Xbox One Reveal: Some Scattered Thoughts
Neat things the Xbox one fundamentally offers:
Change what you’re doing by telling your xbox what to do in order to “instantly get what you want.” It’s pretty scary how many things you can do at the same time. You can buy movie tickets to Star Trek, while watching Star Trek. Voice commands to find shows, watch shows, and find trending shows.
Hopefully everyone who buys xbox lives alone because it’d be hard to have a conversation about anything in front of your xbox without it ruining your night. The kinect sensor will know your particular voice and motions, and will probably rise up and try to kill you in your sleep sooner or later. It seems it will also be had to watch your favorite guilty pleasure TV shows/movies without everyone in North America knowing about it. I still don’t really understand what smartglass is, but I guess it’s going to be better on the xbox one.
New Xbox live: Will have lots and lots of servers. Cloud storage blah blah. Dedicated game DVR to capture and share your best gaming moments. Achievements tell your “own personal game story.” I think they got it right when they mentioned “bragging rights.” It seems like most of the new interactive game features are ultimately catering to creating an all access way to try to prove you are better than everyone else. Although, with everybody so tied up in their own worlds of playing games while you play another game while you watch TV and also surf the internet at the same time, I doubt anyone will even care that other people in the world even exist anymore.
Who needs to play real sports when you have EA Sports? EA showed some videos of some actual athletes talking about actual sports and then tried to correlate that to some new games. Were you the kid who was no good at sports in high school but really good at videogames? Well then the xbox one is for you! EA Sports: “Closing the gap between being a hermit and being a professional athlete with one fell swoop.”
Forza talked about whatever number game they are on and showed some neat cars driving around. I never really got the appeal of racing games without silly bombs and stuff, but whatever floats your boat I guess.
From the creators of Max Payne and Alan Wake comes one of the weirdest trailers I have ever seen for their new game Quantum Break. It starts out with a live action, badly acted cut scene of a woman talking to a strange little girl and that somehow connecting that to huge steamliners breaking bridges in half. I got excited at the prospect of a little telekentic girl as a main character for a game but, from the little bit of gameplay footage they showed it looked like the same generic dude character amidst a bunch of cool looking exploding glass. We’ll have to see about that one.
Next up there were some WOMEN speaking! Xbox is already striking back after the PS4 reveal by SHOWING the console (for like 10 straight minutes) AND having women presenters. Some chick talked about how Halo is important I guess and how she liked Game of Thrones (to no crowd reaction at all whatsoever) and then threw it over to a video of Stephen Speilberg talking about the new Halo TV series that’s going to be a thing that exists now. I hope it’s about friends killing eachother for fun to capture the beauty of the real Halo experience.
Also, the new xbox will let people who like taking football really seriously take it even more seriously! Fantasy football stats will update live and you can trash talk via skype while watching the game! Watch out sports bars, drinking at home while you watch the game doesn’t require pants!
The big cherry on the sundae was the new Call of Duty reveal. Featuring…
Brand new characters! (Cut to generic looking black guy solider.)
From the writer/director of Syrianna (seriously one of the worst movies I have ever seen in my entire life. I went for free and almost walked out.)
A Dog!!! The dog is your friend!!! Hooray for dogs!
Really realistic helmets! Swimming with Sharks! Jumping over walls! Leaning! Sliding! Interactive Smoke! Fish!
“You can connect with who you are as a player more than we ever have done in the past” (new customizations include: gas masks, helmets, belts… but still no women.)
They’ve bumped up the graphics so much that you can see the tattoo in your dogs ear and the dirt under your fingernails, however hey couldn’t be bothered to create a playable multiplayer female character. I’m glad to see the franchise making great strides to more seriously include animals in their games thought.
Some things that make me nervous overall:
The new xbox in generally seems very catered to one person per household. Luckily you’ll have skype to talk to all the friends you’re never going to leave your house to spend time with now. Although they stress how important connecting with friends/other players via xbox is to them, it seems to me like couch co-op friendly experiences will be very unlikely. Wired discussed games being tied to an Xbox live account so they can’t be passed around among friends and will not read used games. It’s always been bad enough for my boyfriend and I that we have to pay for two xbox live accounts in order to play online together as our own identities. Now, if we want to play the same game in one home does that mean we need to spend $120 for two copies of a new game on top of paying for 2 xbox live memberships every month? Lots of other worrisome questions come to mind: Will the xbox only recognize one of our identities? Cloud saves boast being able to be accessed anywhere, but does that mean you can pull up your stats/profile on a friend’s xbox easily or more likely will that be an impossibility?
What’s important for me personally as a gamer is bringing people together to play, but it seems to me like the new xbox is moving towards “Ready Player One” territory, where your online persona is likely to become your only one. All these new features are well and good but I worry we’ll all be left alone with no one but our xbox to talk to.
Oh well, the future is coming whether we like it or not. I just hope they get a better Netflix app.
Gaming and Nostalgia: A Personal Reflection
Nostalgia and videogames are topics that often go hand and hand when it comes to talking about games on the internet. So many of us have some of our fondest memories about gaming as kids. As an adult I find myself often feeling like I’m drowning in technology not like back in the day when you popped in a cartridge and floated away for the day. Now those same hunks of plastic have become symbols of a simpler time when games were the lynchpin of our best childhood days. Maybe that’s why people take them so seriously now in adulthood. We try to incorporate games into our identities to try to hold on as tightly as we can to the uncomplicated past days when the tediousness of adulthood didn’t interfere with our high scores. Nowadays I find myself having an intense love-hate relationship with the connectivity that the internet has given to the gaming community, and have spent much of my time trying to figure out where all the hostility comes from. I figure the best way to look forward is to begin by looking back, so I decided to take some time to reflect on my own experiences as well as think about the state of the gaming community online today.
I played my first JRPG in 4th grade, (Secret of Mana) and after spending so much time lost in that fantasy world, I only wanted to spend more time there. My sister and I had our own little universe of playing games where I’d watch Donkey Kong Country or Yoshi’s Island over her shoulder, or we’d spend entire weekends slowly working our way together through one of many other JRPG classics like Wild Arms, or many of the Final Fantasy games. Although I loved this hobby with all of my being inside our house, and didn’t consciously avoid talking to other people about them, I just assumed that no one else knew about the games I played, so I never made that connection with anyone outside of my family, (other than the occasional round of Mario Kart or Lion King the video game at a friends house.) This was fine I suppose, as our private little world of gaming was something precious and always a cherished quality sister time activity for us, I never thought that all over the world other people were have the exact same kind of bonding experience over games that we were.
In wasn’t until I was in high school that I discovered another person who had played Chrono Trigger, and was amazed years later, as I found my way into the internet community that my favorite game of all time is kind of a big deal to a lot of other people than just me and my sister. A few years later I attended my first videogame symphony in college, and I cried uncontrollable tears of joy when I got to hear a symphony play Frog’s Theme in a gigantic concert hall, filled with thousands of people who loved the game as much as I did. It was one of the most powerful moments I’ve ever experienced. Having your love for something you thought of as so obscure, validated by a symphony orchestra and a room full of thousands of like-minded people was something that I will never forget. Similarly, when my sister and I did one of our first cosplays as Lucca and Marle, we got to walk around and literally feel the love of everyone else there who loved the game as much as we did. Bonding over this kind of cherished lifelong experience is an a truly amazing thing, and made me so happy to see so many people, who may have been at one time disenfranchised by their favorite hobby, come together and embrace eachother in a positive environment.
This is precisely why I am so hurt by the way that the negativity on the internet towards women and in general overshadows how much good there is out there as well. When we stick together, and build eachother up by bonding over these shared interests, everbody wins. Tearing people down for trying to share something they love with you is pure craziness, no matter how much nerdom street cred they do or do not have. I have spent a lot of time over the past year focusing on the topic of gender and gaming, but it’s really the overall negativity that I see that makes me want to dig deeper to try to better understand what went so wrong online. I feel like most people delve into the internet (especially when it comes to games and other “nerdy” hobbies) to try to reach out to the world in a way they can’t do in their real lives, and that positive connection we seek is out there, but it’s been obscured by so much negativity that a place where people seek solace and connection has instead become a battleground where everyone is considered an enemy until proven otherwise.
I feel like our generation is generally feeling pretty lost. Living under piles of debt for degrees that do us next to no good in actually getting a job, especially when it comes to us dumb enough to shoot for the moon and go to school for any kind of creative degree, in a world where we are so easily connected we feel the need to spew our frustration anywhere with a comment box. It’s easy to lose sight of the reason why we are glued to sites like facebook and reddit. We are all just as lost and grasping at anything we can to feel happy and connected and the internet is the hub of all of that interaction. The power of the internet community is insurmountable. We can turn a project no company would back, immortalize a video with the click of a button, spread a piece of news or internet junk across the entire world in minutes. But as a wise man once said, “With great power comes great responsibility.” Each and every one of us has a piece of that power and we need to wield it more carefully.
Why Dredd Would Have Made a Great Videogame
I can’t claim to be the authority on all things Judge Dredd related by any stretch of the imagination, nor do I claim to be a comic authority in any capacity but I calls em’ like I see em’ and I was surprisingly impressed after finally sitting down to watch the new Dredd adaption. I don’t usually use this space for movie reviews (although I’m thinking of cooking up a new blog perhaps where I do just that) but I decided I wanted to write about Dredd because the entire time I was watching I couldn’t help but constantly think what an awesome video game it would have made, and here are the reasons why:
1. The Non-Specific Protagonist: The character of Judge Dredd himself has been around for years, and has evolved constantly and been tackling by many different artists with completely different styles. All of this has worked because Dredd is a vehicle more so than a character. The story forms around him, which allows the author of each tale featuring him to take it any any direction they may please, and that is a perfect feature for a videogame lead. We all want to embody our character in one way or another, and putting gender aside for a minute, some of the most universally beloved games of all time (at from where I’m standing) feature silent protagonists. Although Dredd isn’t exactly silent, his character’s divisive personality could slip easily into the formula for a triple A game. Many of today’s most popular big box games feature leads with wishy-washy hero character traits, at least with Dredd, we get that neutral quality that allows the masses to become the character, but with over thirty years of experience in ass kicking to back it up.
2. A Masterful Ebb and Flow of Carnage: One of my favorite parts of Dredd was it’s liberal, but tasteful use of action and violence. Now, I have my Master’s degree in film snobbery, which makes many people think that I don’t allow myself to enjoy action-heavy popcorn movies, but that’s not true. The problem I have with a lot of mainstream action movies is that they are often little more than the explosions and visual effects that cost them millions to make. Dredd has the action we crave, but it’s split up with enough tension building exposition that when we finally get to those big action scenes, they taste all the sweeter. Now, videogames (whether it’s fun or boring) often follow this formula too. You walk around for a bit, find out some stuff, shoot a couple guys and then…BOSS BATTLE. Victory always tastes sweeter when you are forced against all odds to creep towards it. (Not to mention, giant chain guns are ALWAYS awesome and Dredd has got that covered too.)
3. The Right Kind of Environment: Dredd takes place in one apartment building. Making a movie (or a videogame I would imagine) in one location allows for extra care to be taken in designing a cohesive mood for the environment you want to create. Dredd’s art design is impeccable. If you watch closely you can see the amount of care that was put into each area of the apartment complex. Especially in a sci-fi world, setting up a strong visual environment is crucial, and this film does a great job of that. Being able to put your all of the focus on one main environment is not only (I would imagine) cost effective from a design standpoint, but it allows for the kind of attention to detail that can make a game really special. In a film you might be able to take brief notice of your surroundings, but with a game you can easily choose to take the time to explore the full wealth of your surroundings. Even if you choose not to, it’s plain to see the difference between a fully realized environment and a game with 8,000 of the same picture on the wall.
4. Cool Guns and Gadgets: Ok so let’s be real, in a videogame guns and gadgets are pretty important. Well good news, Dredd has that covered too. I can’t claim to be the expert on his standard issued super badass gun, but I do know it can shoot grenades, smoke bombs, super missiles, armor piercing bullets, all activated by the sound of his voice (perhaps an actual cool use of the Kinect!) This guy has got some cool gear. Simple enough to manage, but diverse enough to make for interesting enough strategic gameplay shooter wise.
(side note: you can totally get this dredd gun replica on etsy which is super neat: http://www.etsy.com/listing/119715906/dredd-3d-lawgiver-mkii-prop-gun-kit)
5. Nifty Effects Possibilities: Slowing down time is pretty cool in games. If the new Max Payne teaches us anything, it’s that slo-mo fighting is still as cool as can be, and Dredd offers a perfect device for implementing this kind of game play. If you haven’t seen the film, a drug called “Slo-Mo” is the villainous substance in question. The film does a great job of peppering in beautifully rendered visual effects sequences in slow motion when the drug is administered. What I would dare to call, a symphony of violence, these scenes are stunning to behold, and surprisingly not overused at all, taking place at only key moments in the film. Granted, the game could easily exploit this and make it a regular feature of the gameplay, most likely with no complaints from me. Just think…a cool effect/special ability that actually has a reason for being in the game, who woulda thunk it!?
Last but not least, my favorite reason why I wish Dredd would be made into a videogame….
6. THE AWESOME FEMALE CHARACTERS: People act as if creating good female characters in games is the riddle of the Sphinx, but awesome female characters have been kicking ass in action movies for years and no one has had an aneurysm about it on the internet. (Hello, where is the female lead in the new Aliens game?) By looking to badass movies for ideas, and not upping the bra size too drastically you have the simple recipe for some great female game characters. You can still have your formulaic male protagonist to put on the box, but by adding a few killer female characters you could create a great game that still sells that doesn’t totally isolate any possible female audience, and maybe won’t even cause you to be tarred and feathered by the internet troll population. Dredd is a fantastic example of this.
First let’s talk about Lena Headley as “Ma-Ma.” One of the things I loved about this film is how even keeled both the protagonist (Dredd) and the villain are. Neither is ever rattled by the crazy events that are going on all around them. By methodically keeping a level head, both of these characters show that they are not playing around. Even without an in-depth background story, by creating an air of mystery and hardness around these characters, you never need to question who they are, because you already know. Ma-Ma is horrifying and strong. The fact that she is a woman is never brought up as any kind of negative, although the image of her biting off an old enemy’s manhood is revisited several times, her power is unshakable. In my mind, female villains are a great idea for games, but you don’t really see them very often (outside of final fantasy.) If done correctly, it’s a great way for us girls to get our female empowerment on, and it also lets haters defeat a woman at the end of the game so EVERYBODY WINS.
Let’s not forget about Dredd’s cute little blonde sidekick, Olivia Thirlby as Anderson. Although indeed cute and blonde, did I forget to mention that she is also a BADASS? At the beginning of the film I wasn’t sure if she would turn out to be the type of character I’d be gushing about, and found her a little too adorable to be cast in this kind of film, but she proved me totally wrong. The polar opposite of Dredd and Ma-Ma, Anderson clearly has a personality and a conscious. It’s the addition of her more human story to the mix that makes this a truly well rounded film. A bit gun shy and timid at the beginning, she learns quickly to do what needs to be done to do her job, but never forgets her reasons for wanting to be a Judge, and doesn’t lose her humanity in the end. Oh and she also has a superpower (she can read people’s minds…another super incredible and unique gameplay feature I would love to see happen.) Can you imagine the possibilities of the co-op mode for this game? Talk about your perfect formula for a game of all sexes! And guys on the internet liked her character too!
So get out your checkbooks millionaires interested in new game development ventures because sadly, it looks like this movie may be the end of the road. (http://io9.com/5945745/therell-probably-never-be-another-judge-dredd-movie) The main point I want to make here is that there are compromises that can be made as far as putting more/better female characters into games. Just plopping in a random female soldier is a step sure, but what we really need is characters with some depth that both men and women can enjoy playing as or encountering in games. There have been incredible female action stars who women have admired and that men drool over for decades, why can’t games draw from that formula to help take a step in the right direction towards lessening the gender bias in today’s games?