Tag Archives: Gaming

The Art Game

"Ico" - yep, no art here...

“Ico” – yep, no art here…

Oh, the fuss which ensued when arty types MoMA announced their intent to display new-fangled vidya ga3mz as art.

Critics quailed and hand-wrung sneerily over The Meaning Of It All whilst displaying a delightful ignorance of the medium they were presuming to denounce (what else is new?), whilst gamers rushed in defence to the right of interactive entertainment to be considered on the same terms as fine art, cinema or dance.

Today, in a post on The Guardian’s games blog, Keith Stuart does a damn good job of shutting down critics and framing the debate in terms that even no-nothing, buttoned-up art critics might be able to understand.

My position continues to be thus – art shouldn’t be something which should be the exclusive province of a handful of university-educated, cosseted egotists whose every noxious emission installation is greeted with braying wonder and exaggerated importance by art critics, whose livelihood depends on perpetuating the notion of artist-as-rock star.

Look, Ma - high art!

Look, Ma – high art!

Could it be this odd emphasis on the collective assembling an end product which so vexes art critics and defies their limited abilities to assess games properly?  The likes of Shigeru MiyamotoCliff Bleszinski or David Cage aside, there are comparatively few ‘auteurist’ games designers who give critics a singular presence to hang their analysis upon.  You’re not considering the work of a Damian Hirst or Tracey Emin in isolation and perpetuating what, to me, seems like an increasingly outdated view of the solitary artist labouring over work in a studio – you’re thinking about Media Molecule, Ubisoft Montreal or Team Meat delivering an interactive experience.  How do you sift, quantify and consider the work of hundreds of individuals in a meaningful way in order to accurately assess the quality of a game?

Honestly, I don’t care if games are art.  It’s a meaningless descriptor to employ and one which seems to be employed to keep arts bloggers in page views – we’re talking trolling, here, in its purest form.

I know that when I explore the island in the new “Tomb Raider”, I’m getting an experience which I can’t get from a novel or a film and one which is entirely new and beyond the ability of the critical establishment to describe.  They’re not up to the job, frankly, and we shouldn’t be giving such irrelevancies the oxygen of consideration.

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All Our Base Are Belong To This Guy

Got a 360 and a PS3?  You’ve got nothing on this guy.

There’s cable management problems and then there’s the back of THIS system…

In the words of Jodie Foster in “Contact” – “They should have sent a poet…”

Image and original story via – Global Geek News | Celebrating Geek Culture.

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Godfather of Mario can’t stop.

Not quitting. At all. Definitely not. No way. Ain't gonna happen.

Panic not, Ninty peeps.

Despite comments in a “Wired” magazine interview which seemed to indicate otherwise, Nintendo genius Shigeru Miyamoto isn’t retiring.  Which is good news for all of us and Nintendo’s stock price.

Working on smaller games, yes, quitting entirely – no.

(For those of you unfamiliar with Miyamoto’s work, he’s had some success in creating video games.  Ever played a Mario, Donkey Kong, Zelda, Star Fox, F-Zero or Pikmin game?  Then you’ve experienced some of the indefinable uniqueness that Miyamoto brings to gaming).

The most interesting thing that the interview yielded to me was the ‘working on smaller games’ nugget – does this indicate that the forthcoming WiiU console is going to be offering downloadable, XBLA/PSN-like games?   If so, that’s got to be a good idea – not having to work on a five-year dev cycle to realise your games vision is only going to free up more time for a Miyamoto-like talent to push out quirky, bite-sized titles on a more regular basis.

And what fan of gaming wouldn’t want that?

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Should playing games be a chore?

As a gamer it’s happened to all of us, at one time or another.

You’ve battled through level after level of escalating enemies, mini-bosses, end-of-level Uber-Demons and then found yourself hunkering down and dying time after time in a seemingly vain, uphill battle against borderline-abusive games design (Hello, crap difficulty spike at the end of “Warhammer 40K: Space Marine” – SPOILERS if you haven’t reached the end of the game!).

Kotaku today has a good piece by Luke Plunkett which muses on a different strategy – should games actively reward you for getting closer to finishing the game?

And no, New Game Plus isn’t what I’m talking about.

"Prepare to die"? Yep, that's a sales pitch which always works on me...

Kotaku‘s man posits that more games could learn from “The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay”  and give the player an occasional assist to foster the urge to get to the end of the game – the Riddick game gives you a cool piece of hardware in a climactic set-piece, much as the second “Gears of War” let you wreak havoc with a Brumak creature as you moved towards the end of the game.

I’m inclined to agree – if you’ve shown the gumption, skills and bloody-minded dedication to get near to the end of the game, why not throw your tired consumers a quick slice of awesome to gee them up a little?

It can’t be that difficult to implement and who doesn’t want to feel momentarily super-awesome when you get your virtual mitts on some +infinity to enemy damage spell or the use of some uber sword to hack away at waves of enemies?

I’m not one Teh Hardcorez, so the idea of suffering through a crappy experience to prove gamer cred is not one which holds much weight with me.   Games peeps – hear your audience’s cries!

 

 

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The uncomfortable truth about “Uncharted 3” (updated – I’ve beaten the game)

I am a fan of Nathan Drake.  Despite his confusing, almost binary, bisected personality – half-charming modern-day Indiana Jones adventure hero, half-terrifying serial killer – I genuinely look forward to each instalment of his PS3 adventures.

His games – from the hugely gifted developer Naughty Dog – are single-player cinematic adventures which knock most latter-day action-adventure movies for six and reward multiple play-through sessions.  The “Uncharted” series has blistering set-piece action, genuinely funny character dynamics, glorious game environments and a difficulty curve which allows you to gradually pick up skills, apply them and progress smoothly through the game.  If you’re not great at shooting, you can usually blag your way through the carnage to get to a puzzle section or some energetic platform sequence which stops you from feeling the game’s design is actively working against you.

The same is unfortunately not so of the latest game in the franchise – “Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception”.

A frustrating blemish on an otherwise splendid game.

Games forums are positively awash with anguished forum threads about the third game’s perceived shortcomings – mostly centred around what feels like an unaccountably broken aiming and combat system which makes every gunfight on normal difficulty or above into a patience-sapping, fury-inducing ordeal which only appears to end sometimes when the game realises that you’ve been stuck in the same combat arena for an hour and show no sign of being able to emerge and progress in the story.

Yes, I too am finding the mechanics of “Uncharted 3” shooting sections to be unrewarding, infuriating and apparently designed to extend the life of the game in your PS3 tray by making it so fricking impossible to finish that every completed gun fight is beaten only by bloody-minded, focussed attrition.

It’s gotten so bad that on Sunday, after trying to beat the second part of the (SPOILERS) airfield battle (SPOILERS END) for something like ninety minutes, I dropped the difficulty down from normal to easy.  For reasons of gamer ego and trophy/achievement-hunting I have never had to do that before.  The only reason that I did is because this section was preventing Mrs Rolling Eyeballs and I from enjoying the game’s story – which is a key reason that we love the series.

If you’re spending an hour and more trying to beat a section because the antagonists can – no word of a lie – take 96 bullets from an AK-47 at point-blank range and STILL NOT DIE, I would submit that the game may have fundamental issues relating to its shooting mechanic.

Naughty Dog‘s community manager has been proactive in responding to this internet disquiet – indeed ND held an event at their California HQ last Friday, attended in part by some NeoGaf members, which worked with gamers to see if aiming could be tweaked for an apparently imminent patch – but it really would have been nice for the game to work well in the first place.

I don’t consider myself a hardcore gamer, nor am I a n00b – I’m somebody who plays a lot of games but doesn’t have preternaturally lethal FPS reactions – and I’m really quite disenchanted by “Uncharted 3” to date.  The good points – the story, some of the set-pieces, the characters – are presently outweighed by the teeth-grinding, hair-tearing shortcomings of the gunplay.

UPDATED!

After an hour or three of pushing through the campaign on ‘Easy’ difficulty, it turned out that I was a punch, a jump and a volley of pistol fire away from beating the game entirely.

Now that I’ve done that, I think that I’m able to say with some certainty that I really enjoyed the game overall – pain-in-the-butt difficulty spikes and combat difficulty notwithstanding.

The set-piece which finishes the game was a hell of a lot better than the ones which finished the first two games in the series – if Naughty Dog are going to continue the series, they could do a lot worse than to follow this model for concluding stories in future “Uncharted” games.

I really enjoyed the concluding cut-scene and found it cheered me up so much that I then decided to go back to my saved game and try to complete the game ‘normal’ difficulty from the point at which I abandoned it – and do you know what?  I managed to get through the gun battle by using different tactics, concentrating like an S.O.B. on the shooting and using a (SPOILER) silenced pistol (SPOILERS END) on the bad guys.  I’m now going to keep going until I beat the game with a view to going back and trying to beat it on ‘Hard’, because I’m a glutton for masochistic, illogical punishment.

Wish me luck.

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That “Grand Theft Auto V” teaser is here…

Kotaku have the one minute, 24 second-long teaser trailer for Rockstar’s next controversy magnet – “Grand Theft Auto V”.

As predicted, we’re in Rockstar North’s iterative take on Los Angeles, nefarious doings are afoot and the engine looks quite pretty.

Won't somebody think of the children?

This is the part where I tell you that I’ve never played a “Grand Theft Auto” game and that this is, in fact, the extent of my knowledge of the series.

If you have thoughts on what you’ve just watched, feel free to regale me with them in the comments.

 

 

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Are Games Art?

Eurogamer picked up on an interesting discussion between the splendid Charlie Brooker and arts aficionado Ekow Eshun on Radio 4’s Today programme which gets into that old chestnut, “Are Games Art?”

 

 

 

Image via AeroPause.com

The conclusion seems to be no, games don’t yet manage to attain the status of being art, but this isn’t the firmly slammed door that it might first appear.

Ignoring the voice which always accompanies the debate from the gamer side  – ‘I don’t care if games are art or not‘ – it appears that Eshun believes that a great percentage of books, movies and music don’t qualify as art either, and that being entertaining isn’t exactly a crime.  A refreshingly level-headed assessment, I think you’ll agree.

For my own part, I know that I’ve switched my affiliation almost exclusively from films to games when it comes to action and adventure: would you rather see “The Expendables” or play “Battlefield Bad Company 2”?   Have you seen a Hollywood sci-fi movie which had a tenth of the atmosphere woven into every corner and scene of “Metro 2033”, a game which approaches the hallucinatory brilliance of the original novel?

There’s definitely a cross-pollination between the two forms – as Brooker states, Hollywood routinely apes the aesthetics and conventions of games and what is the “Modern Warfare” franchise if not the greatest action adventure film that Michael Bay never made?

Imagine how good games are going to be when they’re not beholden to Hollywood for stuff to rip off – when the medium has the confidence to go beyond it’s influences and use interactive storytelling to provide entertainment experiences which are not simply ‘shoot this, dodge that’ but something more meaningful – a fusion of novelistic storytelling, cinematic spectacle and gaming immersion in a convincing virtual world.

God, imagine what Stanley Kubrick could have done with that tool-set?

 

 

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