Inspiration and Video Games

So I'm going to warn all of you right now, I'm writing this immediately after experiencing this, so my emotions may still be biasing how I write this.

All this month in college I'm taking a "J-term" class for the theatre department that's all about taking a book and adapting it to a play. I've done theatre all my life and I've really been enjoying the class. However today as it's the last day of the week, we had a special guest come to our class, a play-write. Now he's not the most famous in the world but he's published a few things and is an alumni of my college. He started by answering a bunch of our questions about how he got into a theatre and his process, etc. As he talked I really liked the guy and agreed with him on just about everything he was saying.

That is until he started to talk about inspiration. He was telling us about how he gets inspiration and what some of the best ways we can get inspired are. He ends this by going on a short unexpected rant. He says "And guys, make sure you put down the video games and all that nonsense, it only distracts you from the creative process." He ends it by making the joke "I mean come on, it's not like anybody ever got inspired by Halo 4". To this, some people laughed, others looked angry, and the rest indifferent.

I just sat there thinking to myself "You're wrong", "you are so wrong". I wanted to interrupt him and tell him the list of games that have inspired me throughout my short lifetime, all sorts of games and stories I'm sure he never bothered to listen about because they were "dumb games". I realize that this ignorance to games has been around for a long time now, and the argument of "are games art?" is long played out. But still I was sitting there seething, and yet I said nothing. I just let him continue on thinking something that I knew was wrong.

In my mind interactive media is will be the most important medium in the coming years. The idea of interacting with something instead of just having it play out in front of you creates a whole different kind of experience. I would have assumed that as someone in the theatre he would have understood this. In theatre you are always interacting with the piece, which allows the actors and the designers and the directors to become a very piece of the art. In my mind it is the same with games, and this creates all new avenue for inspiration. What would inspire a child learning about Egyptian history more: Reading about it as a piece of history, or being able to virtually pretend they are a part of that society, playing a peasant worker, merchant, slave master, all the way up to the Pharaoh himself. I certainly know which one I would pick. There are already so many innovative new ways people are using interactive media, surely even adults must be recognizing the importance.

And yet I sit here still angry. Why? What am I angry about? Is it that there are still hundreds of thousands of ignorant people who think that this medium is still nothing but a child's toy? Or is that even though I could list off ten games right now that prove this man wrong, I remain silent out of some social pressure or fear? I honestly do not know. What I do know is that this is not the first time something like this has happened to me. I don't know, I'm just... angry.

I suppose if anyone is has read all this and wants to make me feel any better, leave a comment saying a game that you think is inspirational and how it inspired you. I'm so tired of this. I just want to move past this.

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Becoming a Let's player

Let me start by saying this blog is not meant to be a guide for people to follow to become a let's player, I mereley wanted to share my first few experiences.

A little more then a week ago, I made the decision. I was going to be a let's player for PC games. I had watched countless let's plays before and decided that I wanted to make one of my own. With my love of both video games and acting, I thought that this would be great fun to do. For those of you that don't know, a let's play is sort of similar to the endurance run's here at GB except generally it is done with one player. They play a game and make (usually humorous) comments along the way.

Well my journey began with trying to find the right equipment to use. A great place to go to for information on this sort of this is Voltron Army, a website essentially dedicated to let's plays. From there I learned I would need a recording device, a mic, and an encoding/editing device. For the recording device, I played around for a long time trying to find something good I could use that was free. The free ones were by no means bad, simply each had something I didn't like about them. They may have left a watermark on the videos, or not allow for audio. In the end I wound up buying the standard, FRAPS, as it was the best choice overall. Next I headed over to best buy and found a pretty nice headset and mic that is a little simialr to an Xbox live mic, but of much higher quality. Finally for Encoding I decided to buy the AVS video converter as again it was far superior to anything that was free. In the end, the total cost ended up being something along the lines of $100. Putting out quality video isn't cheap.

Next I needed a format to post my videos so I created a new username on youtube called JTtheletsplayer. Creative I know. With this ready to go I decided to test out everything and made a 12 minuite video from Oblivion in which I just messed around with this Argonian. It was great fun to produce. Afterwords I posted this on youtube and then on the Voltron Army Forums so that it could get a little traffic. This video can be found here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1GnCgGqD37w&feature=channel_video_title

Immediatley after this I began my first true let's play. I wanted to do a game I knew I would enjoy, so I chose Dragon Age Origins. I cranked out a couple videos of that first and pretty quickly got three subscribers who all gave good feedback. My mic was a little to loud in the first six videos. After that though I was able to correct the mistake and the volume is much better. They also told me it would be a good idea to put the video into widescreen form so the screen could be larger. All these were great positive feedback.

And there's the thing. It feels so great every time someone posts a single comment. I'm not even sure why, maybe it's because I'm new. But everytime someone posts a comment on my videos, even if it's criticism, I smile. I now appreciate just how hard it is to be a new let's player, or youtuber in general.

I will continue to upload videos in this series as I'm already up to episode 10 and post about one or two videos a day. If you would like to join in on the series (which I would love) and provide any feedback you can, you can find me at http://www.youtube.com/user/JTtheletsplayer Thanks for reading :)

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My one BIG problem with Catherine


         So let me start this off by saying that I liked Catherine.  I would probably give it 4 stars if I was reviewing it, and would reccomend it to anyone who was interested in either the block puzzles or the crazy story.  However I do have a fairly large problem with the game.  No, its not the puzzles (which I actually found myself enjoying more and more as the game went on).  No, its not the story, which while not Atlus's best is still interesting and has plenty of crazy twists.  Instead my problem is with the two main female characters, Katherine and Catherine.  Let me explain  
 
         Basically as I'm sure most who are reading this already know, Catherine's a story about the main character Vincents infidelity and affair with a strange girl named Catherine.  As the story plays out over the course of the week, you will basically fall into 3 parts of every day.  The first part will be the cutscenes where the story mostly unravels (and basically the only time you ever get to see the two girls, more on that later) the second part is where vincent is at the bar talking to his friends and the side characters and replying to texts.  The third and final part is the nightmare section where you will do the block puzzles and answer (sometimes) tough moral questions.  Now as the story goes on you have to start making a choice where you either be chaotic about life and have an affair with Catherine or be lawful about life and stay with your girlfriend Katherine.  But herein lies my problem.  I've played the game twice now (once the good lovers, and second the true affair ending), neither time did I once care about either of the characters Katherine or Catherine.  Why?  Because they are almost NEVER developed as characters! 
 
        The only time you ever see Katherine or Catherine is durring the initial cutscenes, except for a couple of times you can see Catherine after everyone else goes home.  And even then the only real conversation that takes place is Catherine flirting and Vincent being akward.  Anyways so durring these cutscenes every day you never once have a real conversation with either of them.  All of the cutscenes with Catherine mostly consist of her waking up next to Vincent and kind of flirting with him, and vincent saying that he doesn't remember anything and that he shouldn't have done this.  Katherine who's been your girlfriend for five years, only has scenes in which she is asking if something is wrong with vince, or trying to pressure him into marriage.  So basically both serve to further Vincents personal delema, which is good, but never develop them as characters.  Essentially the two of them are plot points, used to move the story along. 
 
       Let me use a different game made by atlus as an example of when the did this right, a game I'm sure most of GB is familiar with.  Persona 4.  Now in this game you can "date" any of the four female characters.  As you social link with them, their own personal story develops and you begin to care for them.  Would you have ever cared about Chie if you didn't know she loves steak and can kick a tank?  And Rise is a fairly good character to relate to Catherine.  Both are flirty and attractive, but thats the full description for Catherine.  Rise is later developed into a character dealing with stardom and begins to have multiple personality issues, which makes her interesting.  These are characters develped over time, which makes you care about them. 
 
      And the thing is, is that its not like they didn't have character development in the game.  Vincent depending on how you play him can really develop as a charcter and can become a totally different person from what he started.  Vincents friends are all developed with there varying personalities and own personal problems.  Even the sheep you repeatedly meet in your dreams become characters that have there own issues, and you soon care about them!  I mean I thought Erica was a more intersting girl then either of the two female leads!  I wish there was ending where you could have an affair with her!  If steps had been taken to have REAL conversations with either of the girls, then the game as a whole could have been 10 times better in my opinion. 
 
      Let me reiterate that I LIKED Catherine.  It was my most anticipated game of the summer, and is probably still gonna be my favorite.  I just feel like... this was a little rushed so they didn't  have time to put in as much as they should.  But what are your thoughts and feelings on this?
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Too much combat


       This is my first blog so I appologize if its a little shaky however this is something that I've been wanting to talk about for quite some time.  The next time you go to a gaming store, play a little game that I played recently.  Go left to right through the games and see how many games you can get in a row that have no combat in it.  My record is two.  Now don't get the wrong idea, I have no problem with combat in games.  In fact many times its the most enjoyable part of a game.  Some genere's fit it perfectly, a fighter like Mortal Combat or any one of the numerous FPS are based pretty much solely around combat.  This is not problem. 
         
        My problem is that there is so few games that don't have combat in it.  Now if you get rid of any party games and focus primarily on single player games, there's almost no games that exclude combat.  Even a platformer like Mario has enemies that you must find a way to either destroy or get around.  Now I understand why this is the case, after all the point of any story as that there must be a conflict and the easiest way in an interactive setting to do that is to have an enemy that you must in some way destroy.  In most RPG's you must first fight hundereds of animals and minions so that you can one day be strong enough to face your final foe.  Again I must reiterate that Its not that I don't want these games, its that I want more variety in HOW I can solve a problem. 
        
         Lets take a vauguely recent game: Fallout: New Vegas.  Now this is a game that continued in fallout tradition to make your character the way you wanted, and to pick your own strenghts and weaknesses.  You could put points into guns, melee, sneaking, medicine, speech, and more.  One of the coolest parts of this game for me was SPOILER ALERT IF YOU HAVEN'T PLAYED FALLOUT: NEW VEGAS when after I sided with the NCR I could (if I had high enough speech) essentially talk down the last boss of the game, ending in there surrender and you never having to fight him.  That was so cool to me, because it was so different.  The bad part of this game for me is that you can't ignore some form of combat training, because eventually you WILL have to fight to move the plot forward, and to me that takes out half the point of having that system in the first place.  I've never played the original deus ex but I believe in that game you can pretty much avoid combat the whole game if I choose to? (please correct me if I'm wrong) 
         
        So I guess what I'm trying to say here is that I want games to be able to apporach situations in ways other then just combat.  And don't get me wrong I know some games already do so, it's just that after years upon years of beating enemies with a swoard and a gun, I wish for more unique ways to solve conflicts.
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