Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Wii Magic

Tonight my wife and I played Wii Sports Resort until my face hurt from laughter.

I'm just not sure there are other consoles on the market that can have that affect.

So, Christmas is almost upon us. Is anyone hoping for any special gaming-related items this year?

My list: Sonic Colors, DKCR, Epic Mickey, Dragon's Lair Trilogy & GoldenEye 007.

Also, reminder, Site Chat tomorrow night at 8pm EST! See you there!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Site chat happening now!

Hey me and Sage is in the chat now. Hope to hear from you today.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


-almost car accident
-jury duty
-changing all my passwords because Kotaku got hacked [link]
-... waiting
-being dismissed from jury duty!!
-hot cocoa w/ the Mrs
-Epic Yarn w/ the Mrs
-snowball fight w/ the Mrs
-snow angels w/ the Mrs
-Epic Yarn w/ the Mrs

... this was a good day ^_^

Friday, December 10, 2010

New Metroid Series Wallpaper

There's a new Metroid Series Wallpaper up in the Extras section.


Wednesday, December 8, 2010

T-Minus 30 minutes to Site Chat.

29:57 ....

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Reminder: Site Chat Wednesday

Site chat Wednesday at 8pm EST.

1. Metroid Other M
2. Epic Mickey
4. GoldenEye
5. ... and where everyone has been!?

Sunday, December 5, 2010

High Demolition #003 - Kingdom Confusion

Issue #003 of "High Demolition" is up!

It illustrates a scenario I've thought about for years.


PS - This is a "Fokka".

Friday, December 3, 2010

A Brief Essay on Metroid: Other M

So I've just started Metroid: Other M last night. I'm only a few hours in, but I can clearly see why this game is so controversial and why (to me) that's a real shame.

Why it irritates people:

1A) The game is extremely cinematic.

So far, it really is like an interactive movie. Many Nintendo games shy very far away from this approach. Somewhere along the formative years of gaming, when it couldn't be cinematic due to technical limitations, the theory was presented that by not showing or telling the details of the story, that the user's imagination could run wild and tell the best story possible.

In other words, if you don't see Mega Man escaping Wily's crumbling castle, you can imagine it happening in the most bad-ass way possible. If you never hear what Link or Cloud say, you can imagine that they say the perfect thing at all times.

Creatively, you risk nothing, but have gained everything.

However, Other M decided to show and tell everything. Like ... every little thing. This means that if you don't like the way Samus turns her head in a certain scene, you'll be put off by it. If you don't like the words people chose to communicate their thoughts, you'll be put off by it.

Quite simply, when you take something that was previously so ambiguous, and try to give it definition, you risk having a segment of your audience hate it. When your audience is gamers? Well, let's just say gamers have shown a passion for complaining that seriously rivals their passion for video games.

1B) The gameplay is different.

I'll talk more about the overall "feel" of the game later, but as far as the strict definition of the gameplay? It's a radical change. And, not radical like the Ninja Turtles would have described it. Let's face it, we've never played a game with quite this mechanic before. 3D spaces that operate on largely 2D planes with first person aiming/searching based on a controller with pointer functionality? Yea, that kind of breaks new ground for better or worse.

So, clearly, the gameplay does not "feel" like Metroid. Though each room allows for searching and exploration, it is not as free-roaming as any other entry in the franchise. (Even though the Prime games were FPSs, I still felt Retro captured the sense of aimless exploration quite well.)

1C) The characters are deeply vulnerable and imperfect.

Here's where things really start to get sticky. First things first, the argument of "games as art" has gone back and forth so many times that most people closest to the discussion have thrown up their hands and said "right now, to each their own." However, regardless of your definition of art, the characterization in gaming has rarely ventured outside the safety of stereotypes.

You have the muscle-bound roid-rager who stars in many HD "dude bro" titles. You have the strong and strong-willed, attractive female who may or may not be very intelligent, but still has trouble keeping her clothes on (Lara Croft, Bayonetta, Rubi Malone, Madison Paige and several Final Fantasy characters). You have the physically weak yet strong-willed and attractive females who get captured a lot (too many to list, just pick a game). You have the scrawny male who is either a suave, capable pretty boy (see: just about any Japanese-influenced male character) or kind of a nerd (see: Otacon from Metal Gear, Gordon Freeman from Half-Life, etc). And then there is the steady stream of "mascot"-style characters that are designed to just be adorable and spunky and we love them for it (Mario, Sonic, Klonoa, Sackboy, Jak&Daxter, Zack&Wiki, etc).

This is because, in the gaming world, stereotypes are easy and stereotypes work. One thing about games that remains unique, is that they do not target niche audiences in the capacity other mediums can afford to. Yes, films, TV shows and radio programming still want as big a slice of pie as they can cut. However, those mediums have been mainstream long enough to establish a system in which niche, specialized, content can still be viable (indie films, low-budget action/comedy/romantic fluff, cable TV shows, local radio programming, etc.)

I believe this luxury is also due to a matter of choice. In film, there are only a dozen or so movies out at a time. In TV, there are only a certain number of channels that the majority of households receive (though this is changing and is taking TV out of this equation due to silly Neilsen rating practices that belong in an entirely different discussion) and radio may only have a few dozen commercial stations in a market. Thus, you can afford to have the broad-appeal content, and the specialized content (especially when they are all owned by the same entity).

However, in games, developers and publishers have not branched out enough to make "niche" titles a frequent option. Yes, there are exceptions (yay, XSEED!) but they face a struggle to stay in business and many of them, unfortunately, cannot.


All this adds up to a simple fact: atypical characterization is very rare in gaming and when it appears, it is met with heavy scrutiny. And despite a facade of demanding edgy, mature, anti-establishment content, it usually only boils down to more violence and more sex. When subjects related to emotions, race, ethnicity and sexuality are approached seriously? They are quickly labeled offensive and are considered a threat to gaming.

This is not an incorrect assumption. Gaming has a long history of dealing with accusations of extreme violence and sexualization. We've weathered those storms and will continue to do so. But emotions? Pfft, emotions only come in three flavors: angry, sad and really angry. Race? Shoot Europeans in Europe and it's no biggie. Shoot Africans in Africa and I'll see you in court. Ethnicity? If you have anything identifiable you better be saving the day or in a Grand Theft Auto game... which isn't usually being serious. Sexuality? ... did I mention GTA?

So it is in gamers best interests to not be hassled by these complications. Especially if 95% of gamers couldn't care less about the underlying character development, but would rather just enjoy fulfilling the game's mechanical requirements (shoot this, collect that).

And such is the problem for Other M. The new definition of Samus as a character is a female who is physically strong but fluctuates between emotional strength (defiance, independence) and vulnerability (yearning for acceptance and acting subservient). Before playing the game I had a hard time believing that the subject matter really could be so controversial. After playing it a little, I still don't find it offensive, but I think I understand why some people can be offended by it...

As illustrated, this new rendition of Samus does not fit the previously dominant stereotypes. Even "weak" females like Princess Peach wouldn't be caught dead showing emotional dependence or self-doubt.

But it is not just the existence of Samus' new personality that has people so turned-off by the game. IT'S THE FACT THAT THE GAME DOESN'T GO 30 SECONDS WITHOUT REMINDING YOU OF IT.

To me? That's it. That's the problem. If you don't like the new take on Samus? Sorry, she's a human. Humans are imperfect and have emotions. However, does the game need to remind the audience of that every second??

So hey, I understand why people aren't pleased about the characterization in the new Metroid. But I gotta say: it's far from sexist (even if Samus weren't acting under orders, there are like five MEN who operate under the same restrictions!!!!!!!) and it's still absolutely an enjoyable game. See...

Here's why people love it:

2A) It still "feels" like Metroid.
As I said, it doesn't play like Metroid. But the aesthetic, the atmosphere, the design, yea... it's Metroid. Had the Prime series debuted a few months ago? People would have vilified it for the same reasons. Think about it.

2B) It is cinematic, and it's awesome!
Yea, I'm one of those 5% that cares more about story than any fakakta "cover system" or weapons load-out or jump physics or any of that peripheral, forest-for-the-trees bullsh*t. Yea, I said it. .... of course, your tastes are your own. Enjoy your games!

But for me, I really feel like the attention to story and presentation makes this Metroid game feel like a love-letter to the long-time fans! (me! us?) It feels like "hey, you know that awesome game you've been playing? well here's the depth we've been ignoring. enjoy!" To use an analogy for that same sentiment, it's like "hey, you know that pie crust you've been eating? well here's some cherry-filling! eat up!"

2C) The characters are deeply vulnerable and imperfect.

Personally, I don't give two shyguys about whether or not games are considered art. I've been making music and drawing for over 20 years and I can tell you having something called "art" means less than nothing.

However, if you truly want games to enjoy the expressive freedom of any other media, you have to be prepared and accepting of portrayals that aren't always shiny and happy.

This brings up a few counter-arguments that I will address...

#1 - "But they should have left Samus (Mario/Link/Cloud/etc) alone! Let her remain idealic!"
I can see this argument. If I really felt they were "ruining" Samus I'd be ticked off too. But I guess I just don't equate "having feelings" with being "ruined." To me, it just adds depth. But Warren Spector recently wrestled with this very subject in regards to Mickey. He wanted to make a "darker" Mickey game but faced the challenge of possibly making Mickey "dark." I think we all remember the idea of "Scrapper Mickey" that was ultimately.... scrapped... because the team felt it portrayed Mickey too negatively. I agree with that. But that illustrates the difference between objectively negative characteristics and mere vulnerability.

#2 - "So what? Happy/shiny content can't be meaningful!?"
If you know me, you know that I have no reason to justify something like this with a response. Suffice to say: yes, it can.

#3 - "So what? There should be no limits on content? Just do whatever can be done!?"
No. Not at all. Many of you will probably disagree with me (and contradict yourself if you don't appreciate Other M's take on Samus) but I am "pro censorship" in the sense that I don't think people need to see content whose only purpose is shock value. I don't think a show, movie or game deserves protection just because it's showing a way to horrifyingly murder someone that audiences have not witnessed before. I don't think a work of fiction is automatically Oscar-worthy just because it depicts human suffering to an extreme we haven't seen before.

If the work has something meaningful to contribute beyond the shock? The by all means, let's see it. But, no, I'm not advocating a free-for-all on content.


As I said, I've only played a few hours of Other M and here I am writing this veritable dissertation on the subject. And I know gamers like to say that if you haven't completed 110% of the game then you shouldn't even have formed complete thoughts about it.

But hey, this site isn't going anywhere. So if the rest of the game changes my mind, I promise I'll have nothing better to do than write about it here!

Otherwise, it just saddens me that my experience with what seems to be a truly ambitious, fresh and exciting game (aren't those what gamers always b*tch about not having?!) is being severely dampened by the needless controversy that circled this game so violently I can't keep it out of my mind while playing.

There are certain gamers (many in the gaming media) that just ruin the party for the rest of us. It's such a shame that gaming culture continues to only appear capable of (or interested in?) burning bridges, instead of building new ones.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Site Chat. Now!

^ topic