Month of December 2015

Hello! Ranties… Rantlettes… I need a term to refer to my fans, such as it were. The Game Grumps have Lovelies, Pewdiepie has the Bros, I need a thing. Oh, and a cool sign off, cool sign offs are a thing. Erhem, point, back to it. So I’ve been quiet, I did warn you all I was taking November off to have a think and other than some bit pieces on the current deplorable state of our world, I stuck to that, but it’s December now and you’re probably wondering what I have in store for you right? I hope you are, I’d hate to think you’re indifferent about it because that would make me feel like I’m wasting my time here. So with that in mind, here’s the plan I’ve got laid out for December 2015 and moving on to the year ahead.

Firstly, owing to the success of the Decap Attack playthrough, Jonah and I are going to be taking on another holiday-themed video game, all I need to acquire first is screen-recording/video editing software (I used a trial version of a product beforehand but the trial has expired and to buy a key is like £200 so I said fuck that in every way known to the English language and grumbled for several minutes). The Let’s Plays have cottoned on it seems, people enjoyed the casual vibe and honest banter, which makes sense because it was literally just my brother and I playing a video game together, that’s 90% of our shared activities, the rest is political discussion and wandering around town or just me irritating him by squeezing his face or pretending to punch him, as brothers often do. I’ll do more of them, they’re fun to do, but please bear in mind they’re not going to be my staple thing, that’s not what I’m trying to achieve public recognition for – that’s no jibe against such types, I’m a strong follower of the Beard Bros and Game Grumps but I don’t want to be known as another beardy white boy playing video games for a living jumping on that bandwagon because it is still rolling strong. So yeah, there’ll be a Christmas one and we’ve considered some other games that’d be fun to do, I have a wealth of emulator roms and a Steam library full of stuff Jonah has never heard of so he’ll be wombling through that with total confusion, as will my audience no doubt, that could be fun.

Secondly, a Christmas special post, you’re probably expecting one, there was one last year after all. Well, I do have a fair bit to say on the subject of Christmas, albeit in what will be seen as a Scroogey fashion but with good justification. I’m not sure what to expect of Christmas yet, there’s been little mention of it around the home but depending on what happens will dictate what I post on actual Christmas Day. However, I can do some Christmas related posts beforehand so look out for those, interspersed with any recent topical news I feel obliged to speak out about.

Finally then, the new year! What is coming? VIDEOS. Yes, I’ve said this for a while but I have a camera, I have locations I can utilise, I have people willing to help out and I’ll soon have some editing software so the pieces are falling into place. A YouTube channel is being set up and a schedule worked on to provide enough content without overdoing it and balancing it between funny bits and serious bits. I realise there are a few things making my blog a task to get into – it’s very depressing stuff, it’s very long to read and it doesn’t always balance fun and serious discussion too well so people can be put off thinking they’re just subjecting themselves to more “How can we allow this stupid thing to happen?” style rants when there are a few “I watched a funny movie!” posts in the mix. Contributions from my audience are encouraged, not monetary (Though I won’t complain if you’re offering! Kidding!) but ideas of what you want from me. Let’s Play requests have come in and in the past, even article requests but these videos are made by me for you, it’s important for me to know what people want to hear about. I’m also tempted to do some lengthier discussion pieces for people to listen to in the background as they do whatever because I love those myself so let me know if that’d interest you. Like, say an hour’s discussion in a radio show style thing on a topic, using some bits and bobs found on the internet and in the news for talking points featuring myself and some other guests (friends I can desperately rope into sitting in a room for an hour talking to a laptop). So if that sounds good, at least as say, pleasant background noise, let me know!

So that’s that, keep watching this space on here and on my Facebook page. OH, Twitter, gonna get me on of those, seems it’s a thing that won’t go away anytime soon, start using them hashtags and what have ya. Keep watching, please keep supporting this blog and maybe one day you’ll see Old Man Wolfe in the trending section on your News Feed hmm? I did recently do some sponsored posts, reached out to over 7000 viewers, of those 7000 at least 250 of them checked the blog (Not massively impressive I know but it’s better than the usual “Hey, you have three good friends who read all your rubbish and like, four guys were bored” I get on here)

Signature sign-off phrase pending! See you all soon!

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Little Big Pleasures

Yesterday’s article was kinda fun, barely a soul gave a toss but you know I can write a post on here just for the sake of writing it, that’s what blogs were for before they became a way to launch a promising career in writing… which I’m still waiting for. Anyway, that in mind, a conversation with a friend has got me in the mood for writing another fun fluff piece about video games and the astute ones among you can probably guess which game came to mind for me, Little Big Planet 3, the latest in a trilogy of platforming games that is fun for all ages.

As series go, some I can buy games from hit and miss, I can chip into a series late and go back, go from the start and watch it evolve or I can just try it and leave it. For example, I only own Sega All Stars Racing, not the Transformed version that came out later, the first didn’t excite me enough to merit paying money for me, my favourite game series Dynasty Warriors, I didn’t buy the games in order – starting with 3, than a crossover game, then 5, 4, expansion packs, 6 and so on. Thankfully there isn’t a continuity in Dynasty Warriors, it’s the same game made over and over again with better graphics, gameplay mechanics and expanded character rosters. Point being, Little Big Planet, I watched it grow. I played the first game at a friend’s house and fell in love and I made sure to acquire each game since. So why do I like the series so much? Well, this is not a rant today, today I’m here to rave, to sing praise, to review with a positive attitude so allow me to fill you in on why Little Big Planet might just be one of the finest series of games going.

Okay, for those who have never owned a PS3/PS4 and never played the game at any point, Little Big Planet is a platformer game in which you customise a cutesy knitted character with costumes of all varieties and run through themed levels to rescue a world of imagination from some big baddy, be it an owl driving a death robot, an evil space snake or Hugh Laurie in a bowler hat. You run, jump, swing, fly and glide through levels that take inspiration from just about anything – Medieval Europe, the Renaissance, Outer Space, 50s Style Diners, Giant Libraries – you name it, someone has made a LBP level about it. The game is artistically stunning, it has a style that makes it all look like it is essentially an enchanted art project, adding to this idea it is an imaginary world, a world consisting of doodles and craft sessions come to life and your main enemy is always some selfish, unimaginative monster who wants to stomp all over your creativity. With that explained, here’s why this series is so good:

Diversity and Suitability

You could easily make this the first game your kids play, their first real video game series and it would not corrupt them. Far from it, I would think it enriching. Across the series, the levels opt out of falling into the templates of Snow World, Lava World and Desert World, instead opting for culturally themed worlds – New York World, Japan World, England World – not in such obvious titles but you can see the inspiration. The costumes add to this, it’s not all armour and silly hats, though there a few, but there are costumes based on Chinese Traditional Wear, Japanese Robes, Ponchos, Tuxedos, Saris and Turbans, come Little Big Planet 4 or 5, or enough DLC, and this series will touch on every major world culture at least once. In this sense, the game is inoffensive. Granted, I’m a white hetero cis male, it’s hard to offend my demographic unless you question my masculinity, but with a game that so celebrates diversity and avoids violence (You defeat monsters by jumping on their weak spots and they turn into clouds of smoke, hardly that gruesome), this is a game that is either a light spot of fun for a twenty something like me, a tool for enjoyment and education for children or a game you could possibly talk Mum and Dad into trying. Parents, seize this game, fast, when you see kids playing it, introduce them to the cultures and histories that have inspired the artistic styles and level designs to make your children students of the world!

Endless Creativity

In terms of games that allow you to be truly creative, this is up there with Mario Maker, easily being worshipped as the new user-friendly creativity tool of the decade, a title it deserves – past the “Nyahahaha this is so hard!” levels, Mario Maker offers the chance for potential game designers to use assets they fully understand to create unique gaming experiences. Little Big Planet, by the same token, allows players to use any of the materials, monsters and power-ups they have encountered in game to create whole new worlds, stickers can be found to personalise existing levels and both your home screen and character are fully customisable. LBP DLC is endless, the blank canvas hero allowing so many possibilities – Baymax, Kermit the Frog, Solid Snake, Dr Eggman – You can be any of those guys, the DLC exists and the in-game content allows you to try out so many variations with costumes ranging from ogre outfits to jeans and shirts. The series includes a Create Mode, a Pod (your home screen) for you to decorate, essentially anything and everything can be personalised and because of this there is a wealth of user-created levels, some of which make me think the designer should be paid for making this stuff up. If games rot the imagination, LBP gives you a healthy dose of it again, it offers you so much chance to be creative, it is almost overwhelming!

Simplicity

Don’t get me wrong, I am all for games being complex, a good strong plot in a video game is a major selling point for me but as a gamer with non-gamer friends I love hanging out with, getting them into games I’m passionate about is hard. They get names wrong, they laugh at things that aren’t supposed to be funny, they simplify the plot to the level of a child’s understanding and I don’t mind, they’re not fans, they’re not invested, but games that you can pick up, play once and understand are great. Pac-Man, Mario, Ghosts and Goblins, Little Big Planet – you have an objective, you have basic controls, away you go, that’s that, jump in and out at any point in the story and it still makes sense. For this reason, LBP is the most popular game on game night with my friendship circle, it’s good clean fun you don’t have to be a gamer to understand but it’s not insultingly easy to the point of being boring, the difficulty curve is perfect in every game (Well, LBP3 is actually more challenging for me than the last two, I think they’re trying to stop loyal fans from getting bored). A game you can share is a game you can love even more, nothing is as satisfying for a gamer as making someone else love the franchise you love, LBP is so easy to get into that you find yourself never short of friends willing to be Player 2. Try that with Dynasty Warriors, I get a lot of “I’m gonna be… Uhh… This big red guy with the pike. Is he good? What do I do? Oh I died… This game is hard, let’s do something else”. Worst. Damn. Thing.

It Evolves

If you make a sequel to a game, you have to change things up from the game before, that’s just a rule, you have to give the player something they can’t get from the previous game. Sonic 2 brought Tails and more levels, Sonic 3 had the option to save progress, Sonic 3 and Knuckles had a new character and a game twice as long as the games before, for those reasons those games got progressively more and more popular. Little Big Planet One is good, it plays very simply and it is very easy, a sort of introduction to the game series with nice tight level design and precious few variations on the run and jump format. Little Big Planet 2 took that and added to it, it added power-ups like a grappling hook, a fire-extinguisher hat, super strength gloves – the game had whole new realms of depth and more creative options to explore. LBP2 even had better mini-games added in, competitive ones, shooting galleries and giant dodgem car levels, this was a franchise that just got better. How do you top that? Try LBP3 – Create Mode and Play Mode now blend together in some levels, requiring you to fill blanks in a level’s design to advance (Hmm. No bridge? I better build one out of those cubes stacked on the cliff edge), the game operates on several layers with the standard far layer, near layer and in between now swapped for very very far, very far, far etc. and the game added whole new characters of different shapes and sizes with their own powers (shapeshifting, flying, running on walls and more). LBP could easily just get away with new levels and costumes and a new big baddy but it does so much more that each game is a distinct improvement on the one before. I just love it, I really do.

In conclusion, Little Big Planet as a series probably isn’t the best game series either but it’s a damn good candidate, in three games it has made more keen and loyal a fan than some game series have done in ten. I could play it with pretty much anyone and have a blast, I could play a level of any theme I could imagine or design it myself and my hero is whoever I want them to be, be it a dragon, a luchador or a green cat in a mankini (No joke, there is a mankini in this game). If you have a PS3 or PS4 and no LBP in your game library, try it, there’s something for everyone and that is pretty darn impressive.

Enter the Dominatrix

Trigger Warnings – Sexual content

Sorry for yesterday, I needed to vent and have a little bitch fit but with that done, here is the post I actually wanted to write yesterday. I decided to get my gamer shades on again and write about another new release that I wish I could get but alas, once again, my lack of a Wii U is biting me in the backside. The more astute Nintendo fans can put two and two together as they figure out which recent release on the Wii U is about a sexualised character – yup, I want Bayonetta 2. The game has been a long awaited release for fans of the original like myself and if you don’t know about this game, I urge you to find out about it. The lovechild of a forbidden romance between a sage and a witch sells her soul to darkness for the powers to kill the angels that destroyed her kind and is led on a wild goose chase across the city of Vigrid as she tries to remember her past, suss out who her true enemy is and generally try to have fun. Bayonetta evokes a marmite reaction as a game though because the protagonist is a woman with legs up to her eyes in a tight catsuit that takes off this catsuit to use it as a living weapon and her motions are generally erotic so whilst some love the game, some call it a shameless attempt to pander to the male gaze and a degrading interpretation of women in video games. I am here to argue on behalf of Bayonetta, seeing as she wouldn’t argue her case, she’d just whip til you apologise and then “How do the Americans put it? Pop a cap in yo ass”

Before I begin, obviously this is the view of a white male, a liberal-minded feminist white male but still ultimately male. I am not a woman, I do not represent women and this article is purely my opinion so don’t give me flak if this seems like a lopsided argument, it is purely what I think of the character and you are free to your own interpretations. Ok, I should also add that I do not like Bayonetta as a game solely on the basis that the lead character is a sexy witch with a posh accent, whilst that sounds attractive I actually like the game for the fluid combat system, interesting plot (which granted is not dissimilar to that of Devil May Cry 4 but the same producer so hey) and the pleasing aesthetics and controls of the game making it one of the most well constructed and replayable games of the genre so again, no flak, I’m not defending Bayonetta out of some sort of raging horniness over the protagonist

Bayonetta, to me, represents a great character and a great female character. Bayonetta is strong, but not in the moody bitch with guns kinda way, by contrast she is actually quite cheerful, stern but she has fun doing what she does. Bayonetta is not the reluctant grump like most ‘strong’ female characters who just sorta get dragged into it and make snide comments whilst pointing guns at things half-heartedly, but she’s also not the other type of strong female character who is just sounds constantly horny but denies anyone a touch except that one guy. Sure, there’s Luka but Luka isn’t to Bayonetta what the Doctor is to River, they aren’t equals engaged in playful banter, Luka is Bayonetta’s little ball of fluff, something to amuse her, she evens calls him “Cheshire”, the name she gave her stuffed toy. To be honest, I think Bayonetta only tolerated Luka’s hatred and didn’t just snap his neck was because he’s funny when he’s being self-righteous and angry because Bayonetta knows it’s a load of shit and that if she stood there naked before him, he’d forget his grudge in an instant and beg for her touch. Bayonetta sees through the men of the game, shown as shallow and greedy incompetents, and she just strings them all along for her own amusement with no consequences on her part because she knows she’s what they want, she is a weapon in more ways than one

You see, I feel the problem most writers face, including myself, is that a strong female character in their mind is a woman who is just grumpy and packs a weapon of some description. Sexualised in appearance but not attitude and she resorts to either making smart-ass comments or showing no personality at all to assure the men around her that she will not be sleeping with them. I have yet to meet a woman like that because that’s not a woman, not really. Female characters are like male characters, they need to have strengths, weaknesses, hopes, dreams, fears and things to be proud of. A good female character has to incorporate something that is true of women-kind – perhaps your female character has insecurities about their appearance and shrugs it off by acting all arrogant (Lana Kane), perhaps your female character despises children because she is a fun loving young free spirit scared of commitment because of a history of loss and being surrounded by shallow self-serving idiots has her doubting the honesty of everyone around her (Bayonetta). You see where I’m going with this? By trying too hard to make her strong, you deny her female identity and then you’ve either got the fetishistic guns-and-tits combo character or the miserable companion character stuck following after your impulsive male lead. Good female characters have things that make us remember they have issues that matter to them and that remind us that these characters can add something to a formula that enhances it much more than the absence of that character. Doctor Who didn’t take a downward spiral after River Song left because she was the confusing sexy-counterpart to the Doctor but Amy Pond was more, she was a mother, she was stuck in a love triangle and she had dreams that were crushed and had to deal with that – that’s why more people miss Amy than miss River, from what I’ve seen at least

Leading back to Bayonetta, Bayonetta embraces her female identity and uses it as a weapon to distract her opponents, overwhelm their senses and all the while have a good giggle. Bayonetta is sexualised and erotic yes, but not for the sake of it, she is a dominatrix, so very clearly. The themes of BDSM in her choice of weapons, the ‘Climax’ attack, the tongue-in-cheek humour of sex that, never directly refers to the act or even the parts involved but she talks about “playing games” and “pillow talk”. Bayonetta is teasing her enemies and bringing the saints to sinners as a power play simply because she can and she enjoys it, note the constant smug grin on her lips. Bayonetta is very intelligent and manipulative, she doesn’t waste her talents on Rodin or Enzo because they’re on her side, she knows she has them under her thumb but the angels? Enemies, enemies that she taunts with her sexuality. A sexualised woman is not a bad thing, I think I covered that before, this is a woman who is proud of her body and flaunting it on the battlefield to bring her enemies to their knees so she can execute them with ease. Personally, I love it, I think she’s funny and witty and charming and it’s good to see a character who is sexualised for a reason. Women in games are generally sexy for no apparent reason, like Ivy in Soulcalibur, why does she don such a skimpy outfit that is very out of character for one so uptight? The answer there is male gaze but Bayonetta does it on purpose, she wants the world to stare, she wants people to gawp or call her names because she takes life with a spring in her step out of a sense of superiority

The game is universally well received and the sequel is already beloved but one review knocked it down for being too sexualised to enjoy. I’m sorry, what? Ok, firstly, I thought gaming guys, as a stereotype, loved this stuff but the fact that your lead character is someone who knows they’re hot stuff, embraces it and uses it as a weapon is a bad thing. Oh right, silly me, women shouldn’t be openly proud of being attractive, how disgusting. I forgot that confidence is a terrible personality trait. Would the game be enhanced for Bayonetta being your standard female character for this genre? Come on, what’ll it be – skimpy clothes and acting as if they’re normal attire or dirty hair and a tank top? Bayonetta is a statement, it wants to stand out, it pokes fun at needlessly sexy characters by making one who is sexy for a reason, she’s fabulously flaunting what her momma gave her because she wants to. I think it’s a bold move and a welcome refreshment from samey-characters and games, I dare you to find me five games quite like Bayonetta. Struggling? Ok, five games like… well let’s say Dead Space. Oh that was easy, there’s fucking tons. Space age shooter with cool outfits and tech? Halo, Alien:Isolation, Dead Space, Mass Effect, Doom. Sure, the camera is gratuitous with body shots but I can’t help feeling the camera acts as if the witch herself directed it – she’s hot, whatever the style, and she wants us all to know that

I don’t know, maybe you disagree, maybe you don’t, but I think Platinum Games created something fun and unique and made a character I’d personally enjoy the company of… if it weren’t for the fact she’d probably just chain me to a wall until she got bored of slapping me in the face

Legend of Zelda: A Link To The Future

Man, my last post was heavy wasn’t it? Political agenda, rage against idiocy, a burning passion for an ideal democracy of all demographics – I’ll grant you it was probably a bit of a task for some of you to read and talking to some of my friends, they didn’t even bother the moment that dreaded p word came up. Kinda makes the article seem more relevant considering the content but there you go. Anyway, today’s article is gonna be a bit lighter and it’s mostly just my nerdy hypothesising going on here but I want to talk about Hyrule Warriors and why it is a stroke of genius for Nintendo to do such a thing, as well as a good move for Koei

Legend of Zelda probably doesn’t need much introduction as a series, it’s a legend, funnily enough, one of the all time greats – rescue the princess, throw bombs, cut grass, play ocarinas, shout “Hyah!” at everything – what do I need to tell you that you don’t know already? Since the first Zelda game came out in 1986, the series as a whole started to perfect a formula of dungeon crawling, treasure hunting and boss bashing that became iconic, it set these games out as the leaders of the genre and must-haves for their respective consoles. Majora’s Mask, Wind Waker, Ocarina of Time, Link to the Past, each one struck awe in the fans and the formula steadily began to become a sort of mould to make the games by which has ups and downs. On the upside this is a profitable way of making games and requires a lot less hard work to design as you take that recipe and use it but on the downside, it can get samey. I’ll probably get murdered for this, I’m calling Legend of Zelda games samey but hear me out ok? I’m not saying the formula is a bad thing, I’ve played and enjoyed many Zelda games in my time but change is good in anything and I think Nintendo came to realise that with Hyrule Warriors. I think Link is being the front-runner for a lot of changes to come to Nintendo who are slowly realising that they can’t run a business on nostalgia and wishful thinking and perhaps they want to be the ones who dare to take that step of rethinking their characters and concepts to challenge gamers into trying new things. I’m talking proper re-imaginings here, not Ninja Theory Dante bullcrap. So what does Nintendo do? Two games – Hyrule Warriors and Link Between Worlds, the game-changers

A Link Between Worlds came out first of the two and it takes place in the same timeline as A Link to the Past, following on that aesthetic theming and sorta undoing some of the damage it did. Don’t get me wrong, a solid enjoyable game but a game about going to person A to get something for person B so that they give you something to give to person C so you can do a thing – essentially making a free-form adventure into a bus route with boss fights. Link Between Worlds offers a whole new way of travelling and seeing the world, changing how you interact with the environment so those walls and blocks become relevant, the scenery itself is now a character to you, it matters. I have yet to play this game but I looked into it and I want it – this is a game that defies the standard and messes with it, only a little bit but enough to soften the blow of Hyrule Warriors. Hyrule Warriors was a big change, a whole new experience as a dungeon exploration game suddenly became a hack and slash on epic battlefields ala Koei. Significant difference and a whole new genre, not like Mario Kart was to Super Mario Bros, which was “Stick Mario’s face on a game that’d be plain without it”, this was take two well-established brands, combine and create a whole new way to play. I want this game, as a Koei fanatic and a lover of the older Zelda games, this game is Christmas and Easter in one package. Imagine other franchises honestly being this bold and heck, some are trying what with Sonic Boom reinventing Sonic from scratch. I think this is a good move for Nintendo and from what I’ve seen and heard online, the fans agree

So why Koei? Why their engine? Well mutually beneficial I should suspect, Dynasty Warriors 8 relaunched Dynasty Warriors as a cool game to be seen playing instead of “Oh my god, you play that shit? All you do is mash buttons”. Firstly no but that’s a rant in itself but in the same way Nintendo perfect a formula, Koei perfected a game engine – weapon movesets, crowd rendering, individual animations – Koei has come a long way from a screen of twenty characters staring each other down and slapping each other with swords, now you can be a goddamn titan of destruction raking in thousands of kills. However, Koei uses the same story and retells it, admittedly better each time (Except 8 compared to 7, another story in itself) and what they needed was to use this engine more ambitiously rather than exclusively for games loosely based on history books. A fantasy genre adventure with well-established characters and lore? Jackpot. You take the beautiful world of Hyrule, the finely tuned mechanics of Dynasty Warriors, you get this holy grail of new age gaming. I really want Koei to do more things like this, personally I’d kill a man to see Soulcalibur Warriors become a thing, they already have a moveset for Sophitia from Warriors Orochi 3 Ultimate, make it happen Koei! I will also settle for some other bad-ass crossovers – Final Fantasy Warriors would rock the world to the core, I shit you not. No more turn-based nonsense, just straight up own those bitches Sephiroth-style (Oh yeah, Koei lets you be the villains, you’d be Sephiroth)

Yeah, this wasn’t so much a rant as a gush and a rave but I don’t always have to be negative y’know? I just really like Hyrule Warriors and want to play it myself so badly, makes me think a Wii U is now a worthy investment, especially with Bayonetta 2 being exclusive to it as well. Ugh, goddamn… modern gaming is often quite stale but Nintendo and Koei know how to reinvent the fucking wheel my friends, it’s happened

Nerdgasm dealt with, sophisticated and eloquent arguments about topical issues will resume as normal in future

This Isn’t A Game Guys! (And That’s The Problem)

Fifty posts! Hooray, have cake on me everyone! Only joking, all the cake is for me. Only joking again, there is no cake, the cake is a lie. Aha, got you with that old gem didn’t I? Yes, I did plan on hanging myself, how did you know? Erhem, terrible jokes aside, this is my fiftieth post, felt it was a better number to end the written works on than forty-nine. So what will it be about, you ask? Love? Politics? Religion? Hoho no, let’s end this chapter in the saga of rant on the same wavelength it started on – me getting all hoity toity about a small issue with comical effects.

My topic for discussion is the games industry and mainly, my distaste for it as of late. Are you old enough to remember the days when consoles competed for the market by making better games than each other? Sure, there were adverts that openly mocked Sonic or Mario as being stupid characters and so lame compared to other console mascots, but on the whole if a company wanted to win the race for children’s love at Christmas, it was by announcing a smorgasbord of interesting titles for the kiddies. Hey kids, forget the Dreamcast, get the PlayStation – we’ve got Rayman and Crash Bandicoot and racing games and so much more – and sure enough kids did just that. Truth be told, your parents only ever got you one console usually and thus you had to develop brand loyalty for fear of admitting you asked for the wrong gift at Christmas but my point stands, the consoles used to put a lot more effort into being worth the price tag than they do now.

Now you could say part of the problem is there’s no originality any more, that these big brands have had to duke it out for years on end and are just low on ideas so they make sequels to fan favourites and churn them out ad nauseum but I think there is a lot more to it than that, I think a big issue is game companies aren’t run by gamers, usually anyway. The CEOs of Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo aren’t avid game fans or game designers but they get the final word in our gaming experiences and this is like hiring the blind guy to do your interior decorating on the basis of “Well, he has the paint and the brushes so we figured he’d be best suited to the job”. If you don’t believe me, have you noticed how most AAA games are sequels or reboots? The sales figures show they sell and so that’s what they go by, never venturing into unknown territory. I’m not saying these guys are idiots, I’m sure every one of us reckons they could improve on a bad game but not all of us actually know enough about game design to do that effectively and neither do these guys, that’s where the problem comes in. The executive level gets to decide important issues like game length, amount of DLC available, linear or non-linear storyline – they control the creative process and you know what they say about camels and horses (A camel is a horse designed by committee)

My second issue with modern gaming is the money pumped into the industry, a ridiculous amount that really isn’t needed at all. A study carried out four years ago showed games across platforms cost $28 million to make, that’s around £17 million, and that number has gone up and up each year. Console exclusives start at around £8 million. Why? Why do we need that kind of budget? Brilliant games exist that were made by four blokes in a basement! Sadly, perhaps that’s part of the problem but the budget is to cover the massive teams and years of development across the nation to bring out show-stoppers and games like Call of Duty and such are made so damn flashy and so frequently because it’s the industry saying “We need money! We need help! We’re victims of our own success!”. If the entire world switched off long running franchises like Halo or Call of Duty, corporations would crash and burn. A single failed game in this modern age can kill a company dead, possibly even a console. Nintendo is falling into the nether-realm of the digital world because it can’t hold up against it’s competitors, which brings me to my next issue, the narrow market.

Let’s review the choices of the modern gamer shall we? You have three big brands, one that’s limping on a crutch called Smash Brawl and failing, one that speaks of being “For the players!” but is really a gimmicky box of shite and one that lights up as it empties your wallet. Your other choices are a gaming PC to join the elitist super gamers or independant company consoles that are so beyond the mainstream you have to trawl through the internet to find out why you should buy one of them instead of a PS4. The big brands are atrocious money fiends that spend their time pissing each other off whilst flashing their fancy little tricks at you. Did you hear Microsoft will give you $100 store credit if you give them a PS3 so they can smash it up and dance on the remains? Sony’s response? “Save $100 by NOT doing what Microsoft told you, they’re all wankers anyway!”. Fucking grow up, your stupid rivalry creates stupid gamers. I hate talking to people about consoles, they’re so fucking loyal to the one they own that it’s obnoxious. Bitch, the only reason I’m a Playstation player is for Dynasty Warriors and JRPGs, I prefer Japanese games, they’re just more fun but they’re not available on XBOX because there are no avid-Microsoft fans in Japan really. Nintendo kept their head out of the bickering this time around but they’re struggling because by doing so, they’re not in the race and they’ve fallen off the radar despite pumping out all sorts of new games and consoles. Nintendo will bounce back, they always do – something about their characters makes the company immortal no matter how bad the struggle. The Gamecube lost to the PlayStation and XBOX, didn’t stop the Wii coming out. Game companies are becoming cruel and vindictive on the whole though and deliberately screwing their fans over to beat cash out of them. Take backwards compatibility on the PS4, it requires a fee for each game! Why not just keep my PS3? I’ve seen nothing on the PS4 that has convinced me “Oh, that’s a game that would have been impossible to make on the PS3, it is so new and intuitive!”. Again, another point – name me one new game that a smart game designer could not have made for the PS3/XBOX 360 that they did make for the new gen consoles. Nothing? I thought not.

I guess a big issue is by the time the new consoles do have genuinely exciting new releases that masterfully use the new software and hardware to create a unique experience, you’ll be holding onto your money for the PS5 or Xbox 3000 or Wii Z or whatever. The game industry shifts and changes too fast for the developers and it stresses them out which is a big problem, as I found out through a little read around. The burnout rate in game design careers is incredulous, as the designers reach the ‘settling down’ age they seek jobs with regular hours during daylight hours with good job security and a pleasant environment. Guess what? That’s not game design. Ergo, the technical sorts migrate into jobs to do with website maintenance and data handling and the designers move into advertising and graphics and so on. The people that can’t change careers however, are those with specialised skill sets, those that have devoted their lives to being the best damn 3D modelling artist ever – what else can you do? CGI film? Yeah, good luck getting that interview. The end result is a jarring mismatch of ability in the workplace, masterful artists and a high level of rank amateurs in the programming area with a handful of veterans watching them work. Chances are that glitch that made you walk through the floor or your head float away was an error made by a newbie that his boss was too damn tired to correct.

I guess I’m scared in a way, I grew up alongside the consoles and now I watch words flash up like “Microtransactions” and “Always online!” and it turns me away from the whole medium. Games are escapism in a way that films and books aren’t, it’s an interactive retreat from reality. You don’t watch a film and feel as if you’re Iron Man or Dumbledore, you just watch a selection of characters you like do stuff and smile and clap and eat popcorn. Games are different, you become the protagonist, especially in games like Fallout or Skyrim where the world revolves around you. In this world, you’re anything from a werewolf that can command the elements whilst riding into battle dressed in the robes of your great warrior grandfather to the survivor of an apocalyptic war looking to survive the chaos and carnage of the new world. Sadly however, the higher ups know how partial we are to this world and they follow us into it, picking our pockets and teasing us with more battles to win or princesses to save, and we give in and thus the childhood innocence of the land of heroes becomes a cash cow that insists it’s your noble steed into battle. It just isn’t guys, it just isn’t.

Perhaps the ultimate solution is to just stop, let it die and enjoy what we have and leave the industry to pick up the pieces and realise the truth of what it has become… Somehow, I don’t see that happening though

PS – For further reading, here is one of the many articles that inspired this post -http://www.cracked.com/article_20727_5-reasons-video-game-industry-about-to-crash.html

E-Gads!

To further promote your image of me as a horrid little troll who lives in the basement feeding off the dead remains of farm animals whilst flicking his snot around the room and calling everything noob, I am an avid gamer and have been ever since I was little. In all fairness, being a ‘gamer’ has become a cooler thing to be as the years have passed and the industry is booming. Could you imagine trying to be a hardcore gamer back in the days where your computer hooked up to your TV set? Fuck yeah, just beat my record at Pong bitches, haters gonna hate! I was born in the nineties so I can almost consider myself as having grown up alongside the video game industry and what started as a cute yet dorky little dysfunctional child/console soon grew up to be something bigger, smarter and with a lot more tricks up his sleeve/disc slot. However, as I reach the period of my life that is full of uncertainty, of opportunities to grasp a hold of and make something of or to fail, I feel that my dear old games consoles have stumbled across an identity crisis themselves. Oh what poor naive children are we, lost and afraid in a modern world.

Let’s start with the console that everybody loves to hate, the latest edition in the XBOX family, XBOX One. Apparently one now comes after three hundred and sixty but then who’s counting. Not Microsoft. Cheap joke but XBOX started out as the green-eyed envy of Bill Gates made into a ‘Kinda like Playstation but chunky and I own it’ deal and from there it went on to become Sony’s main rival. At first when XBOX stormed the scene it sported a wide range of games, mostly aimed towards boys with a fixation on proving how manly they are by rubbing their balls in each other’s faces, and aside from having technical difficulties that became feared as a techno-plague, XBOX and his son 360 took their place on the stand of big-fucking-deal console. I’m sure we are all familiar with the XBOX 360, the console with more shooters on the market than innovative ideas, a fan base mostly consisting of beer-swilling-racial-slur-slinging hoodwinks but with the occasional boffin chucked in on the side because they realised Fallout New Vegas works much better on 360 than on PS3 or they sided with XBOX at the start and won’t change sides from there. XBOX 360 looked like it was going to take itself seriously though, in the long run, and just as it started rolling out games that offered a challenge, it pandered to the family-fun gremlin and boom, Kinect. I have used the Kinect, a god awful piece of shite with a lense that throws a wobbly if you step just half an inch too far one way or the other, like a fascist who has discovered Feng Shui. As the build up to E3 made the new XBOX One out to be some sort of schizophrenic toaster that thinks it’s a cinema system with a social network latched on, Microsoft had a lot of shit to scrape off it’s shoes… It not only failed to this but it planted both feet in the shit and did a merry fucking jig. The XBOX One is essentially that computer from Space Odyssey but it orders pizzas, streams movies and apparently constantly observes your living room for signs of insubordination against the great beings! The camera is constantly on and the console demands you connect online at least once a day or your games will be rendered null and void until you have given a Microsoft executive a thoroughly good hand-job. You can’t trade or buy used games without going through a lengthy procedure and as ever, all the goodies that you actually want your XBOX to do will cost you a modest fee. Joy. I’ve never been a big fan of the XBOX but even XBOX fans have been telling me the new console is a blinking light show that raids your trousers for spare change whilst you’re drearily staring at some heavily armoured space marine with a gun bigger than his own leg.

Sony’s turn now and their entire campaign was mostly ‘Reasons why Microsoft should just quit now’. Sony promised something cheaper, something that is actually turned off when you press the power switch to do so, a more gamer-oriented experience and even did a video to explain how to share games using that age old method of handing the other person the disc. Yup, if Sony wasn’t trying to take a shit on Microsoft’s doorstep then someone please direct them to the bathroom because they left a steamer.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kWSIFh8ICaA&list=WL6F4BEE00F8B2ED96

Well the PlayStation has had a funny life all things considered, emerging from the darkness to suddenly dethrone Sega and Nintendo as the top dogs of the nineties with a faster and more sleak little number, the PS One (See, they even did the one thing first). Profits swelled and ho-hey, out comes a second PlayStation and this one is black and sexy and it plays DVDs and it has a whole host of games we all know and love. Sure, it now had a rival in Microsoft but it kept going, the ever-reliant oxen of the console world. I think an ox is an apt metaphor, the console won’t break down on you and you can always rely on it to be your humble servant but it’s a bit dopey and it’s potential can only be used to the truest extent provided you know anything about oxen in the first place. The PS3, when it first came out, sold itself on the premise ‘Wait around long enough and we’ll show you something really cool, honestly… keep waiting… keep waiting… seriously, it’ll blow your mind in a few years!’. Unfortunately, Sony spent a fuck ton of money and energy on swagger and forgot to back it up with some real substance so it had a shaky start next to the 360 but then it got into the swing of things and started doing backflips and juggling knives for all the boys and girls. Shooters? Yeah. Party games? Yeah. Hack and slash? Yeah. Games where you play as the animated remains of a wallet dressed in drag and save your patchwork buddies from an anti-social owl? Yeah why not? The PS4 is a step up from there… supposedly, though it couldn’t help getting itself a little touch-screen like his buddy Wii U and now the beloved Dualshock looks hideous, like that girl you used to think was a real stunner until she died her hair the colour of pixie shit and you’re left confused as to what was wrong with brown hair? I’m not sure what to expect of the PS4, they’ve pitched it around an old man’s face and the promise of yet another Final Fantasy game… and Kingdom Hearts apparently.

This leave us with the good old Wii U, the ugly child of the Wii who was the ugly child of Nintendo’s mind finally snapping into a bunch of random squiggles with Mario’s face on. In the usual tradition, Nintendo announced new consoles with old games made a little more shiny as if scared of having new ideas but this is nothing new, the SNES came with a remake of Super Mario Bros for the NES but with cuter graphics. I never understood the direction Nintendo sought to go in. Start from brick with box pad controls, make nicer brick with similar controls, make little box with ergonomically designed controllers, make brick with wand thing, make cute looking brick with Etch-A-Sketch. The Wii U uses two screens, a feature I’m pretty sure almost nobody asked to be incorporated into games. Gee, this HUD display in my shooter game is so conveniently placed right in front of me, I wish someone would get rid of it and put it on my iPad for me to stare at periodically so I can fail to remember whether it was ammo or health items I needed to restock.  You touch a few buttons on the little fella and then your TV makes a sound, the game continues, taking otherwise seamless and smooth game play and then chopping it into jagged chunks. The games roster will be the usual deal, find an old game, advertise it all over again with a heavy dose of nostalgia and then dig up a character from the nineties and remind people that this character is cool. Megaman is back people, he’s in the “New” Super Smash Bros. Game. Nintendo has bought the rights to a few good games though, including Bayonetta 2 unfortunately (I say this as it’s a Wii U exclusive and how that will work is a mystery to me). All in all, the Wii U will assume the position previously filled by the Wii – an ever-so-charming box of wonders suited to gamers of all ages that occasionally pisses out  sentimental memories of Sonic the Hedgehog all over the rug. D’awwwwww Nintendo, you little cutie!

I can’t help but feel an age of gaming has passed as consoles compete like bickering old ladies in a bingo parlour only to find that all three have shat themselves and there never was a bingo parlour, they’re sat in a pub in Hull. The games console isn’t a games console any more, that’s not what comes first. Your console is a cinema system, a fast-food order machine, an internet browser, a free international phone service, a social network provider, a photo album, your Netflix subscription and YouTube all rolled into one and it kinda feels a bit weird. Before gaming became a big deal and a big money-maker the rules were simple.
‘This console plays games that have this console’s names written on it. You buy games at a store, you put them in the console, you have fun, you get bored, you buy or trade for new games and repeat until you are bored of console. If you want to watch TV, watch TV on the TV, not on console. Console play game? Yeah?’
Ignoring how I suddenly devolved from fluent English to Engrish as the sarcasm actually cannibalised my brain cells for a moment, I hope I make a point. However, once anything makes a name for itself it becomes an udder you milk for money until the cow explodes. The consoles cost the same as a decent used car nowadays so maybe for that kinda money we should expect this little flashing box of giggles to offer us pizza now and then, or replace the DVD player. Easy fix there though would be just build something that is a generic disc-recipient that plays back what is on the disc and that’s it, cut the price down a bit!

Not how it works is it? Well I thought I’d let you all know console wise, I side with PS3. Not PS4, because unlike most people I don’t just have the money to get a new console on a whim and if I did, I’d spend it on something more useful. The PS3 is fine, it works, it is a good console with more than enough games and I have a PS2 for the PS2 games, the PS3 plays PS1 games for whatever reason so yeah. I’ve never owned an XBOX though I have lived in a household that owned a 360 for a few months and found it to be an up and down experience. My friends were all XBOX or Wii fans back in the day so I’ve spent a minimum of about twenty-four hours on each of the major consoles of this generation. I like my PS3 best, not out of that stupid ‘My parents got me the PlayStation, please can it be the best console so I don’t regret asking for it instead of the XBOX?’ logic that many gamers go by but mostly because a number of Dynasty Warriors games are PlayStation exclusive and considering how it defined my childhood, I stick by PlayStation. Cue hate from gamers calling the series a dull button mashing splorge fest in a historic setting, so sue me for enjoying something. If you are ten years old and you witness a guy in red and gold armour swing a halberd around and effortlessly destroy an entire army, that quickly sells to you.

I hope that come what may, we will never lose sight of the joy of slapping the old disc in a console and sitting down with a remote ready to immerse ourselves in a zombie apocalypse, a ninja showdown or the adventures of a stuffed animal in the land of milk and honey. Once that’s gone, I’ll just say fuck it to the lot of it and live out the rest of my gaming days on outdated consoles quite happily.

So About That Video… Yeah… Sorry

Hey boys and girls, and anyone who identifies as both or neither (Equality for you all, free of charge!) do you remember that super awesome chocolate fudge mega video special edition I wanted to make for you all to celebrate 1000 views on my blog? You do? Well now here’s the thing – turns out that scripting and animating a video worthy of being my YouTube début is tricky business, especially when trying to fit it around college and caring for Alice, alongside my brother’s birthday and two days of stomach-related hell, so instead of it being a 1000 view special, I’ll make it 2000. As it stands, I have almost 1800 views by now so making it a 1000 view special seems like celebrating Christmas in March, too late and eerily ironic. I promise to do my best to get it up and running for the 2000 view mark, but remember it will all be hand-drawn and stop-motion animated so it does take it’s time, like seriously!

Right, moving on, if I can find the time I’d also like to expand what you see on this site to something beyond standard rants about the little first world problems I seem to encounter and kick up a fuss about worthy of being promoted to Archduke of Hipstertopia. This coffee shop is too expensive, these trousers are too low, this hat is too silly and so on and so on. Granted, occasionally I get up my own arse more than usual and give a rousing speech on why Thatcher’s funeral should be nothing more than digging a hole and dumping her in it, followed by pissing on the body for a bit but to be honest, my usual rant is basically me loading my verbal cannon with big words and delivering a sharp shot of sarcasm to society’s ugly mug. In that respect, I’ll try to broaden the topics to film and game criticisms when I get a new film to watch or game to play that I think you might be interested in and I’ll also do a few nerdy rants about cult classics I follow that I have a bone to pick with (Watch your ass Moffat!)

I’m pleased to see this site picking up ratings at long last and after asking so nicely for a little more attention from you all and effectively making a harmless arcade game into a psychology lesson for dummies, I shot back up like a dead pop-star’s CD sales. On the subject of broadening my horizons, I’ve often been asked to bring back an old series of short stories I used to write called ‘Tea-Drinking Wisecracker’, a collection of episodic adventures about the British equivalent to your comic book anti-hero and his battles with the creatures of hell and corporate masterminds, filled with smart-ass references to everything from Devil May Cry to V for Vendetta. Well, if you knew the series and liked it then I have good news – I will attempt to revive the series and honour it with a special page on this blog for you to follow. I hope this experiment does not fall foul of audience expectations, though I expect the derivative content to be the butt of many a snide remark from snooty elitists as it has been before but not to fear, I’ll sell it as being an ironic statement about the conventions of anti-hero drama. Boom.