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9:50 AM on 03.19.2009

Expanded Universe? Do Not Want!

In thinking about this month’s cblog topic about Expanded Universes, I came up with a lot of great examples of how the electronic gaming medium works as a way to expand stories that originated from other forms of entertainment. Video games that expand the universe of Star Wars are sometimes exemplary in their execution of how they recreate the themes of the movies while including completely new plot lines (KOTOR, anyone?) More examples could be compiled to create a very long list. Goldeneye for the N64 far surpassed the movie in terms of lasting entertainment value. The Shin Megami Tensei series was based on a novel. While a little dated for it’s time, the Ranma ˝ RPG that came out for the Super Famicom was a great ode to the series. And how many of us appreciate Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles not for their action figures, comics, or cartoons; but for the few games that have cemented themselves in our collective gaming memories?

But how often does the influence steer in the opposite direction to make a great movie, TV series, comic book, or novel? Help me out here because, as far as I can recall, the only the show with origins in the gaming medium that had any significance to an entire generation may have been Pokemon. And I’m not even sure of that since I never was a Pokemon fan.

When I hear the term “Expanded Universe,” the sound of it is accompanied by a certain prejudice I have that brings to mind such glorious failures as the Super Mario Brothers movie, Doom, and the Street Fighter live action flick. How sad is it that Street Fighter was Raul Julia’s final film?

The case is common enough when we talk about bad video game movies, but additionally, do we really need to have a series of Halo novels? Or what about the Persona 3 anime series from Japan?

It all stinks of greed and money as far as I’m concerned. The only reason we have Halo novels or bad video game film adaptations is because some executive somewhere with no affinity to the source material understands that gamers would shell out their cash for expanded universe products simply because of ties to a great gaming experience. Thus, a franchise is born, and subsequently the market is oversaturated with crap made for fanboys.

It may be unfair for me to target Hollywood directors or the fledgling science fiction writers that put a lot of hard work into the Resident Evil movies or the Halo books, but you would be fooling yourself if you thought the main reason for the creation of this “expanded universe” was anything other than turning an easy profit.

Thinking hypothetically, I would consider an amazing game like Killer7 rife with potential for an animated television show or movie. The game blew my mind and showed me just how far gaming has come in 30+ years. I would have never thought I’d see a game as dark, as beautiful, as simple, or as delightfully psychotic as Killer7. A Killer7 anime might seem like a good idea if it were created by creator Suda 51. But what are the chances of that? Expanded Universes are almost exclusively conceptualized by a third party that usually lacks the vision of the original creator. George Lucas notwithstanding, continuing storylines and themes are best created from the minds of those who gave birth to them in the first place.

I know that a Killer7 manga exists, but I’d rather not disappoint myself. It’s just my belief that video games are a unique enough storytelling medium. Adaptations and expansions would only muddy the waters and at worst, dilute the meaning for the sake of a larger, more profitable audience.   read

9:32 AM on 02.05.2009

MegaTen games rule my thoughts...

It all started when I read a review in my hometown's free weekly sometime in late 2007. There was a review of the curiously titled "Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3." Even though the review was written for a general audience, it went into great detail about the nuances in the storyline when it came to the high school social sim aspects. It also devoted a paragraph on the fact that the personae were summoned by shooting yourself in the head with a gun-shaped evoker.

It sounded so Japanese-y. It captured my interest, and I bought the game despite my hesitance in playing 50+ RPGs with turn-based battle systems. Somehow over the first few slow hours of exposition, I became hopelessly enthralled. That must be the reason why so many of us can plunk down dozens upon dozens of hours of repetitive gaming with SMT titles.

I know this is a big FAIL on my part, but I never finished P3. I took it upon myself to finish it over the holidays since I bought P4 and wanted to start a new 100+ adventure.

Well, I'm still working on it. I THINK I'm close to the end. All the cues for the "final battle approaching" are there.

I now split split my time between playing P3, reading about Shin Megami Tensei, starting Digital Devil Saga, and daydreaming about getting home after work and playing some more.

I think it may be affecting me a little too much.

After playing a little too much Shin Megami Tensei: Digital Devil Saga last night, I've been looking at the World in a different way.

Like at the Supermarket this morning when I went to get some breakfast. That cutie in the checkout aisle threw me a bashful smile as I approached with my quesito. What was behind that smile? Professional courtesy, friendliness, or an indication of an interest in romantic hi jinks?

I smiled back at her, froze her with a bufu spell (which turns out was her weakness), and devoured her on my next turn. Maximum XP points!

I also absorbed her ability to locate UPC symbols on merchandise packaging in less than .5 seconds.

I can tell I'll be devouring others throughout the weekend.   read

1:20 PM on 08.12.2008

More Romance in Games?

I haven't finished Braid yet, but so far the story seems to focus on Tim's loss of love. The name of the game refers to a moment where Tim gets slapped in the face by his love's hair when she turns away from him in an emotional moment.

Those first few minutes of playing Braid impacted me so much that I had to take a moment to understand why the game created such a strong reaction in me. Aside from being extremely well written, the reason for the immediate emotional impact must have been the the game's themes of love and loss. Being an in-the-closet hopeless romantic, I can relate to Tim without even knowing how the rest of the story goes.

This made me wonder why we don't see more games that use these same themes to provide the main character's motivation.

Games that have used love and loss as their driving themes have included cult-status titles like Ico and Shadow of the Colossus. Both are considered classics as Braid may one day be.

So why not have more games that appeal to the most overpowering human emotion?

Maybe because if done wrong, it could have a high potential for cheese. That's not to mention what would happen if we started seeing games based on romantic fiction like The Notebook or A Walk to Remember. Seriously, would you play a Jerry Maguire video game?

Still, I'm willing to guess that a good percentage of the gaming community have suffered for love. Since we can mostly relate, shouldn't game studios try and use love as a storyline theme? It's motivated fiction for centuries, why not games?

Or did I forget a bunch of examples of love in games?

Super Mario Bros. doesn't count!   read

2:21 PM on 07.31.2008

First Time; Long Time

You might not know me, but I sure know you.

You see, I'm what those annoying radio callers refer to as a "first time, long time."

I've been a fan of Destructoid since around the Autumn 2006. Some other game blog (Kotaku, perhaps?) linked to a video of a fellow South Florida native speeding through the streets of Miami in order to reach the courthouse in time to cover a Jack Thompson hearing.

I later learned that the reckless, soft spoken fellow behind the wheel was none other than site founder Niero. I gave the guy props for taking the time off of work to bring the gaming community an inside look at Jack Thompson's legal proceedings. He did us a great service by brining it directly to us. I sometimes reflect on why we haven't seen any since. Perhaps he got banned from the courthouse for not silencing his phone during a legal hearing. Oh well. Cest la vie.

So, ever since then, I've visited Destructoid on a daily basis. I listened to the Podtoids intently during those first few episodes. This provided a much-needed distraction during some rough times, particularly during when my father's health had succumbed to cancer.

I hate to admit it, but I began to lose some interest in the Podtoids due to the irritating attitudes of two former D-toid staff members. I can respectfully disagree with many site contributers, but these two simply turned me off to the podcasts. From that point on, I still checked the site frequently, but wasn't as enthralled as before.

Then RetroForceGo! came along and rocked my world to the core. I'm a HUGE RFGO fan. Dyson, Topher, Chad, and Colette all seem to be around the same age as me (30), so many their personal recollections mirror my own experiences with gaming in the 80's and 90's. The huge exception being that I never owned an SNES. (That's a long story that belongs in another blog post.)

Now I'm a fan of all three podcasts, each for their own special reasons. I'm particularly thankful that each one has a regular female contributer that helps balance the testosterone found on other gaming podcasts. And also Tiff Chow's voice is like music to my ears.

I've always wanted to show my appreciation to Destructoid for acting as a beacon to my gaming obsession. I've always found comfort in knowing that the site is home to the type of person that appreciates gaming outside of the mainstream. It's about time that I actually register as an official D-toider. I hope to make the best of it.

What finally inspired me to register was hearing about a Destructoid Panel at Florida International University's annual anime convention, Yasumicon. Hopefully, I'll have a chance to meet the robot in person along with a couple of other members of the gang. Then at least I can tell them that I'm a real D-toider and not just another passive observer.

Cheers!   read

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