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9:10 AM on 04.07.2011

Aamaazing: I just want to be a world-shaker

Breathe deep. Smell that? Itís the smell of an open world.
That moment, sans a literal smell, is what I feel like when I am finally let free in an open world game. My first such experience that blew me away was escaping the dungeon in Oblivion. I started the game in prison for a crime either so heinous it canít be mentioned or so petty itís not worth remembering. Then I met the king (Picard!) and got yelled at by some guards, which hurt me deep down inside, where I am soft, like a kitten.
After going through the tutorial in some underground passages, I witnessed murder most foul. Then, I was charged with a quest. And then??
Well, more sewers, but then, freedom!
Really, itís a clichť. Open world games do this all the time. Okay, the ones Iíve played do this. In Grand Theft Auto 4, I was driven home by my drunken cousin, slept, and then, boom, New YoróI mean Liberty City. In Fallout, I was in a vaultóa vault! What could be more suffocating than being in a lock box run by fascist?

But itís a clichť I love. Every time, I look up and around in awe as if Iíve just stepped out in a beautiful summer dayówith giant, radioactive ants. I donít think of myself as someone who prioritizes graphics in this generation of gaming, but thereís something about looking at a horizon and knowing, ďHey, I could walk over there and see whatís there. Or I could steal this horse, lasso some guy, and bring him with me. We could go pick some cactus flowers. And if heís still alive, I could shoot him with my gun.Ē

Of course, thatís always the question: What are you going to do? Sure, thereís the option of ďgo to map marker X and begin to fulfill pre-prescribed errands to begin your epic journey.Ē But, come on!! Who does that? I played Oblivion for several nights before I ever reached Friar Donít-Steal-My-Desk-Garlic-For-Your-Vampire-Cure outside of Chorrol. I talked to people, killed some others. I defended myself against beasts (and ate their meat), and probably completed a mission despite my best efforts to avoid any structure before I ever worried about the kingís heir, Kvatch, or dragon fires.
Donít get me wrong. Thereís a completion-ist inside of me. I have to visit all locales, complete all quests, and so forth. But that comes later.
So why is this so amazing for me?
Well, recently, Iíve run into an academic answer. Apparently, as a gamer I enjoy testing out behaviors and roles for myself that I wouldnít otherwise dare to exercise in real life. For example, killing, stealing, tea-bagging, killing, horse thievery, vampirism, murder, assassinating, jumping off cliffs/buildings, stealing cars/horses, dealing drugs, bedecking horses in ridiculous and useless armor, lassoing, hunting (too much blood in real life), slaving, blowing peopleís head off/up/away, pick pocketing, and the ever-so classic, being a woman. Mind you, Iíve got nothing against women, but I have an aversion to the surgery required to trying out womanhood in real life.

All of that, sure, I would never really do. And yes, I must be a sick puppy. But I am comfortable with my sickness and truly happy with my cure.
But really, I think open world games amaze me more because of a childhood expectation that stems from Adventure and the Atari 2600. That was one of the first games I ever played. And while I ate it up, I still looked at the box art with some yearning. After all, the dragon on the cover didnít look like legless, floating duck. The sword wasnít an arrow and the adventurer was more than a mere square.

Some might argue, ďBut what about your own imagination?Ē Sure, I hear you (and am slightly annoyed by you). See, I still use my imagination (or perversion if you like) to guide what I do in the game. I still decide to just go left and see where it takes me.
Itís just that today, the combination of great graphics, seemingly endless depth, average storytelling, and passable control configurations (Grand Theft Auto, I am looking at you) has finally combined to make Adventure into, well, an actual adventure.   read

7:47 AM on 03.14.2011

Hopes and Condelences for Japan

After so many years of consuming its culture, from animation to video games to movies to more, I offer my sincerest hopes for good fortune for the Japanese at this time as its people tackle these crisis. And I also offer my condolences to people who have lost their loved ones.   read

8:44 AM on 03.11.2011

Gather Your Game Time While You May


Itís a gamer weekend. For all you havenít discovered the joys of marriage (and no, I am not being sarcastic, there are a lot of joys), it has meant less gaming for me. In part, I have no complaints: gaming all the time is like, well, doing anything all the time. Romans, moderation, look it up: Itís a wise saying.
But I digress. This weekend, the wife is out of town, which means I can get in some solid gaming. It means I can really explore an RPG, crank up the Rock Band 2 while I belt out ďEye of the TigerĒ (I sing solo in my living room and I am okay with that), or play some Halo Reach into wee hours of the eve.
Of course, thereís always the appeal of the new: Maybe go out and rent something, take a chance. Nope, no, thatís a foolís route. I have good games that I love and have yet to finish at home and the last thing I need to do is take chances on some overly marketed, but shiny new game.

No doubt, there will be the tug and pull of single-player vs. mulit-player. I am a loner by nature (read the blog description), but at times social. Love the wife, but itís hard to get lost in Dragon Age when sheís asking about making lunches or some other such. So this undisturbed time is a treasure.
Yet, my friends list is made up of actual friends, people I went to college with and havenít seen in a while. They too are maturing gamers who have less time. One guy I know has a set of 1 year old twins, and a two year old. Thatís a lot oí poopy and no sleep. So if they happen to be on, I might give into the temptation.

And I canít forget certain games the wife disapproves. Sheís not a gamer, so she pretty much thinks GTA4 is the evil of evils. Itís not something Iíve tried to correct, so I have only myself to blame. And thereís stuff she hates to watch: Street Fighter or Fight Night (not Champion) is boring, thereís no story. Oblivion or Red Dead, sheíll sit there and ďworkĒ on her dissertation while she comments on the unfolding story.
So why I am I tell you all this? Donít know, just happy and felt like sharing. Whatís the payoff for you? Donít know that either. Hereís a puppy.   read

12:22 PM on 03.04.2011

Trust Issues and Online Gaming

Itís tough out there.
Online is what I mean. Itís funny how much tolerance I have for hard games as long as no one else is playing against me. It comes down to trust.
The games I am willing to forge ahead despite numerous deaths or restarts seem beatable. They are fair. Honestly, if I thought they werenít, Iíd assume they were broken. And really, thereís nothing Iíve given up on because itís too hard.
But online, itís a different story. Can YourMamaPoopOnYou32 really get that head shot? Really?
Or is he cheating. Has he found some kind of weird exploit? Is he modem switching? Or swapping? Or whatever they do with modems?
I never have understood the cheating mentality. After all, itís just a game. And itís supposed to be fun.
Perhaps if HuuumongusBalz63 was like, ďDude, I am going to cheat. Or, if you give me 5 minutes and let me get the points I want off of you, Iíll go away,Ē Iíd be okay with it. After all, itís hyper important to him and he has the tech, information, and lack of self-respect to make some scoreboard his reason for existing. And heís just going to ruin my good time anyhow, so I might as well.
Of course, there are lots of people out there better than me. But thatís never bothered me as much. I have a friend who constantly woops me in C&C. I keep coming back. It can frustrating, but heís a good sport about it and I like the challenge (and the gloating when I do win).
But I would never research some cheap exploit to beat him. It wouldnít really satisfy and I am sure it would be obvious when suddenly 500 Mammoth tanks appeared on his doorstep.
Online play is difficult. Itís tough out there because there are many good players. But itís also difficult to trust an environment in which either there is-or you think there-is a lot of cheating.
My solution: Well, I could moralizing and say these people shouldnít do this. But I donít think theyíll listen. After all, G. I. Joe should have taught them that (knowing really is half the battle).
Iíd love permanent bans, but I am sure anyone with the tech knowledge to modem swizzle can figure a way around that.
So hereís my thought: embrace it. Start a modder/cheater league. Whoís got the best hardware/cheats out there? Well, bring it to this league. Itís decided there. Let them face off against each other and give them tons o points or whatever validation they are looking for. After all, thereís some extra effort to figure out how to do all this cheating. It would be like a steroid league where you pride yourself on coming up with the best chemical cocktail and having the smallest testes.
Then, the rest of us can play, say gg, and have some fun. And we can learn to trust again (so beautiful). It would make gaming less difficult.   read

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