Highbrow High Score

The Art of Gaming Intellectually

Posts Tagged ‘Video Games

What Games Can’t Teach

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I remember when the first Guitar Hero came out on the PlayStation2. At the time, I was drinking Smirnoff Ice (in hindsight – Ew), playing Twilight Princess on GameCube and going to class in what was my freshman year of college. Video games were what I did in between naps and homework, but Guitar Hero changed a lot of what I thought about gaming at the time.  It was frustrating, fun, accessible, and even if I was just watching a friend play, it was still entertaining.

Since I actually played guitar, my friends and I were surprised when I was terrible at first. Then with practice (probably too much practice), I worked my up to expert and by the time Guitar Hero 2, 3,  Rockband, etc. came out, I could rock some plastic peripherals like nobody’s business.

But now, I’d be hard pressed to even want  to play any rhythm based music game because I’ve played them all and would rather play an actual video game or actual music. Not only did the market become over-saturated with peripheral based games, some attempted to capitalize on the craze by suggesting certain games could help you actually play guitar. While I can’t speak to how true those claims were, it’s clear to see that these types of games have fallen out of favor after dying a very slow death of release after terrible release.

What I find most interesting is the fact there are certain kinds of games that try to crossover to more “tangible” skills. When I see commercials for any dancing games like Just Dance, I’m reminded of Dance Dance Revolution and how that craze gave way to Guitar Hero, etc.  It seems to me the people creating these games are perpetuating an idea of gaming as a means to an end, instead of an end in itself. Either that or they are constantly recycling trends that make consumers feel like they’re doing more than “just gaming” and then gutting whatever falls by the wayside to make profits off customers outside their normal demographic…

Little bit of both?


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March 15, 2012 at 3:14 pm

Rainy Day Games

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Although the holiday season is (frighteningly) close, most of the big blockbuster games came out earlier in the year. That being said, while I got the opportunity to buy and play a lot of great games this year, limited time and money meant there was a lot I had to pass on.  This year has added a few games to my “to play” list and hopefully 2012 will afford me more opportunities to enjoy them.

These games will have to wait until I get done with my Dragonborn duties...

  • Deus Ex: Human Revolution – Although I could not tell you exactly what this game is about, the “cool” factor was almost enough to make me buy it on release – but not quite.
  • L.A. Noire – Now that I don’t have to drop upwards of $50 on a game I’ll only play once, I may consider grabbing this old-school detective story.
  • Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception – With this one still being pretty new, I don’t see myself going for it yet. Instead, I’ll watch the Indiana Jones films a few times – just the first three, don’t worry!

Indy would win this fight, but Captain Reynolds would kick both of their asses.

  • The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword – Unfortunately, I will have to buy the console again, but I would feel cheated if I didn’t get to play a brand new Zelda adventure.
  • Minecraft – This one is sitting on my desktop, just waiting to be played, but I haven’t had the attention span or direction to really get into it yet.

    It looks so sad and alone

So, there are a few games that didn’t quite make it for me this year – what’s on your rainy day list?

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December 1, 2011 at 3:51 pm

Of Explosions and Exploitations

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I was little late with this post, but a few weeks ago, we celebrated Banned Book Week and I know a lot of people were reading books that were once deemed “unacceptable” in America. This made me wonder about banned or hotly contested video games and if they would ever be celebrated in the same light. It’s interesting to note that a game has never been “banned” in the United States, but the ESRB can grant an “Adults Only” rating as an equivalent since major retailers will not stock AO rated games. One of the games that got the most media attention for a controversy of this kind is probably Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas and the infamous “Hot Coffee” glitch that had Hillary Clinton and Jack Thompson up in arms about the video game industry. The scene was publicized after finding the exploits in the game’s code and shows the main character having sex with his girlfriend.

Surprisingly, not the reason for the AO rating

Your Typical Shootout

Rockstar Games came under fire quite a bit for the Grand Theft Auto series in general and several other games published in the 2000’s like Manhunt and Bully albeit for extremely different reasons. But neither of these games were pulled from shelves en masse and only a handful of games intended for release had production halt completely because of the threat of an “AO” rating. After the “Hot Coffee” incident, the ESRB gave the game an “AO” rating and forced Rockstar to re-release it without the scene. Many game developers will try to soften the adult themes in their games in order to get an “M for Mature” rating.

I “acquired” one AO game that was leaked to the internet. Originally intended for the PSOne, publisher EA thought the fighting game Thrill Kill  was too violent to release. Although the graphical limitations of the original Playstation seem laughable now, the game does attempt to fetishize violence – the goal of each round is to cause enough bodily harm to the three other characters to fill your “kill meter.” Unlike traditional fighting games which have you monitor your character’s health meter, the “kill meter” determined whether or not you performed a “thrill kill” – an extremely violent fatality move.

While these are just two examples of games that have come under fire for “adult” content, it is interesting why they came under scrutiny in the first place. Although video game opponents have rallied against the GTA franchise for quite some time, it took a blatantly sexual scene to gain the unprecedented media attention and backlash San Andreas received. And if you’ve ever seen or read about Thrill Kill you know that one female character’s overt sexuality is also her main source of violence.

This is far too blocky to still be offensive

This aversion to sexuality more than violence plays a role not just in the ESRB, but also the MPAA and many other regulatory bodies in the US. In the highly publicized Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association, several Supreme Court judges noted that violence was a lesser demon than sexuality. The distinction warrants a raise of the eyebrow, in my mind.

But what I am more interested in is why the “Adults Only” rating is a “kiss of death” for developers and retailers. Since adults make up a large part of the gaming community, why can’t those games containing sexual content or extreme violence be sold in regulation like the adult film industry or even R rated films? Is it because video games are still seen as a children’s activity? Or is the idea of performing certain actions, albeit vicariously,  somehow worse than watching it occur in film or reading it in a book? I would argue there have been a lot games published and sold with little more appeal than shock value, but have still received an “M” rating. Where is the line drawn? Should some games about certain subject matter never see the light of day or should game retailers enforce strict age limits?

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October 21, 2011 at 4:50 am

Posted in Video games

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You Can’t Explain That

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After this quick post on Kotaku, I feel like the best way to get this blog back in track is to make a confession…

Up until now, I’d chuckled at “creeper” jokes with my friends and pretended to fully understand this xkcd comic on the game but, the time has come to tell the truth.

I don’t “get” Minecraft. Maybe I haven’t tried hard enough… but I genuinely do not understand and it breaks my heart.

Particularly because of how I’ve whined about a lack of compelling game play in many games. Simply not enjoying and not understanding this game are personal failures of mine, but I also am curious as to how it gained such a following.

Am I totally alone in this? If not Minecraft than another “must play” game?

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April 7, 2011 at 2:31 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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