Seriously? Part 2

17 09 2009

Serious Sam Seriouslyby xeroxeroxero

Last week, I argued that video games are not a medium that is taken ‘seriously’ by wider society and the press at large. I also said that it is the word ‘game’ that is the single biggest thorn in the side of those people that want to make an argument towards video games being a serious medium. If it’s simply a case of language being a barrier to an art form being accepted as something more than a childish diversion, what words should we be using to describe electronic entertainment? Read the rest of this entry »





Rhythm Action

3 09 2009
One criticism of music based games is that they are all the same. Activision’s constant interation of the Guitar Hero
franchise has simultaneously popularised rhythm action games and yet ensured that gamers have grown bored of the genre
within just a small number of years of it’s dominance at the top of the sales charts. With so many music games out
there, it’s time to explore a few of the best alternatives to RockBand, what they are, how to get hold of them, and if
they’re worth your time.
Beatmania –  DJ Hero may be a sure hit if the continued sales of Beatmania are anything to go by (in Japan at least). A
DJ turntable game from Konami focusing on lining up samples to dance music, J-Rock and awkwardly aged pop classics.
Released primarily for the Playstation and PS2 the game plays out very much like Guitar Hero, the player hitting
‘notes’ when they pass a specific line as they descend from the top of the screen. A perfect title then for players
wanting a similar but different experience to Guitar Hero. Notably, many of Konami’s rhythm action games follow a
similar structure of play, including guitar driven game pioneer Guitar Freaks where, arguably, all of this interest in
music games has arisen. Obtain the European version first (it’s cheap and easy to get hold of) to see if you like
Beatmania’s stylings, then if the mood takes you, mod your aging, unloved PS2 and import the rest from Japan and the
United States.
Dancing Stage – The original ‘make a tit of yourself infront of your mates’ simulator, Dancing Stage is a pop culture
icon now, seemingly having conquered the arcade scene the world over with it’s anyone can play attitude and easy to
learn, difficult to master difficulty curve. It’s simplicity is it’s greatest asset certainly, even those with little
musical knowledge (or knowledge at all) know their lefts and rights, their ups and downs. The skill needed quickly
ramps up though, so whilst anyone can step to the earlier tracks, only hardened veterans with hundreds of hours of
practice can achieve the illusive AAA rank at higher levels. Featuring a cheesy but furiously fast selection of tunes,
Dancing Stage is like Betty Boop having rough sex with Ron Jeremy; in places it’s cute, in places it’s weird but
ultimately it’s hardcore all over. Those wanting to try their hand (or, more accurately, their feet) at Dancing Stage
should find a copy of the game no problem, but the real trick is getting the right play mat. Try it out at an arcade
first and if you really like it splash out on a really great quality, £80 stage to play it on your last generation
console of choice.
Parappa The Rapper – Perhaps responsible for sparking interest in music games in the West and released by quirky
developer Nana On Sha, Parappa’s story is one of a rapping dog that has just ‘gotta believe’. You could be forgiven for
dismissing it as just another weird game from the East, but it’s far more than that, it’s a well constructed, very
accessible music action game with a strong if bizarre plot and some of the most memorable, characterful tunes to grace
the humble PSX. Sequelised for the PS2 and re-released for the PSP, it’s easy to get into Parappa’s world to see what
started this rocking revolution, but what’s best is that there’s no need for another plastic peripheral in your life,
it utilises the Playstation controller to it’s fullest, requiring a different kind of gaming dexterity.
Elite Beat Agents (Ouendan) – Similar to Parappa The Rapper in terms of it’s play structure but not in it’s actual
mechanics, EBA features an organisation of male cheerleaders setting out to right the social wrongs of a colourful
alternative to the real world. What most people don’t give EBA credit for is it’s fairly powerful plot. It’s fairly
irreverant and it certainly isn’t Shakespeare, but towards the end the developers try some interesting narrative
techniques you wouldn’t expect from the average music game. Luckily it’s pretty easy and inexpensive to get hold of a
copy of the Western release, but Ouendan (the Japanese original with J-Pop soundtrack) is slightly more expensive and
slightly less prevelent in the game shops of the British Isles. Still, the DS is region free so importing shouldn’t be
a problem, and the entirely stylus driven gameplay transends language, culture and age; anyone at all can, and should,
experience this musical classic.
Rez – A music game, but with the traditional mechanic of rhythm action reversed. Instead of timing your button presses
to specific notes, Rez makes you create the soundscape, rewarding your musical talent with stunning polygonal neon
explosions. You see Rez is also a rail shooter in the vein of Panzer Dragoon, but it is the music that drives the
player forward, the sleek presentation and technical glitchy trance giving way to a synaesthesia experience still
unparalled today. Having received a high definition update, the next gen version is a must buy for serious music fans,
but if you have a little cash kicking about, it’s worth investigating the Dreamcast and PS2 iterations. The less said
about the optional vibration controller though, the better…
There we have it then, a few choice musical cuts from video gaming’s back catalogue. Know any more quality titles that
deserve a mention? Why not leave them in the comments section below?

Rhythm Actionby xeroxeroxero

One criticism of music based games is that they are all the same. Activision’s constant interation of the Guitar Hero franchise has simultaneously popularised rhythm action games and yet ensured that gamers have grown bored of the genre within just a small number of years of it’s dominance at the top of the sales charts. With so many music games out there, it’s time to explore a few of the best alternatives to RockBand, what they are, how to get hold of them, and if they’re worth your time.  Read the rest of this entry »





The Death Of Video Games

19 08 2009
In 2008 the games industry was worth an estimated $22 billion, that’s a lot of dollars! When you consider that Hollywood in 2008 could only muster (a relatively paltry) $10 billion it’s truly incredible to see how far these ‘toys’ have come. With the CEO of Activision Bobby Kotick declaring recently that he would like to charge more for video games, is he actually in any position to do so? Is the video game industry infact headed towards an early demise?
It’s interesting to equate the state of video games today to the state of video games in 1983 – 84, the years in which the great video games crash took place in. When you line up events and circumstances from then and now, disturbingly distinct parallels can be drawn. For example, one of the main causes of the crash, quite simply, was ‘too many games, not enough buyers’; Anyone could publish a title for a relatively small amount of money, with cereal company Quaker Oats even getting in on the action at one point! With the rise of digital distribution, and the subsequent lower costs involved, we may see this happen again with the online retail space, spaces such as XBOX Live Arcade. It’s already happening with the iPod App Store, the largest complaint often levied at  iPhone gaming being that it’s easy for quality products to be buried amongst thousands of fart buttons, baby shakers, light sabres and other apps created to capitalize on the overnight success story that is Apple’s mobile phone effort. The same could be said of the Wii, it’s widespread popularity being met with cheap to produce minigame collections, product tie ins and quickly produced pet games turning off the ‘core gamer’ and disenfranchising the soccer mum. Without widespread consumer knowledge, picking a decent game off the store shelf from the tides of shovelware produced is almost entirely hit and miss for a large portion of the game buying public. As with the situation in the age of Atari, you can only break a consumer’s trust so many times before the medium is seen as gimmicky and faddish, creating an economic vacuum when their money is spent elsewhere. As gamers we think it’s incredible that titles like Mario Kart DS constantly makes the worldwide top 10 sellers lists, but honestly, what else would you buy for a system that is abundant with poorly designed cash-in products? After a while, everyone who is going to buy Mario Kart will have done so, move on, and interest will begin to die out in it’s host platform unless there is a new product to take it’s place, just like the Wii is currently experiencing.
On the other end of the spectrum, as I mentioned in my previous article, many analysts believe game production costs are set to rise dramatically over the coming years. The recently bankrupted GRIN studios are testament to how, with just a handful of ill received products, these spiralling costs can destroy a companies financial standing. What with this and when the money from the lucrative and fairly new ‘casual’ market dries up, the industry sets to be a lot smaller than it currently is…
As a result of the crash in ’83, Nintendo fiercely limited companies to relasing just 5 games a year for it’s Entertainment System, wanting to avoid this situation from being repeated. Ironic then when you take a quick look at how many Guitar Hero games have been, or are being, released this year for just Nintendo’s current home platform; Guitar Hero 5, Smash Hits, Van Halen, Metallica, all published by just one company. And which company is that? Bobby Kotick’s Activision. With this amount of saturation in just one of the most popular franchise series of all time, it’s easy to see why rhythm action games are losing popularity amongst gamers. 1st person shooters, 3rd person adventures, MMOs, puzzle games, casual games; all of these and many more genres are experiencing a glut of titles, all competing for your money, in exactly the same way as music games, in exactly the same way as 26 years ago.
Right now interactive entertainment is riding a wave of popularity it hasn’t seen since the ‘Golden Age’ of home consoles, but how bright is the future of video gaming? Will the mistakes made a quarter of a century ago, that are being made now, have their effects repeated? More importantly and most pressing, can the industry survive another crash?

gametombstone

by xeroxeroxero

In 2008 the games industry was worth an estimated $22 billion, that’s a lot of dollars! When you consider that Hollywood in 2008 could only muster (a relatively paltry) $10 billion it’s truly incredible to see how far these ‘toys’ have come. With the CEO of Activision Bobby Kotick declaring recently that he would like to charge more for video games, is he actually in any position to do so? Is the video game industry infact headed towards an early demise? Read the rest of this entry »