I was born in 1981. I didn't get a cell phone until 2005, and except for a short period of my life, I hardly ever use the thing. I'm an old man at the age of 26, already insisting I don't need these gadgets and plenty of online software getups. Other than a cell, and a basic one that I don't use for anything at all, not even texts, I don't use anything. I figured out why; it's because I'm an introvert, and that means I need to take breaks from people. I don't need technology to help me get over my cravings for extroverted needs.
So I never really gave much thought to getting a DS, and it wasn't until I'd edited a lot of Snackbar reviews that I considered the fine library it has available. But I do have one, and now, I feel safer. Am I stuck at a movie theater watching a movie I don't like? Am I waiting outside the changing room for half an hour? Am I waiting in line for ten minutes? Waiting for Muschie to get out of work for fifteen minutes?
In all of these situations save the last, a book doesn't suffice. A book does not fit in your pocket, and a book is usually not carried with convenience all over the place. Books are harder to read in distracting surroundings.
It wasn't until I got it that I got it. I'm converted to the way of the portable.
Battlefield Heroes is frequently being compared to Team Fortress 2, and for good reason--it's the only other FPS with a similar style of art, and a very unique style at that.
This has led to frequent criticism that it's just some copy, just some clone, and that for that reason it's going to be inferior. The topic of making decisions about games based on trailers or previews is a dry one, and the people who still engage in such fallacies aren't open to other methods or techniques of evaluation, so right here I'll stop myself and think in my head: fine, let's look at it.
My own excitement about the title has decreased, too, for reasons I'd like to think are more intelligent; still, let's not talk about the gameplay or the rest of it. Let's talk about the art, and why the art doesn't matter that much.
Team Fortress 2:
Okay, so it's similar. And? What does that mean about the game? How is it a copy of Team Fortress 2?
Is it also copying TF 2 because you have guns? Because it's an FPS? Because it's a team game? Because it's multiplayer only? Because there are classes?
Look, instead of complaining that Valve is being imitated, maybe we should be rejoicing that there is a new standard, a new paradigm, a new sub-sub-genre: a different style of FPS, titles that are just there to be fun, with extreme violence that is even more unrealistic and is merely humorous at best, and gross at worst.
I mean, if you want, they could give you more of this grit*:
These guys are totally ripping each other off. OMG.
Also, you get 100 achievement points or 3 trophies if you can tell me where each of these are from.**
*You will get more of this whether you want it or not.
**As Mitch would say: you do not get 100 achievement points or 3 trophies.
Since a point in 2007 there is one encouraging thing I've seen about games, and that is their status as an object of consumption.
In the industrial world, we have more food and more leisure time than ever before. Unlike other types of countries, industrialists spend their time consuming and evaluating their choices as consumers, and discussing those choices with friends.
"Did you try the new sushi place?" "Yes, it was way better than I thought it would be. Make sure you get the ninja wasabi harroken."
"Go see that action movie?" "Yeah, it sucked. He's getting old and should move on. The stunts were bad."
"Okay, I'll read that, but there are ten other books in the queue."
Books, movies, TV, all media: we treat them like a diet. Instead of stomachs, we have mental space and time. We only have room for so much, and we only wish to consume the best. This reveals much about our society and culture, but this is a blog about games, so I leave you to your own conclusions about consumption and markets in your industrial country.
The thing that I am happy about is that games are becoming part of the "media diet". The fact that media are treated like a diet saddens me, but the fact that games have gained respect from it does not.
I purchased Halo 3 and GTA IV, both games that I'm not terribly interested in, because of this rhetoric. I felt that even though I didn't like Halo 3, I felt it was my duty as a gamer who wants to get back into the games world to purchase it. I bought it the day it came out and beat it on heroic within a couple of weeks.
I had these thoughts resurrected when a good friend of mine lent me his copy of the Orange Box for the 360. He texted me to ask if I'd beaten Portal yet, and the fact I haven't played Portal yet is causing me guilt; it's something I've been meaning to do for months. My wife keeps forgetting that I wanted her to at least watch the beginning, and so tonight she will. She loved seeing Bioshock, and considering that my brother has been comparing my wife to GLaDOS, (squeaky, high-pitched voice that is deceptively intelligent and sarcastic), I really wanted us to see it together.
Last night we did, and this week a burden will be relieved. I've been reminded of and encouraged by the fact that games are now considered things we can't miss.
The Escapist recently published an article about the "media myth", which is really an article that says "So many people hate video games, and it's fascinating," followed by "we can't blame the media for it, it's really due to culture", followed by "this is what some video game industry people think."
The salient quotes express what's surely been said before: everyone fears what they don't understand, older generations always frown upon that confounded immoral rock'n'roll racket, etc.
We've not really hit upon the point though. It's still highly frowned upon by many who are younger than 30, by left and right, and by many men, for example. The hate is not a young vs. old, left vs. right, or even a women vs. men thing.
The cultural belief is broader than this, and we can see it illustrated clearly in a Guitar Hero or Rock Band contest. Imagine (or remember, more likely), if you will, a "Rock Band" playing in the mall or Best Buy. What do we commonly see? Most likely a kinda-long-haired, t-shirt-sporting young man and his cohorts, with liveliness distracting the other shoppers. An incompetent drummer, perhaps. People acting like they're playing music when they're not. The most common criticism of people who spend any amount of time on Rock Band or Guitar Hero is (chant it with me now) "learn to play a real instrument" or, if someone already knows "I can play a real instrument." Anyone who plays is supposed to take it as wisdom and counsel about how to live the true American way and always be producers of content or producers of something in the economic world and other another fun American maxim that gives us our awesome maximum of 2 weeks vacation a year: in the land of freedom, you're free to have fun, but really you should only have fun if you earned your right to first.
Americans don't like it when people play, pretend, relax, or goof off or have fun. It's not allowed. And video games are the exact opposite of those principles. It's why the haters can't articulate a good reason for it. When a good reason is lacking, personal feelings are involved, and in this case, the feelings are the subscription to those American values. Some people have realized that this sacred American ethic is not unchallengable, and is not without flaws. So, they continue to play video games. And amazingly, many of them still produce content and work hard. And marry, and make babies, pay taxes, vote, and other amazing, American-endorsed concepts that aren't supposed to work with video game playing.
It's the American ideals of work and play that lead to a heavy lack of vindication of the medium. Moral issues aren't meant to be explored--the world was already explored, and when they did, they found America--so we're here now, entertain us, but don't do it with video games, because they, more than any other medium or activity, lead to passive, anti-American terrorist non-producers.
Got it? Video games = laziness = non-American. And here you thought America had run out of things to agree about.
For those not in the know, there is a tiny, tiny genre of music featuring Gameboy and NES synthesizers to create more 8-bit awesomeness simply known as 8-bit music. Most of it is crappy and/or experimental, but I've been digging and I've found some gems. All downloads free, of course.
Created by a music student from New York, Anamanaguchi features tunes that make Mega Man's music blush with envy. Admit it: you've thought about what a new 8-bit Mega Man game would sound like, and compared to this guy, you've failed. It's been a long time since a song out of the mainstream (Helix Nebula) has made me want to get out of bed and shout for joy that I get to play video games today. Yeah, the Myspace page is absolutely god-awful. Just listen, and don't look.
Picks: Helix Nebula, Airbase, Sting Operation, Video Challenge. Download here.
Most of the time when a DJ puts his music up on Myspace, no one listens to it because it's bad and obscure. This guy is no different, except for the "bad" part. His music combines a techno-stomp with boppity 8-bit beats for something spicy, crunchy, and addictive. Yes, Monstergirl sounds like a cartoon show theme and Waiting for that Feeling is Euro-Weenie-Tech, but it still attests to this Swedish kid's rare talent.
Picks: Saffron Skyline, Apis Adventure, Waiting For That Feeling. Download here.
Very strange, most of it. However, Not All Friends Are 8bit and Not All Friends Are Ice Cream are worth a try. No one admits to listening to Ipaghost, even if it's got a strange lure.
Picks: Valse de Chaton, Let's Go Rodeo, Not All Friends Are 8bit, Not All Friends Are Ice Cream. Download some here.
The most remarkable thing is that this artist's tracks are more "pure" 8-bit (no other types of synths added) and yet you forget this could have been on the Nintendo. Random takes a more traditional feeling of the infinite frontiers of both space and woodland and puts them to lasery, sword-swinging awesome. Want to explore the world of Oblivion, only with more exciting music? Working hard at work and need to feel like you're doing something cooler than you really are? Then listen to Random.
She takes 8-bit and puts it to a tough, urban grind. If 8-bit were to go to legendary anime or live-action movies complete with chase scenes (Nebula) and walking-down-a-street-with-a-hood-over-my-face-in-the-rain-looking-both-emo-and-badass-and-not-sure-how-I-feel-about-the-girl-I'm-working-with scenes (Twilight), She would be the go-to artist.