Thursday, August 28, 2014

Random Shots: Gamer

  • I self-identify as a gamer and I have zero regrets doing so.

  • It's currently not in fashion to say so. What with how people have attacked Zoe Quinn, Phil Fish, and Anita Sarkeesian. With how people have attacked various online services. With the protests about integrity in game journalism. With how Kotaku and Polygon are reacting to their employees usage of Patreon. So it's open season on gamers because several of them are awful, emotionally stunted monsters. Great.

  • But it seems like I can't turn around on the internet today without being told to toss aside the gamer label. Because what we call ourselves is the issue, right? Because identifying myself too closely with games is the issue, right? As if all we are is consumers, right? As if how I live my life is not up to your standards, right? Right?

  • One of the things I advocate in any online community I participate in is that we have to police our own. A community doesn't get to pretend that the bad actors don't count. We are how the world sees us. And the overall gaming community has a problem. We need to own up to the hatred that is being spread and speak out against it. Passivity makes us complicit.

  • So if I have not made this clear before, let me say it now: there is no place for hatred in gaming, or in the world in general. This is not how we should be treating people. We should be sharing our love for the medium, not excluding those we disagree with. Gaming could be so much better with more, varied people in it, not less.

  • I'm a gamer. I love games of all kinds. I may share this space with a lot of terrible people, but it has also brought me some of my closest friends. And there is room for many more.

© 2014 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Random Shots: The War In Ferguson, Missouri

  • Being a gamer, I cannot help but examine the situation in the town of Ferguson, Missouri, from a design perspective. What are the sides? What are the rules? What are the win conditions? On one side, you have the police, tasked with keeping the peace and protecting their power, primarily through the threat of their military arsenal. On the opposite side you have the agitators, attempting to stir up chaos through property damage and violence. And in the middle you have the protesters, the people of the town how are fed up with being terrorized, putting themselves between two terrorist groups to prove their point. But since the police and the agitators have no problem putting the protesters in the meat grinder to further their cause, their only win condition is to survive.

  • There have been several times over the course of the week that I have tried and failed to get a grip on what is happening. The police absolutely have to insure the safety of the community. And since the night time protests act have cover for black bloc agitators to assault the police, vandalize, and loot, the police do their very favorite thing: wield indiscriminate power against the citizenry. The police rule not through trust, but through intimidation, and that is what they are doing every night.

  • The agitators' end game is more nebulous. Who knows if they want an uprising or if they just want to see the world burn? So although many think they want a straight up confrontation with the police, I fear there is something more sinister. I fear that what they really want is for the police to expose the depths of their violence and start killing the protesters.

  • My wife asked me why, with all of this going on, do the protesters keep doing it? I couldn't answer her then, but I know now. As soon as the protests stop, the eyes of the world turn away. The police get to sweep this all under the carpet, no one is ever charged in the killing, and life returns to normal, as horrible as normal is to the people of Ferguson. And then Michael Brown is nothing but a footnote in a history book America would rather forget anyway.

  • This is too important to forget.

© 2014 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

News Filter: The Latest from Gamescom 2014

  • There has been some interesting news coming out of Cologne for 2014's Gamescom.

  • Rise of the Tomb Raider becomes an Xbox exclusive - I woke up yesterday to a twitter feed full of incredulous reports that Tomb Raider had gone exclusive. Of course, the word "exclusive" has been twisted to so many dark purposes that no one understood what just how exclusive this exclusive was. Of course, it's not Phil Spencer's job to explain what other platforms the game might launch on. And Crystal Dynamics doesn't want to undercut the deal they made to launch on Xbox by confirming they would eventually launch on other platforms. Since then, the Xbox team did reveal that the exclusivity was for a fixed duration, but the internet is already on fire. About a game that won't be out for more than a year. Yay.

  • Bloodborne hands-on demo - If there is any game on the horizon that makes me glad I chose the PSR over the XB1, it is Bloodborne. There are people playing it right now and I'm not one of them. I am so jealous! Even though I can't be there, it has been exciting to read about how it differs from the Souls games.

  • The announcement of Silent Hills - Hideo Kojima. Guillermo Del Toro. Norman Reedus. A playable teaser demo under the name "P.T." to reveal the return of Silent Hill. We don't get very many surprises in the video game world. I'm so happy they pulled this off. I've never played a Silent Hill game, but I almost want to buy this to reward their audacity. Maybe I'll try that demo first and see if I survive...

  • In the middle of a pretty horrific week, it is good to have something to reminding that not everything is terrible. Did you hear anything from Gamescom that got you excited?

© 2014 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Played Lately: Tomb Raider (2013)

  • It has been a windy road that lead me to finally playing Tomb Raider, the modern, gritty reboot of the classic franchise. I first played the opening hours when my brother brought his Xbox 360 copy along for a visit. I liked it, right up until I screwed up several quick time events. Eventually, I put the game in my Amazon wish list because I thought it would fun to play on my new PS4. Then around my birthday, I bought a new computer and started reinstalling Steam games. As I was combing through my library, I discovered that past me had the foresight to pick up a copy during some sale. I thanked past me for looking out for me and installed the game.

  • I'm not one of those people who are sick of gritty reboots. In the hands of a deft storyteller, I like the new Lara. I like how she overcomes her challenges because she knows she is the only one who can. I like watching this woman discover that she is extraordinary. (I don't like the much too real death animations, but they don't seem to linger as much as I remember.) It hit me when we (Lara and I) reached the top of the radio tower. This woman does not believe in herself, but she's willing to do the hard work anyway. And as she goes along, she builds in confidence until she is ready to take charge of her situation. It's actually a very subtle change that happens over the course of many hours.

  • One concession to playability I made was to turn the combat difficulty down to easy. The last thing I want to do is replay multiple firefights when the exploration and story are what I'm really looking for. I cursed that there was no difficulty setting for the quick time events, but they seemed a little easier in this PC version. At least, I only died needlessly several times instead of the relentless cavalcade of horrific murders my slow fingers committed over and over again.

  • When it's at its best, Tomb Raider makes you feel like you are exploring a neatly crafted, if fairly linear, puzzle-like world. The back story establishes why the enviroment can differ so much from level to level. Unlike the Assassin's Creed games where you hold your stick in a direction and your avatar climbs, traversal feels like an active process. Various clues inform you of which actions to perform without flashing button prompts on the screen.

  • I did not one hundred percent the game, but I came away satisfied. The ending was intense, and there was no massive boss monster to overcome. Tomb Raider is likely to be one of my favorite games of the year.

© 2014 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.