Gamer’s Take: Girl Games – From Ignorance to Inclusion

Take a look at this image. As a retro gamer perhaps the first thing one might say is that the history of video games goes back much further than 1995, but obviously that is not the point here. The commentary, whether it is just a joke, as some people have tried to state that it is or that it is legitimate commentary. The idea is that women in the past attacked video games and gamer’s and now want those games and gamer’s to cater to them.

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DOTA 2: A Game for Crazy People?

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I played my first game of Dota 2 a week ago at the time of this writing, and am currently sitting on 34 hours logged. This is with two days spent out of town, away from my computer. 34 hours in 5 days, then. For a week, my computer has been little more than a Dota 2 delivery vessel. I am a man obsessed. Consumed, even. I dream of sick ganks and clutch ults. The distinctive sound of a stack of gold dropping, a reward for a last-hit, or the choir heralding my hero’s return to the battlefield, echo in my brain even as I write this. Any experienced Dota player will tell you that 34 hours is but a pittance, that I cannot even begin to plumb the depths of the game, much less attempt to relay them to you, the reader, but I feel I have no choice but to try. This is the first of hopefully several pieces journaling my descent into the madness that is Dota 2.

DOTA 2: A Game for Crazy People?

First, the absolute basics: Dota 2 is the “sequel” to Defense of the Ancients, or DotA, a free mod for Blizzard’s Warcraft 3. The original DotA is possibly the most-played mod in history, and is still actively supported. It spawned an entire genre pretty much single-handedly, the genre now known as MOBAs, or Multiplayer Online Battle Arenas; a  descriptor so vague as to be meaningless, but nevertheless the one we seem to have settled on. In MOBAs, two teams of 5 players face off in an enormous map. Their home bases are in the bottom-left and top-right corners of the map, and the map has three “lanes” running along the top, bottom, and middle. Each team automatically spawns minions, or “creeps,” periodically, which march unthinking down the lanes attacking whatever they see. The goal of each team is to break down the other’s defensive towers and ultimately to destroy the opponent’s Ancient, sitting in the middle of their base. Players gain gold and experience from killing creeps and other players, which are used to level up and buy equipment.

Dota 2

The main thing to understand about Dota 2, and the overarching theme of any discussion of it, is that it is fucking crazy. It is a mutant, an aberration of game design. Its mechanics seem to have been half-designed, half stumbled-upon, and never revised. In some ways, it is the essence of an RPG experience. You pick a character, grind low level mobs (“farm creeps” in Dota 2 parlance), and level up and load them out until you are an unstoppable force. Rather than take place over 40 hours or 40 days, the entire experience can be had in 40 minutes, and it turns out it is still massively satisfying. In other ways, it is totally unique, even alien. Sometimes, you want to attack your own creeps, so as to “deny” your opponents the full XP and gold from their death. Other times, you want to sit back and abstain from attacking anything at all, so as not to push the front line forward into enemy territory, where they have the defensive advantage. The game is loaded to the gills with idiosyncrasies large and small.

Dota 2

Dota 2’s title may suggest that it is a sequel, but in reality it is essentially a port of the original DotA into the Source engine. The Warcraft 3 engine had some particular quirks and features that DotA inherited by necessity, and they have been largely carried over into the new game. A new player may wonder, rightly, what the point of a full day/night cycle is. At night, units have shorter visibility, and there is one hero who is underpowered by day and reaches his full potential by night. A new player might wonder why, if you pull neutral creeps away from their camps for a crucial few seconds, exact replicas of those creeps spawn in their camp, leaving you with two identical sets of creeps to farm? These are minor features, arguably a bug in the latter case, borne of the Warcraft 3 engine. One might think that they might be streamlined or cleaned up. But no. “Streamlined” is not an adjective one should ever apply to Dota 2 under any circumstances.

Dota 2

This game has an info-density that would put any MMO to shame, and to be competent at the game you better be ready to absorb all that information, fast. At the time of this writing, there are 101 playable heroes, out of a planned 110, each with 4 abilities (unless they have 5 or 6!). Some of these may be active abilities, things like spells or techniques, while others are passive, meaning they are really more just a character attribute. Learning your own hero is feasible over the course of one match, but without some knowledge of your teammates’ and enemies’ heroes, you may be in for some unpleasant surprises, like being struck by lightning literally out of nowhere. Or perhaps a ghost pirate ship will come barreling out of the woods next to you and run you over. All’s fair in love and Dota.

Dota 2

These heroes are categorized by roles. Some of these roles are familiar to anyone who has played any kind of RPG, such as “durables,” a.k.a. tanks, or “nukers.” Some are completely unique to Dota, such as “carries,” who start the game underpowered and must be protected by other heroes, but grow in such a way that by the end of the game they are unstoppable. There are 15 (ish – it’s fuzzy and with lots of overlap) of these roles, and a hero may fill any number of them.

Dota 2

In addition to all of this are the items. There are dozens and dozens of items, which can have some fairly substantial effects on your character’s abilities. With the right loadout, you can even nudge a hero into a role they may not be primarily suited for, as befits your team composition. Items can only be bought at the shop in your team’s home base. Unless you go to one of the “secret shops” strewn about the map which have a separate inventory of items that can only be bought there. Don’t worry if you can’t get over there, though, because each team can also have a “courier,” a separate character that can ferry items from any shop to your character. You should coordinate with your teammates though, as each team’s courier can be controlled by anyone on the team at any time, (or killed by an enemy because, whatever! Dota!) and you don’t want any confusion.

Dota 2

So yeah, this game is fucking crazy. To their credit, Valve is trying their damnedest to lower the barrier to entry and improve the experience of new players. By far the most successful of these, for me, has been the game’s integrated guide system, which highlights the abilities you should be developing, in order, as well as presenting you with the items you should be focusing on for your hero. This has helped immensely, as the stress of having to learn what these scads of items do can be temporarily put aside while you focus on the already ludicrously daunting task of simply learning who these characters are, what they are capable of, and just what the hell is going on at any given time.  Make no mistake though, you will still need several tabs of Dota 2 wikis open at the start of every match to try to piece together what you are facing.

Dota 2

Even then, Dota 2 can be frustrating in a way that most other games would take great pains to prevent. Half of my games have ended with a character (usually for the opposing team) seeming so completely overpowered that I feel like they must have found some sort of exploit, that this cannot possibly be the way this game is meant to play out. But no, no, that’s just how Dota 2 is. There is also the ever-present threat of verbal abuse by your teammates. Dota 2 is a team game more than any other I’ve ever played, and if one member is noticeably worse than the others (or worse, drops from the game), the entire team will suffer dramatically for it. This genre is notorious for promoting discord amongst teammates, and Dota 2 is unfortunately no exception. Bring a friend, or four.

Dota 2

So why, then, am I doing this? Why am I submitting myself to the incomprehensible heroes, inexplicable random deaths and interminable abuse? It’s hard to know for sure what makes Dota 2 so compelling. I think partly it’s what I suggest above, that it can provide the satisfaction of a good RPG in microcosm, as over the course of one match your character grows from a fragile, defenseless creature to a fearsome force of nature. It is game as power fantasy, but this one makes you work for it, every time.

Dota 2

Beyond that, though, is the simple satisfaction that mastery of a complex system can give you. I, like many gamers I suspect, need to understand my games, to master their mechanics and bend them to my will. This, then, is perhaps the largest, most complex, most seemingly indomitable system ever conceived within the realm of videogames, and thus my greatest challenge. At 34 hours in, I have barely reached the point where I understand what is happening most of the time; where I am able to follow conversation between and maybe even play with those who are far more experienced and skilled than myself. Just getting to this point, overcoming the brick wall of confusion and frustration and negative feedback to arrive here, at basic competence, is already one of the most satisfying experiences I’ve had. The game’s runaway success may seem inscrutable given its absurd complexity, but having played it for just a week now, it seems unnatural that it is not the biggest game in the world already.

Dota 2

My previous experience falling deep down a gaming rabbit hole was with Starcraft II. Starcraft II, like Dota 2, is a game of almost limitless depth. It is also the exact opposite of Dota 2 in virtually every other way. Starcraft II often gets compared to chess. It may be asymmetrical, with three distinct factions with different fundamental mechanics, but Blizzard takes great care to keep things balanced, to make sure that every unit plays a core, elemental role in the overall game system, in pursuit of the perfectly balanced competitive experience.

Dota 2

If Starcraft II is a modern day chess, honed by game design masters, then Dota 2 is Cowboys and Indians, being played by a gaggle of eight year old boys, arguing over who missed whom and who is secretly wearing a bullet proof vest. If Starcraft is about a relatively small number of units and mechanics interacting endlessly to create new situations, Dota 2 is about implementing literally every idea that anyone connected to the game has ever had, in the hopes that if every hero is completely overpowered, it will all come out in the wash. The result is an experience that is at once sprawling, messy, disheartening, unpredictable, organic, empowering, and above all completely, endlessly, fascinating.

Player made dungeons in Diablo 3

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Player made dungeons in Diablo 3

One of the problems I had with City of heroes back in the day was the lack of tile sets for instance zones. What this means is how the layout and design of a map looks. In COH, you often had the same four types of maps, sewer, office building, warehouse and the laboratory.

diablo 3 rifts

Now I get it, we are in a modern city, how many unique places can there be? My answer is, have you been around a modern city? Why were we not fighting in grocery stores, sport stadiums, malls, jails? As time went on a few more were added, but nothing near what it should have been.

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In Diablo you have adventures, you can do bounties or rifts and the levels rotate so one moment you are in Hell and when you zone to level 2 you might be in a cave or one of the open zones. In addition, the maps themselves can rotate so it might be the same storage room, but the layout is different enough that it almost feels new.

While this is a nice touch I still feel as if more could have been done. Consider, in previous games not only could you play via LAN, but you could make your own maps. In the original StarCraft people would make some fantastic maps and they were fun to play.

city of heroes

Now there is a bad way to implement maps and sadly City of Heroes did so at first. People would make maps specifically to herd enemies and level up quickly. Little time or design was put in and the result was a flood of bad maps.

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Dungeons and Dragons online did player map maps well, where they are not only approved by the developers but by key players and bad maps don’t make the cut.

dungeons and dragons online, neverwinter. foundry

Let’s face facts, we are not going to get fast expansions and content, but another fact is we as gamers eat through content. I believe the fix is to allow players to design maps, leave monster and loot placement up to the developers. It is not a perfect system, but I believe it could bring more uniqueness to the maps and improve gameplay overall.

Is there a NEED to make fun of Gamers?

Is it misery loves company, the idea that because you may be at a place in your life that you are not happy you feel the need to lash out because it is not fair that they are in the same place that you are? Could it be that some cannot accept the fact that some people will choose to live their life completely different than yours or than the norm? ~J.A. Laraque

Is there a NEED to make fun of Gamers?

While there is less of it than there used to be, gamers in general are still a target for jokes, many from other gamers themselves. Now we all know a gamer that fits at least some of the stereotypes and since there are so many I am sure every one of us fits at least one. My question is not so much for gamers making jokes about one another. We understand that to be a gamer, especially on the internet, you have to be able to dish a joke and take one. Calling someone a pale-faced 10-year-old living in mom’s basement is just a standard joke some gamers use on others. What about non-gamers?

Gamer-Stereotype

I always found it a bit disrespectful when someone who depends on the gaming or geek community for revenue be it a game, movie, comic book or website, looks down on and even attacks people from that community. The HBO series, Entourage had an episode where the main character, Vincent, goes to Comic Con to hype his Aquaman movie. He and the other character’s, besides Drama, mock the attendees.  The character, Drama, who is the older brother of Vincent, at least had respect for those fans since his series, Viking Quest, was long cancelled, but still had fans.

I have been to plenty of conventions and can understand some of the rabid fans can get annoying, but it is one thing to be put off by some fans who go a little (or a lot) overboard. It is another thing to have an overall distain for the convention goers as a whole. Now if you know the series you know that Vincent did not like the idea of being in the movie in the first place. Tie that in with the fact that the other friends did not like Comic Con and that they loved to make fun of drama and you could understand why he had to make a point about how he did not like being there. Again, considering most of the attendees would help make or break his box office there should have been a general respect.

Now obviously that is television show, it is fiction, however it has been written about many times that many people who depend on geeks and gamers have almost a hatred for the community. Even if you look at the most annoying gamer or geek you would think if nothing else you would put on a smile when you meet fans who are not crazy and annoying, but what we see too often is these people look down on any fan and feel it is a waste of their time to be at conventions and interact with fans.

Now look at the non-gamer. You will often find that non-gamers can have an irrational hatred for gamers. I find myself in the middle of this many times as I love sports and outdoor activities so I will run into people who out of nowhere will begin putting down gamers and it is always the same stereotypes. As one of the people I was with went into a description about how gamers never take baths, don’t have a job, dropped out of school and have no lady in their life I asked him if he was happy with his life.  He looked at me puzzled. I asked him if he was happy that he doesn’t have sex very often anymore even though he is married and if he is happy that his hates his job and is underpaid and if he is happy spending his weekends visiting other couples that he himself frequently complain that they are boring.

His answer was, no, he wasn’t, but that is part of growing up and being a man. I asked him and what if you do not want to grow up and be a man. I saw his response coming. He said that he was contributing to society and the (made up) gamer wasn’t. When I asked how his lack of sex, dead-end job and boring friends contributed to society, he did not have an answer and was getting upset so I dropped it.

If this was a one-time or rare occurrence it would not have mattered to me, but since it happens so often and is talked about in gaming circles I wanted to know why. Why was there this need to create the worst of the worst gamer and use it as the general template to use against us all? While men and women playing together has been going on much longer, it was around the time of Everquest that you really began to see men and women playing a game for hours on end together. So many people met and became couples within EQ some gamers looked to it as a way to find gamer girls. Now obviously we also know about the couples who broke up due to EQ and World of Warcraft and some that ended once the game got old to them. However, you really saw evidence of gamers being in relationships and it working as well as any other relationship.

Today you have gamers of all types, you have some who are single, in relationships, married and have children and just like any other relationship you have the ups and downs, what works and what doesn’t. Yet, we use the idea of the lonely sexless gamer whenever we really need an attack point. Strangely enough I found that people who either did not want to get married and or have children also faced criticism and jokes from people who were more “traditional”.

Is it misery loves company, the idea that because you may be at a place in your life that you are not happy you feel the need to lash out because it is not fair that they are in the same place that you are? Could it be that some cannot accept the fact that some people will choose to live their life completely different than yours or than the norm?

The idea is that someone who really loves games and chooses to have that as their main source of entertainment during their free time must either lead to something bad or mean they must be missing out on all the awesome things “normal” people do. However, if this was really the case then why would non-gamers constantly bring this up? Do they need the worst stereotype to be true to justify their choices? Do they need to think the worst is true to feel better about themselves and their own lives?

I have a female friend that told me once that she did not like her husband to hang out with single guys because he might feel he was missing something. I found this interesting because in most television shows or movies the single guys are normally made to look either, foolish, pitiful or sad. Think of Barney from, How I meet your mother or the guys from the Big Bang Theory. The point is no matter how these people may act or how geeky or how much of a gamer or player, in Barney’s case, they are, they all long for what everyone else longs for. Is the idea of the gamer couple who makes it work or even the single gamer who truly enjoys his or hers life a threat?

When I first interviewed Jace Hall, here is one of the first things he said:

“I spent 15 years creating and developing video games. I grew up playing video games. I still play video games to this day. Since I truly am from the “video game culture” it has always bothered me that the “mainstream” media culture tends to depict the video game industry in somewhat superficial and negative ways.

The truth is that people who either play or make games are just like everyone else! There is a wide range of people who are gamers, and most of them don’t look like the way Hollywood depicts them.”

Geek and Gamer culture has been looked upon in a negative light for so long that perhaps it is just ingrained in many of us. At one time the idea of working in gaming, becoming a professional gamer and making a living was laughable and now it has the same risks and rewards of almost any other entertainment field. Just as at one time the idea of playing a comic book character was seen as joke is now becoming a role to fight for. Yet, we, the consumer are still the target of jokes and ridicule. You can watch sports or cable news or relativity television all day and for the most part, that is fine, but play video games all day and your life must be horrible. Yes, there are those susceptible to video game addiction and there is the majority that work, go to school, have family, friends, and a significant other and still chooses games over other forms of entertainment.

Perhaps that is the answer right there. Perhaps that is the threat. Gamers are less likely to buy the most expensive cable package. Gamers are less likely to buy based solely on a commercial, they are more tech savvy and skeptical.  Maybe the scariest part is that if we as gamers spent a little less time attacking each other and pulled together in one voice we could make some real change in the gaming and entertainment industry. Often those who are constantly put down are less likely to speak up. We need to stand up and speak up. Maybe we cannot keep non-gamers from stereotyping us, but we can at least try to stop stereotyping each other.

Warner Bros. Games delivers a slap to the face of gamers

Until a large unified force speaks with their dollars there really is no reason for any of these companies to change.~J.A.Laraque

batman-arkham-origins-joker

Arkham Origins Glitches

Recently it was reported that Warner Bros. Montreal will not be releasing any patches that would address several bugs and glitches with Batman: Arkham Origins because they are busy working on DLC content.  Even though I read this on a number of reputable gaming news sites I just could not believe it and hoped that it was misunderstood or overblown that was until I read this statement on the game message boards for Arkham Origins.

“The team is currently working hard on the upcoming story DLC and there currently are no plans for releasing another patch to address the issues that have been reported on the forums,”

I personally had some issues with BAO, but nothing that was game breaking, but there have been many confirmed reports of small glitches and minor bugs to game breaking issues including corrupted save files.  It is one thing to be told that it may be a while to get a patch, anyone who has played an MMO knows what that feels like, but to have a company just come out and say they are not working on these fixes because they are too busy working on something else to charge you for is just ridiculous.

I’ve had a love/hate relationship with DLC because while it can extend longevity to a game, it can also cause companies to milk gamers for every dollar they can. The same goes for online patches and fixes. The idea is great, but it is almost as if it is now an excuse to rush a product out because you can just patch it later.

One of the worst experiences I personally faced with this was when WWE Raw was released for the original Xbox. The game had horrible game breaking issues from day one and these affected a large amount of the player-base and yet we had to wait weeks before a patch was finally released. It seriously felt like they released it knowing many people would not be able to play it, but felt it was fine because they could always patch it later.

Sadly, many companies know they can get away with this. In Everquest, there was a running joke about how so many of us were beta testing every content patch or expansion and this trend continued in World of Warcraft as well as many other MMO’s.  As much as we complained, we still paid for the subscription and purchased the new games so the real question is, why should these companies change? The same goes for Arkham Origins, just take a look at this quote.

“If we do move forward with creating a new patch, it will try to address the progression blocking bugs for players, not the minor glitches that do not prevent one from continuing to play,”

And.

“The issues that are not progression blockers will unfortunately no longer be addressed. We apologize for any inconvenience this has caused for some of you, and want to thank you for having been patient.”

Does that read like something a company that is really trying to win over fans would say? If we feel like fixing our bugs we will only fix the big ones and the little ones, no, we have no interest in doing that, and by the way, thanks for your money and we know you will by the next game so whose kidding who. This is pretty much what is being said.

Unfortunately, as angry as this has made many players other have already beat the game with little or no issues and are eagerly awaiting new content. In a way this is smart because these companies know how gamers love to fight with one another so you have those who beat BAO and want the content telling everyone else to “stop crying” and so in the end the company wins because when the DLC comes out it will sell and the next installment of the game will also sell. I would not be surprised that in case of emergency they will release a mini patch to fix a few things if there is too much of an uproar.

This is shameful, but the popularity of a game plus the fact that many gamers still have their games purchased for them created a splintered community. You might hear some outcry on the forums and comment sections now, but the same and worse has happened in games like Everquest and while they complained they did not quit. Until a large unified force speaks with their dollars there really is no reason for any of these companies to change.

What worries me is there have been companies that have been known for releasing great games and if there needs to be a fix it is addressed quickly. As much as people used to complain about Blizzards long development times, their RTS games were worth the wait, but look what they have become now. They still make good games, but you see the differences between now and before Activision. If we allow these practices to continue then we have to expect other companies to also slack off. If they can save money by releasing a striped down game and selling more DLC’s or rush a game out and patch it later then why shouldn’t they do so if it won’t hurt their bottom line. In the end,  only new IP’s  and independents will try hard because they have to prove themselves and win us over while fan favorites can do as they please because we will by their game anyway. I’m looking at you EA.

Even if you bought Batman: Arkham Origins and never had an issue and can’t wait for the DLC at least consider the brazen attitude by these statements. Maybe you are not effected today and don’t care, but what happens when you go to play your next favorite game and it is full of issues and the company laughs in your face while trying to pick your pocket. This trend needs to stop and only we can stop it.

A Call to Restore FMV Games

It’s important to remember and acknowledge our culture, even the stuff we’d like to forget. These “games” existed, and should not be held to their awful encoding forever. ~Matt Paprocki

A Call to Restore FMV Games

Full motion video games sucked. None of them approach even the simplistic playability of modern mobile titles.

prizefighter FMV game

But, there is a fondness for them. The black & white footage of Prize Fighter, the dopey Top Gun knock-off attitude of Tomcat Alley, a wild Mike Ditka barking orders in Quarterback Attack, or a friendly prospector in Mad Dog McCree still made these inherently dumb games nostalgic.

However, these games look awful. Baked onto the miserable 64 colors of the Sega CD or burned out on sub-VHS MPEG-1 compression on the 3DO, the visuals are forever marred by technology that is nothing short of archaic to modern eyes. Look at this emulated run of Prize Fighter:

Dragon’s Lair (and its sequel & spin-off) has been restored. You can play it on Blu-ray in a dazzling restoration. The colors are brilliant, the sharpness is impeccable, and the detail stunning. Originally released on Laserdisc, Dragon’s Lair looks better now than it ever did in its original incarnation.

Dependent upon their source, any one of these weirdly enjoyable titles could undergo the same revisionism, provided the hardware was capable of actually running them. Some of these games were likely shot on tape, a limited resolution format that condemns the footage to a lifetime of sub-HD quality. Others, especially the professionally crafted efforts like Wing Commander IV, could have utilized 16mm film, or maybe 35mm. The resolution potentially awaiting those titles is still unavailable in the home, but even at the current standard of 1080p, they could be dazzling.

It’s important to remember and acknowledge our culture, even the stuff we’d like to forget. These “games” existed, and should not be held to their awful encoding forever.

Yes, it would be illogically expensive, certain never to make a profit no matter the platform. In the scheme of things, as a side project for someone with the materials and a studio willing to take a risk, it’s worth it just to see this quirky piece of digital history preserved.

Who’s up for it?

 

Pining for the Days of Weird Video Game Football

Let’s remember back to when Madden NFL had competition. No, not just 2K. Before Sony’s NFL Gameday too. Let’s roll back to the wild football grounds of 16-bit, and dabble a little in 8-bit as well.

You didn’t always need a license to sell your football game. It was merely a bonus to see logos, teams, and players. You could be Capcom for instance and release a football game with your namesake, ignoring the NFL license you carried with Capcom MVP Football. Maybe you could ignore most of the team and just sell your game on a position: Pro Quarterback. The latter didn’t work so well, so it was upgraded to Troy Aikman Football which made an appearance as the Atari Jaguar’s only true football title, in addition the usual SNES and Genesis arenas.

ESPN Sunday Night Football

The single player licensing must have worked. John ElwayEmmit Smith, and Sterling Sharpe all had their moments of cover honor in video games.

What of the outliers who had nothing? Sammy tried appeasing kids with the simple Football Fury (great music in that one) and SNK arcade’d it up with Football Frenzy. Sega pumped out a great NFL series that began with Joe Montana, and even Nintendo had to try with three iterations of Play Action Football (NES,Game BoySNES). Sports Illustrated decided football wasn’t enough, and crammed their game with baseball as a two-fer.

NFL Quarterback Club 98

This still doesn’t scratch the surface. Mike Ditka Football (oh dear), Super High Impact (a predecessor toNFL Blitz), Konami NFL Football (an unplayable mess), NFL Quarterback Club (Acclaim’s flashy contender against Madden), the Tecmo Bowl series (which greatly expanded on 16-bit), ABC Monday Night Football (a mode 7 nightmare), or ESPN Sunday Night Football (all tech, no style) all had their own approaches to the sport… and that’s off the top of my head.

Mike Ditka Ultimate Football

The point is each of those titles stood out. Whether they had a license or not, they all tried something. Some took advantage of the hardware, some took some goofy chances, and a handful were uniquely identified by their quirks. Whether or not they were good didn’t matter (most weren’t); they all brought something to the table to influence the others.

Super Playaction Football

Now we only have a few outliers. Backbreaker Football and BCFX (to a lesser extent, the enjoyable Backyard Football series as well) are effectively it for this generation. Publishers avoid anything sans license, and thus, we’re stuck with only a handful of options. While few would want to relive the likes of the SNES Monday Night Football, doing so reveals an interesting mechanic that lets players break free for huge gains in a 2D, button mashing mode. Mike Ditka tried stopping gameplay while the QB selected a receiver. Pro Quarterback gave a shot in the arm to visuals via digitized sprites.

Capcom's MVP Football

Each time you put one of these outliers in, you ended up with something different. While most would try a third-person, behind-the-QB view after Madden took off, most did something weird with the passing game. Maybe they toyed with the perspective, or became creative in their presentation. Whatever the case may be, each time you plunked a cart into the system, the experience was certain to be unexpected.

ABC Monday Night Football

When was the last time we could say that about our modern licensed sports games? The start of the PS2/Xbox generation saw Gameday collapse and Microsoft give up their underrated NFL Fever franchise to draw EA onto Xbox Live. Sega tried with NFL 2K, and I assume we all know how that turned out. It’s hard to remember anyone else trying to give the football genre a shot in the arm. The few times it has happened recently, the results were obvious: Backbreaker added physics, 2K created the presentation standard.Madden has since upgraded both.

Imagine if Madden was taking heed from all comers. Where would the core NFL franchise be today?

Video Game Piracy: Counterfeiters are to blame, not piracy!

counterfeit video games

While it has been a problem in the industry for quite some time, it doesn’t seem that piracy or counterfeiting will be going away any time soon. Not only in the realm of video games, but everything from movies, to music, to chocolate, anything with any value has and will continue to be counterfeited and pirated in one way or another. When it comes to video games, people spend ungodly amounts of time, energy, and money into creating these experiences for people to have. Sometimes they’re good, sometimes they’re shit. Regardless, someone needs to be payed for their work. let’s take a look at some reasons why some people may pirate games and how counterfeit versions of video games are making the problem worse.

Going back, let’s start with roms. Roms are video games that you can download to play on emulators, or programs that allow you to run the games. You can find all of your favorite classics from back in the day and then some, all free to play. Now, when it comes to roms, I can understand that some people can’t find certain games, they don’t sell them in stores anymore, and some of the harder to come by games can be priced up into the hundreds of dollars. Also, the makers of the games are going to see any of that money anyways so it’s not really hurting the industry so much. So what’s an oldschool gamer to do? Play roms. Even though I have a fairly large collection of old video games in their original form, I often play roms myself to record video footage for my own series. I use a combination of both “real” and emulated gameplay footage. There’s nothing wrong with that.

Now with newer games people are finding ways to rip, burn, copy, and distribute everything from Xbox 360 games, to DS games, to PC games and everything in between. This is a problem because these games are still in stores, the gaming industry is now actually losing money and fans are having to pay for shit that doesn’t even work, sometimes turning them off to gaming all together. People are getting counterfeit game disks, and cartridges, then passing them on when they find out they don’t work.

Now our hard copies of counterfeit games are getting mixed in with the good well-working games and everyone is having to pay. But then! Then the fan finds that they can download games for free and play them off of his or her computers. Fans and independent programmers get together and crack the games just so they can play one that works. Yes yes, I know that there are also those types that pirate software because they don’t have the money to purchase or feel that they shouldn’t have to purchase games ($60 for a game?!), but there are these others too that just want a game to work. Plain and simple. So I blame the counterfeiters creating a shoddy products on the rise in pirating. There, I said it.
But Wait, there’s more! An alternative thought, and this is going to make me sound completely crazy and like a conspiracy nut or something, but here’s another thought; What if the game companies themselves are creating crappier hard copies of games and distributing them themselves as a way to push the digital revolution in gaming. You know, they want everything to be down-loadable, convenience=more $$$ or something like that. People will click and buy, and if they lose the game, oh well, gotta buy it again. This sucks, but I think that it is a possibility. Stick with the hard versions of games. Pay for something that’s tangible. I know that a lot of us today are buying our used games online and there’s no for-sure way to know if it’s going to be a counterfeit or not. The only thing I can think to say to everyone, is just be careful with your purchases. Take your time, shop around, and always ALWAYS ask questions.

Why I Love Retro Games

I play Nintendo games cause I was raised playing NES and SNES games with my dad, plus I’m super cool right :p  I never realized that would lead me to have a serious retro gaming addiction in my later twenties.

retro--nes-wallpapers

So why did I feel the need to make a site and dedicate it to my retro games?  It’s actually simple: I love talking/writing about retro games almost as much as I enjoy playing them.  I also love watching other people play classic games, thus my love for Game Center CX.  I guess everyone has that one thing they are passionate about, whether it is sports, cars, clothes or whatever, for me it’s classic Nintendo games.  I don’t have many close friends at my age who really play anything other than ps3 or xbox so it’s kind of rare when I get to nerd it up and talk about NES games, let alone my Famicom games.

I read anything I can about NES games on Wikipedia and read reviews and blogs from other retro gamers.  I check eBay for NES and Famicom game lots, for cheap rare titles, the few old Nintendo Power issues I’m still missing and just cool Nintendo themed collectibles.  I constantly talk to my hubby about the cool deals I got, or the random NES or Famicom facts I read that day.  I take pictures of my son holding Nintendo plushies and I even got him a teething toy that looks like a NES controller called the Ninteetho.  I even painted Yoshi’s Island murals all over his room.  I’ve taken a vacation day from work just to play NES games I picked up online or at the local used game store. I have not one but two Nintendo themed tattoos.  I am a full-time Nintendo geek and I love every minute of it.

I appreciate everyone who comes to the site just to read my random Nintendo ramblings.  I know there are tens of thousands of sites online where people blog about games and I’m really humbled that you decided to come read what I have to say.  I’m sure you’ve heard this kind of confession before on someone elses site about the new games that are out there.  But I have to say it’s just not the same as playing a classic 8 or 16 bit game.  I think I’m addicted to the pattern recognition that was required when you played tricky NES games like Mega Man or Ninja Gaiden, it took hard work, good timing and memorization to get past some of those parts but the feeling of accomplishment you get when you finally get it is awesome.  Plus new games have nothing on the 8 bit chip tune music you would hear in classic NES games.  Nothing can compare to some of the awesome music you hear in games like Mega Man, Castlevania, or Mario, those songs really stick with you.

As I get older it gets harder to find time to play video games.  There’s work, family, and kids (which I’m really hoping my little guy will one day share my passion or at least want to play the occasional game with me), and all that other stuff you never used to have to worry about when you were a kid spending any time you had away from school playing games. Luckily I’ve been able to sneak in some time lately after my little guy gets to bed.  Once I get to sit down and play, it’s like I’m transported back to when I was young and only had to worry about the game sitting in front of me.  So I make sure every chance I get to expose my friends to classic games I take it.  I’m just hoping to give them an appreciation for it, or at the very least see the reason for my madness :p

So thanks to everyone who comes here to nerd it up, and messages me on twitter.  Thank you for sharing my passion for classic games!

A rant about Facebook games and Micro-Transactions

tetrisbattle

For the longest time I tried to stay away from Facebook games, not only because of my own personal bias against social games, but because I already knew about the bullshit micro-transactions, not to mention the lack of quality games in general. It works like this, purchasing credits with real world money is completely optional, the credits are then put towards power ups and exclusives in-game that would be otherwise inaccessible. The psychology behind said transactions is simple enough. They work on a simple rewards system, they’ll let you win at first, and even though no skill of your own was lost and levels haven’t gotten any harder, you’ll start to lose a little bit. Just as you hit a low, the game will pick you right back up. They will repeat this pattern until you start to wonder whether or not you should actually invest money into the game. What they are doing is called operant conditioning. In layman’s terms; they’re fucking with you, intentionally, so that you will hand over your hard earned cash. They will give a little, and take a lot more. They will intentionally make you lose so that you start to actually think that you need the things that they can provide to you, which are completely unnecessary.

candy-crush_

Now, I have no problem with paying for a good game, hell, I don’t have a problem paying for a bad game so long as it’s entertaining. What I do have a problem with is micro-transactions within so-called “free” games. Because now instead of a company being completely honest with you (just selling you a game), they will hide behind their games pretending like they’re doing you a service providing a free game that is designed to make you fail. Not only is it frustrating, most of the games are those in which you are doing simple mindless tasks in succession. Those patterns play into it too. When you give them just a little bit of that money, you will think “oh well, that’s not too bad, I can afford that”, but as you do the same tasks and keep justifying it the same way, that money adds up and you have lost more money (and precious time) than you had expected. No one will be there to pick you up when it happens, the gaming company won’t say they’re sorry or admit to their knowingly draining your bank account, but you’re just as much to blame. YOU, the PLAYER, let it happen.

Bejeweled-Blitz-iPhone

So what do you do? Educate yourself to their tactics, and don’t let shit like that happen. It’s that simple. I, personally, have never given any of my money to those Facebook games because it just seemed stupid. Of course, I’m only a few college credits shy of having a BA in psychology, so I guess it was probably obvious to me. In other words, the reason I wrote this article is because I know that there are some people out there that are still completely oblivious to the sick game that they’ve become part of.

facebook credits

Another reason I wrote this is because, Fuck you Tetris Battle! They use those very tactics to try to sell you “armor” to stop from people stealing your “stars”. If you start doing too well, they will slow down the game, make it so that you have to press whichever key more than once to drop a piece, and just generally mess up the controls. And no, I’m not bitching about the game because I’m not good at it, in fact I’m really good at puzzle games, especially Tetris. I have played about 20+ other versions of Tetris, solo and against other players, I have set records, and NEVER had I had a problem until this piece of shit trying to sell me virtual crap came along. Tetris Battle on Facebook, I quit!

Game wisely everyone!

Exploring the ColecoVision

ColecoVision

Once video games were invented it didn’t take too long for home gaming to get established too. A few ‘electronic’ games had started appearing in the 70’s before the first actual home consoles arrived starting with the Magnavox Odyssey which, despite achieving limited success, spurred on others to try the same. Fairchild had their Channel F and later Mattel’s Intellivision had been doing respectable business, but it was of course Atari’s immense VCS that had destroyed all who stood in its way. By the early 80’s even that was starting to look a little old and tired though, and this new breed of enthusiasts known as ‘gamers’ were eager for a more advanced successor.

This soon arrived in the middle of that decade’s third year courtesy of another American company – Coleco. Despite their name, which was a contraction of Connecticut Leather Company, and their history of producing plastic and indeed leather products, they were no strangers to the exciting realm of electronic entertainment. They had already produced a range of standalone consoles in the late 70’s called Telstar which each featured a few pre-programmed variations of existing games such as Pong and Tank. Their latest effort was called the ColecoVision and, unlike the Telstar range, offered games on inter-changeable cartridges. In fact, it was bundled with one such game, a conversion of the popular arcade hit Donkey Kong, no less, and its quality soon showed that perhaps this new contender was the system gamers had been waiting for.
ColecoVision
Unlike the blocky, low-resolution games found on Atari’s machine, Coleco’s games were like having an arcade in the home thanks to the Z80A processor that powered it. Indeed, many of the games it hosted were arcade conversions and most of them were close to arcade perfect – a term that had to be invented for their machine.

Thanks mainly to its many games of this type, the ColecoVision became popular immediately; sales soon surpassed one million units and several fancy accessories were released as well, including a steering wheel controller (complete with ‘gas’ pedal) and, ironically, an adaptor that enabled it to run Atari VCS games! Although this device automatically gave the Coleco a vast library of games, and provided a great incentive to buy it in the process, it was the system’s own games that impressed the most and the number available quickly passed the hundred mark. Unimaginable success looked assured for the former leather company but sadly the sudden, catastrophic collapse of the US gaming industry, the infamous ‘video game crash of 1983’, then took their console down along with numerous others.

Happily for us retro gamers though, a good few titles were released before that unfortunate event brought things to an untimely conclusion and I’ve selected a few of them at random to help me determine whether ‘the crash’ was a curse or a blessing in disguise. Here’s how I got on:

Lady Bug (1982)
Lady_Bug

Arcade conversions represented a substantial percentage of Coleco titles and this one, whilst hardly a jaw-droppingly original game, was a top effort. As is obvious from the screenshot, it’s a Pac-Man clone, but it may not be as generic as it first appears. As the titular beetle, your job is of course simply to collect all the dots (or x’s in this case) around each maze. However, parts of the walls are made of movable gates (the green bits) through which your twitchy bug can move but the scary enemy bugs cannot. This is particularly handy as there can be up to four of them scurrying around and they move as fast as you do! The graphics are simple and there’s no in-game music (aside from the odd jingle), but apart from a bit of detail on the bugs this is pretty much an arcade perfect conversion and as such is splendid! It’s a fast-paced game which requires quick reflexes but it’s great fun to play and very addictive too. A great introduction to Coleco gaming for me!

BurgerTime (1984)
Burger_Time

This Data East title must be one of the more famous games to have received a Coleco release but it’s also one that I’ve never really been too keen on, I’m afraid to say. It’s a single-screen platformer – a type of game I generally dolike, ironically – in which you, as Peter Pepper, must create tasty burgers by walking over the various components to make them fall down before the various evil foodstuffs who patrol the stages can stop you. Sounds good but I’ve always found it to be a rather frustrating game with unreliable controls. If you’re one of the many who like the arcade game though, chances are you’ll like this version too. The graphics are smaller and slightly more squashed but the stages are correct, the catchy music is spot on, and it plays just like its arcade parent. Not one I’ll come back to very often but a treat for fans.

From Out of the Jungle (1984)
From_Out_Of_The_Jungle

Even in the early days, most video games asked you to kill and/or destroy stuff so the premise of this game was a refreshing change. It instead asked you to rescue the ‘Great Apes’ and other animals that had been imprisoned through a tropical jungle filled with evil hunters and their allies. This may sound slightly familiar, and indeed, it didn’t come as a big surprise to find that the game is also known simply as ‘Tarzan’. It plays a bit like a slightly more advanced version of Pitfall and is viewed from an angled side-on perspective which allows Tarzan to more easily evade his foes. Unfortunately he only has a feeble punch versus their guns and ‘Beastmen’ but he can climb trees and swing from vines as well. It’s a fairly interesting game with some decent ideas but is let down by two things – there are some unavoidable hazards such as trap doors that open beneath your feet, and the controls are also rather clunky, often resulting in unfairly lost energy (sometimes repeatedly). Good try but needs a coat of polish.

Flipper Slipper (1983)
Flipper_Slipper

This one is almost that rarest of rarities – a Coleco exclusive (but there was an MSX version as well)! It’s not a game I had previously heard of though, and its strange name provided few clues as to what I could expect. A subsequent perusal of the instruction booklet reveals that it’s supposedly a weird pinball game but it actually plays a lot more like a weird Breakout clone. There are ‘forested’ areas in the top-left and top-right of the screen which can be cleared by hitting the ball into the ‘trees’ with two movable ‘flippers’ (actually just crescent-shaped bats). There are also animals (turtles, fish, etc) to kill for bonus points, two ‘beaches’ on the sides of the playfield, a moving ‘beach house’ in the middle of the screen, and an angry dog behind a breakable gate (although he looks more like a reindeer to me, complete with red nose!). So, like I said… weird! But, like most Breakout-style games, it’s also rather addictive!

Nova Blast (1983)
Nova_Blast

I was determined to find a shooter on Coleco’s machine before concluding this feature and went for this one based purely on its title. Sure enough, it is indeed a shmup and, unsurprisingly for the day, it’s one based on Defender. As Nova 1, the last of your fleet, it’s your job to protect the six ‘Capsuled Cities’ that occupy the looping planetary surface. Much like Williams’ classic, there are loads of airborne attackers to shoot down with your rapid-fire laser, but your ship can also drop bombs to take out the ‘Water Walkers’ which are the main threats to the cities. So, it’s not very original but the graphics are detailed (I particularly liked the stars and planets in the background), the controls are responsive, and crucially for poor old me it’s also an easier game than the hardcore Defender! Once again not an exclusive, but it still provided Coleco owners with some fast and addictive blasting action.

Verdict:
Despite coming from a less prestigious background than companies like Atari, Coleco did a pretty impressive job with their console. They were pretty brave, too, releasing it while the VCS was so dominant. It must’ve been a bit like Sega, and Atari again, trying to muscle in on the handheld market which Nintendo has sewn up with the Game Boy, to use an analogy that I can personally relate to, but on this occasion it worked. Or it seemed to be working until the entire market imploded in the US, ending their dream, and those of many other companies as well.

It’s always a shame when a system goes down before its time, of course, but for many the ColecoVision’s untimely demise was particularly upsetting. It was similar to other system’s that emerged around the same time such as the MSX and Sega’s SG-1000, technically, and accordingly these platforms shared numerous titles, and many of the Coleco’s other games were arcade conversions. This obviously meant that it had very little exclusive, truly original software. Perhaps it would’ve received a steady flow of titles like this eventually, if things had gone differently. However, the bulk of the user-base of the aforementioned systems was in the Far East which meant the Coleco received ports and conversions of games that many Western players hadn’t seen before, and generally their quality was of a very high standard.

My personal experiences of the ColecoVision are vague. I’m sure I knew someone who owned one when I was young but I can’t remember actually using it much, if at all. That obviously made my time with it for this feature my first such experience and it’s one I’ve enjoyed a lot. Having already spent a good amount of time with some of the systems to which it is technically similar, there wasn’t really much here that surprised me, but most of the games I tried (which included several more not covered in this feature) were pretty slick and playable. The controllers were never particularly popular of course, but several peripherals had already been released for the ColecoVision (including the cheeky VCS adaptor!) and others were on the way including a new controller, so there seems to be little that would’ve prevented the system from going on to great success.

Sadly though, all we can do now is imagine what might’ve been. Coleco did (perhaps unwisely) try to follow up the ‘Vision with a home computer version called the Adam but, while compatible with all of the console’s software and accessories, it suffered from a number of problems and never really even got off the ground and its failure pretty much put the final nail in Coleco’s coffin that hadn’t already been hammered in by the market crash. I suppose if I had to sum up the ColecoVision’s legacy, I’d say that it was a good piece of kit with some good games, but it was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time…

Breaking down Everquest Next: The Rallying Call

What if a successful settlement opens an awesome dungeon and within that dungeon is incredible loot. What do you think will happen when some servers have it and others do not?~J.A. Laraque

Everquest Next: The Rallying Call

There is going to be a ton of news about Everquest Next and by now most people even slightly interested in it has read what they game is going to consist of. In all the reading and questioning I have done the one thing I hear the most is how it is supposed to change everything. I guess I could just roll my eyes especially considering the failures Sony has put together over the last several years, but then again Everquest did originally change everything as far as MMO’s. So perhaps the better question is who are they changing it for?

The way I read it, it seems almost as if the aim is to bring back people who loved the original Everquest. You continually hear them talk about the groundbreaking changes in the original and how people enjoyed EQ2. Obviously they are going after disenfranchised World of Warcraft players as well, but is that the right move?

When I asked, are we what is wrong with MMO’s, I talked about the changes within us and how we are different than we were during EQ’s days. Now, even more time has passed by and the question is, how many of us are really looking for something so new and different we will feel like it is 1999 again?

Everquest Next

The Rallying Call

Right away critics broke down all the new ideas that EN is to offer. Now the idea around the rallying call is that a call will go out across the server and everyone can come together to build and defend a new location. So while this new settlement is being built there will be quests and attacks from various monsters and crafting that will need to be done. Now the idea is obviously taken from world events where something big happens and everyone is involved.

Let’s stop there and look at the original EQ. Many will have fond memories of the world events in EQ, but then again many people look back on EQ like they do their early 20’s often making it sound better than it was. I remember a baby dragon event where people disrupted it so badly that the GM stopped the even and left. I also remember another dragon event where one guy stole all the loot and nothing was done about it. If you were that one person or small group that got to be part of the event or got the loot it was fun. For everyone else it was a waste of time and a zone of lag.

Now in games like Guild Wars 2, you have various events where you take down a big monster with everyone in the area. Once the monster dies you get your own points for the encounter and loot to go with it. I found it could be fun, but you also could just run in there and hit the boss once or twice and get the points and loot and still, even with a ton of players there it still did not feel as epic as you expected it to be.

Will the rallying call change this? So when a rallying call goes out it lasts for two months so right away that is different from the world or zone events you are used to. When everything is said and done your world will be changed and from what we here there are many different outcomes based on what happens during those two months. As an example, if you allow too many attacks and there are delays your settlement will be permanently impacted and on a different sever it could be completely different.

So with Cataclysm much of World of Warcraft changed, but every server changed the same way. With EN, sever A should not look like sever B, at least in theory. Now right away the question is asked, how many possible outcomes could Sony put into a specific rallying call? Well, we don’t know and this goes to another point.

I remember after Saturday morning cartoons on WGN in Chicago there was a chance they would show either Soul Train or a G.I. Joe block of cartoons. Now full disclaimer I’m in my 30’s so back then I did not have any guide or knew what was coming up next. I just sat there waiting with anticipation and when a G.I. Joe cartoon came on I was in heaven, it was an awesome feeling.

That is what Sony is going for, that feeling of not knowing that keeps you playing. Also, since the world is permanently changed if you miss it then to bad, you were not there and cannot share in the stories. Now will this make you want to play more and be part of the change? Could it make people feel they missed out like when you opened the doors to AQ in WOW?

Obviously if we are talking about new gamers then it may not matter. New gamers tear up content even faster than we did back in the day and they have a much more robust internet to rely on for it. If they are looking at us old vets then are we really after that kind of experience? Do we want to wander around waiting for what is next or have our lives changed so much that we almost rather have a simple liner world so that it will make our real lives easier?

Now what about the risk? Remember risk vs. reward? That was what was said a lot in the past. Hardcore people wanted real risk in a game and WOW was too easy and it did not matter if you died or not. In EQ it was about losing EXP and finding your body, but honestly new gamers would not tolerate that and most vets cannot deal with that anymore.

Sony said settlements that are successful remain in the game forever, so what happens if you fail? Can you imagine the crying that will go out if you see videos of a successful settlement and you think it is really cool, but on your sever for whatever reason it failed? Would the risk vs. reward people find it cool that it was even possible to fail or will they be mad they have such “terrible players” that they could not even finish the settlement causing issues within that severs community?

You almost have to assume that failing a settlement cannot have that harsh of a penalty. Some people speculated that a settlement could lead to portal points or new dungeons or even races. I just don’t see Sony allowing a server to not have access to something other serves get. What if a successful settlement opens an awesome dungeon and within that dungeon is incredible loot. What do you think will happen when some servers have it and others do not?

I get the feeling either these settlements will not have the impact players are expecting or that there will be multiple settlements or ways so that everyone can access the same thing. It is one thing if a building is a bit different or a city looks different in the end based on failed or successful settlements, but there is no way I can see them making a failed settlement cause you to miss out on something potentially cool and game changing forever. If anything that could tear servers apart and cause people to leave “fail” severs.

So there are a lot of questions about how the rallying call could work. While some players look upon the idea with a smile and think about how someday they can say they helped build Halas or Freeport, I know there are others thinking about the consequences of failure and yes, even a few thinking of how they can grief the whole experience. Anyone that plays MMO’s knows a community can make or kill a game and sometimes more freedom and player control does not equal a fun gaming experience.

In future articles we will be talking more about EN’s new features and their possible impact and target base and we will keep searching for more info on rallying calls. This feature could be a giant turning point for the game. Let’s just hope it proves to be a positive for us gamers.

What I’ve learned from Obsolete Gamer

Content is king and even the most dedicated people get burned out so you have to have a well of content to turn to.~J.A. Laraque

What I’ve learned from Obsolete Gamer

When you speak about creating a video game website you normally will here two different responses. One will be about how cool it sounds and how they will visit it every day. The second, is about how much work it is and how your competition will be great. When Ignacio told me he was creating a video game website I was crazy about it. Mainly because in my past I had tried to launch many different types of websites and just ran out of gas. With Obsolete Gamer moving into year four I thought I would take a moment to talk about some of the things I have learned and experienced being part of Obsolete Gamer.

obsolete gamer logo

What are you doing this for?

Like almost everything in life you have to know if you really want to do something before you do it. Not only that, you need to know the different milestones you want to hit and the overall goal of why you are doing something. Now surely you can do something for a bit and move on, but if the idea is to make whatever you are doing part of your life it is much more than just a temporary thing. The first thing I wanted to be sure of with OG was that it was not to become one of the thousands of video game blogs that end up abandoned after a year or two.

This takes us back to knowing you really want to make your endeavor part of your life because there will be a lot of ups and downs and if you lose focus you will lose interest and that’s the end of your blog. We may not be able to see the future, but if you are in it for the long hall you have to ask yourself if you will still be able to do this when you are working like a mad person, swamped in school work and trying to have friends and relationships. Again, if this is a temporary thing it may not matter, but if this is for as long as possible you have to make the time to keep things running.

TLDR: You need to really love what you are doing.

Everybody is in right before they are out

The idea of having a video game website sounds awesome to many people. As such many people will want to be a part of it and will promise everything from writing to donations to promotion and everything else under the sun. True commitment is hard to come by in this business and believe me it is a business. If you do not want to remain unknown you are constantly planning and re-planning and that includes finding out who is with you.

I have found the best way to deal with people you want to help is think of it as a one-time thing and if it becomes more, great, if not then it’s fine. You can never expect someone to have the same dedication that you do. Remember, it is your website not theirs so they may care deeply about the subject, but there is a difference between that and how you feel as an owner. Expect people to come and go, frequently and expect this to continue no matter how successful your site becomes.

We’ve found the key is multiple sources. Which is also why we reach out to people who want to start a blog but feel it is too hard, had a blog that is dead or dying or just someone who wants to write and offer them a spot. You end up helping people and yourself. This goes to planning and re-planning. Content is king and even the most dedicated people get burned out so you have to have a well of content to turn to.

TLDR: Content is king so make sure you have a deep pool of talent to turn to.

And what makes you so special?

That is always the question when writing or creating a blog. Why should anyone read your blog when there are tons of major websites covering the same thing. There are answers, but they change constantly. Here is one reason. In the past you did not see many writers on one website. Back in the 90’s most websites had a small staff and only they posted content. In time more people contributed and today you have websites that are mostly contributor based. So in the past you could talk about providing a unique perspective, but today with so many sites and so much submitted works you can find that as well. So you kind of have to accept that you might not be that special, but perhaps you can just plug along and earn your reputation and in time gain readers.

For the most part people want interaction. They also want a mix of media so they can enjoy pictures, video as well as text. You have to have a bit of everything so people don’t get bored. With Obsolete Gamer, we could have tried some strict policy of retro gaming related content only, but we love a wide array of things and so our site reflects that. We also know in the middle of the night you gamers like looking at sexy Cosplay girls (we have the data to prove this) so we give the people what they want.

Sometimes just being there is enough. There are tons of good classic gaming sites. We never claim to be the best, we just want to be considered one of the good ones. We also want to promote those who for whatever reason cannot do their own sites. Add in things like our Gamer Profiles and interviews, videos and podcasts and with time and practice and learning from our mistakes we have created a decent following.

TLDR: Stay true to yourself, but also give the people what they want.

Keep your day job

If you are in this for the money get out now. There are real costs to a website especially if it ends up getting a lot of hits. You can search for the cheapest webhosting, but you better know what to do if your site goes down. At one point we were ranked about 30K in the U.S. for our website which means every website in the U.S. and then we had a major server crash and move to a new hosting company which shut down OG for about a week. Over a year later and we are still trying to get back to where we were.

Everything costs money and sometimes the biggest cost is time. I personally work a full time job, am almost a full time student (6-9 credits per) am working on my novels and trying to have a social life. Even with OG only posting an article per day it is still a challenge to keep up with new content, writers, news, website issues, promotions, advertising, social media and a whole lot more. At the end of the day we spend more than we make. Web ads do not pay what you might think unless you’re IGN and let’s just be honest, most gamers are not one to click on random ads. I know I am not. Most gamers I know ad-block and hate ads which is why we constantly update the site so we do not bug you with them. Of course the result is less revenue while costs go up.

There are things you can do to keep costs down like knowing your software. Sometimes something breaks and if you can fix it yourself you will save a lot. The same goes for hosting, do your research so you have a stable and fast site, but also one at a good cost. Finally, remember it is about the love of writing and of games. This is why we have day jobs and are working to better ourselves so we can continue doing what we love regardless of the monetary gain.

TLDR: This costs money so don’t expect to make much if any

The Perks

I had to talk about some of the perks or I might scare off some future writers or website owners. The first perk is just creating something and being part of it. I learned with my novels it does not matter if they sell 10 copies or 10 thousand. The point is I took the time and finished it and put it out there. The same goes for your writing and your site.

You accept the complements as if they were hundred dollar bills. When you tell someone you have a video game website and they are impressed it is worth it. When someone reads your work and likes it you feel better. Now this is the internet so expect people to troll you and tell you that everything you do sucks. You know you’ve made it once someone is criticizing you and saying how much you suck.

Beyond that if you promote your site and make contacts you can meet some awesome people. We have been to many events like CES, E3 and Florida Supercon as well as many local events and have met so many cool people. Being invited to after parties and having people tell you they read your site is a great feeling. Also getting swag and the ability to review games and hardware is nice as well. You might not make a paycheck, but an after party in a fancy restaurant in Vegas in pretty sweet.

For me personally having Wil Wheaton post about Obsolete Gamer and going on 1337 Lounge Live was some of my highlights. As said, also having access to every Con in gaming is also great. We still have standing invites for PAX, ComicCon, Quakecon, and more. Sadly, the time and money restraints come into play regarding which and how many events we can attend. However, just knowing you can go and as press is awesome in itself.

TLDR: We work for trips, swag and food, it’s almost as good as cold hard cash.

Now there is more, but even with the TLDR’s it is best to separate some of the others into another article. Still, the overall point of this is to get more people to try what they want to try. I watched at least 10 of my former websites close before we started Obsolete Gamer so there will be failures before there is success. Bottom line is I love what I do and want to keep this going as long as I am alive. If you feel the same way stop waiting and get rid of the self-doubt and just do it. Trust me, in the end it is better to try then wonder why.

Debate: The Dragon*Con Boycott

 

Debate: The Dragon*Con Boycott

When my editor at Word of the Nerd asked for a writer to cover the 2013 Dragon*Con Boycott, I didn’t just jump on the chance to write a serious and controversial piece.  I write about geek fashion and movies!  But it was the first I’d heard about a boycott, and curiosity set me to googling, and the more I read, the more I felt a burning conviction that I had to be the one to cover this.

dragoncon

The controversy focused around the fact that one of Dragon*Con’s founders, Ed Kramer, had been arrested Aug. 25, 2000 on accusations that he sexually abused three boys, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.  The man has been clearly manipulating the system, as 13 years has gone by without the case being resolved.  He claimed to be too ill to stand trial.  His guilt or innocence is really not for me to judge, but evidence that he was a world-class manipulator was clear.

The boycott, which has been led by horror author, Nancy Collins, stated that, although Dragon*Con claimed to have separated themselves from Ed, they were still paying him upwards of $150,000 a year.

Well, of course, being a mother, and having a child roughly the same age as the boys Ed was accused of molesting, my initial reaction was “Well, crap! I guess this means we’re not going to Dragon*Con because there’s no way in HELL, I’m letting my money go to this guy’s defense!”  The boycott alleged that ⅓ of my ticket cost would go to Ed Kramer and his defense, and I didn’t care what the circumstances surrounding it were, I simply could not in good conscience support this man financially.  I didn’t want a PENNY of my money going to him, so what choice could I have?  I have only been to Dragon*Con once, and it was literally THE TIME OF MY LIFE!  So I really was not happy about the decision that I felt forced into making.  But the more I dug, the more I found out what a dynamic situation it was.

Dragon*Con states that Mr. Kramer has had absolutely nothing to do with the convention since his arrest in 2000, while Nancy and the other boycotters claim that this is not true.  Boycotters claim that he has been actively involved, even invited back as a guest, and that the remaining chair members of Dragon*Con had come to his defense in court.  Dragon*Con insists that Kramer’s only current relationship to Dragon*Con is that he was a shareholder who was legally entitled to a dividend.  Dragon*Con had offered to buy him out several times, and it is my understanding that they actually acquired a percentage of his shares, but he held onto 34%.  Kramer then sued Dragon*Con, with some complaint of not receiving fair payment, or something like that.  Because of the lawsuit, Dragon*Con has had its hands tied on their options, as GA law has restrictions on what changes a company can make when it is under current litigation.

I spoke directly with Greg Euston, Director of Public Relations for Dragon*Con, and the information he provided me was eye opening.  I felt convinced after our conversation that Dragon*Con really couldn’t legally do anything further until Mr. Kramer stood trial, and they had tried on several occasions to end this whole mess with a buyout, but Ed wouldn’t go for it.

I was conflicted.  How could we suggest punishing all of Dragon*Con and everyone involved, for the actions of one nutjob?  But how could I allow that nutjob to cash in on MY fun?  It wasn’t worth it… but what else could we expect Dragon*Con to do?

It was in a follow up conversation with Dragon*Con’s PR guy, that I understood something that had previously eluded me, and clearly was not understood by the populous of boycotters.  I asked Greg Euston “Besides the portion of money that goes to Mr. Kramer, where else does my ticket money go?”  Greg had to explain to me, as a shareholder, Mr. Kramer is legally entitled to his percentage of the dividend.  That means that AFTER Dragon*Con has paid the hotel fees in the multiple hotels that host the convention, the travel and hotel costs of the invited guests, hundreds (thousands?) of employees, attorneys, and whatever other costs are incurred in the process of putting on a MASSIVE convention, Thursday-Monday on Labor Day weekend… after all that, they make donations to their official charities.

“Since 2005, Dragon*Con has raised almost $224,000 for its official charities.  For the first time in 2013, Dragon*Con will match up to $50,000 in funds raised for the official charities – Noah’s Ark, Georgia Conservancy and Sheltering Arms – through auctions, silent auctions, Braves Night and other events.  With this match, we believe it’s entirely possible to raise more than $100,000 to this year’s official charity partners” Greg explained.

Ok, so after ALL that, if  anything is left, they decide whether or not to declare a dividend.  I am not sure what it means that they “decide” but that is how it was expressed to me.  So, if anything is left, and they declare a dividend, THAT is what goes to shareholders.  According to Dragon*Con PR, that typically amounts to less than $1 per share.  Ed Kramer, with his 34%, holds 2050 shares.  So, tell me, how much of my ticket price is going to Ed Kramer when thousands upon thousands of attendees only bring in a profit of less than $1 per share?  And the $150,000 claim that Nancy Collins made… Well, according to Dragon*Con (and I asked more than once for confirmation) that is a payout that happened exactly ONCE, in 2011, when they had an unusually high payout.  But as recently as 2008, there have been years with absolutely NO payout.

So, forgive me for being long winded in this explanation, but there are clearly a lot of variables involved in this situation.  The article that I had stepped up to write was going to need to be very objective, and I wanted to make sure I covered all possible perspectives.  I did an email interview with Nancy Collins, and got a written statement from Dragon*Con PR as well.  I got a statement from the head of Austin Browncoats, a charitable organization that attends Dragon*Con as a vendor, giving 100% of proceeds to charity. I got an amazingly well thought out statement from popular goth performer Voltaire, in which, he totally won me as a fan, despite my lack of interest in goth music. I also reached out to several of the guests who had been listed on the boycott’s Facebook page as “not attending”, with an implication that it was a result of the boycott.  The only guest to respond was Doc Hammer, of Venture Bros. who said it was pure coincidence, and that it was just gossip if they were being associated with the boycott.

So, I really felt I had some amazing material to work with for my article, and I knew what direction I wanted to go with it.  I wanted to present alternatives to the boycott: ways to make a stand against child molestation and Ed Kramer.  What could we do to help move the trial along?  Was there any option of petitioning the courts to expedite the trial?  As Greg Euston pointed out to me, Ed Kramer must have other sources of income, as he was racking up some hefty lawyer fees… what about his books and film?  After all my digging, I’d come to the personal opinion that the boycott was great in principle, but that it wasn’t a useful solution.  Not only was a boycott going to have little to no effect on Kramer’s financial situation, but it was going to take down so many other people in the process.  People whose livelihoods depended on Dragon*Con.

I hadn’t begun writing, but I had it all pieced together in my head, and I felt really good about it.  Then the news broke!  Dragon*Con’s merger meant Ed was out for good!  Hurray!  We beat the bad guy!  My editor was on me to get the story out immediately, but it required me doing a LOT of rethinking.  This meant that the boycott was a non-issue now, right?  So I sent an email to Nancy with a copy of the press release and asked if she’d like to add anything to our interview.  What does this mean for the boycott now?  Her response was that it didn’t change anything!  It wouldn’t change anything until she saw it in legal documentation.

I was a bit dumbfounded.  I mean, this kind of stuff gets filed on public record.  It didn’t even cross my mind that Dragon*Con would lie about something this big, but Nancy was certain that they had.  I decided to contact Dragon*Con PR and ask if they could give proof, but they were either unwilling or unable at the time, and suggested giving a call to Ed Kramer’s lawyer for confirmation.  Well, I jumped on that!  The phone connection was poor, and they guy was smug, but I got this much: He was NOT HAPPY.  The merger was opposed by Kramer, and is what is called a “squeeze out merger”.  He said that his office had not released an official statement and basically had nothing more to say.  He did confirm for me, however, that Ed Kramer would not be receiving any further dividends in the future.

See, now I’ve taken up all that page space, and I’m only just getting to the good part!  I notified Nancy of the attorney’s confirmation, and I received no response.  However, I did stumble across an article stating that she had called off the boycott!  Great!  I mean, I was a little put off that in our correspondence she didn’t bother to mention it, but whatever, no big deal.  I asked her to confirm that she had in fact called off the boycott, and asked if she’d like to add anything, or if I should just copy/paste from the other article.  She had not responded by the time my article went live.

My article, http://www.wordofthenerdonline.com/the-newest-twist-in-the-dragoncon-boycott-saga/, and the supplemental interviews/statements published just before midnight, with a final “update” that reports of the boycott ending had surfaced, but we were still waiting for confirmation from Nancy.  She got back to me shortly after, saying to use the quote from the other article, which I’d already decided to do. I went to bed, feeling quite happy with myself.

When I woke up the next morning, the first thing I did was check my view count.  There were roughly 800 views between my article, and the statement from Voltaire, with a handful of views for Nancy’s interview, and Dragon*Con PR.  This was HUGE! This happened in my sleep!  I don’t think my best fashion piece has reached 800 views YET, with months for them to collect views.  An average post of mine gets 200-ish on the first day (which is the most important).  So I was on cloud nine because I hadn’t even publicized my work yet.  I’d posted it on my Facebook page, and sent the link to Nancy, Voltaire, and the Dragon*Con PR, that was it.

My next move was checking my email.  Dragon*Con PR had sent me a one line response:

“Looks great Jessi.  Thanks for all the hard work.  Best, Greg”

Good, he liked it. I’d also received a short response from Voltaire:

“You did a great job of fairly presenting all sides. V”

Ok, I’m still feeling good here… I mean, they weren’t overly flattering, but clearly complimentary.

Next I opened the email from Nancy.  It was more than one line.  It was two, to be exact:

“Wow.

So you completely ignored the videotaped interview with Kramer’s attorney on WSB where he admitted that Kramer’s annual dividend was $150K?”

It was followed immediately with a separate email from Nancy:

“So why did Kramer turn down $500K buy out offers if he was making so little money from DragonCon?”

My elation instantly disappeared.  My very verbal, out loud reaction was, “What!? What video?  What the heck is she talking about?”   Followed immediately with the thought, “How the hell should I know anything about the inner workings of the brain of a psychopath?”

I actually grew quite furious.  I knew I had represented Nancy and her cause, fairly and objectively.  I had given her every opportunity to update her statement and make her cause.  I had given her entire interview, word for word, for a large audience to see. And somehow the only thing she seemed to notice was the lack of mention of a video that she claims I was aware of.  I’ve seen no such video.  I’m not saying that it doesn’t exist.  I’m saying I was not aware of its existence.  I read through our past correspondences and it was not there.

Ok, so I’m pissed, but I make a personal habit of being polite and professional in the internet, despite personal opinions.  So, I didn’t respond to her email right away, because I felt I’d give an emotional response.  I decided to go about my business and come back to this later.  I began sharing my article on FB, G+, Twitter, LinkedIn, Tumblr, etc… I started going down my list of FB communities and sharing in those that would find it of interest.  I had, “liked” the Dragon Con Boycott community FB page early on in my research, and so it was still on my list, and I figured, ok, so Nancy isn’t satisfied with my article, but it’s an objective and informative piece.  Others in the community may appreciate it, because they are clearly invested in this.  So, I posted a link, without comment, to the page and continued on my way.

You can imagine my surprise when FB notifies me of a response, and I go back to the community page to find that the admin of the page had commented on my link, the exact same response in my email from Nancy.  It was not the first time that something from a personal email with Nancy had come up verbatim on the community page, so I assume it was Nancy moderating the page. Like the email, she immediately followed with a second response.  I cannot quote it word for word, as the entire post was later removed, but it basically said that I wasn’t a real journalist, but just a blogger… and bloggers will always be just bloggers, and not worth her time.

Well, by this point, I’m irate.  Instead of waiting for a personal response, she decided to publicly insult me.  I knew that it was unwise to comment in my emotional condition, so I sent the link to my editor and he decided to defend me and my writing.  He explained what I told him, that I had not seen the video in question.  The response was (and now I’m quoting my editor, because I didn’t have time to actually see this before the whole thing was deleted):

“I gave her the link. It’s linked on this page. Do I need to chew her food for her and wipe her ass while I’m at it?”

Hello!  WHAT?!  No, she just didn’t!!!  Seriously?  Ok, so I go to the page to look, because at this point I have to respond… well, guess what?  Not only have my editor and I been banned from the community (remember, I have not said a WORD in there yet, aside from the link to the article), but the link to the article and all comments had been removed.  In it’s place I found this, which had a timestamp of pretty much “just now”:

“Now that the boycott is over, and DragonCon has finally done what it said it couldn’t do, I am no longer tolerating you ugly, immature, sociopathic little bastards. That means banning and removing posts from you sore losers. Besides forcing the ouster of Kramer, if the DragonCon boycott had also revealed a very nasty side of fandom/geek culture. One it will have to come to terms with if it wants to continue to grow in a healthy direction.”

I can only assume that she was referring to myself and my editor, since we’d just been banned, my article deleted and that had been the ONLY action on that page during that time period. Ok, so here’s where it got ugly.  I posted a link to the status update she had made, with the comment “Well, isn’t that professional?”  I couldn’t resist venting about it… I knew Nancy wasn’t going to see it, so I was safe from interacting with her.  A couple friends took it upon themselves to head on over to the original update from the Dragon Con Boycott page to “defend” me… and really, my name didn’t even come up.  I don’t think the article even came up, but it turned into the ugliest thing I have ever witnessed on FB.  While my two friends, and a couple other onlookers made some valid points, asked some valid questions, and behaved in a generally “grown-up” way, the page admin (who did not appear to be Nancy now, and later she did confirm that more than one admin runs the page) and their followers began to personally attack anyone they thought “opposed them”.  They accused people of supporting child molesters, being idiots, and even went so far as to tell a dear friend of mine that they’d like to see her child put in a room with a child molester.  All the while, accusing my friends of being immature, unintelligent trolls who were attacking poor Nancy.  Now, you can go see for yourself how ugly it got, but you’ll only see one side of it, because at some point, the page admin decided to ban anyone with a reasonably functional brain and mature attitude. https://www.facebook.com/DragonConBoycott/posts/525783650809941

I cannot tell you how disappointed I am to find that the boycott that I thought I had objectively covered, had actually been seen through rose colored glass.  I thought that they were interested in punishing a child molester and protecting children, but clearly, that is not the intention of those involved with this.  Had it been, the admin should not have allowed a comment that suggested someone leave their child in a room with a pedophile to remain, while deleting anything that they felt “opposed” them.  For the record, in case this post gets removed (because, seriously, it makes them look like a bunch of douchebags, so if it were my page, I’d have taken it down the moment it got ugly) the person who made the quip about putting someone’s child in a room with a pedo is this fella:

https://www.facebook.com/joel.adams.3532, but don’t think he’s the only one making inappropriate, juvenile responses.  They were protecting “poor Nancy” with a vengeance.

Look, I’m not gonna say that she was wrong to boycott.  I applaud her for making a stand and doing SOMETHING.  I don’t think it was the most effective route, but still, good for her!  And I haven’t been following this since the beginning, so I can’t imagine how hard it was to take an unpopular stand.  I’m sure she received a lot of flak for it.  But let me be clear.  This was not about making a stand.  This was not about the boycott.  This was about villainizing anyone who chose not to join the boycott… anyone who believed that they could attend Dragon*Con without it meaning that they were supporting a pedophile… anyone who supported Dragon*Con in their efforts to make things right… anyone who wasn’t kissing Nancy’s ass, and now it seems to have extended to anyone who suggests that there is more than one side to this story.  I’m sorry to see that now that the boycott is officially over, they are looking for someone or something else to sink their venomous fangs into.  🙁

For the record.  I did respond to Nancy via email.  After all that, I calmed myself and composed a very professional and polite email, to which I’ve still received no reply.

Five Video Games To Play In Summer

Summer_Games

When the temperature soars outside, there is only one thing to do – turn on the air-conditioner and grab a video game that will keep you cool and simulate that summer experience.

Wave Race 64 [N64]

Wave_Race_64
Grab your jet-ski and hit the waves. This early N64 title has realistic water effects and an array of differing environments and courses that will keep your heart racing. Play on your own or call a friend over, you will have an absolute ball. Bonsai!

California Games [Lynx]

california-GamesWhen you think of California, you think of sun, surf and lots of obscure sports, right? California Games on the Atari Lynx brings four events which will have you playing till the batteries run out. Connect the Lynx to a power outlet and have some fun in the sun.

Virtua Tennis [Dreamcast]

Virtua Tennis
With all the Grand Slams being in summer, it is perfectly natural to pull out your Dreamcast and start playing Virtua Tennis – the best tennis video game ever, period! Practice makes perfect, and the mini games are equally entertaining as blasting your opponent on clay, grass or even hard courts.

Summer Games II [C64]

Summer Games II
No summer games list can be complete without Epyx’s seminal favourite. From the triple jump to the cycling event, grab seven of your mates, a sturdy joystick and have some fun! Make sure you watch the closing ceremony fireworks – a perfect touch to a perfect game.

Out Run [PC-Engine]

Out Run
Jump in your red Ferarri, crank up the stereo, swing past your girlfriend’s place and hit the road. Feel the wind in your hair as you race down the highway to make it to the next checkpoint. Make sure you enjoy those cool and refreshing tunes along the way.

Well, there you have it. These are just a few video games to keep you cool this summer. Which video games will you play?

What’s Your Favorite Metal Gear game?

Metal Gear Solid 3
Mine would be MGS3: Snake Eater. It perfected the classic MGS gameplay, and the new jungle and desert scenes with the new camo gave it a whole new level of stealth to use. The story was great and made sense (fuck you MGS2), the enemies were smarter in the past, good variety in weapons and areas, and a whole lot of wierd little things to notice or do.

 Metal Gear Solid 3 - Screenshot - 2
He threw bees, and threw bees, but it was a really good and cool fight. Did a mention he threw bees?
 Metal Gear Solid 3
Guy was like predator on crack. You couldn’t see him in the jungle and had to use your best wits to track his ass in the trees.
 Metal Gear Solid 3
Holy shit what a great fight. Hiding in the woods, step by step made this slow fight one of gaming’s greatest moments. You could also kill him by sniping his ass after his first scene in the wheelchair, or waiting a week for him to die of old age. That’s really good extra detail and the best easter eggs to be found in gaming.
 Metal Gear Solid 3
FIRE FIRE HOLY CRAP THIS GUY IS CRAZY. COSMONAUT GOING DOWN ARGGGGGH
 Metal Gear Solid 3
Be ready to walk a long river of dead people you killed. Probably the best bad boss fight in history. Strangely the hardest fight in the game for me because of the tricky revival sequence.
 Metal Gear Solid 3
She takes your fucking gun apart, kicks your ass any chance she gets, and lets you kill her. Some big boss.

Kidding aside, I loved MGS3, and all games are great, but this was Kojima’s magnum opus.

Violent video game debate goes back decades

video game violence

In the wake of the Newtown, Connecticut shootings in December, the debate over violent video games is being waged once again.

Just before Christmas, National Rifle Association spokesman Wayne LaPierre made controversial remarks about violent video games in a public press conference. Over the past week, Vice President Joe Biden invited representatives from the video game industry to a panel discussion about the gun control and violence topic. On January 10, New Jersey governor Chris Christie also noted violent video games as what he believes to be a factor in violence.

“You cannot tell me that a kid sitting in a basement for hours playing Call of Duty and killing people over and over and over again does not desensitize that child to the real life effects of violence,” Christie said.

The topic of video game violence has been going on almost since the day the general public first became aware of video games. In 1976, Exidy’s Death Race became the first video game to spark such discussion. A game which challenged players to run over stick figures with cars,Death Race made national news headlines on shows such as 60 Minutes and created such an outcry that many video arcades removed the game.

Stern classic Berzerk also sparked similar discussion in 1981, especially after 19-year-old Jeff Dailey died of a heart attack shortly after playing the game. Similar to remarks recently made about games such as Call of Duty: Black Ops II, Berzerk found itself criticized by then-National Coalition on Television Violence chairman Dr. Thomas Radecki.

“In this game you’re a stick figure with a handgun,” Radecki said in 1981. “The object is to kill as many other stick figures as possible before they kill you. This type of role-playing practice is certain to have long-term harmful effects on the player. It teaches violent reactions. These games are training the next generation of Americans to be even more violent than our current adult generation, already the most violent in American history.”

According to a FactCheck.org posting on December 20, there were 3.59 gun murders per 100,000 people in 2010, the lowest rate since 1981, the same year Dr. Radecki made his statement about Berzerk and similar video games.

A number of gamers from the 1981 generation of grew up to become lawyers, business owners and doctors. Joel West, the 1982 world champion on Berzerk, is a conservative Christian and father who still plays the classic today. Another notable name who has made a living in the gaming world says despite thousands of hours of gaming, including Berzerk, he did not turn out violent.

Berzerk was one of my favorite arcade games back in the early eighties,” said former Electronic Gaming Monthly writer ‘Trickman’ Terry Minnich. “Today, I own an original Berzerk machine and it is still one of my favorite games. I’ve played every type of game. No matter how bad I am doing, I never kick or punch the machine or throw a controller in anger. I never have and don’t believe I ever will.”

Minnich went on to point out that some members of the early gaming generation, instead of becoming violent, went on to create a major impact on the world today.

“Some of the first geeks and nerds started in that generation,” he said. “The famous ones went on to found Apple and Microsoft and helped usher in the technology we enjoy today. I think that generation turned out pretty well overall.”

Off The Beaten Path: Sega Saturn Edition

Sega-Saturn

When people think of Japanese Saturn games, they quite rightly call to mind classics such as Capcom’s 4MB-enhanced beat ‘em ups, shmups like Battle Garrega and Radiant Silvergun, and the sequels the West wanted but never got (I hate to bring up old wounds, but I must mention Dragon Force 2 and the remaining Shining Force 3 scenarios). The Saturn had far more Japanese games than just these cult classics though and while the quality naturally varies from game to game there’s still plenty of interesting titles waiting to be played, often for $10USD or less.

Sega saturn - Japanese Games

Take Real Sound: Kaze no Regret for example – there are literally no graphics at all in this game (and only minimal optional stills in the Dreamcast remake), the reason being that it was designed to be a game that could be enjoyed just as well by blind gamers as it could able-sighted ones. The game is an interactive sound drama and plays out much like a visual novel with the player making decisions at key points.

Sega saturn - Japanese Games

If that’s a bit too esoteric how about Black/Matrix, an SRPG series by Flight Plan (creators of the Summon Night series and DS SRPG Shining Force Feather) that started on the Saturn and spawned two remakes (Dreamcast and PS1), a direct sequel (PS2), a prequel (GBA), and later a remake of that prequel (PS1) – yet these games are hardly discussed anywhere! What’s especially enticing about this game to a curious import gamer is that it’s rather linear meaning more time can be spent enjoying the battles rather than scouring FAQs for the NPC you should have spoken to in the last town but completely missed.

Sega saturn - Japanese Games

Japanese Saturn fans even got all-new exclusive sequels to quintessentially Western games too: Dungeon Master Nexus is the final game in FTL’s classic dungeon crawling RPG series and finally brought the series into true 3D while still retaining many familiar features from the previous games. Alex and his lock picks, Screamers, the rune system… just about everything’s present and correct, and the dungeon is as challenging as ever.

Sega saturn - Japanese Games

Even ports of more typical games are worth looking at – the Saturn versions of Tactics Ogre and Ogre Battle have additional voice acting not found in any other version and while Suikoden was released over two years after the Playstation original Konami made up for it somewhat by giving the game a bit of a tweak and touch up, arguably making it the superior version of the two.

Sega saturn - Japanese Games

The best part is that these titles are barely even the tip of the iceberg – never heard of Linkle Liver Story? It’s an ARPG by Nextech, the creators of Ragnacenty (AKA Soliel, AKA Crusader of Centy). Soukara no Tsubasa: Gotha World uses a unique “Personal Time System” to give turn based combat a real time twist in a Porco-Rosso-with-fantasy-leanings setting. Sakura Taisen – a series so successful that the cast have filled the Budokan twice with their stage shows – and yet only the final one out of the five main titles (and about fifteen spinoffs, excluding ports and remakes) has been released outside Japan. Gamers not comfortable with the language barrier have plenty to look at too – bonkers shmup Game Tengoku, puzzler Puyo Puyo 3, Bomberman Fight!, the Virtual On-like Steeldom… the list goes on and on.

Sega saturn - Japanese Games

Being objective, these games are not the absolute greatest titles to grace the system nor are they lost treasures that will silently increase in price until only the most dedicated of collectors own them – but they are quirky and fun games that will entertain and amuse those curious or brave enough to give them a go, and certainly deserve better than to be consistently passed over for more familiar titles. So next time you’re browsing the web for imports, why not give something new a try?

The Death of G4

Perhaps internet channels were the way to proceed and heading for cable was the wrong move in the first place for G4.~J.A. Laraque

The Death of G4

A while back I asked the question, what happened to Gamer Television and now we have the answer. The story began with two stations Tech TV and then later on G4. While one might have thought it could be difficult to have two tech/gaming related stations on at the same time you would at least believe that together there would be more than enough programing and an audience to keep it going.

esquiremagazine

Sadly, we began to see the cancellation of various shows after the merger and in their place new and often syndicated shows which were targeted at “Young male gamers.” Don’t get me wrong I loved watching Star Trek TNG and Ninja Warrior, but honestly I felt those belongs more on Spike TV leaving G4 “pure” if you will. Even with great shows like X-Play and the Attack of the Show, G4 TV’s fate seemed to be cancellation.

Now G4 television will be replaced with Esquire television named after the magazine. Along with the name change the channel will see a change in focus from games and technology for gamers to; an “untapped metrosexual viewership,” that will be “more in line with the modern male.” The casualties are already coming in with the announcement of the cancellation of shows like X-Play and Attack of the Show.

Perhaps internet channels were the way to proceed and heading for cable was the wrong move in the first place for G4. While personally I believe there should be no reason a gaming channel should fail with all the content one could create, I am also aware than many younger people and gamers alike are turning away from cable television and watching their shows online. Still it is sad to see it go and honestly, no offence to Esquire, but I am not sure what the metrosexual male is dying to watch on their network, but only time will tell.

The future for us has always been the internet and luckily there are many great shows like The Guild, The Jace Hall show and more than we can watch anytime we want. However, seeing Nintendo Power release their last cover and now this makes it a sad week for gamers everywhere.

Subscription fee for Call of Duty Multiplayer?

Here it seems as Mr. Pachter is not clear on the history of FPS games nor the current climate for subscription based MMO’s.~J.A. Laraque

Subscription fee for Fee for Call of Duty Multiplayer?

How many of you remember playing games like Doom, Duke Nukem and Quake online and enjoyed hours of “free” play time. Not only could you play online for free, but there were maps that were created by players as well as mods that you could enjoy all for free. A game like Quake 2 could be played for years because of this and with LAN support we were in a golden age of multiplayer.

pay-to-play

Well it seems if Michael Pachter had his way we would all be playing a subscription free to play today’s multiplayer games like Call of Duty Black Ops 2. You can read the source article over on Gamespot, but here are some of the key quotes.

“I know the game sells billions of dollars. Activision did a bad thing with Call of Duty from a profit perspective,” Pachter said. “They trained gamers that you can buy a game and play it all year, ten hours a week, forever, and you never have to pay again. You just wait for the next Call of Duty. I promise you there are plenty of people, numbering in the millions, who play one game, which is Call of Duty, and they never stop.”

This is interesting as it makes me think of a drug dealer who gets someone hooked then raises the price. He is right in that many people are really into their COD multiplayer and many would pay for the service. We already see the awful premium service you can sign up for to receive new maps.

The mention of training gamers is important as well, just like many gamers became used to paying a certain monthly amount for MMO’s many gamers still remember old FPS games you could play online with hundreds of maps all for free and most of us would not accept a pay service. However, newer gamers and admittedly, those who may not actually be shelling out the cash, may be more inclined to pay such a free.

Callofduty-black-ops2

Pachter also said:

“That’s just like the people who play World of Warcraft and never stop, yet the World of Warcraft guys are paying $180 a year, and the Call of Duty guys are paying $60. So who’s got a better model?” he said. “This multiplayer thing being free was a mistake. I don’t think anybody ever envisioned it would be this big. It’s a mistake because it keeps those people from buying and playing other games.”

Here it seems as Mr. Pachter is not clear on the history of FPS games nor the current climate for subscription based MMO’s. First, FPS online games, or a game with an online component, has always been popular and though the Call of Duty series did set records it should not have been a big surprise that people would navigate to a good online FPS and play it. He mentions World of Warcraft, but if you look at games like EQ2, Conan, DC Online, Star Wars Online and many other MMO’s that started out as a paid service they are now switching to free to play.

It seem as if to many companies point to WoW and believe they can be next incarnation, but reports show even WoW is bleeding members and is heading toward a free to play model of their own. Then you have games like Guild Wars 2 on the MMO side and Tribes and Planetside 2 on the FPS side and the question you have to ask is, how can a move to charge for multiplayer do anything but hurt the brand?

Pachter pointed at juggernaut Activision about their upcoming titled rumored to be called Destiny and said it will be subscription based adding; “Activision’s going to try it, because they’re greedy pigs, and they’re bold,”

activision-bungie-destiny

I did not know greed is bold but I digress. We do not know exactly what Destiny will bring and even if it does cost monthly there is no guarantee it will be successful, just ask SOE. We as gamers will put up with a lot more than we claim we will. Many of us screamed when Everquest raised their subscription rates and yet we still played. However, we can only take so much and as we get older and money is tighter the same thing that happened with MMO’s will happen everywhere else. We will pick and choose a game that works for us and our budget and dump the rest.

In the end, the hopes of people like Pachter is to “train” the upcoming generation to be used to these fees. Many are used to paying for small things in F2P MMO’s and used to paying small amounts for mobile games and music, so what is a few extra dollars a month for Modern Warfare 4? COD is a powerful title, but it does not stand alone and I am sure other FPS games would love to take advantage of a move like this if it is made. I guess the only question that remains is, if this was done would you pay?

Double Dragon: 1987 vs 2012

Double_Dragon-1987

vs

Double_Dragon-Neon-2012

 

They say imitation is the best form of flattery. So what do they say about a reboot of a classic ? I know, DON’T do it, leave it alone !

Double_Dragon-Neon-2012

I am an old school retro gamer, and yes, I also dabble in the current generation video gaming systems. When I heard that one of my favorite beat’em ups would be rebooted on the current gen consoles, I was salivating at the thought of kicking some black warrior heads. Well, I have finally ‘tasted’ the Double Dragon Neon reboot, and let me say this – I was initially wowed (nostalgia got to me) but within a few minutes of play I started comparing Neon to the original arcade game. I found myself thinking, I would rather be playing the original !

Double_Dragon-1987

As they say, original is always best. In this case, it is. The Double Dragon of 1987 was a ‘tour de force’. It set the standard that all other two player co-op beat’em ups would be judged upon. It had soul, it had grittiness, it immersed you in the action as you strive to save your girlfriend, even if you had to fight your brother for her affection.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xT0re3Ml7w0[/youtube]

If you are curious how Double Dragon Neon has turned out, get the free demo. If you actually want to (re)play it, then go ahead and buy it, otherwise, get your hit (pun intended) on the original.

Gaming in the Spotlight

On one hand you have the person who puts guild leader in World of Warcraft on a job application and another where a gamer turned an idea into a million dollar company. My take is it does not have to be the best or the worst outcome, there is a lot of middle which can allow you to game and take care of the important stuff.~J.A. Laraque

Gaming in the Spotlight

Remember when even mentioning that you played computer games was met with weird looks? Maybe not, but if you are a gamer in your 40’s to 50’s you might remember when people just could not understand how you could sit looking at a screen all day, as if there wasn’t this thing called television.

Gaming in the Spotlight

As games became more popular in the 90’s more and more people got used to seeing, mostly kids, playing on a home console system. The thought was that it was a child’s toy like any other, all the while gamers from a past generation were helping to push computer gaming into the forefront.

With the holy trinity of arcade games, home console systems and computer games all being popular at once gaming stepped into the spotlight. You began to hear of the senior citizen who could beat Pac-Man with one quarter or the CEO who played Doom before meetings. There still was a push back to gaming however, and many people still saw it as an immature activity or something only geeks and nerds did.

When MMO’s arrived many new gamers were created. While games like Everquest still attracted more experienced gamers it was easier to play games such as City of Heroes and World of Warcraft that brought in a new group of gamers, ones who had never gamed before. Now in one family you could find every member playing a video game, from Mario Cart to Guitar Hero, but this new exposer also brought along its owns issues and stereotypes.

As more people played video games more news reports talked about people neglecting their responsibilities be it at home, work or school. People cared about gaming and the media was fascinated if not late to the party and with coverage of people becoming sick or even dying because of a video game we had a new rallying cry against video games that had not been seen since the fight over video game violence of the 90’s.

The idea of the nerdy gamer came roaring back as a picture was painted of the loser World of Warcraft player living in his or hers parents basement. We saw documentaries of people needing help for gaming addition because of how video games ruined their lives. The attacks did not just come from the outside, but from other gamers who saw certain MMO players as not real gamers or people who made gamers look bad.

Then came social games like Farmville and mobile games like Bejeweled and later, Angry Birds. Now, almost everyone was playing something and whether or not they considered themselves a gamer did not matter, a game was being played and the industry was as strong as ever.

The lazy, immature or loser label however has not disappeared. Just recently a state Senate candidate was attacked by her opponent for playing World of Warcraft. Fliers were sent out showing her character, an Orc Rogue, and various postings of hers on forums that discussed the online game.

“I don’t understand why I’m being targeted for playing online games when all I’ve done is campaign on the issues.” She said and went on to say; “There are a lot of these misconceptions about people who play online games. I’ve played with people who are retired, college professors and lawyers. I’ve only ever played with adults.”

She also stated that she hardly ever logs into the MMO anymore and her game of choice is now Angry Birds. However, her defense is pretty normal for many gamers. Often when confronted for playing games the response is that they do not play that much anymore or that the specific game in question is no longer fun for them so they now play another game, normally one that is more socially acceptable, as crazy as that sounds.

Anyone who follows gaming culture has most likely seen both sides. On one hand you have the person who puts guild leader in World of Warcraft on a job application and another where a gamer turned an idea into a million dollar company. My take is it does not have to be the best or the worst outcome, there is a lot of middle which can allow you to game and take care of the important stuff.

While it may be beating a dead horse to state this, anything can become too much be it sports, food, even working out and yes, gaming. Not everyone is going to turn their StarCraft playing into a E-Sports career just as the World of Warcraft player does not have to have pale skin and poop in a sock.

Just as people have a television show they love to watch and must see the same is with our games and we should be proud of what we love. You can balance recreation and responsibilities and you should never deny what you enjoy as long as it is not hurting others and you are not hurting yourself.

Video games are in the spotlight as are those who play them. We need to show the truths of gaming from all sides, the good and the bad and still proclaim that this is who we are and we are not changing based on negative stereotypes and attacks.

You’re not special for reaching max level anymore

You might get your name mentioned on a gaming website if you are truly the first, but does reaching max level in a game that is not hard to level really an achievement? Does it compare to getting the kill screen in Pac-Man or a high score in Donkey Kong? I don’t think so…~J.A. Laraque

You’re not special for reaching max level anymore

Normally I would leave the rants to Obsolete Gamer’s infamous write Umar Khan, but I had to do this after reading an article about a Borderlands 2 player who played for 43 hours straight to reach max level. Now don’t get me wrong, if you are out for setting records because it is your thing for a world record we understand, after all that’s what Twin Galaxies is all about, but there is a difference between going for a world record and just rushing to max level, especially in an MMO.

You’re not special for reaching max level anymore

Perhaps back in the early days of MMO’s like Ultima and Everquest reaching max level could earn you some props. Mainly because back then it was incredibly hard to level and no tricks, strats and early access to the game beforehand. Since then games have become incredibly easy to level in and yet there are always people trying to reach max level first.

Most are not going for an official record, it is just to say you did it, but what did you do. In World of Warcraft there would be guilds who would work in shifts to get one character to max level. In newer games like Guild Wars 2 people reached max level during early access and what do they win, nothing. Most likely someone else beat them too it and they missed out on the point of the game which is the journey not the destination.

You might get your name mentioned on a gaming website if you are truly the first, but does reaching max level in a game that is not hard to level really an achievement? Does it compare to getting the kill screen in Pac-Man or a high score in Donkey Kong? I don’t think so and for those who blew through the game and went without proper sunlight and hygiene and didn’t even become the first to reach max level are the true losers.

We have had enough people die from playing games and thousands more that really need to take a break and walk away from the keyboard. These pursuits might give one person some form of gamer rep, but overall it makes all gamers look bad. I almost wish for easy to level games we would not even recognize these people as those not officially going for records are often the first to complain about lack of endgame content or asking when the next expansion will come out 48 hours into the latest one.

Oh did I mention that Panda expansion is out, can’t wait to see who reaching level 90 first.

Do you have to be a gamer to be in the industry?

Generally my take is you have to really care about the field you focus your life on or you just won’t be the best at it. There is a difference between being good at your job and really loving it to where everything you do is a pursuit of putting out perfection. ~J.A. Laraque

Do you have to be a gamer to be in the industry?

When it comes to jobs people often put them in two categories. One is the job to pay bills and one is the career that you really work towards and care about. Obviously for just a job you can learn what is needed to do well and even excel at it, but for your career do you really have to be “all in” to do it well. More specifically, do you have to be a gamer to work in the gaming industry? Well John Smedley, president of Sony Online Entertainment says, yes, you do.

gaming industry, gamer, john smedley, sony online entertainment, alienware

“In my opinion, people that don’t play games have no business in this business. It should be the gamers-only club, I think. I can’t stand people that don’t know what they’re talking about when it comes to playing these things,” Smedley said in a recent interview.

The responses to that comment have been mixed. Some believe he is right on saying that many of the rehashed and awful games that have come out recently are the result of suits in management positions and not real gamers and people who know the community and the culture. Others had a different view saying that one can be good at their job without taking it home and with responsibilities like family, school and bills one does not always have time to be totally engulfed in their work.

Generally my take is you have to really care about the field you focus your life on or you just won’t be the best at it. There is a difference between being good at your job and really loving it to where everything you do is a pursuit of putting out perfection. I also believe it depends on the job and the community you are creating a product for. It is one thing to work in plastics and not live it 24/7, but in some industries like politics, cars and games, if you only focus on it from 9 to 5 and then walk away there will be something missing.

When I started working at Alienware there was a proud culture of gamers there. I was even asked what games I played in the interview. Now while every position within a company, even a gaming related one, does not need a gamer manning the helm it did create a company culture that really felt like we were creating the best computers for the love of video games. With that said sometimes, and for certain things, you might need an outside view. Perhaps when going into a new market or expanding overseas you might need someone with those specific skills more than a gaming background. However, I believe you still need those gamers right there to make sure the heart of your company stays intact.

Also, the wife and kids excuse is just that. There is a difference between ignoring your responsibilities and giving up everything you used to love because you started a family. Perhaps you do not play games for every waking moment when you are not at work, but it does not mean you do not have time to put in to keep fresh. Sometimes there comes a point where you might have to step aside because of your responsibilities. If you cannot put in the time there will be those that can so you can focus on what you want to, but the point is you made that change.

When it comes to games most of us understand that it can become a part of our lives in one way or another. Many gamers do struggle with dividing life with gaming, but for people in the industry it may be even more important to listen to those of us for who gaming is a major focus. Too many suits see games like fast food and just feed us the same old crap and sadly most of us eat it up. There may be great new games out there, but they do not want to take the chance on something new. This is where we as gamers have the responsibility to let people in the game industry know what we want. Only then will things change and you don’t have to be a gamer to listen to the concerns of one, but it definitely helps.

So what is your take, do you need to be an active gamer to work in the gaming industry?

My Favorite Games: Part 10

And so… we finally reach the end of My Favorite Games. As expected there’s lots of games I’m fond of that I couldn’t find space for, and I’m sure as Red Parsley wears on there will be many more to consider, and even replace some of the games already here. Nearly all these games come from my younger days and I enjoyed them all in their prime and continue to enjoy them now, but since the purpose of this blog it to help me discover older games I haven’t previously played, some new lists will undoubtedly follow. Anyway, I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my lists as much as I have enjoyed writing them.

Wiz n Liz – MegaDrive (1993)

Wiz n Liz - MegaDrive

Also released on the Amiga, this frantic platformer is not very well known for some reason, despite receiving decent reviews in its day. That never stopped me from playing it to death on my MD though, and I still do! This is also a good example of how games don’t need to be remotely violent to be great fun – aside from a few bosses there’s not a single enemy in the whole game! The object is to rescue all the rabbits that were stolen from the amusingly-named planet of Pum. Collecting rabbits releases letters and fruits which can be used to spell out and then mix magic spells, and they release various other items too. There is a huge variety of magic spells, each of which has a different effect – some give you bonuses, some are mini-games, others are just for fun. With fantastic graphics and music, this fast-paced platformer is a criminally under-played gem (which also offers simultaneous two-player action) and I can’t stop playing it!

Goldeneye 007 – Nintendo 64 (1997)

Goldeneye 007 - Nintendo 64

Yep, sorry, but I had to include it! This was pretty much the first FPS I played properly and what an experience it was! Being a fan of the Bond films didn’t hurt either. In fact, I had just watched the Goldeneye movie before I first played this and, having been used to terrible movie tie-ins generally, wasn’t really expecting much from it. To my amazement, however, not only was it amazingly playable but it also stuck to the plot of the film too. That was unheard of! This fantastic game represents many firsts for me, notably my first use of a sniper-rifle which was awesome, as well as probably the first game I’d played where stealth and cunning yielded more rewards than charging in all-guns-blazing like a bull in a china shop! Goldeneye is probably more famous for its multi-player deathmatches than for its one-player game but it was the latter that kept me playing this, even when I got stuck in the damn jungle level!

Soul Calibur
– Dreamcast (1999)

Soul Calibur - Dreamcast

Being a big Sega fan, not many games made me prouder of being a Dreamcast owner than this one. Stunning graphics (which actually improved on the arcade game) and a equally stunning soundtrack were the icing on the cake of this ground-breaking game from Namco. It had a lot of flashy moves which weren’t too difficult to perform, a great range of characters, and flawless combat physics, but my biggest surprise was discovering the Adventure Mode which saw you travelling around completing various missions to unlock many treats in the game! Many were hoping for a good conversion of this game. What they got was so much better than the arcade original it defied belief! This is still the finest 3D fighting game I’ve ever played.

Operation Wolf – Arcade (1987)

Operation Wolf - Arcade

Out of all my many visits to the arcades of Hayling Island in the late 80’s/early 90’s, this was the game that received most of my money. It was my first experience of a light-gun game, and it was a hell of an intro! An Uzi with grenade-launcher? Yes please! The force-feedback on the gun made things all the more authentic and I just loved playing this over and over, even if I wasn’t very good at it and never managed to complete it. No game of its type ever ensnared me like this did, until Point Blank of all things arrived! Shooting the helicopters and trucks was always particularly satisfying. Of all the home versions, only the Master System version was much cop, but even that didn’t offer the tense atmosphere of this fantastic original.

Sonic 2 – MegaDrive (1992)

Sonic 2 - MegaDrive

Last and not least… as a Sega fan I can’t possibly leave out a Sonic game, and as most will probably agree, the series never surpassed the second MD game. Released after a MAJOR hype campaign, this was one of the rare games that actually lived up to expectations. It took everything that Sonic 1 started and added a whole lot more – bigger, prettier stages and more of them, a new character in Tails, two-player action, those famous tunnel-based bonus rounds, a bigger challenge… Some of the later Sonic games were good but none of them were ever as endlessly entertaining as this one. Going back to play this makes me sad in a way as it marks not only Sonic’s peak, but arguably that of Sega themselves too. Oh well, let us Sega fanboys remember the good times – even Nintendo fanboys must’ve been jealous of this one!

The End…

Gamers Health: Gaming Injuries

You’d be surprised how hard it can be going from always playing on the couch to competing in a game of video dance off. ~J.A. Laraque

Gamers Health: Gaming Injuries

In our last Gamers Health article we talked about small changes gamers could make to be healthier. This time we talk about some of the injuries and health issues that can occur during or due to gaming. The first thing that came to mind is my friend and Obsolete Gamer writer, Ashley Brito who after years of gaming sometimes wears a brace on his wrist to protect it. Often changing how you game and taking breaks can prevent issues down the line, but sometimes you just have to deal with them after they occurred.

video game injuries

The US National Electronic Injury Surveillance System reported that from 2004 to 2009 696 people were injured due to video games. Consider that is the number reported and counted as legit video game related injuries. How many of us have had back or wrist issues or other aches and pains due to gaming? Since then interactive motion games such as the Wii and Kinect has comes out leading to even more injuries not only of gamers, but of bystanders as well.

Repetitive stress injury is one of the most common health issues gamer’s face. Remember playing Mario Bros or Street Fighter for hours till your hands hurt? How about those 24 hour camps in Everquest for loot and your wrist begins to ache? It does not happen to every one and obviously the older you get the higher the chances you can sustain injury, but often simple measures can be taken to protect your body during game play.

kinect-injury

Just try comparing a long gaming session to working out and you will be laughed out of the building, but just like an athlete a gamer needs to warm up before going all out in a video game. Stretching the fingers and hands along with flexing the wrist can help loosen your joints. These exercises can also be used during breaks in gameplay to relieve stress.

The same can be applied to motion games. Just because it is a video game does not mean it is not physical activity. If you are playing the Olympic Games on the Kinect and it involves a wide range of motion it is best to stretch and prepare your body for that activity. This is especially true for those who are not normally active. You’d be surprised how hard it can be going from always playing on the couch to competing in a game of video dance off.

For those of us playing computer games posture is extremely important. I remember on a message board people asked for a picture of World of Warcraft player’s computer stations. I was surprised to see people using hard wooden chairs or stools for their desk chairs. When working in an office you might see employers use ergonomic chairs. This is to try and protect the back and neck of employees who are sitting at their desks for long periods of time working. If you are a computer gamer or user of any kind the right back and neck support is vital to prevent pain and other chronic issues that can arise.

wii

Believed it or not video games can strain the eyes. This can occur more frequently if the player is normally in a dark or dimly lit room with a bright computer or television screen. While you do not see it much now people use to buy visors for their computer screen to reduce glare and many swore it helped with eye strain. Today with so much going on in gaming one must pay even more attention to the screen and reading small text messages in games does not help either. However, taking steps like turning down the brightness, adding light to your room and turning away from your monitor to give your eyes a break are all ways to lessen eye strain.

In the past gamers used to talk about Atari Thumb or Nintendonitis. Classic gamers know all too well about getting blisters on their thumbs from playing games specially button heavy ones such as Track and Field. Years later the same injuries occur, but with knowledge we can treat and prevent many injuries and issues. Next time we will talk about the extreme health related issues and risks associated with gaming. Until then, tell us about your video game war wounds.

Nintendo Power: Reaction to the end of the long running magazine

Reports that Nintendo Power magazine was shutting down popped up like popcorn a week ago, bringing both old school and modern Nintendo fans to reminiscence about the long-running publication.

Nintendo Power Magazine

The first issue of Nintendo Power appeared in the summer of 1988, featuring a miscolored clay model for the upcoming Super Mario Bros. 2 on the cover. The magazine ran every other month for a while, eventually becoming a monthly publication and the best source for news on upcoming titles for the then-dominant Nintendo Entertainment System.

The full-color publication contained a variety of game previews, a section where gamers could request help on their toughest game challenges, tips, tricks and detailed maps for just about every release, contests, game rankings and even a high score chart where the world could race to be the first to max-out the high scores on NES titles.

Nester - Nintendo Power Magazine

I remember these days very fondly. I can still remember reading through that first issue three or four times that first night alone. Back in these days we didn’t have the internet to give us instant news nor were the other video game magazines on the market particularly timely. Nintendo Powerwas a literal treasure trove for a Nintendo-obsessed youngster such as myself, and I miss the feeling of anticipation of each new issue. I couldn’t wait to read the newest previews, try the latest tricks and tips and even to see if Howard ever gave Nester a little respect.

I subscribed to the magazine for the entire first four years and continued to check it out on newsstands ever since. Even though Nintendo no longer held direct control of the magazine in recent years, Nintendo Power still held true to it’s roots and still felt ‘right’.

Nintendo Power Magazine

“The passing of an era,” said New Jersey television producer Dave Bullis. “I remember reading it since childhood. It’s not just the passing of Nintendo Power, but the end of physical print and the closing of a childhood memory. The best memory I have is the Goldeneye issue. It made me really excited for the game.”

Another longtime fan learned of the news just hours after renewing her subscription.

Nintendo Power had a huge impact on my interest in gaming,” said Seattle gaming vet Elizabeth ‘Ebo’ Hanning. “I have roughly a few hundred issues of the magazine dating back to some of the early copies. The best part of Nintendo Power was that the helpline was a local number, so I could call without my parents getting angry.”

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tMCEEO77EpU[/youtube]

Some reports state the publication may be done outright while others state that Nintendo Power may continue as an online-only publication. Either way it is the end of an era, especially for us long-time fans.

Arcade Classics: What happened to them all?

It is easily the most common question I get when I chat with anyone about the classic arcade games of the early 1980s. What happened to them all?

Tron

They remember those days just as I do. Video arcades were commonplace and practically every type of business out there had arcade games in them. I remember seeing a Defender in the window of a flower shop, Ms. Pac-Man and Galaga machines at the local Denny’s and entire gamerooms in select 7-Eleven stores. These machines were literally everywhere.

Over time a number of these machines have ended up in homes, mostly as an addition to a rec room or something fun in the corner of the garage. A smaller number of home collectors are deeply dedicated, some with dozens or even hundreds of machines. In recent years, arcades and taverns with classic themes are popping up around the country, giving an extent of new life to a bygone era.

Atari Football

What most casual and even many die-hard classic arcade fans don’t realize is that the vast majority of machines from the early eighties arcade boom are long gone from the planet. While games such as AsteroidsSpace InvadersPac-Man and Donkey Kong set arcade sales records that still stand today, most did not survive.

Today I provide some insight into why. While none of this is going to cover things in depth, it is going to touch on the basic answers to that common question.

The Great Video Game Crash

Atari Pole Position

While it is becoming a hardly known legend to the younger generations of gamers, the entire North American video game industry crashed hard in 1983 and 1984. The arcade market and home console markets crashed for different reasons, with the coin-ops dropped off first. Things slowed in the summer of 1982 and went into a free-fall the next year, due in large part to oversaturation of the marketplace and aging equipment.

By 1984, a great number of arcade operators had gone out of business. Those that survived had significantly smaller operations and routes. The vast majority of arcade machines seen in non-arcade businesses were never owned by those businesses but rather by vendors who installed the machines in those locations for a cut of the revenue.

Operators were stuck with huge inventories of machines nobody wanted to play anymore, and with almost everyone forced to scale back operations, most older machines had no resale value or potential buyers. Everyone had enough Scramble and Galaxian machines gathering dust in a warehouse already.

Joust

So they trashed them.

Many machines were gutted for useful parts such as monitors and coin doors then had their cabinets smashed, burned or taken to a landfill. Others were left to rot in abandoned warehouses, sheds or fields.

This practice actually still continues today. Me and a friend came across an antique store a few years ago that had obtained a few trailers of early eighties machines. Thinking they had no value they left the open trailers outside and smashed up entire machines until they’d filled their dumpsters. By the time we got there, we found pieces of games such as Donkey Kong Junior andCentipede in the trash and the machines still in tact had been rained on so much they were falling apart.

While there are hobbyists who restore classic machines scattered across the country, it is commonplace for them to use several machines to complete one full restoration, trashing the rest.

Conversions, Multicades and MAME

Mame arcade cabinet

Most classic arcade machines that didn’t end up as scrap were converted into newer game titles, and still are today.

The first successful conversion kit game was Mr. Do! in 1983, starting a trend that helped operators survive at least a while longer. For a far lesser price than a full arcade machine, vendors could purchase kits with new electronics, graphics and sometimes wiring which was used to turn that old Qix or Berzerk machine into a brand new game title.

While most arcade manufacturers resisted this trend as long as they could, they were forced to change with the times and start offering kits to operators. Some, such as Nintendo and Atari, began to produce kits designed to specifically convert their older titles.

Pac-Man

 

This trend continued through the middle of the decade but slowed for a time in the late 1980s. A bit of a resurgence in the arcade market came along with the rebirth of the home console industry during this time, and dedicated machines of newer hit titles began to sell once again. Most converted machines were simply converted again to newer titles for street locations.

The next big period of conversion mania came with Street Fighter II in 1991 and 1992. This game earned so much money so quickly that many operators quickly bought kits for every arcade cabinet they had in storage. Years ago I met an operator that literally converted every remaining early 80s machine he had to SFII when it was hot, and remember locations with classic machines such as BurgerTime and Front Line that they converted at this time.

Donkey Kong 3

In recent years the conversion mania has continued in two forms. Over the past decade an influx of overseas knock off boards often dubbed as “Multicades” have made their way into North America. These bootleg boards contain dozens and sometimes hundreds of games. Many arcade machine resellers have gutted surviving classics in favor of converting them into these multi-game machines in the name of making a buck.

Other home collectors have built arcade machines based on the MAME emulation program. While some of these MAME fans have built their arcade rigs from classic cabinets that were already stripped or converted beyond reasonable restoration, others have posted blogs where they show their process of gutting a surviving arcade machine to build it into a computer-based conversion.

Several arcade conversions have appeared on these popular treasure-hunting television programs in recent years, often without the people on the show seemingly aware of it. An episode of Pawn Stars saw someone bring three “Japanese Arcade Games” into the Las Vegas shop, two of which were conversions from Defender machines. The Ms. Pac-Man machine that appeared on an episode of Auction Hunters was actually a conversion of an original Pac-Man machine, a cabinet that is similar but quite different in many ways as well.

Arcade Passports Required

Ms. Pac-Man

Classic-era arcade machines that weren’t trashed, left to rot or converted may not reside in the country at all anymore. Several people in southern states have confirmed to me in the past that they have shipped and sold entire box trucks of older arcade machines to Mexico.

The current world record holder on Taito rarity Zoo Keeper had his machine shipped to his Australia home from the United States.

Preservation is Key

Trojan

At the present time it seems that the number of people who’d rather turn a retro arcade machine into a Multicade or MAME machine far outnumbers those who would rather try to restore them into their former glory. It is a long and often expensive task to do so.

However, these machines are pieces of pop culture and video game industry history. Just as memorabilia from films, television and various sports have seen efforts to save and preserve their history over time, video games are finally starting to see signs of a preservation effort.

The efforts of groups such as Southern California’s Videogame History Museum and New Hampshire’s American Classic Arcade Museum should be noted for being among the first in the country to take serious steps in this direction as well as many individual collectors across the country such as New Jersey’s Richie Knucklez and Cat DeSpira in the Pacific Northwest.

In time, such efforts may turn the question from “What happened to them all?” to “Did you see all that are left?”

Top Ten TurboCD TurboDuo CD Games

Of all the video game consoles I’ve played, the one that holds a special place in my retrogaming heart continues to be that poor doomed also-ran in the Sega Genesis/Super Nintendo Wars: the NEC TurboGrafx-16.

 TurboGrafx-16 with the TurboCD attachment

What makes the TurboGrafx so special to me? Perhaps it is because of my love for a good underdog against the favorite of the great unwashed, perhaps it was the console’s design, or perhaps it was the because of the amazing peripherals NEC offered for their system.  Regardless, it will always be my first choice when heading back to the 90s for retrogaming (yes, I realize it was released in North America in 1989…most of the games came later!) Picking up a TurboCD and a Super System Card was one of my best gaming investments back in the day.  There were some fabulous CD games that I played over the years, some of which I was not able to pick up until a decade later!  Here’s a small list of my favorite TurboCD games, some requiring the Super System Card, some not, but all worth playing!

 

Loom for the TurboGrafx-16 TurboCD

I’ve written about the wonders of Loomelsewhere, so I’ll be brief: this game is well worth playing. This is a beautiful game on the TurboCD, with enhanced music and gameplay based upon the original IBM-PC diskette version, but with the better graphic capabilities of the TurboCD.  It does not feature any voice acting, but the story and gameplay is wonderful, regardless. After all, this is a LucasArts adventure game; how can you go wrong?

Prince of Persia for the TurboCD

 

One of the finest platformers ever to grace any gaming system, Prince of Persia for the TurboCD has the same flair as the original, with the added feature of animated cutscenes with voice acting to help propel the storyline.  A little note for those who think Prince of Persia is based on Disney’s Aladdin movie: the original Prince of Persia was released in 1989, and Aladdin hit the movie theatre circuit in 1992.  Hmm…tell me again who influenced whom?

 

Ys I & II for the TurboDuo

Way back in 1987, a game called Ys I: Ancient Ys Vanished was released, and the game was successful enough to not only be ported over to several game systems (including an excellent Sega Master System version), but to also spawn a sequel one year later: Ys II: Ancient Ys Vanished – The Final Chapter. The TurboDuo game Ys Book I & II is a remake of these two games, with better graphics, animated cutscenes, better sound, and, of course, voice acting. Ultimately, the game was considered one of the best games of its genre, with contemporary game reviewers giving it perfect or near-perfect scores. This is another Turbo CD must-have!

 

Bonk 3 for the TurboDuo

Back in 1993, the TurboGrafx CD system was nearing the end of its product life, and one of the last games released in North America for NEC’s gaming system was Bonk 3: Bonk’s Big Adventure. The game was released in both SuperCD and HuCard format, and the game was identical on both, except the CD version had much better audio. Bonk 3 was much like the previous two games in the series, with the added element of being able to play cooperatively with another player – two Bonks for the price of one!

Gate of Thunder for the TurboDuo

 

In 1992, NEC was selling the TurboDuo system in North America, and to help show off just what it could do, Gate of Thunder was added as one of four games on a “pack-in” game CD.  This was a kind of shooter that gamers dreamed about, with incredible action, switchable and power-up weaponry, the ability to tackle enemies from both the front and the rear, interesting level design and compelling gameplay. If all TurboCD games were like this one, NEC would have won the Console Wars!

 

Lords of Thunder for TurboDuo

Billed as a sequel to the impressive shooter Gate of Thunder (albeit in a fantasy setting, not sci-fi), Lords of Thunderis a bold testament to the what a gifted programming team could do with the TurboGrafx CD technology.  Seven levels that you can select from at will (with one more final level available when you complete the others!), awesome power-ups, colorful and imaginative backgrounds and unique enemies…plus killer heavy metal guitar licks on the soundtrack all add up to making this an incredible game!

 

Might and Magic III for the TurboDuo

Once upon a time RPGs were designed so that the player could move throughout the game world at will, either following the overarching storyline or not, and generally staying off the linear express that modern RPGs have become. One such game wasMight & Magic III: Isle of Terra, which was ported to the TurboCD, losing none of its charms on the way. The game was extremely challenging, requiring time spent on outfitting your party, mapping corridors, tracking inventory, and overcoming obstacles, whether those obstacles were monster encounters or difficult riddles to solve, all of which put off the casual gamer. However, those with the gaming fortitude love of RPGs found Might & Magic III: Isle of Terra a game that they couldn’t say “NO” to.

Monster Lair Turbo CD

And neither should you!Some of the marketing decisions that NEC and TurboCD game developers made were considerably suspect. As an example, let me present the North American gameMonster Lair, which would have been much better known (and received) had they used its real name, Wonder Boy III. The Wonder Boy series had its own following, so what possessed NEC to drop the “Wonder Boy” part of the title is a mystery.  Regardless, this game is an excellent platformer, colorful, fast-paced, and imaginative. Another must-have for anyone’s TurboCD collection!

 

DragonSlayer for the TurboDuo

Falcom, the developers who designed the Ys series, returned to the TurboCD console to create another RPG that has made my Top Ten List: Dragonslayer: The Legend of Heroes. This is a good “pick-up” RPG, in that you can get into the game quickly, but it is also highly addictive – very much in the Final Fantasy realm of console gaming. The game plays quickly and smoothly, and has an interesting option of switching between PSG (Programmable Sound Generator) or CD music files, which can affect the game speed. The only complaint I might have with this game is the voice acting quality, but considering the general state of voice acting in games during the early 90s, it’s well within industry standards of the time!

 

Dungeon Explorer II for the TurboDuo

The first Dungeon Explorer game was an action-RPG hybrid HuCard, good enough to make the Top Ten TurboGrafx-16 HuCard Games list. Its sequel, Dungeon Explorer II, was even better, with all the gameplay of the original – a simplified combat and magic using system, outstanding inventory acquisition and deployment, as well as the ever-present theme of dungeon delving – but with the added benefit of CD quality sound.  This game was a showcase on how to use music to enhance the mood by altering to fit the location, sometimes airy and light, and sometimes dark and forbidding. The trouble with finding this game today is its rarity; the PAL version is readily available, but the NTSC version fetches hundred of dollars online.

Dracula X Rondo of Blood

 

I can hear the outcry from TurboDuo gamers: “You forgot the best game of all, Dracula X!”  Well, not really. Dracula X: Rondo of Blood was only an import in North America, and not readily available on the shelves of any retail store.  It is true that it was an amazing game – perhaps the best game of the entire TurboDuo lineup – but as an import, it’s disqualified from the list of best TurboCD games available in North America. Remember, at the time there wasn’t an eBay or Amazon (or even magisterrex.com) to turn to for your games; you either went to the video game store to buy what you wanted or you mailed away for them. My, how times have changed!

Ultimately, any of the games presented on this list are worth buying and playing, and each well-represents the long-past, but never-forgot, NEC TurboGrafx-16 CD video game system!

PC-Engine: Must have games

The PC-Engine console, a collaboration between Hudson Soft and NEC, was released late 1987 in Japan and mid 1999 in North America. NEC changed the name in the US to the TurboGrafx-16. The US unit also had a facelift, it was bulkier (and uglier) compared to its smaller, sleeker Japanese counterpart.

PC Engine

 

If you were one of the lucky ones to have this cult retro console, or one of its variants, here are 5 must have games you need to add to your collection:

Gomola Speed:

Gomola_Speed

Play as a segmented caterpillar-like creature that has to encircle food in order to exit each level. As you work your way around each area, you pick up new body segments which makes you longer, and have the ability drop bombs that attract the enemy bugs which are then stunned. This is a superb title that mixes strategy with puzzle elements to great effect.

Splatterhouse:

Splatterhouse

 Parapsychology students, Rick and Jennifer, set out to investigate paranormal activity at West Mansion. This arcade conversion remains faithful to the gloriously gory coin-op. The American version was sadly censored upon release. The Japanese version is the one to get.

R-Type:

R-Type

Irem’s legendary side scrolling shoot’em up is regarded as one of the PC-Engine’s most accomplished arcade conversions. This was the PC-Engine’s ‘killer app’. The premise was simple, pilot your R-9 fighter to wipe out the evil Bydo Empire. R-Type was split into two HuCards – so if you want the complete game, you will have to buy both.

Gekisha Boy / Photo Boy:

Photo Boy

 This is the most original and innovative game on the PC-Engine. Photo boy is a budding paparazzo tasked to earn points by taking photographs of newsworthy happenings throughout several different environments. Using the on-screen crosshair, you must take snaps of various objects and events while avoiding obstacles. Think of Paperboy with a camera and you have Photo Boy.

PC Genjin / PC Kid / Bonk’s Adventure:

Bonk’s Adventure

Nintendo had Mario, Sega had Sonic. Although not as famous as these two, NEC had PC Genjin, or as he was known in different regions,  PC Kid or Bonk. You play a cave boy going through prehistoric lands head-butting dinosaurs.

Some notable games that just missed out (and I do mean, just !) on making this list: Parasol Stars, Street Fighter II: Champion Edition, Bomberman’94 and Devil Crash.

If you have never played on the PC-Engine do yourself a favour and hunt one down – or find someone that does, and give these games a whirl.
YOU WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED !

Star Control: The Ships

The first Star Control title really is a game of two-halves. The ‘Main’ game is seen as the strategy side of the game with its turn-based, territorial expansion-based shenanigans, while the ‘Melee’ mode is seen as the action, shoot ’em up side, but it is a lot more strategic than people realise itself. Each of the fourteen starships in the game has many variables, as can be seen in some of the screenshots below and, while it’s possible for any one ship to defeat any one other, there are certain ships that are better or worse against certain others, and many crafty tactics can be employed to exploit their weaknesses.
There really is nothing like an epic Melee battle between two experienced, well-matched combatants. Each lurking on opposite sides of the screen trying to guess what the other is thinking, the occasional skirmish to test each other. They can be very tense affairs! So, for the benefit of any budding Melee-Masters, the next installment in my series of Star Control features will take a look at the ships used by the seven races that comprise the Alliance of Free Stars (the ‘good guys’)…
Chenjesu Broodhome

Star Control

Arguably my favourite ship in the game! This is the flagship of the Alliance fleet, used by the crystalline Chenjesu species. While not particularly quick, it’s big and powerful enough for that not to matter most of the time. It’s primary weapon is the Photon Shard which is a round projectile with an infinite range – when you launch one, keep your finger on the fire button and the shard will continue on for as long as you hold down the button! It’s the longest range weapon in the game and causes devastating damage with a direct hit (some smaller ships can be taken out with one strike), but you can only fire one at a time. When you release the fire button the shard will fragment into eight smaller pieces that travel a short distance causing minimal damage.

Star Control
The Broodhome’s secondary weapon is the D.O.G.I. Creating one of these will use all the fuel supply but the D.O.G.I will then home in on the other vessel and each time it makes contact (and makes an amusing ‘barking’ sound!) it will drain your opponent’s fuel. These are very useful, and you can deploy up to four of them, but some of the ships with powerful, short-range weapons like the Avenger and the Drone can take them out with ease. The Broodhome’s biggest weakness is its lack of maneuverability which, amongst other things, means that it’s the ship most vulnerable to planetary gravity, with each high-velocity collision causing a significant percentage of its crew complement to be lost, but it’s still a imposing, numerously-crewed vessel that you’ll do well to come out of a battle with alive!
Ship Rating: 5/5

Yehat Terminator

Star Control

Smaller and more agile than the Broodhome, this nippy craft crewed by the Pterodactyl-like Yehat is a formidable offensive and defensive craft. It’s armed with twin, rapid-fire Pulse Cannons which can pepper an adversary’s ship with many small, weak shots which can collectively cause a lot of damage, especially to larger ships. The defensive side is catered for by an impenetrable Force Shield which can be activated at will. Both of these eat through the Terminator’s fuel reserves though, and it doesn’t have very big tanks! Luckily its refuel rate is pretty high which, combined with its speed and maneuverability, makes it a tricky opponent that’s hard to beat in the hands of an experienced player. The cannons have a decent range so you can hover just inside it, popping off occasional shots, and using the shields to protect you from the shots you can’t avoid. The cannons have a great sound effect too!

Ship Rating: 4/5

Mmrnmhrm Transformer

Star Control

The Mmrnmhrm are best mates with the Chenjesu, a friendship that would lead to the creation of the devastating Avatar battleship in Star Control 2, but in this original their ship is interesting, but ultimately pretty average. As you may have guessed from its name, this craft is able to alternate between two forms. The first and default form is a slow but maneuverable one with twin short-range Laser cannons. With the tap of a button, however, its wings sweep back and its powerful afterburner kicks in, turning it into a fast, long-range craft which fires twin, long-range homing missiles. Both forms come with problem though – the first form is very slow and the second has a horrendous turning speed meaning it’s basically only usable in a straight line. The trick is to attack with the lasers, retreat with the faster craft, wait until the fuel reserves build back up, then zoom in close to your opponent and, change back, and let rip with the lasers. It’s a sound tactic but the ship is pretty clumsy in practise. It can be reasonably effective but isn’t particularly enjoyable to use.

Ship Rating: 3/5

Ariloulaleelay Skiff

Star Control

They’re a brainy bunch, those Arilou, so it’s odd that the Skiff is one of the weediest ships in the game! This is one of three ships that can be destroyed by a single shot from one of the larger vessels, but of those three, it’s almost certainly the handiest. It’s very fast, has the tightest turning circle in the whole game, and most impressively it comes equipped with an inertialess propulsion system. This means it can reach maximum velocity instantly and stop just as quickly, and is also unaffected by planetary gravity too. As those with a knowledge of astrophysics will know, that makes the Skiff one agile little bastard, and it can even hide next to planets to lure larger ships into the gravity well! On top of all this, the Skiff is also equipped with a ‘Hyperdrive Shunt’ which basically teleports the ship to a random location in the playfield (whilst making a funny noise). This is extremely useful for escaping from any hairy situations, and with the Skiff’s meagre crew complement, there are many! Its weaponry consists of a short-range, rapid-fire, auto-aiming laser, which can do a decent amount of damage if you can get a full volley off without taking any fire. The best tactic with this little ship is to sneak up behind a ship, pummel them for as long as possible with the laser, then ‘shunt’ out of harms way. Repeat until ship is defeated!

Ship Rating: 3/5

Syreen Penetrator

Star Control

Clearly a riff on the sultry green alien women from Captain Kirk’s adventures, the female-dominated Syreen race is one with whom you can have many interesting encounters in the sequel to this game (including shagging one of them!). Here however, the innuendo’s are limited to their ship (and its name) which is pretty fast and armed with a fairly weak Particle Beam. The ship’s most helpful feature though, is its ability to project the hypnotic songs of its crew outside the ship. When done in close range, the song lures crew from the opposing ship out of their airlocks and into space where they can be collected by the Penetrator, adding them to its own crew roster. This can be done until even the largest enemy ship is down to a single crew member so you just have to finish them off with a single shot!

Ship Rating: 3/5

Earthling Cruiser

Star Control

Hooray, it’s our ship, and a pretty decent one it is too! It takes a while to get going and even then it’s a bit lumbering and not particularly fast, but its armaments make up for that. The Cruiser’s main weapon is a plentiful supply of Nuclear Missiles which do a decent amount of damage and have a range bettered only by the Broodhome’s Photon Shard’s and the Podship’s Plasma thingies. This means it can stay as far away from its enemy as possible, using its excellent turning speed to whip round and fire off a missile before continuing on its way. Any time an enemy does get close enough to shoot at the Cruiser, it can take down weaker projectiles with its auto-targeting Point Defense Lasers which can shoot up to four things at once. This means its the only in the game ship to be effectively immune to the Dreadnought’s bloody fighters (much to its users chagrin!).

Ship Rating: 4/5

Shofixti Scout

Star Control

The Shofixti are a proud and courageous species modelled on the Japanese of old, so it’s a shame their ship sucks ass! It’s pretty fast and maneuverable, but has a weedy Energy Dart as its main weapon which, contrary to the picture, can only fire one shot at a time doing minimal damage to your opponent. That’s assuming you even get a chance to shoot as the Scout has a tiny crew complement and can be destroyed by a single shot from larger ships, and still in seconds by some lesser ships. The only thing it’s remotely useful for is its Glory Device – a self-destruct which, when detonated close to an enemy, can do a decent amount of damage. When under computer control, they bide their time waiting for a chance to get close enough to deploy the Glory Device, then blow themselves up! That says it all really…

Ship Rating: 1/5

Alliance Ships Total Rating: 23/35

The Effect of Diablo 3: Real Money Auction House

Class warfare is not for politics alone. Many of the Asian MMO’s that have a paid item system have people who spend a lot of real life money to become powerful. In MMO’s the “eBay” character is a term meaning you paid for your character and do not know how to play it. ~J.A. Laraque

The Effect of Diablo 3: Real Money Auction House

When I first heard about the real money action house I just laughed, but then I had to pause for a moment. I remembered back in the early days of Everquest people could sell not only their high-level characters, but gear as well for a lot of money. I knew someone personally who sold their character and was able to take a vacation with the money he made.

Diablo-3-Real-Money-Auction-House

I thought back to some of the feelings over selling a character or loot. One person felt in an MMO your character is your identity, so, you should not sell it. This of course was when that statement was relatively true. Another person felt that selling in game loot for real cash would cause more loot stealing and hording, which I personally did not see happen.

However, now we have Diablo 3, which is not an MMO, at least not in the traditional sense. You can already twink your character using in-game gold and the gold based auction house, so , the question would be, what effects would real money have on the game?

Diablo-3-Real-Money-Auction-House

Less Help from Max level characters

For most gamers you can get through the normal and nightmare difficulties pretty easily. However, once you reach the Hell levels you will need some help. Now you can always pug and since loot is your own, you do not have to worry about loot stealing. However, you do have to worry about finding competent players. What about all your level 60 friends?

The problem I see with the money auction house is people get the fever as soon as they make even a few bucks off the game and so they want to keep working on the inferno level at all times. Obviously, the game is based on progression and nobody wants to go backwards. In this case, helping a friend can cost you money because you could be getting loot or reaching a higher act, which leads to more loot.

Diablo-3-Real-Money-Auction-House

Blueprint for a Free-to-Play Model

Consider this. We know that MMO’s are in a transitional period. Even if we are to be blamed for some of the downfalls of MMO’s it is clear that the monthly payment model is on the way out. We have already seen the nickel and diming of MMO’s, but for the most part fans do not seem to have an issue with that. With the downfall of games like Star Wars and DC Online Universe the writing is on the wall. So what can be done.

With the fees gained from these transactions, you can begin to recoup the money you would lose from subscriptions. Couple that with a store that allows you to buy items like mounts and pets and expansions and soon you might find yourself spending more than you would just paying a monthly subscription. Companies can release games, charge you a one-time fee and make money off micro-transactions.

Diablo-3-Real-Money-Auction-House

Gold Futures

On one hand, lower level items will become cheaper on the gold auction house since there is no benefit to having a low level twink. The goal is to get to 60 and farm inferno for loot to sell for real money. This can have a number of effects on gold and items.

One effect is any item that is high level and not sold for real money will cost so much gold almost no one can afford it. This could kill the gold selling market for Diablo 3, which is a good thing or it could increase it as people do the ratio to see if buying 2 million gold for a bow is cheaper than paying 100 real dollars for it.

In time as more people list items on the money auction house things will settle down and many might end up moving their real money item back to gold just to sell it. I have to wonder if a gold to money transfer program is not in the works.

Diablo-3-Real-Money-Auction-House

Buying your way to Victory

Class warfare is not for politics alone. Many of the Asian MMO’s that have a paid item system have people who spend a lot of real life money to become powerful. In MMO’s the “eBay” character is a term meaning you paid for your character and do not know how to play it.

In many games, the trend is to allow people to purchase items using real or in-game money but not letting it give them too much of an advantage. Currently, in Diablo 3, it does not really matter if someone pays thousands of dollars to become powerful enough to beat inferno, but in time and if the model continues you could see people beating you not on skill, but based on how much money they have to spend.

Diablo-3-Real-Money-Auction-House

Cashing Out

Full disclosure, I sold my first little item on Diablo 3 and made about 4 bucks after Blizzard and PayPal took their cut, but it did feel good to make something off this game.  When you think about the fact that you waited so long to play this game, then you paid sixty or more for it, the idea of making back your investment is appetizing to say the least. The real money auction house can extend the game. However, I think Blizzard needs to invest in itself and add more dungeons and things to do besides farming for sellable loot.

In the end, this will be more of a positive than a negative for Diablo 3 and Blizzard. Though many might complain about spending real money it has been done in MMO’s since Everquest and has no signs of changing. Either you join in or stay away, either way, the game, just like life keeps moving on without you.

The Problem with “The Demise of Guys”

Video games, especially online MMO’s can improve typing speed and skills. Sure, you have horrible “1337″ speak out there, but you also have people who have improved their typing and communication skills via gaming and believe me those skills are gained in action and often violent games. ~J.A. Laraque

The Problem with “The Demise of Guys”

This editorial is to an article featured on CNN discussing the Demise of Guys.

demise-guys-teenagers-video-games-story

I think it is time we really start to separate the extreme cases of gaming with general gaming itself. While I understand studies like what was done in the article listed can be helpful, it can also give the wrong impression causing people who believe by reading this that they are now educated to make rash and often wrong decisions.

Sadly, like most discussions where the person is attacking something, the worst of the worst is shown and then the spotlight is pointed at the everyday gamer with an ominous warning that they are a ticking time bomb, but like everything that can be an addiction, you can learn to par take in moderation and still live a “normal” life.

This is where studies can go off the rails when we start wanting to see what is normal. Mainly the problem is regardless of how scientific a study is when you toss in the pursuit of normalcy then the question is, whose definition of normal are you looking to reach.

Let’s take marriage as an example. More and more people are either not getting married or they are getting divorced faster than ever. I am sure you could link many things as reasons why that is including gaming and porn, but this is what you do not read much about. First, many women had no choice but to get married because of the rights women had and how they were treated. Even today many people still believe if you are not married and with kids by 35 something is wrong and this can lead to people jumping into horrible relationships just to meet some goal.

Women have more choices and so do men. Choice brings freedom and people will not only choose not to marry, but to leave a relationship if they feel it is not working whereas fifty years ago they had almost no choice but to work it out. The same goes for relationships in general. You are not confined to meeting people in a bar or at school or church and this changes the relationship dynamic because you might take your time and look around. Also, again, with more choices comes more freedom so if a relationship is not going well you know there are more options than say if you lived in a small town and only fished in the local dating pool.

As far as education, I am sure that video games has caused many to get lower grades or miss a test, but the same could be said for almost any other activity. As an example, a study was shown that more kids ditch school once they can drive. Another study shows that high schools that allow off campus lunches have a higher ditch rate. This is where moderation versus the extreme cases comes into play. You can make a bad call and play Diablo that first night and mess up a school day, which I could believe many had done. The question is, how many people made up for it and day 2, 3 and 4 they did not ditch because they only wanted that first day and pushed the rest of the week so it did not hurt their overall grade.

The same goes for work. If we want to look at video games as reasons for lost productivity then we have to look at the internet as a whole and smart phones and sports and talk radio. Even cigarette breaks which are all but extinct caused lower productivity.

Violence is another one of those issues that again pushes an old debate and gives us a new target to focus on. How many fights and love of war and guns came from playing Cowboys and Indians? How much desensitizing comes from Action News and 24/7 coverage of any violent event? Again, there are links that video games can cause some desensitizing, but studies like this make it seem like a large part of the issue when for most of the population it is an extremely small one. What you expose your children to and when make the difference along with all the other experiences of their life, removing gaming is not the answer just as much as removing television is not. This comes down to exposure in early life and how it is dealt with.

Another thing to remember is just because someone who did a violent crime claims it was because of a game that does not make it so. One, a person can lie. Two, if they did not play a game before the crime, because games did not exist, then it would have been a television show, a movie or music. Again, studies like this gives people the false impression that video games are the root cause and massive changes to games or removal of games altogether would solve the issue. The problem with that thinking is other signs and symptoms are ignored or downplayed and nothing helpful gets done.

We also need to look at what video games have done in the positive. Studies have also shown that video games improve hand eye coordination and stimulates the mind in the positive. Of course, you do not need Mortal Kobmat or Call of Duty to do that, but even violent video games can reduce stress and actually relax people in the end. Now you do not have a 10-year-old playing Gears of War, but an older informed gamer will have no problem playing a violent game and separating that world from reality.

Video games, especially online MMO’s can improve typing speed and skills. Sure, you have horrible “1337″ speak out there, but you also have people who have improved their typing and communication skills via gaming and believe me those skills are gained in action and often violent games.

Going back to communication, video games have improved that as well. Sadly, many of us still live in the past and believe online communication is not real and that real communication can only happen in person. Considering that 50 years ago people were more cut off from each other than now I always found that strange. We are more exposed, for the good and the bad, but in gaming and for the gaming generation this is our Elks Club or bowling night, it is our book club or our sewing circle and the rest of the world has to wake up and understand that.

Even as far as relations, there have been fights and bullying and racism within and caused by games. However, that person who is politically incorrect in a video game is much more willing to befriend someone who is African-American, Hispanic or homosexual than the clubs and organizations of the past. I personally as a black man have made friends with people and ended up meeting them outside of the game and remained friends for a long time to come. In game, we still talk trash and you might even think we dislike each other or are truly against a particular race or orientation, but that is furthest from the truth.

There will always be the extremes and the exceptions. The key is to truly understand the video gaming world as well as our evolving world. We still tend to live in the past and we always look back with rose-colored glasses. Couple that with the fact that because we often make decisions based on what we feel society, religion, political affiliation or family tells us we should do we end up bitter and resentful later in life and look at the upcoming generation as being horrible.

The American dream used to be a wife, 2.3 kids and a house in the suburbs with a white picket fence but the American dream just like America itself evolves and changes and we need to rethink our lives along with that change.  This applies to the gaming debate because people see games and try to put it in terms they understand from the past and based on their beliefs of what we should be doing and the result is they think it is wrong and then they rally against it.

Online dating use to the looked upon as the worst thing to do, as if picking up random people at a bar is somehow better. Today more people than ever use online dating and it is becoming just as normal as the bar scene. The same is with gaming and computers. In the 70’s it was a fringe activity and today everyone is playing something. We need to adapt gaming to our world, today’s world not the world of the past. Take out the extreme cases and look at the everyday man and woman gamer. Only then, will we get real answers, grow as a group and improve upon our lifestyles.

The Downsizing of Star Wars: The Old Republic

We all know from the Sony Online Entertainment spin of the mass exodus of DC Online Universe that the statement above translates into; we took a major hit and have to start cutting our losses. ~J.A. Laraque

The Downsizing of Star Wars: The Old Republic

Unfortunately, most of us who played and followed the latest Star Wars MMO knew that with the issues with the game and lack of positive changes that subscriptions would drop drastically after the first month. Regardless of the PR spin about an “active community” and how there were “millions of subscribers” we all knew that STOR would take a massive hit.

Star-Wars-The-Old-Republic-Trooper

Now word out of Austin is that there were mass layoffs at the studio that developed the game.  Some of the people from the studio were let go while a few others were moved to other projects, but the message was clear.

“We are bidding farewell to some talented, passionate and exceptionally hard-working people who helped make SWTOR a reality,” said Bioware co-founder, Greg Zeschuk. “We still have a very substantial development team working on supporting and growing the game,  and we feel we are in a strong position, with your continued involvement and feedback, to continue to build Star Wars: The Old Republic as one of the most compelling and successful online experiences in the world today.”

We all know from the Sony Online Entertainment spin of the mass exodus of DC Online Universe that the statement above translates into; we took a major hit and have to start cutting our losses.  EA itself in a statement just reinforced the rapid decline of The Old Republic.

“These are very difficult decisions, but it allows us to focus our staff to maintain and grow Star Wars: The Old Republic,”

I think almost everyone has been “refocused”, or know someone that has been and understands exactly what that means. With subscription rates dropping over 23%, most of us can see the coming storyline that will eventually lead to a free-2-play announcement.

Top Five Alex Kidd Games

Yes, yes, okay, I know – there are only five Alex Kidd games, so how can this be a Top Five? Well, actually, contrary to popular belief, there are in fact six Alex Kidd games – Sega sneaked out another one which never left Japan, but I’ll look at that one in a later feature. This feature, instead of selecting the five best Alex Kidd games, will place his five best-known adventures in order of greatness!

5. Alex Kidd in High-Tech World (1989)

Alex Kidd - HighTechWorld

The well-informed among you could be forgiven for not considering this a true Alex Kidd game as it was actually nothing to do with him in its Japanese form, instead being based on some obscure anime show and being converted to an AK game for its overseas releases. It’s also the game I was most intrigued by prior to this feature as my entire knowledge of it was pretty much restricted to a single screenshot and tiny review in some magazine of the day (C&VG’s Complete Guide to Consoles, as I recall). As it turns out, that intrigue was somewhat misplaced, with the game focusing on Alex’s attempts to find eight pieces of a map to a new arcade which has opened in town. Unlike the other games in the series, this takes the form of an arcade adventure which does involve lots of familiar platforming action but also sees Alex talking to other characters, searching furniture for items which he can use elsewhere, etc. It’s not a bad game I suppose, but it’s not a huge amount of fun and just seems like a bit of a chore at times.

4. Alex Kidd in the Enchanted Castle (1989)

Alex Kidd - EnchantedCastle

Commonly believed to be the final Alex Kidd game, Enchanted Castle was actually released shortly before Shinobi World, but it is the only one that didn’t get a Master System release, instead appearing as a launch title for the MegaDrive. Despite some spruced-up visuals and music (only marginally though) this effort very much retains the feel of the MS games which is probably its biggest problem. The Master System is a great console but the significantly greater power of the MD gave Sega the opportunity to do a lot more with their character but sadly they didn’t seize it. It’s not bad and has some nice ideas but it’s also very frustrating, with the merest touch from anything that moves causing instant death. Even for a launch game this was rather average but next to some of the MD’s other platformers, it’s a pretty poor effort.

3. Alex Kidd: The Lost Stars (1989)

Alex Kidd - Lost Stars

This was the first Alex Kidd game I played after I borrowed it from a friend many years ago. I swear I have firm memories of playing it through to completion over that weekend (yep, even with it making you go through the game twice, Ghouls ‘n’ Ghosts stylee) but since replaying it for this feature I’m not so sure my memory is accurate – it’s harder than ten angry lions! It is also the most surreal of Alex’s games, requiring him to traverse some strange landscapes and battle some stranger foes while trying to recover the twelve Zodiac signs! The object of each stage is simply to reach the end within the time limit. Enemies are just there to get in your way and contact with them takes a chunk out of your remaining time. I have good memories of this game which, while frustrating, is also addictive and features such obscure stages the urge to see what Sega dreamed up for the next one is strong!

2. Alex Kidd in Shinobi World (1990)

Alex Kidd - Shinobi World

Cross-over games are few and far between on any console in my experience so that already makes this game noteworthy, but happily it’s also rather good! I hadn’t played it prior to this feature so I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect, but as it turns out I needn’t have thought so hard about it – it’s quite literally a cartoony version of a Shinobi game with Alex Kidd replacing Joe Musashi. Clearly modelled on the MS version of the first game (it even features arranged versions of the same music), Alex must battle through twelve stages filled with enemy ninjas, soldiers, and bosses, all based on similar ones from Shinobi. Like High-Tech World, this game was not originally developed as an Alex Kidd game but the character suits it well and it’s a superb final outing for ol’ big ears. Ironically, it’s also tougher than Shinobi, but the stages are interesting and well-designed so it’s worth battling away.

1. Alex Kidd in Miracle World (1986)

Alex Kidd - Miracle World

To my shame, I failed to fully embrace this game in the late 80’s when my MS was my only console, despite its glowing reputation. I have since made up for lost time though, and can see why it was so revered. Miracle World is perhaps the most ‘normal’ of Alex’s adventures but it’s also the most enjoyable as you help him on his journey to free his brother and father who’ve been kidnapped by Janken the Great. This obviously involves lots of top platforming action but Alex also gets to go swimming and take command of a motorbike and a pedicoptor along the way too! This variety along with the lovely colourful graphics and nice music helps to make Miracle World a superbly entertaining game. It has pretty much always been regarded as the best in the series and although Shinobi World comes close, this is still the champion!

Know Your History: Call of Duty critics should note the Pac-Man run of 1982

Welcome to the first edition of Know Your History, a new regular feature in this space.

know your history

Consumer market video games have existed for more than 40 years now, and with such a milestone comes a great deal of history.  Many of the current topics in video gaming can be compared to events of the past but are often treated as if they are first-time happenings.  This column aims to draw on the history of the industry and culture as it relates to current hot topics in the gaming world.

With the recent announcement of Call of Duty: Black Ops II, critics of the best-selling CoD series have been quite vocal.  They state that a new Call of Duty game each year is simply too much and that each game doesn’t bring enough new material or changes in gameplay.

30 years ago there was a popular game series that drew the same criticisms in time.  Eager to follow up on the record-breaking success of Pac-Man, Bally Midway brought not one, not two, not three but FOUR new Pac-Man games to the arcades of 1982.

Ms Pac-Man 1982

Ms. Pac-Man started the march of sequels.  Released in January 1982, this first Pac-Man follow-up added more colors, moving fruit and multiple mazes to the popular Pac-Manformula and took the top of the arcade earnings chart with ease.

Super Pac-Man

Super Pac-Man was the first Namco-produced sequel and came out later in the year.  Adding gates and keys, bonus rounds and a super pill to the maze chase concept, Super Pac came on strong at first but quickly slid off the earnings charts.

Pac-Man Plus

Pac-Man Plus was an upgrade kit for existing Pac-Manmachines in need of an earnings boost, released by Midway after pressure from arcade operators who were facing legal action for installing “enhancement kits” from other sources in order to twart the patterns players had developed for the original game.

Baby Pac-Man Pinball

Baby Pac-Man rounded out the 1982 Pac-Man games by attempting to merge a maze video game with a small pinball machine.  The game failed to make much of a splash and is difficult to locate today.

Call of Duty critics might point at this and note that frequent sequels is far from a new concept in the world of video gaming and has actually moved far faster in the past.  Two more Pac-Man-related arcade titles came out in 1983 as well.

Also worth note is the fact that historians blame Super Pac-Man‘s quick fade from popularity to be due to the massive changes in the basic Pac-Man gameplay concept.  Ms. Pac-Man, however, changed little to the basic concept of the game and simply added new screens and features while running on the hardware of the previous game.  Ms. Pac-Mansold a record number of arcade machines in the United States and continues to hold the record to the modern day.  Ms. Pac-Man machines can still be found in many locations across the country, the only one of the four 1982 Pac sequels to do so.

While annual releases to popular game titles may seem like a topic of note to the gaming world of today, it doesn’t mean it is a new concept when one knows their history.

Does upcoming film help gaming or further stereotype it?

After more than 30 years in gaming, I have always found the different ways gaming is portrayed in the mainstream interesting.  Sometimes I find humor in it, sometimes it’s made me mad and still other times it has made me shake my head.

Today’s gaming culture is far gone from the “kids thing” it used to be painted as, even if a great deal of the mainstream media still paints it that way.  With celebrities becoming more involved and museums recognizing video gaming history, it could be said that gaming culture has finally reached the same level of respect as other forms of entertainment such as television and film.

Noobz-Movie-Poster

This summer a video gaming film is set to debut.  Noobz, a film about a gaming team heading off to a major gaming tournament, is set to make it’s worldwide debut on June 6 at the Nokia Theatre, right as the E3 Expo is in town.

Upon watching the trailer I am given mixed emotions.  Some of it made me chuckle a little, such as the little kid on the other end of the XBox headset, the team name being spelled as “riegn” (the type of horrible misspelling one cannot play a game online without coming across), and a little homage to classic arcade gaming.

However, I can’t help but feel this film also pushes stereotypes of video gamers that simply don’t apply to the majority of gamers today.  The film seems to feature a number of foul-mouthed little kids, girlfriends that hate games and bash their boyfriends for playing them and loudmouthed stoner types that simply have nothing else to do.

I feel I speak for a large number of gamers out there when I say I tired of the “video gamers are basement dwelling virgins” stereotype a long time ago.  As a happily married man and father of two children, I can tell you firsthand that I know more die-hard gamers just like me, with families and an awareness of the world around them.  My wife is also a gamer, something else that is pretty common these days as well.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TB1zJU08IiA[/youtube]

Basically, I’m mixed.  I want to say that anything that puts gaming center stage is a good thing for gaming culture, but I’m also reminded that this isn’t the first time I felt this kind of embarassment as well.  I was annoyed at how The Wizard and Video Power portrayed gamers back in the day and have a similar gut feeling about Noobz now.  The trailer reminds me more of why I started going into private party chats on Call of Duty instead of listening to the main lobby.

Therefore I am opening up the floor for discussion about this one.  Please take a moment to watch the trailer to your left and comment below or contact me via Twitter or direct message if you like.

Is Noobz a good thing for gaming culture, or does it base itself off of too many gaming stereotypes?

 

What is gaming’s ‘Greatest Generation’?

Legendary journalist Tom Brokaw coined the term “the Greatest Generation” in 1998 to describe what he felt was the most important generation in American history.  What generation deserves that tag in video gaming history seems to be up for debate.

video-game_Generation

Over the past several years I have seen and dealt with players who will put the topic up for constant debate.  I have seen classic arcade gamers refer to anything console as “lame” and unimportant in comparison, even going so far as to note the NES as the death of their generation instead of the massive industry crash years before it.  I have seen modern gamers question the loyalty of the classic gaming fans and I’ve seen every generation inbetween sing the virtues of their preferred generations of gaming.

Last Friday’s article noting that all three modern consoles have now surpassed the Nintendo Entertainment System in lifetime sales figures saw some pro-NES fans go on the defensive, even acting as if the statistics were being used to somehow downplay the importance of the NES or claim modern console superiority.   A puzzling yet interesting response that led me to open the floor up for debate on this very topic.

What do you think is the “Greatest Generation” in video gaming?  To help with the discussion I’ve broken down the generations below.

* Pre-History Era (pre-1971) – Games such as Spacewar proved popular on major university campuses, but no consumer video game products existed yet.

* Consumer Era (1971-1977) – Video games became available to consumers in both coin-op form and home products that could be hooked up to television sets.  Few games truly caught on during this time, however.

* Boom Era (1978-1983) – Video games arrived in a big way starting with Space Invaders and went deep into the mainstream in both coin-op and home console form.  Arcade machines set sales records that still stand today.  However, this generation was unable to sustain itself.  After sliding in 1982 the industry began an unstoppable downward spiral in 1983.

* Crash Era (1984-1986) – The video game briefly joins the list of dead fads as most arcade locations close and retailers refuse to carry any video game products.  Personal computer gaming managed to thrive.  The Nintendo Entertainment System came along toward the end of this era and gained some steam…

* NES Era (1987-1990) – Nintendo’s console dominated the home console scene while surviving arcade locations stabilized behind strong titles not yet available for home play.  While the NES manages to more than double the lifetime sales of the Atari 2600, other consoles struggle.  Handheld gaming comes to be, starting with Nintendo’s GameBoy.  Video games are still considered “toys” by the media as the decade ends.

* Nineties Era (1991-1999) – The 16-bit console wars split the gaming audience between Nintendo and Sega but increase the overall scale of the industry.  Arcades see a semi-comeback behind popular fighting and sports titles.  Consumers were unable to keep up with the majority of new console product, however, until Sony’s PlayStation comes along, becoming the first console in history to sell more than 100 million units.

* Millenium Generation (2000-2006) – The PlayStation 2 comes out to product shortages and an eBay frenzy, eventually trumping the lifetime sales of the first PlayStation.  Microsoft’s XBox brings new blood into the marketplace while Sega bows out.  Nintendo finally moves on with the introduction of new handhelds, continuing their dominance in that area but struggling to regain the top spot with traditional consoles. Video games leave consumer toy labels into electronics and entertainment labels.

* Modern Generation (2007-present) – The Nintendo Wii brings the Big N back to the top of the traditional console market with motion control.  The PlayStation 3 stumbles out of the gate but helps Sony’s Blu Ray win the disc format war.  The XBox 360 brings Microsoft ahead of Sony in the console race.  The Nintendo DS blows past the lifetime GameBoy sales numbers while all three traditional consoles reach the top five best selling consoles ever.  Numerous titles break all-time gaming sales figures.

Tips for a Gamer Mom or How NOT to be a Clara

Make sure that everything that needs to be done is on the list before you insert gaming time into the list.  It’s not a bad idea to break up your day by alternating your responsibilities with gaming. ~Jessi Roman

Tips for a Gamer Mom

I’m pretty sure it was just good marketing.  I mean, they can’t really use Jedi mind tricks to push their product, right?  It was actually just the classic drug pushing approach: “The first time’s free.”  They get you hooked and then reel you in.  Even though you say you’re not going to fall for it.  Even though you say you’re just going to play for the free weekend.  Even though you say you can’t justify spending that kind of money for a game.  Even though you say you won’t pay $15 a month just so you can be a “no-lifer”… Even though you’d like to think that you’ve grown and matured since your days of FFXI, where you woke up early and logged in before you had breakfast, then played all day and into the wee hours of the night…  You find out, with unquestionable clarity, that you were wrong.  Ok, maybe it wasn’t you.  Maybe it was me. Actually, yeah… it was.  I fail.

Baby Using Computer

Confession time.  I’m a Clara.  Or, at least I was, about eight years ago.  My oldest son was still in diapers.  I was a stay-at-home mom.  All I did all day was FFXI, and he’d run around barely supervised.  No, I wasn’t quite as inattentive as Clara from The Guild, and he was always safe, but I definitely was not winning any mother-of-the-year awards!  So, I’ve pretty much avoided MMORPG’s since I quit FFXI.  It was putting a strain on my marriage and taking time away from the important things in life (ie. my family!)  I tend towards a hyper-addictive personality type.  When I get “into” something, I get very single focused.  That could be a force used for good, but in this case, it was definitely for evil.

All that being said, I am going to just assume that I’m the only “Clara”, and this list is for me alone.

  • Get Organized.Lists and schedules are your life line.  Make a list of the responsibilities you have.  Make sure you prioritize that list by putting it into a schedule.  Grant yourself a block (or blocks) of time for gaming.  For a stay-at-home mom (or dad), the list might include cooking, cleaning, one-on-one play time with children, crafts, etc.  For a parent who is also in the work place, carving out time dedicated to gaming may be a bit harder.  Make sure that everything that needs to be done is on the list before you insert gaming time into the list.  It’s not a bad idea to break up your day by alternating your responsibilities with gaming.  Obviously if you’re involved in a game that requires large dedicated amounts of time for leveling and missions, you’ll have to get creative.  For some, late night gaming, after the kiddos are in bed, may be the only option.
  • Multi-tasking is Key! ~ Learning to multi-task is one of the most valuable skills a person can develop.  When you’re planning out your schedule, trying assigning more than one activity to the block of time that you have set for gaming.  For example, if your kids take naps, that would be an ideal gaming time.  If they’re too old for naps, try scheduling “quiet time” for them.  Let them have the freedom to choose a quiet activity, like reading, or coloring, that they can do for a scheduled block of time.  If they have chores, you could schedule those during your gaming time.  I have found that my kids do not appreciate me gaming during meal time though.  I’ve tried sitting them down to lunch, and logging on while they eat.  They have begun to request that I sit with them at lunch time though.  
  • Set a Good Example. ~ As easy as it is to get sucked into a virtual world, we have to remain aware that our children watch everything we do.  Often they will emulate our behaviors.  They learn to value the things that we value.  If we put gaming ahead of our responsibilities, then we teach them this behavior.  We should not then, be surprised when they disregard their chores in favor of playing video games.  If we always choose online socialization, over real life relationships, then we should expect our children to prefer gaming over playing with friends, or spending time with family.  If we make them aware of our attempts to balance our gaming with our responsibilities, and teach them the importance of family by taking time to play with them, then they will learn to prioritize appropriately. 
  • Use a Timer. ~ Seriously.  Whatever length of time you’ve scheduled for gaming, set your timer, and don’t go over! Set a Good Example. ~ As easy as it is to get sucked into a virtual world, we have to remain aware that our children watch everything we do.  Often they will emulate our behaviors.  They learn to value the things that we value.  If we put gaming ahead of our responsibilities, then we teach them this behavior.  We should not then, be surprised when they disregard their chores in favor of playing video games.  If we always choose online socialization, over real life relationships, then we should expect our children to prefer gaming over playing with friends, or spending time with family.  If we make them aware of our attempts to balance our gaming with our responsibilities, and teach them the importance of family by taking time to play with them, then they will learn to prioritize appropriately. 
  • Consider – dare I say it? – being a “casual” gamer. ~  Because, let’s face it.  We aren’t kids anymore.  We have kids!  And we alone are responsible for leveling them up!  We have to balance their skill trees, and make sure they’re always up to par for whatever life brings at them.  Ok, yeah, that was cheesy, I know, but it’s TRUE!  If you’re a parent and a gamer, you have got to recognize that your children are more important than your in game character.  When they need your attention, don’t be afraid to upset your party by logging off.  If your kids are more important to you than gaming, let them know by your actions!
I sincerely hope that these suggestions are all obvious and unnecessary.  I really wrote them out for myself.  This will help keep me accountable, but on the off chance that someone out there is a “Clara”, like me, I hope this helps.  Also, FYI, don’t be a Tink!  No caging the babies while you play!

Is Blizzard getting Desperate?

Does this make anyone want to go back? Can you see the crying now from the diehards on the boards mad because 80’s are being given out like samples at Costco.~J.A. Laraque

Is Blizzard getting Desperate?

So we see Star Wars is trying to pad their numbers by having a Free Trial Weekend, but before that Blizzard tried handing out the goodies like your ex trying to give up the booty to get you back. Now, we know World of Warcraft is dropping subscribers like Netflix before their reversal, but it gets even worse.

The wow whore give-a-way

We already know 600 employees are getting the boot, which is like the writing on the wall in blood and now WoW is giving out the goods. If you come back you will not only get a flying mount so you can sit in your major city with 20 other fools running around on it. But if you bring back a sucker, I mean friend with you get a free level 80 character, a free upgrade to a Cataclysm-enabled account that allows access to all of the game’s current content and 7 days of free play time.

Does this make anyone want to go back? Can you see the crying now from the diehards on the boards mad because 80’s are being given out like samples at Costco. It is kind of strange to see two big companies with two big mmo’s both begging for attention. I guess if we are really bored and a glutton for punishment we can really clean up.

Nah, I rather play Men of War.

Gaming Memories: Part 3

Soon after arriving home from the family holiday mentioned in ‘Gaming Memories – Part 1, I was suddenly obsessed with the videogames I had previously had little interest in. Chief among my obsessions was the amazing OutRun. It wasn’t long before I discovered that this ‘Sega’ company who made OutRun also had available a home console, much like the Atari VCS I had briefly flirted with at a friend’s house. After some investigation I found that there were three variants available – the Master System, the Master System Plus, and the Super System.

Sega - Master System

Apparently this flashy-looking console also had some flashier-looking accessories. Namely, the ‘Light Phaser’, which, excitingly, looked like a blaster from Star Wars, and the ‘3D Glasses’ which looked cool even before I found out what they were for. The basic Master System pack was just the console with a control pad and a built in-game. The Master System Plus also came with the Light Phaser and featured an additional built-in game. Lastly, included with the Super System was both the Light Phaser and 3D Glasses, and a built-in game that took advantage of both. Naturally, I decided I wanted the latter! The day I found all this out was an exciting one. I stayed up all night trying to work out how I could have this great console. I didn’t want to wait for Christmas, I wanted it straight away! After some pretty brain-bending calculations, I discovered I could pay my parents back £3 per week from my paper-round if they bought me the console I so desired. After a hard fought campaign, they finally relented. Unfortunately the Super System was unavailable but they did buy me a Master System Plus with three games, and some 3D Glasses separately. Two years of paper rounds then ensued, all proceeds going to this cause. It didn’t matter though – I had Outrun!

My trusty Master System would go on to keep me entertained for many years. It even persuaded my best friend, Luke, to buy one of his own, and he was lucky enough to get a proper Super System! Before long we were spending a lot of our time at each others houses, challenging each other at our favourite games, with both of us becoming firm Sega fanboys in the process, an allegiance which it took the SNES to break, and even then our hearts always remained in the Sega camp. Luke and I both have our favourites on Sega’s first console offering (outside Japan), but after my visit to the late, great Microland with my parents, I came away with the following games…

Safari Hunt (1986)

Safari Hunt

Eager to try out my fancy new Light Phaser, this was the first game I tried when I finished unwrapping my shiny new Master System. It was built into the console itself but was also available separately on a combination cartridge. It is essentially the Master System’s version of Duck Hunt and sees you shooting various innocent-looking creatures over three different single-screen settings which repeat over and over until level 69 (giggity). Well, apparently – I never played it that long! The object is to shoot as many creatures as possible before you run out of bullets. If you’ve surpassed the required score you’ll progress to the next screen. If not, game over! Despite its horrifying un-political correctness and extremely limited nature, this was actually good fun in short bursts and I played it often. Light-gun games didn’t really hit their stride (in the home, at least) until the 32-bit era (with Virtua Cop, et al) so this was one of my few experiences with them, but I have happy memories of it.

Hang-On (1985)

Hang On

This conversion of the hit coin-op was impressively released in the same year as its parent and was another game that came built into my Master System. The object is simply to keep racing for as long as possible without running out of time. There are four different backgrounds that the game cycles through (including a nice night-time stage) and the road is packed with other racers, although they’re only there to get in the way – there’s no actual race positions or anything. It’s still great fun though – it’s fast, addictive, and requires skill rather than luck to progress in. I probably ended up playing this one more than most of my cartridge games and it’s still highly enjoyable. Top stuff!

Snail Maze (1986)

Snail Maze

I had been using my Master System for a good few months before I got around to reading the instruction book that came with it, and upon doing so I was surprised to discover there was another game built into it! It seems that on certain models of the console, if you turn it on with no cartridge inserted whilst holding Up and buttons 1 & 2 simultaneously, the result is the now famous Snail Maze! It’s a very simple game – simply guide the small snail through the complex maze to the exit within the (very) strict time limit. There are twelve mazes in total and if you fail to reach the exit of any of them within the time limit you’ll be dumped back at the start of the whole game. It’s a bit of a trial and error, memory-test kind of game really, but again, it’s fun in short bursts and that bloody tune will drive you insane!

OutRun 3D (1989)

OutRun 3D

Ah, the very reason I had a Master System! I had the choice between this and the standard ‘non-3D’ version of this game in Microland on purchase day. I naturally assumed they would be the same, aside from one making use of the 3D Glasses and the other not. I was incorrect. I didn’t play the non-3D version until later on Luke’s MS but it turned out it was a lot faster and harder! This version plays nicely enough though and, despite being a bit too easy, was very enjoyable at the time. The 3D effect was quite impressive too and handily the game had a 2D option as well, and the Master System’s sound chip does its best to replicate the iconic music of the arcade behemoth. It’s not the greatest driving game of all-time but hey – it’s still OutRun!

After Burner (1987)

After Burner

Another conversion of an immense arcade machine (you have to call it a ‘machine’, it seems wrong just calling it a mere arcade ‘game’!), and one even more impressive than OutRun from a technical point of view. The little Master System actually has a good go at replicating its parent and proved to be one of the better home versions of it. Piloting the iconic F-14 Tomcat, it’s your job to blast your way through eighteen stages of anonymous enemy aircraft. Obviously the graphical detail has had to suffer a bit here, especially the ground scenery, but overall this is an enjoyable conversion of this classic, and even has semi-cheat feature enabling you to reach the later stages unscathed!

Altered Beast (1988)

Altered Beast

If memory serves I think it was actually my parents that suggested I buy this one, perhaps for a bit of variety. I hadn’t previously heard of it but it looked interesting enough, and for a while I quite liked it. Before long I discovered it was far from the pinnacle of Master System gaming, but I suppose it’s not really a genre the MS is swamped in though, and it’s not too bad. It does have one of the arcade version’s stages missing (the third) and can be pretty frustrating, but how can it a bad thing to turn into a powerful human/monster hybrid? It’s just a shame you don’t get to spend more time in these forms, especially the first one – the fireball-throwing werewolf! Besides, I’ll always have a soft spot for this game as I could actually complete it!

So, these were the games that kept me occupied for the first few months of my console-owning life, and great fun they were. They were of course gradually added to over the coming months with many titles now considered among the system’s best, such as Fantasy Zone, Psycho Fox, Wonderboy 3, Power Strike, Shinobi, Spellcaster, etc, and my good friend Luke often brought his favourites to my house too. The Master System remains one of my most fondly remembered consoles despite the fact that it was soon superseded by the MegaDrive (another of my favourites) and I really can’t recall any bad memories of this under-appreciated console which I still regularly enjoy now.

Passwords of the Past

We have to thank our gaming developers for coming up with a way of saving our progress without those annoying long passwords. Remember the good old days of the NES where you would be very far in a game called Metroid. You decide to take a break and go outside for a change and write down the long grueling password. You have fun with your friends and come back for another session of alien beating goodness only to find yourself getting an error message while imputing the password. What did you do wrong, you wonder? Sadly, that was the reality of the golden ages of gaming especially with the Metroid game and don’t get me wrong, the game is great but the most important part of the whole game is knowing how to write the password. I had many problems with this, in fact I had so many problems with this game that I learned to beat the game in one run without turning the NES off so I would be able to see the ending and boy did I have a good ending!

Metroid-NES-Cartridge

Now, I won’t spoil it for you guys because maybe there are a few of you who have never touched this game so let’s just say the ending is well worth it, especially if you beat it fast enough. Anyways, I don’t think my NES minded me playing it for three-four hours straight. It was actually very usual for me to play it that long, but of course, with different games. Now, the only ones that were lucky enough to evade this were the Japanese as they got the game released on the Famicom Disk System which was an add-on for the original Famicom that would let you run disks. The idea was really good until they realized the disk drive would break very easily. So much for making a low cost gaming console… Either way, the Metroid disk would have saving available unlike our version. It made their lives more stress-free and ours a pain in the ass.

Metroid Disc

There were other games with the same situation like Kid Icarus which also got a Disk System only released in Japan and even Super Mario Bro 2J which was never released in the United States until years later. Super Mario Bros 2J would keep a track of how many times you beat the games by adding a small mushroom at the top of the screen, it was quite interesting because I bought a couple of those games for my disk system and found myself with a screen filled with mushrooms! Someone sure loves his Mario! Overall, we have to take into account the changes to video games over the years, things such as passwords were used up all the way to the Playstation one and Nintendo 64 era so they are not that old. Of course, we don’t even use them anymore due to having advanced consoles such as the PS3, Xbox 360, and Wii.

Red Parsley’s Favorite Games: Part 7

Fighters Megamix – Saturn (1997)

Fighters Remix - Sega

Rarely have I looked forward to a release like I did this one! Unlike many gamers, I never really warmed to the Virtua Fighter style of combat, but it had its good points, and I did like Fighting Vipers a lot, so imagine my excitement at receiving news of this! The extensive roster of combatants includes all of those from both VF2 and FV and let you fight in the style of either game, and also included a dozen or so secret unlockable characters and multiple play modes, so for its day it was a beat ’em up with a lot of longevity. Despite being fond of Candy (for the obvious reasons), I usually fought as Raxel – who wouldn’t enjoy smashing people through walls with a Flying V guitar?! Until Soul Calibur came along, this was the most feature-laden fighting game I’d played and it’s still immensely enjoyable.

Arkanoid – Spectrum (1987)

Arkanoid

Back in the days of game compilations, the 8-bit computers were the systems of choice, and thanks to Taito Coin-Op Hits I had some great games to occupy my time. Using up most of it was this ultra-addictive Breakout clone. Despite the weird controls which made the bat move faster in one direction than the other, I couldn’t get enough of this. I even managed to finish it with the help of a lives cheat (enter ‘PBRAIN’ as a highscore name)! Taking the Breakout concept and adding power-ups and more varied stages was a masterstroke and the game was perfectly suited to the Speccy. Nice crisp, colourful graphics and a well-graded difficulty level made this a great conversion of a fantastic game that hasn’t aged at all. Round three still gives me nightmares though!

Golden Axe – MegaDrive (1989)

Golden Axe

Christmas morning, 1990… finally I got my hands on Sega’s 16-bit powerhouse. I played each game as I unwrapped them and the first one was… Golden Axe! Famously billed by Mean Machines magazine as ‘arcade perfect’ (it’s not), this was one of the best of a decent selection of launch titles for the MD and, after Revenge of Shinobi, my favourite. Not only was it a top conversion of their hit arcade game but Sega also kindly included an extra level and a new play mode called ‘Duel Mode’, which saw the player take on a succession of ever-tougher enemies, to prolong the admittedly short hacking action. A superbly playable game with a great soundtrack, and immense fun for one or two players.

After Burner 2 – Arcade (1987)

After Burner 2

This Super-Scaler classic has its critics, but they usually relate to the home conversions. After Burner belongs in the arcade and in this specially equipped environment I don’t think too many people could argue that it’s an experience to behold! Clambering into the sizable cockpit, grabbing the yoke, and blasting off from the Sega Enterprises carrier is something that can be experienced all too rarely these days but it’s never ceases to thrill. I’ve never been particularly good at this game (those pesky varmints that attack from behind – grrrr!) but it’s always a pleasure to let fly a few missiles, nearly get lost in the smoke trails, perform a barrel-roll to get out the way, shoot down a few jets, etc, repeat often!

Dragon’s Fury – MegaDrive (1992)

Dragons Fury

My appreciation of this pinball classic is well-known! It’s inclusion in the list of My Favourite Games goes without saying, the only point of contention is which version to include. Both the PC Engine original and this MegaDrive conversion are amazingly playable games, but they have their differences. Based purely on how much time I’ve spent playing each version though, I’d have to plump for the MD version, plus it’s a bit easier! Smacking a pinball around a table infested with all manner of demonic minions and horrific creatures of unimaginable horror would be entertaining to start with but when you include flawless ball physics, an extensive and intricate scoring system, bonus tables, and a superb soundtrack, pinball videogames simply do not get any better than this!

 

Distorted Poetry: The creation of an Indie Gaming Company

[youtube id=”Cgo4TV2QzKg” width=”633″ height=”356″]

When we started, we decided to first make games for the iPhone. This was a pretty easy choice for us purely because we both had prior experience working on iOS games and we just about had all the equipment we needed.~James Booth

Distorted Poetry: The creation of an Indie Gaming Company

Running an indie company really is a bi-polar condition and I mean that in the nicest and worse possible of ways.

DistortedPoetry_Logo

It’s been almost a year since we set-up Distorted Poetry. At the start there was just two of us, now we have almost ten people working on our games. At the moment we develop for iPhone and PC/MAC and we are registered with Nintendo to develop games for the 3DS as well. We wanted to be taken seriously as an indie, so we delved into a lot more of the business side of things as well, which requires a completely different mindset.

When we started, we decided to first make games for the iPhone. This was a pretty easy choice for us purely because we both had prior experience working on iOS games and we just about had all the equipment we needed.

The first project we had in mind was a rhythm based game with interactive musical elements. I love creating music and really wanted to create a game where the player actually feels like the music is progressing because of their actions. We got a prototype up and running quite quickly and we felt there was a lot of potential in this game. After about a month on this project we decided to put it on the back burner, it was a great idea, but to do it right we really would need to spend a year on it. Time we didn’t really have for one project with no money coming in.

The interesting thing was about two or three months after we put our musical project “Impulses” on hold. We read about a game from Cipher Prime called Pulse. Not only did it have a very similar name, its gameplay and visual style was somewhat identical to our prototype.  I guess some people would call it a coincidence, but for me I didn’t look at it like that. For all the ideas and creative people out there it’s inevitable that multiple people can think of the same idea. All you can really do is try and develop the idea and get it out as fast as you can!

Speaking of ideas, we next worked on a real unique and arty game. It sounded like it could work on paper so we started developing a prototype. With every iteration we eliminated what didn’t work and added something new. Within a month we went from a very niche arthouse game to a very accessible more traditional game which we named Petri-Dash.

 Petri-Dash icon

The game really was designed by iteration, which was such a unique way to design a game. It felt exciting but ultimately took us longer to make the game because there was no fixed plan set in stone. Petri-Dash was released in November and while sales started off promising after a few days they started to get lower and lower and lower. It really was eye opening to see how quickly you can get lost on the App Store.

Sure, we had little spikes here and there (such as when the game was updated) but we can’t exactly call the game a financial success. We have recently supported a new completion based platform named Player Duel to see if that can get us extra sales, but ultimately I don’t know what else we can try, if you don’t end up featured on the charts, your probability for success is very very low.

iPhone Retina GUI PSD

So what comes after Petri-Dash? Well it’s our new game called “Rundle’s Rolling Adventure” for iPhone.  This is a much bigger project than Petri-Dash, lots more levels, lots more art, lots more music, and lots more polish. We are almost at Alpha with this game and are hoping to release it in March 2012. Just before we started this project I thought I could try and use that initial idea for Petri-Dash again, thinking I had thought of a new way it could work. After about a week it all went away again and we created the character Rundle. One day I will get that idea into one of our games! Or someone else will beat us to it again…

Beyond Rundle’s Rolling Adventure, we are branching out onto PC/MAC as well, so we have some exciting and unique games set for those platforms, Anyway thank you very much for reading and if you wanna get in contact like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter.

Peace and Love,

www.facebook.com/DistortedPoetry

www.twitter.com/distortedpoetry

Are we what is wrong with MMO’s?

Personally I think that was the key to EQ besides being the first 3D MMO and alone on the market for a long time. The drama was new and interesting; today it is old and scripted like the worst reality show. In the past you grouped for hours and talked making new friends. Now, you are lucky if you can finish a run with a stranger much less talk to them. ~J.A. Laraque

Are we what is wrong with MMO’s?

When you get above age 30 a lot is changing and a lot of has to do with what you believe you should be doing and the direction you should be going. For many gamers there comes a time where they decide if gaming in part of their lifestyle or something they did in their youth and now it becomes something they need to leave behind. For those who continue gaming it will always be different, not only because we are older with different responsibilities, but because many who we used to game with will have moved on.

mmo cafe

When talking about MMO’s many people talk about Everquest and the early days of World of Warcraft the way a man might talk about his college days. You remember a time when you were free and could do what you want and it was celebrated as well as expected. Now, you have to “grow up” and “be an adult” and the fun times as you knew them are over. This is not to mean that there will not be fun times ahead, but that it will never be like it was before and depending on the person this may make them feel that anything that comes next just could never live up to the old and really for the most part, it cannot.

Everquest Friends

So when you talk about that 48-hour camp in the Efreeti room was it that the time spent killing the same placeholder over and over was so much fun or that it was the time in your life that it happened more fun than now. With many of the new MMO’s being released the idea is the teenager with tons of time on his hand in the past now has work, marriage, kids and so on to deal with and cannot spend time playing 12 hours a day. Of course, there is also the people used to having everything handed to them to consider as well.

If you associate, your fun days with a MMO and now those fun days are over then it will be almost impossible to get that happy feeling back no matter what a game does. You could make an exact copy of a game, but now its 10 years later and maybe that awesome boyfriend lost his job and does not do what he used to or your sexy girlfriend is pregnant and angry. So you load up an MMO and hope to have those fun filled nights you had fighting twin emperors and you just cannot find it and you blame the game.

World of Warcraft Guild

I have always said it is the people who make the game so if you played with great friends in EQ then most likely many of those friends have moved on. Now, you have to try and make new friends or gather the few you have left in a new game, but you cannot bring that magic back. This does not remove responsibility from the game makers. Many MMO’s are just lazy and they rather copy and play it safe than innovate. However, many of the arguments comparing the old to the new are the same we do with movies or television shows. The glasses are rosy and the memories seem so much better than the present or the future.

Perhaps this is the reason MMO’s can be played alone more now than in the past. The EQ and even vanilla WOW generation is much older. Can most of you who raided in EQ find 40 good people to raid and play with day after day, week after week. Can you find 25 or even 15 and if so is it just as fun being with them in the game regardless of the game?

Wow guild

Many who find games like Star Wars, The Old Republic fun are not just fanboi’s. I have found people who like to solo like the game. Many who did not have big guilds in EQ or Wow like the game and those who have retained a good core of gamer friends like it because they get together and enjoy each other’s company in the game first and the actual game second.

Personally I think that was the key to EQ besides being the first 3D MMO and alone on the market for a long time. The drama was new and interesting; today it is old and scripted like the worst reality show. In the past you grouped for hours and talked making new friends. Now, you are lucky if you can finish a run with a stranger much less talk to them. In between game time, you would hang out, talk with your friends and interact with the gaming community. Now, you have many more responsibilities and less time.

thunderboss

So for many when a new MMO is announced, especially if you have not played an MMO in a while and have friends interested in giving it a try. You end up putting more than hopes of a good game on the product. People hope it will rekindle that fire, bring friends back together, improve your life and games by themselves cannot do that. There are documented reports that leaving an MMO can end relationships, friendships and even marriages so it is understandable that people think an MMO might create what it can also destroy.

We still have to make sure MMO makers do a good job, and create and maintain the game they promised. However, we should also realize you cannot relive Woodstock, and for many games our “Woodstock” was EQ or WOW.

Games & Candy

Personally, I find runts have a most distinct taste than Gobstopper so when you are going for flavor it is a better choice. Again, this is a lower calories and sugar candy than many others. ~J.A. Laraque

Candy

Games & Candy

Most people are trying to be healthier now-a-days and even in gaming, where you spend most of the time sitting, there are things you can do to improve your overall health. However, sometimes you just want to enjoy some candy, and there are some awesome candies to eat during gaming that gives you that sugar rush and sweet taste to deal with even the most annoying wow kiddy.

Jelly Belly

Jelly Belly

Nothing is better gaming candy than jelly beans and why be stuck with just a few flavors when you can enjoy 40 different ones. Personally, I love butter popcorn, which puts me in the minority, but I also love their bubble gum and cotton candy flavor. When you are headshotting people in Battlefield, and you blindly reach for a bean and are surprised by the flavor, it is like finding a hidden treasure in an RPG.

Gobstoppers

gobstoppers

This candy is great for MMO players because they last a long time and keep you from having to head out to the store for more. They also are one of the less bad for you candies due to having lower sugar and calories. Gobstoppers are just sweet enough and since you cannot bite into them right away, you learn patients which is important during those long MMO sessions.

Runts

runts

The perfect candy for the RTS fan, this candy is like a mix between a gobstopper and skittles because at first you cannot bite it so it lasts longer, but not long after you can break it into pieces and finish it off. Personally, I find runts have a most distinct taste than Gobstopper so when you are going for flavor it is a better choice. Again, this is a lower calories and sugar candy than many others.

Mike & Ike

Mike-and-Ike

I find these are good for console gaming. These candies are soft, chewy, and very sweet, but you can kill a whole box quickly so you need the ability to pause the game and get more. I like the special red box that has flavors like cherry, strawberry and watermelon, but all the flavors are good. Just be careful with this one because the calorie and sugar content is pretty high.

Pal Bubble Gum

pal bubble gum

This is the perfect retro gamer candy. Pal bubble gum has been around forever and I remember buying them for one cent each at the candy story. The good thing about Pal is for a low cost candy the sweet taste of the gum lasts quite a while. You could have a big bag of gum and it could last days or weeks depending. Since so many classic games are harder and repetitive, the gum gives you something else to focus on when you can’t kill that damn bat in Ninja Gaiden.

What’s in your Candy Store?

So I know I missed a ton of your favorites, so what is a candy you like to snack on during your game sessions?

Open Discussion: How Important Is Cursing In A Game To You?

Later on, the option to turn off the profanity filter was added and never again did I see anyone mention anything about feeling bogged down but neither did I see anyone thanking the Dev Gods that they could finally do so. ~Umar Khan

How Important Is Cursing In A Game To You?

Two days ago, I put up an article about reporting people online for cursing and violating the EULA that they agreed to in order to play online games. The responses to the post were expected. “Fuck you, dick butt!”, “Die of AIDS!”, and “You are a worthless piece of shit!” were the kind of retorts that were anticipated especially with the holier-than-thou attitude the piece was written in.

itgetsbetter

However, there were a couple of users that responded with something along the lines of “Not being able to say what we want online is wrong.” This got me wondering just how wrong is it? How important is it to be able to call someone a fag online? I’m sure it isn’t a game breaker for many people but for some it may be a peeve. It could be categorized under the same kind of irks as not being able to jump in a game.

In DCUO, when it initially launched there were no means to turn off the profanity filter. It would simply censor anything deemed vulgar or out of place. There was a very vocal amount of players who would comment and complain about the inability to voice themselves in a colorful language. Later on, the option to turn off the profanity filter was added and never again did I see anyone mention anything about feeling bogged down but neither did I see anyone thanking the Dev Gods that they could finally do so. It was such a miniscule addition that it sated the vocal but it wasn’t enough for them to say “Awesome. I can curse now.” unlike other changes in a game that define the content and gameplay such as crafting, dual speccing, etc.

So I ask, how important is it to curse in a game to you? Could you still play the game that constantly censored your vulgarity? Is it just a peeve or is it in some ways so important that not having it added in a game is criminal? Do you think of it as an essential part of a game such as being able to send whispers or jump? I’d like to hear from you on this.

I’m The Guy Who Reported You

No longer will we have to deal with the immature audience of today’s internet that shout “Fag!”, “Bitch why did you take my quest item?”, and “Suck my dick, you fat loser!”.~Umar Khan

I’m The Guy Who Reported You

Let me step out of the shadows and into the light so you can see clearly. Got a good look? Great! It took a lot on my part to build the confidence and reassurance that what I’m doing is right. I’m glad this day has finally come, though. What day might that be? The day where I reveal to you, nay, all of you that I am the orchestrator of your bans, warnings, and name changes! That’s true! It is I! The great Umar Khan! I am the bastard who spends most of his day opening customer support tickets to report you for saying dicks, asshole, and cunt whistle.

ILaN

But, Umar! Why?! Why would you do this? Have you no soul? No life?!

Correct on all accounts, reader! Correct on all accounts. In respect to your question I shall answer your whiny plea for the justification of my actions. Give me a moment to fill my wine glass with milk and lean back in my $35 ergonomic chair from Office Depot as I prepare to blow your mind.

I am doing it for you! Yes, you! All of this! All of it! For you! I am on a quest to weed out the unworthy of the online gaming landscape to make it a proper land for those who know how to follow rules and have the fortitude to fully understand and read the EULA that they agree to as they play their games. No longer will we have to deal with the immature audience of today’s internet that shout “Fag!”, “Bitch why did you take my quest item?”, and “Suck my dick, you fat loser!”. The EULA states that this kind of language is against its rules. Why you dare play with fire, I will never understand. The time has come though to turn the flame you rage against into a blistering inferno of bannings and suspensions! I am the harbinger of the soon to come MMO Utopia. For this who fight against my crusade, I am the vanguard of your destruction.

You can just turn on the profanity filter if it butt hurts you so much. lol!

I could or you could just not scoff at the agreement you accepted! Does my butt hurt when you refer to someone as a genital? Not at all. My butt doesn’t even get itchy! No, reader. Your words do not faze me. I learned a long time ago that words are simply glue and I… I am rubber! Your proclamations of rape, pussy, and motherfucker bounce from me and they stick to you. They will take root into your body and you will suffer the consequences they create! I will purge this foul mouthed community from my online gaming utopia and create an environment where a profanity filter is nonexistent. At last, the internet will have some class.

They don’t ban people for that! LOL The GM will just tell you to stfu! lolololol

That is so ridiculous. Since the beginning of the EULA’s existence, people have been banned for breaking the agreement that they willingly accepted in order to kill the giants rats of our yesteryears. Have you taken the time to read the EULA? They can ban you for this swashbuckling speech! If you haven’t heard of someone being banned or warned for this breach, you are blind, ignorant, and/or a liar.

What’s wrong, reader? Your face is red with what seems to be anger and chilled with the sweat of fright! You look like an animal backed into a corner; like an Obi-Wan who doesn’t want to believe Anakin would plunge the Jedi into darkness.

You’re a mad man! A mad man, I say! You can’t do this!

Oh, I can and I will! My rampage will not end with those who simply spew middle school vulgarity. I will prosecute the racists, xenophobic, farmers, exploiters, and scammers! When I’m through with this online world, parents won’t have to worry about their children getting on the computer. Unlike the world we currently live in, the internet will be a safe haven. Thanks to me. The MMO Jesus. That’s what they’ll call me.

We don’t want this utopia! This is a sick world you want for us! You can’t censor us, man!

Truly? Censorship? How am I censoring you? You can still voice your distaste for someone’s actions. You can still boast with a less vulgar choice of words. What censorship? I am instilling class and courtesy in your lives! Instead of voicing the hate I am looking to subdue, you should embrace my cause and open your customer service tickets and begin reporting those who would taint our internet games! The battle will be long and difficult, that is true. However, there will come a time where we can finally play our games and not have to spend our time weeding out the vile filth that plagues our communities. Look past our differences. Look past yourselves. Reader, you know what I say is true and the only one holding all this back is… well you.

MMO Rewrite

In the end we must support what we thing is salvageable not what is perfect out the gate, because nothing is. Big MMO’s are like network television, they release a good show but their expectations are so high they cancel it if it does not live up to their unattainable unrealistic goals. We need a cable TV solution where a show can grow and become a hit with true fans who appreciate it. ~J.A. Laraque

MMO Rewrite

I think it might be time to rethink the MMO model. Just as many people get older and make adjustments to their lifestyle the same has to be done with MMO’s and it’s not just graphics or even just game mechanics. The change has to come based on how the community has grown and changed and adjusted to these types of games.

mmo boxes

Let’s look at Everquest, a game many people look back on with rose colored glasses. Most people never did more than a few quests in vanilla EQ. You would run out and start killing rats, bats and beetles, but because it was new and different it was fun, and many accepted it for what it was.

People claimed there was a better community in the past and it was true because it was so hard to level and groups meant everything so you were forced to play nice where today you can dump and find groups so fast many will not tolerate even one death much less wipe after wipe like was the norm in Everquest.

Everquest

People look at Star Wars the Old Republic and complain because you can solo to 50 and the companion system makes the game more like a single player game. However, even in early World of Warcraft most people could solo to 50 and sure there were zones that needed a group, but it was not a requirement and a good number of people were denied groups for level 45-50 zones due to their class or other factors.

Turning back to Everquest, people forget that grouping was more about locking down a spawn than the fact that you really loved to group. In Lower Guk your group would camp one room and if it had a drop like the Flowing Black Sash there would be a rotation. You would be in the same group for hours because if you left good luck getting back in.

Everquest 2

So where did the change start? First, it began when people realized some classes could kite in EQ like Druids or Wizard. In games like City of Heroes, we saw people really begin to only group to finish their mission and then they would quit. When World of Warcraft went from 40-man to 25-man raids and the birth of the clicks occurred grouping took another hit because people were forced to do pugs and then the idea of pubs became so repugnant that if anything went wrong people would leave in a second.

In Everquest 2’s early days, groups would share Exp debt when someone died, so if you made a mistake the whole group might disband. All this, along with the increasing drama on message board forums, and more and more people joining the world of MMO has led to its decay.

City of Heroes

Originally a “server first” meant something, but soon it became a job with people working in teams to reach max level first. The idea of eating through content was considered a virtue as everyone wanted to be first and honestly, many learned back in the days of EQ that it was the first guilds to encounter new content that were the ones to find bugs and exploits and reap gains from them before they were removed, fixed or nerfed.

Then the great expansion came and MMO’s started popping up overnight and just like 3D movies we realized many should not have been made. We were already paying $15 for one MMO, who in their right mind would pay two or three of them. Free to play was enviable, but it also had flaws due to things like having the richest person gain an advantage or companies charging for the smallest things just to nickel and dime you to death.

Players saw games close for the first time and companies abandon their player base by offering little or no new content or support. The insert game here killer became a running joke and it was expected that any game to come out was doomed to fail because either it was not enough like game X or too much like it.

World of Warcraft

Finally, we all got older. The teenager is now in college, the young man now has a wife and kids and the basement dweller has a full time job. Want to know another effect of having a casual friendly game, when they are done with it they are less likely to move on to another and more likely to just stop gaming altogether.

There has been a lot of heat on Star Wars and they deserve a lot of it, but we as gamers need to realize that MMO’s need a rewrite. There will never be an Everquest or Dark Age of Camelot or World of Warcraft experience again. Even those who were the ten-year-old gamers will not experience games the way we did because the times are different and because of this MMO’s need to adjust just as our expectations of them should.

My prediction, games will get smaller not larger. Remember the, it’s time to slay the dragon commercial for EQ? Sure, it was made fun of, but there was something important there. It was about 5 or 6 friends coming together in a game. I believe that is our future. The large raids and guilds of 200 plus members are over. MMO’s will become games where you can solo and then call a few friends to do larger content.

star-wars-the-old-republic

Also, MMO’s have to drop the monthly fee. Remember EQ 2 and their 5-dollar content updates? It was a complete joke at the time, but I see that as the future. No monthly fee, weekly bug fixes, maintenance and patches, but every few months you buy a chapter consisting of new quests and zones for a small fee with one big paid expansion per year.

This allows gamers to switch between MMO’s , but still provides enough revenue to keep games going. If companies keep looking to have 20 million subscribers, they will continue to fall short. We have all grown and changed and its time MMO’s followed suit.

In the end we must support what we thing is salvageable not what is perfect out the gate, because nothing is. Big MMO’s are like network television, they release a good show but their expectations are so high they cancel it if it does not live up to their unattainable unrealistic goals. We need a cable TV solution where a show can grow and become a hit with true fans who appreciate it.

Otherwise, we will just jump from bandwagon to bandwagon waiting for the would-be giant to tumble and laugh as it falls right on top of us.

How Video Games Changed My Life

It went on from there and about a week later he recognized me as a Final Fantasy IV Rosa cosplayer at a convention just a few months before, when I had no idea he even existed. Needless to say since then our relationship only grew.~Lady Death

How Video Games Changed My Life

To contribute to the theme of life changing events with video gaming being the catalyst, I have a story of my own out of so many I had to choose from. Seeing as we are running this idea through until Valentine’s Day, I decided to write on how I met my boyfriend.

FFIV Cosplay
With my friends at Yasumicon ’08

We met in a math class roughly three years ago during college. He was playing Castlevania: Tales of Ecclesia on the DS during quite a few of the classes. We still argue to this day whether it was a good idea or not to have the lead character a woman during an entire game of the series. In any case, I was interested but didn’t say anything, and eventually we spoke. Naturally, games like Guilty Gear and Dance Dance Revolution were brought up as common interests before anything else.

Guilty Gear is a fighting game series still played by its loyal fans that have stuck it through until its apparent end. One of the most important things in any fighting game is the character you play as or “main”. When I and my boyfriend used to play, he professionally, he “mained” May and I, Ky Kiske

It went on from there and about a week later he recognized me as a Final Fantasy IV Rosa cosplayer at a convention just a few months before, when I had no idea he even existed. Needless to say since then our relationship only grew.

I am a fatalist, and I believe Fate has an interesting way of communicating. We have been together almost three years and our relationship is still going strong. Video gaming is beyond an interest. It’s a lifestyle and we couldn’t be happier living it together.

I love him so much. He’s the May to my Ky…Wait, what?

Notes: We’re both sad about the whole “Guilty Gear being dumped for a more user friendly game” thing. Definitely.