September 12, 2013

Escalation: Why I Love A Game That Constantly Tops Itself


So I finished Saints Row IV. It was really good. Probably my favourite in the series right now. The first big budget game I've preordered in forever that felt 100% worth it.

I have a bizarre fascination with the Saints Row series. I adore it unabashedly. I obsess over it. I would play any game in that series over and over if it weren't for the fact that I have hundreds of other video games to play instead. I gritted my teeth through the glitches and bugs of 2, I tracked down a used copy of the first, I own way too many copies of The Third thanks to Humble Bundles and PS Plus and I just finished the fourth in less than 36 hours. I love these games. Sure, they're a bit trashy and silly. I'm well aware that the games are 99% pandering. Normally I hate pandering, but for some reason it just works for me.

And that reason is escalation, which segues nicely into the first of many articles in which I explain what I like in a video game. I figure it's best to find reviewers and critics with a similar taste to your own, so this is a fun way to keep you in the loop. I'm purposely avoiding boring answers like graphics or story, instead focusing on fun words.

Like escalation.

Final Fantasy Is Dead. Here Is The One You Should Play Anyway.

Spoiler Alert: I'm not going to say it's this one
I read this pretty good article on Wired about how Final Fantasy is dead because FFXIII protagonist Lightning is all jiggly and controversial and part cat now. While it strikes me as odd how a Final Fantasy can be culturally dead what with all of the cultural conversations it has sparked about how culturally dead it is, I don't really care about this debate.

However, I do find it odd that the author describes Final Fantasy as once having a true shot at legitimacy. Now, I've barely played any of the games. I am not a Final Fantasy expert in the least. I didn't grow up with these games, and didn't touch them until I was functionally an adult. I do love the original, I did just finish II, I have been slowly chipping away at III, but I never really thought the games were particularly amazing at writing and story.

I always assumed the devotion to the series came from distinct moments of greatness—bits of amazing music, moments of great writing, set-pieces of fleeting wonder—but that the overall whole never quite came together. Everyone remembers the death of Aeris, but does everyone remember the many bits of cringe-worthy dialogue from Barrett? The talking treasure chest that says "HI I'M A CHEST LOOK OUT FOR ME"? Most of the parts that aren't in Midgar? We cherry pick our favourite moments, because these games came out when we were young enough to do so. Don't get me wrong, there are truly great moments in the series. I consider myself a fan. But I would never pick one as the Citizen Kane heir apparent.

I mean, look at the fervent debates about which one is the best. It makes me think that each game does something well, but whatever that something is doesn't appeal across the board. Some like the job systems of III and V. Some like the future settings of VII and VIII. Some love the simplicity of the first one. It's a series that always seems to try something different, so it makes sense that there are so many different opinions on it. I can't really think of another series that inspires so much debate about the best one.

Except those debates are stupid because Final Fantasy VI is the best one, you cretin. Obviously.

July 31, 2013

Are You a Boy? Or Are You a Girl?


I wrote a post for Indie Statik about a game where you play as a woman. You can read it if you like. The response has been pretty civil, and that makes me really happy because I was expecting the worst case scenario of angry feminists on the left, angry MRAs on the right and everyone looking to tear me apart.

I cut a lot out from the already rambling intro (sadly, there wasn't enough space to properly question where trans* people figure in), but there was one bit in particular I really didn't want to take out but couldn't find the spot. Specifically, I wanted to talk about the only times I've been harassed for being a woman. Wait, what? How? Can you guess how this could happen to me, the straightest and whitest of males?

July 18, 2013

Press A to Atrocity in Spec Ops: The Line


I just beat Spec Ops: The Line a few hours ago. I know everyone already fawned over this game back when it was, you know, relevant, but a case of writer's block and some niggling doubts about its effectiveness made me decide to throw some words together on it. Here are my first impressions.
Overall, I thought the game was a tremendous pair of middle fingers, each one pointed directly at the writing of Call of Duty and Battlefield respectively. I'm not a pearl clutching type who is opposed to shooting dudes in a video game, but I'm getting to the point where "realistic" and meaningless violence gets to me. I don't get grossed out as I mow down zombie after zombie in one of the Walking Dead's few action scenes. I don't bat an eye at That One Scene from Bioshock Infinite, because it's an absurd made up place that is full of fictional racists. I'm totally desensitized to plowing over pedestrians in Saints Row, because I'm riding a jet bike while dressed as, I don't know, a panda or something. I don't even get overly icked by the hundreds of murders over treasure committed in Uncharted, because that's how all the proper pulp adventure novels roll, really. But as a pretty pacifist individual, the closer a game gets to real life killing the less I want to play it.

Spec Ops agrees with me, and that's why I... well, I didn't enjoy it but I appreciated it. Sure, there are some scattered clunky bits. The controls and AI aren't quite... all there like they would be in a straight military shooter with a higher budget. Some bits get frustrating because of it. But it's a slight blemish in what is otherwise a delivery device for the game's story and message. "Are you enjoying shooting these bad guys?" Spec Ops whispers in your ear. "Do you like it when dudes shout things about flanking and Delta Team at you?" it coos before smacking you on the back of the head for having fun. "No," it says, sternly. "Bad."

But there's one thing kind of bothering me about the ending of the game and the overall presentation, which is what prompted this post. Obviously there will be MAD SPOILERS FOR RIGHT UP UNTIL THE FINAL SECOND OF THE GAME so only skip past the break if you've finished the game for yourself.

June 17, 2013

The Citizen Kane of Arguments About the Citizen Kane of Video Games


Today I heard about a website called The Citizen Kane of Video Games and it is hilarious.
Noted Indie Developer Mike Bithell was the first to direct it to my eyeballs via tweet, after which it prompted a few silly arguments by all the Noted Indie Developers I quietly stalk on Twitter. Some people really hate the constant comparison of video games to movies, and the idea of "video game's Citizen Kane" embodies All That Is Wrong with video game criticism. Some people really hate that some people really hate this comparison, since it usually isn't intended in a malicious way. It's just a quick and easy to grasp way of conveying the idea that this game will be revered across all mediums for all time.
I like to think I fall outside of this snowglobe of a debate like the special little snowflake I am. Don't get me wrong, I despise the idea of a Citizen Kane of video games. I just hate it for my own special snowflake reasons, namely that the people who keep using it are using it in the most spectacularly wrong ways.

January 15, 2013

The "Back" log Journey

You've done well, old header. Even though you were never centred properly.
Well hey there stranger.

I've been hemming around the idea of taking up the blogging business again while I finish up my last year of university. Part of me is for it, as I felt like I never really got to try my original premise of blogging a video game backlog what with all the bundles. Part of me is against it, because I stopped writing because it came with an absurd amount of stress that didn't exactly massage my delicately depressed brain chemicals.

So what's the plan? I miss blogging about video games, and so I'll blog about video games. Why not? I like joking around, I like reading far too deeply into the themes and I generally like the dialogue and discussion that ensues when I combine the two. I have far too many backlogged games, and you can definitely make a case that every game in this back catalogue deserves a certain amount of close analysis.

To be clear. I'm not doing bundle posts again but instead approaching things with my original intentions of a general purpose podium for me to ramble about things that I (and hopefully you) find interesting. Think of it as a big mess that borrows from reviews, impressions, let's plays, editorials, after action reports, rants, random nonsense and everything in between. It's hard to classify. Like before, I want to cover old and new, indie and blockbuster, no matter the genre. If I play it, it's fair game. I'm nothing if not foolishly overambitious.

And hey, maybe nuggets of insight will fall out of my head while I'm at it. To be honest, I'm probably not going to pay a lot of attention to professionalism (that can wait for when I get a real job again), but I'm firmly of the opinion that a) everything deserves to be studied and b) nothing says you can't have a bit of a laugh while studying it.

So here we go. Maybe I'm an “indie” games journalist or an amateur game critic or a something else entirely. Let's worry about that later. I'm feeling pretty good about the outlook here, and I'm looking forward to writing some off the cuff impressions, crack-pot theories and whatever else comes to mind.

Anyway, welcome back.

Oh, and let me know what you think of the new site layout. I'll be tweaking it over the next few days. I think it looks sharp, but I also thought a background with hearts puked all over it looked good, so I'm not exactly trusting myself.

September 03, 2012

One More Thing

Hello.

I'm not back. I don't mean to get your hopes up. Pretend you never saw me. I just couldn't stand leaving the site with an unhappy ending. Thanks to the kindness of strangers and friends, my outlook and future has become a lot more sunny. I'm on track to graduate again, which means a sweet sweet degree for me and a much better chance of proper employment in this silly industry I love so much. I've been graciously asked to continue reviewing at least one bundle regularly, which you can always read come Indie Royale time on IndieGames.com. I've gotten to continue to do reviews as a hobby over on New Gamer Nation, and I've pitched a few real winners in my humble opinion. And I've got even more cool stuff coming down my game critic pipe, which I'll always be sure to keep you updated about on Twitter.

Is the Backlog Journey still dead? Yep, and it's not going to be rezzed for the foreseeable future. But I'm not as gone as I thought and I've got a sweet gig coming up that I'm sure you will all enjoy. But shhhhhhhh, that's a secret.

Hugs and kisses,
Colin