Category Archives: Video Games

X-Box One vs. Playstation 4

For those interested, Thorin Klosowski for lifehacker.com offers a comparison between the X-Box One and the Playstation 4, now that two years have passed since their respective releases:

http://lifehacker.com/xbox-one-vs-playstation-4-two-years-later-1738166534

If you haven’t bought either system and are considering doing so, the article offers an interesting comparison between the systems.

Not a terribly big shock to find (SPOILERS!) they’re very comparable in many respects.

The Overwhelming Era…

Keza MacDonald offers a fascinating article, posted on Kotaku.com, regarding his frustrations with so many really, really, REALLY big/multiple-hour-killer games being available seemingly all at once:

How Are We Supposed To Play All These Enormous Video Games?

I’ll go Mr. MacDonald one better: It’s not just video games.  We live in an era where we are being absolutely crushed by the amount of recreational material we have available to us.

I know, I know, first world problems.

Still, they’re there.  We have too many TV shows, too much music, too many books, too many DVDs/BluRays, too many (yes) video games, etc. etc. etc. screaming for every single second of our free time.

Used to be that the choices for entertainment weren’t all that many.  When I was young, there were something like five or so channels on TV and the major networks didn’t air all that many first run shows, at least compared to now.  You pretty much had to see these shows when they aired or, a little later, when they were rerun.

There was so little “new” programming available for all the hours of the day that it wasn’t unusual for the local networks to replay old TV shows on “down” times such as the weekends or early afternoons.

Thus it was that I’d discover shows cancelled long before I first saw them.  Shows like the original Star Trek.  The Wild, Wild, West.  Perry Mason.  The Twilight Zone.  The Outer Limits.

Cable came and grew and suddenly you had hundreds of channels and the need to fill the time with something.  So many new shows appeared that it became impossible to watch everything you were even mildly interested in.

A confession: I’m one of the very few people out there who hasn’t watched a single full episode of what is arguably the most popular show on TV today, Game of Thrones.  It’s not that I don’t want to, its just that I never got HBO and, when the episodes were finally available to me via video release, so much had been written/talked (and spoiled) about the various plot points that it was pointless -by that time- to try the show out.

But early on I was damn curious about it and even bought the first couple of books of the series.  These books sit unread on my bookshelf, given up for the same reasons I gave up on watching the show.  Granted, its my fault I was spoiled regarding the show’s plot.  I could have resisted checking out the various spoilers, yet having seen a few -even one!- there became no need for me to play catch up on the rest.

Getting back to Mr. MacDonald, I too have video games I’ve purchased fully intending to play them but getting sidetracked and eventually letting them go, sometimes without playing even a minute of them.

With whatever free time I have I’m nearing the completion of the latest Batman game (XBox One version) but waiting in the wings are The Witcher, Forza, and a few others I may never get to.  And that’s not counting the current Grand Theft Auto game I’ve got on my computer!

By now I think I’ve made my point: We live in an era of oversaturation and we have to be more and more picky about what it is we decide to spend our free time doing.

While it is a good thing we have so many options available for entertainment, I worry about all those things we might have missed while pursuing the new and shiny.  Used to be that certain works, with the passage of time, would be given second or third looks and, over the years, people would realize these sometimes forgotten works were special.

For example, the writings of H. P. Lovecraft.  Never successful in his time, his works were re-assessed over the years and became viewed long after Mr. Lovecraft’s death as truly great works of horror fiction.

Could that happen today and with so many works competing for our time out there?  Could anyone find the free time to re-assess an older work and realize they are holding something truly special in their hands?

For better or worse, I fear that is no longer the case.

Atari: Game Over (2014) a (mildly) belated review

I consider myself a part of the first generation of home video gamer fans.  I had a Pong type video game system in the mid-70’s and by 1978 or so had an Atari system (later it would be renamed the Atari 2600 system to distinguish it from later systems).

If you lived and experienced this home video game revolution, you know how incredible it was to have an Atari 2600 system.  Back then, video games were a revolution in the entertainment medium and having an Atari in your home allowed you to continue having arcade type fun outside the arcade itself.  Looking at the system and, in particular, the Atari 2600’s crude graphics today may have modern audiences scratching their heads.  Today’s games are almost hyperreal.  How in the world could anyone like that crude stuff?

Trust me, we did.

As dominant as the Atari system was, it is bewildering that in the early to mid-1980’s the system was suddenly and abruptly gone and Atari, the company that was so much a part of my childhood, faded away into oblivion.

Which brings us to Atari: Game Over, the documentary that on its surface explores one of the great legends regarding the company’s most infamous video game release, E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, yet also looks back with nostalgia and sobriety at the rise and fall of the Atari Company.

The legend the documentary explores goes like this: The E. T.: The Extra-Terrestrial video game, released to coincide with the release of the famous Steven Spielberg film, proved to be such a disaster that its failure sunk Atari.  Because the company produced way too many copies of the game, it was ultimately forced to dump the massive unsold stock into a landfill.

Did this happen?  And if so, could the buried copies of the game be found and the legend confirmed?

Using this as a jumping off point, the documentary that follows explores the Atari company and the people behind it.  The man responsible for the E.T. game, Howard Warshaw, proves to be the most interesting person, at least to me, in this documentary.  He talks of coming to Atari in the early days and the success of his very first game, Yar’s Revenge.

One gets the feeling he was something of a “golden boy” at the company during its good times (Yar’s Revenge was the best-sellingest video game Atari would ever release) and became the scapegoat when the E.T. game proved a failure.

In between we follow the people behind the search for the spot where the video games may have been dumped in a landfill in Alamogordo and go through the process of digging said site up (after making it through several levels of bureaucracy).

If there is one complaint I have about this documentary is that it is rather short and could have delved a little more into the life of Mr. Warshaw and perhaps a few others at Atari.

In spite of this, Atari: Game Over is a delightful documentary that explores a video game legend and, in its own way, proves to be a treasure hunt…though the treasure hunted, let’s face it, is trash.

Recommended, particularly if you were there during Atari’s golden years.

Best Video Games of 2013…

…at least according to Luke Winkie for Salon.com:

http://www.salon.com/2013/12/30/the-9-best-video-games-of-2013/

Of the nine games listed, I’ve played exactly…three of them.  One third.

Dead Rising 3 is a fun and seriously goofy game.  As mentioned in the review, the idea of riding a steamroller over a hoard of zombies is both outrageous and hilarious.  The game also feels like something between an old style video game and a full on story.  I haven’t reached the end of it yet, but I agree it is a pretty fun ride…at least so far.

BioShock Infinite is a gorgeous looking game that I found pretty fun to play with but which also got rather repetitious.  As for the ending, that was easily the best thing about it.  Having said that, as interesting as the ending revelations were, they didn’t blown me away quite as much as this reviewer.  In some respects the looping ending invalidated the game itself, creating an almost “it was all a dream” type resolution.  I certainly give the creative team points for going for such a bold story line but I can’t help but be stuck on the fact that the game itself got rather repetitious as it went along.  I liked it, but didn’t “love” it.

One might be tempted to compare The Last of Us with the far more goofy Dead Rising 3 to see the alpha and omega of zombie games.  Both deal with people trying to survive through a zombie type apocalypse, but while DR3 has its tongue in cheek, The Last of Us plays its story out very seriously.  At times, devastatingly so.  There are characters within the game you grow to like quite a bit.  There are some that are lost along the way and the emotional impact is certainly there.  The ending is also an interesting one and it made me wonder if the choices being made were appropriate…or a mistake by the lead character.  All in all, I would have to rank this game, at least among those I played (and bearing in mind I am hardly a game “freak” who has had the opportunity to sample everything released this year) among the best of the year.  Haunting, profoundly touching, and at times very exciting.  A downbeat game for sure, but an enjoyable experience.

Punishing players for…swearing?!

Fascinating article from Slate.com regarding the XBox One’s NBA 2K14 game, and the fact that swearing by the (human) player while playing the game may result in penalties within the game itself!

http://www.slate.com/blogs/future_tense/2013/12/04/nba_2k14_for_xbox_one-punishes-gamers_for_swearing_wtf_video.html

I first heard about this with regard to the XBox One game Dead Rising 3.  It uses the system’s voice/sound recognition in a curious way: If you make noises within your living room, the on-screen zombies you are fighting against will hear you…and therefore know where you are and attack!!!

Anyway, here’s the video related to the NBA 2K14 gameplay (careful if you’re seeing this at work as there is some harsh language!):

The comment by Zanya connected with the article summed up my feelings about this interesting/alarming new element to these video games:

This is sad, terrifying, and hilarious all at the same time.

Speak, Atari

While continuing my search through old posts in the previous blog, I ran upon this post that was essentially a link to the following article by Michael Agger for Slate magazine.  My comments are very brief and hardly worth repeating, but the article itself, if you’re roughly the same age as I am and have very fond memories of the Atari 2600 video game machine, is worth a look:

http://www.slate.com/articles/technology/the_browser/2009/03/speak_atari.single.html