iBabble

Note: OMG SO MANY WORDS. I'm too lazy to insert images right now. Maybe later. 

I occasionally get the nagging suspicion that I actually suck at everything I try. Writing, singing, acting, there are a slew of activities, which I participate in regularly, that for some time I was under the impression that I was “alright” at. Then reality hits me like a giant cement-sac filled with cinder blocks and I come back from my high into the cold, dark world of self-realization. I reflect on what I've done and conclude that, holy shit! I'm not actually that great at what I just did. I thought that was awesome. But fucking hell, it wasn't.

This is why I attempt to stay humble with everything I do. People say I hate everything. People claim I'm bitter. I'm neither of those things. I'm skeptical. I'm skeptical because I need to be in order to exist. Without it, I would run around free with no pants on making a shit-mockery of myself. My skepticism is defence. If I don't keep the world in perspective, then shit goes haywire. I need to keep myself strapped down because if I don't, I'll never actually be good at anything. I have to tell myself I suck. Not because I want sympathy—no, people who do that are full of bullshit and probably made of it too—I do it to make sure I know I need to improve. I set the bar so high for myself in order to make sure I'm always trying to please my biggest critic: Moi.

Sure, I wont ever reach what I want from myself—I want to be perfect—but in the advent that I try to be perfect I will at least be decent. This is the truth for everything. If you try your hardest to be the best, you will never achieve it, but you'll be 10x fucking better than half of the schmucks out there who “don't give a fuck, brah” . In a way, after enough work, even if I realize I'm not the best, I'm complacent with the fact that I improved on some level. That's rewarding. Knowing that I did something and I am, again, decent.

Writing has been my latest focus. I just got a job at a SUPER SERIOUS VIDEOGAME BLOG OUTLET FOR SERIOUS JOURNALIST WHO WRITE SERIOUS STORIES ABOUT THE LATEST XBOX GAME. Okay, I'm being silly. We're a fun site and with a bunch of really cool people who don't seem to take themselves as seriously as many other sites do. Which is great, by the way. I've never felt so relaxed coming into a job as “the new guy”. I always imagined my first time writing for a site to be nerve-racking, but my editor was a really nice guy and helped me get the feel for stuff. 

But back to what I was saying. Writing has been the focal point of my life for the passed month now. It has been for a long time actually, but now, it's been SERIOUS. I've always sucked at writing. Seriously. If you try hard enough to find my older blogs (You wont), you'll be disgusted by my abuse of the english language. But recently, I've managed to figure something out. Somewhere in my head things clicked. Apart of this was just coming from the fact that I pushed myself to be an adequate writer. All of my summer was spent reading, writing, studying syntax and grammar, and trying to learn something from the billions of style guides out there. And it finally paid off.

It's gratifying to finally feel good about my writing skills. Writing to me is similar to the cool table at a high school during lunchtime. You totally want to hang with the cool kids. There's that one kid who hangs out there all the time with the awesome Pontiac Solstus. And that girl with the pony tail who would never talk to you even if she was to be condemned to the fate of being stuck on a suspended elevator with you for the rest of her life. But you know, in your heart, that they will never let you sit there because you have a pocket protector, nerd. I have a deep respect for a bunch of writers out there in the world, to the point where I wish I could be just like them! But I know I can't because I'm not a good writer—well maybe things have changed. Writing is like that for me. I want to be a good writer like all the people I respect so much.

It was an bizarre feeling getting the job at Platformnation.com. They're not super big like 1up or anything crazy, but they're well known and have a good team of writers on board and somehow I landed a job to work alongside these people. Me. Some random-ass scrub from Canada. I don't feel like I'm a defined journalist or anything, but I feel validated for all the time I spend doing this. I feel as if I'm at the cool table now. Who knows, maybe if I keep writing I may go even higher in the industry. A boy can dream!

But I'm enjoying what I'm doing right now. And I like what all of this has done for me as a person. I'm still as lazy as before, but I'm marginally less of a slacker. Improvements are still improvements, like I mentioned above. Plus, I enjoy writing. It's fun. Everyone should try it. People see writing as a boring academic activity but I view it in a more recreational light (Probably because I'm a shut-in). It's entertaining to share ideas with the public and seeing a long list of your work pile up; feels very fulfilling.

Give it a try sometime. Write a blog post, a journal, whatever. You may find yourself a new hobby.

Wow, that sounded cheesy as all fuck.

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Why Games Being Art Doesn't Matter

 

I'm here to add to the cavalcade of noise regarding one special film critic Roger Ebert and his recent comments on video games and how they can't be art. I wasn't originally going to talk about this at all but I've found myself inexplicably thinking about it for a week now. I figure if it's been stuck in my mind for that long I should write about it.

Where do I start? I guess I should start at the nagging question: Are video games art? Can they even be art? Here's my answer: It doesn't matter. I don't think we should worry about our medium achieving this golden classification because in the end what we experience and what we enjoy about our medium is more important than what other people think.

The fact we're even giving the energy to battle this out with Ebert confuses me. Why bother quarrelling at all? (I understand the irony of me stating this and subsequently writing a blog arguing it). Sadly, some people can't help but feel passionate about the topic and can't help but add fuel to the fire. In the end, giving Ebert more power. Kellee Santiago, for example, of Thatgamecompany has been at the epicentre of this whole debacle since she was the focus of Ebert's post.

    


Here's how the back-and-forth between the two has looked like in my eyes:

Kellee: Games are art guys. I mean, look at Braid and stuff.

Ebert: You're stupid and wrong, but you're pretty when you talk.

Kellee: But... but... look. Flower.

Ebert: Games can't be art because they aren't art. I'm Roger Ebert.

Kellee: BUT LOOK THIS GAME HAS FEELING. WEEEEE!

Ebert: I AM RIGHT!

See? Doesn't that look silly. Yes, this is how I view the whole argument in general. And that's essentially how it's been.

This whole thing is ridiculous because whether our medium is defined as art shouldn't be important. If we're having meaningful experiences with our entertainment, then who cares if we're respected by the rest of the planet. You can't convince people like Roger Ebert. You never will. So why try? Why waste our energy? The only thing we achieve by doing this is that make ourselves look worse in his eyes, giving him power.

 

I recognize why we act so strongly to criticisms alike to the ones of Ebert's, though. The gaming community is filled with people who are wondrously passionate about what we love. Dare I say, we're the most passionate out of anyone. I've known movie buffs, theatre kids, music junkies, but I've never met a group of people who are as obsessive and feel so strongly about their medium than us (Except for Trekkers. We will never beat the Trekkers). So, I get it. I realize why we act the way we do but it's to our determent. We need to step back and think about the situation at hand.

We need to consider the circumstances clearly, because if you do, you'll notice that discussing the definition of art or what art can be is a conversation that has no answer. The debate on how to define it   has been going on for years. Art, in a lot of ways, is about tapping into a human's inner emotions and expressing them (Well most pieces have this in common at least). It's subjective down to its core. So how does one objectively define it? You can't. The idea that Roger Ebert is the pearl-covered gate that let's ideas pass in or out into the world of art is stupid. Roger Ebert is just a person. He is a movie critic, but at his core , he's just a person like you or me. He doesn't determine what is valid; he doesn't determine what will be valid in the future.

Ebert argues, “[Novels, plays, dance, and films] are things you cannot win; you can only experience them.” and that because games have rules, goals, and points, they cannot be a piece of art. Who says that a game developer couldn't use those elements to their advantage and make them mean something. No one has done it yet, so why disparage the idea? That's part of the main issue. Ebert seems to ignore the fact that the attributes of interactive entertainment can be modified to work in a more artistic manner. Just because it hasn't happened yet doesn't mean it can never happen. You can take things like scores out of a game, but even then Ebert argues that it stops being a game. Again, we're dealing with semantics. Who says every game needs a clear cut goal or an objective: Save the princess from the demon king! Games have room for growth. They've been rapidly changing for years. What they were once is not the same as they are now. There's always going to be modifications to our medium. You're being close-minded if you ignore that fact.


Games can be whatever we want them to be. And arguing with Ebert will get us nowhere. And hey, if games don't ever reach the same artistic level of film or theatre, then so be it. This shouldn't be our main focus when it comes to making games. It doesn't affect us if games aren't respected on the same level as other mediums. If people don't get it then forget them, they're the ones missing out, not us. We wont gain respect by yelling and screaming for it. We'll get it if we continue to innovate in our design philosophies. We need to make games and play them too. Our objective right now should just to be happy with what we have.

Ebert was right about one thing in his article though when he said, “Why aren't gamers content to play their games and simply enjoy themselves?”. “They have my blessing, not that they care.”, and you're right Roger, we don't and we shouldn't either.

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It's been a long time, hasn't it?

Hi, you probably don't remember me, but I used to frequent this site at one point. In the middle of 2009 I abandoned my profile and dropped off of the radar  (Assuming I was actually on some kind of radar).  After posting my  Final Fantasy 13 review  on the site and noticing that people were reading it to some capacity, I started toying with the idea of blogging here again. For about a year, most of my blog posts have been casted in the shadowy depths of obscurity, also known as my Tumblr profile, and I kind of want to start putting my stuff in a public place for everyone to see once more. I enjoy writing and it's discouraging to finish a piece of work just for it to go unnoticed. This is my long way of saying that I'll be posting here more frequently. I originally wasn't going to say any of this and just post a blog but considering I'm going to write about some random stuff on my mind, I figure this short explanation is at least suitable. 
  
I'm going to shut up about that now and talk about other things.  
   

Goozex   

I have a shameful pile of games that I have barely even touched. I buy a lot of games and I'm prone to buying on impulse. After March ended, I realized that I had purchased a whopping 6 games. I started feeling guilty about the other games that were pushed further down the list because of my buying habits. To remedy this I started using Goozex.com to trade these games to people who will give them some attention. It's been working out pretty well. I've been trading back and forth for a few weeks now and the cleansing feeling has manage to take over now I know there isn't multitude of unfinished games breathing down my neck. The only issue I have with Goozex is since you're waiting in line with a bunch of other schmucks who potentially want the same game as you, getting a new release is nearly impossible and you might as well buy it at the store.  Also, the post office is slow as sin, this has put a wrench in some of my operations. But Goozex is great for getting really old, obscure games; the kind I'm really into. I managed to get a copy of Fatal Frame 2 and a copy of Valkyria Chornicles so far. 
 

Writing Reviews  

Is incredibly fucking hard. I know I'm not the best writer on the planet by any stretch of the imagination, but I didn't think that I was going to fight with a review for as long as I did. It took up to two weeks of rereading, rewriting, editing a new iteration after new iteration of the same review, for the stupid thing to see the light of day. I'm thankful I took the time, though. My Final Fantasy 13 review is the only piece of writing I've produced that I'm even semi-happy with. So I guess all that work paid off. Although, I don't think anyone has actually read it. I have 41 people who recommended it, but I guarantee the majority of those people were just voting it up for the achievement on the site. 
 

Quests

That brings me to my next topic. This quest thing is pretty cool. It's definitely not for me. While I care about achievements to some degree, if I have to go too far out of my way to get one, I just ignore it. But it's interesting seeing these quests focus attention of some of the feature/pages on the site that are somewhat ignored by the users IE) User reviews that aren't promoted on the front page. Also some of the scavenger hunt quests can be kinda fun.  
 

That's it for now folks

 I'm going to start posting here more often. At least someone might read my stuff here, whoever you are, person who's reading this. 
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Randy Pitchford says things; I get riled up. Here are the results


If you go to Gamesindustry.biz you're likely to find a news article quoting Randy Pitchford from Gearbox saying, "It's dangerous for the industry to allow valve to win". This comment is regarding to Valve's Steam service and how Randy Pitchford feels that if we continue to let a 3rd party developer be the sole owner of a major distribution model, then it will result in a dangerous future for the industry itself. 

He goes on in the article by acknowledging the benefits of Steam. The main one being that it offers exposure for indie developers. But Randy feels that, while it still offers the exposure, it also exploits the makers of the game as well, "Valve is exploiting people in a way that's not totally fair. [It's] taking a larger share that it should be for the service it's providing. It's exploiting a lot of small guys." At the same time as this is stated, indie game makers that have dealt with steam have come to its defence stating, "Is Valve exploiting independent developers? In short: absolutely not. Without pulling any punches I can say with certainly that if it weren't for Steam there would be no Tripwire Interactive right now," says John Gibson, Tripwire Interactive co-founder and President.


I should probably start this off by saying I'm not a game designer in any way shape or form. In turn, the majority of what I say in this piece is going to be from a relatively informed consumer perspective.
 
So, even though I don't understand the inner workings of Steam and its business, I still think Randy might be taking a trip to the hyperbole theatre. I understand how odd it seems to have a 3rd developer like Valve run a big distribution model. I also understand that the potential of inner conflicts can exist in these kinds of situations. But from what I've seen,Valve has handled itself in the best way possible. Steam is something the industry needs at the moment, at some point, digital distribution will be the primary form of retail for video games. Again, he's over blowing things, more good can come out of this than bad. We've had worse things happen in the realm of digital distribution from other developers, Valve has a clean track record as it stands, besides having some technical issues from the launch of steam. 

The main fear in this situation is, if Valve is a 3rd party developer then you grant the risk of them purposefully affecting a game's performance in sales because it's in direct competition with their game. Which is understandable, the main problem we've been seeing so far with DLC is it's easy to exploit people. Look at Namco and their mischievous use of “Unlock keys” to sell people content that's already on the disc. Even Microsoft ends up taking a big chunk of the profits from the sales of XBLA games from the game's creators.

But really, has that actually happened with Valve? After the 5 or 6 years that Steam has been around, have we ever heard any public outcry, from developer or consumer, that Valve was ripping anyone off? I've actually seen many positive things come out of it, unknown devs have gotten the chance to make some money and spread the word of their game ,and young amateur modders have been able to make money from a source mod they have made. Sure, Valve makes money off of this too, but the way they conduct themselves is respectable. I'd rather have Valve running this than Activision.

  Seriously, it's Activision or Valve, make your choice


The final thing I want to comment on is his second last quote in the article, "The best example is that I can go to this place using Vista to buy software from Microsoft. But I can also fire up my browser, whether it's Internet Explorer or Mozilla, and I can go to any retailer in the world and purchase something.” Here he is describing his ideal future where he has the choice of many different retailers whom he can buy from online. Finishing off by saying that if we continue to “let Valve win” we will see less variety in places where we can get games digitally.

I know where he is coming from here. If we grow too dependent upon one service alone we will start to see our choices disappear. But think of it this way, through competition and the need to reach a new market, a handful of different companies will begin throwing their hats into the ring to go up against Steam. To me, Steam is laying down the groundwork here, they're trying to be an example of what we should expect in the future. When things lift off, and down loadable content becomes the big thing, people will want their piece of the pie. I doubt that everyone in the game industry would let Valve just stomp around taking in all the revenue for themselves. In this case, a company's need to make money will end up benefiting the consumer, in the end we will end up with different outlets offering the same services as Steam, maybe even better. Hell, we're already seeing stuff like that now; Good old Games, developers even offer to sell their games digitally straight from their websites.

In short, no if we let Valve “win” it wont be that dangerous. Frankly, Steam is beneficial for our industry. The people at Valve are helping develop and pass on techniques/strategies of online retail for others to learn and improve on. I'd rather have someone doing this than no one. The one thing Randy doesn't realize is that new people will come into the market when it begins to mature, everything is still in the growing state. Give it time.

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Shadow Complex and Controversy

 

 

Shadow Complex has been talked about ad nauseam, all week it's been nothing but Shadow Complex wherever I look. I've ignored it for the most part since I have little interest in the game but a forum topic I found on Giantbomb.com linking to a Gamasutra Article by Christian Nutt had gotten a hold of my attention.

The article was about the controversy around the game that started with a simple NeoGaf post. Apparently a user raised the question about the game which I quote, "Should we boycott Shadow Complex?". To give some background information (Although I wont go too deep into it, if you want more information I highly recommend reading Christian Nutt's Article on the subject), this user suggested this because it's been highly known that the author of the book "Empire", which Shadow Complex is based off of, Orson Scott Card is an anti-advocate of gay marriage. He has gone on record suggesting that gay marriage is wrong and that marriage is meant to be between a man and a women.

Now, the reasoning behind the boycott is that Orson must be getting some kind of payment from the sales of Shadow Complex. For people who are in favor of gay marriage, buying this game may seem like its in some way funding his agenda.

I've thought about this for a while, it's a tricky subject. I'm in the middle when it comes to this, I'm not very interested in the game. However as I see it Shadow Complex is its own property, pretty much a stand alone. Sure, it's based in the world of Orson's book but from what I hear the story is hardly explored in the game. The game it self stand on its own, Shadow Complex doesn't even look like it explores any themes regarding homosexuality.

What I'm trying to say is, Orson doesn't really have that big of a hand in the game and from what I've read in Christian Nutt's article the producers of the game haven't shown to share the same opinions as Orson. These people just made a fun side scrolling action game, that's it. I see no reason to completely boycott Shadow Complex. If the content is not offensive then so what?

If Orsons affiliation with Shadow Complex is the problem then there are solutions. I really don't think the people at Chair should pay for that. The content seems non offensive and the developers don't really have any hostility to the homosexual community. But, if Orson being apart of the project bothers people that much, then yeah, I guess boycott it if you so choose. If you like the game but are in favor of gay marriage, take the Gaygamer.net approach to things. The guys there brought up the idea that, if you like the game buy it and then donate money to a Pro-Gay charity. I think it's a fine solution.

It all depends on how much your bothered by the game being based in the world of "Empire". From what I've heard, Orson has little to no control over anything that happens with Shadow Complex, I see it as no reason for a boycott. But like I said before, it's all up to how much it bothers the individual I suppose. For me, it seems like a tiny thing to be bothered about, this game feels a lot less impactful to Orson than, I don't know, actually buying his book.

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HEY ME! What have I Been Playin'?

What have I been playing?

Left 4 Dead

I've had this game for a long time now but I've never really had a lot of extra time on my hands to actually give some attention to it. Luckily enough I managed to get some nice one-on-one time with this game and I have to say this game has some very notably awesome things to it.

I like this game. I don't love it. I really don't feel its as great as its been hyped up to be. Frankly, I see the good parts, but there's just something that isn't clicking with me. I mean, I really enjoy getting a good game with some good friends, once you get into it, this game starts to shine. The ability to live out your fantasy of defending yourself and your group from a horde of zombies is great. This game feels like its the perfect game for that guy who has planned out his/her zombie escape plan if so the time occurs. This game just has a very strong attention to detail for the very small things that really set the atmosphere.

The whole game seems like your playing in a zombie flick and the Left 4 Dead really tries to set players in the right mood. With things like the ending credits after every level that look like movie credits, and the very cliche situations your put into set off the right atmosphere. In a way I think it's ability to mimic really crappy B-movie, zombie flicks is awesome since its only a few of the games that I feel pull these moments off well apart from games like Dead Rising.

Although I enjoy the atmosphere of this game, something is still not clicking with me. I think its mainly the lack of maps on hand at the moment. Right now there's only a choice of 4 maps that aren't extremely long. The lack of more content kind of puts me off. I've seen most of what's meant to be seen and I just want a little more since I get sick of the same old stuff very easily. But beyond that this game does a lot right but the lack of content right now is keeping me away from loving it.

Machiavelli's Ascent

[Niccolo Machiavelli' a poet, philosopher, and has nothing to do with this game]
The whole XBLA Community games have a lot of crap in it, but once in a while a game with some kind of charm is found in the rough.

Essentially you play a phallic-like object that is very reminiscent of a jelly fish. In this game you make your Penis Jelly Fish jump in the air and you need to hit small white orbs to keep your Jelly Fish moving upwards. The higher you get the more points you get after you fall to the ground.

This game sounds SUPER simple and it is but that's where the magic is. This is one of those games that grabs a simple mechanic and makes it addictive as hell. I found myself playing this for hours attempting to reach the highest height I can without noticing that and hour had passed. This game very much has a Geometry Wars effect on me where it hooks me into it's simple gameplay.

Yeah so...that's what I've been playing just a little update for you guys.
Hopefully enough I'll have something interesting to write up mid week but I'm still not sure what to write about.
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Maybe I Don't Really Like Video Games?

Ahh, Oh god don't Kill me with you raging Biceps!
You know, I've been thinking about this a lot lately. This is a question that has sprung in my mind many times before. Do I really like Video Games? I really Don't know. You see, I play video games, a lot, but the problem is, is that I don't really enjoy them most of the time. Now by enjoy I don't mean that I think the game is no fun or terrible it's just that I never ever am as pulled in by a game as many other people seem to be.

Everyone seems to have stories about these awesome moments they've had in a game, or about how they noticed certain aspects of a game, while for me I don't see any of these things. For example, my friends talk about all these amazing moments they have playing GTA4, like simple things like cool jump off of a ramp or a funny happening between them and a pedestrian where they ended up running him over in a car. Now these are all cool, but when I have these moments I can't help myself to think, "Yeah that happened, whatever, it isn't really that amazing." I still don't know why I don't seem to notice or enjoy certain aspects of games that other people do. Maybe I'm just a jaded asshole. I honestly don't know.

Even though I don't notice all of these kind of things that other people do, I still feel like I enjoy video games. Just not in the same way. I have always been a big film buff. I've always admired many films and have dabbled in acting myself once having dreams of being apart of the industry. This is where my somewhat weird perspective on games comes in, I enjoy a game like I would enjoy a movie. I play, more or less, for the experience rather than the gameplay. I want to be taken away into another world. I think that's such an amazing feeling. It's almost like being sucked into a movie but even more so. I feel like everything I do has an impact on the world, and in many cases, it does. I love that feeling so much. I always hated watching a film and knowing that shit was going to go down and the only thing I could do was be that annoying guy in the theatre going "No don't go in there, runnn runnnn!!!" (Oh god, for the record I really don't do that).  I just enjoy the feeling of control over my surroundings, most of the time I couldn't give a shit about gameplay. Which feels like an awful thing to say.

If that Bomb's gonna' go off...
Feeling some sense if of control is one thing, but games have even given me a sense of belonging also. Very recently I've become apart of the Giantbomb community and have been doing what I can to participate in it as much as possible. This is one thing that makes me completely adore video games. It's fanbase. I love the culture that has spawned around video games. I love it simply because video games can bring people together so well. I can honestly say some of my most memorable gaming moments were the ones that I shared with my friends.Online or real life. There's just this big sense of comradery that's created because we all have the same passion. In the end this is the greatest thing to ever come out of gaming and it's culture. Because of video games I would never decide to produce a podcast with a couple of guys, I would never even bother to write. Somehow gaming has motivated me to do something semi-productive for once in my life.  

I think the things that come out of gaming itself is what I love about games than the actual game part of it.

You know, writing this and looking through everything I've said so far, I think I've already come to a conclusion. Yeah, I do like games. Sure, maybe not for the gameplay, but for the more broader reasons. The people, the experiences. 

So yeah, I guess I like games then.
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Bomb Should Have A Face Episode 13: Bomb Should Have A Hat

This week we have a special show for you guys with a special guest. So join the regular BSHAF crew while we talk about game journalist and them being idolized, the jaugar system, game novels, and also a crap load of questions from the listeners (Thanks Bru! Oh and "Listen...") and we talk about all the crazy games we've been playing. So please join us on our extra long show this week (2HRS!) and join the ride! Enjoy guys and thanks for listening for another week the cast really apreciates it! Listen to the show here!




  



Once again, you can hit up the podcast here.

Subscribe through iTunes here.

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