A Brief Thought on Nomenclature

So, I was thinking about this the other day, and frequently since, as these random thoughts often do, and I had a thought about nomenclature surrounding the culture of games and how limiting it often is, as opposed to how freeing it can be.

Here's where this coalesced, I was on Youtube and watching some Bioshock Infinite discussion. I've not finished the game, I've only played a few hours, but since I'm not likely to play this game twice, I'm having fun seeing the little details on my first run through. One comment at the top of the pile caught my eye:

"I hate this glorification of bioshocks story. Yeah its cool but this is far from the first time this has been done. Maybe the first AAA title that this, but its nothing new. Its nothing revolutionary, and its no genius commentary on gaming. Its just a well written story about the parallel universe theory."

And I decided that I wanted to respond maturely. I don't usually comment on Youtube (which is how I maturely browse on any other day) but I just wanted to, despite myself. I thought about the terms "Gamer", "Triple A" and just the word game itself are limited, in the way "Adolf" is limited, in the way "democrat" is limited. There's a connotation that you can't surpass there, at least to me. TL;DR, I wanted to reply in a very generic way.

"That in itself is a first and that Ken Levine can command such respect from his audience, his peers at Irrational and Those that bankroll his projects is to be respected, I think.

As a "new" medium, products that push boundaries at all levels should be celebrated. Whether BI's narrative is unique or not, you can't argue that the story of it's creators isn't, and when there is a first, it paves the way for a second."

Movies aren't limited this way and neither are books. You are a watcher when you see a movie, you are a reader when you read a book, and you're a player when you control a game. But neither "watcher" nor "reader" feel confining as words to me. Is it because I am neither of these? Even as a part of the culture around games, the term "gamer" brings up nasty images of far-too-young children screaming curses and leaving flecks of spit on their TV, or horribly overweight men who shit in socks and just vegetate grinding daily quests.

I started to think that part of the problem was the catch-all terms we have created around games and how sticky those labels are.

I suffer from Depression. There was a moment, Christmas 2011 where I realised that I had changed. I couldn't define the difference in words because it seemed so subtle to me and I sought out help. I saw my doctor and told them what was wrong with me; I couldn't feel motivated about anything, I couldn't remember the last time I was happy or satisfied, there was a hole in my chest I could only describe metaphorically (in that there was no real hole, but I could feel something missing), I had hurt myself (which triggered my first doctors visit) and I had frequently thought about suicide. I was Depressed.

I'm mostly better now. I'm speaking to friends again, I go outside, I have a job and so on. But I still acknowledge that I have depression. I think gaming's vocabulary has helped me express this most fluidly. I see it as a modifier, a permanent Debuff I have to be aware of at all times. It doesn't always affect me, but I have to remember that the lows can be very low just as highs can be very high, like a multiplier on a sine-wave graph. I have heard from people close to me that I am limiting myself to continue to associate myself with the word Depressed but I can only disagree. I feel like it helps me keep tabs on how I'm feeling to remind myself of it occasionally as it helps me remember where the Bad Thoughts of social anxiety come from. I don't think "labels" are a bad thing, they just give me a shared vocabulary to express groups of ideas.

I feel the opposite about "gaming," however. I don't hide that I play games, but I don't call myself a gamer because I feel that word is limiting. I am a person who enjoys games and plays a lot of them and the word gamer has begun for me to remind me of the worst of the culture, almost like an insult. To me it highlights the entitlement (Mass Effect 3's Ending and more recently, Microsoft's potential adoption of a Steam-like model) that everything must conform to the nebulous mold of public opinion. The extreme cognitive dissonance that means one company must "win" E3 because that's who we've "aligned" ourselves with this year, and you can't own the other console because you'd be "stupid" to own it. The childishness of the audience that can't share their toys or have a discussion; Anita Sarkeesian is my example here: she recently posted a tumblr of responses to a comment she made via twitter, about how there were no female protagonists shown on stage at E3 (spoilers: She got called a cunt and told her opinion didn't matter because ladies in games don't sell.)

I don't want to call someone a gamer anymore. I want to be a person who plays games, and I want others to be that too. It sounds more mature and I want people to be more mature in kind. We shouldn't have popular figures like Robert "Rab" Florence or Jim Sterling embodying the negative, wildly opinionated nature of "gamers," frothing up hatred or a platform that hasn't been released or finalised yet. We need more Jeff Gerstmanns who talk about what it means and what the alternative means. I would like to see content where I can take away a talking point and a lesson or new piece of information (and ultimately that's why I pay my money for Giant Bomb).

I've been writing this for a while now and it's all very stream of consciousness. I don't really feel like editing very much as I'm just happy to have it out of me for the moment. Long story short, I feel like having labels is good, but I think how we use them is going a bit overboard and picking up meaning that it shouldn't represent thanks to the way they're used and the people who are using them.


Co-op grumbles

Three games in a row and GODDAMN no online support for co-op. is it really that hard to pull off? Arkadian warriors could do it, so could Splosion man, so can near enough any game on the 360! If their entire method of delivery is online, why are there no online features in Lara Croft: Guardian of Light, Scott Pilgrim Vs The World and Shank?
I can understand that net code is hard, something I can't do, but it isn't my job. The ability to find someone willing to sit down next to me on my couch becomes progressively harder as time whittles on, so why make it harder for me to enjoy these games fully?
I'll append this with the concession that co-op is is coming to LC:GoL, but nigh on a month later is a bit much, no?
This guy shares my pain
 <iframe class="youtube-player" type="text/html" width="500" height="405" src="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N0izaYAIo9E " frameborder="0"></iframe>


Publishers have a problem with money

...In that they don't understand quite where it comes from. 
In response to Retailers are "Parasites" and "Theives" a story by Jim Sterling
Publishers do not sell their games to people, they sell their games to intermediary companies that deal with people, companies like GameStop or GAME or TESCO even. They make their money right off the bat before anyone else can even see the game box-art on a shelf.

I agree with everyone in the comment thread coming off of the story, in that if they want MY money, sell ME the game. When I'm done with it, I may sell them it back to get my next one although it's my own preference and good fortune to be able to choose not to do that most of the time. I'm quite relieved that when I looked down into what other people were thinking it reflected my own stance, proving that It isn't a problem with my thinking.

The Used game market is also my right to choose not to give a publisher my support though these legitimate channels if I choose to. It took a full three months, but I waited patiently for a copy of "Tales of Vesperia" to be sold into GAME because I was disgusted that it took a full year for it to be translated from American to English. I could still enjoy the game that I waited 2 years for after it was completed,  but it empowers me to make a choice with my wallet.

Personally I love buying games brand new day of release if I believe the game will be fun (hell, the hype around here for "X-Blades" had me buying that day-of) but Publishers have to realise that that money isn't theirs when I go to GAME and get my fresh-plastic smelling cellophane wrapped DVD box full of software and copyright leaflets. 
There are other arguments in favor of the used game market, but my real beef is with how pissy publishers get about it, considering that if I buy a game at a store, they don't get any of that money anyway.


Why COD and R3 both annoy the hell out of me.

Please bear in mind that I do not think of these games as "bad". both games are factually brilliant at being interactove media and well designed out the ass, but i'm sick of them. This sentiment actually goes a lot further than  just COD and R3, because it's what they inspire that I dislike; I'm a pretty damn good consumer. I buy most games at or damn close to release, complete them and maybe do a little achievement mop up and then BAM I'm finished with it and it sits on my shelf for when I want to play it again or lend it to friends or whatever.
What I dislike is the kind of single-mindedness that the games produce in the entirety of my friends lists. Every night at least 75% of my friendslist is playing through private games of one or the other. Sure, I agree, the games are super fun and I join in with the games for so long as I can stand it, but dude! there's a limit to the amount of content that's actually in the game, do we really have to play Rust again? isn't Fort Mercer kinda boring?  Can't we, you know, play some Left 4 Dead or Crackdown 2 Demo? No? awwwh...
I've never been one who enjoys a grind. it's the reason I only periodically play Forza 3, it's the reason I never S-Ranked Just Cause 2, It's why I think so poorly of FF13. Games have to be fun to keep my attention and Co-op is where the fun really is nowadays, whether that's because of a meta game, like homebrew VIP or Left 2 Die (alternatively, Realisticly Left 2 Die Too) or just because it's balls out wacky, I'm annoyed that it's being ruined by admittedly fun games with stupid-ass grinding. 
Edit: It appears I can't spell and made Red Dead R3. Dunno how that works, but It's staying. GOTTA COMMIT!


Games so bad they're good.

On the recommendation of people in the forums in "games you were pleasantly surprised by" I bought a copy of The Saboteur and it is ridiculous. The voice acting, character acting, dialogue, premise are all bananas and I really can get behind it.
Not reallly very long for a blog post, but I'ma edit it later with some more thought when I've had more than 30 mins with it. I just had to tell the world my satisfaction at the line "I'm fucking Irish." "Motherless Arse-faced Knobjockey" "Dear wanker, sorry for the bang-up, send the bill to me arse!"


Ubisoft is not Captian Planet


No Caption Provided

You should have a quick scan of that article by Dale North( Destructoid.com) first if you don't quite know what I'm talking about.

Ubisoft (famous for the likes of Rayman, Splinter Cell and Assassin's Creed) recently announced  a plan to "go green" with it's packaging in games. This means redesigned cases on the PC and the removal of manuals from console games in favour of adding the manuals digitally to the disc. I see a problem with this on a couple of different levels, but it's also, another voice can't hurt if you're trying to prove a point.

Every game is somebody's first game

It's a little bit arrogant to think "heh, I can do this, why can't everyone else?" and so this is why manuals exist in the first place. While the intricacies of the button layouts, "old tropes" of video games and the secret code of menus is practically second nature to anyone seeing this, we are most certainly in the minority. I think to my dad, not yesterday astounded by my mastery of control, eking out more masterful combos and features than he's been able to get out of Batman: Arkham Asylum in 15 hours, in my first 15 minutes.

He didn't know you could go first-person/zoom-in by clicking the right stick

To me, it makes sense that clicking the camera control does something new with the camera, but it didn't occur to my dad that it was a button because nobody told him. And nobody told him because the game doesn't demand it. My dad isn't the kind of person to ever give up, but if he gets stuck, he reads the manual, because he learns this type of thing. It would never occur to him to assume it was on the disc.

Not all gamers are us super-hardcore types. My dad is typical of the general gaming populace; casual.

It's about standards

Loving games isn't a pre-requisite to work in GAME or GameStation in England. It helps, but half the staff have never owned a single game where I work. They'll serve you, they know what the consoles do (kind of) and they have a list of 4-5 games coming out memorised, but they won't know who mega man, master chief or solid snake are. More likely they're going to think you're coming on to them, poorly.

Now looking through the comments, I see you Americans with your game stores don't have too much of these, but in the UK, when you trade in a game, you get turned away if there is no manual. If these standards change, good people will be turned away, or more likely, games that should have a manual, will lose them because of Ubisoft's greed.


In an era where these gorgeous HD games are fucking even basic control up, you know for a fact the manual will be on some hard to reach screen that you'll have to quit out of the game to find. It will be on the main menu booting you out of the game, be in text far too small to read on an SD TV, in blocks that hurt your eyes because of the brightness contrast and in a font you despise. You could have gotten the special edition with the booklet in, but that was an extra £10 for a steel case and 4 pages of legalese and a diagram of a controller on the back because it was the collector's edition.

Pessimism? Maybe. Unfounded? Not quite.

The alternative is a downloadable PDF, but this again is a problem. Everyone without the internet, raise your hand. Awesome. Looks like EVERYONE has the internet then. No problems here. I can't see a single person without the internet out there. What do you mean, those people who can't read this don't know to object? Pshaw.

There are easier ways to go green

1) Stop requiring an internet access to play your PC games. What do you think powers the internet, dumb-asses?
2) CD sleeves use less plastic than DVD boxes. FACT.
3) Flying out game developers to have a sit-in game session creates more CO2 than game manuals' production.
4) Stop having children; Children make TONS of CO2 in their lifetime (it's called breathing) and are more of a hazard, due to overpopulation.
5) French people are smug pricks; unrelated, but I've never met one who wasn't. I've seen some cute German girls though. and Russian accents are the bomb.
6) Let every developer work from home. Transport creates CO2 unless they all walk to work, in which case, well done Ubisoft employees.


It's easy to see why Ubisoft is doing this; tax cuts for going greener and less costs from producing less product, but manuals are a mainstay of gaming and have been for as long as anything. It makes me annoyed to see it being cut for sheer greed under the thin guise of altruism.

Man up, Ubisoft, and leave us the ability to flick through, thumb, make notes in, ignore and pour over our manuals.

Written to Danny Barronowsky's "The Teaching Robot" ( dBsoundworks.com)