOTĒ in front of your grandparents while playing some Modern Warfare 2, but you can both handle some rock & roll, how is it reasonable to compare the predicament of videogames to what happened music?

Iím not saying anyone should feel bad about playing the games they like to play. Once youíre an adult, you can drink, you can smoke, you can do damn near whatever you like so long as itís legal. And just like you wouldnít want to sit down with your great-grandparents and watch some hardcore porn, you probably wouldnít want to show every game to everyone. But donít allow yourself to be complacent, and donít pretend to be a fool. Do not just scrutinize the content in your games. Cast those piercing eyes upon yourself, and your own impact on the system as a consumer; what do your purchases, your comments, and your thoughts say about what you want out of games, and the industry as a whole. Do you demand more violence? Do you get excited about more realistic gore? When buckets and buckets of blood are spilled, is it awesome, or gruesome and horrifying? What words come out of your mouth when youíre seething at the Television because the same guy knifed you for the third time in a row? Always be aware that you are having an impact on what gets produced. What you buy is what they make. The more you buy, the more they make.

Think long and think hard about what they make, and what that says about not just you, but all of us.   read

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