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12:14 AM on 12.30.2009

Love/Hate: Casual Gaming

Casual gaming. The buzzwords of the last 5-odd years. Some deeming it as a mere fad, others as something that games will now never lose, personally I’m with the second lot, quoting a mate of mine: “Don’t be scared of the word CASUAL”.

Love: Bringing gaming in to the mainstream
Thank you casual craze! No really, I mean it. Society used to look down on me, playing games used to be for geeks and kids but now the tides have turned.

During the nineties and early noughties discussion about games were limited to between gamers, try talking to any normal person would give you the same few actions blank stares, the look of boredom or snoozing. God knows people’s reactions if you worked with games at all, luckily Charlie Brooker got firsthand experience “...whenever I told people what I did, they pulled pained, sympathetic expressions and automatically began treating me like some kind of adult baby, as though I'd suddenly started wheeling myself around the room on an undersized tricycle, gurgling and suckling on a dummy...” Link

Now days I get the feeling this stigma is eroding, well with some people at least, mention games in a conversation doesn’t initiate an odd look from people anymore, instead I get a slightly confused look and at the end of it all they seem to genuinely understand what I’ve said. The complexity of games, their stories and interactivity are now compared to films, when both discussed as art forms. Is this thanks to casual games? Personally I think so, everyone’s tried Wii Sports these days and thus the man-child view of gamers has at least disappearing somewhat. Casual games are building bridges between people, everyone can enjoy a game of Wii Sports at a party, and because of casual games the industry seems to have gained some respect with the public.

My Mother told me years ago “You can’t play games forever”, I wonder what her thoughts would be on it now...

Hate: Bringing gaming in to the mainstream
After the gaming boom in the late 80s and early 90s video games were quite frequently featured on mainstream TV, shows like GamesMaster and Bad Influence were all over telly, and then slowly it all disappeared. Until the Wii the only time games made it on to British television was when the newest controversy was shown on the 6 o’clock news, not really showing them in the best light...

With the release of the Wii, games were everywhere, BBC News, the radio, magazines! Well the casual games were. It started off with a bit of Wii Sports and then everyone wanted a Nintendo Wii or a Nintendo DS for Christmas, and it’s made the companies greedy. This Christmas British television has been plagued by adverts of Ant & Dec challenging families to games of Mario Kart Wii and Wii Sports Resort.

This trend is getting out of hand in my opinion, sure it’s nice gaining a little bit more respect and exposure towards games in the media and with the public due to casual games but I miss the days where games in the media were confined to 30 minute slot on Channel 4.

Love: Mini-Games!
These mini-games collections that seem to have shown up in recent years have that “Marmite quality” to them, gamers either love them or they hate them. Me? I love them, not all of them, but quite a few of them. They’re just good fun, and isn’t that what games are about?

Wario-ware has got to be the best of the lot, for some reason they do actually include tiny stories but who needs them? You just have a collection of 10 second mini-games which you skip between and have fun with, nothing to confuse you and you can pick it up whenever you want and play it for as long as you want. Brilliant idea.

I actually think it’s mostly mini-game/party games that helped bridge the gap between “casual” and “hardcore” gamer, these types of games are hard not to get involved in so every ends up having a go, these games even showed older people that game can be enjoyed by everyone, not just children. Like I said earlier it was most likely Wii Sports that everyone got in on, it was definitely not Imagine: Babysitters.

I love mini-games.

Hate: Shovelware
Have you ever seen a console with as much Shovelware (crappy quantity over quality games) as the Wii? Exactly. While I fully admit not all casual games are Shovelware, a sizeable amount is.

Shovelware caused the Games Market Crash of 1983. Do we want it again? Nope. Case closed, my hate is justified.

Love: Got my girlfriend in to gaming
Ah, my lovely, beautiful, slightly annoying girlfriend. Ok history lesson, me and my girlfriend grew up on the 1990s wave of Mega Drive, Super Nintendo and Gameboy games, which I think we can all agree were some brilliant times, unfortunately I stuck around with release of 3D consoles while my girlfriend grew (pressured by friends) out of games and in to that usual pink, girly shit.

Fast forward around 15 years, here I am shoving an Xbox 360 controller in to her hands and trying to get her to play Halo 3, not surprisingly she was terrible. So instead and placed a Nintendo DS in her hands and sat her down with some New Super Mario Bros. Her days of playing Super Mario Land flooded back and success! Playing like a natural.

Conclusion: she buys her own DS, gets a load of games deemed casual, and eventually ends up obsessed with my XBOX 360 and playing Grand Theft Auto IV, the way she drives around on it, the look in her eyes...that girl scares me.

Hate: Got the rest of my family in to gaming
While the thought of my family opening up to gaming and making peace with my hobby/obsession seems like a brilliant idea, the thought of them joining in with it doesn’t so much...

Recently my Grandparents brought themselves a Nintendo Wii after playing it at my Uncle’s house. Now I’ve got Wii Sports and Wii Play to put up with every time I go round there, “Do you want to play on bowling on that sports game?” I’ll never get over my 70 year old Grandmother asking that.

I even found myself pointing out the major differences between the Wii, PS3 and XBOX 360 and their games with none other than my Granddad. He still doesn’t understand any of it so I summed it in to one sentence for him: The Wii is best for people like you. Thinking in my head: Old people.

Yeah I know, this isn’t really something to hate but got forbid the day when they start buying crappy shovelware games, based upon the look of the cover, and end up fund the companies releasing game upon game of the same crap thus causing another Games industry crash and throwing us all in to oblivion!.... like many other Wii owners are doing now. For shame!

I kid, I kid.

Love: Helping the next generation of gamers
All the young members of my family own a Nintendo DS, and their friends do, and my friend’s younger family members do, well you get the idea...

The reason? Home consoles boggle kids minds, the controllers, the gameplay, it’s all a bit over powering for kids. The DS with its fewer buttons and touch screen are much more accessible for children. Eventually kids move on up to XBOX 360s, PS3s and Wii because they see them as gaming machines for older people. It’s like the circle of life....kinda.

Anyway, this is great way for kids to grow up with games and stick with them, it’s easier to learn and move your way up in the gaming world from simpler consoles, that’s what I did with my good old Mega Drive and onwards...

Hate: Gateway drug?
My ultimate fear is that the casual games will attract bigger crowds to gaming compared to the generation the NES/SNES generation. I’m not sure where we all started off in gaming but from what I can tell, most older gamers start off as “hardcore gamers” and stick to it, gaming from the off as a bit of an obsession, and it’s this generation of gamers that seem to have respect for their fellow gamers alike.

But with all these youngsters starting off on the casual stuff, easing them on to gaming and progressing up to home consoles as such, we might end up getting more idiots sticking with gaming which would have hovered away from games in the NES/SNES generation. I think it’s some of this younger generation of gamers that screams down microphones during online matches of Modern Warfare 2. Sigh...

Love: More money towards the evolution of games!
More people buying more games? Win, win! These games happened to be deemed casual and lots of people are buying them? Hmm....oh well.

As we all know the Games Industry is now growing larger than the Film Industry, games now have budgets growing towards the dizzy heights of some Hollywood films. $70,000,000 to develop something as ground breaking as Shenmue? We really need of this kind of thing. We need more of this kind of risk in the Games Industry, and now with companies raking in the cash from the casual video game craze that people are in to now, maybe we’ll get this kind of “evolution” of games.

Years ago the “evolution” was more swaying towards the progression of life like graphics, while we are not at that stage yet we are at a place where graphics are not deemed as much of a priority as they used to be, instead immersion is the higher priority. Games with moral choices, cities that thrive with life, stories that would never be possible in film, all in all making you feel like you are living another life in another world.

And as they say “money makes the world go round”, more money means more ideas, more development, and more “evolution” in the industry. Don’t forget who funded part of it. Casual gamers.

Hate: The evolution of weird controllers
Linked to the “Love” above, while we do have the brilliant idea of immersion in games, another part of this “evolution” seems to be aimed the crowd that funded it, so called “casuals”, and comes in the forms of new controllers. Yes we’ve already had the Wiimote and while it sought to evolve the way we play games, it seems to have instead attracted these casual players because of its simple controls and not really changed the way we play games at all...

And so enter Microsoft’s Project Natal and Sony’s “Gem” wand, do you see yourself playing another Halo game with an imaginary rifle, made of air, in your hands? Yeah, me neither. I won’t deny that these new controllers could be useful and pretty much good fun but they’ll never get rid of the classic controller design and shape, and the fact you hold it in your hands. Or will they just push these no ways of gaming and be rid of the classic controllers? I’ve got myself worried now.

What’s worst is the new peripherals companies are push out to the silly casuals who fall in to these constant traps, “Here Sir, you can pretend you’re riding a real skateboard. Here give it a try, hmm? It’s supposed to do that.”   read

2:58 PM on 06.26.2009

Sega Mega Drive: Ultimate Collection? Yes it is!

Well here I am, back on Destructoid. Feels like coming home, anyways I've been blogging recently on a blog me and some mates set up, and even though it's pretty cool to do, I miss blogging here. So here's a review I wrote for that blog...

I have good memories of the Sega Mega Drive, actually it was my first games console, not counting my Gameboy (it is a handheld). Sonic 3 was probably my favourite game, the bright colours, great music and blue hedgehog running around loops were the best ever when you're a 6 year old hyped up on sugar. Well not too long ago I decided to relive these memories with the Sega Mega Drive: Ultimate Collection (Sonic's Ultimate Collection if you live over there) for the Xbox 360. So what did I think?

I love you Sega! That's what I think. Sega has gone beyond what I'd expect them to include in this collection. I've noticed lots of companies are doing their own collections like this these days, and why not? They've got all these older games, that people love and remember, just sitting there and all they have to do is make them run on new hardware, it's almost certain some people will buy it, the problem is that many companies can be very lazy when they do this.

The last generation of consoles had a lot of these collections, most were rubbish, and they usually had a couple of good, memorable games that drew the customer in and the rest were a load of crappy games that no one remembers or care about. Thankfully Sega, saw this and decided they weren't going to go that low.

Sega finally did something right for once, they have put 49 of their classic games when they were on the highest point of their history, on to one disc, threw in save states, interviews and unlockables to produce a deal probably better than The Orange Box.

Right...what can I say about it? The games are completely in their original state as when they were released, from what I can tell this disc just emulates the games and ramps up the resolution so you can play it on your TV, I can't really tell if there's any slow down while playing it but luckily Sega has used the American releases of the games. Confused? Well in short, over here our TV's run on 50Hz, these games were programmed to run on 60Hz and so Sega slowed down the games over here to make sure they run on our TV's. Anyways, multiplayer still works perfectly, and yes Streets of Rage is as good as you remember it with your mates.

Sega has even decided to give us a bit more bang for our buck by including interviews with developers of the original games, I actually found this quite interesting as these developers haven't played some of these games in years and start remembering things they forgot about long ago. Finally, they've included the original box art of the Mega Drive games....American box art.....yeah....

Even my girlfriend likes this collection (bear in mind she joined a group on Facebook called "Dear XBOX, I want my boyfriend back), she used to play the Mega Drive when she was a kid, even though all she can remember is Sonic and Alex Kidd. This collection is for ANYONE who has owned or even just played a Mega Drive when they were a kid, memories and the joy of playing Sonic the Hedgehog for the first time. People always remember Nintendo's older games like Mario and The Legend of Zelda but nearly every game on here is a classic and should not be forgotten, they may not be as fancy as what was on the SNES but they sure are fun to play.

I got my copy off eBay for £20, perfect condition, great purchase. But while searching for the game list on Google I've found it's actually only £17.99 on! My god, I cannot recommend this enough, 49 classic games for £18! Buy it, buy it now!   read

10:11 PM on 05.30.2009

Durga AI's E3 09 Wishlist

I've noticed recently, along with the many game websites, there's a lot of DTOID bloggers doing E3 predictions. Of course some of these predictions are mental to me, PS3 Slim? I really don't see it happening but what's wrong with wishful thinking, so I'm gonna make my own wishlist. These wishes are, hopefully, within reason and fairly possible, I'm not gonna put down the impossible. So here goes....

1 - Metal Gear Solid 4 on the Xbox 360

NO! Don't you roll your eyes, thinking "Oh Christ, not this again!", I'd love Metal Gear Solid 4 on the Xbox 360, it means I'll finally be able to play it properly! To be honest I really can't afford a PS3, I'd love one of course but it's just a bit too steep for me especially when I only want to play this and Killzone, Anyways think of it, a Substance/Subsistence style update playing on the lovely Microsoft hardware and taking advantage of Xbox Live for the online play. Yep before you say anything . It's a dream and the rumours still won't die so hey....why the hell not, come on Kojima, give us poor people a break.....

2 - Nintendo gets back in to form (with the hardcore audience)

I loooooove Nintendo, ever since I got my Gameboy they could do no wrong with me.....until the Wii and that seems the case with most long-time Nintendo fans. With the introduction of name family friendly games such as Wii Fit and Wii Sport, Nintendo has gained lots of casual fans and seemed to forget about their older IPs thus losing even their most hardcore fans. Sure we got Super Mario Galaxy, Zelda and Smash Bros but it hasn't quenched out thirst, we neeeeeeed moooorrrree! More Pikmin. More Starfox. More F-Zero. Hell, more Luigi's Mansion! And please Nintendo, don't dumb the games down for the casual gamers, Smash Bros Brawl just didn't feel right...

3 - Another Conker game

Rare's rude and insulting pride and joy, Conker is begging for a sequal. This is was, and still is, one of my favourite Xbox games, it looked amazing especially with the lower end hardware, and was such a faithful remake. The multiplayer part of the game was even good (a long way from the orginal multiplayer), how knew you could make such a deep multiplayer mode from a story about a talking Squirel and killer teddy bears.

There's been talk about it before and a sequal seems about right for this E3, we've been bogged down with a lot of shooters and RPGs of late and what we need is a platformer/adventure game on the Xbox, something with blue skies, green grass and poo monsters.

4 - Microsoft taking more advantage of the Avatars

You know it, I know it, 1 Vs 100 is not enough. I think Avatars, even though seen as a copy of Miis, are great, they look great, are made by Rare (quality guaranteed) and have great potential, developers just need to take advantage of them. Maybe something like Home could work, no not a copy but just kind of MMO space to us the Avatars in, of all companies that could do it Microsoft could do it.

5 - The Orange Box Xbox 360 Update

Yep, may not seem like much but when your PC can't handle a game that well, a console release of a great PC title is a god send. This is the case with Orange Box, it's great on the Xbox 360, just exactly what the doctor ordered, problem? No updates! I want to play Team Fortress 2 with all the updates the PC version got, I'll pay for it if I have to, please Valve?

6 - Sega gets back in to form (with the hardcore audience)*

SEEEGGGAAA. Remember that? I do. I heard it probably every days for 3 or 4 years when switching on my Sega Mega Drive to play Sonic the Hedgehog 3. You see unlike most people on gaming sites I never had a NES, I guess I was born a little late for them to still be popular and Sega was a bit more popular in the UK compared to the US, so I ended up choosing a Mega Drive. For years I stuck with Sega, up to the Dreamcast and even when they started just selling games, but as Sonic went down the shitter and Sega slowed down their console games, my love for Sega went away. I long for Sega to book up it ideas and maybe this E3 it could surprise us all a do just that, all the IPs are there...ready for another chance.

*Pardon me, I was watching Control when writing this which is a little depressing

Anyways, there you have it, think any of these have a chance? Hopefully......   read

2:14 PM on 05.27.2009

A look at the Gameboy Advance Afterburner

I'm not a massive game collector, mostly because I can't afford it, but I love Nintendo stuff and with the amount of different/odd/etc products they bring out I'm a bit spoiled for choice. Which leads me to my latest purchase, a Clear Blue Gameboy Advance with...(drumroll please) an Afterburner lighting device installed! And some other stuff that I didn't really want.

Yeah it's not technically all a Nintendo product but's something Nintendo should of included in the first place. Give people the ability to play their game in any light with no stupid accessory in the way.

Anyways, if you've never heard of the Afterburner or don't remember the Gameboy in the early 2000s that much, here's a little bit of information about it. When the Gameboy Advance was first released it made a giant leap from the old 8-bit Gameboy in terms of power, a wider screen and brilliant graphics. The only problem? No back-light. I dunno if I was just me but it seemed that it was even harder to see the screen compaired to the old Gameboy.

Up stepped Triton Labs and with the Afterburner, with a soldering iron and a bit of know how you had yourself a great internal light. Of course it wasn't perfect, it reduced the battery length and the cramped case meant it gave the screen a "trapezoit effect" but hey....for the time in was brill. Then we got the SP which showed that Nintendo does actually listen and gave us everything we wanted...

Back to my new Gameboy, I got this beauty off eBay for about £30, bit pricey but being a Uni student has it's perks. I'd been looking to get one of these for a while and finally I thought bugger it.

Here I've stuck together a bit of a comparison of an my old crappy Gameboy Advance, my nice new Gameboy Advance with Afterburner and my classic Nintendo DS (because I'm too cheap to get a DS Lite)

Gameboy Advance with no Afterburner

Gameboy Advance with Afterburner

Classic Nintendo DS


As you can see the Afterburner greatly improves upon the visibilty of the old Advance, there are some problems with it though, first thing, Nintendo never designed the screen for this kind of thing so you get a bit of a washed look to it while playing. It's not a problem but after using the DS a couple of year you really notice it, I'm pretty sure you can see it in the pictures. Secondly, there is alot of reflection on the screen, I'm not sure if this is the case with other Afterburner fitted Gameboys, it could that mine doesn't have the anti-reflection film on it.

Was it worth the money? In my opinion, yes, if not for the brighter screen but also for it being a collectors item, these things are getting rarer and I love Nintendo. Of course it could never beat the Advance SP's brighter screen but if I want the screen to be that bright I'll just get an SP.   read

4:28 PM on 05.17.2009

My opinions on why video game stories don’t work as films...

Hey guys, I'm new to Destructoid so don't flame me or anything please! Anyway, this is a essay I wrote for Uni, I thought I'd throw something about video games in to my film theory work, so here it is....

First off, I am a giant video games player, I am what some people would call a diehard gamer, I love games and everything about them, the feel, the stories and of course the gameplay. Now over the many years I have been playing games I have been very, very disappointed with the terrible video game adaption’s that the film industry have been churning out, the stories and visuals seem to change so much that they hardly resemble the game or source material anymore and some film makers even seem to just attach the name of a game to the film to sell more tickets. Super Mario Bros, Max Payne, House of the Dead, the list is endless.

Like I said earlier they just don’t work, to me the biggest part of a film that has to be just right is the script, it has to have dialogue and a story that doesn’t “go over the top” and when it comes to an adaption it has to stay close to the source material.

Recently I had the displeasure of watching a film called “In The Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale” by the notorious director, producer and scriptwriter Uwe Boll. I’ll admit I had never seen any of his movies until then, only watching a couple of his trailers on the internet, but immediately declared him as a terrible director and had trouble with whether I should give up 2 hours and 7 minutes of my life to watch this film, I did and even now I wish I had not.

What amazed me about this film was that I actually had a $60,000,000 budget and on some parts it looked like a low budget made-for-TV film. Granted some of the CGI work is quite good but the costumes are terrible and the visuals look like they have been copied from Lord of the Rings. Quoting Kit Bowen of, “I suppose Boll has his own obsession with Lord of the Rings (or he wants to channel director Peter Jackson), stealing shot after shot from that glorious fantasy-adventure trilogy. The Krugs look like Orcs; Gallian’s domain looks like Mordor; female forest warriors are oddly reminiscent of LOTR Elves, and so forth. There’s even a shot of the protagonists walking on a mountain range, for heaven’s sakes. Nothing about this movie is original.”

Finally the worst part of the film for me was the acting and actors, Uwe Boll actually managed to cast Jason Statham, star of films such as Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and The Transporter, and the brilliant Ron Perlman but it included some of the worst acting I have ever seen. Claire Forlani and Ray Liotta ruined any hope the film had of being acceptable, their acting was overdone and unbelievable, and when compared to performance by Statham and Perlman (who were both not giving their full potential) they seemed to be very amateurish. Quoting Wesley Morris of the Boston Globe, “Liotta is painfully less funny. Some of his scenes require him to gesticulate so that it looks like electricity is flying out of his hands while the camera spins around him. In the rest, he chooses to yell dialogue that doesn't suit him. ("You wish to accelerate things? Fine! We shall accelerate!") I've never seen an actor try so hard to go over the top without getting there.”

I have concluded that Uwe Boll’s legacy as a terrible director that ruins any franchise that he can get his hands on. Of course Uwe Boll does not represent the whole industry and film makers as a whole when it comes to video game adaptions.

Recently I discovered a new fan made independent adaption of the epic video game Mega Man. As I watched the trailer I was amazed on how close it matched the story, the visual and feel of the game even though set in a world most like our own compared to the game. Mega Man the Movie is actually a independent production with no financial back from a studio or the makers of Capcom and the director, Eddie Lebron, is a big fan of the Mega Man series. This fan made production, in my opinion, is mostly likely to be one of the best video game adaptions ever due to it being made by fan of the series and no financial or script restrictions by a studio. Eddie Lebron, discusses his opinion on why he thinks he is a suitable director and also shares the same views on adaptions with me, “I’m angry with what has been done to video games in the past when translated to the big screen. Sometimes it’s the studio executives to blame, sometimes it’s the directors. Money, profit, and creative liberties will come into play and shape the film in something that’s either disrespectful to the video game it’s adapting or shape the film in a horrid mess.” ... “Surely, I want to make a film everyone can see but I want to make a film that will, first and foremost, do Megaman justice.”

Concluding, in my opinion it is usually the director that ruins a video game adaption due to their artistic view of the film not matching those of who first made the game and story or the gaming community as a whole. An example of this is of course Uwe Boll, and the directors of the Super Mario Bros film, Rocky Morton and Annabel Jankel. The star of this film Bob Hoskins seeing this as the worst film he worked on, "The worst thing I ever did? Super Mario Brothers. It was a fuckin' nightmare. The whole experience was a nightmare. It had a husband-and-wife team directing, whose arrogance had been mistaken for talent. After so many weeks their own agent told them to get off the set! Fuckin' nightmare. Fuckin' idiots."   read

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