What I Love About Gaming
Sometimes, it is impossible to see the forest for the trees, especially if you are a huge fan of the forest. I know what the hell is he talking about now! At times, I’m not even sure what I’m rambling about, but for once my head seems clear on the goal. Just in my experience, being a fan of anything, its easy to harp on the behaviors/attitudes/changes that you don’t like. People love to be vocal about not getting enough of what they enjoy while there is other crap filtering through, but at the end of the day we still do love our hobbies.
Running this site has been quite a learning experience for me. When we came up with the idea for this site many moons ago, it was simply to have a front-page for our forums. Over the course of the last year and a half, we have grown and evolved. We have put out content that I’m extremely proud of, and content that I do have some regrets on since it was really just hit-bait (and I’ll never deny when I do). One thing I have learned, and not proud of myself for this, is its much easier to draw people anywhere when you post something negative or contradictory. I’ll be honest and say I’ve never posted anything negative just for the sake of being negative, but generally how I feel.
That said, I really do love gaming, I’ve been gaming for as long as I can remember. Hell some of my earliest memories are watching Captain N and my older brother playing Castlevania. So I thought I would try something different today, and share with you just some reasons why I love gaming and continue to do it after 2 decades.
The first thing is simply the sheer variety of games you can buy and play. You know we all complain about the abundance of first person shooters on the market, and to be honest with you, there are a lot of them. But if you only focus on that area of the industry, you miss out on some truly terrific games.
Just looking at the games sitting in front of my television (this is my recently played/playing cycle), we’ve got action adventure (Metroid: Other M, Batman: The Brave and the Bold, LEGO Batman, inFamous), we’ve got shooters (Halo Reach, Gears of War 1/3, Goldeneye Wii, Left 4 Dead 2, Portal 2), we’ve got platformers (Kirby’s Epic Yarn and Donkey Kong Country Returns), we’ve got RPGs (Xenoblade), we’ve got Mario Kart Wii, Deadly Creature, de Blob, Blur, Wii Sports Resort, Viva Pinata, Madworld and the list goes on and on.
And that’s only scratching the surface, there’s still my handheld collection and yes even my Android games (and yes there are some really good games there too!).
No one will ever agree that every genre gets a fair representation on the market, but there is enough unique content put out year after year that it shouldn’t be difficult to find games that strike your fancy. Or maybe going out of your comfort zone will open your eyes to a world of possibilities.
I can say I’ll never discredit a game based on its genre nor who made it because you never really know what will next catch your eye.
Change is everywhere. Change can be dangerous and scary to a lot of people. But change is a necessary evil. I’ve been able to see the last 20 + years of gaming evolution from the NES to the 3DS. I’ve seen the addition of shoulder buttons, I questions the design of the N64 controller, I remember Sony’s boomerang, SEGA’s VMU, the rise (And to some fall) of motion controls. The fact of the matter though is games are a whole different beast today than they were 10 years ago or 20 years ago. And going forward it doesn’t look like that’s gonna change with smart phones offering up new and unique gaming experiences, Nintendo bringing tablet controls to the console space and Vita and 3DS both boosting social gaming features. You got to love the change in the air.
And change extends beyond the controller. We’ve seen gaming go from aÂ cartridge-based industry to disc (and even that has evolved from CDs to GOD to DVDs and now blu-rays). We’ve seen little things like active reloads really improve a genre. Or Z-targetingÂ redefining one. Change seems to always be hitting us.
This is a broad topic. It covers everything from social gaming to couch co-op to online gaming, and honestly I have different levels of respect and love for them all.
For social gaming, some of the most bizarre things turn into games with friends. I will never deny there was a time I was hopelessly addicted to Mafia Wars, and that was simply to make more money than my friends. Never really in direct competition at all in the game, but just the back and forth conversation goes a long way. Recently, the leaderboard in FourSquare, which again isn’t much of a game, created some unnecessary but fun competition among friends. Its the simple things like that, that will push social gaming forward. I’m sure when the 3DS came out, everyone was trying to get as many StreetPasses as possible to complete the two included mini-games.
I think couch gaming doesn’t need an explanation. For most people all I need to say is something like Goldeneye and it would take them back to some fond times in their youth. For others its Mario Kart or Halo or Mario Party or the list goes on. But for everyone its the same reason, there really is nothing greater than playing a game among your friends. The verbal exchanges (trash talking if you would), the shouting that the other person is obviously screen-watching and cheating or just complaining about having a terrible viewing angle (this was before the rise of HDTV for me!). I’ve noted on the podcast before that some of my best friends in the world I got to know during late-night Mario Party sessions in college. Some of my older friends, it was playing WCW/nWo: World Tour, WCW Revenge, WWF Wrestlemania 2000 and WWF No Mercy after school on Fridays and weekends. Yes, there were tons of others as well, and even recently with new Super Mario Bros Wii. The simple fact is couch gaming is an awesome experience and a great bonding time (at least in my experience with it!)
Online gaming, again I think speaks for itself. Now I will say, not really a fan of solo online gaming. I know there’s a market for that, and people love it. It drives their competitive spirit, but for the most part, I use online gaming as a way to remain in contact with some great friends and meet new ones. One of the saddest things about growing up is everyone has their own course in life. After college, I had friends split off to Seattle or Chicago or LA. All over the continent, and well its just not feasible to hang out all the time, and online gaming has kept up close (relatively speaking). Sitting back, killing each other or teaming up, its all a great bonding experience. And really did help foster the transition from college to adulthood (“the real world”). And like hinted at, this generation saw the emergence of true co-op gaming online. I was talking with a friend the other day when coming up with our Top 10 Comic Book Games list, and I reminded him that I bought the Ninja Turtles game every year in college, not because they were great games, but because they offered 4 player co-op. It wasn’t something that was very common until stuff like Gears of War, and it has evolved and matured to the point of stuff like Left 4 Dead and Borderlands.
Art is King
I’ve been on the record before, and I’ll say it here again, I’m not a graphics whore. I mean sure I can appreciate a visually impressive game, but it does so little for me to be honest. I don’t care how many polygons you push on screen or if you use AA properly. As long as it look playable, I’ll do it.
What I am however is an art-style whore. Nothing gets me more on-board a game than a visually striking style. A lot of folks may give me grief for it, but one of the reasons I ever became a fan of The Legend of Zelda series was because of how visually striking The Wind Waker looked in its first reveal. Same reason, I own and love the Jet Set Radio series, Viewtiful Joe, No More Heroes. It’s what got me interested in Madworld and Zack and Wiki. Its one of the reasons I dig Bastion and had thoughts of buying Limbo. Its why I’m interested in Journey and Skyward Sword. And I am truly impressed by the many visual styles that have emerged in this industry. Sure, we still get our fair share of brown games, but they aren’t the only ones being made. Again, just the ones people spend the most attention pointing fingers at.
We had this discussion on Dual Wielding’s GoTY podcast last year, what is great video game music. Is it the type of music that enhances a mood/scene/stage/encounter or is it the type of music that sticks with you even outside of the game. I mean how many gamers don’t know the theme song to Super Mario Bros or The Legend of Zelda, but how many would notice a Mass Effect song outside of the game?
The simple fact that we could have that discussion is what’s so beautiful about video game music. Going back to point 1 about variety, it simply varies from game to game. There’s no way to really compare the music in a Mass Effect to that of a Super Mario Galaxy because they are trying for two totally different things because they are going for two totally different gaming experiences. Both games have truly fantastic (and in some case moving) pieces of music. Both fit the game and universe they are in to a tee for the most part, but they do it in such vastly different ways that you just have to appreciate them.
And those are just two examples, off the top of my head, I could think of how Goldeneye Wii used music (licensed even) in such a meaningful way with the club scene (a really stand-out stage for the game), the Halo series is well known for its music, Kirby, or more recently the theme of The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, being a song from The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time in reverse (a really unique touch) or even Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater paying homage to the era with its very Bond-esque theme song.
Video game music, like everything else is a changing and evolving thing.
Up front, I want to say I like Sony, I like Microsoft, I LOVED SEGA (there has to be a reason I continue to buy Sonic games), but there is no company in gaming that I love and respect more than Nintendo.
Nintendo was the company that got me into gaming, and has helped me to stay in gaming. I know sometimes being a Nintendo fan is seen as a dirty word in the industry, they aren’t the easiest company to understand. They make some odd business decisions, and with the recent generation took some short-cuts that people didn’t like.
But for my money, there isn’t a gaming company in existence (past or present), who compares to their output. And this isn’t an in-total thing either, I truly think they have put out some truly amazing games this generation as well. My love for Super Mario Galaxy 1 and 2 is well known. Metroid Prime 3: Corruption for my money is the best in the series. Twilight Princess, Punch-Out, Excitebots, Punch-Out, Mario and Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story, Mario Kart, Wii Sports, and the list goes on and on. And they have 20 more years on their resume I’m not accounting for.
Gameplay has become a word of contention in recent weeks, as its a word without a definition, but it has meaning to so many of us. When you talk about gameplay with another gamer, they get you, but you aren’t always 100% sure what it is. It’s that unique quality about games that draws us all to them. It’s that one element that just allows us to love them year after year. For some of us, its graphics, its art, its music, its camera, its story, its characters, its interaction, or its a combination of everything in just the right quantity.
Whatever it is, it is what really makes gaming for us.
That’s it for me, I’m sure I forgot a ton of things, but this is what I came up with off the top of my head. I would LOVE to hear from our audience on why you love gaming. Share your experiences/thoughts on whatever I spoke about or add your own.