Monthly Archives: April 2013

Beyond the Playstation 4

Last February, Sony revealed their entry into the eighth generation of video game consoles: the Playstation 4. A lot of bloggers, critics and gamers have sounded off their opinions and the consensus among the internet is that the PS4 will be an impressively powerful machine with controversial integration into social media. The social media features are intended to be well-integrated into the console, right down to a share button on the controller to provide direct access. Sony is clearly trying to make gaming a more social activity and use social media to market their product. It’s a strategy very fitting of the 21st century. That’s great if you’re trying to sell a company to shareholders but that doesn’t mean it’s good for selling a new console to customers. It’s too early to say if these features will succeed or fail. Social media may become to the Playstation 4 what motion control was to the Playstation 3, an afterthought that most developers eventually ignore. Sony’s previous social media experiment was Playstation Home, and that’s not exactly a promising track record.

Wow Sony, it only took you sixteen damn years to fix those thumbsticks.

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The Ups and Downs of Linearity

There’s an ongoing trend in video games, a desire to make them more like movies. Several franchises like Uncharted and Call of Duty make boasts of being “cinematic.” Games like these are trying to be like movies with each passing installment. Video games are not movies however and games that are “cinematic” are really games that tend to play themselves. It’s the absolute extreme of linearity in video games. A linear game goes from Point A to Point B on a fixed, unchanging path; this design choice has its pros and cons. Not every game can be “open-world”, a game in which player can walk in any direction and find something to do. The entire selling point of the medium, as entertainment and as an art form is that the experience is different for each person who picks up a controller. This extreme form of linearity goes against the interactivity of video games, which is what makes them so great. It’s even worse that these kinds of games are very successful both commercially and financially. Linearity isn’t killing the industry by any means, but it’s certainly weakening it.

Meet Nathan Drake: archaeologist, tomb raider, adventurer, mass murderer, and now a skyjacker.

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Degrees of Difficulty

One of the more important and unique aspects in the medium of video games is adjustable difficulty. It allows video games to be more accessible which translates into more money for people who make games. As games have become more accessible (aka more mainstream) the overall challenge of your average game is lower than it was ten years ago. The reasons for this are many, mainly being that the games that make the most money are developed and marketed towards a wider audience. This means that the target audience is less familiar with the product and the game ends up being easier to win as a result. There was something valuable in games that would let the player discover things for themselves, but this is practically non-existent today. Most mainstream games like Assassin’s Creed or Call of Duty hold the player’s hand throughout the game. This is where the value of adjustable difficulty becomes evident. It allows games to meet a middle ground between accessibility and challenge. A lot of successful franchises would not be what they are today if weren’t for adjustable difficulty.

For those who got this cutscene in Halo, I salute you!

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EA is not evil, just incompetent.

Electronic Arts is probably the most scrutinized company in all of entertainment. As I previously mentioned EA isn’t doing so well right now. For a long time, EA has been reviled and vilified as an evil corporate empire. The more ridiculous claims are that EA has plans to take over the world (of course!). These claims are a little extreme, but there is some logic to these opinions. That being said, I don’t think it makes sense to call EA an evil company. They are not by any means, the only people in the industry concerned primarily with money. EA is not evil, they are just misguided and out of touch.

Much of the hatred of EA comes from the perception that their only goal is to make money regardless of how customers feel. This is based on the fact that not a whole lot of creative content is made by EA. Whether it’s the annual sports games like Madden of Fifa, or sequels to established franchises, most of the gaming world agrees that EA only cares about turning a profit. While it’s true that the most creative video games over the past few years have come from publishers other than EA, this isn’t enough to suggest that they’re evil. It isn’t even enough to suggest that EA only wants money. There are plenty of other reasons for people to hate EA however, and these reasons are much more legitimate.

Internet experts believe this to be the mark of Satan.

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