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.

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A Bond With Racism

Trigger Warnings – Some strong language

Ok, Christmas obligations dealt with, let’s get back to the normal routine with this blog shall we? I’ve passed over some interesting subjects for the sake of doing some Christmassy stuff but I want to cover these before they fade from the attention of the public and so without further adieu, I want to talk about the recent leaked tidbit of information that Sony want Idris Elba as the next James Bond. Idris Elba, perhaps my audience know him best as Heimdall of the Marvel Thor franchise and you’re probably all aware that he is black, something that James Bond isn’t typically portrayed as. Now, anyone with half a brain can tell what happened when this info became public, opinions were polarised between “Why not? He’s a great actor, go Idris!” and “James Bond as a black man? OUTRAGE! Fuck the minorities ruining everything!”. I’m here to represent the former, in particular, taking opposition to some of the most ridiculous arguments as to why he shouldn’t be allowed to take on this role after Daniel Craig.

Film buffs, do not despise me but do you remember when Ben Affleck was announced to be the next Batman? My reaction was not one of anger but acceptance, I mean, he’s an established actor, writer, director and nerd, he’s got the physical requirements and the fact nobody could imagine him as being this tough vigilante meant he’d be all the more believable as Bruce Wayne, rather than looking like a slab of muscular man meat forced into a suit and trying to enjoy fancy dinner parties, this’d be a guy who could equally at home in his mansion as his cave. I felt that was important, too many people see Batman as the mean nitty-gritty dark hero because of Frank Miller’s work but a comic book franchise needs to do more than just brood in the shadows and say “Look, this is serious now, don’t laugh at the bat costume, it’s fucking cool”, it’s still a rich boy playing out a power fantasy in dress up, let’s at least PRETEND he occasionally gets off on it, rather than sulk around everywhere spouting poetic rubbish. However, people really get attached to fictional characters and when you shake up how they see them being played, they get really upset – a concept of there being a female Doctor, a black Captain America, a female Thor – you announce these things and fans lose their shit, sure a franchise is as much about the fans as the creators but you have to let a franchise shift and change or it goes stale, that’s where nitty gritty Batman came in, the original Batman was the campiest American family friendly silliness going in comics, Frank Miller made Batman into a dark hero and then suddenly people saw Batman as nothing else, not realising that this was pigeon-holing possibilities and leading DC Comics into a filthy rut.

So, looping back to the discussion at hand, this is the same deal with James Bond, people see James Bond, they think a suave British fellow driving cars really fast, banging hot babes and blowing shit up, essentially another entitled white guy living out fantasies with a seemingly infinite pool of resources. Idris Elba is our Ben Affleck Batman then, he doesn’t LOOK like the preconceived notion of the character, ergo, he can’t be the character. Well last time I checked, Idris Elba is British and by the way, the idea that James Bond was always a Scottish man is false, that was something Ian Fleming changed his mind on after seeing Sean Connery in the role so you know, clearly even the creator can bend the rules on the character, why can’t we? Idris Elba is a great actor and maybe he’ll play the Bond we all know and love as this reckless drunken gadgethead or maybe he’ll play a different Bond, a more sombre and pensive bond like Roger Moore once did perhaps? The beauty of fictional characters is we can interpret them in different ways and each different portrayal of that character brings a new element that fans can discuss, grow to love and fantasise about even newer ideas – this is how Doctor Who refreshes itself after all, each Doctor is different, you have your hate-filled lone wolf Eccleston and you have your silly lunatic Smith, fictional characters can change, they can adapt and each new combination of actors and writers open a world of possibilities.

Rush Limbaugh weighed in on this choice and said it was akin to a white guy playing Barack Obama, admitting it sounded racist but he went by the logic of comparing James Bond to Barack Obama, here’s why that’s a shallow argument. I know James Bond is based on actual facts, loosely, Ian Fleming got the idea from things that did happen but by and large, this is a made up guy, a story, a collection of pieces of paper that can be throw away or corrected. Barack Obama, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, they’re real people and you can’t have them portrayed by white guys because what was significant about their stories was the fact they were black, that’s what made them stand out in history, not just their accomplishments but the fact that they were the greats of black American history. The first black president, the black man who fought the white system without ever raising a weapon – changing them to white guys changes the story, it’s no longer a moving tale of a minority overcoming adversity to make the world a fairer place, it becomes the story of a minority being sent a white saviour to rescue them from their oppressors. Barack Obama and James Bond are two different kettles of fish – one of them is a fictional character, the other a historical figure. You can have a black man be Bond because Bond is the story of a super spy fighting super villains and having lots of sex, that has no skin colour requirements, but to portray the first black president in a film, you kinda need to be black for the film to make sense.

So, Rush, I doubt you’re reading but it is racist to suggest George Clooney play Barack Obama but it is not a problem to have Idris Elba play a made up spy in a film that is nowhere close to being real. As for worrying about them darn minorities stealing away our fictional characters, calm down, it doesn’t take a great deal of strain to list your top ten white male heroes in fiction does it? Or top twenty, or thirty… point being, you have a lot to choose from, not every last one of them will be ‘stolen’ and even if they were, so what? If you have a problem with a black Bond or a black Captain America, you need to think about that internalised racism you have going on in your mind and seriously ask yourself why these made up people HAVE to look the way you imagine them? Do minorities not deserve to look up to characters like James Bond or Doctor Who and think “That could be me one day, I could be the next actor to play Bond!” or is daydreaming an exclusively white privilege?

Thanks as always for reading, credit goes to my friend Millie for giving me the idea, I saw her Facebook status on the topic and decided to delve into the subject myself after meaning to do so earlier. You can check her out at the link below (As in her writing, not actually oggle at her, that’d be weird)

http://www.fatalfeminism.wordpress.com

And as usual, please like, share, subscribe and check out my Facebook page. One little like on there and you’ll get to see these posts as soon as they roll out, as well as seeing more of the man behind the keyboard and sharing in the odd Facebook conversation or strange status with Old Man Wolfe himself – an honour I know, I spoil you folks.

For the record, I’m not that arrogant, my ego is actually really fragile, please like something

http://www.facebook.com/oldmanwolfeofficial

The Step Forward

Trigger Warnings – None.

Sorry this post is out a bit later than usual, I’ve missed that prime time opportunity but hey, it happens. I’m not sure what to write about tonight, I’ve felt really quite passionate about my previous articles of the week but my view stats haven’t been this low in some time – maybe I’m not reaching out, maybe I’m too proud of stuff that actually isn’t interesting, I don’t know. So, whilst I hate to be a self-piteous jerk (I do hate it, I know I post a lot of personal crap but that’s more for me really, this blog is the inside of my head), I need to get some stuff off my chest.

Understandably, my latest topics have put off would be readers because they’re heavy subjects – the Sydney siege, the Sony cyber attacks, talks of politics and whilst I thought I broke it up pretty well with the Cards Against Humanity post and the Cereal Killer post, which were distinctly more popular than the others. I’m not too surprised and whilst I did enjoy writing those articles, they’re fluffy filler posts, they’re not hot button topics and I don’t want to just write about that all the time because if I was just going to blog about insignificant topics that are amusing to the right people I’d blog about the depiction of historical events in video games and line by line did-you-knows about the ERB performances of Epic Lloyd and Nice Peter. I knew when I started on this blog I couldn’t extensively blog about what I find fascinating because when I bring it up in conversation, people just nod and have no reference points to go by as I explain my rage at a bad characterisation of a samurai or a ninja I like or something or as I try to clarify why I think something is genius. I’m not bitter about that, it’s fine, maybe if I ever hit the mainstream I can do some niche side projects for those fanbases.

I’m thinking of moving on from blogging to YouTube, it’s where the people are and truth be told the concept is more exciting to me now, though I do despise the sound of my own voice. Heads up to you yanks that are expecting me to have a smooth sexy Hiddleston voice, I do not, I sound like a complete and utter twat. I mean, I’ve always loved the written word for expressing myself as a suave, charming fellow of sophistication but in person “Erm, erhem, so yeah that’s uh… hi… what?”. I’ll probably use prompts or write the article out and go from there and then upload the written version here for those of you who still read, a dying breed but a special one. I’ll need to invest in some good tech for it though I should think, a webcam won’t cut it by itself but thankfully I have people willing to help me out in their own way. I’ve decided the format will probably be a weekly or bi-weekly upload of a sort of me telling you the news with my own opinions and then the occasional less polished side notes of things I feel like sharing with you and a friend has discussed animated videos with me, it’s held an appeal to me for ages and would be fun to do.

I shouldn’t complain, I managed to inspire a friend of mine into starting their own blog, that’s pretty ego-boosting. I don’t want people thinking I did this ‘taking them under my wing, they owe it all to me’ thing because it was more just me idly saying ‘You need to blog, you are smart, I would read it’ and they sorta rolled with it. I’ll post a link below, check them out – a fellow feminist taking a fearsome arsenal of intellect and insight to tackle pop culture’s short comings, they’ve only just started but I look forward to what is to come:

https://fatalfeminism.wordpress.com/

I’m sure it will be well worth a nosey once the posts start rolling out but just to make sure you don’t miss out, bookmark the home page hey? And on that note, I hate to be the guy pushing myself forward and saying you should read this, we all know that creative one who uses any subject to segue into their blog or book or poetry and everyone rolls their eyes but speaking from experience as that guy, it’s usually the only way to get people to actually pay attention, nobody seeks out the unknown writer do they? Some friends and family support me and that’s great but audience is small and dwindling so I’m gonna suck it up and say it…

Please, like and share my articles if you enjoy them, subscribe as well. Ugh, feel dirty. Mind you, even the most popular presenters of the Tube still ask so I should feel no shame in doing it, I always just imagined my own merit would carry it but perhaps not, perhaps I have to actually advertise. Would a Facebook page help do you reckon?

Anyway, that’s that, I’ll try to come out with something better tomorrow.

Silenced Cinema

Trigger Warnings – Death, terror, strong language

Sony has decided to scrap their comedy ‘The Interview’ starring Seth Rogen and James Franco on a trip to North Korea and their humorous adventures with crazed tyrant Kim Jong-Un after the hackers responsible for the Sony leaks have declared that they will carry out “9/11 style” attacks on any theatre showing the film in and so as a result pretty much every cinema chain in the US has thrown their hands up and refused to show the film, the actors have sworn off publicising it and aside from the discussions of terrorism, people are doing their best to bury the film before it even hits the screens. So, let’s discuss this shall we, is this the right move to make?

Personally, I can understand where the cinema chains are coming from, they don’t want to run the risk of being the ones who laughed at a terror threat and got their customers killed in an explosion. However, the US Secretary of Defence has said these threats could not be realistically acted upon and there is no genuine concern of a terror conspiracy on American soil and we are unsure who is behind this and their capacity to deliver on their promises, it could possibly be the work of North Korea, it could be radicals, it could be pretty much anyone at this point. Frankly, if the stakes were lower, we’d be pointing the finger at Sony and calling it a stunt but considering Sony has been telling cinema chains they’re free to opt out of showing the film, it seems unlikely they would be the culprits. Opinions on this matter are pretty divided and whilst I live in the UK, was never that interested in the film and have no connection to Sony, I want to express my own opinion and I think I will raise some points worth considering hopefully.

By making this decision to allow cinemas not to show the film and these cinema chains then acting on it and choosing not to, America has lost the war on terrorism tonight, it has shown that it can buckle, it can bow down and it can be scared. I understand, of course, this is a scary set of circumstances and whilst it is tempting to flip these hackers the bird and show the film anyway, if you’re the only company doing that whilst your peers hide in the safety of the shadows, you will be the target for these attacks and you will be the one the public chases with flaming torches should just one life be lost. Hollywood is the realm of the safe bet, it is a business based upon security, not risk, and this film will likely be brushed under the carpet as another bad move we should all forget about like The Lone Ranger movie. Sony is no stranger to bad decisions, they can just throw this film away and say “Well we are the same people that refused to team up with Marvel so…” but in this instance people would sympathise, no film is worth showing if the audience could be killed for watching it. However, my point is this, terrorism is not just about mass shootings and blowing up buildings, those are the tactics, not the goal – the goal is fear, the goal is to create a nation living in a state of panic and anxiety, afraid of what will happen next. Sound familiar?

Backing down has shown that the once indomitable giant that is the US can now be brought to its knees by vague threats from glorified cyber bullies, imagine if this continues? How many companies and businesses would crash and burn in a world ruled by the whims of those that are crafty with a keyboard? Coca-Cola, Starbucks, Fox, Michael Bay – all subjects of ire by the public for various reasons, be it tax evasion, bias media or ruining childhoods, any anonymous threat that gets the public spotlight could now potentially bring the American society to a total brick-shitting pause. Famous American actor Rob Lowe likened Sony to Neville Chamberlain. If you don’t get this reference, Neville Chamberlain watched passively as Hitler amassed power and when Hitler became a threat, Neville decided to visit him and talk to him and ask him politely to stop doing naughty things to which Hitler said he’d behave, fingers crossed behind his back. Of course, Hitler didn’t behave and war broke out, much to Chamberlain’s surprise and the British people regretted not having a leader who had the stones to step in earlier and tell Hitler to get stuffed, which is around the time Churchill stepped in and said the Nazis are bastards, let’s show them how the British rumble. Britain became a huge target for carpet bombing by the Nazi forces and Churchill never once begged for mercy for his people or pursued peace with Hitler’s regime, he had faith in the strength of the nation to endure every single blast with that British resilience and in the end, the plucky Brits gave Hitler what for. Sony, not so much, the terrorists won.

Ok, but I respect Sony is a business trying to protect itself and the cinemas are trying to protect the public, however we can’t just not ever show this film for fear of angering the thugs of the internet or else we basically have a censorship regime being enforced by a faceless entity that we have no idea as to what motivates them to such acts. So, what do we do? Simple – Sony, make that film available to stream online, hand it over to Netflix who have money to spend on anything that can appear on a TV screen and get them to make it available to as many people as possible across the fucking globe. Imagine if every household in the US streamed that film, that threat of bombing just became impossible to pull off. We cannot let terrorists win, you Americans love to big up your freedom and badassery so live up to it, show these cyber bitches that you don’t take shit from cowards and play that film on every screen that will show it. Sony, you could be the vanguard in the battle on terror or you could cry in the corner and beg for mercy, you hold a trump card and you could play it to watch these terrorists crumple.

Terrorism is the use of violence and intimidation to enforce your belief system or your desires as a ruling force, it is about making your targets fear your name, your appearance, even flinch at the words you write and speak – so far, that is a tactic that is succeeding. People rise to violence and get nervous around anyone in a burka, we judge people by religion and race and the moment someone mentions the word ‘bomb’, we scurry around in a mad panic. I’m not trying to underestimate or play down the horror of what terror plots can do but if their objective is to create fear and promote chaos, we have to draw a line in the sand and stop taking shit, we need to say “Enough is enough, you won’t scare us like this any more, fuck you, we’re fighting back!”

Sony, the ball is in your court.

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.