...at least we shan't be seeing the same rabid fan boy arguments spark around the internet this gen, eh?
Indefensible. Utterly indefensible.
As a female, early-20s gamer, absolutely nothing in yesterday's press conference appealed to me. Nada.
I don't want a fancy all-in-one media center.
I don't give a shit about EA sports.
I'd give them Quantum Break, if I had any fucking clue what the game was actually about.
When my brother moves out he's taking the 360 with him. I need a console which will play old games.
Can we all remember a world where always-on was our biggest concern with the new Xbox?
Yeah, Microsoft. You actually managed to top that one with used fees. Words fail me.
Being the cheap tosspot I am, I'll admit it -- even though BOTH me and my brother used it, I only ever bought ONE copy per game on the 360.
Yeah, I'll let that one sink in for a minute.
Nights and nights I used to stay up wracked with guilt; what of those poor Microsoft executives who can't feed their children diamond-encrusted lobsters? How could I grab straight from their upturned paws like that?
Yes Microsoft, people do SHARE consoles sometimes. It's only natural they are going to want to SHARE titles too.
I don't know about you guys, but it's the outright disregard for us as paying customers which gets me.
Aye aye, it's looking to be all aboard the ship Nintendo right now. Let's hope PS4 can come up with something a little better...
A room lies ahead of you. On the door, a sign reads 'do not enter'.
Nosy, belligerent fucker you are, you open it anyway...
Inside the dull, filthy room, a balding man is kneeling on the floor, trousers down and asscheeks apart. He is eating KFC.
A rather overweight man in sunglasses has a bowl filled with trinkets, rare oddities from his grandmother's jewelry box it seems. Without skipping a beat, he grabs a few items and forcefully shoves them into the gaping fudge passage. As the recipient winces, a single tear runs down his cheek.
It slightly perturbs you to realize the second man is muttering something about skeletons, continuing these incantations as he plunges in a second handful. You notice a third man in the corner, silent, mustached, and wearing a cowboy hat.
Suddenly, man #2 leaps up and starts patting his pockets. "Pins, pins, pins..." he hisses.
Man #1 starts eating a chicken wing, sucking on the bones.
"Ow" he complains, as the overweight man starts pushing pins into the skin of his back.
The mustached man stares.
"It's not enough... it's not enough..." Man #2 growls.
A brooch, a necklace, a piece of broken tiara; each go up to no avail.
"Skeleton warrior arise... ARISE!"
Man #2's hand reaches forward toward a discarded chicken bone. Unsurprisingly, that too finds it's way up the man's sweaty chungus.
"Almost... almost..." Disorientated, the fat man stands up and stumbles over to a wobbly table, procuring several slabs of meat; nearby is a collection of pie tins, overgrown with mold and filled with a foul, grey-ish goop. You suppress a gag.
Yielding a roll of masking tape, the man begins to attach the slightly-rotten flesh to Man #1's face...
Having seen enough, you slowly begin to back out of the room.
Other than the brief dabble in handheld titles on a long travel, I can't say I've played with the spiny blue bastard recently.
Maybe I'm jaded. Perhaps Sonic 4, despite being Sega going all-out, 'old school cool', wasn't quite enough. Could this have been the axe to break a link in that infamous 'Sonic Cycle'?
It was a reboot. A rehash. A final cry. Sega banked on our nostalgia for the 'good old days' and woefully fell short. Now, with the series ever seemingly closer to an all-digital, app-based future, I'm beginning to doubt if my interest will ever be piqued again.
..but the thing is, Sonic games haven't been good for coming up to 20 years now. Don't get me wrong, I loved Sonic Adventure 1 and 2; heck, when I'm sure nobody else is looking I'll whip out Sonic Heroes, singing along to the cheesy J-Pop-Rock anthems as I do.
Yes, Crush 40 are one of the few guilty pleasures I afford myself in life - what can I say? I have a terrible taste in music.
But do these games even remotely compare to the majesty that was the 16-bit era? Heck no.
'Insert long, rambling soliloquy about Sonic 2 here' right? Actually, nope. The 16-bit sonic game I absolutely adore above all else is the dark horse in the pack, Sonic CD. It's unique focus on level exploration, interesting time travel mechanic and a fucking kick-ass soundtrack (from BOTH the J/EU and A releases, thank you very much) won my heart completely over. It was beautiful; it truly saddens me that Sega's abhorrent handling of the Sega CD meant this game couldn't reach as many people. Buy it, borrow it, emulate it, if you learn for old-school sonic action and haven't played it yet, damn well do so. You won't be disappointed.
I've also always maintained that, in the absence of any key Sonic title for the ill-fated system, CD should have been ported to the Saturn because, quite frankly, not launching the console with a Sonic game was a crime. As the Saturn readily lost its brief grasp in the console market, Sonic X-treme, an unreleased project, was shelved after development hell; the lack of support for the series during this time was the true nail in the series coffin, not weird human-hedgehog inter-relations, and certainly not the color of his fucking eyes.
The series lost momentum, and with that loss of momentum, comes a great loss in interest. Suddenly, that little blue mascot who shook Nintendo's monopoly on the gaming market, who challenged the gaming market and set an absolutely massive trend for mascot-based games, had lost his world renowned audacity.
Now let's whizz forward a few years.
Aged 12, my hands trembling with anticipation, I opened my birthday present. A grin spread across my face - after a somewhat ill-fated session playing the demo in Woolworths, I had gotten what I wanted. I had gotten none other than Sonic Heroes.
My fate was sealed: I was to enter the turbulent world of Sonic fanboyism.
In the period between Sonic Heroes and Shadow the Hedgehog, I eagerly swallowed every piece of media I could find. I was possessed. Probably falling on the slightly archetypal whims and desires of an adolescent girl, I practically pissed myself with excitement when Shadow's titular debut was announced - Shadow was dark, deep and brooding character, what wasn't to love?
Yeah, I'm not fucking proud of my teenage self, okay?
Aged 13, I opened my Christmas present. Finally, I could learn more about my favorite, troubled, black hedgehog, play from his perspective...
Oh. Okay then. This story makes no sense. Uh, the controls are also a little broken, I guess?
Come to think of it, why does the Ultimate Lifeform need a gun? Or a car for that matter? Doesn't his speed rival the blue blur himself?
Okay, I'll put my hands up in the air and admit it: The game was dreadful.
Although now lacking somewhat in enthusiasm, I did actually play '06. I was at the halfway point when my brother accidentally deleted the save data.
I can't say I was too upset at this excuse to stop.
Eventually, my love for the series waned; despite affirmation that some elements of Unleashed were pretty good, I was apathetic. I watched, I did not play. That cloud had already been and gone across my skyline.
Yet, every so often, I'll still type 'Sonic the Hedgehog' into wikipedia. I'll still scroll down to the bottom to see if anything new has been announced. This both is and isn't the sonic cycle: On the one hand, I have no more expectations with the series, on the other, that excited, 12 year old girl doesn't want to quite let go.
Maybe that's the issue. Maybe in each and every one of us there's an excited child, clinging onto memories of holding that clunky, black controller in our hands and running through Green Hill Zone. Dunn-Dunn-Dunn-Dunn-DunDun-DaDaDa...
Admit it, you read that to the tune of GHZ, you fucking fanboy.
Admit it, in each and every one of us, there is a Sonic fan.
Admit it, the spiny blue bastard may be easily pushed off of shelves, but we'll have a much harder time pushing him out of our hearts.
If you haven't already heard about the controversy surrounding Vanillaware's upcoming RPG Dragon Crown, I'll give you a quick debriefing: Studio draws female characters with comically oversized breasts and hips, Jason Schreier (Kotatu) publically insinuates that Vanillaware employs 14 year old boys as character designers, George Kamitami, the artist in question, insinuated right back that Schreier's disapproval of the design must mean he's, like, totally gay and stuff. We good?
In gaming media terms, it's already fast becoming water under the bridge. That's not why I'm writing this.
I'm not entirely against the sexualisation of women in most media. I get it. Boobs are good. Ever since the dawn of time, men have been strangely compelled to look upon breasts; although I don't associate as a homosexual female, I too think tits are great. In the same way I think a well-toned arm or abdomen on a man looks good. It's nice to look at.
I like to look at nice things.
However, living in a society where the general consensus is 'boobs = good' does not give people free license to be as gratuitous - as tasteless - as one desires. Which brings us to the first argument 'for' the dubious character designs, which act no more than to derail the discussion...
1) The artist has a right to freedom of creative expression
Damn these liberal, feminazi's, censoring everything which personally offends them in the name of so-called 'political correctness', right?
Not quite. While I don't feel that censoring or banning games with such content could ever be justified, let me make one thing absolutely clear to you: Freedom of expression DOES NOT absolve you from criticism.
It DOES NOT suddenly nullify the negative impact your work has had.
It SHOULD NOT be used to undermine any disagreement or offense taken.
2) If you don't like the game, don't play it.
I'm going to put my hands up in the air and admit I'll probably never play 'Dead or Alive: Xtreme Beach Volleyball'. There, I said it.
While I'll profess a kindly endearment toward breasts, I'm not really into jiggle monsters made out of what appears to be silly putty pumped up with air. However, I'll also grudgingly concede that, yes, there is an audience for that sort of thing, and yes, some people are into that. I'm more than happy to get my fighting game kicks from other sources and leave things such as Dead or Alive (and other titillation media clumsily packaged as 'games') to those who enjoy them. Whatever, I have bigger and better things to care about.
At the same time however, a person should never be forced to choose between being offended by a series they enjoy and not playing it at all. Ever.
The trouble with telling people to not play a game because a small aspect of it offends you is absurd; when you do that, you create the exact kind of environment where that kind of content is perfectly acceptable, if only by the virtue of excluding everyone who takes issue with it. It's highly corrosive to perpetuate the idea that we should either accept everything in a game or shut up, lest some bawling man-baby somewhere has his video games taken away. Forever.
Bottom line is if a person likes a game such as Dragon Crown for its RPG elements, story or music, they should not be excluded just because a few character designs - which could very easily be merely toned down without causing major impact to the game itself - is found offensive.
3) The game developers have always drawn female characters that way
Close your eyes and imagine you are a 12 year old. As of right now, the shit is being kicked out of you by other 12 year olds in your class. When you go to your teacher to explain, she just ruefully shakes her head and says "well, they 'have always' been bullies" before telling you to leave.
'Have always done' does not mean 'is always right'.
...and if it were, the anti-gay brigade would actually have a point when they say 'marriage is traditionally a union between man and woman' (before going back to beating each other with rocks I presume).
The fact that a behaviour has always been engaged in is entirely separate from whether or not it has a negative impact. While I respect that the devs have a certain aesthetic style, again, that alone does not absolve them from criticism. It does not mean they can't be open to change.
I'll labour the point if needs be, unrealistic, out-of-proportion female character designs are rarely central to the character's presentation or games overall design. It's not unreasonable to at least openly discuss the prospect of them being changed.
4) I don't hear you complain about the overly muscled manly-men!
The day a person comes up to me sincerely and says 'I really don't like seeing macho muscle men in media, it makes me feel insecure' is the day I start to take that line of thinking seriously.
The fact that I've only ever seen this argument brought up as a knee-jerk reaction to its counterpart makes it slightly difficult for me to buy. Even if there were men who seriously felt that way, did it never occur to you that people aren't bothered by the idealized physical appearance of women, but rather their overt sexualisation? Which, forgive me if I'm wrong, tends to be more endemic in video game culture and other male-dominated facets? Say what you will about male portrayal in games, they are rarely - if ever - sexualized to any degree.
Besides, if you do not understand the subtle distinction between giving a character an ideal body shape and putting their sexual traits way out of proportion to the rest of their body, I suggest you go outside and buy a dictionary. Preferably to beat yourself around the face with.
5) We shouldn't 'just pick' on Dragon Crown.
...Of course we shouldn't. This may be one of the more extreme examples, however, it is still one of many.
One thing I've heard is people openly agreeing that sexism is a problem in the industry, that we need change, that is, until a property they actually happen to like is attacked. Then it suddenly becomes a matter of 'well, it's not the ONLY example of games like this, jeez, why are you always picking on it?' or 'well just banning ONE example isn't going to do anything'.
Let me make this clear to you: Dragon Crown was not cherry picked out and held up as an example. Had Scheier not taken to Kotatu, it probably would have been released entirely unnoticed, a game in a sea of others exactly like it. However, it's good that it happened because, once again, it opens the discussion on how we treat women.
Discussion is good because discussion leads to change, change is good because change leads to a more accepting community. Forgive me for not thinking I need to explain why that last one is good.
If there is one thing I have been extremely careful to articulate in this discussion is I don't agree with the content being forcefully removed from the game in question. If there were calls to have the game embargoed or censored on account of a few character designs, I wouldn't support them; in fact, if I had a big magic red button which could remove them, I most certainly would leave be.
The game is what it is. While I certainly find grotesquely out-of-proportion women highly obnoxious, I don't think getting angry at every questionable character design and trying to force change is the answer. The answer is to discuss, recognize where a game is failing it's female audience and hopefully learn from it; it's not a case of snapping ones fingers, declaring all women with wacky body proportions should be banned and then carefully vetting each game for the merest shadow which looks like a breast.
What I'll never support however, is the truly juvenile attempts made to shut down any kind of mature discussion, driven by raw fear their precious drawings of adult-women-who-are-kind-of-like-children-but-not-really-like-children are taken away.
So, I suppose that was a very long winded way of getting to my point: Discussion DOES NOT equal change or censorship. Deal with it.
Braid. Angry Birds. Limbo. What does each of these titles share in common?
Seeing as many recent ‘underdog’ hits of late have been downloads, it would be understandable to believe that there may be something more to this ‘digital distribution’ malarkey which has been hovering around as of late. One company which seems more than eager to jump on the bandwagon is one of my own personal, not-at-all-being-sarcastic-here, favourites Electronic Arts; with the release of Origin it seems to be pile-driving headfirst into the unknown, tempted by lucrative promises of cutting development costs, dodgy licensing laws and a lack of second-hand sales. What it doesn’t seem to understand however, is that if digital distribution is ever going to hold with a more serious gaming market it needs to be fully willing to utilize its potential, using its trimmed development cycle to undercut the costs of retail distribution. On top of this, it also needs to provide a service which is far more streamlined and convenient for the end user, instead of something nearer to a clunky, unintuitive time-sucker.
Only seem interested in the facets of digital distribution which suit them however, as opposed to those which suit everybody; of course, I’m not saying here that EA (and many other companies willing to dabble) can’t succeed in this ever-growing market, they just need to learn to surf with the tide rather than against it, even if it does mean hitting a few metaphorical rocks along the way.
Take the release of forever F2P Team Fortress 2 for instance, skeptics, such as myself, may call Valve out on it as a subtle ruse to promote downloads of its digital distribution service Steam and hence increase sales - this makes sense seeing as Steam is essentially a big shop window display which every user willingly installs on their hard drive. A big shop window display with the word ‘SALE’ crudely sprayed on with neon paint.
To analogize: If the game industry were a supermarket, Steam would be the little kiosk set up by the till, filled up with bags of sweets, chips and chewing gum, items largely marketed as impulse purchases. EA, of course, would be the regional manager of the store, greedily snatching purchases from people as they leave whilst nonchalantly claiming that they had only purchased the license for that can of beans, and must purchase a further ‘microwave pass’ if they wish to heat them up before consumption.
All in the name of subsidizing losses through shoplifting of course.
Steams business model isn’t a bad thing by any means however, a lot of these impulse, ‘on-sale’ purchases tend to be of games which come from smaller, or entirely independent developers, companies which don’t have the sea of resources to necessarily promote themselves and mass produce physical copies of the games they make. Small franchises who in your local Gamestop are quickly pushed aside to make room for the latest AAA title, or Shovelware aimed entirely at parents looking to keep their little darlings occupied for an hour or two for as cheaply as possible.
Or, if you are anything like me, Shovelware aimed at complete suckers for awful puns.
The benefit of digital distribution is that it brags an unlimited amount of space to showcase itself; once a game is put into the store it can remain there indefinitely at no extra cost to the company running the show. No longer can the homogenous, big-budget titles gain attention through the raw out-muscling of smaller, older competitions shelf-space, and with front pages having a far faster turnaround time than the average store display, the time for these games taking advantage of brightly lit arrows pointing to themselves is beginning to wane. Digital distribution is finally taking AAA titles big guns away and asking them to play nice.
Of course, the secondary effect of this revolution has a positive effect on gamers. By cutting out the middle man, development costs are reduced and budding developers are encouraged to try their hands at the market. Inevitably, some of what comes out will still be complete and utter trite (as is the sad way of the world), however, when shameless self promotion and/or heavy advertising budgets can no longer be relied on, these developers are forced to work that much harder in order to stand out, a sad and beautiful thing which has been lacking in many larger titles of late.
Another great thing about digital distribution is that the internet which comes bundled with it; I think that almost every gamer can recall a time where they bought a game, usually because the cover looked cool, brought it home and were unpleasantly shocked by the contents within. Compulsive purchases are easier in this age because reviews, content videos and demos are only a few clicks of the mouse and a smattering of keys away: This is the age of the informed impulse buyer, and it’s through this word of mouth titles which truly deserve the top spots through innovation finally stand a decent chance of getting them.
And that is what I think is really bugging EA about the flyaway success of the Steam service; the way in which they have reacted has been akin to a small child loudly berating their peer for falling over and scraping their knee , only to deliberately do the same thing themselves out of jealousy for attention.
Because that’s all it stems down to in the end: Attention. EA have no interest in giving back to the gaming community, aiding budding developers or innovation. All EA seem to care about is being the largest and loudest, look-at-me presence in the market.
And I can’t shake the strange feeling that they’ll do whatever it takes, even if it means taking themselves down in the process.
Eight years since the advent of Half-Left 2 and not even a whisper of a Half-Life 3 release has been heard. Since the debut of the highly anticipated Half-Life remake Black Mesa is set to eclipse it this month, one does have to wildly speculate as to why us, the momentous and self-entitled gaming community, have yet to be given what we have so sorely demanded.
Let me be honest here, Valve could release a cardboard box with ‘Half-Life 3’ crudely scribbled on it in wax crayon tomorrow and we would leap at it with arms outstretched. And you know what? It would still be the best damn box we've had the raw pleasure of playing fort in.
One little click of the purchase button and this could all be yours...
So surely it’s a no brainer: Valve releases Half-Life 3, we get the game we want and Gabe Newell finally buys that diamond-encrusted private jetplane he’s been vying for. Well, not quite.
For a starters, as is the case with a lot of heavily delayed sequels, development hell doesn't take too long to set in. Gabe Newell himself has recently commented that "twists and turns" in planning out the next installment has been making outing any solid information very difficult. Where a lot of time is spent labouring over a project, it doesn't take long for technological goalposts to move, promting a complete overhaul in design as new options suddenly become far more readily avaliable than before; as costs begin to slowly rack up over time, as does the chance of the game being permanently shelved in favour of 'safer' profects. Still, I don't think it's quite as simple as a little delayed production time.
My own personal take on why Valve seems to be afflicted with trisphobia stems down to the high amount of esteem and integrity which the company holds - if they thought that a certain action would bad for their fans, or even the gaming industry as a whole, they would not do it, no matter how much they potentially stand to gain. They are the ‘Good Guy Greg’ of the videogame industry, a rare diamond in an ever-growing cascade of murky business practices.
Valve owns the rights to some of the most beloved and sought-after gaming franchises, it’s understandable how others in similar positions yielded under the substantial amount of consumer and financial pressure to produce sequels. The result of this pressure however, is more often than not a broken shell of a game, failing to live up to the monumental standards fans have set in anticipation: Valve know that when they do drop the HL3 bomb, it needs to be flawless. Not just for the gratification of fans, but in order to give full a proper dues to the two games which were pivotal in making Valve the great and revered company it is today.
And that my dear reader is the precise kind of self-respect which is becoming increasingly harder to find within franchises.
Round of Capure the Babe? No? Anybody here?
When Valve released Portal 2 in 2011 it did the nigh-on-impossible, it took the humour and unique environment of the first instalment and somehow made it feel completely fresh. For me, it was a hair breadth away from a perfect gaming experience. Inversely, Valve could have just as easily plugged out another Portal, with the same two characters, same puzzle dynamics and an identical sense of humour. The fact that they chose to expend the extra time and resources to recreate an entirely new gaming experience says a lot: Valve is not a company which will release a game purely for the sake of it; they will only release a game if they are certain that it will be of optimal quality, as opposed to a game which is of optimal profit margin. And that there is the mark of a company which is a service first and a buisness later.
Despite being met with universal critical acclaim however, Portal 2 was not immune from online backlash. An (albeit very small) proportion of Portal 2 players took to Metacritic, apparently objecting both the short length of the game and the existence of an entirely optional DLC costume package. I for one can’t claim to display any sympathy towards their plight, after all, the World Wide Webiverse already has a surplus of angry, misguided individuals, despite what you may think, you are not ‘revolutionising’ anything by needlessly adding to it. It may also stand to some slight semblance of reason that if Valve are going to be given such a crock of bull over something so small and petty, what exactly is going to happen when an even-slightly sub-standard Half-Life 3 is released to the fickle masses? Such behaviour across the board can only ever work to discourage Valve from creating the pinnacle of its title series through setting harsh, completely irrational punishments for not being able to meet what are already impossibly high standards. Valve aren’t releasing Half-Life 3 to the audience it wants, it’s releasing it to the audience it deserves.
We’ll get Half-Life 3 when we’re ready for it, not a second sooner, nor a second later. Whatever the wait, I wouldn’t have it any other way.