Theres a charm in simplicity that seems to have passed over Microsofts heads in the development of the Xbox One. The reveal shows us what gamers, and mostly non-gamers, can utilize with this shiny piece of Next Gen tech when its released later this year. There were some impressive demonstrations, but, for the most part, the new dashboard features made me wonder what would happen to those with low attention spans and made me glad that I now bed with Sony.
Kinect remains overall unappealing. The ability to turn your Xbox One on and off via a voice command is a nifty feat, but the 1080 camera, improved motion capture, etc., are all wasted on me. Its like theyre milking a one-trick pony. In all fairness, I feel the same way about Sonys Move. I cant help that Im an old-fart gamer!
Microsofts Xbox luster is gone from my eyes. They seemed to focus more on what products to show via their new system than they were of the games one could play. They mentioned a number in the teens of exclusive titles, apparently within the next year, but instead showed two of the games and spent the rest of the game trailers on multi-platform releases. Granted, they did look very nice.
On paper, the PS4 and XBO (XB1?) are identical. The major differences between the two lay in the companies differing focus which gives Sony an advantage on the gaming side, and thats the point of the systems. Sonys presentation showed us more of what gamers can do with the powerful system. Microsofts every-man appeal has its draws, and Steven Spielberg, but I was turned off by the fact that it seemed like they were trying to say the gamer is not their main target.
Forza looks awesome. The controller looks cool, and theres no denying that the number of exclusives coming in the next year is impressive. A lot of the new bells and whistles seem to over complicate the system and could threaten to ruin the entire experience. But dont take an old gamers word for it. Im just looking forward to spooning the PS4 controller.
Playing Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon, I realize something is amiss. Some reviewers describe it as easy when I find myself dying quite frequently. Of course, my experience with the Far Cry franchise was practically null before I started Blood Dragon, minus a twenty minute MP ass whooping I took against friends about 4 years ago. Id say that a lot of Blood Dragons enjoyment comes from an implication that the player is familiar with the franchise canon. On the other hand, my tag is badgamer83.
My interest in Far Cry 3 started as a simmering curiosity and went, inexplicably, to a boiling enthusiasm to play the game. Even before Blood Dragon was released, this weird itch came over me, a voice in my head whispered tales of grand adventure, blowing stuff up, and an open world experience with decent story telling. I wish-listed it, not so subtly dropped hints of wanting it to friends on Steam and decided Ive had enough of waiting, this Friday, May 24th, I will pick up Far Cry 3!
What could I possibly expect out of it, though? Maybe Im hoping this will make me better at FPS and enjoy the single player ride, as opposed to the oft-infuriating multi-player modes out there. Thinking back to how much I enjoyed Uncharted 3 and how it seemed to improve my gaming skills (for lack of a better term), thats what I want to accomplish in playing Far Cry 3. I feel like exploring, blowing s**t up, driving off cliffs and learning more about gaming in general would just be the bees knees!
Of course, theres some speculation that the game could end up at least a little disappointing. I am sure that Ill have a blast with it all the same. So, for now, Rexs adventure goes on the backburner as I anxiously wait to hungrily devour the sights and experiences of Rook Island and learn more about what Im capable of.
In 2005, I started outlining what would potentially be my first novel, called OBrien. OBrien was complex and heavily clichéd and never was written. One part of the story had the main character (not named OBrien) have a flashback to a different time and that was the first iteration of what has become Woodward.
The cabin, the giant black tree and Roanoke were always going to play a big part in the story. Virginia was the latest character introduced and ironically became the protagonist. David was originally going to be the main character, but because of story direction changes, he became more of a device. Further was always going to be this strange person whos a mixture of free spirit, but also has some strange tendencies. Woodward is a character in the story and is revealed in part 3.
Once the decision was made to make the story its own entity, it started off as being this comedic modern folk tale. Because of certain imagery and the narration style I was using, it didnt seem to mix and that idea was thrown away. Then I started reading Joe Hills Locke & Key and that gave me the idea to change the style to a more gothic-horror light and through someones eyes.
This, sadly, is the first story Ive been this excited to finish in years. While I have a game plan for the ending, mostly Ill be figuring things out as yall do. Also, there will be going back and tweaking of previous parts once more gets written. I dont plan on doing a lot of parts, but I believe that as the story evolves, it should do so as a whole. This is all an experiment for me and I hope youll enjoy the journey as much as I do writing it.
Iron Man 3 is a 180 for Marvels third story in their gonzo epic metallic super hero character study. Shane Black, who co-wrote and directed, is well known for buddy action flicks such as the Lethal Weapon series and The Last Boy Scout. What we get as a result is a movie thats different in unexpected ways and makes it damn near impossible to peel your eyes away from the screen for the more than 2 hour run time, not literally of course.
The story begins with a narration from Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.), talking about his regrets in Sweden circa New Years Eve, 1999. He turns down then frail scientist Aldrich Killians (Guy Pearce) proposal to join his company in favor of hoping to bed sexy scientist Maya Hensen (Rebecca Hall). We return to modern day to see Tony struggling with nightmares mixed with a fair share of insomnia while struggling to maintain a peace of mind and his hanging-by-a-thread relationship with Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow). Oh, and there are attacks on the US by the Mandarin (Ben Kingsley).
This movie is darker, more intense, and faster moving than the previous two. It could also be the funniest. Its a well told story about regrets and consequences and succeeds in brandishing Tony Stark as an anti Bruce Wayne of sorts. Stark needs to be Iron Man and he uses the obsession to fill the gaping void in his sense of belonging. While the first two movies told us how much we may need Iron Man, this is a more personal tale of why Tony Stark needs Iron Man.
There are great action sequences with great CGI, humor and fisticuffs. Ben Kingsley is great as the Mandarin and the twist on the character made me have a good laugh rather than offending the fan boy in me. Don Cheadle gets to flex his acting muscle a bit more this time as James Rhodes/ Iron Patriot and his scenes with Downey are among the most fun in the movie.
In the end, Iron Man 3 is a great super hero movie that launches Marvels stage two successfully and makes me wonder what changes are ahead for Earths Mightiest Heroes. Though Downeys stepping down as Stark becomes a bit more apparent, its been a pure delight to see him get to the gritty of what makes Tony Stark tick. Other things that are accomplished in this movie are spoilers, but for those who are fans of the movies, its well worth finding out.
My Personal Grade: A
Ive been called out on here with having anxiety and social issues as if that makes my points moot. Its true, I do struggle socially and have some anxiety issues and depression, but I think that makes my points more poignant, as I make them first hand. In my life, Ive hardly ever touched drugs, Ive never had a drinking problem and Ive managed to maintain healthy and happy relationships. In my times of need when I didnt have people to reach out to, or they werent willing to help, video games became my way of escaping this sense of isolation.
I moved to Massachusetts from Maryland almost ten years ago. I didnt know anyone here, outside of my mom and her wife, and my exit from where I spent the majority of my life had its fair share of hostility. So I became that guy who lived in his moms basement.
Video games have always been in my life, they still are. As a kid, I remember playing on my dads Atari and him getting my brother and me a NES. Later I got a Genesis and I remember squealing with delight, I was 10. Throughout the years, Ive had a number of systems and have spent a large amount of time with each. This didnt become a problem until I had moved to Massachusetts and fell into my own pit of despair. Apologies for the cliché.
My best friend here at the time was a big gamer. He wanted as many friends as possible getting whatever system he had playing whatever games he wanted to play. When I met him, he wouldnt shut up about me getting a PC that would play World of Warcraft. Little did I know that this would take over my waking life and send me in an emotional tail-spin.
I played that damn game for nearly four years. I finally stopped after my now fiancée gave me an ultimatum and made me see what damage the game has done. I skipped work, often shirked plans and would spend my weekend obsessed with doing dungeons, raids and daily quests. Unfortunately the game missing from my life left a hole that I felt like I needed to fill as soon as possible.
My spending problems got worse again and my skipping out of work continued. I horded games and movies and they took over the majority of my attention. This caused a rift between me and my fiancée and I started therapy and continued to struggle. Having to learn things the hard way, as I often do, it took both my job and my relationship hanging by a thread to make me realize that I really did need to get my shit together.
My problems dont stem from video games alone, but from a lifelong miss-lesson that stuff is love. I believe doing stuff that makes you happy is important in life, but its also the balance of priorities and realizing whats really important that helps. Im by no means through my issues, but I acknowledge them and am now not ignoring them. I still enjoy gaming and know what games to avoid. I dont condone the use of gaming as a tool for healing depression, however. I believe that too much of one thing can lead to addiction/ emotional dependency, which leads to other kinds of issues and even more depression and instead of lessening the problem, it can expand it in other ways.
For years, gamers have argued that DLC is no substitution for expansion packs of yore and that publishers and developers have been price gouging us completely innocent customers. Then come along a good handful of games that make good use of DLC to provide standalone experiences that, while not providing the amount of gameplay in a full value game, add onto what made the original game fantastic and adding a theme thats more fun. Ubisoft seems to have made this part of their mantra. Its a good way to market the full game, while also providing a more eclectic view of the main product.
Rockstar unofficially started the trend for this generation with Grand Theft Auto IV and its episodic standalones. They then did the same with Red Dead Redemption and its Halloween themed zombie add on. Sony/ Sucker Punch followed suit and added a vampire element to the already powerful protagonist in Infamous 2. Ubisoft recently released the downloadable George Washington tyrant series for Assassins Creed 3 and today Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon was released.
To be fair, we used to pay $20 - $30 for an expansion, and thats when games were cheaper. The $10 - $15 of content we typically pay for now adds that much value of content to the game. Borderlands 2 has a number of expansions that add between five and ten hours to the game, each. The overall game is about 20 30 hours, depending on how much you complete. For 1/6 of the price, Gearbox provides from a quarter to half the games length in content with each downloadable DLC.
Common knowledge to those who pay attention, AAA games are getting more and more expensive to make. Dragons Dogma Dark Arisen was just released, adding a second campaign for $40, but the original game is also included for that price. Its possible to get the content as DLC as well.
DLC shouldnt be seen as the money hording scheme we make it out to be. People crave more content, or they get bored with a game after finishing it, I know I mostly do. I think its fair to charge a portion of the games value to get a few more hours of quality content out of a well known franchise. Its fair to say that not all of this content is very good, but thats a different discussion.
David's birthday party was back in February. We did nothing super special, it was just a few friends at the house, we decided to geek it up with party games, a pinata and video games. We decided we just wanted to celebrate a good life. That's when I first met Further Henceforth.
She was taller, skinner and prettier than I imagined. Her reddish-brown hair came to her knees and made her deep blue eyes pop. It was awesome to see that she was wearing moccasins instead of trendy sneakers or Uggs.
Under her arm was tucked a square present. I cursed myself yet again for forgetting to mention no gifts on the invite e-mail.
Virginia Collinder, she said incredibly formally, holding her hand out. Further Henceforth, she finished when I shook her hand.
Alright, well, at ease, Further. I replied, relaxing a little when she smiled. I just hoped she didn't actually see it as mocking. I can put on a good front at the best of times. David's been saying a lot about you.
Has he? she replied quickly, tilting her head as if in contemplation. That's strange, considering I haven't told him that much. Eric was right, this girl was off.
Well, um, I hesitated. She really caught me off guard, few people can do that. The kids are in the living room and you can put your present with the others in the kitchen.
She smiled thinly and walked into the house. Outside of her looks, I couldn't see why David was interested in her. Teenagers are a whole other species.
I went and hung out with the parents who decided to stick around. I didn't mind. I knew the three of them from growing up anyway. We occupied the kitchen table and shared a bottle of single-malt, Frank's last great pre-junky achievement. Thanks for the hooch, pops. The kids were blasting the TV volume as they played video games, so it was safe for us adults to talk openly.
So, I started, pouring myself a shot. Not to be the one who always brings up the elephant in the room, but...
Further Henceforth, Sue said, letting out a chuckle. I always loved Sue, she's Eric's mom. That whole family is a school of strange fish. They're scary rich, emphasis on scary. No one's even sure if their money is new or old. No one's been brave enough to check.
There was no point in holding back my skepticism. I mean, yeah, she's strange, but Further seems nice enough. The rest of the family can't be that bad.
There have been stories, Don said, pouring his second two-fingers. The Henceforths own an old cottage out near Roanoke. Of course, that's not odd. He sipped and wiped his mustache. The odd part is the tree. Black as night and about five stories tall, I reckon. The tree never bore any fruit and the branches have been bare for as long as people have remembered. Those brave souls who have ventured close enough have told stories of scrapes and loud husky breathing coming from inside the trunk.
Of course, that just may be a tale to keep kids off the land, Don resigned and downed his drink. That tree, though, that is real.
The word is that the cottage has been in that family for generations, Erin almost whispered. Visitors that go there never quite come back the same.
We moved onto other subjects and talked and laughed until the sun started going down. Then we went and played party games with the kids. I'm sure they saw it all as dorky, but even Miss Henceforth seemed to be enjoying herself. David later refused to wear a paper hat, but let me take pictures of him blowing out the candles on his cake.
I was relieved when it was just David and me again, lounging on the sofa and watching him mercilessly channel surf. Thanks for the party, he murmured.
Aw, you're welcome, chum! I patronized and flattened his gel-spiked hair and wiped my hand on his shirt. He laughed and playfully swatted my hands away.
Though you did forget to add 'no presents' to the invites, he scoffed and fixed his shirt.
I laughed. I'm sorry. You have to admit that even your shrink would say it's unhealthy for you to think I'm the only person in this world who doesn't suck.
You just suck less, he zinged. Eric's cool. He's always been there for me, even when I was in the hospital. Further's not bad, either.
Not bad, eh? I mocked, nudging him with my elbow.
Yeah, she's hot, he snorted. Though she's different too. She's the only person at school who doesn't look at me like she's expecting me to explode. Even Eric looks at me like that sometimes.
Totally waxing cliché here: it's hard for people to not fear what they don't understand. Especially as a teenager, I reassured, putting my arm around his shoulder and giving a small hug. My mind went right to Further and the story about the tree and wondered what could be inside.
His phone vibrated and he held it up to me to show me it was Further calling. I sat back on the couch and dismissed him with a flick of my hand.
When he was in his room, I opened a window and lit a cigarette. The melancholy was really setting in. I missed Florida and you so much. I also hoped David would never find out what I gave up to have a life with him. I didn't know if he would forgive me.
Bioshock Infinite takes what we know about the established franchise and turns certain elements on their heads, giving us a game that's both fresh and familiar. The biggest change is Booker Dewitt, the protagonist who is already defined as opposed to the anonymous Jon we traversed with in the original. The other big change is Columbia, an anti-Rapture of sorts whose populous blends political and religious philosophies together. Fit in some solid shooting, a great NPC companion, and an overpowered, but awesome, vigor system (replacing plasmids) and you have a game that at least equals the original in quality.
Booker is tasked with rescuing the girl Elizabeth from Columbia to clear a debt. Once you have rescued the girl, things start going more and more down a rabbit hole. Not only does the game spin a tale about the good, bad and potential of an alternate America, as well as ours, but brings a surprising amount of emotional connection and existentialism.
Following the franchise's form, Bioshock's fights are brutal and shooting guns and vigors feels great and look fantastic. Switching between the two weapons as well as your vigors is quick and easy.
Ammunition can be quite a problem, especially if you stick with the same two weapons throughout the experience. Elizabeth does help you during fights, adding some tower-defense style elements by being able to open tears that summon certain types of ammo, turrets, etc. based on what's available in the area.
The game as a whole looks fantastic, despite some minor pop in and flat textures on the PS3. Sunrays shine brightly and the white buildings literally glow with the impressive bloom effects. The townsfolk are animated well and often provide some amusing dialogue as you pass by them.
Overall, the game is hard to describe, much like the original. There is a lot that can be left up to interpretation, especially if you stick through the credits. The game's twists are surprising, but I never felt myself getting lost. Irrational spins a meaningful tale that never feels stretched too far, even at the game's relatively lengthy 12-14 hour campaign.
Bioshock Infinite is an impressive feat, sticking with things that are familiar while adding fun elements, such as the skyline and the strategic tears. Columbia is a wonder to behold and Elizabeth is a great assist in combat and a great character. Shooting and story progression may be a bit linear, but with combat this solid and a story this good, it's easy to overlook. In many ways, the adventures in Columbia surpass those in Rapture and show us exactly why this is such a celebrated franchise.
Great story with great twists
Elizabeth is amazing
Combat is fun and frantic
Some texture issues, pop-in
Ammunition can be surprisingly scarce
Ending may be lost on some
Less emphasis on exploration than the original
Gamers seem to love to hate EA. The behemoth publisher behind The Sims, Dead Space and Madden franchises, to name a few, takes a lot of heat and has won The Consumerist's Worst American company for the second year in a row. Yet, with all EA seems to do wrong, there are reasons to not totally annihilate them.
FUSE- Celebrated developer Insomniac Games' first foray into multi-platform gaming with their class based third person co-optastic shooter looks to break some of the publishers standards. Sure, the multi-player aspect is there, but with the announcement of no online season passes or microtransactions, this could be the new leaf many were waiting for from EA and publishers in general. The game also has two strong female characters that shoot stuff, break necks and blow shit up good. That's always a plus.
Acknowledgment of their Mistakes- It's no secret that Sim City's launch was a failure for the video game history books. EA and Maxis released the game half assed. Yet, instead of just saying oh well, EA offered a compensation, in the form of a free game, to those who registered the game by the end of March. They've listened to people wanting a single player element to the upcoming free-to-play Command & Conquer and decided to add it. Oh and the COO outright said they're not perfect.
EA Supports Gay Rights- In April, 2012, EA announced that they were against the Defense of Marriage Act. They're also longtime supporters of the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community. Games they've published developed by company owned BioWare also have the options for the main character, male or female, to be gay.
Frostbite Engine- Let's face it, this bit of game design tech is damn nifty. Sure, what they've done with it so far is mostly more of the same tired corridor shooter/ MP frag-fest type stuff, but the shit does look awesome. With Frostbite 2, and Battlefield 3, bringing consoles and even mid-grade gaming PC's to their knees, the graphical potential of the engine in its current format makes it all the more impressive.
Big Name Franchises (The Legacy)- Mass Effect, Dead Space, The Sims, it's hard to not spit in a game store and not hit something with the EA logo on it. Ranging from racing games and RPG's to sports simulators and action titles, EA has a long line of franchises, many of which are highly regarded. There's a reason why EA remains one of the largest video game publishers for 20-plus years.
Any massive enterprise is bound to go astray in one area or another. Granted, EA has been bad to their employees in the past, they've lied to their loyal fans and haven't made the best game-requirement decisions. Yet, they make up for that by standing up for their employees, making up for their bad decisions to us gamers and continue to give us some of the best gaming franchises out there.
Of course people don't believe the more extraordinary parts of my story. I can tell they think I'm just another crazy girl. I'm still not sure I believe some of the things happened myself. Like some kind of **** up dream, some parts are more clear than others. I definitely remember that weird girl and the creature she kept hidden in that damned cabin.
My brother, David, had been released from the psych ward about eight months before. I'll leave it to you to find the cruel irony in releasing a sixteen year old right before school started. Luck had, for once, gone my way and I was deemed guardian of my baby brother. He was in there for two years.
He was the one who was stuck with our shit, down trodden, parents before he went in. I've never seen two people work so hard to pay for needles to stick into their arms. David was the brave one. I ran away to college in Florida. It was the furthest I could get and still be able to get back to Virginia in a day if I needed to.
At college, I thought I could be an artistic big shot through visually expressing my lifelong hidden rage. I did fine, for a while, then I got that damned phone call. The fourteen hour drive back was the longest of my life.
Finally, Frank and Francine, sorry, our parents, overdosed. Unfortunately it was David that found them. If people thought he was a quiet kid before, he would have qualified for a mute after. With the not talking came the not eating, not bathing, not going to school. He just stayed in that room.
About two weeks after our beloved parents cremation ceremony, at which David and I were the only two, relatives came out of the woodwork. I don't even remember Frank talking about a brother and sister-in-law, yet here they were calling me poison and dragging my brother away. Two weeks later, he was in the mental hospital in Fairfax.
I dropped the life I had been building for myself for three years so I could be there for him. I hated Virginia and everything associated with it, even the fact that it's my name. I practically raised myself and David, so I was able to get a shit job and apartment and still knew my way around, despite some major teraforming.
When he would talk, he'd tell me that he saw our parents. That they weren't dead. I don't know where I found the strength, but I did the best I could to not be that person to demand to know what the doctors were doing to my baby brother. Over the next few months, he started getting better, though he still saw our parents, be it less frequently. There was no word from our mysterious relatives, good riddance.
Vic, he called me, he was the only one that could. Dad was asking about you.
I don't know if in is mind he was confusing one of the doctors with Frank because of one of the medications or what. He started being more of the David I know in my heart as time passed. He got taller, started eating more and spent more time outside. By the time he was released, I hardly recognized him by looking at him. He was now a good inches taller than me.
So, we decided we'd sell the old house, buy a new one with what little money had combined from the house and what was left to us and start a new life. Things were going well, for the most part. David started school the week after he got out. I started getting in touch with the local artist community in Herndon. He was socializing, I was turning down dudes wanting to talk about my tattoos. It was the best I remember things being.
Then, he met Further Henceforth. The girl was something else. She seemed to exude an air of wanting to be living in the 1970's or something. Though she drove a Corvette, everything else seemed uber granola crunchy and off about her. Even David's best friend, Eric, was put off by her and he was staring at my **** since he came up to my belly button.
She's a nut job, Eric told me one time when he was over. David was getting ready for them to go out and do some urban exploring. No offense. I just mean that she's different in a bad way. Sure, she's a girl, she doesn't look bad in tie dye shirts and has nice long hair. There's just something creepily other worldly about her, like she's literally not all there.
Of all the details I heard after that about Further Henceforth, that's the one that stuck. That's why it came as a surprise that in March, David told me that she invited him to go out to a cabin down in Roanoke, just the two of them. After talking on the phone to someone claiming to be Further's father, I talked myself into a chaperone job for Spring Break.
Perhaps Christopher Nolan was a bit more of a trend setter than any of us expected. Sure, series' have seen multiple iterations, especially in comics and TV shows. With video games seeing reboots of franchises such as Sim City (does that count?), Tomb Raider and the upcoming Thief, chances are good that gamers will be caught in a loop of what's old is new again limbo. What would come with that could be a lot fewer new franchises with the next generation right over the horizon.
Let's put one fact out their: gamers are fickle beasts. Arguably more of a niche hobby than even music collecting (I spent years obsessed with music... and movies), gamers are very hard to stay consistently pleased. This could be due to the fact that as opposed to music, comic, or movie hobbies, gaming is the most pricy. As gamers, we expect to get our hard earned $ out the product. Due to this, we tend to stick with what we know. Franchises such as Mass Effect, Tomb Raider, Need for Speed and Call of Duty have become familiar in a lot of our homes, even with those who don't necessarily play games.
The continuation of a franchise means things need to eventually change. Gamers often complain about the carbon copy feel of Call of Duty. When Devil May Cry was rebooted, however, people complained that the game had changed too much: Dante apparently wasn't Dante and the game play was toned down. The recent Tomb Raider game, however, seems to be praised as a better balanced continuation/ retelling of the franchise. In these examples, to me it appears game play hasn't changed much with the continuations, rather it's the stories themselves that changed and evolved.
In the Sony conference announcing the PS4, a large majority of games highlighted were franchises already established. There were new franchises announced as well, but for the most part it seemed to be a continuation of Sony franchises that fans know and love. Sure, the new properties were teased, but the bulk of time was spent on the new Infamous and Killzone.
Original franchises being introduced at the end of the current generation, such as Watch Dogs, Fuse and The Last of Us show promise as to what we can expect in new stories going forward. The proof will be in how well they hold gamers interests. As a creative person, it's hard not to compare anything with anything else anymore. Originality is a lot harder to come by and you can't talk a new franchise to publishers without heavy reluctance. I don't believe that game play and originality limitations are due to technology limitations, rather that they're more market driven depending on what the largest niche is. First person shooters, action and strategy games will always headline because they have massive followings.
The thing I love about being a gamer is there's such a thriving community. Sure PC gamers and console gamers don't always get along, but if something important in the franchise needs to be spoken on, for better or worst, it's mostly widely discussed. I look forward to seeing the new franchises and sequels/ reboots that come about, I just hope there's a lot more new than what we've seen in recent years.
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.
There are some light spoilers ahead. Ye be warned!
GI Joe: Retaliation may not be a genre defining, thought provoking, action film, but damned if it's not a good pop-corn movie. Gone away are the action figure play-sets of the previous movie, replaced with more realistic locales and a stronger focus on the Joe v. Cobra conflict. That and Cobra Commander looks like Cobra Commander, despite the fact that it's still weird to hear him have a deep voice.
Set a few months after the events of the original, the Joes are sent on a mission to grab WMD's from Pakistan. Not knowing that the President of the United States (Jonathan Price) is a fake (Zartan in disguise), the mission goes well, but a surprise attack all but destroys the small troupe of Joes. This is where Dwayne Johnson comes in (as Roadblock) and commands the other three surviving Joes (Flint, Lady Jaye and Snake Eyes. D.J. Cotrona, Adrianne Palicki and Ray Park, respectively), to seek (wait for it...) retaliation.
The movie has some great action moments, not all of which go well with the 3D if you do choose to go that route. The first encounter between Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow is intense and fast, but the intense movement was blurred and hard to follow in 3D. In the same scene, however, there is an impressive cliff-side fight that captures the point of 3D and provides exciting, eye-popping spectacle.
The players all act their roles with a knowing wink, playing into the respective stereotypes well. Characters such as Flint (D.J. Cotrona) and Jinx (Elodie Yung) don't get much screen time, but they fill their roles respectively and feel a little more than simply stock characters. The big surprise, for me, was seeing Ray Stevenson attempt a southern accent as the devious Firefly. Even Bruce Willis seemed to have a blast hamming it up playing a full-sized action figure.
It's nice to see things reverted to a more Joe vs. Cobra feeling ala the 1980's. It makes up for the last Joe movie and better defines what the franchise is all about. It's not Shakespeare, but it's not all dumb entertainment, either. Absurd? Definitely. But it's the kind of absurdity that's nice to see in an age where more movies reach for realism.
Pros: -Return to franchise form
- Fun performances
- Awesome action
Cons: - Not enough Cobra Commander
- 3D used liberally
- Not for those who want a thought provoking movie
And I'm an Oniomaniac. It's true, I have spending problems. Spending problems so bad, my fiancee has put our status in limbo. I've apologized, done my best to not be too self demeaning (did call myself an **** though). Though by this point, she's sick of the lies and finding out **** the hard way and I can't blame her.
At this point, I'm on the couch. I deserve worse, but she's a good person and I know she still loves me.
I've also spent some time doing a little bit of research. I fall right into a lot of the characterizations of someone who would have this. Sad to say, I'm already on anti-depressants, but it's been bad lately, I don't know why. I've been rethinking focusing more on writing again and maybe more exercise of some sort. Anyway, this is a quick one, I'm embarrassed and upset and not sure how I'm going to mend her broken heart...
Having a decent gaming PC, I find myself often preferring my PS3 over my computer for games that are available for both. Even with first person shooters, the analogue controller plays more naturally for me than a mouse and keyboard. It could be that I've mainly gamed on consoles and never really had a relatively powerful alternative until a couple of years ago.
Having multiple distractions may be a big part of it. Consoles, even now, have the same function they did from the beginning: provide an alternate form of TV entertainment. Even with Netflix, Hulu, etc. as well as media stores, it's easier for me to sit on the couch with a controller in hand and play a game than it is to lay in bed, or even sit on the same couch, and play a game with mouse and keyboard. With the computer, there's Facebook, Twitter and Gamespot, in addition to Hulu and Netflix and other distracting sites. Not to mention the larger library of PC games, though that's not a complaint, but is a distraction.
Controls are a big part of it too. Having to stretch the pinky to the Shift or Control key while holding W to move forward requires more effort than manipulating two analog sticks and pushing a shoulder button. Sure, being more accurate when playing a FPS/ TPS gives the PC Route an advantage, but either way I find myself cursing and laughing just as much when playing a shooter on either.
Another big thing for me is having the physical copy of a game. Sure, digitally downloading games has its appeal, but having the case and disk in hand brings more of a sense of excitement. It's superficial, I know, but with PC gaming becoming more digital retailer dependant, that's more of an argument for me to play certain games on a console.
I'm not going to lie and say that graphics don't matter. They arguably help one get more absorbed into gameplay, story, etc. It's nice for me to play a game on PC and know that I have something that looks better than what I can play on my console. However, much like the quality of the graphics, size does matter. I can't play my PC game on my 36 flat screen TV in full stereo sound, but I can do that with my PS3. Both are always online too and my PS3 has better video feedback than my computer, despite it being a gaming rig.
I enjoy playing games on both, but much prefer the comfort of a controller in hand when given the choice. Playing with a mouse and keyboard just doesn't have the same feel, despite some arguably minor advantages with certain genres. I'm primarily a console gamer, and I like that about myself.
Cartoon Network recently pulled the plug on their two DC Nation shows Young Justice and Green Lantern. While I'm indifferent to Young Justice's abrupt demise, Green Lanterns shared fate leaves a bad taste in my mouth. It's arguably the best science fiction cartoon out there and even stands up among the most celebrated shows of the genre. Much like the ill-fated Firefly, Green Lantern was a fantastic ensemble piece that not only renewed my sense of adventure and wander, but made me care about the characters and their adventures.
The show started off with Hal Jordan already established as Earth's guardian. With his former trainer, now best bud, Kilowog, and ship's uber-smart AI, Aiya, they face against the brutal, vengeful, Red Lanterns. In the process, the capture and eventually befriend a Red Lantern, Razer. The crew of four traverse the universe and fight to save it from the wrath of the Red Lantern Corps.
The premise may be a familiar one, but the mixture of familiar comic book elements, clever dialogue and genuine feeling makes Green Lantern stand out. True Science Fiction on TV has become more of a scarcity, even in the recent renaissance of animated shows. This gives Green Lantern a refreshing unique feel, while also paying homage to shows such as Lost in Space and the more obvious Star Trek. There's also creative use of DC Universe cannon such as the barbarian race Hawk Man came from.
It's sad to see such shows go supposedly just because it was hard to market. The movie tarnished the franchise, but the show could have arguably rejuvenated it given the opportunity. It's sad to see promising shows not be given a chance. Sure, buying a Green Lantern action figure may be the last thing on a person's mind in a comic book store, but I believe the show would stand the test of time, it's too bad we won't be able to tell.
When I was around ten years old, we didn't have a gaming computer. Sim City 2000 came out and it was all the rage. We did, however, have the original Sim City, so we installed it on our computer and I got lost for hours. Jump ahead almost twenty years, and Maxis' hasn't lost their touch and their formula hooks its claws right back into me.
Sim City is flawed. The elephant in the room has been its understandable but heavily flawed always online DRM. Certain things break, saving doesn't always work right, there is quite an extensive list. However, this doesn't stop Sim City from being an enjoyable and challenging strategic city builder.
This is one game where it's obvious Maxis wants you to learn most things on your own. Notices of new buildings available pop up and guiding yourself through the menus and trying to figure out what is where is part of the fun. A brief tutorial gives you a lesson in the basics, but they leave the rest up to you.
The game also oozes charm. The smile inducing language of The Sims return as does their currency. The animation is a good mix of real world mechanics and tongue in cheek cartoonish animations. You see buildings in residential, commercial and industrial zones be gradually built while placed buildings land with a satisfying and smile inducing crunch. The music is very calming, making it very hard to gamer-rage when you realize you messed something up.
Sometimes things do mess up on their own. Traffic jams up in certain areas for no apparent reason, sometimes you can't update a certain building or you can't tell how much water/ power/ sewage your city is processing. It often requires exiting out to the main menu to temporarily fix the issue, but hopefully this is something that will be fixed for good. There's also the police criminal chases that remind me of watching something out of Benny Hill as the police icons go in a totally separate direction from the criminal icons.
This hasn't stopped me from putting roughly 70 hours into the game. Abandoning a region and starting another one is easy and runs smoothly. Choosing a region and which city to claim in a region is all part of the strategy. Finite space in each city means more space management than in past games is required. This also plays into the point of the region and the inclusion of multi player into the series.
I haven't experienced multi player, but have had fun building my own private regions and seeing how well (they do alright) the cities communicate. You can send money from a rich city to an up and coming city, send them power, water, sewage use, etc. Overall the simulation Maxis has set up is impressive.
Sim City is somewhat of a wallflower game. There are a lot of reasons to be turned off by all of the flaws, but the deep simulation and city building aspects make this a sexy ass game for me. Warts and all, Sim City is a triumph in my eyes and epitomizes the immersive experience.
I just thought up an important gaming question that will shake the foundation! Okay, maybe it won't shake it, but people will notice, kinda like when someone's chair squeaks. Is the stereotypical video game bad-ass a thing of the past?
Thinking about more, well, relatively recent releases, namely Far Cry 3 and Tomb Raider, some of the issues people have had is that the main characters both act like they're Rambo as soon as there's a gun in their hands. Another complaint, pertaining to the Devil May Cry reboot, came in the form of Dante's makeover, receiving a lot of skepticism and even more angry words of vile hatred.
Perhaps what the audience craves now are deeper characters. Tomb Raider, aside from Lara Croft's apparent instinct to know how to slaughter people with a bow and gun, received high marks for making Lara Croft more relatable than her gymnastic, older self. One review even praised DmC (Devil May Cry) for its deep story and new perspective on Dante's past.
One of the biggest cries when developer-hell damned Duke Nukem Forever (oh yeah, I'm going there) came out was that Duke himself was overly obnoxious. Making crude jokes, peeing in urinals and punching aliens in the lower region were so '90's and out of place in today's culturally superior games. Read with implied sarcasm as you wish.
Maybe I'm a bit of a fish out of water here. I grew up with games like Doom and Duke Nukem 3D and Mortal Kombat. All were big games with bad-ass characters doing often doing horrible things to other bad-ass characters and it was awesome! Maybe people have moved. I feel like in a lot of ways, I've moved on.
Characters like Nathan Drake, Master Chief and Commander Shepherd have taken important roles in this current gen of gaming. All of them seem competent, skilled with a gun and mildly bad-ass. Each also has a detrimental flaw that plays a larger part in their tales: they are mortal. This adds layers to things games like Duke Nukem 3D and Doom didn't really touch on (though you can die a lot in Doom). Time is of the essence and the best offense is a good defense. Each character has their strengths and weaknesses, making them more flawed super heroes. Also, Commander Shepherd seems to get more action than Duke ever did (Hay-ooo!).
There are still games that bring the more flat bad ass to the forefront, like the characters of Borderlands. These games are typically parodies (read: tributes) to these games of ol' or they're just not well received.
I think it's our change in culture. There are more people than ever that want to see the medium grow and become better recognized and respected. It's hard to do that when demonstrably shallow characters like Duke are at the forefront. Also, our tastes have changed. We still want violence and sex, we just want it to contextually make sense and sometimes even be deep and meaningful (this isn't a planned blog).
In the end, I think the bad ass will live on. The heroes of ol' need a good ol' rebooting and even makeovers (cough, cough, Dante). Gaming is all about having fun and forgetting the world around you, much like reading a good book or watching a good movie. Having more believable characters who still do extraordinary things is still bad ass, it's just a new kind of bad ass.
Note: I am currently going through rage that the servers are down on Day 2, so I'm writing this first impressions based on earlier observations
If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. No, I'm not talking about the infuriating server issues, which I've had little issues with until day two of the game. I'm talking about building cities to have them, somewhat literally, burn, collapse and sink into the swamp. Sim City has a steep learning curve, but that's part of what's lured me in hook, line and sinker.
After putting in 4-5 hours of game play, which may be a liberal under-exaggeration, I'm convinced that the next city and region will be better! Though it may be sad that my last city was less successful than my first one, I have the perseverance to try and carry on. Watching vids helps out too.
The concept is simple in theory: try and build a city and try not to eff it up. After building that first road and setting up your Town Hall, though, things become quite a bit more complicated. It has that in common with the original Sim City, which was the last one I played.
When it works, this game oozes charm. The visuals are a good mix of cartoonish and realistic animations. Light instrumental music is nice to listen to and keeps me calm when times are tense, juggling the different aspects of making people happy and building a healthy economy and community. The emphasis on roads, smaller cities, and an overall region are interesting changes and add some more strategic elements to the formula many people love. Also all of the residents (and you) spend simoleans and speak in sim speak, I mean, if that's not just adorable I don't know what is.
I had a blast playing it for hours, trying to keep my city duct taped together as it economically collapsed. The simulation is impressive as well, with the buildings being constructed and there being heavier traffic at rush hour. It adds a nice touch to an already impressive game.
Sure, the DRM issue will be worked out, but the multi player aspects sound impressive, if not a bit too much like actual work. So far, my experience in multi player is making a public region then people come in and claim the other two so I can't claim them. Awesome, right?
So, for now, I continue the struggle of building a city that doesn't burn and fall into the swamp. I played it for one good night, but that was enough for it to stick in my mind and make me want more. Try, try, again.
I never got the whole people jumping and shooting when they suspect someone has a bead on them. It has a Duck-Hunt, look at me! aspect to it. It's a big target, staying big as it jumps, not so high or far, in the air to try and escape from the pursuers sights. It's definitely less effective, and impressive, than the people who have the freakish and infuriating skill to duck and lay down completely at the smallest sense of being targeted, to pull off a head shot.
Cementing itself in my small menagerie of guilty-pleasures, Black Ops 2 is a game that enrages me, brings me to laughter and allows me to sometimes have an inflated ego (a rare thing, indeed). Though I don't really play with a party or go on mic, I talk trash like a pro. I curse indignantly when someone who obviously should have died when I shot them in the head ends up killing me, or, worse, when someone kills me over and over again by every way except hanging upside down from ceiling rafters (which I'm sure is coming in next gen CoD). I also let myself throw fits and even go into the rackafrackinriskarackin of good ol' Yosemite. Let me tell you, though, nothing in the game feels more satisfying when you finally draw that bead and shoot that one **** in the face.
I'm sure most people don't play 24-7 and switch between having good games and **** As someone who's a run-n-gunner, I expect to have a relatively high death rate. I don't always play smart, I do often run through open spaces and sometimes have derpy aim. For all of that, though, I do end up in the top-three quite a bit.
For some reason, when I decided to start playing CoD again, I've become obsessed with my K/D. With an eye twitch, I check my ratio after every bad game, spazzing if I'd fall another hundredth of a percent. It's no jumping and shooting, but I'm sure that CoD brings out a side of me that I'd prefer others not witness. Oh, and campers suck...