My story isn't all that different from many other males my age. The majority of my youth was spent with a NES or Genesis controller in my hands. As I aged I spent less and less time playing games, and even skipped a few console generations completely due to things like girls, work, and higher education. Earned the degree, got the girl, found a good job, and even threw in a few kids in the process and now I'm back to gaming.
I actually started back a few years ago with the original XBOX. I played the hell out of a few sports games and Ninja Gaiden, but never really found my groove. I tried titles like Fable (ok), Halo (fine), and Morrowind (I was doing something wrong because I just didn't get it, wtf was up with the combat?), and none of them ever grabbed me like I hoped. This generation I opted for the Wii. A return to Nintendo roots and I convinced the wife the kids could play it in a few years. I know Wii is a dirty word around here, but say what you will, it drew this dude back in a big way. After about 5 minutes with Super Mario Galaxy I was reborn. Sadly the selection of games has cooled considerably (until summer 2010), but I've still gotten plenty of use out of it by grabbing titles I missed during my hiatus. I am also looking to add a PS3 to the fold in the future, hopefully sooner rather than later.
E3! It's finally here. Well, it a few hours away but with everything that has been leaked it almost feels like we're halfway through the show. Despite never having attended, this is one of my favorite weeks of the year. E3 has always represented an opportunity to get a glimpse at what exciting new games and products we'll be getting our grubby paws on. Only this year feels a little different.
I liken the feeling to how my children must feel on a daily basis. As an adult, I've grown used to making my own decisions regarding when, where, and how I want things to happen. The experiences of my children (ages 4 and 1) on the other hand, are limited to those that I deem appropriate for them. Those experiences are influenced by a number of factors, including my analysis of what constitutes loving guidance, the effects of my own fears, and my own biases. Parenting is not an innate ability. It is something that is learned through trial and error. As such, often the biggest determinant in what choices are made for my children is what I've observed other parents doing. If you have children, you know that the choices you make for them do not always sit well. The resulting behavior, the tantrum, is a sign that they are experiencing discomfort.
As my 4 year old grows, I'm finding that she will often take a different route to arrive at the same outcome. I find myself amazed when I watch her solve a problem in a manner completely inconsistent with what I would have done. She always manages to find a solution even when I think she will not. This sparked my interest in the theory of multiple intelligences. I won't bore you with the details, but the basic idea is that humans learn through a variety of different methods (spatial, musical, kinestetic, etc.) and that measurement using one single method (IQ) may not validly measure intelligence. This is not an idea without critics. Much work needs to be done to prove the utility of this theory, but conceptually it seems to make sense. Each of us is wired in a distinct way. We all know people who excel in a variety of different domains (math, music, art, memory). So perhaps a discipline that lends itself to the type of intelligence (learning) that is preferred by an individual will be most comfortable for them.
If we are drawn to careers or solve problems based on differing types of intelligences, perhaps our enjoyment of recreational activities derives from the same mechanism. Some are drawn to sports, others to art. Some kids like to play with legos, others show a preference for the violin. I postulate that we all choose recreational activities that minimize the dissonance (aka difference, disconnect) between what we are doing and our preferred method of learning or acting. Forgive the phrasing, but the idea relates to work I did for my thesis based on control theory. The idea is that actions can be based on minimizing the difference between the current state and a desired goal or reference. In plain English, we attempt to minimize the difference between what we have and what we want to have, what we feel and what we want to feel, etc. We achieve this by adjusting our actions until we are able to reach a state where our perception matches our goal. It has been shown that once we achieve that state, we demonstrate better performance in complex tasks and report more enjoyment from the activities we are engaged in. When we are unable to achieve this state, and instead are faced with persistent dissonance, we experience discomfort and often disengage from the activity (the adult form of a tantrum).
Hey! Wake up!!! It's more interesting than it sounds.
How does this relate to gaming? Well, for the last several years we've had options with respect to how we play our games. The Wii (which I love as a kinestetic type) has offered motion controls while the other systems stuck with the more classic controller interface. With the introduction of Kinetic and Move, and the tremendous amout of marketing around them, we are moving into the future and that future has been defined for us. The demonstration videos all center around the same experiences we've already had with the Wii. Sports games, mini-games, throw this ball, smack this ball, make driving motions. I haven't seen a single experience that isn't an exact replica of something I've already done with Wii.
Microsoft and Sony appear to be chasing the dollar that Nintendo already earned. But the brilliance of the Wii was that it was something we hadn't seen before and didn't expect. Pardon the pun, but in a sense the Wii was a Revolution. Millions of customers who never took to gaming were drawn in. A big part of this was the advent of motion control. Many who weren't drawn to the old controller style of gameplay found themselves enjoying the Wii. Much like using a different intelligence to learn, Nintendo offerend the opportunity to use a different way to interact. Movement replaced confusing finger gymnastics and opened up the world of gaming to masses who had previously found the activity too frustrating. When the Wii was released, consumers were given choices when it came to how they could interact with virtual environments.
Wouldn't it make more sense for Microsoft and Sony to attract customers looking for another different experience. If you want to be the next big thing, out of necessity don't you have to be the "next" thing? By putting all of the eggs in a giant motion controlled basket, isn't the industry homogenizing and thus reducing the scope of their market? I can't claim to know what the future of gaming is, but I can assure you the future is not something that was shown by Nintendo at E3 in 2005......the way MS and Sony are acting, the future of gaming will be whatever Nintnedo shows in 2010.
Greetings, and thanks for tuning in. This is my first attempt at this and I won't try to trick anyone into thinking I have any idea what I'm doing. I read the anniversary post by Niero where he called out the lurkers, and well, I'm one of them. So here ya go, somebody is listening to what the big dog says.
I wasn't sure what to write at first (which explains why I never jumped in before), but after reading about how everyone loves this community and all of the great memories people share, I got an idea. Why not write about the things I've observed and love about this community? But if I'm going to make a contribution perhaps I should also call out the community on some of the more grating things I've seen. I know, I know, who am I to criticize you? But that is not my intent. Like a rich old guy who buys racy new tits for his trophy wife, I'm not saying I don't love you, just that there is always room for um.....enhancements.
Without further ado, here are a few things I have grown to love and loathe while lurking....
Love - The industry coverage. Wow. Not only do I hear about new game announcements, industry events, give aways, pre-order bonuses, etc, but Destructoid is all over it every time Miyamoto-san pinches a loaf or Bobby Kotick molests a child.
Loathe - Jim Sterling's over the line jokes. Don't get me wrong, I really enjoy Jim Sterling's work. The reviews, though sometimes a little extreme, represent his honest evaluation. Like all reviews you need to factor in said reviewer's proclivities. I for one appreciate a brutally honest review. What I could do without are jokes about Jett Travolta (I don't know, if he were alive it might be easier to swallow (that's what she said)) or Down's Syndrome. They are really just cheap attempts at scoring giggles and/or inciting the masses. For a guy who saw through Heavy Rain's cheap attempts at crafting a shocking story, I know he's capable of better.
Love - The passion that community members have for games of all types. Retro, Indie, RPG, you name it. It's great to see so many people enjoying the myriad experiences availble to gamers today.
Loathe - Everyone who posts about their Wii collecting dust, having been sold, or having been given to their grandmother. This is particulary grating when in the context of, "Oh cool, Metroid: Other M, I need to go buy a Wii again." If you bought it, then sold it, and you're now buying it again....you're just really bad with your finances.
Love - The contributions of the community. Enojoyable comments, great blogs, and interesting forums. JesusNinja26's Lost recaps. His is the one name that sticks out because I read it every week so I have some clue what the heck is going on with that show. There are plenty of others. One guy who's intro says he's an author working on getting out novels, his name escapes me, but it's good stuff. I'm forever getting caught up with what others have to contribute.
Loathe - People who talk just to be seen. You know the type. They slap "shocking" titles on a blog (e.g., How Jim Sterling Gave My Cat Herpes) and then fill it with absolute garbage. If 25% of what you type is misspelled, slang, or a swear word....you haven't had a useful though. Certainly not one worth sharing. This includes people who comment on stories with things like, "In before the fanboy shit storm" or any "in before (insert snarky comment here)" posts. Again, you've contributed nothing in this instance.
Love - Brad Nicholson's arms. Ok, that's just a symbolic representation of something I can't define with a simple phrase. For years the stereotype has been that those who play video games are lethargic, lonely, geeky, anti-social losers. One look around this place and you see countless people who defy the stereotype. You also see people who probably fit the stereotype pretty well. That's the beauty of this hobby, nobody is excluded.
Loathe - The treatment of the "gamer" label. Even worse, the "core gamer" or "hardcore gamer". See the item right above this. How the word gamer grew to be a badge of honor confiscated by a small group of overzealous idiots is beyond me. I don't care how many hours of Modern Warfare you've played, you're not better than someone who plays Farmville or Wii Fit. We're all gamers. We all contribute to the culture and affect the industry with our decisions about what to buy and what to avoid. And that's the way it should be. If you want to be part of something exclusive, join a fraternity. There you can judge who is worthy of being included in your clique. Folks who buy games for entertainment aren't asking for your evaluation of them, so don't bother giving it.
Damn, I sound like a real bitch. I'm actually not. I'm a really laid back guy who loves gaming and looks forward to getting to know some folks around here. Say "hi" or introduce yourself in the comments. Heck, you can even comment with "In before I sell my fucking shitty dust covered asshole Wii to some obvious non-gamer n00b with Down's Syndrome." Love...loathe......who really cares, as long as it's worth talking about.