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Gregory Rogers's blog

9:51 PM on 01.24.2011

Do I Suck At Video Games?

I have been playing video games all my life and at this point, I would like to think that I have a good grasp on them. I mean, with countless hours of gameplay logged over the years in everything from shooters to strategy, one would be led to believe that they excel at their favourite hobby.
Well, as it turns out, I don’t.

I have a select group of friends that I play games with and talk about games with and out of that group I am by far the most hare core gamer. I play the most games and spend the most time being infatuated with them, but for whatever reason, my raw experience just doesn’t stack up in the gaming world.
Take for example the Call Of Duty series. When my friends and I jumped on during the Call Of Duty 4 days, we would play for hours and hours. The most crucial thing when playing quickly became your personal kill to death ratio. To my friends (and many others), this became the gold standard for judging Call Of Duty skill. And who could blame them? Having a high K/D meant you killed more than you died meaning that you were consistently performing well for your team. The majority of my friends could pull off a K/D of anywhere from 1.15 all the way up to 2.55 while I could never break 1.00 always coasting around 0.75.

This trend has continued for the last three years with no end in sight and with every new entry I have tried to make strides to push forward towards the holy grail of a 1.00 K/D for years. Call Of Duty: World At War? 0.73. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare ? 0.93. And now as I play online in Call Of Duty: Black Ops, I maintain a steady 0.76.

Most recently in the black ops, I have tried every trick and tip to try and push up this stat. Watching the pros on YouTube, listening to what they have to say about their play style, or reading about good class setups to maximize performance. Nothing seems to work. For the past few days I have even been convinced that it actually has to do with my aiming speed which I currently keep slower than the default.

But, my piss poor performance in video games does not stop at Call Of Duty.

The other game in recent memory that seems to accurately convey how much I suck at video games is Fallout: New Vegas. Me and my friends were huge fans of the earlier Fallout games and were of course excited for the new entry in the series. After picking up the game, I was taken aback by the games difficulty. I struggled through the first few hours surviving in the wasteland, failing to fight effectively and constantly falling low on supplies.

After hours of frustration, I bit the bullet and dropped the game from normal down to the easiest difficulty, but as luck would have it, I still sucked at the game. Although things were easier, I consistently struggled through mission after mission, barely making it through the game. Upon talking with my friend over voice chat during a play session; my bad performance in Fallout came even more clear.

I was struggling with a mission and my friend was not only able to help me out, but actually recite from memory, the entire layout of the mission area and he never failed to know the placement of both key quest items and characters. Along with this, he was also able to tell me not only what types of enemies I would be facing, but even how many there would be and often times, what kind of weapon they were holding.

Needless to say, I was floored.

I mused with him about my struggles in the game and when I told him I was currently playing on very easy, he too was floored. He informed me that he was playing on the game’s new hard-core mode on the highest difficulty setting and mentioned that “It’s not even that much harder than normal”. Needless to say I was infuriated and continued in my rut of trying to play Fallout: New Vegas without failing miserably.

So then the question becomes not: Am I bad at video games? but rather: Why am I bad at video games?

I can honestly say I don’t have a definitive answer to such a question, but I think I have a clue. I would like to think it is because I just don’t dedicate much time to any one game. I move from game to game very fast and generally never take the time to really master any one of them. I am far more concerned with getting to play a little of everything than a lot of one thing.

That being said, it might go far deeper. It is very possible that I might just have to do with the way I am wired. There is the very real possibility that my mind just simply can’t wrap its head around some of the ideas presented in video games and for me that’s a shame.

I know there must be other people out there in a similar situation to me and for them I hope that I have been able to shed some light on my own personal battles with gaming difficulty.   read

9:47 PM on 01.24.2011

Bayonetta Delivers The Goods In 2010

This Year, I fell in love with Bayonetta. It’s not a perfect game. In fact, it’s not even close. But regardless, my game of the year is Bayonetta quite simply because it was the game last year that left the biggest impact on me personally. This was a game that delivered on its promise of being an over the top action game featuring a strong female lead. It was a game that was unique and way out of left field, but despite my lack of interest in its genre, I had a great time with and the epic ending left me drooling for more. To be more specific, Bayonetta is my game of year because of its tight gameplay, excellent lead character, and stunning production. These three main concepts are what pushed Bayonetta into the limelight as my personal game of the year.

I’m going to very honest; I was not initially interested in Bayonetta. Character action games such as Devil May Cry or God of War are generally not my cup of tea. But, Bayonetta was different. One of the first things that caught my eye about the game was the controls which are a master stroke of game design. Bayonetta operates off a simple two button control scheme for light and heavy attacks along with a jump button, a button for firing the guns attached to all four of Bayonetta’s limbs and finally a dodge button. Sound simple? Well that’s the point. Bayonetta offered a clear no bullshit look at action game design and it works. I always felt like I was in control of what was going on, and when I wanted to pull off a move, I could do it without messing up. The game also finds many unique ways to add more and more moves to Bayonetta’s arsenal allowing for many ways to approach a battle. I never felt the midgame doldrums that many character action games face as moves get repetitive and enemies get boring to fight.

But, the genius in Bayonetta’s gameplay comes from one key element: the dodge system. The game makes enemy attacks blatantly obvious to the player; to allow them to use a special slow motion mechanic called “witch time”, where when a dodge is successfully landed at the last minute, the player is thrust into slow motion allowing a few seconds for the player to hack away at enemies. This final system puts the bow on Bayonetta’s gameplay giving it its own flavour and spice that is unique from anything else. What truly sums up Bayonetta’s excellent gameplay is the simple fact that it works well. Really well. I never felt like I was dying for unexpected reasons beyond my control. Every time I failed, I knew it was my fault and not the game’s, which is a powerful thing.

Although Bayonetta’s gameplay is great, the true bread and butter of the game is in the game’s enigmatic lead character Bayonetta herself. Bayonetta is a seven foot tall witch who has guns attached to both her feet and legs as well as long hair which she uses to cover herself. As Bayonetta fights, she uses her hair as vessel to summon monsters from hell to do her bidding for her, all while losing some of her body coverage that is provided by her hair. On top of that, she is always strutting like a model when she walks and sucks lolly pops while speaking in a British accent. Sound like a mouthful? Well it is.

Bayonetta’s overwhelming personality is a true high point for the game. Bayonetta’s developer, Platinum Games, stated on many occasions that their intention with Bayonetta’s character was to create a strong female lead that was overly full of sexual tension and innuendo. Her good looks and personality are so overwhelming to a male or female player that she is able to transcend their lustful desires. And the honest truth is, the same happened to me. Even as Bayonetta becomes more scantily clad during a heavy fight as her hair is being used to summon demons, I never really felt attracted to her. If this is all sounding sort of confusing, that’s because the feelings Platinum Games has made gamers feel towards her are hard to describe and it is simply something that needs to be experienced. This sort of emotional ambiguity is one of my absolute favourite parts of her character and is something that would take a lot of work to replicate again in a different game.

Bayonetta herself is truly the best part of the game, but what seals the deal and makes it my personal game of the year is everything surrounding her. Bayonetta has some of the most stunning and unique presentation I have ever seen in a video game. The game’s unbelievable level design is a great point of discussion for this. Every chapter provides players with lush unique environments that have a sort of futuristic European vibe that suits the game very well. If it isn’t the part where you are battling on a clock tower that is falling towards the ground at a breakneck speed, it’s the part where you are hopping across a series of floating concrete platforms towards a monster the size of a few New York City blocks.

More so, the game’s excellent music also contributes to the amazing presentation. The game’s take on Frank Sinatra’s “Fly Me To The Moon” was stuck in my head for weeks after playing the game and makes the regular rounds on my iTunes playlists. Bayonetta truly thrives on “did you just see that?” moments that deliver every time and for long-time fans of Sega’s work, there is plethora of Easter eggs and references to old Sega games that will make any older gamer smile.

The finale of the game really is the best for once in a video game. In the final moments of the game after defeating the final boss, Bayonetta is out in deep space and her arch nemesis is millions of kilometers away near the sun. It’s at this moment that Bayonetta whips out a red lip stick tube, puts it on her lips and then sticks the lip stick tube in her gun and then shoots it. The player then takes control of the “bullet” guiding it across the solar system dodging planets before finally hitting the villain in the forehead and cutting to the credits. This was quite possibly the best ending to anything. Ever.

I originally rented Bayonetta expecting a solid game that would be good weekend romp. What I got was one of the best games I have ever played. Even after finishing the game during the rental, I still bought myself a copy because I knew that Bayonetta was something special to me. I haven’t played the game since late January and I am still able to recall so many of the major events in the game. This sort of resonance almost a year later is an impressive feat given how many other great games I have played since. Yes games like Red Dead Redemtion and Mass Effect 2 are amazing, but in all honesty, what they accomplish best can be just as easily accomplished in movie. Bayonetta is a video game through and through. The experience it provides simply cannot be accomplished through any other media and that is something special.   read

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