I'm a guy who likes to write about videogames. Sometimes in funny ways and sometimes in artsy ways. You'll just have to read my blogs to find out the difference between the two!
I'm in my mid 20s, I'm from the United States, and this is currently the most productive thing I'm doing with my B.A. in English. I also tend to write really long comments in response to people that start to read like mini-blogs. I apologize in advance for the walls of text.
Also, I like to have fun. I write about controversies sometimes because I get compelled, but I much prefer using caps lock to convey my love for quality RPGs.
I'm currently playing the following:
Borderlands 2 Ys: Memories of Celceta Ys Origin
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Look, I get it, the reasoning for those images being changed in The Stanley Parable is a bit silly. I haven't played the game myself, and I hope to change that when I have a little bit more spare change, but I get why the impulse is to be critical of this bit of news.
What I don't get are the cries of censorship, the homogenization of gaming, and the corruption of the developer's artistic vision. There is no shortage of arguably stupid controversies about 'isms in gaming, but that doesn't mean each new controversy is related to all the others. Not all authors are the same, and there are differences in the parties crying foul in each instance. If we look at the facts in this specific instance, there are numerous reasons why this particular controversy shouldn't be all that controversial to begin with.
What happened here wasn't a controversy: it was a discussion. Whether you agree with the outcome or not, it's undeniable that this is a far cry from how these hot button stories usually play out.
Let's compare and contrast this particular news story to some of the biggest controversies of the past year:
Borderlands 2 and racism: Mike Sacco leads a public charge against writer Anthony Burch on twitter, saying Tiny Tina, a major character in the Borderlands 2 story, "has got to go" because of her "verbal blackface." Anthony Burch defended his decision to write Tina the way he did, but upon further badgering he began to consider changing the way Tina was written if gamers felt her dialogue was truly problematic. Enough speak out in support of his Burch's writing that he does not make any significant changes.
Dragon's Crown and sexism: Kotaku writer Jason Schreier makes a front page post calling George Kamitani a "14 year old boy" and calls his work "cheap." After passively aggressively making jabs at one another, they eventually speak directly to one another and apologize, but by this point the controversy has already scattered throughout the gaming community and the internet.
The Stanley Parable's offensive image: Fiction writer Oliver Campbell finds a section of The Stanley Parable offensive, so he privately sends a message to developer Davey Wreden about his feelings. Wreden and Campbell have a discussion about retaining the integrity of the joke while removing what Campbell found offensive, and eventually they agree upon a way to change this section while keeping both parties happy. They come to a satisfactory conclusion, Wreden admits that he was not attached to the visual gag to begin with, and Campbell says Wreden was pleasant to speak to.
The Stanley Parable did not change because of controversy. Rather, there is controversy because The Stanley Parable changed. Both parties spoke to each other privately and directly, and at no point was a political correctness task force at work to strong-arm their agenda. What was done here was voluntary and - as mentioned by the author in this Reddit thread - was similar to how content in the game was changed as a result of playtester feedback. The experience of the game (and allegedly the joke in question) remains intact, and the most that any gaming news site has done to the issue is report the result.
I know emotions are likely high on this issue due to its similarity with other controversies like I've listed above, but we can't treat all of these issues as if the same circumstances are at play. If we look at the facts regarding this story and don't just skim the headlines, then it becomes apparent that this story is a completely different beast all together.
I'd like to also point out that "artistic vision" is not quite the sacred ground that some seem to treat it as. This may come to a surprise to some, but even the best authors do not make perfection with every word they write. The best authors will not defend every written word as exactly the way they wanted from the moment they conceived of a story. Wreden explicitly says that the joke of these two images falls into this latter category for him, noting "I'm not exactly married to the gag, it doesn't make or break anything about that particular section." Had Wreden's artistic vision been for that scene to be exactly the way it was originally portrayed, then logically he would have defended it. After all, as many like to point out, you could count the number of players who found this scene offensive on one hand. He could have just as easily chosen to ask players in some kind of public forum about the joke to gauge interest if he was really unsure about a decision, and surely he would have garnered enough support to keep the scene as is if that were the case.
Wreden goes on about this issue more extensively in the Reddit thread I linked to before, so I won't regurgitate the arguments that he makes so eloquently himself. For those who need a tl;dr, he does not feel his artistic vision has been compromised in any way, and there is plenty of content some might find offensive in game that he has no intent to change. But really, no artist has an absolute "artistic vision" down to every last detail. Putting out content and choosing to modify it in response to criticism is a regular part of the creative process.
As a personal example, I've had parts of my own fiction critiqued in ways that I get upset about, and yes, sometimes there are accusations of misogyny or other similar issues that I obviously never intended. Yet more often than not, I wind up reanalyzing what was being critiqued in the first place, find a way to change it while keeping myself happy, and I usually wind up with content that I actually enjoy more than I did before. This is what friends, editors, and playtesters are for, and in this particular story, Campbell was acting more like an editor than someone who just wanted to feel offended. Maybe he shouldn't have felt offended. Maybe he has no right to. But if nothing else, he voiced his concerns in a responsible manner instead of going right for the media or a public forum to pressure Wreden to change the game. If more controversies begun and ended as this one did, then maybe we all wouldn't be so sensitive over controversies to begin with.
And if you're offended by the change Wreden has made, then clearly there is precedent for you to try to voice your concerns to him in a responsible fashion.
I'm not telling you how to feel regarding this situation, but I ask that you look at the facts. Gaming news outlets get so overrun by emotions that it can be hard to think straight, and as a result the truth often gets lost in a storm of anger and sensationalism. If you still feel outrage having grasped the full story for what it is, then by no means am I saying you're wrong. In fact, as I said in the beginning, I agree that the call to change the image seems a bit silly to me.
All I ask is for you to be fully informed before embarking on a crusade, because there's too much in the gaming industry that's worth being angry over. Conversely, there's so many videogames that are worth being excited over, and I'm sure we all would love to feel a little more positivity around here. This controversy is only controversial because gamers are deciding it's controversial, as both the author and those who were offended seem to be perfectly happy with the outcome. Do as you will and feel as you will, but the moral of this parable is to pick your battles carefully.
For all the times the words “sexualized” and “sexualization” pop up in articles and comments sections on gaming sites these days, have you ever taken a step back and asked what those words mean?
I mean, I’m sure we all kind of think we do, just based on the fact that the word “sexual” is in both terms, but I want you to actually put what you think they mean into words. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines sexualize as “to make sexual: endow with a sexual character or cast.” However, that only asks more questions than it does answer them. How do you make something sexual? Does sexual mean erotic or is it just pertaining to the act of having sex? Is the criteria for being “sexual” objective or subjective?
When you call a character or videogame “sexualized,” how do you answer any of these questions in your use of the word, and is there any hope that I, the person reading your thought, would answer those questions the same way? With how prevalent discussions on “isms” have become in gaming communities, something desperately needs to be done with the language we use in the process. The fact of the matter is, when you rely on the term “sexualized,” you aren’t creating conversation. You’re avoiding one.
The main problem with the term “sexualized” is that, when used by itself, no one has any idea what you’re talking about. The term has become so overused (and even inflammatory) that any meaning it may have carried in relationship to gaming has been lost. Only calling a character “sexualized” is the intellectual equivalent of saying you dislike something because “it’s bad.” Instead of actually formulating a unique thought and conveying your opinion, you create a vague blanket statement in which it’s the reader’s responsibility to assume what you mean. If I had a nickel for every flame war that could have been resolved if the participants in the argument actually explained what they meant by “sexualized” before shooting back and forth with “yes and you’re ignorant” and “no and you’re stupid,” I’d buy us all pizza.
For example, as someone who does not generally follow Metal Gear Solid and wasn’t really interested in watching any trailers for Metal Gear Solid V, I was fairly confused when I saw certain sites and comments calling out the “sexualized design” of the new character named Quiet. Without any effort made to explain how she’s sexualized, the arguments by themselves were virtually pointless. Sure, I can try to understand that someone thinks her sexualization is bad, but that’s like expecting someone you just met to legitimately believe that your grandmother makes the world's best meatloaf without explaining what’s in it.
I initially planned to put a picture of Quiet here, but after seeing this... I couldn't resist. You must understand. I could not resist.
Even after seeing pictures of her character, the term “sexualization” is ambiguous. Is “sexualization” referring to her attire? If so, is it because of how revealing the outfit is, how seemingly impractical it is for a combat situation, or both? Is it her figure or breasts that are sexualized (a point I’ve discussed in the past)? In any trailers or screenshots, is she specifically portrayed as a submissive sexual object? For all I know, her sexualization could be referring to all of these things or none of these things, but without any kind of clarification I have no idea what the discussion is even about.
Note: I did become aware after writing this that Hideo Kojima made some references to designing Quiet as a "sexy" character, but regardless of those sentiments (or other statements he may have made), my misgivings with these kinds of arguments still stand. And really, a good argument wouldn't assume everyone knows everything about every prerelease piece of information anyway.
The other problem with calling a character “sexualized” is that it can imply that you somehow know about a prior version of the character that was not sexual, but then someone came along and did something to make the character sexual. See, when these terms are used in reference to real life issues, “sexualize” is more often used as a literal extension of its dictionary definition. For example, when Bratz dolls caused controversy for being sexualized, it makes at least some sense with only a glance. The dolls portray young girls as older and, yes, sexual by the use of suggestive clothing, poses, and makeup. Modern society generally agrees that prepubescent girls shouldn’t be portrayed as sexually desirable, so the term “sexualized” makes sense. When something (in this case, children and childhood) is either made sexual or at least more sexual, the term “sexualized” is a bit less ambiguous. Granted, even in the case of Bratz dolls, those who argue the point still have to explain how they are sexualized, but at least there’s less confusion in what the term means.
This isn’t to say that the terms “sexualized” or “sexualization” can’t be used when discussing videogame characters; the terms just need clarification. To go back to Quiet’s design, instead of saying “Quiet is sexualized” and calling it a day, someone could say, for example, “Quiet’s uniform is as revealing as a sexualized army girl Halloween costume, and hopefully Hideo Kojima is able to justify the design in the game’s story.” Now the reader will know what perspective the commenter is coming from, and by having to answer the question of “what do I mean by sexualized,” the commenter was forced to make the argument more solid and justifiable as a result.
Just to be abundantly clear, I’m not saying we should avoid discussions about “isms,” sex, or sexualization itself. In fact, this couldn’t be any further from the truth. Particularly around here on Destructoid, I’ve seen some of the most thoughtful, intelligent, and persuasive arguments about these subjects, and I don’t want that to ever change. Yet it has become impossible to ignore those that seem to use these words just for the sake of trying to appear as politically correct to others on the internet. Before sounding off on a particular subject or issue, we all need to be honest with ourselves and ask whether we’re actually contributing something meaningful or are just making noise for the sake of attention.
Picture slightly censored for those who are offended by butts.
If you find yourself using these words, challenge yourself to clarify what you’re actually addressing and modify your argument to reflect this. And if you’re unable to do that, then relax; there’s other things you can do to be helpful and supportive for a cause! Say some nice words to someone if they make a great argument, support developers who create games with characters you particularly enjoy, or tell your friends about a great game or article you found. Bringing about change for a good cause comes in a variety of forms, so not being recognized by internet users as a champion of inclusivity doesn’t mean that you aren’t one. At the end of the day, we’re all just regular people trying to learn more about a subject, and sometimes it’s good to be silent to see what other people have on their minds.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ll be making several phonecalls to my internet service provider to let them know that “sexualized young girls” was a suggested Google search that came up in my research and I swear it’s not what it looks like.
Not only is Klonoa 2: Lunatea’s Veil the best game you’ve (probably) never played, but it’s also my favorite game. As in ever made.
I’m not here to convince you that Klonoa 2 is the best game ever made (objectively, it’s not), but I can assure you that you’ve never played anything quite like it. Beneath the façade of a child friendly mascot platformer, Klonoa 2 weaves an unforgettable experience that combines smart action-puzzle sidescrolling with a story that contains surprisingly deep themes that are reinforced by the accompanying visuals and music. Like any truly great piece of children’s literature (such as The Little Prince), Klonoa 2 is not a game you grow out of, but rather, a game you grow to appreciate as you begin to realize the complexity of what is going on under the surface.
First, let’s take a moment to talk about how bold and innovative the console Klonoa games were for their time. The first Klonoa game, Door to Phantomile, was released in 1997, a year after Super Mario 64 revolutionized gaming in an era when 3D mascot platformers were all the rage. Klonoa: Door to Phantomile boldly strayed from the pack by pioneering the now-popular 2.5D perspective, and instead of taking the Mario inspired jump-on-enemies-to-defeat-them route, it created its own identity with a gimmick that opened the door to clever puzzles that served to enhance the action.
Instead of outright attacking enemies, Klonoa is able to grab enemies using his signature wind bullet. Once an enemy is in his grasp, he can throw the enemy in front of him to attack an oncoming foe, or he can toss the enemy beneath him while midair to double jump. It’s a simple concept, but it’s constantly reinvented throughout the games with various enemy types and layouts that cause the player to reassess each screen individually to survive (or to at least not take damage). Plus, as anyone who has played a Klonoa game can tell you, quadruple-jumping off a tall ladder of enemies to reach the top of a tower never loses its charm.
While many platformers of the PS1/PS2 era tried to bloat their playtimes by forcing the player to collect a bunch of arbitrary objects to advance in the game or to unlock the “true” ending, the Klonoa series instead dared to be short for the sake of maintaining a high level of quality that kept the game consistently fresh from start to finish. Although both the console Klonoa games are certainly on the brief side, they also feel short because there is hardly a minute of these games that could be considered filler. At the time, this caused many gamers to choose other platformers to spend their money on over Klonoa, but I can assure you that the Klonoa games have stood the test of time much better as a result. Like a fine desert, both console Klonoa games leave you wanting more, yet you also feel satisfied with the quality of what was on the table.
In short, the Klonoa games played like indie style platformers over a decade before indie style platformers were even a thing. Both mainline games felt new and innovative while feeling familiar and nostalgic at the same time, and if you’re the kind of person who is begging for innovation in this modern era of gaming, then you owe it to yourselves to check out these games.
Of course, while Klonoa: Door to Phantomile was great, Klonoa 2: Lunatea’s Veil evolved the formula to create an unforgettable experience. Released early in the PS2’s lifecycle in 2001, the production values in this game were outstanding. Not in an obnoxious way, of course. The cel-shaded graphical style looked stunning while keeping a silky smooth framerate, and although some animations are a little primitive, the art holds up remarkably well today. Both the visuals and the soundtrack are brimming with variety, yet they always feel cohesive because they actively work with the theme of the story: an introspective tour of the emotions of a dreamer.
The genius of the narrative is how it’s blatantly hidden in plain sight. On the surface, the plot seems like typical kids stuff. A cute animal hero and his two new friends go on a quest to ring four bells to get a special power before the evil sky pirate (!) does. And for the most part, I’m confident that this childish first impression was intentional. Yet as the game continues, the story gets steadily darker until it reaches a point which it’s impossible to ignore the change in tone, and this, again, ties in strongly with the nature of the story to that point. At one point, a character is eventually overcome with such feelings of ineptitude that the character actually says “damn it… damn it all”, which isn’t exactly profane, but a serious departure from the seemingly carefree nature of the first half of the game.
As the characters in game are confronted with a new reality as the plot goes on (don’t want to spoil it, after all), it becomes impossible to not see the previous areas of the game in a new light. While each “world” of the game could be vaguely identified by genre archetypes (ice world, fire world, etc.), each world in-game is actually identified by a particular emotion. As residents of each respective area overindulge in the emotion of the respective world, the player witnesses the problems with each particular outlook on life. Keep in mind that the game is still aimed at kids, so don't expect it to go into deep philosophy or anything. Instead, each respective mood is reinforced by the visuals and music so as to let the player feel each emotion and let their mind fill in the details for how residents of each world must carry out life.
For example, the Maze of Memories level is located in an area defined by “indifference.” Before entering this level, Klonoa and friends talk with one of the residents who tell them that the world's citizens never bother to go outside, as they much prefer to stay inside and look at art and mirrors so that they can relive past memories. The level in general has an abstract art theme, and just by listening to the level’s music it’s hard not to feel this sense of hollow emptiness that’s reaching out to try to feel something. As one resident of the area says, “Just as art is a reflection of the soul, these mirrors are reflections of the past. Why leave, if you can keep reliving bygone days?” The player not only witnesses the pitfalls of overindulgence of one emotion, but the logic that actually ensues with it.
As the Klonoa games make it clear that each game takes place in a dream world, it becomes clear that the characters (outside of Klonoa himself, possibly) are less fully developed dynamic characters and more representations of particular thoughts or themes. As modern games try harder and harder to be taken seriously, Klonoa 2 embraces the surreal and asks the player to suspend disbelief and enjoy the experience for what it is. Much like an actual dream, Klonoa 2 doesn’t try to make sense, but this makes the moments of profound clarity richer when they come. Akin to many people you may know in real life, Klonoa 2 holds a surprisingly amount of substance beneath a seemingly shallow exterior.
Unfortunately, the Klonoa series never found the traction it deserves and, nowadays, is all but dead. Of course, the blame is just as much the publisher’s fault as it is the fault of gamers. While many overlooked the console Klonoa games due to their brevity, the marketing for the series never came close to try to appeal to older and experienced gamers. Perhaps if more gamers knew that the console games were directed by Hideo Yoshizawa, the man who directed the NES Ninja Gaiden trilogy, it may have gained a little more interest. On a shelf next to other platformers, Klonoa hardly looks particularly distinguished, and undoubtedly gamers had their hearts set on true 3D games and would ignore something that is more or less a sidescroller that could be played with an NES controller. The only time the series experienced any kind of mild success was with the lower budget GBA spinoff titles which, while definitely good, lacked the fantastic presentation and stories that made the two core games so wonderful.
It’s a shame, because I strongly believe there’s an audience for all Klonoa has to offer; they just don’t know it exists yet. With the direction the series seemed to be going in with Klonoa 2, who knows what a third installment might have offered? As it stands, Klonoa 2 isn’t even available as a PS2 classic, and at a price of $10 this game would be an easy impulse buy. With so many fanbases revitalized with rebirths of their favorite franchises (Shadowrun, Earthbound, etc.), it seems almost criminal that Klonoa has been left in the dust at every opportunity for a revival.
Perhaps a game like Klonoa 2: Lunatea’s Veil is a hard sell for teenagers and adults, but as time goes on, the game is becoming increasingly harder to obtain. If you happen to stumble on a copy, I wholeheartedly recommend picking it up. Perhaps the series’ fate was to end after two main installments, but it does not deserve to be forgotten. At worst, you might start to feel like a kid again, but I doubt that’s such a bad thing.
Welcome to the epic conclusion of this tutorial on how to murder even the most fearsome backlog. New to the party? Catch up by reading the first part here.
Yesterday, we learned that we should only buy games we actually want to play versus games that are just on sale. Yet even at that, there are still plenty of pitfalls to avoid if we want to keep our libraries in check. To illustrate, let me introduce you to my totally real friend: Sally Steampunk.
4: Avoid loading up on the same genre or series.
Word problem of the day: Sally has just read my advice from yesterday and proclaims “well, I like action RPGs the best, so now it’s a good time to purchase all the Kingdom Hearts games and go wild!” She finds good deals on every game in the series so far and thoroughly enjoys the first two titles. However, by the time she gets to the third game, she finds the process of playing through it to be a chore. Within the week, she looks for more games to buy while the remaining Kingdom Hearts games go unplayed on her shelf. What did she do wrong?
Answer: You can have too much of a good thing. Had Sally gradually acquired the Kingdom Hearts games over a period of time and occasionally played other titles between them, her chances of finishing and enjoying every game in the series would have increased. Also, what if she hated Kingdom Hearts after playing the first game? She’d be stuck with six games that she’d never want to return to.
Chances are, you like more than one genre. Even within any given genre, there’s a lot of variation as well. While debate over whether The Legend of Zelda is a true RPG series or not remains heated, Sally could likely scratch her Action RPG itch between Kingdom Hearts games with a Zelda without becoming burnt out over either series. By mixing up the order in which you acquire the games you are interested in, you will find yourself more satisfied with the games you actually have in your collection.
5: Predict future price drops
Sales are both a gamer’s best friend and worst enemy at the same time. Even if you try to follow all the before mentioned advice, seeing a new title slashed from $60 to $30 for 48 hours is too good to pass up, right?
Spoilers: Unless it really is a game you've been dying to play, you should keep waiting.
With the exception of niche games with low production runs, almost all games will continue to drop in price with time, even falling below their “sale” prices. For example, critical darling Bioshock Infinite could be found for $40 within three months of its release, and the game can be purchased for $30 (Xbox 360, PS3) or $20 (PC) as of writing this. By Christmas, it will likely drop to at least $20-$15, and within the following year it will likely drop even lower, probably running for $7.50 on Steam during a flash sale.
In other words, it’s rare for a game to be on sale for its “lowest price ever.” If you are eager to play a game, then these early sale prices can be justified, but 80% of the time you will save more by waiting. In other words, analyze your personal demand for a game and determine how much you’d like to pay for it.
If you’re extremely eager to play a new release but don’t want to pay $60, tell yourself to wait for it to drop to $40, which could likely happen within the first month or two. If you are interested in a game but still have five other games you'd like to get into, then perhaps $15 or $20 is more in your ballpark. In some cases, you might want to wait and see if a game’s DLC interests you and wait for a bundle/game of the year edition.
And by the way, those pre-order bonuses usually don't offset the high pricetags either. Example: I know a guy who made sure to preorder Borderlands 2 to make sure he'd get access to the bonus Mechromancer character. By the time he actually played the game, the game was going for half its intial asking price and the Mechromancer DLC could also be found discounted as well. Had he waited until he actually wanted to play the game, he would have saved himself ~$20 for the same product.
Measuring your patience for a game is the key. With practice, you’ll play most of the games you want for the lowest prices you’d like to pay for them.
BONUS SECTION: When to ignore everything I just said!
I’ve written the above advice in the best interest of the consumer (you), but it would seem irresponsible to ignore the extenuating circumstances in which it can be wise and/or admirable to outright shell out top dollar without waiting for a sale price.
Smaller/riskier games are usually worth supporting if you like the risk/series/genre/etc. For example, as a huge fan of the criminally underrated Klonoa series, I couldn’t have purchased the 2009 Wii remake of Klonoa: Door to Phantomile fast enough. While a number of variables contributed to the game’s unfortunate failure (like being marketed to elementary school age children when it’s properly suited for all ages) a number of gamers opted to either purchase the game used or deeply discounted because of complaints about the game’s length (despite otherwise positive reviews). This unfortunately means that the likelyhood of seeing the Klonoa team band together for another title is slim to none, according to the series director.
Another example? Beyond Good and Evil. How has that planned sequel been coming lately? I rest my case.
As mentioned earlier, games with low production runs are also worth getting in on if they happen to be your cup of tea. $50 may have been a lot for Metroid Prime Trilogy or Xenoblade, but clearly those would have been worthy investments at this stage.
I’m not suggesting to throw money at every underdog game that you see, but if you happen to be a firm believer in a game or series, then voting with your dollars will ultimately be good for it in the end.
As with any list of advice, none of this is the gospel truth that will work for everyone. The thrill of the sale is almost as exciting as booting up a game for the first time, so bargain hunting should be something we anticipate and enjoy, not something we dread. The goal is to spend more time playing the games you enjoy the most, and really, why wouldn’t we be striving for that.
So get out there, enjoy yourselves, and use all that money you save to buy your friends a few gifts to spread the love. And while you’re at it, maybe some of those games you’ll never play can go to a good cause, like charity! That’s what Sally Steampunk did, and do you know how many children she helped? None. Because she doesn’t exist. I should probably think of more realistic names than Sally Steampunk.
Admit it, you’ve said it, or at least thought it. If not, you must be here just to laugh at the rest of us and I will not tolerate such pretentiousness.
(Just kidding, please stay and play nice).
Between Amazon, Steam, and even the Playstation Network, it’s hard to fight the impulse to toss money to the wind. We love to buy games like burgers on a dollar menu, only to order well beyond our capacity and leave our purchases to rot. Some games you might not even have any desire to play, but the sale was just so cheap that you couldn’t resist getting a copy. For example, I ordered Steel Diver for five dollars, which is five more dollars that I could have tossed at Mighty No 9.
Game hoarding is something we all struggle with, but it’s okay. We’ve all been there, and we’re here to help. With these five steps, you’ll no longer provoke stores to shut up while they take your money. Your wallet will stop crying, and you will be in control of your finances once more.
1: Ask “how much time do I spend playing games?”
Before anything else, you need to be honest about your gaming habits: How much time do you actually spend playing games on a weekly basis?
I swear I allocated 80 hours for finishing Dark Souls somewhere in there
Fun Fact: If you buy games faster than you play them, your backlog will always grow. Now, you might be saying to yourself “oh, I just need to spend more time playing games.” To that, I say stop it. No really, stop it. You are only fooling yourself.
Your gaming habits are habits for a reason. You play games for as long as you enjoy them, and you have non-gaming things to be doing with your time as well. If you feel obligated to play a game just because you bought it, then stop. You aren’t getting your money back, and you aren’t getting your “money’s worth” either.
In economics, this is called the Sunk Cost Fallacy. If you regret purchasing a game or otherwise don’t enjoy it, you shouldn't force yourself to play it. That money is gone and your time is precious.
Therefore, instead of convincing yourself to play more games, the smarter thing to do is to modify the other variable: buy fewer games. So go ahead, let a timer run while you kick back and play games for a while, or just check what Steam says you've played in the past week. If you only buy videogames at a rate you can actually play them, you’ll probably wind up playing more videogames as a result.
2: Decide what games you actually want.
A game being offered at a good price does not make it a good deal. Borderlands 2 GOTY for $19.99 is only a good deal if you like shooting midgets and leveling up. It’s similar to how a delicious filet mignon priced at $5 would still be a bad purchase for a vegetarian.
It’s not your responsibility to pick up every critically acclaimed game. Some games just aren't for you, and there’s nothing wrong with that. It can be surprisingly difficult to discern which games you actually want to play, so here is a simple test to help decide how interested you are in a game: When you receive the game, are you going to want to play it or put it on the shelf?
I wonder if this person ever asked that question
If you are actually excited to play the game once you receive it, then it’s likely a good purchase. However, if you want to buy a game just in case you might be interested in it later, then you should seriously reevaluate whether you’re making a good purchase. If you never play the game you purchase, then it doesn’t matter if it was sold for $20 or $2 – it was a bad purchase. There are always extenuating circumstances, of course. Maybe a friend really wants you to try a game, or you are vaguely interested in giving a new genre a try. In these cases, spending a few dollars on a game and discovering you don’t like it after a couple hours is at least good for informing you future purchases. However, by maintaining a collection of games you actually want to play, your backlog has an exponentially higher chance of staying under control.
3: Avoid “rainy day” games.
Maybe you aren’t interested in a game, but for the price you figure that it might be decent to have in your collection just in case you’re really bored one day. These are what I call “rainy day” games: games you “save for a rainy day.”
Rainy day games can actually be great to have, but you can’t predict what itch you’ll want to scratch when that rainy day comes. Fortunately, there are some excellent economic options that can fill this void handsomely. For example, Humble Bundles provide a variety of often excellent games for less than six dollars per collection. Playstation Plus also provides retail and indie games at a steady pace, with games of just about every genre for less than the price of one newly released game a year.
Even cheaper than both of those, you can also check out the multitude of flash games, indie games, and even RPG Maker games that are absolutely worth playing and cost nothing to download. Iji, A Blurred Line, Irisu Syndrome, The Way, and countless other games are just a few clicks away right now, and you don’t even need to enter your credit card information.
Irisu Syndrome is totally just an innocent puzzle game starring this bunny girl. Cute, right!?
With these options in mind, paying $10 or $20 for a single “rainy day” game suddenly becomes much less appealing. That money is much better spent on a game you know you actually want to play, and when that rainy day comes, you’ll have plenty of options to keep yourself busy.
Tune in tomorrow for the stunning conclusion on how to avoid spending your money! In anticipation of any potentially great strategies that may pop up in the comments (which I’d love to hear!), I’d be happy to incorporate excellent suggestions into part 2 (with permission of course). So go ahead, load up the Steam Calculator, get sad, and come back so we can share stories of awful purchases we were somehow conned into making. As for me, I think I’m going to look at my shrink-wrapped Steel Diver and shed some tears for a couple hours.
The 3DS StreetPass games aren't great because they’re deep games. They’re great because they’re accessible versions of occasionally obtuse genres that are designed for short bursts.
I’m not sure if the StreetPass games have managed to introduce the casual masses to new genres, but I know they’ve made a significant impact on members of my family. My Father has generally stuck with Mario titles, First Person Shooters, and occasionally hack-and-slash loot games, but he unexpectedly fell in love with Flower Town and became interested in games like Animal Crossing. My brother hasn’t played any sort of RPG in about 20 years, but sessions of Find Mii would eventually lead him to pick up Project X Zone after playing a demo of it. Even I, the most “hardcore” gamer of my family, find myself looking forward to my brief sessions with the latest bundle of StreetPass games.
With the negative stigma surrounding “social games” these days, I feel the StreetPass games are social games done right.
That said, there’s so much potential in the StreetPass concept that remains untapped. While the majority of the games are pretty simple (does Puzzle Swap actually count as a game?), Mii Force in particular shows that complex and action packed titles can work well in the formula. If more StreetPass games are made (as there's clearly a market for them), there’s potential for legitimately great games that can captivate hardcore audiences while engaging casual gamers and “training” them to become interested in new titles.
Below are my personal ideas for games that I believe would be smash hits with the StreetPass gimmick. Yes, this is going to basically be a nerdporn blog, but I think there’s something to discussing the possibilities of something that many gamers might just consider a gimmick. For the sake of humor, I've attempted Mii wordplay for each game’s titles.
Pictured: Heroes of Umbra (Because I'm not artistic enough to draw up my own game concepts)
Find Mii Loot! Genre: Metroidvania/loot game
Dream Dev: Monolith Soft
Premise: Your Mii is a notorious pirate captain sailing the seven seas with a lovable skeleton friend that may or may not be one of the former enemies from Mii Force. After finding a treasure map leading to various ancient ruins around the world, your ship breaks amidst a massive storm that disperses your former crew, save your lovable skeleton friend. Starting from scratch with a tiny sailboat, you must find new recruits for your crew using StreetPass and make them raid these treasure filled ruins (because, you know, you have to watch the ship and all) so you can rebuild your ship and become the most infamous pirate king once again!
Gameplay: Think a StreetPass version of Rogue Legacy. The StreetPass Mii enters a short, randomized, sidescrolling dungeon filled with dangerous monsters, gold, and loot. The goal is to either earn as much treasure as possible or defeat the boss to move to the next level. The weapon and playstyle of each Mii depends on that Mii’s shirt color. For example, a Red Mii might use a sword for hitting a wide area, a Blue Mii might use a spear that hits a narrow area far in front of him/her, the yellow Mii might use a bow that covers the whole screen but fires slowly, etc.
Pictured: Rogue Legacy
Miis have no health, but their weapons have durability that deplete with use. If a Mii takes damage, the weapon’s durability is sharply reduced. If the weapon breaks, the Mii rushes out of the dungeon in a comedic fashion and drops a portion of the loot depending how far away from the exit (s)he is. Choosing to leave the dungeon early will end the game, but inflict no loot penalty.
If multiple Miis are StreetPassed at once, the player can choose which Mii to send into the dungeon while the remaining Miis give buffs that also depend on their respective shirt colors. So a Brown Mii might increase weapon durability, a pink Mii might increase the value of gold found, etc.
Miis get stronger by finding pieces of armor and relics in the dungeon, which carry over in each session but can only be equipped on the ship. While storages and blacksmiths who upgrade specific weapon types are eventually made available, they can only be upgraded by investing more gold into rebuilding the ship.
“Beating” the game unlocks a new game + mode that allows the player to continue upgrading and looting the dungeons again, and beating that mode allows all levels to be accessible at once but at a maxed out level. And now I realized this game is the deranged crack baby of Rogue Legacy and Borderlands 2. Maybe I’m the deranged crack baby of Rogue Legacy and Borderlands 2.
Premise: A gritty noir setting (by Mii standards, at least). Your Mii is a detective who receives a mysterious investigation request one day from a masked Mii who will probably turn out to be the villain of the whole story and surprise no one. The investigation leads your Mii to various dangerous locations on the infamous Miin Streets, but Detective Mii isn’t the type to get his/her hands dirty by busting up bad guys. The only option is to go to the streets and find some tough looking thugs via StreetPass who are bad enough to fight the badguys and help you solve this vague and unspecified mystery!
Gameplay: A throwback to games like Double Dragon and Streets of Rage. For the sake of keeping things family friendly, it would probably be more The Three Stooges style violence than the usual genre nitty gritty stuff, although bonus points if enemies scream “BARF” and run away when they’re defeated.
Stage progression works similar to Mii Force: find one or more recruits, run through a stage, beat up a boss, end of session. The player earns points for beating the stage quickly, taking as little damage as possible, successfully blocking/dodging attacks, and performing multiple hit combos on enemies. Placing emphasis on blocking/combos could potentially be an introduction to lite fighting game mechanics as well.
As usual, the stats of the playable Mii depend on shirt color. Red Shirts could be slow and powerful, Yellow shirts might have a high jump and more powerful aerial attacks, etc. Additional Miis can be called in to assist the playable Mii for very short periods of time, or the playable Mii can retreat from the level and be replaced by a sidelined Mii instead. Although all Miis share a lifebar, opting for the second option would cause health to be slightly restored.
Finishing the game unlocks more challenging difficulty modes, as well as an Arcade mode which challenges the player to finish the entire game in one run. In this mode, sidelined Miis act as extra lives instead of assist options.
Mii Odyssey Genre: Traditional Turn-Based RPG
Dream Dev: Atlus
Premise: A sort-of sequel to Find Mii. Years have passed since your royal Mii’s family was kidnapped by the Dark Lord. Of course, being the unfortunate kingdom as it tends to be, a new evil force has been sweeping across the world, covering once normal towns and caves with a thick fog that has infested these areas with dangerous monsters. Looking to not get kidnapped, your Royal Mii decides to leave the kingdom to the Prince and Princess while (s)he looks to investigate the fog, but not without enlisting the help of some of the mighty warriors who saved the world in the past.
Gameplay: With both Find Mii games being an introduction to basic turn-based battles, a small traditional RPG is a logical next step for the series. The player explores dungeons from a traditional overhead view, and the player can also learn tips from townsfolk and buy items and equipment in the kingdom as well. The combat system is an evolution of the Find Mii battle system, supporting HP/MP bars, a three person battle system and options for multiple magic spells per character.
The player’s Mii is the main character, but the other two party members are Miis the player has StreetPassed in the past. Their respective classes, stats, and spells are determined by their shirt color, with some light randomization. Characters start with a single spell, but can learn more by leveling up through battles. However, characters can only memorize up to three spells at once, a la Pokemon. The player’s Mii, however, is free of class restriction, and the player is able to customize the stats of the main character and the spells (s)he learns regardless of shirt color (possibly via some version of a small skill tree).
Pictured: Find Mii II
The additional party members can execute certain combo attacks and magic spells like in Find Mii II, but the main character is unable to be a part of combo attacks. Also, level-ups apply to the party and not specific characters, so choosing to swap out a party member would allow the new party member to immediately level up to the appropriate spot.
Each dungeon is a set number of floors, but individual floors can only be unlocked by StreetPass tags. The monsters, hazards, and loot on each floor are determined by the shirt color of the StreetPassed Mii. If the party completes all unlocked floors without reaching the end of the dungeon, the player can either set up camp until another StreetPass tag is made, or they can choose to return to town and reshuffle the dungeon with subsequent tags.
If a StreetPass tag is made with a Mii who happens to be in the active party, the player has the choice to change the Mii’s class if the newly tagged Mii happens to be wearing a different color shirt. Also, if the newly tagged Mii knows a spell that the in-party version of the Mii doesn’t know, then the Mii can choose to learn one of those spells in addition to spells (s)he has naturally learned. Going through this process again with the same Mii will make the in-party Mii forget whatever spell (s)he had learned before. This would add a slight cooperative element to the game, as friends could coordinate unique party setups and build each other’s main characters accordingly.
Again, these are just my dream StreetPass games that I believe could offer interesting innovations to their respective genres. Casual games don’t need to be the share-spam extravaganzas that Farmville spawned in its popularity. The growing popularity of the 3DS and the Streetpass games are perfect launchpads in which casual games could be reinvented, and getting casual gamers interested in new genres has the potential to grow interest in deeper games and shove a knife in the heart of anyone who thinks triple A games need to adapt the money gouging practices of freenium games.
I’m interested in what others would think of StreetPass games like the ones I listed above, and I’ll certainly read any comments with other potentially awesome ideas for StreetPass games. And if anyone at Nintendo is reading this, I’m not asking for a job or anything, but if a hefty bag of cash magically appeared at my door then I might look the other way if you steal my clearly genius ideas. Wink wink nudge nudge... please?