Why I like ‘bad’ games

Well, its been a while and quite a bit has happened in the meantime. I’ve got a right and proper update this time though, complete with some written material so let’s get started!

New Games

  • Advance Wars: Days of Ruin
  • Arc the Lad: Twilight of the Spirits (PS2)
  • Bit.Trip: Void (WW)
  • Castlevania (VC)
  • Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest (VC)
  • Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse (VC)
  • The Conduit Special Edition(Wii)
  • Cursed Mountain Limited Edition(Wii)
  • Deadly Creatures (Wii)
  • Doc Louis’ Punch-Out [WW]
  • ExciteBots (Wii)
  • The House of the Dead: Overkill
  • Mega Man X7 (PS2)
  • NyxQuest: Kindrid Spirits (WW)
  • Sega Superstars Tennis/Xbox Live Arcade Compilation Disc (360)
  • Valhalla Knights: Eldar Saga (Wii)

It seems like a lot of games but there’s quite a few cheaper downloadable stuff in there and many of the retail games were bought used or on the cheap. The Sega Superstars Tennis/Xbox Live Arcade Compilation combo was bought used at Gamestop for a total of $5 as were Arc the Lad and Mega Man X7. Advance Wars was also nabbed for $5 but I got that one at Fry’s along with ExciteBots for $15. Doc Louis’ Punch-Out was free, of course and Deadly Creatures and House of the Dead were both $20.

I still have 1300 Wii points left as I’m planning on picking up Castlevania the Adventure: Rebirth when it comes out, though I do have a long list of games I want to pick up off the Virtual Console and WiiWare.

New School Schedule

 I’m nearing the end of my second quarter at the Art Institute and a few weeks ago we had to register for our classes for next quarter. I was surprised when I realized that starting in the Fall 2010 Quarter I will be starting work on my senior Game Prototype project. We are given 3 quarters to work on the prototype, the first quarter is used for prep work and the next two are working in earnest to finish the project. I wasn’t expecting it to come up so soon but I’m looking forward to it.

Anyways for the Winter 2010 quarter my classes will be:

  • Game Design & Game Play
  • Game Modeling & Animation
  • Character and Object Design
  • Life Drawing & Gesture
  • 2D Animation Principles

It looks like it will be quite a bit of work but the fact that I’ll be neck deep in game-related classes is exciting.

New Room

 I recently changed rooms, moving to the other side of the house. This gave me an opportunity to redesign my room to fit all my stuff instead of fitting my stuff into a room ill-equipped to handle it. Here’s a panorama covering 3 corners of my new room. Click on it for the larger image.

All the game boxes adorning my walls have been removed giving my game collection more space to expand instead of being forced to double layer then on the shelves and what-not. Also, I got a new tv, not that my old one was bad, but it was a huge 30 widescreen HD CRT and weighed something like a hundred pounds. I’ve swapped over to a 26 720p Bravia which is a downgrade in some respects (it took some tweaking in the settings in order to make Wii games look good) but it has HDMI inputs so my 360 and PS3 are now hooked up via HDMI and it doubles as my third monitor. I technically have a fourth that I wanted to throw on but it produces a high pitched tone when plugged in that’s uncomfortable to be around so my quest for a fourth monitor is to be continued.

The second PC tower under my desk is my sister’s old computer that’s horribly outdated. I’ll probably plug it into my center monitor via VGA (the monitor is currently connected to my main PC via DV-I) so I won’t have to get a monitor just for it. I’m not sure what I’m going to do with it just yet but I’ll probably upgrade it a bit and maybe work it into a homemade renderfarm I’m thinking of building (as the main controller not a renderer). I wanted to make it my MechWarrior machine but its apparently too new to plug my old Sidewinder 3D flight stick into it, so that plan is scrapped. If anyone has any ideas please shoot them my way.

Also, the router under my desk has custom firmware installed and is running s a wireless bridge so that I can get somewhat wi-fi access to my PS3 and 360 and its also providing a second network connection to my PC and I’ll likely use it to connect my sister’s old computer.

My older consoles are on the right, though I’ve yet to plug them in as I’m not sure if the cables are long enough to comfortably reach my tv. I think it’d be cool to get a second LCD tv as my fourth monitor on the far right and connect the older consoles to that (or get a 1080p LCD and replace the Bravia, but that’s pie in the sky for now).

Why I like ‘bad’ games and why hype turns me off to ‘good’ ones

 This holiday is filled with tons and tons of high profile releases and a stream of automatic 9�s and 10�s from many of the industry�s main news outlets. Games from Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, Modern Warfare 2, Halo 3: ODST, Borderlands, Dragon Age: Origins, and Assassin�s Creed 2 among others have continued hype trains miles long and a streak of blockbusters sure to sell millions before the end of the year, however absolutely none of these games are high on my priorities list. I�m not saying that I think any of these are badly made games, in fact I�m even curious to see what effect the small tweaks in ODST have had on gameplay, despite me never being a fan of the series, how Assassin�s Creed 2 makes use of the Renaissance setting, and even how Modern Warfare 2�s storyline has come together. No, none of these are bad games, in fact I�m sure they�re all great games, then why am I in no hurry to play them?

To answer that question, I�ll pose another. A few months ago, the games I most wanted to play were Phantom Brave: We Meet Again, and Valhalla Knights: Eldar Saga. Many of you might not have heard of either game. Neither game has received much, if any media coverage. Both games only have 12 reviews on Metacritic and none of those has come from the likes of IGN, Kotaku, Gametrailers, 1Up, or any of the dozens of high profile video games sites. So why then would I be so driven to buy and play these two games and others such WET and Velvet Assassin that the gaming media as a whole has long since dismissed and forgotten about?

I think the answer lies in hype and the gaming media as a whole. The thing with the mainstream gaming media is that they are much more media outlets than journalists. Deep meaningful editorials and analyses are rare. What is much more common is the passing along of trailers, screenshots, and press releases handed to them from the publishers. They have basically become a middle-man in many publishers� advertising campaigns. Even video game previews are often held at media events with the publisher�s representative at hand. At the very least, that�s how its appeared to me for far too long. Original content on news sites is typically limited to fluff like �Top 10 this-or-that� or �Why we really want to play so-and-so game that we�ve already been covering for months.�

The game medial also perpetuates the low-brow �fanboy� mentality as much as the everyday gamer. In fact, I�ve noticed that they, as much as, or more so, than the average gamer, gets caught up in the hype, or at least appear to do so as they go out of their way to perpetuate said hype. Looking at one site�s coverage of Modern Warfare 2 for example, one site has articles informing the public that there will not be any zombies in the game, that the name�s changed, how much the super-duper edition will cost, what you get if you buy it at launch, that the name has changed again, that it won�t have underwater combat, that it won�t have a demo, that the name was never, in fact changed, that it won�t have this, that there�s a petition to get this back, that the official website has been updated, that so-and-so third party is releasing so-and-so to coincide with the game, that a trailer will be aired on a tv at this day and time, and it goes on and on. At one point does it cease to become journalism and become promotion? Wherever it is, I�m more than certain the line has been crossed here.

What upsets me even more is that these are basically the people in charge of writing the history of the medium. They�re taking the products of the industry, determining what is worth remembering, worth forgetting, worth admiring, and worth deriding. I for one am uncomfortable putting that responsibility into the hands of people that make no real effort to examine and elevate the medium, get caught up in hype, and are basically little more than the everyday �hardcore gamer� put into a position of reporting power.

So how does all this relate to what games I�m excited for and which I am not? Well, for one, I feel that the marketing blitz reveals far too much about the game they�re covering. You lose the excitement of discovery, almost like giving away the story of a book before its release. Its still a fine book, but with the story spoiled for you, its not nearly as exciting as it once was. Granted the marketing blitz rarely spoils the story, but the story is not really what makes a game. A story is what makes a novel and it�s the interaction, the gameplay, that makes a game and that�s what�s covered at great lengths in the marketing blitz, not that I�d really want either one spoiled for me.

Still, maybe it�s not so much that fact that the game is spoiled so much that the same thing is spoiled so often for so long. As I said above, most websites simply regurgitate information they�ve received from the publisher and other sites regurgitate already regurgitated information, meaning website after website has the same content in almost identical terms. What this results in is oversaturation. When continuously exposed to the same thing one will either absorb it and enjoy it, absorb it and dislike it, or just ignore it completely, like a song on the radio. In the case of video game coverage, I tend to just skip over every article covering a game that�s been continuously covered for months, if not years.
I for one enjoy not only discovering game mechanics by playing through the game itself, but also discovering games themselves as I find myself able to enjoy a wider variety of them than the everyday �I only buy a game with a Metacritic score better than 8.5� crowd. For these reasons, I tend to go beyond whatever the video game media is promoting at the moment and find titles that I believe bring something interesting to the table, be it something new, or an interesting combination of elements, that either fall under the media�s radar or is not considered good enough according to their own rubric that values graphics and presentation over ideas.

I do not wish to say that production and mainstream playability are not important, they certainly are in a review with the main goal of suggesting whether a game is worth the money or not. However, as a game reviewer, I do not believe that should be the point of reviewing a game because prices change. Everyone has seen games like this, games that at their launch price are not worth buying but are must-haves after a price drop or two. This is the main reason why I do not believe �should you buy it or not� reviews, which is pretty much the media standard, is the standard we should ascribe to.

As I said earlier, the media is the scribe of the medium�s history and as such, the reviews should be written with a larger time frame in mind. They should be something that should be able to stand true a year, five years, and even decades into the future. As such, I don�t believe reviews should be written with the goal of deciding if the game is worthy of purchase or not. Instead, I believe a good review should be approached with the intent to answer whether the game is good or not and let the readers decide what they are willing to pay for it. After all, few other arts are reviewed with the idea that its price determines its quality. Examinations of paintings and photography describe the artistry that went into its creation. Food is judged on its flavor, technique and presentation. Films old and new are judged on their writing and cinematography. In very few of these cases does the question of money, or whether or not it is worth buying at some price, explicitly stated or not, come into question.

So why then do I like �bad� games? Well, I would say that it�s not so much that I like bad games, but that my threshold for what is good or bad does not end at an 8.5 or a 9. I may think some games are better made than others, or that a particular game is more impressive on a technical level than another.
It�s none of these aspects alone, but the game as a whole that is important. It�s acknowledging the ideas that went into a game, whether or not they were successfully interpreted. It�s about how the game compares to similar games; not just its contemporaries but with those that came before and how they continue, honor, defy, or begin trends and traditions.

I think my view of games is somewhat wider and less rigid than what the mainstream media perpetuates because I find very few games that are entirely without merit and from which an enjoyable experience, or at the very least a glimpse of new, or interesting combinations of old ideas can be culled.
The mainstream media likes to dictate what games have value and which ones don�t while I am a firm believer that most, if not all games have something to contribute to the medium as a whole. Do I like every game I play? Of course not. Do I think every game is good? Again, no. Do I feel each game has something to contribute? That is a different question than the rest and one that isn�t often given the consideration or examination it deserves.

Cursed Mountain Limited Edition

 Cursed Mountain


    • Cursed Mountain
    • Bonus disc
    • Steelbook Case

Cursed Mountain:

      Your copy of the game disc

Bonus Disc

      : The only major addition to this release. As you can see in the image above the disc is double-sided. One side is a Making-of dvd which is nice, if not particularly new. The documentary is a set of five videos that were previously shown on the Wii’s Nintendo Channel and elsewhere around the internet. The other side of the disc is a soundtrack cd which contains 15 tracks from the game.

Steelbook case

      : This is the typical steelbook case that accompanies most Limited/Collector’s editions in the video game world, though something of a rarity on Nintendo’s consoles. The steelbox does have alternate cover art that features one of the game’s evil monk’s instead of the original pulp-novel-esque art.
      I actually had no idea this version of the game existed until months after the release of the game. Unlike most high-profile editions that are announced all over the place, this version flew in silently under the radar. While I have no idea of its production run, I think its fair to say that this edition is, at the very least, scarce. The only major retailer I could find that carried this were Amazon.com and J&R and that’s it. No mention of this edition exists from any other electronics or game retailer. There are currently no listings on ebay, nor hal.com. I really can’t say that I know what to make of it. Even the Conduit’s Special Edition was made mention of online and available, though not in great quantities from retailers.
      Aside from its scarcity however, the release isn’t incredibly notable. It has few extras and what’s there all comes with a catch. The Making of video is interesting, but they’ve all been available for free on the Nintendo Channel and elsewhere online. The soundtrack is brilliant and 15 tracks sounds like quite a bit, unfortunately few tracks are over 2 minutes in length and the whole thing is just under 26 minutes long. The steelbook is at least nice with beautiful interior art. Unfortunately, that’s about all you’re getting for $60, which is Amazon’s current asking price. I was able to get my copy off of Amazon’s Marketplace for around $45 but all such deals seem to have disappeared since then.
      Unless you’re a huge fan of the game or are interested in this just for the scarcity, I can’t really say there’s much of a reason to seek out this release of the game. That said, it is nice to see a Limited Edition on a Nintendo console as they are always few and far between.
      And that will wrap it up for now. My school quarter ends on the 19th and I have about a month or so break before the next quarter begins so I’ll try to post something within that window but I make no promises. I’ll probably just go into hibernation and wake up just long enough to see my shadow in February.
      Happy Thanksgiving! And I’ll see you next time!