You're Trying too Hard

Fighting games are not my thing. While I have played some Tekken in the past, some Soul Calibur here and there, I've never really been into the learning of moves and tactics. Instead it's been more about trying to beat friends in local multiplayer while pretending I know what I'm doing. Ultimately playing such game often seemed to come down to a meta-game of sorts, involving disguised button mashing.

The release of Street Fighter IV brought about a renewed interest in the fighting game genre within the gaming community. While for many it was the latest fighting game released for the home consoles, the generation of gamers who grew up in arcades full of 2D fighters saw it as more than that. A generation who are well represented by gaming journalists both on the web and in print.

Due to this, I was always a little suspicious of the coverage given to Street Fighter IV. As with all news stories, reviews and opinions, I interpreted the coverage with my relationship to fighting games (and often that of the journalist) at the forefront of my mind. In general coverage seemed to have a lot of hype behind it due the games strong history. A history I personally have no connection with. So despite the strong reviews and positive buzz surrounding the game, I dismissed it.

That wasn't quite the end of it though. Recently, over the Easter break, some friends back home had started playing Tekken again on the PS2. While I've always had the edge (being the best at disguising my button mashing, and having some knowledge of the move set at least), this time I didn't do as well as I would have liked. This started to make me consider the fighting genre again. Without going into detail this eventually led to me downloading Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD remix (Based on it being the cheapest option, and therefore the least lost if I really didn't like it).

Turns out it didn't really change my stance on the genre. I spent some time in the training mode, tried to learn the special moves, look into some of the strategy involved, but all it did was confirm my suspicion that there was some kind of secret knowledge required, hidden from the general population. So I put it on easy and went into the arcade mode and was awful at it (yeah, easy difficulty - That's what I mean by fighting games not being my thing). Not particularly enjoying the experience, I wasn't too keen on replaying matches over and over either. The end result being a failure to make any real progress.

A few days of frustration went by, and some friends came over. Together we worked through the arcade mode and made much more progress than I would have alone, as I would have given up. I was astounded by how my friends were doing better than me (with a similar level of fighting game experience). About the 6th match into the arcade mode, my friend suggested that I was thinking about it too much. This was, of course, exactly my problem, and returning to pretending to be able to play fighting games worked much better than trying to learn.

While I'm not going to be taking the game online anytime soon (read as: ever), it at least made the game a little more enjoyable. Even if I am still only on the easiest difficulty. Even if fighting games still really aren't my thing, and probably won't ever be. At least now I know for sure, and can filter gaming coverage as before without doubting whether or not I'd given the genre a fair chance. I also realise that considering myself as someone who enjoys gaming a lot doesn’t mean I have to master everything. All that does is take the fun out of playing games.

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The Risk of Being First

...is that you might end up being second.

Since the Giant Bomb database went up with the site launch a couple of days a go I've been enjoying experimenting with adding stuff to it. I like the tools provided for upload, and like the fact that I'm helping contribute to such a new and exciting community as this one. Mainly I've been looking at adding to various different parts of the site. I've added characters, a main article, images and linked games to locations, characters and franchises. I have also written an editorial-esque blog post and my first ever structured game review. Doing all these things have all had their own merit in one way or another, with some also adding to my points level, helping me slowly crawl ever closer to the elusive 1,000 points. The point at which I feel this site will really become a joy to help grow.

For now however, I've stopped with the submissions. I've played around with the system, started to get used to it's various methods for uploads and edits to the point where any more submissions won't particually help me in terms of getting a feel for the system. So instead submitting content would be purely for the benfit of the site, and points. I'm happy to admit that points do drive me somewhat, but only because I think reaching the 'trusted' status that 1,000 points bestows upon you will help me to do the former - benefit the site and its users. It's not that I feel like I'm 'too good' for moderation or am somehow insulted by the idea, but the current system does not encourage me to submit as much as I can. Obviously there has been a huge (giant?) number of submissions, and I take nothing away from Jeff, Ryan, Brad, Vinny and the rest of the team for not being able to process submissions at light speed. I applaud there dedication to this site launch and the moderation system, it does not sound easy! In it's current state though, I don't want to submit a main article (which takes a fair ammount of time and effort) when there is the possibility that someone already has and that it sits in the queue sevral pages before my own. I don't want to double up on work someone else may already have done.

I've heard talk, possibly on the forums, of the implementation of some kind of user viewable submission queue, which would go a long way to solving this problem. In the same way I don't want to waste my time and energy creating long articles, I don't want to waste the staff members' energy by submitting characters, locations, links between things etc.  that may well have been already submitted. This is only going to lead to further delay in the already drawn out process of moderation. The end result is me holding off on submitting content for now. As I point out in the title, by rushing to fill in a page first you may be second without realising - effectivly leaving you in last place as your submission is ignored due to it then being redundant. I'm hoping that by holding off for now it might even help (minutely) decrease the load on the staff to help them speed up the moderation process, and maybe even have a break!

If any of the Giant Bomb staff do read this, I do want to say congratulations on the site - the potential is huge. I can't wait to see it in a more 'mature' form as you continue to evolve it. As soon as a user vieable submissions queue is available, or moderation times decrease I'll be straight into submitting again, hopefully providing some good quality content.

As a final note to other users, I'm not saying everyone should stop submitting to help the site, the users or the staff. It's an exciting prospect and I know many of you love getting stuck in. Just be aware that you may find yourself dissapointed due to factors currently outside anyones control. On another note, I certainly won't be dissappearing from Giant Bomb; I'll just be focussing on trying to write some more 'editorial style' blog posts instead, maybe write another review or two (I've nearly completed Crisis Core) and maybe even venture into the forums...

Keep enjoying the site people, I know I will.

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Hanging on to that Cliff with Super Strength

Warning: While this should be free of major spoilers I am talking about the ending of Assassin's Creed, so if your desperate to avoid spoiling even the finest detail for yourself - you may want to turn back now.

The game in question
Earlier today I completed Assassin's Creed. I really enjoyed the game and you can read my review here (where I realised too late that I can't spell assassin...). The thing that got me thinking was the ending. I really enjoyed the way the story had worked throughout the game. The ‘story-in-a-story’ concept was an effective way of giving the game an extra layer of progression and purpose, and helping break up the otherwise fairly repetitive gameplay. I also liked the way it enabled an in-game hub as opposed to a 'pre-game' menu screen. It was the way in which the story could both end and continue that intrigued me the most.

One of the reasons I liked this was that I hadn’t seen it before, or at least It felt like I hadn’t. While I’m sure there are other examples of this ‘story-in-a-story’, I haven’t come across them, with the exception of things like The Matrix – which feature similar concepts, yet executed differently (feel free to post any examples you can think of in the comments, as I’ve probably just forgotten about them). Stories, in books, films, games etc. tend to either end or leave you with a cliff hanger with either a follow up story to resolve it or no resolution at all to get you thinking, wondering what could have happened. While often certain threads or sub plots are left open, the main details are either concluded or not. But then again, is this the case with Assassin’s Creed as well? It is easy to see it as a single story of many threads, some concluded and others not. Whether it is or not, my point is that in my mind I clearly viewed it as two separate, linked stories.

Viewing it this way helped me enjoy the ending much more than I would have otherwise. I was satisfied with the conclusion of one of the plots. Aside from some of the final plot details being a little obvious, it felt like it was wrapped up well*. Comments that had previously appeared cryptic made sense, and characters true motives were revealed. It was because of this that I was did not mind the cliff hanger type ending of the other story. Normally such endings frustrate me. Either I don’t care enough about the conclusion for it to work for me as an ending, or it feels like a cheap way to sell a sequel that might not be released until years after the first. I begin by being annoyed at the lack of conclusion, and as time goes on I will often loose interest in the outcome and feel apathetic to its continuation. While not always the case, those are the two general responses that I tend to have.

The final ending of Assassin’s Creed fits squarely into the second of the two categories. It’s put in there to try and get you excited about a potential sequel. It wants you to go out and buy Assassin’s Creed 2 as soon as it’s released. I didn’t mind it as I normally would though. I’d played as Alta
ïr more than as Desmond, I cared more for Altaïr than Desmond. So by giving some closure to Altaïr’s story meant that I was happy for them to leave Desmond hanging, to tease the next game a little without trying to disguise it as the ending. Coming back to the title of this post, take the term cliff hanger literally: if someone you cared for was hanging off a cliff, who you couldn’t yet reach, you’re going to be frustrated that you can’t get to them yet. But if you know they’re strong and can hold on well you’re less frustrated. You’ll still go and help them when the chance comes, but your not going to be irritated as much waiting for that chance. Which is how I feel about Assassin’s Creed. I’m happy that I’m not going to be too annoyed at not playing the sequel for a while – but I’ll definately still pick it up to find out what happens.

* I realise quite a lot is left unanswered in terms of 'what happens next', but it felt like an appropriate end - I'm not sure finding out what happens next would be particually helpful to this particular story.

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