Hey peeps. I go by "J Defined" 'round these parts (formerly Double J). I'm a 24 year old gamer from Ogden, Utah who likes to stick to his roots. Although the industry continues to evolve, I enjoy a classic 16-bit or 64-bit RPG more than the majority of new titles out there. For that reason, I guess some might call me a retro gamer. Any questions, feel free to ask!
Recently, Destructoid editor and awesomeness-in-chief Chad Concelmo asked members of the community to share their first video game memories. As much as I'd love to tell mine...I just don't remember. Video games have always been a permanent staple in my life, even in my earliest memories, and I don't remember a time without them.
So instead, I will share the moment I first met what would become my favorite genre of games: the RPG.
I was six years old when I first played a game called Dragon Warrior. Not that I knew it was an RPG at the time, I didn't even know what RPG was. To me, it was just another game I had for the Nintendo in my bedroom. And living in a farm house miles away from the nearest neighbor, I depended on them to keep busy.
I don't think I ever got past the second town, which is a shame because I loved finding new monsters to fight around every corner. Even if "new" meant a palette-swapped slime.
Any time a golem encountered me though, I felt that instant six-year-old fear. My hands would sweat, my little heart would race. And it became my first experience of strategy; should I try to run, knowing that I would likely fail? Or should I try to fight it and risk near certain death? Either way, the odds were against me. That's why I always feared the golems.
All of these are treasured memories. But one moment in my life ensured that this game would always be a part of my childhood.
Just as a red slime had drawn near, I heard the front door slam open in the living room. This was followed by the sound of something hitting the floor, somebody running to the phone, and the voice of my mom shouting "JJ! Just stay in your room and keep playing your game!"
It scared the hell out of me. I didn't know what was going on. My mind was racing. Is somebody raiding our house? Is my family being hurt? Suddenly the fear of a golem felt like a grain of salt.
I wanted to leave my room. I wanted to find out what was going on. But I couldn't. I was too scared. So instead, I did exactly what my mom told me to do. I stayed in my room, and I kept playing my game.
As much as my mind wanted to run wild, I focused entirely on the game, until I escaped from whatever horrific reality was outside my closed bedroom door. For a brief moment, I was actually "in" the medieval Tantegel Castle. I was no longer in the real world.
So, that's that! Dragon Warrior will always be important to me for that. Oh, and if you were wondering what happened...I didn't find out myself for years.
Somebody was shot. A stranger, Two miles away on an empty country road. And yet he managed to crawl his way to the nearest house, before collapsing through the front door and passing out. All while I just stayed in my room and kept playing my game.
He survived, and came back years later to thank us. It was when I asked who he was this time that I finally found out what happened years earlier. And even still to this day, I don't know why that happened to him. He seemed like a nice enough guy. But I know nothing of the man, and I haven't seen him since.
To some people, video games are just seen as escapism. And on that day, thankfully, it became that for me. An escape.
Growing up, I was both jealous and competitive. Especially when it came to my cousin.
If I didn't have something, I hated it. For example, I loved POGs because I had a decent collection at my disposal. But I hated Frisbees because my cousin had an awesome one that had that thing in the middle that let you spin it on your finger. Likewise, Hot Wheels were the best things ever, while Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle cereal bowls were worthless pieces of plastic, at least as far as I was concerned.
So in 1999, when he owned Final Fantasy VII and I had Final Fantasy VIII, it was apparent which entry would quickly become a legitimately beautiful and perfectly executed game, and which one would be an overrated piece of crap enjoyed only by mindless fanboys.
Don't get me wrong, this opinion wasn't founded strictly on bias. FFVIII is still my favorite in the series to this day, mostly because its the one I relate to the most. But my hatred towards Cloud's adventure, however, was made up entirely of jealousy.
I had the opportunity to play FF7 when I borrowed it from him the same year, but I struggled to get into it. In the back of my mind, I knew this was his game, not mine. It is the game he owns, the game he plays, and the game he loves. As far as I was concerned, I had no business playing it.
FF8 on the other hand, that was all mine. That was my journey. I was the one who excitedly told friends of Squall's latest adventure. It was I who experienced the twists and turns of Garden, SeeDs, the sorceress, and everything else the story had to offer. Final Fantasy VIII was my game.
I wish I could say this was just because I was a pre-teen when these games came out, but I wholeheartedly held onto this bias into my twenties. It was only last year, plagued by the lack of traditional RPGs on the market, that I decided to go back and play whichever classics I could get my hands on.
Conveniently enough, it was around this time that Final Fantasy VII was released on PSN. Although I don't own any Sony consoles, my cousin (the mindless seven fanboy) had bought and downloaded it to his PSP. He hounded me to buckle down and play his favoritest RPG ever, and after 12 years, I finally gave Cloud a chance.
In hindsight, I wish I had been more open minded when I was younger. Someone who plays a game a dozen years after its release simply cannot appreciate it in the same way they would have been able to if they experienced it on day one.
To me, the graphics were complete garbage. In 1997, it was "OMG 3D RPG!". Likewise, it's pretty hard to not know the fate of Aeris by 2009, which definitely took away any shock value it had upon release. Needless to say, my experience with the game was much different than my cousin's.
But despite all these hurdles, I can't help but appreciate everything VII does offer. Between the compelling story, the well rounded battle system, and the overall experience, FF7 has earned a belated place in my heart.
Although Final Fantasy VIII will always be my personal favorite, I know it wouldn't have even been possible without VII paving the way. And in retrospect, it did a damn good job.
Recently, Chad Concelmo and Virtual Tim Gunn teamed up to review the fashion styles of the Mushroom Kingdom's biggest movers and shakers. But I was disheartened to see that Toad, one of the most loyal servants to Princess Peach, did not make the list.
Mr. Concelmo's concerns were with the simplicity of Toad's style. Well let me tell you, good sir. Simplicity does not make an outfit invalid to review.
And it is in this spirit that, with respect to Mr. Concelmo, I feel as if I must make an unofficial addendum.
Toad sports an amazingly fashionable blue vest. It is blue, and it has some gold trim on it as well. But most importantly, it is blue. And it is a vest. These two elements combine to make for a very blue vest.
Recently, legendary film critic Roger Ebert expanded on his comments that video games can never be art. As a man who has spent his career, even his entire life critiquing movies, his opinions are held in the highest regards of many readers, myself included.
Which is why it pains me to see that his opinions on video games are fueled only by ignorance.
Reading through his latest article, it quickly becomes apparent that he judges video games using the same method that he does movies. And that is where everything goes horribly wrong.
He takes issue with game designer Kellee Santiago's argument of games being art. Mr. Ebert chooses to tackle the titles highlighted in her talk, which include Waco Resurrection, Flower, and Braid.
Regarding Braid, Santiago discusses how this game explores our relationship with our past. It's mechanics allow you to rewind and undo your mistakes, letting you take another attempt at the situation at hand. Roger, however, compares this to chess, and claims it is the same as taking back a move. And by doing so, he argues, it "negates the whole discipline of the game."
Anyone who is even remotely familiar with Braid would understand that he is judging it solely on it's mechanics, and not how they are applied. The same can be said about his argument on the game's story progression, which he believes "exhibits prose on the level of a wordy fortune cookie."
If you choose to rate any video game based on merely watching it being played, without considering what it is like to experience it first hand, you are grossly missing the point. Still, Mr. Ebert feels confident enough to proclaim Braid, as well as all other games highlighted in Mrs. Santiago's argument as "pathetic".
Any gamer knows that to truly experience a game, you simply must play it. If you watch somebody play through an RPG for example, you get the general idea of it's story, mechanics, and tone, but you do not truly experience it. You are not the one causing these things to happen. The control is not in your hands.
This point is proven again in his response to the video game Flower. Or rather, a short video clip of the game shown in Santiago's presentation. He openly admits having no worldly idea on how the game is played. "Is the game scored?" He asks. "Do you win if you're the first to find the balance between the urban and the natural? Can you control the flower? Does the game know what the ideal balance is?"
Without making an effort to get the answer through gameplay, he dismisses it as "Nothing more than decorative interest on the level of a greeting card."
It is shortly after that he exposes the problem at it's roots. "The three games she chooses as examples do not raise my hopes for a video game that will deserve my attention long enough to play it."
He judges these games to be poor, which is why he will not play them. Little does he know that by not playing them, he can never truly judge them. This is the purest form of hypocrisy.
Every medium must be experienced in it's own way. When you look at the Mona Lisa, you can immediately recognize it as art. That is how this particular work is meant to be appreciated. Yet, regardless of how much you analyze it, it is still a static image.
Now let's take a look at a movie, Citizen Kane for example. To truly appreciate it as an art form, you have to experience it in the way it was meant to be experienced; by watching it. If you attempt to view it in the same method you would view the Mona Lisa, by looking at a paused, static frame of the film, you cannot appreciate what it truly is. This is simply because that is not the way to experience it.
The same can be said with the way one must listen to music, read a book, or indeed, play a video game in order to properly experience and judge it. You certainly cannot rate a meal by merely looking at it, why would video games be any different?
With that, I make an open plea to Mr. Ebert. Sir, please play a video game. Then, should you choose to berate it, even going as far as to call an internationally critically acclaimed video game "pathetic", you will then at least have a somewhat informed opinion on the material in question.
For it is only then that, just as he has done with literally countless films in his time, he can say he has truly experienced that work of art.
Microsoft has begun rolling out the previously little-known-about Xbox LIVE Rewards program. It was first mentioned a couple weeks ago promising only "cool stuff".
Now it appears that "cool stuff" means Microsoft Points. It began when I got an e-mail moments ago, saying I had been chosen to participate in the program. It is worth noting that I'm only a Silver subscriber, so it appears the rewards are available to any Xbox LIVE member who had replied to the original e-mail, regardless of how much you have contributed to their solid gold swan fountains.
Clicking the link in the e-mail takes you to a table (included in the gallery) listing the currently available benefits for the program. Essentially, by making a purchase or subscription from Xbox LIVE (such as renewing Gold memberships, subscribing to NetFlix, or making your first purchase from the Marketplace), you will net some free points.
Which is nifty, I suppose. The page also specifies that "This promotion lasts for six months and you can start spending the points you’ve accumulated after the first three months."
So, what do you think? Does the uber-exclusive feel of the Xbox LIVE Rewards program live up to the hype?