Killer is Dead: Misogyny is Not

There are some flaws in video games which can be forgiven. Frame-rate issues and ropy graphics in places can be absolved bImagey the player if the gameplay itself is engaging and fun. For many players, a whole host of issues can be forgiven if a game stands out as a work of art, a creation of true beauty. And so on. It was with some disappointment that I realised that Suda51 had created a flaw in their latest game ‘Killer is Dead’ which is completely inexcusable;  the misogynistic nature of its content. In too many sections of society the way in which women are portrayed and represented is completely unacceptable. It seems that video games have also been unable to avoid this problem. The way in which women are used in this game is appalling. The awful nature of the ‘Gigolo Mode’ is pretty self-explanatory. However, in addition to this, many of the female characters in this game are made into sex objects or targets for violence. A game which encourages people to act in this way through its gameplay is shameful; by turning this subject matter into a medium for entertainment it is tacitly giving approval and propping up the messages that the game is putting across. It has no place in video-games or anywhere else. Not only is it on very morally questionable ground with its content, but it also makes the game utterly exclusionary. Suda51 has seemingly forgotten the fact that video games are also extremely popular with women. In creating a game like this it has essentially ignored half of the potential video game market. This game’s ability to alienate cannot be overstated. Perhaps as equally depressing is the fact that Suda51 clearly feels that it is responding to some sort of perceived market for this game. They have assumed that there are plenty of people out there who want this sort of content in their games. Clearly, they have aimed this game at men. It is insulting to think that this developer has assumed that just because I am male that I would want to play a game of this sort. There is no need to make games aimed at men or women in the first place; in my experience men and women tend to want to play the same kind of games. All gamers want quality in their games, not pathetic attempts at gender stereotyping in games. If you type ‘girls for games’ into amazon, all that comes up are terrible games which all seem to exclusively feature horses and make-up. These games are not quality games and no-one will want to play them if they are over the age of 5. Gender aiming should not be part of the game designing process. If it is, games featuring the kind of misogynistic gameplay evident in ‘Killer is Dead’ will be the end result.

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If Pokemon were real….

For all of those people out there (like me) who think that it would be the most amazing thing in the world if Pokemon were real. Check out this article:

http://www.smogon.com/smog/issue20/dangerous_irl

 

This may give you reason to reconsider. Enjoy!Image

Nintendo- Shadow of the Eternals: Supporting Small Games Producers

Eternal Darkness, for me, remains one of the best survival games that has ever been made. The engaging story line, amazing sanity effects (these really can’t be praised enough), innovative magic system and first class audio effects combined to make this a truly great title. I was always, therefore, slightly disappointed that a sequel was never released. A sequel would hopefully retain all the excellent elements of the game, but would also iron out a few of the niggles present in the combat system. I was initially pleased to hear that a developer called Precursor were planning on creating a spiritual successor to the game called SImagehadow of the Eternals. Unfortunately, the company did not manage to raise the necessary start-up funds to begin producing the game. This has prompted some criticism to be thrown at Nintendo from the fans. Why not simply give Precursor the money to begin developing the game that so many fans want and have waited for a long time? Why not show the industry that Nintendo has faith in, and is willing to work with, smaller producers working on quality games? The reality is that the situation is not that simple. First of all, Precursor were not planning on making the game a Nintendo exclusive. Nintendo may be reluctant to give up exclusivity on a game which was so highly regarded both by critics and fans, let alone give start-up money for a title which would appear on other systems. Nintendo are also probably wary of the dangers of investing in games which are promised to be successors to well-loved titles if they are being developed by out of house developers. The unfortunate fact is that just because fans seem eager for a title to be developed does not necessarily mean that it will be well received or of a good quality. I for one would want the story of an Eternal Darkness to be pretty much perfect before the game is made. I think we can all think of games that perhaps should have been left to lie rather than being made in response to perceived public want. Banjo- Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts spring to mind immediately. Bad Rare! You leave Banjo alone! Nintendo will therefore only act if they are sure that the game is going to be of high quality rather than risk sullying a franchise just for the sake of bringing out another game which attempts to tap into nostalgia. Of course, all this does not mean that Nintendo does not support smaller games producers and Indie developers. The composition of the WiiU has been made so that it is easier for developers to create games for its system and most ports only need a few modifications to be easily playable on the system. Jumping back to Shadow of the Eternals, Nintendo must have their reasons for not investing in the game already. This may change in the future if Nintendo are satisfied that standards of quality will be maintained and the exclusivity assured. If Precursor can get the story right and retain a lot of the atmosphere from the first game I would be hugely excited for the game to be made. Hopefully we will find out more on this in the near future.

Nintendo’s Creative Dry Spell?

Nintendo’s games have almost become synonymous with creativity and innovation over the years. For the more quirky, off the wall and innovative gaming experiences, Nintendo was always going to be your best bet. But are they still? More than a few people are looking at the big name line ups for the 3DS and the WiiU and thinking that it is just the same line up of a few major franchises which are strangely familiar to the big titles on the Wii and DS; Super Mario, Legend of Zelda, Pokémon…. Yawn. A friend of mine, upon my mentioning of the new Super Luigi U game, sniffed and bemoaned that the last thing we needed was another Mario world side scrolling game. This seems to be a view shared by others who believe that Nintendo has lost their creative spark; and that they are now only too happy to coast by producing updated versions of games which we have all played before and relying on the selling power of their big names. No longer do Nintendo seem willing to put the effort into making new and innovative gaming experiences.

There may be an element of truth to this but it seems to me that in general the comments are rather harsh. Of course Nintendo are going to keep releasing Mario, Zelda and Pokémon titles. The huge selling figures for these franchises would mean it would be ridiculous for them not to do so. There is more to it than that, however. The main reason that these games continue to be made is down to the fact that they are always high quality titles which are loved by millions of people, regardless of the familiar content. People love the continuing stories, settings and characters of these games so much that they want to continue playing new versions. Familiarity, in this sense, is a good thing. It’s what the customers want and expect from Nintendo. The added bonus of these titles is that they generate enough profit for Nintendo to invest in less mainstream titles. The success of unconventional games such as Pikmin and Animal Crossing show that Nintendo can still pull off innovative titles.

Games, however, are not the only product of innovation. Whereas Sony and Microsoft seem to be content to continue making consoles which offer roughly the same gaming experiences with every new release, Nintendo have been striving for a long time to innovate the way that we play games in general. In relative terms the leap from the GameCube to the Wii was a huge change in the way that games were going to be played. The idea of motion sensing controls was a hugely innovative idea at the time and proved that Nintendo were not happy to just continue on with the current way of gaming. The WiiU is an extension of this innovation. The problem seen by many is that not enough use is made of the special features of the consoles in games. This is most likely a result of developers not putting enough effort to making games which make full use of the consoles capabilities. The consoles themselves though are proof enough that Nintendo are not willing to idly sit by and coast off their big name titles. They will always strive to be innovative and creative when making both games and consoles. Even familiar titles played on consoles which create a new way of play will create new gaming experiences with characters that are over 30 years old. The slow start of the WiiU may even turn out to be an advantage, it will force Nintendo to make sure that its developers start making full use of the WiiU’s capabilities so that the full potential of this console can be realised.Image

The Console Wars- We All Lose

Each morning I sit down at my desk and before I begin work I check wordpress and read all the interesting articles which have been posted overnight. This is a recently acquired morning routine but one which I have nevertheless come to really enjoy. There is, however, an unfortunate downside to this pleasant pastime: the article comments section. Obviously this needs to exist as a forum for interesting discussion. I like commenting on articles where I feel that I have something to add/contribute. Unfortunately, too often the comments section of many articles are clogged up by pointless debates over which is the ‘best’ games company, or how people who buy such and such a platform are idiots or losers. Passion for a console or product or company is one thing; but what you usually encounter is vitriolic, venomous rubbish that is usually based on nothing at all. This seems to be a by-product of the ‘console wars;’ that struggle that new consoles go through every five years to try and gain supremacy in the entertainment market. Despite this, I just can’t comprehend how people can feel the need to re-enact this battle over the internet, going out of their way to try and ‘prove’ that their console is best and trying to make other feel small. The sad truth is that I can remember conversations such as these being reiterated over and over again in a very similar way since the Gamecube/PS2/Xbox era and, in all probability, even before that. The only time that I have ever felt the need to defend my console choice was when I was the proud owner of a new Gamecube. Owning a Gamecube in my school was seen as pretty uncool, and therefore I felt a strong urge to have to justify my choice of consoles. Being a Nintendo fan opened you up to accusations of being childish and a nerd; and I could never really understand why this should be the case. But that was when I was really just a child, and that’s what console bashing really is; childish. Now, Nintendo is my favourite games company, they make the kind of games that I want to play. Equally, I recognise that Sony and Microsoft offer different gaming experiences that many may prefer and, indeed, do have games which I also want to play. Therefore, for me, it’s not a case of who is the best games company; it’s who makes the games that I want to play? People should by all means be able to express tImageheir gaming preferences and extol the virtues of their favourite gaming company, there is just no need for the ridiculous abusive arguments which we sadly seem to be unable to get away from. Perhaps people feel that unless their console ‘wins’ the console war then they may follow the same fate as SEGA’s ill-fated Dreamcast. If so, this is baseless. If we take Nintendo as an example, the WiiU may be outsold by both of its rivals, but it will always make enough money on its outstanding titles to move on to the next innovative project. And, of course, the giants of Microsoft and Sony, bolstered as they are by other areas of their companies are not going to fade away. Hopefully we will see comment abuse fade away when people start to realise this; but I doubt it.

3DS: Emblematic of Success

As I’m sure that many of you will know, even a cursory look through gaming blogs on this site will reveal the astonishing success which the 3DS is currently enjoying. At the turn of this year global sales for the 3DS topped the 30 million mark and that number will have risen substantially in the last 7 months. Pre-orders for X and Y alone have reached the 250,000 mark. These are figures which the PS Vita can only dream of; so far it has been left dead in the water, floundering frantically to catch up with a behemoth which is only increasing its lead in the market. This is not necessarily surprising, after all Nintendo are the masters of hand-held gaming. The DS is one of the best-selling consoles of all time. So why am I writing this post? I definitely feel that it is worth considering for a moment exactly why the 3DS has such an edge over its Sony counterpart. Certainly this is not down to Nintendo responding to our clamouring for a 3D console (because we weren’t.) The 3D effects are good, but not necessarily a unit shifter in its own right. It does not seem to be based on raw power and visuals either because, in that respect, the Vita does have the edge. It definitely isn’t because of a genius and effective marketing strategy (for obvious reasons.) No, the reason that the 3DS has been such a hit is, I am happy to say, the exact same reason that I love Nintendo in general. It is simply the quality of its games which is making it such a success. All consoles have their fair share of cash cow pieces of rubbish, and the 3DS is no exception. However, there are already a shed load of exquisitely high quality titles released for the 3DS, and it is for this reason that it is such a success. Fire Emblem, Super Mario 3D, Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon and MarioKart 7 are only a few examples (and there are many more) of games released for this platform which have reached a quality level of excellence. The franchises may be as familiar to us now as our own faces in the mirror, but they never fail to sell well. This is because we as consumers know that Nintendo put so much passion into the creation of their games, and particularly their first party games; and this passion ensures that the quality of these titles is always going to be first rate. Personally, I could not be happier that the focus on quality games is leading to so much success for the 3DS. Making quality games is overriding principle which dictates the way that Nintendo do business. You get the sense that Nintendo would always prefer to make a console which does not necessarily sell more units but that has an amazing line up of quality games, rather than ‘winning the console war’ at the expense of making games in a way other than their own unique way. This is one of the reasons that I love Nintendo so much; and it is therefore pleasing to see this ethos rewarding them so well in the form of the 3DS’ success. It is for this reason that I do not fear too much for the future of the WiiU. Sure, it may not ‘win’ this generations battle of the consoles, but I can guarantee that by the end of its life cycle it will have an excellent line up of games for us to enjoy. Happily, with the imminent release of Pokémon X and Y, Monster Hunters and The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds, the success of the 3DS is only going to go ever higher; creating a barrel load of cash for Nintendo to use on their next innovative project.Image

Top Ten N64 Games- A Shameless Indulgence

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Since starting this blog a few months ago I’ve tried extremely hard to avoid doing a top ten N64 games post. I thought it to be the type of post which has been done a million times before and is shamefully self-indulgent. However, curiosity has overcome my reservations. I am very interested to find out whether people will agree or disagree with the choices that I have made or will think me a total lunatic for not including their favourite title on the list. Please look over my list and comment if you agree or disagree with the titles listed below.

  1. Legend of Zelda Majora’s Mask
  2. Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time
  3. Goldeneye/Perfect Dark
  4. Banjo-Tooie
  5. Super Mario 64
  6. Donkey Kong 64
  7. MarioKart 64
  8. Snowboard Kids
  9. Jet Force Gemini
  10. Super Smash Brothers.

 

The thing that I find most interesting about lists of top ten N64 games is that all of them are 5 star games. For the time (and to some extent even by standards of gaming today) they are all very high quality games indeed; and the reality is that there are a host of other games which could just as easily have made the list which are of an equally high calibre. Off the top of my head Pokémon Stadium, Turok 2, Paper Mario and Lylat Wars could arguably be on anyone’s top ten list. The staggeringly long list of AAA titles is pretty impressive considering that many consider the N64 to be a bit of a flop. For the record, choosing which Zelda title was going to occupy my top spot was insanely difficult and could pretty much have gone either way. Comment and let me know what you think!

Mega Evolution- An Evolution Too Far?

At this point, with less than two months to go until the release of Pokemon X and Y worldwide, excitement is beginning to build for the release of Pokemon in glorious 3D. Of course, with this being the release of one of Nintendo’s biggest franchises, there has also been a certain amount of controversy and criticism created alongside the excitement. This time around the controversy seems to be surrounding the inclusion of a new fairy type and the introduction of the mega evolution mechanic. Gamers across the internet are accusing Nintendo of adding a new type on a whim and that the mega evolution mechanic seems to be nothing more than a cheap gimmick. I have to admit that I was initially skepticalImage when I heard the concept. I was worried that straying from the perfected formula of Pokemon games may lead X and Y to disaster. After some contemplation however, I realised that this was an entirely incorrect way of thinking about it. I applaud Nintendo for trying to add a new dimension to a game which is now nearly approaching the end of its second decade of existence. Making sequels to games which are highly regarded is a tricky business; developers need to walk the fine line between retaining enough familiarity from the original which was loved so much and including enough new material to make the game seem fresh. People commenting negatively on fairy type and mega evolution are probably saying the exact same thing as people who reacted negatively when Dark and Steel was added to the mix of types. It is the same as the negative comments on the ‘new’ Pokemon. Admittedly, some of the character design is not great, (Pidove springs to mind here; sorry but that’s just a pigeon) but a lot of them are simply outstanding. We really want to play a new Pokemon game which only contained the original 151 Pokemon? The point is that we cannot shy away from changes to the Pokemon formula for fear of losing what made the game so great in the first place. If we stick to this mind-set then we will really just end up playing Red and Blue for the rest of our lives. Almost every up-date and new addition to the Pokemon games so far has improved the games a lot (the updates to the way that special attacks and normal attacks correspond to the stats improved so many Pokemon) and brought something new to the table, making the game ever more tactically complex. The Pokemon games, unlike many Pokemon themselves, actually evolve rather slowly. The addition of fairy type and mega evolution is not a massive leap away from previous incarnation of the game but rather is trying to add a bit of freshness into a very familiar formula. Hopefully, this will serve to add a new layer of depth into the combat mechanics of the game, and will make often neglected Pokemon a more viable choice for your team of six. I personally hope that the inclusion of fairy type and the slight re-shuffling of type alignment that this implies will make Poison type more useful. I am very much looking forward to seeing how these changes effect the gameplay of X and Y. For those who aren’t, fear not. I am sure that they will not change the game beyond all recognition. Keep in mind however, that the games need to evolve or they will eventually die out.

R.I.P N64

The other day I booted up the old N64 to finish my play through of Banjo-Tooie and to play some of the mini-games on Pokémon Stadium with my friends, only to be greeted with a blank screen and a complete lack of the gaming excellence that I had come to expect. After going through the usual ritual of blowing in the cartridge and the game slot (we’ve all done this at some point) and replaced the input cable, I had to admit that my N64 was dead. Obviously, a new N64 can be bought rather cheaply on many used games sites these days but nevertheless I felt a strange sense of loss. That N64 has been with me for over a decade. It was blue with Pokémon on it and everything. And, as often happens in these situations, I found myself thinking of all the things I still love about the N64. Despite the fact that it is seen by many to be a relative flop in the European market, the N64 provided first class entertainment with a dizzying array of quality titles, many of which literally were the first of their genres, mapping out the genetic code of games for generations to come. It makes me sad to think that some people may never actually play on one of these consoles and play the games which have come to define gaming up to the present day. Many new gamers or the younger current gamers may look at the 64-bit graphics and weirdly proportioned controller and scoff before turning back to their current generation games. There is so much more to the N64 than that though. In a way I often feel that the lack of graphical power forced developers to be really creative with the games that they made in order to ensure an immersing gaming experience. Many games on this console remain the paragons of their genre simply because their developers put everything into making sure that they achieved perfection in their goals rather than focusing on trying to make games more like real life. Many of these games feature genuine humour, witty dialogue and character development and a sense of whimsy and charm which is lacking from many modern titles. Hyper-realism has its own advantages; but the focus on achieving it often means that the quality of gameplay and development of a games personality are somewhat neglected. Very few modern titles make me fall in love with them compared to the N64’s use of genuine Nintendo humour, character creation, primary colours and amazing soundtracks. I sometimes worry that new gamers will not have the same level of excellence to be found and enjoyed in retro gaming. In any case, once you get past the graphical quality of the N64 (which I personally don’t see as a problem) then you will find a wealth of gaming quality. If anyone reading this has not played before, I urge you to do so. You won’t be disappointed. As for me, well, I guess I’ll be in the market for a new N64.Image

Nintendo Love/Hate

Oh, Nintendo, how much I love you. I really do, the quality of their games, particularly their first party games, is usually outstanding. As a company I respect the way that they often operate in ways which they consider to be the best, following their own philosophy of gaming, despite this often being against the prevailing industry opinion. I like the way that they often refuse to bow to populist fads and pressure; they are often market creators rather than followers. This love, however, is often hard won because Nintendo often make it extremely difficult to love them as they have picked up a few corporate habits which are infuriating even for hard core fans. Firstly, I get incredibly frustrated by their product launches. I, alongside many others, faithfully bought my DS and then 3DS shortly after their release date, only to be later infuriated by the release of newer versions of both consoles after a comparatively short amount of time. There are 3 versions of the DS. Within a short time of the 3DS’ release we bore witness to the 3DS XL. Nintendo have an awful habit of releasing up-dates after a year or so or slashing prices after a few months making you feel like a complete idiot for forking out full price for a console which became either updated or much cheaper. The price cuts are a result of the next Nintendo gripe that I have. The launches of their consoles are usually weak. They very rarely launch a console with a strong line-up of quality games, sometimes even with no new first party titles at all. Sales are therefore slow and prices get cut. Even a hardened fan will feel let down if they are made to feel that they have wasted their money by buying on release days. I know that Nintendo want to make sure their first party titles are of the highest quality and I thank them for it; but would it kill them to have at least one on a new system? Both the WiiU and 3DS have suffered from this problem. The 3DS line up is now excellent with Fire Emblem, Luigi’s Mansion 2 (amongst others) and X and Y on the way (not to mention the new Mariokart and Smash Brothers on the horizon); but the initial launch titles were fairly underwhelming. The WiiU is a similar story. Finally, I always feel that Nintendo have never really got the hang of effective advertising. Many first party titles barely receive any advertisement at all in Europe therefore missing the potential of demonstrating the outstanding games that Nintendo have to offer. The WiiU has been let down badly by Nintendo’s marketing strategies in Europe. Not enough was put into making sure that people understood the concept of the console and why they should pay money for the Wii upgrade. All of these factors combine to give Nintendo a worse reputation than they deserve. As a huge fan, I find this disappointing as they deserve so much more. I can forgive these foibles. This is the company that gave us Pokemon and a legion of other insanely excellent games and franchises. I just wish that Nintendo would sometimes make it easier to love them.Image