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My name is Walnut.

I got promoted to Hero Squad today.
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Dear Destructoid Community,

I know you are full of awesome people. Since most of my friends who have Xbox either

1. Do not play their Xbox.

2. Have RROD.

3. Run out of XBL subcription.

Would you be kind enough to provide me some XBL friends so I could use some of the cool features of the new Xbox experience and party? If you are on the fence about being my friend, just think about it. I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and dog gone it, people like me! Feel free to leave a comment with your name or add me. My gamertag is Wise Walnut.


6:04 PM on 11.04.2008

There is hardly a greater fervor than the mad frothing at the mouth fanboys will have if their coveted games get lower than expected review scores. Message boards will be full gnashing teeth and long exposes about the great injustices society has thrown against their favorite games. Trolls ensure that their narrow views get heard during these times by fueling the fight. A Metal Gear Solid game with an 80! Zut alor! A Grand Theft Auto with less than a 10! Stop the presses!

Before the rise of the internet, it used to be the magazine scores that people would pay attention to. They were no less potent, but the lack of a common forum did not allow people to retort. Now, with aggregating sites such as Metacritic and Gamerankings, all hell breaks loose if the combined score of a highly anticipated game is less than predicted. Besides the obvious issues about how those sites calculate the overall scores, there are rumors and murmurs that Metacritic scores affect the job situation for some game developers. What has the world come to that so much rests on a silly number that an individual has assigned to represent his feelings about a particular game? I believe that the gaming community and industry has lost its way, and the current system of game reviews needs a revolution.

Let me say that I was a huge fan of CGW/GFW’s attempt to print game reviews without scores. I thought it was a bold and inventive move that could have changed the industry if other outlets had embraced the concept. I believe that the “no review score” policy should be revived and encouraged. This is not to say that review scores are worthless, because they are good at providing a quick look at which media outlets liked or disliked a game. Pay attention to my wording. Review scores do not represent what a game is worth, or its value to any particular consumer. Rather, the review scores provide us with insight into what a particular reviewer thought of the game.

Look at Spore as an example. The game’s reviews have been very good, with almost all above 80 according to Metacritic’s conversion system. Both negative and positive reviews state the lack of depth in the games earlier stages (Cell, Creature, Tribe, Civ) as the main detractor of the score. For a review, one must decide how to even assign a score to a game like Spore? Do you take each of the stages and asses how deep and fun each one is? Or do you look at the big picture and determine how much fun you had growing from Cell to Space phase? Or do you look at the accomplishment of having a massively single player universe where the game content is populated by millions of player created objects? Or do you see how much versatile and fun the editors are and factor that heavily into your review? Do you see the problem here? A spore review should go along like this “Spore is an ambitious game with great tools for displaying creativity, but some of the stages are not as deep as once advertised.” That’s that, plain and simple. Assigning a score will only allow gamers like us to shout atop our soapbox blogs.

Some read reviews to determine whether they should buy a game or not. Studying reviews for an economic decision is not a bad idea and often results with good games becoming popular. People read reviews, people buy the games that have the best reviews, and then those developers get to make more games. Now that we have sites like Metacritic and Gamerankings, customize their use to for your own good. Pretend like the review score is not there, and you will see each review in a new light. The review becomes something more personal and moves away from just being another number in the aggregate score. So, take my advice, ignore the numbers and concentrate on the experiences. Find some reviewers you particularly like or relate to and trust their judgment. If you want to play a game even though it has low scores, go right on ahead! Who can tell what a game will be worth to you.

If you take one look at my Xbox Live profile, you will notice one striking pattern. I do not finish many games. First, I must define what I mean by finish. Some hardcore gamers will say that you have not finished a game until you have achieved 100% status, whether it is 120 stars in Super Mario 64, or collecting every little orb in Crackdown. For me, finishing a game means beating its main featured game mode, whether that is “story” mode, or even just the series of core levels. My pile of shame is massive. I even call myself a fan of some series where I have not finished critical games. So here and now, I will confess to some big ones; are you ready?

Super Mario Bros.

I never have played the original Super Mario Bros. for NES from beginning to end and beat the game. Perhaps it was because I was not playing many video games at the time it first came into our house, but I have had many chances over the years to play and finish it. I have taken it for a spin here or there for nostalgia, but never all the way through. One day, when I get some free time outside of the deluge of fall gaming goodness and school, I will sit down with my virtual console and finish this classic. I think my invincible star tattoo will burn a hole through my arm if I do not do this.


For the love of all that is good and holy, why did I not finish this game!? I was enraptured by the demo! I love the setting, the gameplay, and I was having a blast. After about 8 hours in, I stopped playing and never got back around to finish it. I traded in my 360 copy, but it is waiting for me on Steam for the day I head back to the depths.

Metroid Prime(s)

Metroid Prime suffered a similar fate to Bioshock, but I have a Wii and a gamecube controller if I ever want to go back. I played a third of Metroid Prime 2, but quickly grew tired of going back and forth between the two dimensions, especially when one of them sucks away at your health. I have not given enough attention to Metroid Prime 3 because I rented it and only played it a couple of hours. However, when I want a good game to play on the Wii, I’ll go back to it.

Final Fantasy IX, X, XII

In middle school and most of high school, I was a Squaresoft nut! After FF8, I played FFIX to the third disc and then lost my will to continue. However, Vivi and Freya are amongst my favorite FF characters and the music was outstanding. After that, I could not get into X and XII as much as the others. I believe this also has something to do with the fact that I gradually was introduced to Western RPGs which offered more freedom.

I love Freedom

The list above is only a sampling of the ones I regret not finishing the most. However, for as many games on my list that I did not beat, there are those that I do finish, or games whose nature does not allow for completion. I trade in a lot of my games; I find it a good way to recycle those I know I am not going to be able to play. However, there are titles that I will keep coming back to, and I will not trade these in.
Recently, I have noticed my tastes as a gamer lie with open world and open ended games. I am vastly attracted to games such as the Sims, Spore, Civilization, and long RPGs like Fallout 3. Sometimes I feel like I have a burden to beat a great game, just because it is great. However, I have found that I get much more satisfaction out of those games that have no end because I can not burden myself with it. What about you? Is there a masterpiece that tops your pile of shame?

I will be the first to admit that I have a gaming guilty pleasure and I would not be surprised if many others of you also share the same symptoms. I bet you there is some hardcore COD4 player who has unlocked all the perks and plays hours a day, but on the weekends, he or she is sending letters to a longtime panda friend about new furniture in a town they have been keeping up since Animal Crossing came out for Gamecube. A gaming guilty pleasure is some obsession you have with a particular game or series of games that others would find humorous or do not understand. Today, I will share my fixation with the Sims franchise and why I have a passion about it.

I am assuming that I am not alone in my guilty pleasure of loving the Sims, as it is the best selling PC game franchise of all time. The droves of casual and simulation lovers can not account for the staggering sales, so how is it that the Sims 2 expansion and stuff packs keep making it to the top of the NPDs? The franchise’s prestigious title is due to gamers like me, who collect and keep up with the various expansions that Maxis spits out every several months. I like to consider myself a non-discretionary gamer in that I play all types of games; simulation, RPG, side scrolling, shooter, FPS, RTS, sports. No gaming genre is safe from my hands and I love experiencing everything that the medium has to offer. It is no surprise that I own the Sims 2. However, many of my gaming friends just shake their head when they hear I have every single Sims 2 expansion.

I played the heck out of The Sims, but did not get any of the expansions because I was too young and did not have any money. However, when the Sims 2 came along, I decided that I would try and get every single expansion that came out. Little did I know how far that goal would take me. Unless you are fan, I doubt you keep up with the Sims 2 and its expansions. If you dislike the Sims, stop reading here. Don’t say I did not warn you.

The Sims 2 is a game about controlling the lives of “sims”, or the digital people that populate various neighborhoods in the game. You can control all of their actions from basic bodily functions like sleeping, eating, and waste management, to complex social behaviors like proposing marriage and advancing in careers. This sort of omniscient control is what leads people to call the Sims a “god” game. You also get to decide where Sims live and what they live with, building complex houses and filling the interior with designs of your choice.

Upon creation of a sim, one will choose its appearance, clothing, personality, and family relations. Then you send it off to one of several lots in the neighborhood where you then buy stuff (with in-game money, simoleans) to put in their pre-made house, or you can build a house from scratch. Once you have the essentials; a place to eat, sleep, and use the rest room, you start directing their lives. If you are feeling particularly devious, you can drop them on a lot without life's essentails just to see what happens. In fact, there are many people who set up elaborate torture situations just to watch sims die. I do not often delve into the darker side of things, and I like to see my sims thrive and live in style. What they do is up to you; do you make your sims become workoholics, slobs, swingers, clean freaks? If you choose, sims eventually get married and have children. Your original sims could die and possibly become ghosts, and you will continue the game with their children if there are any. You can follow the lives of any household in the neighborhood and engineer crazy outrageous stories.

One of my favorite experiences in the Sims 2 is the first time I got the game, I booted up the neighborhood set in the desert. There is a pre-made family here of three male room mates. One of them is obsessed with looking out into the stars. Since I wanted that sim to fill his desire of stargazing, every free chance he got, I sent him up to the telescope on the roof. After a few times, a UFO appeared and abducted the Sim which happened to be one of this Sim's aspirations. He eventually was returned, but with a remarkable difference; he was pregnant. I could only assume the aliens where the cause of this suprise, and I led the pregnant man through his terms. Eventually, he gave birth and my gameplay experience turned into three men and a little alien baby.

Though the above situation was with a premade Sim family, I did not have to direct him to stargaze and he may have never been abducted. Even more outrageous situations can happen to your custom sims. The base Sims 2 is so full of possibilities that the options added in the expansion packs make it absurd. Make your sims learn to teleport like a ninja, own a business selling computers, become a vampire, werewolf, zombie, become obsessed with grilled cheese (Sims 2 fans, you know what I am talking about). The endless possibilities are where my obsession stems from. Even if I do not get to experience all of the options that owning all the Sims expansions provides me. Its like an entire living community is waiting for me inside my computer where almost anything can happen. Feel free to divulge your gaming guilty pleasure in the comments; after all, it can not be as bad as owning all the Sims 2 expansions.

This year, my wife and I carved a wicked Pirana Plant Pumpkin. I did the designs and she carved because she is much better at that than I. Also wanted to show off my Mario fanboyism by displaying a tatoo my brother (old Destructoid editor Tristero) and I got. Invincible Stars from Mario, pixelated style! I have the yellow one. All will bow to my hairy arm!

Photo Photo

This picture from my local Gamestop where I picked up GTA IV speaks for itself.