Insensitive game journalism in relation to the disaster in Japan

While reading through my RSS feed, I came across this post from Massively. I will give you a minute to go read that, but I doubt it will take you long to reach a similar feeling I did.  I couldn't believe what I was reading. How did the site's editor let something like this go up? How did the author, Eliot Lefebvre, not see this as distasteful? I think this is something that should be commented on, especially for a site dealing in MMO news, but there is a tactful way to do it. The first paragraph of Lefebvre's article is a textbook example of how not to report it, with a focus on his last sentence as being my biggest issue (I have added the bold): 

Unless you've deliberately avoiding learning about what's going on in the world, you've doubtlessly heard of the massive earthquake that hit Japan on Friday. Our thoughts and good wishes go to any and all of our readers, and their friends and families, directly affected by the disaster. But it hits people in many ways, and it's even reaching into the MMO sphere, with both Final Fantasy XI and Final Fantasy XIV shutting down completely for at least a week of service.    

What Eliot is basically saying here is: We are really sorry this has happened to you and yours and the thousands dead and missing, but this thing has caused downtime on FFXI and FFXIV. I understand he did not mean it that way, but the last sentence sounds very dismissive. This all stems from being poorly worded, which and editor should catch.
An example of a better way to report this event can be found on Massively's sister sites: Joystiq. Ben Gilbert writes the following (this link takes you to the entire article): 

Given the enormity of the events in Japan right now, it feels kind of ridiculous to be writing about the massive earthquake's effect on video game servers, but here we are. Both Final Fantasy XI and XIV have had their servers temporarily closed in an effort by Square Enix to help conserve energy in the ailing country. The publisher's web portal services will also be temporarily closed.    

That is vastly improved  over Lefebvre's post. He is right; the idea that this even matters is crazy, but as a game site, they want to report it (and in the least offensive way). Gilbert even makes sure to direct readers to the Red Cross site, which was not even a thought in the other article (again, not believing he purposefully omitted the information, I'm just saying).  
I think the case could be further argued that Joystiq or any other site besides your FFO fan pages or the official site needed to report on this, but at least Ben Gilbert came across as a guy who knew that and not a guy who was more worried servers were down. I don't play either Final Fantasy MMOs, but don't they have new articles posted on their site, game launcher, or emails? That seems like a good place to get this information. 
[Updated 3/16 9:00 a.m.] I added to my introduction of Lefebvre's quote, my comment after said quote (trying to clarify my already clear statement that I don't believe he meant it to sound the way it did to me), and put the sentence I have the most issue with in bold. I also added some more clarification throughout the post.

Dante's Inferno is its own circle of hell.

For a reason I can not explain, I have wanted to play Dante's Inferno. I finally got around to it this weekend. Was it worth it? No. Not really. The action in this game is fine, but everything else is so "hardcore" that it is unbearable. My wife was watching me play while I was fighting Lust. She asked, "are those tounges in her nipples?" Sure is. Wife, "are those babies coming out her nipples?" Yes, and they have blade arms! Wife, "ah, you can't play this game in this house." Now, she was joking, but I agree. That game is a one trick pony that shows it's hand very early. There are other action games I could be spending my time on. Hrm, a pony playing poker, now that sounds good.


Happy New Year! Game Resolutions: 2011 Edition

I hope everyone is having a good year so far. Last year I made the resolution to play through every game I bought. I accomplished that up to a point, but I still have a lot of games sitting across from me in this very room that have never been opened or I just stopped playing for one reason or another. I am just going to continue that resolution on over to this year. I stopped writing about the games I had beaten, but I will endeavor to start that again  as well. All in all, I don't think I have any major gaming related resolutions this year. I hope to actually put some money toward my restoring my Pac-Man machine, so I guess I can count that as video game related.  
So, what about you guys?


Tenth game I beat in 2010: Borderlands

I finally wrapped this game up! 


Gearbox’s first-person shooter RPG, Borderlands, has all the trappings of a game that I would find difficult to put down. And I did for awhile. The constant progression of new weapons, unique characters to level up, and varying skill branches always kept Borderlands fun and interesting, especially with three friends. My character class of choice was the Siren, but you also have your choice of a Soldier, Hunter, or Berserker. Phase Walking and popping out and blasting everyone with an SMG was great, but that could only take me so far.

I am a sucker for story. As my time becomes more and more valuable to me, I tend to lean towards games that tell me a good story because I do not want to feel like I completely wasted 10-40 hours. I don’t care if a game only takes four hours to beat; if the story is solid, I feel it is money well spent. What Borderlands had in time and fun gameplay, it lacked ten-fold in story. I wanted to touch on some of the problems I had with the ending to this game, so if you have not finished it, do not read on.

My major problem is not getting any satisfaction from the end. By the end of the game, it becomes a race to stop Commandant Steele from opening the vault. She has put you through a lot of trouble up to this point, so I was looking forward to finally killing her. However, the game chooses to take that away from me. Then there is The Destroyer. It was a very uninspired boss. I didn’t have fun fighting him, and why did the Guardian have to set it up like some big surprise? If she told the player the truth, he/she would never have gone to the vault in the first place? That, to me, shows a lack of wanting to write a story that convinces the player to go despite facing a god from another dimension. This takes us to after the fight against the Destroyer. You are contacted to sell the vault key. After all of this, it boils down to selling the one item that compelled the character through story. It just feels like it cheapens the whole game.

After beating the game, I planned on continuing to level my Siren while I finished missions and started the DLC, but I could not bare to go on. The game had just left a very sour taste in my mouth, and it is going to be a long time before I decide to touch Borderlands again.    

Ninth game I beat in 2010: Halo: Reach

As is normal, I'm a bit behind on this one, but here we go. I continue on my journey of beating every game that I purchase(d) this year. 

Halo: Reach

As the newest entry in the franchise, Halo: Reach  is perhaps the most similar to but different from the first game. Gone is the iconic Master Chief to be replaced by not one but six Spartans – while not always the case, more is definitely better here. But the core mechanics,even taking into account the technological and usability improvements, and weapons (who doesn't love a scoped pistol) are brought back.

Taking place during the events leading directly into Halo: CE , Reach follows the ill-fated final mission of Nobel Team, a group of Spartan-IIIs stationed on Reach. Whereas Master Chief remained a faceless protagonist, the members of Nobel Team are humanized through their relationships with each other and the simple act of removing their helmets. For the first time, you are able to see a Spartan for something other than a killing machine. While many people may complain that Master Chief isn't the protagonist of this story, I feel like I formed a closer bond to these Spartans than I ever did with Chief.

Through the eyes of the team's newest member, Nobel Six, we watch as a touching story about a group of soldiers willing to die for each other and what they believe in unfolds. Despite knowing they are going to fail, I found it almost impossible to not become attached to Nobel Team. This is where Bungie's lead writer Joseph Staten has outdone all previous Halo games. Having written for Bungie since Oni and been a part of every Halo game including the former Ensemble Studio's Halo Wars , Staten is no stranger to the universe. Even taking into account some continuity issues, he brings fans the best story possible (arguably best amongst all the games) in this final offering.

It's very rare for a game to invoke any type of deep emotional response from me beyond the satisfaction of getting that headshot or the thrill of barely making it to the next checkpoint, but Reach manages just that. Each mission brings you closer to the team as the games comes to one of the most emotionally engaging endings this year. While many games rely on cutscenes to sell each emotional moment, Bungie hands over the controls to the player in this final scene, and says, “You've come this far, so why not finish it yourself?” While this seems small, the effect it has on you is not.  
With everything Reach has going for it, the game is not perfect. I find the AI spotty at best. The couple of times I let the AI drive a warthog ended with it either flipped over or constantly running into walls. I also found that a lot of times my squad mates seemed highly ineffective in battle, but at other times, they did almost all of the fighting. Then there is the space battle. The saving grace of this section is the length. It doesn't seem to reflect the quality the rest of the game has. Everything looks great, but the flight controls feel awkward at times. 
I don't have a lot to say about multiplayer except that it is solid, and I can see myself playing it for awhile. The credits system is a great incentive to keep playing without handicapping newer players. I think the matchmaking, in terms of rank, could be improved; the credits (as good as they are) dictate the rank, but matching purely by rank, which is how it seems to work, is not always the best way I have found (either being on the receiving of giving end of said mismatch).  
All in all, this is a solid final outing for Bungie, and I look forward to what ever they develop next. As the holder of the Halo franchise, I hope 343 Industries can live up to Bungie's legacy.

My term for the gamer that is not retro or current . . .

There are two people that led me to coming up with the yet to be announced word: 
Person One: I have a friend who is a bit behind the times. He is currently playing games from the PS2 and Xbox. He doesn't own any of the current generation's consoles. He can afford them, but he just wants to play these games before he moves own to new ones. I understand and respect that. He is getting the most out of his money. However, he is insanely behind the times, so I came up with a term for him. 
Person Two: There was a guy at my friends work who was talking about really loving the old classics on PS1. He even called himself a retro gamer. I'm sorry, but PS1 is not really retro gaming to me, and I don't really think it is easy to go back to those games. I find it much easier to play an older 8-bit game than PS1 games, but that is besides the point. Because he is not retro, he needed a term. 
My term is slowtro.  

Slowtro: A person who plays video games from the previous one to two generations of consoles. 

So that person who totally loves Final Fantasy VII and stills plays it is slowtro, just as an example. I have not decided my stance on the Genesis or Super Nintendo. I know I don't see those games as retro, yet I am more open to that argument than I am a PS1 game. What do you think? 
Edit (10/18/10): I just wanted to add that it could also be applied to games themselves. Like FFVII could be called slowtro. Thanks for chipping in. This was purely for fun.

Don't whiz on the electric fence...

No, seriously. Do not do it.  
Oh, hey! I have some stuff to tell you about later. While you wait, go ahead and whiz on this... 
Hold on, you almost got me. Don't whiz on that fence.


Quick thoughts on Solace

If you attended PAX Prime 2010 or listened to the bombcast, Solace is a game you may have heard about. It was developed by One Man Down, a team from DigiPen Institute. As they describe it, Solace is  "an interactive aesthetic experience utilizing dynamic audio and bullet hell overtones to provide a unique perspective on the five stages of grief." The group was successful in delivering exactly the product the described. 
Each stage of grief is represented through music and varying enemies and backgrounds. For example, Anger is a dark level with red-tinted enemies. Every time your ship fires, a predetermined electronic guitar plays a rather aggressive beat.  Another level is depression; one can imagine how it may look. The interesting thing One Man Down does with this level is taking away the players ability to kill the enemies. Everything is very dark and muted and your bullets barely go beyond your "ship," and if they do hit an enemy, the bullets do not seem to do any damage. Also, in contrast to the bright orbs collected in the other stages to upgrade your ship, you are collecting black orbs that the enemies drop as the fly around. Depression is purely a level concerned with surviving, much like the real thing. 
Solace was able to make me feel, even for just a moment, each stage I played through. Many games try to get the player into a certain state, but not all of them succeed like One Man Down's creation. I really like this game. It is simple, effective, and a pleasure playing. Do yourself a favor and go download the game. It is free, so there is nothing to loose, except twenty minutes of your time, but if you really like it, that is not much of a lose. In fact, I will give you the link:


What animal would you fight if you had to lose . . .

As happens when working and nothing is going on, some friends and I began having a discussion on what animal (currently living) we would fight to the death. The catch? Our death. Yup, what animal would we choose to fight if we had to die by animal fight. Conditions began being made as we talked, liked the living animal only one. Here they are: you only have your fists; the fight has to be a good fight (ie. bear would most likely take you out to fast); and swarms of something do not count because what ultimately occurs is flailing and not fighting. Most water creatures went out the door because we thought it was to boring to fight in water. In the end, I chose to fight a wolf. I think it would be great for everyone watching, and I think I could make it last a little while before he took me down. Also, wolfs are badass, so I do not mind being taken out by one.
So, what is your animal?
I would like to add that I am not trying to say fighting animals is cool; this is simply a hypothetical kind of thing.


Oh god. Shadow Dancer arcade cabinet is heavy as #$%!

A couple of weeks ago I picked up an original Pac-Man arcade machine that needed a new monitor, speaker, and some body work. I have the monitor and speaker going, so I have a fairly good looking Pac-Man cab. Some would think, "That should make you happy and content!" Well, I (and my wife) wish it did, but sense I got the Pac and before I even had it up and running, I have been looking for the next machine.
Today, I got another one, kind of. I found an empty Shadow Dancer cabinet on Craigslist. I figure I will make a multicade out of it or a MAME, which is what the previous owner was using it for. I did discover something neat though: there was a working Shadow Dancer PCB in that ol' cab! It also had the original marquee. I do not plan on turning it back into a dedicated machine, but it is nice to have the stuff in case I get the craving to do so or someone else ends up needing it. Oh yea! As the title said: Shadow Dancer is some heavy ass shit. There was one point that I was fairly sure I was going to have my legs crushed, but my friend (Giant Bomb user) McRibs saved my precious walking buddies. I hope to have some pictures of my Pac and Shadow Dancer machines up at some point soon.

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