My real name is Max and I'm a diehard Browncoat. I also have an encyclopedic knowledge of the Star Wars universe left over from a childhood obsession, as well as an actual Star Wars encyclopedia, but that's another matter.
I like to sleep, but keep odd hours, I like food A LOT, I like TV on occasion, I'm not a huge fan of any music except symphonic, and apparently I have bad music taste, even at 20 I can barely grow enough facial hair to justify shaving more than twice a week, I love to write, I kinda read, I hate a couple of the people in my J-school program, HBO is perfect, LOST is actually alright, I'm a total gearhead, Avatar was a terrible movie but an incredible experience, How to Train Your Dragon was very, VERY awesome, and all I want at this moment is a 1:1 stuffed Appa.
Guess what this last paragraph used to be for? My two cents on the games/art debate. Guess what's here now? NOTHING, and that's the way I likes it.
I know I said I would avoid these because they were a kinda lazy excuse for a blog, and that was true, but this time around I've actually got some things I'd like to put out there that don't really merit a full post.
So with much, much, MUCH less ado than usual, here we go
I work as a cook at the Sony Centre for the Performing Arts in Toronto, and on Saturday we were showing Distant Worlds (a live symphonic performance of the music of Final Fantasy). This little tidbit of live gaming community got all tingly for PAX. It was a truly extraordinary feeling; I had something in common with every single one of the 2600 attendants. Every single one, Cosplayers and "normies" alike. I don't even play Final Fantasy, it was just the fact that we were all gamers and could strike up an engaging conversation at any point that just gave me this sense feeling of belonging. Yes yes, this is all very lovey dovey and mushy, but still, I could not be more excited to see you all at the PAX NARPs next fall, and to simply be in that convention hall.
I started playing AC 2 this week in anticipation of renting Brotherhood when my live subscription runs out, which by the way is the week my exams end, and at the beginning of my two weeks of nothing before I go home. Ugh. Anyway, I had previously watched my now-roommate then-dormmate play through like 90% of the game, but I still thought it would be worth a shot, since the written-by-a-twelve-year-old story wasn't really the pull. Something weird happened though, I found it was more fun to watch the game then to play it. Make no mistake, it's still enjoyable and all that, but there was definitely less thrilling me as I played. Maybe it's because at this point it was basically running on replay value, maybe it was the fact that as an observer I didn't have to deal with the often baby-punchingly obnoxious nature of the parkour (not, in fact, free-running, as it's called in-game, there is a difference) auto-aim system, but there's just a lot less luster this time. Has this ever happened to you? Have you ever watched enough of a game that when you play it, it's just kind of blah?
Me and Knutaf, and at many points other DToiders, have been playing a lot of Reach since I have to give it back to the buddy of mine I borrowed it from, and I think I finally figured out that indefinable awesomeness that makes Halo so, you know, awesome. It's that sense of community, that sense that like 90% of the millions of Xbox owners have and love the game, and that they're primarily there to have a good time. It's not the same as the feeling I get with CoD, there it's much more insular and stat-focused. And while that certainly exists in Halo, I just get the feeling that a LOT less people are the kind of players who are like "wait, wait, WAIT! What was my kill/death last round?" and more people just playing for fun. Basically, I feel like you'll hear much more laughter over the mics in Halo than in CoD.
Top Gear America sucked. That is all.
A while ago a friend of mine asked me what my game of the year was, and I was a little taken aback; I had honestly never thought about that before. Ever. It's weird to me that I've never looked back on a year of gaming and considered my favourite entrant. For the record, it was Minecraft, but it's baffling to me that I've never even considered it until asked. It's probably because I place no outside value on my opinions.
I finished Avatar: The Lase Airbender (I detest that I must now include that specification) for the second time a couple nights ago, and I was made crushingly sad by the fact that I now have to wait several months before I can do it again. I actually welled up twice over the course of the last season. It's probably one of the better shows I've seen in my life and has this odd ability to rip my mind and imagination right through the screen. It's ridiculous, it's juvenile, it's badass, it's pretty Asian, and it's awesome. Watch it.
Remember a couple weeks ago where, for a weekend, there was lots of excitement over a probable, almost definite new Star Wars trilogy, before it was crushed utterly by a Lucasfilm rep? I am the biggest Star Wars fan I know personally, and somehow this barely tickled my fancy. #kindadepressedaboutlosingmychildhoodalittlebitbutnotreallybecausethebookswerebetterthanthemovies
Yesterday I was perusing the old Ocarina of Time soundtrack on youtube, and I was hit with this wave of nostalgic longing. Riding this wave, I think it's high time for me to play through that game again.
But then I thought, hey, let's make this interesting, so here's what I've come up with: Let's have a DToid community Zelda OoT Marathon.
It's simple really, everyone and any one who has the means and the drive to take part in a OoT speedrun competition just needs to put their name and twitter account in the comments. I'll follow you, you tweet your progress through the day, preferably in temple increments, and the first person to reach the end wins.
Unfortunately I don't have the monetary means to provide prizes for the podium positions, maybe someone else would like to cover that part if they have some gaming related paraphernalia they'd be willing to part with, but if not the satisfaction of knowing that you're the baddest Zelda player in the DToid community has to be a pretty awesome reward in and of itself. Here are the deets:
Date: December 13
Start Time: 10 a.m. Eastern (that means you've created the file, and 10 is when you actually start the game itself
- Zelda Ocarina of Time in any form, no emulators accepted though, because of the ability to speed up the game.
- Twitter name in the comments section
- Fast thumbs
Win Condition: Tweeted in with a photo of the ending credits[/b] as well as a pic of your file with the time played on it. Other than that, the only win conditions are the credits rolling, no biggoron sword or heart counter requirements here.
Now I realize that this is pretty rife with the opportunity for foul play, but that's just something we'll have to accept, as this is all done autonomously. Oh and if there's no playtime clock in the save file, then just a photo with the credits rolling with suffice, I'm not sure if there is one or not, it's been a while.
So yeah, hope this will be a fun thing that we can get a bunch of people into. Maybe if the DToid mucky mucks get involved we can promote this and do it as a drive for the newly-reopened-for-this-year Child's Play, and people can sponsor the competitors. I dunno, we can develop this as we get closer to the date. Either way, it would be great to see a big chunk of the community get involved.
And if you're thinking you're not fast enough, I'm right there with you. I've never been that fast at Zelda, but if we can make this a drive for Child's Play, just you're participation would be awesome. I'll make this a thread on the forum to keep you guys updated.
I'm just gonna come out and say it, this blog contains some mention of games. As well as some mention of art. And it may combine those ideas. I know, I hate me too. But I think this is a little tidbit of insight I've gained that I'd like to share. Now, if you're like every other rational person who keeps up with gaming news or is part of a community in any capacity, you are sick to your very soul of hearing pompous analytical assholes talking about "the state of the industry" and how it's reached a state of art, or the Ebert haters, or the people who think games should be "more than just fun," I will warn you that this post does contain some of the aforementioned heinous and forbade topics, and I won't at all blame you if you turn now and run. Fast.
Now it's not that I particularly disagree with these people, because I don't really. It's just that I'm really tired of hearing people talk of something we can't really affect, as well as the amount of self-righteousness that more than normally accompanies such discussions (of which, for the record, I was once very much a part).
So yes, this delicious little tidbit of insight.
What I want for the industry (I really hate that word), and what I think all the pro art people actually want, is not what intrinsically comes with "art" status. It's the extrinsic value, we want games taken seriously. The whole art status is something I could frankly care less about. Basically, I want games to be conceived of and analyzed in the same way as movies (no, not film. That is also an insipid word) and books.
Now don't read too much into this. I don't want games too lose their individuality or their nature, I don't want them to become movies or books, I simply want them to be considered as valuable as those other forms of media. The art shit doesn't really matter at that point.
This really isn't news. Though I haven't witnessed it myself, I'm sure this sentiment has been expressed countless times, indeed as many as the games/art debate has flared up, but what I believe I can provide that's new is an example is how this is an attainable goal.
Around the mid-late nineties, with the birth of the internet, a form of writing emerged called hypertext narrative. This is basically an arted-up form of old text adventures, though I'm not sure which was the chicken and which was the egg, or if they're even so related. The point is that hypertext narratives shared - and although less popular, still share - many characteristics with games.
In hypertext, readers navigate paragraphs of text, "lexia," with hyperlinks. The lexia are often very disjointed, and it is intended that the reader create much if not most of the story themselves, creating their own intervening events which lead from paragraph to paragraph. There is also a good deal of choice, with usually more than one link leading out of a given lexia.
Obviously there is a lot here that one could find in a game. The lexia are the scripted events that define the story that the author, or in our case developer, wants to tell. The different links represent the same thing as in hypertext, choice, and the parts in between that the reader fills in are clearly the parts between the scripted events of a game in which the player is given control of how they conduct themselves.
The reason I make this comparison is that when hypertext narrative was in its prime, many considered it to be basically the second coming. People predicted the end of books, and heralded hypertext as the up and coming standard for narrative and text presentation on the whole. Of course there were critics, and the flame eventually died out, as it does in all things. But the point is that for some time at least, a media extremely comparable to our own was considered the absolute new standard for presentation.
The advantage is that where hypertext failed, games can thrive. Hypertext, in and of itself, isn't really that... well, entertaining. One of the strongest examples of the media is barely comprehensible, let alone what anyone might call fun. I spent an hour and a half finding every single freaking lexia in Michael Joyce's "Twelve Blue" and I would, like many you may read about, have a hard time telling you exactly who the main character is.
Unfortunately, the very thing that allows us to conquer hypertext in both fun and longevity is the very thing that keeps us from being taken seriously. Most mainstream games seek primarily to deliver an emotional response, with a message or stand taking the back seat. They seek mainly fun, and so we are seen as little more than emotional pornography.
The ultimate problem though is that we shouldn't need to change. I truly believe that there is value in what games already provide, and it's no more superficial than what hypertext provided. We are almost identical in form, and it's only function where we differ. The ability to give someone a genuine emotional experience that would normally be completely foreign and inaccessible is a power that I find simply astounding, same with the ability to transport them seamlessly to another world with nothing more than a pound and a half of plastic and silicon in hand.
This is our dilemma. We have been shown that with what we have, with what we are, we can be taken seriously. People like Anthony Burch prove time and again that there are worthwhile gains to treating games intelligently and analytically, but for some reason, the masses see fit to see us as nothing more than child's play. Then again, as hypertext proves, it's possible for what we are, the form that makes games what they are, has been seen as the future iron standard for record and reading, and that's certainly a start.
~Om nom nom nom...
PS This was not meant to become as sappy inspirationally lovey-dovey wishy-washy "we" this and "can be" that, but there you go.
Way to start things off right, this week's Thoughts is already 2 days late. Shit. Oh well, to battle, with NOOOO regrets (anyone who can name that quotee wins a hero cookie)
First a shoutout to Handsome beast for being handsome (and coming up with the new name for this loosely labeled "series")
Anyone who lives in Toronto had the utter privilege of attending Nuit Blanche last night. While walking untold kilometers to all the breathtaking modern art installations that dotted the city was great, the real pleasure was the free pair of 3D glasses I got with my free piece of React gum. Seriously, now I can play Minecraft in 3D. Oh and there was a hipsteramic Dubstep parade that went through the main downtown intersection. I feel like someone should have been naked on that float, I guess the paraders didn't share that opinion. Maybe because they were dressed like pirates, I'll never know.
I just pre-reserved my collector's edition copy of Fable III. It should be worth the money provided the collector bonuses are halfway decent and Peter Molyneux is the perfect opposite of the person I know he is.
You ever get that thing where someone you kinda dislike leaves the store room, then you criticize his professionalism to Colin, but don't actually insult him personally, then the guy walks by the store room door and you fully realize he heard the whole thing but don't feel guilty because you made objective criticisms about his work behavior but then you feel guilty because you think you should feel guilty but you don't? Still with me? Yeah, that happened to me today.
I just started playing Oblivion again for like the 756 thousandth time. I'm a wood elf. I hate being shorter than... who was it again? Oh yeah, EVERYONE. They also talk down to me. Bitches.
Crouching at the end of an eight hour shift is actually the best feeling in the world. Unfortunately the only way to experience such relief is to work eight hours straight while standing basically the whole time. Hmmmmm...
The little pretentious sketching mannequin on my desk that I bought to motivate me to keep learning to draw because I'd spent the money on is standing with way too much tude for her own good right now.
I'm going to a D&D session tomorrow. It's been a full month since my last one and withdrawal is a cruel mistress. I hope Tim Flamenethers has his staff ready, cuz we bout to rock some hopefully orc-like bitches. I have this weird thing against fighting elves.
Speaking of elves, they are like THE most pretentious species out there. I hate that they keep drawing me back in with their badassness, and their ridiculously filling bread. That's how they get me, they must know I'm a complete sucker for good bread. Oh and leaf or curvy bladed swords, those rock too.
I think the most incredible action figure accessory is right now sitting over the shoulders of my Boba Fett. To anyone who had this figure in the nineties, it's the little, like, one eighth cloak that he has that's got some string on it too, and it even makes room for his jetpack. It's freakin awesome. Also none of the other 10 Star Wars action figures I have addorning my desk have their accessories, maybe I'm just grabbing at what I have. Oh, except stormtrooper Luke, he's got his helmet still. Sweet.
~Om nom nom nom...
PS that D&D session I talked about is at 401 games at yonge and gerrard if anyone's down for some quality narping tomorrow (Monday). It's at 6, anyone living near downtown Toronto should come. It's free, too. All you need to bring is a legal character. Not sure what level, but I'm sure if enough show up with level ones, that'll be cool. I'll be wearing a brown Firefly-themed (but serenity labeled - sigh) shirt, feel free to say high if you wanna show up.
I love cheevos. Achievements, I love achievements. And I hate that I love them.
Achievements are a goal. They're something to accomplish, to strive for. They're a milestone that proves you've been where you've been, a way to log you're history. Achievements are something you can show off, something you can track, and something you can be proud of.
They're also a huge crutch. I've pushed through parts of a game just for some achievements. Mind you there not a big push; I don't think a game has ever said, well, we don't need to make it all interesting, we'll just put some big achievements in there and we'll be fine, but they've given me motivation that otherwise wouldn't be there
The thing is, achievements are not intrinsically evil. In and of themselves they're actually quite useful. They're a great at-a-glance tool to compare yourself to your xbl friends.
But they spoil me. They are the ultimate iteration of games' task/reward system. You do something, and you're handed down a sense of accomplishment from on high. And without them, for some reason, I feel slightly unfulfilled. Not unfulfilled enough to ruin an experience, mind you, but certainly enough to notice.
I think the reason I feel this way is because I've come to associate Achievements with, well, achievement. It's like Facebook; if it didn't happen in pictures on facebook, it didn't really happen. If I don't have an achievement for it, I didn't really do it. And this sucks because of course i did it. I was there, I did beat the fucking water temple, I did kill Krauser, and I did (Grim Fandango spoilers) find Meche and get her on the Number 9.
I was playing Twilight Princess the other day and it felt a little bit hollow. I missed the little *do* *doo* when I transformed into badass Link for the first time, it should have been there, but it wasn't. And this disappointment based on expectation shouldn't really be there, because at the end of the day, it's just a number.
And if you really think about that, the number's not really for you, is it? How valuable would your gamer score be if it weren't displayed to all your friends? Nothing. It would just be another stat. And the worst thing about this is that it's turned gaming into a performative act. I'm no longer proud to get a second gold star in Bad Company 2 because I got it, I'm proud because others can see it.
I realize that I could be completely alone on this, and it's an argument based completely on principal, but I honestly wish that I could get rid of cheevos, simply so that I could enjoy my in-game achievements (accomplishments) intrinsically, and not as a number. I want to feel proud for myself, not because the game told me I'd reached a point where it would allow me to.
I haven't really been keeping up with this blog as of late, and that really makes me sad. Though I'm not exactly certain of why, my guess is that between school and the site I got a job at (which shall remain nameless), my creative writing juices are in short supply when it comes to the DToid department. And that depresses me, because honestly, I enjoy writing here more than anywhere else. So here we are, at a crossroads in the path that this here little blog may well end up takin' for a spell.
Basically, the old 1000+ word articles I used to write will be few and far between for the foreseeable future. In their place will be little Occam's Thoughts style posts, basically compilations of what are essentially flushed out tweets that I'll do my best to post at least once a week. Let's try it, and pray with me that it doesn't suck. And honestly, pray hard.
Halo: Reach came out. I feel like it's this super exclusive club that I want to but don't really want to be a part of, but do just 'cause of the sense of belonging. Kind of like that treehouse you weren't allowed into as a kid because your beyblade wasn't good enough or because you were still playing with Yu-Gi-Oh cards when all the cool kids had moved on to MtG. Or because they all had grown that single facial hair that for some reason saw fit to avoid your face, instantly labeling your "man"hood as inferior to that of the other 10-year-olds.
My Xbox doesn't support 720i, the only HD input my $80, 32", 9 year old, CRT TV will support. Blarg. I am frustrate. Now I'm simply unable to read the names of the 13 year olds who, on a regular basis, hand to me my sufficiently whooped posterior. And my pride.
I'm back playing Grim Fandango and frankly couldn't be happier. It took a bit of finagling to get it working, but it seems to play just fine. I've also decided that I'm attending next year's PAX at Manny Calavera, who wants to be Glottis?
This minecraft business somehow has laid the groundwork for a 3rd personal return to Second Life, since I don't have the requisite $15 to buy Minecraft itself. This is a very precarious time for Om Nom, because just like crack, a mere 15 minutes in the SL 3D modellor and I'll be spending all my free time and lots of time that really shouldn't be free building spaceships next to socially inept furries.
I actually forgot that I owned a Wii until I got that TV that has multiple inputs and had an opportunity to hook it up. And you know what? It's fucking awesome. I don't care what anyone says, the Wii has awesome game support. Look at all the awesome gamecube games it can play! /Sarcasm
But honestly, glad to have the Wii back in action.
Privates is too talked about. I don't care if it's set in a vagina, I don't care if it's set in an asshole, and I don't care if you battle STDs as a condom hattet microscopic marine, it tried to impart knowledge. It tried to teach me, and that, I cannot abide.
I know I'm on the cusp of cutting edge criticism here, but the fact that I have to buy the DLC to get full 'cheevos (the new it word for achievements) is bullshit. No I'm not going to work in a joke here. It just flat out sucks.
NVGR Nommin' Thought #1: That song that's like "can we pretend that airplanes in the night sky are like shooting stars, cuz I could really use a wish right now..." makes no sense. That's like saying "hey man, can we pretend these shorts are a burger? I'm really hungry right now." No.
Oh, and in class today, I spilled coffee on the girl I'm into. Her coffee. On her two, count 'em, TWO white shirts. Right before her internship at MTV. Yeah, that was fun.
~Om nom nom nom...
PS Occam's is it cool if I call the next one Nommin' thoughts? sounds better than what I got there, just don't wanna be all up in yo plagiarism victimized grill
PPS I just saw that in the unedited post is said "in there place..." I actually felt physical pain when I caught that shit. I HATE that mistake. Anyway...