Execution is the key to success when attempting to accomplish anything. The best laid plans fall to the wayside unless they are executed properly. Be it sports, writing, film-making, or the implementation of sex in video games - execution is what makes the difference between having a meaningful piece of entertainment or a poorly composed mistake. The topic of sex in video games has been front and center in gaming news recently with the #1reasonwhy twitter campaign and, as mentioned by Sir Dixon, the Dead Island: Riptide marketing debacle; the question of whether it even belongs in video games has been brought to light.
Never has sex been the reason for why I've bought a game, or even for why I watched a movie, but it can add that edge that so many people crave when watching, reading, listening, and playing. But, when approached in an inappropriate way, it can come off as pornographic and can even be offensive to some people. There is a place where you can get that style of entertainment if you're looking for it --it's called pornography. The same can be said about unnecessary and over the top violence; with movies like Hostel, the Saw sequels, and the Final Destination sequels - overly gruesome violence with no context can dumb down any entertainment experience. These "one-trick pony" forms of entertainment have their place, but don't satiate the appetite for a more "complete" form of entertainment that a well-executed film, novel, or video game can provide.
So, sex is not necessary for media to be entertaining, but when executed properly it can add substance to scenes, story, or gameplay. In regards to games, that doesn't mean button mashing the X button to pump faster, no, it means implementing sex in to a game to create an engaging story element or gameplay scenario; much like in Mass Effect. I have not yet played Mass Effect, but I witnessed my best friend playing out an intimate scene with a female counterpart that he had been trying to entice into love-making for three full playthroughs - without any success. The game simulated a quickening heartbeat and built up the tension during key dialogue tree sequences that -depending on my friend's choices- would determine whether or not he would be with the girl of his virtual dreams. I wasn't even playing, and had no knowledge of the two characters' relationship before this moment, but the excitement/anxiety of my friend was infectious and had me cheering him along. He did finally succeed, and it was a very cool moment to experience; not because it was about sex, but because it was executed well with great storytelling, the right amount of player involvement, and a level of suspense and excitement that accompanies great moments like this.
Moment to moment, a game can use sex effectively, but a video game in its entirety can also be sexy. Now, certain games tend to veer off the beaten path and fall into sexist cliches that can hinder the appeal of a game; and those games tend to steal the spotlight. Games like Bayonetta, Lollipop Chainsaw, and Dead or Alive have garnered attention when they seem to over sexualize their female characters; be it with skimpy outfits, disproportionately curvy body parts, or entire development teams devoted to boob physics. But games that use sex subtly are the most effective, without compromising the overall experience. The love triangle between Elena, Chloe, and Nathan in Uncharted 2 is an example of what makes a game sexy. These three characters had outstanding relationships with each other, whether it was purely physical or something deeper, there was a sense of history and meaning behind their relationships that really made all of their scenes sexy and appealing.
Courtesy of Kirk Hamilton at Kotaku. http://kotaku.com/love_triangles/
In the end, it all comes down to execution during implementation. Quentin Tarantino has plenty of violence in his films, but they work so well because they have context and add to the story. The 40-year old virgin handled sex in a semi-mature, yet funny way which also made it more intriguing to watch. And The Witcher 2 may have surprised you during the first appearance of digitally rendered wahoos, but the human body is a real thing that we shouldn't be afraid of, and The Witcher 2 never crossed the line into inappropriate territory. So, as long as sex is handled in an adult, innovative, and tasteful manner that adds to the overall experience - there is no reason why it can't be in video games.
I've heard a lot of talk from various sites about how The Walking Dead is changing the face of gaming. Please, you've got to be kidding. Here's where I stand on the subject.
The Walking Dead was the perfect game for me and my busy lifestyle; between school, work, and other obligations I don't always have time to dive deeply in to a long RPG experience, such as your Skyrim's and your Final Fantasy's. A game released episodically that can be consumed in 2-3 hour tidbits was perfect. I'll admit that my knowledge of The Walking Dead franchise prior to the game was limited to the AMC TV series, which isn't much to go on, but I think that allowed me to go in with no expectations and take the game for what it was. And that is, an "adventure game" that was more like an interactive motion comic/TV show. What separates The Walking Dead from previous Telltale Games and even the majority of other games on the market is... the storytelling. As a game, it is sub-par. With some jarring stops and cuts after dialogue selections, a ton of funky textures on characters, and pointless puzzles; you could say it was a bad "game" if even a game at all.
With all that said, it is on of my favorite experiences of 2012. I felt so attached to these characters and their relationships, much like I did when I watched LOST or Naruto (don't judge me until you've watched it) for the first time. The writers of The Walking Dead game have done such a phenomenal job creating these people and making you care for them, and what they do, and how they interact. In my eyes, The Walking Dead is closer to a compelling TV show you can play, more than a game.
Do I think it is a ground-breaking game that will change the face of gaming? Hell no.
When a mod of an old real-time strategy game creates a brand-new genre of game and paves the way for more like it to take over the e-sport scene with 10 million subscribers and even more active fans... that is ground-breaking. Or when an MMORPG takes an old formula and flips it on it's head to create the single-most played video game in the history of video games... that is ground-breaking. Or when a budding Japanese developer first makes a plumber jump onto a walking mushroom, thus bringing mainstream gaming to the masses... that is ground-breaking! An adventure game with an excellent story is refreshing, but far from ground-breaking. All three previously mentioned games (DOTA, World of Warcraft, and Super Mario Bros.) didn't just create new genres, they created video game icons, social movements, popularized e-sports, and branded an entire culture of people as "gamers." Call me crazy, but I don't think the next wave to sweep the video games industry will be a rash of well-written adventure games. The Walking Dead was awesome, I loved every minute of it, and I cannot wait to see what happens in Season 2, but let's chalk it up for what it was.
As a game, it was less than good. Compared to other episodic media, um... like TV, it can't hold a candle to character-driven shows like Battlestar Galactica or even it's TV counter-part, The Walking Dead on AMC. It was an excellent marriage of the interactivity a game provides and the well-written script of good TV series, but nothing more. No paving the way for this, or ground-breaking that. Just a surprisingly entertaining interactive experience, and one of the best you'll get in 2012.
E-sports has been around for a long time, but only recently has it really taken off. The reinvigorated Street Fighter series, the evolution of Major League Gaming, and the hugely popular streaming website twitch.tv all played a hand in the growth of E-sports. The Street Fighter series and EVO have been tailoring great e-sports moments for 10 years now and worldwide phenomena League of Legends has taken over the e-sports scene touting huge events and prize pools, but the king of e-sports is and forever will be StarCraft II and the Global StarCraft League. Complex and engaging gameplay, TV-quality presentation, and an ever-growing wealth of incredibly skilled pro gamers are what make StarCraft II the most entertaining e-sports title around.
Incredible match between Daiho Umehara and Justin Wong at the 2004 EVO Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike Finals.
StarCraft II offers a style of gameplay that is unique from any other game on the e-sports scene. A lot of shooters and fighters offer variety, but I wouldn't say any one game is dominantly better or vastly different than the others. StarCraft II, on the other hand, epitomizes the RTS genre and offers an engaging experience that is unique, wider in scope, and more polished than any other game of its kind. The massive variety of units from each of the three playable species - Terran, Protoss, and Zerg - are extremely well-balanced, without the crutch of creating cloned unit types. Each species has between 10 and 15 different units that vary greatly; from heavy-armored space Marines and high-powered Siege Tanks that can hunker down and destroy anything that enters its range of fire, to swarming insectoid alien Zerglings and exploding acid-filled Banelings that can close the distance and wreak havoc on enemy units. Each of the units has some special abilities or upgrades that change the way they play and potentially double the amount of units available. Stalkers are an effective early-game harassment unit that use speed and a mid range phaser to take down Marines and Zerglings, but are vulnerable to later game armored units like Siege Tanks and Immortals, yet with a researched upgrade called Blink, Stalkers have the ability, late game, to teleport anywhere on the screen allowing them to blink past enemy defenses and focus on taking down important buildings and units in the opposing base and then blink away to safety. Every unit is strong vs. and weak vs. other units in the game, so unit composition, variety, and quality play a major role in combat situations. I can go on and on, but the bottom line is that StarCraft II's amount of gameplay possibilities make it the deepest e-sports title in the industry. Build orders and strategy, macro-managing economic efficiency, unit composition and control, balancing defensive and offensive combat situations, and micro-managing each and every single unit are all key elements that a pro StarCraft II gamer must master. Too often I hear gamecasters discuss the outcome a match changing because a building was delayed by a few seconds or a player had 1 or 2 units out of position while trying to control 100 individual units at the same time. StarCraft II is a thinking-man's game and involves the players and viewers with a level of variety, strategy, and engaging action that you can't find anywhere else.
A lot of what makes this such an engaging game to watch is the presentation of its broadcasts by gomtv.net. The GSL is the highest-level of StarCraft II play in the world and GomTV is the only place where you can legally see the GSL live streams and VODs. StarCraft has been an entertainment staple in Korea for over a decade and is even shown on live television across the country. They take this e-sport very seriously and it even pulls in more regular viewers than mainstream sports like soccer. This level of success for StarCraft in Korea is what allows GomTV to produce such a polished program day in and day out. Their production studio is in the capital city of Seoul. Their streams have a TV-quality that I haven't seen in any other stream on the market. The quirky and entertaining casters are anchored by a top-notch crew that makes sure each and every show runs smoothly. Casters Tasteless, Artosis, Khaldor, and Wolf offer insightful commentary with an astounding knowledge for such a complex game, they are all players and share a passion for StarCraft II that shines through during their casts. The production crew pieces together a high-quality show with great music, visual effects, lighting, networking, and setting all filmed in front of a live studio audience. For them to have such a complex and and high-tech production come together so smoothly time and time again is a testament to their hard work and dedication.
Artosis and Tastless in action at the GOMTV studio.
The game and the production value are all important, but the real reason we watch is to see things done that we don't have the ability to do ourselves, to witness a level of play that is far beyond the reach of any normal gamer. Enter... the pro gamers. StarCraft II pro gamers are in a league of their own, no pun intended. Each player has the reflexes of a gaming god, averaging just under 200 actions per minute, which means they build a structure, move a unit, upgrade a vehicle, etc. 200 times per minute! If you watch them play, you're amazed at the speed their fingers, mouse, and pupils move' keeping track of and controlling dozens and dozens of different things at one time. Even more impressive is their intelligence and vast knowledge of the game, the sheer amount of information each player has to learn, obtain, evolve, and perfect is staggering. The reason we watch sports is to witness a level of play that we ourselves have not reached and the level of play from StarCraft II pro gamers is on another level beyond that. I'm not taking anything away from the best FPS and fighter players, it's just that the scope and depth of StarCraft II is so much larger than any other competitive game out there, that it demands a depth of understanding from its players that is almost inhuman. The top 32 players make up the Code S Division which compete in single and double elimination best of 3's and 7's until the GSL Champion is crowned for that season. About half of that elite group is made up of consistently top-flight contenders like MVP, DRG, and Parting, but since the build orders and styles of gameplay are always evolving, staying at the top is never a simple task. Unlike professional sports that never change the core game, StarCraft II's gameplay changes drastically all the time and it is dictated by the gamers themselves who are developing new build orders, perfecting mirco-management, and streamlining their builds in order to create more effective ways to win; in turn, evolving StarCraft II as a whole.
Bottom line is that StarCraft II is an exciting and ever-evolving e-sport propelled by an elite group of pro gamers, excellent production value, and entertaining casters that all meld together for one truly awesome and just down-right fun to watch game!
ADD or Attention Deficit Disorder is characterized by a short attention span, impulsiveness, and in some cases hyperactivity. I suffer from a mild case of ADD with impulsiveness and a short attention span taking center stage. Everything from work, to school, to gaming is negatively affected by my ADD. I've lost count of how many classes I've failed because I could not concentrate and complete an assignment, or how many times I don't finish things at work because I'm juggling too many responsibilities that I don't need to. I can never focus on a game for very long. Sometimes I'll turn a game on and shut it off at the start screen because I simply don't want to play it anymore.
OCD or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is the persistent, intrusive, and senseless thoughts (obsessions) or compulsions to perform repetitive behaviors that interfere with normal functioning. My OCD is less of a hindrance on my everyday routine than my ADD, but makes certain routine tasks a lot more complex than necessary. Perfectionist and completionist are two terms that I associate with my condition. My obsessive need to do everything in a game turns my passion in to more of a job. I find myself passing up hundreds of great games that I own (thanks to my impulsive buying behavior) to play Viva Pinata over and over again just to comb through every detail the game has to offer. Don't get me wrong, VP was fun for the first 50 hours, but hours 50-100 were just completely tedious and unnecessary. I realize this as I'm playing, but still have this urge to continue playing until every single detail is deconstructed to its core. There are a lot of gamers who love to find everything in a game, complete every quest, find all secret items, etc. I am NOT one of those gamers, I do it because I have to. If I don't, I feel like I've failed and have to deal with this nagging reminder in my head until I complete the game. Just last week I spent 4 hours, on and off, waiting in various Rainbow Six Vegas multiplayer lobbies (a game that no one plays anymore) because I couldn't get over the fact that I didn't have the 20 point achievement for reaching Lt. rank. Meanwhile I'm listening to music, surfing the web, watching StarCraft II streams, and writing this article... AAAH!
Either one of these disorders alone makes my gaming a lot more difficult and less enjoyable than it should be, but together it becomes a frustrating task that is damn-near unplayable. To have this unwavering need to play a game to completion, yet NOT be able to concentrate on anything for more than 30 minutes at a time is extremely aggravating. I do enjoy games. I enjoy the medium and the variety of gaming options for people of all walks of life, I am a huge fan of the industry and the creative and passionate people that are involved, and I'm a huge fan of the tight-niche community of gamers that are all so different, yet share a common interest in the gaming industry that we love. I am a gamer and forever will be a gamer, it just sucks that I can't experience games the way I wish I could. There are so many games I won't get to play (I will buy them, and I have) but I'll never play them. How about it? Anything in your life that makes gaming a hassle and/or more difficult to enjoy? Read this article on Kotaku from Daemon_Gildas. http://kotaku.com/5938654/darksiders-ii-is-incredibly-frustrating-for-the-ocd-gamer