How Much Stuff Can They Cram Into These Things?

Monday, February 27, 2012 at 10:00 am

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There is a conversation that I have quite often with a fellow gamer wherein we discuss what we like and dislike about the current state of gaming, with primary focus being on content, and the composition of that content. When it comes to content in games, I like to focus on presentation, the narrative, the music, and the overall length of the game. Length is one thing that I've often felt that current games are lacking. I suppose I was spoiled by the Playstation 2 for so long with its general length of at least 12 - 15 hours at the minimum for a first time play through that I've come to view the present standard of 6 - 8 hours as almost insulting. For what I pay when it comes to a new game, I expect a little more than a workday's worth of content.

 

So imagine my sheer joy when Skyrim hit late last year and promised something close to 300 hours of content for one run through. A few months later, I heard promise of another new game with close to 200 hours of potential content, and my giddiness knew no boundaries. Hallelujah, I thought, the amount of money put into this game for just the bare bones game will be well satisfied by 200 hours of potential game play. This is cause for celebration.

 

Then I got the game, and... well, needless to say, I'm a bit overwhelmed. 200 hours? 300 hours? It sounds great in theory, but in practice it's a bit daunting.

 

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Fix My Brain, or Why Can't I Play First Person Games?

Monday, February 20, 2012 at 12:00 pm

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Video games tend to take up a sometime embarrassing amount of my free time. I have other hobbies, but, admittedly, after a long day in the grown up real world of working, there's nothing quite like kicking back and indulging in a little bit of mayhem, exploration, or running and gunning to put you in a nice mellowed out state. The simple pleasure of losing myself in a video game's constructed world is well worth it for a couple of hours each night, and it's a nice way to come down from the stresses of the day.

There are times, though, where I fear that I'm just not getting as much out of video games as I wish I could. I adore RPGs and action adventure games; puzzle games are relaxing; third person shooters are marvelously cathartic. Games with intense stories and creative gameplay are key to the enjoyment I derive from video games

There are games that possess those elements that I crave, and I can't play them. Some of them I can't play because my laptop wasn't created for gaming. Other games I can't play because I don't have access to a certain type of system. Still, there are others that have everything I want in a game, and they throw one obstacle in my path each time.

Kids, it's confession time: I cannot play first person games.


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The (Video Game) Novel Question

Monday, February 13, 2012 at 10:00 am


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Literature and video games are not things that one tends to lump into the same group. There are some hints of classic literature that sneak their way into gaming culture, but, by and large, the printed word does not seem to have much bearing on games. That being said, take a look at your nearest Barnes & Noble, glance around the end of their science fiction section, and I guarantee you will find several books that are original stories based on popular video games. 

Video game novels reach beyond gaming to draw in outsiders who might never pick up a controller. There are good stories based upon existing properties that are simply waiting to be told, and when the right person gets an opportunity to write one of those stories, good things happen. As a video gamer and as a reader, I'm all in favor of video game and book publishers getting together, licensing the right game universe, hiring the best writer for the job, and turning out a good story.

So what do you do when things go wrong in the printed word version of a video game?

 


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Fantasy Matters

Monday, February 6, 2012 at 10:00 am

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Fantasy is a healthy part of life. Delving into the imagination, pursuing creative experiences, embracing strange new worlds, and all that jazz, it's all a good part of growing up and experiencing life. Fantasy also proves to be a huge draw for the world of video games, as games embrace creativity and imagination, and push those pursuits as far as they can go. Fantasy worlds also play a huge part in video games, from Bethesda's sprawling land of Tamriel, and the countries contained within it, to Lionhead's fabled Albion.

Why does fantasy play such a huge part in video games? I think it partially has something to do with the fact that video games are escapism. Pressing a button and watching a character hurl a fireball at an enemy is quite an enjoyable experience, in much the same way as sighting an enemy down a scope and pulling the trigger is in a military shooter. Video games are escapist entertainment, and they are fantasy.

In the world of books, we tend to set fantasy into a niche market, mixing it with science fiction. While the two genres don't necessarily mix in set piece areas, they do mesh with ideas, archetypes, and ideas. Usually there is a single person who gathers people around them to set out and fight the one true foe of the world. This is as basic as storytelling gets, but it is in world building that fantasy stories elevate themselves.



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Stories In Video Games: Yea or Nay?

Monday, January 30, 2012 at 11:00 am

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Stories are a huge part of my life. I have worked with books for a little over ten years now, selling and reading them, and it continuously amazes me when I have the privilege of seeing the finished hardcopy of a novel. Living in a town filled with writers can lead to interesting conversations, encounters, and great recommendations. Stories are never far from my mind.

The topic of stories has been brought up a few times in the past week. There was the countdown of the best narratives of 2011, and another piece on why Bioware tells the best stories. Stories are becoming an ever-important part of video games, something as critical as how the game looks, sounds, and plays. I admit that good stories are what brought me into video games, but at the same time, I can't help thinking that stories might also be pushing some people away from gaming as a hobby.


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An Appreciation for Graphics and Technology

Monday, January 23, 2012 at 12:00 pm


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Technology keeps evolving, speeding up to levels of advancement that we're sometimes not quite prepared for. When it comes to gaming, there are all sorts of advancements that can improve the simple experience of playing. While it seems that there are some hoping for the impending deaths of the PS3 and Xbox 360 in order to make room for the next generation of consoles, there are some of us just glad to be able to finally catch up and enjoy the experience with the rest of the kids in the crowd.

 

The sense of sight might be one of the most underappreciated, and yet also treasured, senses that people have. Images have the potential to give great pleasure and sorrow, or to drive us to tears even as they lift us up. The power of sight is one of the driving forces in our modern entertainment culture, especially in video games.



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What Does Fun Mean in a Video Game?

Monday, January 16, 2012 at 11:00 am

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I can't help thinking "fun" is something that is not high on the list of things that are looked for in contemporary games. A few weeks ago, I commented on how Saints Row the Third was the most fun I'd had in a video game in quite some time. While that still stands true, I've looked over my collection of games, and realized that fun is not at the top of my list of qualifiers of why I play, or would want to play, a certain game. Perhaps that fact is why it's so strange to me that when I do find myself having fun, I don't really know how to react to it.

I have been acquainting myself with a character familiar to most gamers, and admittedly unfamiliar to me. Sonic the Hedgehog is not entirely unknown to me, but I'm familiar with the character through comics and in-jokes in other games, not in hands on experience. Sonic Generations for the Xbox 360 fell into my hands recently, and I've been enjoying the simple running, jumping, and collecting of rings. It's not overly complex on story, the characters are charming and light, and there does not seem to be a serious world-ending catastrophe involved; this game is just plain fun.



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Serious Infotainment's Best Moments of 2011

Monday, January 9, 2012 at 10:00 am

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2011 was a good year for video games. There were ups and downs, as with all entertainment mediums, but, overall, I'd call 2011 a good year. It is the season for Best Of the Year lists, where gamers and writers draw up their lists for the best titles of the just ended year, and I'd like to submit my own. 

In this case, I'd like to draw your attention to what I feel were the best narrative moments, best set pieces, and best aspects of the year. This is presented in no particular order.

Warning: Spoilers are sure to follow.

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The Political Game

Monday, January 2, 2012 at 10:00 am

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Welcome to the year 2012, or, as we'll soon be calling it: All Politics, All The Time. In the United States, we're seeing a hot race for the most powerful office in the land just starting to show its boiling point, and the Iowa Caucuses are bringing everyone's attention to this little state tomorrow, January 3rd 2012. Is it going to get hotter than it already is? Oh, my, I hope so. I'm a politics junkie. I live for this stuff.


Last week, Aaron started posting a list of the Top 10 Slimiest Politicians in Video Games. I'm curious to see what Part 2 of this list brings to my screen, but I've got to ask one question: With all the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad politician characters in video games, how did you pick just ten?


While we can take a humorous approach to political figures both in and out of the game world, the characters and situations presented in games involving politics can sometimes reveal the subtle, and not so subtle, influence of real world politicians and their actions on developers and consumers alike. From the days when Grand Theft Auto was the Bad Guy on the field of why children behave violently, to the Supreme Court ruling in June of 2011 that video games were subject to First Amendment protection, to Australia's decision to introduce an adults-only rating to its video game market, gamers cannot escape the influence of politics in our hobby of choice.

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Why Free DLC Might Be the Game Changer

Monday, December 26, 2011 at 12:30 pm

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"We don't see the idea [of paid DLC] as wrong, but we definitely don't like to see gamers treated like dairy cows that are primed for milking." - Adam Badowski, CD Projekt Red Development Director


Downloadable content (DLC) is one of those issues that polarize gamers and the gaming industry, no matter who you are, or what kinds of games you play. For some people, it's a reward; a chance to keep playing a game long past the game proper's completion. For others, it seems like it's proof that game companies are releasing unfinished products for full retail prices, and demanding more money, just so a player can have the full experience.

 

Recently, in a conversation about Skyrim's initial DLC being released first to the Xbox 360, talk strayed to whether or not the DLC would be acquired. No, was my companion's response, as the game proper hasn't been completed yet, nor was there any strong desire to play any downloadable content for this game. When I brought up the infamous horse armor DLC from The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, I was rewarded with a small glare. That the horse armor stands out among the hundreds of pieces of DLC released for various games on the 360 since its debut as one of the worst examples is telling, in that it screams of everything wrong with DLC.


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