So… let’s start with the admission that the headline for this post was about grabbing your attention. I’ve obviously been whittled in to eye-catching territory in this, our post-Buzzfeed brave new world. Now that I’ve cleared the air, I’ll make that statement again with more clarity. I’m rewatching the Pokemon cartoon, from the beginning, with my girlfriend. And we fucking sing the theme song and everything. And it’s why I’m the happiest person I’ve ever met. I’ll do my best to explain how this works.
Let’s talk about jumpships. Well, first let’s be clear… let’s talk about Bungie’s Destiny — which if you’re not playing, you really should be. The game exemplifies the pinnacle of Bungie’s progress as a developer and is a detailed study on bridging and amalgamizing genres to create an ecosystem that breeds player devotion. Take the match-making and competitive experience from Halo, stir in the loot system and stage exploration from classics like Diablo, or subsequently Borderlands, add a dash of MMO-hub cities and raids ala’ World of Warcraft — you get the idea. Destiny is a mixed breed specifically meant to appeal to the genre aspects for which players salivate. But… I want to talk specifically about one aspect that excites me. The loading screen. Seriously. Destiny’s attention to detail on the loading screen gives me a half-chub.
I have a tradition. For no reason other than the joy it gives me, I try to predict things at E3 each year. Sometimes I do it publicly, sometimes I do it on a note sitting on the desktop of my Macbook for no one to view but myself. It is equally the most fulfilling and disappointing thing to do in the hobby of reading game industry news — which I believe is in some way, a separate hobby from playing games. Am I right in my guess at the pulse of the industry and what companies will try to do to succeed? Am I smarter than them when I think what they should do and they don’t do it? Am I ridiculous for caring or even attempting to guess and analyze the depth of a company and industry’s motivation that I don’t even work in? Of course. I’ve always been ridiculous. Why should that stop me? Eggfart. See? There I go again.
This year I got Nathan to chime in with his hoots and hollers as well. Here we go…
I’ve been musing on games and narrative lately. The rift between gameplay and story, and wondering if a narrator blurs the line, or is still just a mask on the divide. It started with a run through Bastion, in which Rucks, the narrator, is the real heart of the game. The narration in Bastion is so finely woven in to the game, it’s really a vision of creativity. Instead of a narrator setting the stage in an intro, or cinematic, Bastion strives to weave the two, with dialogue sparked by gameplay elements that one wouldn’t have ever expected. Spend some time breaking barrels, and hear, “The kid just rages for a while.” What a line.
I’m trying to avoid being an armchair analyst of Nintendo’s current situation. I can admit that I’ve lost faith (a long time ago) and I can admit that they still have a shot to turn it all around (they always do), but there’s not much fun in any of that — the writing of it, or the reading of it — considering it’s been done the world over. It’s not that I don’t want to. I spent something round-about two hours in bed last night thinking of how I would open up an innovation department inside the company (because their innovation is more predictable than the fanboys admit) and hire UI and interface designers from Dribbble and tech startups to update the archaic interfaces and product (as in not *physical* product) design, launch the recurring subscription service of retro games for reliable revenue, create brand guidelines for the main franchise characters and then draft up a transparent crowdsourcing system limited to anyone with an approved dev license to pitch videos of potential franchise character games, for which any with the sufficient crowdsourced commitment will get created and published by Nintendo.
Add in the game streaming services like Twitch, that the other platforms have added and commit ferociously to building multiple distribution channels like a growth hacker would from brand to department to franchise to character. These are the things I dream of when I’m laying in bed not dreaming. But… that’s not what I want to write about today. Instead… these are just the games I’d like to see Nintendo make in my dream world. Because despite the otherwise sorry state, fun’s just fun.
The Legend of Zelda is one of the most iconic video game series of all time. It turns 28 next month, and we’ll be the same age for another six, though we didn’t meet until 1998 when my brother and I were eager to play Ocarina of Time on our first Nintendo console. Cue the biggest three-dimensional world I’d ever seen, filled with characters who talked to you and a sense of life I’d never seen in a game. I didn’t really know Link was Link, and in the proper spirit of things, gave him my own name when prompted. Once I started playing I was continuously blown away with each turn. There was a quest, a princess, a talking tree, open fields, impending doom, and then real, actualized doom as I saw a world where the power of the Triforce had been seized by evil. There were secrets to find. Oh, and let’s not forget the music.
I’m having a hard time with Bioshock Infinite. I think it’s a fine game, and I’m really quite intrigued with Elizabeth’s strange powers, the world, the visual aesthetic and the fiction (of course). I don’t think it’s quite as captivating as the first on any front other than making better use of the color wheel, but I never finished that game anyway, so that’s pretty damn irrelevant. I do think it’s the game that finally brought a subtle nagging I’d been having with first-person games to the full breadth of my attention for the first time. And that issue is simply, stop putting tiny shit on the ground for me to look at and collect.
In 2013, I played very little. I said, to myself mostly, that I just didn’t have time for it. Off-hand, the only game I remember completing was March’s Tomb Raider reboot. Oh, I think there was also Diablo 3. But that’s the whole barrel-shitting list. I dabbled in some Borderlands, and dug through the campaign of Magic the Gathering’s latest Planeswalker release. Each of the games I completed actually took months to finish, and I had a good time playing them, but I felt ashamed I wasn’t doing something different with my time. Something more Important. Games were my dirty, time-wasting hobby. I switched to watching television for entertainment, so that I could “work” at the same time I engaged. It felt more productive to be doing two things at once. No matter that I was doing each at half-mast.