Dr. Butler is an red-blooded arcade gamer, but he also appreciates indie games for the PC.
Is addressing myself in third-person coming off as pretentious? I hope not.
Anyway, my friend ,Gileum- and I, are co-authors of Hidden Gems, a blog dedicated to independantly developed, as well as obscure games time has forgotten. We didn't forget them. We love us some poverty games!
Are these things of urban legend? Or do they have any credibility? Ever since the eighties, the concept of the government using videogames for shady, and mysterious reasons has been an exciting concept of gamer lore. According to certain people's friends's friends, there were certain title released over the past few decades that were linked to various government programs. But are any of them real? Let's discuss.
In 1981, in the greater midwest, anonymous sources claim that several major arcades received a new game. It was a rail-shooter/puzzle hybrid called Polybius. People unfortunate enough to play this game apparently came down with various physical ailments, which isn't unlikely, as the game is said to feature a mesmerizing series of strobe effects. So far, nothing out of the ordinary; a game was released in an under-tested state, and the special effects caused some people to experience epileptic symptoms. Unfortunately this happens occasionally, but nothing too spooky, no?
Well not yet, but this rabbit-hole goes deeper. Mysterious, professionally dressed G-man, wearing all black would frequent the arcades on a regular basis, and collect "data". And certain players were afflicted far worse than mere headaches, with those around them claiming that their personality had been altered, and they were quick to anger, not unlike a patient whom had undergone a lobotomy. Different sources claim a few people even committed suicide, but others don't make mention of it, so that part is likely just hyperbole.
There exists ROMs of Polybius, but these are almost certainly fangames, modeled after the details of the story. Although they've been unanimously declared fake, they are accurate enough to the desrciption to give you some general insight into how the game could have played. You can view some 'gameplay' of one of these ROMs here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cHKBQLzXp1c
After a short while, the claims of the game causing illness were becoming great, and each of the Polybius uprights were removed from there respective arcades. Patrons claim that the games were taken away by mysterious, professionally dressed G-man, wearing all black. These strangers took the cabinets and loaded them into an unmarked van, and were never seen again.
Now this seems like the stuff of urban legend, but, let's just play into it for a moment: Perhaps the game was indeed developed either by or for the government? Why would they do such a thing? Well, those G-men could have been collecting score-data, perhaps as part of a recruitment program. The games were recalled soon after the incidents of illness were reported, the same way any company would remove something that did not work as intended, especially if its causing harm. So it is possible that this game is real, but was in fact far less sinister in nature then the stories tell? Especially in recent years, with the advent of games such as America's Army acting to encourage our youth to join government forces, the idea of Polybius seems far less outlandish.
Except for the part about it changing your personality. That's fucking stupid.
Totally not an ad, I just don't want to regurgitate the same information here. Includes a playthrough, and links were you can get the game yourself. What makes this game different from Polybius, is the fact that it can actually be experienced firsthand, and not by means of a mock-up. It's pretty interesting.
Do you guys have any nuggets of information to share about these games? Or maybe you know of even more games with mysterious back-stories and subliminal messages? Don't hesitate to tell us all about it!
You've read this article time and time again, so I'm not going to bore you with a drawn out introductory paragraph, sighting all of the industries progress over the past several decades. Instead I'm going to jump right in immediately, and begin making controversial statements, and hoping for some actual discourse in the comments
More and more, videogames have become less games, and more like bad Sci-Fi original movies. There's an intense, almost laser beam focus on narrative of videogames, as oppossed to gameplay, and overall enjoyment. In fact, I've seen time and time again, games with very weak gameplay get a free pass, using it's story as justification for it's subpar mechanics. Games like BioShock (not bad per-se, but so easy that it quickly grows dull and repetitive), and Skyrim are praised, despite the facts that they are not good, at least not when you are criticizing them as 'games' instead of amateur literature. These same people will then slam Soul Calibur 5 (a competitive game, no less) for only having two hours of cutscenes.
I'm actually going to rag on BioShock - the supposed sacred cow, and the new bastion of the entertainment industry - for a bit. Although frequent subject of praise, BioShock is slow-paced, boring, and altogether too easy. The gameplay just didn't do it for me. It's really a shame, because some of the stuff it had was cool, (bee-hands) and would of been done justice in a more focused product. Now people will come to defend this game stating "But Butler, it's narrative is SOOOO GOOOOOD GAEMS R ART", and to that I ask why is that a valid argument?
At what point did videogames value schlocky made-for-television-movie plots over fine-tuned gameplay?
Having a narrative-based game reduces it's replay value to almost nothing, being a one-trick pony that is quickly finished, and then forgotten. Some games will feature a multiplayer component, and that's great, granted that it's well made, but often they are not, but that's a tangent I'll bitch and whine about later. If you are playing a game, you should not expect them to slack off on the "game" part in lieu of something else. Especially if that something else isn't good.
This argument is not against narratives altogether, granted the gameplay doesn't suffer at the expense of anything, let alone story. I could cite Metal Gear Solid, but I believe everyone already has. Instead, the Uncharted series is an excellent, and fairly recent example of how to correctly incorporate these many elements. Uncharted's story lends itself to the gameplay, and the two work well together. Uncharted's mechanics are top-notch, and everything works pretty perfectly. The difficulty-curve is just perfect, easing newbies in, and offering even more satisfying challenges as you sally-forth. They didn't play the "Hollywood Cutscenes OMG" card, and slack off on the core of the game.
The cutrscenes are of professional quality and the story is actually engaging, and well-written, which makes it easy to get into the narrative, especially since the voice-actors were coached, and treated like actual actors, as oppossed to the reading-off-the-script-in-one-take that so many games tend to use. The "tacked-on" multiplayer was the logical extension of the perfectly-tuned gameplay, and extended the game's lifespan greatly.
The 'art' of games lies in the creation of strong, fundamental mechanics, because that is what sets it apart from other mediums of entertainment. That, to me, is the strongest argument for games as art, and nobody ever seems to discuss it.
Summary: People played Marvel vs Capcom 2 for 12 years. They played BioShock once.
(Next I'll get into Linearity, since that's another topic that people like to drone on about.)
Everyone knows that creating a video-game is a long, arduous process. Down the road, many games undergo such drastic changes, that they are virtually indistinguishable from different builds. Such is the case with the Sonic 2 Betas. I say 'betas' because the online community has in fact discovered seven different in-production copies of Sonic 2, each giving us unique insight into director Yuji Naka's vision of Sonic 2.
Be sure to check out my full write-up on the Betas here at Hidden Gems, which includes links for further information, and how to obtain the prototypes yourself.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9GCYBX6C3c8 Why has know one put this up yet? This should be front-page news. It's SONIC 2 HD!! I'm crying tears of joy, as this monumental game is the most beautiful thing I've ever laid my eyes upon.
I'm surprised this hasn't made the frontpage; Chinatown Fair, located in Chinatown, New York, is currently under new management, and is under renovations. This is great news to hear; an entire year has passed since Chinatown Fair, the most culturally significant arcade on the east-coast, and a shining icon of the Arcade Community, has finally used a full bar of meter, and is prepared come back in-full swing.
But how will the reemergence of this titan affect 8 on the Break, the east-coasts other prestigious gaming-colisuem, and the United States oldest-running arcade; will New Yorkers rather go to a local dig, than New Jersey? Will Chinatown's return attract away some of The Break's long-distance customers from outside the tri-state area? Only time will tell.