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Currently in liminal time. That's a clever sounding way to say I'm not sure what I'm doing with my life, so I find myself reading lots, working at a funeral home, laughing at my dog (for a variety of reasons), enjoying alliterations, and of course playing video games.

I also am finding that I occasionally like to write things. Trouble is I often find it difficult to actually come up with content I deem worthwhile. So, if anything does come up, I'll be sure to tell you.

Also, here's some of my favorite games I've played over the last little while.

Fallout 1 & 2
Half-Life Series
Metal Gear Solid Series
Bioware games
Bioshock
Halo: Combat Evolved
Zelda Series
Morrowind
Deus Ex
Sam & Max
Far Cry 2
Freedom Force

I know, pretty generic, but what can a person do.




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Doctor m3ds
6:35 PM on 06.16.2010



As gamers we tend crap on things quite quickly, and motion controls has been one of our favourite outhouses as of late. However, I'd like to (try to) defend motion controls. Also, click here if you don't get what the first picture is from.

When motion controls for the Wii were first announced, I was excited for two reasons. The first was the enhancement of current genres. This has happened somewhat. Games like No More Heroes and the new Zelda are good examples of this. Adding motion controls to make the games more involving, not trying to just map buttons to various kinetic movement. The second reason I got excited, was the possibility of new genres and forms of gameplay we haven't seen. This one hasn't happened so much. Now, from my completely uneducated stance, I see a number of reasons for this.


Serious game development going on here

It takes time...
The majority of us are too young to remember the beginning days of video games (myself included), but as far as I can tell, we didn't start out with games with rich narrative, game perfectly precise controls, or even responsive jump buttons. We started out with really basic games like pong and games on the Odyssey (none of which I recognize). It took game developers a number of years before they learned to fully utilize a controller and I don't see how motion controls are different.

We're asking for a completely different way of approaching games and that's not something easy to think of, especially when most game developers have grown up with the notion that a controller is how you play games. However, it has been nearly five years since the release of the Wii. Plenty of time to think of new ways of interacting with games right? Well I want to bring up two counter-points to that argument.

Cost
In this day and age of 100+ person development teams and budgets in the millions, it's no wonder people don't want to risk trying something new, something overly experimental. Yes, this is the exact same argument as why we have so many sequels but I do believe it applies here as well. Even developing on the Wii (which I assume has lower development costs) removes precious developers from working on tried and true methods which are less risky. In fact, the Wii being a far less powerful console may even be a bigger hindrance to this.

It certainly prevents some developers from releasing multi-platform games on all three systems because of the varied demands of visuals. Perhaps if the Wii had similar hardware, developers wouldn't need to spend time building a console specific version, but instead just port over the same levels, textures, etc. and just concentrate on how the controls will be different. Note, that this wouldn't outright encourage new experimental gameplay, but it may get people thinking.



Motion Plus, Kinect, Move? Too many choices!
Now, this is a problem that is just starting, and I'm not entirely sure if it's a problem or not, but whatever, here we go. By having three separate motion controllers, we don't allow developers to work with one specific paradigm and figure out how things work. Maybe something will work better on Kinect, but fail when it comes to actually holding a controller. Maybe will start seeing multi-platform games for Wii and Move, or maybe the graphical difference will just cause such dreams to crash. I'm not sure how releasing games on the three of these distinct control schemes will work.

However, the reason I do state that maybe this isn't such a bad thing is that, much like consoles of the seventies, having multiple control types will reveal which one is superior, or at least, reveal what doesn't work. But maybe I'm being too sceptical about the differences of the three. Maybe they do have enough similarities that it will give developers a window to operate in that the lessons learned with one can be applied to others.

All in all, motion controls are a scary thing, and one I'm still incredibly sceptical about. I don't see anything in the near future that brings me vast amounts of hope, but their is still hope none the less. I still get excited at the thought of immersing me into a game more by using motion controls. Whether it be keeping a remote at my hip to represent a sheathed sword or the experience of having a proper western duel, I still think there are lots of things to explore with this weird and wacky control scheme.
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Gaming has always been a part of my family, though in varying degrees for each family member. From my momís casual playing of Guitar Hero to my near obsession with the entirety of gaming, weíve all seemed to find something to enjoy with video games. However, I want to talk about how video games have affected my relationship with my Dad and my sister.

To put it simply, I probably wouldnít be playing games today if it werenít for my Father. Dad started playing games shortly after getting married to my mom. Enjoying such titles as X-com and Syndicate, Dad quickly found himself spending more and more time with them, so he was fairly well established with them by the time I came around.

Dad took no time to waste to introduce me to games. I have warm memories of sitting on his lap and watch him beat people with chains in Road Rash. However, I remember him always being a good dad and sending me out of the room when he felt things werenít overly appropriate. Now this is all well and good, but the reason I want to highlight this relationship is because this became one of the biggest ways I connected to my Dad.


Dad showing me the finer points of road etiquette.

See my Dadís a really big motorbike guy and Iím definitely not. Donít get me wrong motorbikes are wicked cool, but I just had no interest in getting on one. I even remember my Dad going to great lengths to try and get me to ride: often looking up great deals on bikes and getting me to throw a leg over as soon as I was tall enough, but hard as he may have tried, I never took interest.

As I went through some rebellious teenage years, I began to resent this difference, among others, and separation quickly crept up. However, the relationship was never fully sundered thanks to a few key common denominators, one of the main ones being video games.

Despite some of the differences I had with my Dad, video games always proved a common ground for us. We could always go back to them and discuss things like how cool the twist in Knightís of the Old Republic was, how video games could be a great social avenue, and coming up with arguments on how video games werenít of ďthe devil.Ē

As the years have gone on, my Dad and me have recovered that closeness we had years ago and I do believe that video games are definitely one of the strings that kept us close when things were shaky through high school. Speaking of teenage angst lets move on to my sister.

Growing up, my sister and I often played games together. Sometimes it was because she was interested in them, and other times it was just because she wanted to hang out with me. However, once my rocky teenage years came around, the relationship began to separate and those fun times spent around the 64 began to slide away.

Then, just as I was leaving behind my teenage angst days, my sister entered into them. This resulted in several years of a very cold, unsure relationship between my sister and I. Neither of us knew how to approach each other, we were constantly afraid of setting each other off. But then, about two years ago, my sister started getting into games of her own accord.

It started with more casual titles on the Wii, but quickly moved to western rpgs (she played Mass Effect 2 before me), and this really opened up a common ground where we could begin to repair our relationship. Talks that began with how awesome Bioshock is quickly progressed to how life was going and how she was enjoying school. The relationship still has lots of room to progress, but itís crazy to think how far itís come.


Nothing brings a brother and sister closer together than rescuing one from suffocation at the hands of a terrorist.

All in all, I wouldn't say that video games are the sole reason that these relationships have progressed the way they have, but it's impossible to deny that they haven't helped to keep us close. As our family begins to enter a new stage with me out of the house and my sister in her last year of high school, I know that video games will always provide a constant tie which we can use to catch up with one another.
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So this blog post is mainly an attempt at me ranting and trying to think critically about games. However, I'm fairly new at this, so feel free to comment on me falling on my face at this.

With the announcement of Splinter Cell Conviction, I was pretty excited. Sam Fisher could be refreshed from the stale character he had fallen into, and the developers could take the character into new exciting territory. However, instead of seeing a logical course of character progression in this new light, I got a cold, murderous Sam Fisher who didnít fit my understanding of the character.

Now, itís been sometime since I last played the previous iterations of Splinter Cell, but I always had the idea that killing for Sam was always a last regrettable option. There seems to be no dialog hints that this is an enjoyable aspect of Samís vocation. In fact, Sam always seemed to be silent on the matter. If not seen through the dialog, I think itís enforced through the gameplay.

Throughout the Splinter Cell series, the focus has been on avoiding detection, and using your gun as a last resort. This type of gameplay implies that killing is a more destructive action, and only necessary in extreme situations. This is further pushed in Chaos Theory when the scores given at the end of the level are higher if death is avoided.


Haha, you can't see me. Now follow your patrol pattern so I can get down from here.

The ambiguous narrative, and the reward for stealth together seem to create a character that avoids death and enforces violence only when necessary. However, Conviction paints a very different picture.

In terms of dialogue to help clarify Samís disposition, there are very few differences in previous Splinter Cell iterations and this one. Sam still provides relatively indifferent responses. The most extreme being, ďwell, that was interesting.Ē So, no real change there.

However, in terms of gameplay, the game has seemed to shift from avoid detection and kill if necessary, to shoot everyone from the shadows. I canít stress this shift enough and it turns Sam into a rather cold murderer with little regard for others, and itís this that is probably the biggest redesign seen in this latest sequel. Where all four previous games had been based on the principle that stealth was for avoidance, Convictionís philosophy seems to be stealth for more effective combat.


Death for all!

Now, the story would seem to argue that the loss of his daughter has forced Sam to go to the extreme, and no one can get in his way, but this character arc seems hard to believe when Sam is breaking the necks of weekend army reserve members; people who probably have children of their own. Thereís been such a drastic character progression; it feels unlikely that Sam would suddenly start killing those hardly responsible for his Daughterís plight.

So, this is all for me to say that I feel that the direction the developers took Sam didnít really work for me. But, then again, most people donít play Splinter Cell for the character of Sam Fisher, thatís Metal Gear Solidís job.

PS. This all said, it could be that, because of Samís relative silence in previous games, I had just forced my own character on him, and that coupled with the evasion style gameplay of the previous games I had created this cautious killer, and Iím now just taken back by how the developers didnít have the exact same thing in mind.
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Warning! This is the first time I've ever attempted a blog, so sorry if it's fail.

Hey there, my nameís Mark. I suppose this can serve as a first blog, but I donít want it to be overly ďHey, this is my life story.Ē So Iíll try to phrase it as a ďwhat Iím playing/questionĒÖthing. Anyways, on to the topic I wanted to discuss.

Normally I play a lot of shooters, fpsís, action games, adventure games, and North American RPGís. Every once in a while though my staples donít satisfy my cravings and I venture out into a genre which I normally criticize, the jrpg.


This is my bologna sandwich.

I believe that I can count the number of jrpgís Iíve played on one hand. Typically I try to play one and get five or so hours in and lose interest. Sometimes the battle mechanics become tiresome, or the characters reveal themselves to be the shallow excuses for the humans they are, or sometimes itís simply the distractions of life. Despite these difficulties, a time will eventually come where everything about the jrpg fits my gaming appetite. I recently got into one of these moods and to get my fix I chose Persona 3.

I remember when Persona 3 was released and seeing the entire Destructoid community set ablaze by how exceptional it was. Me being apathetic to jrpgís, really didnít take that much notice. Still, the game left an impression in my mind.

After getting out of college this past April, I began to look for games that I had missed over the last eight months (poor college student is poor) and was reminded of Persona 3 by some random occurrence. I picked up the game off of Goozex and thankfully received it quickly. I started up the game this past week and have been absolutely lost in it. The game has such a brilliant blend of character development and combat that so many jrpgís seem to miss the mark on. I even began to wonder whether I would have liked the game outside this bizarre jrpg craving. Iíve been enjoying it so much that Iíve completely forgot the other games I was in the middle of playing. Essentially, Iím completely enthralled by it. Now, back to the aforementioned question I said I would ask at the beginning of this blog.


This still isn't old!

My question is, has this ever happened to you? Is there some genre which you dislike and normally wouldnít play (even if it was made by Valve), but then mysteriously had an unquenchable desire to play?
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