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  1. Discrimination of any kind makes you look bad so if video games are indeed sexist than yes, it makes us look bad, done next question. Oh wait what's the required word count for this thing? Argh fine here are some more words about sexism and video games and why you look bad today (seriously those clothes are not flattering). Now you can't make the blanket statement that all of gaming is sexist, but there are definitely parts of gaming that are. That doesn't make it that much different from other forms of entertainment that also suffer from sexism, but video games do usually find themselves being targeted for problems that also affect other media (violent movies exist, for example). This doesn't excuse games from the issue however and there are still plenty of examples of this problem throughout gaming. One of the most noticeable examples of gender discrimination is how different armor is portrayed between genders. If you equip something on a dude then he is in a massive 12 inch thick suit of armor, but if some female warrior was to don that armor than it would likely transform into a metal bikini. Now I understand the appeal of a man wearing big armor (I used to play Warhammer 40K so you could consider me an expert in the field), but what“s wrong with having some of the fairer sex looking badass too? There are other places you can get you babes-in-bikinis fix. A woman's weakspot is her breasts right? Is that why they always cover them up? Of course there is more to the problem than what the characters wear; it is also how they are written and portrayed. Now this is pretty varied and can change depending who is the writer, but based on no evidence whatsoever I have concluded that the ladies are more likely to be cast as support characters and have the manly man go fight the giant demon king of evil. It is usually the same just different settings; Drake was the star and Elena was the tag-along, Marcus was the Space Marine rip-off and Anya was his support and if you are looking to the future The Last of Us has Joel killing infected and Ellie looking like Ellen Page. Now I remember hearing that games that had a female main character didn't sell as well as games that had big burly men manning the helm. Now Slayn Bacon isn't paying me to think up reasons this might be the case, but it does mean that publishers don't really want to push games with female leads and without that publisher support developers are less likely to make games with a woman leading the way. So basically it is your fault for not buying games that do things a little different and you should all feel very bad for being such horrible people. We have talked a lot about the characters in the games, but what about the people? Do you know that women exist and also play games? That was quite the surprise when I found out and let me tell you, they get quite a lot of negative attention. Now I am not sure how many of you know about fat ugly or ****ty, but let me tell you this: it“s not a place to be inspired about mankind“s loving and accepting nature. Basically I knew playing online was a fast way to get abuse, but man, some people get it worse than others. This reminds me of when I had a tree house... And friends. I like to imagine that women can walk down a street without constant abuse being hurled at them (we don't have streets in New Zealand yet so I wouldn't know), but I guess people just go a little crazy when they are online. The point is that there is a lot of abuse when people decide to go play multiplayer and call me crazy, but I don't think people should have to deal with stuff like that whenever they want to go have fun with other people. So let's get back to the big question at hand: Does sexism in gaming make us look bad? Well the big issue for me would be the amount of abuse female gamers suffer online, which does make us look bad, because it makes it seem like the gaming community is full of man babies who can't tolerate anyone who isn't a straight, white male (being all three of those things I don't have a good handle on how bad some of that abuse can get, but judging from some peoples stories, it can get pretty bad) and that turns potential gamers away and that hurts business. So stop being a loser and be more accepting, I mean come on! You are such a horrible person, you could at least try to be good once in your life.
  2. Difficulty. It's something I'm sure all of you have come across in your lives. I'm not talking about games here. You know what I mean- that F you just scored on your English test, or that pay decrease you just received. Maybe something even so small as having to walk up the stairs in your house after a long afternoon of track practice. Why is life so tough? And more importantly, why do many games try to emulate that? Let me ask you, the reader, a question. Why do you play games? Is it for the challenge? Multiplayer madness with friends? Loot? BOOTY? Maybe, and maybe not. However, one thing stands out among the "code of games" to me. If you make a game, your goal is to make it fun, and make the player enjoy it. Any which way you do this is up to you, however, your goal should be for the player to maybe laugh a bit, cry a bit, or even smile when they reach the end. So why are some games just so frustratingly hard? Why do they insist on giving you the most extreme challenge in video game existence? To me, it's still adding to the fun factor and enjoyment of the game. The extremely easy difficulties even help with that. For instance, is playing on the "easy" difficulty going to change much of the original game? Probably not, but it lets anyone who is new or struggles with tough games to still thoroughly enjoy the same game that a more experienced or "hardcore" gamer can also love and enjoy. Consider most modern games. They usually have at least three difficulties, and you probably usually pick normal. However, with both easy and hard as options, you could pick to have a harder challenge or a creamy-cake-easy time. It's this freedom of choice that's great for us gamers. Well, game difficulty is great, you probably already knew that. However, what about those games that ONLY let you have an extreme or incredibly easy challenge? You know what I mean....opposite ends of the spectrum, such as "I Wanna Be The Guy", or "Barbie Horse Adventures". I've played both I'll admit, and for me personally, Barbie just isn't that fun. It's too easy, and the horse looks lame anyway, really. But, I Wanna Be The Guy is all like....*death*. You can't win in that game unless you are very skilled at platforming games and can memorize the traps. It's very tough. However, I've come back to both of these games multiple times. Why might that be, now? Well, truthfully, both offer very different experiences. You get different satisfactions from both games. In Barbie, I get to experience the joy of washing my great, mighty stallion. In IWBTG, I get to experience the joy of trying again and again to even get to the next screen. It's normal to get frustrated while trying to get there, but if you focus on having fun, even extremely hard or easy games can be made into an enjoyable experience. We'll never know what went on exactly inside the heads of the early video game developers when they were considering the difficulty of their games, but I can say from the player's point of view that no matter how tough, games are still fun. There may be extreme games that can really push your nerves, but through it all, I have a feeling you're still having a good time.
  3. As a modern consumer of electronic entertainment, I like my video games to look “cutting edgeé. Crank up the tessellation, I say. Add those high definition textures and give me more draw distance. And why shouldn“t I demand perfection? Most AAA-quality video games push sexier visuals, more sumptuous special effects, and more immersion within highly-detailed and interactive 3D environments. In our day and age, the better it looks, the better it sells. As we pioneer new frontiers in the realm of 3D entertainment, what happens to those games which reside squarely in 2D worlds? If there“s one thing that“s true about consumers, it“s that nostalgia is one of the most powerful emotions for companies and developers to tug on. For this reason, a number of studios and game developers refuse to make their games in 3D. They continue the trend of old school 2D side-scrollers, classic adventure games, and more. While bigger companies focus on pushing technology to its ever-expanding limits, smaller studios and independent developers have filled the niche role of delivering games that don“t need fancy 3D graphics to get the job done. One studio that“s bucked the trend of 3D gaming is Capybara Games. The young studio was one of the first development teams to exploit the Apple family of touch-based products for a classic 2D adventure game. Dubbed Sword and Sorcery EP, the game was a critical and financial hit. Capy won over millions of gamers with Sword and Sorcery“s beautiful pixelated art and whimsical visuals. The key to Capy“s success is that it developed the game for mobile devices, not consoles or PCs. On handheld platforms, users expect far less from mobile games. Titles like Angry Birds flourish with simple 2D art and addicting gameplay. The mobile device market has provided the means for 2D games to succeed. 2D games don“t tax most mobile hardware and generally feature strong, on-the-go gameplay hooks. While some 2D games can be found on consoles and PCs, the expectations are generally defined by users who want the latest and greatest in 3D gaming experiences. Since mobile markets tend to price their offerings at a fraction of the cost of console/PC games, studios can focus on crafting better gameplay mechanics that fit mobile devices while sticking to 2D art-styles. This brings us to the question of whether or not 2D art in gaming is declining. The answer is a resounding no. If anything, 2D games are expanding at a remarkable rate due to the rise of the mobile market. Most consumers have a smart-phone or a device capable of playing games and apps. This allows small, independent studios to release 2D games that might struggle to find a home on consoles and PC. Factor in the always-popular nostalgia factor and the mobile market has ensured that 2D gaming will persist despite the advances in 3D-rendering technology. If these 2D games find financial and popular success on mobile devices, there“s a chance that consumers will be willing to play more 2D games on consoles and PCs. Telltale“s The Walking Dead mega-hit resurrected the dying adventure genre. There“s no telling where the future of 2D gaming will go if the mobile market continues to expand. Even if our 3D world, the potential for 2D games burns bright!
  4. Video games have always been a hard medium to truly define. When a game is creatively constructed with artistic values, whether due to a lack of opportunity for realism or simply a desire to be the game developer version of Leonardo Da Vinci, video games can come off as a legitimate form of art. But then there are those modern games that are built to be realistic, proving to be more like interactive movies or real-life simulations than anything else. But is that a good thing or a bad thing? Should game developers aspire to make their games more realistic or should they be focusing their art direction to something more unique to the medium? Creative Art Direction There was a time when games really couldn“t pull off such the realistic flair you see today, turning to more unique means of art direction to compensate the limitations they had. This, of course, gave gamers an experience neither real life nor any other medium could provide. Whether you were a hero fighting for the fate of the world in an RPG, a young traveler on an important quest in an adventure game, or a…erm…plumber saving a princess from a giant turtle-dragon in a platformer, these games always had a unique look to them that still hold up to this day. But over the years, with such rapid advancements in technology, more and more games take a more realistic approach to art direction. In my many years as a gamer, however, born into a SNES lifestyle thanks to my older brother, I“ve come to really appreciate games that take a more creative approach. This could be a manner of things, such as the beautiful art-in-motion styles of games like The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword and Journey, the crafty styles of games like Paper Mario: Sticker Star and Kirby“s Epic Yarn, or games like Lone Survivor and Cave Story that use retro styles to remind us all of what makes the classics so timeless. Whatever the case, these creative art styles really make me feel that games deserve to be labeled as “art†alongside “entertainment.†Realistic Art Direction That“s not to say that I don“t like games with a more realistic appeal to them, though. I mean, some people prefer abstract paintings to realistic sculptures, but that doesn“t stop either from being works of art, does it? Of course not. With video games, a lot of the time, the more realistic of the bunch tend to feel more like interactive movies or real-life simulations than what the more unique-looking games provide in the visual spectrum. But hey, some people prefer movies and real life to paintings and the like, and I“d be lying if I said I don“t enjoy watching movies or going out and about in that thing they call the “real world.†It“s also sorta like choosing between watching an anime series and watching a live-action TV show. On the one hand, you“ve got a show you can better relate to, although I sure hope you aren“t a serial killer or anti-heroic meth cook. On the other hand, you“ve got a sort of art-in-motion show, watching drawings (beautiful if pulled off well, like Studio Ghibli) moving around within a certain story, and with a lot of room for the abstract. And I find both styles highly entertaining in their own right. In gaming, however, you“re in control, and sometimes I feel like realistic games try too hard to be interactive live-action movies or TV shows that the more artistic side of gaming is sometimes shunned (Roger Ebert, anyone?). I guess it must be the artist in me, but when it comes down to it, my bread and butter (mmm…) in video game art direction has to be the more creative type. By that, of course, I mean that I tend to prefer games that seek out a unique art direction that other games don“t normally have. I still enjoy playing more realistic games that provide a more cinematic and/or “real world†experience, but I admire game developers that really take their art form seriously and try to do something different in their medium, and I would like to see that more often. Developers like Nintendo and thatgamecompany love doing that, and that“s one reason I tend to like their games a lot. With that said, both directions have their places in the world of gaming, and I wouldn“t give up either one.
  5. The perspective from which a game is presented, can govern the audiences experience. Much like in writing, a video game has to make the choice of being played in the first person, or in the third person. From a mechanics standpoint, a cover system used in games like Gears of War or Uncharted, would be odd if the games were in first person. Constantly hiding behind cover would have your character look to the side, or away from barrier where there are no enemies, thus putting the player at a disadvantage because the player can“t spot enemies. The cover system allows for better strategic advantage in a third person view. Marcus aiming from cover Video games are a form of fiction, and the game is that character“s journey and story, and you, as the player, can experience the same story. Many, if not all video game formats at least allow for third person to be a viable presentation option. More often than not, one will find an action game, or an RPG to be in the third person (there are some exceptions). However, The third person perspective also runs the risk of the audience being detached from the character. To reiterate, the game is that character“s journey and story, the player is just there for the ride. With that potential detachment however, comes the fact that the third person perspective allows for the audience to take a step back amidst all of the action and see the bigger picture more than first person perspective allows. You can see your character make faces showing that he or she is distressed, angry, or sad, reacting to the situation at hand (such as covering their ears after a nearby grenade explodes). Unfortunately, the detachment from the characters will make the audience feel like they are watching a movie, instead of taking part in it. He may have your name, but he“s not really you. The detachment also leads to the fact that the third person perspective allows you to see your character. This is great, because it allows the player the greatest amount of control. The player can see everything at once. This allows you to tell when an object is going to fly over the character“s head and calculate how far you throw an object, or how far you will jump. The stronger level of control allows for the player to maneuver through the world better than a first person game does. The first person perspective does its best to emulate human sight. The player is placed inside the head of the player character, seeing exactly what the character sees. This allows for the player to be pulled into the action of the game even more so than a game in the third person perspective does. The character you are playing, is, even more than a third person game, by extension, YOU. You see bullets whiz by your head, and the horrifying face of that killer dog is literally a few inches away from you. This makes the action that much more surreal. The player is also allowed much more camera control. You can almost always decide to look wherever the heck you want to. This is especially great for all of those people that like to explore their environments. But what if you look around while some character is talking to you? Do you miss an important item, or some other funny animation? There is potential to miss some important things, but that level of control oddly reflects real life. As soon as you turn away from someone or something, that person or thing vanishes, and you are left dumbfounded. The greater amount of camera control isn“t without its limitations though. Shooting some aliens. The first person viewpoint feels very limiting from a gameplay perspective, because shooting is what works best. There are exceptions, like Skyrim, and Mirror“s Edge but when most people think of games in the first person, it“s the shooter genre. As unique as it could be, a or an action game where your character spins around a lot could get quite unnerving after a while if it“s played in the first person. It“s not so much that the games are bad, it“s that there are greater inherent restrictions to the first person viewpoint. The games need to have mechanics that work around this inherent limitation. There is the potential for more creative games in the first person if there are great mechanics, but the mechanics need to overcome the restrictions first. Both perspectives have their own merits and limitations. Video games have used the third person perspective more than the first person, and more games tend to lend themselves better to the third person perspective as well. Both sides can lead to different levels of creativity as well, but you need to find out which perspective works best for the presentation of the game.
  6. A certain member of this website, who goes by the name of Slayn Bacon, created a contest to put the writing skills of his fellow GamePodunk members to the test. As for myself, the topic that has been set before me is one concerning the differences between first and third person games. This article is the result of many hours minutes of contemplating the broadness of this topic. I finally decided to form my argument around the level of immersion I experience when playing these games. This turned out to be a rather tricky concept to play around with as immersion can seemingly take on several forms. Traditionally, the common reasoning is that the immersion is greater in first person games. YOU take on the role of a character in whatever story is being presented in the game you're playing. YOU are making the decisions, calling the shots, killing the baddies. However, I feel that there is more to being immersed in a game than simply "being there". First person games rely on your ability forget the real world and place yourself into the game world. The major flaw with this concept, to me at least, is that there is an extreme disconnect between the player and the game universe. The player (you) don't belong in the game world, you are simply piloting an shell of a character to navigate the game world. Thus, you, the player, are neither truly a part of the fiction of the game, nor are you a simply a spectator watching on from the sidelines. In Skyrim for example you take the role of "a character" customized to look however you'd like. You spend the game literally building a persona around your character. However, your character really isn't important in the grand scheme of things, it is merely an interface for you to interact with the game. You are not engaging with the character you're playing, but rather with the entire world around you. This line of thought effectively eliminates characters such as Gordon Freeman as "true" characters. This "Gordon" fellow is simply a vehicle built for players of the Half Life games to control in order to play the game. The perspective this gives you, the one of YOU becoming the character is a perplexing one. It ultimately comes down to your desire to role play. Do you want to become a space marine, destined to save the universe? Do you want to become an elite soldier, piloting F16's over a battlefield? Perhaps you do, perhaps you don't. It really depends on the gamer and the mood. But not everyone wants to be "themselves" in a game, even if they are capable of things they aren't in real life. They WANT to be someone else. There's a reason more games are third person, the reason being that you are constantly being reminded of WHO you are. You are constantly looking at your character, how s/he looks, how s/he moves, voice, personality etc. If you were to describe a character from nothing but the camera angle used in-game you'd be able to tell FAR more things about say, Nathan Drake than Gordon Freeman, simply because you can see them. This added dimension of personality makes for more convincing characters in games. Aren't all games centered around us suspending our disbelief to take on the role of the character we're playing? So wouldn't it be better to know as much as possible about whose role we're taking on? This lack of seeing your character allows for the reality of human movement to be swept aside in favor of strafing and spinning in games such as Call of Duty or Quake. You have no sense of weight, as opposed to playing Marcus Fenix in Gears who's lumbering stride imparts a sense of primal force which is different from playing Nathan Drake, whose ease of climbing and hap hazard running leaves you with an entirely different feeling. So to finish off my thoughts on this, the perspective the camera takes in a game determines the connection to the game itself. Whilst in first person you are never truly you, but rather an impossible you, one who doesn't truly allow for seamless integration with the game world. In third person, your character has more layers to them, making your time spent witnessing their journey a more engrossing experience. Now as always their are bound to be exceptions or games that don't quite fit either mold, but I feel that this is a general observation of two types of perspectives in videogames. First person or third person, which do you prefer?
  7. First, a disclaimer: I believe video games are art. Rather, I think that video games have the ability to be considered art. This is necessary to be aware of as this theme is my jumping off point for the discussion of how visuals should be handled in games. Video games are a medium that are still incredibly young in the artistic world. With drawing and painting starting in caves, and cameras capable of saving moving images came about in the 1800s, there are long histories of how those mediums progressed. In the case of video games, we only really have the 20th and 21st century to go on. Thanks to technology, we have been able to see massive jumps in what is possible visually in some fifty years. If you chart the history of video game visuals, you will find many times when it lines up with other forms of art. The earliest video games had only a few objects on screen and only slightly depicted whatever they were meant to be. Early games like Atari“s Adventure used a sprite that looked more duckish than monster, but gamers understood the connotation all the same. These early, very low pixel games were “cave paintingsé. At this point, the entire industry, as well as its fans, were pushing purely for realism. That“s why ads pitting companies against each other would show two pixelated screenshots and say how much more realistic their orientation of pixels were. 1982 Intellivision versus Atari ad With the era of SNES, Genesis, and Turbografx-16, we saw a shift forming. There were way more pixels available for artists. The concern was no longer how to make the most human-looking figure in four/eight pixels, but how to create something aesthetically interesting. The games may not have been realistic, but they did look pretty close to cartoons in the eyes of a child. Even now, many of these 16-bit era works look fantastic. There is not really an artistic comparison for this era if only because once artists were really able to go at it, they were gunning for realism. Similarly, as game consoles and computers became more powerful, many developers pushed for excruciating realism. Of course, “realismé meant something different in the 90s. Full motion video (FMV) games had a brief flourish which could easily be considered the most realistic video games ever. Sure, no one will ever suggest that Night Trap is “realisticé, but it did have one thing going for it - real actors. How more real can you get than actual human flesh recorded on screen? Both the artistic movements of Realism and Romanticism pushed artists to the best of their abilities, although in different ways. In the current gaming landscape, we see that many developers are still doggedly pursuing graphics so real that they are indistinguishable from reality. Although it doesn“t seem we have gotten there yet, we are much closer than ever before. Does this mean that we should focus all our efforts on making more and more realistic games? Should we instead impose that games work further on making their own identity for themselves? These are the questions that were raised with Impressionism, Cubism, and even Dadaism. As the art community grew staunchly opposed to anything other than real, many artists broke out to smash the preconceived notions of what art could be. Marcel Duchamp's Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2 For all intents and purposes, gaming never really had a moment that games deviated from realism because they have yet to attain it fully. Still, it“s easy to read gamer opinions and see that many are hungry for the most graphically intensive, “realé experiences out there. The audience is huge as is evidenced by many triple A titles. The highlight of posting screenshots is often to say “look at how much better this looks than games X and Y!é. Of course, anyone who has been playing games for a while is probably aware that realism is not the only way to handle games. There have always been games which do not strive for that unattainable look of reality, and this will continue to be the case. Many truly loved games such as The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, Okami, Psychonauts, and so many more have rejected reality in favor of artistry. These kinds of games do something that no other medium is capable of. They create some sort of fantasy world with its own look and invite players into it. Unlike a painting which you can only view and comprehend, a game allows you to actually manipulate the world. Instead of an animated film that takes you on a roller coaster ride, you are able to set your own path. In a way, the same is true of more realistic games as well. As they are not 100% authentic to reality, they are still an experience different than movies. If there is a point when game and movie visuals are imperceptible from each other, games will still have an edge for those who want to truly experience the world. Still, these types of games do not force developers to strain for an artistic identity. Instead, they tend to draw from what exists in the world. This does not make their art any less relevant, but an experience which is not fully new. Screenshot of Naughty Dog's The Last of Us Has an end to artistic debate ever come to decide which is the better artstyle? No, but there are still people in both camps. Many artists today refine their photo-realistic art so that it really is impossible to tell if it is painted or photograph. Then there are many others who balk at such studious art and create pieces which confront preconceived notions as to what art even is. That“s why it seems that the gaming community will never be able to agree as to what they wish to see. Developers will seek to feed one audience or the other over time but never settle on only one way. There“s nothing wrong with this being the case because both styles are viable mechanisms for enhancing play. When a game is realistic, it may help engross some into the experience further. As a child, I viewed Star Fox on SNES and felt that the graphics were as good as in a Hollywood movie. This was a participative experience, one where I did not have any expectations of the title and simply enjoyed my role as a spectator. However, as we age the ability to induce a participative experience is hindered (due to having more experiences and challenges) which means some may only view more realistic games as the way forward. As was said earlier, it seems to me that not chasing realism is the more interesting path. By allowing artists to create truly beautiful, disturbing, and strange worlds untethered by reality we are able to get more interesting games. That“s not to say realistic games can not be these things either, which is why this is also not a put-down of those titles. It just seems that the possibilities of creating new and wondrous experiences have a higher chance of flourishing when not seeking to attain the most realistic graphics. As so many games exist, there is room for realistic, semi-realistic, not at all realistic, and symbolic games. There will never be a point that everyone pursues only one method as there are too many developers in the world. Thankfully, there is no need to. Games are stories and experiences brought to us from a great variety of people. If they feel that they can best convey emotions through realistic depictions, then they should go for it. Those who prefer to do otherwise can as well, and often with as strong an impact. As with more formally established arts, games should feel free to pursue any graphical medium they choose whenever it fits. By seeking to limit ourselves to one way or the other, we would only serve to deprive the audience of many fantastic experiences.