My name is Matt and I am a doctoral psychology student that plays and reads about videogames. A lot. I have high hopes for the games industry in terms of the application of the medium to less escapist entertainment means. I also like disagreeing with people on the internet because anonymity is awesome.
I will play any kind of videogame but I mainly play action and adventure games, although I have been known to play the occasional racing game and whatever whacked out genreless DS/Wii game that is thrown at me. Typically, the less formula-based and cookie-cutter the game, the more I like it. For some reason I have a dislike for RTS games and turn based RPGs.
To me, the best games allow for freedom, not so much the "you have three different missions to choose from" freedom. I like games that give me choices in how "levels" are defeated providing a different experience each time (GTA, Hitman, Mercenaries). I also like games that let me make real decisions that effect the outcome of the game, not basic decisions that simply keep me alive until the next prescribed story element becomes apparent (Deus Ex). That isn't to say I don't sometimes enjoy the force-fed completely linear game (Mario, Metroid, Zelda, Castlevania).
1. Super Mario Bros. 3
2. The Legend of Zelda
3. Castlevania II: Simon's Quest
4. Bubble Bobble
5. Dr. Mario
1. Sonic the Hedgehog 2
2. Gunstar Super Heroes
3. Comix Zone
4. Contra: Hard Corps
5. X-Men 2: The Clone Wars
1. Super Metroid
2. Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island
3. The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
4. Contra III: The Alien Wars
5. Super Mario World
1. Castlevania: Symphony of the Night
2. Metal Gear Solid
3. Ape Escape
4. Crash Team Racing
5. Syphon Filter
1. Super Mario 64
2. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
3. Mario Kart 64
4. Star Fox 64
5. Paper Mario
1. Grand Theft Auto III
2. Shadow of the Colossus
3. Beyond Good & Evil
6. Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater
1. Resident Evil 4
2. Metroid Prime
4. Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem
5. The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker
1. Deus Ex
2. Far Cry
3. Fable: The Lost Chapters
4. No One Lives Forever 2: A Spy in H.A.R.M.'s Way
1. Metroid: Zero Mission
2. Fire Emblem
3. The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap
4. Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance
5. Klonoa: Empire of Dreams
1. Elite Beat Agents
2. Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow
3. Animal Crossing: Wild World
4. New Super Mario Bros.
5. Kirby: Canvas Curse
1. Super Mario Galaxy
2. Metroid Prime 3: Corruption
3. Wii Sports
4. Warioware: Smooth Moves
1. Rock Band
2. Mass Effect
4. Assassin's Creed
5. Call of Duty 4
There are a variety of good reasons for the inclusion of Achievements both from Microsoft's position and the position of gamers. The following list is but a sample.
1. Bragging Rights: This is the most obvious benefit of the Achievement system established for the 360. In a society where success is highly valued, what better way to feel better about yourself than to have a higher number next to your name than the guy next door. There is nothing that ignites the gamer soul more effectively than the discovery that one completed arbitrary tasks that their friends weren't man enough to handle.
2. A heightened sense of purpose: All videogames have goals to reach, but up until now there was nothing that truly tied together your accomplishments. The Achievement system can be seen as a sort of meta-game wherein a higher calling can be heard. You feel justified in playing a ridiculous amount of games as your Gamerscore climbs higher. You are achieving, and nothing can take that away from you.
3. Simpler purchase decisions: The Achievement system provides added incentive to encourage gamers to purchase the 360 version of multi-platform titles. This is obviously more of a boon for Microsoft than for your average gamer. However, it can be nice to have a simpler choice so that you don't have to endlessly watch GameVideos comparison clips.
4 It wasn't a complete waste: How many times have you played a videogame only to find that it completely sucks? It happens to us all. We are dazzled by the pretty boxart and the hype in the media coverage, but when we finally sit down to play a game, we are often disappointed. However, with an Achievement system, you will likely earn a few points before ejecting a terrible game from your system. This is helpful in justifying the time wasted playing a game that really isn't worth playing.
5. Get more bang for your buck: If you're like me, you often play your videogames through a single time before relegating them to the "collection" where they will remain until the end of time. However, with the advent of Achievements, one can find a reason to give a game a second or even third play-through. As long as there are goals to be achieved, the obsessive compulsive gamer can play forever and enjoy the game in ways they never imagined.
6. Developers can guide gamers to experience new things: The developers know they have us by the balls when it comes to Achievements. For example, I watched the credits to Guitar Hero II today, because I knew I would get an achievement for doing so. I would not have done this otherwise. I also tried the game out left-handed to obtain yet another achievement. It was an interesting experience I would have missed otherwise. The Achievement system allows developers the opportunity to make gamers do what they want with their game.
The Achievement system is inherently flawed, and I will now try to outline some evidence for this viewpoint.
1. Naturally increase the size of your Gamerscore!: I think we've all seen and been disgusted by the self-degrading misdirected attempts some individuals make to increase their Gamerscore. These atrocities range from paying cold hard cash to renting (or, heaven forbid, purchasing) Avatar: The Last Airbender. Not only is this the equivalent to spitting in the face of those who earned "real" Achievements, but it also throws suspicion on anyone with a high Gamerscore.
2. Wait a second, that's going to cost money: Not all achievements can be obtained by simply owning a 360 and a game. Some games have achievements that require an Xbox Live Gold Subscription, an Xbox Live Vision Camera, or even a particular gamer picture. That's right, I was playing PGR4 today and I came across the following achievement:
Buy an Achievement: Buy the K1,000000 gamer picture to earn this Achievement.
What? No thanks.
3. My narrative, it's broken: There's nothing more immersive than getting heavily involved in the story of a game only to be interrupted by a ticker informing you that your character has bested his 300th baddie. Sometimes it can be disruptive to be taken out of the game to learn that you have accomplished something completely irrelevant to the game's narrative. The best analogy I can think of is to tell you to picture yourself playing Shadow of the Colossus and then being confronted with an on-screen graphic that says:
Massive Damage: You've stabbed your 30th weak point!
4. Arbitrary goals aren't always interesting: I'm sure a lot of us have attempted to get achievements that just didn't seem like they were really worth it. A lot of achievements require endless repetition to perform a certain task a certain amount of times. These achievements are usually boring and reveal a lack of imagination on the part of the developer.
5. Achievement Unlocked: You're a griefing jackass With the inclusion of online-only achievements, a new set of problems appears. Individuals will stop playing the game like it is meant to be played and will instead spend their time trying to get specific achievements. A recent example of this is the team kill achievement that was to be included in the new Turok. This would obviously cause many problems. Thankfully, some developers understand the potential for this kind of problem. Infinity Ward decided to keep achievements focused solely on the single player portion of Call of Duty 4 to prevent gamers from breaking the multi-player by unceasingly trying to harvest those precious points.
5. Our game sucks, lets put in easy achievements: I don't have direct evidence for this, but I get the feeling that some poor games are getting more playtime than they should as a result of easily achievable achievements. I think some developers use achievements as a crutch to get people to play their useless crapfests, and I'm afraid it might be working.
I could probably find more to say on both sides of the issue, but I think these lists will suffice for the present. Anyone else have an opinion on the matter?
I hate the idea of missing out on any great games. However, I didn't use to be as hardcore a gamer as I am now (or maybe I just didn't have the money necessary to be one). There were quite a few games that passed me by. I generally do not have much trouble tracking down and enjoying old classics, but occasionally I run across titles that just don't stand the test of time (in my unforgiving and admittedly harsh opinion).
Medal of Honor: Underground
I have memories of playing the original Medal of Honor religiously like it was the PS1's Goldeneye (albeit only 2-player). I also had a great time with other title's in the series such as Frontline (PS2) and Allied Assault (PC). It wasn't until later that I realized I had missed a title before the series started sucking. I picked up Medal of Honor: Underground, was briefly excited about being a part of the French resistance, and told myself I would get to it eventually.
Fast forward 3-4 years. I started to play MOH:U and my first instinct was to turn up the brightness on my television. Unfortunately, I realized that this would not help as the game was simply not drawing these dark areas due to limited processing power. It also didn't help that the enemies could see further than I can. Not that it matters, as the game is frustratingly easy. The artificial intelligence (which seemed to good in its time) was appalling. Enemies would get stuck and run back and forth in an area trying to find an exit. Unfortunately, changing the difficulty level only changes whether your health meter refills between missions. Lame.
I was also quite annoyed with the objective structure. You have several very specific objectives that you must complete before reaching the end of the mission. However, some of these are difficult to locate in the dark murky world that is MOH: U. As an added bonus, one mission failed me for missing one of three machine guns. It seems that it might have been a better design decision to tell me to go back and find it, as opposed to starting the entire level over.
However, the game does receive high marks for sound design and overall presentation (you've got to love old war footage and gravelly voice overs). Unfortunately, It receives an additional low mark for inducing nausea on par with Durandal
In addition to Dramamine, you will need a steady diet of Vitamin E and corrective lenses to play this game.
Thief II: The Metal Age
I am a huge fan of the stealth genre, so the Thief series seemed like a perfect addition to my collection. I arbitrarily decided to start with Thief II.
After binding the control to a setting that suited me, I struck out to begin thieving and bumping baddies on the back of the head.
I don't know how to explain my problem with this game. It simply had a dated quality to it I cannot quantify, yet cannot stand. The artificial intelligence was, of course, laughable (especially that of friendlies), and I just couldn't get any satisfaction out of outsmarting an enemy that couldn't outsmart our president. I didn't feel so much that I was interacting with the game as that I was acting on the game by taking advantage of its flaws in order to achieve victory.
Basso does a mating dance to woo his precious Jenivere
System Shock 2
I feel I must apologize to Looking Glass for placing a second one of their games on the list. First, I just want to say that I am a huge fan of Deus Ex and a minor fan of Deus Ex 2 (I'm sure you understand). From a gameplay perspective, it seemed System Shock II would be right up my alley.
I started the game and I was again frustrated. The game seemed interesting and aesthetically pleasing. The "choose your own attributes" system promised a diverse and individualized gameplay experience. However, I just couldn't get myself past the constricting feeling of the environments or the seeming endless respawn of enemies in areas already cleared.
At this point I feel like I'm taking a very Seinfieldian approach in that I'm locating a minor, specific flaw and using it to avoid any further involvement. Perhaps I am being too harsh as an excuse to pass games up due to the sheer number I still wish to give a try.
I should like this game, I really should.
And so concludes volume II of the ranting of a jaded and picky gamer. On a related note, should I try Thief: Deadly Shadows, or will I be disappointed?