It woke up hungry. What shall I do today? it thought, picking at its teeth with a spare bit of bone from the half-devoured meal from the night before. I saw that new castle on the hill. I think I’ll pay the King a visit.
It’s been a fun few days in the world of game journalism, by which I mean everything went to crap at once, a lot of people got mad, and one guy no longer has a job. And there’s already been lots of words written about this, but these are mine, so they are the best. Full disclosure: they might not actually be the best.
First, the picture above started circling the interwebs (slightly edited to be even more accurate) of a dead-inside Geoff Keighley, surrounded by Mountain Dew Game Fuel and Doritos. He is one of the biggest names in game journalism, and this image is important and iconic not just because it shows how corporate we’ve all become, with our Halos and CoD-pieces filled with Gamer Fuel-soaked jerk socks, but because it shows exactly how the typical internet person views game journalism today. It’s rare to find an image that so completely embodies the glory of what game writing has become in the eyes of the typical 13-year-old Spike Video Game Awards viewer. (Well, maybe this one.) Sure, lots of games writers have fans, followers, readers, watchers… but one negative review of a game that other people loved and they’ll turn on you like *snaps fingers dramatically* that. And don’t forget how a good review means you were paid off by the publisher! Continue reading →
I saw a deal on the internet a few days ago: 40+ SEGA Genesis games on Steam for $10. You’ve probably seen these kinds of deals before, too. Between Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection, the SEGA Genesis Collection,SEGA Genesis Classic Collection: Gold Edition,and The Super-Duper Please Forget That We Haven’t Been Relevant for a Decade Dreamcast 4-Pack, I’m not sure if a current console exists that doesn’t feature some sort of bargain-priced retro SEGA collection – usually focused on the Genesis.
Then on the other side of the spectrum, we have Nintendo. Say what you will about the Wii (it’s been a ghost town for years), but the Virtual Console is a retro game geek’s dream come true. Perfectly emulate hundreds of your favorite and not-so-favorite classic games, on your big TV instead of a tiny computer screen, and for only a few bucks each? What a steal! “Oh man, they put the Game Boy Color Mario Golf on the 3DS eShop? That’s the best version! $4.99? SOLD!” But then we see 45 Genesis games for $10 and we balk. Continue reading →
Now that Indie Game: The Movie has made it to Netflix Instant Streaming, I finally had the chance to see it. And the bottom line is that if you are interested in seeing the men behind the curtain of your favorite games, or you have even a passing interest in everything else that goes into bringing a game to market besides just the coding, or – you know what – if you’re reading this, you are the demographic for this movie. But let’s talk about it. Continue reading →
Most of you know this is on YouTube already, but I like writing little afterthoughts to the video. You know the weird thing about Bioshock? I remember it being a clusterfuck. Most people I talk to say it’s a clusterfuck. That one time I did an LP of it was a complete slogfest clusterfuck. And, yet. When I looked for footage of Bioshock, I couldn’t find the waves of baddies that I remember. I think the game has a way of riding you. Like when you get homework assignment after homework assignment piled on you at school so by the end of the day you just want to fall into a pit and die. It’s like a test in patience, a long, drawn out erosion of the soul.
And, yet. I still like the game. A lot. The aesthetics, the minor characters and the themes really hooked me. Yes, I know the game should have ended when Andrew Ryan took a golf club to the face, but everything leading up to that point was fun and interesting. Like, remember that part where the woman is cooing at a baby carriage and then after you mow her down you realize there was a gun in there? That’s something I’m never going to forget. Even if I don’t really know what it means.
I have an entire wall in my living room filled with video games from every era of history. All three PlayStations, both Xboxes, most of the Ataris (including the Jaguar CD), nearly every SEGA console, every Nintendo save the Virtual Boy… If you’re in any mood, chances are I have at least one game that you’d like to play, or maybe even something you could discover for the first time. It can be overwhelming, though – sometimes I can’t decide what I feel like doing today and end up aimlessly poring over old instruction manuals for an hour. But have you seen some of these older manuals? They’re like works of art.
Do I want to shoot aliens today? Command a classic civilization? Make music with plastic instruments? It doesn’t matter; I have an abundance of choice, and just looking at this wall of history – this shrine to our digital past and present – I immerse myself in where I was in my life when I first acquired each particular game, what it meant to me, how it felt learning to play it. I think about how pumped I was when I found Shining Force for $2 at a pawn shop in the middle of nowhere, in some 1,000-population town in Northern Minnesota. I remember rediscovering the feeling of being able to reward myself by buying Chrono Trigger off eBay after a particularly low point in my life. These physical things are much more than pieces of plastic filled with thousands upon thousands of lines of code, waiting to be pulled out for a few hours of entertainment once every few years (if that). They are windows to my past, and every single one has a story.
My favorite thing anyone ever said about Minecraft wasn’t from Notch. It wasn’t from some AAA developer or a big-time game journo. It was some random dude on the internet, who complained, “Minecraft isn’t even that immersive or lasting – I got bored after just two months!” My question to him: how long do you expect to play a game?! You can’t play the same one forever. That’s why they keep making more.
Another Everlasting Gobstopper was Skyrim. Despite November 2011 being one of the best months of new releases ever, Twitter was all atwitter with talk of Skyrim until the new year. “Did you do the drunk quest yet?” “I found a talking dog!” “Who’d you marry? … of course you did – she’s super easy.”
Eventually, we all saw the little tricks Bethesda used to keep us playing. The infinite procedural quest generation. The same-y combat. The sense that you weren’t actually playing your own role in this huge, immersive, dead world. But it wasn’t until we’d sunk 50, 100, in some cases 300 hours into this imaginary world that we were done with it. In general, it seemed like we were all enjoying our time with the game. But when it was over, it felt hollow… like we’d somehow been secretly robbed of our last two months of gaming time by sneaky, underhanded developer tricks that just made us want to keep playing the same game. Scandalous, I know! Yet when we only get five hours out of Asura’s Wrath – which also launched at $60 – we somehow feel incredibly cheated, despite the fact that it’s one of the most intense experiences of the current console generation.
It got me thinking, though: what makes us stop playing a particular game and put it on the shelf to collect dust forever? Continue reading →