Playing games in Games
Posted on Thursday, March 10 2011 @ 13:40:43 Eastern
As I sat quite innocently playing the Legacy of Kain additional content to Lara Croft's Guardian of Light on my Xbox, I was struck by an old, fond memory, of a much (unfortunately, MUCH) younger me sitting in front of my Playstation playing the good ol' Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver. But I wasn't busy exploring the dark depths of the gothic, twisted Nosgoth; nor locking soul reavers with Kain. Instead, I was busy taking Raziel up a cliff face and jumping back down into a small pool below- over and over and over again.
The idea of using the beloved avatar of a beloved soul-sucking wraith simply for the purposes of an inaccurate pool-jumping simulation might seem abhorrent. But eleven year old me was quite happy plunging Raziel into the water time after time, narrating to an imaginary, binocular-wielding, middle class safari party in a poor David Attenborough imitation, the behaviourisms, favoured habitats and above all unusual mating calls of "the" Raziel. Even now I can hear my short-lived alter-ego pointing out "the creature's" ability to breath underwater.
That is why I jumped, crawled and glided poor Raziel back down into that pool of water for what must have been at least a solid hour.
And it occurred to me that even to this day, I still do this! The noticeable difference being that David Attenborough's voice has now broken, of course.
Games such as Prototype and even Spiderman have felt my directorship. Are in-game avatars the new limb-movable action figures?
You might ask how anyone could take Spiderman to be anything other than Spiderman. Trying pretending you're the voice of Spidey's ex-girlfriend, explaining to her current date inside a cab that she's got some really unique past experiences, as you land the wall-crawler squarely on top of said taxi to say hello.
Perhaps this "playing a game in a game" is common. Perhaps the days of children holding miniature batmen by their waists, tilting them from side-to-side and throwing them down flights of stairs is numbered. Perhaps all that crude oil used to manufacture plastic rod-shooting Iron Men was a waste, and in time humanity will be faced with ever-growing mountains of red, black and blue figurines in their so-and-so-mobiles, blocking out the sun as toy after toy becomes redundant to the impossibly flexible usage of a sandbox avatar. Or perhaps I just watched too much TV.
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Hard Difficulty- a retort to Casual Difficulty's 'How short is too short?'
Posted on Wednesday, October 27 2010 @ 09:57:01 Eastern
Lost in translation
(You can find Casual Difficulty's 'How short is too short?' short essay on the website Game Revolution, entitled as the latter in the Features section.)
Without recapping Casual Difficulty's short essay: I agree. Gamers who complain precisely over a game’s length and it being “too short” are missing the point entirely. Literally looking for more bang for one's buck to measure a game’s caliber by is not only unfair but unjust- not to sound too serious or anything.
However, if I’m to use myself as an example, I believe that these very same gamers- or at least some of them- look for longevity in their games more from a financial standpoint than one of merit. Jesse Costantino is absolutely right in saying that, with time, production prices have only gone up- but in turn so have retail prices. And, to use his own food-styled metaphor, in a city (industry) full of great restaurants (games), we the consumer want more on our plate for what we’re paying, and understandably so. That isn't to say however that quantity surpasses quality. Indeed, it is quite the opposite.
To put it plainly, Vanquish is a superb piece of work. Its length places no handicap in my mind upon how "good" it is. What it DOES do, however, is place it at the back of the purchase line. Short games are a doomed species. To use Vanquish as an example: why bother shelling out 40 pounds, dollars or whatever your currency for a game you can complete within a seven-day Blockbuster rental for 7 whatevers, and use the leftovers for that other title you’ve had your eye on. Or, to convert that into another food metaphor: why pay a lot for the privilege of a high-street cafe muffin when you can buy a pack of the exact same four at your local supermarket- for less?
Sure, seven days is a lot less time than ownership provides, but one can only chew for so long, no?
And, if multiplayers are, like Casual Difficulty says, 'underdeveloped' (and I’m not wholly disagreeing there) where does that leave the short, sweet game?
Gamers, I believe, don’t want to chew up and spit out game after game. They want to be able to recycle! Or, regurgitate, as gross a food metaphor as that might be. The solution lies in short games finding a reason to come back and replay- and it’s here that achievements/ trophies help. Though they themselves have taken something away from games (gone are the days of playing Sonic 1 over and over for want of more coins or just to damn finish) it provides, in return, with incentive. And there at least, games have not changed. People have always played towards a goal: it’s what makes a game a “game”, whether it concern sports, software or foxy boxing; whether it be to win, succeed in a personal achievement or just plain reach a certain level of enjoyment. I see achievements/trophies simply as various mini-goalposts that keep gamers coming back to whatever game title you like to score that extra little sense of accomplishment.
Perhaps it’s just a matter of semantics. Game design theorists often complain that, unlike most design industries- from mechanics to architecture- gaming lacks a solid form of jargon, beyond that of genre labeling. When these gamers Jesse speaks of cry out about “length”, what they might really be calling for is “replayability”.
'If a game’s not worth savoring, is it really worth consuming?'
Absolutely. I’d like to think we’d starve otherwise. To use Jesse's food metaphor one last time, gaming is indeed a lot like hunger. And just because we don’t savour our McDonalds Big Mac doesn’t mean it isn't worth wolfing down with fries. Anyone for a cheeseburger?
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Dude, where's my vampire?
Posted on Sunday, September 27 2009 @ 16:49:10 Eastern
As I watched Twilight for the fourth time (involuntarily-so since the second) I suddenly realised how we gamers, both PC and console, have been deprived for, albeit not a vampiric eternity, but quite some time of a good- key word- vampire RPG game. The outdated, power-hungry and bug ridden Vampire: The Masquerade aside.
Vampires are back and not-so-much in black, but a far trendier teenaged face and an emo-esque ambiance soundtrack. They’re no longer seen as Goth demigods, or indeed just dedicated Goths in general. Rather, they’re cool, sexy, and a major ticket seller. So why is it that, after years of exclusion from the popular inner sanctum of mass acceptability, vampires are yet to rise from their crypts into the video game industry, instead of treat such a business like daylight?
If anything this is the perfect time: vampire books, are in. Vampire movies, are in. Dressing like a vampire, is in. You know who you are. So where are all our pixel-born blood-suckers?
While someone, somewhere, possibly from the ninth circle of Hell itself, has opened up an artery in the business to allow bad blood such as Beatles Rock Band and such like to keep pouring from the industry’s gaping wound, developers seem to be completely in the dark where this major gap in the market is concerned. You’d think such an idea (a new vampire game) would be comparable, visibility wise, to two puncture marks on one’s neck.
I mean to say, what could possibly be more enjoyable than assuming the role of a player-made vampire of their choosing, to stalk the streets of hot spots such as Johannesburg or Vienna, opting to play the dark guardian angel by preying on those who prey on others, or just plain darkly- drinking the blood of the innocent and so forth!
Nope. Instead of being allowed to charm unrealistically beautiful female A.I., we’re being allowed to rehash old songs, play as the Master Chief’s dumbed-down doppelganger who can’t talk, and brain train- more.
I’m going to sign off from this blog by wrapping my cloak around myself, bursting into a flurry of bats, and attempt to figure out which of those bats is my behind. That particular bat is going to come in handy when I find out who’s responsible.
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HALO 3 ODST REVIEW- COMING TO YOU 17/10/2009!
Posted on Saturday, September 26 2009 @ 13:33:59 Eastern
Unfortunately, my Xbox 360 has fallen prey to the infamous Red Ring of Death. After one hour's crying and two days of comforting vanilla ice-cream, I've returned to my senses and decided I should let any prospective readers know the s... read more...
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