A Demon In Our Midst

Dlc, if you have dabbled in gaming at all during this generation you know what this is. This is the 40-80 dollars you spend after your initial purchase of a video game. We may hate ourselves for it, but we get excited when it’s announced, froth at the mouth and ready our wallets for it’s beautiful release. A forbidden pleasure.
What is dlc really? In some cases, I’m sure it is probably exactly what they tell us it is, added content to expand our enjoyment of the original game. I don’t believe for a second, though, that this is always the case. In most cases, especially in day one dlc, or dlc released within the first week, It is just a way for game producers to milk us a tad more for a game we just bought. I can’t blame them completely, I know as well as anyone that video games are a business as well as a pastime, but I feel like there should be a limit or a basic set of rules to how they can do this.
I remember the old days, before consoles were connected to the internet. Games back then were complete the day you bought them, they didn’t need dlc. When you bought a game it was either a deep and compelling game that was worthy of your investment, or it was a horrible waste of your time, and you used it for target practice. There was no dlc, you got what you payed for, and you knew what you were buying yourself into. Games back then it seemed like were just made better than the games of today.
Nowadays, I feel like games are released incomplete on purpose. Sure, you can complete the story, save the damsel in distress, whatever. The games, though, don’t always feel complete without the dlc. Honestly, I’d rather just pay an extra amount on my initial purchase and feel like I bought a completed game. Dlc is an infection, and we the consumers (myself included) continue to buy into it. The worst kind of dlc isn’t even the expansion style dlc, which some is totally worth your money, It’s weapon skins and character outfits, this dlc is truly money-grubbing and just plain stupid.
I think the moral to my story here, is that we as gamers should evaluate the content we decide to pay extra money for. If it’s an expansion that you will blow through in 3 hours, don’t buy it, because that’s exactly what they want from us. The only exception to this, is if they offer you a bacon weapon skin, in that case you should buy it because bacon is amazing. Anyways happy nerding, hope to hear back from you guys!

My “Deserted Island” Games — Nintendo DS edition

Image by Flickr user m-s-y
Image by Flickr user m-s-y

I really can’t even begin to describe just how attached I was to my DS. Short of playing a borrowed Gameboy way back when, the DS was the first handheld gaming device I owned. And man, did I OWN it. That little white box went everywhere with me. It became the savior of public transportation, a willing companion on any journey, and my knight in shining plastic. I rented, bought, and sold back dozens of DS games over the course of several years. And for a couple of those years, I definitely favored its games over those on any console.  But though our connection was swift, our breakup was even faster. With a change in life and commuting, and less time to game generally, the DS went to a young and very excited family member. Will I be able to “borrow” the DS for my island? Will I be able to choose only five games? Read on…oh yes…read on.

Continue reading My “Deserted Island” Games — Nintendo DS edition

Community Post: Dogs, Tails, and Co-op

Image uploaded by Flickr User TheGameFanatics

Dogs.

We use them in metaphors, often negatively. Granted, there’s the whole “man’s best friend” business, but otherwise we’re wading through piles of thoughts like “sick as a dog” or “puppy love.” They aren’t necessarily the most flattering of comparisons. Among this stack of idioms is the well-known “like a dog chasing its tail.” When we say this, its most often to imply that the subject is acting in such a way that yields no fruit. They are acting pointlessly, spinning in circles. This is, in almost all circles, a bad thing to say to a person. It’s insulting.

Bad News: Cooperative gaming — in board, card, and video forms — is a lot like a dog chasing its tail.

Good News: I think dogs are brilliant.

At the heart of most games is some form of competition. Whether it be against the difficulty of a game or against another player with a similar set of objects, games need something to “beat.” Even if the game doesn’t end, there has to be something we’re working against to achieve our desired ends (points, kills, apples, whatever). This is often another human being. In League of Legends, The Olympics, online shooters, most sports, and trick-taking card games, the opponents are other humans. They see you as an opponent, actually. This seems to me the most pure form of competition; skill against skill.

The problem with this sort of competition is that someone has to lose. Now, losing is not a bad thing. Losing hurts. That pain can — and often does — propel us into success, and it very well should. Life is, after all, filled with failures and responses to those failures. However, losing hurts even more when you get to see your opponent, that person standing on the other side of the field, glowing with pride and satisfaction upon their recent victory. Or, if you’re playing any online game, mocking / shaming you with the intensity of a really sweaty guy asking you “for a glass of water, or some gatorade, or something.” Not the spirit, but the intensity.

This mockery sucks. I hate it. I hate it when I’m tempted to do it, and I hate it even more when I’m subjected to it. Losing is bad enough; losing to sore winners is one of the worst things that happens to me on a daily basis. But I love the shared experience of gaming. I love losing with a team, or winning with a team, or going through anything as a team. So I kept playing online. I kept being ok with the mediocre, less than dream-like state of competitive gaming.

But then, I started discovering video and board games that had cooperative mechanics. I was thrilled. Finally, we had figured out a way to eliminate most of the potential for Loss Shame.

See, cooperative games are like tail-chasing, because we invent opponents. Humanity, in its flawed but eager ambition, found a way to simulate strategy. Those simulations then act as our opponents. It’s amazing. When we win, we feel great, and nobody feels bad. When we lose, we can curse at the game as much as we please, and nobody feels bad. There are the occasional situations in which a teammate can feel as though they let down their compatriots, but other than those, cooperative gaming is one of the best ways to have a shared experience while still being able to feel the thrills of victory. Basically, if you take away the real opponents, you greatly diminish the chances that somebody’s feelings are going to get hurt.

Co-op gaming isn’t the end-all be-all, and competitive PvP is still absolutely a legitimate thing. But the ability to avoid pain while maximizing pleasure — the ability to chase my tail — is why co-op gaming has such a special place in my gaming ideology and my heart.

Gimme More – The Urge To Collect More Games

Screenshot by Flickr User: seamonkeyelephantseal
Screenshot by Flickr User: seamonkeyelephantseal

When I added video games to my many geeky hobbies, I never realized how easy it is to watch your game collection go from one or two games to ten or twenty games piled high in a corner.

My gamer friends have told me there are maybe just a handful of games they completed in full, while the rest are left partially started or not started at all. Despite knowing this, they all can’t resist the urge to buy more games as the newest, hottest titles continue to come out every year.

Collecting games, like you collect baseball cards or a stamp collection, was a foreign concept to me. In my opinion, it made more sense to finish a game you already owned first before buying a new one, or waiting for a price drop so the game is cheaper to purchase. I naively thought how silly it was to keep buying more and more games until you couldn’t keep up. I eventually caught on that the urge to collect more games is a lot stronger than one might think.

Why is that? Why do gamers want to have more games in their possession than they can actually play in a day? A week? Or even a month? What I discovered from my friends and from my own experience is if a game has been reviewed highly and looks cool after watching the game trailers, we will buy it.

We are easily swayed by awesome graphics, a fun or different gameplay system, and the story. It may also be the latest, hottest title everyone is currently playing. You want to be among the cool kids playing what everyone else is currently playing. You want to trade stories of how this boss fight was epic or discuss what that shocking ending meant. It could also be a way of avoiding spoilers faster if you get the game the day of its release.

Personally, I don’t buy too many games the day it’s released. I’m a bargain shopper by nature and I really don’t see the point of throwing down $40 or $50 on a single game, even if it’s one of the best games to come out in a month or year. I also have to really want a game that badly to get it on the first day or week of it coming out (I’m looking at you Dragon Age 3). I’m content with waiting until the price drops a bit or when there’s a sale. Once I do see the game I’ve been dying to get for a while go on sale, there’s no holding me back from buying it straightaway.

This also brings me to another reason why we seem to accumulate so many games––price drops and sales are our best and worse friend in the world. During holiday shopping seasons, I’ve seen a good number of the newly released games go on sale at decent prices from the regular. It calls out to me like a Siren’s song. Before I know it, I’m whipping out my credit card and hitting purchase before I even have a chance to figure out what just happened. It’s also comforting to know a game is in my possession, waiting for me to play it when I’m ready.

I also think we can’t help but collect more games because we want the available option of playing it when we want to. This has happened to me recently when I was trying to figure out what to play, but didn’t feel like playing the current game I’m trying to finish. “You know, I don’t feel like playing anymore Fire Emblem Awakening right now. What should I play instead? Oh, let me start playing Telltale’s The Walking Dead. I haven’t tried it yet and I’m in a story driven game kind of mood.”

If I didn’t have The Walking Dead among my piles of games, and I wanted to play it, there isn’t much I can really do about it other than to choose a game I have already beaten but has a high replay value, like Mass Effect, to satiate my urge for a story based game.

There’s this desire to want to play everything when realistically we can only play so much. For some of us, we have summer vacations from school where you can have a marathon gaming session and reduce your building backlog. For the rest of us who are working adults and have responsibilities in the real world, our time isn’t what it used to be. We’re lucky if we can carve an hour or two of our time to play a level here and there. Backlogs for us is just a reminder that we may never get around to playing everything, despite our best intentions to try.

I think I’m okay with knowing this. As one good friend said to me recently, to comment on his monster size backlog, “When I die, maybe I’ll just have my consoles and games buried with me. I can play them in the afterlife.” Not a bad idea.

A Question of Value

Steam_Sale

 

I don’t trust digital downloads when it comes to buying games. It’s not the convenience or anything like that, but rather this idea that I’ve never been able to shake, or rather a question: “If you don’t have a physical copy: a disk, cartridge, or whatever else you could put a game on, can you really call it yours?” It’s never felt right, especially now after Microsoft’s attempt to redefine games as a paid service rather than a product one buys and owns.
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Is a Game Bad Just Because It’s Different?

I have been hearing rather often over the years a lot of people saying that a game is terrible because it is different from other games in its respective series, such as the belief that “Final Fantasy XIII” and “The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask” are bad games because they stray from the expected.  I am here to challenge that.

In some ways, I understand this notion.  When we grow to love a series, it can be disappointing when a game comes along that is different.  I love the “Rayman” series, particularly the gameplay of the second and third main installments, but now they’ve decided to make the next few games side-scrolling like the original.  This does upset me quite a bit, as I loved “Rayman 2” and “3” (while at the same time tolerating the exceeding silliness of the latter), and I want more like them.  At the same time, the side-scrolling “Rayman Origins” from a couple years ago was a really fantastic game, and I’m sure the upcoming “Legends” will be, as well, but at the risk of being very corny, my heart yearns for another “Rayman 2”.  It yearns, people.  I don’t like these recent changes, even if they are not bad, because I like what I have grown accustomed to.  At the same time, in no way can I say “Origins” was a bad game, despite its differences from my favorite version of “Rayman” gameplay.  It saddens me in some ways, while also providing me with a whole new way to have good, old “Rayman” joy. Continue reading Is a Game Bad Just Because It’s Different?

My “Deserted Island” Games – Gamecube edition

Image by Flickr user Beto sound!
Image by Flickr user Beto sound!

I had a poignant relationship with our Gamecube. We had some absolutely wonderful times together, filled with sailing, slaying, and sleuthing. But it also rendered one of my biggest gaming disappointments in the form of Super Mario Sunshine.  (I tried, I really did, but it turned out to be one of the few Mario titles that just didn’t resonate with me. And that made me very sad. However, spoilers, I try to rectify things as you’ll see below.) I had very few titles for the system, which made making choices both easy and hard. Some were shoe-ins, while other required a good bit of mental debate.  Among some of our stored electronics, our Gamecube still sits. Waiting for its chance at resurrection! (Or, morbidly so, the death of the Wii.)

Continue reading My “Deserted Island” Games – Gamecube edition