Thursday, January 21, 2010

It Was The Hot Coffee, Wasn't It?

There’s no question that we are a generation of technological obsession. When was the last time you left your house without your cell phone? How about the last time you went 24-hours without logging on to the Internet? You’d probably have to struggle to imagine such a time and, yet, a decade ago, most of us didn’t even have either of the two pieces of wonder above.

Now, we worry about overexposure. How much is too much? According to a new study media usage (television, Internet, video games) among 8 -18 year olds has increased to an average of seven hours and thirty-eight minutes per day. That, Ladies and Gentlemen, is just about the same as having a full-time job.

That’s a lot.

No one is questioning that and no one is saying that's okay.

What I am questioning however, is the unfair spin I feel that video games receive. While watching HLN report on these findings tonight I repeatedly heard the host single out video games as the Great Destroyer of Young Minds. Furthermore, even though the host would occasionally mention television and Internet usage as part of the sphere of “media”, all the images in the background were of children playing video games.

I think an underlying issue that bothers me more than anything is the idea that video games are an isolating experience. More than the phone or e-mail, I use Xbox Live to keep in touch with friends these days. Together we’ll shoot zombies, venture through Africa, or play trivia – sometimes for hours – but certainly not alone in our rooms. Yes, I know that I am not the demographic being referred to in this study but I find myself becoming increasingly frustrated by this idea that video games are the worst of the worst of entertainment.

Here’s an example I heard from the folks over at Analog Hole Gaming: imagine telling a friend that your partner spent all day Saturday and all day Sunday watching baseball. More than likely, your friend who say something along the lines of, “wow, that’s a lot of baseball”. However, if you told that same friend that your partner spent all day Saturday and all day Sunday playing video games, chances are that they would be appalled.

You know it’s true.

I’m just trying to figure out why that is; when did video games really get such a bad rap?

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Time to Let Your Hair Down

Yesterday I finished a very anticipated and somewhat controversial game. Well, for me anyway. After about 14 hours of game play I wrapped up by first run through of Bayonetta. Now, I’ve mentioned this game quite a few times on this blog, mostly because of my skepticism on the titular character. And yes, I very deliberately picked that word.

Bayonetta is sex. From the looks of the trailers and print advertisements as well as the emphasis on the fact that Bayonetta looses the vast majority of her clothing when she casts her “climax” spells, I was pretty convinced that this game was just going to be a mindless romp. Then however, reviews starting coming in. Very, very good reviews including an incredible 10/10 from Edge magazine. This coupled with the enthusiasm from the guys over at Fourplayerpodcast really got me curious about this action/adventure game.

Having now completed the main story I can say that Bayonetta is far from a mindless romp and is rather a vibrant, energetic, non-stop, ridiculous, and fun experience. I cannot believe how much fun I had playing this game. At first - as I was getting my ass handed to be over and over again - I had my doubts. The more I progressed however, the more techniques I purchased and the more weapons I obtained I started to enjoy the hell out of this game. It got to the point where I was waiting for Bayonetta to strip down and finish off the boss I had spent 15 minutes fighting. She always did and it was always immensely satisfying and often pretty funny:

Which brings me to the main point of this post. My concerns over the sexuality of the game were mostly laid to rest. There were certainly moments that were totally unnecessary but for the most part Bayonetta fit right in to the world of the game. Witches with guns on their feet, fights with angels on skyrocketing missiles, spells that conjure iron maidens, chainsaws, and guillotines, and hair that turns into various beasts which when devour enemies – oh yeah, over-the-top sexuality? What’s over-the-top anymore?

Everything about this game from the backdrops to the supporting characters to combos and the loading screens that let you practice your moves fit right into this world. It's a world I plan on playing through again soon.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Thoughts and a Question

I currently taste cement, grass, and gravel. I suppose I got off pretty light considering how far into my mouth I’ve had to shove my foot. Around the time that Left 4 Dead 2 came out Lynsey and I couldn’t understand the hype surrounding Assassin’s Creed 2. After all, the first game got such mixed reviews and Left 4 Dead 2 was going to be so fantastic. Well, Left 4 Dead 2 is fantastic but after playing through it I can say with the upmost confidence that Assassin’s Creed 2 is fantastic as well.

I was honestly shocked at how much I loved this game. The story, the setting, the dialogue, the freedom, the side quests (most of them), I loved it all. In fact, I knew fairly early into the game that I was going to regret saying that it wasn’t worth my time.

Getting used to the controls took quite some time and was very frustrating at first. I can’t tell you the number of times I was attempting to run from a group of enemies and instead of scaling a wall to safety I ended up going up and jumping back off the wall and right into the center of the group. This caused an incredible amount of yelling and thrown pillows. This frustration actually played quite a bit into my one (and perhaps only) big problem with Assassin’s Creed 2, which is that the game punishes you for not being perfect.

If you take one misstep, jump this way instead of that, or pull this weapon instead of that one you’re going to royally fuck yourself. Several times I fell or darted the wrong way during a timed event and I just gave up and waited for the clock to reset. Still when you succeeded, it was oh so sweet. Not to mentioned exciting to be racing over the rooftops of old Italy.

Since I have not played the original Assassin’s Creed, I have nothing to compare this game to. I’ve heard from many different people that this game is superior to the original but I would love to hear it from you all: is Assassin’s Creed 2 really that much better than the original? If I enjoyed this game so much should I check out the first one or will I just be disappointed?

Do tell!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Words . . . er,Instructions of Wisdom

This past week I spent a delightful couple of days with Lynsey in her temporary, non-graduate school residence and watched her press on like the brave little toaster she is in Dead Space. The visit was full of lots of laughs, games, beer, and inappropriate jokes. In fact, the only crappy thing about it was the 12 hours it took me to drive to her. So, on my journey back I decided to cut my trip in half and stay at a hotel. Thankfully, I had my Xbox 360 with me for entertainment, right?

Well, yes. But I was thinking having the console with me was going to do dick until I found an incredibly helpful forum post.

Now, I had heard the stories of hotel televisions not having video input/output (see video below) which is supposed to encourage the consumer to purchase entertainment from the hotel but really just ends up pissing people off. Well, this hotel I'm staying in indeed has a video input but no auxiliary button on the remote or television. I call down at the front desk to check and sure enough, they say there is no way for me to view my "DVD player" on their TV.

I'm irritated.

So I do some web surfing and come across this forum posting. It would behoove any gamer who travels to check it out. It worked like a charm and I am getting ready to spend the night playing some serious Assassin's Creed 2 thanks to it.

Enjoy, children! And buonanotte!

Friday, January 1, 2010

End of the Year Roundup

Last night, we rang in 2010 with good food, good drink, and good games. When the night was over, Lynsey and I were left thinking of all the great (and not so great) games we played this year. So we've collected our thoughts and come up with this list of our favorite games of 2009 (for the XBox 360, only). So without further ado, here is our list:

Best Game of the Year
Cary Resident Evil 5
Lynsey Resident Evil 5
Honorable Mentions Left 4 Dead 2, Batman: Arkham Asylum.

Best Story
Cary Batman: Arkham Asylum
Lynsey Shadow Complex

Best/Most Impressive Graphics
Cary Resident Evil 5
Lynsey Resident Evil 5
Honorable Mention Modern Warfare 2

Best Hero
Cary Eddie Riggs (Brütal Legend)
Lynsey Jason Fleming (Shadow Complex)

Best Villain
Cary The Joker (Batman: Arkham Asylum)
Lynsey The Joker (Batman: Arkham Asylum)
Honorable Mention Albert Wesker (Resident Evil 5)

Best Soundtrack
Cary Brütal Legend
Lynsey Shadow Complex

Best Arcade Game or DLC
Cary Fallout 3: Point Lookout
Lynsey Shadow Complex

Best Multi-Player Experience
Cary Left 4 Dead 2
Lynsey Left 4 Dead 2
Honorable Mention Resident Evil 5

Best Single-Player Experience
Cary Assassin's Creed 2
Lynsey X-Men Origins: Wolverine

Biggest Disappointment
Cary WET
Lynsey Ghostbusters

Best Voice Acting
Cary Batman: Arkham Asylum
Lynsey Ghostbusters

Games We Wished We Hadn't Missed
Cary Grand Theft Auto 4 DLC
Lynsey Borderlands
Honorable Mention Halo: ODST

Most Anticipated Game of 2010
Cary Bayonetta
Lynsey Bioshock 2
Honorable Mentions Alan Wake, Fallout 3: New Vegas, Resident Evil 5 DLC

Best Discovery in 2009
Cary Fallout 3
Lynsey Bioshock
Honorable Mention Dead Space

There you have it, Ladies and Gentlemen!

Thanks for the memories, 2009!