Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Play More Games

I was this close to starting a new Final Fantasy VII file the other day! Thiiiiiis close. Why? Because of this excellent series of open letters between gaming bloggers Leigh Alexander and Kirk Hamilton, chronicling the former's obsession with the game and the latter's recent introduction to it. I defy anyone to read and not let nostalgia get the better of them.

That being said, I have "a thing" about replaying single-player narrative games. Since I fancy myself a connoisseur (full disclosure: spellcheck helped me out on that word) of the interactive arts, I have it in my head that I need to be constantly broadening my pallet, so to speak. Of course there's nothing wrong with replaying games, and in fact games in their purest form are meant to be re-played. Still, I think there's something to be said for trying new things.

In the last two years I have taken to buying used games at a rate that far exceeds my capacity to play them. I'm not really averse to playing decade-old games for the first time (this year I've played and finished Metal Gear Solid 2, Chrono Trigger, and Metroid Zero Mission, amongst others), so after my recent purchase of Portal 2 I set a temporary rule for myself:

I'm not allowed to buy another game until I beat ten games that I own but haven't beaten before.

I'm willing to be flexible, of course, since some games don't focus on their "completed state" (i.e. Rock Band 3) and others perhaps have unrealistic goals for theirs (i.e. Pokemon Black). That being said, I need some help sorting through the stockpile of games I've amassed. That's where you come in! Help me choose games! See anything that sets off a wave of nostalgia? Want to play through any of these alongside me? Let me know!

In no particular order, the list of games I own that I should probably play:

Left 4 Dead 2
Machinarium (pictured)
StarFox: Command
Final Fantasy Tactics A2: Grimoire of the Rift

Monday Night Combat (pictured)
Cortex Command
World of Goo

Ben There, Dan That!
Time, Gentlemen, Please!
Revenge of the Titans
Rayman (pictured)
Chrono Cross
Elder Scrolls - Daggerfall

Monte Python and the Holy Grail
The Darkness
Deus Ex
Eternal Darkness (pictured)
Dragon Quest VII: Journey of the Cursed King
Shadow of the Colossus
Link's Crossbow Training

The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass
Skies of Arcadia Legends
Rayman 2: The Great Escape
Star Wars Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy
Red Dead Redemption (pictured)
Rock Band 3

Baten Kaitos
Viewtiful Joe (pictured)
Lost Odyssey
Super Mario Galaxy 2
Fallout 3

Lego Indiana Jones
Dragon Quest IV: Chapters of the Chosen
Retro Game Challenge (pictured)
Breath of Fire II
Zack and Wiki: The Quest for Barbaros' Treasure
Tales of Symphonia
Golden Sun: The Lost Age
The Legend of Zelda
Zelda II: The Adventure of Link
Sonic & Knuckles

I completed Portal 2's single-player campaign (excellent! great fun) and I'm looking forward to the rest of the co-op. That will be game one of ten!

Sharing Content with Social Relevance

A few months ago, I was fortunate enough to be able to write an editorial series that was published on GameZebo, a casual games review site. The series was called "Core and Casual: What are We Talking About?" (click the link to read part 1).

Well, I'm at it again! This time, I'm tackling the issue of sharing from games to the 'outside world,' generally through social networks like Facebook or specialized gaming networks like Xbox Live. There's an interesting rift right now in what is generally referred to as the "gaming industry" - a small part of the audience is very accustomed to social network games that contain many prompts to post stories about your in-game accomplishments for your friends to see. The rest of the gaming public tends to look upon this practice as a degradation of the sanctity of games, even while the games they play grow more and more "social" (if you need proof, read the comments on Kotaku regarding Valve boss Gabe Newell's recent statement that all of Valve's games will be multiplayer in the future).

I hope having a bit more of a balanced, thoughtful consideration for the benefits of social sharing in games might at least enlighten game designers and players to the opportunities that await them. At the same time, any thinking about the topic should also serve as a warning to those who would abuse the powers social networks bring: namely, those that end up creating games that feel like they're trying to get something out of you instead of giving you something.

You can read the full article on GameZebo. Of course, thoughtful comments and criticisms are always appreciated!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

My Existential Crisis

I was corrupted at an early age by the agents of a dark and powerful force, and for the better part of two decades this force has festered in my soul and grown stronger. Its tendrils reach my brain and re-route logical thought. Its nourishment feeds my body and makes me dependent on it. But two weeks ago, I confronted my own inner Nintendo Fanboy, and I think I may have won.

Consider that the only Nintendo system I have never owned is the Virtual Boy, and that I would gladly trade a week's meals for one, if you can name your price (e-mail me!). Or that I've been present, cash-in-hand, for the day-one launch of the Game Boy Advance, the GameCube, the DS, and the Wii. That my man-child poster wall gives Zelda more real estate than Lord of the Rings (a nerd amongst nerds?) and that my senses detect SNES cartridges on thrift store shelves as readily as most people notice loose cash lying on the sidewalk.

It seems within reason that I'd be picking up the Nintendo 3DS - Nintendo's newest handheld, a significant upgrade to their DS line that can play newer, better games and features a stereoscopic 3D screen (think Avatar) without the need for 3D glasses (and it's awesome!). Indeed, that was my plan.

But I chickened out! Or at least, that's how I first described the decision to not spend my money quite yet. Sure, it has its flaws, the launch lineup of games is terrible, some of its online features won't activate until May, and they're likely to release a new model or drop the price by the holidays, but I knew all that before this weekend. So did I chicken out? Did my miserly attitude hold me back?

My crisis wasn't in deciding whether or not to get the 3DS - the moment that seed of doubt was in my mind, the crisis became whether or not to acknowledge that it was right. I should not buy the 3DS at launch, because I might end up deciding that I don't want it. My crisis was acknowledging that there might be better options out there, a thought that terrified my Inner Nintendo Fanboy. He raged against that thought, but the instant it formed, there was no going back.

I fought and I won, but with questions still lingering ... will I eventually pick one up? Should I hold out for the NGP? Is it finally time to cough up for a smartphone that I can game on?

I suppose time will tell.