Influence, and being under it.

Before you erupt into prepubescent giggles, this isn't another blog about Sweep getting drunk. If that's what you were looking for then I advise you to come back on Sunday. 
 

Videogames are, largely for myself, a solo endeavour.

 I will participate in internet shenanigans, but the general gist of the occasion is me sitting in my room by myself. Depressing as that may initially sound, I would assume that for a lot of the people here the case is extremely similar, if not identical. Exploratory videogame surgery is best performed alone, a secondary influence considered corruptive and distracting. How can you make completely honest moral decisions with the real-life equivalent of Vinny sitting next to you and urging you to shoot your team-mate in the head.

 
I have fond memories of playing through resident Evil 4 with my brother riding shotgun, offering advice and sharing my fear and enthusiasm for every nightmarish punk that popped up with a chainsaw. Super Smash Bro's remains one of the best Multiplayer experiences around, even with one controller. The game is broken up into lots of bite-size chunks that make tag-teaming especially effective - particularly the event matches. Rewarding the entire group with unlockable characters which could then be used in multiplayer matches was, I though, a nice touch. Super Monkey Ball was another game that generated hours of slow-paced competition as we passed a single controller back and forth while attempting to land our bizarre flying monkey-ball on a target in the middle of a seemingly endless ocean.

 
I have a decent collection of games. I own pretty much every game of the year contender for 2008 and a fair few from 2009 as well. So why, when pressed to produce a 360 game that could be shared by 3 others, did I come up short - resorting to 2 hours of Castle Crashers and empty 4 player Halo 3 local Slayer.

One of my many lamentations with the gaming world is how difficult it is to share your experiences with other people unless they too have played the game. The typically single-player stereotype has been intensified to a level where empathy with the protagonist can only be truly experienced from the direct perspective of the player. Anyone else in the room can safely be classified as indirect - and therefore less interested or enthusiastic. This is why the bored chump who you have been given the job of entertaining will often encourage you to break from the typical flow of the game. I find it especially trying when people try to instruct me to skip cut-scenes I haven’t seen before. My patience wanes, and I end up playing an alternative - less enjoyable but more socially acceptable - game.

A large chunk stems from social insecurity.

 Just as we don’t like to cry in a sad film, we don’t like to be seen getting too emotionally involved in a videogame. I played through Gears Of War 2 with Oni and, whilst this is not the most meaningful of games, there are moments of sobriety where I felt impulsively depressed. As a result of playing co-op I found myself dismissing these emotions so we could return to the entertaining run-and-gun/chainsaw action. It worked out fine - as I mentioned, Gears 2 isn't going to win any awards for screenplay. However playing something like Grand Theft Auto 4 in a similar manner would have destroyed the experience for me, and perhaps this is why there is no co-op in Grand Theft Auto 4.

 


A great example would be the Giantbomb Quick-Looks.

 Great as they may be, there is no depth to these quick-looks at all. The purpose of a Quick Look is to provide a shallow glance at the potential the game has and the mechanics it employs. For the purpose of a preview this works fine, but this is often not the way the game has been designed to be played. As games become increasingly narrative focussed and, more importantly, as developers gain greater insight as to how to direct the flow of gameplay in an emphatic or cinematic style, they do so at the proposed notion that this experience has been tailored, and will be assigned to, a single player.

 
Thus, we have the purpose of Giantbomb, of the internet. A place for people to congregate and share views and opinions on topics that are contextually unimportant to the rest of the people in their lives. My friends play computer games, sure, but they have no interest in discussing the sharp character design of Nico Bellic, or how the atmosphere in Portal has been manipulated expertly to heighten the tension and encourage progressive realisations as to the context in which you operate.

I miss being able to share the good times with my friends, but at the same time I don’t know if I would be prepared to sacrifice the advances made in game design in order to do so. For the time being it seems the only way to really enjoy these games is to be the only one in the driving seat.
 

Woah, this is my first real blog for a while now :D

Thanks For Reading
Love Sweep
20 Comments
21 Comments
Posted by Sweep

Before you erupt into prepubescent giggles, this isn't another blog about Sweep getting drunk. If that's what you were looking for then I advise you to come back on Sunday. 
 

Videogames are, largely for myself, a solo endeavour.

 I will participate in internet shenanigans, but the general gist of the occasion is me sitting in my room by myself. Depressing as that may initially sound, I would assume that for a lot of the people here the case is extremely similar, if not identical. Exploratory videogame surgery is best performed alone, a secondary influence considered corruptive and distracting. How can you make completely honest moral decisions with the real-life equivalent of Vinny sitting next to you and urging you to shoot your team-mate in the head.

 
I have fond memories of playing through resident Evil 4 with my brother riding shotgun, offering advice and sharing my fear and enthusiasm for every nightmarish punk that popped up with a chainsaw. Super Smash Bro's remains one of the best Multiplayer experiences around, even with one controller. The game is broken up into lots of bite-size chunks that make tag-teaming especially effective - particularly the event matches. Rewarding the entire group with unlockable characters which could then be used in multiplayer matches was, I though, a nice touch. Super Monkey Ball was another game that generated hours of slow-paced competition as we passed a single controller back and forth while attempting to land our bizarre flying monkey-ball on a target in the middle of a seemingly endless ocean.

 
I have a decent collection of games. I own pretty much every game of the year contender for 2008 and a fair few from 2009 as well. So why, when pressed to produce a 360 game that could be shared by 3 others, did I come up short - resorting to 2 hours of Castle Crashers and empty 4 player Halo 3 local Slayer.

One of my many lamentations with the gaming world is how difficult it is to share your experiences with other people unless they too have played the game. The typically single-player stereotype has been intensified to a level where empathy with the protagonist can only be truly experienced from the direct perspective of the player. Anyone else in the room can safely be classified as indirect - and therefore less interested or enthusiastic. This is why the bored chump who you have been given the job of entertaining will often encourage you to break from the typical flow of the game. I find it especially trying when people try to instruct me to skip cut-scenes I haven’t seen before. My patience wanes, and I end up playing an alternative - less enjoyable but more socially acceptable - game.

A large chunk stems from social insecurity.

 Just as we don’t like to cry in a sad film, we don’t like to be seen getting too emotionally involved in a videogame. I played through Gears Of War 2 with Oni and, whilst this is not the most meaningful of games, there are moments of sobriety where I felt impulsively depressed. As a result of playing co-op I found myself dismissing these emotions so we could return to the entertaining run-and-gun/chainsaw action. It worked out fine - as I mentioned, Gears 2 isn't going to win any awards for screenplay. However playing something like Grand Theft Auto 4 in a similar manner would have destroyed the experience for me, and perhaps this is why there is no co-op in Grand Theft Auto 4.

 


A great example would be the Giantbomb Quick-Looks.

 Great as they may be, there is no depth to these quick-looks at all. The purpose of a Quick Look is to provide a shallow glance at the potential the game has and the mechanics it employs. For the purpose of a preview this works fine, but this is often not the way the game has been designed to be played. As games become increasingly narrative focussed and, more importantly, as developers gain greater insight as to how to direct the flow of gameplay in an emphatic or cinematic style, they do so at the proposed notion that this experience has been tailored, and will be assigned to, a single player.

 
Thus, we have the purpose of Giantbomb, of the internet. A place for people to congregate and share views and opinions on topics that are contextually unimportant to the rest of the people in their lives. My friends play computer games, sure, but they have no interest in discussing the sharp character design of Nico Bellic, or how the atmosphere in Portal has been manipulated expertly to heighten the tension and encourage progressive realisations as to the context in which you operate.

I miss being able to share the good times with my friends, but at the same time I don’t know if I would be prepared to sacrifice the advances made in game design in order to do so. For the time being it seems the only way to really enjoy these games is to be the only one in the driving seat.
 

Woah, this is my first real blog for a while now :D

Thanks For Reading
Love Sweep
Moderator
Posted by Tylea002

Its true, that people that play games have some kind of barrier to emotional barrier for gaming (I do not, I cry at anything. I CRIED AT THE END OF REPUBLIC COMMANDO!), which is strange. Games are a medium for telling stories, and games should take advantage of this more. But when playing games with others now, we cannot share that emotional engagement. Left 4 Dead, people are supposed to be scared together, instead they end up pissing about. I played an all nighter of FEAR 2 once, it was shit scary. Then I did it again, a week later, but with my friend in the room, and it became funny. It was very similar to the quick looks, not how its "meant" to be played, but I probably had more fun rejecting the emotional engagement for some laughs. And I hope more games manage to get a balance between emotional engagement, and ability to be appreciated by multiple people at once. I don't mean co-op per-se, I mean a more open way, like sweep wants, to share gaming experiences with others without playing shitty competitive games.
 
THAT MADE NO SENSE. Meh, I can't be bothered to right properly. Haven't blogged since July. I should blog again...but....
 
Anyway, nice blog sweep, I do agree. Very muchly.

Posted by Breadfan

I agree Sweep.  Whenever I am playing a co-op with a friend of mine we usually just breeze through any cutscenes and just want to get back to the action, though sometimes I wish I could take in a game's story by myself, one example being Resident Evil 5.  My friend and I played through the entire game together and generally just had a good time shooting zombie dudes in the face, but I really would have prefered to experience the story of Resident Evil 5 alone.  Whenever I play co-op with a friend, and I can imagine this happens to everyone, you tend to goof off and not really enjoy the game for how it should be.

Posted by Sweep
@Tylea002 said:
"  Left 4 Dead, people are supposed to be scared together, instead they end up pissing about.  "
This pretty much summarises my entire blog.
Moderator
Posted by lemon360

Sweep: 51% awesome, 49% burger

Posted by Lies

If by: "For a while now" you mean "4 days", then yes, it has been a while since your last real blog.
 
You crazy blog-posting machine.

Posted by Video_Game_King

I think it has less to do with modern design choices and more to do with video games not being inherently designed for people to watch from the sidelines. That is all I have to say.

Posted by Sweep
@Video_Game_King said:
" less to do with modern design choices and more to do with video games not being inherently designed "
That's a bit of a paradox :/
Moderator
Edited by crunchUK

oh man i thought sweep was totally going to reveal his secret alcohol addiction 
 
ON TOPIC it's becuz deep down you subconciously want to be a macho manly man. and macho manly mean have no feelings. only farts. actually that would explain your attachment to the gears 2 story also

Posted by Claude

So, playing video games is kind of like masturbating.

Posted by Sweep
Sweep said:

 The typically single-player stereotype has been intensified to a level where empathy with the protagonist can only be truly experienced from the direct perspective of the player. Anyone else in the room can safely be classified as indirect - and therefore less interested or enthusiastic.

  @Claude said:

" So, playing video games is kind of like masturbating. "


 I guess so?
Moderator
Posted by MattBodega

Sweep, you say that video games don't allow for us to have emotional connections to games, but you miss a potent example of a video game a ton of people have connected to emotionally that they didn't play at all! On the internet! And on Giant Bomb no less!
The Quick-looks on Giant Bomb don't provide an adequate connection to a game, nor do they indicate if a game might suck you in, and affect you emotionally. But pity! Had you clicked the tab 5 spots to the right on the video bar, you would find a video game that many of us have become emotionally invested in: Persona 4!
Sure, we're not the ones playing the game, but I will be damned to call the Persona 4 cast of characters anything less that totally amazing. Though the actual delivery of their feelings can be overtly Japanese(the game spends a little too much time telling than showing, probably due to it's localization), the characters and situations in the game are just as interesting and heart wrenching as anything in Grand Theft Auto 4. And even though we're not playing the game, we enjoy watching Jeff and Vinny run through it, and we enjoy seeing the way they react to the situations. Persona 4 is probably still a great game when people play it by themselves, but it has flourished into an incredible experience on Giant Bomb, and I personally have a very strong connection to the game, even though I have never played it.

Posted by Video_Game_King
@Claude said:
" So, playing video games is kind of like masturbating. "
......No. Most video games use two hands :P.
Posted by Sweep
@MattBodega said:
"  Persona 4! Sure, we're not the ones playing the game, but I will be damned to call the Persona 4 cast of characters anything less that totally amazing. Though the actual delivery of their feelings can be overtly Japanese(the game spends a little too much time telling than showing, probably due to it's localization), the characters and situations in the game are just as interesting and heart wrenching as anything in Grand Theft Auto 4. And even though we're not playing the game, we enjoy watching Jeff and Vinny run through it, and we enjoy seeing the way they react to the situations. Persona 4 is probably still a great game when people play it by themselves, but it has flourished into an incredible experience on Giant Bomb, and I personally have a very strong connection to the game, even though I have never played it. "
Would you get the same enjoyment if Jeff and Vinny weren't talking mess all over it? I don't think this really counts, I get that you can become emotionally involved but it's not as pro-active as actually being there and having some kind of influence on the guy with the controller in his hands.
Moderator
Posted by MasterControl

way too emotional for me. It's just a game.  You can get involved but at the end of the day..it's a game.

Edited by End_Boss
@Video_Game_King said:

" @Claude said:

" So, playing video games is kind of like masturbating. "
......No. Most video games use two hands :P. "
So does masturbating. Know what I'm sayin', dawg? Huh? Get it? Y'know what... I'm...
 
Okay, whatever.
 
EDIT: This has been my meaningful contribution to your blog, Sweeps.
Posted by Video_Game_King
@End_Boss: 
 
Not that I know of. The only time I've seen such a thing was in porn films....or those new Whopper commercials :P.
Posted by Oni

I think Matt is purely talking about the story and characters, so yeah, without Jeff and Vinny that connection would still be there.
 
And yeah, the point is that often when you're playing with other people, the atmosphere a game tries to set up is marginalized or even trivialized. Left 4 Dead on the higher 2 difficulties is still pretty intense, but anything Normal or Easy just ends up in us pissing about. And I feel you on the Gears 2 moment, when Dom shot his wife (SPOILERS), it was actually pretty heavy. But it was undermined both by playing with another person AND the fact that Gears of War 2 makes that moment last like 5 minutes before it's back to bravado and bullshit.
 
But for story-driven or atmosphere-laden games, I absolutely prefer to play by myself. Though I can't help but imagining Arkham Asylum, co-operatively, with the other player being Nightwing. Hot damn that would be fucking sweet. BUY ARKHAM ASYLUM SWEEP DAMN YOU.

Posted by jakob187

Are games art?  What? 
 
That's basically what you are saying:  are games art?  Can we actually have some emotional connections with video games when the sole purpose of them is to shoot this and jump here and yadda yadda yadda? 
 
Look, I don't give a shit if a game gives me an emotional connection, but the few times that it does, I appreciate it.  Regardless, games are just that:  they are games.  Are we going to argue next that Chinese Checkers needs to have some form of emotion to it?  What about Pac-Man?  I understand that you are talking about modern games, but Hell...look at any of them that can HONESTLY be called a "game" anymore.  It's all interactive experiences.  The point of a game is to spend a bit of time with a challenge, something to work your brain, and then have that challenge be met by someone else.  In turn, multiplayer is popular because of our tried-and-true ways:  we want people to challenge us to excellence. 
 
Nice blog and all, but I think you are asking too much from a medium that doesn't need to deliver emotions.  It simply needs to keep people playing.

Posted by Sweep
@Oni: I'm getting a new PC in the next week and NVIDIA are giving away copies of Batman with every graphics card. I shall have it soon. Also Champions Online. You should blog about that btw, i'm interested in hearing about it.
 
@jakob187: When you play through a game by yourself you have to admit that the experience, the effect the game has on you, is intensified more so than it would be if there was another person in the room looking over your shoulder. I also appreciate that I can't summarise every game here, there will always be games with specific designs that contradict my point.
 
To keep me playing, a videogame needs to offer more than the opportunity to press the X button and generate scenes of violence or macho extremism. I appreciate there is room within the market to host shallow game design, which is just as entertaining in it's own way, but to suggest all games take this approach is, in 2009, a little naive.
Moderator
Posted by jakob187
@Sweep: I think you misinterpret what I'm saying.  You can look at a game like Shadow Complex, which is very much a GAME, and it still has some form of narrative to drive it along.  Regardless, the game fucking rocks.  Racing games are also capable of delivering an excellent experience without having to focus hard on story. 
 
I look at today, 09/09/09...the anniversary of the Dreamcast...and I say "man, the Dreamcast was the last system with GAMES".  It seriously was.  I can't even say that the Wii has GAMES in many cases.  They have mini-games, but seriously...try to compare that stuff to all the throwbacks we've had on the page today.  Chu Chu Rocket = game.  Jet Grind Radio = game.  Crazy Taxi = game.  Now, do any of those games suck?  HELL NO!  Great games.  They didn't need a story to be awesome and entertaining.  Does that same thing work today in 2009? 
 
Well, look at 'Splosion Man...or Small Arms...or Team Fortress 2...or Burnout Paradise.  I'm not saying anything bad about games where the story is the big deal.  However, I consider them less of being "games" and more of being an "interactive experience".  It is something that is set apart from "games" to me.  They are made by people who are so pretentious and trying to take themselves and this industry SOOOO seriously that they forget a time when you could put a cyborg gorilla ninja in a game and it was fucking aweseome! 
 
'Splosion Man was the greatest example, I think, of showing how pretentious this industry has become with their "need" for story-telling as a prime motivator.  Who the fuck said our industry needs to be taken seriously?  Gamers virtually rule the fucking world at this point, and 'Splosion Man has (at least to me) unearthed this pretentiousness.  That game is pure, unadulterated, bat-shit craziness.  It's golden, sir.  Meanwhile, a game like Gears of War 2 has to take everything so super fucking serious all the time...and for what?  To garner the same review score as a simple game where the only function on your controller is to explode? 
 
Nonetheless, I don't feel a game needs any form of emotional anything to make me interested, let alone to keep me interested.  Even without a story, Grand Theft Auto 4 could keep me interested (if I were to play the game).  However, I remember a time when there WAS no story in Grand Theft Auto.  It was simply about the challenges presented to you.  What happened to challenges?  We have achievements in video games now, trophies and leaderboards...all of this great stuff.  What happened to being pushed to our fucking limits?  Was that not enough for people, or are we becoming so casual that people don't realize the meaning of a high score?  People look at gamerscore like it's stupid shit, and really, those people are the ones who have grown up in a generation where they have memory cards and hard drives to save their games.  Meanwhile, if we were back in 1988, those achievements would be deemed nigh fucking impossible in most cases!!! 
 
So, people can have their interactive experiences.  I'm not saying I didn't get thoroughly pissed at the climax of The Darkness when the story emotionally ripped my heart out and stomped it in the gutter.  However, that doesn't mean that I think games are art in any way, nor do they require some emotional form in order to be a game. 
 
As to your co-op issue...it's what killed Resident Evil 5.  However, the general idea of any form of multiplayer to the people playing it is "hey, let's just joke around about shit".  That's not to say that people can't get sucked into an experience together.  However, that's not the failure of the players if it doesn't happen.  You can look at movies and see that people can be sucked into an experience together.  You just have to do it well.  Unfortunately, the reality of it all - that you have a friend with you - makes it less of an issue.  Whenever your friend dies in the game, he is actually still next to you.  Therefore, no sense of fear is going to be there.  Making multiplayer gaming become a more casual experience and reaching out to audiences that weren't there before definitely isn't helping your fight, either.  When you've got idiots who would've never touched a game controller before jumping in with their ghetto bullshit and mentally retarded logic, then yeah...co-op isn't going to be worth shit.  There is no solution to that, and there never really will be.  Either you feel the emotional portion of it or you don't.  If you wish to not have someone ruin that moment for you, I would suggest playing in single player.