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5:50 PM on 08.28.2013

Mythbusters - Video Game Edition

Hello everyone, I'm here today to try a new format for the blog in the form of ripping the Mythbusters off, and examining the "myths" of gaming culture and business, of course we will be dealing with science here, that means there will be a good bit of research hunting and reading up involved.



So what will we be tackling right off the bat?

*reads list*

Oh boy, this is gonna be another one of those blogs, isn't 
it...?

Topic 1: Sexualization of Women is Bad! And Evil!

One of the biggest problems in the gaming industry these days is that women are being sexualized far too much in video games, engendering sexism and objectification of women in society, thus increasing the danger to womenkind everywhere.

Now personally, first time I heard it said that sexual objectification of women in video games will engender sexism and thus the degradation of women's roles, leading to more serious aspects of gender discrimination against women being more common, my mind went directly to our old friend Jack Thompson:




he among many others also had a similar claim in that exposure to violence in video games will increase the proclivity to commit violent acts in children.

Now, we all know that most of that is hogwash, and there was no relevant correlation and thus no causation between the exposure to violent video games and any increase in violent behavior, and those studies were focused on children, certainly more impressionable than adults!

But who knows, maybe this is some sort of dichotomy, you know, although the sexual behavior and the aggressive behavior centers in the brain are very interconnected, as far as I know (don't quote me on this!), I'm sure we'll find some research that can link sexism in real life and sexism in video games...

... Huh... Nothing whatsoever, well, it IS a fairly new issue, though that does cast some doubt on where the people claiming this fact get their facts from.

No matter, I'm sure with some good ol' fashion ingenuity we can fashion some sort of rudimentary research, like say, the relation between sexual depictions in video games 
and real life sex crimes, right?... Wait, wasn't there something like that in those violence studi-





... Huh, so the most prominent and talked about form of gender discrimination has dropped drastically in the last thirty years[1][2]? And as I recall, so did the crime rates.

So this should lead us to one of two conclusions:

A) Video games are actively and directly helping to reduce the rate of crime and sexist discrimination THROUGH the use of said violence and sex, or...

B) It is completely unrelated, and those rates are dropping with no correlation to the depiction in video games.

And don't forget, video game culture has been growing increasingly since its advent in the late 1980s, if anything, the sexual pandering and casual nudity has only gotten more prevalent.

Either way, I think it's safe to say that video games are in no way causing society to devolve into women-hating, sexual objectifying rapists, well, at least for now until a proper study is made.

Really, this should have been painfully obvious if someone just pointed at porn and said "what about that?".






Now some people might ask, well, what about all that harassment hubbub we keep seeing in gaming news sites? Surely the increase there is some sort of sign?

Well~....


TOPIC 2: Women Get harassed more in gaming culture

Now don't get me wrong, I'm sure plenty of women get harassed on the internet, and those guys are major assholes!

But... More than guys? Really?

Show of hands, how many of you here own an Xbox and play call of duty or any FPS on it? Okay, well how many times did you get your ears singed off by a fucktard who's entire vocabulary seems to consist of nothing but a word prefixed to a form of the word "fuck"?


you know? this guy!

A near daily occurrence, you say? Imagine that?

See, there might be not be as big a difference in the amount of harassment, just in the amount of perceived offense taken in general.

See, recent studies show that trait predominance gaps between genders are not as  small or irrelevant as they were once believed, while cultural and social climates can certainly alter the predominance of those traits in the genders, there is still a very solid baseline of... Shall we say "instinct", left behind thanks to the evolutionary process.

To quote:

"the largest differences between the sexes were found in 
Sensitivity, Warmth, and Apprehension (higher in females), 
and Emotional stability, Dominance, Rule-consciousness, 
and Vigilance (higher in males). These effects subsume the 
classic sex differences in instrumentality/expressiveness 
or dominance/nurturance." [3]

See, our large and nice human brains are not just human brains, they are the brains humans built atop the brains of earlier stages of homo-sapiens atop the brains of whatever ancestor we shared with the neanderthals, all of which are built on top of the brain of our reptilian ancestors.

And it is those reptilian brains that jump into action first whenever we interact with the environment, and it processes all of our surrounding and induces our emotional states before the rest of our brain that is associated with cognitive analysis even kicks in to rationalize WHY we are afraid of that big carnivore with so many large and sharp teeth and realizing "oh, this fucker is dangerous and could end me!", or why we are suddenly getting hot and bothered and releasing all of those chemicals in the brain that make us so happy before realizing it just may be seeing that very attractive guy or gal, and deciding "oh, they would make a GREAT mating partner!", our brains are just so fast in this process that we don't even notice anything but the rapid fire conclusion our brain makes.

Now let's look back to our past, and see just WHY did our ancestors need those proclivities to create a functioning society and survive.

For instance, those higher tendencies for apprehension and sensitivities? those translated to the females of the specie being more acutely aware of danger and discomfort, and thus capable of assessing the need to employ fight or flight to protect whatever offspring they have in the vicinity, since those off-springs are more prone and vulnerable than the adults in the group and certainly more in need of comfort to ensure their survival.

Likewise, the emotional stability and vigilance of the males of the specie made them more capable of standing their ground and defending the women and children from any danger approaching and to increase their comfort.

These traits were probably passed down to us due to them being the most effective in supporting the survival of the race, and thus they became instinctual behavior to avoid danger and prolong the specie's survival.

Now, these hardwired traits may be starting points that they are common enough to be associated with gender, but they don't always have to stay that way, that's where cultural influence comes in, when the brain realizes that these habits are no longer useful in this environment, an interesting phenomenon known as "neuroplasticity" kicks in, creating new pathways in the brain and atrophying the old ones, effectively creating new "instincts".



Well, if you say so, Mr. Fry...

but here's where our human capacity for rationalization can screw the whole thing up and fuck us right up the ass, it actually requires cognition of the dissonance to re-write these impulses.

See, the discomfort of someone shouting obscenities at you usually meant that this person intends to harm you, or it did until the advent of long-range communication, so it would naturally trigger these traits even if there was no immediate danger:

The brain begins by hearing the shouting, it is picked up by the perception part of the brain, which tells your body to trigger the appropriate response (fear and apprehension 
in women, Anger, aggressiveness and combat readiness in males), and only then will the frontal lobe go "huh, I seem to be scared/angry concerning a dangerous situation, must be that guy shouting at me who I cannot see."

Hell, if we actually perceive that sort of threat befalling someone else, our brains trigger another response of aid or protection, so even the response of "how dare you offend this person" is yet another response automated by the brain, after all, you don't actually have to think "there is an injustice occurring, I should get angry/scared".

So, do women actually receive more harassment than men? Maybe. 

But let's remember the story of Adria Richards, who was offended by a dongle joke told between two men in presumed privacy.



I think it's safe to say that there are probably some cases where the amounts of harassment are not really as big as they seem.



And that's it for this installment, bear in mind this is some amateur-grade research, so it can probably be countered if you research hard enough (as you should). If you want to see more, comment on the "myths" you want to see busted.

Thanks for reading.

[1]http://justice.uaa.alaska.edu/forum/17/2summer2000/c_rapefigs.html
[2]http://whatmenthinkofwomen.blogspot.com/2010/09/lies-we-are-told-about-rape.html
[3]http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0029265   read


1:33 PM on 07.03.2013

The Double Fine Dilemma.



No doubt you've already heard of Double Fine's... Fiscal management problems, if not, here's a link to the recent article that inspired this post to start you out.

Now I've been a backer of Double Fine's Kickstarter from the start, and I've been along the ride with them through the rather entertaining (and often inspiring)  2 Player Productions documentary, so since I know their stuff quite well, and I've just returned from a Software Development Management course, I feel like showing off my new found knowledge everywhere, so here goes.

First, let me start by showing you this:



This is commonly known as the project management triangle, and it contains the three basic measurements of a project, the idea is that this triangle represents the relationship between these three aspects; when you increase the cost, quality and time will respond accordingly, e.g. quality [or scope] might increase with the new possibilities, time required to complete it might increase or decrease depending on which way the scope heads.

By the same logic if time allowed increases the quality SHOULD rise with it, but so does the cost, the concept is a very simple yet deep one, we'll get back to this later.

The next thing that I feel requires mentioning mentioning the unfortunate fact that no, more money on your kickstarter does NOT mean you will have an easier time making your game, go back to our triangle, Double Fine just got more cash than they anticipated, now everyone might be all glad when that first happened, but the real insidious side effect was that, consider the following:

Your parent/spouse/significant other/aerobics instructor asks you to get milk for them, now you've done this many times already, they give you ten bucks and you go out to buy the best milk you can with Mr.Hamilton:



But surprise of all surprises, you see that your shopping buddy this time is none other than the very distinguished Dr. Benjamin Franklin:



Now your parent/spouse/significant other/aerobics instructor tells you that no, you should just do as you always do, buy as much and as high quality milk as possible with that $100 bill.

You're certainly befuddled by your parent/spouse/significant other/aerobics instructor's sudden and uncannily large craving for milk, but you just shrug and go to the store, where you have one of two choices:

A) Buy as much of the milk you usually get with the hundred, resulting in you going out with an entire shopping cart full of milk cartons and gallons (or bags, if you're Canadian),  which means you're barely able to push it to the clerk (who gives you one hell of an evil eye as he tiredly scans a year's supply of milk for you), and your car (which seems to be running on its two back wheels like a bad Herby the Love Bug impersonation), or...

B) You buy a couple of cartons of that weird tasting artisan milk which costs about $40 a pop, you're not even sure how good it tastes, the stuff's for hipsters and smells kinda funny, after all.

This is a rather long-winded and exaggerated representation of the mechanics of the the triangle, the money Double Fine got over their initial $400k to make the game didn't make their lives simpler, it made it much, much more complex, now their small niche adventure game has turned into a gigantic endeavor of adventure game trail-blazing, AAA proportion experience, you can see how the time and scale of the game shot right through the roof.




Now, you might be saying to yourself: "Well okay, the game will take longer but it'll be a better one, right? But wait, how come they're over budget so much?" Well, here's the SECOND caveat with getting so much more money than you asked from Kickstarter, and it ties to one of the oldest and scariest parts of project Management:



See, if you've just started your project, you've got a better chance going all out on the number zero in a fixed roulette game than you do accurately estimating the cost of your project while it's still in the pre-production stages, and the bigger the project (thus bigger scope and farther away release date) the harder it becomes, especially when you don't have any experience with something similar.

"Wait, what? Tim Schafer doesn't have experience making adventure games? Are you by any chance high, Viredae?" You might ask me.

And I'd answer no, no I'm not high, and yes, technically speaking, Tim Schafer doesn't really have any experience making point-and-click adventure games, nothing relevant at least.

While he hasn't been absent from the game industry in general, the last legitimate adventure game he made, he made it 13 years ago, that means none of the tools he's currently using has been used to make point-and-click adventure games before, none of the people he's currently hiring have any experience making point-and-click adventure games before, and to compound the matter, he went ahead with designing a new engine to fit around the art style of one specific illustrator (who happened to be working long-distance with them most of the time).

And that means our friends at Double Fine ended up in completely uncharted territory to them, with extremely ambitious  goals, and a project big enough to make it impossible to judge how much money or time it needs to finish... At least not until they're up to their wazoos in development.

Now in the end you might be asking me "Well Viredae, is there a solution to any of this?" And I'd reply probably, they've already been trying to augment their budget with funds from other projects' earnings, that's a good start, they're also trying to use the Steam early access feature to draw more consumers and thus more money to the game.

An idea I've had (and it's possible they've had it as well) is that they could license out and re-use the engine of the game (which is finished at the moment), much like the SCUMM and GrimE engines which were built in the golden age of Lucas Arts.

And for Kickstarter, there's a solution to minimizing this sort of rampant bloating, simply by adding a pledge cap to their projects, which would end the project at a certain amount even if there was time left on it, though I doubt Kickstarter themselves would like that suggestion since it would eat into their own profits, on the flip side it might mean that there would be more successful projects that would raise trust in the platform and keep people coming back for more.

Welp, I hope you enjoyed this long lesson about cost, quality and time constraints in projects in general (and video games specifically), till next time.   read


8:50 AM on 04.26.2013

Where are all the female indie devs?

This little thought tangent was brought on by the whole hubbub created by the game "Dragon's Crown", many people are, shall we say, ashamed of how the game is hyper-sexualized.

I responded in one of the blogs here on Destructoid that one of the best solutions is to encourage women to become game developers, and my first response in my head was that the industry is arguably so lopsided and impenetrable to them, bringing my mind to a few articles released recently. it seemed that only %3 of programmers were women, and only %11 in the field of design, the only field where the balance was more palatable was art and animation, where %60 of them are women, not to mention the following chart concerning wages:




The disparity involved could easily be considered off-putting, but... That's the AAA market here, right? What about the indie scene, the revolutionary new market that is literally a free for all, no barriers there, right? Everybody can use the same tools, some of which don't even require programming as a skill to create full and enjoyable games.

Apparently there's an imbalance there as well.

I'm a big fan of the indie scene, I enjoy listening to Destructoid's own Jonathan Holmes on his Indie game dev interview show "Sup Holmes", and it only then hit me:

I must have not heard more than three or four female developers on the show, as compared to several dozen male developers.

That couldn't be the case, could it? Maybe it was just a coincidence, a matter of scheduling or something similar, so I sought an answer right from the source:



My suspicions were proven true, something is wrong here, the one area that you could consider unequivocally fair and even was still a "boy's club", so to speak, What the hell?

It couldn't be the qualifications, like I said, many of the tools out there don't even require prior knowledge, not of programming or art or any such thing.

And I'm pretty sure women have an even bigger incentive to enter the market, if only to create things that cater to one's personal interests, which are apparently being both ignored and extinguished by many blunders in the AAA sector.

Now I don't really have an answer to this particular dilemma, All I can do is ask the question:

Where are all the female indie devs?   read


2:20 PM on 04.24.2013

Is the Wii U a failure?

By now you've probably heard the news about Nintendo's sales projections, and how they've essentially failed, but did they really?

Well, here's the thing, the answer is a bit of a yes and a bit of a no at the same time.

See, the best way to describe this is that Nintendo, in this scenario a Spy young 8th grader who's working hard in school to get an A, but after all the hard work it put in, it only managed to get a C, now a C is by no stretch of the imagination a failing grade (barring special circumstances), but to Nintendo, it won't get that shiny new toy it was begging its parents to get for them if they got an A, it's a good effort, but they really wanted more.

And that's the situation we have here, Nintendo actually made money this year, but they were expecting to make much, much more than this, and so they essentially failed at the goal they set for themselves.

But if that's the case, then why the hell did Nintendo have such high expectations for themselves? The answer lies in two Words:

The Wii.

You see the Wii U isn't technically a failure, it's only one as far as it's stacked against the Wii.

Here's the thing though, the Wii is kind of an anomaly, I don't think any other Nintendo console (or ANY console, for that matter) has had as successful a launch as the Wii, normally there are always pitfalls in the first year.

What happened here isn't so much a failure as unmet expectations; Nintendo's projections assumed that since the Wii did phenomenally, the Wii U will also do just as well if not better, that's how sales projections usually go, unless there's some reason to believe otherwise, but that wasn't really the case.

What was the case is that the Wii U got its hardcore audience who would buy the console right off the bat on faith, and is still waiting to shift units on those who want to wait and see what the console has to offer, ideally that gap doesn't exist because you have a good line-up of games to continuously attract costumers, and Nintendo sorta flubbed that.

Unfortunately for Nintendo, this isn't an unavoidable mistake, Nintendo should have been able to see the differences between the Wii and the Wii U, both in terms of the market surrounding it and the climate of the video game industry.

Of course, I'm sitting here talking about this with hindsight being 20/20, it's easy to talk after the deed is done, but then again, I'm not a marketing executive, I'm just a guy sitting on an armchair (literally) typing away at his screen watching the fallout.

So does this spell doom for Nintendo? Well no, I'm pretty sure things will pick up once Nintendo releases Pikmin 3 at least; the company's one strong suit has always been its first-party releases, and I doubt that will change any time soon, what will be the big tipping point is if Nintendo can actually encourage third party developers to actually create stuff for them, and I'm fairly optimistic about that.   read


12:00 AM on 02.25.2013

Is there still an "excuse" to buy a console?

Maybe I'm just that much smarter or much more adept at computers than most people, but it has always mystified me how people say that it's too hard to build a gaming rig, some say it's too expensive...

True, most of those people haven't touched a video card part in years, if ever, but what do I know?

So just to make sure, I'll run down the list of the three biggest "excuses":

1.I don't know how to build a PC

Let me make this as simple as possible, do you know how to use this:



And can you differentiate between the previous one and this one:



If you do, then congratulations, you can spend at most 15 minutes in front of a gutted PC and figure out where everything plugs into what..

If you failed to pass that test... Well how the hell are you reading this?

If you did not catch my snooty, condescending tone back there, I'm implying that building a PC is as easy as taking a piss, you don't need to be a genius to build PCs, it's not a god given talent that supernerds can lord over you from their ivory towers, You're taking give-or-take six parts (Motherboard, Hard Disk, Graphics Card, RAM, CPU, power supply and maybe a disk drive) and plugging them into a case, good job, you just made a PC.

Some people are worried that you might end up buying a wrong part or something incompatible, but really? Just ask the person you just bought the part from if it will work with this other part you're buying, at most it'll take five more minutes to call that other guy who DOES know more about PCs and him taking a look over before giving you a pass or getting you a proper part.



2. It's actually much more expensive to build a PC than to just buy a console

I hear this one a lot, and the conversation usually goes something like this:

Idiot: "When you count in the upgrades and the bad parts you have to replace in the long run, PCs are much more expensive than consoles."

Me: "Ah, so you build your own PCs then?"

Idiot: "... No, because they're too expensive."

Let's set aside the fact that you're already considering to plop down a hefty price for at least one console, a couple more hundreds and/or few hours of learning a new skill is not going to kill you.

Let's even forget the fact that the previous argument is a bit too strawman-ish and over the top, but you get the idea, arguing from a position of ignorance, it's true that:



A) a "good" gaming rig can cost somewhere from $600-$1000 and

B) it is true that you will eventually need to upgrade your rig.



But here's the thing:

A) what people consider a "good" gaming rig right now is technically more powerful than even the PS4 and

B) upgrading your rig comes at a fraction of the cost, and you won't need to do that until at least the next console generation cycle (i.e. PlayStation 5 days)


So while you do need to pay about $600 NOW, in the long run you'd be paying about the same amount as you would with consoles.

But it gets even better, you see, we have something that makes owning a PC much more economic than owning a console, it's a beautiful thing called "Steam":


Just imagine a choir singing in the background

Aside from being somewhat cheaper to buy games in general on the PC (most AAA games cost $50 instead of $60 at launch), Steam practices this revolutionary tactic of "putting games on sale", where you can get a relatively new games for half or lower than their original prices at given points in time, and those cuts in game purchases usually save you a lot more money in the long run than shying away from a single big payment at the entry point, not to mention the larger variety of games you can actually play.

But I shouldn't salivate on Steam's cock (or vagina, anthopomorphizations are not set in stone and I'm all for gender equality in my racy humor) for too long, it'd be too unsightly.

Let's talk more about upgrading your PC, you see, when you do that, the cost of upgrading one's PC doesn't vary that much, as it usually costs somewhere in the range of $150~$250 to just stay in the same bracket every console generation cycle, so in essence, the concept of PCs costing more than consoles will become more ludicrous with the passing of each generation to come for you, you don't belive me? Let's do some math then:

Let us assume that you're a gamer on a budget and can only afford either a PC or a single console, and on average, you're paying $400 for a console right out of the gate in the console generation (It's usually more, but I'm being optimistic), while getting a PC of equal or higher power would set you back for $600, let's see how the total goes along the console cycles:

1st cycle: Consoles($400) PC($600) (PC is more expensive)


2nd cycle: Consoles($800) PC($800) (already PC gaming has caught up to Consoles)


3rd cycle: Consoles($1200) PC($1000) (consoles lose...)


And that's only assuming you still spend the same amount of money on games you did when you used consoles, at which you have more games in your library than you used to, either that or you save even more money that pointed out on the table above.

Finally, we have my favorite "excuse" when people don't want to buy PCs:


3. I just don't want to bother with all the drivers and stuff

Question 1: Are you using a computer right now (PC or Laptop, Windows or Mac)? Or own one if you're using a cell phone?

Question 2: Does it work?

If you answered yes to those two questions, then trust me, you can handle the "drivers and stuff" you get from a gaming PC.

---------------------------------------------------------

Now I've basically talked about why most of the reasons people give as to why they don't want to switch to a gaming PC, I haven't really talked much about the PROs of owning one in that much detail (other than prostituting myself to Steam...), and of course, feel free to tell me of other "excuses" why it isn't outright better to just get a gaming PC and be done with it, maybe I'll even do a follow-up if there's enough fanboy rag-... Erm, "civilized discussion" in the comments.   read


11:39 AM on 10.01.2012

Japanese Girls Aren't Sexy

Now before anyone jumps on my throat about me being a sleazeball for discussing my sexual preferences on a gaming blog, this isn't about that (god knows I've received enough guff for a week).

So let me start by introducing the catalyst for this blog, Jim Sterling:


Jim Sterling in his natural habitat.

First let me give my opinion on Jim's video before I get to the main subject.

I'm not trying to criticize Jim here, I like the dood, but I find it kinda funny that someone who goes on a weekly show trying to gross out his friend as much as possible gets offended by what Team Ninja makes.

Not to mention the fact that traditions where women mutilate their genitals is scientifically proven to be harmful, this? Not necessarily so much.

If the problem is that Jim is simply confused by TN's actions, then I would find that normal, we're all puzzled by one thing or another in this industry, that's just another addition to the conga line, but when it comes to being disgusted by their products, well, I've seen less sexier and more disgusting things come out of this industry, and I'm not even talking about sexualizations, just plain actions and attitudes.

That said, let's get on with the subject of today, attractiveness in the eyes of Japanese people.

Now some of you may be asking why I'm tackling this subject, it may seem irrelevant, but it really has a lot to do with crucial points in the industry, such as global marketing.

For instance, even if Japanese consumers made up most of their purchases, western studios would still produce games that appealed to westerners, not out of ignorance to the global market, but because those games appeal to the developers and their environment, same with the Japanese developers, this is mostly why companies fare so badly overseas, whether Western or Eastern, of course excluding companies like Nintendo who have their own separate and culture neutral styles (Metroid Other M, anyone?).

See, the reason why games like DoA have big breasted, doe-eyed, plastic doll like heroines, or why games like Final Fantasy have fey, effeminate protagonists is because Japanese people aren't sexy.

Or to be more accurate, they don't find "sexy" attractive, most of the time at least, yes you have different tastes, but for most parts, this is mainstream:


You may not find this attractive, but Japanese people would.

See, the main difference between what most westerners find attractive and what the Japanese do, is that the former see "sexiness" as the main criteria, while the latter value "cuteness" more, which would translate into cute, bubbly' women (A la the DoA girls and Vanille from FF XIII) and effeminate looking, delicate pretty boys (AKA the Final Fantasy and DoA boys).

And the fact that the culture and mainstream opinion is tied to this permeates it into the psyche of the developers across the pond, they can't help the fact that the moment someone tells them to "make an attractive character", this is what pops into their heads, because to them, that's what is considered attractive.

And like I mentioned, they are more inclined to follow their intuition on what is sexy than what those silly Americans consider to be "attractive".

So remember kids, next time you criticize someone else's culture, remember that there's someone out there who thinks that cheeseburgers suck.   read


7:50 AM on 09.29.2012

Totally Super Serious Discussion: I Want A Game With Rape In It.

So I've been away for a while, and what better way too return than by initiating another corner with talking about our favorite subject (in one way or another):

Rape!



Now before your knee hits the bottom of your desk, hear me out, I can guarantee that you will want to lynch me less when we're done here (hopefully).

Rape is one of those words that can instantly shuffle the butts in the seats the minute it's said, it's not an easy subject to discuss, and with good reason being that it's a traumatic experience regardless.

There is unfortunately still a lot of insensitivity and ignorance about the subject, even outside of video games.

But that doesn't mean that we shouldn't talk about it, hard subject to talk about, it may be, but to plug our ears and try to push away any discussion of it is ultimately detrimental and unhealthy.

Now obviously (or not, I have no idea how I'm actually perceived in these circles) I'm an average heterosexual male, so people would obviously go to the conclusion that I should not talk about this subject, but I like to believe that I'm a rather reasonable individual, one who is willing to keep an open mind and is willing to listen to all points of view, not to mention play devil's advocate every now and then.

Also, I watch quite a bit of reviews of art house films (but not the actual things themselves, not snooty enough), and you would be surprised to learn how many of those have rather disturbing imagery or subjects, you could really compare them with the indie scene in video games, no less.

Except, maybe due to the relatively young age of video games as a medium, or due to the type of culture it, er... Cultivates, there aren't that many games that make you actively think about things around you in real life, they don't reflect on the world or the general outlook of the medium, they're just... There.

Now there are certainly the odd number of indie games who provide an example of these sort of subjects, such As Katawa Shoujo and To The Moon on the subjects of disabilities and the nature of death respectively.

Hell, just recently, we got a mainstream game that took a look at the nature of FPS games and their rather absurd disregard of human life and their consequences, along with a nice study of PTSD in soldiers, not to mention being a nice homage to Heart of Darkness.

Which is why I feel we're kinda ready to grow into the next level as a medium, and move past simply offering choices of entertainment into choices of thoughtful stimulation as well.

So I want my game, which is about rape, in a totally tasteful and thoughtful manner, so I can say video games taught people about rape... In a totally tasteful and thoughtful manner.

So get to it, go and make it invisible developers who I don't know why I'm talking to...

P.S. Also, murder is worse than rape, cause you can't recover from death, and there's still a chance to live a healthy life if you've had the misfortune of being raped, which is still very awful... Also, your loved ones are sad either way, more if you're dead.   read


4:23 PM on 08.04.2012

Game highlights - Spec-ops: The Line is in my top 5 this year.

Yes, I am trying to catch your attention with that title, and yes, this position may alter by the end of the year, but for now, I can adamantly say that Spec-Ops is one of my top games of the year, period.

I'm not a big shooter fan, either in first person or third. in fact, the time I've played the Call of Duty franchise can amount to less than two hours total (using a friend's copy), I've fiddled a little with Battlefield 2142 after getting it in a bin for about $10, and while it may be hypocritical of me to rag on those franchises, I can say that I was not impressed with what I've experienced.

And with that said, it might surprise people that I'm willing to give SO:TL a 10/10 right here, right now, without even mentioning the gameplay in any significant capacity, aside from a few touches added in to aid what I consider the true focus of this game.

You see, in my opinion, a game has to do one of two things to qualify for a perfect 10 in my book:

A)it has to perfectly pull off every aspect of the game, without missing a beat, ie. perfectly functioning gameplay, story, visuals and sound design, so in my opinion, Vagrant Story would qualify as a 10/10.

B) it has to do something so innovative and stunning with one of the aspects above that it outstrips any need to present any of the other aspects as anything more than above average, a game like, for instance, Final Fantasy VI with its story and characters, or Final Fantasy VII with its direction and design.

Spec-Ops falls into the second category, where it presents its story (an adaptation of the Heart of Darkness novella and/or the movie Apocalypse Now), in a way that only a medium like video games can, by thrusting you right into the heart (pun intended) of the narrative and essentially putting you into the shoes of the characters, hitting you with the full force of its world.

if that sounded like a lot of gibberish, then the short of it is that this is a game so good that might actually make you physically ill, it's a game that, unless you've got a heart of stone, will disturb you.

I'm not really going to go into the broad strokes of the gameplay mechanics (GoW style cover shooter, done) or its multi-player (after the campaign mode, I don't have it in me to play the game in any frivolous capacity), so nothing else there.

While the graphics are definitely snazzy, I don't think that it'll blow anyone's mind away, but one thing that this game excels in is the sound design, from the actual voice acting of your "protagonist" to the minute ticks and nuances of in-game voice that accompany it (pay attention to the "tone" as you progress through the story), and even music (diegetic or otherwise) that serves to set an outlandish and alien tone for the game.

So I will ask you a favor, if you have $60 to spare, buy this game, full price, because if this game can make it, then maybe, just maybe, we can give out a statement that we want more than just a generic shooter, that we actually do prefer our games with more craft and intellect injected into them.

thank you for putting up with a rather dry highlight (there aren't even any pictures!), and of course, thank you for listening.   read


3:47 PM on 08.01.2012

The C Word

Well, it wasn't long before I got to this; the one word that nobody wants to hear, the word that sends people gasping at its mere mention, gets people boiling faster than a volcano and sends droves of furious gamers to bashing on their keyboards.

Yes, you guessed it, that word is none other than "criticism"!

... The other C word? what other C word?

Anyways, a lot has been said about the need for games, as both an industry AND a community, to grow up, but to me, regardless of whether people believe the games to be "grown up" or not, it seems many people are not fully aware of what it does mean to be "grown up".

Now I'm not going to stand here on my soapbox and pretend that I'm better than everyone because I'm the one who knows what it means to be grown up (I'm not nearly as awesome as Jim Sterling, for one), but I like to believe that I have at least an inkling of one aspect of being grown up, and yes, you've probably guessed it:

Being grown up means being willing to take criticism.


Uh oh, I think someone criticized the beard...


You see, one aspect of growing up is learning that not everyone is going to agree with you; when you're a child your parents are always there to help you ease into what rejection and disagreements might entail (ideally, at least), but when you step out into the real world on your own, you have to learn to perform that function all by yourself, and that means being able to take the criticisms, disagreements and rejections of others, and after considering them, deciding on whether they should apply what they were given or disregard it.

You see, I think of gaming as something that as just started to take its first steps to growing up, only recently did we get the chance to breathe easily, not afraid of the specter of judgement and the almighty ban-hammer of the legal system that were literally threatening the mere existence of the medium, that was a point in time that we did need to defensively react to every politician and judge who dared to even give a crooked stare in the direction of gaming.


Oh don't worry, your honor, we all like you!

Now, on the other hand, we're faced with an even bigger task; to make sure that our child, gaming as we know it, can grow up to be an upstanding part of society, we need to raise it and shape it into something we can all be proud of, and we need to start by learning to take criticism.

But what does that even mean? I hear you asking.

We need to stop getting upset over every game that doesn't get all the praise in the world, or over games that do.

We need to stop and consider whether or not something in a game IS racist, or sexist, or inhumane, and then stop and consider if it SHOULD be one of those things, and if those things will deliver a better message in a game, or just make the developers seem as those things.

We as members of the gaming community need to decide for ourselves whether or not games are art, not get hung up on the people still outside it who say it isn't, just accept, give your opinion, and move on.

We need to learn how to get along, you like FPSes? I prefer RPGs, but we're still cool, just like how I'm cool with this dude who likes western RPGs even though I prefer the Japanese ones.

And I know this one is a bit hard to swallow, but we need to accept crowds that don't feel like a part of the gaming community to us like the casual gamers, and actually try to show them what a wonderful world gaming can offer beyond what they're playing. (I'm making some progress with MY mother, how about you?)

It doesn't help us when our reaction is to flail madly and rant about how we DO deserve respect when we're not willing to show that we actually do, we're not really deserving of the great power if we're not willing to embrace the great responsibility, not just so that the people outside will accept us, but also because otherwise, this community might end up as the equivalent of this:


Dear god, I do NOT want that to happen...

So in the end, I may not like the game that you like, but that's cool by me, and hopefuly, it's cool by you to.   read


5:34 AM on 07.14.2012

They Don't Make 'em Like They Used To: Why do old people like retro games?

Have you noticed how almost anyone over 20 who has regularly played games in their younger days seem to go...

Woah, wait! Have you seen this?



Wow, that is a blast from the past my friend.

This is a list of (arguably) all the worthwhile games on DOS, basically the PC games that came out roughly from the start of the 80's till a few years before the start of the new millennium, go on and check it out, I'll give you a few minutes... Back? Wonderful.

You see, I was born dead in the center of this era (specifically, '87), so while half of my time was spent playing on my NES and Sega Genesis, the other half was of me sitting at the computer trying to explore the villages in Albion, figure out the best way to outmaneuver the enemy in Dune, or just make sense of the puzzles in Day of The Tentacle and...

Okay, I'm rambling, I almost fell into the trap I started talking about at the beginning of this post, are those games really that much better? or is it simply nostalgia goggles?

This is a really treacherous question, it's not as simple comparing the two eras, and you could easily dismiss it as being a matter of opinion.

Naturally, I'm not one to say that all games from back then are better than the ones we have now, there are some real stinkers back in the 5th and 6th generation of consoles (AKA the PSX era and anything before) and, and there are some seriously awesome gems in this era.


one of the more notorious "stinkers" of the 16-bit era.

"So it wasn't a better era?" You may ask, but here's the thing, I do believe it was better.

And the main reason for that? Ironically, it's because the games were not allowed to go bigger and be more bombastic than they can now.

Let me explain the point with, say, a movie!


AAAAH!! SOMEONE GET THAT FLASHBANG OUT!!


Ah! John Carpenter's The Thing, considered to be one of the (if not just THE) most influential and well-crafted horror movie to date.

now this film was made in 1982, this movie is literally 30 years old, it's older than me! And recently, there was a prequel made, and that prequel did not fare as well as its predecessor, where the original garnered a damn impressive %79 freshness rate on Rotten Tomatoes, the prequel got paltry and, to be honest, downright embarrassing %39.

Now, maybe you're going "of course this movie failed, remakes and old franchise sequels are always shit!", and if you did, I want to stop you right there:

Why?

Now there are obvious points to attack are the fact that these movies are mostly cash-ins, they're not interested in the franchise as much as the money the franchise can bring in, but The Thing has a bit of a special property to it; there's one aspect that helped make the original movie better than its successor; the tools!

One thing the original movie could not do is show you the monster, I mean let's face it, it was the 80's and the best you could do is make an animatronic of the monster that eventually only reminded you of the Ewoks and how shitty and goofy it actually looks, so they did the only thing they could logically do: they adapted.

The need to hide the fakeness of the monster and the props lead them to use a more atmospheric approach in their cinematography, mood appropriate lighting and tight editing, one that drove the movie from being a creature feature into a psychological horror flick that has aged exceptionally well, even after 30 years.


Seriously, look at this thing for more than 10 seconds... Erm...

And to me, that's why recent video games are not on the same level as the older ones, mostly because the older generations had to find different ways to utilize any tool in their arsenal just to make their games around the lack of resources, while these days, there's more than enough resources to go twice over a game, that's not necessarily a bad thing, but for such a young and underdeveloped medium, it might be better to rein in the excitement.

Necessity is the mother of invention, and in this case, innovation as well, limitations push you to create new ways to present your ideas in an engaging and unique fashion.

Now I'm not saying that this doesn't happen in newer games, and that there are no limitations to engender innovation in this generation, but maybe, just maybe, it's possible that we moved too fast on this point? Maybe there are still lessons to learn before we try and embrace the more powerful tools and ideas?

I think so, but who knows...   read


2:38 PM on 07.12.2012

Calm. the Fuck. Down!!

Okay, this is gonna be a tough post to write, mostly because I'm worried it might start far too many arguments and I'll get stuck right in the middle, understand that I'm not trying to do that, I'm not making this post to hop on any bandwagons, and I'm certainly not writing it to accuse or offend anybody, that said, when it comes to the issue of sexism in video games (and to be honest, all over the internet, it seems), I really have just one thing to say about it, and I wanna say it very loudly and clearly:

Just chill the fuck out already!

You see I'm kinda getting tired, exhausted even, because the way this thing is going, it's gonna get to a very ugly place very, very soon. in fact, I think we're almost there.

I might be getting ahead of myself here.

The issue of sexism in video games has been building up for a while now, I think it started all the way from the Crossfire Incident, when the fighter game community was egged by one of the male contestants to deride and verbally abuse one of the female contestants so much so, she just exited the room altogether due to her discomfort. That was horrible thing, and even I shook my head disapprovingly at the whole fiasco.

Then I believe there was the Hitman: Absolution trailer where people were up in arms about sexual portrayal and physical abuse of women, I really was just scratching my head at this one, maybe I'm just more unfazed by that because of my particular taste in movies and games, maybe it's my love of cheese in media making me more forgiving, but I found the trailer amusing rather than mean spirited.

then there was the whole Anita Sarkeesian controversy, this is the point in time when my brain was telling me that it might be wise to jump for cover, since a shit storm was in the brewing.

While I don't condone the sort of bashing that occurred there, it's because I'd rather not condone any kind of bashing period, and not just because it's directed at someone who has a specific set of genitalia, that and I find it kinda disheartening how much money her kickstarter got knowing fully well that it wouldn't have done so well if not for this controversy, it felt like people were guilt tripped into this whole thing, not saying she guilt-tripped people into this or even that she didn't deserve to make her funding, mind you, but the amount of bashing that happened was kinda making the paranoid side of me suspicious.

And of course let's not forget the whole Tomb Raider business with Laura Croft needing to be protected, I'm sure that guy at least got a mouthful back at the boss' office, rightfully so.

Heck, not even our own Destructoid isn't safe, when their own Ryan Perez started directing some very offensive comments towards popular geek actress and voice-over artist Felicia Day, he was promptly relieved from his responsibilities when he continued directing the comments, this time going with a kamikaze style spray and pray mentality at whoever was trying to talk some sense to him.

The actual incidents themselves are fine, but what's really been bugging me is the community response to all of this; it's like people are going batshit insane here.

And this is where I finally get to the point of this post; people need to relax already.

Now before any of you start banging on your keyboards so hard that the keys start flying around, I like to say that I'm directing this whole message to both sides, yes, both the people vehemently trying to undermine and understate these incidents and the so called "feminists" who are raving like lunatics at even at the slightest mention of the keywords relating to these issues, even in jest.

The reason behind my fear here is that I've seen this kind of thing before, very recently and even here in the video games community, I've seen it when we were under attack from all the politicians demanding to take down video games for corrupting the youth and turning them into avatars of decadence and violence, except this time around, we've pretty much just divvied up and took both sides of the argument, continuing to snap at each others' extremities.

That's why I'm so worried, because either side "winning" here is a definite loss for the video game community in general, with the vitriol just building up more and more, it becomes very hard to reach an amicable agreement on the issue, and we essentially lose the privilege of enjoying the point of view of the side that ends up being the "villain" of the argument, both sides getting pushed forward by a desire to have video games grow up, yet forgetting why and even how to grow up.

That's the thing about shit-storms; no matter where you stand, it's always messy for both parties and really, everyone is wearing that sour look on their faces even if they've proven their points.

really, I don't want anyone to stop discussing things and I don't even want people to stop arguing, even that is good, I just want people to stop being so sensitive and touchy to the point of screaming, calm the fuck down, and act like sensible adults.

Basically, I just want people to stop screaming bloody murder, because I'm getting a massive headache...   read


6:18 AM on 07.07.2012

Great Character Design? What's That!?

I love designing characters.

I love everything that's involved in the act of brainstorming, creation, backstory writing and visual design of said characters.

I love looking at other people's designs, analyzing them and picking them apart, piece by piece, and if possible nicking one of those pieces for a rainy day to use on one of my own characters.

And so I can already hear some of you asking me (probably because I wrote said question in the title):

So can you get on with it and tell us what counts for good character design, already!? God...

Alright, simmer down, I'll get to it, first of all, let's define what actually needs to be designed before we actually judge whether or not it's actually good.

To me, a good character is usually comprised of three parts, for the sake of simplicity, let's call them The Heart of a character, The Mind and, last but not least, The Body, so let's get to it:

A) The Heart

when we try to define a character's heart, we mostly go about defining their nature, and the best way to actually start defining that is to answer one question in one sentence:

What's he like?

Imagine, if you will, that you're trying to describe a friend of yours to someone who just asked you that question, you're not going to tell them what they look like, you'll tell them about their characteristics, their attitude and general behavior, this usually involves the use of adjectives to describe them.

Let's look at an example here, we'll use Zidane from Final Fantasy IX:


Zidane, not at all a rip-off of Son Goku!

Now let's try and see what can we say about Zidane in one sentence:

He's a playboy, impulsive, care-free, sneaky and sly, but ultimately kind and thoughtful, especially to his family and friends.

There, one sentence that describes Zidane quite well, this piece of information is very important, not only as a starting point, but also to help us perceive his reactions to any given situation that he might run into in the course of the story, such as the moment when he first bumps into princess Garnet, reading the sentence above, you can understand how his reaction is to that is to immediately toss a pickup line or two at her.

Now of course, one sentence is hardly enough to describe a complex character, we might be able to make do with it for a while, but sooner or later we have to branch out and go deeper into the character.

In comes the backstory!

Now, depending on you, you could start with either the backstory or the one sentence description, but I find it easier to build the backstory after you decide what kind of character you're making, either way, we're going to look into the cause and effect relation between these two subjects, let's keep going with the Zidane example:


WARNING!! WE WILL ENTER SPOILER TERRITORIES FROM HERE ON OUT!!



Now when we look back at our descriptor above, let's try to guess why he is what he is, naturally, when making a character of your own, you'll have to do it on your own, here though, we have the fortune of having a preexisting backstory.

The Zidane that we know started out as an amnesiac before being found by his band of theater performers, he traveled with them until they were asked by Lindblum's regent, Cid to retrieve the princess from the clutches of her evil mother!

That right there is the catalyst for most of Zidane's Heart; the traveling troupe, it's nature and its life-style show us the source of his care-free spirit, his playfulness and, according to popular belief, his womanizing ways. Add to that the fact that he's performing acrobatic feats to people and the nature of theater, and his sneakiness fits like a glove.

Finally, his caring and kind nature that eventually shines through comes from none other than his companions in the troupe, who are nothing if not a surrogate family who decided to more or less adopt Zidane.

That right there is a good start when looking at the heart of a character, you could always add more, and you probably will, but for now, this is a good start.

B) The Mind

Now you might be asking yourselves what else do we have to cover, you say "Well gee, gosh willikers, we already have a pretty detailed character, what else is there?" like your average little kid in a 60's instructional video.

Well, first of all, nobody says "gee, gosh willikers" anymore, this isn't the 60's, and when that's out of the way, I'd tell you that what we have to define the higher functions and complexities of our characters, A.K.A. his goals and motivations, what drives and inspires him to continue in his journey, and just as important, what his wants and needs are.

Now since we've come this far, let's continue with Zidane and take a look at his goals and motivations, we'll run into something interesting here; at first, Zidane has no higher purpose in the story other than survival and maintaining the status quo, he effectively has no drive in his life, he simply enjoys being with his family and for all we know, he has no intention of changing that.

His motivation after that, when he is tasked with returning the princess to Lindblum, is not far removed from his original goal, he either has the immediate goal of survival, or the long-term goal of finishing the mission and returning with his troupe to their old way of life.

What interests us is what happens after they complete that mission, and the kingdom of Alexandria begins to launch its own take on World War III, that our hero begins to manifest something of a goal; to protect his home, friends and family from the menace that is Queen Brahne.


Queen Brahne, giving King Hippo a run for his money!

That right there gives us his goals, his wants, but what about his needs?

Well, after the work we've done, it's quite easy to come to an answer to that question; Zidane here needs his family and friends, as they are the most valued thing he possesses, if you're wondering exactly on what a characters' needs are (beyond the most basic needs such as food or shelter), just think of the things that would make this one character behave irrationally considering what we've mentioned before.

Another good place to start with a characters' needs is the Maslow hierarchy of needs, check it out:


The need to poop is naturally paramount!

What you're looking for here is whatever lies in the top three tiers of this hierarchy, in other words the Love/Belonging tier, Esteem tier and self-actualization tier, you can almost always tie your characters' needs to one of the concepts present in these three tiers.

Well, that was a long-winded explanation, let's move on to the final part of character-design:

C) The Body

You've probably guessed what this part stands for, and if you've guessed the actual, physical attributes and appearance of a character, then you've guessed correctly.

Now you might be inclined to believe that this part is the least important of a character, or one deserving of less contemplation than the other two, on this account, you're absolutely wrong!

Believe me when I tell you that this area of the design is just as intertwined with the other two aspects as they are with each other, as we will rely heavily on those two aspects to analyze (on your own, it will be to come up with) the visual design of our character, on to Zidane:


posting this image here to spare your scrolling finger!

Now let's consider what we've learned about our character so far, he's basically an acrobat, we know him to be mischievous and playful, being the creation of a Japanese mind, his appearance stemming from their folklore is not a surprise, you though I was kidding about him being a rip-off of Son-Goku up there, didn't you? Well, these characteristics are as synonymous with the character from the tales as Jesus is to forgiveness and compassion, or Ghandi to pacifism, or Hitler to pants-shitting evil and racism.

We also know that he grew up as a wandering performer with his troupe, indicated by his festive yet still nonrestrictive attire (seriously, just look at those cuffs and that necktie).

Finally, him being a thief gives the final touch, yet still some of the more fundamental aspects of his appearance; the height and weight, his smallish build and prehensile monkey tail, even his weapon of choice, the daggers, convey his role in the mechanics of the game.

contrast those physical attributes with Steiner, whose relatively hulking size and armored attire are fitting to his knight persona, same with Vivi, with his tiny size and waddling movements, extremely appropriate for his squishy mage persuasion.

If there's a lesson to take from the entire Body section, it's that the appearance and visuals of a character are just as deserving of your time as the other two, so always try to consider your characters' traits when you decide on the looks.

and that's about it, we've got ourselves the makings of a great and complex character, of course, this isn't the end all be all of character building articles, we're really only scratching the surface, but it's a start.

I may come back to this subject later on, and if you have any points you want me to touch on in those later posts, please go ahead and tell me on the comments down there.   read


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