31 years old and about to go to University after a five year military enlistment. I'm fucking glad to be out. Not my style.
I have a tattoo of the praying hands of Jebus, only one of the hands is wearing a Nintendo Powerglove. I want another tattoo in pixel-art style of the shotgun from Doom, a greater than sign, and some enemies from Doom.
I read Transmetropolitan, Fables, Allan Moore's Swamp Thing, The Walking Dead, Preacher...and a lot of religious history books. Particularly ones about that crazy-ass period of time in which we were burning women for predicting the weather or being prettier than their neighbor. I'm an atheist, but I'm just too interested in this stuff to not pursue a career relating to it. So I'm going for a degree in religious history and education. That's right: I want to teach your kids about God so they see how silly it all is.
My favorite game is probably Metal Arms: Glitch in the System, but Doom and Final Fantasy Tactics are up there too. It changes all the time. Recent favorites: Sleeping Dogs, Far Cry 3, Hotline Miami, Gunpoint...
I play primarily single-player games, and I've given up on consoles for the moment. My Steam ID is WOLGOR.
I guess I should have known that this would happen, eventually. I am not a narcissist. I am under no delusions that I can control the world by just willing it and I know that if I close my eyes and cover my ears for a bit, when I open them again gamers will not have grown a longer memory or hold publishers accountable for declaring war on the player (though it did happen, once). But I fear that I may have contributed to Ken Levine razing Irrational. And I feel guilty about it.
So, apparently upon the whims of Ken Levine, Irrational has been closed, and he has taken a "core group" of 15 or so employees to form a new studio to release games for Take Two. The rest of former Irrational employees have been given free tickets to a couple of job fairs. Because kindness. And generosity. Levine and his buddies will focus on producing "highly replayable, single-player experiences." They will not be releasing any more disc-based "experiences" and instead will be releasing all of their "experiences" digitally. Why he did this as opposed to just leaving to begin his own studio, he has not said. The guy could write his own ticket at this point, so who knows. I speculate that it is because he is egotistical and believes that he "IS" Irrational, but that's just me being a prick...right? Probably.
"Nobody's willing to call out toxic egomaniacs if they're successful and influential. It doesn't have to be this way." -Tweet from JP LeBreton, a designer that worked on Bioshock and Bioshock 2 Did Irrational become a bloated company? Bioshock Infinite took forever and cost two. Hundred. MILLION. Dollars. This claim has been denied by Levine, but the game sold 3.7 million copies at the time of Take Two's May 2013 financial report...and failed to make a profit. Maybe Ken Levine's "creative process" isn't streamlined e-fucking-nough. Industry "closer" Rod Fergusson was infamously brought in to help get the game out the door, after all.
Let's get one thing straight: ALL of Irrational's games have been excellent. System Shock 2 is amazing. Freedom Force is incredible. And Bioshock actually made me rethink what a game could be. It was my Planescape: Torment of the last generation. If you don't know the "Would you kindly?" moment in Bioshock, when the game pulls the rug right out from under you and turns you on your fucking oddy-noggin, I won't ruin it for you. Suffice it to say, the game head-fucks you to such an extent that if you have been paying attention to the game it might just make your brain a'splode.
But here's the thing, I have forsaken these "experiences." For all the shit that I talk, I haven't FINISHED Bioshock Infinite or System Shock 2. Even though the first System Shock is one of my favorite games of all time. So, what gives?
Well... turns out I like "gamey" games. "Hardcore" games. Games that are about the mechanics. And reflexes. And skill. I am not bragging here or attempting to appear mad 1337. I suck at some of my favorite games. I am just expressing my tastes and my frustration with myself. I am currently obsessed with Dark Souls and Hotline Miami. I play arcade racing games (Split Second and Nitronic Rush recently) as my "fluff." Just like I read my comics when I'm not reading non-fiction, I guess. You see, as much as I recognize that Irrational's games are friggin' amazing and important, well, I just don't think that their games PLAY all that well. I dig games with tight mechanics, and that's just fine, but my reticence to put that all aside and "experience" these important games frustrates me. I HATE when I feel stuck in my ways.
So, I guess the question is: Is this my fault? I mean, I know it isn't exclusively "MY" fault, but is it the fault of gamers like me? Am I as bad as the "Madden gamers?" Or the gamers that are too busy playing the one FPS they bought this year to be bothered to understand the games that are challenging what the medium can do? Does not completing these epics make me complicit in contributing to the views of Crytek and others who think that the single-player game is a dinosaur?
I don't want the Bioshock free-to-play arena shooter. I doubt the series will ever jump the shark to that extent, but I use it as a metaphor. What I mean is that I want devs to know that their is still a market out here for guys like me. I love single-player games. I see games with tacked on multi-player as box checking, ridiculous embodiments of some of the worst recent industry practices. For a while, that shit was done just to have an excuse to throw in an "always- online" requirement. It's fucking cynical. If you want me to play your game, don't call me a thief right out of the gate. I wish Titanfall was going to have a campaign, and it's sad that we have found ourselves in this climate where the SINGLE-player campaign is the feature that is being tacked on. It's even sadder that the series that is largely responsible for this phenomena, Call Of Duty, used to have great single-player. Love it or hate it, Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare had a really good, memorable campaign. People know the ghili suit moment. The AC-130 moment. The nuke moment. The execution moment. I'm not a big COD fan myself. I dig more verticality in my shooters. Games with the shit hitting the fan all over the screen. Games built for keyboard and mouse. If I wanted Hogan's Alley, I'd play Hogan's Alley.
Anyway, I see the closure of Irrational as a statement about where games are going, and it really scares me. We are already missing a middle market in gaming, and "AAA" game development seems to be chugging right along to it's grave, refusing to change. Here's an idea : Maybe Doom 4 doesn't need to be a $100,000,000 game. Maybe it can be done for cheaper, keep its integrity, and still be a tight, polished game. Shit, I know everyone points to it, but look at The Witcher series.
One thing I know for sure is that I am going to play through Infinite and System Shock 2. As in, as soon as I'm done with this blog. Yeah, I own them both. That I have purchased them and "voted with my wallet" isn't enough though. We all want to be part of the discussion when we're talking about games like the ones Irrational produced, and it's disingenuous of me to join that conversation when what I know about them is just what I have read or watched.
I hope that I am wrong, and that I won't have to go exclusively to Kickstarter or the indie developers to get a game that feels like the ones that made me love this stupid hobby. With micro-transactions, cynical IOS remakes, EULAs that strip away our ownership and litigious rights, developers getting fired and studios getting shuttered as soon as their game is sent out to die, and AAAALL the rest of the shit plaguing this industry, do we really need people like Ken Levine losing faith? I say we can't afford it. He might have his head so far up his ass that hindsight is a state of fucking mind, but he helped make some great games. Let ActiBlizzard and EA and fucking Crytek <shiver> doubt the relevance of single-player. Let them learn the hard way that AAA game development HAS to change. Stop taking your irresponsible "failures" out on your employees. And to the Ken Levines of the world? You go on and chase your dreams, man, but how about not taking everyone down with the fucking ship next time you think you are a special fucking snow flake that needs to express himself with massive layoffs like some deranged, sociopathic, performance artist? Huh? How about it. Dick.
I'll keep on saving the world in my spare time. I just hope that I don't feel dirty while I'm doing it. I hope AAA development changes before more of the greats lose their faith or become rockstar asshats. If it doesn't, we'll lose much more than we ever gained from the best minds in game development.