Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Ross Iain McCaffrey Takes a Shot at Guns Guns Guns in Games

I’ve finally realised what my qualms are with games today.

Firstly, this isn’t going to be a rant about ‘the good old days’ of gaming. Games have always had their strengths and weaknesses, and I am merely going to point out what I see as the major problems that surround today’s gaming world. Sure, maybe I’ll include a bit of nostalgia, but it’s not the main point. The main point is that, intentionally or not and particularly in action games, developers have put far too much influence on guns.

 -->   I was going to write some sort of joke here, but this picture’s from a pretty brutal film where Charlize Theron kills loads of dickheads. Either way, guns DO come in pretty handy if you want to kill men that rape you.              

    Now I understand that games such as Call of Duty would be pretty redundant without guns, especially if the game has some sort of historical basis in which lots of guns were used. You can’t have a realistic WWII game without guns, unless of course the game was centred on a civilian protagonist living in London during the Blitz who has to make tough choices and sacrifices based on the internal conflict brought on by the horrors of war, but who would want to play that? Games like that unfortunately do. Not. Sell. And unfortunately we have to remember that games are a business. But with a business constantly swept up with mindless violence, explosions and general immashootyouintheface-ery, surely a developer somewhere has thought of taking an event shown thousands of times in different games and shown it from a different perspective? I know I’d get it, just to see what they’d done with it. But no doubt someone, somewhere would be firing a gun.
                          ‘Take that, Space baddies!’  <--

    Guns don’t solve everything. They just don’t. To be honest, they barely solve anything, unless your problem is ‘how can I shoot this person in the face?’ Even in war, a huge catalyst for games, guns don’t always solve things. Take the Somme; lots of shooting and bombing from the Brits and French, over 700,000 Brits or French wounded or killed. I don’t hear anyone talking about the Somme as ‘a victory for guns’, nor do I feel like taking a gun to the first person that says a sarcastic comment to me. So why is it that for games, many of which try to be as ‘real’ as possible within their concept, there is such a heavy importance places on guns? Is it laziness? Probably.

 An example; I saw an advert for the new Red Faction game that’s out. From the ones I’ve played (mainly ‘Guerrilla’), the Red Faction games are fun, a bit of mindless destruction, mainly with a hammer. They set a challenge within this simple usage of construction tools and as a primary weapon and it arguably makes you think about how you can go about the mission of destruction you have been set, because running in all guns blazing will get you killed. Plus it’s not nearly as fun as running round the back and slowly taking apart the building with a sledgehammer like you’re fucking Thor. 

All that seems to have changed when watching the trailer for ‘Armageddon’. Mars has been reclaimed from the evil Mars-company-folk, but shit’s gone down and they’ve had to go underground*. It does sound interesting. But, halfway through the trailer I saw, all the action previews happen. Now imagine my disappointment when all I see is different coloured ammunition spraying around. No handheld weaponry to make a challenge, just a shit ton of guns. Now, imagine my FURTHER disappointment when the GIANT HELLBEAST comes on the screen. Here I’m thinking ‘holy what!?’ and I wonder how they’re gonna show the challenge that you’ll have to face when you meet this lovely creature.

The answer was a lot simpler than I thought. Fire 3 seconds of machine gun rounds into it ("Shoot it til it dies!" - Ed). And that’s not even as if they’ve shown you a little clip of the game play. A hellbeast appears, a man pulls the trigger for 3 seconds, the hellbeast blows up.

    This is apparently how games should work now, which is incredibly disappointing. There is such a scope within games that is hard to recreate in any other medium that you’d think that we’d have abandoned the whole idea that mindless violence solves everything and therefore should be the forefront of every game that is created. Don’t get me wrong, I do love mindless violence in video games; I bought GTA 4 the other week with the sole intention of typing in all the cheats and shooting a rocket at every person that looked at me the wrong way. However I still think that those kinds of games should be few and far between, and games like Heavy Rain, LA Noire (which I haven’t played yet but respect the fact they’ve done something different), Arkham Asylum, Assassin’s Creed and even to an extent Red Dead Redemption, although all bestsellers, should not be at the sidelines of the gaming idea world, desperately dodging gunfire. 

To play you out, a little poem.

I mean, glorifying guns
Is one thing
But I’ve fired a rifle before,
It isn't as easy
As holding a trigger button (Jak Marshall, 2011)

* I will be accepting my award for ‘Game summer-upper of the year’ when they create one.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Bethesda vs. Bioware, which RPG gets you into the Role? (by Katie Highnam)

I love RPGs. I have always loved RPGs. Before I really got into gaming I was looking for something I didn’t have a name for, and I found it in a small group of people on a forum website called Neopets. Now I didn’t know at the time but what we got involved in was an online RPG of our own making. Since that time I have lived and loved RPGs both online and on console. None of them have quite the freedom of the “Outlawz” group that I was a part of which had no limits on imagination but all good in their own way and helping me escape 
reality for just a bit longer...

Neopets Puzzle Adventure
How much does Mass Effect owe to Neopets? I'll let you decide that...

So I now come to the point of this post. The comparison between two of the biggest RPG companies; Bethesda, makers of the Elder Scrolls which is a series of games that is so successful they have been a part of the gaming community since 1994, and Bioware a year younger and renowned for their talking wheel and deep seated obsession with equipment.

We'll start off with Bioware, I am not a fan of guns on console games as I don’t like the extra effort I would have to go through to learn to aim. I have always had a preference for swords and magic, since my “Outlawz” days and so though I have played Mass Effect, in part, I much prefer their Dragon Age titles. What I like about Bioware is their commitment to talking and developing plot and characters through discussions and the actions they make you take to get someone to like or love you only adds to how immersed you are in the role. The plots are fine and solid but I don’t find them engaging, what keeps me in the game is the interactions I can have with the people in my team. But Bioware always always (always) ruin this for me. 

A game of might, magic and heartbreak

In Dragon Age: Origins, I stopped playing the game after Alistair dumped my character. I was too involved in the relationship between the two characters, the quality of the game wasn’t high enough to get over that bump. They improved the quality of the story and left enough hope for me in Dragon Age 2, because when Anders (yes I have a thing for Grey Wardens) decided to withdraw from me and stop telling me he loved me I was interested enough to keep going with the story and eventually run away with him. I like to think that they live still running around Thedas bringing up mage kiddies with a strong sense of right and wrong and possible immunity from the temptations of demons other than Justice. 

Now I have finished the game I’m, not sure I would want to go back to it. I love nobbing around in games, but when I got bored of that in Dragon Age and tried to do the main quest I found that I had actually been doing it all along, it felt just the same as nobbing around and I was bored of it. The possibility of romance made me push through but now that’s done I see no need to go back and get all the achievements, and I can be an achievement hunter when it comes down to it.

Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion -- Revised & Expanded (Xbox360, PC) (Prima Official Game Guide)
I haven't got time for love!? I have nobbing to do!

Bethesda on the other hand doesn’t do romance, or at least it didn’t in Oblivion (can’t wait for Skyrim to come out) yet it is thus far the only full game I have completed the story, then gone for all the achievements, completed the additional content, then just wondered around the place doing odd quests, finally got upset because there was nothing to really work towards anymore, quit, and then complained to my boyfriend, friends and anyone who would listen that the game wasn’t long enough, didn’t give me enough achievements and didn’t give me enough motivation to play it forever. (I have 100% on an arcade rpg that I will be buying the other parts of asap, but I didn’t go back to it once I had got all the achievements.) 

When I got frustrated with the endless boring task of closing oblivion gates (after I had given up on killing all the mobs in there and just stealthed my way to the sigils keep) I just finished the story quest and then had the wonderful experience of just running through the pretty world of Cyrodriil doing stuff for fun. This to me is what gaming should be about, escaping reality loving it and making it fun. The design of Cyrodiil is awe inspiring beauty, and Skyrim looks set to top it. Perhaps it’s a good thing that Bethesda don’t do relationships, they might detract from the gameplay and landscapes and make the game feel a little more cheesy like Fable.

In all I would say Bethesda made the better game but Bioware made the better characters and interactions. If only they could get together somehow and yet keep what they are both so good at. Although maybe a game as long as Oblivion was would get quite frustrating if you had to go through all the language options that Bioware provide, on the other hand it could just take over your life, the ultimate escape…