E3: Gaming Zeitgeist
Yes, E3 finished a bit ago, but I’d like to post my thoughts on it.
This year’s E3 came with a handful of interesting announcements, primarily those of Super Mario Galaxy 2, The Last Guardian, and Metroid: Other M, but all in all, the convention only confirmed my long-held beliefs: video gaming is in a rut. More excellent-quality Mario is great, a Metroid by Team Ninja will certainly be unique (although I am slightly hesitant), and a new title by those artsy-types at Team Ico is cool, but nothing made me think, “this is why I play video games.”
Project Natal, the Wii Vitality Sensor, and Sony’s motion sensor controller are all proof to me that video games are becoming the two things I never wanted to see them become. The first is that of being gimmicky toys: yes, gaming is meant as a fun hobby, but it was always a hobby one could take somewhat seriously, like pursuing music; turning gaming into something for yuppies and kids to giggle at is insulting. The second is that of being virtual reality: now, many gamers probably love the idea of actually feeling like you’re in the game, but that was never what it was about to me. I can only say that playing video games meant playing video games, not “becoming your virtual self,” or “entering another world,” not even when I played EverQuest or WoW (I did enjoy the vast game spaces, but only as game spaces, not worlds). I never bought into the graphics and immersion facade. Give me some good games, not these toys, these attempts at virtual reality, these cookie-cutter shooters.
Now for some random games. Crysis 2: because the first one was so great, right?
The Beatles: Rock Band is a combination of music I hate (I may receive some flak for this) with an idea (instrument rhythm game) that looks like a waste compared to learning an actual musical instrument. I wonder how many would’ve learned to play guitar if it wasn’t for Guitar Hero and Rock Band?
Splinter Cell… another dark shooter that’s lost its edge.
Mass Effect 2 – I liked the first, I’ll probably like this one.
Left 4 Dead 2 – Seems to me that all these features ought to be have been included in the first game. I never got the first game and I still don’t have any interest in this one, but I sense poor decision-making on Valve’s behalf.
Halo 3: ODST and Halo: Reach – ODST will probably be good (the Bungie Halo games are all solid). However, I thought ODST was to be Bungie’s last Halo title? Confusing.
Modern Warfare 2 – How’s about the full title: “Call of Duty 6: Modern Warfare 2.” My mindtrip meter is going crazy. I need to see some multiplayer, but otherwise, it looks like more of the same (which may be good or bad depending on how one looks at it).
New Super Mario Bros. Wii – A more classic-looking title, but looks more like a party game than a core one.
Super Mario Galaxy 2 – Good.
Wii Fit Plus – I’ll just hit up the track and the pool, thanks.
Metroid: Other M – We’ll see if Team Ninja can handle it (I never liked the idea of injecting narrative story into Metroid).
Final Fantasy XIII – I’ve lost interest in JRPGs (save for the Persona games), but for those who still like them, this looks okay.
Uncharted 2 – Naughty Dog’s a solid developer, but I’m more a fan of the Jak series.
God of War III – I admit I’ve never played the other two, but this may be good (emphasis on “may”).
Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker – I thought the series was done. Well, Kojima’s essentially a one-trick pony, so this wasn’t that big a surprise.
Assassin’s Creed 2 – The first one felt too heavy to me, and this one looks no different.
The Last Guardian – Like Ico and Shadow of the Colossus before it, The Last Guardian looks like a good artsy (I do dislike using that term) game, although the characters scream for one of them dying in the end (my bet is placed on the beast).
I want to place emphasis on two particular titles as they are the most relevant to this blog’s focus.
Final Fantasy XIV – Game developers are awful at announcing MMOGs. Where are the gameplay demonstrations, the classes, all the things a MMOG announcement ought to have? MMOGs are typically fairly large commitments (in time and money), so give the customer as much information as possible. Honestly, Blizzard (and Red 5, I hope) will set these losers straight when they announce their MMOG (whatever it is): website, forums, gameplay, screenshots, art, information to the brink, etc.
Star Wars: The Old Republic – Several claims about this game bring my blood to a boil. The first: “BioWare has made great RPGs in the past.” BioWare Austin is not the BioWare that made Baldur’s Gate, Neverwinter Nights, Knights of the Old Republic, Mass Effect, etc. The second: “it’s the first MMOG with a focus on story and FULL VOICE-ACTING.” I have problems with the label “MMOG” being attributed to what looks like another Diablo or Guild Wars (except with much less of a PvP focus), but MMOGs aren’t supposed to focus on written story (they’re supposed to focus on player interaction and the stories that arise because of said interation). Additionally, EverQuest 2 had a great deal of voice-acting, and look at what a success that game is. The third: “the cinematic was better than Episodes I-III.” Cinematics are great for building hype, but when players get unreasonable expectations based on the cinematic (see: WAR), you know you’ve put emphasis on the wrong place. SW:TOR reminds me of WAR: an overhyped piece of mediocrity.
Thank you, E3, for actually making me interested in Blizzard again. Yes, I realize that a majority of Blizzard’s classic staff have moved on (some of whom are residing now at Red 5), but right now, they’re the only developer who looks like they’re making video games for video gamers. StarCraft II looks like a great single-player experience and a fantastic multi-player experience (if they can do the beta right). Diablo III, while a bit more saturated in its art than Diablos I and II, looks quick, visceral, and fun, adjectives that are often replaced with “immersive,” “innovative,” and “creative” (the last one can be replaced by any other New Agey idea for video gaming (Flower, anyone?)). Riot Games’ League of Legends (where previous Red 5 producer Tom Cadwell now resides) looks good, as well, but we’ll see if it gets the polish it needs before release.
These days, I mostly run through NES-thru-PS2 era games, occasionally playing things like Mass Effect and modded The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, but for the most part, I long for the 90s/early 00s feel of gaming. I’m looking at a classic fan-made EverQuest server that’s in development which should be a fine way to get some MMOG action, but I desire something more.
I desire Red 5 Studios.
Oi, Fisk, if you still read this blog, let the suits (or khakis; whatever you people wear to work) know that I’m starving for more scraps.
– The Author