Kotaku, a video game new site, ran an article by Chris Person, discussing an episode by television journalist Katie Couric. The article examines how journalism can be used to steer your perceptions of an event through techniques and words. In this case it was used to create fear that video games will some how ruin children’s lives. Sadly not all journalism is going to be as blatant as this episode of Katie was.
The only real safeguard against this type of journalism is critical thinking. Is reading, watching, or listening, then thinking about if what you’ve taken in matches what you know, what you can reason out, and even if it does or doesn’t dig a little deeper into whatever its sources might be, before you internalize it as a “truth”. This requires effort. You’re not going to succeed every time. The other way is to try to find trusted sources of news and information, but make sure they earn your trust.
We life in the Information Age now and while that gives us all sorts of awesome things, it should require us to be a responsible consumer of all that information.
The author of Dresden Codak, inspired of the Video Game Tropes vs Women series, decided to design a Legend of Zelda story idea with Zelda as the primary character, and it sounds awesome.
Aaron, the creator of Dresden Codak, does a little bit more than just make a cover but also goes as far as to describe and draw the main characters (Zelda, Prince Link, and Ganndorf) and explain the mythology of Hyrule, and layout the items and magic that Zelda has access to.
I mention that this would be a game I’d love to play. It isn’t just because it is Zelda in her own game. That’s actually beside the point. It is the gameplay described in the details of the game. Weapons, magic, enemies, and the plot all sound very compelling in a two-dimensional or three-dimensional third person video game. The plot could be re-written to be a completely original set of characters for all that it matters, if the gameplay is solid.
Presented with little commentary other than “Who you going to pipe?” Okay yeah that kinda sucked but still. Awesome video.
So the MoMA, or the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, is building an exhibit that will be open in March. But what will the contents of this exhibit be? Video Games!? But Video Games Aren’t Art! Or so plenty of critics want to claim.
Except that legally, they are, according to United States Supreme Court. But some of modern culture seems to have hang-ups over the idea. Video games are not new. They’ve been around since the sixties. Yet they’re only now starting to receive mass acceptance, mostly because the adult world has grown up with them. The average age of a person who plays video games is 30 years old, according to studies done by the Entertainment Software Association.
But that isn’t the only reason. Even people under the age of thirty might question the artistic value of video games, and I’ll agree, as a whole, most video games are created with the intention of being entertainment to make the creators money. But not all. And even those video games which are created with this intention can have significant artistic merit, for which Mike Rugnetta from PBS’ Idea Channel happily provides many examples.
That is because video games are a unique type of medium. Unlike almost every type of artistic endeavor commonly accepted as art, video games have interaction. Which is what the MoMA is focusing on for their first exhibit.
Are video games art? They sure are, but they are also design, and a design approach is what we chose for this new foray into this universe. The games are selected as outstanding examples of interaction design—a field that MoMA has already explored and collected extensively, and one of the most important and oft-discussed expressions of contemporary design creativity.
The exhibit opens on in March in New York City and will feature 12 different video games from classics like Tetris, to more modern video games like Portal and flOw, and will attempt to expand to many other types of video games.
Video Games: 14 in the collection, for starters by Paola Antonelli [Museum of Modern Art]
Video Games as art [Wikipedia]
Video games can never be art by Roger Ebert [Chicago Sun Times]
Sorry MoMA, video games are not art by Jonathan Jones [The Guardian UK]
Top 5 Most Artful Video Games with Mike Rugnetta [YouTube PBS Idea Channel]
Industry Facts [Entertainment Software Association]
A discussion of the use of violence in media and how it may or may not contribute to violence in society but, more importantly, what we should do about it.
an I’m just kicking butt here with the game completion stuff huh?
So hot off the heels of finishing The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, I finish off Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception. The end came actually as a bit of a surprise. I was expecting maybe two or three more hours of game play from where I picked it back up, but I managed to finish it in about an hour and a half, even though the final areas required me to die no less than three times each.
Uncharted is the video game series that proved the PS3′s graphical superiority to just about everything save some of the best computers out there and most of those don’t have software support to rival the PS3. The first Uncharted was a fun ride with impressive graphics, decent game play, and a good sense of humor. The closest thing to an action adventure film the game industry had seen in a long time. You controlled the main hero, who’s quips were often too hilarious for me, and solved puzzles via climbing, jump, and contextual buttons interspersed with cover based firearm combat. The second game upped the scale with more impressive death-defying scenes and interactive cut scenes, similar if improved combat, and even better graphics. Whether or not the story improved is up to personal opinion and whether or not you like the main character.
The third game, on the other hand, upped a few things but not by much. They worked heavily on having your character interact with the environment in a bit of a believable way. For example if your character runs into a wall, he lifts his hands to stop himself from hitting his head on it. Walking down a stairs with a railing or along a wall causes your character to reach out and touch the wall itself as you might do while you’re walking beside it. Little things like that. Combat improvements included a melee system that more or less worked on a basic strike, counter, grab that was neat during interactive cut scenes but less useful during actual gun fights.
Some of the nitpicking I have were that the graphics didn’t really seem to improve at all. If they had I didn’t really notice. The environment layouts were still interesting and breathtaking but I was still getting some uncanny valley on some of the characters. Additionally the game had no install time, which meant that loading the game, and then loading your save, took forever. Plus advertisement credits at the beginning of the game meant a total load time of at least a minute if not more, before I actually started to play the game.
Another weird area was the story. I’m not sure if I liked it better than the second game or if it is on par. I do not really remember the second game’s story other than Drake was having woman problems between his love interest in the first game and a new “edgier” woman who may or may not have betrayed in him the second game. The third game, however, focuses on Nathan’s long-term father-like figure, Sully, even having several flashbacks which help explain how they met, and how everything ties together. Where the story seems to fail for me is the characterization of all the new characters. There is an ally we’ve never met before who, while funny, seems slightly out-of-place. And the two major villains of the story never really explained what they were doing, what they wanted, or what was happening, other than they had a history with Sully and Nathan and were willing to use them to get the treasure everybody was supposedly hunting. It wouldn’t seem like a big nitpick except that all the scenes with the villains played out like Nathan had a serious vested interest in their failure, while I the player, didn’t really know or care.
On other aspect of the story that I felt was touched upon but never really brought to fruition was that we’re giving a back story of how Nathan and Sully meet, which involves pointing out that we don’t really know who Nathan Drake is, or his past, or that he really is or isn’t related to the original Sir Frances Drake. Given the title being Drake’s Deception, I was expecting more revelations regarding Nathan, not just what Sir Frances Drake did many years in the past.
So sadly the story did not meet my expectations. The game play, while fun, was more or less the same old bag. The cinematic nature of the game was upheld but not as memorable as some of the scenes from Uncharted 2. One advantage is that the game is relatively short although the story does seem to end a bit abruptly for me. Overall I liked it but I likely won’t play it again.
Seems like forever since I did a game watch, although it was really only a month ago. For those of you who don’t remember, Gamewatch is where I report actually finishing a video game I’ve been playing. Since, in the past, I’ve had difficulty completing video games in favor of starting new ones.
That brings us to my latest conquest: The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. I was a big fan of Twilight Princess. Not only did you get to be a wolf, which was awesome, but the ending boss battle was one of the most memorable for in all the Zelda games, hearkening back to the old SNES and NES titles. If there was an issue with Twilight Princess, it was that it was still rather formulaic. It copied most of its game play from Ocarina of Time which was in no way a bad thing but when compared to the latest installment, Skyward Sword, makes it feel somewhat lacking.
The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, turns so many things about the Zelda franchise on its head, yet keeping the spirit of the game and the good aspects of the game play making the entire game very fresh and fun. I was surprised by several turn of events and not by others but I ultimately enjoyed the entire game. The most interesting change, I feel, was that there was a far more consistent plot to the game. Rather than the typical hero’s journey to save the princess, Zelda is not so much the princess as a mayor’s daughter, and while she needs assistance, she is as much apart of a the quest of destiny as you. In fact half the game is spent following her trail that she is blazing through a post-apocalyptic world. No not leather and chains just the surface of the world, which was mostly abandoned by people in order to live in the sky away from an invasion of monsters.
Some of the nitpicks I have for the game is the flying mechanic. Your character spends a lot of time flying on his bird between locations in the sky and to locations on the ground. The “skyworld” is not very large and it takes perhaps two-three minutes to fly across it without any special speed boosts but it is also very boring to fly across. Unlike horse riding in prior games, there’s no scenery to get a sense of motion. Just small floating islands getting bigger or smaller. There are some random birds with gems you can knock down, and some floating rocks have enemies that shoot at you, but they don’t provide that interesting of a distraction. Flying is fun for maybe the first hour but you spend about a quarter of the game flying places and it just gets old after a while.
One nitpick I’ve heard from others is that the game reuses areas too much. There are three main surface world areas and two major skyworld areas. Through the course of the game you open up the pieces of each surface area, which generally requires going through the initial area multiple times. I can see how people might feel a little tired being asked to run through one area a few times to get to a new area but you spend much more time in new areas than you do in old ones, and often even the most trekked areas newly accessible secrets with the gear you’ve newly acquired. The game makes heavy use of modifying the areas you’re in to be new and different, which sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t, but ultimately it worked for me.
Overall I would highly suggest this game for Zelda fans.
So over the weekend I finished a video game. It has been awhile, it feels like, since I did that. Video games are something I still have trouble finishing, as I’ll let myself get distracted by new games, or I’ll try to focus on other things that should be more important such as updating this blog, or my writing. However the weekend was rainy, most of my plans had been canceled and I was very close to finishing. So I punched it. Or rather, I punched the joker, a lot.
Batman: Arkham City, is the sequel to the video game Batman: Arkham Asylum. In some ways it exceeds its predecessor and in some ways it falls behind. In both games you play as the world’s greatest detective, Batman, facing off against Batman’s numerous villains and their henchmen. The first game was limited to the contents of Arkham Asylum, the prison/psychiatric facility where a majority of Batman’s super villains are sent to once they are captured. In this game, you are limited to an area of Gotham City that has been re-purposed into a giant sprawling prison renamed Arkham City, run by the former warden of Arkham Asylum.
I admit, the idea that any city would let someone build a giant wall around a section of itself, then populate it with criminals and super villains seems insane to me and even at the beginning of the game I was questioning if it wasn’t just some way for the game to “think bigger” like some sequels like to do. However by the end of the game, after unlocking back story that helps explain what happened in between the two games, I feel much better about it. Still it would have been nice if that information was available from the beginning and not an unlockable.
For those who fall in love with the combat system, there are extra challenge modes which test your fighting game skills.
Combat isn’t really even the central part of being Batman. Batman is also all about the stealth or being a “predator” and there are numerous ways to take down an unaware enemy, from sneaking up behind them silent, to dropping down from a ledge and pummeling the, to using your grapple line to string them up, pull them off ledges, jump through glass/walls to tackle them, jump out of grates and smash them into a wall, the list really never does end.
Which leads me to the gadgets. No only do you get Batman’s trusty batarang and grappling hook, but various other gadgets including an electrical emission “gun”, freeze grenades, a grappling line, small yield explosives, a hacking tools, smoke pellets, and more. None of which aren’t used at least numerous times throughout the game. I made much use of the smoke pellets, thanks to my ability to sneak up right on someone, only to have them turn around and start shooting at me.
Guns, by the way, hurt. Batman is not the kind of hero who can take a bullet. His armor protects somewhat but enemies with guns are something to be worried about and avoided or snuck up on using one of your many predator techniques. This, I feel is, one of the most awesome aspects of the game. I have to worry about guns and getting shot. Compared to so many other games where rushing the person with the gun is a viable strategy, this really helps the game hit it home that you are the Batman.
Speaking of armor, it is worth noting that the game has a token upgrade system. I say token because this time it didn’t feel so much like I was upgrading myself as I was completing all my capabilities. Individually each upgrade only felt like a minor power up, with a few notable exceptions which helped you get around the city much quicker (and were some of the first upgrades I got), and it was only towards the end of the game that I began to understand that I needed every upgrade. This I felt was a small failing of the game. When I gain a level, I should feel stoked to get the next upgrade, not feel like I’m filling in a jigsaw puzzle where the payoff is at the very end.
So game play aside, Arkham City manages to tell as interesting of a story as it’s successor did if in a bit more haphazardly way. Since the game is “sandbox” style, the story is told through a main story line that can be abandoned to do numerous types of side quests and collection quests, or just playing around. This means that the main story suffers a little, especially since there are so many collection quests thanks to The Riddler, and more than ten different official side stories to complete, some of which you can’t complete till the end of the game.
Despite the confusion, the game does a good job of providing reminders of the main story line and what you’ve been doing, during loading screens, which really helps keep the narrative together. While I won’t divulge the full story here due to spoilers, trust me in that it is a story well worthy of Batman, and (some of) the twists at the end will leave you wondering if maybe the game was trying to fool you.
All of this culminates in a game that will steal at least forty to sixty hours of your life. More so if you decide to do the optional challenges, the extra characters you can purchase for download (I highly suggest Catwoman, as her story is somewhat integral to the main plot), and trophy gathering. I spent a weekend completing the predator challenges as Batman, the final challenge taking me well over two hours and quiet a bit of frustration, despite being ultimately satisfying.
Word Count: ~1,020
So I managed to make it to both writing sessions this week. Which is an improvement over last week where I managed to make it to absolutely none, although I did have a small makeup session on Friday. Writing Sessions have been going well. I’ve been making about a thousand words in word count, then switching over to my video game design. Daniel joined me for writing session today but otherwise I’ve been alone. The restaurant that I frequent has been starting to bore me so I’m considering looking for a new location. Although they have improved the wi-fi recently.
Word Count: 107,841
So about three thousand words since last update. Everlasting is slowly chugging along. I came to a realization the other day that one of the reasons why I’m still in the “swampy middle” and over a hundred thousand words is because my while my outline seems concise, each entry that would be a scene is instead an entire chapter or at least two scenes worth of action. Or at least I suspect so. It has been elongating my book significantly.
One other thing that has bothered me is that, given how there are three groups of main characters and none of these groups interact until the very end of the book, I’m starting to wonder if perhaps I’m writing three books at the same time, rather than one big book. I know I’ve accidentally started writing an epic given how may characters and story lines I have but could I instead break each of these into three books that all center around the same event and have the same conclusion? Something to consider in editing. I think it is an interesting idea though.
So aside from writing I’ve started up another project I’ve been wanting to do for forever. I want to program a video game/simulator of the rules from a tabletop roleplaying game known as Shadowrun. Specifically I would like to emulate the “decking” rules, which in Shadowrun terms is the computer hacking rules. The tabletop game has a significantly fleshed out mini-game where in characters can hack a virtual reality computer grid. Unfortunately in practice the mini-game is too cumbersome for the game master to run while also running the rest of the game. To make things worse, the premise that hacking the matrix takes milliseconds means that in reality, it doesn’t take deckers very much time to do what they do, even though in real world terms, it takes up a lot of time. Plus the mini-game’s rules are actually very interesting rules. Actual players of the game should note I’m referring to the 3rd edition Matrix rules, not the currently 4th edition.
So I want to create a simulator. I’ve started by writing out a design specification where I am slowly defining everything about the rules as defined by the Shadowrun game. I’m planning on expanding from there into a user interface design and major feature design, then get into planning out architecture and doing some iterative programming to try out different designs before I sit down to really program it. Since most of this will be writing, I’ll be keeping track of my progress here in writing time. I may also start-up a new article series Programming Time or Designing Time if the project gets further off the ground.
So as for the design. Part of my problem in starting this project has always been my architecture/programming focus. I’ve always felt that I already kind of knew the game (since I played Shadowrun enough as it was) that I could skip defining every little aspect. Years of software development, however, have taught me that users generally do not know what they want and in this case, I am the user. Already in trying to write down and define how I want the game to play, I’m learning more about stuff and ideas I didn’t think of before. So this design process is a really good first step. Next time I’ll go into more details, I think.