Monthly Archives: January 2013

Violence & Video Games

All throughout the month of February I’m going to examine specific aspects of video games as a medium. (Yes, I know it’s not February yet, shoot me.) This week I’m going to talk about how video games portray violence. First let me address what everyone thinks about when they see ‘Violence” and “Video Games’ in the same sentence. Video games do not cause violent behavior; there is no scientific evidence that supports otherwise despite what a certain US Senator may think. And let me be clear that when I say violence, I mean violent crimes: murder, assault, arson, etc. Now that that’s out-of-the-way let’s begin.

The overwhelming majority of video games feature violence, at least in some capacity; some games are far worse offenders than others. Games like God of War, Gears of War, and any military shooter (I’m looking at you Call of Duty) market violence as a selling point of the product, whether it’s through the context of the military or just wanting to see blood and gore. I don’t think I need to go into detail about why video games are so violent…but I will anyways. Violence is fun when you know it’s not real. Whether it’s beating up bad guys in Batman: Arkham City, killing zombies in Left 4 Dead, or slaying dragons in Skyrim, violence is a release. There’s nothing wrong about any of the three games I just mentioned, the problem is the unbalanced portrayal of violence in video games, which is far worse than any other medium.

Nothing says anger management like ripping off a guy’s head with your bare hands.

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Reboots, Remakes and Remasters

In light of the news of Nintendo making a Wii U remake of the Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, today I will be discussing a recent trend in the industry, that being the High-Definition Remake. This trend caught fire last year with several remakes and reboots being released in 2012. This trend has never been more popular in the industry.  My question is simple, is this trend good or bad for the industry?

First, a bit of history, after all the remastered collection of older games is nothing new. Nintendo was doing it 20 years ago. Hell, even Sega made a Sonic CD game, but this wasn’t something that happened often. Jump forward to 2003, Square Enix (Squaresoft at the time) remasters the first two Final Fantasy games. Once again, this was an occasional thing but still nowhere near as frequent as they are now.  We did get an interesting precursor to this trend in 2007, with Valve’s The Orange Box.  Unprecedented at the time, it released five games for the price of one. It sold very well, and is partly responsible for the current trend.

It was in 2009 that this trend began. At the time, Sony Santa Monica was busy developing God of War 3; they had opened a thread on their website asking fans for suggestions for a “Collectors Edition.” Numerous requests were made for a PS3 port of the first two God of War games to be part of the collection. Instead a separate game would be released. Bluepoint Games were hired to remaster God of War & God of War 2, they released it as the God of War collection thus beginning the trend of HD remakes. Bluepoint games went on the make several other remasters, like the Shadow of C0lossus/ICO collection & Metal Gear Solid HD Collection. This trend however, extends beyond simple remasters; entire games have been remade, either graphically or from scratch. Not to mention the reboots.

Bluepoint Games’ cover artist must have been away that day, it’s two covers for the price of one!

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The Trouble with Gaming Forums

Earlier this month David Gaider made a post on his blog about the increasingly toxic environment of the Bioware Social Forums. (Gaider is the lead writer for Bioware’s Dragon Age franchise) Bioware is no stranger to fan toxicity, last March they released the sci-fi blockbuster Mass Effect 3. It featured a controversial ending that quickly turned into a publicity nightmare for Bioware. The fan reaction was so bad that a few months later Bioware released an Extended Cut patch to rectify their mistake. In case you’re wondering, just over 10 months later, fans are still complaining about the ending (though to a lesser extent than before). But I’m not here to talk about Mass Effect 3 or it’s ending (that topic will come later). Partly in response to Gaider, I want to address the ongoing issue of hardcore video game fans and the overwhelming levels of unfounded negativity on internet forums.

Whenever anyone complains about rude people on the internet, the most common response is “Welcome to the Internet, that’s how it works.” This is not an acceptable excuse for people to misbehave on a video game forum. Sure, the internet can be a playground of profanity, immaturity, and prepubescent individuals calling each other ‘fags’, but this does not apply to every corner of the web. There are plenty of places on the internet where you can find well-reasoned, well written criticism. Read the rest of this entry

The Failed IP

This past week I’ve thought a lot about new games that don’t sell well, ie; the failed IP (Intellectual Property). I’m talking about the AAA games that were widely marketed, and highly anticipated that seemed destined to turn into franchises, yet failed to meet commercial and critical expectations. Brink, Mirror’s Edge, the 2008 Prince of Persia, and Alan Wake were all heavily marketed, a game that prominent before it’s even released would natrually spawn a sequel yet these games failed to leave an impression. What baffles me is how certain games get a sequel despite these traits. There’s something wrong with the industry when Kane & Lynch gets a sequel, yet Mirror’s Edge doesn’t.

One of the biggest causes of this trend are gamers themselves. Let’s face it, most people who play video games have very specific tastes, some games get around this by adding elements from other genres but this doesn’t work for every game. (Mass Effect and Dead Rising pulled it off but could a cover system in a game like Skyrim?) Some games simply don’t have the genre appeal that others do. Let’s take Mirror’s Edge. For those who aren’t familiar Mirror’s Edge is a stylized first-person parkour-style platformer. How does one market a game like this? It’s not a shooter, but it’s also not a platformer. This unfortunate because Mirror’s Edge is quite unique (something that I don’t say nearly enough about video games), it didn’t sell very well, and that’s not anybody’s fault. It’s not fair to ask a customer to spend $70 on a product they’re not even sure about. The problem is more than just the audience, it’s the very infrastructure of the industry itself.

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Most Anticipated Game of 2013: Tomb Raider

Well the new year has rolled around, so to start things off I’m going to discuss the game that I am looking forward to the most in 2013. I’ll admit that this is a crowded category for me. There are many games to look forward to: Bioshock: Infinite, Beyond: Two Souls and the Last of Us. All of them look amazing, but  the one game I am looking forward to the most is the upcoming Tomb Raider reboot. It barely beats out The Last of Us (which I think is a potential Game-of-the-Year). I’m not anticipating Tomb Raider solely based on its potential quality, the deciding factor is that the success of Tomb Raider is more important for the video games industry than the success of other games. It will show how the industry has or hasn’t changed, depending on its quality. While I would always prefer a new game to sequel or a reboot, Tomb Raider will provide an opportunity to look back on the last two decades and show how much the industry has grown and hopefully, how it will continue to grow.

Lara Croft is perhaps the most iconic and recognizable female character in video game history. She was a female protagonist in an era when lead characters were exclusively men. Mostly due to her famous pair of assets, Lara was the first video game character to reach the status of a sex symbol. It’s easy to scoff at this but it represents an shift in how people see video game characters. By becoming a sex symbol, Lara Croft raised herself above a mere assortment of pixels and into something that closer to an real person. It was obvious pandering, but the fact that it worked was important for video games. Lara’s popularity kept growing. In 2001, a film adaptation was made starring Angelina Jolie and while it wasn’t horrible it does share the dubious honor along with Resident Evil, of starting a trend video-game-movies. Despite this, Lara Croft is a significant figure in the history of the industry.

Lara in Tomb Raider: Legend, seven years before she discovered pants.

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