Posted May 31, 2013
into Games by John Birmingham
Buzzfeed tagged this as a zombie game you need to care about for nine very important reasons. But really, three will do. Graphics, gameplay and story.
Maybe four, if we throw in acting, which seems to be pretty good too. Naughty Dog are the developers of the Uncharted franchise, one of the few series to get better with each iteration and The Last of Us looks like another argument from the Doggies in favour of the emergence of game-based narrative as a valid artistic form. Like Uncharted, unfortunately, it's exclusive to Playstation.
Posted May 31, 2013
into Games by John Birmingham
Three days I've been looking for it now, and I'm going to keep looking for it until I'm successful. I will play Sims 3 in the nude if it's the last thing I do. And by nude, I'm talking about my Sims of course, although... no promises. I blame Helen Razor for this. She it was who alerted me to the fact there was a software patch I could download to remove the annoying pixelation that blurred the screen around my little animated avatars as soon as the action turned raunchy.
It does sort of raise a question though, don't you think? (No, not about me. Like most men I'm simply a lesbian trapped inside a man’s body. There’s just something totally kickin’ about building your own dyke and sending her out into the digital realm to see if she can score any, ahem, digital action.)
I made first pixel dyke many years ago on the last iteration of the Sims. In those days your Sim’s outside life was something of a mystery. They had jobs to which they would disappear for hours a day, but you only ever got to see them in the three-walled cartoon house which you built, kitted out and decorated on their behalf.
I didn’t intend my little Sim to become a rug munching sapphite, you understand. Like a letter to the editors of Penthouse, “I never thought it would happen to me, but…”
A flatmate moved in. An admittedly smokin’ hot young flatmate who just loved to spend her time lounging around in the hot tub, and working out on the home gym, and dancing in her undies around the kitchen.
And well, her bed was only a single. And my sexy little lady Sim had that big double. And they did so enjoy each other’s company, and it seemed, you know, natural.
Unfortunately, they’re a censorious lot, games developers, and inevitably no sooner have you convinced some piece of fluff to give it up for you than some gratuitous cut scene appears in which all of the action occurs off screen, or worse, behind an impenetrable wall of dancing pixels.
It’s odd, that having allowed us the latitude of choosing a character’s sexuality, that the game industry then squibs it by reverting to a 1950s sensibility when it comes to actual on screen action. This is particularly so given the loving detail they lavish on in-game violence, with some RPGs and shooters investing thousands of hours of developer time to make certain that having targeted the head of some raging mutant with your overpowered supergun, you get to enjoy every second of slow motion carnage as blood, brain tissue and bone shards describe beautiful cinematic arcs all over your screen.
Now, I got no problem with game violence.
But if it’s fine for me to play a character like GTA 4's Nico Bellic as a violent, cold blooded psychopath who’ll think nothing of turning a grenade launcher on an old lady for a few giggles – and it is pretty funny– why is not okay for me to see what happens when Nico finally beds his whiny girlfriend Michelle? From the sounds of her off screen enthusiasm, our boy Nico knows his business. But unless his business involves caving in someone’s skull with a baseball bat, or crushing them under the wheels of a stolen car, we don’t see squat.
Something has gone seriously wrong with our censorship system when I can play a computer generated character who’ll murder you in cold blood and graphic detail, but who can’t even cop a lousy blowjob without the camera looking away or a pixel swarm suddenly swooping down.
Given the popularity of game based amateur sex vids on sites like YouTube (go on, do a quick search for lesbian sims, right now) there is a, uh, swelling interest, in game based erotica, but because of a handful of judgmental, censorious nimrods, and the jelly backed politicians who listen to them, I fear my digital dykes are going to be forever coy.
13 Responses to ‘Pixel Dykes. I blame Helen Razer’
When Alex fronted me a while back with a mad gleam in his eye for an 8-bit gme called FTL, I was very much WTF. I've never understood the appeal of retro games. Except maybe Defender, and then only in retrospect. I have fond memories of wasting hours in the common room at uni playing that one. Doesn't mean I'd want to repeat the experience. But his enthusiasm for FTL made me wonder if he might be some sort of Minecraft fiend too. No. Sadly, he couldn't explain the appeal of it. But his nine year old sister had a go - JB.
I’m standing in a small town. It’s quiet and the streets are lush with vegetation. The green hills in the distance are dotted with strange rock formations. But what really draws the eye is the enormous, pixelated statue of a 9-year-old girl that rises from a hill behind the village. Perhaps 20 storeys tall, it fills my vision and shadows the town.
Of course, neither the town nor the statue is real. At least not physically – my precocious 9-year-old sister Marlo created them using Minecraft, the popular 2011 sandbox game.
Minecraft has a huge number of devotees (more than 10 million people have bought the game), many of whom are a lot older than nine. Because, creative as they are, nine-year-olds don’t have the attention span or the disposition to build USS Enterprises, King’s Landings, scenes from BioShock Infinite or giant, functioning computers.
But despite critical acclaim and legions of fans, Minecraft leaves many people (JB and myself included) scratching their heads. A quick Google reveals thousands of forum posts along the lines of “WTF Minecraft”.
It’s probably something to do with the game being ridiculously open ended. You’re basically dropped in a field with no instructions. If you’re playing survival mode, zombies emerge at night to eat your pixelated brains. You can’t really fight them effectively, so you have to build fortifications. THAT’S IT.
So, in an effort to explain the phenomenon I turned to Marlo, who was pretty chuffed to be interviewed. Unlike adults, her enjoyment of the game can’t be explained by some kind pixel nostalgia. This is a girl who was born 14 years after the first Prince of Persia came out. In other news, I feel old.
I don’t know if Marlo totally explained what’s going on (something to do with creativity, I guess), but she sure was cute.
Why do you like minecraft?
Because you can create lots of things on it and you can make a house under the sea or you can make it on a really big hill. You can do anything you like and that’s kind of why I like it.
What do you usually build?
I like to build, like, really big mansions that are made out of gold and things like that. Or just brick cottages which are fun to make lots of.
What’s with the town with the giant Marlo statue?
It’s from Rio. I was inspired by Rio de Janeiro where they have a giant statue of god.
So you are god in Minecraft?
What’s the name of the city?
I haven’t decided. The save game is called Marlo’s model but I think I want to call it something better like Marlo De Janeiro.
Does it bother you that it has bad graphics?
No, because you can change the graphics. You can go into the settings and change it from normal graphics to fancy graphics.
But it’s still very pixelated…
Yeah but I kind of like that because in like, the dirt block, you can see all the little things, the bits of dirt. I like the way it’s basic because you know what everything is rather than having it too complicated.
So how do you play?
There are survival and creative modes. In survival when night comes zombies and creepers who might kill you come. I don’t like that because you have to collect resources. In creative you get to create whatever you like. There’s things that you can have and put them in your house but in survival you have to gather things and do that sort of thing.
I only play on the iPad but I want dad to buy it for the computer. When you have it on the computer it’s a bit different because there’s more resources. You can hatch a zombie out of an egg and stuff like that.
Is there anything you want to add?
Not really except Minecraft is awesome.
50 Responses to ‘A nine year girl attempts to explain the appeal of Minecraft.’
Posted April 25, 2013
into Games by John Birmingham
Lest I forget, today is my wedding anniversary, so I got better things to be getting on with than hanging around here. Thankfully, the very generous Alex McC has offered up a review of Faster Than Light, which I quite enjoyed. I've never understood the 8bit game thing. I'd be kind of curious for someone like Alex to explain something like Minecraft to someone like me:
So I might have gone down the game hole for a couple of days (and nights). The girlfriend was less than impressed. Especially once she looked at the screen and saw not the magnificent ‘splosions of Call Of Duty: Black Ops II or the cinematic brilliance of Mass Effect 3, but pixels - crude, lumpy, 8-bit motherfuckers.
Unfortunately, some of us gamers are stuck with a shitty internet connection or don’t have the cash to splash on either a ‘roided-up mega rig or a console with which to play today’s bloated 3D cinegames.
Luckily for us, independent developers are stitching together thoughtful, addictive little titles like Subset Games’ Faster Than Light that are playable on yesterday’s technology.
A finalist in 2012’s Independent Games Festival awards – I was introduced to FTL by my supposedly hard studying, med student brother.
It’s all your James T. Kirk/Han Solo/Mal Reynolds fantasies rolled into a cute, ten dollar top-down package.
The first thing you need to know about this indie gem is that you will die. A lot. Your end might come via a solar flare, the rebel fleet or (more likely) giant alien praying mantises. But it will come.
You’re in charge of a rag-tag crew of humans and aliens, fighting your way across the galaxy to warn the Imperial Fleet of the approaching Rebel menace. Along the way you’ll encounter traders, pirates, slavers, slugs and those GODDAMN mantises with teleporters.
All the funding for FTL was crowdsourced (which explains why your crew have names like Mullett and Butters). Despite the difficulties that posed during development, it’s a beautifully balanced game.
Though the game clocks in at fewer than 200mb on disk, there’s a full range of tactics and strategies available to would be spaceship captains.
Does one spend money on weapons or shields? A cloaking device or a drone control system? Upgrading your blast doors might seem like a low priority, but you’ll regret not getting round to it once you’ve been boarded by those FUCKING mantises and you can’t jettison them into the icy vacuum of space.
I played a lot of Space Empires when I was younger (I was a strange kid). Looking back, what I loved about it was that it let me use my imagination .In a weird, nerdy, stuck-inside kind of way, it helped me marvel at the size of the cosmos.
FTL lets you do that – providing you with just enough classic science fiction cues to let you envisage your own galaxy. If you want to be a slave-taking, distress-call-ignoring pirate bastard, you can be.
If you want to stand up for the principles of a just and noble galactic empire, you can do that too. And there’s something oddly rewarding about the messages you get from ships you help: “please accept these small cakes made from a stiff dough as well as some scrap.”
On the other hand, there’s nothing gratifying about spending an hour upgrading your rust bucket only to be killed in the second-to-last solar system by a bunch of slugs. And that happens enough to make you want to throw your laptop at the wall.
Ah well, you can save the galaxy tomorrow evening.
16 Responses to ‘Guest post, FTL review, Alex McClintock’