Tag Archives: meta

Guess Who’s Coming Back?

Is it us? It might be us.

Firstly, if you happen to follow us via twitter or an RSS feed, you’ve probably noticed that the blog’s name has changed. It’s true!

The Android’s Closet is now Every Video Games.

Primarily so we are no longer mistaken for a blog about smartphone apps.  Our robot mascot is staying, although he, too, got a fancy new revamp.  And we still do like robots and androids and other mechanical things.  We also like elves, because we are trash.

But anyways, enough about that!

We have a plan.

Sort of.  Pike wants to play every single game on her Steam list.  Of which there are over 400, last she checked.  And she figured she may as well blog about it.  Because who knows, some people may want to read about it.

As for Mister Adequate, well, believe me, he has PLENTY to talk about as well.  Between the two of us, we hope to provide a decent amount of quality (or not-so-quality) posts for a little while to come.

So buckle up and get ready for a future filled with EVERY VIDEO GAMES.  Terrible grammar intended.

A Re-examination of the so-called ‘Tyranny’ of Dr. Ivo Robotnik

Perhaps one of the best-known faces among gaming’s antagonists, Dr. Ivo Robotnik (aka Dr. Eggman or just Eggman) is the longtime foe of Sonic the Hedgehog and has grown famous for his lust for the Chaos Emeralds and the quest to roboticize all living things within his empire.

Or that’s the Blue Blur’s official line, anyway. If you are inclined to put aside your prejudices and overlook the propaganda, I’d like to highlight what I believe to be the truth behind these lies, which can be demonstrated by facts that no amount of Sonic’s lies can obscure.

First, and most simply, let us consider the sheer endurance of Robotnik. No matter how many times Sonic’s gang of insurgents sabotages his plans, destroying an absolutely staggering array of material (including several vast space stations) he always returns. Some would say this proves his lust for power; I say it proves his resilience and his capability. How many of us could go through even one loss on the scale of Robotnik’s and recover, let alone do so over and over? He is clearly an unrivaled master of planning and forethought if he always has the necessary resources to rebuild, and in these troubled times I think we can agree someone with a proven record of excellence in planning.

Nothing to lose but your chains!
Nothing to lose but your chains!

This leads into the greater thrust of my thesis though. Planning is only part of the story and it can be used to plot evil as well as good. What does Dr. Robotnik use his considerable talents for? Sonic’s cadre claims it is to enslave, which is a handy fiction, but let’s look at who is making that claim. Sonic the Hedgehog is “the fastest thing alive”, capable of unbelievable feats of speed and dexterity. He is, in point of fact, uniquely fast and strong. Few things can even pose a threat for him, and only Robotnik’s most dedicated and specialized units such as Metal Sonic have ever slowed him down. Robotnik, meanwhile, gives us a great clue in his name, whether it’s his true name or a nom de guerre. The term ‘Robotnik’ is a word meaning “Worker” in the Polish, Czech, and Slovak languages. Indeed several underground papers in Polish history have borne the name “Robotnik”, and in 19th century Czech areas, peasants revolting against landowners were referred to as “Robotniks”. Does this by itself prove anything? No; but it does help in providing an understanding of Dr. Robotnik’s operations and motives.

Dr. Robotnik’s roboticization policies are intended to convert the animal population of Möbius into robotic equivalents. This is portrayed as being a truly evil act – but who is responsible for this portrayal, and what do they gain from it? The answer is Sonic, and what he stands to gain is the preservation of his status as an elite. This is the crux of my argument, so let’s make sure it’s properly outlined. Sonic is the arch-bourgeoisie, he is capable of feats unique to any living being on Möbius, and he is special precisely because of this. A couple of his allies are also special, but they have their own unique qualities as well – Tails has two tails and can fly with them; Knuckles can punch like Vodka Drunkinski – and Sonic tolerates them only insofar as they are subservient to him and never steal his primacy in the spotlight. The other animals, the ones ‘rescued’ from Robotnik’s machines, are universally average. None of them have any outstanding qualities which we are shown. They will never be as fast as Sonic or as tough as Knuckles, or able to fly as Tails can – unless they adopt the technological power offered by Dr. Robotnik.

Robotnik’s policies are raising every animal on the planet to parity with Sonic and his cadre’s powers. They are becoming faster, stronger, and gain abilities such as flying or operating aquatically. Robotnik is a revolutionary figure who is trying to overthrow the existing order, and Sonic is a reactionary, counter-revolutionary whose sole objective is maintaining his position of primacy and privilege. Witness, for example, how animals ‘released’ from Robotnik’s exosuits are completely unharmed. They are immediately aware of their surroundings, they are in perfect physical condition, and they are evidently in no way permanently attached to those machines. It is also telling that the second they are ‘set free’ they bound away from Sonic at top speed – except those who have no such luxury, because Sonic destroys a squirrel’s flight units while it is several thousands of feet in the air (cf. Sonic 2, Sky Chase Zone). In short Robotnik’s machinery is painless and its only purpose is to enhance the inhabitants of it. Sonic cannot stand for this.

Sonic also enforces patriarchal values and denies the agency of Amy.
Sonic also enforces patriarchal values and denies the agency of Amy.

Sonic (tellingly a blue creature, the traditional color of Tories and the phrase “blue-blooded”) is surely a figure of hate to these creatures, who don’t even presume to equal him, but only to exceed their own bodily limitations. He will have none of that. Only he, and to a lesser extent his biologically gifted and ideologically pure allies, may possess any form of exceptionalism. Only he may stand out from the crowd. Only he may be special. By virtue of nothing more than birth he is to be elevated and venerated and he will brook no challenge from Robotnik – the Worker, dressed in red and black, the very flag of revolution. He fights violently and campaigns tirelessly to defeat absolutely any and all technological developments made by Robotnik and to keep Möbius in its pastoral state. This is a handy secondary effect of his oppressive crusade, as it allows him to paint his side as the one supporting a pristine, natural world opposed to the artificiality and machinery of Robotnik’s. These is never any examination on Sonic’s part of why one should be inherently better than the other, never any attempt to seek an agreement with Dr. Robotnik, never any consideration that perhaps those animals are encased in machinery not by force but by choice, to enhance their own capacities and labor in a worker’s collective for the benefit of all. A final damning comparison: Robotnik seeks the Chaos Emeralds to power vast machinery, enhancing again the power of many citizens and providing who-knows-how many jobs. Sonic seeks them in order to enhance his own power, becoming even more superlatively strong and unassailable.

I hope this essay has demonstrated why the presented, official line put out by Sonic propagandists should be doubted and questioned. Robotnik may not be perfect (Though it bears mentioning he is far from paranoid – his objectives have as I said been repeatedly foiled by Sonic and he faces a constant threat from the reactionaries and their running echidnas) but he is clearly the superior moral force in this struggle, one who seeks to ensure equality not by keeping everyone equally subservient but by making them equally capable, equally free.

Grand Strategy and 4X

We got a question yesterday via twitter from reader Fuggle/Math asking how we would describe the difference between 4X games and Grand Strat games. Well, the reply would take longer than 140 characters so here we are~

Now, these two genres are pretty closely linked for obvious reasons. Both tend to involve the control of countries on a quest for dominance, be it local, global, or galactic. Both tend to involve building up your infrastructure and military and pushing large groups of units around. And if you play both then it’s hardly surprising that you’d end up trying to figure out what the difference is supposed to be. But let’s dig into it a little deeper and see if we can tease some answers out.

Let’s define 4X first, for anyone not sure of what it means. It should be 4E actually, because it stands for eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, eXterminate. But X is the coolest letter, so there we are. Anyway the idea of a 4X game is to do exactly that; to begin from a single settlement (be it a city or a planet) and first discover everything around you, then move in to occupy and make use of it, and then to annihilate everything else you meet.

So far, so strategic. How does this differ from Grand Strategy? Well, a Grand Strategy game has a couple of key differences. You still Expand and Exploit, but the Exploration and Extermination aspects tend to play second fiddle. This is not to say that they are absent or that no GS game cares for them – EU3 has a strong exploration aspect for example, whilst almost all of them involve SOME degree of Extermination. But you tend to be able to win without needing to conquer everyone. Indeed that may be perfectly possible, as in Hearts of Iron, but it may also be fairly tricky, as in Victoria 2.

And in some cases it is the categorical imperative of those workers who have already set themselves free.

Perhaps the other big difference is that 4X games are almost invariably turn-based, whilst Grand Strategy tend to be Real Time With Pause. Both encourage you to take your time and think about things, but GS still leans towards being a bit more fast-paced thanks to this. GS generally tries to implement the diplomacy side of things with more rigor and depth than 4X, as well – though the extent to which any given game succeeds in this is, of course, up for debate.

The much, much quicker way to tell is by asking “Was this game made by Paradox Interactive?” If yes, it’s a Grand Strategy. If no, it’s not. Unless it is, but who buys anything made by Matrix Games at those prices?

Gamer? Hardcore? Enthusiast? Buff?

Today’s topic is about how we see ourselves, in terms of being gamers. Obviously (really REALLY obviously) everybody’s identity is a unique and complex thing, and the things important to one person might be incidental to another. To some extent this is, I suspect, where the hostility of “in-groups” like hardcore gamers or early adopters of new bands to newcomers stems from, but that’s a tangential topic so we’ll put it aside for now.

Pike and I both identify as “Gamers”, in the sense that we play a lot of videogames, think about them a lot, talk about them, and read about them both on and offline. Oh and I guess we write about them too! We’re at the far end of the spectrum, where it’s not just another thing we do for fun but an important, perhaps even central aspect of our identity. Just as a lover of books like my mom spends a huge amount of time reading, collects books, and has filled every room in her house with stuffed shelves and numerous stacks of books on the floor, Pike and myself are the same with games. But the terms surrounding this identity are strange and nebulous things with some very different connotations to different people. It would be absurd for someone to call themselves a “reader”, but we would accept a “connoisseur” of books much more readily. Everyone watches movies, but a “movie buff” is a different creature.

Pinkie Pie is a connoisseur. Of you.

So does “Gamer” really work as a label? Sure we play games, but so do enormous numbers of other people. “Hardcore”? It’s probably a bit closer, and we are indeed both tremendous neckbeards and deeply cynical of the direction the industry is going in, but it’s not like I don’t love a good round of Plants vs. Zombies and Pike does little else besides play Angry Birds these days. [Editor’s Note: I DO NOT I PLAYED IT LIKE ONCE IN MY LIFE. ~Pike] “Connoisseur”? Perhaps that fits a bit better in that we are, after all, interested in gaming as a whole medium and are fascinated with it beyond just playing the things. It was easier when we could just insult the people playing the other side’s console because SEGA was far better than Nintendon’t.

So, time to open up the comments! What sorts of terms do you readers use in this regard?

Mass Effect 3 to get ending DLC

You’ve most likely already heard about this, but I thought I would share some of our thoughts about the situation anyway. As you may recall I’ve written at some length about the endings as they stand, so I won’t retread that here. And it wouldn’t be a revelation on the scale of Saint John’s to say I hope they do it well, though I am somewhat skeptical as it sounds like they are just adding to the cinematics rather than doing the work that I suspect needs to really be done in order to fix this up properly.

Still, there is something about this all that is very heartening. There has been a lot of talk about “artistic integrity” and whatnot in relation to the ending – that BioWare shouldn’t change the ending because of fan dissatisfaction. To some extent this is a fair point, as otherwise we would no doubt have all kinds of nonsense like Square trying to make games more like FFIX instead of, you know, good FFs. Nonetheless the attitude that fans are ‘entitled’ is bizarre, for a great number of reasons. First, yes we are. We’re entitled to getting our money’s worth and if a product, for whatever reason, doesn’t deliver that then we are perfectly within our rights to demand improvement. Maybe not to expect it, but to want it, certainly. If I buy a car and some aspect of it doesn’t function properly it’s not unreasonable to want that to be fixed, whether it’s something trivial or vital to the car’s functioning. Second, and our dear Pike can elaborate on this with far greater insight and expertise than I can, it is a pretty well-established notion when you create a creative work and put it out for people to consume, it becomes the property of the consumers. I’m a writer. I dread the idea of someone taking my work and finding it so thoroughly flawed that they want big changes made. But if that does happen, I sincerely hope I have the humility and integrity to sit down and consider the complaints on their own merits – and if they do indeed have merit, to see how a solution can be incorporated. When Pike first explained that to me I was somewhat horrified. “It’s mine!” I cried, “I can do what I want with it!” Well, yes. I can. That doesn’t make it wise to do so, and it may demonstrate great disrespect for the people who are sharing this work with me.

This has nothing to do with anything, but tell me that's not the most metal England you've ever seen.

The more interesting aspect here is that they’ve been willing to do this. To whatever extent they do make changes, to go back and change a fictional work once it’s done is fairly unusual. Yes you have, say, director’s cuts in movies when they’re out on DVD, and remixes of music tracks, but those aren’t really the same thing as making a change to the canonical version of the thing itself. The only real precedent I can think of, and Pike and I tried for some time to come up with something, was the Broken Steel DLC for Fallout 3. But even that was a small change, a simple “Oh you survived after all” and the ability to carry on after finishing the main quest, as it should be. And it was paid. The ME3 DLC is to be free, and at least has the potential to make significant, even sweeping, changes to the canon of the series.

What are your thoughts on this, readers? Are you hopeful, or do you despair about BW’s caving to angry mobs? Does this bode well or ill for the industry? Tell us what you think in the comments!


Hello readers, it’s time we had a talk.

Pike and I have been discussing things regarding the blog and where it is going, and we have decided that in order to achieve our fiscal goals going forward we need to make some changes. Therefore The Android’s Closet is going to be undergoing an overhaul over the next week or two. Here are just some of the changes you can expect to see!

The blog’s name will be changing to Sephiroth and Naruto Discuss Japan;
Our focus will change away from any Western-made videogames, though we will still talk about Japanese ones of course;
We will be discussing all aspects of Japanese culture, from their ancient and venerable traditions to the perfect warriors that are samurai, who have never been defeated by baka gaijin in a fair fight!
We will no longer be using images from inferior gaijin shows such as My Little Pony, as they lack the art and beauty of traditional hand-painted Japanese anime;
We will now be beginning a special feature on weekends where we examine our favorite furry and babyfur fanart!
And hopefully soon, your hosts xXSephirothXx and NekoNekoKawaii~=^.^= will be actually moving to the best country in the world, Japan, in order to be a part of their superior and ancient culture!

Furry versions of Western things are acceptable, however

And here is a sample list of topics you can expect to see discussed soon:
Why Sephy-sama is the greatest character ever written in videogames, and why we want a game about The Adventures of Sephy-sama!
Why sushi and other Japanese cuisine is the only acceptable type of food!
Remaking Katawa Shoujo, but including girls from our favorite animes like Naruto, Lucky*Star, Battle Royale, and Bleach!

If this sounds like something you’d be interested in reading about, you can buy a Sephiroth and Naruto Discuss Japan pass for just 59.99 USD, and gain exclusive access to each subsequent post for just 2.99 USD per post! And if you preorder now you get to choose whether you view the posts in red, blue, or green text!

Mass Effect 3 Ending Discussion

I shall warn you now: This is going to be a long post, and it is also going to contain an overabundance of spoilers, not only for the very end of ME3 but plot points throughout the series. Therefore if you are not interested in having it spoilt for you, do not read beyond this point!

Now we’ve all seen the great hullabaloo surrounding the ending of Mass Effect 3 – RPS provides a good summation of the current state of affairs – and that lets us launch into one of the core points that needs to be made explicit right from the beginning. People are invested in this game, this series, and deeply so. Mass Effect has been going for five years now, encompasses three vast games, and a number of other media like books and comics. A core concept of creative endeavor is that the creator and the consumer of it are engaged in a compact – at the very simplest level this compact is that the reader/player/watching agrees to suspend disbelief, while the creator agrees to deliver a satisfying story. The suspension of disbelief is vital. When you find the story coherent and internally consistent, you’ve got yourself a stew going. When you encounter something that is obviously nonsensical, contradictory, or the like, your ability to suspend disbelief is harmed, perhaps even shattered, and that makes your ability to enjoy the tale weaker. You can read a fairly excellent summation of this whole concept here, although the last bulletpoint may not apply!

In short this does matter. It’s not just the ending of a game, it’s the ending of something that people have invested in. Invested their money, their time, and their emotions. If anything the outrage is a testament to BioWare. Nobody gets too worked up about something they don’t care much about, but when we do get attached to things we naturally have expectations.

This honestly has nothing to do with anything, we just needed a picture to break up the text.

The problem, therefore, is not that the ending was anything in particular. It’s not that it was sad or happy or bitter-sweet or anything in-between. There’s nothing wrong with any particular ending, but it does have to have thematic ties, foreshadowing, and when it purports to be the ending of a series, it needs to provide satisfaction. Mass Effect 3 only succeeds on the first two in a very shaky fashion, and falls down on the third entirely.

The three choices given at the end of the game, by Magical Star Child von Ex Machina III, are roughly as follows – you can choose to either Destroy the Reapers, to Control the Reapers, or to merge all organic and synthetic life in the galaxy. The first of these options is fine – you’ve been trying to do that all game. The second is problematic. You’ve been specifically trying to stop the Illusive Man from figuring out how to control them throughout the game, and it’s pretty much outright stated that it’s not possible to control them. It turns out they can be, but you’re never given much reason to think it’s a good idea. In previous ME games choices like that were always given context and meaning. In the original game at the end you are presented with a choice of whether to charge in to save the Galactic Council, or hang back as it will help you fight more effectively. Sacrificing them has another purpose however – throughout the game you’ve seen humanity’s place in the galaxy, and how they are not given the due they feel they deserve. Failing to save the Council would propel your species to a position of power, as the new Council would be built around the people who saved the Citadel itself.

Conversely, although the possibility is raised in ME3 of controlling the Reapers, it’s never highlighted as a serious proposition. It’s something a madman is doing, something that the Reapers themselves have suggested to him in order to divide humanity’s efforts.

But at least that has some measure of foreshadowing, hamfisted as it is. The third option, “Synthesis”, comes right out of left field. Now, let’s be clear, I am an ardent transhumanist in the real world and fully desire ascension to becoming cybernetic. However, in this game it is completely insane to think Shep would choose that in the state he reaches the end in. He’s seen synthesis – it’s how the Reapers get their ground forces. There would need to be a HELL of a lot more in the way of setting this up beforehand for it to be remotely palatable.

The third problem with the choices given is that Shepard is not the kind of person who just accepts the choices given. The series is about defying the inevitable fate others have prescribed, and it doesn’t just come through in the big picture. A lot of small quests throughout the game can have an alternative option that Shepard figures out where nobody else could. At this point he should absolutely be able to say “Fuck you, we’re done playing by your rules.” as a Renegade, and “But look at the evidence” as a Paragon. And then what you have done in the series to date has an effect on what happens next.

How you have played should totally influence how the endings work out. Here’s how I envision things: You have brought peace to the Geth and Quarian, and present this to the Catalyst as evidence. It responds by saying “Yes, temporary peace has been achieved. Only through our presence. We have seen this in preceding cycles.” and they give you a long list where it has occurred. Then you can offer “EDI and Joker are in love.” as evidence, and the Catalyst says something like “Interesting. We do not have enough reference points to determine the outcome of this eventuality.” and then you have speech checks to convince the Catalyst to at least give the galaxy a chance to see if it can work. Alternatively you can choose to fight on, and then the battle just plays out. The outcome is determined by your War Assets – you should entirely be able to lose everything here! That would be a really great bad ending that made sense. And either of this would put things in the player’s hands, and made the choices over the game and series fundamentally matter. You could have three tiers of outcome – victory, a close defeat that is a Pyrrhic Victory for the Reapers and gives hope that the remaining galactic powers might be able to muster enough force to survive (or at least that the next cycle will), and total, crushing defeat.

So much for the choices. Let’s move on to the consequences. The choices of the ending are bad, but the outcomes are if anything even worse. Very little makes sense here. You see almost nothing except a few dying repears or whatever, and then the Mass Relays start blowing up (Seriously all it took was ONE LINE from Hackett earlier about how the Crucible’s effects seem to be propagated through the Relay system) while Joker is escaping through one. Why is he running when Shepard isn’t confirmed dead, and indeed the Citadel just opened, so Shep is probably not dead? How did Ashley and Liara get back aboard the Normandy? Who knows! Anyway the advertised multiple endings just plain don’t exist. You get a couple different colors of explosions, and you get a few minor scene changes, and that is that.

Gamers want choices. And we want choices that matter – choices and consequences used to be the watchwords of the RPG genre, and it is something we have sadly come to almost totally lack. One of the reasons Mass Effect was always so exciting was that it promised to oppose this trend – but it hasn’t done anything of the kind. It presented a total copout, in fact. Now, take my suggestions above, and you can see just how disappointing it is. I’ve not been spending forever drafting ideas, I pretty much plucked them out of thin air in the course of a few minutes. And though I’m not going to say I should be writing for videogame (I should totally be writing for videogames) it demonstrates that it would be easy to have come up with alternative endings that made sense. Endings that, as I’ve said but must hammer home, synthesize the gameplay and narrative choices over the course of the series to adjust your final options and their outcomes. This is surely the Holy Grail of games that purport to give the player significant choice – we all make gameplay choices constantly. Who to shoot in which order with which weapons, etc. etc., and how a battle plays out is the consequence thereof. In ME we make narrative choices regularly as well. Combine the two and baby, you’ve got a stew going!

Of course, this entire post rests on the concept that companies aren't evil bastards who destroy the best things ever.

Finally, when it comes to consequences, whatever the outcome we should have seen a lot more about your allies. Mass Effect is really about your other party members and how you interact with them. To see nothing except that they are stranded on an alien world is completely unsatisfying. Fair enough if you had a bad ending where Joker fled the battle once it was totally lost, I suppose, but otherwise just what. Assuming a good ending, like one where you convince the Reapers to leave or your superweapon works as advertised, you should see vignettes of where your comrades are five or ten years down the line. Liara excavating the ruins of Tuchanka. Javik is with her if you convinced him to become a bro, and they are working together to search for other Prothean ruins and perhaps other Protheans who survive in stasis. Garrus is a highup on Palaven helping to organize rebuilding. Wrex is doing the same on Tuchanka, keeping the tribes in line and working to create a new krogan identity. You see others as well, if they’re still alive. And finally you come to a scene maybe thirty years on, where you are older now, and your comrades too, and everyone who survived the series has gathered at the opening of a new Normandy Memorial Museum or something, a definitive and permanent memorial to the Reaper War and its heroes. You see a wall of the lost, as on the Normandy, you listen to your comrades make brief speeches about you, and you get to make a final one yourself about where the galaxy should go now.

That’s only one possibility of course. I understand that we all have our ideas about how everything should be different, too. I’m not trying to say I have all the answers and my ideas are best, but I am hoping to point out that not only is the current situation a bad one, it’s doubly bad because a better ending would not have been difficult to come up with, and given the money invested in the series, it wouldn’t have been an undue strain on resources to implement more.

Fundamentally it’s not disappointing just because of choices ignored, or consequences ignored, but because both are ignored in combination. Add a bit of nonsense and there we are. It’s disappointing not just as series fans, not just as paying customers, but as people who love the medium – because it could have been so much more, with so little extra effort. Maybe even enough to have a very clear way to demonstrate to Ebert that an experience can be enhanced by player agency and control, not diminished.

Hey jerkface! You have the face of a jerk!

I’ve just got a hold of Soul Calibur V a couple of days ago and after a little getting used to it I went online. I’m not yet very good at it, but I’ve got enough instinct left from the extraordinary amount of time I put into Soul Blade, SC I, and SC II that I can still kick some of these young whippersnappers’ butts.

The thing is that when I come up against someone with, say, a Win-Loss score of 3 – 16 I really feel bad about beating them. Obviously that one insane Yoshimitsu player with like a 90% win ratio over 300 matches, I had no issue about trying to beat the crap out of him. But when it’s someone who just doesn’t seem to be so good at the game I can’t help but feel a twinge of guilt as I turn their braincase into mush. I just find myself imagining them sitting there, losing yet again – who are they? Is it someone’s dad who was urged to get one of these new-fangled consoles? Is it some kid who is not yet coordinated enough to carry on? The weird thing is I don’t have this issue in face-to-face gaming. I’ve beaten the absolute crap out of small children without a second’s hesitation or remorse when we’re in the same room. And of course if it’s a team game, like a WoW battleground or a game of Team Fortress 2, I don’t have any issues about bringing my A game.

What if I'm fighting someone vidya impaired?!

Pike will no doubt mock me for this, as she insists I should be as merciless, as vicious, and as absolutely stone-hearted as possible whilst playing games. Nevertheless sometimes I just feel like a jerkface, even though of course everyone there is there by choice and it would be more insulting not to do my best. But do any of you out there have these similar twinges of guilt and worry, where you can’t help but imagine the person on the other side of the screen and how sad they must be to, yet again, be getting pounded into dust?

Finishing Games

I don’t remember the first game I ever played.

I do, however, remember the first game I ever beat. It was “The Lion King” for SNES, and I was about 10 or 11 years old… in other words, I’d already been playing games for nearly a decade by that point. (It was actually a pretty terrible ending, but it did feel good at the time.)

Since then, I can count the number of games I’ve actually played all the way through on, well– probably just a couple of hands. Ocarina of Time. Super Mario World. A handful of other platformers, like Yoshi’s Story. A few different RPGs. Mario Kart and Mario Kart 64. Goldeneye 007. Probably a few other racing and FPS games that I can’t think of off the top of my head.

Then you get to all the games I played a very great deal of and never actually beat. Sometimes it was because the game got genuinely very difficult– Banjo-Kazooie, I’m looking at you. Other times, I don’t know why I quit playing. I got bored, I guess. I have an FFTA save parked outside the final mission and I just never got around to beating it. Actually, I’m sure there are more games I’ve played to 90% than there are games that I’ve actually beaten.

It's an endless cycle of starting new games before I beat a previous one! An ENDLESS. CYCLE.

If you’re like this, then you’re not alone. According to a recent article, of all the people who started playing last year’s Game of the Year, Red Dead Redemption, only about 10% of them beat it. In fact, the article also says that game developers are actually making games with the thought in their head that most of their game’s players won’t see all of their carefully crafted content. What a bit of a sobering thought. Imagine writing a story and knowing that 90% of your readers won’t read through to the end.

I think there are a few different reasons why games have such a low completion rate. The fact that we’ve grown up is a big one. And I don’t mean that in a stereotypical “We’re too old for video games now” way. This is what I mean: Remember when you were a kid? You only got a few games a year, one or two for Christmas, one or two for your birthday, and maybe a couple others at special occasions throughout the year. “Someday,” you resolved to yourself, “I’m going to grow up and I’m going to buy SO MANY GAMES.” So then you grew up, got yourself an income, and did exactly what you said you were going to do. Which is great. Unfortunately, there are only 24 hours in a day. And you’re probably spending most of that time either sleeping or working.

And then you find yourself asking this.

Or perhaps your gaming tastes have changed a bit and now you mostly play stuff that doesn’t really “end” (MMOs, Minecraft) or you play games that can be played as a “match” in one relatively short session (Starcraft, Civilization, LoL, TF2, etc.)

For whatever reason or variety of reasons, though, people don’t beat a whole lot of games. I’ve acknowledged my own problem in this regard, and my current quest to either beat or re-beat as many Final Fantasy games as I can is part of a personal goal of mine to prove that I’ve still got what it takes to play a long game all the way through.

What about you guys? Do you have a backlog of games that you still need to beat?

Rise of the Indies

In contrast to my post earlier this week, I’m now going to talk about the people out there who are making games “as they want to make them”, that is to say, indie developers.

To be clear on the definition, I’m just using Indie to mean a game which is made without the financial support of a publishing house or anything.

And if you don't like my definition, you can take it up with Fluttershy here.

This has created a pretty interesting model. Increasingly, Indie games are implementing a model whereby you can pay a small sum now, in the alpha or beta stage, and get all later updates for free even after the price increases. Minecraft is the foremost example of this, but we can also look at games like Project Zomboid or Overgrowth to see the same model. This has all kinds of benefits; it brings people in and generates an active base of players before the game is officially “out”, the players can fulfill the role of testers, can give feedback and advice (If the dev wants to listen, of course), and most importantly the early sales generate money that mean the game can actually continue to be developed.

The thing is, because these games are made by individuals or small teams, and thus have far lower overheads than triple-A titles like Gears of War or Modern Warfare, they can be far, far more experimental and unique. Sure, you get games like Katamari Damacy from the bigger houses but those are the exception rather than the rule. Indie devs have an easier time in this regard. I doubt you could sell the idea of Dwarf Fortress to EA or Sony and have it still resemble DF once it’s been minced by their focus groups and marketing and what have you. Hell, you can’t even get a decent version of long-running, successful franchises like SimCity anymore.

But indie developers can. They can make extremely complicated games, niche games, experimental games,

games that are banned in Germany,

games that look like spreadsheets, games like Mount and Blade or Kenshi or a zombie game where one bite infects you 100% of the time. Or that are Minecraft, but with a dimension removed.

Which isn’t to say that all indie games are classics and we should bow down and worship their creators. Just that I have an appreciation for them because of the freedom they are afforded, compared to big name publishers.