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Conquering the fear (and F.E.A.R.)!

Hey folks, look at me! I’m updating! And I’m not going to say that I’m busy! Although I am! (Curses.)

Due to the business that is inherent to my life, the only thing I’ve really gotten to do video-game-wise this week was a full playthrough of We ❤ Katamari. A worthwhile effort, let me tell you. Those games are addictive.

But the “new ground” I’m breaking in my video game experience is in the area of thriller games. I did Left 4 Dead a lot, I tried Amnesia and failed, but… I needed a new game, and in one Humble Bundle or another, I’d picked up both Dead Space and F.E.A.R. 2. (I’m planning on buying the first F.E.A.R. game at some point). This meant… well, it was high time for me to foray into the horror genre in earnest.

That's okay, I didn't need to sleep tonight! :)

That’s okay, I didn’t need to sleep tonight! 🙂

Having said that, I just finished Chapter 1 of Dead Space. It doesn’t help that my real name is the same as the main character’s name, so when they start screaming things at him (me) through the intercom, I get a bit jumpy.

So where am I going with all this? Well, ironically, I’m doing this to not be just “another gamer.” The more I play games, the more I want to dissect them and figure out what makes me feel the way I do. How does horror in games work? How do I recreate it as a game designer? These are tough questions to answer and I fully intend to play through these games until I’ve figured it out.

It’s going to be a while. I have to take lots of breaks.

See you Monday!

~AG

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EA: The Road to Success?

So it’s been a busy couple of weeks. Happy belated Thanksgiving to all of my loyal readers! I love you, mom!

I haven’t had the chance to play many games over the “break.” Work, composition, coding… it’s all kind of taken precedent over my “leisure” activity, though I do try to keep current with what’s up.

New consoles! Yay!

See? I’m current. I’m hip.

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Fez: An unparalleled giant of game design.

There’s a point I get to in every game called “judgment time.” In some games (like Mario), it’s pretty early. “What makes up this game? Jumpin’ on stuff, gettin’ high on shrooms, SAVE THE PRINCESS YEAH!” Other games, like Okami, take time. “Hmm, now I can go to this place that I couldn’t before… how does this weapon change how I’m able to fight things…? What, a plot twist?!” You get the picture.

At judgment time, I look at what the game has to offer me and figure that it’s not going to change all that much during the course of the rest of the game. In The Last Story, which I “reviewed” in another post, it took me all of about four seconds to realize that I was going to hate myself for playing the rest of the game. Sometimes it doesn’t take that long to know. Same with Megaman X7. Yeesh.

Fez screwed with me, though. Playing Fez was like falling in love: just when I thought I had seen all there was to see about the game, it threw something else at me, something unexpected and beautiful. Had I chosen to get everything in the game (which I unfortunately elected not to do), it would have taken many weeks, perhaps even months of careful searching and playing. Even through to its multiple ends, the game leaves you with more than you began with, as well as some delicious food for thought.

This pixely little guy goes to pixely places, and you just wish you could be there too,

This pixely little guy goes to pixely places, and you just wish you could be there, too.

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Couch-potato Gaming Goes the Way of the Dinosaur

We all know the stereotype. Gamers are the people who sit on their couches wearing pajamas and a wife-beater covered in Cheeto-colored fingerprints, chugging Mountain Dew and trying to get all the achievements in whatever game currently happens to be keeping them from getting a job. They live with their mothers, are grossly overweight, smell bad, have no prospects in life.

Okay, now that THAT’S out of our system, gamers are actually nothing like that. But it IS a stereotype, and there’s something to it. Gaming, for a very long time, was a completely stationary activity. True, it began in the arcades, where you actually had to stand up (and in the case of TRON, ride in an insanely cool digital motorcycle thing…), but with the release of the NES, you had a handy-dandy little controller that allowed you to plop your rear end down on your grandma’s saran-wrapped sofa and play to your heart’s content. But today’s a different world. Most arcade games have quite a bit of movement integrated into them, like pressing pedals, pointing guns, steering cars, punching the screen when you lose… but even the consoles we have at home are getting our butts in action. Where did it begin? Whose fault is it that I can’t just laze about while gaming?

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When the games get tough…

When games get tough, the tough get gaming…? I’m not so sure. There are some games that pride themselves on having a ridiculous level of difficulty. As a matter of fact, for those games, generally speaking, the difficulty is the only thing that really draws people to them. The competitive person in us says, “I will beat you, no matter how many times I have to die before I do it.” And then the game usually says, after hours of frustration, “Are you suuuuure?” They exist for the same reason that Mount Everest exists. Not because India’s tectonic plate is smashing up against another one to create the Himalayas (which by the way are getting taller). Everest is there rising above everything else, silently shouting, “You want an EASIER challenge? Then go climb the garbage heap that is your will to succeed, sucker!” Only, it probably says it more regally, with old English, or something. Anyway. These games are maddeningly difficult, and the cred you get for beating them is worth more than gameplay, graphics, plot, or pretty much anything else that makes a game good. Now that’s good marketing right there. The near-perfect example of this is Ninja Gaiden.

It doesn't LOOK like the spawn of vide-game-Satan.

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Dude, you suck at video games.

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.

It gives me joy to think that behind that mask, a cute girl is controlling Master Chief.

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.

Numerous examples of "Gee, this seems strangely familiar" XBOX control schemes.

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.

Look, it's the best of both worlds.

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!

Who knew rolling crap up was so addictive?

~Another Gamer

 

P.S. I say crap a lot, apparently. It’s  a very versatile word.

Achievement Unlocked!

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.

I'm still working on getting this one.

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