NES- Legend of Zelda, Gumshoe, Pro Wrestling, Tetris
SNES- Final Fantasy III, Street Fighter II Hyper Fighting, Gradius III
Nintendo 64- Goldeneye, Perfect Dark, Harvest Moon 64
Gamecube- Ikaruga, Harvest Moon, Animal Crossing, Metroid Prime
Wii- Metal Slug Anthology, No More Heroes, Wii Sports
Genesis- Columns, Golden Axe
Dreamcast- Shenmue, NBA 2K1
XBox- Ninja Gaiden, Stubbs the Zombie, Fatal Frame
XBox360- Dead Rising, Earth Defense Force
PS2- GTA:San Andreas, Metal Gear Solid 2, Shadow of the Colossus, FirePro Wrestling
PS3- Uncharted, Warhawk, NBA 2k8
Here's a quick blurb about myself-
I am a children's librarian living in Los Angeles.
I like reading, writing, and watching tv.
I hate people who talk down to others. I like talking down to people who talk down to others to prove a point.
I spend way too much on video games, action figures, comics, and beer.
I plan on writing blog entries as soon as I am done with this whole lazy thing, which I enjoy.
I had popped in Fallout 3, waiting for initial hard drive install to finish up when I started thinking. The entire process took about five minutes, but in that time, I realized the importance of loading screens/time and how they can make or break games in the review department.
In most video game reviews, there are mentions of graphics, storytelling, gameplay, audio, and loading times. It seems that in our quest for total immersion, the loading screen is a hiccup that takes us out of our dreamscape, breaking the fourth wall and letting us know that indeed we are just playing a videogame. Reviews make note of the loading times and whether a game is worth playing is sometimes hinging on this one portion of the gaming experience. I haven't had the chance to play Bayonetta, but the reviews tell us that for this multiplatform game, the loading times for the ps3 is longer, and therefore the inferior game compared to its xbox counterpart.
People absolutely hate loading times. Reviewers for games tend to hate loading times.
Not me though.
Why you ask? [You didn't, but for the sake of this blog, I'm going to pretend it so]
It takes me back. Back to a time when the load screen was less of a nuisance and more of a precursor to the exciting experience that awaits. Its the curtain slowly closing after the trailers and slowly opening up again as the feature presentation begins.
My one example takes me back to Wing Commander 3 and my Pentium 2. All around school there was talk of this new game that was on multiple [!!!] cds and had an all star cast to boot. I pestered my dad about this game, what could possibly be the greatest game of all time. He relented and after heading out to the electronics store, I had in my hands what looked to be a fantastic adventure waiting for me.
I remembered installing the game, and then once I was in the game, waiting...
Over six minutes of loading per level. Just staring at a blank screen waiting.
Oh sure, I thought, this was a state of the art graphics so of course it was going to take time to load up. And you know what? All the waiting was worth it. It was Luke Skywalker and a talking lion. It was choose your own adventure dialog. It was a space opera in scope. I tapped my toes, memorized hot keys, and savored every second once the loading screen was finished. Even then, I knew that there was a tradeoff between state of the art technology and our enjoyment of it.
So, even now, when those loading and install screens popped up in MGS4, I didn't bristle. I waited with bated breath, fingers on the buttons, ready to experience another epic adventure. I don't curse at it. I don't mind it too much. I tend to skip over the parts of reviews that mention loading screens/times. You know why? Because its all just part of the game.
Yesterday, I wrote a comment on one of the cblogs that I couldn't be a fanboy, because I don't even bother playing video games. Written in jest, I came to the realization how much truth there actually was in my statement for myself, and potentially, for alot of other people here. Seeing comments on the cblogs and forums and all the complaining about games, consoles, what's not in the game, how it should better, etc... it's taken me this long [shouldn't have taken that long] to realize that gamers are a fickle bunch, never satisfied and always bitching. But not me. I may complain, but I sure as hell am not putting myself in the same group as you all. In essence, I'm no gamer.
It wasn't always this way...
A long time ago in a galaxy far far away, I played video games obsessively. I remember coming home from school and turning on Final Fantasy III [VI], playing beyond dinner, my eyes red and glazed over, my body shaking from the lack of nutrients. I was a primitive version of MMO addicts. I needed to level up my characters to 99. All of them. Nothing could stop me from leveling, even such a silly thing as basic nutrition.
I remembered playing Metroid in elementary school over and over again, unsuccessful in beating the game because I was unable to write down the horrendously long password down correctly. Over and over it happened. And then I figured out what I needed to do. I grabbed a giant stack of papers, and drew myself a map as I played. I was tired, I was confused by all the different paths, but I soldiered on, knowing that I was unable to save the game and play it another time. I had to finish it then and there. After a very long afternoon, I conquered Metroid.
And then there was Super Metroid, a game that I borrowed from a friend of mine. I was allowed one week to play it. I played it deep into the night, slept a few hours, and began my journey again early in the morning, thus giving myself two to three extra hours in the morning. Super Metroid thus, was completed.
Through all that time, I don't recall myself complaining. Complaining about the graphics, the storyline, the characters. In fact, I don't think its the retro goggles talking, but all I remember talking about with my friends were the positives. How awesome the characters looked, their special powers, the coolness of the SuperFX chip, bragging about secret levels I'd found.
Fast forward to now. There seems to a nonstop barrage of people whining that Nintendo sucks, that Microsoft has only space marine shit, and Playstation sucks because they can't play the ps2 games. E3, where new games are shown, was met with the expected wowzers. But what blew me away was the enormous amount of people absolutely saddened and angry by the presentations. That their personal expectations were not met and so therefore the entire thing was a failure.
Fuckin' ay I say.
Have we become such a strange and peculiar basement dwelling sort that with all that went well with E3 we have formed a tunnelvision to only see what we were disappointed in? Do we invest too much time hating different games and consoles that we no longer have the time and energy to actually play video games? I'll admit, I spend most of my time thinking about games. I'm sure most of you do that too. But has thinking about games become a substitute for actually playing them?
For myself, it has. That's why I say I'm no longer a gamer. No longer do I stay up building my characters up to lvl 99. No longer do I wake up extra early to get a couple missions in. No longer do I draw maps with a pencil and paper.
Instead, what I do is complain about exclusivity. Complain about DLC prices. Complain about amount of hours of gameplay divided by the sixty I spent. Complain about Gamestop. Complain about EA, Ubisoft, M$, $ony, Madden, etc. Complain about the shovelware instead of praising the good stuff.
Nope. I'm no longer a gamer. And if all you do is complain, neither are you.
There's an arms race going on. A new cold war on the technological front, and its taking place on the consoles. Except, its not the consoles themselves facing off, its the software companies.
Skyrocketing development costs, increasing development time, marathon hours for programmers, new engines that must be created, hired public relation firms to explain delays in production, movie stars cast as voices, more bloom lighting effects(!), anti-aliasing(!), the necessity to create a surefire hit that will bring in Halo 3 type numbers or be considered a failure, etc. In fact, software companies build their own Tower of Babel, the weight perched above them precariously, and if first month sales numbers don't come back stellar, said software company is as good as bankrupt. It truly is, serious business. All these things are part of the new front in video games.
The arms race was about one-upmanship. The software companies are now in their own arms race. With every new game that gets released, we are not only given just the game to experience, but the software companies themselves join the front lines and proclaim why their game is now the king of the hill. They explain the difficulty in creating a game in high definition on a certain resolution, and how they were successful in merging that with the amount of frames per second, thereby proving that they're the best company.
Another company with perhaps lesser abilities in high definition resolutions will still voice that it is not the rival's company's game that is the best, but their own because they reached out to a famous novelist to write the story, and with that, cast the perfect movie star to portray the main character, blending art, video games, and Hollywood in one. So their game is the best.
And then another company comes out, and so on and so forth. You know where this is going. All the gamesmanship only adds to software companies creating shinier and shinier games. Are the games necessarily going to be better because of the higher budgets that we now demand from games? No, not necessarily, but they are going to be shinier, that much is true.
I'm beginning to see software companies going sideways when it comes to quality. A great game is a great game, but the companies are sticking to a status quo that is given to them by the console makers. They say, "Make a sequel to this game...Make a game that's like this...Make a sequel but give it jetpacks..." All these statements are there to insure that the game sells, because the cost to develop them are so steep, so they take the safest path they can.
So software companies have their hands tied creatively, and are forced to engage in this arms race to make sure that the consoles will support their game through ads and television spots, to insure the hype train picks them up and takes them along.
What can these software companies do?
It's actually quite simple.
The home consoles are a make or break arena. Unless you have the development budget of a Hollywood movie, you are never going to make a game that compete with the bells and whistles of other companies, and even then, it must look shiny, or else potential buyers will write it off as "last gen."
With handhelds, the development costs shrink to two generations or more back. Undeservedly or not, expectations of the quality of the game are also lowered, so this one and done attitude is not present. Heads of the studios no longer feel obligated to hype the game as the greatest game of all time. Computers full of programmers are not spending their time making the game more shiny, more bloomy, more realistic.
The limitations of the handheld become a godsend to game developers. No longer hampered by absolutely needing to maximize the limitless potential of the Cell or the Xbox processor or else risk having gamers call them lazy, these developers can concentrate on story, characters, interesting gameplay elements, and a little thing called fun.
I believe you'll start seeing more and more software companies sending their troops to the handheld levels, because the expectations are so high on the console level, that one has a higher risk of failure with all the rules and restrictions that have to work with. However, on the handheld level, there is potential, a potential for amazing quality through contraction.
[My inspiration for this blog came from playing Peace Walker. As I was playing, I began to think that Kojima Productions purposely put it on the PSP not as a favor to Sony or anything shady like that, but because they learned from their experience making MGS4, and all the time they needed to make that game they realized they could make a game equally as good but in less time by putting it on a handheld. They didn't need to spend all that extra time polishing the corners and making them extra shiny. So I see other big names doing this too in the near future if they haven't started already. I for one, welcome our new handheld overlords.]
Woke up this morning ready to play video games. I wanted to shoot some rival factions in MAG. I wanted to get a couple more levels in Super Mario Galaxy 2. I wanted to suffer through the single player campaign of Section 8 before jumping in to the multiplayer mode. I had a lot of options this morning.
Unfortunately my little nephew was using the living room television where the ps3 is hooked up. I certainly wasn't going to kick him off for my own selfish reasons even though these days, due to work I can barely fit an hour of gaming every other day or so. I brewed up some coffee trying to contain my frustration at having my morning activity abruptly cancelled and began thinking.
Thinking about today. For non-Americans and American dumbasses, today is a holiday. Memorial Day.
It's the reason I'm able to bitch and moan from home today, because of the holiday. Even though I can't play video games, I can make my rant public because of the holiday. And that makes me feel grateful. Grateful that for a pacifist anti-war anti-violence, anti-government, anti-everything person like myself, there was a person out there willing to put themselves in front of a bullet. Grateful that in this world full of selfish selfish people like myself, there are others in this world that are willing to pay the ultimate price so that I can wake up in the morning and be mad that my little nephew is bogarting the living room tv, causing me to not be able to play some video game. Grateful to those that serve.
I'll find something else to do this morning. Then I'll take a shower and get ready to go out, drink a couple beers, have a good time with my friends, and overdose on ribs. Others will be raising their glasses in a toast and sitting out in the sun. Still others will be on their computers writing blogs, commenting on blogs, trolling on blogs, writing witty ass comments, being assholes under the anonymity of internet. And still some of you lucky ducks will be playing video games on a day off on Monday.
Take just a minute from what you're doing and offer thanks in your own way to those that have offered to step up and make sure that you are able to do what you're doing today. Do this even if you may disagree with the military. Do this even if you may hate the policies of this country. Do this even if you have a problem with President Obama. Because it isn't about you or me, or anybody else. It is about the those that aren't here not able to celebrate.
So celebrate for them however you can. You owe them at least that.
Just don't ever wear a ridiculous shirt like this. Its fucking embarassing.
My intentions were honest and pure of heart in the beginning. Having just been gifted an Xbox, and spending fifty bucks on a Ps2 from craigslist, I had completed the holy trinity of consoles [I already was a proud owner of a Gamecube], albeit about half a decade late in gathering these heavy hitters. I bought the “must play!!!” games ie Halo, Ninja Gaiden, Final Fantasy X, God of War, etc. Now, I was stocked to the gills in games to play. I had all the time in the world [spoken in a Burgess Meredith voice].
I was satisfied.
All three systems.
Every available option.
But something itched.
The itch was located just beyond my reach. It started as merely an annoyance. But I began to notice it more and more, like a red spot that may or may not become a zit, but which indeed becomes a zit because you spent so much time thinking about it that you literally willed it into existence.
This itch was taking over my entire being.
Consumption. Purchasing. Things. Trinkets. Games. Gadgets. The “Next Big Thing.” These things made up my itch.
Everywhere I went, I was seeing ads and commercials for these shiny new toys that promised everything under the sun, rendering my holy trinity of systems obsolete. Oh no, there were three new big boys on the block. 360, PS3, and the Wii were new in my little suburbia of contentment, and they came armed with a switchblade comb and a pack of Lucky Strikes. They threatened to upset the balance that I had achieved so recently.
I tried to ignore their cat calls, but they found my weakness. One system promised a mall full of zombies and a shit ton of weapons with which to kill them. I looked at the video. I scraped my open jaw off the sidewalk and began rationalizing, trying to think things through logically. I had three consoles already, and an enormous backlog of games to play. Why should I saddle myself with another console when it would take me years to finish the games I had now? Why was I going to waste my hard earned money on a system with only one game that I wanted to play?
I kept asking myself all these questions as I pressed “buy it now” on ebay for a 360 console.
One new console and just one game, I told myself.
I also told myself all sorts of other shit as I started purchasing games left and right, using sales, $10 credits, buy 2 get 1 free, buy 1 get 1 50% off, pre-order it and get some free bullshit, and any other method to get the anxious buyer to part with their money.
Before all was said and done, I now owned a 360, PS3, Wii, and PSP, knee deep in games that I could never hope to finish since I work 40 hours a week and spend much of my free time getting liquored up at the bars and chasing tail.
So, as I sit on top of my pile of games looking down at everything, I hope that with all that I acquired, that my itch to consume and buy has been quenched. I am locked and loaded for the apocalypse when it comes to having entertainment. Hundreds and hundreds of hours of fun awaits me to open up the shrink wrap and unleash these worlds and characters.
I am fucking set...
though...I still need to pick up Gears 2 to round out the set when it goes on sale [and I'll buy it even though I never bothered finishing the first one], as well as God of War 3, if I ever get around to beating number 2, though that is wholly dependent on when I get around to beating Silent Hill 3, followed by Silent Hill 1 [as I heard they are connected to the same story], but I refuse to jump in to Silent Hill 3 till I finish Final Fantasy X which I still have in the ps2 at the moment, and if I take it out, then Yakuza 2 has to have priority because I also have Yakuza 3 on tap on the ps3, but I won't even bother getting started on that because I'm only 20 hours into Final Fantasy XIII, so I better keep playing because I have Sigma 2 coming in the mail, and I really want to get started on Endless Ocean for some scuba diving action.
So I have this pile of games that are just yearning for me to continue. What to pick I ask myself. And then, it called out to me, like a neglected child that once stood tall as the son of a proud father before new and better children came into his life, dooming the offspring to an existence as ham on a shelf sandwich. The loyal game with a persistent memory would remain sitting by the window, waiting for the day I came back to it. The game?
Animal Crossing City Folk.
Like the hypnotic spell of the siren's song, Animal Crossing called out to me, begging me to revisit the town of my own creation. But I was afraid to put the disc in and turn it on. Surely it was a ghost town at this point. The weeds would be overgrown and the animal neighbors would be strangers to me, strangers to the kind deeds that I once fulfilled for another neighbor's behalf. And then there was the mortgage. The bells that I owed to Took for my two story shack would still be astronomical. Thank the heavens that late fees were not included as a part of this game.
It would be such an uphill battle, and I struggled to find the motivation to jump back into this "game" in which I would be so far behind in. What I needed was some sort of guardian angel to point me in the right direction. I was all sorts of lost and assistance was oh so necessary.
I said to myself, "What the hell" and decided to jump in with both feet. Upon booting up, Rover the gatekeeper reiterated what I already knew for way too long- it had been a while since I played.
I took a minute to regain my bearings. "The City" was different. I had changed (my guy now had bedhead). Things had changed around the town. All the neighbors were a strange blur of humanoid animals that I didn't recall meeting when I initially started my town. New fuckers I thought to myself. Yet, they knew about my absence. Gossipy ass animals. They were blunt, I prefer to think of them as rude.
I was in a terrible bind. I had to deal with these neighbors and my mortgage, but I did not want to be put to work as a gopher. I have a graduate level education damnit! Forget weeks of being at their servitude. I needed help. This would require outside help. I went on the internet, and looked for City Folk friends, people who would support me in my time of need, keep me motivated so that I could shape up and get to work fixing this town from criminal neglect.
And then it began. Leaving my gate open for visitors when I went to work and when I went to sleep, I allowed strangers on the internet to invade my town to do as they please, as long as they didn't chop down my trees and dig holes in my shit. They were friendly. The first left a note thanking me for my hospitality. The next did a fantastic thing and left behind a fossil for me to collect. My third visitor was the best. She invited me to her town, and it felt like stepping into a wonderland where all my virtual desires (in the Animal Crossing world of course) could be fulfilled. She had, in her time playing, amassed every single item that was available. And she offered everything up for grabs. Anything and everything I could take was mine. I took what I could and then she one upped the offer. She would fill up her pockets and come to my town to drop off some donations. This was a virtual Jesus Christ in the form of a cartoon girl with a button nose holding a golden axe.
After giving me Midna's helmet, Majora's mask, and Samus' mask, she gave me one final treat- the thing that would leave me forever grateful. Four million bells. Enough bells to pay off my mortgage. Enough bells to get an addition to the house. Enough bells for anything and everything I would ever need in the future. I was done working. I was done talking to the neighbors. I was done with that fuck Took. I was free.
And so now, I can finally play the game properly. I don't need to talk to these fucking neighbors ever again. I am just happy as hell to plant my fruit trees, go fishing, collect random shit on the beach, and design my city as the utopia I originally envisioned. The siren song of Animal Crossing called to me, but it took the help of an online stranger before I was truly able to answer it.