I tire, frankly, of doing serious posts all the time. Yeah, J-RPGs are dead, mobile games are like digital dementors except that they’re better at sucking your soul out, and as I grumpily tell these young gamers to get off my lawn while I’m enjoying the nostalgia, I reflect on my younger days… I came home every day and enjoyed the hell out of some video games. I come home every day now and enjoy the hell out of completely different video games, and usually there’s beer involved now (another big plus!). So I’m going to stop bitching for a while, if it’s all the same to you!
Everyone thinks about the future occasionally, even me. Actually, especially me! It’s ruined so many first dates, talking about settling down, getting married, and having kids. Those conversations don’t usually go well when you’re in high school. But no, no, that’s not what I mean about the future! I mean, the future of HUMANITY! Our planet! Our way of life, our advancement into the vast expanse of space. What’s it going to be like? Well, there are many games that hazard a guess at how that future will be! Science fiction-style games make up one of the most popular genres, from Portal to Resident Evil to Halo to Mass Effect to Dead Space to Fallout to… well, you get the picture!
Now, we could say that this genre is so popular because in the future, you get to have super-cool, futuristic, ridiculously-explosive (or, you know, portal-creating, time-space-altering) weapons and items that make the game seem more fun or something. It’s possible that Halo started out as a guy thinking out loud to a group of friends: “What if we had, like, a super-cool gun, that, I dunno, shot pink little spiny needles out of it? They have to be pink, or maybe purple, or else it’s not cool! That’d be awesome. And then, like, a sword made of light? But not like in Star Wars, or anything.” And then came the Covenant, the Flood, Master Chief, the entire plotline for the numerous games, and absurd amounts of Halo memorabilia (including life-size cardboard cutouts of our favorite Spartan. Yay!!) I digress. Perhaps, if we really think about it, the reason people make these games is because the future is an interesting place, full of conjecture, and what your imagination brings to life today could become reality tomorrow. But, you know, there’s something wrong with these games, that they all have in common: our future sucks.
I’ve talked about a lot of different aspects of video games, that make them interesting, engaging, brilliant, and, quite frankly, make them art. I’ve written about their music, their gameplay, the innovativeness, and lots of other things that are all wrapped up into the whole of awesomeness that is a good video game. But what I really think bears talking about today is the level design of games in the past, and games today. They’re like night and day, but most people don’t realize this because they’re too busy killing Covenant/Zombies/Foreign Armies/Reapers/Whatever You Happen To Be Shooting At. Read the rest of this entry
Some people are born noobs. Others have noobness thrust upon them. Actually everyone’s born a noob, but many of us lost that status so long ago, we forgot what it was like to be a video game virgin. When we pick up a controller, we feel it’s so natural, it’s as if it was created for our human hands. Which it was. But it feels so natural for another reason. When something says “Press the B button,” you don’t have to look down, and go “Hmm, where’s the B button… it’s the red one? Oh, it’s the re– Hey, I died on the tutorial level.” My point being, when a gamer plays enough, they know their controller quite well, even if they only play one or two games on it. But wait, why does it matter?
It matters because it greatly affects how we play games. We, in our foggy gamer brains, believe that when we pick up a game, we learn how to play it from the ground up through the inevitable in-game tutorial, and then proceed to tear through it in our own awesome gamer fashion. But, recently, I had an epiphany that such is not the case! (It’s a good thing I have epiphanies twice a week or this blog would be pretty dead). And this epiphany was caused by my lovely girlfriend and I playing Halo.
Now it’s an obligation for every gamer guy to talk incessantly about his girlfriend and how cool she is, because the stereotype of being a single, deadbeat loser is too pervasive to prevent us from saying now and then, “SEE? SEEEE? She actually likes me!” But that’s not why I’m talking about her. I’m talking about her because… well… she’s not very good at Halo. Immediately you say, “Well, duh, she’s a girl who’s not a gamer, she’s gonna hate all video games.” Truth is, she enjoyed playing a lot, regardless of the fact that she was an armor-covered gun-toting sack of “shoot me now, please.” And here’s the reason why she’s like that: she doesn’t play enough video games to know all this crap. We went through the tutorial together, it tells her “Use the A button to jump, use the R-Trigger button to fire,” yadda yadda, in typical Halo fashion. But is she just challenged, or something? She can’t pick this stuff up as easily as we did? Is it just a girl thing?
No, stupid. It’s a video game thing! Look back on your extensive history of playing First-Person (or 3rd person) Shooter games on the XBOX or 360. What control stick do you use to look around? What control stick do you use to move? What button to fire? What button to reload, to melee, to jump, to switch weapons? Oh my goodness! THEY’RE ALL THE SAME. In nearly every game that involves moving and looking and jumping (which is quite a few, mind you), these buttons are standard. 100%. So when I pick up Red Dead Redemption, I say to myself in the depths of my Freudian subconscious: “I know most of this crap, and the tutorial will tell me the 2 things that aren’t exactly the same as everything else.” So after that brief little refresher, I proceed to tear through the first enemies of the game like a bulldozer running into a wall of marshmallow fluff. Because I KNOW THIS CRAP. Because we all know this crap if we played Halo when it came out 10 years ago (holy cow. That is old). She’s bad at Halo because she can’t move and look at the same time, because she doesn’t automatically reload, doesn’t automatically shoot when the crosshairs turn red, she doesn’t automatically mash the B button when a creepy thing pops up in front of her. But we do, and we can adapt to any number of new games seamlessly because we do.
Or so I thought. The XBOX (and PlayStation) controllers are a standard, pretty-much-unchanging example of controller schemes that, while they might not be intuitive, are used so often than once you learn them, it’s easy to learn new game mechanics quickly. As for Nintendo controllers, I don’t know what the hell they’re doing but we’re going to go through it again once the Wii-U comes out. Yay. But I digress. The thing is, I thought myself really good at Halo, and FPS games in general, because I did all these things on XBOX. But I’ll never forget the first day I went to an internet cafe with some buddies and we played Halo, the PC version. This was before I’d started playing WoW, or any other legitimate PC game besides Diablo 2. You move in PC Halo using the WASD controls, something I’d never really heard of or mastered. And I got my butt kicked. Seriously handed to me, again and again, finding myself totally incapable of performing even the simplest of tasks because this whole “moving” thing was so difficult for me! But, again, keeping with today’s theme, once you learn to play with the keyboard, a thousand games suddenly become quite simple to pick up and get good at. It’s like riding a bike, only most of what you’re doing is shooting things.
So the idea that some of us are just “good at games” and others aren’t isn’t cut and dry; it isn’t that proficiency at certain video games just comes more naturally to some people, while other find it difficult. The fact of the matter is, when you become a gamer, you do more than learn to play a certain video game, you learn how to play video games in GENERAL. You learn the skills to adapt you to any virtual situation the limits of the game system can throw at you. Except “Katamari Damacy.” Jeez, that game was weird. The least lame flash version is below. Naaaa-nanananana-na-na Katamari Damacy!
P.S. I say crap a lot, apparently. It’s a very versatile word.
Congratulations, me! It’s my 10th legitimate post on this awesome website. In my short time here, I’ve accumulated acclaim, many followers, national renown, and had Rush Limbaugh call me a slut. It’s been a good run so far, and I have no intention of stopping anytime soon! And for some reason, on this portal to the blogosphere, they have a tally that keeps track of the number of posts you have published, and a goal that incrementally becomes higher as you fulfill it! To me, it kind of feels like an achievement. And, (amazingly enough) that’s what I’m planning on talking about today: Achievements.