The 'Shroom:Issue LXVII/Critic Corner
Been a wee bit busy lately. You can read all about it in both my sections this month, which proves how badass I am; I still got them done despite all that work I had to do! …even if one of them was a few days late! After I finish writing this, I'm going back to practicing guitar before heading off to work, but I guess I'm obligated to give some news; MrConcreteDonkey (talk) has shifted to a bi-monthly schedule to accommodate his busier school schedules, which is also the reason he couldn't get anything in this month. Everyone else not shown here are just irresponsible, it seems!
Raven Effect (talk) suggested to me a new section about reviewing old Virtual Console games, so I figured why not! It's as solid idea as any, after all. And what do you know, Raven is writing it! Congratulations to him!
YoshiMonsta (talk) applied for Entertainment Section, and I decided to give him a go like a good little Aussie. So welcome our two new writers, certainly made up for the emptiness that this issue of Critic Corner was heading towards!
Critic Corner Section of the Month
I'm so disillusioned! Only two votes for moi, and after putting my heart and soul into playing such a dreadful game and writing a full review of it while agonisingly sick! You people are so mean! But seriously, here are the results for September's Critic Corner section of the month.
Should Have Been – 33 votes (%75)
Non-Mario Game Reviews
Raven conquers Japan the old-fashioned way in Nobunaga's Ambition.
I'm doing 147 Newcomer Characters that could be in Super Smash Bros by JustSmash22
This video has many good ideas and frankly many that could never possibly come true, such as the paper & bit characters. The person, if he plays as much Nintendo games as he acts like he does, would know that mostly all of his ideas have no hope of becoming a reality, not only had the new owner of Nintendo stated that very little new characters would be added, but he included many characters that are minor, and who's body frame and structure would never work, along with adding characters that would be extremely redundant such as Toon Zelda and Toon Ganondorf. He also talked about characters that would be not so hard to do but even more copies of characters, such as the Paper and Bit guys who would just be awkward, and unnecessary. It would also be redundant to add even more Kirby characters, and all of which, other than Bandana Dee, would be extremely awkward with the gameplay that are already there. He was not wrong with some of the Sonic characters but most of them were off, perhaps they should include characters like Shadow, Knuckles, and Tails. No characters like Silver that are less main. The returners from Melee are not a bad idea, but it is unlikely that they would include them after excluding them in Brawl. The Donkey Kong characters would definitely not fallow up, maybe Dixie and Funky but any more would seem as if they are putting in everything that comes to mind. The Earthbound characters are a spot where he made a score and put in the possibility of Porky. Porky would have similar physics to Ness and Lucas except using technology as he appears to in the series. Waluigi is an unlikely addition, and though people would want it, I feel he needs to be in a series game first. Most others were minor characters or just assist trophies.
Virtual Console Reviews
The Virtual Console is perhaps the Wii’s best feature, because for the first time (outside of emulators), gamers can purchase their favorite old-school (or retro) games en mass and play them on the same console as modern games. For many, this function is used to buy Nintendo classics such as Ocarina of Time, Super Mario Bros. 3, and Star Fox 64, as well as other recognizable games like Sonic the Hedgehog, Chrono Trigger, and Mega Man. While this is fine, since all of those games are indeed considered classic titles (although I personally didn’t like Sonic the Hedgehog and I’ve never played Mega Man), the tragedy is that many other good games are ignored and go unplayed as they struggle to compete for the attention of the potential buyer against other better known games such as Super Metroid and Super Mario World. They are also ignored because many gamers know that it’s a gamble to download titles that they aren’t familiar with as a large portion (maybe even a majority) of Virtual Console games are bad and were only thrown onto the Virtual Console so the company can make money. Examples of these games include China Warrior and Donkey Kong Jr. Math. Gamers are hesitant to buy unfamiliar titles because unlike a regular game there is no way to get any of your money back when buying a downloadable game. That is where I come in, for I’m going to review some of these under-appreciated games that got lost in the mix of the Virtual console.
The first game I’m going to look at is the real-time strategy game/historical simulator/thing game Nobunaga’s Ambition for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, developed by Koei and released in 1993. The game takes place in Feudal Japan and centers around Oda Nobunaga and his dream of unifying Japan (ironically enough, the guy who actually did unite Japan, his successor Toyotomi Hideyoshi, does not appear in this game.) The game itself is made up of four modes. The first mode, Battle of the East, contains only 16 areas - or Fiefs, as the game calls them. The 2nd mode, Daimyo Power Struggle, contains all 50 Fiefs, which are all independent at the start. The 3rd mode, Ambition Untamed, is a lot like Daimyo Power Struggle but with a few places having been conquered. Finally, the 4th mode, Road Towards Unification, is once again a lot like the 2nd mode, only Oda Nobunaga now controls about ¼ of the map. Each mode plays the same with the only real difference being how many Fiefs you need to conquer. The game has 5 difficulty settings, with 1 being the lowest and 5 being the highest (obviously.) The game also supports up to 8 players who pass the controller around when it’s another person’s turn (whose turn it is is randomly generated, and the more Fiefs you control the more turns you get.) Having more than one player is a blast because you can play the game one of two ways. You can either play to help each other by being in an alliance and not attacking your friend, or you can play where you are both competing against each other to see who can unify Japan first.
Now that we have all that stuff covered we can move onto the game itself, right? Well not exactly. First you have to pick a mode and then pick which Fief you want to control. Each Fief is different in layout, with some being completely barren other than the town and the castle, and some having lots of trees and mountains. Each Fief also has a Daimyo, and believe it or not, the Daimyo you chose actually effects the game, because, you see, some Daimyo’s are older than others. This plays a tremendous role because it is possible to die of old age in this game. Also, some Fiefs start off with more troops then others (Oda Nobunaga’s Fief has the most) and have different loyalty ratings among the troops and civilians. This is where the game becomes a little cheap, for you see it is actually possible to have a rebellion before you even get to do anything, depending on the Fief you choose. For example, the Fief Noto is very hard to play as because you almost always get a rebellion before you get your first turn. After you pick the Fief you want, have to pick the Daimyo’s stats, which you choose via a random number generator. The stats are:
Health: This is pretty self-explanatory. The higher health you have, the longer you will live, and the lower the chances are that you will get sick (being sick prevents you from moving your Daimyo to a different Fief and prevents you from declaring war effectively).
Drive: This affects how successful your invasions are, and I believe the higher the drive stat is the easier it is to train your troops.
Luck: This mainly affects how successful your offers to marry your daughter to other people are. (It also might help with Ninja attacks.)
Charisma: Helps make your efforts to marry your daughter off more successful.
Intelligence: Helps with the effectiveness of wars you declare, goes up if you win and down if you lose.
I personally don’t like the generator because it’s hard to get good stats, since the numbers move so fast, and it seems like every good run is ruined by a stat in the 60’s. And with all that done you can finally start the game now the first thing you might notice is how many options there are and let me be the first to say that this game is deep and complicated. Each option acts a folder and contains other options for you to do these folders are The Military contains all of the combat options these are: War: This option is what you chose if you wanna declare on a neighboring Fief. Move: This option allows you to move troops between Fiefs but is limited as you can only move troops to Fiefs that are right next to them (you can also move the Daimyo but only if he isn’t sick) Recruit: This allows you to buy more soldiers (the longer the game goes the more expensive soldiers are) Ninja: This consists of 5 options Uprise which encourages soldiers to rebel, Revolt which encourages citizens to rebel, Destroy which lowers the flood control rate in a Fief, Attack which sends a ninja to kill the Daimyo of another Fief, and finally Fire which sends Ninjas to lower the town rate of another Fief. Ninjas work based off troop and civilian loyalty and will fail if the opposing Daimyo has loyal subjects. Train: This makes your soldiers stronger and is effects by how loyal they are (also training can max out and the number that it maxes out at is different with each Fief) And finally arrange: this option allows you to change the distribution of your soldiers between units.
The Next folder is Domestic this folder contains things that involve your Fief and contains the following options.
Tax: The higher the tax is the more money you draw in each year (tax is affected by two things Loyalty and Town rate the higher these two things are the more money you make)
Send: This allows you to send money and rice to any Fief that you control.
Develop: This is made up of 3 options
Town: The higher the town rate the more tax money you earn.
Flood: This helps prevents Typhoons which appear at random and destroy your rice fields.
Produce: This increases the amount of rice you earn produce each year (it also lowers your civilian’s loyalty for some reason)
Trade: This is a seasonal option and is divided into 3 different sets of options
Getting a Loan/repaying a loan: This allows you to get more money (the loan is payed automatically at the end of the year)
Buy/Sell Rice The more rice you have the soldiers you can send to war without the fear of them dying of starvation. You can also make a lot of money by selling rice you don’t need.
Arms: This allows you to have a stronger military with better weapons.
And finally Give: This allows you to give gold or rice to peasants or soldiers increasing their loyalty (and in the case of peasants the amount of peasants you have)
The next folder is labeled Diplomacy this one contains all things pertaining to other countries (that aren’t war)
Pact: Basically this gives you the option of trying to get a country to not attack you by paying them.
Marry: This option allows you to try and sell your daughter.
Bribe: This option bribes civilians of other countries.
The other major folder contains the different viewing options and gives you the choice to view territories you control and territories you don’t.
The next major aspect of this game is the combat system and even this is fairy deep for you see your army is made up of 5 units.
Infantry: These are the weakest type of soldiers and they make up units 1 (which also contains your Daimyo/general), 4, and 5.
Cavalry (or as me and my friend call them Ponies): The Ponies are two times stronger than the Infantry and make up unit 2.
Rifle Men: These are the strongest soldiers being 4 times stronger than the infantry, they make up unit 3
The Combat system works like this you invade an area and place your soldiers inside the dark parts of the grid. Which was you invade from will determine where you can put your men.
There are 4 ways to win/lose a war:
Run out of men
Run out of rice (the enemy receives all your troops if this happens)
Run out of time (battles only last 30 days and the enemy gets all your troops if this happens)
Retreat (I don’t recommend this option since it gives the enemy all of your troops)
It is important to note that this game requires strategy anyone who wants a game where they can just rush in to battle after battle needs to look elsewhere because this game requires lots and lots of patience and you can go hours without doing so much as conquering another Fief.
The games Sound is kind of annoying it’s basically a few brief songs played over and over again (depending on what you are doing) and while I rather like the music at the start (I often times find myself whistling it) the rest of the music isn’t very notable and gets annoying after a while)
The Graphics are ok I guess I’m not really one to judge something based off it’s graphics but you can tell what everything is and the pictures at the beginning look really cool.
Now that I’ve described the game let me say this I absolutely love this game the sheer depth is amazing for a Super Nintendo game, this game is also a lot of fun to play and you’d be surprised by how addictive it is. However the game does has its fair share of flaws such as the fact that the music is repetitive and somewhat uninteresting and the game can get boring if you are playing by yourself, the game is also cheap in some places and some things it does won’t make any sense like having a military rebellion even though your troops loyalty is over 100 or having a high flood control level yet still getting hit with multiple typhoons. But in spite of those flaws I still strongly recommend this game and I give it an overall score of 9/10
Crocodile Style Reviews
Sleeping dogs is something that I so wish my new puppy would decide to be, since between my new job, arduous guitar lessons, and my time-consuming push back into higher education, playing with this little fuzzball for just thirty seconds feels like I'm in the fucking Running of the Bulls. Completely unrelated is the latest sandbox title from United Front Games labelled Sleeping Dogs, although I can't fathom why they'd call it that since that idiom doesn't adequately describe the game at all. Something like Rogue Fascist Cop Power Fantasy would've been more precise, but I guess that wouldn't have gone so well in marketing outside of Alabama.
So yeah, Sleeping Dogs is a crime sandbox game and technically the third instalment in the now forgotten True Crime series, which I'm not familiar with directly but I at least know it was the very core of the term “Grand Theft Auto clone.” But the catch here is that you play as an American-Chinese undercover cop named Wei Shen, who returns to Hong Kong to infiltrate his old gang before shit hits the fan and rival triads attempt to take all of the city for themselves, forcing Wei to keep up his façade of an unrelenting murderous thug to get to get to the bottom of this war whilst remembering his job as an unrelenting murderous cop as well.
This ties in to the RPG elements of the game with an experience bar for cop points and one for gang points, although it's not really about good and evil seeing as the police force really could not seem to give a toss. If you stick to rival gang members then the cops will conveniently turn their eyes back to their donut boxes, and I can't even vouch for their concern over civilians either. I've never been to Hong Kong, but I'm sure even their tenuous ethics would find a man who paints the streets red with the blood of his rivals to be a little off the deep end, although I guess we can chock that all up to the British influence. An exploration of Wei's inner conflict about his loyalties and allegiances could've been an interesting venture had the game not vomited up the concept on the carpet in favour of breaking people's legs for sport with no consequence.
Not that your choice has any bearing on anything, you can play both teams for chumps and neither will be particularly bothered by it, but since there's no story-related bias you can get all the power-ups from both factions which is nice. I've never liked how developers use dual morality as an excuse to lock off a good chunk of the power-ups, or whip obsessive-compulsives into playing through the story a few more times solely to see all the endings, but it does beg the question why they would even bother having a dual faction system at all. You don't even lose cop points for being a naughty boy, you just get less than the usual score no matter how much property you destroy or civilians you knee in the stomach, but that's our glorious Commonwealth justice for you.
But that's not really the juicy core, is it? The sandbox is what people are coming into this bar for, but if you were expecting to experiment with your cocktails you'll be sorely disappointed. I understand that sandbox is now just a thing that we've all come to accept as a new format of gameplay, but Sleeping Dogs at its best of times feels like a rip-off of Grand Theft Auto where everyone drives on the correct left side of the road (suck it, Sepos!). You take on a series of repetitive car-based missions around an annoyingly large, open city, driving at high speeds until you violently crash because motor vehicles always control like a cheetah in ice skates, although the ability to leap out of your current vehicle to hijack a nearby one at speeds likely to cause Jimi Hendrix's wrists to snap is genuinely invigorating. Or alternatively you can run around on foot with the game's very fluid free-running mechanic to sprint-karate kick square in the face anyone who looks at you funny, and a whole lot of people who don't as well.
Something that becomes apparent fairly quickly is the low emphasis on shooting people, with guns apparently being hard to find in the peaceful wonderland of the Orient, except for all those rival gangs whom seem to have no shortage of firearms. I guess they buy their weapons over eBay, or this being China, probably something like dBay. Which is just as well since it's all cover-based shooting anyway, made even more frustrating by a reticule too transparent for even the enlightened ones to see, although that could just be my low-resolution television. Oh and there's also bullet time, which wouldn't be so bad if Wei could activate it at times other than leaping over cover, and even then it only lasts for what always feels like a nanosecond so you may as well just paint a huge flashing target on your jacket for all the good it does.
Instead of shooting, the majority of the combat is built on mixed martial arts in a system very distinctively similar to that of Batman: Arkham Asylum, and being like Batman is always a positive step-up. Quite a lot of effort has been put into this aspect of the game, actually, and it's hard to ruin that feeling of pleasure when you successfully combo an enemy into the ground, counter one of his mates, steal their cleaver, hack out a few litres of triad blood, and then finish it all off with a heavy roundhouse kick to the skull, and there are enough unlockable skills to keep things interesting and varied. If you get bored you can grab one of them and push them into a buzzsaw or a pool of eels a la MadWorld, so the combat is overall well-rounded and consistently fun to indulge in.
But I still had difficulties getting engaged in the game because it's just too bloody easy; the cops are a joke, acquiring new skills are always a quick sidequest away, and the missions are too simple and repetitive to really pose any sort of challenge. Even the fist-fighting gauntlets and dull shoot-outs (which become more prominent later in the game) are just a step above child's play, so I was starting to feel a bit disappointed whilst remembering earlier GTA games having missions that would make your eyeballs melt into fine yolk, and that's how we liked it! Are you trying to tell me that China is somehow less extreme than the West, United Front? I find that fucking hard to believe!
There's a sidequest thing where you have to hack cameras in drug trafficking hotspots so you can catch dealers in the act, which I thought would entail careful observation of each person's mannerisms but it's literally always the bloke in the suit every fucking time, and taking roughly ten seconds to decide causes the game to place a big shiny arrow over the culprit like even the Buddha are telling you to get a move on, making any deductive reasoning about as relevant as a piss in the wind. And It's OK if you want to throw in small minigame-esque gameplay mechanics here and there, United Front, but the first rule of detailing your game is to actually make them fun. Calibrating bugs is all well and good even if it resembles the hacking minigame in Arkham Asylum a little too much, but when I'm asked to first twirl the analog stick around just so I can unscrew the vents, then that just feels like my time is being wasted. And there is never a scenario in which karaoke is a necessary gameplay mechanic, in or out of the rhythm genre.
Perhaps I'm being too harsh, Sleeping Dogs never outright infuriated me the same way Darksiders II did, although that may be due to the lack of any real challenge. It's still a well-designed game that will likely give you your fair share of enjoyment, but of course it is, it's just Grand Theft Auto as directed by John Woo, and I found myself forgetting most of the stuff I did in the game immediately after turning the console off. Still, the combat is rock solid, so I guess a recommendation all boils down to whether you think Jackie Chan or Batman would win in a fist fight. Send me your answer in PMs and let's solve this age-old nerd conundrum once and for all!
Hey guys, I'm back after being really sick last month. Although I've also been really busy this month, what with my new job and endeavours to get back into higher education. Finally getting my life sorted out and organised, which hopefully means I can do these more often, and so with that I wanted to expand on my Immersion discussion from two months ago by elaborating on what I loved so much about Spec Ops: The Line, a game that has become probably the first huge triple-A game to be so deeply engaging without being fun, which to me is a huge, exciting sign of maturation in the medium.
As I said in my review, Spec Ops: The Line will likely be the single best game of this year, and easily one of the best ever made. It was a release that wasn't afraid to make a meaningful statement about the modern state of gaming and Western society as a whole, and to actually stick to this statement in all aspects of the game no matter how uncomfortable it would be for the players. And that's exactly why it's such an amazing title. Now please note that this is going to be very spoiler-heavy unlike my review, necessary to elaborate on my point, so if you want to play the game for yourself without being spoiled, I would highly recommend doing that. In fact, stop reading now unless you're absolutely sure you're not going to pick up Spec Ops: The Line within the next few months; it is so much better played blind. OK, have you made your decision? Yes? Good, then let's get to it.
So I think we'll start out with first impressions, which Spec Ops: The Line uses to incredibly grand effect. Just looking at the boxart alone, it's very easy to mistake the game for another Call of Duty or Battlefield clone that glorifies American military conquest, a line we've seen spewed far too many times in recent memory. Many of the early levels even reflect this, as the first couple of areas have you shooting Arabs for no discernible reason than “they shot first!”, but that's exactly what the developers wanted you to think. To give you this aura of comfort and familiarity with false impressions of careless shooty action to lure you into the experience nice and steadily, all the while slowly but certainly pulling that comforting comfort from under our feet without us even noticing it immediately, only gradually picking up that something isn't right.
As I said in my review, Spec Ops isn't supposed to be about making you the hero. The primary goal of so many developers – especially the ones making military shooters – is to make the player feel like they're a powerful defender of justice, overcoming impossible odds for the greater good no matter what the unintended negative implications of that might be. But Spec Ops deigns to employ the same “one man army” theme of a lot of military shooters to point out the sheer disconnect so many modern military shooters have with the real thing, to point out just how silly they've become. It analyses the disconnect between the mindless shooty action of many military shooters with all of the moral dilemmas, consequences, and suffering caused by actual warfare, and employs the same style whilst calling attention to it in order to make the player feel uncomfortable with what they're doing, to make them feel wrong for playing the game and trivialising the lives of everyone they're killing. The majority of the enemy soldiers in the game are even American, to make the primary intended audience of military shooters feel really disturbed for killing those that their society and all forms of entertainment media glorify as defenders of the country and justice, putting the player into a position that… well, that I'm sure many Russian and Arab gamers must feel about other military shooters!
I'm sure plenty of gamers went through Spec Ops trying to justify their actions to themselves with the loose rational “but… but this is a game! I'm supposed to be shooting people… right? No, it's… it's the games fault; the game is the one forcing me to do all this! Yeah, that's right; it's not my fault!” What make this so poetic is that this is more or less the exact same excuse the main “protagonist” Martin Walker has for everything he's doing, as he keeps loosely justifying all the atrocities he's committed as just being his duty as a soldier, instead blaming all the travesties on Joseph Konrad, the man running Dubai under martial law.
But while the game does slowly reveal that this is not the game most people were walking into, the first time the player is likely to feel this inner conflict to such a soul-crushing degree is in the first “shocking” moment. Unlike the once-off “shocking” moments in other military shooters, Spec Ops just keeps piling them on to such a great effect by directly engaging you in them. The first time something like this happens is when you come across an entire army waiting for your arrival, but notice a conveniently located white phosphorous (which is a highly controversial weapon, mind) mortar nearby and proceed to use it to thin the enemy numbers, who will all be represented as mere white dots on the computer screen. This segment of gameplay resembles the helicopter missions in several Call of Duty games, which is exactly what the game wants you to think; it eases you into it so you have the mindset of “Oh, I know this little mini-game! This should be fun, let's burn some soldiers!” You'll notice an entire encampment not too far off full of white dots, assuming that's where the majority of their troops are hiding away, so you proceed to blow it up.
However, after walking through the ghastly wreckage that you have just created, still breathing soldiers begging for mercy from you, you soon discover the encampment you just destroyed was full of innocent Arab civilians that the soldiers were sheltering. It's not the scene itself that carries so much weight, nor that you were the one who directly caused it, but that your thought pattern during the siege was that it was fun, thrilling, exciting, and then to realise the atrocity you just committed, thinking back to how you thought of it at the time… that's what makes you feel distressed. That's what makes you feel doubtful about yourself, start to loathe yourself and the twisted, desensitised enjoyment you get from shooters; it is that reversal of mindsets, that exploration of our mental state, that allows the game to excel as a legendary experience without even being fun. It's really quite a profound critical statement against the state of the shooter market lately.
The game itself not being fun also speaks a thousand words about the feelings of the characters. When the three protagonists start out fresh like you, they think it's going to be a simple in-and-out operation without any major complications. The player, alongside the characters, probably doesn't think much about the experience at first. But as things start to go wrong, as a deeper militaristic and political mess unfolds and you find yourself knee-deep in it, the characters gradually grow more and more tired and frustrated with their mission, becoming more distrusting and argumentative amongst each other right up until the aforementioned “shocking” moment wherein they just become completely jaded and spiteful of the operation, everyone in the city, and even each other. They too are certainly not enjoying themselves the same way the player isn't, but they keep ploughing ahead because it's their job as soldiers! That's what they do! …almost the same way that the player keeps pushing ahead because it's their job as the player! It's exactly like how the characters in Apocalypse Now grow increasingly more detestable and inhuman, creating a strong disconnect between the viewers and the supposed roles these “heroes” are meant to play, only Spec Ops has the player live out those inhuman actions and grow ever more disconnected with themselves.
The game essentially invites you to either keep going to become the hero you so desperately want to be, or to just turn the game off to save yourself the emotional gamble. I said in my review that the ending is one of the greatest I've ever seen in any entertainment media, and if you're fine with being MASSIVELY SPOILED, then read on… with his crewmates dead, and now left to confront Konrad by himself, Walker realises that Konrad has been dead for months, and that he construed this image of him as the true villain to alleviate himself of the guilty of everything he had done. We realise many of the events in the game weren't actually happening the way Walker imagined them, that we weren't really being put on the spot to make tough choices that only a hardened military hero could; as Walker's hallucination of Konrad even says, “You're here because you wanted to feel like something you're not; a hero.” Then to top it all off, the ending makes its final emotional impact by having Walker – you – given the decision to shoot himself, to shoot Konrad, or to just not shoot at all… and the very fact that you actually have to think about it speaks wonders of your own internal conflict and self-questioning, your own insecurities over everything you've done in this game. After about ten seconds of waiting, I personally wound up shooting Walker, since I had grown to hate him – and thus, myself – so much that I felt it was best for him to leave this world the monster he was. That is how games can be so emotionally investing and deep.
The type of involvement and game design philosophy Spec Ops: The Line presents is very interesting, a style that I think has largely been ignored for the past 30+ years. Games that aren't fun – possibly not in even the slightest way – but are instead incredibly engaging through its exploration of concepts, mental or physical states, even more mundane, every day concerns. Spec Ops: The Line doesn't entertain the player, it drags them into its exploration of post-traumatic stress disorder, militaristic consequences, grey-area struggles, Western interference in overseas affairs, and especially the feeling of unease the player feels as they choose to proceed through the game and sell more of their soul in the name of being a “hero”. It's truly something emotionally gripping, something that leads the player to contemplate how they view games and their own involvement in how the events are played out, in the same way a movie like Shawshank Redemption or Schindler's List are emotionally engaging to the viewers but probably not so fun, except this has the interactive element which is what truly makes Spec Ops shine.
What video games can accomplish that other mediums can't is directly engaging its audience, getting them involved in the story, its own unique exploration of themes, and all the elements that have gone into making the game immersive and engaging, allowing the player to directly feel like their fate and mental or emotional state are tied to the experience. And that most certainly does include fun games, no doubt; a world where every game is a deep, meaningful arthouse title without any sense of humour or enthralling gameplay would be even worse than the reverse! But engagement shouldn't just include fun games; titles like BioShock, Mass Effect, or Assassin's Creed are discussed just as much for their philosophical and historical themes and observations as for their fun gameplay, which is already a show that other themes outside the limiting purview of what counts as “fun” in the medium play a big part in how much the player enjoys or feels engaged by a game.
Why couldn't such a philosophy be applied to games focussed more on drama, romance, or even edutainment? On the opposite side of the spectrum, Journey is a game that manages to completely immerse and engage the player through the sheer beauty of its emotional experience, the attachments you build with other players across your adventure, whether you're the one being guided or the one doing the guiding; it was that feeling that your bonds with other players were something meaningful and important that gripped people in, not necessarily because the gameplay was tonnes of fun. No More Heroes is also a good example of dull gameplay being employed to make a statement about player desensitisation and bloodlust, and in fact basically all of Suda51's early line-up are held in high regard more for their quirkiness and sense of humour than their admittedly muddy gameplay.
I think the term “game” carries with it a lot of limiting expectations, since we tend to associate that word with recreational enjoyment or fun and nothing else, rather than what the medium really should be considered; interactive art. And there has never once been an artistic medium that only ever explored one facet of the human condition or only one emotional response, so why should games be restricted by our own perceptions that every game must be fun, at all times, no matter what? Games have the potential to be more than just recreation; we can make this medium something that can truly be viewed as art in the broadest possible way. I'd love to see more games try to explore less common themes and methods of immersion, and really branch out the medium's artistic reach. And just because those new types of engaging games will exist, won't stop the games that are fun and immersive by our current conventional standards from being made.
Well, I hope I didn't come off as incoherent again. I hope you enjoyed this section as much as I enjoyed writing it, and if you agree with me, great! If you don't, then I don't mind hearing your own take on the matter, so long as we're civil about it. And if there's a topic you want me to discuss in a later issue, or even just a question you want to ask me, just contact me and let me know, I'm always willing to listen. Thanks again for reading, and I'll see you next month.
HI, readers! I'm your groovy Statistics Manager, Tucayo, and welcome yet another guest Book Review! Remember, this section is open, so if you want to sign up, just contact good ol' Crocodile Dippy (talk).
This is my third review. For my first one, I reviewed a German collection of short stories; for my second one, I told you about a Chilean book that told part of the history of said country. So, naturally, the next step is to review a science-fiction book by a Texan obsessed with 80's pop-culture and video games (could it be Smasher (talk)? Maybe, but we'll never know for sure). This book is none other than Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. Books about dystopian (the opposite of "utopian") futures have been the latest sensation, especially with the huge success the Hunger Games series had, and this book is also part of that wave, being set in 2044 in a world in ruins and with very scarce resources. But luckily for the inhabitants of our beloved Planet Earth, two talented video game producers developed an MMO (Massive Multiplayer Online game) called the OASIS, to which everyone with a few bucks to spare can go to. But this is not your 2012-ish MMO, this is the real deal.
Author's Note: There are no major spoilers in this section, I just talk about the first chapter or so
Thanks to highly advanced and costly technology (yeah, why spend the world's resources on food when you can spend them on video games?), players actually get in the game and get to work, earn money, go to school, make relationships, play, hunt, chat and whatnot. So basically, this is the Utopia to their Dystopia, the place where everyone can escape to under a different name and an avatar and no one knows your real identity (just like our internet!). But one not-so-good day, James Halladay, the mastermind behind the OASIS, died. The guy was a multi-billionare, so the obvious question was who would get all his money, his luxurious house in Oregon, his possessions, his virtual castle, his wife, et cetera. James Halladay, being the weird person he was, decided to host a MASSIVE Easter Egg Hunt all over the OASIS, and whoever managed to find the Easter Egg he hid would be the rightful heir of all his possessions and would get superuser access to the OASIS. But, naturally, it was not supposed to be an easy task. Those who were to search for the Easter Egg had to complete various quests all over the OASIS (which is ginormous). It was so hard that almost everyone gave up quickly. Almost everyone, except for some guys; among them Oklahoma-native Wade Watts (AKA Perzival), who happens to be the main character of the story.
If you want to know more about the plot, you'll have to read the book, you lazy fella. Naturally, the book is packed with pop culture references. Music, video games, movies, anime, books, you name it. And that is very entertaining to read, especially when you actually know what they're talking about. But even if you don't get most of the references, it's highly probable you'll like it, since the topic of a virtual reality is so common nowadays. You're reading this article in said reality, as a matter of fact, and since that's the case, I assume it's a safe bet to say you would like the book. It is fast paced, witty, easy to read and certainly keeps you interested in what will come next. Warner Bros. bought the rights to the book's film, so we'll probably be seeing it in a couple of years.
As an additional detail, the author, Ernest Cline, released himself an Easter Egg Hunt much like the one seen in the film. The quest consisted of setting records and getting certain achievements in classic video games. The lucky winner of the contest got a DeLorean! Not bad, huh?
So you heard me (read me, whatever), if you like internet, video games and 80's pop culture, you have to give this book a read, I promise you won't regret it.