Something’s changed

I don’t know what’s different this year. Is it me? Is it the industry? I can’t say one way or the other. I’m just not into E3 this year.

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This whole blog kind of started with my excitement about E3 a few years ago. But this year something is different for me. Part of it, surely, is the lack of anything that was “to be announced” or leaked previous to the event that really caught my interest. Though without fail, something cool will rear its head eventually and probably change my mind to an extent. I mean, I’m not crazy. I’m still hoping for some big reveals and some new info on stuff like Insomniac’s Spider-Man and GoW4.

Though, like I said, I don’t think I can put my finger on any one specific cause – I think I can pick one biggie out. The proliferation of gaming media. Now we don’t have to wait for E3 for announcements and reveals. They’re happening all year long. Most of the stuff we see at E3 now, save for the occasional big reveal, surprise, etc – we already know about it months in advance. Take Assassin’s Creed: Origins, for example. We knew last year there wasn’t going to be a new entry in the Assassin’s Creed series. But I think we could say for certainty that Ubisoft wasn’t going to be holding off for more than a year. And, aside from that, the game had leaked images weeks ago. Far Cry 5 too. Hell, EB Games and Bestbuy both e-mailed me about how “Far Cry comes to America” last week.

Now, I’m not saying it’s a bad thing that we get updates on great games and developers all of the time. But it’s kind of like how Christmas changes from when you’re a kid to an adult. All year you wait desperately for that day and then when it comes, you just tear through presents like it’s the last time you’ll get to do it. But as you get older, at least in my case, I tend to just buy the things I want when I want them. So when Christmas comes around, there may be a few cool things under that tree for me – but most of what I wanted, I already have.

It’s a weird transitional phase for me to go through – both personally and professionally (well, at least in terms of this blog because no one is paying me to do it…yet). I want to get jacked up. I want to do like I always did and go and tell the person next to me about how amazing the Bethesda conference was and how excited I am about the reveal of X game. And, of course, to take advantage of all of the amazing pre-order deals out there (though again, this may play into my lack of excitement as a part of my no pre-order pact I made with myself). I just can’t find anything within myself that’s telling me that I need to obsessively pour over everything that’s going on and dissect the minutia of every reveal.

Of course, I’m still going to follow stuff, and I think I’ve already shown that I am. Much like Christmas though, I’m afraid I’ve lost the vigor for it. That being said, it’s possible that this year is an outlier. It definitely didn’t help going into E3 that I knew I wouldn’t see a lot of what I hoped to see. Nothing big from Bethesda (Elder Scrolls, Fallout wise), no Kingdom Hearts release date, etc.

But I’m excited to see everyone’s offerings. So far I like what Bioware is doing with Anthem.

Who knows – as the conference goes on, I may change my tune. The hype train may just roll through this station after all. Forgive the tired cliché, I haven’t written in a while and I’m feeling a little rusty.

All I will say is: If this is what growing up is, I don’t like it.

– The Ego

 

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Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hype

So I’m trolling through the various gaming media outlets and creators I follow on Twitter and I came across this article on Gamesradar. The best upcoming games of 2017 and beyond (for those of you who don’t want to read the link).

Now, in principle, I don’t have an issue with talking about the upcoming games. But best upcoming games? I mean, come on. First off, this is total speculation. More than half of the games on the list are still TBA release dates. Which, in and of itself isn’t a big deal. You know, if the games had a substantial amount of info already released to the press or public, then one could at least make an informed decision on what’s available. But with the majority of these games, there is so little announced that one could barely interpret what to expect out of a tutorial…

I’m going to pick on Destiny 2 for the majority of this post. Why? Well, because it’s the easiest target.

Didn’t we learn anything from Destiny 1’s pre-release hype and subsequent launch? I mean, I would hope that the media at least would have the sense to treat everything about Destiny 2 with a grain of salt. But, nope. Here we are with this game already making the list of best upcoming games for 2017…

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Now, I don’t hate Destiny. I bought it. Hell, I even bought it for both platforms because my friends insisted I play with them on X-Box, and they paid the lion’s share. But what Bungie promised on Destiny 1 and what they delivered were worlds apart from each other.

Now here we are again: Bungie is making some big promises. So far I’ve seen promises of bigger, more diverse worlds that will feel substantial and different from each other. I’ve seen richer story with developed characters.

A lot of that sounds really familiar. I remember when Destiny promised to bring us total exploration. The ability to go anywhere you can see on the planet. How’d that work out? I also remember hearing about a big universe full of stories. Well, we did sort of get that, but definitely not in the game. And all Destiny really added was a bunch of really expensive expansions that didn’t change the overall play space.

So why are people getting themselves all revved up already? Why is the media leading people by the nose again? Fool me one, shame on me and all that.

Is the hype, the possibility of that sequel or that new game being exactly what we all want it to be worth the eventual disappointment? Because let’s all be real for a moment: Nothing is ever as good as what we build it up to be. I look at games like Insomniac’s Spider-Man and the new God of War game – and I know that those games are being made by studios who I have a lot of faith in. And I have yet to be disappointed by a God of War game. But the truth is: speculating and talking about how great they’re going to be without a shred of tangible evidence – well, that’s just begging for a let down.

Now, maybe I’m wrong. Maybe part of being a fan is buying into the hype. I don’t know. But what I can say for myself is that there is only so much I’m willing to buy into. I can anticipate and look forward to a new game. But what I won’t do is start telling the world that it’s going to be the best game of 20XX. From time to time, I’ll even buy into the hype. I will get more excited than I should. But there is still a vast difference from personally buying into the hype and selling it to the masses.

As always, you can find me on Facebook and Twitter. Let me know what you think in the comments. Is the hype worth the risk? Am I just being too hard on Destiny?

– The Ego

Wrapping up a generation

It’s been coming up a lot, probably because it’s that time. We need to say goodbye to the PS3/360 generation.

The last of the games are slowly coming out, marching slowly to the funeral dirge. That being said, before we weep those last tears and forget about them, I think I’m going to give a quick “best of” so you loyal readers can take another look back before it’s all over, and move on free from regret.

1) Bioshock 1, Infinite: I’ll be honest – you can skip Bioshock 2. It improved on the mechanics from the first, but lacks the depth the original story had. If you missed out on the first or Infinite, and have a PS3, fret not. Bioshock comes as a free download with Infinite. I recommend going through B1, completing it, moving on to Infinite and do yourself the favour, buy the DLC. You won’t regret listening to me. If Ken Levine (writer on both, but not 2) asked me to – I would have his love child.

2) Red Dead Redemption: Rockstar doesn’t publish a lot – but they know quality. L.A Noire being the exception that proves the rule. They re-imagined and set a new standard in the GTA series with GTA IV and they did something even more special with RDR. Mechanics – oh boy. What a game. Story wise, I was truly sad to see it end. Saying goodbye to John Marston was tough for me. I had zero exposure to the previous titles, and had no clue what to expect. But this was a winner is every category. Even doing something as cliche as zombies – worked. Can’t say that for every other attempt.

3) Fallout 3/New Vegas: With Fallout 4 on the horizon, I can’t imagine why you wouldn’t be playing either of these games instead of reading my incessant prattling on. While I hold my blog in high regards, we’re talking Fallout here people! Todd Howard is the other person who’s esteem is so highly rated in my books, he can do no wrong. I really hope I don’t have to expound the virtues of either of these titles. I mean, they’re revolutionary in scope and magnitude.

4) Batman series: Skip Origins. You’ll thank me later. With Arkham Knight having recently come out – play Asylum and City. The quality is there.

5) Alice: Madness Returns: Highly, highly underrated title. The sequel to American McGee’s Alice, twisted beyond words, but very engaging. The story is fantastic in every sense, the gameplay is of a high caliber, but lacking in the precise style I’d become accustomed to. Still, definitely worth a play through just to see the twisted world in Alice’s head.

6) Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions: So far, Marvel’s only contender for the Arkham throne. I completely skipped the sequel, and I’ve never lost a wink of sleep. But if you want to see Spidey at his best, with fun and varied play styles – buy it.

7) Skyrim: Because Skyrim.

8) Transformers: War for Cyberton: One of the few, playable Transformers games. The sequel took away the choice of which Autobot or Decepticon you got to play as, so that was a bummer, but the series managed to stand on it’s own two feet. Doubt we’ll see another of its ilk.

9) Darksider 1+2: With THQ folding, the future of this series in under question, but you won’t regret checking out the post-apocalyptic titles as you attempt to figure out how the end of times was brought about before its time. Great combat and overall enjoyable playstyle. I mean, it’s basically Zelda and God of War.

Honourable mention: South Park Stick of Truth and Splatterhouse. Seeing South Park characters acting out a D&D session with the humour only Matt/Trey could produce was really something. Splatterhouse – you can beat enemies to death with your own severed limbs. You can imagine my delight.

Part of me really wants to include the God of War series. But there are just too many of them. Three was the best, so wiki the lead-in and finish the game.

– The Ego

Less sometimes means more

This is part two of (who knows how many) my thoughts on games and censorship.

Without further ado, here is the second encounter I wanted to share.

Second:

It’s late and my shift is nearly done. I’ve had a good day, so when a mother and her (fairly) young sons come into look for a game I’m happy to help them. They look around for a few minutes before coming to ask me directly to help them find a specific game. They wanted Mortal Kombat X for Xbone. Since the mother had asked for it, I happily did my job and collected the game, and proceeded to bring it back to her. Now, I’ll admit, given that (some) mother’s can be pretty irate and irrational about violent games, I couldn’t in good conscience just let her just walk out of the store with the game without at least giving her a heads up as to the nature of the MK series.

Now, it’s definitely not my job to make sure that parent’s are paying attention to what they’re buying their kids, nor is it my job to tell them how to parent. That being said, I do make sure that the subject is broached. Of course, I certainly I’m not going tell anyone not to buy something, especially not a game, simply because it contains violence. However, I feel like I’m bereft in my duties if I don’t at least acknowledge it. Usually, it’s met with thanks, and they’re pleased to know that someone who knows a lot about the material is there to guide them. And, beyond that, that their children won’t be arbitrarily be able to purchase an M rated title without them being present.

Now, this is where the story hits (the somewhat common) [the] twist.

I proceed to explain that the entire point of the game is essentially to beat your opponent, and then dismember them is the gruesomest ways imaginable. We began to have, what I consider to be one of the more intelligent, discussions of violence in gaming. I’m beyond impressed to see a mother, despite having fairly young children in mind, that she is taking an incredibly rational approach. Which, simply, was: I know my kids aren’t violent, and no amount of playing a videogame is going to turn them into sociopaths who intend to harm people because of some (hi-res) digital sprites. That being said, the weird part of the conversation happened at this moment.

She had, essentially, shooed her children away, and began to question me, in hushed tones, as to what the sexual content was like in the game…So, the track jumped a bit. She is content and care-free discussing violence on an acceptable level, but sex/nudity = bad.

Basically, her argument:

Totally normal, admissible:

Whole-heartedly bad:

I just don’t get the hang-ups about sex in modern media. Once I had reassured her that there was little, to no “sexualisation” in the game, she took her children and purchased MKX.

I wish, I really do, that someone could rationalise for me, why tearing a body apart, and then cannibalising it is something that any age can both enact and witness, but bare breasts or simulated sex is a taboo still?

In this case, I just didn’t engage. I learn my lessons well. I generally know better than to question people’s decisions, especially that of a mother. Simply because I know it’s a futile choice – like ice-skating uphill.

But why is it that nudity and sex are reviled by the masses, but the worst elements of our society, violence and such, are so widely accepted?

Now, don’t mistake me for someone on the side of violence being worse than sex. Honestly, I could care less. So long as it’s not sex or violence for the sake of it. Generally, in games like God of War, I always found the sex to be pretty dumb.

Well, looks like this will be a three-part’er.

– The Ego