A lot of you may have noticed a few "video game journalists" (Adam Sessler being one of them) acting rather un-professional lately, by either constantly contradicting themselves, making ludicrous, biased statements and generally just being pretty crappy at their jobs, whilst at the same time making the whole profession look bad.
Not that this is anything new in the world of video game journalism, in truth the bar has been pretty low for some time now, due to petty console wars and fanboyism being rampant in the industry. Choosing to take one side and blindly defending it at the cost ones reputation and credibility, is a practice many video game journalists eventually seem to succumb to (To be fair though, the unwritten rule does seem to be to choose a side or take heat from both) This may be due to the fact that no matter which side of the fence you choose to stand on, you'll always have an army of fanboys eating out of the palm of your hand, so long as you're whispering sweet nothings to them about their beloved and chosen preference. Not only does this practice bolster a persons ranks, it also insights flame wars due to the anger and uproar coming from the other side.
There's usually two possibilities when a video game journalists starts talking nonsense, they are either a fanboy who wants only to look for the best in whatever they are defending or attempting to put on a pedestal. Or they have an agenda, and are willing to use misinformation and even lie through there teeth in order to further whatever goal they have in sight. There's always the third possibility that they've gone stark raving mad, but more often than not it's one of the other two.
Now obviously there are people with legitimate "non biased" personal opinions, right? Well, in reality it's simply impossible for anyone to truly draw their opinion from a well of pure thoughts, because "opinions" no matter what you may think will always be objective, containing personal and biased ideas, formulated through pre-conceived notions and preference. For example, I'm not a fan of sports games so my opinions about them will always be negative in comparison to those who enjoy them, even if I try to look at them objectively it's impossible for me to formulate an opinion with nothing to draw from, I could try to be subjective and look for what others may like about them, however it would still be a biased opinion based on personal assumptions and pre-conceived notions.
A person is not able to formulate an opinion without personal and biased viewpoints inevitably effecting their final conclusion. However the difference with fanboys and those with a personal agenda, is that fanboys tend to avoid even looking at what they like in anything but a positive light, where as those with an agenda choose to spread lies and misinformation knowing full well that what they say is nonsense. My point being? There are far too many fanboys and those looking to further their career at the cost of their credibility currently calling themselves "video game journalists"
Flame bait, I'm really not sure what should surprise me the most, how old the practice is or how painfully effective it continues to be.
Flame wars are the bane of genuine journalism, they make it incredibly difficult to talk openly and intelligently about current, pressing matters due to the close minded people who flock to them, in order to either troll, defend or denounce whatever the articles chosen topic happens to be. However they are incredibly handy at directing traffic toward particular websites especially those with an agenda, remember that many of these "video game websites" aren't interested in publishing facts, news or even intelligent opinion pieces, they simply want "hits" and flame-bait, in the form of reviews or articles is the perfect means to get them.
That being the case, is there really any wonder as to why there is so much blind, fanboy driven nonsense being posted on numerous video game news and information websites all over the Internet? With so much misinformation, blatant lies and biased opinions disguised as facts coming from supposed video game journalists, you'd think we'd all be more inclined to take what we hear with a pinch of salt. But no, gamers, or better yet people, are fickle, if we have a preference for something (which we all do) we naturally like hearing that it's doing well, we also like knowing when it's ahead of the competition. Further more, we like to imagine that the success of whatever we may happen to be a fan of is somehow also our own success, but in these delusions we allow ourselves to be lied to, all so that we can brag about being better than those who support "the losers" all while the exact same nonsense is happening on the other side of the fence.
The console war is not the sole problem, the console war provides competition, it also prevents any one company from gaining a monopoly and forces the console manufacturers to try to out-do one another. But it also breeds contempt, not solely due to people believing their chosen allegiance is superior, but because people begin to deliberately ignore where their favourite companies are going wrong, too preoccupied with hating on the competition and all too willing to lap up whatever nonsensical drivel people in the industry, or even video game journalists are spouting.
As The console war round 2 kicks off, it will yet again be up to gamers to decide whether or not they want a clean fight and real journalistic coverage. Or more sucker punches, fanboy drivel and flame-bait articles.
So what can be done? Well, my advice to all of of you is to stop fanning the flames. It's simple really, as soon as you stop paying attention to flame bait articles, journalists screaming for attention or just talking nonsense, then all the genuine video game journalism will be pushed to the front. I'm not saying everything will be fixed over night, but trying to fight fire with fire has proven time and time again to be futile. As for the fanboys, well there's always going to be fanboys, but the more legitimate journalism we have available to us the more easily we'll be able to call them out and put a stop to their misinformed claims or outright lies.
Like most everyone reading this blog, I enjoy playing video games and I honestly care about the video games industry. If this blog has opened anyone's eyes to the the many issues currently plaguing video game journalism, or even just made you think twice about clicking on a blatant flame bait article, then I consider that a small victory for us all.
You really can't beat a good ol' Survival Horror game, cautiously wandering the lonely, creepy, creaking corridors, pre-emptively cringing as you open a door or turn the corner, and conserving your health items and ammunition for whatever unspeakable horrors may lay waiting just ahead. Of course none of these moments match the sheer terror brought on by actually coming face to face with the stuff of nightmares.
The list that follows might not contain certain games that are widely regarded as the most "scary" available, but each one has offered (for me personally) some of the best tense moments, creepy atmosphere, and most legitimate scares around. So dim the lights, grab an extra pair of underwear, sit back and enjoy my list of the (The 5 best Horror games to play this Halloween)
From Japanese developer "Tecmo" Project Zero II: Crimson Butterfly is a Survival Horror game in which you play as a young girl named Mio Amakura, accompanied by her twin sister Mayu Amakura, who at the start of the game both find themselves having accidentally wandered into the "The Lost Village" Now why exactly the village became "lost" to begin with will remain a secret due to spoiler related reasons, but I can tell you however that the villagers don't exactly take kindly to outsiders just wandering in, even more so now that they're all dead and vengeful. The basic setup is pretty standard for a survival horror game, you've got a creepy setting which is the village and the surrounding area, with lots of puzzles, locked rooms and keys to find. And a lot of mystery surrounding the villagers, and their strong affinity for "twins" an "endless ceremony" which prominently features their involvement, not to mention discovering the answer as to just why exactly everyone in the village is now dead and not quite loving it.
As you make progress the plot naturally starts to unfold, you'll also come across documents and journal entries that help better explain the events that transpired before whatever calamity fell upon the village. But the main appeal of any Project Zero game comes from how you actually fight with the ghostly inhabitants, you see your one and only weapon is a camera, known as the "Camera Obscura" capable of taking pictures of ghosts and other spiritual entities, and exorcising their souls. However simply taking pictures of ghosts does very little damage, the trick here is to allow them to get as close as possible while allowing your cameras spirit energy to build up, preferably waiting until the ghosts warped, distorted mug is face to face with your own and then in the split second as they are about to attack, you can perform what is known as a "Fatal Frame" dealing far greater damage. That's right, to effectively defeat the now damned villages inhabitants you need to get as up close and personal as you can with those ghostly goolies.
The game boasts many ghosts that could make for sufficient nightmare fuel, such as the Wanderer (Miyako Sudo) the Woman in the box, as well as (Akane Kiryu) & her twin Doll, but none are quite as visually imposing as "The Kusabi" Due to being tortured and broken in life The Kusabi returns as one of the most vengeful and scary ghosts in the entire game, if not the franchise. However even The Kusabi pails in comparison to "Sae Kurosawa" in life a young shrine maiden who lost her twin sister (Yae Kurosawa) and was then forced to perform the "endless ceremony" alone, but shortly after returns to the world of the living as the most hate filled and vengeful spirit the franchise has seen to date. The insane laugh Sae makes as she stands over the butchered remains of her fellow villagers wearing her white blood splattered Kimono, is one of the most legitimately terrifying things I've witnessed in a video game.
Check out this video of Sae's terrifying introduction, if you dare.
Brought to us in an age before Capcom sort of lost the plot a bit, Resident Evil 4 is a "Survival Horror" game with a slightly bigger focus on the action when compared to it's predecessors, it's an incredibly fun, well paced and, and well... OK OK, so maybe Resident Evil 4 isn't the "scariest" game in the franchise, but I'm sure we can all agree that it's still miles scarier than RE 5 or 6. Anyway, what a lot of people often forget is that Resident Evil 4 boasts one of the most legitimately terrifying enemies seen in the franchise thus far, the Regenerador. Damn these things were scary! Apparently they are experimental bioweapons created by implanting leech like Plaga into a human host. Slow moving and seemingly lacking in intellect, but capable of near-instantaneous regeneration, they are able to take incredible amounts of damage and even decapitation of their limbs! That's right, take out their legs from under them but don't get too close or they'll wriggle over and take a chunk out of you.
A Regenerador can be killed eventually by succumbing to their injuries but your best bet is to use a sniper rifle from a distance and equip the infrared scope to locate and destroy the Plagas inside the host. What? The Regenerador not scary enough for you, you say? Alright, how about the Iron Maiden? Basically a Regenerador with a multitude of spikes expanding and contracting out of its body, the image of one of these things awkwardly slumping itself your way is enough to give even the most hardened Survival Horror gamer the goosbumps. Honestly the only thing you'll find creepier than these two inhuman variants in RE-4 is their breathing you hear echoing throughout the research facility on "The Island" whenever one of them is lurking in the shadows.
This video shows exactly why going toe-to-toe with an Iron Maiden is a terrifyingly bad idea.
Outlast is a "psychological horror" video game developed and published by Red Barrels Games, a company founded by people previously involved with video games such as Prince of Persia, Assassin's Creed,Splinter Cell and Uncharted, it's also the scariest damn game likely to come out this year.
Outlast puts you in the shoes of "Miles Upshur" an independent journalist given a lead regarding some unusual goings on at Mount Massive Asylum, a "massive" asylum based in the remote mountains of Colorado, and long-abandoned home for the mentally ill, but now recently re-opened by the “research and charity” branch of the translational Murkoff Corporation. Miles breaks into the facility only to encounters an impaled SWAT officer and his decapitated crew, who before snuffing it tells the journalist to get the hell out of the asylum while he still can. Only whilst making his way to the exit Miles is attacked by a very large and powerful inmate named Chris Walker, who throws him through a window, and down onto the atrium floor below. It's upon regaining his consciousness that Miles then meets "Father Martin" who refers to miles as his "Witness" After passing out for a second time Miles wakes up to find himself trapped by the horrors within Mount Massive Asylum.
Unlike your typical monsters, mutants and ghouls seen in many other video games, Miles enemies are the now escaped inmates, known as "The Variants" tortured, mutilated and driven beyond madness and beyond recognition, these unfortunate souls now stand between you and your escape. Armed with only a video camera and it's night-vision function, Miles must make his way through Massive Asylum doing his best to avoid The Variants, by creeping, crawling, and hiding in the shadows as well as lockers and under beds, Miles can also use his video camera to record events, as well as find confidential files that offer a deeper glimpse into the events that led Mount Massive Asylum into ruin.
Throughout the game you will hear talk of a seemingly supernatural entity known as the "Walrider" and even bare witness to footage of the asylum's security forces being brutally slaughtered by it. As if being locked up with a bunch of crazed inmates, a murderous doctor and a less than helpful Priest wasn't bad enough, Miles now has to worry about coming face to face with a ruthlessly violent supernatural entity. I must say that the atmosphere and pacing in Outlast comes together perfectly, offering some truly tense and creepy moments, as well as some terrifying jump scares.
Whatch the Outlast Official Trailer (Full Version) to get a taste for the terror within.
No.4) Dead Space. Platforms: (Microsoft Windows), (PlayStation 3), (Xbox 360)
Dead Space was developed by Visceral Games and published by EA. Now while the latest release in the franchise is widely regarded as a disappointment by most, due to its departure from Survival Horror elements such as a creepy atmosphere, a need for ammo conservation, and you know, being scary, in favour of action, large set pieces and Hollywood-esque story telling. But the original Dead Space still holds up well even by today's standards.
Stepping into the space-boots of Isaac Clarke, a ship systems engineer, players must fight for survival against an Alien horde that has infested the mining starship "The Ishimura" (aka Stone Village) along with slaughtering the entirety of the crew, and then reanimating every corps via bio-recombination transforming them into "Necromorphs" In order for Isaac to effectively battle the Alien threat he must decapitate them limb from limb using a wide array of guns, engineering tools used as make shift weapons, as well as using his powers of telekinesis and a Stasis module for temporarily slowing down time.
Dead Space boasts a myriad of cringe worthy Necromorph monstrosities, but none are more terrifying or relentless than "The Hunter" biologically engineered by Doctor Challus Mercer on board the USG Ishimura. It was created by inserting a piece of necrotic tissue, obtained from the flesh-like growths covering some sections of the Ishimura directly into the cranium of a live, unknown crew member. Yikes! As if regular Necromorphs weren't difficult enough to kill, The Hunter due to it's ability to quickly regenerate any and all limbs is pretty much invincible, the only sure fire way to survive an encounter with one is to blast of its limbs and use you "Stasis Module" to produce a temporary time dilation, basically slowing down time in order for you to make a strategic retreat.
This short trailer for Dead Space conveys perfectly the loneliness,despair and terror felt whilst actually playing the game.
Silent Hill 2 was brought to us by Japanese video game publisher and developer Konami. Ask any Survival Horror buff what their favourite Survival Horror game is and chances are they'll reply with "Silent Hill 2" and with good reason, the game offers one of the best "Physiological" Survival Horror experiences you could hope to find, not to mention boasting some of the most creepy, chill inducing and just plain terrifying monsters to be found in the genre.
In Silent Hill 2 players take control of mild mannered James Sunderland, who is on his way to an old holiday resort called "Silent Hill" after receiving a letter from his wife asking for him to meet her there. The thing is though, James's wife has been a bit dead for a while now so naturally he's a little perplexed as to what's going on. But not really having anything better to do James continues on his way and upon reaching the town of Silent Hill, begins his gradual decent into despair.
Just about any monster in Silent Hill 2 can act as sufficient nightmare fuel, but one monstrosity in particular has gained a cult following all of his own "Pyramid Head" If you're even remotely familiar with the Survival Horror genre then chances are you've already heard of this pyramid shaped helmet sporting, broadsword wielding behemoth. What many people may not be aware of however, is the significance of Pyramid Heads design. You see Silent Hill likes to get under the skin of its victims by creating monsters based on their fears, regrets and repressed emotions. Pyramid Head being no exception, represents James's repressed sexual desires that are not being met now due to his wife being dead, amongst other things... But I won't spoil the mystery for those looking to experience the game themselves. What I will say though is that James Sunderland has been a very naughty boy and Silent Hill has crafted the perfect vessel, Pyramid Head, in order to bring down the towns own special brand of punishment on poor ol' Jimmie boy.
Here's a video showing the numerous terrifying encounters James Sunderland has with Pyramid Head. (Warning! there are spoilers contained in this video)
So, do you agree with my list of The 5 best Horror games to play this Halloween? Or is there a game you would swap out to replace with another? Let me know what your favourite Horror game is and why in the comments section.
Thanks for reading my blog and I hope you all have a Happy Halloween!.
Today I want to talk about the cultural phenomenon that is the "Let's Play" and how important I feel it is not only for gaming as a culture but also for the industry.
First of all, what is a "Let's Play"? Well for those of you not already in the know, basically a Let's Play in regards to "video games" is a video in which you watch another person play through a video game, usually whilst offering commentary for the viewers during the play through. Now the basic definition alone may not sound very entertaining, but the fact that Let's Plays have taken the Internet by storm these past few years, becoming some of the most popular and viewed videos available on YouTube and other such video hosting websites says otherwise.
So, just exactly why are Let's Plays so popular? I mean video games are by and large a interactive form of entertainment, and for the most part are best enjoyed by actually playing them yourself, right? However as I'm sure is the case for many gamers out there, there are or have often been times when watching others play a video game, be they friends, siblings, parents or guardians, can be just as enjoyable and entertaining as playing yourself. Now the reasons as to why this is the case are varied and many, but it is often either because watching a person play who is exceptionally good at a game, seeing how someone responds while playing, or if they simply have an entertaining personality, can be entertainment in and of itself. The same rings true with Let's Plays, only instead of sitting in the same room watching someone play you can now watch and follow their progress online.
Putting it simply, the advent of YouTube and other similar video hosting websites, has allowed the makers of Let's Plays to offer their viewers an experience similar to that which many have had whilst watching friends and family play video games, allowing for them to make that very experience a form of entertainment itself.
The very fact that Pro video gaming has rose to such prevalence as a spectator sport serves to further prove the entertainment value found in watching others play video games.
There are a great many YouTubers who have gained popularity and recognition through making Let's Play videos (as well as offering news, reviews and opinions) such as Angry Joe, the cast of Smosh Games and ClevverGames, "Cryaotic" (aka Cry, aka ChaoticMonki) as well as "Michelle" (aka Mynx, aka TheRPGMinx) But few are quite as popular or as well known as the Swedish born YouTube personality "Felix Arvid Ulf Kjellberg" (aka "PewDiePie") First gaining popularity and recognition through playing Horror games such as Amnesia: The Dark Decent and it's various custom stories, the majority of entertainment and appeal of Felix's early videos came not solely from watching him play whilst doing commentary, cracking jokes and referencing pop culture, but from watching him run back and forth screaming uncontrollably whenever a monster would appear, befriending various pieces of furniture like "Mr. Chair" and the golden statue "Stephano" and yelling out his popular catchphrase "BARRELS!!!" whenever he comes across his self proclaimed nemesis "the barrels" all while attempting to progress through the game. Also Felix always makes sure to keep his audience feeling involved (or as he calls them, his "Bro's") and at the end of each video will "Bro fist" to the camera as a thanks for watching.
Felix, whilst slowly building up his fanbase began to diversify his videos, incorporating more story driven games and showing his fans Let's Plays of many lesser known but incredibly good Flash and indie games such as Ib, Two the moon and Mad Father. Now boasting a YouTube subscriber count of over 14,000,000 and counting (earning him the guinness world record for most subscribed YouTube channel) along with world wide recognition. "PewDiePie" has also found himself mentioned and/or referenced in one way or another in various indie and Flash based video games. Also, his recent Let's Play videos of popular titles such as The Last Of Us, Outlast and Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs have been some of the most highly viewed videos regarding those games, and at the time of writing his current Let's Play of Beyond: Two Souls looks to be no exception.
Whether or not you're a fan of PewDiePie in particular, you really can't deny the entertainment value and appeal that Let's Plays offer.
Let's Plays have become such a popular form of entertainment that even companies like Rooster Teeth (Creators of popular Internet shows such as Halo spoof "Red VS Blue" and "RWBY") have created their own Let's Play channel on YouTube, aptly named "LetsPlay" Not to mention popular video game journalists and reviewers such as Zero Punctuation's Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw, reviews editor for Destructoid.com and host of Jimquisition "Jim Sterling" as well as YouTube personality, PC game critic and self titled "Cynical Brit" TotalBiscuit, have each taken to making Let's Play videos.
Now some may argue that Let's Plays actually decrease the potential sales of a game due to potential consumers having already seen a play through, but there is just as much evidence to suggest otherwise. Where as many video game demos are known to be designed to paint a game in a positive light by showing the most appealing parts, Let's Plays offer a way to actually see how a game plays from start to finish enabling the viewer to see as much or as little of a game as they desire, also allowing a potential consumer to make a far more educated decision as whether or not to make a purchase. Now in no way am suggesting that Let's Plays should be used to base all of our video game purchases off of, but they certainly give you much more well rounded view of a games pros and cons, and the fact of the matter is that if a popular Let's Play personality enjoyed playing a game and/or their viewers found the Let's Play enjoyable, then there is every likelihood their fans would want to purchase said game, therefore leading to a potential increase in sales.
Believing the above statement to be the case, it does strike me as very odd seeing as just how many companies there are in the industry, that have gone out there way to censor Let's Play videos. Surely they must realise the potential for free publicity, right? Well apparently not. Nintendo have had numerous videos (Let's Plays or otherwise) removed from YouTube under the pretence that the uploaders are "infringing on their copyright" while this accusation may be the case when it comes to a full Let's Play showing of the entirety of a game and/or key moments in it, it does not explain why they have felt the need to have had numerous cutscenes and even trailers for their games removed under the same pretence.
While Nintendo have every right to defend their copyrighted products and material from misuse, censoring and removing videos on YouTube and then stating that they want a cut of whatever profits the uploader may have earned, or may go on to earn through further uploads of Nintendo licensed games, sends a very poor message to their fans and potential consumers.
Sega also has a history of removing user uploaded content from YouTube under the pretence of "copyright infringement". Most notably back In 2012 when Sega went "nuclear" on YouTube taking down everything and anything related to their Shining Force franchise (fan made content, trailers you name it) in a apparent attempt to put their upcoming release of Shining Force for the PSP at the top of the search list. Why exactly Sega felt the need to go to such extreme measures is anybodies guess, but the fact that user uploaded content can be so easily removed like that without there being any genuine legal issues or concerns is very disconcerting, especially for those who heavily rely on being able to freely upload such content.
The censoring of content on YouTube goes further than simple copyright concerns and petty marketing tactics. Recently, Day One: Garry's Incident developers "Wild Games Studio" had a rather critical review of their game (uploaded by PC game reviewer and critic, TotalBiscuit) taken down under accusations of copyright infringement. However TotalBiscuit himself commented back saying that he had received his copy of the game from the indie developers under the understanding that he would be uploading a video review for it, going on to further state that since Wild Games Studio had not seen fit to also remove the many other less popular videos of the game under the same claim of copyright infringement, that they were merely using the pretence of copyright infringement as a means to censor criticism of their game.
The censoring of content on YouTube goes further than simple copyright concerns and petty marketing tactics. Recently, Day One: Garry's Incident developers "Wild Games Studio" had a rather critical review of their game (uploaded by PC game reviewer and critic, TotalBiscuit) taken down under accusations of copyright infringement. However TotalBiscuit himselfcommented back saying that he had received his copy of the game from the indie developers under the understanding that he would be uploading a video review for it, going on to further state that since Wild Games Studio had not seen fit to also remove the many other less popular videos of the game under the same claim of copyright infringement, that they were merely using the pretence of copyright infringement as a means to censor criticism of their game.
Wild Games Studio's accusations against TotalBiscuit for his apparent infringement on their copyright, has got to be one of the worst, most deplorable misuses of the copyright act to have occurred on YouTube.
Video game companies should not, must not, be allowed to have criticism of their game pulled from the net under the false pretence of copyright infringement. This is blatant censorship and further highlights the gaping hole copyright law currently presents for those companies who wish to undermine freedom of speech in order to censor negativity regarding their products.
Marketing is a costly process that can often end up costing video game companies more than the price required to develop a game. One would think then that due to the sheer amount of subscribers many popular makers of Let's Play videos have, that more video games companies would be reaching out to them in order gain free publicity. There certainly aren't many who would pass up the chance to be the first to Let's Play the opening section of Assassins Creed 4 or Killzone: Shadow Fall, in order to help spread word of the game while potentially increasing their viewer base.
While it is true that some Let's Plays actually do infringe on current copyright laws, the fact of the matter is that such user generated content is only going to increase in popularity. Just maybe instead of content being censored or removed due to outdated modes of thinking, maybe more should be being done to make the copyright act more applicable to modern day society.
So there you have it, Let's Plays are important because they offer us entertainment while also potentially educating us on our future purchases, not to mention helping spread the word for games that may have otherwise gone under the radar, and for offering another avenue to help further popularise big budget AAA titles as well as smaller indie games.
If I've gotten any of you interested in Let's Plays then I highly recommend checking out the LP uploaders I mentioned earlier.
Thanks for reading my blog, if you'd like to add anything or disagree with any of my points, please feel free to leave a comment.
What is a "video game"? When you hear the term what do you personally expect? And to what extent of your own pre-conceived notion of what a video game is would you allow to be challenged?
These questions and more are the main topic for this blog.
Being able to simply define something like say a book or a movie makes explaining what they are easier, but it can often lead to conservative thinking. A book for a long time was basically defined solely as "a written or printed work consisting of pages glued or sewn together along one side and bound in covers" but with the advent of E-Readers and other similar electrical devices the definition has expanded.
A "video game" is basically defined as "a game played by electronically manipulating images produced by a computer program on a monitor or other display" So basically a video game is anything played through an electrical device that requires player interaction in order to manipulate what is being displayed on screen. That sound about right? So can you think of any game that really challenges this definition? There have been a great many games that altered how we interact or manipulate what is being displayed on screen, but the vast majority of them still require player input in order to do so, and for good reason, any video game that doesn't require player input to manipulate what's being displayed isn't really a video game at all, that's what we define as a "movie" or "TV show" etc. It's simply impossible for something non-interactive to be considered a "video game" because one of the main defining aspects of a video game is player interactivity.
It is funny though, how the more advanced video games have become, the more non-interactive cutscenes have been used as a means to advance the plot/story between play, a lot of criticism has been brought down upon games such as Metal Gear Solid for it's heavy use of non-interactive story telling, although arguably these cutsceenes were often necessary to help better explain the sheer amount of plot and story contained in the MGS universe, but at the very least the actual gameplay holds up well, offering some of the best stealth based gameplay found in the genre.
As much as many non-interactive video game cutscenes may drag on, they can be very effective in helping better explain the plot/story and can offer some entertaining respite for the player between gameplay sections.
This brings me us another debate that's often brought up between gamers. "What is most important, gameplay" or story? Of course it would be best if both were done well but for a game what is the most important of the two? For me it has to be gameplay, now this doesn't mean a game has to be gameplay heavy, but it does mean that the way the player interacts with a game is very important, especially for a game that is lacking in gameplay mechanics.
This leads us to a rather controversial topic, Beyond: Two Souls. Consider what you will of this, but what follows is me giving my personal opinion and being absolutely honest regarding my feelings on the game.
Beyond: Two Souls is not the masterpiece some have come to claim, it is an interesting idea unfortunately executed very poorly. At best Beyond: Two Souls is a mediocre but entertaining enough romp with impressive visuals and boasting a talented cast, at worst it's an incredibly stupid, cliche filled interactive movie in the guise of a video game. The over reliance on bland, emotionless voice acting, tired, tried and true movie tropes and emotion driven story telling, fails miserably to make up for a severe lack of gameplay mechanics and player interactivity, leaving the player often feeling disconnected from the events that transpire, this feeling is made amplified by the repetitive use of QTE's (quick time events), and minigames that apparently if worth performing once, are worth performing the same task three or four more times in order to advance the story. The disjointed way the plot and story play out is another interesting idea, but very rarely do the "choices" you make effect much of the actual plot during play. Beyond: Two Souls is a video game but it attempts to be a movie first, the main issue I take with this is that it's not even a very good movie.
Now I know the point of Beyond: Two Souls was to focus more on the emotional connection players have with the characters, rather than gameplay which can often interfere with the story, but if the player simply doesn't care about the characters or their situation then the whole point of the game is lost to them. In the case of Beyond I honestly feel that this can hardly be the fault of the player, as it is up to the developers to create characters and situations that can be empathised with.
Beyond: Two Souls attempts to be an emotion driven, character focused story. But due to the cliche filled plot and narrative, uninteresting characters and passive gameplay mechanics, the experience often left me feeling beyond bored.
Games like Telltale's: The Walking Dead, Shenmue, To the moon and Broken Sword are all, emotional, story driven games, obviously with some having more gameplay mechanics than others, but I honestly believe each one of them to offer a better story, gameplay mechanics and experience than Beyond: Two Souls offers.
Nobody likes being told their milkshake is made out of potatoes, but well, you get what I'm saying.
If you liked Beyond: Two Souls then good for you, my dislike of it should in no way effect you still liking it, in fact I'd be very happy to see more developers attempt what David Cage is doing, one reason is because I feel that it would be a worth while endeavour but mostly because I think if done well games like Beyond: Two Souls could be fantastic experiences.
Gaming being as young as it is and being as open to interpretation as any other art form, is going to lead to a great many other attempts to either reinvent, redefine or simply just challenge pre-conceptions as to what a video game is. And personally I can't wait to see what comes next, I might not like it but at least it's something new, now that doesn't mean we should all go out and support something that attempts to different purely because it is different, but we certainly could do with more originality in the mainstream at least and that's what Beyond: Two Souls is, something new, something a different.
The same can be said for motion sensor gaming, now not everyone likes motion sensor controllers but they certainly have their place. Metroid Prime: Corruption is a great example of how the Wiimote and nunchuk actually helped improve the gameplay experience. Anyway without innovations in how we play we never would have got the analogue stick or trigger buttons, two additions that are indispensable in order to play many video games today (par the mouse and keyboard of course) and often innovations to how we play leads to innovations in the games we play.
Since how we play can often effect what we play, it's reasonable to assume that new innovations in motion sensor controllers and VR (Virtual reality) may effect the types of games we play in the future.
But regardless of what innovations come about that may change how we play, we as the player are always required. Because much like I stated above, video games are primarily an interactive medium for entertainment, as soon as you remove the need for player interaction the videogame stops being a game and becomes something more akin to a movie.
So, what is a video game? And to what extent of how we define what a video game is, should be allowed to be challenged or changed before it becomes something else entirely?
Thanks for reading my blog, if you'd like to add anything or disagree with any of my points, please feel free to leave a comment.
There's a debate that often arises amongst gamers as to whether or not console exclusive games are such a good idea anymore, seeing as how many who purchase only one console will inevitably miss out on the exclusive games only available on another. It's also reasonable to argue that (in theory) many developers may be receiving only a fraction of the profits they might have earned had their game been a multiplat title, then again, without console exclusivity what purpose do multiple platforms like the PS4, Xbox One or Wii U hold other than being three consoles that perform slightly differently? The whole point of having a console exclusive game or franchise in the first place was to entice consumers by offering content that isn't available elsewhere, so if one console were capable of playing each and every game available then what function would the existence of multiple consoles serve?
There are certainly pros to having only one console, for one thing it would put an end to this ridiculous "console war" and may even bring gamers as a community closer together. Then again if console exclusivity were to become a thing of the past, and each and every console were capable of playing any game regardless of the publisher or developer, then consoles would become less about "content" and more about "features". In fact this is already happening to an extent due to multiplat AAA titles being the "driving force" of the industry right now, now more than ever we're seeing console developers attempting to differentiate their platform from the competitions by offering unique features, such as content sharing, access to social/media networks, the implementation of Skype and TV functionality. Eventually though one console would become the dominant force, most likely through becoming a "all-in-one entertainment system" if that were to happen then there would be very little reason for other consoles to exist since they'd effectively be inferior products, thus the dominant console developer would gain complete and total monopoly over the distribution of any and all videogames released on console. But is that really healthy for the industry? Remember when Microsoft tried to implement draconian DRM, attempting to block the sales of used games and dictate when and how we play our games? Well if a console company were to have complete control over what content is available and how we access it then what stops such disastrous policies from actually being forced upon us? I'm in no way trying to demonize Microsoft, it's just that most gamers know about the Xbox One policy debacle so that helps better illustrate my point.
The Xbox One debacle taught us that a console made with a focus on restrictive policies and paywalls will never succeed while consumers still have a choice in what console they purchase
The quality of multiplat titles is also something that needs to taken into consideration because they are often held back from being quite as good as they could have been in order to perform well on each console. We know that certain exclusives like Uncharted or The Last Of Us wouldn't have been possible on a console with architecture inferior to that of the PS3, if these games were developed as multplat titles it's reasonable to assume they wouldn't have looked quite so good or played quite so well. It's the games that are developed with a single consoles architecture in mind that often perform better than those created to be multiplat titles.
When Sega first set about challenging Nintendo it was through their exclusive Sonic franchise that they were able to compete, but had Nintendo also had access to Sonic there would have been little reason if any for consumers to purchase a Sega genesis console. Games like The Last Of Us, Halo and Mario exist as proof that exclusive games are still viable in the current industry and can be incredibly successful if done well, but are these so called "system sellers" as necessary as they once were? for games like Mario or The Legend of Zelda is it even possible for them to remain unchanged if they were to appear on a non Nintendo system? Given the current industries obsession with mass appeal it's very likely that these franchises and many like them would undergo a drastic overhauls in order to make them more "appealing" and "accessible" this would probably be enough to bring a few newcomers to the franchise, but it would inevitably alienate many long time fans.
With the announcement of Valve'sSteam Machine, and it's ability to play any and all games available on the Steam service through (SOS) aka the "Steam Operating System" many believe it has the potential to change the videogame console landscape, whether or not the Steam Machine will make a significant splash in the mainstream is debatable but in my opinion, due to it's PC like nature and digital content focus it's certainly worth taking notice of.
Will the Steam Machine succeed? and if so what effect would that have on the videogame console landscape?
To paraphrase a comment made by Ben (Yahtzee) Croshaw, of Zero Punctuation fame "having a game exist to support a console is akin to having the words on a page exist solely to support the pages they were printed on"
I agree with the statement above, and I'm pretty sure that if you really take the time to think about it mostly everyone would come to agree. But it is worth remembering why exclusive games became a thing in the first place. You see books and videogames do have some similarities, printed words much like games on a disc require a platform which they can be experienced through before they can be enjoyed, the pages in a book are as much a platform as a console. Although the key difference being that books are capable of displaying any text and any story, where as games require a console with compatible architecture before they can be played, the main difference being is there's no need for separate companies to develop multiple versions of books as a platform because printed text is compatible with every kind of book, where as certain games can't be played on certain consoles due to incompatibility architecture.
Personally I'm not completely apposed to having a single console that can play any game, there really isn't so much need for exclusionary exclusivity anymore, but is the industry really ready for that yet? I mean if there was such a console would there be any need for competitors to release their own seeing as how their console would perform practically the same with the only real differences being the features they offer? Also if there was to be only one console then who would the developer be? Sony, Microsoft, Nintendo, Valve? Heck it could even be from a completely new developer. But then who's to stop the company that develops the only console required to play games from implementing restrictive policies due to there being no direct competition?
Would a "one console to rule them all" approach actually work, or would such power inevitably lead to corruption?
So after all that being said, I'm honestly no closer to deciding whether not console exclusivity is so necessary any more. But what do you think? do we still need multiple consoles with exclusive content? or is it time now to do away with all that and just have one console capable of playing all games regardless of the publisher or developer?
"Innovation", innovation is a word you hear thrown around quite a lot in the videogames industry, either coming from publishers and developers who claim to be striving for it, or from gamers who complain about the growing lack of it. But what exactly do we mean when we talk about innovation in regards to videogames? The fact of the matter is, the term itself is capable of covering a broad spectrum of possibilities so it's meaning can vary drastically from one persons usage of it to another.
It's a difficult term to contextualise, but what I think most gamers expect when we hear the term "innovation" is either new methods of play, be that either how we interact within the virtual world as the player character or how we control the player character by way of the UI (user interface) which may even offer us new ways to play besides the classic controller/keyboard & mouse approach. Or even a new genre, maybe one that either expands upon the foundation of a pre-existing genre, or focuses more heavily on a specific element of another and builds a game around that, these examples are only few amongst many others of course. Where as from a publisher or developer standpoint, innovation could be anything from a new and/or improved game engine to integrating social media aps. Needless to say, not all innovations in gaming come about in order to actually improve gaming as a whole, as we've already seen with many services such as DLC, DRM and online subscriptions, these "innovations" can exist sometimes as more of a barrier to additional content, imposed more in order to help line publisher pockets instead of offering consumers a service which actually improves their gaming experience without holding content to ransom, or attaching other needless strings. This of course may not have been the case when such services were first implemented but I wouldn't blame any of you for assuming that was the case.
As I've said before I'm not against DLC, the option to purchase additional content to help extend one's enjoyment of a game is a welcome feature. My problem is when the content being sold to us as DLC was originally meant to be released on the disc, but is instead deliberately being held back to then be sold to is in piece meals.
Most of us don't expect to get any additional content for free, we understand that people need to to get paid for the work they do after all, but what upsets many gamers is the feeling as if we are being charged for content that should have been made available on the disc at retail. These optional features can often feel as if they are simply ways for companies to piece meal their content instead of making it available on disc at launch, obviously no one would argue about additional content being made available later down the line, but the practice of holding back content to sell as DLC later must stop.
The problem is that the current system in place for the purchase of content via online is one that seems tailor made for such "services" to become more lucrative than the games we've purchased. For example, the fact that many games we buy today offer microtransactions in the form of day one DLC. Now I'm not personally against the option to purchase additional content but too often it feels as if certain parts of a game were held back to then be fed to us piece meal style after the games official release. Monthly subscriptions are of course are an option but sadly more often than not much of the DLC you receive is hardly ever worth the cost of subscribing.
Xbox live, still a paid service... Something that baffles me to this day, but more so now that the many advertisements present on the Xbox dashboard should create more than enough revenue to cover server fees, an issue made worse by the fact that many game servers have a hard time maintaining the heavy load placed on them, one would think that given the sheer amount of profits made by these companies that they would invest in additional servers to help meet the inevitable demand made by many popular games, especially with such a heavy focus being made to online gaming.
Microsoft should implement a free online feature, if they want to create their own version of PS+ then fair enough but basic access to online gaming should be free. Now I don't expect everyone to agree with me here, but at the very least think about this. You pay for Xbox Live in order to use the Internet, the same Internet service that you already pay your Internet provider for, to then access a feature in a game you paid full price for that is freely available on the PS3, Wii and Wii U.
The trouble with innovation in any industry is that it's not guaranteed to improve a product or service, in fact it can often lead to the detriment of a product if implemented solely for the benefit of a company and without the intended consumer demographic being taken into consideration. For example look at the sorry state of the current Resident Evil franchise, all the innovations (changes if you will) were made so as to increase the overall appeal of the IP, not in order to make the franchise "better" but purely so that Capcom could increase their profits. In this games industry, why is it that lately the term "innovation" seems so synonymous with words like generic, cookie-cutter and accessible? Is it because from a company standpoint, innovation is considered to be whatever helps to increases a companies profits? Although to be fair, if you look at a lot of innovations to come about in the games industry as of late, they are often game mechanics and elements taken from other, more popular games and/or franchises, and re-worked into a pre-existing game/franchise such as Resident Evil or Final Fantasy in hopes that these companies will see similar profits being made.
The issue we as gamers are faced with today is, what innovations are required in order to actually further advance gaming as a whole? And what innovations are purely being put in place as an additional avenue for companies to further profit off of us the consumers? The alteration of pre-existing game genres or gameplay mechanics, making the experience more streamlined and/or offering the player a deeper level of interactivity and/or control are innovations I feel are worth striving for. But too often now we see companies trying to replicate the success of another by trying to force certain gameplay mechanics in where they do not belong. Some would call the current Final Fantasy series the evolution of the JRPG, but to me it seems more like a glorified mishmash of gameplay mechanics that simply do not gel, once again it is this apparent need for "mass appeal" brought about due to bloated development budgets that has invited such a needless change to a franchise that was once the epitome of the JRPG genre. Even the new focus on social media aps and sharing feels more like a way for companies to control how their games are viewed instead of a way for consumers to freely share and enjoy each others content.
There are few innovations in gameplay to come about in recent years that equal those made 10 years ago, but innovations in the way we play games are still being made, whether or not motion sensor gaming or VR (virtual reality) is the future of play is yet be seen but the odds are good we'll be seeing more of it.
How, I ask you, in such an industry that seems totally focused on pleasing everyone, is it possible to see such genre defining IPs come about like we did in the past? Games like GTA-III, Resident Evil 4, Shenmue and Assassins Creed, these games all broke the mold and earned critical acclaim because of it. But because of the current business model employed by most big name publishers today the next big industry defining change will most likely come about from either the mobile or indie scene, were innovation and originality are still vital in order to succeed. If that is to be the case where does this leave console gaming? It may well still be at the forefront of the games industry but due to the the current industries structure it seems as if there is simply no room for such innovations to equal those seen in the past. Many of the innovations in the console gaming scene being made today are mostly companies just playing catch up with one another, trying to replicate the success of the competition or altering their games to increase accessibility and appeal, It may even be the case that the industry is at the point where technology needs to advance further before the next "industry defining" innovations can come about.
Personally, I feel that if the current business model for AAA game development were to remain in place, then even the advent of new game changing technology would mean very little, in an industry seemingly content to constantly try to replicate the success of the competition or rehash whatever IPs have brought them success in the past.
Thanks for reading my blog, if you'd like to add anything or disagree with any of my points, please feel free to leave a comment.