Videogames Suck: Everything Is Unoriginal

So i've been meaning to vent about this for a while, since lately i've been having this constant niggling doubt in my mind about this industry as a whole. I'm going to be talking a bit about what i've been up to that's lead me to my conclusions, then i'm going to be talking about certain aspects of gaming culture, if that's alright with you guys. Oh, and before you worry, no this blog post isn't me being really cynical about the games industry. I'm actually really positive about it! I'm actually being really cynical about cynicism in the games industry. The title is sort of irony on my part, or it's view-bating. Up to you to work out which! This might run a little long and go off-topic, it's been a long time since i've done a blog, so sorry about that.

I played The Last of Us! Anyone else play it? It's a smaller independant project, you've probably never heard of it. Man, that difficulty curving, huh? I get that the first major clicker encounter is supposed to shock your system to get you prepared for what a threat they are, but god lord did that frustrate and bore the heck out of me. It's a sad thing too, because it was a rare mis-step on what I thought was by far the most well-paced gameplay experience i've had this year. There was this real constant push-and-pull between fast-paced action (ya know, the kind that game critics call out as generic filler) and slow-paced character development (ya know, the kind that game critics call out as "trying to be a movie"), with a control scheme that really reflected what I was doing and the character I was controlling. Joel skidded about, was knocked around, smashed things frantically with a hammer; between the inputs and the way the game carried them out, you really got this sense that Joel is a real human being who gets winded and has rushes of adrenaline and so on. It's a stark contrast to Bioshock Infinite which, though I really enjoyed, was absolutely horrible as far as putting you in the shoes of Booker DeWitt. War vet be damned, that man holds insane steampunk guns like a master marksman, and despite being a 1920s dude in his fourties he has an easy time acrobatically diving around and leaping on technofantasy rail lines. You could very much argue that "it's a videogame, it's not trying to be realistic" and to an extent I agree, but at the same time you're partially going against your own point by saying that; it IS a videogame, so why does this game with a heavy focus on character development and narrative make no attempt to link the character of Booker to the way that he plays? Being the protagonist and the playable character, doesn't it seem like an ample opportunity to put you in the man's shoes? Anyway, i'm gettting way off-topic, my point is that The Last of Us uses and subverts its gameplay philosophies to really give you a sense of place and character. It keeps you constantly feeling like a grizzled old dude in a post-apocalyptic world, between the way inventory management works, to gunplay, and even just basic traversal. Summation: it uses its medium to add something significant to the experience.

It also has basic controls like a third-person shooter, and has very traditional stealth mechanics. And oh, the gaming community did cry. Do you remember when I made a weird 'hipster' joke at the start of the last paragraph? I was actually alluding to the thing that's been bugging me a lot lately, specifically in reference to games like The Last of Us. To put it simply, gameplay that "follows a lead" is slowly becoming the new naughty step for games (there's three links in there for the record; one an article, one a comment thread, one a video). Did you notice a trend in all of those things I linked? They all jump to complaining about The Last of Us using a style that other games have done before. It seems like nowadays, in odd conjuction with the stigma of the hipster subculture, many game critics and gamers in general seem to be confusing "traits recognisable as inspired by other media" and "traits that are boring and generic and uninteresting". I'm not going to sit here and tell you you're wrong if you dislike The Last of Us. There's plenty of games I dislike that a lot of people loves (Look I just couldn't get into Braid, okay?). But then you have statements like this;

"So instead of a game like Catherine, that uses a seemingly arbitrary puzzle game mechanic to metaphorically represent the character’s relationships, growth, and change, we have another game like Bioshock Infinite that wants to be about Serious Themes but fails because the designers can’t think of something better for you to do other than to rifle through drawers and shoot motherfuckers in the face."

This is a fundamentally facetious argument. You know what The Thing is? One more gruesome horror movie among many. You know what The Godfather is? One more gangster movie to chuck on the pile. You know what 1984 is? Political commentary, because that was so rare at the time of its writing. I'm pointing out these examples because they use generic tropes; styles that support the kind of point they're trying to make, inspiration gained from prior material. Does The Last of Us have cover-based shooting? Yes. Does The Last of Us do cover-based shooting in exactly the same way as most third-person shooters? No. As I already noted, Joel does not control like some spry young man, he feels like somebody desperate and worn-down. So too do the various raiders that you encounter; they investigate the area when you disappear from view for too long. They flank when they know exactly where you are. Some will retreat in fear while others will run headfirst into danger. This gameplay is used to build the world; it's a violent place, populated by real people who are constantly struggling. Boil it down to "shooting motherfuckers in the face" all you want, a great meal is simply different ingredients properly put together and cooked. And, though it's obviously not a totally fair comparison, a great meal is not criticised for using the same seasoning as another great meal. But that's the equivalent of what a lot of people want to talk like, nowadays; remember the complaints prior to the release of Fez? The ones in which, despite nobody playing the game proper, it was called out by many as being a "bland retro 2D platformer". Many people will now call that game one of the best of the year, while if you venture down to 4chan's /v/ you're find a resounding phrase of "pretentious, generic garbage". Why? Probably because it's easy to look at it in on face value and see aspects of games you've seen many times before. And with the growing popularity of "controversial" reviewers like TotalBiscuit, Errant Signal and.. ugh... Jim Sterling, it seems like more and more the value is being put on being outrageously cynical about your first impressions of a product. Here's TotalBiscuit ranting about what he thinks of Journey while running in the opposite direction and having not played past the first area. Here i'll pause and reflect on the fact that i'm now bitching about cynical game industry critics, while writing a long-winded blog in which I am super cynical about the game industry. I think I already pointed that out earlier, but I need to keep reminding myself so I don't hate the core of my being.

I don't hate game criticism, I think it's totally necessary if we want this industry to mature. What i've spelled out here, that has been bothering me so much for so long, is the need to complain about and boil down gameplay mechanics and systems, with arguments like "This is like this, that makes it bad". The Last of Us is a game about survival in a post-apocalyptic world. Do you think you'd need to sneak around and occasionally confront people in a post-apocalyptic world? Most likely. Would it have been neat if The Last of Us used its gameplay to approach those actions in a wholly unique way? Oh, for sure! But why does that matter so much? Why do games now have to catch flack for NOT doing something totally crazy mechanically? Why can they not just refine and subvert aspects of the medium that haven't been explored in that way? Watchmen is praised as one of the greatest comic-books of all time for doing just that. Some of the greatest music ever composed was a riff on previous work. The old adage "Everything is a remix" comes to mind, and it's something I wish the gaming community could start to understand. If we really want to start looking at the medium in a critical way, maybe we should be asking Why a game chooses to go in a certain direction; does it fit the narrative or how you're supposed to feel as a player, or is it intentionally going against that? The How is important, after all the main conceit of a game is that it is played, but maybe we should stop trying to damn games on the grounds of face-value traditional values. Or we can do whatever, i'm not trying to force anyone to do anything, I just hope i've added something to the discussion.

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The past month of my life, and a special treat for this site! (This thread isn't about me dying)

Jesus christ, I must have been really into cola when I was 15.

Hey there folks, i'm Jack Saint. You might remember me as the upside-down picture of Matthew Perry you sometimes scroll past when you're browsing the forums. A picture, i'll clarify, I only chose because it happened to be one of the only pictures i've ever uploaded to this site... it was relevant to a blog post I wrote like three years ago about getting some cola or something? I was a 15-year-old chubby nerd, as if that wouldn't be the thing i'd want to talk about. Also I needed a change since my profile picture before this was Alyx Vance's cleavage, which was I think an ironic statement. My memory of myself is hazy, but I guess that means i'm not self-obsessed (or at least, no more self-obsessed than anyone who would write a blog-post about themselves).

Anyway, enough with that regrettable start; the point. GiantBomb has for years now been a weirdly important part of my life; the GOTY Podcast is one of the things I most look forward to during Christmas-time, my thursday and friday nights always end with a GB Stream, and pretty much every one of my bus-rides has the soundtrack of the Bombcast. I know that sounds super-sappy, but all those little details in my life that are taken up by GiantBomb really do start to add up when I think about it. The site might not matter a ton to my life, but it definitely matters. My earlier allusion to the fact that I was writing blog posts on the site at age 15 (3 years ago) should punctuate that i'm fairly attached.

So to put a bullet in a long story, I want to pay the guys back somewhat, and not just the guys but the community that supported the guys. For all the arguments i've had over the years with members of the GB community, on the whole you all seem very cool. So for that reason, the titular "last month of my life" becomes relevant, because a large part of it was spent making a present for you guys:

BOMBCAST ANIMATED, MOTHERFUCKERS.

My hope is to make not one but several of these bad boys, not only as practice for my own animating skills but also to show my support for the site and the community that has really affected the minutae of my life. I've just finished my last frame of Animated #1 last night, and rendering begins today. If all goes as planned, in the next couple of days you'll have a fresh serving of Bombination goodness.

And don't worry, i'll have good company while I wait to render.

I'm by no means a perfect animator, and by no means a perfect guy, but i'm hoping nowadays I can provide more for you all than talking mess about soft drinks on my blog.

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An animation in response to the Sony event

Hey guys, for the last few weeks i've been putting some practice into animating, and just today finished my second animation, this one being about the mixed response to the Sony event last week. Hopefully some of you will get a kick out of it!

There's even a little cameo for Jeff, Vinny, Ryan and Patrick! (sorry Brad! next time) See if you can spot them. I'm thinking of doing some Bombcast animations soon, but i'll see what I can do.

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Hey guys, I make a webcomic called Boob Bird!

Hey duders, I figure now is as good a time as any time mention i've been running a pretty-much-daily webcomic, and put it out there to see if any of you are down with it. It's fairly hit-and-miss but i'm mostly using it as practice for more serious stuff later on, and i'd rather make a few good and a few bad comics than none at all. It's sort of a mix of surreal and parody comedy, though I do a few gaming-related jokes too. Here's one about X-Com, and one that's just silly;

anyway, feel free to check it out over here: http://boobbird.tumblr.com/

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Festabouts 2011

 

 

 
So if you pay any attention to my little half-blog here, you'll know I have a website over at www.wearethelayabouts.com , where we make Games, Comics, Videos, Art and other wonderful monstrocities. Well, once a year we're hosting an event called Festabouts to celebrate our anniversaries, a Festival that basically means we upload a crapload of content every day for a whole week. That week draws near, and we've put up a promo to, well, promote Festabouts to anyone who might be interested. So why don't you take a look!
    
  

I'd also give huge props to anyone who wants to help promote our little site (which i'd very much like to one day be my career), it's been a bit of a mundane start-up year but we're hoping 2011 will be the year of true beginnings!
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I Have A Website!

Hey guys, so i've been working on this little guy with some friends of mine for a while now; a website dedicated to showing off the creative drippings of the six of us, some of which can even be considered decent! And I figure now, after months and months of sitework, I should show the finished product to you, probably my favourite gaming community. So without further ado, we welcome you to the comics, games videos, music, writings and everything else of The Layabouts.
 


 


http://www.wearethelayabouts.com/

 

PS. Would love to hear your thoughts on our newest games, ViViD and The Doodle Demo!

 
 
PPS. Of course don't mind any jank you see, like I said we just opened up the new site so there's some kinks to work out.
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Let's talk about Fiery Cola

So I went to the local Tescos

 
Tescos, in case you're not from the UK, is basically like our Best Buy. Thinking about it, it really isn't important which store i'm in in this story, so i'm going to stop talking about Tescos. So I was in Tescos the other day, shopping my usually shop of sandwich fillings and DVDs which I probably won't watch twice, when I trekked down into the Cola aisle. The cola aisle has always been something quite terrifying to me; I'm extremely paranoid about daily sugar intake and that kind of thing, yet I always find myself buying things that, according to the bottle, are 30% of my guideline daily amount per glass. Like Chandler in that one episode of Friends when he's addicted to 
Cappucino, I find myself enticed by the flavours of full-sugar cola.  

 
 Ironically, the actor Matthew Perry was addicted to various drugs during filming of Friends. Also I added glasses to the picture so he resembles me more because hey this is my story butt out Chandler jesus

But today was different. See, usually I shop on a Sunday because i'm not in school or recovering from school on Sundays, and from what i've deduced, this is the day before my local Tesco restocks it's items. Doesn't hurt me much because apparently the things I eat other people don't eat enough for it to be sold out at any point. However, I felt a little ill on Sunday so took a raincheck to do the shopping on Monday, which then happened to be when my illness reached it's peak. I decided to take the day off school, and in a dizzy haze I also decided to go shopping that very Monday morning! I don't know what came over me; i'm an incredibly lazy person you see, which you might be able to tell by the fact i'm writing this incredibly long-winded Blog which is also my first Blog and actually the original idea was that this was a Hello World post but I decided to be more original but yeah. So there I was, sick as a funny simile, doing some weekly shopping. Then I arrived at the Cola aisle. This is where the start of this post becomes the present like in Pulp Fiction (my favourite movie). The cola aisle was restocked today, and it was remarkable how many more drinks were being sold than usual. I wondered down the aisle, looking at all the exotic drinks an- I STOPPED. Amidst the relatively intriguing rare brands of cola, I saw something which in all my days I don't think I'll ever forget. There looking me in the eye as it bubbled away near the back of the aisle, was a truly terrifying concoction.
 
Fiery Cola.
 
 Imagine this except it has Fiery written above the Cola part. Also I drew an angry face on it because it's the villain of this story and I wanted to make that clear.
 
Some of you may be wondering, "LackingSaint ya big dunce, whatsa deal with Fiery Cola, eh?" Well, i'll tell you in a minute. So I bought the Fiery Cola, so filled with intrigue I even looked past the 40% guideline daily amount of sugar per glass sign written on it. And so as I got home, I popped open a glass of it. Sickness and paranoia would not stop me from knowing what lie inside this cheap bottle of secrets. I drank. 
 
So, wanna know what Fiery Cola does?

 It's so messed up even Chandler is flipping the fuck out.
 
It tastes like cheap cola, then, after words, it BURNS YOUR MOUTH. Like when you eat a pepper. THIS IS A COLA THAT BECOMES SPICY AS YOU DRINK IT.  To this day I am terrified of the long-term effects this terrible chemical mix may have on my body. Like, how does it even work? Does it activate the spice chemical when it touches saliva? I don't even know. And that's not even the worst part of it. Moreso the fact that I only found out about it BECAUSE TESCOS JUST RESTOCKED. MEANING THIS DRINK IS USUALLY SOLD OUT BY SUNDAY. WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH THE WORLD.
 
 
 
This has been LackingSaint, hoping you had a pleasant read.
 
(Also this is my first blog so please feel free to tell me how I did.)
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