Observationally speaking, there is a notable disconnect in the consciousness of the gamer nation, where people are fundamentally optimistic about the future of gaming, yet incredibly pessimistic about the business of the industry.
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Shortly before the NGE launched in November, 2005, SWG developer Jeff Freeman made one entry on his blog. Freeman was a recruit and disciple of SWG Creative Director Raph Koster. His title was "Lead Game Play Designer," which despite appearances is a relatively junior position in the many-layered SOE hierarchy. Unluckily for Freeman, this single post turned out to be the sole instance of any SOE employee - or, heaven knows, any LucasArts marketing executive - taking any responsibility whatever for any aspect of the NGE:
"So don't get the crazy notion that I'm "in charge" here. "The Man" is a many-headed beast called Management. I just try to help it make good decisions. With regard to game mechanics, it even lets me decide, sometimes."
Nintendo and I have been friends for a long, long time. Going all the way back to the launch of the NES in the US, Nintendo has been a childhood buddy, growing up with me. We laughed in the days of Super Mario Bros. and Link to the Past, spent endless hours together during the Mario 64 and Ocarina of Time era, and I tried to keep his chin up during the lean GameCube years.
Confidentially, since around 2000, Nintendo has had kind of a rough time of it. I'd read about how well the DS was doing, but we only caught up every once in a while when something really great came out on that platform. As often happens in situations like this, we sort of lost touch with each other. We went our separate ways.
It's just not feasible to achieve hardcore gamers' goals in WoW without repetitive gaming, to the point that if you identify as a hardcore gamer, you're probably a farmer, too. I'm sure Molten Core is a great instance, but after the 30th run, that glazed expression you're wearing is very familiar to an RMT farmer's an hour before quitting time. And that, I think, is why the people who take their time to become part of a gaming community are so vocal about farming. They run into farmers more than casual players because they're trying to farm, too, only they call it "grinding," a simple change in nomenclature that's enough to create a gaming Red Scare.
The sad truth is most games hardly have enough story in them to make decent games, never mind entertaining movies. Stories are little more than a device in gaming, something to get the player from point A to B. And suitably enough, the stories are just a device in game-based movies too - a marketing device. Why waste effort on creating and publicizing a world or original character when you can just mangle a beloved gaming franchise, which people will only watch out of morbid curiosity, anyway?
There is, for me, some line that might eventually be crossed where the effort to marry reality and virtual reality might be too real and by extension too disturbing. I love videogames for the separation from reality, and the closer games get to producing real-world situations and conditions, the more uncomfortable I become.
Most gamers, though, just don't care. After the initial outcry against yet another intrusion into our pastime, it seems as though the furor against in-game advertising has died down. That's generally for good reason. Despite initial fears that streaming ads would be digital eyesores interrupting our play time, most in-game ads are fairly tasteful. Even the ads streamed by conglomerates like Massive and IGA Worldwide have proven fairly tame.
"What the towel trick does is prevent a lot of the heat produced by the system from escaping out of the rear vents. If you build up enough heat inside the box, you are actually performing a half-assed re-solder of those cold solder points, expanding the metal with the heat to make a stronger connection."
Oddly, it seemed to work. After about 20 minutes, Stephen's Xbox sprang back to life, the red ring replaced with the healthy green glow of a normally-operating Xbox 360. His wife suggested it was somehow unnatural.
Stephen King wrote, "For most creative people, the imagination serves as an excretory channel for violence: We visualize what we will never actually do. ... Cho doesn't strike me as in the least creative, however. Dude was crazy. Dude was, in the memorable phrasing of Nikki Giovanni, just mean. ... On the whole, I don't think you can pick these guys out based on their work, unless you look for violence unenlivened by any real talent."
I love zombies, and I love games. Zombie games are like fried cheese dipped in butter with bacon on top. Shooting zombies until they stop twitching couldn't be more fun if it came with sex. Besides, it's about the most harmless aggressive therapy diversion ever devised. After all, if Kurt Cobain was right, and it is OK to eat fish because they don't have any feelings, killing zombies is better than OK, it's right.
So imagine the surprise of our hypothetical game marketing guy when he reads yesterday's headline news. Guitar Hero developer (and their new masters, publisher MTV Games and "marketing partner" EA) have landed a few big name sponsors including guitar maker Fender, which, considering Gibson and others (hello, MTV) were key marketing partners for the Guitar Hero series, isn't very surprising. What is surprising is the reaction to the deal from gamers and the game press.
Digg had a change of heart, and shortly after resuming service, Digg founder Kevin Rose, in a surprise announcement, reversed this policy and stated that Digg would no longer be complying with the AACS LA's orders, against their attorneys' advice. The mob won, but don't think for a second it will end there.
Why are hand-held systems so remarkably successful even as these same corporations vigorously push their next-generation console systems? Setting aside the obvious answer of portability, what else drives customers to the Nintendo DS, the PSP and the Gameboy Advance?
Mister Giggles is a clown. He's also a skeleton. As such, his challenges as an entertainer of children are legion. In the pursuit of his craft he's overcome many hardships, suffered many defeats. Not the least of which was that one time, when trying a new act, juggling poodles, the hungry, little dogs set upon him, gnawing his bones and forcing him to flee his tent. It's been a hard-knock life for Mister Giggles, but having fled to the hills (away from the poodles) and had a moment to clear his head, hear the roar of the crowd from the distance, see the far-off glow of the footlights and smell the cotton candy, he's realized once again that the circus is his home. His heart (or what serves him for one) fills as he experiences a brief moment of contentment, and I, as the player of the game Gloom, earn several points. I am now losing.
The day will come when Dr. Phil and Jack Thompson blaming videogames will sound as ridiculous as blaming this event on the rock music he might have listened to does today.
However, as one unnamed games reviewer in the BBFC report mentions, violence in games is "the big elephant in the room for the games industry."