My name is Jon and I am a college student studying Creative Writing. The purpose of this blog will be to challenge established conventions and hopefully elevate the budding academics of video games. I want to remind everyone that opinions are merely just that, you don't have to agree with what I have to say. I'd be more than happy to enter a civil discourse with any of you, but I will not tolerate ignorance and illogical arguments. Failure to comply with common sense results in a loss of the game.
3/6/08 - I plan to post more often, but don't expect me to soon since finals are coming up. I'm also contemplating on whether or not I should start reviewing games. Go play No More Heroes if you haven't already. It's an incredibly original experience and one of the funniest games I've ever played.
Super Smash Brothers Brawl
No More Heroes
Team Fortress 2
Xbox Live: simjaehyun
Wii: 1204 9897 2994 3098
I appreciate the ton of feedback I’m getting, both positive and negative. I’m learning what I can from you guys and again thank you. One thing I’d like to make clear though is that I’m judging Chrono Cross from a story point of view and its purpose as a sequel. Trust me, I have all the same complaints you guys have when it comes to the game mechanics. I didn’t address these issues because such things are not new; crappy game design is done all the time. I only wanted to focus on what I believe Chrono Cross does incredibly well and that we should not turn a blind eye to its unique accomplishment.
“And im sorry to disagree with you. I felt Chrono Cross was a great game but not the sequel that Chrono Trigger deserved.” – Tragic Hero
You are absolutely correct sir; I share the same sentiments as you. Chrono Cross, in terms of game design, is a shallow shadow of its masterful predecessor. It did not do a game known for absolute quality justice. The massive party was an admirable venture into something new, but it made the game incredibly impersonal since stock dialogue was simply swapped around and the lack of a tech system was also a huge disappointment. The story was also not something I expected, nor desired. I too wanted more adventures with our lovable cast of time travelers, but in spite of all this I still declare Chrono Cross as the best sequel (and when I mean sequel I mean as a sequel to anything) since it achieves something no other sequel, in any medium, has ever done for me.
“I'd say ‘sequel’ in the sense that it's somewhat loosely linked to Trigger, but I'd like to say ‘spin-off’ is a bit more appropriate.” - Video_Cognito
That all depends on a person’s definition of a sequel and the idea of treating Chrono Cross as a spin-off versus a sequel has merit. One could argue that Chrono Cross is far too remote from its predecessor to be appropriately called a sequel. If we look at the game as a spin-off instead, all of a sudden it doesn’t carry the same disappointment a sequel would have. I applaud your observation in this.
“People give Cross a lot of hate because it wasn't the sequel they WANTED it to be. But that's the beauty of it all -- it doesn't have to be.” - DrkAdonis
This is something I’ve been trying hard to get across for sometime. I’m not quoting you because this is a point that agrees with me, but because it is important to look at the strength of ideas we may not like initially. Believe me, Chrono Cross disappointed me, it was a sour childhood memory, but upon revisiting the game I can see what the objectives were and though it wasn’t what I wanted, I can certainly respect the attempt and its accomplishments.
Edit: I guess I didn't make this clear enough but, when I say "sequel" I mean just that. I don't think Chrono Cross is the best sequel to Chrono Trigger, but I think the game has done something as a sequel (individual noun not bound to anything specific) that has never been done before. Sequel = sequel. Not: Sequel = game after Chrono Trigger. I hope that clarifies my position.
Let me make this clear, I am NOT saying Chrono Cross is the best RPG ever. It has massive flaws that will always bother me, but what the game has done as a SEQUEL is irrefutably brilliant. Most sequels, in any medium, are continuations of where the previous story and/or gameplay mechanics left off. They rarely look back, moving only forward, and expanding on the previous model. Kingdom Hearts is a good example of a standard sequel. Everything is “better” in Kingdom Hearts II while the template remains more or less the same. This isn’t a bad thing right? I mean that’s what sequels are “supposed” to do.
For those of us that have played Chrono Trigger, we have fond memories of a light hearted adventure where the world was black and white and we knew what we had to do as heroes. Lavos was undermining our free will, so we had to use time travel to save the future! Who could say we were doing anything wrong? We knew we were doing what was “good” and the game reaffirmed that notion, never questioning us. Five years later and all of a sudden we were wrong.
Chrono Cross begins as a standard sequel would, but the characters we had become accustomed to in Chrono Trigger are long deceased now. As players, we may wonder why we were ripped from the characters that we loved and why we are not able to continue their story, but that’s just it. Chrono Cross is not about continuing. Chrono Cross is about consequence. It is about the consequences of our actions in Chrono Trigger, how the world isn’t black and white and what we did before cannot be considered absolutely “good”. We changed the future, and in this new future we have a new world and new citizens. The player takes control of Serge, an individual whose very existence would not be if it wasn’t for the actions before.
The theme of consequence is everywhere in the game. The two dimensions show the player different consequences for the same people depending on the choices they have made. The weight of these subtle details do not become absolutely apparent till later in the game when the player enters the Dead Sea, a place where time has frozen. Here the player is confronted with the apparitions of the beloved characters from the previous game; this is where Chrono Cross becomes the best sequel. Here, our own characters from before accuse of us, the player, of having sinned against a world we never knew. Because we altered time, other potential futures were wiped out. Entire worlds were erased and all this is heart wrenchingly powerful because who can deny that we didn’t meddle with time? It would have been fine if time flowed on its own course, but because we altered it, all the consequences that come with such falls on us and it is an infinite burden. The game addresses us, the player. Not our party, us. What other sequel has made you question your actions in the previous game? What other sequel deals with the consequences generated by the player to such a degree?
Chrono Cross has done what no other sequel has ever done and the beauty of it all is that such an effect could only have come from a game. We don’t feel guilty when watching a film because it isn’t us doing the action, but here our actions are everything and Chrono Cross makes that very clear to us.
I’m a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to some games. I’ll go through and do everything that the game has to offer because I feel I might as well get my money’s worth. Recently, this habit of mine has been geared towards Assassin’s Creed. As I got around halfway through the game I realized that the gameplay is incredibly repetitive. Let me say that again for emphasis, it is AWFULLY repetitive. I would not have expected such an oversight from a high production game, especially from an experienced studio. Even if you weren’t completing every objective like I am you’d soon realize that every mission carries the same set of objectives. You save citizens, interrogate, eavesdrop and assassinate in each city. Rinse and repeat about eight times. The approach for each goal is almost always the same too; as a player, you end up doing the same tasks over and over again. Inexcusable.
With this said, why am I still enjoying this experience so much? The fundamental aspect of the game, the gameplay, is broken. So if this “game” is broken why do I continue to play and be enthralled? The art style is amazing, the music is rich, the story is interesting… If it’s these things I’m enjoying than is this more of an immersive interactive experience than a game for me? I would say that Assassin’s Creed is commendable for trying new things as a game, but it fails as one for ignoring the fundamental needs of a player. However, I would still highly recommend it since it succeeds in every other criteria. To recommend a “bad game” is paradoxical isn’t it?
This curious contradiction of mine raises the question of what are we looking for as players? This may sound like a no-brainer, but it seems that gamers will always go for the games that have gameplay as their strongest point. I feel that this is problematic because in order for games to grow we need to try new things and explore new areas. This issue compounds upon itself because no matter how brilliant or daring a game may be, if the risk of monetary loss is too great for a company it will not be made (which is why sequels are so popular as well since they are financially “safe”). Why do we have so many action (F.P.S.) oriented games? Because the core concept of the action genre is gameplay and all other factors are negligible. I'm going to assume most people play Halo 3 for the gameplay, not the story. Games like Psychonauts that offer humor over gameplay get ignored since not enough of us are looking at games beyond gameplay.
I am not condemning our need of gameplay as gamers, I am condemning our lack of interest in what these things we call “games” can possibly be. Is a game called a game because of gameplay? I suppose the real definition of what we like and do is a digital interactive medium and we just happen to like the gameplay area a lot. Essentially there is near infinite amount of possibility with what we can incorporate into a digital interactive medium. I would argue that video games are so far the largest form of meta art that we’ve created since we can create both passive and active experiences. We need to look beyond our own interests and try new things. Who knows, we may discover something more potent and addictive. We can all agree to that no?
The folks have at Penny Arcade are amazing people. It has been said many times before and it will continue to be said after. Child’s Play is the first charity I can fully appreciate helping as it is in synch with my principals. Does this have to do with the fact that I’m a gamer? Possibly, but there are deeper sentiments beyond mere hobbies.
We’ve heard them all right? The charities left and right for whatever ailment or disease. They urge us face to face, on our television sets, at the radio, in the internet; all to support their noble cause. Now I’m going to sound quite the pessimist, but please bear with me for there is a point to be made. It doesn’t matter whether we’re healthy or ill, in the end we’re all going to die. To cure a specific condition will only prolong the inevitable. Just because one has the rest of their life ahead of them does not promise happiness. An opportunity is not a guarantee.
So how does Child’s Play differ from the rest of these organizations? Simple, it provides happiness. Death comes to us all, but joy does not. Child’s Play helps kids enjoy what little time they may have here and isn’t that the least they deserve?
I urge you as gamers, no, as human beings to give what you can to this organization for it is not longevity that we seek in life, but quality. Let’s share the joys that we’ve taken for granted with those who require it more than us.
I’d like to thank you guys for your comments. I wasn’t expecting anything positive, but you guys proved me wrong and I appreciate the encouragement.
“My question is about whether we need new signs for this. Should we create our own esoteric language to describe these things? Does one exist already?” -soul3150
This was a very good point that I had not thought about. The gateway to any area of knowledge is having an understanding of the subject’s vocabulary. Look at science, math, law, business… If you were to open a textbook of any of these subjects you’d find words that you would probably be unfamiliar with and therefore unable to derive any sort of information from the book. To answer your first question, I don’t think we need to create our own language; we’ve already done this to a gross degree.
We, as the generation of the internet, have done exactly what George Orwell’s 1984 predicted: the degeneration of our language. “LOLCATS” “OMGWTFBBQ” “A/S/L?” To anyone that is unfamiliar with the internet they’re going to have absolutely no clue as to what the hell we’re typing. This oversimplification has bleed into the gaming culture and if you’ve played a MMO you’ll know exactly what I mean. These acronyms are used to describe virtually everything; it is its own language.
To answer your second question I’d say yes. Video games, like film, are a meta-art. They are a form of art that is compromised of other forms of art. The arts required to make a video game have their own vocabulary so they too will be used when describing a video game. For instance, when generating a cut scene we’re most likely going to be drawing from the vocabulary that film has already established.
“Interesting, but it's more of the same problem-solving techniques than art. Just because games/movies/books often use the same mechanics and methods for solving problems like "locked door", "sniper on the roof" etc, doesn't mean it's suddenly art. It only means there is a lack of creativity in designing puzzles or plot devices.” –Professor Pew
You are correct, just because there is repetition does not mean that something is suddenly art. However, you have hit upon an interesting point I wanted to talk about: Genre Theory. Repetition may be a lack of creativity, but it is also an indication of genre. A single game will not create a genre; it takes a multitude of titles for classification to occur. I am with you in terms of a desire for creativity, but we must understand that in any form of art, everyone learns from the same catalog of knowledge. More than likely we’ve all played a couple classics and whether we’ll acknowledge it or not these have formed the base impression for us as to how a game should be. Of course there is a limit to when homage turns into repetition, but that is subjective to the player. I’ve played games that have done nothing new, but I still had fun and in the end that’s all that matters to me.
I was watching my friend play Super Paper Mario today and while he was playing I immediately caught sight of some clues to a future puzzle. My friend misinterpreted these as something else and moved on without hesitation. I didn't say anything though of course because I didn't want to ruin his challenge. Sure enough though, he got stuck and could not figure out how to move on. The puzzle in question is a simple one and we all, for the most part, have probably experienced this same set up before. In the room before there were five torches and only three of them were lit. In the next room were five unlit torches and it should be obvious by now what kind of puzzle this is. The most basic logic behind this game design is, "The question is in this room, but the answer is not."
In all my years of gaming I have to come to realize that games are finally reaching the status and history needed to be considered a form of art. What I am referring to exactly is as the title of this entry states. The language of video games. If you watch an experienced gamer playing a level side by side with someone who has hardly touched a game you will notice a distinct difference on their screens. It isn't that the experienced gamer is probably further and it is not about hand-eye coordination. It is how he or she is interpreting what's on the screen. Visually cracked wall? Try busting it down. Hitting it makes a different sound? Try busting it down. Maybe there's a hidden area here, I'll try sliding down the wall to see if the camera follows... So on and so forth. If you think about the things we do in a game you'll realize we've all been trained to do certain nuances. Anyone that's played a FPS will instinctively know to always aim for the head. We do these things when playing games because it is the very same games that have groomed us as competent readers of this brave new language.
If you read enough books you'll begin to notice certain plot devices or techniques the author uses to create a desired effect upon you the reader. This is what I've begun to notice in video games. Once you make this distinction, it becomes blatantly obvious. Collecting quests, man the turret while we throw floods of crap at you to shoot, there's a bright light on that door i think we should go to it, oh no the door closed and it's an ambush! I mean if you think about it, even an original game like Katamari is pretty much a blown out of proportion yet quirky collecting quest. That's the entire game, a collecting quest. I'm not trying to deface the game, I rather enjoy it immensely. My point is that when you break any game down to its roots it becomes undeniably familiar. Certain roots are needed for a game to be a game and it's these roots I want you to notice. Next time you play a game, really think about what you're doing. Ask yourself, "Have I done this before?" or "Why is this familiar?" Games are complex things and yes, they are also fun, but let's show the world that we're not just wasting time, we're educating ourselves in a language that is both new and exciting.