Thursday, February 5, 2009

Teh Hardcorez

Now, as many of you may know, I am an avid video game player. I look forward to new games, I read about how to be better in my video games, and I also appreciate the new technologies that go into new games. I suggest games to other people and for the parents at my office, I am their source for knowing what to get their kids. So, while avoiding doing anything resembling work while at work, I came across an interesting article over at IGN. Now, IGN is not exactly a purveyor of stunning literature, but it can be interesting, if for no other reason than sparking debate. But, go ahead and read it yourselves.

Now, I'm thinking we should just take them in order, hm?

10. Japanese voice acting: This one may actually be a little bit true, but not for the reasons IGN asserts. The thing is, a lot of Japanese games feature children or young teenagers who can charitably be described as having ADHD. So, when games get localized to a western market they tend to get people who have higher voices and can talk super fast. This is annoying. Also, Japanese games are notorious for poor localization. So, combine the two, and you've got bad English voice acting. The Japanese voice acting may be better, but the bar is rather low and, to be honest, they all sound alike.

9. World of Warcraft Pity: I can't speak too much to this one because I don't play games like WoW. I'm afraid I'd never see my credit card again. A fairly legitimate concern. What I will say though is a more experienced player helping a less experienced one is a common occurrence in video games. Most of the time, we are not playing against each other. Many of us also realize that for us to have more fun in our games, we should help others to be better to better challenge ourselves and our own experiences. But, it can turn obnoxious and patronizing, which is where the pity comes in. People who do that only serve to hurt video gaming as a hobby because they serve as a barrier to new players. New players get talked to like they are 5 years old, they get frustrated, they give up, and they then proceed to denigrate the hobby to others. This is bad and if you are going to show pity just so you can prove your hardcore credentials, you are actually hurting your own hobby. Nice job, ass.

8. The Secret Genius of Super Mario Bros. 2: If you seriously find yourself arguing this, then you're a bigger jackass than I thought possible. Everybody knows Sega was better anyway.

7. Final Fantasy VII is Overrated: Absolutely true. Final Fantasy VII is about as overrated as a game can be, but the reason why everybody loved it is because for many people it became their first experience with more mature games that featured complex storylines and more complex gameplay. Squaresoft did make the game more accessible to a broader audience, and by doing so created a legion of people who will rabidly defend the game for all time. This happens quite a bit in games and causes people who think of themselves as hardcore gamers to feel abandoned or betrayed because the game they loved changed so much that it removed the challenge or the feel of the games we originally liked. This fosters backlash from the gaming community and actually causes developers to lose their own legitimacy. For the record, FF7 was the first Final Fantasy game I played.

6. Saturn vs. Playstation: Honestly, I couldn't care less about this one. I didn't own a Saturn. I will say though that all platforms are inferior to the PC.

5. The Grand Theft Auto III Aftermath: They say that imitation is the highest form of flattery. If you liked GTA3 (and a lot of you did) then its aftermath isn't that bad. If you thought it was an interesting game but not the be all - end all of gaming, then yes, GTA3 destroyed gaming. Certain games come to define their genres and break them in such a way that everybody tries to be like them. This is actually more common than one might think. We recently looked at FF7, and for many gamers, the aftermath of FF7 was just as destructive as the aftermath of GTA3. For many other people, Halo became the game that broke first person shooters and even today Halo clones are everywhere on every console. World of Warcraft broke the massively multiplayer online RPG and almost singlehandedly murdered the entire genre. GTA3 was a genre-defining game. Some would even argue it invented a new genre entirely and nowadays every game has to have an "open world" format as developers of entirely different genres try to shoehorn the one innovative piece of GTA3 into every game out there.

4. Shmups are Real Shooters: Who cares? But this actually leads into a bigger point that I'll deal with soon.

3. Japanese RPG's vs. Western RPG's: Ah yes, this one is my favorite. I love RPG's. Love them. And I used to love JRPG's. But then something happened. I played a western RPG and knew WHAT THE FUCK WAS GOING ON! If you play video games, you've probably played games like Onimusha, Devil May Cry, Metal Gear Solid, and other big name brands that carry a lot of weight. But you know what they all have in common? Their stories are completely fucking incomprehensible. Another problem with JRPG's is they all feature teenagers trying to save the world for some reason. Now, I've read that the Japanese developers feel that teenagers are a symbolic choice because the life of a teen and their maturation also represents the maturation of the hero in the story. Some of them are even frustrated with that mechanic but feel they are trapped in it because that's what Japanese gamers expect. My response? Fuck. That. Shit. Now, the IGN post claims that by removing choice, JRPGs are a more pure experience. But, my problem with this contention is that the stories are so bad or so poorly told that why would you want to make it more pure? Plus, this concept leaves out the notion that the ultimate ending point of a western RPG is just as scripted, but by choosing our own way there, the game resonates more and leaves a more lasting experience. I mentioned in #4 that I was going to come to a larger point. Here it is: many JRPG's feature some game mechanic that requires either rote memorization or a giant spreadsheet in order to effectively use it. Memorizing firing patterns in a shooter is an example. Another example is Rikku from FF10 who could turn items in other things in the middle of combat. Some magazine published the key to this and it was literally a poster sized spread sheet that cross referenced every item in the game with every other item. I'm sorry, but if I have to consult a spread sheet in order to get the most out of a character, that is not fun. That is work. While I used to be an ardent JRPG player, and, indeed a big proponent of Japanese games in general, Western developers have caught up to and surpassed their Japanese counterparts in gameplay, story, and characterization. This may be the reason why Japanese developers are seeing their market share fall as well as their national prestige.

2. Halo's Pistol: Absolute bullshit. Halo's pistol was like a semi-automatic sniper rifle with a zoom on it that you could run around with and not lose accuracy. Everybody was good with it. If everybody is good at something then the true test of who is better is not skill, its luck. Also, since everybody started with the pistol, there was no reason to use much of anything else in the game and much of the strategy that generally goes into choosing one's weapon was lost. Balancing a game so there are no super weapons means skill becomes a very important aspect of the game. The pistol was overpowered and anybody who says otherwise is probably the guy who keeps getting shotgunned in Halo 3.

1. ...and the Wii Defense: This one could actually be true. I'm willing to give this one time. However, my issue with the argument is it assumes there are games worth playing on the Wii. Are there? Yes. Are there enough to justify my picking up the system? No. Many of the games released on the Wii are simple party games. Thats not necessarily Nintendo's fault. Nobody really knows how to make a game for the Wii that utilizes the controls in a compelling fashion. Also, a severe limitation for the Wii is its lack of processing power. Why would I want to play a game on the Wii when the same game has come out on another system and looks about a hojillion times better, has better gameplay, and also has more online capability? The Wii defense could be accurate if there were anything to defend. Maybe with the Wii 2. Or is that the Wii II?

1 comment:

Michael said...

Good to see you've resurrected the blog. I did the same with mine recently. Blogging=fun.

Anyway, IGN has the most random articles sometimes. Here they have an article on hardcore gamers and they don't even mention Steel Battalion? C'mon!

Nice dissection of and commentary on the list, though.