Water and video games. Not usually the best combination. While the vast majority of video games take place on land, in the sky, or space; water in video games is a lot more tightly controlled in its use. The way it is used seems to often break up the monotony of the stages typically seen, water almost always introduces the aspect of changed physics and movement. The two most used examples of this are swimming, and high, almost floaty jumps. For examples of these two types of movement, I am going to use two games, Super Mario Bros and Castlevania: Symphony of the NIght, then I am going to talk about what is my favorite underwater level. Continue Reading
I love video games. Ever since I was a kid, and I first got the hang of Super Mario Bros on the NES, I was hooked on video games. I was a much different person back then; I was athletic, played a ton of sports, and was very outgoing, on top of me playing Mario, Captain Skyhawk, Kirby and other titles that make up some of my fondest childhood memories. I memorized all the puzzles in Concentration, so I could actually guess the puzzle often by just taking away two tiles.
As I got older though, I changed a lot. My teenage years saw me playing more and more games, especially once I got a job, and my own income. Then I was able to purchase titles myself. I started hanging out with more people who also liked games like I did; more than the curiosity most saw them with back then, more than a child’s toy my parents, and no doubt countless other parents saw them as. We saw games as a passion, as something, even as we entered a sort of proto-adulthood, started worrying about college, dating, starting to drive, we came back to games.
I watched my friends, twins play Final Fantasy V long before it came to America. They had this translation guide, it was this fucking huge binder, that they would use to get what was going on, and what the menus meant. I got emotional when Aerith died in Final Fantasy VII, I sweat bullets while getting the hell out of Raccoon City in Resident Evil 2. Back then, games were just games, as much as my passion for them kept going. I never thought to do anything more with them, not hold them up as art, not design any, nor write about them, at least in a way for others to read.
College came and went, and I realized I would rather be in my dorm, playing Suikoden V then going to class, so often that’s what I did. I ended up limping through my degree, with a Bachelor’s in History that I didn’t even want to use anymore. Suikoden V may have contributed to that.
Now let’s fast forward to more recent times. I still play video games. I have since started writing on this blog, and blogs before, trying to get people to see and for some reason take in the idiotic words I write. For as much as I loved video games, and loved to write about video games, I had never taken the whole culture of video game journalism as seriously as I should have.
I read a few sites, followed a bunch of comics, but never actively searched out more. I always should have, but I was always lazy, with this thing I supposedly loved, pretty much par for the course with me. I only stuck to a few sites I knew, and sometimes new ones would catch my attention and I would read those.
Well it’s taken 500 words, but let’s get to something resembling the point. I only started reading Giant Bomb recently. Maybe a year ago, maybe less. Pretty much the second I read their writing and listened to the podcast, I was immediately full of regret for not doing this earlier. Not getting in on the ground floor. Of course I knew Jeff Gerstmann got fired from Gamespot, everyone who liked games knew that.
What I regret is missing out on some of the most honest, not-caring about outside factors games journalism out there. That crew would never be afraid to say a high-profile game sucks, nor were they afraid to make friends in the industry, getting tight to a point where other journalism outlets would be uncomfortable. But at the heart of it all is that amazing group of people who write words and talk, and put up videos for the great site. Giant Bomb, since the inception has seemed to have incredibly little turnover. No one has really left, even those who moved away like Alex Navarro and Patrick Klepick still work for Giant Bomb, they simply alter their normal work-life accordingly.
Ryan Davis however, was there since the start. I have gone back to the archive of Giant Bomb, listened to the old Arrow Pointing Down podcasts, and when the name Bombcast was first coined. He was this energy drink-swilling guy who despite leaving a company in protest for the shitty treatment of one of their employees, still obviously loved his field, his job and what he reported on.
I never had the pleasure of meeting him personally, only seeing him in person at the PAX East 2013 Giant Bomb panel. But it was obvious from hearing his constant enthusiasm, his common-place laughter, and seeing what he brought to the site that he was a man, who despite seeing the worst his field had to offer, loved his job, and loved video games. That is the part that gets me. All too often, I find myself getting burned out, even in this amateur space, thinking I have to play something, or I should be doing this or that.
Ryan was a professional who it seems lived the maxim, “If you love what you do, you never work a day in your life.” No matter how tiring or hectic things got, he participated in content, kept everyone focused, and helped ensure a great time was had by all, both people participating in whatever was happening, and people viewing/listening to it. His death, at the incredibly young age of 34 is truly a shocking blow to a field of journalism I have come to love very dearly, and this field as a whole will never fully recover from losing such a great contributor. All the more saddening, even more than his age, is the fact Ryan was recently married, mere days before his death. I cannot imagine the hurt his new wife feels at his passing, nor the rest of his family. All I can do though, as someone who writes about video games in this very amateur sense, is try to take some lessons from the type of person Ryan Davis was when it came to his work.
We never know when we are going to go. Our time on this planet, this great, beautiful, scary, hectic and wonderful place where our family and friends reside is very limited. For some, much more limited than others. However, in the time we have, we truly owe it to ourselves to do what it is we want to do, whatever it may be. For the people reading this, the vast majority no doubt find some sort of fun, love and/or comfort in playing video games. Others, like me, playing and writing about them, or shooting video, whatever. However, and others may have this problem; I am lazy, and get down on myself, and get burnt out on what I think I should be doing. I don’t want to do that anymore. Even if I am not a professional like Ryan was, I still want to be able to exhibit joy in what I do, in what I plan on doing, and be constantly proud of what comes of that desire. Ryan has been there with Jeff on Giant Bomb since the start, and I hope that everything that led him to his final moments, he was able to be proud of. A recently married man, who was able to make his living by actually doing something he loved, with great people all around him. That is a life to truly aspire to, and while he was taken from this Earth way too early, I hope we can all take a lesson from a guy who drank anonymous breast milk for two hundred dollars on a stage in Boston.
I have no idea why I have been waiting so long to talk about PAX in Boston. Hell, that was almost a month ago. It was a fun time, to sum it up quickly. Tiring though, really tiring. The odd thing about this whole event was that I did not check out a lot of games coming out. I saw the people playing Ducktales and it looked like the NES game I was fond of as a child, but with smoother graphics. In retrospect, I wish I tried it, but the line was too long. After seeing that, I was wondering what sorcery had to happen for this game to come together. This is a game, originally from a time when American licenses were given to Japanese developers, in this case Capcom, because at the time that’s all there was for consoles. It had no voice acting, great music, and a core-mechanic that never appeared in the cartoon show as far as I remember. I don’t think ever Scrooge McDuck was hopping around on a pogo-cane; as really…he needed a cane. Pogo-ing would be impractical at best, dangerous at worst. Continue Reading
Lying around mostly. Playing games. Playing way too much Persona 4 Golden. Though really there is never too much Persona 4. I know I did a review of it, where I gave it a glowing recommendation, but really after playing through it again, I can only say better things about it. It is the best RPG ever created, Japanese or Western. The great characters, story, music, battle system; it all comes together to create something truly special. It’s definitely a slow-burn going in, but totally worth it. So much so that when I decided I was finally done with the game, I immediately hopped on my PSN account and bought Persona 3: Portable for the PSP. Bought it digitally mind you, so I could play it on my Vita. While I love my PSP and have a ton of games for it, the Vita has such a lovely screen, and feels just the right size in my hands. Continue Reading
Before I begin, I know. It has been a while since I have updated this blog. I have excuses. Just know that. I have them. It’s really just that I have had a hard time getting out of bed lately, let alone do anything productive. Really what it was is that I hit the doldrums part of unemployment, where things in general seem hard to do. However! It seems I have come out the other side and am ready to get back to writing. While I have been sitting around, staring at the ceiling, I have been thinking a lot about review scores from video game outlets. I read a few sites regularly, with what seems to be very different review philosophies. They also follow different scales, which represent different things. Some are on a 1-10 scale, some on a 1-5, some even have a yay or nay system.
It’s not odd to me differing outlets have different scales. This has been the norm for the longest time in a variety of places. Movies, TV, music; they have always had their varying systems. What is weird to me is how several places could use the same numbers in a scale, but those numbers mean something different to each outlet. Some places, a middle of the road game will score a seven out of ten, where others a middle of the road game will be a five out of ten. In the former case, where middle of the road games get sevens, it seems to take a truly horrible game for this outlet to dip into those low numbers. This does often lead to a higher sense of impact for those outlets when it comes to bad games, as those lower numbers are seen so rarely. However, this quagmire happens for the larger scales that actively use less numbers; as what really is the difference between a 7/10 and an 8/10? It’s hard to figure out as the lower numbers have less meaning. However, that other publication that will use more of the full 1-10 scale will seem harsher by comparison, but each individual digit means something more obvious. The difference between the 5/10 and an 8/10 sends a clear message about the quality of the game. However it seems to a large degree you run into a similar problem with the other type of 10 point scale as the difference between a 7/10 and an 8/10 is really murky. Both mean “good” in that case, but really what is the difference. It gets even worse as you get to the half-point issues. 7.5/10 and 8/10…what is the difference? These thoughts have been bothering me lately, and it not only affects how I read certain publications, but how I approach the idea of my own game reviews.
I recently started to assign scores to games when I actually get around to doing reviews. I adopted a 10 point scale in which I was dedicated to using the entire scale. Although I do believe stuck with that idea, I really do think maybe moving to a 5 point system would be a lot better. While the difference between a 7/10 and an 8/10 is not that large, a 3/5 and a 4/5 speaks volumes. At least to me, especially if you stick with using the whole scale. While I think I am going to do this for me, I still find myself wondering why different places do things so differently. This has led me to thinking about Metacritic, as really this is where all the scores go to die. However, my issues with Metacritic is probably the subject of a different blog. However, probably not too soon as I really struggled with writing this one. It is a lot of thought I have had on the subject, and it is a complex issue that really sits at the heart of how people write about video games.
Nintendo ate their Wheaties this morning. I am not usually one to love Nintendo, and the patronizing choices they make concerning their core fanbase. However, it seems Nintendo may indeed be taking a different road with their fans in the Wii U generation and give them games they want to play, and not Carnival Games 47: Carnie Harder. Rated E for Everyone! After letting way too many of the games that were supposed to be in the Wii U’s massive “Launch Window” slip, the house that Mario built held a Nintendo Direct today. Nintendo Direct, for those of you who don’t know, is a press conference in which we usually hear Nintendo President Iwata wax poetic about how Grandma is loving her new Wii Sports 2: Electric Boogaloo video game disc. He then will make one or two announcements, which will garner some attention and then promptly disappoint.
Today appears to be a new day for Nintendo. Today’s Nintendo Direct was so packed full of video games that it was unreal. Nintendo was going through a checklist of their best and brightest, and even confirming that whatever was not announced today that people care about, will be spoken about at E3. Is this the same company that released no games on their newest handheld for so long that they actually had to apologize and give the early adopters a load of free old games? It’s the same name of that company, but they couldn’t be acting any differently. Today’s presentation was confident and I think it is genuinely a positive turn for Nintendo. With the games from the launch window eventually coming around before E3, and the stuff that was announced today, we may be able to get excited for this company again. Let’s go over some of my personal highlights of what was announced.
The Wii U Virtual Console: It appears this will only be having NES, SNES and eventually GBA games on it to start. However, because of the promise that these games will be able to be played entirely on the Game Pad, I am totally fine with that. The N64, and Gamecube both had really odd controllers that may not compare favorably to the more standard button layout on the Game Pad. Also, if you own any of the games on your Wii VC that you are downloading to the new Wii U service, it receives a heavy discount. I find it unfortunate it is not free, but I get that a lot of tech probably had to go into making these games Game Pad accessable. On top of this, to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the NES, Nintendo will be making certain classic games available for a month. The first is Balloon Fight, it’s available now, and it’s 30 cents. I have no idea if the other games on the list will be too, but Super Metroid is on that list. If you can get that game for 30 cents, thank Nintendo.
New Trailer for The Wonderful 101: This Pikmin/Viewtiful Joe-ish type game looks really good. The trailer shows off some great mechanics involving the Game Pad, and the game itself just looks really polished. This game seems like it may be one of the main reasons to own this system. Just watch the trailer.
New Yoshi game made by the people who brought us Kirby’s Epic Yarn: This game looks cute as hell. There’s not much in the way of details right now, so we’ll leave it at that.
Shin Megami Tensei X Fire Emblem: What the hell? This is probably one of the weirdest things I have heard of in games for a while. We have no gameplay details yet for this odd cross-over game, nor do we even know what kind of game it is going to be. My guess is a Tactics RPG; it seems to be the best fit for the companies. I just recently fell in love with Shin Megami Tensei thanks to Persona 4, and I have liked Fire Emblem for a long time now. This game has great potential.
New game by Monolith Soft: This looks like it has the same art direction as Xenoblade, only in HD. However the gameplay looks like Monster Hunter with mechs that turn into motorcycles. With how well Xenoblade was (finally) received in the west, I don’t think Nintendo is going to hesitate localizing this title for Western audiences. The most interesting part of this video; at least to me, comes at the very end. That red X. It looks very similar to the X featured on one of my favorite games of all time: Xenogears. If this is meant to hint at the idea that this could in some way tie in to the events of the PS1 classic, I will be overjoyed.
The Legend of Zelda Wind Waker being remade in HD- This is big news. It was announced that a new Zelda was being made, that is trying to shake up the conventions of Zelda, but it is taking longer than originally planned. However, in the meantime, Wii U owners will be getting the pretty Zelda: Wind Waker with an HD coat of paint. Now, after seeing screens, this is not a simple port. It seems Nintendo is redoing the graphics, top to bottom to give an experience that will feel new.
Now on top of the stuff described above, which is honestly a lot, there is more. Bayonetta 2 trailer, Lego City: Undercover trailer. Also we will be getting information at E3 about the next Wii U Mario game, and the next Mario Kart game. What makes me really happy about all of this is the amount of quality third party content. Nintendo has always delivered on their own titles, at least when they make them, but the love from other companies was not there so much for the past decade. However this seems to be changing, at least in the short term. Add this on top of the new Pokemon X and Y announcement made recently it honestly it seems Nintendo is realizing they were a giant in video game content generation for decades, and there is absolutely no reason they cannot be again.
Now note: I don’t typically use this blog to talk about things outside of my gaming knowledge. I hate getting personal online, especially transmitting it out there to whoever, but what I want to talk about actually affects this blog, my goals for it, and what I plan on doing going forward. This isn’t one of those things where an author promises something then cannot deliver due to laziness. This is more me kind of opening my eyes to what I have to do to make myself a better writer, maybe one day make this more than a hobby. I know that it’s a tough road that I have to walk in order to make any want of this site being good a reality. Or the possibility of me moving on, writing for some sort of publication someday; be it online or print, maybe both.
The year 2012 was not a good one for me. It started bright, with a new relationship that quickly showed itself to be less than awesome. That was then coupled with a job situation that unfortunately did not work out at the end of the year. It was a stressful year; it was one where I found myself sick a lot, happy very little of the time, and doing nothing to better myself as a person. As a result, the writing fell off, my passion died. I played some video games that I didn’t write about, played too much WoW while not getting anything accomplished.
I don’t want that for this new year. I do not normally indulge in making resolutions, as it seems odd one makes these promises that it seems okay not to keep. However, this year I made a few. Most of them normal, lose weight, get healthier, etc. But one did not go up where my normal friends will see it, mostly because they do not all play video games. This year I want to be able to improve my writing. To what degree? I really have no idea, but I know I want this space, or any space I plan on writing on a regular basis to be more than just a passing fancy.
As such I need to become something approaching a professional about my writing. How does this get done? First write like a pro, no more cursing in my reviews and articles. Cursing often packs a punch in writing; but at the same time it feels like a cheap cop-out. Also I need to write more, as in every day. Even if I am not writing for this site, writing is something that requires practice to maintain and excel in. So really it’s all about being more regular in content generation, which if I am writing more will be a natural offshoot.
I also want to play more video games. More, and get myself playing games of genres I normally wouldn’t play. Maybe buy a racing game, there seem to be great ones out there. Hell, I don’t normally play games like Trials, but I downloaded the new one this year and completely loved it. As a by-product of this want to play more games, I need to quit World of Warcraft. For good. Erase my credit card history from Blizzard’s mind and leave those characters to rot. It’s been a great run for me, but has been petering out for a long time now. I think I keep coming back to it because it’s there, familiar and so easy to jump into. However it is an enormous time sink without end. It has kept me from playing countless other games, probably keeping me from new, more fun experiences. Right after this article goes live, I am canceling my account and I hope to whatever is out there that I never re-activate it.
Those are my blog resolutions for 2013. Writing resolutions really. This place matters to me, and I need to show it more love. I want people to see my writing, enjoy it and talk about it with me. As I said before, it is time I take what has been a fancy and turn it into real passion. I love doing this and 2013 needs to showcase that. Now time to go cancel my WoW account. Oh also, expect some reviews soon for that Vita I got for Xmas. I honestly love the thing.