Gaming Steve

Culture Archives - Page 2

January 22, 2008

Mainstream Media Still Doesn't Understand Video Games (Surprise, Surprise)

xbox-smoking.jpg

There has been quite a bit of flak going around from the main stream media about video games the past few weeks. I didn't really want to give each one of them another soap box, but I suppose I'll summarize all their ignorance right here: Mass Effect is interactive porn, video games are like crack for kids, and Bully just won't stop destroying our children.

The Mass Effect hubbub started when a conservative blogger on townhall.com made multiple incorrect assumptions about the game that include players being able to control sex acts and the game being marketed to 15 year old boys. The blogger later apologized to the "gaming universe" saying he didn't play the game (obviously) and only saw some clips of the sex online, though he still thought the game was offensive and should be kept out of young peoples hand's. I think Penny Arcade summed up this "incident" fairly well.

More recently, a writer from timesonline.co.uk wrote in an attention grabbing headline how the "Xbox is crack for kids". The ill informed "reporter" goes on through the classic anti-video game talking points about obesity (oh right, McDonalds figured that one out), the rotting of children's minds, and how hard video games make it for parents to raise their children. She then goes on to make the one of the most ridiculous assumption about video games I've ever heard by saying that even the "crappiest cartoon or lamest soap teaches a child about character, plot, drama, humour, life" while video games do not. She doesn't specifically say in the article whether she has played any games with her children but I highly doubt it.

The last foible of the media may sound a bit familiar. But wait, don't go away just yet, these reporters are not completely treading over the same ground as last time! They don't try to position Bully as a graphic bullying simulator as opposed to the satire of life in a boarding school that it really is. I mean, these guys point out that their are motion controls for the Wii version that make the game much more interactive and violent, and this will certainly lead to the collapse of society. Just like last time.

Their really isn't much to say about all this that hasn't been said before. It's obvious that these reporters are trying to get their name in the news buy criticizing an easy target. I wouldn't be surprised if none of these people had ever even touched a game, let alone tried to understand them. But just keep hope, because every once in a while the media lets us make our case, and when we do, we can at least make a couple of them look totally foolish.

Posted by Clayton Ashley at 4:00 PM | Comments (11) | Posted to Culture |  Add this story to del.icio.us  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!

January 11, 2008

You (Not Uwe) Oughta Be In Pictures – When Will The "Video Game Movie" Be Taken Seriously?

Citizen Freeman?

How is it that creating a successful movie from gaming-related source material has proven to be more difficult than mapping the human genome?

I’ve been thinking quite a lot recently – perhaps more than a sane man should – about the upcoming release of Uwe Boll’s newest gaming-themed project, In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale. Not so much about the movie itself – I’m pretty sure anything that involves the casting of Burt Reynolds as royalty has the makings of a spectacular crash-and-burn. What’s really on my mind is the overall history of movies based on gaming properties: for the most part, they’ve taken a beating from critics and at the box office, and it’s reached the point where the so-called “conventional wisdom” says (cue the invisible booming voice from on high) “YOU CAN’T MAKE A GOOD MOVIE OUT OF A VIDEO GAME!".

Sorry, but I’m just not buying it. I’m willing to concede that history hasn’t been on the side of the gaming movie ever since Oscar so cruelly snubbed Bob Hoskins for Super Mario Bros. almost 15 years ago. And Uwe Boll in particular seems to have a death-wish for the gaming movie, shooting the reputation of the genre in the foot with every release. All of that said, when it comes to the overall state of affairs, if anything, conditions have never been better for creating the Citizen Freeman many of us are waiting for.

Certainly, the technological distinctions are melting away as CGI becomes a bigger factor in movie-making. Yes, when it comes to raw eye-candy, Pixar’s GPUs can take our PCs and consoles out behind the woodshed for a whupping. But that’s a difference of magnitude -- boil away the advantage in visual spectacle and the action unfolding on the silver screen is moving closer to what we’ve been playing, not further away.

As I watched Voldemort and Dumbledore throw down in Harry Potter: Order of the Phoenix, a little voice in my brain was muttering “boss battle” and waiting for the inevitable button sequence to flash. Sentinels attacking Zion in the final Matrix movie … a really well choreographed Zerg rush. Except for the Frank Miller art direction, 300 could’ve been an expansion pack for Rome: Total War. Darth Maul? Not only a corpse-camper, but I’m pretty sure that double-bladed light saber was twinked gear.

Another argument I hear from time to time is that the source material in video games is too shallow to support a full-length movie, but I think that’s condemning the genre for past sins instead of looking forward. OK, when Street Fighter was put together, the “script” was probably written on the back of a bar napkin and handed over to the infinite monkeys on infinite typewriters to be fleshed out. But that was then, this is now, and gaming has reached a point where it’s equally capable of creating compelling stories and engaging characters. For those searching for a litmus test, I’d ask: would you rather be stuck in a room with Jar-Jar Binks or HK-47?

If there is one thing that truly does need to change, it’s how these movies get made in the first place.

It starts with the studios snapping up video-game properties for, creatively-speaking, the wrong reasons: the game had good sales volume, the rights were fairly cheap, Angelina Jolie will look good in a tank-top and shorts. I’m not saying those things don’t matter at all, but somewhere in that process, somebody needs to kick the tires on the storytelling aspect of the game before they pull the trigger. They need to ask the fundamental question: “What about this game would be interesting to the general public?”, and if they can’t answer it adequately, keep on walking.

That said, the game companies themselves aren’t blameless. Face it – a gaming company makes games; most of them (other than maybe LucasArts) don’t see a movie adaptation as part of their core business, so many of these projects are tossed blindly over the wall for a quick cash infusion and some free publicity, good or bad. At some point, if game companies truly want things to change, they need to look in the mirror and be more protective of their properties – if you want your game to become a good movie, you’re going to want to hold out for some creative input, not just another zero on the check. (And if the signature on that check is Uwe Boll’s, tear it up and run screaming from the room.)

Lastly, there needs to be true passion for the material once it gets the green-light. Surround the project with people who actually want to be there, not just people looking to add another line to their IMDB entry. Dare to think big – step beyond the confines of just “bringing the game to the screen” and dare to make a movie, not just a 100-minute regurgitation of the game. Think about the recent success of the Lord of the Rings trilogy – it’s not just a success story of CGI or box office, but of a guy who clearly loved his material, surrounded himself with other like-minded people, and dared to make his vision happen. Granted, it’s probably harder to generate that same level of enthusiasm for Nintendogs: The Movie, but the underlying need to believe is still key. Professionalism can get you so far, can probably even upgrade “bad” to “mediocre”, but passion is what drives excellence.

The good news is that ultimately, it has to change for the better. We might luck out in the short-term and see some perfect storm of good decision-making, or more likely it’ll come to pass over time as game and film continue to converge and gamers infiltrate the Hollywood apparatus. The raw materials are there, and if the right people unleash them, who knows what could happen? Maybe that game you’re playing today becomes the movie everyone’s talking about on Oscar night some year down the road.

Am I living in a fantasy land? Maybe so. But at least it’s one where the king doesn’t wear a cowboy hat and drive a black Trans Am.

Posted by Jay McDonald at 9:30 AM | Comments (5) | Posted to Culture | Feature |  Add this story to del.icio.us  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!

January 4, 2008

Watch All of the Cut-Scenes From The Simpsons Game

I am a totally crazy die hard Simpsons fan – I've seen every single episode and listened to all the cast commentaries for every single episode currently out on DVD ... yeah I know I have a problem – but yet even I couldn't get through The Simpsons game. The whole "point" of the game was to make fun of the entire video game genre as a whole, but yet in the end the gameplay ended up being everything they were making fun of to begin with.

In fact the only reason to play the game was to see the hilarious cut-scenes, which were written by same writers as the show. And without watching those cut-scenes I always felt like I was missing an episode of the show and my "collection" wasn't complete (yes, once again I know I have a problem!).

But thanks to the miracle of YouTube I can finally watch those fantastic cut-scenes without actually having to play that pesky game (and now I can sleep at night knowing my "collection" is complete ... please don't judge me!).

But wait? You say that you're not a Simpsons fan? Why on Earth should you waste your time to watch these clips? Well all I have to say is this, they feature "the nerdiest nerd in the computerverse" ... Will Wright!

Yeah ... I thought so.

The remaining cut-scenes can be seen after the jump.

Posted by Gaming Steve at 12:15 AM | Comments (5) | Posted to Culture | PlayStation 2 |  Add this story to del.icio.us  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!

December 26, 2007

Want a Wii? Sell a Picture of it!

I want a Wii too!

This definitely falls under the heading, "why didn't I think of that?" Or perhaps a better heading would be, "that's so stupid it just might work!"

Christine and Justin are two NYC illustrators and run a web site called Wants For Sale. On this site they sell paintings of things they want for the exact retail price of the item. Once they sell their painting of the item they then use the proceeds to buy it. The things they want range from an order of buffalo wings ($12.70) to "financial security" (for one million dollars!).

And it seems that one of them (I would guess Justin) is a fan of video games as they have managed to get a Madden ’08 ($65.01), Halo 3 ($65.01), “Another Guitar for GH2” ($64.98), and a freaking Wii ($270.92)! (That is the picture they sold to get them their Wii.)

I have to admit that this a pretty freaking great idea. Draw a picture of what you want, get someone to buy it, and then you get to buy it -- genius!

I only wonder now that they have the money to buy a Wii, where on earth did they manage to find one?

Posted by Gaming Steve at 12:30 PM | Comments (9) | Posted to Culture | Wii | Xbox |  Add this story to del.icio.us  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!

November 30, 2007

Fallout from the "Gerstmann Incident" Continues

Wow, in just the last 12 hours a lot has developed over the "Gerstmann incident". Lets see ... Gerstmann confirmed to Joystiq that the firing did happen, the Kane & Lynch ads that blanketed Gamespot's front page are no longer being shown, Gerstmann's video review of the game has been removed from Gamespot, Gamespot's forums have exploded with posts talking about the incident (with one thread having over a thousand posts), the Eidos forums were temporarily shut down, and it's not even noon yet!

And the strange part of this ordeal is that now I'm quite curious about Kane & Lynch, a game I couldn't have cared less about just a mere 12 hours ago. I definitely want to give this game a try now. Remember kids, there is no such thing as bad publicity.

I have a feeling that this is one of those stories we are going to be talking for a very long time and will have quite an impact within the industry and review scores, true or not. Hopefully it will all be for the best, reviews might actually start to accurately depict the game quality and not the advertising budget, and in the long run and Jeff Gerstmann will find a new job (I have a feeling he'll have no trouble finding one).

By the way, this is the video review which was the main culprit to Gerstmann's firing. According to the rumor it wasn't just the fact that he gave the game a 6.0 out of 10 but rather the "tone" of the review. I have to say that for a review of 6.0, which is supposed to represent a "fair" game, Gerstmann's review is quite negative. You be the judge:

Posted by Gaming Steve at 11:30 AM | Comments (17) | Posted to Culture | Rumor |  Add this story to del.icio.us  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!

November 28, 2007

Classic Video Game Labels + Modern Games = Pure Genius

Crysis Atari 2600

I used to absolutely love the old Atari 2600 video game boxes and their crazy artwork. Remember those days? Before "branding" and "product placement" took over the video game industry. When games were simply called Football or Bowling or Adventure?

No fancy brands or celebrities to sell your product. Just a simple name and some groovy cover art that you hoped convey the awesomeness that was 3-D Tic-Tac-Toe.

Which is what makes the site Label Maker 2600 so much fun. Mixing and matching the latest state-of-the-art games with 1970s cartridge technology and viewing the results is endless fun. You can even select the ancient text labels, the classic picture label, and the futuristic silver label. You just need to upload an image, type in some text, and the site does the rest. Pure awesome.

Now I just need to find a label maker for the 5200, 7800, Intellivision, Odyssey, Vectrex, ColecoVision, Genesis, TurboGrafx-16, and every other obsolete gaming system ever to exist and I'll be in heaven!

Posted by Gaming Steve at 9:00 PM | Comments (2) | Posted to Classic | Culture |  Add this story to del.icio.us  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!

November 5, 2007

The Inhuman Achievement

I always find it amazing that no matter how hard developer makes a video game that someone, somewhere will manage to accomplish the impossible. Whether its finishing Blast Corps or finishing the last level of Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan! with a perfect score I am always continuously amazed at the level of human accomplishment when it comes to video games.

The latest inhuman achievement to appear in a video game is finishing the attempting to play “Through the Fire and Flames” by Dragonforce, which is unlocked once you complete Guitar Hero 3. It’s no shocker that this is the hardest song ever put in a Guitar Hero game but after seeing this song in action one has to wonder ... what were they thinking? I've seen impossible video game tasks before but this just seems, I don't know, beyond impossible. The song is over eight minutes long and you have to play so fast that your guitar sounds like its producing a steady stream of machine gun fire. But yet someone has managed to finish this song on Expert level.

Again, humans always continue to amaze me:

Posted by Gaming Steve at 10:00 AM | Comments (20) | Posted to Culture | PlayStation 2 | Wii | Xbox |  Add this story to del.icio.us  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!

March 9, 2007

Gaming Steve Episode 62 - 03.09.2007

GDC 2007 Spore Vehicle EditorAs GDC 2007 comes to an end I sit down with Christopher Grant from Joystiq to recap the conference.

In addition, I reveal new Spore information straight from Chaim Gingold (Spore Game Designer), the Spore development team gives the Gaming Steve Spore community some love, and I sit down with Chris Satchell, General Manager of XNA, about their wacky competition where four game designers created four games in four days. Crazy man, enjoy!

Gaming Steve Episode 62 Program

  • Game Developers Conference Day 3 Recap
    • Chris and I discuss his group panel at GDC, Ten Games You Need to Play: The Digital Game Canon.
    • How are past video games being preserved for the ages?
    • We discuss several upcoming games shown on the show floor.
    • I reveal new Spore information and we discuss the importance of Spore for the gaming industry.
    • Why we're skipping the E for All Expo.
    • I interview with Chris Satchell about the four games in four days competition.
    • Wrap up the show and the conference.
Download the show (63 minutes): Gaming Steve Episode 62 (MP3).

Subscribe to the Podcast directly in iTunes (MP3).
Add the Gaming Steve Podcast feed to your RSS aggregator.

Posted by Gaming Steve at 11:00 PM | Comments (15) | Posted to Culture | Podcast |  Add this story to del.icio.us  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!

March 8, 2007

Gaming Steve Episode 61 - 03.08.2007

GDC 2007 Day 2Can you believe it ... another brand new podcast? Are dogs and cats living together? Well they must be because I'm back with day 2 coverage from GDC 2007.

Today I recap the day's events all by my lonesome because everyone else had to go party the night away. So you get to hear little old me speak about Shigeru Miyamotov, Chris Taylor, Peter Molyneux, the annual video game design challenge, Eiji Anouma and lots more on a jampacked show. Enjoy!

Gaming Steve Episode 61 Program

  • Game Developers Conference Day 2 Recap
    • Shigeru Miyamoto is really really really popular.
    • Why were so many people disappointed with the Nintendo keynote ... except me?
    • Is it possible that the best video game designers in the world have the same family issues as you and me? (Yes they actually do!)
    • Recap of Chris Taylor and his Supreme Commander talk.
    • Can Peter Molyneux make you care about Fable 2?
    • Give three famous game designers a needle and thread as their interface and what type of games do they come up with?
    • Eiji Aonuma reflects on ten years of creating Zelda games and what challenges he faced, and still facing, keeping the franchise alive and fresh.
Download the show (59 minutes): Gaming Steve Episode 61 (MP3).

Subscribe to the Podcast directly in iTunes (MP3).
Add the Gaming Steve Podcast feed to your RSS aggregator.

Posted by Gaming Steve at 11:30 PM | Comments (9) | Posted to Culture | Podcast |  Add this story to del.icio.us  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!

March 7, 2007

Gaming Steve Episode 60 - 03.07.2007

GDC 2007I'm Not Dead Yet! Yes everyone, I am back and I figured that since I started doing the show at GDC 2005 it was appropriate to resume with the start of GDC 2007.

Today I recap the day's events and the pivotal Sony keynote and just like last year I am sharing the mic with a fellow blogger/podcaster Gamer Andy from Gamer Andy. Enjoy everyone!

Gaming Steve Episode 60 Program

  • Game Developers Conference Day 1 Recap
    • Andy and I talk about the excellent Sony keynote and the new Home system.
    • Will a great keynote be enough to turn the press to Sony's favor?
    • We discuss the incredible-looking LittleBigWorld game as well as SingStar Online.
    • Why are publishers looking for a strong leader and why do they hate the Wii so much?
    • And where does this all leave Microsoft and the Xbox 360?
Download the show (52 minutes): Gaming Steve Episode 60 (MP3).

Subscribe to the Podcast directly in iTunes (MP3).
Add the Gaming Steve Podcast feed to your RSS aggregator.

Posted by Gaming Steve at 10:30 AM | Comments (41) | Posted to Culture | Podcast |  Add this story to del.icio.us  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!