Hopes and Fears on the Nintendo Switch

By the time this is published, I’ll be attending PAX East 2017. I figured it was a good time to talk about video games. Luckily (or perhaps unluckily) Nintendo just did something pretty crazy. Let’s talk about the Switch!

Continue reading Hopes and Fears on the Nintendo Switch

What Gamergate Says about "Gamer" Culture

Gamer: “a person who plays games and especially video or computer games.”               – Merriam-Webster Dictionary

We are many of us, gamers. What began as a small minority of people thirty-forty years ago has ballooned into a large portion of the present population. Games are everywhere. Computers brought them into the home. Consoles like the Atari 2600 and the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) brought them to our TVs. Today, smartphones allow many people to carry a large game library around in their pockets. And of course, before that: there were board games. As time passed, the gaming population grew and diversified. People who were never “gamers” before suddenly found themselves glued to the screen. Basically: change.

The Nintendo Wii was the first console to explode gaming into entirely new markets.
The Nintendo Wii was the first console to explode gaming into entirely new markets.

With change comes great things. More gamers = more games. No two ways about it. The industry has exploded and now we have major publishers and casual people all making games together. Choices. Choices. Choices. New technologies, new controllers, new concepts. More gamers have greatly increased the variety of experiences to be found when gaming. Has there been a negative?

Of course: Gamergate (not to be confused with GamersGate… which is a really unfortunate name to have right now).

For those out there who don’t know, I will summarize. Indie game developer Zoe Quinn created Depression Quest, a game designed to help people struggling with depression. Following the suicide of actor Robin Williams, Quinn elected to release her game for free on the popular gaming marketplace, Steam. She charged people only “what they wanted to pay” and gave all proceeds to charity. I know, sounds like the pillar of controversy so far.

There were some who felt Quinn was using Williams’ suicide for personal gain, despite the before mentioned facts. Her largest detractor, however, came in the form of her ex-boyfriend, who alleged that Quinn had a relationship with Nathan Grayson in order to receive a favorable review for her game. Was there a relationship: yes. Did Grayson ever write a review: no. Did he write an article about Quinn: yes, months before the relationship.

screen-shot-2014-10-11-at-11-44-19-am

Regardless, some people felt that the ethics of video game journalism had been violated. This is not the first time such accusations have come up. Popular gaming review site Giantbomb was founded after a critic gave a bad review to a game that had wanted to receive a good one. The reviewing bias of other AAA titles, such as Grand Theft Auto IV, Call of Duty, Destiny, and others has also been called into question.

If we are to believe the most positive spin on Gamergate, it was misdirected anger after all of the other breaches in the ethics of video game journalism. Really though, even if those allegations were true: are we really getting mad at the person who designed a game that helps people with depression? A game she released for free? “What a bitch” are not the words that come to mind.

There are some who feel that games really are not a big deal and really should not be used in most areas of political and civil strife.
There are some who feel that games really are not a big deal and really should not be used in most areas of political and civil strife.

That’s the positive spin. In reality, Gamergate is nothing more that the extreme hateful reaction of a small minority in the face of change. In the weeks following the lies against Zoe Quinn, many people were targeted by Gamergate. To say there was a pattern in which people were targeted would be an understatement. Do a check right now. If you are a woman, you would have been targeted. Men: not so much.

Because receiving death threats and having information leaked is the most sensible way to make money.
Because receiving death threats and having information leaked is the most sensible way to make money.

I am not going to try to give the event a balanced spin because I do not feel it deserves one. Regardless of the state of video game journalism, Gamergate was wrong and, in some cases, illegal. People were threatened with physical violence and it even went as far as death threats. I say people but really: women were the target. Whether it was Quinn, Anita Sarkeesian (who I personally do not agree with), Felicia Day, Brianna Wu (again, notice the pattern), Crimes were committed against each of these women and that is never excusable.

Gamergate punched a black eye in the public image of gaming culture. Let me stress one more time: whoever leaked personal information, threatened to hold a shooting, made death threats: these are all serious crimes. I hope these individuals are tracked, found, arrested, and persecuted to the full extent of the law. Forget leaking nude photos, this is much more serious.

Chris Kluwe, one of the harshest critics of Gamergate, was not targeted. I could say more but please: read his words.
Chris Kluwe, one of the harshest critics of Gamergate, was not targeted. I could say more but please: read his words.

Okay, that said: Gamergate means nothing exceptional to gaming culture. It has been the actions of a few radicals, not the overwhelming majority. In the months following these unfortunate incidents, many in the industry have been very public in their condemning of Gamergate. Many gamers have also stepped forward and voiced their support of Quinn and the other victims involved.

To go back to what I wrote in the beginning: gamers are everywhere. If you have a population of at least hundreds of millions, some of them are bound to be a**holes. That’s just a fact. I do not say that to excuse the behavior, but let’s examine some other examples of large cultures reacting to certain situations.

Gay Rights

Popular opinion: whether you’re for Gay Marriage or not, most people conclude that homosexuals are human beings like everyone else. They are entitled to the same treatment of respect and courtesy, and really – being gay is (thankfully) no longer the incredible taboo it once was, in certain areas at least. Okay, here is the extreme:

Interracial Marriage

Popular opinion: sure, why should color of skin matter if two people love each other? Well, let’s ask this enlightened soul:

Immigration

Popular Opinion: Okay, very complex issue. There’s a lot of opinions out there. Safe to assume though, most people don’t think like this:

Gaming

Popular opinion: everyone is entitled to play games, they are for everyone.

Well f*ck.

There will always be idiots, in any culture. A vocal minority, composed of the worst humanity has to offer, who will spew their vile hatred at pretty much anything that offends/scares them. The good news is that: most are not championing their cause but rather speaking and acting against them. This is progress. Gaming is changing, becoming more inclusive every year. People are going to have to deal with that.

Being a “gamer” means nothing more than the fact that you play games. It is not an elite group, it is not something to be proud of or ashamed of. Men are gamers, women are gamers, children are gamers. Heck, even this lizard:

Hmmmm, actually now that I think about it, that lizard may have slept with someone to get a popular Youtube video. #Lizardgate

Console Buying Guide for the 2014 Holiday Season

Well it’s that time of year again. Yes, November: where everyone is thankful for what they have and no one wants anything more than to spend time with their family and enjoy a nice meal together.

Look at those wonderful artificial smiles! What a - wait, are those french fries on the table? What is even going on here?
Look at those wonderful artificial smiles! What a – wait, are those french fries on the table? What is even going on here?

Nah, I’m kidding. Christmas is around the corner and I live in America. It’s time to buy sh*t.

Specifically, let’s talk video game consoles. It has been a year since the release of the Sony PlayStation 4 and the Microsoft Xbox One. It has been two years since the release of the Nintendo Wii U. The eighth generation of home video game consoles is officially upon us. So which one should you buy? Every fanboy out there will tell you why “their” console is the best. But let’s take a serious and unbiased look at what each console currently has to offer and what their near future plans are.

Trying to talk to most console owners.
Trying to talk to most console owners.

Let’s start with the big dog, the current best-seller.

PlayStation 4

How much: 400 bucks. Get it, it’s like a hundred for each generation of PlayStation!

Is that Price likely to fall: Possibly. Right now the PS4 is selling like hot cakes so do not expect a price drop in the next three months. That said, the Xbox One just lowered its price (again) so you never know. If fortunes change for Sony, expect that price to drop.

Games: Current exclusive titles are Basement Crawl, Driveclub, Infamous (First Light and Second Son), Killzone Shadow Fall, Knack, Resogun, and that’s it. Not kidding, those are the full list of true exclusives (not out on any other platform) that the consumer can currently purchase for the PS4. This is the best-selling console in the world right now.

There’s More Coming, Right: Yes, if you sell that many units, developers will make games for your system. The PlayStation 4 may have a lackluster exclusive library at the moment but that is going to change. The question is: will it change before the system hits $350?

There’s Other Games to Play: Sure, the PS4 gets most large AAA releases and has an impressive independent library as well. There are games to play, most of them can just be played on other, cheaper, hardware.

I own a PS3, does that matter: Not really. The PS4 is not backwards compatible. There is talk of a streaming service to play certain titles but at the moment, it is not close to completion.

Not sure how they're doing it but it is hard to argue against Sony's success.
Not sure how they’re doing it but it is hard to argue against Sony’s success.

Xbox One

How much: Currently, it is $350. That said, this system was released for $500 only a year ago.

Is that Price likely to fall: Less than impressive sales numbers have fueled the rapid decrease in price. Who is to say that Microsoft is done cutting the cost? Do not expect it to drop again before Christmas.

Games: Current exclusive titles are Crimson Dragon, D4, Dance Central Spotlight, Fighter Within, Forza Motorsport 5, Halo: The Master Chief Collection, Killer Instinct, Powerstar Golf, Shape Up, Sunset Overdrive, Xbox Fitness, and Zombie Driver. That is the current lineup of true exclusives available to the Xbox One.

There’s More Coming, Right: Yeah, the Xbox One is far from dead. Sure, the system has not had a great first year but Microsoft is a very large company with a lot of money to spend. Do not count them out yet.

There’s Other Games to Play: The Xbox One gets the same library of large releases that the Ps4 and other systems enjoy. They do not have the same level of indie development however, at least not yet.

I own a 360, does that matter: No. The Xbox One is not backwards compatible. Do not hold your breath for Microsoft to change this.

Xbox One is having a very similar identity crisis that the Wii U suffered through in the year following its launch.
Xbox One is having a very similar identity crisis that the Wii U suffered through in the year following its launch.

Wii U

How Much: $350.

Is that Price likely to fall: The Wii U has yet to have a major price drop. I would not expect this to change before Christmas. That said, with the Xbox One price drop, it is likely that Nintendo will lower the Wii U price tag within the next year.

Games: Current Wii U exclusives include (but are not limited to) Bayonetta 2, Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, Hyrule Warriors, The Legend of Zelda: the Wind Waker HD, Pikmin 3, Mario Kart 8, and ZombiU. This system has been out the longest, so a full title list is here.

There’s More Coming, Right: It is Nintendo so you can expect their continued support and library of famous franchises.

There’s Other Games to Play: Here is Nintendo’s Kryptonite zone. The company has long-held strained relationships with many third-party developers. While the Wii U has a strong library of first-party titles, expect to miss out on many of the larger releases.

I own a Wii, does that matter: Yes. The Wii U can play every Wii game in existence. You can also keep using your old wiimotes for certain titles.

Super Smash Bros for Wii U is the big holiday title this year from Nintendo.
Super Smash Bros for Wii U is the big holiday title this year from Nintendo.

3DS

Please see my article on the New 3DS to know my thoughts on whether or not you should buy one this holiday season.

3DS has a huge game library and is backwards compatible with regular DS games.
3DS has a huge game library and is backwards compatible with regular DS games.

PlayStation Vita

What the heck is a Vita: It is the Sony portable system.

How Much: At least $215.

For a Portable: Yeah, they’re not kidding.

Is that Price Likely to fall: The PlayStation Vita has not sold well since launch, selling roughly only 4 million units since launch. Sony may very well drop the price further if they continue support.

Games: Vita exclusives include Army Corps of Hell, Bullet Girls, Killzone: Mercenary, LittleBigPlanet PS Vita, Phantasy Star Nova, Silent Hill: Book of Memories, and Touch my Katamari.

There’s More Coming, Right: Sony has not discontinued plans for the PlayStation Vita so expect a sprinkling of games to come in the future.

There’s Other Games to Play: A full list of all titles playable on the PS Vita can be found here

I own a PSP, does that matter: Yes, so long as the title was downloaded and not physically purchased, it can be played on Vita.

Sony is trying to keep the Vita alive by integrating more with other hardware.
Sony is trying to keep the Vita alive by integrating more with other hardware.

A Gaming PC

How Much: A good PC can be built for as little as $300. Completed models usually run between $500 and $1000.

Is that Price Likely to fall: As newer and better PCs are released, prices fall accordingly.

Games: Pretty much everything you can think of, from now back through the last twenty years, provided it has been updated on services like Steam and Good Old Games.

There’s More Coming, Right: The PC will receive pretty much every major release going forward.

There’s Other Games to Play: The system also has an unmatched selection of Indie games. Provided you ever finish reliving the nostalgia of a back catalog that spans decades. Oh, there is also modding.

I already own a PC: Keep it upgraded and in working order and you can play anything.

Yeah, it is tough to argue against that library of classics old and new.
Yeah, it is tough to argue against that library of classics old and new.

So there you have it. As a non-PC gamer, I will say that I believe a gaming PC is by far the best option out there for those looking to play the most games and spend the least amount of money. Yes, the system itself may cost more initially but thanks to services like Steam, games are available at a fraction of the cost. For a gamer looking to play every major release out there, I recommend a gaming PC and a Wii U. Nintendo’s series are the only thing guaranteed to skip the PC market.

For those out there not tech savvy and not wanting to spend a ton: the 360 and PS3 are still supported systems. They receive practically all the same big releases as their next-gen counterparts.

How most PC gamers see themselves.
How most PC gamers see themselves.