Awful Boss Fights

What do Wolfenstein: Young Blood and Halo: Infinite have in common? If you guessed that they’re both mediocre games, you’d be right, but that’s not what I was thinking of.

No, what I was thinking of is that they both have similarly terrible final boss fights.

The basic rules of each fight are as follows:

  • They both take place in a vaguely circular arena. You’re exposed if you go into the center, but you can find some protective walls if you move toward the outer edges
  • The boss flies and/or teleports around hurling projectiles at you, some of which can be difficult to dodge when you’re also trying to shoot back
  • Multiple waves of enemy mooks spawn in to try and distract you
  • The boss has multiple phases

It is uncanny how similar (and similarly terrible) these fights are. →  Read the rest

The Last of Us Rereleases and Remasters

I’ve seen some … complaints about the fact that Sony is planning yet another re-release of The Last of Us.

To be clear, I get it. On the surface, it does seem nuts that a single game would get three different releases, across three different consoles, in less than a decade. And these are distinct products – with their own unique changes, features, and additions – rather than straight ports of the original code to new hardware.

At a certain level, it feels bad. Maybe you consider it a cynical cash grab for Sony to do this. Maybe you think it points to a general lack of creativity and new ideas. Maybe it seems bizarre because the original, PS4-based remaster works on PS5.

However you feel, I get it. But – and I can’t believe I’m saying this – I also get where Sony is coming from, at least in regards to this new, upcoming release. →  Read the rest

Aesthetic Gachaism

Here’s a pretty cool post from indie game developer Keith Burgun. It’s about a concept he labels as “aesthetic gacha-ism”, which he describes as follows:

The core of my conception of aesthetic gacha-ism is the commodification of games: both in how they are produced, the rules, the experience, the way it’s talked about. At nearly every level, the experience of games gets put more and more onto an assembly line, alienated from human experience, connection and meaning.

He then goes on to list some of the core tenets of Aesthetic Gacha-ism:

  • Extrinsic-reward driven (AKA “the metagame is more important than the base game design”)
  • Elements feel copy-pasted a lot, and/or “subdivided” to increase length
  • Compulsion-driven design
  • The (dreaded) crafting system
  • Commodified quests
  • More and more things “level up” in some way

(The author elaborates on all of these bullet points within the actual piece, so I encourage you to read through it.) →  Read the rest

Out Run, I Mean Outrun Culture

A few months ago I found myself buying (and playing) the Sega Ages version of Out Run on Switch. It’s a great port with some interesting new features, and it made me appreciate the game all over again. Eventually I found myself doing some historical research on the game to learn more about its development and legacy.

Unfortunately, this was easier said than done. My search results were dominated not by Out Run, but by …. Outrun.

As far as I can tell, “Outrun” is the name of both a subgenre of synth music, and a surrounding subculture. According to the Outrun subreddit’s description, Outrun is:

Dedicated to the synthwave music scene, a revisionist 80s music style of synthesizers and pulsing beats, and the retrofuturist 80s aesthetic of fast cars, neon lights and chrome. →  Read the rest

Top 10 Trends I Ignored – An Old Man is Prideful of His Ignorance

In the dozen years since I used this site as a platform for bad jokes, Wii apologia, and po-faced discussion on design, many gaming trends have come, and in some cases, gone. Having ignored most of these shifts in the industry, I will now document these trends and explain why I am better than each of them.

  1. MMOs

These already existed when this site launched in 200…something. As I am competing with my dead grandfather at having the fewest friends, I worried social gaming would lead to comradery and therefore defeat. This fear was unfounded, however, as years on gaming forums have led me to accumulate exactly zero new acquaintances. “Who is that condescending guy who only posts single sentences that are obviously sarcastic?” is what I assumed people would say. →  Read the rest

White Flag of Freedom – Why not give up on a game?

There is something almost therapeutic about finishing a game. Another accomplishment, another disc to put back on the shelf (metaphorically if you are not obsessed with collecting slowly decaying physical media), and the freedom to move on to another game without the slightest twinge of guilt, regret, or sense of failure.

Completing games has been enshrined in the culture by sites like Backloggery and How Long to Beat. I have a 6 year old spreadsheet I use to track what I finish and know other people who do the same. Gaming forums have threads on backlogs frequently; many of us feel the weight of our unfinished games.

Why do we want to finish games, and should we? You’re right, those are good questions. Let’s dive into the why first. I have heard our drive to complete games described as internalized capitalism, oddly enough from self-professed once-libertarian Heather Anne Campbell (shout out to my Elysium comrade Nick Weiger). →  Read the rest

Gran Turismo 7 is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things

I don’t play Gran Turismo, but if you spend even a little time reading video game news, you’ve probably seen something about the game’s many post-launch issues. Things like the in-game economy making it difficult to purchase vehicles without ponying up real world cash, the online requirement even for single player, and the fact that in-game car prices are partially linked to and based on real world prices, at a time where all car prices are insane (meaning prices for cars that are old, rare, and fast are even worse).

I’m not entirely sure how I feel about these developments. The game is clearly trying to position itself as a Live Service (even if Sony doesn’t want to admit it), and they clearly want even the Single Player audience to pony up for some good old “Recurrent User Spending.” →  Read the rest

Remembering to Forget to Remember Sega

The original sin that man is responsible to

Part of being a jerk on the internet is having unnecessarily heated arguments about irrelevant things with strangers. One of my go-to topics, mostly borne out of authentic emotion, is Sega and their current state. Unlike sane people who see the branding on a box of some Total War game, notice Yakuza doing well, or wonder why there are so many Sonic games and intuit Sega is a moderately successful company, I think they died almost twenty years ago. 

What’s the problem?

I am haunted by nightmares every night

There was a distinct Sega-ness that was removed from life support the day they were acquired by pachinko manufacturer Sammy in 2004. The end of the Dreamcast foreshadowed the demise of the company’s soul. →  Read the rest

Are Old Games Killing New Games – Parallels Between Gaming and Music

I recently came across this piece from musician/writer/historian Ted Gioia. The last time I read something by Gioia was his 2017 essay Music Criticism has Degenerated into Lifestyle Reporting, which I found to be both entertaining and painfully accurate (and which set off an entertaining firestorm of backlash from all the poptimist critics whom the piece targeted).

But this new post is a lot less inflammatory, and is arguably much more useful. The title says it all – “Old Music is Killing New Music.” The author makes several key points about the music industry, and what I find interesting is how every single one of them can also be applied to gaming.

Here’s the TL:DR for those who don’t want to read the original piece:

  • Metrics suggest that people are listening to old music more than new music (at least among the metrics that “matter”).
 →  Read the rest

Competitive Mentalities in Gaming

It’s been about ten years since I last wrote something for this site. A lot has changed in that time.

For instance, it seems to me that the entire gaming landscape has become a lot more competitive.

Gamer Unsupervised: Ideas and Lessons Your Gamer May be Learning While  Nobody's Watching | PT 1: Rage — Ukatsu

I’m not just talking about eSports. In fact, the rise of professional competitive gaming is one thing that doesn’t surprise me. It was already a thing back in 2012, albeit much smaller, and even then I had a feeling it would grow.

I’m also not talking about the popularity of traditional, non-professional competitive gaming. That’s been consistently popular for about as long as gaming has existed. I’m more interested in the other, subtle-but-not-always-subtle ways in which a competitive mindset has permeated the hobby.

Take speedrunning for example. It’s not new, but it has become explosively popular over the last decade. →  Read the rest

The Strange Joys of Not Gaming

Video games have always played a large role in my life. Some, my wife included, have drawn the conclusion that video games take up too much of my time. I’ll freely admit that I have a problem. It apparently could be worse since I have never played Shenmuie or however one spells that awful transliteration and if I did I would apparently love it so much it that it would devour my very being. So I got that going for me.

Thrust into a position where I have no television, no console and a laptop that struggles to run The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, I find myself looking from the outside of the gamer community in. Having spent a few months in this position, my primary result of electronic entertainment deprivation is this: Being cut off almost completely from video games is weird. →  Read the rest

Reports of the East’s death are greatly exaggerated

Joseph Goebbels said that if you tell a lie often enough, it becomes the truth. I don’t say this to make some comparison to the Nazis, but because it often occurs outside the realm of propaganda. There are times when bad reporting and a lack of research can cause a false belief to become a truism in the eyes of society. As a general example, I am reminded of the various reports on the epidemic of sexual “rainbow parties” among teenagers, which were based on a handful of incidents which in no way suggested that such an event is a common occurrence anywhere. Sometimes this happens due to someone wanting to push an agenda, and other times it may simply be the result of people believing something that they want to be true. →  Read the rest

How The West Went Wrong

Let’s play a game that we’ll call, “Count The Genres”. Video games do a pretty good job of covering their bases in terms of the copious amount of scenarios and storylines they deal with. You have your run-of-the-mill sci-fi game, fantasy plots set in mystical realms, hospital simulations, farming sims, sports, you name it, there is probably a video game that touches on it in some way. There is one genre though that I am constantly amazed by the lack of coverage it receives and that is, the Western. How many Western themed games can you name?

I am curious as to why the Western genre gets as little love from electronic gaming as it does. This is especially true when you consider how romanticized the genre has been in books, radio, and film since the turn of the century. →  Read the rest

Cloud Gaming Paranoia!!!

Call me paranoid but I have never been a fan of “cloud” computing. I like having all of my files stored on my computer. I like having my games on discs. I like knowing that if something goes haywire, I am the one responsible and I am the one that can fix it. It seems like the general trend for computing has been to have massive servers out there in the wilds of Oregon and Washington take care of all of the heavy lifting and maintenance of data while the computers we are using keep getting smaller and more portable. Gaming has followed these trends and I find it troubling for handful of reasons. I have always written off these worries as the product of my overactive imagination but recent events have given me reason to suspect I might be right to worry. →  Read the rest

Changing Game Cases

When the Playstation 2 was released, gaming saw an unexpected, but seemingly logical shift in packaging.  CD jewel cases were replaced with the taller, sturdier cases used for DVD videos.  Considering the PS2 used DVDs, this made a lot of sense, and everyone appreciated having a case that wouldn’t break apart so easily.  It also helped video games look like a much more legitimate entertainment option.  A Playstation 1 game would sit indiscriminately amongst your CDs.  A PS2 game, on the other hand, would stand nicely on your movie shelf.  This line of thought was somewhat damaged by the tacky green colors of Xbox cases, but you get the point.  Not since the days of the Genesis had games been so easy to keep and collect without resorting to extraordinary means of preservation. →  Read the rest

“Screw you America” – Nintendo

Why doesn’t Nintendo release every game they create in every market? The traditional glib answer is some variant of “Nintendo is a business and not a charity.” This may be true, but some companies have found a way to both make money and pay tribute to their medium. For example, HBO is known for keeping shows afloat despite poor ratings. These “prestige shows” are too good to simply cancel and for the sake of television as an art, HBO keeps them on the air.

Nintendo has made billions of dollars selling video games and has some of the most dedicated fans in the industry; it seems like they should not only be a producer of games but also part of the video game vanguard by protecting and honoring interactive entertainment. Unfortunately, Nintendo and Nintendo of America more specifically simply do not agree with this philosophy. →  Read the rest

Houston, Wii Have a Problem

When the Wii was first heralded as the “next big thing” in video games, I was watching from the sidelines (or possibly the frontlines) in Japan. I admit that like everyone else, I got caught up in the hype and wanted…nay…needed a Wii. That was a couple of years ago. Since then, I have decided a didn’t need a Wii and then ended up getting one for practically free off of Craigslist about five months ago. I haven’t played the damned thing in almost three months, confirming my suspicions that the Wii was not a console for me. However, this is not a blurb of why I dislike the Wii; it is an article explaining why I think the Wii was a bad idea for Nintendo.

At first glance, the Wii was a nifty concept. →  Read the rest

Third party publishers as RPG archetypes

Imagine if you will some kind of strange alternate meta-world, where major third party games publishers form a rag-tag party and embark upon a quest to… make an awful lot of money? I suppose they’re going to steal some Dragon’s gold, that can be the story. Although in reality, in our universe, they’re just corporate entities raking in the cash for their shareholders and higher echelon types. But in this otherworld, they’re taking on a Dragon, and I think we can all get behind that.

Valve – The hero

Emerging from obscurity, our hero plots an unlikely meteoric rise to widespread acclaim and influence. It also emerges that he is the only one who can wield the arcane STEAM, a mystical source of great power which makes him all but unstoppable. →  Read the rest

Leveling up the Experience System

Over the past twenty-five years of the “modern” RPG era in gaming, we’ve seen the genre advance tremendously. Rendered graphics, advanced skill systems, voice acting and ever more colors of chocobos are in the vanguard of innovation. But one thing we have not seen advance in any particularly cogent fashion is the experience system.

On the surface, the experience system is relatively straight forward. You kill monsters, you get stronger. This can take a variety of formats: from the basic experience system that leads to levels which grant automatic stat and ability increases, to systems where experience or a similar credit system are spent on customizable skills, to hybrid systems which do both. Gaining levels serves to complement the plot at a tactical level: as the story progresses, inevitably the farmer-turned-hero, imaginary-underwater-volleyball-player-turned-hero, or emo-sixteen-year-old-turned-hero will grow more powerful from a plot context. →  Read the rest

The Six Hour Rule

Great game, great graphics, good story, co-op mode, online play but only 10 hours long. Or words to that effect. I’ve seen a number of reviews that say something about the relatively short length of a game being negative despite the fact that the game, considered too short by the reviewer, would probably take me months if not years to actually play through.

How long is too long? What do we mean by length? How much weight should reviewers put on the price-point/length-of-game ratio in deciding whether or not a game should be recommended? The Ram Raider has a nice article about price point considerations which is what prompted me to think about how long a game takes and about getting old. Being an old cranky, jaded gamer…

Gone are the days when I could buy a game and then revel in it for long periods of time until I’d explored every nook and cranny and devoured all the content in the main game, unlocked all the ummm…. →  Read the rest