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9:21 AM on 10.23.2009

My RPG Musings III: Elemental weaknesses

This sure came a lot later than what I originally planned due to being lazy, especially when I have less to say about this than other subjects.

Most RPGs have some sort of elemental weakness system and some RPGs make it a major focus while in others, not so much. Like status conditions, which I havenít cover in detail yet, I think elemental weaknesses in the average RPG doesnít do much for the game play, for better or worse. Although elemental weaknesses are supposed to add more strategy, I feel like this is not always the case, unless the game heavily focuses on them like Pokťmon. Elemental weaknesses tend to only make a difference in damage done. Once you know what an enemy is weak to, itís basically just a matter of blasting them with that element over and over. Itís not much more complex than throwing out the most powerful attacks. How many RPGs have elemental weaknesses that actually make much of a tactical difference than how much damage is dealt?

There could be various spells that are basically the same thing except with a different element attached to it. The Final Fantasy games tend to have the Fire, Blizzard, and Thunder spells that only differ in the element and nothing else. Unless an enemy is strong or weak to one of more of those elements, it mainly comes down to whatever you feel like throwing out at the time since it makes no difference otherwise. I suppose it would make more of a difference if you donít have access to all those elements at once.

Fire tends to be the one element that will always be there if a RPG has any kind of elemental system that uses any standard elements. Any other elements can vary between games. Ice and water tend to count as the other if the game only has one of those elements. This can be confusing if an ice enemy shows up and you expect them to be weak to fire when they really count as water. This can also lead to cases of water enemies counting as ice and possibly being weak to fire. For example, in Kingdom Hearts II, Demyx uses water, but counts as ice, so he turns out to be weak to fire attacks. Really, who would think to use fire against water and expect the former to overcome the latter? While what element is strong and weak against what changes between games, it tends to be a universe rule that water is strong against fire with little rule for exception. From what I heard, in Golden Sun, opposite elements are weak against each other, which leads to another case of fire being strong against water.

Thatís the other thing about elemental systems, especially if there is more than four elements, is that the logic of the weaknesses changes between games. Fire and ice may be weak against each other, but sometimes only fire is strong against ice and not vice versa. Wind may be strong against flying enemies, but if not, than lightning tends to be. Wind usually may be strong against fire, but not always. It tends to be a universe role that earth does nothing against wind since earth tends to count as ground. Certain RPGs may even have non-elemental attack spells, but they tend to be rare high level spells.

I felt like Chrono Trigger did elements in a way that could make quite a difference. There are four elements and each of them can have various effects on certain enemies. It wasnít just a matter of damage difference like elemental systems tend to be. Different enemies could react in different ways from what element you use against them, so the outcome of battle could actually have a big factor depending how you use the elements. Thereís quite a bit of ways that it happens, but I hardly remember specific examples off the top of my head.

Certain RPGs may use the four classic elements of Air, Earth, Fire, and Water, so each element is equally strong against one element and weak to another one. Aether never seems to get thrown in as a fifth element outside the other four. On the other hand, how often do the Chinese classic elements ever get used? They are made up of Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, and Water. I think each element is strong against two elements and weak against two others. Come to think of it, Metal or Steel is quite a rare element to see in games.

How about seeing more RPGs with elemental systems, if they use them, that actually makes more of a difference than damage? How about attaching secondary or status effects to the elemental spells? I know there are some cases of this, but not very many. This could also mean that elemental spells that enemies are not strong or weak against are not just simply interchangeable in effects, but could lead to more tactical planning.   read


11:29 AM on 10.18.2009

The possible problems of the Super Guide.

So I may sound like yet another hardcore elitist here that acts like people are not allowed to play games if they donít meet a certain skill requirement, but at least hear me out before coming to that conclusion. Originally called the Kind Code, we now know this feature will be called the Super Guide and will debut in New Super Mario Bros. Wii next month. People have been praising this for reasons like ďyounger and in-experience gamers can finally get inĒ and ďNintendo can finally make hard games againĒ. Oh sure itís easy enough to see how the anti-Super Guide people can be missing the point, but I think there are some things that the pro-Super Guide people may have overlooked, which is what Iíll mostly focus on. When this subject comes up, itís like almost everyone that talks about it forgets the concept that has been around since around the beginning, difficulty levels.


"Don't jump on me while I slowly walk toward you."


"Jump on me, I dare you!"

Nintendo could have done this long ago without needing to file a patent for a modified ghost system. They already put difficulty settings in various games before, even back on the NES. Super Mario Bros. would allow you to play through again with harder enemies and some other changes. The Legend of Zelda has the Second Quest mode that upped the difficulty quite a bit. The first Kirby on the GB had a secret hard mode. None of this carried over to the newer games, with only a select few newer games having difficulty settings. Why not just make better use of difficulty settings, including being allowed to change it mid game instead of starting over? For example, easy mode could add extra power ups and extra platforms. I remembered how Capcomís Mega Man Powered Up on the PSP would change quite a bit of things between the difficulty levels. On easy, enemies wouldnít fight as well, extra platforms would show up, bosses would flinch from all your attacks, not use their more powerful attacks, and the final boss would be one phase instead of two.


"Touch me to grow big and gain an extra hit point."

Why couldnít Nintendo do it this way? Letís take NSMB as it is on the DS. Now, what if that game had an easy and hard mode? Normal mode would be like how the game is now. Easy mode could have more blocks up with power ups, extra lives, more checkpoints, none of the tougher enemies, extra platforms for difficult jumps, and bosses with less HP. Basically, this mode could be easy enough that even the people that the Super Guide is aimed at can get through and finish the game if they put just a little bit of work into it. The difference between this and only one difficulty with Super Guide is that you could have the joy of actually playing through the game and finishing it without needing help or the option for the game to play a part of itself if you lost enough lives. They also shouldnít shame the player for playing on easy mode like some games do, like Ninja Gaidenís Black Ninja Dog mode (which I havenít used myself FYI). Hard mode could be shorter time limits, less power ups, more enemies, including the tougher ones, harder bosses, trickier jumps, poison mushrooms, and more. You could be made required to use double jumps, triple jumps, wall jumps, and such that you could mostly ignore on a normal playthrough. Now that could take more work than the Super Guide, but creating a great game isnít easy. I say the Zelda games are in dire need of difficulty settings so you wonít have to do a self imposed challenge to get more difficulty out of the game.


Not all mushrooms are good for your health.

Out of my fantasy and back to reality, of course I am fully aware of ďyou donít have to use it if you donít want toĒ. However, I still worry that this could directly affect me in one way or another. I say this because I fear that it might put certain people into the wrong mind set about games. Video games are supposed to be an interactive media and if the Super Guide is done wrong, could give non-gamers the wrong impressions of it being passive, even if they choose to use it. After all, thereís already many other misconceptions like how games reward instant satisfaction. Compared to when we first heard about the concept, I think they are handling it better then I first thought they would. At least they are designing it so that there will be some rewards for not using it. You also have to die at least eight times on a stage before you can use it. Considering the lives system and possibly starting off with five lives, this would mean you would need at least nine lives and be able to save up to that much. It also doesnít locate secrets for you, so you wonít just be able to easily 100% a game by using it. It wonít take all the work out of finishing the game.


Hammers hurt! Fight back with fire balls if possible.


"Save me to win the game!"

Due to the nature of the difficulty going up in games as you progress, couldnít it possibly get to the point where if you could barely handle world 3, than later worlds could just be nothing but Super Guide usage? Guiding an inexperience player to an even harder challenge than the one they couldnít finish before doesnít sound very helpful. I feel like this could set up the player for failure and frustration which is what the Super Guide is attempting to cut down on in the first place. If they couldnít finish an easier challenge on their own, how do we expect them to finish a harder challenge on their own? Couldnít this just lead to a cycle of just relying on help from the Super Guide over and over to point where youíre almost watching the game instead of playing it?


It's a secret to everybody. Not even the Super Guide knows how to find it.

The difference between this and walkthroughs is that you have to go out of way to find those and thatís out of the control of the game. Even by watching videos, you still have to be able to perform what you seen yourself. No amount of knowledge will get you pass a difficult section of you donít have the skills to pull it off. The Super Guide goes a step beyond that. As for getting others to play the part for you, thatís also very similar to the Super Guide, but the main difference is that itís not the game itself doing it. Thereís a difference between getting help and having the work done for you.


Jump over attacks to avoid getting hurt.


Not everyone wants to kill you, just 99% of them. Here's a buddy to help out.

People have also mention stuff about hard to find secrets or poorly designed puzzles. Again, the Super Guide wonít find those secrets. A poorly designed puzzle or secret that is poorly designed is what it is, Super Guide or not. The Super Guide shouldnít be an excuse for this, especially stuff you have basically no chance of figuring out without a walkthrough.


Lava burns! Avoid contact!

Another thing that Nintendo has already done (or at least their second party developers) is that in the Metroid Prime games, thereís a hint system. If you donít find the next upgrade for awhile, the game would pinpoint the location youíre supposed to go to on your map. While you still had to figure out how to get there yourself, it did at least point you to the right direction so you wouldnít end up roaming around endlessly with hardly a clue on where to go. The hint system could also be turned off for those who didnít want it. Is this not something that could be adjusted and used for games where it would be useful in?


Purple water is bad for you. Please don't attempt to swim in it if you care about your health.

Thereís yet another issue I worry about, at least for younger children. Video games can go beyond just mere entertainment. Are we teaching a good lesson to children if they can just skip a challenge instead of working at it? I understand being good at video games isnít a requirement in life like getting good grades in school, but Iím just saying. The thing is, just about anything you interact with, even for fun, requires some amount of effort. Is it so wrong and elitist to think that to play a video game, you should at least put a little bit of effort into it? Even on the easiest difficult settings, losing and attempting to get better is a part of what gaming is about. Only a ďcanít loseĒ mode is the exception to this. Dropping the difficulty when the going gets too tough is not the same as completely skipping the challenge. Although schools may give easier or harder work to people in the same class room based on their ability, you ultimately have to at least put a little bit of work into it. I bring up the school comparison because I seen it used before when it comes to discussion of the Super Guide. Who knows, maybe this whole worry would have no basis in reality.


Avoid falling down pits to live, like the one between the green pipes.


Use the power of friendship to overcome tough challenges.

So now that I got what I wanted to say out the way (if you actually read it and not skipped through), is what I said of any mint or just hardcore elitism? I just feel like better options that have been around all along will be ignored in favor of this. So to recap, easy difficulty settings and hint systems should ensure that people can finish a game they brought and not deal with the frustration of not actually finishing it because they got stuck somewhere. Ultimately, properly designed game play is the biggest factor. The people that the Super Guide is targeting can still finish the game and get the active experience of it with a proper easy mode and hint system, along with some motivation and effect on the playerís part.   read


11:32 AM on 10.16.2009

My RPG Musings II: Linearity

One of the things I noticed about most RPGs (and the majority of games in general, including Metroidvanias) is that the progress is very linear and hardly open-ended. It seems like ďopen-endedĒ and ďRPGĒ has very little overlap. I think this is another thing that more RPGs should attempt instead of the true and tired formula of almost strictly linear progress. I find it much easier to replay a game if I know I can do things in a different order instead of the same events every time I play.

There are numerous ways that a RPG will stop you from not allowing you to go where they donít want you to go at any given point. I feel like a lot of these are pretty stupid ways to stop you. Even if you only played a few RPGs, you could easily tell the game was blocking you off from going somewhere that you wasnít supposed to go to yet. Could be anything from someone blocking your path, a puddle, a two foot high tree log, a protest against unnatural hair colors, a toy train, bad fog that day, a lost child somewhere, and numerous other ways to stop you from going where the game doesnít want you to go at the moment. This is often a result of very linear storytelling and the developers will strictly have you follow by the book and not wander off at all from the given path. However, I donít see why more developers canít allow a more open-ended experience and adjust the story to suit. I notice JRPGs tend to be more linear than WRPGs, although itís still rare for a WRPG itself to be open-ended.

Iíll bring up a very popular RPG series that people like to dream big about beyond the official games, including ideas for a MMORPG. What if Pokťmon games were more open ended? Instead of mostly going through gyms in a certain order, you could freely explode the region after getting your first Pokťmon and challenge the gym leaders in any order. This would also mean anything that normally stops you from progressing like people, lacking a bike, and HM barriers would have to be removed. Seriously, why do they need people blocking you from passing certain areas till you get a gym badge when you need all eight to travel through Victory Road to reach the Elite Four anyway? However, I do realize there are a few problems this could lead too.

First off, storytelling could be harder, but it doesnít mean it canít happen. For example, in Mass Effect, you could take on three planets in any order, but itís not like the story suffered from it. KOTOR does something similar as well. Plots are developed with the game in mind and since most RPGs are designed to be linear, plots are developed as such. So therefore, if the game is open-ended, the developers can make the plot in such a way that doesnít break or isnít horrible because you can choose more than one path. Even if itís just a single ending, there could be multiple ways to reach it.

Back to this Pokťmon example, these games have never been groundbreaking for their storyline. Youíre basically a kid who wants to become the region champion by defeating eight gym leaders, the Elite Four, and the regionís current champion. Along the way you end up defeating a villain team and in the later generations, saving everyone from a legendary gone wild. Often the villain teams are fought numerous times and their plans have numerous phases. This works out very well due to the linear progress. However, if you could freely explode the region as soon as you got your first Pokťmon, the plot would have to be set up differently to take into factor you possibly visiting almost anywhere at any time.

Due to the nature of you getting stronger as you progress in RPGs, this could lead to various problems if the world were open-ended. Itís quite easy for the difficulty to become too easy or hard at times. Locations can be designed based off of enemy level, which can effectively lock out lower level characters. This would be almost like forced linear progress. Some RPGs do sometimes allow you to visit locations where the enemies are much stronger than you at the time, but itís still pretty linear and the story wonít lead you to those locations till youíre supposed to be on par with the enemies there.

Bringing up the Pokťmon example, think of one of the main games, but remove the barriers that normally block you like those that require the use of HMs or people simply blocking your way. Keeping the levels the same otherwise could still force linear progress, as heading out into an area when your too weak can still spell doom. Now you could get lucky and catch a level 42 Pokťmon while still having a team full of Ďmons no higher than level 10. This could easily break the balance and have you using that level 42 Ďmon to easily OHKO Ďmons in the lower level areas. They could also just put a forced trainer battle in front of the routes to determine that youíre not too weak for the area, but that would be a barrier itself, which my idea would be to remove.

Open ended RPGs tend to use something called level-scaling to overcome this problem. This basically means the levels of the enemies you face is adjusted to your own level(s). Two games that come to mind the most are Final Fantasy VIII and Oblivion. FFVIII is pretty linear in progress, yet in an attempt to remove level grinding and focus more on the GF system, they made most of the enemies scale with your party level average, including non-active party members. The power growth from levels alone between party members and enemies isnít 1:1, but tips a lot more in the enemyís favor. So simply leveling will give the enemies a bigger power gap than you and effectively make things more difficult. The GF system is how youíre supposed to gain an edge, but you donít need to be a high level to do that, so staying at lower levels can be more effective.

Well, do I really need to go into detail of Oblivionís level-scaling system when it has already been ripped apart by countless people now? Well, I better put my own spin on it so what I say isnít just a repeat of whatís been said many, many times before. Itís like the game wants to be a RPG, but at the same time, it wants to be an action game where the enemies get stronger while you usually donít to make it more difficult. The previous game in the series, Morrowind, had this to an extent, but not as crazy and getting stronger meant you could still easily crush weaker enemies. On the other hand, due to the open-world, being a low level could effectively lock out certain areas where high level enemies roam. Fallout 3 designed a level range for areas and would lock the enemies in a given area at whatever level you were at when you first entered. KOTOR and Mass Effect seem to make enemies more powerful in the ďchoose your orderĒ areas by how late you visit them or simply level-scaling. Someone might know about that more than I do.

So now, applying level-scaling within this fictional Pokťmon game, you could go wherever you wanted and not worry about fighting something 20 levels above you. However, to what extent would this apply to; wild Pokťmon, trainers, or even gym leaders? They donít have to match the level average of your team, but could say, be levels below or above your team average. Even then, that could pose a problem, because for example, if gym leaders were five levels above your average, that would make a big difference. Level 15 is a lot higher than level 10 compared to 45 to 40. I donít mean that level 15 is 50% stronger than level 10, but the strength gap between levels still are higher early on. I think the Elite Four would be better off remaining untouched, since their meant to be the final test before getting into the Hall of Fame and is supposed to be beaten as the result of your entire journey up to that point. Scaling them based off your level could easily ruin.

Ultimately, an open-world RPG could either still be linear due to your levels being too low in certain areas or level-scaling could be use which can lead one to questioning the point of leveling up in the first place. I think the only real way this could work is if the combat system depends more on skill and strategy than pure power, but thatís something I plan to discuss in a future My RPG Musings. Can a truly open-ended RPG work out without power barriers or broken level-scaling?

Thereís no increased chance of seeing this happen at all because some random guy on a lesser known video game website would like to see this happen more often. Developers wonít look here, see this, and be like ďokay, letís spend at least a year or more changing our game around to be less linear and more open-ended because random Internet guy #193,546,623,284 thought it would be nice to seeĒ. One can dream right?   read


12:18 PM on 10.13.2009

In defense of sexy video game women.



This is by far my longest c-blog yet and also a bunch of pictures to spice up the lengthy word count.

So, there have been a lot of complaints from a lot of women and even quite a bit of men that many female video game characters are merely sex objects. There are largely two extremes here at work, one being what I just mention and the other being mostly the stereotypical horny teenage male that indeed do view and treat women merely as sex objects and not people. Most people that regularly talk about stuff in gaming industry tend to of course, be on the first end like Yahtzee of Zero Punctuation fame. I had it with the two extremes at work here and Iím sick and tired of the same arguments coming up over and over without any counter-arguments that I see are valid. Are some of these complaints valid or are most of them just overblown from America society that has a very love-hate relationship with sexual content? For the most part, I felt like I only read and seen stuff from a few people like Moviebob of Game Over Thinker fame that isnít like ďsex appeal is horrible, periodĒ like what I mostly see from the gaming community. However, since this is coming from the view point of a heterosexual male, that could be a big factor in how people react to this c-blog. Maybe if I were female this would be yet another rant against such aspects, but not all women are against the mere concept of sex appeal woman. Even way, it would certainly be a big difference in reaction. The standard viewpoint is that if a woman in gaming has sex appeal, sheís automatic being objectify, a bad role model, has horrible character design, and more. In this view point, the people designing them are nothing more than misogyny pigs. Now there are examples of women that basically have little character beyond being sex symbols, but it seems like thatís all thatís being focused on. Maybe itís not so much that women are being designed with sex appeal, but how itís done. Iím also not quite able to use the argument that ďthese women are in control of their sexualityĒ since these are fictional characters developed in most cases by heterosexual men and itís not like these characters act on their own. Since those people who view women merely as sex objects are already pretty much debunked, Iíll focus my attention more on ďsex appeal is bad!Ē thatís quite common. There are various arguments related to this and Iíll organize them in such a way that should make it much easier to read than simply by paragraph after paragraph.

ďThose women look unrealistic.Ē

Letís make this clear right away that people tend to complain about women being unrealistic only if they look unrealistic and not if they can perform unrealistic feats. Nevermind if they can perform inhuman feats or even have superpowers, how realistic a woman is in this case depends solely on how she looks. Even then, there wouldnít be complaints about them looking unrealistic attractive if they are done in a clearly unrealistic style, like anime, but only if its unrealistic sex appeal. Why is it that women have to look realistic anyway to be considered good characters? The actual reason for the complaint is that the person believes the woman to be objectified, but instead of directly addressing that, they indirectly address it with arguments like this which when used by themselves, I see quite flawed and invalid. I can see this argument only being valid if the characters are supposed to look realistic, but the females have Barbie figures while the males much more closely match real men. Even then, many ďrealisticĒ settings are only semi-realistic. Even in games where the characters are supposed to be everyday people, they will still realistic be attractive to an extent.

Video games, much like other media, tend to be fantasy and idealized. Now granted that video games tend to be largely male fantasies, but they are fantasies nonetheless. Sure women tend to wear revealing outfits in settings that logically wouldnít be logical, but this is why itís fantasy and not reality. Itís almost like the factor of the males being idealized is almost completely forgotten about. There are still male video game characters here and there that donít quite look realistic. I know there is a clear difference between how males and females are designed and marketed, which Iíll get to that.

ďMen donít get objectify.Ē/ďMen donít commonly run around half naked.Ē

There are different standards for what people find attractive and sexy between men and women. Men also tend to be much more horny then women. Itís not like you can have a guy run around wearing little more than underwear and expect the majority of women to like him the way it is vice versa. Men tend to like to see bare skin more for what they find attractive then women. Itís also much easier and acceptable to show off womenís breasts then a guyís penis, which is not quite as easy to imply like it is to show some cleavage. Women tend to have more complex standards for what they find attractive than merely showing skin. In lists made by women of most attractive male video game characters, I see more variety in those and actual appearance plays a much smaller role compared to their personality. Thatís not to say Iím gonna stereotype myself and act like men only care about how a woman looks. How exactly would you objectify a man anyway? I donít mean that question in an ďitís not possibleĒ way, but would that work out? If men would put in the same sexual roles as women, would female gamers take much of an interest? Thus far, I only saw sex-crazed female fans in yaoi fandoms that do easily get on if a guy looks attractive and is shirtless or less.

ďThere needs to be more balance.Ē

What if women were in charge of developing games instead of men? While there would be far less women designed to be sexual appealing, they would still be attractive and designed to look beautiful and cute. People as a whole tend to want to feel like better people than they are and looking that way is one of those aspects. If people can put themselves into a fantasy setting, how many would intentional make themselves ugly? Even if women were to go wild with their sexual desires like how men tend to do now when developing games and such, there would likely be a lot less sexual content. How many women get on from the following image?



While it would be pretty rare, they may be a character or two every now and then that does look like the same fantasy woman that a man would have designed. On the other hand, I wonder what the results would be like if gay males were put in charge of developing some games.

ďFemale gamers are unable to relate to these characters.Ē



One of the most common complaints is that female gamers are unable to relate to the women in gaming, which is mostly solely on how they look. Even if we move past appearance, most male gamers are unable to relate to the men in gaming as well, at least directly. In the average game, youíre often a guy performing feats that you would be hard pressed to do in real life. How many men can kill hundreds of people, run and jump without getting tired, keep on going regardless of how injured they are, and more? I donít know about you people, but I donít want to be able to relate to a video game character in most cases. If I could relate to them, they wouldnít be able to even remotely perform cool feats at all. Unless my whole argument is invalid if people are talking about relating to the personality of a game, but even then, these complaints are still largely based on a characterís appearance. Even in games that allow you to create a character and even import your face in, youíll still likely be doing stuff thatís far beyond what you could do outside the game. Itís not like there isnít quite a bit of male power fantasy male characters whose personality basically comes down to ďRIP AND TEAR!Ē even if developers try to hide it better these days.



Now Iíll get to men in games that are idealized. Look at the majority of the games out there these days with male lead characters. Characters like Kratos and Marcus Fenix may not look handsome, but they are still idealized and are very built. How many men are built like them? How many people are complaining that they look unrealistic or are expected to be like them? Even for male characters not designed to be male power fantasies who are pumping muscles throughout their body, they are still idealized. If you were to go outside and look around or check out the Average Joe on TV, how many are slim and fit like various video game characters? How many lead characters are just Average Joes in appearance? The rule and not the exception is that men are idealized as powerful while women are idealized as attractive. How many games do you play as men who are not empowered in some kind of way? Other than some exceptions like many survival horror games, not so much. Now Iím not in any way saying that being designed to be powerful is even remotely similar to being designed to be merely sexy, but I could spent awhile going on about that, which I wonít go any further about that here to still focus on the sex appeal of female video game characters. However, outside of empowerment, I like to make a quick mention about how Japanese games and anime tend to feature pretty boys as their idealized males, especially since itís rare for a male lead character to not be a pretty boy.



ďFemale gamers lack good role models.Ē



Finally, people have complained about the lack of female role models in gaming, but do they really think many modern male ďheroesĒ in gaming are role models? Can you only have a role model of someone of the same sex as you? Are there no male characters that females can view as role models and vice versa? If an anti-gamer complained that video game characters are bad role models for children, how many characters can we show them to prove them wrong for higher rated games? Considering the nature of games, many games are not focused on moral lessons and such are possible not the best media to look for role models.



ďAlyx Vance and Jade from Beyond Good & Evil are positive role models.Ē



These two ladies are given so much praise because they look realistic. Now Iím not denying that they very well indeed may have strong character, but this mostly only gets brought up because of how they look. If they were designed with more sex appeal, but otherwise had the same personality, they would not be considered good role models. How many female characters that are considered sexual appealing have ever been considered a role model from the same people that consider Alyx and Jade role models? Now Iím not gonna invalid my own argument and do the opposite by acting like a female character canít be ďgoodĒ if they donít have sex appeal, but itís just that a lot of it still comes down to judging by appearance. There have been people that even blamed the poor sales of Beyond Good & Evil due to Jade not being a sex symbol.



ďPeople focus too much on the sex appeal of female video game characters.Ē

Itís a common complaint that those that like the sex appeal of female characters focus too much on appearance, when those complaining about it are doing the same thing. It may be for different reasons, but they are still judging if a female character is good or not based on how much sex appeal she has. Am I the only one seeing a double standard here or is my argument invalid for one reason or another?

Itís like if a woman is designed with sex appeal, sheís ultimately a bad character who solely appeals to horny heterosexual males. Itís like sex appeal is always a negative trait and if a woman has it, anything positive about her is thrown out the window. Itís like it comes down to the two extremes of ďstrong and little to no sex appealĒ or ďsexy bimbo with no character otherwiseĒ. Even from what I gathered on say, the Rev Rant on Sexy Heroines, itís just one or the other. Itís like thereís this black and white thinking that applies to a lot of subjects with little to no room for gray middle ground and sex appeal is largely one of those.

ďWomen are under pressure to look like these fantasies.Ē

So once again, I know, Iím a heterosexual male, so what do I understand about this? There is no way I can deny that far greater pressure is put on women than men to look attractive. On the other hand, itís almost like itís being ignored that men donít have pressures put on them too when it comes to appearance, although to a lesser extent. Men and women are pressured to not appear fat, for example. Is it really worth being with or making an attempt to impress someone that judges what people should look like based on fantasy? Men who expect their women to look like perfect models are mistaken and so are women who expect themselves to look like that. Seriously, do there not exist women who realize that they donít have to crater to rare or impossible body types? Are we saying that women are too weak to not try to crater to idealized standards and spend thousands of dollars in the process? Itís almost like peer pressure in a way. While Iím not quite able to relate to the peer pressure of appearance, I can when it comes to other things, like when I was in high school and decided to not want to be a part of the stupidly of most of the students there. I much rather be an outcast than crater to such narrow standards. Life story aside, maybe itís long overdue for many women to do the same for impossible body standards.

For you ladies, if a guy doesnít want to be with you because you donít look like a supermodel, he just did you a favor. I say that because is it really worth wanting to be with someone that judges you that much by impossible standards? All those stereotypical teenage boys online who act like real life women should look like those in the media is just saving you time in not trying to become friends with them. They basically show how narrow they are in a pretty quick way.

ďSex appeal can rule a manís judgment.Ē

I am fully aware that males can easily focus on sex appeal to the point of losing focus on other things. I do know that simply appealing to sexual desires is enough to sell a product and otherwise hardly put any effort into it. However, just because a game with sex appeal and horrible game play is panned by critics doesnít always mean the developers focused more on sex appeal then game play. It also doesnít mean that developers canít make a good game with a sexy heroine.



Itís easy to say a game like X-Blades has horrible game play simply because of the sex object that is the heroine and that the developers may have focused more on that then anything else. This same argument has been used for games with high production values in graphics as well that get panned. Not that Iím here to defend that game, especially since it sounds like a case of ďsex object with little characterĒ and not ďstrong character with sex appealĒ. It also doesnít help that action games with strong focus on sex appeal tend to do have horrible game play and the opposite is the exception.



The developers of Bayonetta are certainly not trying to hide the fact that the lead character has sex appeal, but at the same time, it also appears that they actually care about making the game play remarkable. They appear to be going by game play before sex appeal instead of vice versa. This is just going by impressions and not a review of final product itself, a subject I covered in one of my previous c-blogs.



So to quickly touch on something else related to this before this c-blog becomes long enough to publish a book on, thereís games designed mostly to sexual appeal to men like Dead or Alive and the concept of breast physics. Breast physics in general can be a quick way to turn a female character into a sex bimbo. With the two beach spinoffs, especially since they only feature the female characters from the series as playable, itís no secret that the real stars are just a pair of breasts attached to a womanís body, along with the sport they play so the breasts have an excuse to move. Even in this highly sexualize male fantasy; there are some women out there who enjoy playing the games for the dress up factor. I canít deny that the main focus here is the sex appeal and it may very well turn off many female gamers, but this is another aspect of people designing what they like. Just like games designed around shooting because people like that, these games exist because of the people that like sex appeal.



So to wrap this up, there may be a case for women in gaming merely being sex objects and hardly more, but itís almost like a woman canít be sexy and still have strong character. However, if women in gaming being sex objects first and characters second is the main issue, then why not directly mention that instead of using some of these other arguments to indirectly address it? As long as we are sexual beings, this will never stop. However, there is a fine line between controlling it and letting it control us. Somewhere within a subject as complex as human sexuality, I must have completely missed the point somewhere. Even this c-blog can barely touch the surface on a subject this complex and if I keep going, would easily be triple the length or more. It gets longer anytime I go back through it and have more thoughts on the matter. So letís hear the agreements, disagreements, and whatnot.   read


10:50 AM on 10.11.2009

My RPG Musings: The Beginning

I played a lot of games over the years and out of the many kinds of games I played, RPGs were included. I used to love these games and could play them for hours on end. However, as I got older and less OCD about gaming, I started to get really bored of many RPGs out there and for the most part, I donít touch them that much these days. However, I havenít completely given up on RPGs, but it will take a lot for me to get into one nowadays. Iím not here to say ďRPGs suck and should go die in a fire!Ē, but instead, ďhow I think RPGs could be improved because I want to like more of themĒ. Thereís much I could talk about when it comes to these games and how I think they could be better, although Iím hardly the only one. Assuming I donít get too lazy (which is likely), I could talk about tons of subjects like level grinding, drop rates, missable items, linear progress, ultimate weapons, element based weaknesses, and more. I think Iíll just start off from the beginning, as in the beginning of the games. I donít think this has been talked about as much as many other aspects of RPGs.

RPGs can have a bunch of weapons, spells, various party members, and more. However, at the start of the game, you may be stuck with one or two party members and limited to just attack and using potions every now and then. Often, I tend to dread the beginning of a RPG the most, at least if I play it for the second time, because there tends to be little strategy thatís made up of mashing attack and using a healing item every now and then. Sure it usually gets more complex later, but at the start, not so much. Now, since Iím not here to hate on RPGs, I wonít single them out for this. Oldskool style shooting games where you progressively get better weapons tend to have a bunch of fancy weapons (with limited ammo), but youíll only start off with a pea shooter which I often find boring to use. Racing games will advertise a bunch of fancy cars that can go over 200 MPH, but at the start of the game, youíll end up driving an used car that looked like it survived a couple of whacks and can barely go faster than an interstateís speed limit.

Anyway, Iím the kind of person that likes depth and strategy to ultimately be the deciding factor in battles, not just sheer overpowering through higher numbers. Iíll get to that sooner or later, proven I donít get too lazy. I find it very dull when your entire strategy is just to mash attack over and over and win simply because youíre stronger than what you face. I think a perfect example of this are the Pokťmon games. They have hundreds of Pokťmon and hundreds of moves that can lead to really in-depth strategy thatís more than just winning by sheer power alone (at least in the metagame), but this depth doesnít come till later. At the beginning, you have a level 5 Pokťmon that can only use Tackle (or something very similar) and a basic attack or defensive raising or lowering move. Along the first couple of routes or so, you tend to fight Normal types and Flying types, at which point, are also stuck using Tackle and tend to be level 2 or 3. Basically, the beginning of the game boils down to just a Tackle-fest and you only coming out on top because your Pokťmon is higher level.

Another game I feel that suffers greatly from this is Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories. So the series is considered an Action RPG, but a RPG nonetheless. In this game, actions like attacking and casting spells is done through the use of cards. These cards can also be used two or three at a time to combine into more powerful moves (called sleights) then just using these cards by themselves. There are many of these sleights and the game is designed in such a way that you should use these more than the cards by themselves, especially later on. By the end of the game, you can have quite a bit of cards and quite a bit of sleights to mix and match. However, at the start of the game, you have very little options. It basically comes down to just mashing attack and spamming attack cards before you get access to more depth and strategy, even if that strategy is spamming the same sleights over and over. So when I decided to play the game again on Proud (hard) mode, I was thinking that ďoh boy, Iím gonna make these unique decks and sleights so I can do more than spam attack for most of the gameĒ, yet it turns out such options were almost non-existence at the beginning of the game.

I feel that you should have access to a lot more depth and strategy right from the start of the game instead of later on. I donít like having to play about half way or so through the game before I can feel like I have a variety in how I can battle. Just because the story progressive may be linear doesnít mean the battle system has to be too before they decide you can do more than attack. At best, you may be able to cast a basic elemental spell as well aside attack and using a potion. When I talk about variety, Iím also talking more than just ďshould I use Fire I or Fire II that only has a power and MP cost difference?Ē, but thatís another in-depth subject for down the road. When I say more options, I mean starting off with more weapons, spells, and techniques to play off weaknesses and more status effect options.

Of course, there has to be a reason why the developers decided that you hardly have access to most of the techniques at the start of the game. I have a couple of theories on that. My first theory is that they may do this to ease you into the game and not overwhelm you too much, so you may hardly be required to think much at all besides the attack or potion options. From here, they can slowly add more options before suddenly, you have many ways you can win. This can be a way of keeping the difficulty down by not having to worry as much about what you can do. My other theory is that they want to hook you into the game by giving you access to new stuff as you progress. A game tends to be more interesting if thereís new stuff to discover over the span of the game isnít it? The developers figure that aside from story and setting changes, youíll want to keep going to see what new weapon or spell you may discover next that can change how you play, even if slightly. So in a way, itís like ďI know I barely have any options right now, but later, Iíll be able to do all kinds of cool stuffĒ. I feel that this is a long standing trope that I would like a game to break from the norm and give you far more options from the beginning, so even if you replay the game over and over, youíll be able to play it differently by using different strategies.

So how do you feel about this? Do you think the start of a RPG is fine the way it is when you start with very limited combat options or should you start off with more? Know any RPGs out there which give you a greater variety and actual strategy right from the get go?   read


10:43 AM on 10.02.2009

Controllers are NOT too complex. Also Wiimote elitists.

One of the things that I been hearing about a lot, especially with the existence of the Wii, is that game controllers have became too complex. I heard this argument from non-gamers and gamers alike. Iím also aware that most modern games usually throw in a function on every single button just for the sake of doing so as not to have that one odd button that doesnít do anything. However, I think this ďtoo complexĒ thing may be just an excuse, as hardcore elitist as that may sound, especially with such a bold statement as the c-blog title. Sure I may have grown up back in simpler times when controllers had far less buttons on them, but I say a couple of generations ago with the likes of the PSOne and N64, along with 3D gaming in general, controllers didnít get much more complex from there. After all, itís not like controllers look like this (yet)Ö



I think we have gotten a lot better in fact. Remember some of the old controllers back when games were a lot less complex, yet some developers decided to throw in a keypad for some reason?









This is compared to controllers back in the day that had a big joystick and a button or two at most. It got so confusing that many games would come with an overlay for the controller. However, looking at the screen and trying to look at the controller doesnít seem like it would do well for surviving in the game. AnywayÖ

Modern controllers may sound confusing when broken down into a d-pad, four face buttons, two triggers, two shoulder buttons, two analog sticks which also acts as two buttons, two menu buttons, and a home button that this generation added. However, itís about 12 buttons overall, although the d-pad tends to act as four extra buttons in many modern games. The back/select and start buttons are not really used as part of normal game play controls, but usually to open up menus. The left and right analog sticks have largely universe use, like how the right stick tends to move the camera. A/X usually jumps in many games. A/X goes ahead in menus, while B/Square tends to go back in menus. The shoulder buttons on the right tend to shoot in most 3rd and 1st person shooters. Pressing down the left analog stick in many FPSs will duck while pressing down the right stick tends to zoom in. Basically, there are many standards across games and itís not like the buttons act completely different across any given game.

Many modern games tend to start off with some sort of controller tutorial which is often done through showing you what buttons do what. Itís also a standard to often show you what button to press like when in front of a weapon to pick up or something to press. They donít completely throw you in the dark about how to control the game. Not to mention the manual explains it and even if the manual isnít on hand, there may be a controls menu in the game itself, although itís not too common to see these days. Either way, we donít need this kind of controllerÖ



My point of bringing this up is that ultimately itís something that will take some getting used to. Of course someone isnít gonna get far if they quit within the first five minutes if they even get far enough to hold a controller. Iíll argue that the keyboard is a lot more complex to master, since there are many keys and the letters are scattered around in a way that would be pretty confusing at first. I know I didnít start off not looking at the keyboard and being able to use muscle memory to know where the keys are at. PC games that are not designed with consoles in mind will usually have many keys do something. If someone can use a keyboard, surely they can easily master a game controller. Now I am fully aware of the difference in that knowing how to use a keyboard is basically a required skill in this computer age unlike using a game controller. Itís not like youíre really gonna run into any setbacks if you donít know how to use the DualShock 3, compared to the many you can run into if you donít know how to use a keyboard.

Another comparison that may or may not be so good is comparing game controllers to musical tools. Both of them (especially the latter) can take time to learn, but can prove to be fun once you know what youíre doing. Now granted that guitars and such are much more mainstream and far more likely to earn you money and become famous than a 360 controller, they both take time to learn in one way or another.

Time to shift gears to another topic about controllers since Iím currently going on about them. One of the things that Iím tired of hearing about is people complaining that people use the Classic or GameCube controller in Wii games that allow them. Brawl and Mario Kart Wii are among two big examples of Wii games that allow a wide range of controllers to be used. Itís like according to these people, youíre supposed to use the Wiimote or youíre missing the point of the console. When I say Wiimote, I also mean the Nunchuk, Zapper, Wii Wheel, or any other attachment that isnít the Classic Controller. Itís like youíre a better person if you have a golden wheel in MKW for mostly using the wheel compared to those that use more standard controllers. Itís like everything can be better with the Wiimote. Now Iím not here to bash the Wiimote, but I am tired of its fanboys that act like itís either their way or the highway.

I think one factor these people overlooked is that the developers offer this as a choice. If the developers didnít want people playing their games with standard controllers, they wouldnít allow the option to do so, simple as that. For one reason or another, they allowed standard controllers to be used in the games that itís possible to do so for. If they really thought that the Wiimote should be the only way to play their game, than they would have made it so. Maybe they think that not every game needs to use the Wiimote to the full extent just because the game is on the Wii. It would be like complaining that every DS game doesnít make heavy use of the touch screen or the mic. Whatís the point in raging against players that choose to use an option enabled by the developers? In complaining that those who use the GameCube controllers are hardcore elitists, these people have become hardcore elitists in their own way by acting like the Wiimote is the only proper way to play a Wii game. The hypocrisy of this is pretty painful to me.

So to sum up everything, people that complain controllers are too complex should give them a chance first instead of just dismissing them altogether. Also the Wiimote-only elitists are just fighting a pointless battle as far as I can see it.   read


11:44 PM on 09.25.2009

The Forgotten: GTA2



My chance to jump on this monthly musing before itís too late.

Everyone from non-gamers, little children, media watchdog groups, the animal kingdom, space aliens, and more has heard about the GTA series. As shocking as it may sound, GTAIII wasnít the first game in the series, although it might as well have been since thatís when it became among one of the most well known game IPs of all time and could have easily been forgotten prior to that. GTA2 came out in 1999 on multiple systems including the PC, PSOne, DC, and GBC. I only played the PSOne version, which was toned down in game play content [slightly], graphics, and went from M to T rating. I was young when I first played it and spent a ton of time playing it since I havenít quite experienced anything like it before. Thereís a reason why the series didnít catch on till it first landed on the PS2...



This might be the reason why games like Driver caught on around the time and that this didnít.

Many of the features common in later GTA games are here, especially GTAIII. The character you control in this game is Claude Speed, who may or may not be the same Claude in GTAIII. Due to the graphics, this likely didnít really matter much. There are three districts, although it was level based and not free roam across the entire city at once. Kill Frenzy bonus missions, which are pretty much rampages, are here. Painting your vehicle is still the primary way of getting the cops off of you while still staying alive. The wanted level system is very similar, including SWAT teams at four stars, FBI at five, and the army at six (or cop heads in this game). However, the army was pretty deadly in this game, since they pretty much appeared all over the city, complete with tank road blocks. Considering the nature of the view point, you wouldnít easily see this coming. Tanks IIRC could drive over most other vehicles and destroy them in the process, although not quite the touch of death in the later games. They also couldnít survive bullets and explosives the same way, since four explosives meant the end of them. Otherwise, they were still pretty godly.

There are also quite a bit of different things that it carried over from the first game, but didnít carry over to the newer games. The goal is to get a certain amount of money, from one million to five million depending on the district. Missions are optional and not story based, but they tend to be the quickest way to make money. There is a money multiplier that increases for every mission you finish and would drop by half if you died. You could even get a game over due to the life system. Vehicles could be rigged in various ways like adding machine guns and land mines to them. Oh the joys that I would have in landing down a mine whenever the cops were coming. A bunch of Elvis impersonators could show up in a line at once, that you could get a cash bonus from running them over in one clean sweep. Other criminals existed, like muggers (in red shirts) and car jackers (in green shirts) that the cops would shoot on sight.

The gameís tagline is ďRespect is everythingĒ based on there being seven gangs spread across three districts, one of which that shows up across the whole city. There would be three gangs you deal with at a time in any given district and they each have a respect meter which is affected by various things. Average or higher respect would determine which missions you could take for the gang. Below average respect would make them your enemy who will use increasingly powerful weapons the more they hated you, to the point they may pack flame-throwers and even rocket launchers. Respect could be shifted in a few ways, which mostly involved just killing a gangís members, which will lead to another gang liking you more and another not caring.

I havenít touched the game in so many years now, and I donít know how well it aged, but this and the first GTA are free downloads from Rockstarís site. Even experiencing the stuff on the PC version that I missed out on the PSOne version may not be enough to make up for what Iím used to in the later games. It might be better left in the past as not to ruin those good memories since I might find various flaws and nitpicks if I play it today. Still, it was good times while it lasted.   read


11:19 AM on 09.23.2009

Originality in gaming

Gonna admit, this is pretty hard to get all my thoughts clear and organized on this topic without repeating stuff. Moving onÖ

Nowadays, I keep reading about how originality is lacking and how the same shooters, sports games, and JRPGs are being pumped out over and over and staying at top of the sales charts. People that complain about the lack of originality in games often tend to point to some examples from a single year alone that seems to invalidate their own point. I say this because especially nowadays, such titles will always be in the minority. Besides, with the rise of Indie games, we can see more creative and risk taking than before. People appear to be more willing to try out these games that they otherwise might ignore at full retail price. For example, Castle Crashers is a very popular XBLA game that is in a genre that mostly doesnít see the light of day anymore. How well would it have done as a full retail game, assuming it had higher production values, for the sake of this example? Genres like fighting games (especially 2D ones) and shoot Ďem ups tend to have a more dedicated following. These tend to be niche titles for a reason. More Americans are interested in blasting someoneís face off with a shotgun than kicking them in the face. Another example is how much attention does fighting games that only feature lolis and moe get compared to more mainstream fighting games?

Trends have changed with gaming over the years, which may have to do with technology advancing, losing its kiddy image, and being less hobbyist. Even back in the days where there was more room for creative and diversity, some genres were more popular than others. Back in the early 1990s, platformers, including those with furry mascots, were pretty popular. Nowadays platformers tend to not be quite as popular by itself and is often just an aspect in action games. Most of those furry mascots have been left behind. Adventure games pretty much ruled the PC market before they more or less became niche titles. Even before FPS games and simulation racers became big like they are today, bits and pieces of them were already there. It was basically only a matter of time due to the technology not really being there yet. Run and gun games like Contra and Gunstar Heroes were pretty popular since even then people loved shooting tons and tons of dudes. Doom was among the big start of the rise of FPS games due to id Software figuring out how to get technology to work well enough back in 1993.

Marketing can play a big factor in this. How will people know about a game if they never hear about it? How many popular games with low sales mostly survive by word of mouth? How can you have an interest or desire to play a game that you donít even know exists? For the games that were popular, but sold poorly, how much marketing did they get? Thatís not to say a heavily marketed game will automatic sell well, but marketing can help canít it?

This is also not by any means just limited to the game industry. How often do you see comic books that are not about superheroes, especially those from DC or Marvel? How many movies will you see in theaters that are very similar to many other movies you seen? How much anime features pretty boys and schoolgirls? What about IPs or genres that only dedicated fans like, but everyone else hates? I think certain horror movie franchises are a great example of this. Whatís the point of telling people to stop buying or watching those movies when they clearly enjoy them? Isnít it pretty annoying to only be ďallowedĒ to like popular things? Anyway, itís not like you have to be brainwashed and have an IQ in the single digits to enjoy them. These tend to be called mindless entertainment for a reason and not everything has to reach out to the human condition in some meaningful way. Thatís a topic for another time. Anyway, itís not like the sales of these ďonly fans like itĒ franchises are stopping the stuff you like from being made is it? My point is, every media has its clichťs and in gaming, shooters and JRPGs just happen to be among those clichťs.

Itís also a culture thing, which is why games that may sell well in America sell horribly in Japan and vice versa. People have complained about how Americans donít really care about certain games, but itís not like Americans are the only ones who are like this. There are many games that the Japanese hardly care about either even if they were developed by a Japanese gaming company. It also tends to be the reason why many games never get an official release outside of Japan, including sequels. For example, the popular FPS and GTA games in America are hardly that popular in Japan.

Tim Schaferís Psychonauts got very positive review scores and even some awards, but it didnít appeal to all that wide range of people compared to BrŁtal Legend which looks like it will go on to enjoy massive sales. I canít say for sure that it will sell like hot cakes, but thatís my impression. After all, rock and roll will appeal a lot more to people than psychic kids with unusual character designs. Just because I said unusual doesnít mean bad, just unusual.

Another thing is that do you really want many of these limited interest stuff to become popular? For example, what if Okami was westernized to get more mass appeal? Sure it may draw in more Americans to play it, but what about the people that enjoyed it for what it was prior to that? People generally tend to enjoy stuff more if they understand it. Thatís not to say a game canít be both unique and popular, but thatís the exception, not the rule.

On that note, if something starts out unique doesnít mean it will remain that way, especially if it becomes popular. How many games could you find that played like Guitar Hero prior to its release? Maybe one or two that most Americans didnít hear about. Now between that and Rock Band, the genre has been milked enough that can lead one to wonder about the welfare of the cows and if a case for animal abuse should be filed. Speaking of which, those, along with sports games will keep selling because people will enjoy them. Are we ever really gonna reach a point that people are tired of sports or music?

For one reason or another in this case, it seems like the minority feels a need to out lash against the majority. Letís keep in mind that this is just entertainment, not much more serious issues that will affect day to day living. Should the creation of the most popular game IPs and genres be banned for the next two years to force developers to come up with something original? Should someone not like a newer game, they may just stick with an older one. Itís not like Halo 3 is going anywhere anytime soon if the series was dropped. Are people who prefer games that most havenít heard of or doesnít care about somehow better than those who just want another game to put bullets in a bunch of peopleís skulls?

I do understand that games that donít sell well tend to not make enough money or interest for the developers to make a sequel to. Beyond Good and Evil is getting a sequel after how long, seven years? Along the factor of small companies having to play it safe and hardly have room for risks means less of these games are likely to come out as full retail titles and not just Indie or download only releases.

Being a fan of such niche genres also means having less games to look forward too. Being a fan of FPS games means that there will be multiple new titles per month to play. Having a heavy interest in survival horror (not action horror) games means waiting a whole lot longer before a new one comes out. Not to mention unofficial genres that hardly shows up, like Metroidvanias. After playing and really enjoying Shadow Complex, I was like ďwhy canít there be more games like this?Ē The only other game that I can think of off the top of my head that is considered a Metroidvania outside of the Metroid and Castlevania games is Cave Story and very few gamers know about that compared to the other two seriesí, which Cave Story itself is just a single game.

Itís like weíre just fighting over different tastes and for what good? Just because certain game genres are more popular than others doesnít mean those who prefer the popular ones are brainwashed sheep who have no free will of their own that can only repeat Internet memes and how much they love Mudkip. Does that automatic make them stupid and ignorant for not preferring lesser known titles? Itís almost like there is a cool factor in finding and playing rare titles that the average gamer will never have heard about. Itís like being a vocal minority without a good cause (for the most part). For example, it would be like The World Ends with You fandom getting mad that much more people would vote for Cloud in a popularity contest than Neku. On the other hand, the Earthbound/Mother fandom may have good reasons for being upset that Nintendo of America doesnít seem to care about them. If thereís one thing I noticed, is that smaller communities seem to be more dedicated and focused on what they like than bigger ones.

If people are not interested in something, their simply not gonna pay it much attention, yet alone pre-order the most expensive special edition as soon as they can. Are they shallow people just because theyíre not interested in it? Should they be forced to play or like something theyíre not interested in? How many gamers can say they hold a strong interest in every type of game out there? Now proven that people can give something a chance and like something they didnít care so much about before, but not always. I know there were games I didnít think I would like very much before I played them and did like them, but I still needed enough interest in them first to go out of my way to try them out. If you play video games for so many years, you tend to find genres that you prefer more than others and those youíre not just really able to get into. Are people expecting others to be super diverse and have an interested in everything? Havenít there ever been some games under the radar you played and enjoyed, but not others? All too often these days do I see people who enjoy these popular titles above the ones that are mostly ignored get a bad rep, much like those considered hardcore gamers. This looks too much like ďhow dare they not enjoy the same things I doĒ going on.

Geeks tend to have more obsessed and specialized interests, whom make up the majority of the gaming community. Simply put, the more time you spend on one thing, the less time you have to spend on others. MMORPGs are especially guilty of this. As human beings, we can only put so much time and effort into so many topics. I wonder if this is like the Monkeysphere concept by David Wong that basically states that you can only care about so many people at once, except applied to this. The video game industry is already pretty inclusive and hobbyist compared to the rest of the entertainment industry. Compared to movies, music, and possibly even comic books, video games are pretty niche. Sure reports have said that the game industry is making more money than Hollywood these days, but it just means that the much smaller community by comparison spends a lot more money on games. The Wii (and to an extent, the DS) draws in non-gamers who tend to not be geeks who have a wider interest in what they like, at least the games that play out like everyday tasks. Thus, there can be a big difference in what sells between the Wii and the HD consoles. This is also the reason why M rated games like GTA didnít sell as well as expected on the DS.

So in conclusion, originality in gaming is not dead, Indie games can bring more uniqueness in, and geeks are complaining about other geeks not having the same interests as themselves. Now Iím gonna look back on this sooner or later and think about how I could have written this so much better.   read


10:41 AM on 09.18.2009

How impressions are largely misunderstood. Also hedgehogs.

In the video game community, video game reviews are serious business, which could be a combination of the price of new games and the average gamer being a console fanboy who isnít very mature. However, there is another aspect to this known as impressions that seem to be highly misunderstood and grounds for flame wars and ignorance, at least negative impressions. Reviews are simply enough, an evaluation of the product where the reviewer gives his/her opinion on the game, how much they liked or disliked it, usually a rating, and if you should buy it, rent it, or avoid it. This concept seems to be understood well enough, even if people donít agree with the review. On the other hand, impressions tend to be quite misunderstood from my experiences within the gaming community.

Impressions are what we think of a product based on what we know about it. Impressions are mostly what determine if we buy or rent a game or at least would like to do so. Thatís not to say people donít buy or rent a game without a positive impression of it first, but thatís more of an exception than the rule. After all, there are tons and tons of games out there, and whenever we do buy or rent a game; we chose that over many other games for numerous reasons, impressions being one of the biggest reasons, not counting other issues like cost and stock. Previews are a major source of bringing in a positive impression to get people to buy the game.

Another factor in impressions is track records. By this, I mean what people think of an upcoming product based on previous products. Is it not natural that if a company keeps pumping out products that a person likes, they will have a good impression of that companyís upcoming products from the get go? This also applies in reverse, but this doesnít always get understood so well. For example, the Call of Duty series has a very good track record, which is why Modern Warfare 2 (ignoring the publisher for a moment) has such a good impression right off the bat. A fighting game fan may have a good impression of an upcoming fighting game just because it happens to be in the genre that the person likes. Nintendo is a company that has set high standards for itself and by the fandom to meet with each of its games, which is why they can release only a teaser screenshot for the upcoming Wii Zelda game and already have fans with reduced bathroom visits. Movies based off of video games tend to have a poor track record since the majority of them are not very well received and itís quite common to think ďwill this movie suck?Ē for any upcoming video game movie.

How often do you see people praise a game, saying it will be good before itís released and hardly anyone has a problem with it? Now think how often that when someone is a fan of a genre, but say they think a particular game in that genre doesnít look so good from previews, that they are quick to get flamed. They are often told ďhow dare you judge this game before itís releasedĒ, ďno one caresĒ, "you can't know if it will be bad before release", and other similar reactions. These same arguments could be appealed to positive impressions as well. Itís like youíre not allowed to have a negative opinion without automatically being declared a hater. Why do so many people get hostile and defensive if someone has a negative impression of a game? Itís like a lot of fans are really fanboys which seems to go mostly unnoticed. For reviews, negative opinions tend to be better received, but for previews and such, itís like for whatever reason, youíre only allowed to have a positive viewpoint or none at all. How does such a double standard happen anyway?

Now to pick a game series to apply this to and I know just the one, even if itís ďtoo easyĒ to pick, but itís the best example I can find. I think Sonic games are a perfect example of this trend where negative impressions are met with a fist of bricks to the face and track record means nothing. Letís take a look at the Sonic Cycle. Surely by now people will be tired of seeing itÖ



With Project Needlemouse having been announced not that long ago, the cycle has officially started again and history repeats itself. Now the second and third phases didnít happen, but the first one is already underway. People are already saying ďitís gonna be great because itís gonna be classic and 2DĒ and among other such responses. Anyone who says they think it might not be so good due to a negative impression based on the track record is likely to get met with flames and ďbut give it a chanceĒ, ďit could be goodĒ, along with other such responds. Really, didnít Sonic had a bunch of chances already? What makes the series so special that different logic applies to it that basically makes you a hater if you didnít overall like the newer games? Itís treated like a celebrity that can do no wrong and anyone that thinks otherwise is the problem. These people can be sane and reasonable, but all that goes out the window in cases like this. Would a less popular game series be allowed to get away with this if it didnít have such a rabid fandom to defend it to the death? Iím not saying people are not allowed to still have hope and like the current games, but I wonít stand for these same people throwing a hissy fit over those who donít share the same views.

So my point is, I think understanding the concept of impressions and track records, especially negative ones, and not going into NERD RAGE mode if someone has a negative impression of a game is another step toward a better gaming community.   read


1:27 PM on 09.16.2009

The hardcore vs. casual civil war. What good has it done us?

First c-blog post, ready, set, go!

For as long as there is even the slightest difference among people, they will fight and argue over it. Thatís not to say there is only a slight difference among hardcore and casual gamers, but my point still stands. While there are a bunch of labels among gaming, hardcore and casual happen to be among the most common and somehow led to an ďus vs. themĒ mindset. Itís quite common for hardcore to be labeled as ďhardcoreĒ these days. Not that these labels are likely to go away, especially since they are a way to target gamers with different habits and interests. Labels just happen to be a way for people to quickly identify themselves and others. Itís not like Iím calling an end for labels being used, since that would be nearly impossible, would it not? Due to the Wii existing, this hardcore vs. casual civil war has only gotten a lot worse. Hardcore gamers are stereotyped as hating the Wii along with any games that are not male power fantasies. Casual gamers are stereotyped as not knowing what a good game is and as being a part of ruining gaming. Thereís also the non-gamer stereotype that the gaming community introduced as a result of the Wii, but I wonít get into that here.

Every since the Wii made its existence known, many people who Identify themselves as hardcore gamers now identify themselves as core gamers. Itís like the meaning of hardcore gamer has changed from ďa person who likes to play video games a lotĒ to ďa person who is an elitist that hates anyone who isnít like them and only likes games with a bunch of violence and/or sexual contentĒ. Personally, I wouldnít have any problems identifying myself as a hardcore gamer, but since hardcore gamers as a whole these days are labeled negatively by popular opinion, I just call myself a gamer and hope to not be judged by those stereotypes before people even get to know me.

Now, let me make this clear. Iím not saying itís the Wii fault for suddenly causing this, but a fault of many gamers for how they reacted to the Wii. How often have you seen something along the lines of ďthe hardcore have abandoned NintendoĒ, ďthe hardcore hate the WiiĒ, ďhardcore gamers only care about more of the same with better graphicsĒ and more such generalizations? How often did such generalizations exist before the Wii entered the picture? Could things possibly get even worse once Sonyís and Microsoftís answer to the Wiimote enters the market?

I think the gaming community would be better off without all the in-fighting between the labels. What have we gained from this? I know marketing may use the term casual to appeal to people who wouldnít touch a standard game considered hardcore. However, aside from marketing, do we as a gaming community gain much from this? Regardless if weíre hardcore, casual, retro, professional, or whatever else kind of gamers, weíre all still gamers are we not? The different labels are different ways of expressing how one enjoys gaming. Of course, just because weíre all gamers doesnít mean we will all get along. Iím not expecting a Best Friends Forever thing going on here, since playing video games doesnít mean the other human traits that lead to conflict are suddenly missing. However, I do see this as a growing problem that can be fixed with effort a lot easier than many other problems within the gaming community.

Compared to other entertainment medias, do people in other communities like music, movies, or comic books fight so much over labels like the gaming community does? One step toward gaming maturing and growing up as an art form (at least in the eyes of non-gamers) is for the community as a whole to improve. Maybe people who want to become gamers, but donít want to get involved with the gaming community since it appears we fight over every little thing, could be one possible factor in not joining. However, that could be a topic for another time. I canít be the only one who thinks that over time, the gaming community only gets worse. Sure thereís a long way to go and there are many other pressing issues like console fanboys, but I think the hardcore vs. casual civil war is a start that can be dealt with.   read





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