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10:57 PM on 03.14.2012

Is it Even a Game Anymore?

P.S. (this is a pre-script.) I wrote this entire blog before playing the game Shoot Many Robots and now I feel guilty having judged it before playing it. So tomorrow I will buy it and make a commitment to play it for at least 3 hours before making any more judgements.

Here I am looking at the Destructoid homepage and see a review for a game called Shoot Many Robots. I clicked the article thinking that the name must be ironic or that they maybe they meant “Shoot Many Robots!“ and the game was a sci-fi politics simulator in which the humanoid party candidate chose the aforementioned game title as his campaign slogan. Oh soggy, forgotten fuck-bags was I disappointed.

I can’t decide whether the gamemakers are obsessively efficient or if if they think so little of their audience that they need to sum up the the world, gameplay, even the instruction manual all in the title (actually, to be complete they should add the subtitle :Loot, Repeat). I find this lack of depth, lack of mystery, lack of...(fine, I’ll say it) catharsis dismaying. I can’t understand what enjoyment somebody could possibly get out of this game--

Oh. Nono. I know what it is, but I know it’s a trap. A loot trap. I know because I once I fell into the finest crafted loot trap there ever was ( be honest, I fell in a few times).

I can feel my bone density deteriorating just looking at it.

There’s this obsession that comes along with attaining the highest level, biggest numbers or highest percentages, but to what end? Does the person who plays the game to 100% completion get anything more than the person who gets 98%? There’s a platinum trophy, or whatever equivalent, to show for it true, but at some point (hardcore Diablo players should get this) the law of diminishing returns will raise its ugly head and point out that, in order get those last few percents, I would have to devote another XX hours of grinding my life away.

We’ve all been to that Stockholm Syndrome-like point in a game where we imagine some great reward will happen when we finally rank up, ding, or platinum trophy, but the biggest reward there is to be had is to finally be rid of these shackles we’ve locked ourselves into all this time. The zombification that occurs at this point adds to the horror show; muscle memory takes over the and highway hypnosis begins. A phone rings or a front door shuts and I snap back to lucidity to find out that hours have passed without thought. “My fingers are cold, When did I last eat? What day is it?” are all thoughts I frequently have after a binge such as the one described above and all of which are also thoughts somebody might have after being locked in the basement by an abusive spouse. I don’t have to "stay together for the kids", there aren’t any dependents (unless maybe there’s a guild involved D: ), I should try looking out that window once in a while so my body can produce some of its own vitamin D.

I failed my classes for this?

This game adds in the option to pay IRL money for more powerful loot, which can divide the player base into players and payers, and if you take away the loot collecting, what goals are left in the game? There certainly isn’t a compelling story in which I can vest my interest. And there is always a tension between players who “earned it” (and know how to use it from their dozens of hours experience) and players who bought their way in (and try to run the hurdles before learning to walk). There is a very delicate balance with micro-transaction games that I feel is rarely achieved (and when it is, it usually nerfs all the old equipment and builds, ACK!). This is a problem that pre-dates micro-transaction video games, and one I’m very familiar with.

“Okay you won with your broken-ass cards. Again. BTW, we’re not playing next week. Oh it’s his turn to bring snacks? *sigh*....okay fine we are playing next week.”

LoLz, His expressions says it all.

Most importantly, I have to remember that these are games that are meant to be played, and play is supposed to be fun. All too often I feel like the chicken playing tic tac toe for some tiny amount of sustenance I have convinced myself is important (okay the basketball on the second half of that vid is legitimately cool). I imagine that this Shoot Many Robots game is often times fun, especially when you have a good crew of friends to enjoy it with, but if the quality of the experience is determined solely by the company and not enhanced by the activity, maybe we should reconsider the activity. Every now and again I need to do a self-check to make sure I’m actually having fun playing these games. Did I laugh, smile, “Oh yeah!” or high five? That's a real way to measure quality of fun. High Fives. Where there are high fives, there are good times.

Of course, Penny Arcade already covered it.

P.S. (post script, this time) This was written mostly because of the great feeling of guilt I had after binging on Skyrim. Guilt-fueled snark. Take it.   read

11:09 PM on 05.18.2011

Unofficial Monthly Musing: Outer Heaven

I am new to destructoid. So new in fact that my blog and about me section remains empty. THAT IS UNTIL NOW. You see I recently emigrated here to Destructoid after a admittedly too-long stint over at the fellow gaming blog Being driven away by the Gawker “mobile” redesign of early 2011 (which I fled to from Gamespot after the Jeff Gerstmann firing of 2007) , I found myself searching for a new go-to gaming blog. At first D*toid was off putting. The articles provided similar information, but with the jerking off guy in the Alienware ads and the immaturity and indignation often displayed by the guy with the hair in the daily show (Sorry Max. Such a diva for a guy with the greatest job in the world.), I got the impression of a web site that I didn’t care to associate myself with.

It was only a short while later, however, that I would find exactly what I had been seeking in a video game community. Still having not found a better alternative, I decided to try out some more of the features of the site. First I stumbled upon some of the blogs which were surprisingly well written and made me begin to realize that maybe there was something more to all this. Then I stumbled onto the most important feature on the entire website. The thing in the lower right hand corner: The chat. I found that little button that gave me instant access to the guests, the experts, the trolls, and every other sort of type I could hope to or be afraid to find. By clicking that button I found a new home in the strange rabbit hole of a secondary chat I fell into called Outer Heaven. Sure at first I was intrigued just because the name was a reference to Metal Gear, but I ended up returning because of the great people that were attracted to that particular chat. The people with a happy balance of immaturity and depth or perhaps neurosis and confidence, people with whom I felt I had something in common or wanted to have something in common. I found a place where people felt just as comfortable addressing each other by their first names as they did by their handles. These people in this Outer Heaven chat were the best feature I could ask for in a gaming site.

Now when I visit D*toid, Outer Heaven is the first and last place I find myself. I have spent far too much time in this little chatroom. I know just tonight I went there, to the digital social world, for a few minutes before venturing out IRL for a night with friends, and when I came back I wanted to check up on my abandoned OH friends once more before bed. For many of us, it is not only a place for small talk, it has become a place to vent our frustrations, a place for a dairy of sorts, and even once in a while to talk about the video games that brought us all together to this same cyber place in the first place. It is these conversations that are the first and last reasons I feel the impulse to type in D*toid first when I open up my browser.

Outer Heaven is something I want to stick around. I don’t know if it is actually in danger; being new, I am unfamiliar with the way things work. I don’t know the politics, the way it’s always been or the direction we’re moving, but I do know this: I have seen a glimpse of something I like. And I have been told that thing is in jeopardy. So if writing this blog post will get us one step closer to keeping it around, I am glad to have spent this last hour hammering it out.

MrDandyMan   read

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