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I saw this video on IGN yesterday and it struck me as a little sad.  6 months left in 2013, and IGN has GOTY nominations locked already between Bioshock Infinite and The Last of Us (really they're pretty transparent about favoring The Last of Us at this point).

http://www.ign.com/videos/2013/07/01/game-of-the-year-watch-2013-q2-the-last-of-us-vs-bioshock-infinite

There's a whole lot of time left in 2013, and I see lots of GOTY contenders that aren't even out yet.

The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Two Worlds



A sequel to one of the most beloved games of all time, built to take advantage of the 3D screen like few other games.  New puzzles involving height, where seeing the height differences is actually possible in 3D.  New puzzles with Link becoming a flat painting that can move around 3D objects - and these are just two of the many items in the game.  If it's anything like Link to the Past, it'll have around 20 items.  

They've also already confirmed that the game has a light and a dark world, like the original game (if the title and the dual triforces in the logo didn't give it away already).  I think this is really one to watch for GOTY, for bringing new gameplay ideas, fresh puzzles, and wrapping it up in a great overall package.

Mario & Luigi: Dream Team




I'm going to just let the trailer speak for itself.  This game looks absolutely bananas.  There are so many interesting things going on, and so many original ideas.  Who actually thinks of manipulating someone's face while they're asleep on the bottom screen to impact how they imagine in their dreams on the top screen ... and makes it actually work flawlessly and intuitively in a game?  That's pretty remarkable in and of itself.  The game looks hilarious, and fun, and it's definitely one I'm going to be keeping an eye on.

Super Mario 3D World




Any student of history would be wise to not name GOTY early when a mainline Mario title is coming out before the end of the year.  They're consistently among the highest rated games of all time.  

While this doesn't look like the huge leap forward that I was hoping for, it certainly looks like an extremely fun, polished platformer.  And really, the cat suit looks pretty damn amazing.  

Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze



If you played Donkey Kong Country Returns, or the 3D release on 3DS, you know that it's literally one of the best platformers ever made.  Extremely polished, and challenging, with fantastic level design and rock solid gameplay throughout.  It had the challenge of living up to one of the most beloved game series in gaming history, and succeeded with flying colors.

This time, Retro wanted to just perfect what they started.  Does that not sound like GOTY material to anyone else?  Swimming levels, 3D panning camera, HD graphics, David Wise is back to compose the music like he did in the original 3 ... I don't know how any serious gamer can write this off without even playing it yet.  Retro's track record is pretty much impeccable, and if they felt like they had more to contribute to DKC, I definitely want to see it.

Grand Theft Auto V



To be perfectly honest with you, it pains me to have to post this because I'm not a fan of these games.  But it'll be in the running, or will likely win GOTY.  That's just how it is these days.  Anyone deciding GOTY before this is out is really prematurely running their mouth off.

Pikmin 3



In Miyamoto's words, this is the perfection of his original vision of what Pikmin should be.  He also said it's extremely fun.  Coming from the best game designer of all time ... I think I'll give it a shot before I write it off.

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2



This is one of my most anticipated games of the year, and of the generation.  The first one blew me away in every category: art, graphics, music, voice acting, story, menu design (that book was GORGEOUS), and most importantly combat and platforming.  Who would have thought at the beginning of this gen that a 3D Castlevania would have far more solid combat than Ninja Gaiden 3?  But it's true.  Smart use of light and dark magic, puzzles, and whip platforming sealed the deal.  And now, you've got tons more powers that I can't even imagine.  And this is going to be the conclusion to the Lords of Shadow storyline, so expect an ending even more shocking than the first.  I cannot wait.

Puppeteer



Gorgeous, charming, and original.  The idea of stages moving around you like a play just seems amazing to me.  Definitely getting this day 1, and I don't see any reason why it wouldn't be in the running for GOTY for anyone interested in gaming.

Beyond: Two Souls



I thought Heavy Rain was pretty great, and this looks far better.  It looks better than some next gen games I've seen, and I'm sure the story will be pretty captivating if they got Willem Dafoe and Ellen Paige to sign off on the script.  Definitely getting it day 1, and I'm sure it'll be something extremely interesting to see.


Honorable Mention:

Tearaway
Watch Dogs
The Wonderful 101
Knack
Sonic: Lost World
Splinter Cell: Blacklist
Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn
Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII
Killer is Dead

So I implore you, keep an open mind and try and look at everything out there before settling in on The Last of Us for GOTY - a zombie TPS without anything innovative in the gameplay department at all, but with great production values and above average story.

There's a lot of other stuff out there, and a lot of it is better than what Naughty Dog is doing, more original, more polished as far as gameplay, and very possibly even better story too.  

There's a whole six months to go. Don't let me down people.  Journey winning last year was depressing enough.  Do we need two years in a row where we worship designers who strip gameplay down to the bare minimum for the sake of "maturity?"  Let's reward innovative gameplay, or game concepts for once.  Let's not reward fungus zombie TPS games with good cutscenes.
Photo








This is probably my most random blog post ever, so if you don't want to read a rant and personal anecdote of mine, you can safely move along and not miss anything because that's all this blog post is.

So I got The Last of Us a couple of days ago.  I had seen all the same trailers everyone else had; the shocking E3 trailers showing the stealth gameplay and the graphic violence and realism.  I saw all the perfect 10 reviews, and I read through hundreds of comments agreeing with it on multiple sites.  The game definitely looks gorgeous, but I just wasn't sure if I was going to be happy with how it played.



I asked around online.  "Is it really as great as everyone says?"  99% of the people I asked said it was even better.  "I know the production values are impressive, but what about the gameplay?"  One of the best TPS ever made, right up there with Vanquish - is what I was told by some.  

Vanquish?  Clearly this guy was getting pretty carried away since the game looks nothing like Vanquish, but I assumed it was a solid stealth shooter.  I enjoyed Splinter Cell Conviction, and I figured if the game was at least as competent as that in the gameplay department, save for the mark and execute system, than I was sure I would have a pretty good time.

How wrong I was (no story spoilers, but some light gameplay impressions and opinions on the pacing up ahead).

First I saw an update was ready for the game.  This was after the auto save glitch had been fixed that I read about, so I tried to download it.  It froze my system.  So I tried again.  Frozen.  After two hard resets I gave up on the update and started up the game.

The intro was neat, but it might as well have been a cutscene honestly.  I didn't really resent that it wasn't, but you're basically just walked along a pre-set path with scripted events happening all around you, or moved the camera around as you looked outside the car.  

The next 3 hours weren't much better.  Most of it consisted of following a pre-set path, with scripted AI leading the way, with the movement speed limited to walking.  No sprinting allowed, or even a light jog.  Walk and follow.  Again, it might as well have been a movie.  I like movies.  I like zombie movies even.  No reason for Naughty Dog to avoid trying their hand at cinema I say.  They'd probably be pretty good at it.

The graphics impressed, but I was still waiting for the game to start, probably a good 4 hours in.  I shut it off for that night.

The next night, after having my game freeze during gameplay twice in the same section- requiring a hard reset of my system, I encountered my section with several clickers, and this was the breaking point for me.  



Being 100% honest, clickers in The Last of Us are probably some of the worst designed enemies in the entire history of gaming.  Not literally the worst ever, because they're not buggy and they work as intended.  But worst because what the designers intended is just so god damned bad, and promotes such a horribly unsatisfying style of gameplay.

Since resources are limited, you can't go through the game blowing shivs on clicker stealth take downs every time if you want to open up the locked doors scattered throughout the game.  Clickers also give you no kind of reward for killing them, so it becomes pretty clear what the best, most logical course of action is based on the gameplay systems in place.  You avoid all clickers and simply walk past them unless you're forced to dispose of one to access and area.  

So what is it like walking past clickers and not killing them?  It's pretty damn boring.  Stealth doesn't rely on sightlines with clickers, or the use of shadow.  They're blind and can only hear your movements.  So you walk at the slowest setting, and you're virtually 100% safe at all times around clickers.  Try exploring any environment that a clicker is in.  It's like pulling teeth.  You have to walk in slow motion, literally, with zero tension or chance of being discovered.  You're just inconvenienced, basically and forced to listen to their annoying monster sounds, which are not scary.

I could keep going, talking about how counterproductive it is to design an aiming system that promotes stopping and shooting carefully (the target shrinks when you don't move), but then surround the player with enemies that run at you at full speed and one hit kill you, which makes you play in a run and gun style.  I could talk about the "newly infected" zombies that just literally sit there, and can't see or hear you and just wait for you to do stealth kills on them - possibly the most boring enemy of all time.  I could talk about the waste of a level up system that offers you a choice between leveling up ~8 completely useless, and boring skills that barely impact gameplay at all, or the awkward arc for aiming on the bow that is entirely inferior to the new Tomb Raider, or your x-ray vision ability that lets you see enemies through walls more effectively than Adam Jensen  - but my rant would be 10x as long.

I kept waiting for the game to get good, and instead I was just disgusted.  The constant hand holding, and the absence of any kind of compelling gameplay left me feeling hollow inside, and sad - because I know so many people are not just enjoying this game, but genuinely LOVE it, sincerely.

I sold the game that same day; the first time I had sold a game in years.

A couple days passed since then, feeling depressed about the state of modern gaming, and my role in it.  And then out of nowhere, a light bulb lit above my head.

Why not buy a Nintendo 3DS?  I've wanted one for a while, but for some reason I never truly considered putting down the cash to get one.  I went down to my local store and tried out a few of their systems and I was interested, but decided I had to have the 3DS XL instead.  The thing is just gigantic, and I didn't realize how much of an improvement it really is.

So I just took the plunge, out of nowhere.  I got a blue 3DS XL, and I walked out with Fire Emblem, Donkey Kong Country Returns, and Professor Layton.

I was beaming.  My faith in gaming had been restored.  I already played through DKCR on Wii, but the thought of playing it again was enough to completely cheer me up.



And Fire Emblem, I love that series.  Why did I wait so long?  The more that I looked over the 3DS library available, the more it hit me how much I've truly been missing these last couple of years, and how much I now had to look forward to.

Super Mario 3D Land
Animal Crossing
Luigi's Mansion
Ocarina of Time
Project X Zone
Mario and Luigi Dream Team
Zelda: A Link Between Worlds
Castlevania: Mirror of Fate
New Super Mario Bros 2
Etrian Odyssey IV
Rhythm Thief
Kingdom Hearts 3D
Theatrhythm

Just to name a few.  All games that look like they prioritize gameplay above cinematic, scripted events.  All games that for the most part, look bright and colorful, and celebrate fun, instead of misery.  Pretty sure that after I catch up on my 3DS fix, I'll probably get a Wii U early next year.

I realize I probably stand alone in most of my opinions regarding gaming, but as far as I'm concerned, The Last of Us is unbelievably overrated.  It stands a real shot at dethroning GTA IV as the most overrated game of all time.  And Nintendo, they are equally underrated and underappreciated.  I lost sight of that somewhere after Skyward Sword, but I found the light again and I couldn't be more excited about the next few months of gaming ahead of me.

The End.
Photo Photo Photo








Destructoid ran a story two days ago praising the Kickstarter campaign of Susan Wilson, a mother who was asking for $829 to send her 9 year old daughter "Kenzie" to RPG camp. (Nevermind the next logical question, what the fuck is RPG camp?) Why you may ask? Because her brothers supposedly made fun of her and said that girls can't make good RPGs.

In the words of Destructoid's Ian Bonds, this was "awesome."
http://www.destructoid.com/nine-year-old-girl-kickstarting-game-development-249327.phtml#comment-840592382



A thread about this on NeoGAF revealed a lot of interesting things about Susan Wilson that were not featured in Destructoid's glowing endorsement. I suggest everyone read the thread, as I won't really do it justice.
http://www.neogaf.com/forum/showthread.php?t=528903

Turns out this Susan Wilson ...



is the same Susan Wilson that also happens to be a millionaire, now asking for $829 to send her daughter to "RPG camp." She's the one on the left, next to Warren Buffett.



She's the founder and CEO of The Judgment Group, a company that focuses on debt collection. She was featured on CNN Money as part of their list of The Most Powerful Women Entrepreneurs. Oops.
http://money.cnn.com/galleries/2009/fortune/0912/gallery.most_powerful_women_entrepreneurs.fortune/8.html

Her Kickstarter campaign was only for $829, but she also happens to have stretch goals in place for even $10,000 contributors. She's also apparently gone out of her way to spam her Kickstarter campaign to women's groups and even the Ellen Degeneres show's Twitter account. Quite a lot of work for just $829!



Oops ...

It should be unbelievably clear to you by now that this entire Kickstarter campaign is a complete scam. It was designed to capitalize on popular gender politics right now, and it succeeded brilliantly. In the words of Destructoid's Ian Bonds, it is "awesome." He even is so kind as to link to Sarkeesian in the article so you don't forget how great it feels to stick it to the patriarchy by tossing money at things people know almost nothing about. Notice how she even literally makes a graphic of her daughter "Versus" her sons. The manipulation couldn't really be any more blatant.

There are more details to the story that I won't go over, but the whole thing is the epitome of sleaze. It's not clear whether this violates Kickstarter's own policies or not, because she's expressly asking for funding for education. Wilson also has an apparent history of trying to create funding drop sites for other popular causes she has no true allegiance with, like Occupy Wallstreet.

As it hilariously says in her CNN Money interview, "She recognizes the value of focusing on the details. [...] Next up: a website that enables debtors to make payments and negotiate settlements online. 'An individual will pay more when they're negotiating with a computer than they do negotiating with an individual,' Wilson claims." Apparently she was very, very right.

There are other sleazy aspects to this, like the fact that the $10,000 donation reward is a personal apology from her sons to the donor? Or the fact that she's making her sons very public villains in a KS campaign for money? Talk about throwing your own kids under the bus.

The Kickstarter campaign has been reported by at least a dozen people in that thread, and I encourage anyone who finds this objectionable to report it as well.

Furthermore, Destructoid owes their entire readership a formal, public apology for their article endorsing this Kickstarter scam. If any of their readers donated to this, they should really feel ashamed.

But hey ... it's not all bad. If you donate $25 to Kenzie's RPG Camp, you can get this bitchin' mouse pad.









As we come to the end of 2012, we find our hobby in the midst of another controversy; the claim that playing violent video games leads to violent behavior in real life. This topic has been argued ever since Mortal Kombat hit arcades in 1992. The argument has been exhausted for the most part. What interests me more is how the gaming community has changed in those 20 years, how we collectively react to controversy today versus then, and how most seem to be blind to the hypocrisy they now advocate for.



If the gaming media almost unanimously agrees that sexism is a problem in gaming, then why is violence dismissed so quickly by the media?

2012 saw controversies about sexism elevated to a new level, primarily because of widespread media endorsement. Women in skimpy nun outfits, the Dead or Alive series, Crystal Dynamics developers daring to use the word "protect" in a sentence; these things dominated our cultural conversations for the better part of a year. The argument from the outraged, which was often not even stated clearly, is that these games contain sexist imagery and content, that they lead to sexist behavior and consequences in real life, and they should be eradicated through shaming and PR pressure that impacts sales.

But if anyone suggests that violence is a problem in gaming, for the most part the media quickly denounces it, and even goes so far as to shame the people suggesting it. Why? If you took even a passing glance at gaming over the last few years, you probably would have found several more troubling elements in gaming related to violence than to sexism. Let's just glance at a few of the more notable ones.

New Splinter Cell: Blacklist video shows off controversial torture scene, moral choices
http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/2012-08-18-new-splinter-cell-blacklist-walkthrough-video-demonstrates-controversial-torture-scene-moral-choices
"We've arrived in a strange emotional clime when our popular entertainment frequently depicts torture as briskly effective rather than literally the worst thing one human being can do to another - yea verily, worse even than killing."

"I spent a couple days feeling ashamed of being a gamer, of playing or liking military games, of being interested in any of this disgusting bulls*** at all," he added."

Norway mass killer trained for mass killing playing 'Call of Duty'
http://articles.nydailynews.com/2012-04-19/news/31369489_1_terror-attack-mass-killer-twin-attacks
"In his testimony, the 33-year-old Norwegian said he prepared for a firefight with police in Oslo by playing computer games, focusing on situations where he would be flanked by two commando teams. He said he played “Modern Warfare,” several hours a week, for 16 months starting in January 2010, primarily to get a feel for how to use rifle sights."

Military uses video games for training troops
http://ticker.baruchconnect.com/article/military-uses-video-games-for-training-troops/
"“The military was actually responsible for the funding that created video games,” said Corey Mead, an assistant professor of English at Baruch College."

"Video games stem from early preparation for nuclear war and the technologies that were developed came out of either academic research centers or corporate research centers or actual military research centers where the funding was to develop the technology for advanced thermal nuclear war.”

When “Doom,” one of the first blockbuster video games, arrived in 1993 the army started to use modified versions of these games as part of their training.
Today, the army has incorporated video games into their training to the point that every single soldier interacts with them at some point during their training."

'The ultraviolence has to stop' - Warren Spector:
Epic Mickey producer says he left Eidos in 2004 because of proliferation of violent titles at publisher, believes industry is "fetishizing violence."
http://www.gamespot.com/news/the-ultraviolence-has-to-stop-warren-spector-6382680

"We have to stop loving it," he said. "I just don't believe in the effects argument at all, but I do believe that we are fetishizing violence, and now in some cases actually combining it with an adolescent approach to sexuality. I just think it's in bad taste. Ultimately, I think it will cause us trouble."

Urban Tool in Recruiting by the Army: An Arcade
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/05/us/05army.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0
"In recent years the Army has tried a number of ways to increase enlistment, including home video games"

"In recent years, the Army has had great success with using video games like America’s Army to attract recruits."

"He added that the center did not recruit anyone under 17."

Wikileaks reveals video showing US air crew shooting down Iraqi civilians
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/apr/05/wikileaks-us-army-iraq-attack
"The behaviour of the pilots is like a computer game. When Saeed is crawling, clearly unable to do anything, their response is: come on buddy, we want to kill you, just pick up a weapon ... It appears to be a desire to get a higher score, or a higher number of kills."

CIA chiefs face arrest over horrific evidence of bloody 'video-game' sorties by drone pilots
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2220828/US-drone-attacks-CIA-chiefs-face-arrest-horrific-evidence-bloody-video-game-sorties.html
"The Mail on Sunday today reveals shocking new evidence of the full horrific impact of US drone attacks in Pakistan."

"A damning dossier assembled from exhaustive research into the strikes’ targets sets out in heartbreaking detail the deaths of teachers, students and Pakistani policemen. It also describes how bereaved relatives are forced to gather their loved ones’ dismembered body parts in the aftermath of strikes."

Conditioning? Xbox Poll Shows Overwhelming Gamer Support for “More” Drone Strikes
http://www.infowars.com/xbox-live-poll-shows-overwhelming-support-for-more-drone-strikes/
"Notice the question asks, “Do you support more use,” in regards to sending unmanned aerial vehicles equipped with missiles to bomb suspected terrorists in other countries, not just continuing business as usual killing people at the current pace."

How Do Video Games and Modern Military Influence Each Other?
http://www.forbes.com/sites/gregvoakes/2012/05/30/how-do-video-games-and-modern-military-influence-each-other/
"White gets to learn about numerous military technology advances long before the public does. But White was quite shocked to see a Humvee equipped with a .50 caliber gun turret that was controlled by what looked like a suspiciously familiar device: an Xbox 360 controller."

"I pointed that out to them and they said ‘Well, of course. We’re not going to reinvent a new way because we get all these kids into the military, they already know how to use a 360 controller, they’re already familiar with it. So we’re just going to use that in how we’re building the technology,’"

“When it was done, it was amazingly powerful because what we did was create a transition from the real world of photographs and reports into the virtual world’s polygons and there was a feeling of ‘now we get it.’ Now we can see what the bad guys are doing and what their point of view was, what the trigger man’s aim point was.”



US Army Creating Their Own Gaming Gun Peripherals
http://www.forbes.com/sites/insertcoin/2012/01/05/us-army-creating-their-own-gaming-gun-peripherals/
"now the Army is taking a new step forward to even further prepare young cadets for their future life off the couch and in the military. They’ve partnered with CTA Digital for a line of gaming accessories. There are a few headsets, but the eye catching devices are the plastic Playstation Move controller holders shaped like variants of various real life assault weapons."



The Designer of Call of Duty’s ‘No Russian’ Massacre Wanted You to Feel Something
http://kotaku.com/5931235/the-designer-of-call-of-dutys-no-russian-massacre-wanted-you-to-feel-something
"In a stellar piece about interactive atrocity, game designer Matthew Burns gets Alavi to explain the intent behind that level, a level in which the player is put in a position as an undercover agent to assist or simply watch a terrorist cell of Russians massacre Russian civilians in an airport. The level wasn't designed to create controversy. It wasn't to sell more copies. It was to further the plot, Alavi tells Burns, saying he wanted to: "sell why Russia would attack the U.S., make the player have an emotional connection to the bad guy Makarov, and do that in a memorable and engaging way." He didn't want it to be a movie. He wanted you to feel involved"

That was just off the top of my head.

DESPITE ALL OF THIS, gamers and the gaming media more or less stand united. They do not want to sacrifice the freedom to enjoy whatever violent content they want, even on the eve of the death of 20 kids in another teenage shooting. They don't want to have their gaming dictated by moral outrage and mostly unscientific claims, they don't elevate and endorse gaming critics like Jack Thompson, and rally around him until publishers have to bow to his pressure for informal censorship, or endorse Kickstarter campaigns for him to create video series about violence in gaming.

But if someone uses the word "protect" in a sentence, all bets are off. If a nun wears bondage gear, all bets are off. If you have a fighting game with ninjas in bikinis, ban this sick filth.

Again, why the difference?

If you support the right for games to exist, free from the constraints of moral outrage, unscientific claims, and informal censorship, at least be consistent about it. Otherwise, it's complete hypocrisy to support one and not the other.

Another interesting fact is that both Anita Sarkeesian and Jack Thompson have had flash video games created that allow you to beat them up. Can you spot any difference in how gamers and the gaming media reacted to those two games?







Shinta
9:10 AM on 12.03.2012

can be viewed here.



http://tedxwomen.org/speakers/anita-sarkeesian-2/

How do you all think she did?







Shinta
7:03 PM on 11.27.2012

It's worth pointing out that Rhianna Pratchett penned the story to the new Tomb Raider game. That game had months of extremely bad press that will almost surely hurt sales and reviews because the media was certain it was created by a cabal of sexist, sadist pigs.

For all the condemnation of workplace abuse going on, sometimes the media can be just as guilty of perpetuating negative stereotypes. "A violent Tomb Raider story couldn't have been created by a woman," but it turns out it was. The same woman who started the #1reasontobe tweets that everyone in the media is gushing about.

Oops.

A cynic could even say that she was more motivated to create this for positive publicity because the backlash against her game has been so heated. Jezebel tore her game down the worst. That's irony.

"The Rapey Lara Croft Reboot Is a Fucked-Up Freudian Field Day"
http://jezebel.com/5918222/the-rapey-lara-croft-reboot-is-a-fucked+up-freudian-field-day

"Freud would have a fucking field day with this. First, including rape in Lara Croft's backstory is an expression of the abject clueless dudery of a dismaying number of mainstream video games. Do the people behind Tomb Raider think that the way to get men to care more about a female character cover her up and then threaten the integrity of her vagina? "

"A Freudian Field Day," as in, deep down whoever created this must be barely able to contain their sadism and sexism, so it's spilling out into their creative work. But yeah, not the case, it was a story from Rhianna Pratchett.

A lot of the gaming journalists who are eagerly promoting these tweets in stories should realize that they might have more to learn than they originally thought. Hopefully her new game won't bomb at retail because of all the negative press and overreaction from people in the media who thought they were protecting something.

Condemning workplace abuse is fantastic, and I hope that one day no one has to be harassed at work. But it doesn't mean that every article the gaming media has ever written on gender issues has been part of a noble crusade, because many of them, if not most, have been extremely misguided. So be careful not to trip over your shoelaces during your victory lap.