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A Letter to the Big “N"
By shandog137
Posted on 09/12/14
I have and will continue to have a place in my heart for Nintendo. In fact, my first console was a Super Nintendo. The video game market has changed drastically since the early '90s and it seems like what once was platinum is more so along the lines of silver now. Nintendo has always been...


oblivion437 oblivion437's Blog
Booth Babes as Prismatic Side Show
Posted on Thursday, March 20 2014 @ 12:18:06 Eastern

This post began life as a simple rebuttal to Daniel Bischoff's essay, "Join Game Revolution in the Fight to Ban Booth Babes from E3" and has since grown into something a bit bigger.

Concerns about the industry's image are, fundamentally, the industry's concerns.  Journalists writing about this and other issues seem to need a quick reminder - you are not in the games industry.  You are in the games journalism industry.  Colin Moriarty can't seem to keep it straight either but who knows who is really underwriting his paychecks anymore?  So one forfeits one's position of journalist when one tries to participate in or lead a campaign to transform some aspect of the thing covered.  One has clearly ceased to report on something and has become a part of the story itself.  A real journalist may cover that campaign but not take part.  One may even freely editorialize in the most grand fashion about it.  Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward covered Watergate extensively but they never testified at any of the hearings related to it.  They were journalists covering the story and not participators in the story.

Lastly, a couple paraphrased quotes from Joseph Schumpeter to illustrate my own stance on the issue:

"The prettiest girl in the scantiest clothes could never sell the world's worst game" --in other words, I think it's a stupid practice which should stop.

"The enemies of video games have the sentence of death in their pockets.  The only thing spirited defense will gain is a change in the indictment."  --Ten years ago it was video games cause violent behavior.  Now it's video games cause sexism.  In both cases the people making the claims are full of bull and they knew it the entire time.  It's hilarious to note that John McIntosh, Anita Sarkeesian's puppetmaster, sustains both lines of argument absent any empirical evidence to back his claim.  Hidden just out of sight is a desire for legislative control which will be imposed in waves.  First the industry would have to set up its own ratings and regulatory body.  Then it would have to start censoring itself for fear of negative PR.  Finally legislation similar to the Hayes Code or the Comics Code would be imposed by either statutory law or administrative law.  Video games enjoy only tenuous protection as speech so this could go on for a long time unless someone takes a case all the way to the Supreme Court and wins.


It is my perception that coverage of and participation in these relative non-issues enables, whether tacitly or overtly, several degenerate problems in the industry at large to go unscrutinized and the public remain largely unaware of them.  To wit, I can only offer a few token examples which are well known and which are part of storied histories of bad practice.

-Abusive work conditions.  Crunch modes including double overtime with no overtime pay is quite common.  Rockstar Games has become infamous for operating in perpetual crunch.  Team Bondi used up personnel like a McDonald's uses foam coffee cups.  Even during 'normal' work twelve-hour days are common, even though the resulting 60-72 hour work weeks are not in turn specially compensated. Working in games requires developing special skills to professional muster and in turn not putting them to the most profitable use.  The core programmers on big budget projects, for example, could increase their salary by switching out of games and going into general software development.  The working conditions are generally better.  Turnover rates are immense and due to the logistics of retention good people can be driven out even after shipping something which goes on to sell millions of copies.  The economically illiterate are calling for unionization which would almost certainly end in disaster.

-Power relationships.  Right now the cards are generally in the publisher or license holder's hands.  They enjoy a great deal of power for which they largely cannot be checked and abuse of which is not punished or even much scrutinized.  How many articles are there about Adria Richards?  How many about how Lucas Arts drove Free Radical into bankruptcy and illegally witheld milestone payments from them knowing full well that if FR sued they could simply tie them up in court because they had no money to pay for a lawsuit?  One is a serious problem and there are more skeletons in that closet.  Instead of digging into the industry's dark underbelly the journalist instead goes for the low hanging fruit - some guy made a dirty joke within earshot of a histrionic woman who in turn compared herself to Joan of Arc (who, if one is not keen to remember, burned at the stake for her beliefs) for being insulted on the internet.

-Industrial/Reportorial Incest.  No one wants to air fellow professionals' dirty laundry but the empirical evidence that, with the exceptions of smaller community-oriented websites like GR and Gather Your Party, games journalism and review is a bad joke with no punch line.

Ben Kuchera got his sleazy pseudo-intellectual blog for Penny Arcade fifteen minutes of fame and early hopeful notices by saying what everyone knows in a straightforward way.  If low-rent hustlers like Kuchera can earn applause by saying that, if only for a while, and the whole operation couldn't appear more corrupt if line-item financial records from EA's 2013 annual shareholders' report included dollar-amount and payment dates with attached memos for bribes to Colin Moriarty to defend Mass Effect 3's incorrigably bad writing while simultaneously attacking anyone who was stupid enough to pay to play it then where is the hard-hitting honest-to-God journalism unearthing this?  The problem is out there but reticence prevents productive discussion.

There is a gold mine of serious writerly work out there in turning over the stones and revealing the grubs crawling about underneath.  This is, by and large, not getting done.  Most of the content anyone can reference comes from obscure, often anonymous, always pseudonymous weirdos from places like 4Chan.  No one talking about this stuff in a serious way in print or other media is actually connected to the establishment of games journalism.  They're outsiders or amateurs, often both, and their lack of insider connections automatically commends their credibility if only because they can't be shown to ever have received money or non-monetary compensation from the same parties whose less than savory practices they claim to scrutinize.  While their position may be credible their claims may not be.  They lack the insider knowledge to back them up with who, what, where, when, why and how.  Someone with both of these two traits appears to be rarer than lips on a chicken.

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Hurdles to a Possible Final Fantasy VII Remake
Posted on Saturday, March 1 2014 @ 15:53:54 Eastern

In a recent post discussing Yoshinori Kitase's thoughts on possibly remaking Final Fantasy VII an interesting discussion broke out about why they would not and what might get in their way. 

First, let me be up front about my personal position and say that a proper HD remake of the game not being made appears to practically be a fat stack of cash sitting on the table with Square just looking at it in bemusement not knowing what to do. If it's feasible and they haven't already gotten started on it, then they are foolish. However, it may not be feasible. Here are some reasons... 

1 - They have failed to produce a separate product which outdid Final Fantasy 7 financially. They have still never made a better-selling game, prior to or after their merger with Enix. Given that install bases are far larger now than they were in the fifth generation, that both stands as testament to how much they achieved with 7 and how much they've struggled to recapture that lightning in a bottle. In the West, at least, JRPGs have returned to being a niche interest. They don't move units like they used to. 7 might be one of a handful of titles with a sort of 'grandfather clause' in that it was the one practically everybody liked. The genre started to fall off from its perch toward the end of the sixth generation and is now, two generations later, a niche. 

2 - The project would be massive and expensive. No matter how they approached it, a fully-fledged remake would be one of the most expensive projects they've undertaken to date. 

3 - What will the success would actually mean for them in the long run? To get a sense of how dire the situation is, a possible research project may be in the offing—counting spinoffs, remakes, ports and direct sequels, Square Enix has made dozens of games since 1997 and published many more. None of them have made more money than 7 did after running behind schedule and over budget. Some of them cost more money to make. Seventeen years' worth of chances and they still cannot get out from under its shadow.

Even if they did a remake and it was great and made them shipping tankers full of cash they would still, in some eyes, be that company which peaked in 1997 and spent more than two decades trying to reiterate that success and the closest they ever got was chasing nostalgia for that past success. The problem for them would be figuring out where to go from there. Remakes of other past Final Fantasy titles wouldn't be the guaranteed printing-press success and a number of them would be money pits. New titles? They've tried it for two decades and while they haven't lost money they haven't exactly raked in the dough, either. Perhaps the company is prisoner to its own past success. 

Finally, and this may be the biggest hurdle of all, is the archives of the original assets. The assets for Final Fantasy VII were poorly archived and documented. A straight 'rez up' would be impossible without them so new assets would have to be created from scratch. As it happens the rendering process is rather on the expensive side so a full-service three-dimensional recreation of each location would actually be more practical. This leads to a further problem—the visuals in FF7's raytraced cinematics appear antiquated by modern standards. Games are throwing more detail on screen in real time than those cinematics had pre-rendered. Hell, Final Fantasy XII's cinematics don't look as good as some real time games. Standards have reached a point where playing 'catch up' would be a thorny and expensive problem.

[The opinions expressed here does not necessarily reflect the views of Game Revolution, but we believe it's worthy of being featured on our site. This article, posted originally on February 17, 2013, has been lightly edited for grammar and image inclusion. You can find more Vox Pop articles here. ~Ed. Nick Tan]

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Prolegomenon to Reviews for the New Thief
Posted on Saturday, February 15 2014 @ 15:07:04 Eastern

Eidos Montreal have released a seventeen-minute video of the upcoming Thief.  GR has it posted here.

Mr. Osborn, in his remarks on the post notes that while it appears to promise a competent stealth title in the near future, he is not in position to judge its merits relative to the rest of the franchise.  This is a fair point and a good admission to make.  It reveals a problem, however.  Any review of this sort of game - a franchise reboot by a different team using different technology with different design philosophy and no general regard for the series as a whole and no creative input from the franchise creators - must be fully apprised of the franchise's roots in order to offer any kind of effective comparison.  It is not a question of resources or technical competence - all three games have community patches to make the software fully compliant with contemporary hardware (including widescreen monitors) and software.  The entire series is available for less than thirty dollars.

Any outfit looking to publish a review for the upcoming game therefore has no excuse for reviews written by staff not possessing the required knowledge to render a fully competent review.  The game launches in ten days.  If one were not furnished with a review copy and therefore obliged to wait until launch day to begin playing that provides one-and-a-half weeks to get through all three games.  That is plenty of time.

For purposes of illustration, let us imagine two journalists discussing the political situation in China on the basis of a government-sponsored tour.  Further let us suppose that neither of these journalists speak, read, or write a lick of Mandarin or Cantonese.  Would they not, then, write credulous and foolish stories?  Would they not be raked over the coals?  We don't need to imagine.  This really happened.  The two inept think tank wonderboys were Matthew Yglesias and Ezra Klein.  Their reports were staggeringly naive.  Ethan Epstein raked them over the coals.  The stakes here are far lower.  The barriers to entry are far lower.  A similar raking deservingly awaits anyone who signs off on a similar exercise in journalistic incompetence.

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Preparing for the Upcoming Thief
Posted on Friday, January 24 2014 @ 19:39:34 Eastern

When a new entry in a franchise comes along, it behooves us to acquaint ourselves with that franchise's past entries. Imagine, if one were alive in 1870, starting to read the serial edition of War & Peace at around chapter 240. About ...   read more...

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Adam Orth Resurfaces or, Gamespot Still Sucks
Posted on Monday, January 13 2014 @ 01:08:25 Eastern

Adam Orth needs and deserves no introduction beyond 'he's a jerk who said a stupid thing and it cost him his job.'  He produced a public apology which followed the Jon Corzine school of not understanding what he did wrong or why h...   read more...

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Empirical Evidence that Games Review is a Joke
Posted on Tuesday, December 24 2013 @ 20:14:06 Eastern

This is irresistable empirical evidence that competent research and analysis is the exception, not the norm.  It further helps to understand why - simple laziness explains it.

From the wonderful Slower than Slow, Thicker t...  

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Ethics for Sale!
Posted on Monday, September 16 2013 @ 17:19:38 Eastern

So, the GTA V review embargo is up.  First I wish to discuss a badly written review, then I wish to discuss morally bankrupt reviews.

Universally positive reviews thus far (7:37 PM EST, 16/9/13) with but one exception and that rev...   read more...

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Sarkeesian, Revisited
Posted on Saturday, August 24 2013 @ 19:37:38 Eastern

The whole Sarkeesian episode has been interesting in a couple ways.  Much like the Zimmerman case large bodies of opinion built up on either side of a quickly dualistic divide which had little relationship to reality.  It then turns out the...   read more...

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Shadowrun Returns Review
Posted on Saturday, August 10 2013 @ 17:37:18 Eastern

First, watch MrBTongue's Cyberpunk is Back

With that amount of well-considered optimism in view we must ask - was the wait worth it?  Did the game deliver?  For those out only for a purchase/don't purchase guide and n...   read more...

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Spec Ops: The Line Review
Posted on Friday, August 2 2013 @ 16:13:45 Eastern

Worth its Weight in Leaden Pretension

This review is not late to the party.  It's a sifting of the ruins of the house after the party ended.  A real bender.  Everyone got drunk.  With the distance of time and a ...   read more...

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