Chinese Knock-Off Gaming: Pikachu Y2K
- Apr 4, 2013 1:56 pm GMT
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Gaming has evolved quite a bit over the years, hasn't it? Big franchises have popped up like fleas on a mangy junkyard mutt and, like fleas, there are some black sheep (or black fleas, whatever I dunno) in the family that are considered completely foreign from their family. Case in point: Chinese knock-off games.
Chinese knock-offs span every category of product, so it's probably not going to shock you that games are not exempt from its scope. However, what's really shocking is what kind of bizarre, crappy, and sometimes even cool games you can find on the Chinese knock-off market. The first in this series of spotlights is a fun little platformer called Pikachu Y2K:
Pikachu Y2K is, in all essence, a classic Mario-styIe platformer starring the titular electric pocket monster mouse thing. Going by the aforementioned description, you'd think that this all would be a fun, neat little game that, in essence, would give you a generic experience. HA, joke's on you: this game is nuttier than squirrel feces.
First off, Pikachu Y2K doesn't immediately drop you into the action. To start off with, you're given a short cutscene in which a mad scientist and his pet cat phone Pikachu at his home because they want a magic purse back. Oh, by the way: did I mention that the text says that Pikachu's real name is Felix?
So, er, I guess Pikachu will now be referred to as "Felix?"
After promptly hanging up and using the force to reel in his magical purse, Felixchu sets out on an adventure to...erm...not try to let the mad scientist guy get the bag from him? Honestly, he could have just stayed home and called the cops on him, leading to an arrest and avoiding all the ensuing nonsense but hey, I'm talking about a Chinese knock-off 8-bit platformer so why should I be caring so much?
Anywho, Pikachu Y2K's gameplay is pretty standard platforming fare, ridiculous premise aside. Sadly, it's a little sub-par for a side-scrolling platformer since its rules aren't very in line with Mario, as you can die from jumping on enemies. With stomping on their heads out of the equation, how can Felix-the-Pikachu deter people from snatching his purse?
The purse, of course!
Yes, instead of jumping on enemies, PikaFelix disposes of his foes via a Tom and Jerry-styIe boxing glove that pops out from his bag of wonders.
The animation doesn't include the bag, though...
Given all this, the game seems pretty disappointing, right? Well, what makes Pikachu Y2K a little bit cooler is the ability to collect power-ups that transform the bag into various weapons such as singing, driving a car, riding an air balloon, and even driving a freaking tank.
Also, it shoots bombs with faces.
Take a moment to soak all this in: there's Felixchu in that image up there driving a tank in a happy pixelated 8-bit world. Yes, there exists a game where you can actually play as Pikachu driving a tank. Why hasn't anyone thought of this before? Seriously, the war game market is virtually untapped for the entire Pokemon franchise and here you have the Chinese knock-off market taking the initiative while Nintendo sits on their duffs, scratches their heads, and puts out a Gamecube game consisting entirely of watching fake television shows with Pikachu all day. Y'know, because we really need something like THAT on the market, while the idea of Tankemon goes completely over their heads. In a way, this instantly makes Pikachu Y2K better than a good deal of the franchise's official games from recent years.
Aside from the brilliant idea of putting Pikachu in a freaking tank, the rest of the game, like I said before, is pretty generic. The regular enemies aren't even other Pokemon, just some stupid little bird sprites and regular fishes...though there are a few walking trees here and there for no real reason. Ents aside, there isn't really that much to talk about in terms of enemy design and, on that note, there isn't much to say about the level layout. Really, the only thing on showcase here is how bizarre the overall premise of the game is and, beyond that, it's a sub-par platformer.
One last thing, though: the Game Over screen kind of bugs me:
...What's in that garbage can to the left? Seriously, can anyone give me an idea? I don't have one.
Graphics: 8 - Pretty decent representation of Pikachu. Besides, the entire thing's running on an NES, so I'm not that picky.
Sound: 6 - There's a fun little tune in the first level, then it repeats in the second, the third, fourth....yeah.
Gameplay: 6 - It's functional, but there's no pizzazz beyond the power-ups.
Story: 10 - PIKACHU IN A FREAKING MAGIC PURSE TANK!
Overall: 7 - It's worth checking out for about an hour, but not farther beyond that.
So that's all for Pikachu Y2K! Be sure to stay tuned for more showcased Chinese knock-off games!
(also, please someone tell me what's in that garbage can)
Bioshock Infinite: Baptism of the Human Heart
- Apr 4, 2013 12:39 pm GMT
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SPOILER WARNING: Reading this article will spoil the ending of Bioshock Infinite. If you haven't finished the game and dont want to know what happens, dont read this article. Nothing in the content of Bioshock Infinite is off limits in what follows.
One of the toughest questions people ask me is the question, why? Why did my daughter die? Why do I have cancer? Why cant I find a job? Why are people sometimes so nasty to one another? I work in a church. And a church is supposed to be a safe place. It's supposed to be a place where those genuinely longing for meaningful answers can go to sincerely struggle. So, naturally, as the caretaker of a local church, much of that struggling happens right in front of me, and I consider it a privilege to sit with people in the trenches of their inner wars. It is a war indeed, for the question that needs an answer, that persistent question, why, often has no answer accessible to finite human beings. And so in the absence of any kind of peace with God over his, sometimes inscrutable, often painful plan, people of faith struggle. That's not always a bad thing, I think.
So what does that have to do with a video game? I finished Irrational's excellent game this past Sunday night, and I have had a couple of sleeps since then for my mind to process the intense, Levinian (after Ken Levine, the games lead writer and creative director) spaghetti of story, character, setting, and atmosphere. My mind has gone to the places it is prone to wander to, the theological. Religion is a huge theme of Infinite. Religion touches almost every aspect of the games narrative. The antagonist, Comstock, is a self-styled prophet and leader of a pseudo-Christian, religious cult-city, Columbia, suspended twenty thousand feet in the sky by a mysterious, quantum, science-fiction-y, force. Booker DeWitt, the protagonist, seems at first to be motivated by a desire to wipe away a financial debt by rescuing a young lady from a tower in Columbia but the game wastes no time at all in indicating that DeWitt has a deeper, moral debt that is not so easily erased. Images and language of water, baptism, washing, rebirth, etc. all build upon one another in the telling of this story. Theres even a baby who turns out to be the lamb of Comstock's prophecy.
Let me stop here and say that as a Christian and an ordained pastor, I was not in the least bit offended by the use of these decidedly Christian themes. For the most part things like Christian Baptism, for example, were used to move the story as well as I have ever seen them used in secular media. Levine appropriately tied rebirth to baptism. Part of what Baptism represents in Christianity is dying to an old self and being raised to a new life. In Infinite, baptism is explicitly used three times as far as I can remember. As of the writing of this blog I have only played through the game once. The first time is when DeWitt is admitted into the city of Columbia. The second time is at the end of the game when DeWitt is offered baptism, which he rejects. The third and final time is when it is revealed that DeWitt and Comstock are really the same person, Comstock being the seemingly inevitable product of Booker's religious rebirth in baptism. Baptism in that instance is the means by which DeWitt dies for the sake of undoing all the evil which he/Comstock will bring about.
In each instance, baptism is used as an appropriate symbolic plot device for the point at which the players find themselves in the story. It's the initiation of a new and profound mission, a rebirth of DeWitt towards an ultimate destiny. It's the rejection of a salvation which DeWitt finds cheap and inadequate, preferring to seek the accomplishment of his mission in order to wipe away his debt, an ultimately futile effort. It takes Elizabeth (the aforementioned girl needing rescue) bringing him back to the baptismal pool for him to fully grasp the profundity of his true debt and what that debt has earned him as a result. Even though there is death but no new life in the final baptism which ends DeWitt/Comstock's life/lives (head asplode!!), it functions quite well as a plot devise given the kind of setting which these characters and their story inhabit. Levine wasn't aiming to speak theologically about the true meaning and use of Christian Baptism. Therefore, I have no problem with him taking baptism and using it to tell another story separate from the Christian story.
These Christian themes and the religious tone of Infinite serves a story that seeks, I think, to answer a fundamental question about human existence; What effect does my free will have on reality? One of the huge revelations of Infinite was that the setting of this Bioshock game and previous Bioshock games exist in the same universe. So that in an instant the players find themselves transported from Columbia, the city in the clouds, to Rapture, the city from the original Bioshock at the bottom of the sea. These two dystopian cities exist in this universe in which the will of man has created an infinite number of branching universes. There is no road untraveled by the choices of humankind. Each road and each fork is itself a separate reality, a distinct universe of existence.
In case you are thoroughly confused, welcome to the club. Let me try to explain. The premise behind Infinite is that every choice each person makes leads to a new reality, much like the reboot of the Star Trek movies. Spock traveling back in time started the new cast and crew of the Enterprise on an entirely new timeline and new set of adventures, a new Star Trek universe if you will. Similarly, in Infinite, the reality of Comstock's Columbia and all the evils that flow out of that city in the clouds exist in a universe created along one branch of one choice made by one man, Booker DeWitt. Interestingly, it is baptism that is the vehicle by which this choice is made. If DeWitt accepts baptism, he will rise from the water having taken a new name and new life. He is no longer Booker DeWitt, but he comes out of the water Zachary Hale Comstock, the Prophet of Columbia. And so reality branches for the millionth time in a nanosecond and another new universe of existence is born, this one not so pleasant as the games opening hour would lead you to believe.
So what does this game have to do with the person in the pastor's office asking the hard questions of life? What does it have to do with you as you try to be a good friend to someone who is hurting? Or what does it have to do with your own struggles? Why is my life like this and not the way I want it to be? I think this game is an attempt, in a purely secular way (I dont mean that disparagingly), to offer hope and comfort when our lives branch in a way that we dont expect or in a way that brings suffering. It offers hope for us to think that there is a reality and a version of us that isn't suffering in whatever crisis we find ourselves. At any moment and with every choice we are creating universes of possibilities of happiness, misery or something in between. What we do has meaning outside of ourselves.
As I experienced Bioshock Infinite I found hidden within the story it was telling a narrative of human choosing apart from the existence of God. It was a moment both precious and profoundly sad. It is precious because I believe that behind the searching questions this story has explored through the medium of video games is an impulse that comes directly from our creator. It is the impulse to search, explore, and pierce to the marrow of the mystery of our existence as human beings and seek an answer to the question, why are things not the way they are supposed to be? This game has left me thankful for Ken Levine and his team at Irrational Games for so beautifully telling this story, and taking me along as they explore creatively. It is sad to me because the multiverse their exploration has led them to is hellish. Just below the luminescent, idyllic surface of Comstock's Columbia is a nightmare of racism, oppression, greed, and violence which the player must survive to reach the end only to find out that the whole time Booker was doing battle with the products of his own heart.
What do you want from Gaming Journalism?
- Apr 2, 2013 6:04 am GMT
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At the start of this generation, I came to Gamespot because it was one of about three websites that did decent video reviews. I wasn't one for reading hundreds of words on games and the sight of Jeff Gerstmann making hand gestures and saying "kind of" a lot satisfied all my requirements for gaming information.
As the generation progressed, so have my 'tastes' regarding the kind of editorial content I like to consume. We've all progressed from the video review to the livestream, from the 40 second gameplay clip to the hour-long demo and long-form writing about games is back in fashion. The question is, does Gamespot or any other gaming site provide what you want regarding gaming-related content?
Come November when the new consoles roll out, do you want a slick set of videos detailing every inch of each console's relative strengths or do you want some guy with an iPhone filming a hasty unboxing of a PS4? Because blogs, twitter, reddit and forums can get you the nuts and bolts of what's going on in video games faster and more efficiently than anything that professionals are paid to provide. If you're coming to a gaming site you're not just coming for editorial integrity and accurate reporting, you want something more than that.
What is that special something? Why are you reading this on Gamespot rather than on Eurogamer or IGN? You obviously came to this site in particular because it does something you like. What is it? And is that the sort of editorial content you want to continue to see in the future?
Personally I spend more time on Giant Bomb than I do on Gamespot because what I want out of my gaming-related journalism and content consumption is getting honest and frank opinions from people I feel like I know. I like to know what those knuckleheads are thinking about and because I identify with their tastes I find what they have to say about games interesting and insightful. The work that Gamespot UK does here also scratches that itch, delivering that same raw slice of personality-infused coverage that's both entertaining and informative that I find so appealing. I like long videos, lengthy editorials and terrible in-jokes in that order. That's what I want out of gaming journalism, but some people may prefer the exact opposite.
When this industry explodes again in seven months time with the excitement of a new generation; what kind of content, editorial or otherwise, do you want from the professionals?
I know how much my tastes and preferences for editorial content have changed over the years and I know what I want from the professionals in the years to come. I'm just interested in what you want from gaming sites in the future, especially when there are so many other ways for you to read opinions and find out what's going on in the industry without coming to a site about videogames.
This is purely a human interest piece on my part. I couldn't find a better way to express "content" so everything editorial or otherwise that a site like Gamespot does I've grouped under "journalism" so hopefully that all makes sense.
This is also technically not an editorial. However, somebody gave this soapbox to stand on so until they yank it out from under me I'll use it to ask these questions because I want answers en masse. Maybe someone important on this site will read your comments and make a few notes, maybe.
My Love/Hate Relationship with First Person Shooters
- Mar 30, 2013 9:00 am GMT
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I don't think I've ever beat a first person shooter. I've played many FPS' from GoldenEye to Far Cry 3, andI don't think I've finished one. My experience with first person shooters goes like this:
Start a First Person Shooter.
Become Bored by the
It makes me hesitant to spend any money towards playing a critically acclaimed first person shooter. The last first person shooter I played was Far Cry 3. That game was nowhere on my radar screen, but things were boring in December 2012, and Far Cry 3 was getting some pretty impressive reviews. I played the solo campaign, and found myself turning it off every 20 minutes. The game had plenty of fun things to do, but I just wasn't enjoying the experience. I traded it in a week after I bought it. All of those positive reviews, and I didn't enjoy Far Cry 3. Shame. I didn't enjoy Far Cry 3 because I hate first person shooters.
I Hate First Person Shooters.
Well that's not entirely true. I enjoy watching people play First Person Shooters. I would have no problem watching someone play Far Cry 3. I probably would have gotten more into the game if I had watched someone do their thing. If one of my friends had gotten into Far Cry 3, I would've been right there watching it like a movie. Heck, I'd even play the game for a little if my friend wanted to take a break.
Come to think of it, I enjoy playing First Person Shooters with other people. I spent months playing Turok Evolution with my friends back in the day. Multiplayer is where it's at. My friends and I would meet up after school and play deathmatches for hours. I remember I would pack my Wavebird controller in my backpack so I could go straight to my friend Brian's house from school.
I Love Multiplayer Tho...
Hanging out with friends and playing a first person shooter has always been a joy for me. It goes back to the days of GoldenEye on the Nintendo 64. Four people playing split screen on a 13 inch TV having a blast. Those were the days. There's something about being in the same room with a person while I play a First Person Shooter. Maybe it's just being able to hang out and play videogames you know? I hope Split Screen games never goes away.
These days I find myself having the most fun playing Split Screen Co-op with one other player. Modern Warfare 3 surprised me with its Spec Ops mode. My friend Tino and I finished every mission in two nights. I thought Borderlands was best when I played it split screen with my friend Blake. I found it boring when I played by it online, but when Blake and I played together it was magic. We played it until 7 in the morning one night. It was crazy.
Not So Much
While I enjoy playing with other people, I'm not a fan of playing First Person Shooters Online. Not only do I suck, but I just don't have a lot of fun playing. I'm a different kind of gamer in an online environment My focus is completely different. When I play any game offline I find myself trying to be stylish when I play. For example, in Grand Theft Auto IV, I'll always have a rare or exotic car in my garage. When I'm online my only focus is not to die. It's different. It makes it worse when the game I'm playing is a first person shooter. I'm never see anything coming. It's the worst.
I thought maybe playing online with friends would help, but it doesn't. It's just not the same when I can't accuse anyone of looking at my screen. This is one of the reasons why I consider GoldenEye for the N64 to be the best First Person Shooter ever. Multiplayer games weren't online back then so you were forced to play in the same room with people. I've got nothing but good memories from those days.
BioShock Infinite is set to be released at midnight. I don't think I'm going to play it. The good reviews Infinite has received are doing little to influence my decision to play it. I don't want to end up disappointed like I did with Far Cry 3. Who knows? I might end up bored enough to give Bioshock: Infinite a shot. When there's nothing else, a first person shooter will have to do.
The Bad Gamer Soap Box - Problems With the One Way Road
- Mar 30, 2013 6:36 am GMT
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With the increasing volume of people crying for gender/ sex equality in games, it's surprising how quickly people forget the subject of sexuality, including those who are asexual. I'd argue that the gender/ race argument and the sexuality argument are the same. It's all or nothing where I'm concerned.
In Tell Tale's the Walking Dead, character plays a huge role in how things end up. There are emotionally strong and weak characters, male and female. In a world where the human population is in decline, sexuality matters. A strong gay or asexual character would bring a dynamic to the complications of the situation that haven't been touched on that much, if at all.
In the same game, there's a child that is in almost constant risk of being killed. I've ranted a lot in the past about ethical dilemmas in games and our responsibilities as gamers. I've become more open minded about it, but there's still a sliver of uneasiness about playing as someone who has a child's life in his hands. I think that's developer's intent, and would argue that there would be a similar dilemma if they introduced a likable character who's sexual orientation went the other way. What would happen if they came across a human community?
In thinking about strong female characters, going way back (1999), there was Fear Effect. Fear Effect put in control of three characters, two of whom were lesbians. If I remember correctly, and I'm not honestly sure I do, the game took some heat for having two attractive lesbian protagonists. It also received critical praise for it's story and deep character development. There were two games and a third one was canceled.
I'm an easy going guy who doesn't believe that either gender should be put on a pedestal. I believe we should all be equal, but we all do have our roles. Men and women are different and that's fantastic. Gay, straight, asexual, a person's a person and those dynamics are what makes each of us interesting. I'd be the last person to say it doesn't matter, because having a gay mother changed my life drastically as a child and forced a new perspective on me. Luckily, it's made me a more diverse person and arguably contributes to my better qualities as a human being.
However, much like the diversification of a main character's gender and race, it's a very delicate process. Fear Effect arguably didn't make it as a major horror franchise because the two gay protagonists were all up in gamers grills about it. I'd say it was ahead of its time.
BioWare took major heat for including the playable choice of having your character be gay or not. It didn't change the story or how other characters interacted with you, but it was there and that was enough to tweak many a nerve. People still weren't ready for it.
With how far we, the USA, have come as a society over the last hundred years with equality, we still have a long way to go. Those who argue that race/ gender equality in games is important and not say the same for sexual orientation are failing to see the bigger picture and are making a one way argument. Of course, context matters and it shouldn't be shoved down our throats, but to me the arguments are one and the same. It may take baby steps, but I'm willing to wait and see how character development evolves into something most people can agree on.
Playing games with your children.
- Mar 28, 2013 3:37 pm GMT
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This is a blog I've been trying to write for a while but too many times when I was drafting it, it went off into different tangents but everyone knows I'm a big advocate of the industry at least trying to put forth effort when it comes to games geared at kids instead of going by the lazy ass mindset of "who cares if it's crappy, kids are stupid and buy anything." Yeah kids are less discerning when it comes to entertainment but I agree with the Nostalgia Critic in that just because it's made for kids is not an excuse not to try. And I also agree with the Nostalgia Chick's comments on the fact that entertainment is the one thing parents will look at and say "who cares if it's crappy, it's just for my kids." Seriously parents, you wouldn't say that about a car seat, or food, or their bed.
And all too often I find comments regarding the consoles and see comments along the lines of "Well I got the Wii for my kids so they could play it while I'm playing Call of Duty." And part of me wants to just go over and say "you know instead of using a game console as a babysitter, why don't you go down and PLAY something like Mario Kart with your kids and you know BE A F***ing parent" or that's what I'd say if I was an angry person.
But even with video games removed from the equation, this is all too common in today's society. Familes who don't spend time together when they're at home. I mean how many of you come home, eat dinner, do homework and spend the evening on the computer or playing games, your mom is downstairs surfing the web on her Ipad, Dad's watching the game on TV, your sibling is in their room doing their own thing. It's kind of sad. Then we wonder why there are so many troubled teens, or kids going on crazy school shootings, or whatever and instead of blaming violent media maybe parents should actually take time out of their day to do stuff with their kids including play video games.
This past Thanksgiving I went to visit my nephews. I have 2 young ones (the oldest one is working in Montana now). The youngest one is 6 and with some of my influence is a big fan of Mario, Zelda, Sonic and more recenlty Kirby. But he rarely has anyone who will play with him. After dinner most nights, his dad will go up to the bedroom and hold up in there the rest of the night watching TV and posting his strong right wing views all over Facebook because slapping his poltical beliefs all over FB is clearly more important to him than spending time with his kid. My sister in law isn't much better. She has a PS3 in her room so she's either on that or her laptop looking at stuff on Pinterest. My youngest nephew was so happy I was visiting because he knew I'd play Smash Bros. and Mario Party 9 and whatever else with him.
Now some nasty naysayer will call me out saying "well yeah you're a Nintendo fan so you'd play that stuff anyway!" And you're right. All too often I'm playing a lot of Nintendo games on my own, but I will say that at least during this particular holiday weekend both the 13 year old nephew and my husband also played with us. The 13 year old is a great kid. Sure he has his own stuff in his room like his 360 and his Kindle and while he's getting older and gravitating to stuff like Metal Gear Solid. (interestinly enough he was introduced to Snake though Smash Bros. Brawl) he will still take time and play with his younger brother. Often helping him get through some part he stuck on. And my husband who isn't a Nintendo fan also sat downstairs and played a couple rounds of Mario Party 9. Why? Because it was more important to him to spend time with his nephews.
And I'm sure I'll get yelled at by someone who will point out that I don't have kids and I don't understand. And yes I don't have children of my own. I'm trying to but it hasn't been easy for me. And yes I do look forward to sharing my love of Nintendo characters with my kids someday just as parents who loved old Disney/Pixar movies share them with their kids. But I'm sorry if the idea of taking time away from teabagging in Call of Duty or blogging on Gamespot to spend time with your children playing some "silly kids game" is a huge inconvience for you, then you suck as a parent. No one's making you give up your big boy games to play with your kids but being a parent is about sacrifice. Video game consoles should not be babysitters.
And I'll leave you with this immortal words from Bender B. Rodriegez.
Have you ever just thought about turning off the TV, sitting down with your kids...and hitting them?" But we're so busy! "Well make time!!"
And to those of you gamer parents who do take time out of your hectic day and play games with your kids. Good for you and I'm sure you learned that the "non working controller" trick only works for a short time. lol
Rust and Bone (De rouille et d'os) - Film Review
- Mar 28, 2013 4:18 am GMT
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French director Jacques Audiard (A Prophet) counters a disjointed script with fascinating conceptual details, beautiful images and intense moments of raw acting. Rust and Bone is equally mesmerising as it is clumsy, but that it is ever touching is a result of some skillful albeit undisciplined filmmaking.
The film's story belongs to Ali (Matthias Schoenaerts), a hardened man looking for a place to stay with his young son Sam (Armand Verdure). With little money, they house together in the home of Ali's sister Anna (Corinne Masiero). Finding work as a bouncer at a nightclub, Ali breaks up a fight and escorts Stephanie (Marion Cotillard) home.
Stephanie is an orca whale trainer at Marineworld but after a freak accident at a show she is hospitalised and wakes up to find that both her legs have been amputated. Depressed and broken, she calls Ali for assistance and comes to realise that with the rest of her body intact she is still capable of living. Meanwhile, to make money Ali participates in sweaty, unofficial kickboxing matches.
As with Audiard's previous film A Prophet, a gritty prison crime drama, the director contrasts agonising moments of pain and violence with images that are brimming with meaning and beauty. The tone is consistent but there are bumps in the script, written by the director and Thomas Bidegain. The book they've adapted, "Rust and Bone", is by Canadian author Craig Davidson, and is comprised of a number of short stories.
The idea from these stories have been borrowed and developed for a whole new story and the two central characters were also written anew for the screen. Some of the theories of physicality are smart, but the pastiche format of the book is too evident at times. The story structure feels episodic, which leaves powerful images, like Stephanie's reunion with the whale, as singular, isolated moments.
The trajectory of the narrative is often stifled as we wait for new plot points to gain punctuality. An underdeveloped subplot surrounding Ali's security employment for example hinges on a sizeable coincidence to drive the story into its final act.
The film is better as a critique of the way people fail to appreciate their own bodies, until they reach catastrophic event that makes them rethink their physicality.
The tight framing of the characters from the waist up removes any consciousness of the rest of their bodies. This reflects the lack of self-worth in their lives as they are only concerned by primal instincts of survival, like relying on other people to mentally or physically carry them (a pertinent image), or scavenging for food in this downtrodden economic period.
The disunity between belief and the primal thought is shown in two juxtaposing moments. Stephanie is filmed through a long lens, standing alone as the mould for her prosthetic limbs sets. The shot seems isolating but the visibility of her own being reminds her that is she still alive and capable.
The film then cuts to shot Ali sitting down at a computer, with only half his body visible, watching brawls on the internet. It shows the immaturity of his self-preservation in using his body for money and what he calls "fun". In this instance, the combination of theme and content is startlingly articulate.
Audiard is less confident with romantic sentimentalism. Both characters begin to inspire each other's belief in their own physical capabilities but it's an uneven theme. Ali convinces Stephanie to sleep with him to see if her body is still functional. We know that he is promiscuous so is he just using her? The question lingers.
Less convincing is when Ali claws back into the match when he sees Stephanie walking towards the fighting pitch or when she is hired to become a money handler for the fights, despite seeing the brutality and juvenility. It softens the opportunity for more explosive conflict between the leads.
The actors, as naturalistic as they are, are a little reminiscent of the film. There are flashes of brilliance, including scenes of unprecedented emotional strain. But then there are stretches where Cotillard's reserved performance makes you long for more perpetuated tension and drama. It's an affecting and sometimes beautiful film but you will have to wait for its best moments.
It's not just women that are part of the "new core"
- Mar 28, 2013 12:07 am GMT
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"YOU ARE GOING TO PUT ELLIE ON THAT DAMN COVER!"
Well here we go with this topic again. A narrative designer by the name of Tom Abernathy has made a bold declaration: Women are the new core audience in gaming. Shortly after, Gamespots own Carolyn Petit posted an article backing the guy up and adding her own two cents. They both make a very good point, and there is a lot of truth in their words. But there's one thing I think they're both missing here. Or to be fair, one thing they don't emphasize as much as "Women are the new core"
Abernathy claims that women are the new core and that we should be making a more diverse range of games that appeal to this new core. But women are just one part of that new core. Thinking ONLY about women ignores the wide variety of other groups that are also a part of gaming, yet are seen as equally unimportant or even nonexistent. The groups hardly get any games that specifically speak to them because those types of games "aren't profitable." These groups are a wide variety of races, backgrounds, ages, and can be of either gender. They also have a wide variety of things they want more of in gaming, including but not limited to: more complex and diverse gameplay, more interesting tones and worlds, and richer narratives.
Now, there are two reasons why this subject gets people angry and up in arms. One: they think this is secretly a "men vs. women," or "whites vs. minorities issue." Two: They think anyone who dares to suggest that maybe games can be a little better is a nut who wants to get rid of wildly popular games like Call of Duty and God of War. Because "Ew David Cage, I dont want all games to be interactive movies" or "Ew female game designer, I don't want to play girly games." The point of this blog is to debunk both of those beliefs. That, and point to what the real issue is here. And the real issue has nothing to do with race or gender. And the real solution doesn't mean the death of AAA games aimed at teenage boys and young adult men.
It's no secret that games are primarily geared toward 15-25 year old males. Or at least, that's mainly how publishers see it when deciding which kind of games they want to throw their money at. And these publishers are intent on catering to this crowd in the most stereotypical way possible: with big guns, extreme violence, blood, and carnage, all done by the big burly male main character. Oh and breasts. Can't forget the breasts.
The problem isn't that these games exist. After all, movies and literature that contain the exact same content exist. And people love it. They eat it up. But movies and TV shows allow for more than just adrenaline pumping action flicks. They cover a wider variety of themes and genres. That's not to say that video games don't have variety. They do. But no matter how you paint it, the variety in gaming is quite limited when compared to movies, television shows, and literature. Those other mediums cater to wider variety of people of all demographics. And they're rolling in money while doing it.
Now don't get me wrong, I'm not out to demonize men and make it seem like games are idiotic and childish because of them. As I stated above, people tend to get all heated about this subject due to gender factoring into the discussions. But here's what I think is the real problem here. And guess what? It has nothing to do with this whole Men vs. Women gender debate:
By pandering to one demographic, you're severely limiting the variety of entertainment that you can put out there. You're stifling potentially creative and innovative new ideas by rejecting anything that doesn't cater to that demographic. You're alienating large groups of people and their piles of cash. This isn't really worrisome if its just a few games. After all, not every game needs to appeal to everyone. But its a problem when it spans across most of an industry. So you see the problem isn't gender. I'd still be making this blog even if I was in a parallel universe where video games catered to mostly 15-25 year old women, or mostly 65 year old grandparents, or mostly 10 year old kids.
Creativity cannot flourish and new ideas cannot spring about when developers are told that they cannot do something that doesn't please this one group of people. Nor can it flourish when they are expected to resort to stereotypes and common tropes to please said group of people. They cannot even gain confidence in their ideas if publishers are going to laugh in their face and say that "You can't do that! No dude wants to see that!"
Also, a lot of people tend to get all bent out of shape when this subject arises because they think people want to get rid of any game that caters to the 15-25 year old male demographic. But really the solution is not to get rid of AAA games like Call of Duty, God of War, Gears of War, or Assassins Creed. And anyone who says that that is the solution is delusional. New and creative games that don't cater to the same demographic can coexist peacefully alongside these games. Why should we need to compromise either? There is room for both. "Variety is the spice of life" after all.
Its just a matter of convincing publishers of this fact. Crap like this should not be happening. Creative new IPs should not be refused just because they don't cater to the same demographic that a million other games are. Creative new games should not be given less advertising than generic and formulaic games that don't do anything new. Of course, businesses are businesses after all. Its hard to ignore that fact.
Even still, it feels as if theres a shift in attitudes coming along in gaming. Sure there are some companies, publishers, and developers intent on churning out the same old boring tripe. But some others are speaking out. They're saying that maybe, just maybe, games could be much more than they are. They're going against the archaic attitudes of the publishers. Which is why when articles like this or this pop up, I feel like the developers aren't even saying that to us gamers (since the collective "DURRR" that always ends up in the comments implies that gamers already know that). I feel like they're saying it to the publishers who rejected them and told them to "take the lady off the cover."
And thankfully, when they decide to branch out to bigger and better things, they have alternatives like steam/psn/xbl and kickstarter to back them up when no publisher wants to. For all peoples talk of nothing new happening in the coming gen, I'm seeing a lot of potential for change. It seems we're witnessing a complete shift in attitudes that's in its very early stages.
Look at this issue from another perspective as well. How long are we going to stereotype every single male as someone who will automatically drool with pleasure over anything that has violence, blood, and breasts? Who's to say that male gamers don't want more variety too? What if a 40 year old male gamer, who's been gaming since he was at the wee age of 10, is also getting just a little bit tired of the same old story of an emotionless man with a gun, devoid of any personality, who's only goal is to mow down aliens or other people? What if there are several male gamers who are about 30 and up and want a game that doesn't have juvenile humor and dialogue that sounds like it was written by someone half his age?
Anyway, that's really what it boils down too. This isn't about sexism, racism, gender roles, or being politically correct, even though people try to make it out to be like it is. Its about a medium we all love growing and maturing into something bigger and better. A medium that expands beyond pandering to the stereotypes of only one demographic. A medium that can satisfy the wide variety of people it attracts. Women aren't the only new core. It's also the wide range of both men and women who don't fall into the "15-25 year old male who won't touch anything that has no explosions, violence, and guns" demographic. They're the ones who want something more from the medium than only blood, violence, gratuitous profanity, and inappropriately placed sex scenes. We are all the new core.
And it'll be interesting to see what kind of games we'll get once this realization finally takes root in all of the industry.
Are game publishers singled out?
- Mar 26, 2013 4:50 am GMT
- 0 Comments
Before I dive into what I'm sure will probably end up in a barrage of flames, I need to say that I am in no way defending game publishers, I am just pointing out something I have noticed, and it bothers me.
Three weeks ago SimCity was released, unless you just returned from a month long dive in the Mariana Trench, then you know the launch did not go well. Many gamers, including myself, experienced multiple issues with the horrid, evil, always on DRM and game bugs. The ensuing uproar, and shouts of "down with EA" could be heard through the vacuum of space.
Lets be honest, we have all bought SOMETHING in the past that either did not work the way it was supposed to, or just did not meet our expectations. We have all had to return something, or exchange a item for one that worked, or for one of a equal value. I am willing to bet that in 99.99% of those situations, you did not also keep the item/product that you originally bought.
So, what I'm asking is.... why do gamers demand, and EXPECT a publisher to not only FIX the game that was released with bugs (as they should), but also then ask for something "free" in return for all the pain, suffering and mental anguish that they were subjected to? Why should you get more in return? If you bought a shirt, and when you got home you noticed a small tear in it, do you return to where you bought it demanding a replacement shirt, plus another shirt? Do you go after the people that made the shirt, or just the place where you bought it from?
If you go see a movie, and you walk out afterwards disapointed, do you go see the manager asking for ticket to a different move, along with a refund of the money you already paid? Do you then also contact the studio that made the movie, demanding a ticket to a current, or future release?
Why does it seem to me that game studios and publishers are unfairly singeld out when situations like this happen? I understand that things like this should not happen, but at the same time I don't feel that I am owed "more" than a working product once the issues have been pointed out.
I know the argument is "Well if we don't complain, and don't demand, then we will continue to get poor quality products". I'm sure there is some truth to that, I just don't know if demanding more than our initial investment is the right way to go about it.
Now Playing: Zelda:Link's Awakening
- Mar 25, 2013 3:27 pm GMT
- 0 Comments
So recently I got into playing this title I downloaded on my 3DS:
This is a title that often gets overlooked in the Zelda series and it's a shame because honestly this is one of the best ones I've played, up there with the criminally underated Minish Cap.
So for those who don't know the story. According the official Nintendo Zelda timeline this occurs in the "Defeated Link" timeline where he lost to Ganon in Ocarina of Time. Originally it was the direct sequel to A Link to the Past but actually now follows the 2 Oracle games (which as of now are the only 2 Zelda games I haven't played. Hoping to change that.) Fearful that Ganon might rise to power again, Link sets off to sea on a sort of spirtual quest to prepare himself for future battles. He gets caught in a storm, and gets shipwrecked on an island where he learns that if he wants to leave he has to collect 8 magic instruments to wake a magic whale who sleeps in a giant egg on a mountain top. Makes perfect sense.
Actually the story does make Link to the Past somewhat unique much like Majora's Mask. There's no Zelda, no Ganon and no Triforce and unlike MM there isn't even some looming threat of total annihlation. At one point the game hints that "if the Wind Fish sleeps too long, the hero's life is gone" but no giant threat of someone destroying the world.
Probably even more interesting about this game is the number of Mario cameos almost making this a Zelda/Mario crossover. Tarin most notably, a mustachioed man who's hunting mushrooms but several Mario baddies lurk in dungeons as well as Wart, the main baddie of SMB2 makes an appearance as the Frog King. Even Kirby and Dr. Wright from the SNES Sim City come along. Also early in the game you can get a Yoshi doll to trade later on.
Even more interesting about Link's Awakening is a lot of elements here would later show up for the next game Ocarina of Time. Such as the Ocarina itself. Now of course the original game had the magic whistle that warped you around the map but here, Link gets an ocarina and then has to seek out characters to teach him 3 different songs. One of which is taught by old Wart here.
Another element of this is the Trading Sequence. Everyone knows of the long tedious quest to get the Biggoron Sword in OoT but LA has it's own rather long series of trading items for something else eventually getting you the boomerang which in this title is insanely powerful so it's actually worth it. You also have the shell collecting where 20 shells upgrades your sword which isn't nearly as tedious as the Golden Skulltulas. The DX version has a "Color Dungeon" which was an optional bonus area where completing it allowed you to upgrade attack or defense.
If I had any complaints with this Zelda title it's that bosses are a bit easy. I fought a giant angler fish boss and killed him in a matter of seconds before he even really attacked as well as the boss of the face shrine can be killed easily with bombs. Also there's a fair amount of backtracking and though Kolohint Island is smaller than other Zelda worlds, it's not the easiest to navigate.
I'll save the rest for my review but this could end up being one of my all time favorite Zelda games.
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