I'll be brief: There are two things in my life which I truly love to do. Okay, maybe more than two. But these two are big ones. I like to write, and I like to play video games. So, I guess that writing about video games is a pretty good idea, right? So I'm going to do that.
2013 swings to a close, and when I sit back to consider the plethora of amazing games and other developments that took place over the past few months it almost brings a tear to my eye. However, if I HAD to choose ONE CHARACTER from this stellar year, there's really only one option.
Jorji Costava from Papers, Please. Papers, Please is easily in my top five games of 2013, in no small part due to the fantastic cast of characters that you encounter while on detail in Glorious Arstotzka. Jorji, who you meet fairly early in the game and who comes back to your immigration booth multiple times through the game, is infectiously cheerful and always has some bright scheme to get past your checkpoint - whether it's by singing the praises of both you and Arstotzka, showing off a counterfeit passport (be it well-made or otherwise), or a number of other comical ruses.
Papers, Please is a dark game by any stretch of the imagination. I can't speak for everyone, but sometimes when the game seemed to be getting almost unbearably complex and you began to stress out about how your family was going to survive the night while you slowly inspect every person who comes by, wanting to both get as much done as possible and also avoid the horrifying click of the device on your desk spitting out a reprimand for not recognizing that that bearded man you just helped was listed as female on his passport. Then, along comes Jorji, spouting love for Arstotzka, and you find yourself eagerly awaiting what he has for you today, a grin spreading across your face as Papers, Please revels in a moment of cynical humor before returning you to a hard day's work.
If Jorji Costava and the humor that he represents were not present in Papers, Please, I believe that the game as a whole would have suffered for it - more or less bringing a piece of sublime video game art down to a level of masochistic entertainment. There's only so much dark dark dark darkness that we gamers can take before we need to chuckle to ourselves, and Jorji brought a smile to my face on more than one occasion. So thank you, Jorji Costava. Glory to Arstotzka.
There are few things which drive me as absolutely mental as fierce brand loyalty. You’d assume that by not being an active member of the automotive community, the sports community, or even the political community that I would be able to avoid ravenous extremism and blind loyalty – if you assumed this, you’d be dead wrong. In fact, gamers are some of the absolute worst examples of this disgusting practice and, although they’re not exactly picketing funerals or killing “harlots”, they clog up one of the few hobbies I haven’t turned wholly cynical about. And trust me, being a part-time IT technician while attending school for English Literature can make someone pretty fucking cynical.
A short while ago, I was speaking with a friend of mine about the sales that were happening on Good Old Games for the summer sale. In particular, I mentioned that Fez was on sale for $5 – a game which I love dearly, and something that I firmly believe should be experienced by anyone who likes indie games or anything of the sort. You’re allowed to disagree with that. In the case of this friend, he did disagree – but not before praising the mechanics, art style, and music of the game. In fact, when I asked him why this was, my friend replied that he “didn’t want to give Phil Fish any more money” because “Phil Fish is kind of an asshole”. I don’t have any comment on that particular topic. What hammered this incident into my mind, however, was when this particular friend then began expressing his intense excitement for the Xbox One and Battlefield 4, which he apparently already has preordered.
Why in the fuck would you have a problem with giving Phil Fish $5, but won’t hesitate to spend an entire paycheck on Microsoft and EA? Am I the only one who sees a problem here?
I’m sure that this is not an isolated incident. What could cause something like this? Is it brand loyalty towards Microsoft and EA? Brand loyalty which, in my opinion, is far from fucking deserved in both cases. Is it that Fez and Polytron have a single human face and name attached to them, Phil Fish, as opposed to an abstract corporate identity, and therefore it’s easier to target Fish as an individual than the entirety of Microsoft and EA? If you’re going to resist giving Phil Fish five dollars for releasing a buggy game and acting like a dick sometimes, I don’t see why you should be absolutely overjoyed to give EA (who have also released broken games and act like a bunch of dicks sometimes) twelve times as much money. Or, indeed, to give $500 to a company who, until recently, tried to shoehorn a console into everyone’s face full of features which no one asked for and would have proved to be considerably more of a hassle than it was worth.
Echoing Destructoid’s own Jim Sterling: I will not thank Microsoft for “fixing” their console. They don’t deserve thanks for that. They deserve continued scrutiny.
Simply put, I think that many gamers have forgotten how to assess consoles and games on a case-by-case basis. No one in their right mind would purchase a car without looking very closely at all of the little important car bits and pieces (I don’t know the first thing about cars, bite me). Go on – buy an Xbox One. Buy Battlefield 4. If it’s something you want, then please go ahead and buy it. You’re also allowed to dislike Phil Fish, and are allowed to not buy his game for that reason. But don’t do these things blindly. Don’t let your love for the 360 dictate your future purchases, don’t forget why EA has won awards for being the worst company ever. Take all of these things into account when you make a purchase in this industry – make an effort to support what you love, make an effort to support the things which will keep this industry strong. For god’s sake – if you wait a month, a fucking week to buy Battlefield 4, if you get all of your friends to do the same, you can send a message to EA that they’ll understand. Don’t become a subject to triple-A publishers – they wouldn’t exist without you, the consumer. Remember that, and exercise that power. Stop supporting companies and IPs based on their name, and start supporting them based on their merit. How many SimCity 2000 fans bought the new SimCity for the simple reason of it being a SimCity game? And how many of them got right fucked because of that? Beyond this – how many of those people even really liked SimCity after the technical issues were resolved? I don’t have answers to these questions, and you don’t have to either. But the questions are important. I shouldn’t have to ask you these questions, no one should. You should always be asking yourself these questions and deciding what you want based on what you want, not based on something’s name, or hype, or any of that. That is the kind of blind loyalty which is not only annoying, but dangerous.
What generation of consoles is this? Consider yourself more knowledgeable than me if you know that off the top of your head. For those of you(Like me) who have to rely on Google, fear not! This is the 7th generation of home consoles, and started on November 22nd, 2005 with the release of the Xbox 360.
God damn, 7 years?
That's right, we've been dealing with Wii gimmicks, melting Xboxes, and horrendously slow PS3s for 7 long years. And honestly, I think there's never been a better time to be a gamer. You know, ignoring the awful state of the triple A market right now and the plethora of bullshit that we put up with on a daily basis, we've seen some truly amazing advances in the games industry. Mobile gaming exploded with the advent of the iPhone/Pad, Activision popularized guitar rhythm games and then ran them into the ground like fucking professionals, and my console(a PS3) was the absolute epitome of coolness for a few years before devolving into a netflix-box. Still, I think we've experienced some of the best that gaming has to offer; even though we expected so much more. And it's that devotion to our medium and expectation of greatness which is often the downfall of the gaming community. So, I'm going to quickly run through the 3 major players in the last age of consoles(Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft) giving a quick talk about what we(I) expect from them, and then what we(I) will actually be receiving. Onward!
At bat: Nintendo
Nintendo will go first, as they are the only company who has actually showed their hand and revealed their 8th-generation console, the Nintendo Firetruck. Get it? Wii-U Wii-U Wii-U! F*ck, I'm hilarious. Anyway, Nintendo. Video games.
What we expect: The Wii U, like the Wii, will sell well to the mainstream. But, unlike the Wii, it will get rampant 3rd-party support and Nintendo fans everywhere will rejoice as the Wii U becomes the victor of the 8th console war. The Wii U will offer a unique blend of innovation and gameplay, balancing the console perfectly and allowing for Wii Fit-style "gimmicks" to pull in millions of dollars while a healthy online community, strong indie presence, and "hardcore" triple A titles satisfy the gamer core.
What we will get: The Wii U, like the Wii, will sell well to the mainstream. The Wii U, like the Wii, will be filled with bloatware and gimmick games while the hardware will work at sub-par levels until Nintendo offers a fix about halfway through the console's lifespan, for a small fee. There will be some worthwhile indie games, but, like the Wii, they will be obscure and esoteric in the extreme. 3rd parties and triple A developers will pay more attention to the console, but many of the games released will be shoddy ports of PS4/720/PC games, causing the gamer core to largely ignore the Wii U. Just like the Wii.
On deck: Microsoft
This is a complete guess, but we've heard slightly more about the next Microsoft Console than the Sony Orbitz or whatever that damn thing's codename is. I'm going to be referring to it as the "Xbox 8", because I heard that somewhere and it seems like the kind of forced integration which we love Microsoft for. Apparently Microsoft has stopped using South American city names as codewords internally(Project Natal, anyone?) or they're just really damn bad at this "embargo" thing. Still, I have a feeling that this Xbox 8 will show up first. So, Microsoft is next. Video games.
What we expect: Microsoft continues to dominate the living room, offering tons of new media features and seamless integration with Windows 8. The OS will be shiny, Xbox Live will actually be worth the price or will be free, and it will put a renewed emphasis on games(both indie and mainstream) while effectively controlling media in the living room.
What we will get: Microsoft continues to try to dominate the living room, offering tons of new premium features and shoddy integration with Windows 8. The OS will be alright, and Xbox Live 8(The same thing but with a different name and at a higher price) will still pretty much be worthless to anyone who doesn't care about multiplayer, but now it will be required. Used games will not work, and online passes will be enforced by Microsoft to allow games on their system. It'll have some good games and some shit games and will be used mostly for Netflix and Call of Duty 17.
In the hole: Sony
The Sony Orbitz(I know what it's damn called. This is better) is the last console I will be tackling today. On a personal note, it'll probably be the one I lean towards getting. Besides the Wii U, anyway. I've always felt that there is very little reason to own a 360 and a PS3, especially because I have access to a gaming computer, iPhone, and Wii. The Sony Orbitz/PS4/etc gets the same treatment as the Xbox 8 and the Firetruck(I'm seriously hilarious. Laugh now). So, for the third time, video games.
What we expect: Hey guys! Sony called. They apologized. They're not going to make amazing hardware with no support from marketing or game developers any more. In fact, this is a controller-only console! Also, they completely reworked their infrastructure and plan on shipping a console with a working firmware. Playstation Plus is renamed to Sony Plus or Orbitz Plus and offers similar content, creating essentially a "freemium" marketplace. Sony has become completely unhackable, and they care about the consumer.
What we'll get: Hey guys! Sony called. The don't give a fuck about anything but money. Every game has forced 3D and motion controls. A new peripheral is released every 2.7 months to zero fanfare and an average of 4.2 games is produced using each new one, a majority of which are movie tie-ins or cash-ins. Playstation/Sony/Orbitz Plus has become mandatory, now becoming the equivalent of Xbox live. Sony decides the only way to not get hacked is to hack themselves, causing massive latency and painfully slow, mandatory updates which are released every time Howard Stringer makes a million dollars.
There then. That is the 8th generation. You may have noticed, reading this, that I used some hyperbole. Well, if you think I used any exaggeration in this post, you're dead wrong. Marty McFly himself told me all of these things when I gave him a drop of my blood to drink, so you'd better listen to me.
Oh, and PC gaming will lag behind at the start of the generation, causing the glorious PC gaming master race to learn some humility which will be promptly destroyed by another gigantic PC dick-measuring contest when the Firetruck/Orbitz/8 all fall behind again. The advent of the 8th generation will be a revolution; the face of gaming will change. But, revolutions are revolutions because they tend to come around again. And, in the year 2020, I'll again venture to Twin Peaks and give my blood to Marty McFly in exchange for knowledge of the future. Tune in next time.
Hi there! It's me again. See, I gave this post a quick edit and decided I should toss in one or two real predictions. So only read this if you want my serious thoughts about the 8th generation, okay? I won't go for long.
If I've noticed one thing about generation 7, it's that the market across PCs, Wiis, Xboxes, and PS3s is becoming more and more homogenized, which I completely support. The day where the console I have doesn't matter and I can still play all the games I want is the day that the gaming market will finally focus on that oft-overlooked aspect of video games: video games. I think that too much time has been put in to console wars and PS3 vs. Xbox dick-measuring contests, and we are moving towards a time where the contest will be where it deserves to be: In the games.
Of course, generation 8 is not the time for this. The triple-A market and the $60 model are failing rapidly, but as long as they remain in control, the market will remain roughly as it is today. My hopeful estimate is that by the tenth generation of console gaming we will begin to see a true change for the better. Unfortunately, I think that the next two generations may see the market decline.
As for generation 8 specifically, I think it will be shockingly similar to generation 7. Three consoles, overpriced triple-A games, hardware wars, cash-ins, and essentially all of what I described in the above part but to a lesser extent. I hope that I'm wrong.
First blog post for Destructoid. I've only been reading for 4 years, might as well give this a shot.
My fellow internets! I come bearing news! There is an open-source console on the horizon, and it's only $99! That's less than two EA games put together! It's called OUYA, and all of the games will be free-to-play! It runs Android, and it came with a series of ten commandments which I will now read to ye...
You get the idea.
OUYA showed up today on Kickstarter, and made more money in about an hour than I've made in my entire life. That being said, the amount of money it needs to get funded is mental, and I'm not sure if it'll-
Wait, it's already funded? Almost two times over? But they asked for almost a million dollars!
Well people, this was a pretty big deal, I guess. And that's what bothers me. OUYA is an open-source gaming console running Android and using something calleed a TEGRA processor, which Reddit tells me is bad but also told me wasn't that bad then yelled at me for buying Dragon Age 2 at release. They really should make up their minds. But yes, it's basically a box that you put on top of your TV and play games on, except than unlike a Roku/Apple TV/Google TV, it runs ANDROID! YAY! Open-source is so awesome! Okay, I've rambled enough. Now I'll get on to my problems with this.
As I said, it's comparable to a Roku/Apple TV/Google TV, but it's not marketing itself as such, and may lack in some areas where those excel. This is being touted as the game-changer in the console wars, an open-source console with a library of F2P and Freemium games which will encourage indie developers to finally get their games onto something besides the PC. See, even as I'm typing this I'm starting to like this damn little box more and more, which is something I don't want to do. Because everything that the OU812 can do can be done easier, better by a PC, Android Phone, Android Tablet, or(to an extent) iDevice. But the problem with trying to compete with other Android/Apple devices is that anyone who wants to game on an Android/Apple device does exactly that. The OUYA is bringing literally nothing new to the table.
So I suppose that my problems lie not with the OUYA itself; not as a piece of hardware or the ideas behind it, but rather the reaction to it. Before you ask, yes, I do hate almost all kinds of internet attention to "game-changers". People see again and again things that promise to destroy the AAA model, and what they fail to realize is that the AAA model is doing just a fine job of that on its own, thanks. The current state of gaming cannot continue, and it will not continue. But it will die in its own time, not because a few guys in a garage built a bigger Android phone with a controller and sold it to you for $100-$1. A bigger Android phone without the whole important bit of it actually being a phone, and not a place where you buy games that make you wish you had an iPad*.
Show me the Apple/Steam collaboration. I'll stop being Ebeneezer Scrooge-Blaszinski when there is a product that brings with it the growing, dynamic catalog of PC gaming and places it in a world of console ease. The LOLWUT does not do this, at least not from what I can tell. If this things integrates with Steam, or gives some guarantee of quality games, I'll write a second post redacting this one and photograph myself eating a sandal. Sometimes, as gamers, we get caught up in aspects of gaming culture and the "industry" driving it which cause us to lose sight of why we play video games in the first place: Because good video games are fun. Will the OUYA give us immersive, entertaining, worthwhile games? Only time will tell, but I doubt it.
*I've only ever used iDevice hardware DON'T KILL ME ANDROID PEOPLE I LOVE YOU ALL