Over the last couple of months the Nuchallenger podcast launched, where I tackle race and inevitably gender issues in video games and other pop-culture at large. Check it out!
I started with #1 earlier this year and will finally be continuing with this whole favorite games of 2013 thing counting down to #10. Each post will be an exploration of the games I played in 2013 and why they were remarkable in my eyes. Most of them will have not been talked about on any end of year lists by the mainstream, but heavily influence my creation process. Also be prepared to dive into some history leading up to my enjoyment of each game as well as I do not believe at looking at games in a void.
Spoiler Warning: The following post will contain some spoilers for Metal Gear Solid 2/4/Rising. Perhaps others in the series as well.
Modern First Person Shooters have dulled our senses. Instead of relying on quick reflexes and situational awareness we shoot wildly until our eyes go bloody or a glass overlay cracks in our face before running to hide behind a crate or some sandbags while our health regenerates. Rinse and repeat. FPS games in their disfigured, bloated, overly exaggerated state are the new defacto action games for the masses, and that’s a fucking shame.
In the early part of the millenium things were very different. First person shooter design was going through growing pains, trying out different interfaces and experimenting with ways to present info to the player. Through this time we were given games like The Chronicles of Riddick, Timeshift, Halo and Call of Duty 2. There was a lot more space on the market in the action genre in terms of what would be made and what could be popular. Character Action games were born out of the need to revive the floundering action brawler genre and would see games like Devil May Cry, Ninja Gaiden and Castlevania Lament of Innocence. Stealth/action saw the biggest case for its existence, relatively early on, with the sequel to the biggest stealth game of all time, Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty.
Enter First Person Shooting
MGS2 was heavily advertised as a high intensity action game that also ratcheted up the stealth to the 10th degree. I’d say it wasn’t coincidental that it was the first entry in the traditionally third person Metal Gear series to implement first person shooting as a standard practice and that the game’s trailers would focus on the shootout potential this brought. Keeping with its stealth roots, though, the player was also given a tranquilizer gun to promote the use of the new feature while keeping the game in line with stealth.
I’m going to be doing this whole favorite games of the year thing in reverse, starting with my number one and counting down. Each post will be an exploration of the games I have played this year and why they are remarkable in my eyes. Most of them will not be talked about on any end of year lists by the mainstream, but heavily influence my creation process. Also be prepared to dive into some history leading up to my enjoyment of each game as well as I do not believe at looking at games in a void.
It’s 2013 and the beat ‘em up genre is on life support. There are a number of reasons why that it is, far too many for me to list here. A key problem with the genre is that at best it is usually misunderstood for what makes it great, both in people’s gap filled recollections of the games of old and overly simplistic comparisons between those games and others that bare basic resemblance. In many ways people don’t really know why they like the genre, they just know they liked it at one time and when some of them go out to create a new one, they fail on fundamental levels.
The independent games uprising of the last decade has seen a resurgence in interest in creating the brawler to some extent. At least a few games have come out and were lauded almost simply for being new brawlers that people could play with their friends on new consoles or PC. The two biggest titles, recognition wise, were Scott Pilgrim, a game that was positioned as being a lot like the legendary title River City Ransom, and Castle Crashers.
When we look at side scrolling brawlers for what makes them great at a deeper level, the classic River City Ransom holds up quite well while most newer releases, of which Castle Crashers & Scott Pilgrim are included, don’t, mostly because they seem to leave out things that made the genre great in the first place without infusing enough new ideas that actually add, and not detract, from the overall experience. That isn’t surprising to me though, as RCR was created by Technos, the team that pretty much set the standards for the beat ‘em up genre (but also made Combatribes so…). Continue reading
It has been close to two months since I saw Indie Game the Movie for my second time. I had previously seen the movie four months prior during the Game Developers Conference 2012 at a screening in the Moscone Center but I wanted to see it a second time before making any full judgment on it. This time it was on my home turf at the IFC Center in NYC. Now it’s been a hectic time since I saw it, what with E3 and whole lot of other things, but now I finally have some time to dedicate to writing my thoughts on it.
So what do I, Shawn Allen, a gaming aficionado who also really loves film think of Indie Game the Movie? Well when I first saw the movie I thought it was great. Well told, well shot, great music, meaningful and without any glaring flaws. I felt inspiration, happiness, relief, empathy and a whole lot of relatedness with the people featured in the film. I see a lot of these sentiments mirrored by so many people online as well, which is good, for the most part, I guess.
After my initial reaction had time to simmer and the wow of just simply being at my first GDC wore off (days after returning from it, even) my initial feelings began to change and I started to think about the movie on a deeper level. Then after seeing the movie for a second time, this time with my wife, I was able to formulate a much more complex analysis of the movie and everything surrounding it. Continue reading
I feel strangely about E3 this year. I think it’s hard not to with the state of everything in the game industry as we know it. There is certainly not a lack of things to worry about.
The industry is in a massive state of flux. A lot of the old guard is being usurped by a large amount of new trends. Big boxed retail is hurting, bad. We’ve got two new handhelds on the market, and neither is really lighting the world on fire, not as much as the other mobile devices that seem like blood diamond mines. It’s all so unsettling to me and many others, all stalwart supporters of the status quo. The only things saving my sanity are that my tastes have been gearing closer to that of the downloadable indie craze of late and finding at least one facebook game of note (damn you Marvel Avenger’s Alliance!). Both of those factors tell me that things can’t be all bad.
But then there are the less nebulous and more specific things going on, like the recent closure of 38 Studios because of terrible management (and supposedly the fact that over a million units is not good enough for a mid tier game). Or how about the facts and rumors surround Sega’s misfortunes, a company that has been working to bounce back for over a decade with a focus on western games and fostering Platinum games’ creativity? And then there’s THQ, which last year stood strong on a throne made of a thinly cobbled together array of tablets, fake breasts and games, now finding itself teetering on a cliff with a lance to its throat, and will be backed up off that cliff unless its next games are all successes.
I have hope though, along with a mixture of excitement and nervousness for this show. I hope this show feels more like the mob working on legitimizing its business within the growing constraints of society instead of sounding like a bunch of old men still clinging to knocking over cigarette trucks for their income while cops have their room bugged. In two days, we’ll all find out together.
This is a scrappy, thrown together list of my favorites of 2011. Through this list you can get a sense of what I tend to gravitate to or whatever, but it’s something I put together without a lot of the intense editing that goes into a “Deconstructing” piece… so bear with me if the language gets game blog level bad.
Ghost Trick (Nintendo DS, but now out for iOS as well): I was obsessed with this game in the very beginning of the year. Sure, there was the problem where some puzzles would get past the point where you could do anything and I would have to restart them, but that one small issue never really got on my nerves. Trial and error isn’t really that big of a deal in a game with as little overhead for restarting a puzzle, especially when that tanker stage in COD MW made me constantly keep back peddling every time I took the slightest wrong turn. That was really annoying in COD but in Ghost Trick it’s just a minor inconvenience.
The story was great, characters were awesome as per standard Phoenix Wright style (Takumi, director of PW series made this one) and the animation was in a league of its own. The puzzles, the other white meat of the game, were spectacular and inventive. Continue reading