Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Deep As The Earth Itself

Today I was reading through The Brainy Gamer's latest post and his impressions of Afrika intrigued me enough to simmer some very basic ideas (all the screen caps from Afrika are his pictures by the way). So, I thought I'd childishly scrounge these "toys" all together and throw them in the metaphorical toybox.

Instead of reiterating what Michael already posted himself, I'll just quote his blog entry:

Sometimes, I explore just to explore. I wander around and watch the animals. The environments and animations in Afrika are astoundingly vibrant and detailed. Occasionally you may encounter a group of flamingos all locked in an animation loop, but such occurrences are surprisingly rare. For the most part, the world of Afrika seems to exist on its own, regardless of your presence, and its inhabitants do what they do...including hunt and kill each other, which you can photograph. If you're looking for violent content, that's as close to it as Afrika gets.

The game insists that you remain an observer. Some players may find this separation from the environment disconcerting. You cannot run over zebras with your jeep. You cannot kill or set fire to anything. If you bump into a shrub, it's like bumping into a wall. You can't destroy or otherwise alter anything in the environment. You can only photograph it.


---Michael Abbot, Brainy Gamer

It was that last line that really resonated with me. Not simply because of the limitation it provides, but because of the left over possibilities I see instead. Games like this and Pokemon Snap are often regarded with warm memories by gamers without that superficial and innate bloodlust. This is for good reason as well, and from the opinion of someone who has spent a lot of time with a camera, I can testify that Photography in general makes for a damn good time [game or not]. Just in the past month, I've probably spent at least ten hours photographing random stuff in Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots. I really hate when developers brag about visuals in games by slicing off the interaction with it. Though it's a superficial fix to simply add a camera into every game, ironically the presence of those cameras offer another lens into the methodology of play overall [I find that amusing].

So when I hear about a game like Afrika, my mind automatically wanders to the notion of how the camera works. Though I initially found it cringeworthy to utter, the first thing that jumped into my head was "depth". That in turn naturally led my mind to titles like Everblue, Everblue 2, and Endless Ocean. You know---any of those titles more about pure act of exploration than the gimmicky based nature of objective-oriented titles now.

Now, I could easily sew this into the nature of my last post and state that the cathartic nature of photographing things is yet another subset of [EXP-ism]. It's one of the crowning jewels to take back some sort of treasure from a constructed world, especially if one can share it and express their own experience within just one shot.

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"A picture is worth a thousand words"
---Chinese Proverb


I think about the clutter of games in certain "families" right now and realize that some lineages are smaller than others. To offer an interactive experiment from my point of view, I'll ask any reader of this post to give me an example of an explicitly non-confrontational game that focuses on photography (or any similar action in conjunction with exploration). When you think about titles such as Pokemon Snap, it's evident that the world Nintendo created was through 150+ little animals of varying awesomeness; it's what made the handheld titles so fantastic in the first place. Photographing the little bastards was just a competent sidequest on the still-scorched path it's left on the gaming industry at large.

Now my head wishes to blend my aforementioned depth with this catharsis. This is not to make Fallout 3: Minus Weapons & Plus Cameras, but offer some further interactive grounds to give gamers a title thats the equivalent to 2007's Earth film [The U.S. only got it this year]. Given that it's not uncommon to see people watching the Discovery or History channel for kicks anymore, it's a nice time for a game to capitalize on that minuscule yet ideal plastic desire to grasp. I guess I am talking about something far beyond even Afrika [not to intentionally serve as its detriment], but is that unreasonable in these times?

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I actually want to explore the world now. I don't want to run around shooting people in lush environments, I want to capture life in the wild on the level that would make any exploratory person gasp. In my comment left on Michael's blog, I cursorily traced around the idea of such a game that has more roots in stealth than anything else. Imagine trying to photograph lionesses in the dead of night [with various night vision equipment] with the chance of being killed by them, when you only have an extremely limited means to protect yourself. With completely unrelated titles [e.g. Silent Hill: Shattered Memories] just starting to wake up to how the absence of combat can enhance, it's an idea such as this that could simply just run wild with it.



As much whining as I do on this blog about narrative gaming, it's nice to have an out to something that requires no constructed script whatsoever (other than dozens of contextual obligations and artificial intelligence algorithms). Not to shit entirely on the directors, but do you know that Earth took 47 million dollars to film? I know gaming is getting to be pretty damn expensive itself [for far more stupid reasons]. However, the same kind of appreciation I got from a movie like that can be conveyed in a video-game now, given the right person in charge, and for a lot less money to boot. It also opens the door to digital and traditional artists to find valuable solace in nature for their work as well (i.e. this hypothetical title could very well look like Okami if it so pleased).

All the weird things that go on as this rock spins through space are fascinating, and could be pooled into a title without any one portion of it degenerating into a "pure gimmick" [*coughthatswhat40%ofgamesarenowandimbeingextremelygenerouswiththatcough*]. The ambition could vary (chronicling the typical life-cycle of a Great White Shark for instance), the environments could extend (observing the theoretical possibilities of any of the Gas Giants), and the gamers could finally fucking evolve [watch Tweet My Gaming for just ten minutes and you'll see exactly what I mean].

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Do I even need to reiterate again on the theoretical possibilities for such a game like this in outer space? Considering the dismal job some fictional movies revel in when depicting "world events", it wouldn't be too hard to usurp the that flimsy wooden throne with a well placed game simply covering a simple trip to the moon and back.

Again, I ask are there any games I've not yet played that showcase such a tie to its own environment? I've only just started digging into the P.C. world, so maybe there's darkened grounds I've not yet fallen upon.

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~sLs~

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Doctrine #1 ~ Experiencism

To truly begin analyzing this, we have to figure out what this is a response towards, you know---what gives rise to it. To remove oneself from the daily hassles of life is what's key in escapism. In a sense, anything not harshly connected to the direct needs of humanity can be perceived as this. The negative tie-in for me comes when one directly attributes the phrase "waste of time" to govern various "escapist acts". Any sane person can recognize for themselves that meaningful goals can be reached within the bounds of the term. Much like the term "gameplay" and "genre" have been dragged through the mud, escapism has suffered a relatively similar fate. To aid in escapisms failings, I've decided to accompany it with a counterweight-aid term so to speak. Specifically, this is to further define video-games' frequency in society.

It's close-minded and furthermore outright idiocy to claim that fictional constructs have no place, EVEN in the grand scheme of humanity. The sciences, the arts, hell---the entirety of academia is only there to support what humans create. The tools they use to accomplish these ends are no doubt a wealth of excellence in themselves (for instance, all sciences), but to pretend like they're the end-all-be-all is just silly and selfish (and human...).

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"Color True Experience" by skpzeenho

The superficial definition is what's been embraced by the media and what further governs the majority of "popular perception". As an example, take the very nature of how high definition graphics have affected the modern video-game. They've become necessity not out of the medium's requirement for growth, but the superficial need people have to quickly embrace cool looking technology (i.e. consumerism). Running away from reality is usually the right thing to do, but fact of the matter is...it's just not a possible feat to anyone accomplish. If someone has a crappy day at work and wishes to drown themselves in a video-game, how does one define that? There's certainly nothing wrong with it, but a line has to be drawn somewhere doesn't it? It becomes relative at this point, as the person's individuality will kick in here. Immaturity only factors into the equation when the areas are established around that person's life (in otherwords, its more accurate to judge that person's life as escapism, not the activity itself).

We use various fictions and "lies" throughout our lives to build and construct the various layers of our own psyches. Ten thousand years ago, "we" had to define ourselves by the mundane activities which we seek to escape now. Why do you think people hopped on the art-bandwagon so many centuries ago? In actuality, I think that kind of classical art was the very first FORMAL notion of escapism.

So, what the hell is Experiencism?

I define experiencism as the "transcendence of creation". When one finds fulfillment beyond the superficial in a medium, THAT'S experiencism. Now, when I say transcendence of creation, I mean just that; dialect that is beyond the act of the artist or the audience.

Main Entry:
1ex·pe·ri·ence
Pronunciation:
\ik-ˈspir-ē-ən(t)s\
Function:
noun
Date:
1941
Etymology:
Middle English, from Anglo-French, from Latin experientia act of trying, from experient-, experiens, present participle of experiri to try, from ex- + -periri (akin to periculum attempt) — more at fear
Date:
14th century

1 a: direct observation of or participation in events as a basis of knowledge b: the fact or state of having been affected by or gained knowledge through direct observation or participation
2 a: practical knowledge, skill, or practice derived from direct observation of or participation in events or in a particular activity b: the length of such participation [has 10 years' experience in the job]
3 a: the conscious events that make up an individual life b: the events that make up the conscious past of a community or nation or humankind generally
4: something personally encountered, undergone, or lived through
5: the act or process of directly perceiving events or reality

"experience." Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. 2009.
Merriam-Webster Online. 18 June 2009

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"Adina Experience" by Sec

Experience is defined by the active participation with "a world perceived as true" and in response, knowledge is imparted---a dialouge is created between any one person and their desired medium. To define knowledge is deifying, so those of you outcrying on that particular point already can shut the fuck up now (the only god in my world is myself, as should be for most people). Those who would stand against experiencism place their faith in logic and reason. Logic and reason are only based what we know in the world at that particular moment, while standing amongst the summits of gathered collective human intelligence. That intelligence gives rise to hypocritical and silly creations such as morality on "our" part. I won't continue into that oil-drum can of worms however, I'll just state that rationality is as irrational AS irrationality. Both are necessary for this world to exist and for humans to go on perpetuating the trash they're so proud of churning out on a daily basis.

Video-games create worlds for us to "exist" within. The only other medium with anything remotely similar to that capability would be literature. However, that [literature] occurs on it's own level so fundamental, that it's ridiculous to even try comparing a game to it in the first place. Experience is simply a direct product of existence, so video-games are the exemplars for experiencism. To make things a bit more complex for a second, I could launch into further discussion about how all medium actively deal with experiencism (for example, video-games are technically only exemplars for "synthetic experiencism"), but this is a gaming blog; I just thought it would be noteworthy to showcase that this isn't as sophistic of an argument most will write it off as.

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"Experience" by 3mmI

Ironically, video-games treat their own prodigal treatise like a child who has just found his dad's gun (I abstain from the constant games-as-a-child metaphor even though I just did it again). Superficial "nods" towards this can be seen in the basis of the modern RPG where "EXP" is STILL gained as a commodity. Apart from the nature of turn-based combat, that's always been my hangup with those particular games. The tales and experiences they're trying so hard to create are nothing more than a manufactured commodity. I crave the day when an RPG is created when experience doesn't simply equate to being a number on a chart. At the very least, I desire the day when I can no longer see the chart...in any way whatsoever.

I'll leave you with my own forged dictionary entry...

Main Entry:
1ex·pe·ri·encism
Pronunciation:
\ik-ˈspir-ē-ən(t)si-zəm\
Function:
noun
Date:
2009
Etymology:
Middle English, from Anglo-French, from Latin experientia act of trying, from experient-, experiens, present participle of experiri to try, from ex- + -periri (akin to periculum attempt) — more at fear
Date:
21st century

1 a: A 21st century movement perpetuated by modern fictional constructs (chiefly video-games). Significant emphasis is placed on the subjective relevance of an individual's ability to formally exist in a fictional world.

~sLs~

Friday, June 12, 2009

VGA ~ 6-1 ~ A Sexy & Delicious Death

Our dear ”Entertainment” has continued to progress into an extremely impressive means to convey experiences between the generations. In order to grow however, they’ll have to expand their “definitions” to match their own overbearing weight of versatility. This of course means that a plethora of notions and concepts that most gamers are already familiar with---will have to change, plain and simple. The medium has “suffered some luxuries” however and that’s what I’m here to talk about today. There’s three topics titling this blog (which I think are the most withered aspects for us), but there’s five in my head that act as pleasing ideas for the bulk of the gaming populous (not to mention the human race). These are…

1 – Birth
2 – Nourishment
3 – Sex

4 – Propagation
5 – Death

I’ll be presenting these topics with dual strikes on both fronts. First will be the symbolism they represent for the medium and the other will be a literal translation, governed by how typically they present in games (generally speaking of course).

Birth

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Toxic Planet by Orioto

By my own observations, this has already happened for all of us, as most of us nerds are extremely aware of the culture and things surrounding it. Of course, we don’t often act in its best interests, but that’s something to be expected at this point. Birth is by far the easiest transition for “us” to make, that’s just the law of nature. No matter what one believes in, their consciousness isn’t allowed will before birth, therefore said life has no real choice in the matter on whether or not they will be born, they just are. Most of this applies to the ties that gamers have to their most beloved titles as well. What’s really humorous is to contemplate the reality of prenatal care being the equivalent to following a game two years prior to its release. At this point my own head starts to swirl around with the possibilities of “stillbirths” and “crack-babies”, but that’s a divergence we can save for later.

The second the player slips the game in its respective system, “birth” begins. “Neonate Experiencism” is an almost supreme constant for most gamers(in short, their first experience with any game). Ironically, the term infant derives from Latin and roughly translates to “unable to speak”. Considering that the player’s first experience with a game involves a mandatory dialect, it’s an interesting corollary to draw. The way that playing games has evolved now requires us to begin consuming them on an unfair level. Not caring for one’s own experience with a game turns it into a far more superficial and short-lasting form of escapism. This creates an extremely large antinomy for the journalistic side of the industry, as they have to stay on a certain track to an arguable extent (I’ve never envied them myself).

You may be lost with this still, so let me try and clarify a little bit more. Birth means the first connection one makes with their respective title, nothing more. Whether the title is “good” or “bad” doesn’t even enter into the equation at this point; it’s the equivalent to placing judgment upon a baby on moral grounds because he or she is crying too much. That connection is delicate, it’s sincere and it must be nurtured, anything else constitutes negligence on the part of the player. The process of “birth” in a video-game has and will always remain pure act of privilege. It’s up to the player to perceive it as such.

Nourishment

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I wonder if these guys will ever finish this?

Nourishment for games means any collection of pixels that healthily stimulates emotional, spiritual, or intellectual growth. Extensions of perception can play big roles here. Most athletes can empathize with this at least. There’s a connection that people place between any two things in the world. For example, the feeling a basketball player gets before he/she even shoots the ball, between themselves and the goal (no, not the ball---keep up). Ever wonder why it throws some players off when there isn't a net actually available? Cognitive perception is an insanely strong process, and games are no different. I’ve already traced educational sustenance, so go see VGA ~ 5-4 if you need to refresh yourself with that. Feeding fanboys is not an easy task because developers have to do two things; they have to truly create something on their own while obeying fickle whims, two contradictory processes. Art and business have never mixed and any delusions to make it so are just plain sad.

Feeding fickle fanboys? Well, I can of course conjure up an example to speak for me. I’ll leave the interpretation of such to my reader(s). Here’s the first paradigm that my tortured fanboy psyche can cough up:

The Pregnant Narrative – A contextual innovation that can only be accomplished through narrative-based games, which have already proven themselves in terms of overall qualitative design.

Even among the company that exists as the modern day Willy Wonka of the of videogame developers (Nintendo), there's room for an explosive increase in their timeless "romantic" treasures. Particularly with Zelda, there's room for mechanics (that have already been hovering around an exemplary setup) to be even more amplified through a compelling experience. Stick with me on this for a minute; I’m not quite sure where I’m going with it myself.

What if Zelda, a tale which almost always revolves around the link between Ganon, Zelda, and Link through the Triforce was tinkered with just slightly? I'm not talking about a complete overhaul in what makes Zelda, most of the titles still stand firmly in pure form for what we have as a fairy tale from a videogame. What if it grew up with us as well? Should that be allowed, should they remain and possibly stagnate in the consistency of what they convey? I'm no deity, so I can't answer that. All I can offer are my desires, which are in fact the will of a fanboy.

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Some day...

I won't launch into some useless dribble analytically breaking down the game’s traditional mechanics (I’ll leave that to people who do it better). No, what I mean to address is what should always govern the will of a game’s mechanics, its own narrative. Don’t take that the wrong way either, I’m using the term very loosely here---as any context which a game revolves around is applicable. The relationship is not about one taking priority over the other, but both of them existing in an extremely delicate co-dependency (i.e. the government and it’s people). However, it’s pretty obvious that even with the best titles, there only exists sound game design (certainly not bad), with its own context existing as nothing more than an afterthought (which is bad in my eyes and thoroughly unforgivable).

Continuing on with my example, what if Zelda was actually a villain? There’s simply not enough female villainy around in the industry as it is and it would create a nice dynamic that would show some actual growth on Nintendo’s otherwise stationary stance regarding their own franchises. It would also be fairly easy to turn Ganon into an ally who is befriended over the course of the game (much like Zelda usually is). That's nothing more than a minor tinker that would thunderously leave fans in "shock and awe" if done tastefully. The mechanics that could result from this are just simply useless to talk about as potential ideas have no limit. It's something very different and very intriguing, but as a friend so obviously keeps reminding me, Nintendo won't screw with their formula. Their rigid nature on developing their games is a sad (and good) thing in many ways…oh well.

Innovation…
Style shocks…
Overdone…
Underdone…
Quality Sci-Fi…
Compress the established…
etc...
etc...
etc...

So many dastardly enjoyable concepts squashed by the oppressive equilibrium holding the industry up…it’s actually quite elegant (as it is absolutely disgusting).

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We've seen the boys, so let's see the man.

There is a height of enrichment; I actually stated this last year, but what about a game that goes in depth about the life of Sparda and his life leading up to the inevitable rebellion against hell? Shallowness and depth is one thing, but once one truly crafts and thread every single aspect of their "world", they'll wind up with something that transcends troubling terms such as "depth" and "quality" (which people apply on their own terms anyway). Instead they'll be left with something far more important, "richness". Right now Bayonetta exists as my earlier statement, extremely sound game design wrapped around a superficial package. At best, Kamiya will create another worthwhile character that fans love beating the hell out of things with. At worst, he’ll just make a good game with Asian sex-appeal directed at males and some females (it’s becoming trite here, but once again I assert that quality is irrelevant at this point). I don’t necessarily try to downplay the mechanics for a game; I just find the advent of thoughts for them more enjoyable to speak about, which IS IN FACT the context that surroundeds the stage. Displaying fertility in their presence, a truly rich narrative will give birth to many things across the mind of a gamer (and developer). The reality of Devil May Cry’s narrative is a moot point because not only can one NOT objectively judge quality of something that, they can’t dispel the actions of a game reacting in its own world. This has been proven for games time and time again. Example? Compare MGS3: Snake Eater to Lucas’ latter three Star Wars films.

When people walk into someone's house and see a case full of books, they will usually automatically assume that the owner is knowledgeable in some sense. When most walk into someone's house that owns a lot of games, they just simply assume that they are either spoiled, and/or have too much time and money on their hands. The last thing that crosses their mind would that the person has been granted the same sense of perception only granted to avid readers (I’d say film as well, but then I’d have to launch into differentiating between drama and Hollywood and I’m too lazy to right now). Now, I'm not going to go into an "will-we-ever-go-beyond-that" tirade, because I honestly I don't think that's going to happen for a very long time (and I’m being optimistic with that). We still have everyone and their mothers that watch the mass market of movies and consider themselves qualified to offer criticisms on it---to the extent of affecting other people's fragile ability to enjoy anything for themselves. Nah, gamers are still watching the ignorant, moronic, and half-wit jackasses on FOX news pathetically attempting to grasp a 30 second scene in Mass Effect (totally out of context). If an entire group of five or six adults are CONSISTENT in their complete and total idiocy, then gamers just going to have to wait until the day comes that everyone can actually “see” games. I know that our Sun is due to boil this rock up in just under a billion years and I’m still questioning the worth collective human perception by then…way out of my own damn lifetime.

Exploration...

Engagement...

Experience...

Hmm…water cooler talk is awesome, but I haven't experienced it myself in years...heh. The goal and journey debate is an interesting topic to think about though. I do plan to post a VGA entry later down the line about what FAQS and guides do to rob (and aid) the experience...so I must keep my mouth shut for right now.

Sex

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Paint Run by Transfuse

The notions of "Fun" & "Enjoyment" have become a simmering topic on the minds of most gamers and it’s creating a divide in the entire population overall. Gamers, developers, enthusiasts, they all have to sort through their own subjective takes on gaming in order to provide for the other two respective categories. Me---well my take on games was born in the primordial ooze of that old and archaic notion that video-games are at best enjoyable time-wasters, and at worst superficial escapism, which serve as convenient scapegoats for trash to blame society’s own fuckups on. That latter ideal or anything remotely close to it gives rise to someone like me, who serves as an abrasively opinionated and angry individual who demands the exact opposite. I’m not seeking to run away from the world through a video-game, I’m seeking to connect with it through one. I want all the fuckups, the horror, the hilarity, the outrage, and the hypocrisy to breathe back at me from a video-game. That means the exact opposite of escapism. What’s the opposite of escape…capture?

Thinking out loud here…enrapture…indulgence…detainment…encapsulate…ensnare, crap.

Yeah, well none of those really sound good with “ism” behind them, so I stand by my own doctrine of “experiencism”. I can live with that one until something better comes along.

When ”grounds of land” are formed, gamers engage in perverse actions towards them (e.g. war). This even incorporates those age old console wars, which I expressed my disdain for in one of Rob Zacny’s old blogs as well. In that post, I drew a direct corollary between console gamers (The Southern U.S.) and P.C. gamers (The Northern U.S.). I’m too lazy to elaborate on that, so I just urge you draw your own conclusions (if you’re too lazy to look through his blogs that I linked. If gamers are good at one thing, it’s what makes them human, the ability to fight brutally over trivial or self-traitorous matters. Star_Royal mentioned to me yesterday on my Thief post that the majority of gaming dialogue is skewed towards console gaming. He was right, I did already know this, but now I can fully appreciate it since I’m moving in the opposite direction of what the industry is chugging along towards right now. It’s the difference between knowing that there is death and famine in the world and actually experiencing it for oneself.

There’s no “romance” between any two sides of the industry now (most of the gaming industry just simply doesn’t know how to show it). Competition breeds the attainment of new heights, but that shouldn’t be at the expense of any two ideas converging or acting with one another. All gamers can SEEM to do now is conveniently wrap ideals around the simple act of “sex” (which is what quite a few do now with ACTUAL sex and love). None of us should be so proud of fucking each other...

If there’s one thing that’s extremely easy to find on the internet, it’s porn. For an area of “consumption”, people are extremely hesitant to admit that it’s not a ludicrous presence (at least compared to all the other weird shit going on in the world right now). It exists in such abundance for a REASON. Even calling it perverse is a matter of perspective and if there’s one thing that this blog states ever-so-subtly, it’s that I don’t stand for useless and pathetic social mores. If porn is guilty of any one real crime, it’s lying; portraying men and women in aesthetic states that are often confusing, arbitrary, and downright offensive. Let’s not pretend that EVERYTHING on T.V. doesn’t do that incessantly (THAT’S THE FUN OF IT!). If there were ever words spoken by fiction that I’ll have put on my tombstone, it’s:

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“Everybody lies…” – Dr. Gregory House

“I thought everybody lied?!”
“Truth begins in lies…think about it” – Foreman & House

“What happened to everybody lies?!” – Cameron & House
“I lied…”


Why do you think sex isn’t a more prevalent issue in games? People can’t even handle it in reality anymore let alone accurately (and consistently) portraying it in a game (don’t offer me scarce exceptions to the rule either, I’m aware of them). Successfully doing so would mean that my aforementioned “cyniquip" (I’m really loving these self-created portmanteau terms) regarding the person’s perception of love is entirely invalid. If there’s one thing I can say with absolute disdain these days, it’s that I’m hardly ever just plain wrong, especially about things like this.

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Dr. Allison Cameron: “I'm uncomfortable about sex”.
Dr. Robert Chase: “Well, we don't have to talk about this---“
Dr. Allison Cameron: “Sex could kill you. Do you know what the human body goes through when you have sex? Pupils dilate, arteries constrict, core temperature rises, heart races, blood pressure skyrockets, respiration becomes rapid and shallow, the brain fires bursts of electrical impulses from nowhere to nowhere, and secretions spit out of every gland, and the muscles tense and spasm like you're lifting three times your body weight. It's violent, it's ugly and it's messy, and if God hadn't made it unbelievably fun, the human race would have died out eons ago. [pause to breathe deep and they stare at each other] Men are lucky they can only have one orgasm. Do you know that women can have an hour long orgasm?”
House Episode 3~ Season 1 ~ “Occam’s Razor”


Propagation

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Old Snake by Scabrouspencil

There’s something a tad decent AND horrifying at the same time when considering the generational influx in regards to games. Adults are adults, teens are trees, and children are children. As this constant continually provides a mainstay for the times, the games have not---instead they’re growing ever so co-dependently with the tech. The corollaries between biological physiology and technological structures are not an old idea (i.e. the brain and a computer), and every few years the reality continually nears the realization of how far (or how close) both processes have evolved in tandem. In the context of games, let’s look at it another way. For example, a game engine is propagation. Hell even the concept of the uncanny valley is propagation. The way in which stylized organizations of code create their own cults, trends, and fads is only surpassed by their ability to motivate others to create.

The flaw that is disrupting the more positive traits would be the perceived limits of games in general. The genre for example, has become a downright offensive umbrella notion that categorizes a great deal of games for no other reason than cheap convenience. Think how modern and even indie titles have strengthened the bloodline of concepts presented by Mario over twenty years ago. Now think how the multitude of great titles all paying homage to that spirit suffer because they’re seen as nothing more than Mario clones. Furthermore, consider how others knowingly commit to just being Mario clones and nothing else.

Curiosity experiment (leave your ethics aside for the moment):

1 - First take a newborn child and strictly confine him to solitude while he grows up.

2 - Nurture his life and provide sustenance, but don’t proceed to teach him anything other than base necessities.

3 - Let any instinctual or “natural” developments occur as they will while maintaining a healthy environment for him/her.

4 – Choose a ripe, young, and spongy age for the child’s mind and present him/her with some options.

5 – Give them a book, a movie, a game, and a pencil & paper.

6 – Judge and measure how the child interacts with each one of them.

Now this isn’t some experiment to empower the concept of a game, but rather to suggest the cognitive development’s requirements around grasps of relations and concepts. Strict controls would have to be placed around how all the items are set up of course, but all the possibilities here are endless. Examples include:

Without the ability to read, will the child simply draw on the book?

Visual stimulation of the movie and any structural developments while watching it?

The pen and paper is an obvious choice, but what interaction would the child make with it? They have no sense of our reality, so they’d be just as likely to draw on the screen that's playing the movie.

Will they not be interested in any of them? Perhaps there’s some innate desire to escape their current situation? Without any moral constructs to stand on, the only thing left are raw genetics which can skew into any number of categories.

Will they simply harm themselves by misuse of the items?

All of these are extremely important, but in the context of this blog, the most important moment is what will happen to the child’s perception when they press right on that pad (assuming the video-game is left standing idle with Sonic tapping his foot). How will the accumulated knowledge and understanding of” developlay” (the player’s acquired knowledge game-wise and the developers laboring on building it) hit them exactly? The “sad part” regarding this is that the experiment would have to occur with more than one child and various control groups to get any worthwhile knowledge. The type of game is relevant as well. Imagine the difference generated by locking a kid in a room with either Mario or Silent Hill. How will the ideas we mess over and take for granted each time we pick up a game, affect this child. How will the propagation evolve at this point? What ideas will be produced? What ideas will be reproduced? What types of concepts and notions would be expelled forth as a result?

All curiosity…on my part. You can put your stupid “ethichats” back on now…


Death

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Liquid Sun by ineedchemicalx

For all the emphasis placed on life, we don’t seem to flinch at death anymore. No, I’m not talking about a game either. Do you know how many people lose their lives over the course of a single day? Go look it up, you just might be surprised. Even more surprising is the understanding is that these people have to lose their lives, they should lose their lives. Even by the moral foundations that this entire race has built for itself, prolonging life is extremely damaging for us in the long run. This is for no other reason than we only have one planet, which we’re already not good at sharing or understanding anyway. Our minds are like a disease, and so is our understanding of the world we’ve formed around us. That world sadly doesn’t exist and it never will…not so long as this race thrives in thesingular fashion that it does now. We can’t even embrace spiritual enlightenment anymore *cougheveryreligioneverconcievedcough*, let alone the disgusting strings attached to furthering the race’s needs with science and the arts.

One of the best things about the first Matrix film was a machine expressing actual disgust at mankind:

"I’d like to share a revelation that I’ve had, during my time here. It came to me when I tried to classify your species and I realized that you aren’t actually mammals. Every mammal on this planet instinctively develops a natural equilibrium with its surrounding environment, but you humans do not. You move to an area and you multiply, and multiply until every natural resource is consumed. The only way you can survive is to spread to another area. There is another organism on this planet that follows the same pattern. Do you know what it is? –A virus. Human beings are a disease, a cancer of this planet. You are a plague, and we... are the cure."
---Agent Smith, The Matrix.


How does this affect the realm of games? Yeah well---we learn structure and discipline through trial and error, but how close does the gamer actually come to tasting death, truly? This was popped into my head a very long time ago by 1UP user Nel and I wrote this in response to it. It’s not new to any gamer certainly, but there will always be a difference between knowing the path and grasping it. Death only means something to a gamer in their formulative years as such. After that, it just becomes an archaic form of slapping them in the face with their own mortality AKA Human Error. Is there any way to establish that form of loss again? Of course that shouldn’t be applied to every game, but don’t use that argument without considering the number of games that would benefit from this. The most obvious example of this would be having a game literally pull the Mission Impossible stunt on the player upon dying ("You've died, this tape will self destruct in five seconds").

Imagine that after twenty hours of playing Oblivion, you die for the first time…now imagine that the disc literally melts in the console in response to that death. It’s even possible to envision a game where the mode of play could shift from a Shenmue based mechanic to a Devil May Cry one, simply in response to a player losing their life. Now me…I’m just presenting outrageous ideas that will work stiffly in the context of games willing to put meaning behind their play. There’s more to death in games than simply having “Game Over” flash across the screen. More accurately…there SHOULD be more to death in games than that…or should it? I’m more than open to any argument contesting it. Death is an antiquated novelty in video-games, but that doesn’t mean it’s above being challenged---nothing in this universe is.

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"Blink if you can hear me..."
"Oh...this is going to be fun."


~sLs~

Thursday, June 11, 2009

DFB ~ Thief: Gold ~ Filtch #1

Last night, I finally started cracking away at Thief after much procrastination and a month-long sidetrack into Metal Gear territory. My respect for Looking Glass Studios/Irrational Games/2K Boston has increased tenfold since I first laid hands on System Shock 2 about a year ago now. Bioshock certainly impressed me, but the events with SHODAN blew me away. Now I’ve finally started one of my favorite game categories (Stealth) from roughly the same studio. I’ll spare the introduction and state that irony always seems to be doing a dance with Murphy's Law. This is not because I’m not enjoying myself with the game---no, that’s far from it. The irony is because it’s been an uphill battle to enjoy. To be fair though, I’ve only just finished the second actual mission, so there’s surely much more to come.

Luckily for you readers is that while this is a strict single player experience, the way the narrative unfolds and presents just simply doesn’t compel me to write one of my crappy story summaries. This means that these posts won’t be nearly as assy and long as my previous DFB entries...

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Une ~Garrulous Garret

Something I immediately noticed is that the atmosphere of this game is highly evocative yet abrasive at the same time. It’s evocative in the sense that all the presentation around the game draws instances of silence and proficient thievery through covert means. The small stuff emphasizes this; such as the way all the art for Garret depicts him cloaked with a bow and arrow in tow. Put shortly, it nails the atmosphere required to put one in the shoes of a “taffer”. It was abrasive for me however in the manner of which Garret himself makes his way through the levels. That could be any number of things.

I’m playing Thief: Gold, so I don’t know if it’s a specific version, bugs, or just simply how the game is, but the arguable silence of the character tended to throw me off. This is because Garret actually does open his mouth at trigger points, speaking on specific contexts within the mission. I’m not too demanding, but some part of me just simply wanted to hear more reaction on his part. Even if it were simple sighs and quick profanities---I just know I was looking to connect with him more than I did and I realize it every time he talks or quips. Maybe it will happen more as the game crawls on? I certainly don’t know. Could it possibly compromise the atmosphere? Maybe…

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Deux ~ Through the Eyes of a Thief

This has happened with me before and I pointed it out in the inverse situation last year during my first Guns of the Patriots craze. Specifically, I notice how poignantly I need the balance between first person and third person to be when operating in a stealth title. I highly prefer third person games, but I will need first person interaction at some point or another. The balance for the type of awareness I feed off of when playing these games is highly contingent on how much maneuverability I’m allowed from either perspective. Thief, like the other titles of its studio relation is a strict first person adventure. I have no problem with that, but it will nag me until I finish this title now. I just simply have to chalk it up to my own hang-up now. After all, it’s not the game’s fault I’m a prick in that area. My affinities are highly demanding and delicate when it comes to my favorite areas, and if I don't get my way---well have you ever tried taking a toy from a spoiled child?

The good news is that I started get in the loop of things after a while. Specifically once I calmed down on the weaponry. As tactically covert as I am in most games, I still managed to fall into the habit of wandering around with my sword drawn. Now I don’t do that at all. I either have the blackjack equipped or a strategically designed bow-shot at the ready. With how the light system works, it accompanies a fairly impressive game design that allows a visceral feel whenever I knock out one of those stupid hammerites. Any real complaints in this area aren’t real complaints at all, due to the time and resources I’m sure the developers had to fight against (see my long AI rant in the first Metal Gear DFB last month).

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Trois ~ In The Loop

My first impression of the title was sandbox stealth play, but I’ve been told by numerous people now that such an impression will wane as the game carries on, so the jury is still out on that one. Speaking from the first two missions I’ve accomplished however (Lord Bafford’s Mansion & Cragsclaft Prison), I just really can’t avoid thoughts on the notion. The only things that could heavily affect this area are the placement of guards, because Thief is truly a game that does not want the player running around slashing their ass off. Most stealth titles aren’t that way really, but this game doesn’t even present the alternative of badassedry that Snake and Sam are so proficient in. This means that the player will not be allowed many instances where they’re truly “in power”, UNLESS they have the drop on their opposition from the shadows. I like that and I hope the game keeps growing on it as I make my way through it.

Once I tuned into the frequency of the game, I really came to enjoy the flow of it. The intimacy that is forced upon the player through FPV is aided by the traditional appeal for a stealth game in general. The joy that comes with knocking a guard out who didn’t know I was there is as joyous to me as it was in Guns of the Patriots a couple of weeks ago. The difference is that Garret has to carefully watch his step. Snake can pretty much kill God if he wanted to…

My closing thoughts for today are that this game is truly living up to its title. The fundamental imagery of “Thief” is actually accompanied extremely well by this title's play so far. I’m just hoping at this point that I won’t continually fall out of sync with the game due to my own personal quirks.

~sLs~

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Pensieve Post #3 ~ Hitting the "Space" Bar

In case you haven't picked up on the vibe here yet, I'm a bit of a science buff. It's an academic forte that's come pretty naturally to me since childhood. Always accompanied by an insane level of curiosity [bordering OCD levels], it's the only subject I don't wear a "disdain badge" for when learning about it. English is too relative for me, history is "potently depressing", and mathematics represent the mascot of rationality, something I hate to its very core [yeah, yeah...I still acknowledge it's importance though, especially when it runs threads through and out of science]. I harbor intense passion for learning how things work and interact together, as well as the "natural art" they all form. I don't pretend to be an expert however, as that's like watching a sitcom where the friend decides to hold a small get-together with only a few acquaintances. That one jackass always lets the word spread and ends up bringing unwanted guests, who maim and trash the house to hell. The unwanted guests in this metaphor are hubris, careers, and the disgusting concept of "belief". There's too many things in society that taint "pure passion" nowadays and I respond pretty coldly towards them all.

One of my personal reining champions among the many sciences is astronomy, the study of just about everything that lies beyond the Earth's atmosphere. It's usually a passing fancy for children, but typically deteriorates as they leave elementary school. You know why that is? Ironically, the sheer enormity of what astronomy truly encompasses becomes absolutely crushed by the growing adolescent's fickle desire to run their own little lives as they come of age. This also continues throughout middle and high school, at the end of which it's simply replaced the young adult's desire to maintain their ideal lifestyle [i.e. college or job]. Like plenty of other things, my inability to obey modern social mores only made me embrace such passions more adamantly.

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Sunshine, 2007. It's just a scientific mess left and right; despite that it's still one of the best Science-Fiction films I've seen in the past five years. That says something, do you know what it is?

So where has astronomy truly gone in video-games? Not too many places to be completely honest. In the past few years, we've gotten some admirable attempts no doubt [i.e. Mass Effect], but none of them really build the world I'm looking for. Even my beloved "Xenogames" fail in this regard, which is why I still hold so much love for the "saga" side of that series [which took place mostly in space]. Other RPGS have taken place on the final frontier as well, but most of the time the concept of space was simply a continent backdrop. This is usually the case for games. The better ones build their "admirable universes", while still showcasing the conceptual schism. Zone of the Enders, EVE Online, hell even Star Fox does the superficial job of being "out there".

What I enjoyed about Mass Effect in 2007 was the ability to explore other worlds. Granted, they were all annoyingly similar in design, and usually amounted to nothing more than time-draining sidequests. They still gave me a very shallow ability to explore things in a certain context [fictional or not, at this point I'm starving and don't care]. My greatest moment in Mass Effect was the most trivial in the game overall, it was when I spent three hours driving around the moon for no other reason than I could.

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An infrared shot of the Helix Nebula.

In 5-4 I hypothesized the value of a game's education. Since gamers are still happily wading through the cheap highs provided by X-Box Live and titles such as Gears of War [No I'm not insulting the games, just people's perceptions of them], we won't be getting anything more for a while. Using reality as a template here rather than some ST-ST [Stupid Standard] is where the crown rolls around on the floor for me. I don't need a game to teach me the finer points of physics, I just need it to spur an interest in topic while obeying the best interests of the game. No that's not impossible and I'll kick whoever says so in the face. If anything, Space is the most nurturing breeding ground for creating alternate realities. Most of the facts and known quantities for the worlds beyond our own remain purely theoretical. Any minute number of changes in this Solar System could effect how simple [unappreciated] constants work [i.e. the effect that the Sun's life has on our own].

I'm not even whining about the open world possibilities yet either, as that's a insurmountable task even today's tech couldn't keep up with. No, I'm referring dictated single-player experiences that find ways self-perpetuate while sparking some curiosity. I won't even try explaining that either, it's too broad to try addressing, and I simply don't have the patience at the moment.

Going back to my earlier example, what Mass Effect did well was translating that space opera vibe in video-game form. Most fans of Battlestar G., Star Wars, and Star Trek had a twinkle in their eye when this game came to release [for good reason too]. It was one of my favorite games from 2007, but it's greatest flaw for me was that it was speaking a dialect which belonged to another medium altogether. The diametric example [which is ironically another 2007 game] is the quality of Super Mario Galaxy. As evolved as that title is at reinterpreting the old 1980's formula, it's still only hammering rudimentary concepts in the players head, competently translating them to gameplay [which has been Nintendo's greatest flaw and strength for over twenty years now]. The most obvious example for said game would be gravity of course, something "we" didn't appreciate until a god damn apple fell on "our" heads [If you apply that literally, I'll shoot you].

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If I can get a video-game relative of Sunshine someday, I'll be a lot less bitchier I promise.

Yes, I'm also ignoring the multitude of shmups that take in space as well [e.g. Galaga], particularly since they were the best that games could accomplish at the time. Now, there's just too much T-n-T [Talent & Tech] lying around for the results not to be more varied. I'd appreciate being granted the wonder outer space by a game, but it simply hasn't happened for me yet [hence my current bitching]. I've really only gotten "IOU"s from the medium---in the form of titles such Bioware's aforementioned space opera.

~sLs~

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Pensieve Post #2 ~ Castlevania: Lords of Shadow Reactions

So it turns out that my suspicions were right. To be honest, it wasn't that hard of a guess to make (especially after Monday). Kojima Productions' involvement isn't really known for sure at this point, but they are at least supervising the now confirmed Castlevania: Lords of Shadow. Being developed by Mercury Steam, it looks to be some sort of reboot for the franchise entirely. Now that my personal hype has worn off (I just really wanted to know what that damn mask was), I'm left with a few ambiguous realities that I would like to quickly address.

Slasher Syndrome
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The biggest obstacle Castlevania faces is evolving it's own immense legacy. Between Simon and Samus, a distinct type of play is now known (for good reason) as "Metroidvania". By melding the mechanics of a sidescrolling action game with various RPG influences, it's a style that still remains fairly solitary (not to mention potent) to this day. When 2001 rolled around, Devil May Cry came out and kind of gently usurped my love for console Castlevanias (especially considering that since 2001, Castlevania became increasingly more available in it's old form on handhelds instead). I'll repeat, I don't think Lament of Innocence or Curse of Darkness were bad titles by any means, but they show a slight typecasting detriment as if they're trying to fit into DMC's own category (and I ironically assert that the DMC franchise only exists because Castlevania itself).

Titles like God of War and Ninja Gaiden all join Dante's exploits in crowned jewels for qualitative slasher action. Castlevania incorporates these gifts, but isn't limited to them. It has to find some way to translate it's overall formula for a true console evolution. Retro proved this was possible with Samus, but "the whip's transition" wasn't as friendly. Of course the series didn't outright stumble into the 3D realm like SOME OTHERS *coughSoniccough*, but it shuddered with Lament of Innocence, as if it were struggling to hold up that immense aforementioned legacy. Judging from the shots of the trailer (which can be seen here), they are pretty far along in development. The mechanics look solid, but the title could just as easily be in the same exact beat as its two console predecessors. I guess more will be revealed as time crawls on of course, but I'm excited nonetheless.

Art Affinity
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Another thing I'm interested in regarding this title is the art design. Apart from Yoji Shinkawa and Yoshitaka Amano, I hold Ayami Kojima in extremely high regard. She entered into contributing artwork for the game starting at Symphony of the Night and it has defined the series since. A big reason I love the Castlevania franchise is that it's one of the few titles that flamboyantly speaks with a dark romantic accent. In case you don't keep up with me, I'm a large fan of the Romanticism movement in general, let alone this beautiful subset. Again, Devil May Cry nearly inherited this trait from Castlevania and it plays a major role into how fans see the game overall. The bad thing is that I don't think Ayami is going to be back for this game. If she is, then I'll be extremely happy. However, with the studio-shift, I expect some new blood to step up and offer their own unique translation of the formula (which I welcome of course). I didn't get too much from the trailer, but I think it's a given that Mercury Steam knows what it's dealing with.

Fanboyish Fangasm
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After I'm done with my other playthroughs this summer, I think I'll start replaying some Castlevania titles again for DFB entries. The titles pretty much consumed a large chunk of my childhood and the formula of play is one of the many titles that still hold up to this day. As the game draws closer to it's release, expect me to keep an eye on it. There's much to consider for games when Castlevania is involved. The franchise encompasses many vital portions of what makes video-games so damn amazing in the first place.

~sLs~

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

VGA ~ 5-4 ~ The Edutainment Theory

[You see what I did there? The people who know what these posts are will automatically know what the title stands for now and I won’t have to explain myself to the garbage that constantly misinterprets the it from now on. I also acknowledge the fact that I cutely drew a direct corollary to video-games with the VGA initialism (Video Graphics Array). Sorry, I’m too egotistical to not mention that. ^_^]

People often disregard the amount of education imparted on the mind by a video-game. In many accounts, one could make the argument that a game’s ability to educate could be a formidable opposition to the vast majority of modern schooling. Of course, I’m not suggesting that games are an exemplary replacement for acquiring knowledge; I am however suggesting that it fills the otherwise cavernous holes in people’s individual academic edification. By the “numbers argument”, it’s still a mandatory necessity that we all experience schooling as it generally is now. This educational experience is defined by having mounds and mounds of acquired human intelligence (gathered across our trivial time on this rock) slammed against our intellectual walls. This in turn will play some part in the definition of our scholastic character, as a great chunk of those things will simply have stick to the damned metaphorical wall.

A great observation I saw from fellow Twitterers regarding the recently revamped E3 conference yesterday was that the “big three” were trying to turn everyone into gamers. I apologize to some for the aristocratic tone, but it’s just how I see things now so I won’t temper it. To those of you that feel that way, don’t worry. Gamers will not lose their individuality through this process of casualization and development, it’s impossible. You know why? It’s because we’re all big nerds first and foremost. We’re not the “frat-mind”, we’re not the technological layman, and we’re far from stupid. Our pleasures are rooted typically in learning and acquiring further insight/experience for ourselves. It’s a personal catharsis that will define only a select few individuals throughout the course of their lives. We’re just simply not created or formed (whichever you believe in) in the same way, so some of us find pleasure in certain things while others don’t. Generally smart people don’t let go of gaming because it satiates that desire as well. Maybe not the same way that reading does, but I’d argue it’s a close second.

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Super Mario ~ By Cody Winn

I commonly hear those age old corollaries when games are touted around for their value this category (it's particularly insulting in mainstream media). It typically centers on that dead horse, “hand-to-eye” coordination. Of course that’s true, but pretending like that’s where a game’s arm reaches its limit is ludicrous and a bit silly on the side. There’s actually a long list of things that video-games accomplish which make nerds what they are:

I - Spatial Awareness
II - Problem Solving
III - General Patience
IV - Inquisitive Nurturing
V - Mental Stimulation
VI - Biological Neural Exercise
VII - Memory Foundations
VIII - Social Engagement
IX - Amalgamated Competent Processes
X - Eternal Enlightenment & Inspiration


The list definitely goes on, especially if one begins to break these categories down into subsets. These were just the ten that rattled off the top of my head when I shook it around for a moment. For the sake of living up to my comprehensive reputation, I’ll briefly comb through all of them.

I – Spatial Awareness
This is acquired in youth and depending how said child spends their time, it can quite literally open up a whole new world. Though we’re all over the place these days, which I could diverge in any direction with, I’ll snap it old school to keep this short with Super Mario Bros. The comprehension that comes with knowing how Mario will and will not jump is a pinnacle of essence no other medium can claim for itself. The kinesthetic response that generates an instinctive corollary between holding the jump button down and simply tapping it is as primal to a gamer as eating a meal for a general person. Games further the abilities of the avatar by giving them environments to operate in. Design picks up here and dictates the competence of a development team’s prowess.

II - Problem Solving
Games all give us rules and an area to exercise certain tools in. We gain a certain degree of discipline and understanding by this process. Games all create problems and conflicts to deal with. From the most superficial and cursory sequences to the most in-depth and cerebral, gamers are privileged with the act of always solving problems at any given time. Some of them even occur on the nano-scale level (i.e. avoiding the damn squares in Geometry Wars). The degree of variation in which we can solve these problems is only surpassed in excellence by the means to which we acquire our tools to solve them. The structure for some games showcase how much this design muscle has atrophied over the years, but it remains a forte games can always access at will. That's got to count for something, right?

III - General Patience
It’s a given that when you encounter problem solving constructs designed to entertain, flexibility is next to a necessity in order to accommodate failure. This is something I’d imagine to be difficult for games to convey now, as they seem to be on some grand pilgrimage to maintain accessibility. Frustration is a novelty in games that’s become a near-dead art. In my opinion, an infuriating game doesn’t necessarily equal bad design; it’s simply a typical given in today’s industry. Gamers seem to have the sole option to returning to fundamental or progenitor titles these days, as titles just don’t cultivate such rigorous play anymore(nor to most adult gamer’s lifestyles). If someone doesn’t learn how to accept failure in their lives, they’re going to be a really screwed up person in the long run. Fucking up is a grand pinnacle of gaining a true appreciation for anything worthwhile.

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I'm not quite sure who did this, but I love it.

IV - Inquisitive Nurturing
Plenty of games also encourage the drive to explore, something not readily available in any other medium. Curiosity is one of the basic necessities of maintaining a healthily learning mindset. Whether it’s actually a built-in feature of the game, or a glitch that leads to further insight of the live-code, most games show the capacity for this. Sometimes the game even rewards exploration, which is another topic in itself. For such titles like Oblivion or Fallout 3, exploration is mandatory for appreciating the scale of Bethesda’s recent releases. The drive has been there since the early days of platforming, when gamers were awarded power-ups, alternate routes, and extra lives for their sheer act of curiosity. Before the days of GameFAQS robbing and mucking up the novelty of this gift, gamers were allowed such a blessing, nowadays it’s damn near a fossil fuel. I don’t care if someone doesn’t even know what two plus two equals, the desire to actually know what it equals is more important than the answer itself; always has been, always will be---the destination is never the goal.

V - Mental Stimulation
Through the use of problem solving and such, it remains a shocking reality that games haven’t gained more ground here than I’d like to think. Very loosely speaking, games tend to opt for the cursory routes and cheap highs, you know---things blowing up and the like. Some titles gain followings however, and it’s usually attributed to how the titles honor their own self-perpetuating source material. Be it God of War or Silent Hill, some titles are just able to communicate from their own world to the player beautifully. It doesn’t have to be, but is usually attributed to narrative-based games. There’s also the literal manifestation of mental stimulation in games (e.g. something like Brain Age), which have their place no doubt, but just aren’t as important to me personally. To look at this in a simpler more and more understandable way, most titles that obey mental stimulation tend to have their own fan-maintained Wiki-pages. Wikias certainly aren’t the final and credible authority here of course, but they do stand as a proof of concept that gamers have been engaged intellectually. Watching them output such information in such a positive fashion is always a plus in my eyes. Can you even imagine what the Internet will be like in just thirty years?

VI - Biological Neural Exercise
Stimulating the mind is one thing, consistently helping it grow is another entirely. The brain is simply another organ in our bodies and without a certain degree of exercise, it won’t amount to much more than a big pink thing in our heads. I guess you bo-bo heads can shove that hand-to-eye coordination crap in here as well, but exploring that even further, all actions in our bodies are dictated by how our brains operate. Whether the player is simply pressing start, or trying to wrap their heads around a convoluted puzzle in the depths of Magmoor, axons and dendrites are hard at work, helping the conscious mind comprehend such acts and feats. Nintendo is probably what raised the majority of us in this area, so kudos to them for that. Luckily, the industry has grown far beyond what Nintendo’s regimented design process usually accommodates. This leaves gamers to choose their own arenas and customize their own cerebral calisthenics down to the most fickle whims (creating yet another problem in itself).

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Mario ~ By Jimi Benedict

VII - Memory Foundations
Have you ever had a multiple memory merger? Yeah, I just made that up, but I’d like to think games are the prime generators of MMM. Usually, this gets lumped under nostalgia, but I think there’s more to it than that. Having a powerful experience relate in one’s mind as if it were an actual occurrence (and who’s to say it ISN’T an actual occurrence anyway?) in their lives is not something to scoff at. The moniker’s ”multiple” tag is not simply meant to convey plural memories, but acknowledge that the memories don’t exist on the same plane of reality. When they actually merge, the lines between such actualities are less distinct and drive gamers to seek out the sort of natural high that it generates. The first time the Cerberus dogs smashed through the windows of the Spencer mansion, it provided a new footstool for gamers to stand on. This is why there’s such a growing schism in fans regarding the Resident Evil series now (they demand that air of unease that was lost, that they REMEMBER). There are many subsets for this category including: muscle-memory, general memory, and the rare eidetic memory. I personally hold this area in high priority, as it’s not only a requirement for creating games, but enjoying them as well. This is a very thorny topic to delve into with any directed point, so I’ll simply state there’s an untapped well developers can key into this arena specifically (not too unlike what I addressed in 5-3).

VIII –Social Engagement
I will do something unheard of on my end and stand up for multiplayer here, as interacting with other people through games is an experience that remains unmatched by anything else. It’s typically through the brutal competition of a title like StarCraft that a gamer will hone individual skills to the degree which will ram the reality of the code to it’s absolute limits. All those insanely competent multiplayer gamers have some degree of familiarity with this. Establishing clever strategies, maneuvers, and techniques are key and the mind being trained to a digital Olympian physique is admirable in any respect (though I personally detest it myself). The other side of this of course is well---THIS. Things like this blog, the internet, and the recently evolved flow of communication that have been established by gamers across the globe all show progressive activism on our part. For all my hatred of associating with people on a day to day basis, I will admit to the beauty of things like the Internet.

IX - Amalgamated Competent Processes
Games very admirably incorporate the three big attributes that appeal to anyone willing to learn: auditory, visual, and kinesthetic learning. I think people all have varying strengths in these categories, but one will always outclass the other two. Personally, I’m a kinesthetic learner, I internalize information best by actually utilizing it and nothing screams that more beautifully than a video-game, which is why I think a great deal of gamers are of the same type (or can at least tap into their own variance of the ability). Even schools have a shifty way of implementing such mechanics and half the time it isn’t set up to accommodate us all (hence the term “falling through the cracks”). Some people simply can’t listen to lectures for hours on end and be expected to recall it all (or at all). Ironically enough, I have an indirect audio processing system. In other words, if I’m in class, I actually comprehend lectures better if I’m multi-tasking---which is further tied my visual learning ability, usually manifesting itself through artwork---heh (nothing was more satisfying than shutting a teacher up who thought I wasn’t paying attention to them, NOTHING). I’m fortunate enough to be reasonably blessed by all three categories, with one standout natural affinity. Things are wired very differently for us all, and games are a medium in which a certain degree of individual flexibility is possible to facilitate everyone involved, even those that go tumbling through the cracks.

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"I'm Walking on Air" ~ By UndineCD@DeviantArt.com

X - Eternal Enlightenment & Inspiration
At the end of the day, it’s about what we do with our acquired knowledge that will mark what’s left behind long after we’ve perished. Fact of the matter is that games encourage learning, they also inspire…a great deal at that. Witnessing the variety of INTELLIGENT people that come to the table regarding video-games always fascinates me, if for no other reason than they all come from different walks of life. What’s really cool is that they’re all adding to a fairly dry pot. This makes us nothing more than primordial blog-cells, for the future of the entire industry nonetheless. Consider that collectively we’re the “artists” as well, and you should be able to ascertain exactly what I mean with that.

So, I come back to a fundamental question: Can games incorporate or amplify the technique in which they can teach the player? I think that by this point, you should know that I'm not necessarily talking about practical and cursory methods of tutelage. The arena is there for any designer to break ground with; it’s simply just a matter of time. We’ve become accustomed to frivolous priorities (e.g. a game’s “technical visuals") and while growth like this doesn’t deteriorate intellectual process, it slows it down to an almost lethargic rate. This is ironic because the same people who argue for those superficial “necessities” are the first to the table when it comes to bitching about a game being shallow and/or uninteresting.

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Lovestruck ~ By VisualOverdose@DeviantArt.com

I think a big step in furthering “Experiencism” is establishing how oneself is constructed from a cognitive standpoint. How one learns dictates how they interact with the world, let alone the alternate realities presented by modern video-games. It’s very rarely about simply running out and buying a $50 title to go home and pop it in anymore (it never was for me). The process is a overly convoluted and intricate phenomenon from any standpoint. Appreciating it from these multiple angles will help how games are meant to evolve, through us---the other side of the canvas.

~sLs~

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Kojima Productions ~ Desire

Today (and yesterday), Kojima announced two projects that his studio is working on, specifically concerning the Metal Gear franchise. Luckily for me, neither title presents a topic to directly rage out about, but I do have thoughts on them nonetheless.

First and foremost is Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker. Though this game is what's regarded as a true sequel to the franchise, I’ve already seen an alarming number of people disregard the existence of Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops. Even in the context of the series own little flustered narrative canon, it’s a significantly relevant part of the series. Peace Walker seems to be wearing the badge of Naked Snake (now Big Boss) on the path which will eventuate in the establishment of Outer Heaven. Given the further insight that was given into Snake Eater’s experience by Portable Ops, I’m curious as to how they’ll craft yet another intriguing tale for Metal Gear fans. I’ve no doubt KP will push the PSP’s talents to its limits either. Portable Ops already implemented a number of useful mechanics popularized in MGS3: Snake Eater, which is an accomplishment on any front. Some tiny observations in the Peace Walker trailer indicate that Snake will retain his crouch movement that was added in Guns of the Patriots (which was carrying on the stalking Mechanic from Snake Eater).

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Second is Metal Gear Solid Rising. This is the one I’m a bit worried about. Not because of Raiden, I’ve made clear that I’m actually a fan of the character. No, I’m worried about this because of the context in which the game has to be set. The shots indicate that Raiden will be subject to or around his appearance in Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots. Rising may very well be centered around the mission in which Raiden was tortured and had his head and spine removed from his body (that’s the only part of his original body in Guns of the Patriots). I’m just automatically suspicious of anything that penetrates the “Solid Snake Era” of the franchise. If KP can pull off their tagline (“Lightning Bolt Action”), I’m all for it…but I remain very hesitant towards this one.

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There is a third title however, and it remained the only part of E3 I was disappointed with. No mention at all was made of the enigmatic “MASK” site that’s been up along with the Kojima Productions webpage. Extrapolating from some rumors, my guess is that it’s a new installment in the Castlevania franchise, or at least a Castlevania type game. Apparently, the revelation will accompany the June 18th release of PSW’s (Playstation World) latest issue. Either way, it’s been a while since someone has had a crack at a 3D console iteration of the Castlevania universe, and I’d like to see what a company like Kojima Productions could accomplish with it. Not to say that I hated Lament of Innocence or Curse of Darkness, but compared to how high of a regard that some of us hold Castlevania in, it’d be nice to have a 3D console title actually match those expectations. Lords of Shadow apparently, only time will tell.

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~sLs~