What makes a game mature?

In the March issue of PSM is a reader-written letter complaining that nearly all PS3 games are violent (meaning they had gun violence or graphic gore). He asked where the Psychonauts, Wario Wares and other games he could enjoy with his kids were. The editor’s reply was, “The truth is that the PS3 isn’t intended for kids this early in its life cycle. For now, it’s an expensive, hardcore machine targeted almost exclusively at the older gaming audience.” The game industry as a whole has a strange notion of what mature is and is not.

Kids understand violence just fine.

At the core of this issue lies a conflict on the definition of mature. In my world, mature doesn’t mean blood and nipples. Mature ideas, concepts and media are things children wouldn’t understand. →  Videolamer does what IGNotDoes.

Is E3 Dead?

The gaming community received a harsh slap in the face last year when ESA, the organization that is behind the megaton-laden E3, decided to completely change the way the yearly venue is run. They drastically reduced the number of reporters that were allowed to attend to around 20,000 (from last year’s 60,000), and turned it into a more intimate affair for the actual publishers/developers to showcase their games without having to scream over loud, thumping techno music.

In unison, developers around the world bowed down and gave thanks to the merciful Gamer Gods. Now they wouldn’t have to break their asses to create a (hopefully) bug-free demo that would probably get swept up in all the hustle and bustle anyway. The gamers themselves, on the other hand, found it hard to believe that the mecca of all things gaming was being changed into something that they would never have the opportunity to experience. →  I’ll read you, my pretty, and your little dog, too!

What is Nintendo waiting for?

Nintendo has a chance to regain some market share this generation. The Wii is still hard to find five months after launch and there are reports that Nintendo’s stated mission of expanding the market is succeeding. But for every smart move they make, a dumb one — like keeping the friend code system intact — is soon to follow. I have compiled a short list of things Nintendo really should do sooner rather than later.

The most grievous sin Nintendo has committed is their neglect of online play. What were they doing while Xbox Live took off? It’s as if they only started thinking about the structure of Wii online after the system launched, instead of seven years ago when SegaNet showed us how cool online gaming could be. Personally, I think the lack of online capability (for gaming right now) is what makes the Wii feel a little old, not the weaker comparative processing power. →  Nobody puts article in a corner.

Is the Wii a Toy?

I don’t really like the idea of commenting on other game-related blog posts, but I find this one worth discussion because I fear it may be a trend among game journalism in the next year or so. Game Revolution wrote this blog post, in which they claim the Wii should not be compared to the PS3 or the 360 because it is a toy.

There’s a lot to discuss about the post. If you want to believe GR (and their defenders in the comments), it is simply an innocent argument claiming that the Wii is not bad, just different, and that difference is enough to avoid comparison. But at least a few commenters there feel that the blog post is implying something a little nastier than that, and after reading it I tend to agree. →  Snap! Crackle! Read!

The Hardest of the Corest

Welcome everyone, to the very first (and hopefully not last) installment of “The Hardest of the Corest.” In this oddly-named (and therefore cool) segment , we’re going to tell you a story from someone that shows just how hardcore they really are. We’re talking about stuff like not going to the bathroom for 72 hours to raid some dungeon in WoW. Yeah, stupid stuff that questions our intelligence. And who knows, it may be your embarrassing story that gets featured on videolamer. But more on that later.

So, to kick it off old-school style, I’ll give you my most hardcore story. First, a little background info. I try to use my game consoles for as many things as possible. Take this for example. The most hardcore thing that I’ve been doing lately has been using my DS as my alarm clock. →  Ask not for whom the game plays, it plays for thee.

Why I play the games I play

Pat’s article here about this particular subject interested me, and was obviously the inspiration for this article. Props to him for coming up with the idea of a “why” article of this type.

Since I haven’t had much better to do with my thinking time lately, I’ve been thinking about why I play games. I love strategy games, RPGs, and some adventure/platforming games, but there are some things that will make me enjoy any genre.

The first and most obvious idea, as in Pat’s case, is that I could never do activities I do in a game, whether it be fighting ninja who kidnapped the president or managing a farm. This may be true (and it almost certainly is to some degree in most games), but this aspect is entirely dependent on whether I can empathize with the character. →  The Read Star

The Best Offense is a Good Opening: SOTN

Probably the biggest release for Xbox Live Arcade ever is this week’s Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. Geomety Wars can blow me, and UNO is for “teh kiddies.” Nothing can best that which is Alucard. I’ve been day-dreaming about SOTN all day, and I’ve come to realize something about Konami’s opus: it has possibly the greatest opening to a video game ever.

I won’t spoil anything for the players that have not gotten a chance to play the PS1 version, but just know Konami designed the first sequence amazingly well. It ties into the game before it, it’s extremely epic, and it sets the tone for what’s to come, in terms of scope and plotline. It even had some wonderfully cheesy dialogue to go with it. Take a look at this little tidbit of Machiavellian literature from my boy Richter:

“Your words are as empty as your soul. →  The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Read

Quick Glance: Review Scores

Is it me, or is the Internet all up in arms about the whole “don’t look at the scores when reading a review” situation? It seems to be the big topic of debate recently.

First, IGN had a podcast where they talked about the games that they felt they had overrated, going in-depth with the idea of the scores themselves and what it means in a review. Then, Destructoid ran a series of articles that detailed why reviews are all out of whack, solely based on the scores. And because those same articles got onto digg, the whole community has something to say, even the big sites. You can see this in the Godfather Wii review on IGN. Scroll down to Matt Casamissina’s comments and you can see the evidence.

I won’t lie though. →  Readout 3: Takedown

Review – Second Sight

I’ve come to believe strongly in a particular rule taught to me by wiser gamers. The rule states that “if a game wants to entice me, to keep me playing, then it cannot assume I have nothing better to do than to play video games.” It’s hard phrase to describe exactly what the phrase means, but it pertains to certain bad things modern games like to do. Sometimes they’re done to artificially lengthen playtime, sometimes they’re done to help introduce new players. Sometimes it is to enhance the cinematic nature of the game, or to keep things “realistic.” Whether they are done because of a current trend, or to try to overcome a particular design hurdle, these additions hurt more than they help. They can cause repetition, make the player jump through hoops, and completely destroy any suspension of disbelief. →  All this can be yours, if the read is right.

Review – Wario Ware Smooth Moves

Wario Ware Smooth Moves for the Wii — In playing this game I discovered a maxim that holds true. In observing my personal failures and some of my friend’s successes in playing the Wario Ware mini games, I discovered this: The extent to which you are good at Wario Ware is the extent to which you are a bastard. This is because Wario Ware has been created to reward the wicked and punish those of us with dignity and gameplay standards like functional controls or knowing game objectives before you lose. Wario Ware apologists would have you believe that the minigames are varied, fun, and fair — but they would be lying. 80% of the games can be won only by shaking the remote, or occasionally waving it around or throwing it at your friend. →  Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this post!

Late to the Table: Gran Turismo 4

I originally got this game when it had reached Greatest Hits status, but only just got into it now. And I have to say that this game is extremely robust. This game would easily be lumped into my “way too long” category in my “How Long Should Games Be?” article.

But one interesting feature that I came across was the Photo Mode. Polyphony gives you the ability to take pictures of your in-game garage and save them onto a USB Memory Stick. You can then take these virtual “snapshots” and print them out at your local camera shop.

Based on the settings you use when taking the photos, the pictures can look amazingly realistic. It then turns into somewhat of an RPG, where you try to take pictures of all the cars in the game. →  Screw Jesus, this article's the real deal

Review – Rogue Galaxy

It’s not often you come across two games released in quick succession that sound as similar as Final Fantasy XII and Rogue Galaxy. FFXII has Sky Pirates; RG has Space Pirates. Both start off in a desert town. FFXII takes several plot points from Star Wars, RG takes several characters from Star Wars. The main characters even sound rather similar for a while.

But I digress. They are actually very different games, and although comparison would be fun, it wouldn’t do as an unbiased review.

In Rogue Galaxy, you follow the story of Jaster, a young native of the desert planet Rosa who wants to explore space. Through a few coincidences, he is mistaken for a famous mercenary and hired to work for a group of space pirates, led by the notorious Dorgengoa. →  Tony Hawk's Pro Reader 3

Review – Sonic and the Secret Rings

Here is perhaps my most controversial review ever. Not because of what I have to say about Sonic and the Secret Rings, but because of the context in which I say it. I was unable to finish Sonic, not because of time constraints (it was a rental), but because I gave up on an increasingly frustrating game and control scheme. I have much to talk about, but the question is whether it means anything at all.

Secret Rings attempts to redo Sonic in 3d by limiting your movement capabilities in order to emulate, ironically, the 2d Sonics of yore. Sonic always moves forward (he can move backwards, but its only meant for backing up a few paces to retry something). All you have to do is jump and steer left and right. →  We have nothing to lose but our games.

A sense of accomplishment in video games

What is it that makes a game particularly memorable?

When you finish a game, you want to feel as if you’ve accomplished something. By the time you beat some games, you want to really feel you’ve made the game world a better place through your actions (or, perhaps, you have intentionally left a horrifying wake of devastation). You’ve solved all major problems, and probably a lot of minor ones as well. Maybe you’ve beaten a particularly tough platformer or shooter and you feel like you’ve done a superhuman feat or twelve. The important part is you feel like you’ve done something significant or participated in a memorable story. The main pieces used to bring about this feeling are plot and challenge.

Unfortunately, this sense of accomplishment can be out of reach when playing a game. →  Fire Post Wrestling Returns

Review – Hotel Dusk

Before I jump into this review, I would like to offer some insights into my reviewing habits. When I play games to review them, I try to see if the development team was successful in whatever they were trying to do with the game. For example: have they made an exciting action/adventure game or a plausible horror game? I basically become a high school English teacher and grade a student’s essay. Did they prove their point with supporting examples? It does not matter if I disagree with what they are saying. Unless they screw up with their grammar or examples, can I blatantly say they are wrong?

Why am I telling you this, you ask? I’m just trying to give you a little background info on how I’m going to review Hotel Dusk: Room 215, for the DS. →  The post still burns.

GDC: D is for Developer

Wooh boy, it’s been one hell of a week. GDC was filled with some crazy announcements. We had Sony’s “Home” thing, LittleBigWorld, and Peter Molyneux’s “dog” in Fable 2. It started to look like GDC was turning into E3’s successor in some respects. That is, until the Miyamoto conference.

Basically, Shigeru Miyamoto, the one person everyone was looking to for some steamy Nintendo megaton, denied the raving rabbid press and talked about, you guessed it, developing games. No big game announcement or anything of the sort. Just tips on how to make good games.

Apparently the press (or at least Game|Life) wasn’t too keen on how the big show turned out, almost calling it a complete waste of time.

Funny thing is, the damn show is called the Game Developers Conference, and is meant to help developers with their unreleased wares and brewing ideas. →  Tony Hawk's Posting Ground

Two Gamecubes duct taped together

Chris Hecker angered a lot of people by calling the Wii a piece of shit at this years Game Developer’s Conference. The thrust of his “argument” seems to be that games are art and Nintendo is focusing solely on making entertainment, not art, and therefore Nintendo is bad. It’s worth noting that on his website Chris says he is the Editor at large of Game Developer magazine, yet their website and the february issue I hold in my hands neglect to mention he holds any position there. But back to the issue at hand – some of the videolamer staff have been kind enough to tell us their thoughts on the situation.

Pat says:
This speech took place during a “rant” session, which seems to encourage hyperbolic, polarizing comments. So while my first reaction was “Who cares?” →  Article Kombat

Numbers are fun: January 07 edition

There has been a decent amount of industry news in the gaming spotlight recently. A next gen system (Wii) was finally the best selling piece of hardware over a month (January) in the United States with 436,000 units. While the DS (239,000) still outsold the PSP (211,000), Sony’s machine has started to close the gap. All it took was a few original titles and sales have started to pick up. In terms of raw sales numbers, 2006 was a great year for the industry, and, in the US at least, terrific January sales have started 2007 off on the right foot. Japan sales last month were lower than those in January 2006, but this is hardly troubling. There are reporting problems with both the US and Japanese numbers that make it difficult to tell anything very specific, but it does seem as though the industry is alive and kicking. →  Tokyo Xtreme Reader: Drift 2

Sony’s “big announcements” at GDC07

I’m really unimpressed with Phil Harrison’s GDC07 presentation. Not one of the announcements made me re-think my choice to not purchase a PS3.

Playstation Home is basically “Second Life” or “There,” and not in any way new or innovative as the press keeps saying. Why would I want to use a $600 console to make an avatar and hang out in an online version of the Sims? And then pay real money for digital clothes and furniture to show off to people I wouldn’t want to talk to anyway? No thanks. This just seems to be Sony’s lame attempt at cashing in on the Web 2.0 market (the MySpace generation). “Hey kids, you can use this boxed computer and internet connection to talk to other people online. Don’t forget to make your avatar your own by giving us some cash for generic yet ad-supported mechandise. →  The post still burns.

Lost in Space: Looking for a worthy 4X Game

I love the 4X genre. It’s most likely a combination of the fact that I’m a huge geek and love space, and the fact I was beat up a lot in middle school and high school and didn’t kiss a whole lot of girls back then (see the first two reasons of my 4X love if you’re unclear on why that is). My love of the genre started on the old Mac II with Spaceward Ho, a game that lives on today in Palm Pilot versions (which are quite badass). Then came Pax Imperia I, followed by the graphically enjoyable but gameplay poor sequel. I tried other games along the way, such as Hegemonia, but nothing really stuck. Like every player of the genre (except for the ones who fail at life) Master Of Orion 2 was my lord and savior. →  I'll get a job later, for now I'm going to read this