Posted by Duane at 17:22

Today marks the 20th Anniversary of Sony releasing the PlayStation in Japan, a console which some say changed the gaming landscape, due to Sony persuing an older demographic, forever. When the system was eventually released in the UK (1995) I was 11 so I'm not best placed to comment on that, what I will do now though is reminisce about my time with Sony's rather ugly grey box.

Way back then I was into games as much as I am now, it could be argued that the PlayStation changed that. I did play on consoles every so often as my older brother always had them and I'd usually have his old ones handed down to me when he eventually got a more current system, so when he bought his own SNES I got my hands on his NES. He eventually bought a SEGA Saturn and I'd get to play SEGA Rally on that with him. I then remember him borrowing one of his friends' Sony PlayStation with the original Psygnosis Formula 1 game and not long after that he owned the console for himself too although I only recall him owning Destruction Derby and an NBA Live game for it.

Around this time one of my school friends had also been bought a PlayStation to share with his brother and I remember being left on my own in his room to play Resident Evil whilst he went for his tea, I'd never played anything like it and remember being scared to carry on after that infamous first encounter with a zombie. Memories of gaming are few and far between from around that time, we were all more likely to be down the park playing football or at the local BMX track until it got too dark to do anything and it wasn't until I changed schools and was later bought a PlayStation to share with my sister that my love of videogames began to develop.

Around this time, I met two new friends, both of whom would be highly influential when it came to my passion for gaming, we'd all pile around either of their houses after school to play (or watch) the latest releases, I was even buying the Official PlayStation mag just to sample the demo's either at my brothers house or one of these friends' house (one of the two wasn't really into PlayStation having been mostly a PC gamer at that time, he later switched allegiance to Dreamcast).

Looking back its hard to deny the impact Sony's little grey box had on my habits as a gamer now. The games I played in my mid-teens have been hugely influential on the games I love to play today with franchises like Gran Turismo, Metal Gear Solid and Final Fantasy still being a big part of the spectrum of games I hunt out today, be it the latest instalments or titles that were clearly inspired by them. Other titles have come into my life since then but I still kind of have a Sony system to thank for introducing me to those too!

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Posted by Duane at 05:48

So the biggest “thing” from last nights Sony conference was that they didn't actually show the PlayStation 4, instead choosing to show off the potential of the console with some game trailers, “in-game” footage and also showing off the new controller which brings new features to the plate in the shape of “share” buttons.

And yet, somehow, “The Internet” in all its hive mind glory has seemingly made this into a “bad thing”, declaring that “the box it comes in is just as important” and other such statements that all sound rather similar. But why is it so important? I really can't grasp the concept that a big chunky piece of plastic with silicon, copper and plastic innards has to have a certain aesthetic appeal. Okay, I understand it a little, if you're 14 years old maybe or its something that you carry around with you, like a mobile phone, so it has to have a certain fashionable appeal to it. But a games console, that sits under your TV? Nah, it really shouldn't matter what it looks like.

Do people pick their set-top box or DVD/Blu-Ray player based upon how it looks? I certainly didn't, I didn't look around at what (at the time) Virgin Media were offering that was different to Sky. The box is just the device that allows me to use those services, once installed I've paid it barely any attention. Instead its mostly been about the UI and the remote (both of which aren't exactly brilliant on either service) and more importantly the price of use.

I'd say its my age, I'm approaching 30 afterall (not till next year admittedly!), but I don't believe its that and I'm not even one for caring about all of my devices matching, all I care about is that they do their job. But I think Nintendo got it right with making their presentation about the controller and delivering a non-descript box as the console and would think that there's a possibility that Sony could do the same. Now admittedly there will be some design choices to be made, it'll need to be made in such a manner that it can be cooled properly etc so just sticking the tech into a slightly bigger “Blu-Ray box” is probably out of the question, but making something like the PS3 (in its various forms) has got to be a thing of the past surely?
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Posted by Duane at 11:51

In Leigh Alexander's recent column for EDGE magazine (#250) she discusses gamers as a community of like-minded, or at least similar minded people, operating under one umbrella to describe ourselves, or at least that’s how things used to be. As the medium has aged, its community has also done so, and has become fragmented and distanced. Then when you factor in people who aren't so interested in the medium as the so-called "core" gamers, the diversity of said community grows even further. EDGE themselves open the issue asking how "mainstream gamers regard developers?" But really how are we defining the lines between "mainstream", "core" and "casual", are they all part of one large community or incredibly different groups of people who want, or indeed expect, something different from their entertainment?

Personally, I think the lines have become so heavily blurred now that "Gaming" is essentially the same as watching movies or listening to movies, you like what you like and those around you often have similar tastes. In wider scheme of things I don't think most games-playing folk care who make their games or what platform they're on, if they are introduced to it via some third party and it gives them something to communicate about, they're much more likely to invest into that product, be it financially or just their spare time. Now obviously, as with the aforementioned medium comparisons, you'll always get a dedicated group of people. People, such as us here at Bit Parade, who do care where their games come from (even though that’s not always an indicator of quality or loyalty on behalf of the titles creator, something that will get touched upon within our Dead Space 3 review later in the week), and even then that demographic of people is incredibly fragmented.

You see, and I don't intend to disregard the hard work put in by today's developers, the only communication with what a developer is expected to produce is only really via feedback from that so-called dedicated community, usually via the developers own message boards or via a press who's ethics this generation have increasingly been called into question. They can't help this really, their work schedules and environment remove them from the larger marketplace, the consumers who aren't likely to vote with their keyboards but are more likely to do so with their wallets. This then leads to certain members of our so-called "community" feeling like they are somehow owed something by the developer, by this I don't mean a continuation of a series' themes or game play elements, but when such things as the Mass Effect 3 ending débâcle snowball as they did, and then the developer somehow feels they have to amend the situation purely because their consumers didn't like how things finished (and I appreciate that there had to be an element of user input to the ending of Mass Effect 3 after how the series had played out to that point, but how things evolved during that particular "scandal" took things a little too far in my opinion).

Working where I do I meet games-playing folk from lots of different walks of life, kids as young as 5 or 6, adults reaching retirement age. Young men absolutely obsessed with FIFA (one customer buys a couple of 4200 Microsoft Points packs a month just for FIFA Ultimate Team) and girls who have gotten into arguments with their boyfriends over who's having the Xbox for a session on Call of Duty that night. I'd even argue that the demographic has always been incredibly diverse. As a child I had a NES, I was a generation behind having had it passed down to me by my brother who had bought a SNES with one of his first pay cheques (there's a distinctive age gap between us both), even before that I had an Atari 2600 that had been given to me by a much much older cousin who had “grown out” of such things. My friends also had games consoles, be they Mega Drives, Master Systems, SNES', NES' or even Game Boy's or Game Gear's, but they were “play things”. We didn't have a wealth of games, even between us we wouldn't reach the number of games that your average household has now. This isn't a “When I were a lad, this was all fields” kind of comment on how we treat games in modern society, but the point still stands that the goal posts have moved, the environment is completely different, developers make games and have to at least attempt to include a vast array of demographics, be they ones who take a heavy interest in different developers and the industry that surrounds them or just normal people, logging into Facebook, playing a socially-centred game that they then discuss with their peers via IM or text message. Games are now just another consumable medium, that doesn't mean that they can't portray a message or strive to be something more, as with music and film, there'll always be a demographic for that and it will continue to increase and make games more socially acceptable by doing so, but that doesn't make the latest iPhone title any less viable within the industry nor does it make the person playing it any less of a “gamer” than someone who sinks dozens of hours or more into the latest MMO or those who hoover up each months big blockbuster console title. We're all “gamers”, or as I'd prefer it to be referred to, we're all games playing people, just as we all watch movies or TV, listen to music or read a variety of books, magazines, newspapers or websites. We don't tend to apply a label to someone based upon what elements of these other mediums they consume, we just accept that consuming these mediums is normal and as the demographic of people grows and time wears on, then the same thinking really ought to apply to those of us who consume video games, because by segregating ourselves on such a regular basis, we're only giving those who haven't yet become regular consumers of the medium, or those with a vendetta against it, an umbrella under which to place us all and use as a weapon to fight what is still a young and growing form of entertainment.
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Posted by Duane at 10:02

I talked yesterday about struggling to play the mountains of games that I have dotted in various places of the house (mostly the lounge and the loft), but one thing I failed to mention was my ever growing Library on Steam. It seems to me that recently my PC has become nothing more than a Football Manager simulator, which I normally run alongside my internet browser and media player so I can multi-task. Not only does this have an adverse effect on my progress through said stacks of games, but it also has an effect on the amount of writing I get done when I'm not at my proper place of work. I also briefly mentioned that I was struggling to think of games that could be contenders for Game of the Year. Titles I've seen others mention have mostly passed me by and yet one has sat on my hard drive since it was first released and I'm yet to complete it, that title is Telltale Games' "The Walking Dead".

As I type this, I've just begun the third episode of the five part series and am highly impressed with what I've encountered thus far. I don't want to go into too much detail for various reasons, there's still more to play and my intention was always to play through it all in as close to one sitting as I could muster and then review it rather than cover it episode by episode. The recent announcement that the game will see a disc based release in the US this month means the title will hopefully receive the kind of attention it deserves. It's not often a title comes along that makes you think twice about how games tell their stories. I hope I'm not speaking for myself when I say that often I feel like I'm just playing a part, an actor thats not listed in the credits or working under the alias of whomever happens to be the lead character. Even in games where the pull is that you make the decisions I tend to think in a logical sense, take Mass Effect as an example. Now I'll admit I've not finished the third game, I just can't bring myself to do so as it really isn't what I wanted from the final entry in the series. However the first game offered you decisions left, right and centre, different playthroughs would result in different actions being taken either through pre-planning or just feeling different at a particular point in time about what you want that character to be doing. The second game tried to do the same, but ultimately it felt like I was merely making small decisions and being guided along a set path with intertwining branches. The less said about the final act the better as I can't properly comment on the outcome.

The Walking Dead is different though, at no point in my playthrough so far have I felt like I'm making a decision based upon what I want the ultimate outcome of the game to be. The mechanics of the game mean my decisions tend to be how I'd react in that particular situation and I think the inclusion of Clementine is key to that. Now this isn't a "I'm a father so my decisions in this game are weighted by the inclusion of a kid" kind of statement, as I think its all down to the way the actual game is written. It's not quite at the standard that people have come to expect of a TV series, but each character is highly believable and well fleshed out and each of their actions is believable within the constraints of their perceived personality. Apparently another "Game of the Year" contender also plays with how stories are told in games, that game is Spec-Ops: The Line, which is yet another game thats passed me by. If I'm honest I thought it looked like yet another Call of Duty clone, but that was making a judgement using the games TV advertising campaign and I'll admit I may have misjudged it. I do think it may have more of an impact on the way story telling is done in games, provided what I've heard is true, based purely on its sales figures, it may not have recorded record figures but I'm under the impression it did do pretty well, probably more so than The Walking Dead is likely to do, and that was probably down to that perceived "Call of Duty clone" air it had. But if it's done well enough, and indeed the disc release of The Walking Dead does well enough, and thus helps show that the only space for innovation is in the digital distribution market, then hopefully the efforts made by both developers will lead to more developers taking less of a lazy approach to the story aspect of their games. Because there's only so much space out there for multi-player shooters.
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Posted by Duane at 14:09

A lack of enthusiasm, we all experience it. As gamers we begin to question if we're "going off games", and as I sit here, catching up on various bits and pieces that I've missed during my most recent absence from the interwebs with a cup of steaming coffee on my desk in my freezing cold house (due to a lack of heating thanks to the entire system being out-dated and in need of some major overhauling) I can look at 3 different area's of my lounge and feel dissappointed with the time I've spent with many of the games that are easily available to me right now. It's a thought that occurs whilst chatting with other writers on this site about how to approach the inevitable "Game of the Year" style articles that appear each and every year across the internet. It suddenly occurs to me that it may not be a case of me going off games, but that I've not been playing the right games.

Some of the titles I have immediate access to I've barely sunk any time into, for various reasons, be it because of work or family commitments preventing me from sinking my teeth into something truly epic or needing of a large chunk of time. As the "Game of the Year" discussion grows, I've genuinely been struggling to think of anything that stands out, thats grabbed me enough for me to remember it as the best game of 2012. Of course, there are games that have mostly past me by. I've not had a chance to have a play of Far Cry 3, a game which many are saying is outstanding, and I've only had a brief dabble on a rental copy of Dishonored (which honestly felt like how I wanted Bioshock to be) and less obvious choices I've seen thrown around have been the likes of Binary Domain, a game that I've played a couple of chapters of but for whatever reason never went back to.

I've been largely indifferent to the launch of Nintendo's new console, an odd feeling when I'm kind of responsible for advising people to buy it, I only have a vague idea of what it is, what it does and what it offers. All of the above points to someone who some would say has "outgrown" video games, but I don't think thats it. I think I've been consuming too much, too fast and I think alot of gamers are the same. We horde title after title and we want to play everything, but then once we have that opportunity the choice is too rich and over-bearing that we become indifferent. It wasn't always thus, back in my teens, when I was playing my PlayStation and then later my Dreamcast, my access to the latest games was more limited. My pocket money wouldn't even cover buying a new game every couple of months so I had to make do with what I had and choose wisely. Its not like I have a wealth of disposable income now, but games are so easy to get hold of at rather low prices so soon after launch that one can amass a decent and over-bearing collection in a short span of time and thats without the consideration of something like PlayStation Plus providing you with new content every single month.

Of course, being involved in bitparade comes with the responsibility of being excited about gaming, enjoying gaming and playing enough games to be able to give an informed opinion on various titles on the rare occassions that we get to review games on or around their launch period, and thats not a complaint by the way, I've been introduced to some games over the years that I've genuinely enjoyed that may have passed me by otherwise, most notably Atlus' "Shin Megami Tensei" and "Persona" franchises. Likewise, my other job of working in the retail sector and being a voluntary "Games Champion" for a group of stores (basically a group of us collate information on upcoming games so that other less-knowedgable staff can have something to help them with customer enquiries) comes with the responsibilty of having to have good product knowledge. We've all been into a shop of some kind, bought something on the reccomendation of a staff member and then found out that the item we've been sold isn't what was described or indeed asked for.

It strikes me as odd that during a period of recession, where we're all apparently struggling, we're still consuming movies, music, games and various other things to the point where our homes are full of expensive products. I'm as guilty as anyone else in this regard and whilst I think I'd appreciate things more if I did strip back a little, I'm not entirely sure I could do it.
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Posted by Duane at 13:31

Now, admittedly this is a few years out of date and I'm "behind the times" when it comes to the fact I've recently finished Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots. I don't really care, if I'm going to be honest, I'm tired with how quickly people seem to move on with things these days, but that complaint ought to be saved for a different article.

This particular article is a defence of the franchise Hideo Kojima has built, and indeed a possible defence of the man's approach to games design itself.

We often hear the same things being thrown at the Metal Gear Solid games, usually its all plot related criticsms, either the cut-scenes are too long, the codec sequences too long, the plot doesn't make a whole lot of sense or Kojima has "dissappeared up his own arse". Each one of them is a valid argument, but it grows tiresome hearing the same people say the same thing each time a new instalment is released (and indeed when they are re-released as I've been hearing similar bitching surrounding the upcoming release of Metal Gear Solid HD Collection). As I say, they're all valid comments really, but if you know you don't like what Kojima does, just don't bother to pick up his games. The counter point is that these games are so much more than that. Now, I'll admit there have been times where I've struggled to push myself through the series, I almost stopped playing MGS2 during the build-up to the battle with Fatman, MGS3's pre-Grozynj Grad sequence was hard-going and I thought the final moments of Guns of the Patriots were never going to end. But I got there, and it was mostly thanks to the sheer playability of the games that I did. Because, for how seriously Metal Gear Solid seems to take itself, it more than makes up for it by allowing the player to just play around in its various settings.

Where-else can you alert a guard by running over some bird droppings and slipping over? Throw a copy of Playboy into the patrol route of a guard as a distraction technique or indeed the old favourite of hiding yourself in a cardboard box (which admittedly became less effective as the series wore on, but was always fun to do). Not only that, but every single moment of gameplay gives the player decisions to make, be it taking a de-tour to get more items, or using various different methods to take guards out and almost every single boss fight can be beaten by not actually depleting their health bar, but instead attacking their stamina and "putting them to sleep", even though the effects have always conveniently worn off by the time the resulting cut-scene kicks in. In fact, theres something for your next game Kojima-san, be sure to include me in the credits, but it'd be amusing if at least once a cut-scene was skippable because the boss you'd just fought was completely unconcious due to the tranquiliser darts that had depleted his/her stamina.

Obviously though, with the internet being a hive mind where-in most people appear to take someone elses opinion as their own, the Metal Gear Solid series has generally been labelled with "lol cutscenes, better put the kettle on" which does a great disservice for the level of ingenuity that goes into the rest of the game.
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Posted by Duane at 16:37

So today has seen the launch of Gears of War 3 and during that build up every big source for gaming reviews has managed to give their opinion on the finished article. Bitparade is obviously not amongst those sites, and I'm yet to play the game. What has come to my attention is review scores for the game, or to be more precise the "shock" in some quarters in regards to specific scores.

To be honest I've seen the relationship between gaming media, publishers, PR reps and developers going this way for some time. For smaller sites, and I'm probably not doing us any favour here, theres an element of pressure to give a favourable score to games in order to win the publisher and PR people over, I'm pleased to say bitparade has never ever been one of those sites and fortunately we've never had one of our reviews questioned openly or privately through email if we've given a poor score, although some publishers have stopped "taking or calls" so to speak. But the reaction from figures such as Cliff Blezinski amongst others is rather laughable, their annoyance and "disbelief" that some websites would even dare score a behemoth such as Gears of War 3 as low as 8/10 shows just how out of touch or over-expectent developers believe their products to be.

Make no mistake, Gears 3 will sell and it will sell incredibly well. In fact the Blockbuster store I work at is expecting to sell every single copy it gets in before the weekend arrives and over half of those are to people who have pre-ordered, thats with a Sainsbury's literally 5 doors away that will probably undercut us on price, so Cliffy's claim that he is merely protecting people from being misinformed about his game is not only disrespectful to professional games journalists but also belittling of the very people he is trying to sell the game to. What Cliff has to realise is that most of the people who are likely to buy it will already have decided that they're going to do so within that all important two week period that the industry focuses on so heavily now, it will not be another Bulletstorm (which Epic appear to feel sold poorly as it was slow seller) although it will also be treated as a stop gap until Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3 arrives.

Maybe this is the underlying issue here, back when Gears of War launched, it (along with Halo) was the major title for games playing folk to be playing on a regular basis, now everythings pretty much a filler until Activisions latest arrives on store shelves and takes up permanent residence in a large number of consoles disc trays the world over. It's certainly frustrating from the point of view from someone like myself who see's other high quality games worthy of peoples money go unrewarded and even on occassion the developers find themselves out of a job, thats the one thing I've found enlightening about the success of Dead Island. No doubt we'll see more and more copies traded in at various different retaillers over the next few weeks, but a small publisher like Deep Silver and an even smaller developer like Techland will take heart from very favourable reviews (alot of which were 8/10's I might add) and a couple of weeks of high chart placement and actually feel greatful for the reception their title has recieved from games playing folk whilst those at Epic sit and Tweet that Eurogamer and Destructoid having the audacity to give their game such a lowly score is a real "WTF!" moment in gaming journalism.
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Posted by Duane at 16:44

Ha! I return, and what have decided to discuss on my return? Erm, this article by Tim Rogers on the website Kotaku.

First off, I used to kind of enjoy Tim Rogers when back in the first few years at GamesTM, I quickly developed the feeling that he was a little too self absorbed for my liking. Now I understand as a columnist/videogames blogger, you kind of have to be, but I get the impression that Rogers enjoys writing in such a manner a little too much. I'll admit its tongue in cheek, but does such an article need to reference himself and his supposed connection to the games industry quite so much?

By doing so, he begins to lose the reader not to mention losing sight of his point, which appears to be that Square-Enix (formerly Squaresoft) have lost sight of whats made them succesful and also refuse to listen to their fanbase. So what does he believe made them succesful? "accidents", or as the case actually is, taking a risk. Thats the basis of all initial success, no one got initial success by being safe, but you can't take risks all the time, you have to realise your strengths and play to that. Something that Square-Enix have tried to do, although for such an extended period of time with very little experimentation and risk taking that its begun to grate.

Let's not forget, the game he's slating the most in the linked article, Final Fantasy XIII, managed to achieve "XBox Classics" status, at least it did in the European PAL territory anyway, the brand still sells. I own a copy, as I do most Final Fantasy games, I own at least one version of each of the main instalments in the series aside from III (I did own the DS remake, it got stolen) and V, oh and XI but I don't really count that as a main game, it carries the roman numeral because at the time Square-Enix weren't really experimenting with different idea's carrying the Final Fantasy suffix really.

Final Fantasy XIII is really, the first time the fans have turned on the company for not trying something different. Lets not forget that the core gameplay of the series remained unchanged for a long long time, the battle system was essentially the same until XII, with a few tweaks here and there to make the game force you into a different tactical approach in order to make another 80 hour epic actually playable, thus we got different idea's such as the Materia system in Final Fantasy VII and the Junctioning system in VIII. They then experimented with different story telling methods, such as IX's Active Time Events which took you to little side stories that helped flesh out the bigger story or provided short moments of amusement. XII shook things up completely. But the thing that made these games enjoyable was their want for you to explore, for you to be immersed in the Fantasy.

In my opinion, the change to acted cut-scenes in X was the beginning of the end in this respect, by removing the simple action of press X in order to advance conversation and removing the voice from the players mind (and Tidus' voice still makes me shudder) that element of immersion was removed, it was only a small thing, some might say insignificant, but by telling me that the characters acted and sounded like this, the element of this being my Fantasy tale was taken away from me. XII rectified this a little, it was still cut-scene and voice acter heavy, but the world was so hugely populated that it was somehow more immersive.

XIII however, with its linear and overtly long introductory sequence with its insistant need to hold your hand and stop the action to tell you whats happening every few moments makes the game more of a viewing experience rather than an interactive. I've honestly not gotten very far into it, certainly not through this section, I'm on disc 2 and about 16 hours in but it takes alot of wanting for me to even try and progress through it, counter that with my Final Fantasy IV: The Complete Collection save file, 18 hours in (in a much shorter period of time, and on a handheld where I'm also juggling Tactics Ogre: Lets Us Cling Together;22 hours in) where I usually have the battery begin to run out on me before I stop playing and you can probably guess how much I'm enjoying the overall experience.

Which is a shame, as I think the battle system is probably the most tactical and impressive yet, it feels like Atlus' Persona battle system, only a little more advance and more reliant on pre-planning rather and having various back up plans rather than just reacting to any given situation by immediately contacting your external support to find out the enemies weakness (and thats not a criticsm of Persona in anyway, long time readers of anything I've written or whatever will know I adore Persona 3).

I think this is beginning to get a little long now, its certainly beginning to head away from my original feelings that whilst I agree that Square-Enix have lost sight of what initially made them succesful, I do think that a return to that kind of business is nigh on impossible for a company of their size. They need to find a balance between releasing safe games, of which I think Final Fantasy XIII is one regardless of the ridiculous amounts of assetts that were created during its development period, and taking risks with other titles (Dissidia perhaps) and then somehow combining the two to make their safer titles that little bit more interesting for the player so that we all keep investing in their products to see just what they are going to do next, we can all say we want Final Fantasy VII remade all we want, and it'll probably happen eventually, but as soon as it does, people will bitch that all it is is a remake of a game originally released in the mid-90s thats not actually aged all that well.
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Posted by Duane at 10:22

I have a question for you? What do games offer us? We've heard all the scientific stuff about motor reflexes, spatial awareness, problem solving. They're all great but still a little boring?

How about I propose to you that games, especially more modern games can offer the ability to experience an event. Movies and books can only really tell you whats happening, you become a voyeur. The experience is played out for you, but with a videogame that all becomes your own experience.

The Normandy landings are a great example of this, we all know what happened that day, we've heard the veterans tales, read news reports and been told all about the heroic events that led to the allied forces reclaiming the French coastline. Saving Private Ryan showed us how bloody, difficult and downright horrid the whole thing was (even though the man looking for his arm was kind of comical), yet games such as Medal of Honour allow us to live those moments for ourselves. Now admittedly its all glammed up a little bit, to make it entertaining. But that was the last generation of consoles, the Gamecube, XBox and PlayStation 2 era. Fast forward to the current generation of consoles and we have Call of Duty. The second Modern Warfare game, released at the tale end of last year doesn't really offer much in way of learning about the realities of war, save for the No Russian level which in itself felt a little crowbarred in to gain column inches. However its predecessor, Call of Duty 4 Modern Warfare really gave a sense that the writers understood what they were writing about and moments such as the air strike really left a strange feeling. Now I'm not saying anyone playing these games would ever get a true understanding of warfare, thats impossible, but it gives the end user something closer to the experience than watching Band of Brothers.

It doesn't have to be living in a war either, games like Valve's Half Life 2 provide a living breathing world where every environment, house or person tells its own little story. Most of which without forcing it upon you, leaving you to discover for yourself, and on that chain of thought even Grand Theft Auto Iv can offer an experience unlike any movie. Whilst a films "hero" is escaping from the Police after a crime spree, he can only go where the director takes him, GTA IV gives the chance to take that back street, cut across the park or even change car and clothes in an attempt to shake the "Rozzers". It's not really true to life, but its offering us the kind of experience that pretty much most of us would never consider experiencing in the real world, and this is the positive thing games provide for us, the ability to experience something we could never experience or simply escape from our own surroundings, possibly taking any issue out on the virtual world in which the game lets us live and breath rather than suffering or forcing others to suffer if we don't have that control pad in our hands.
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Posted by Duane at 10:24

In today's "The Observer Magazine" (21/3/2010) author Tom Bissell writes an article detailing his addiction to videogames. Within the article are long descriptions of his experiences of playing Rockstars Grand Theft Auto series, and whilst large parts of the artile show a love of gaming and highlight the things that gaming can do that no other entertainment medium can its the overall negative outlook that the article creates that is as damaging to The Observers (and by relation The Guardians) mostly positive coverage of the videogames industry as it is to gamers such as you or I.

To begin with is the front page cover and photographs that accompany the article that depict males and females of varying ages (although never over the age of about 30) surrounded by black, their faces contorted in manic or even angry glares. Suggesting the habit of sitting in a darkened room and inability to control such emotions whilst playing a game.

The article itself has a heavy focus on the writers growing addiction to videogames, in particular Grand Theft Auto IV and how that had a negative affect on his writing, reading and other aspects of his life. Even linking his purchase of Grand Theft Auto IV to the use and eventual addiction to cocaine.

Despite the positive area's of the article, which essentially point out how a game can help you experience a story and the events within rather than just witness it, the overal focus on such things could easily lead the majority of people to think that all gamers are like this, that all gamers devote ridiculous amounts of their time to videogames and that all gamers have an inability to seperate themselves from their hobby and let it take over their lives. It's not hard, as a gamer, a writer and a family man, to find this article offensive, which is an incredible shame as The Guardian has seemingly been the one national paper thats always tried to be fair and just towards gaming as a medium, as a hobby and as an industry. However with this one article it could be argued that they have done themselves alot of damage.

The strong link between Bissell's drug abuse and games playing is particularly damaging, as his devotion to spending more time with his games than other pursuits that, from his article, he seem's to deem as more worthwhile than playing games. Speaking as someone who's main hobby is his gamesplaying, I still spend very little time actively playing games throughout the week compared to other things that exist in my life. In short I think I have a healthy balance between each of my hobbies aswell as my duties as a family man. The article doesn't seem to focus on balancing such hobbies, instead it focuses on his own personal addictions but makes no effort to show that his is an isolated case that maybe isn't the same for everyone that happens to play games. You don't hear stories of people who spend every waking moment reading books or watching movies, these past times are seemingly deemed as reasonable and worthy of attention, videogaming, it seems, is not and Tom Bissell is seemingly towing the line for such a belief rather than taking a stance and declaring that his situation is one that isn't the case for everybody else.

Of course its easy to say that such an assumption would be ridiculous, of course his case isn't the same as everybody elses, but videogames still aren't a widely accepted form of spending your time, note not "time wasting", nor do they offer anything valuable to the end user unlike films and books. But I'd say to those that believe such things that they are looking in the wrong places, or just not looking hard enough at what they are experiencing from such a medium.

Tom Bissell's article goes into depth in regards to the relationship he created between himself and Grand Theft Auto IV's protagonist Niko Belic, how it allowed him to reflect upon himself and society, and its easy to find other examples. Infinity Ward's Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare is widely regarded as an excellent commentary on warfare in our generation, Shadow of the Colossus offers an emotional impact thats impossible to create in any other medium and thats just a handful of experiences plucked from my own mind over the space of a couple of seconds, dig deeper and there's more on offer. The death of Aeris is a popular emotional link between the gamer and the game whilst games such as Fallout 3, Oblivion, Dragon Age Origins, Mass Effect (plus its sequel) and Fable 2 offer you moral choices throughout the yarn they spin in a manner thats more intelligent and certainly more viable than the efforts literature has attempted over the years, the most advanced of which are possibly the "Create Your Own Adventure" books that were written for children.

It's about time publications such as The Guardian and Observer took a stance, declared they were pro-gaming and published articles that created a positive light around games playing rather than the confused opinion they seem to be delivering when they print articles such as this.

What Do Video Games Do To US? - Tom Bissell
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