Friday, July 31, 2015

Video Game Thoughts – Call Of Duty's Appeal

Let’s talk about Call of Duty. Specifically, the Modern Warfare series – America The Video Game. Basically, evil people from Russia want to start World War 3 and change the world. I could be wrong, and I most likely am, but no one plays Call of Duty for the story. They play it for the killing!

The thing about the Modern Warfare series is that you have to have some patriotic love for America. Call of Duty most likely makes people feel like big damn heroes when finishing the game. “FUCK YEAH!” players seem to say, “WE STOPPED TERRORISM BY BLOWING SHIT UP! FUCK YOU, TERRORISTS!” Finishing the campaign of the Modern Warfare series gives you a sense of patriotism for either the US or the UK.  Yeah, about that… I lived in The Philippines for 20 years and that country doesn’t even make me feel a bit patriotic. Now I live in Canada for 2 years now and I still don’t feel patriotic. Perhaps that’s just me though. 

This is what deconstruction games like Spec Ops: The Line teach us about – that there are two sides to every conflict, that you – the hero – might actually be causing more damage than good. Sure you killed those Russian bad guys, Modern Warfare player, but did you consider the kind of damage you did to the surroundings like that small business? The owners invested their savings on that and you just shot 67 rounds of AK-47 bullets onto their walls. They were saving up for their daughter’s college tuition!

Okay, maybe that’s not the kind of specific thoughts that Spec Ops: The Line wanted to convey. Sure, you’re being a hero in the country you work for but what about all the lives you killed, you monster?! How dare you find fun in this battlefield!

The best way to play Modern Warfare is to turn your brain off and I don’t mean that as a derogatory way. I treat it as a mindless shooter. Enjoy the ride and don’t bother questioning anything because, god forbid, you want to have fun in a video game!

Though Modern Warfare does try to grip you emotionally. In the first Modern Warfare game, you have a player character die, struggling to walk in the middle of a cauterized city after his helicopter crashed from a nuclear blast. His comrades and a ton of civilians are killed in that blast and all his efforts are for nothing as he dies alone in scorched earth.  In Modern Warfare 2, after your character goes through a super difficult mission of getting information from the bad guy’s computer, he gets shot by his general and burned alive. We know he’s alive because we still get to play as him as he’s being burned alive. In Modern Warfare 3, Soap – a character that you played as in previous iterations of the game – dies after falling from a clock tower. Okay, maybe the emotional factor does try too much. You can’t have an emotional moment when it’s expected in every game and when you’re kicking so much ass.

I finished Modern Warfare 2 and 3 recently and I still consider those as my favorites because they’re basically summer blockbuster action movies.  One mission in the second game has you driving high speed in snowmobiles while going down a mountain and dodging damn trees who try to give you a hug. To finish off said mission, you get to jump across a huge gap in the mountain and land on the other side like a badass doing parkour.

Spoiler alert, I even enjoyed the final mission of Modern Warfare 3. I loved taking the role of a character in a Juggernaut armor and destroying the lives and faces of a few hundred armed guards. And you know what? I didn’t care about who I killed. I was in armor, shooting a Rambo-like machinegun, with dozens of dead people who were in my way. This wasn’t the message that Spec Ops: The Line gave me that I should feel ashamed about all the killing and I should feel guilty about the harm I’m causing. However, Call of Duty made me realize that blowing shit up and killing people IS FUN.

Maybe that’s the message people should just take from the Call of Duty series – that it’s just fun. It’s not about telling a story. It’s about shooting people who want to shoot you as well. Forget the politics and the message that it’s trying to give. Whenever you die in the game, you are greeted with an anti-war quote that basically tells you “there are no winners in war and it only ends when you’re dead”. It’s ironic to get an anti-war quote when you’re having so much fun giving people a few more eye sockets using bullets from Mr. Assault Rifle.

Maybe we gamers should stop complaining about how Call of Duty is dull and shallow. Perhaps it’s best to see it as the McDonalds of video games – no nutritional value but we still devour what they deliver because what they deliver is great! Modern Warfare does not have a deep and engaging story unlike Spec Ops: The Line, Suikoden V, or Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII but that doesn’t mean we should dispose of Call of Duty entirely. It’s fun, it’s shallow, and why bother changing the formula?

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Video Game Thoughts – Mobile Gaming Confession

Forgive me, father, for I have sinned. It’s been… five years since my last confession, I think. I don’t wanna talk about what I did back then but let’s just say I’ve downloaded a few dozen videos of the “hot Japanese girls” kind and I’ve always had a good night’s sleep. Anyway, where were we? Oh right, confession.

I’ve always considered myself an average gamer. I’m not good at any particular game as I’ve always been the load of any team in a first person shooter like Call of Duty or Counter-Strike. Yes, I try my best when I play multiplayer but my best is apparently using my head as a bullet magnet.

I’ve never gotten past the Taurus Demon, an early non-required (I think) boss in Dark Souls and never bothered again after the first half dozen attempts. It’s like I said “Okay, you win, I won’t bug you again, Mister Demon. May I please have my spine back?”

But I’m not THAT much of a beginner that I won’t play huge games like GTA V or Just Cause 2 and lose interest because I don’t know how to use the controller or one of the new features like the character-specific skills in GTA V or the grappling hook in Just Cause 2.

What’s that father? Well, yeah, I’m also aware - not an expert, mind you - of which games go into which systems. It’s not like I’ll ever say that a Halo game would ever be playable on a Nintendo Wii or think that I can use an Xbox Kinect on a PS3. True story: on my vacation in the Philippines, I heard two women talk about how they were going to buy a PS3 just so they can play Just Dance 4 with a Kinect. A freakin’ Kinect.

Lastly, I’ve also spent hundreds of hours playing Dynasty Warriors games to the point where I start to think that if I hadn’t ever played Dynasty Warriors 4, I wouldn’t be playing video games to this day and I probably would be happy with life, have a lovely girlfriend (probably of the “hot Japanese girl” kind), and wouldn’t be posting this right now but we can’t all have what we want, now can we?!

But I need to confess that I’m actually enjoying those free-to-play games on my Android tablet and phone. You know, those games that expect you to pay for in-game money with real money. The main difference with spending 15 dollars on a copy of Arkham Asylum: Game of the Year Edition and buying in-game money for something like Gangstar City or High School Story is that Arkham Asylum never asks you to pay for anything again.

The only downside to playing these free-to-play games is that they ask for an infinite amount of money, which is not alright when you compare it to most console games.

The thing about these microtransactions is that they’re used to make everything quicker. I’m not saying that console games that I love don’t offer them – GTA V offers “Shark Cards” which is instant money – but console games don’t usually require the microtransactions out of the gate.

A $20 game such as Batman: Arkham City – Game of the Year Edition, will still cost you $20 (without taxes, of course). The Game of the Year Edition comes with all the DLC of course so that’s not really fair. Let’s say, Dynasty Warriors 7. There is no Game of the Year Edition for Dynasty Warriors 7 and there is a ton of DLC for this game. The big difference is that the company still makes money off of a new copy, digital or physical. Dynasty Warriors 7 DLC is of course not required to make the game flow faster. It’s more of the mashed potatoes to your 20-piece chicken meal, you fat bastard.

A game like Simpsons: Tapped Out involves waiting for hours but could even reach up to, and this is true, 90 days. The same could be said for Family Guy: The Quest For Stuff and Japan Life. You tap and wait. Tap and wait. Tap and wait! Once you finish waiting, you tap again and you wait some more. It gets to the point where you think “Jesus Christ, I know the endgame is making a city but at what limit?!”

Mobile games never end. That’s why they’re free. They give you momentary satisfaction in something that lasts a lot longer than it should have. The difference between mobile tap-and-wait games to a game that never ends like, say, Minecraft is that mobile games are free and would give you something to pay money for. Minecraft, on the other hand, asks for money upfront to something that never ends and you can create that city however you want it with little blocks. The only similarity is that these kinds of games never end. Minecraft however will always continue to exist outside of micropayments you make.

Now you know where I’m getting at, right? There is no end to mobile games and majority of them will always try to needle you for money somehow whether it’d be energy or waiting time. Then why do I play them then if I say they’re terrible? I like testing them out and giving me a momentary high that doesn’t make me keep coming back. Of course I can’t play GTA V or Just Cause 2 while I’m on the bus to work unless I feel like a dick and bring my own TV to the bus. That’s what mobile games are for. Pop out your phone and launch the free game. Use up all your in-game energy for 10 minutes and stop because you have to go to work. Not much of an addicting high but enough to keep you going for a part of the day. Maybe I just like the short bursts of highs instead of the commitment high that GTA V gives you. You don’t have to invest large amounts of time in mobile games, perhaps that’s why I like them nowadays. WWE Supercard always gets me 20 minutes through the day even though. Maybe I just need to admit it.

I like mobile games!

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Video Game Thoughts - 3DS Love

In February 2014, I remember buying my first 3DS because I needed a handheld console. Not wanted; needed. Even though I already had a PS2, a PS3, and an average laptop that could play 2D games at best (because my knowledge of PC purchasing consists of the answer "I'd like a black computer that goes fast please!"), I still needed a handheld console to play some games that aren't on the consoles like Pokemon or Animal Crossing.

The PSP I had that was jailbroken which allowed me to play illegally downloaded--I MEAN--purchased games was starting to fall apart. The battery case got lost, the plastic case it was in was collapsing like bread in a bowl of milk, and the analog button was as defiant. I wanted to go right; it refused and wanted the character to stay put. I wanted to move straight forward, then it decided it wanted to go right. It was like a whiny girlfriend who didn't want you to do anything when she's around.

The DS Lite I had is still wonderfully working though. Have I told you about my DS Lite? It's a pink DS Lite that has a glittery plastic case on it. I bought it last 2013 before I left for Canada and to be honest, it's my 2nd DS Lite. My siblings broke my first DS Lite which had a manlier color of blue and black. Surprisingly, the pink DS Lite is the best DS I had since it's reliable and doesn't have battery problems so far. Plus, it's pink! I love the color pink! The bad thing about the DS Lite now is the lack of new games for it. I could get nearly any game I want for it because I own an R4 cartridge which lets you play DS roms on your DS. The problem with that is more interesting games are on the 3DS nowadays.

When I got my 3DS, it was a spur of the moment purchase that I don't regret up to this day. I bought it at a pawn shop for 90 bucks. The 3DS came with a box and a charger. It felt brand new but there were pictures of the previous owner in it. I thought "Wow, this must have been loved by the previous owner... TIME TO DELETE ALL THIS SHIT!" I didn't know the girl nor do I care enough to send her the pictures she left behind. If she didn't care enough to save those pictures before selling her 3DS to a pawn shop, why should I care to save her pictures, right?

Anyway, the first game I bought for the 3DS was Animal Crossing: New Leaf. Basically, a cute debt simulator. It was fun for the 3 months I've played it but when I accrued half a million worth of debt in the city's real estate agent. Before he could break my legs as collateral, I stopped playing the game. Gotta run away before the bats come in play.

The next game I bought was Pokemon Y. The good thing about this was that I bought it for one third of the price at a thrift store. Thankfully, no one likes video games there so I bought it at a reasonable price. 10 dollars for a game that's been out for 3 months is a great deal, right? Booting up the game led me to the old owner's save file and his batch of Pokemon. I thought "Wow, this must have been loved by the previous owner... TIME TO DELETE ALL THIS SHIT!" His Pokemon were alright but I barely remember them at this point. I tried to enjoy Pokemon Y as I usually do but the occasional flickering of the bottom screen whenever I use the roller skates and the new camera angles in certain areas turned me off the game. Fuck you, Lumiose City, I hope a Call of Duty villain sends a nuclear bomb on your face.

The Streetpass feature of the 3DS was interesting for me at first. Every morning, I ride the train to school and usually I get at least 2 Streetpass hits from people, 10 at most. It's fun as it made collecting them and seeing what kind of caricatures of themselves other people were making. It became a chore eventually, seeing that green light on the corner of my 3DS and some chucklehead making a "randum" mii to send.

As much as I get tired of the 3DS and its games, I still love it. It's not its fault I'm an old man who hates making games feel like a chore to play. To make my 3DS stop gathering dust, I recently bought Puzzle and Dragons Z and it's somehow addicting because it's a matching game mixed with attacking the living hell out of monsters. It's Pokemon mixed with Candy Crush, basically. Perhaps this is why I got tired of my games now. I got used to mobile games that are just simple and ready for a quick play while I'm waiting for the bus that games like Pokemon and Animal Crossing don't interest me that much as they require constant investment in time. Perhaps this is just a side effect of getting older.

Maybe at 90, I'll still play with my 3DS and finally finish Pokemon Y.