The Days Of “Bleep, Bloop” Are No More

January 6, 2010 by admin  
Filed under General Video Gaming

As children, many of us will have played video games that relied entirely on gameplay to make them popular. Some of the earlier video games had absolutely no incidental music, and any sound that they did include was (theoretically) made by the onscreen character, the weapon they were using, and the characters in hot pursuit. Where games did have music, it was frequently barely distinguishable from the other sounds, and it was all a mess of bleeps and bloops.

Perhaps it is a consequence of innovation where video games began to be sold on CDs, which held a lot more information and allowed a much freer hand with the sound, but video games now are frequently accompanied by specifically-written music written and scored by professionals. Like a lot of music, some of it is still unlistenable bilge – but some of it is surprisingly good and really adds to the game. In other cases, the soundtrack is provided by established bands – either original content or known hits – and there has been an innovation of “in game radio stations”, familiar to fans of Grand Theft Auto.

This is, in its own way, a real flip from the period in the 1990s when someone thought it would be a good idea to use video game music samples to make dance tracks. Games such as Tetris and Super Mario Brothers were subjected to this treatment, and one hopes that the person who thought it was a good idea is now getting the help he needs.

Obligatory Merchandising – Where Would We Be Without It?

January 6, 2010 by admin  
Filed under General Video Gaming

Not so long ago, when a movie was completed and released for the public to watch, there was a very simple pattern to things. The movie was scripted, then edited, then recorded and directed, then cut and shown to a test audience, then tidied up and released to a waiting public. Now, pretty much no blockbuster movie is complete without a tie-in video game. Well, some are, of course. An 1800s costume drama where all of the action is in what is said (and left unsaid) will not work particularly well in a gaming context. Every action movie, however, requires its own video game.

In truth, a good movie does not necessarily make for a good game. You can like the character and appreciate the storyline, but for a video game to work it needs to have a real sense of interaction between what the gamer does and the eventual climax. Movie merchandisers do realize that someone might enjoy a game so much that they will go and see the movie or buy it on DVD, so the better software houses do tend to get the contracts to make the tie-in games these days.

One thing that is commonly recognized by gamers, however, is the fact that quite often a movie tie-in video game is very heavily based on an existing game, but with the familiar characters, settings and storyline all but superimposed onto the game. Selling to a gaming audience is not the same as selling to movie fans, and this is a risky stratagem. The best movie tie-ins remain those which are developed synergistically at the same time as the movie is being made.

Testing Your Mind – The Video Games Where No-one Gets Shot

January 6, 2010 by admin  
Filed under General Video Gaming

The popular view of video games seems to be that they entail someone sitting with a controller in their hands, shooting people on a screen. Of course, this is a simplistic view, and there are several other kinds of video games. However, the ones which fit in with a stereotypical idea of what the games entail tend to involve controlling someone’s physical activity in a very simplistic way. Many video games, however, are based around a more considered, statistical way of getting to an end goal. It doesn’t fit in with the “rots your brain” crowd’s idea of what gaming entails, but never mind.

Sports management simulations are very popular. Perhaps the most popular of all is the soccer management game Football Manager. Unlike a great many sports simulations, at no point in this game do you control a player and choose his immediate path to goal. Instead, you take all of the duties of a soccer manager and try to create a winning team. You sign players, you choose tactics, you give motivational team talks and you try to analyse the computer-generated opponent to get the best results.

As this game gets developed and updated at least once a year, new elements are added. It is possible to release a statement designed to play mind games with your opponent before a big match, and players who aren’t getting much time on the field will express their disillusionment with you. It cannot be long before the game develops to a point where you leak stories to the press about players who are annoying you – but there is such a thing as “too realistic”.

The Controversy Angle – Selling Newspapers Through Video Games

January 6, 2010 by admin  
Filed under General Video Gaming

It is hard to talk about video games for a long time without mentioning Grand Theft Auto. And it is hard to mention Grand Theft Auto without talking about the controversy about the game, a controversy which is whipped up every time people have a difficulty in trying to sell newspapers or attract viewers or listeners to topical talk shows. You know how it goes – the game encourages violence, and it is responsible for lawless youth. It is a complete logical non-sequitur, but it gets people angry and it shifts blame from more deserving targets.

One of the major elements of the criticism aimed at Grand Theft Auto is the idea that in an average playing of the game you get the opportunity to pay a prostitute for sex and when the transaction is complete you beat her to death and take the money back. While it is indeed true that you can do this in some of the games, it is equally true that it is more than likely that people playing the game never even thought of doing so before it was reported far and wide on TV talk shows.

Video games will portray things that should not happen in real life, and it is fair to hold the opinion that this is a shame. However, the same moral standards do not seem to apply to classic works of literature and film-making, or indeed to depictions of real life. In video games, you can indeed do things that are wrong, but it might be more productive to concentrate on the people who are doing things like this for real, without needing the encouragement of a video game.

Virtual Reality – The Games That Got Away

January 6, 2010 by admin  
Filed under General Video Gaming

Some time around the middle of the 1990s, there was a widely held belief that the future of video gaming was the Virtual Reality headset. In the future, we were assured, there would be a lot less watching a screen while playing with a video game controller which made things happen about ten feet from your face. No, you would play games that happened right in front of your eyes, and it would be like you were really there. It seemed quite a seductive idea, and it was quite an innovation, but it’s safe to say you don’t know many people who own one.

Virtual Reality headsets are still very much in use, but in a gaming scenario they really never took off. Mostly it was to do with the difficulty of writing a good game for them – all you could really do was stand in place, walk around a little and then wait for the headset to catch up with you. They work a lot better in a setting where the surroundings are more fixed and sedate, and they have become quite useful in a scientific application, but for the time being it seems settled that video games will mostly be played on screens.

The idea of being in a more “participatory” game has become more realistic, with gamers enjoying driving games that make use of pedals and steering wheels, golfing games with realistic putting and driving strokes, and other similar ideas. Maybe Virtual Reality will have its day, but the present seems to be far more devoted to other innovations.

A Gym For The Mind

January 6, 2010 by admin  
Filed under General Video Gaming

Hands up if you have heard someone say “those video games are no good – they rot the brain and poison the mind”, or something that approaches that attitude in terms of an emotive response to video games. Now, put your hands back down. Put your hands up if you regularly play video games and have found that the game frustrates you because it poses a problem you cannot work around. Now, do you see the point this article is about to make?

The assertion that video games prevent people from broadening their minds and even work to retard the brain in some way really is an idiotic one. Let’s think about this for a minute. So many of the games out there on the market require the player to really think about what they are doing. Each has a quite logical pattern which can be followed by the gamer to get them to the next level. They very much encourage logical thinking rather than retarding the brain.

Of course, there will be some people who when playing a video game simply run around the (virtual) play area shooting everything that moves and, when they find something that doesn’t move, shooting it until it does. Even this does not mean that they are rotting their brains. Certainly no more so than reading a book which has a murder in it every other chapter. Of course, one of these two will always be seen in some people’s eyes as enriching their intellect – and there are no prizes for guessing which.

A Gaming Evening – This Generation’s Bridge Party

January 6, 2010 by admin  
Filed under General Video Gaming

Although the present generation are frequently attacked by their “elders” for the way in which they behave, it is fair to say that there is a certain amount of that criticism which goes over the top. Certainly, the way that some people react to video games it would be no exaggeration to say that they consider them to be the devil’s work. Video games – in the home, anyway – are a relatively recent development, and there are people living today who were brought up in a world without them. Therefore, people may well be prone to a fairly inflamed attitude to something they don’t understand.

When you think that – out of the millions of people who play video games regularly – a small number have been guilty of the actions which are routinely blamed on video games and those who play them, it really is not hard to see why people think gamers get an unnecessarily hard time. After all, there are probably some people who have gone to bridge evenings who have then killed a person at some point. It would be needlessly harsh to call for a ban on bridge, even knowing that.

Of course, it is possible for a video game to affect someone psychologically, but the fact is that one cannot take the attitude that everyone should be denied something that millions of people enjoy responsibly just because one person who does that thing took actions that were inexcusable. We need to look out for people and make sure they are well, rather than banning things that might “make” them behave oddly.

Video Game Addiction – It Is Real

January 6, 2010 by admin  
Filed under General Video Gaming

You will hear it said a lot, if you spend much time around gamers or their friends or parents – or indeed if you yourself are a gamer. The word is spat out with real feeling, but the way it is said is almost more mocking than angry, and it seems to cloud the real issue. You must have heard it, either reported, acted, or said for real. “That game, you’re always playing it – I sometimes think you’re addicted!” What might surprise some people is that playing video games can be genuinely addictive, and it can be a problem.

Indeed, some reviews of games and the advertising that takes quotes from them will use the word itself – “addictive”. Gamers themselves will say approvingly of a game that it is very addictive. It certainly is a selling point. But there is a fine line between “addictive” and addictive. Some people do develop an addiction to video games which is in its way as pernicious as nicotine, heroin or any other drug. It may be considered to be pretty lightweight compared to those, but for those who develop an addiction there are real problems.

Some people become sullen and withdrawn when circumstances prevent them from playing a video game, and some will respond in a very ungracious way to those who ask them to do something else. It is not as damaging, in real terms, as a drug addiction but it can be very damaging to social relationships and if you feel that you, or someone you know, has become addicted to video games (or one specific game), it is important to look for a solution to the matter.

Suspend Your Disbelief

January 6, 2010 by admin  
Filed under General Video Gaming

One of the things that is used as a stick with which to beat the gamer is the idea that gaming is a “fantasy world”. Some people do believe that the player sitting with a controller in his or her hands has reverted to a child like state in which they cannot tell the difference between digitised figures on a screen and real people. And while the best games do have an element of immersion to them, it is completely inaccurate to suggest that gamers have difficulty separating game and reality, as a rule. The games are fun, but if gamers were as feckless as cheap shot columns in newspapers and magazines suggested, they’d never be able to afford the games they play.

It would be more accurate to say that gamers enjoyed the time off from doing real-world stuff, but that is really no different from watching a movie or reading a book. People manage to do this stuff and hold down jobs. It is really not a case of regressing to childhood, and most gamers are every bit as aware of the difference between game and reality as are the people who write about their supposed lack of common sense. At any rate video games, as intricate as they may be, are not so life-like that it is possible to forget what they are.

Games are fun, and that’s the whole story. Does playing Monopoly turn people into money-hungry tycoons who are not satisfied until everyone around them is bankrupt and homeless? No.

Good Evening, Sports Fans

January 6, 2010 by admin  
Filed under General Video Gaming

The rise of sport simulations on video game consoles started a few decades ago, but the advances that the medium has made since then are quite something to behold. There was a time when whatever sport you enjoyed, playing it on a video game would be somehow unsatisfying. Unless your chosen sport was golf, it was incredibly hard to make players and conditions anywhere close to lifelike. Once you discovered a way to hoodwink the computer player’s defense, you could rack up as many goals, touchdowns or baskets as you liked, and scores would end up unrealistic and a little bit boring.

Video game software houses were no less aware of this than the gamer, and with every new release – for a sports game franchise is nothing without an annual update – they have added to what you can do. It used to be the case that an NFL simulation game had you controlling one player on offense and another on defense, and that was it. Now you can be general manager, head coach and conditioning co-ordinator and much more besides. A little confusing and overwhelming for a first-timer but blissful for the stats junkie.

Of course, there are now consoles which even let you participate more actively. Boxing by means of controllers which you hold while “punching”, tennis which involves you swinging the controller around like a racquet. This – we are told – will make us all fitter, and it is a response to the accusations that games are making us lazy. It seems to be popular, too. But it is not going to mean the death of the armchair sports simulation, for sure.

« Previous PageNext Page »