News & Editorial
In light of this move, the studio’s upcoming release Aliens: Colonial Marines for the Wii U has been cancelled. The port was was due out last month.
There was also a move by publisher SouthPeak Interactive, which challenged TimeGate’s Chapter 11 status, and filed to move the studio to Chapter 7 liquidation. According to the knowledgeable sources close to Kotaku, Southpeak won arbitration, and TimeGate is no more.
When reporters attempt to reach the studio for comment, they are redirected to a voicemail.
The team at Newbcast Gaming wishes the very best to the developers at TimeGate during this difficult time.
It’s been a while since we’ve added a lot of new material to Newbcast Gaming. Some of you may have stopped coming to our site, others may have come back wondering where the heck we’ve been. We hope to shed a little light on the matter and let everyone in on where we are going with our site.
First, the NewbCast Team would like to apologize for the lack of content. The team has gone through a few transitions and we are in the process of recovering from them. As it is, the contributing members all have had things going on else where and as much as we would like the following to not be true, we are doing all this content for free. We had two members switch careers in their days jobs, one member working on their other side business which had a wave of attention, one who is caught in the middle of an intense college semester, and one departure. With that said, we realize things are slow and hope that as our other engagements wind back to normal, we can get back to a regular schedule here.
With ideas we have for our site, we wanted to create an organization which is to be the face of our team. That leads to the next obstacle we’ve hit which has drawn us away from our figurative drawing boards. It’s been time consuming and taking up even more of that valuable element of time, but it was nessacary for us to move forward and to become a registered business. NCG Entertainment is the front for our organization. We will primarily recognized as Newbcast Gaming but we will be looking into other forms of entertainment, mostly gaming related, though we may may extend beyond that slightly in the future.
Now that you are aware of what the team has been doing that has drawn them away from our site, let’s take a look at what where we want to take our work here at NCG.
First, video is a popular format for getting your video game content fix. We realize that, and want to add that to the content creation. One new series that is in the works is Newbify Me. If this title seems familiar, it should. We already did a pilot episode of this featuring TheoraCraft, and GI Community guest, CoachMo. This series, as we finish working out the rest of the kinks, will help us live up to our names as newbs. These episodes will feature members of Newbcast Gaming exploring games that are new to them. Additionally, some episodes will also include NCG members who are more versed in which ever game is featured, to give a slightly experienced view on the same feature.
Additional changes we’re also working on includes a look at a possible nerdy hobbies that several gamers are tied to, video content from live streams hosted by Newbcast Gaming members, big gaming news, opinions on hot topics, possible insights on up coming indie development, and more.
We thank you for sticking with us through this slow time and we hope that all of you are as excited as we are with all these upcoming improvements. Keep your eyes peeled for these changes as we start to roll them out to you.
Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag has its first game play trailer revealed earlier today, reports Game Informer.
This trailer gives a first hand look at some of the game’s mechanics including: sailing, combat, and the view of approximately 50 different unique locations within the game.
Announced just last month, Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag is set in 1715, around the Caribbean region, (however, it’s likely to assume you will not being seeing any pearls in the black color range ). Players will be assuming the role of Edward Kenway, the grandfather of Assassin’s Creed 3‘s protagonist, Connor Kenway.
Another tidbit about the upcoming title, since Desmond’s story concluded with the finish of AC3, players will assume the role of the hero in a present day setting. In the present day, this hero will be working with Abstergo to investigate Kenway’s back story.
Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag will release November 1 in Europe and October 29 in North America on Xbox 360, PC, Wii U, the PS3 and PS4.
Watch the game trailer below.
With the new Tomb Raider now on the horizon, and many questioning whether to pick it up, I feel the need to speak up about the issues surrounding the game out of respect for every game that has made me ask myself a hard question. Events are dragging me into the murky waters of heavy subject matter, so I might as well get it over with and grab an oar to beat this topic over the head with.
(With respect: trigger warning. Discussion of sexual violence to follow.)
For those that have been living under a rock since E3, here’s the short version. The new and gritty reboot of Tomb Raider slated for 2013 has the internet up in arms because Executive Producer Ron Rosenberg used the substantially loaded word “rape” when describing what nearly happens to leading lady Lara part way into the game as seen in the “Crossroads” gameplay trailer. Worth noting is that the trailer came out before the interview in which this was stated and while the sequence was definitely noticed and there was discussion of the uncomfortable scene, the controversy pot did not boil over until the interview.
With 10 years experience on the topic of sexual assault, post-traumatic stress disorder, and many of the subjects branching off from them, I couldn’t avoid this write up forever and now hope to add a new perspective to the mix. There are points from both sides of the argument (if you can even call it that) I’d like to address individually. Unfortunately, this isn’t something that can be talked about definitively until after the game’s actual release so I hope you’ll pardon some of the conjecture on some points.
Now, where to start?
You Wouldn’t do this to a Male Character, Would You?
One of the common arguments brought up against the use of sexual violence is that if you wouldn’t subject a male character to the same events, it’s a poor choice of direction for your plot. John Kovalic made this point succinctly and humorously, pointing out this double standard in his web comic Dork Tower (more on Kovalic’s point about “lazy” writing later). When Kotaku asked, “Karl, do you think that a male protagonist in that same situation would have- do you think the scavenger would do the same thing, rubbing his hand against his thigh?” of Karl Stewart, the Brand Manager, he admitted that it would not have happened.
While backlash along this line of thought is understandable, it doesn’t entirely ring true to me.
Quite a bit of the progression of equality between the genders is based on equal capabilities, common interests, and universal rights. Commonalities are one of the easiest as well as one of the most positive things to bridge a divide of this sort. It makes perfect sense that people are not happy with the unequal portrayal of women versus men when it comes to this utterly gut wrenching topic. As art often imitates life though you may have a to keep a few facts in mind, hard and unpleasant as it may be.
1 out of every 6 American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime. Men are victimized in this way as well, and that should not be diminished. Millions of men. Approximately 1 in 33. As much as the tragedy of each individual is as devastating as the next, the statistics are not equal. The fictional depictions will not be equal in number either. This is not a matter in which fairness is even a question because crime is at its root utterly unfair. When something happens more often, it is discussed more often. When it fills a greater presence in the public mind, it makes its way into more of their media. This is not a, “women’s issue.” It’s everyone’s. But it is an issue that affects a disproportionate number of women.
Frankly, some would argue that a willingness to write more about men in these situations would be positive. Many victims are spurred toward seeking help when discovering they are not alone, and men in particular feel that much more isolated without as many examples of survivors to look up to. But featuring fewer women is not how to do that. It is not a zero-sum situation wherein every story told about a woman is stifling one about a man.
Kotaku’s interviewer may have also inadvertently posed the question in a narrow manner; it’s unlikely the exact same actions would have taken place because (on average) men and women experience discomfort in different ways for different reasons. Most offenders wouldn’t think to grope a man’s chest or kick a woman between the legs to give a few overly simple examples. Many forget that sexual violence is not in fact about sex… but rather is rooted in power. The ways in which a perpetrator would exert power, control, and intimidation over a man versus a woman are different. Anyone remember the specifics of how James Bond was tortured in 2006′s Casino Royale? Technically, that was sexual assault even though many people saw it only as cringe worthy torture. Why? Well, everyone could likely use a refresher on an important definition…
“Sexual assault of any kind is categorically not a theme that we cover in this game.” ~ Studio Head Darrell Galagher, Crystal Dynamics
Note that the exact definitions of rape and sexual assault vary slightly by state in their legal wording, (and in some cases mean the same thing and are used interchangeably) but the generally accepted standard is that sexual assault is, “unwanted sexual contact that stops short of rape or attempted rape. This includes sexual touching and fondling.” Go ahead and watch the Crossroads trailer again if you must, but I personally find those few seconds fall quite easily under that definition; the nature of the intimidation was sexual, and the perpetrator did not have our protagonist’s consent. The wording behind the law is actually more stringent than most casual public discourse on the subject; anecdotally speaking, most people I spoke to about the trailer upon release were still excited about the game but found that one scene to be in a murky area between harassment and assault and refused to nail it down. As such, we should likely move forward with the more solid definition for the sake of evaluation and logical discussion.
While we can all understand the PR nightmare this must be for Crystal Dynamics, their campaign has done little to stifle the displeasure of some. If it was working, one would think the matter would be done, settled, and we’d all stop talking about it until the game came out to be picked apart in full. Instead, new stories creep on to my feed, hubs of data on the game see comments tanking the game despite it not even being out yet, and all this adds up until I finally found myself exasperated enough to write this and add to the stream of opinions. So what is continuing to go wrong for Crystal Dynamics, leading to so few pitchforks being put away?
In trying to calm everyone, Crystal Dynamics is falling short with nearly all parties. Assertions that rape is a, “word that is not in our vocabulary,” rather then reassuring people, is drawing ire and raising the suggestion that perhaps it should be in their vocabulary when they have made no claim that the scene shown is going to be changed. The sequence may be so brief that it wouldn’t be fair to call it a “theme” but what’s there is there. Even supporters are annoyed, feeling that the refusal to acknowledge the nature of the content for what exactly it is stands as an, “insult to our intelligence,” as Audrey Drake put it on IGN. Those defenders aren’t left with much of a leg to stand on when the company isn’t even confident enough to use the terminology. Only by acknowledging what exactly is on our plates are we able to fully tackle it whether or not the content is fleeting or in depth.
While some fans remember arguments that were centered around how lousy an archeologist Lara was given her habit of smashing things, the main controversy has centered around her appearance over the years. Yes, we saw a shift in which she became more personable and less likely to kill police officers and security guards due to glaring plot holes, but the loudest objections were raised over her fluctuating chest size and the objectification that was seen to signify.
Despite the developer’s best efforts to rectify this with the new direction in physical depiction and story telling, they are instead being accused of degrading the character in the opposite direction. Where she sat before in the realm of unrealistic perfectionism with cartoonish proportions and unnecessary acrobatics, people were instead seeing a character being subjected to fetishist levels of cinematic violence.
Is the violence excessive? Maybe. We haven’t seen the whole product yet and I’m sure that will be more easily debated once it’s out. A lot of games are facing this question these days… and movies… and even books.
Is the violence purposefully erotic? I don’t think so.
Fetishes as a whole might be widespread, some so common and mundane that people aren’t even willing to hang the word on them, but individual ones by their very nature are uncommon. Especially fetishes centered around violence. Accusing a company of trying to capitalize on this fetishism to sell a product when they have from day one been trying to distance themselves from it is ridiculous. That doesn’t mean sex being used to sell games isn’t done, but when it is, it tends to be obvious and quickly called out. The niche audience drawn to violent sexualization is not enough to drive sales in the face of the large amounts of content they wouldn’t be interested in (why not just buy cheaper and more focused porn?), and from a sales perspective it would fail the company especially when many people are already turned off of Tomb Raider right now due to the passing resemblance to that kind of excitation. Controversy and sensationalism will only get you so far, and only with a particular audience.
The fact of the matter is that it is very common for writers to knock a character down not because people enjoy watching their favorites be abused, but because they enjoy watching them get back up. The developer is not responsible just because someone, somewhere finds the inflicting of violence to be the more stimulating part.
There is something to be said for market testing and opinion polling. Making sure your choice in words, symbolism, and what not are understood and interpreted as you actually intend by the majority of the audience you are trying to reach is never a waste of time… but I would not in my own writing, nor would I want any other writer, to censor themselves just because there will always be a small percentage of the population that will willfully walk away from their work with the wrong message.
We can always call out the worst of them. Frankly, those people will be disappointed as it has already been confirmed that should the player fail the quick time events, Lara will in fact not be raped.
Oh, by the way? The internet as a whole needs to get their ears of the gutter. If I hear one more complaint about cries of pain sounding like orgasms, I may just have to go burn something. That one has been around for years. Ever wonder why the complaints have failed to make a difference? Because maybe it’s you.
Now That’s Just Lazy
Rape as Backstory has become a fairly well known trope over the years, and the degree to which it is used, badly, is high. Often times used as the reasoning to why you should sympathize with a chronically depressed character, it’s been pulled into use more and more as of late as one of the hottest reasons to become an avenging violent malcontent. Apparently having a character’s family be murdered got too cliche.
“Poor” use of sexual assault as a plot point is difficult for people to truly explain but one way to think of it would be like this: the second it becomes a plot device rather then a plot element, you’ve likely gone wrong. Why don’t we contextualize this with a statement from Crystal Dynamics?
“…[By] giving her motivation to become the stronger action-adventure hero and the girl that’s willing to fight to stay alive and move forward throughout the game, we use that device and that intimidation to make her stronger. ” ~ Community Brand Manager Karl Stewart, Crystal Dynamics
This kind of reasoning is implying that for Lara to move from scared college grad at point A to the epic hero that fans know and love at point C, then point B must either be the threat of sexual assault or something equally traumatizing. It implies that the event was chosen for inclusion not for its own story telling potential, but as a tool to get Lara where they wanted her to be psychologically. This is the epitome of lazy writing in regards to sexual assault as it ignores one of the most poignant effects on a person: many are absolutely crushed under the weight of such trauma and those that aren’t and come out the other side stronger do so not because they were assaulted, but in spite of it.
Those that honestly believe that, “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger?” I invite you to amputate an arm and see how much more you can bench press.
Is this a problem with the writing though, or the PR department?
Rhianna Pratchett was revealed as the lead writer on Tomb Raider at San Diego Comic Con 2012. When taking questions from the audience during the Nerd HQ Conversations for a Cause panel on the game, in elaboration on responses from fellow crew to the question as to whether they ever thought they were putting Lara through too much, she showed a great understanding of the human condition. “You can’t have bravery without fear,” she told the audience. “It is about picking yourself up and doing the right thing. Not just because you’re not scared, but despite the fact that you’re scared.” Unfortunately, when the question of this specific controversy came up in the official Comic Con panel (9:52), the response was handled by Mr. Stewart again, with quite a bit of exposition on the importance of context (something I will not deny) despite many being interested to hear the writer’s own response. While the moment may not have had the context of the entire game around it, it did have the context of the trailer in which it was publicly shown. It’s the responsibility of Crystal Dynamics and their publisher Square Enix to make sure that such promotional materials accurately reflect the product. Context is important, but when releasing something that can be misinterpreted so easily, the burden to provide that explanatory material is on them.
While I have a great deal of faith in Pratchett’s work and attitude, games are a collective creation and there are many people that have a hand in deciding what makes it into the final product. The downplaying of the extent of the controversial content is actually more worrisome then if it were given a prominent role in the game. Having the event happen as an isolated incident that is never spoken of again until it’s convenient belittles the topic. Are we going to have quick time events centered around battling PTSD induced sense memories? Are we going to have to stop ourselves breaking her mentor’s hand when he tries to comfort her? Is Lara going to ever question the moment and her own humanity down the road, or only immediately after the event than just up and move on? All questions for when the game releases, but most of those are highly unlikely to be seen.
Immersion and Distance: How Close do you Really Want Us to the Game?
“When people play Lara, they don’t really project themselves into the character[.] They’re more like ‘I want to protect her.’ There’s this sort of dynamic of ‘I’m going to this adventure with her and trying to protect her.’” ~ Executive Producer Ron Rosenberg, Crystal Dynamics
In an age where developer after developer will be thrilled to tell you all about every little effort they have put in to increase player immersion, Ronsenberg’s comment about projection sent up red flags to more than a few in the audience.
The gaming industry has faced ridicule for years for being too closed minded in its marketing approach to gamers, constantly chasing the demographic they think will make them the most money and not realizing this narrow approach may be alienating a potentially larger audience.
Ronsenberg’s assertion that “people” do not relate to Lara in the key way that many, many gamers relate to gaming protagonists (i.e. seeing themselves as the character since they are the one responsible for all their actions) is very easy to disprove. Your results may vary based on internet connection, but it took me 0.11 seconds. No really. Google times that.
Heck, let’s go one better and make this personal. Straight from Crystal Dynamics’ own flickr stream. This article brought to you by the third Lara from the left.
While the rash generalization about gamers and even of Tomb Raider‘s current audience is groan worthy, the true worry comes from the fact that the executive producer has made a comment that leads many to assume that he believes their entire audience doesn’t relate to the lead character, and within the context of the interview can easily lead them to then make the assumption that the game design is built around this generalization.
Most of us really hope this is wrong, but words from someone in Rosenberg’s position carry a lot of weight, and will spark a lot of theories and assumptions like this. The whole point of marketing and promotion is to get people talking after all. Stewart has outright quashed the idea that these views on character relation are company wide during his PR damage control tour, but that nagging worry still remains given that Ronsenberg has a different hand in the product then a Brand Manager.
While no piece of media can demand relation from its audience, to not strive for it does a complete disservice not just to the characters but to the rest of the audience whom are open to the connection. This does not negate the fact that there are many gamers, who are quite vocal online, who will not under any circumstances relate to a character who is not some exaggerated mirror image of either themselves or their greatest fantasy of whom they wish they could be. These are not the average gamer though, and given the narrow range you must fall in to meet these fantasies, are not the most cost effective audience to cater to given they will never be satisfied with the iconic Lara Croft. Often, even the narrow minded will still play your game, just not connect in the way intended. Anecdotally, there have been plenty of protagonists in gaming I have failed to relate to, but it has almost always been a failing of the writing and characterization (as proven by many a sequel or expanded universe deciding they’re going to put in the leg work and give me a reason to care). I also still enjoyed those games… sometimes on day one if there were enough praise worthy factors, though usually from the bargain bin until they started getting it right.
Thankfully, Pratchett saves the day again in the Nerd HQ panel as she offers some insight into the goal of the writing while giving us reason to not be entirely pessimistic. “You can feel that hurt, how scared, how terrified she is, and she grows through that and you, taking over as the player character, grow with her, which is just an amazing experience. Just to speak to what Karl was saying about Lara being more human: that’s the story we’re trying to tell as well. This isn’t a story about being female. This is a story about being human[.]”
Who can’t relate to being human?
The Minefield: is the Subject Worth the Risk?
Many arguments have been leveled at Crystal Dynamics as to why they shouldn’t even be attempting to tackle this heavy subject matter. People don’t trust games to take on the material, and screwing up would blemish the industry’s already rocky reputation within the entertainment world. Games are at their core supposed to be fun, and how can something so depressing be fun?
How many are asking what effect this content can actually have on people on a personal level?
Putting the controversy in the trailer is actually something I can give Crystal Dynamics and Square Enix quite a bit of credit for. The clip in question within the trailer is much like the trigger warning I put at the beginning of this article. Within the context of the game, the scene may be enough to disturb a victim, but I would consider the warning to be out there. Personally, being triggered was one of the best things to ever happen to me and led to quite a bit of progress in my life, but not everyone gets the happy ending of a conviction of their assailant to prison. What does media like this do for the general perception of these kinds of situations though?
Some argue that Lara is no victim, but a survivor, given she fights back, takes control, and comes out on the other side alive. Some would praise her reaction as being exactly how one would hope she would handle such a situation. How realistic a reaction is it though? Many cite “Victim Blaming” as one of the greatest reasons sexual assault is such an under reported crime. How many people, man or woman, would actually decide, “Yeah, I’m bound, he’s got a gun, but I’m going to take my chances”? Not many. The moment in the game has been equated to a life or death situation by the developers, and rape has been equated to something as serious as death by society from time to time. Next time a debate about the Death Penalty in the United States comes up, just see how many people would only use it on murderers and rapists. So what am I supposed to think when the game is asking me to hammer buttons and try my luck against a physically superior, better armed, better positioned assailant?
I’m lucky enough to think it’s a game telling a story. I’m unlucky enough to feel that somewhere, someone who plays this game may in the future be asking an unfortunate victim, “Why didn’t you fight back,” rather than asking, “What did you do to stay alive?” These situations are so difficult because they are not as clean cut as a quick time event, or even a branching option tree.
I put more hours into surviving than any gamer has ever put into even Skyrim.
But at least I’m alive.
I’ll also be picking up Tomb Raider on launch night. Ask me later if I’m offended.
If you or anyone you know is struggling with sexual violence, please consider contacting the Rape Abuse & Incest National Network, either online or at 1-800-656-HOPE.
It’s been 24 hours since the Sony press conference which revealed to the world, plans for the Playstation 4, which is set for release this holiday season.
The new console when compared to a “supercharged” PC, can hold its own. The Playstation 4 will feature a x86 CPU, enhanced PC GPU and 8GB RAM, this is good news for fans of Playstation, since it makes it a lot easier for developers to programs games, and port from PC less challenging.
The consoles controller, which was leaked prior to the press conference, bears a resemblance to previous Playstation controllers. The changes made with this generation’s console controller includes a touch pad which is located in the center of the controller above the start and select buttons. The controller also has a light bar across the top which serves as an integrated Playstation Move. Lastly, there is a share button which has been added to the controller. This share button may have different functions from sending an update to Facebook and Twitter telling friends which game you’re playing, or it could be used to catch a replay of the game you’re playing so it can be uploaded to Facebook Video or Youtube.
The Playstation 4 does seem to have at least one major flaw in the minds of some critics. The new console will not be backward compatible with previous generation games. That isn’t the end all be all for the Playstation 4, because of the recent acquisition of Gaikai, game streaming service. What this means is consumers will be able to stream games from all previous Sony consoles via this service. There’s currently no details on whether games currently owned by consumers of those previous consoles will be added to an individual’s library.
With any new game console announcement, the conference would not be complete without game announcements to accompany it. Sony made no except during the PS4 announcement revealing: Killzone Shadow Fall, inFAMOUS: Second Son, and DriveClub. (follow the links to the official trailers.) In addition to these games’ announcements, Chris Metzen from Blizzard Entertainment made a cameo to announce the Diablo III will be appearing on the Playstation 3 and Playstation 4. Lastly, the newest project by Bungie, Destiny, is also planned for the Playstation 4, even if it won’t release until 2014.
While we wait for more news about this new console, here are some hardware specs to drool over in the meantime:
Main Processor: Single-chip custom processor
CPU: x86-64 AMD “Jaguar”, 8 cores
GPU: 1.84 TFLOPS, AMD next-generation Radeon™ based graphics engine
Memory: GDDR5 8GB
Hard Disk Drive Built-in
Optical Drive (read only): BD 6xCAV, DVD 8xCAV
I/O Super-Speed USB (USB 3.0)
Communication Ethernet (10BASE-T, 100BASE-TX, 1000BASE-T), IEEE 802.11 b/g/n
Bluetooth® 2.1 (EDR)
AV output HDMI
Digital Output (optical)
Gaming has an advantage in storytelling in the form of demanding investment from its audience in the form of interaction, leading to moments where you are asked not just to act but also to think on your decisions. This gives gamers ownership over the rewards, consequences, and even the lessons they may or may not take away from any gaming experience. This column series is about such moments as those.
Faridah Malik has got your back. You might spend an awful lot of Deus Ex: Human Revolution indoors, crawling through ducts, and cracking heads where she can’t reach you. Getting out of another country without the pilot though would be a nightmare, given the myriad of assaults and murders you have a habit of leaving in your wake.
Just think about how getting through security at the airport would be a nightmare. Forget about trying to check the (optional) explosives in your augmented arms.
While not the most heavily fleshed out character, there’s plenty to like about Malik in DX: HR. She’s concerned and sympathetic for your character from your first introduction to her as a player, but remains tough and calm under pressure throughout the game. The side quest she sets you on as a personal favor is one of the better investigative mssionss in the game, with one of the most amusing mean streak endings. All in all, you have plenty of reasons to care about your plucky pilot side kick, which never seems to bode well for any character in a dramatic game…
(Spoilers follow for Deus Ex: Human Revolution).
This game is one of the few on the market to give you the option to proceed through the game without killing every enemy in your path (except a few ill conceived bosses). There are multiple methods of removing enemies non-lethally, or avoiding them entirely. This is actually somewhat incentivized by the game mechanics themselves, with slightly higher experience point payouts for knockouts over kills, bonuses for “ghosting” unseen through an area, and an awfully shiny 100 point achievement . There is also something gratifying about moving through a world as more than a mindless killing machine, choosing willfully to take the harder path and retaining something of a moral high ground over your heartless digital enemies.
After many hours of this diligent do-goodery, I threw it all away for Malik.
Upon returning to Hengsha, your transport will be dramatically gunned down as you fly into the city. Your character will make a quick exit while still in the air onto a near by rooftop, but Malik will be in a much trickier position. Trapped in the cockpit, she’ll be forced into an emergency landing on the streets below where a number of men are waiting to turn the vehicle into something resembling swiss cheese.
Faridah will be quite insistent that you save yourself, but intervening is an option. Not one to leave anyone behind, I moved as swiftly as I could taking a tranquilizer rifle, a ranged taser, and my own two fists to every goon in sight.
Sadly, it wasn’t enough. While still running from person to person, trying to spot the additional deployments, chasing down the one sneaky sniper up on the third story of the construction zone, her last words came over my radio as the vehicle exploded, Malik still trapped inside.
Progression was still an option.
Instead, I immediately reloaded my game.
Now knowing more about the troop locations, deployment timing, and that a big freakin’ mech was going to drop in and start tearing things up, I figured I had a pretty good chance my second time through. The game laughed in my face as my friend was gunned down again. And a third, fourth, and fifth time to boot. I was stubborn, but I was reaching my limits.
Whether it was even possible to save Malik yet spare the misguided Belltower lackeys was actually still in question as I was playing for hours on end the day of release (courtesy of a few days off work due to four simultaneously removed wisdom teeth). No one had done it, posted a walkthrough, or bragged about it over a youtube video. Somehow though, I knew this was more a failing on my part then the game’s. I’m good with a controller, but not good enough for both Malik… and those Belltower goons. I had a choice to make, and I made it with a Longsword 202 ERASER Extreme Range Sniper Rifle.
When she finally rebooted the aircraft, got it in the air, and took off for a safer landing elsewhere, I took a minute to appreciate the quiet. I found I really didn’t feel much like looting the bodies of the fallen despite how precious and scarce ammunition is in DX: HR. I stayed a moment longer, considered moving on, but instead saved, and decided to give my Xbox and myself a break. It was time to change the gauze in my mouth anyway. Tasting blood was bothering me a bit more then usual.
In the end, it seemed like the right choice. After all, had I gone the other route, finding my friend Faridah’s cranium getting picked over by the Harvesters later would have likely resulted in an even bigger blood bath.
I do still wonder though if I could ever play through that game as everyone’s hero, because so rarely in games these days does everyone live.
In the weeks since the horrible incident in Newtown, Connecticut, the Obama administration has started an initiative to look into the causes of gun violence. As part of the investigation, Vice President Joe Biden sat down with game makers to have a discussion about video games, and the possible impact violent video games have on young minds.
Video games have been in the cross hairs of investigations involving their impact on adolescents in the past. Can you guess what they determined? If you guessed, despite depicting gore and desensitizing gamers to animated blood shed, there were no links between gun violence and video games, you’d be right.
But some still make claims to the contrary, and I am going to argue with those individuals. I have been playing video games for over two decades now, and the last thing any game has made me want to do is go out and commit mass murder. Furthermore, I would be willing to bet that more than a few consumers of certain violent video games feel the same.
This beckons the question then, why does the game industry, and in particular violent games, continue to find themselves in law makers’ scopes? Some people would say politicians honestly just don’t understand the medium.
But even that argument is mediocre at best. If gamers paid attention to the news during election season, a headline that stuck out as unbelievable was a smear campaign against a candidate running for a state senate seat in Maine. Colleen Lachowicz was outed as being a player of video games, including the extremely popular MMORPG World of Warcraft. Her opponent claimed she was unfit for office because of the “fantasy double life she lived”, which at times could be violent. These claims are based on out of context statements that Lachowitz had made on the WoW forums under her character’s name.
There was a point when the “Colleen’s World” smear site went on to slander not just Lachowitz, but all gamers by explaining acronyms we use in game incorrectly. An example is that DPS was explained to be ‘Deaths per Second.’ For people who don’t play games and don’t understand some gaming mechanics, ‘Deaths per Second’ can have a disturbing mass murder like ring to it.
The fact remains that some gamers can’t help but feel belittled by lawmakers. One such insulting statement came from a different state senator last week. California State Senator, Leland Yee – D said, “Gamers have got to just quiet down[...] Gamers have no credibility in this argument. This is all about their lust for violence and the industry’s lust for money. This is a billion-dollar industry. This is about their self-interest.”
As you may imagine, this put a lot of heat on Yee, who since then has rephrased his statement and apologized. Regardless, this doesn’t change the fact that it was said and the light it sheds on how he sees our community.
So, let’s get this straight. As gamers, we are being depicted as simple minded individuals, whom have an overwhelming lust for blood, have a constant desire for violence, and have zero credibility to defend an activity in which our time is dedicated? We know that this couldn’t be further from the truth. Celebrities such as Jodie Foster, Vin Diesel, Mike Myers, and Robin Williams are on record as being gamers. Now Maine has their own state senator whom is a gamer (the campaign against her failed). There are journalists and even individuals with PhDs whom identify as gamers.
This is just the tip of the iceberg. There’s estimated to be over 180 million Americans alone who identify as gamers. So according to one senator, there are quite a few Americans who aren’t even qualified to talk about their hobby. Furthermore, if there are so many gamers in the United States and video games cause violence, we as a country would have an epidemic on our hands… but we don’t.
So this circles back around to the conversation that the Vice President had this week with representatives of our industry. Why is it insisted that games are the cause of violence? It’s been constantly proven otherwise, not to mention that the industry has grown in magnitude from where it was the first time it was placed under the hot lamp for questioning without those violent incidences growing at the same rate.
Gamers who are responsible should not be punished for the actions of extremist individuals who happen to share their hobby. Though video games could be a trigger for an individual who is mentally unstable, anything could be a similar trigger, and games are certainly not the weapon.
If law makers try to go after game developers, they undoubtedly would be in violation of the following: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
The course gamers need to take is that of the high road. Instead of making derogatory remarks about legislators, we need to get the word out about what we get out of games. We know there is more to our hobby than a desire for digital violence and those reasons need to be heard.
My story for instance. I have multiple reasons for playing games. Are there days I want to come home and vent in an FPS? Absolutely. But I fully understand this is a virtual outlet for pent up frustrations that build up as a result of having to deal with ignorant people out in the world. But is that the only reason I play games? Heck no. I like to play games to push my boundaries. Playing against people and even AIs, at a level that is the same as you pushes you to be a better player, and the only way to do that is to improve your hand-eye coordination.
I also play games for the connections I can make through them. This past holiday season, my girlfriend started to get into Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty. Because of her interest in the game, and because I play it on a regular basis, it was a no brainer what to gift to her. Now that she has it, she can join in the multiplayer games a lot of us will play. That’s right, instead of a violent blood bath, as a couple we are using it as a tool to spend time together, even if we’re not in the same room.
These stories need to be heard by non-gamers if we ever expect to be understood. There is more to video games then violence: there is bonding, improving coordination, and educational possibilities. Don’t let politicians try and censor video games. There’s a lot this industry does for their customers, and inducing psychopathic rampages aren’t among their offers.
Well, at least the Supreme Court already seems to know this, even if Leland Yee doesn’t.
The Legend of Zelda is a franchise that needs no introduction. In fact, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t have a favorite of the series. Though there tends to be little overall variety between titles, a lot of people can agree on one thing: Ocarina of Time was one of, if not the, best of the series.
In spite of Ocarina’s success, many tend to forget that there was a second game released on the Nintendo 64. A sequel with a dark, complex story, an entirely different gameplay experience, and one of the most hauntingly evil villains of the series. That game is, as you may have guessed by now, Majora’s Mask.
First, a little background. Majora’s Mask starts off slap-bang at the end of Ocarina of Time. Through a series of events revolving around the mischievous Skull Kid, Link (the Hero of Time) winds up in Termina, a parallel to his own world of Hyrule. As he steps into the world, it becomes immediately apparent that something’s gone wrong – the moon is much larger than it should be, and seems to be getting closer every day. With three days before the world comes to a cataclysmic end, he has to free the four giants of Termina and use them to save the world from utter destruction.
Just from that, you can see why this game is so much darker than its predecessors. If not, let me spell it out – Ocarina of Time’s villain wanted to become ruler of the world. A Link to the Past’s villain wanted ultimate power. Even the later Twilight Princess’s villain wanted the world consumed by the twilight realm, where he had absolute authority. The villain in Majora’s Mask? It just wants the world to burn. There’s no reason behind it, no story of vengeance or some misguided crusade – it just wants to see Termina destroyed. Majora’s Mask went off in a completely different direction than previous games in the series in more than one way, and it worked well.
This huge plot point also lends itself to some great storytelling. Unlike Ocarina, where major characters are few and Link’s quest is solely to stop Ganon, Majora’s Mask has a wide variety of characters with their own problems and views about their impending doom. Some deny that the apocalypse is coming, and try to go on with their daily lives, choosing to ignore it and prepare for the upcoming festival. Others desperately seek shelter, hoping to get as far away as possible before the moon falls and destroys the world. Adding another layer of depth, a popular theory states that each area of the game is a metaphor for a different stage of grief – the people in Clock Town deny the fact that the moon is truly falling; the Woodfall Deku take out their fury on an innocent being; the Goron hero Darmani pleads for a second chance at life after failing in his quest; the Zora singer Lulu has fallen into a deep depression after the loss of her eggs; and in the Stone Tower Temple, Link achieves enlightenment by casting aside the shells of his grief. It’s all explained in detail here.
All in all, it’s an extremely powerful story told subtly – a far cry from Link’s previous tales. But what about the gameplay makes Majora’s Mask so different? Well, for starters, gone are the usual conventions of a Zelda game. Let me explain. Most Zelda titles follow a preset path through the game. Three warm-up dungeons followed by a number of real dungeons, usually between five to eight. As Link, the hero of the story, travels through each dungeon, he gains a single new weapon that allows him to traverse the dungeon further as well as defeat the boss of the dungeon.
Majora’s Mask throws most of that out the window. The three-then-five formula is replaced by a mere four dungeons. That’s right, there are a grand total of four dungeons. The Wooded Temple, the Snowfall Temple, the Great Bay Temple, and the Stone Tower Temple. That’s it. Plus, when adventuring into each dungeon, Link discovers a new type of arrow, rather than a specific item – every other item can be found through puzzles and quests in the overworld.
Why is this so significant? Simply because it’s a complete reversal of the games prior to it. Every other Zelda game has the player following a specific path, going from one dungeon to the next – and that’s how the story unfolds. But with Majora’s Mask, a huge amount of the game’s storytelling is in its sidequests. And it’s all so brilliantly done, too – each dungeon tells the story of one of the four races of the land of Termina (Deku, Goron, Zora and Ikana), while the sidequests tell the story of the people of Clock Town, the game’s central hub. Unlike previous games, including Ocarina, the storytelling is much more open-ended, requiring the player to learn the plight of the world’s people by aiding them in their trials and tribulations.
This brings me to what made the game simultaneously impressive and daunting: the time limit. Yes, that’s right, for the first and only time in the series, the entire game revolves around a single time limit. The events of the world are on an endless three-day loop as Link helps people, defeats dungeons, and then travels back to the day he arrived. Major items and the Bomber’s Notebook, a record of the game’s numerous sidequests, are retained between cycles – but events are never altered from one cycle.
And…well, that’s what makes and breaks the game for people. On the one hand, it’s a very powerful gameplay tool, forcing the player to make decisions about what to do, making plans for doing things over each new cycle, and allowing them to fix their mistakes by erasing them from existence. But on the other hand, it can become incredibly confusing and tedious if you have no idea what you’re doing. The open-ended gameplay is a bit of a double-edge sword in this case, because while the only direction given is where the next dungeon is, a hugely important part of playing the game is doing the sidequests, which aren’t explicitly revealed to the player. Sure, not revealing the sidequest is a given in most games, but in Majora’s Mask, there’s the time element that becomes quite tricky to traverse. Almost every sidequest can only be started, continued, and finished at very specific times on very specific days – and if you don’t know the order, you’ll spend a lot of time running around trying to figure them out.
But still, Majora’s Mask remains one of the strongest games in the entire series. An extremely deep story, a frightening villain whose only goal is destruction, and a wholly new style of storytelling all add up to a phenomenally good game. Is it daunting? Sure, especially to newcomers to the series. But if you’re digging around for a great oldie, you’ll find gold in The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask.
Everyone has that friend. You know the one: that person in your group that starts groaning the moment you suggest everyone grab a controller and do some fragging in Halo or Counterstrike. They just don’t get it. They hate the idea of losing and they know that playing against you and your friends is going to result in a lot of deaths. They don’t understand the adrenaline rush of a massive multiplayer brawl, desperately seeking the right position to attack, and the joy of outwitting your opponent to have someone come up from behind you and start your respawn timer again.
I’ve been that person. Ask Grethade, any suggestion that we should play Halo together was responded to with a sound “That’s not my thing, maybe next time”. I abhorred the concept. What’s interesting about it? What do I get out of the experience? Why would I want to play something that I will lose soundly in for months while I learn how to play?
It takes a lot to break out of that. That friend of yours could be a future FPSer, and stick just as well as the rest of your clan if given the time and the method. And the fact is, you love having them over at the LAN and you just want to see them enjoy their time as much as you are. There is hope! The following steps of game suggestions just might get you there – I know they helped me. And if they don’t? Well, they’re all good games, and you can certainly enjoy them on your own too. Perhaps even go the other way around and show your friends that you can enjoy a good RPG too!
1. Fallout – The Fallout series is extremely well known for its witty antics, great turn based play, and open environment. It’s a natural transition for anyone who respects the Elder Scrolls series or open world RPGs in general. The stats are obvious and apparent. The structure is familiar. And yet at the same time, I can’t help but want to delve in more about the equipment. Why does each weapon act differently? What’s the purpose all of these different classes? Even the gamer who doesn’t know the difference between a pistol, a revolver, and a sniper can get a solid understanding and enjoy something that’s full of wit throughout the game
2. Borderlands – The transition from Fallout to Borderlands is all about performing actions in real time and manual shooting. You liked the style of Fallout, and you want more. Borderlands takes the level of ridiculousness of weapons to another level. The loot pinata is the best search for the right weapon experience since Diablo 2, which will be a nice reminder of what’s there. While looking at the numbers, players get a feel that the pure stats are not the only important part of a weapon and what they do. Additionally, while Borderlands requires aim, which is a new concept, it tends to be rather generous and not punish the player too much, even if they should not succeed.
3. Left 4 Dead / Zombies – You’ve found the Cache. You’ve bested Handsome Jack. You’ve enjoyed the lootfest of Borderlands and you now yearn for something with a little bit more consistency. This is where Zombies and Left 4 Dead really comes in. The opponents are still NPCs, but the game thrives on multiplayer with friends. You learn how to use the maps to your advantage. You know which weapons you want to use, when and master what seem insurmountable odds… and you lose. A lot. The biggest benefit to survival zombie games is that it makes the roleplayer understand that death is a part of the game, and it that shouldn’t be terrified. It’s just another part of the game, and the challenge of trying to survive makes the game more enjoyable. Hearken to the Buddhist leanings of the game. Help them embrace it. They’re close to bridging the gap.
4. Your FPS of choice. This works best in situations like Black Ops 2, where you utilize the PVE Zombies game to help the transition. ”You already have the game playing Zombies with me, so let’s try out the other stuff on the disc.” The campaign is nice, and it’s there, but don’t let it be a crutch to what you know is the true joy of the game – multiplayer. Party games like Gun Game and One in the Chamber help the player feel like they’re not coming in brand new (most of these games are designed to be progressively more difficult when getting close to completing the objective), and so some good shots will be had. Additionally, you’ve already taught your friend to be accustomed to new weapons, learning how they work in the game, and how to best position their advantages on maps. Congratulations, they are now ready to FPS proper.
It may take time, hard work, and patience (drained out of us by our instant queues in our games),but the efforts are worth the reward when your friend starts showing you the sick triple kill they recorded the other day, and they have the sniping position that makes your reckless abandon seem like no big deal in team deathmatch. And besides that, all of these games are a blast and are worth your time, even if you’ve got nobody you are looking to convert.
What was your first FPS experience like? What did you play before? How have you brought other people into enjoying the genre? Let us know in the comments – perhaps you will help others join the flock of people who can’t get enough K/D ratio.