You know what sucks? Being sick. Sickness is lousy in ways I can only begin to express, and it is sickness that grabbed me, and still does, for that matter, since my last Blog Post. The best part is, of course, that I’ve not only been the whipping boy of one physical malady, but two. One following right on top of the other.
While I’ll spare you the details, the first bout was caused by bad milk (I’m pretty sure about this, dangnabbit,) and the second was caused by the fallout from those three days. I’m still caught up in the second, which I’m not even going to hint at, but at least I’m not feeling so sick I can’t write anymore. I’m just irritated all the time. Which is why I still haven’t gotten back to Jaine. Today, I’m focusing on my blogs. I think I can manage sarcasm, snark and commentary while irritated. It may even help.
But first things first. I was finishing up God of War III right before my little bout of Hades began, and I managed half a sentence before throwing in the towel. Now that I’m better, if everything goes according to plan, you should be able to read a full account of my thoughts HERE. I’m also introducing a new after-the-score section I’m calling Spoiler Talk. Simply put, it lets me give a review of a game/movie/etc., and a score, without spoilers, and then a section to talk about specific spoilerific reasons for the score, without having to put silly spoiler warning tags inside the reviews I write. I hope it will add a little bit of the Analysis part of art studies that I like, especially since the important parts of stories are often the spoilers. We’ll see if it has any merit in the end.
Sticking with the Video Game topic for the moment, I want to get into Generational Gaming. What exactly I mean by that is something not even I know. I bring this up because I’ve heard and read a number of things lately about generations of gaming in a variety of contexts. For the most simplistic idea associated with the term, there have been a number of generations of consoles. The Atari 2600 generation, the Nintendo Entertainment System generation, the Super Nintendo Entertainment System and Sega Genesis generation, the Sony Playstation and N64 generation, the Playstation 2, Gamecube and Xbox generation, and of course the current generation of the Microsoft Xbox 360, Sony Playstation 3 and Nintendo Wii. This Article At Gaminformer’s Website takes an unbiased look at these generations and then asks the readers to give their take on which is the greatest generation.
While I like their analysis for the most part, I think that it’s too hard to say which was the “Greatest” generation of gaming. If we were to go by impact alone, I’d be forced to say it was the NES generation because of the simple fact that the NES saved the video game industry from becoming a blip on History’s time line until re-popularized who knows how many years later. Maybe we would just now be seeing a re-invigoration of gaming? Maybe we would have never seen a marginalization of PC gaming? Who knows. But I think that the NES shaped what the industry is today, and for that it would have to be the greatest.
But in many ways that’s not how I prefer to see the question. If that were the case, then the same question applied to any medium would have to be the same. Film would have to look back to it’s foundations, novels would look back to the rise of… well to be honest that is even more complicated, but for our sakes let’s say The Tale of Genji (that should cover it, I think.) Comic Books would look back to the first printings of Superman and so forth. These are the golden ages. They are necessary for everything that comes afterward, so they are the “greatest.” But that doesn’t mean that if I had a choice of which generation of those media I’d prefer to get stuck on an island with, I’d choose them. Hardly.
So I’m going to take it from the point of view as to which generation of Gaming Consoles do I like the most. Which generation would I take over all the others with me on a trip to Andromeda. Before I answer, let me say that I’m going to discount things like the Virtual Console, which let me play games from all generations. That makes this choice too easy and a bit of a cop-out.
Without those downloadable titles it makes it really tough to choose the current generation over the Playstation 2, Gamecube and Xbox era. Nevertheless, that is the choice I’m making. It’s not because this generation is the newest and prettiest, though these games are easier on the eyes. No, the reason is that I have played some of the best games I’ve ever played in the last five years. Mario Galaxy and its sequel, Fallout 3, Gears of War, Assassin’s Creed II, Super Smash Bros. Brawl, Uncharted 1 and 2, Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, Halo 3, Mass Effect, Bioshock and so many others. I could not give up those games. Then there’s the fact that there are so many games I have yet to play on these generations like Red Dead Redemption, Grand Theft Auto IV, Mass Effect 2, inFamous, Batman: Arkham Asylum, Little Big Planet, and there are many more, not to mention new entries every day. That’s not even counting the sweet new downloadable titles like LIMBO, Flower, Trials HD, or Braid.
In the end it’s not Netflix, graphics or newness that sells me on this generation of consoles above the others, it is simply the games. As it really should be. Of course that’s just my opinion on the matter. What’s yours? The SNES got your squee? The PS2? Maybe you can’t give up the old school and prefer good ol’ Atari? Put your thoughts in the comments section!
But there are other ideas wrapped up in what generational gaming has meant to me lately. I haven’t spoken on the topic yet on this blog, but the Supreme Court accepted the appeal to California’s Case trying to ban the sale of violent Video Games to minors. While the motivation is noble, trying to keep violent games out of kids hands and all, the law is trying to put restriction on violent games that don’t exist for other mediums, like films, music or literature.
Analysis of the merit and problems with the proposed law banning violent games has already been done better elsewhere (such as HERE, HERE and especially HERE,) But I can’t help joining in a little, so I’ll just stick to one brief point I can’t help but dissect.
Schwarzenegger said, in his reasoning for the law, “I signed this important measure to ensure parents are involved in determining which video games are appropriate for their children. By prohibiting the sale of violent video games to children under the age of 18 and requiring these games to be clearly labeled, this law would allow parents to make better informed decisions for their kids.”
This statement holds one of the biggest hypocritical positions on the side of the pro-law camp. How does taking away options “empower” parents to make choices? That’s like saying if I take away the “No” option on a yes or no question on a test, I’m empowering the student to make the choice. That’s stupid, you’re not giving the person more power to choose, you’re taking that power away by making the choice for them. Ridiculous.
For better analysis on the subject go to the links I’ve provided. You know which way I stand on the issue.
But the reason I bring it up in context of generational gaming is that these politicians don’t get it. First off, they’re part of an older generation who, as a whole, don’t get games. I love seeing the rare creature that is a 60 year old gamer (or older!) but in general those generation don’t understand games and deep down they probably get scared by it. It’s callous to say, but in many respects this sillyness won’t be done and forgotten until they’re passed on or otherwise no longer running the country, and people who grew up with a controller in their hands gets into office.
They also don’t get how big a part of society this gamer generation already is. I forget where I saw this statistic, but the average gamer age is something like 35. That means these politicians aren’t punishing kids. They’re hurting their constituency. They are hurting their voters. Gaming generations are already growing up. We’re here to stay. As Ken Levine said in a recent Gameinformer article, The Geeks Have Won.
Some people may ask why this law hurts the industry. After all, kids shouldn’t be buying those kinds of games, so they shouldn’t be needing their money. The people that ask these questions don’t get how the situation works. If criminalizing sale of such games happens, then game stores will face massive fines if a worker sells a violent game (what kind of violence, they don’t really specify) to a minor. The game stores will say to themselves, “We don’t want to be fined, so why even risk it.” So they won’t sell games that might even be considered violent games. As game stores stop selling these games, their availability goes down. As they become less available, their sales drop. As their sales drop, game companies determine to make less mature games. Eventually games like Assassin’s Creed, Uncharted 2, Gears of War, Bioshock, Halo and Metal Gear aren’t made anymore. The game industry and the hobby as we know it is castrated and marginalized.
The only positive that might come from this is if the game industry goes completely downloadable to save itself. While I prefer physical media still, I would rather buy downloadable mature games than none at all. It is the only thing that gives me hope that the industry would still survive and thrive after such a blow.
oof. I just got Starcraft 2 in the mail and it’s killing me to write this post rather than play… *pant*pant* Must… Finish…Post! *breaks down and goes to play Starcraft II*
*comes back* Okay, I can maybe stave off some of the blame for post-poning my post if I write up some impressions on the Starcraft campaign, right? Right.
The gameplay is very traditional, admittedly. I’ve seen the lack of innovation implied as “cowardice” by a certain internet personality I trust and enjoy reading. I would disagree and say that such an implication goes much too far, but it is true that the gameplay will not wow anyone looking for a revolution in the RTS genre.
The trade-off here is a grand one, though. Instead of janky but promising advancements in gameplay, we have a game built in a classic model to the polish and perfection that speaks of craftsmanship. The story is wonderfully entertaining popcorn flick-style space opera, and just like the gameplay it breaks no new ground, rather making the best of its kind.
In a way, it’s just like Blizzard has always worked. The company takes well worn genres and gameplay conventions and makes them shine again. Because everything they make not only exemplifies that philosophy of game design, but is consistently fun and involving, I will only say, shine on you crazy diamond.
And to those who though the RTS genre was dead, and Starcraft was a franchise nobody cares for anymore, I’ve got Some Sales Figures for you.
Okay, I’ve come to this point realizing that I’ve spent a ton of time talking video games. Since I don’t want to drive everybody off with a wall of text, I’m cutting today’s blog off here.
Don’t worry though, I’ve got some material planned for the next one already, and barring a sudden return of the sickening, I should be back more regularly too.
Edward L. Cheever II
P.S. – This post still comes out several days after I wrote it due to internet issues. Sorry. :( On the other hand, I’ve finished StarCraft 2 and I loved it. Maybe you’ll see a review sometime this week.