For as much joy as they’ve brought into my life, video games seem to have an inescapable place on the rhetorical hit-list of pundits, parents and pollsters alike
When growing up, chances are there came a time when you realized that you were categorically superior to your parents in at least one regard: computer stuff. For me, that moment came when my dear father couldn’t switch the RF adapter for my NES from “game mode” back to cable in time for a Twins game. I was seven at the time.
One late night in the summer of 2009, I sat bleary-eyed and jittery over a rickety card table in my parents’ basement. I’d been there for what felt like days. A completely disassembled Xbox 360 lay strewn in pieces before me, each component resting gently on its own six-inch square of newspaper. A clap of thunder rattled the window as I steadied the screwdriver in my hand.
Playing Journey is a bit like sliding through an exotic dream. It’s exhilarating one moment, sad the next, and, inherently, the experience is solely yours, the dreamer’s. The intensity of such things, for better or worse, will always fade when you leave the bed or put down the controller. The sights and sounds evaporate in daylight, and the experience boils away to lingering, naked emotion. When someone asks if you had any dreams last night, you’re at a loss for words. But you have no lack of feelings, difficult though they are to convey.
Sometime near the end of yesterday, Nintendo released its annual summary of the last fiscal year. Video game financials? Boring, I know. But the day’s most interesting event lies beyond the numbers.
For most of human history, artistic expression was a one-time action. Ancient sculptors couldn’t take back a stroke of their chisel, and paint didn’t come off when it hit the canvas. There was a simple but beautiful synergy between the weight of those brief artistic moments and the focused, passionate energy that inspired them.
At just two and a half hours into my first honest playthrough of The Legend of Zelda, I’ve died 26 times. I know because the game keeps track. That’s more deaths, I’m sure, than I’ve suffered in 10 runs through Ocarina of Time. When I boot up the game tomorrow, that number will be the first thing I see, a reminder to swallow my pride and strap myself in. (A good use for home gaming’s first save battery, to be sure.)
I recently spent the better part of 1,000 words explaining why, after no small amount of personal distress, I decided to let go of my obsession with experiencing Mass Effect 3 in the “best way possible—if there is such a thing—and just play through the damn game on its own terms, come what may. After 15 hours back on the Normandy with my crew, you might call me hypocritical for coming back with a column explaining the ideal way to play Mass Effect 3.
When Xbox LIVE launched its most recent update a couple months ago, a friend and I sat on a couch and flipped our way through all the new features—cloud saves, the new interface, voice controls and all the rest. We disagreed about the benefits of some of the changes, but at the end of the day, it was still just Xbox LIVE. It took us about five minutes to reach that mutual conclusion, and we were about to move on with our day.
It’s not often that I mark a game’s release date on my Google calendar. Besides the fact that I tend to remember them off-hand, they look a little silly next to all of my oh-so-important classes and appointments.
For most of my life and long before it began, video games struggled to break into the mainstream and gain status as a respectable art. And with good reason: rose-tinted glasses or not, even the gaming pioneers of the Ford-Carter years would surely admit that their little hobby was just that, a curious plaything more remarkable for simply working than for touching the heart or soul. The Atari and Intellivision era brought higher fidelity to the medium as it stonewalled its way into the American consciousness with heavy marketing campaigns.
A couple weeks ago, I laid out a handful of predictions for the year ahead. We’re far enough into January that this second batch is inexcusably late, but hey...I also predict that you’ll need a few homework extensions before this quarter is over. Don’t judge.
Whether the world ends or not, 2012 is already set to be an unusual year for games. In the coming months, we’ll see free-to-play models and digital distribution continue to change the way games are made, re-learn the value of $250 as dedicated handhelds battle for relevance against smartphones and tablets, and marvel at PC gaming’s inevitable resurgence as the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 continue to move gracefully into old age. And don’t forget: for the first time since 2006, we have two major platforms launching in one year.
Not too long from now, I might look back on 2011 as a year when I spent an unhealthy amount of time with my jaw hanging open in front of my television screen. For better or worse, developers this year seemed to focus on the big “impact” moments--those plot-points and set-pieces that reach legendary YouTube status and have you texting your friends at 2 a.m.
We’re still in the thick of the holiday release schedule, and game critics around the Net are already calling out Fall 2011 as one of the best seasons in video game history.
From only a few minutes into its opening scene, I could tell that Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception wasn’t going to stray far from the formula that made its predecessors so special.
For better or for worse, my generation is afflicted with extreme spoiler-phobia.
I can’t pretend to know all the details behind Mass Effect’s foray into multiplayer, the reasoning behind it or how it will tie into the final product. I can, though, take a more levelheaded approach to this week’s news.
Without the nuclear mojo of a truly new iPhone to usher in his term atop the Mac-maker, Cook leaned on another of Apple’s pillars to show that he meant business. You guessed it: Cook was hardly shy Tuesday about championing the success and advancement of games on iOS.
After two straight seasons of carrying a No. 1 ranking into the national championship game only to lose, it didn’t take long for the Stanford women’s soccer team to regain its familiar position at the top of the pack. Just seven games into the 2011 season, the Cardinal (6-0-1) is atop the national voting with a whopping 824 points.
Game developers are a unique breed: their craft takes an odd combination of artistic, technical and managerial chops. It’s a rare treat when we can get inside the heads of these visionaries, taking just a few steps down whatever rabbit hole they might get their ideas from.
When word got to me last week that Capcom had cancelled “Mega Man Legends 3,” my gut reaction was just a hint of despair and befuddlement on top my usual, pragmatic acceptance of “well, I suppose they’d know if their game sucked.”
It’s far too early to call that media-friendly quip a bold-faced lie, as the Wii U and its unique touch-screen controller won’t be available for at least another year.