Well, it finally happened. Rocksteady Games announced Batman: Arkham Knight, its third entry in the Arkham series it started back in 2009 with Batman: Arkham Asylum. And apparently, it’s a huge surprise to some people.
New Rocksteady Batman game?! http://t.co/dRyXx4wud8 I’m running around like Benny from The Lego Movie screaming Batman?! BATMAN! BAAATMANN!!
— Muaz Zekeria (@Muazimus_Prime) March 4, 2014
I predicted this shit as soon as Arkham Origins was announced. I called it a placeholder by some pinch-hitter studio (WB Montreal) while Rocksteady did the real threequel for next-gen consoles and PC. And I was 100% right. The next game is exclusively on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC. But it’s not like I was some oracle looking at a crystal ball; I just followed the breadcrumbs.. Arkham City has several compelling subplots that aren’t resolved (and didn’t need to be since the main plot was resolved so well) that could lead to a new story. Azazel and Hush are running around Gotham in that universe doing weird shit at the end of City.
But a few websites weren’t sure if this was actually happening. In mid-2012, rumors started floating around about a Silver Age Batman game. With no evidence to back them up, some sites ran the story anyway and started talking like this was already a sure thing. Some folks even started speculating that Rockstead was working on a Superman game. I distinctly remember Giant Bomb’s Brad Shoemaker asking “do we really need another Batman game?” Did everybody in the games press forget that these games have stories to tell?
Obviously, those rumors were unsubstantiated. Yes, we did get a Batman prequel, but it took place in the Arkham universe, copying the aesthetic of the previous games. I don’t know if the collective amnesia the games press had for the story in Arkham City speaks to how weak it’s story was (I thought it was good), the fatigue of the franchise, or if story in games really doesn’t matter to these men and women. But I’m glad we can at least put to rest rumors of an Adam West-inspired Batman and just admit I’m right. Like I’m right about everything.*
*I’m so not right about everything.
Live streams, “Let’s Play” videos, countless internet walkthroughs and why it could mean the end of single-player games
Growing up in the late 80s and throughout the 90s, I watched video games evolve from a new and niche platform for entertainment to a globally popular pastime.
Then, with the introduction of online gaming for console’s during the PS2 and Xbox era, the scope of how games could be experienced was pleasantly altered. But in the age of social media, YouTube and live streaming, gamers have taken that to a whole new level.
In today’s gaming world, the playing field has drastically changed in terms of how gamers experience video games.
In a recent Plugged In article, one of the founders of TwitchTV, a streaming site that allows video games to be live streamed straight from the PS4 and (soon-to-be) Xbox One or other platforms, was quoted on just how popular live streaming has become.
“Each month, over 35,000 individual accounts stream content,” Kan said. “The high watermark for concurrent streams (simultaneous broadcasters streaming at the same time) is around 1,450.”
That’s pretty impressive, I must say. And gamers who become popular streamers can even make money doing it now. But I still wonder about the appeal of watching other people play games.
I mean I’ve logged on to my PS4 a few times and watched other people play for a few minutes, I look up gameplay footage all the time just to see if a game looks like a worthy purchase and I’ve looked up clips from walkthroughs when I’ve been stuck trying to find that last collectible.
Hell, I even sat through an entire “Let’s Play” video of Superman 64 because I wanted to see why it is regarded as one of the worst games of all time. I also wanted to see more of it, seeing as I never made it past the ridiculous “fly through the rings” opening level.
I admit, watching it was fun and very educational, as the particular player hosted a ton of information about the game’s history, development cycle and more. Not to mention, I definitely realized why the game is so hated.
But I still scratch my head at why so many gamers enjoy spending hours watching others play. Is it to learn new techniques, hints and tips? Is it to save money by enjoying the story of a game you don’t find to have appealing gameplay?
I just don’t get it.
I’m a gamer. I play games. Watching others can be fun for a little while, but the huge amount of popularity it has garnered just makes little to no sense to me. Nonetheless, this new way of experiencing video games is here to stay and I’m not knocking it.
I mean this isn’t much different from when we were kids and read gaming magazines that featured full-on game guides. It isn’t much different than going to a friend’s house and watching them play a game, and with the ability to comment and/or voice chat with the person streaming the game, it’s not much different than cheering or booing said friend while they played.
It’s definitely an interesting trend, but I wonder if it’s just that: a trend. How ever long it stays popular, though, it’s an important step in the evolution of gaming because it could have serious implications on how developers approach making their games in the future.
With more and more games moving away from single player game experiences and pushing for more online gameplay, I hate to think about where the gaming world could be heading in terms of single-player games. Will the streaming revolution make the end of single-player games come sooner than later?
What do you think? Let us know in the comments and as always, keep it locked to Sac City Gamer.
The term “gender” gets conflated with the term “sex” all the time. Sex is the biological term for “male” or “female” and gender is more encompassing. Gender refers to the social expectations accompanying sex. When you think of female and male, you associate characteristics with each gender. The problem is that a lot of our gender-based expectations exist only to perpetuate stereotypes and arcane social structures that seek to undermine the progression of women in the male-dominated world (patriarchy). But with time, every system degrades, and art and life imitate each other to create this ouroboros of influence.
These rigid categorizations of gender permeate media at every conceivable level and they’re not going away over the course of a few short years or even decades. Each generation takes small steps to break down and examine the relevance of gender roles and constructs in their politics, their entertainment, and their art. And some attempts are more successful than others.
Lara Croft first appeared in Tomb Raider in 1996 on the PlayStation. She and the game she starred in represented rarities in the gaming world; a female protagonist in the traditionally male-dominated action genre gained a lot of mainstream attention. Cut to the reboot in 2013, titled Tomb Raider, and she and the game she stars in are still rarities.
In 17 years, the country’s rigid gender constructs haven’t shifted enough to allow for equity between male and female characters in popular culture. That’s a problem, but it’s not the only one in the context of Tomb Raider.
The bigger problem is the character herself. Lara doesn’t represent a step forward for female character design, for one. She doesn’t break down or examine gender constructs at all. But aside from that, she fails as a rounded character in her own right. But that’s a discussion for another time.
If Lara is supposed to represent a feminist hero, then she shouldn’t get all of her motivation, skills, and life lessons from male figures. Her mentor: gruff, old dude. Her main enemy: crazy, old dude. Her pre-existing familial issue: following in the footsteps of her dude parent (known in clinical circles as the father). The only female character in the game she has a real relationship with is Sam. The relationship in this game: rescuing her before she gets sacrificed by the derelict, male populace. Sam is the damsel in distress and Lara’s role is to save her. Her femininity, and her humanity by the same token, is limited to her moments of vulnerability. After the killing starts, she just becomes another video game character. She couldn’t conform to traditional male gender roles more.
This prevalence of male figures in her life and this chapter in particular meanthat her worldview has essentially been shaped by men. If our attitudes, personalities, and prejudices are inherited or affected by our relationships to others, then we can only assume Lara Croft is shaped by the men in her life because the only other important characters in the game around Lara are guys.
Katniss Everdeen falls somewhere in the middle between Lara Croft and Ellen Ripley; while her empathetic nature falls into traditional female gender roles, she is definitely “coded” male, in the words of the Escapist’s Bob Chipman. “Katniss is so macho, she even hates the cat,” he points out. “For fuck’s sake, even Clint Eastwood was nice to the cat.”
Again, this is judging her by the standards of “conventional” feminine and masculine qualities. Her terseness, disdain for the cat, and physical prowess are “coded” masculine. There’s no logical reason for that; it’s just the way society has conditioned us. What’s even more insidious is how we are conditioned to call qualities like softness, compassion, and tenderness as “feminine.” They should just be called “human.” But we live in a society that values male aggression to the point where boys are conditioned to be violent and our prisons are overwhelmingly full of males.
But Ripley, at least in Alien and Aliens, shows how pointless the social construct of gender as we know it is. She is a living amalgamation of the best of “traditionally” masculine and feminine traits: she’s a capable soldier, a caring and empathetic parental figure, and a clever problem solver. Her empathy doesn’t just show up in her arc with Newt, but in the scene where the marines first encounter the aliens. As the company man refuses to help the marines, she takes control of the vehicle and barges through to save them. She saves her surrogate daughter by blasting away aliens. Both of these scenes combine a traditionally “masculine” action with a traditionally “feminine” motive. By placing these two traits within one character, Aliens says that these terms are arbitrary. She is masculinity and femininity in one.
It asks the question “why do these matter?” while we respond “because that is how society is built and continued to be molded by.” It’s not the film’s fault that we are constantly trying to place Ripley, Hicks, and others in specific categories. It’s how we were trained. Aliens invites us to throw all that away by focusing on a character that doesn’t fit into those categories. Even though the film also focuses on the concept of maternity, it still places that concept in the context of an action movie where dudes are blowing away aliens with shotguns. Call it tonal shift, call it dissonant, call it genius; it’s still crazy. And the most badass, heroic, fearsome, and competent figures in the entire picture? The mother figures.
So if Ripley is simply “masculinized,” that means she can’t be heroic. Because to be “masculine” as we define it, means to be direct, action-oriented, and heroic. That’s a narrow, regressive view of humanity that illustrates how useless gender constructs are. It means that Ripley isn’t feminine because she actually kicks ass. It means that male protagonists have to sociopathic assholes who only express anger if they are to be considered “men.” For example, I read that Ripley becoming an action hero betrays the feminist undertones of the first film because it categorizes her as a ”chick with a dick[gun].” If a woman taping an assault rifle to a flamethrower like a fucking champion “de-feminizes” her in your mind, you’re the one with the problem. You should look at how she treats people and how she acts. A gun is just a gun. Just because Freud would call it a dick-replacement doesn’t mean it is.
Ripley’s characterization illustrates the relative uselessness of current gender conceptions. Katniss represents what might be the most progressive step in female characterization in cinema since Aliens. Lara Croft is an abject failure, but at least she exists. At least she is there to say “women can be main characters.” Even Ripley represents how entrenched gender roles and expectations are in our society. Cinema and gaming continually overlook half of the world’s population. And when creators do acknowledge the fact that the female gender exists, the (mostly male) corporate creative body inconsistently portrays them. Sometimes, they do it well, sometimes they fail, but they will always create characters that we examine under centuries-old sociological microscopes.
There’s a very obvious reason why I’m writing this article: I’ve been watching a ton of Star Trek: The Next Generation. In fact, I just finished the series. Seven seasons, mostly of good to great quality, of a science-fiction series with the kind of optimism, open-mindedness, and ideals that I don’t think I’ve ever seen in my life. A lot of movies, literature, games, and television have happy endings, but they don’t arise out of genuine optimism (unless it’s someone like Spielberg) but instead out of business concerns: placating an audience.
TNG’s optimistic view of humanity in the future, a humanity that has largely shed it’s pettiness, become benevolent explorers of the galaxy, and adopted an open-mind of alien cultures, fascinates me for many reasons. One of which is that the vibe of TNG, or even the vibe of Trek overall, has largely been ignored by subsequent sci-fi properties where cynicism, pessimism, and darkness are hip. And, yeah, one of my favorite shows of all time is Breaking Bad but I don’t see why everything has to be so relentlessly dark.
The most talked-about TV shows, now that Breaking Bad is over, are The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones, both of which feature horrible things happening to people while horrible people perpetrate them and succeed. Prestige television seems to focus almost exclusively on the amoral, with shows about serial killers, meth dealers, and crooked advertising agents. The most popular, and to be honest some of the best, games of the past few years center around bank robbers, mercenaries, apocalypses, and patricide. I honestly can’t remember playing a game that exuded optimism about the future of humanity.
There have been plenty of supposed Star Trek emulators in mechanics or plot, but the distinct vibe is never replicated. It always gets too dark and pessimistic. And this comes from a guy who spent his high school days as a proudly cynical asshole. I’m also not saying there isn’t a place for dark and gloomy, I’m just saying there’s room for more of it. I’d like to see people get excited about a game that looks ahead and tells us positive things. With the recent release of The Banner Saga, I’m seeing yet another soul-crushingly dark game where there are no victories, except for maybe Pyrrhic ones, reap praise. I think I’m just tired of games making me depressed. So, let’s talk about what a Star Trek game could be.
FIRST: THE IMITATORS, THE SUCCESSORS, AND THE TRIBUTES
Star Trek‘s cultural footprint is undeniable, massive, and impossible for me to truly comprehend and appreciate. But I do recognize certain games as clear byproducts of Gene Roddenberry’s seminal shows. Mass Effect and FTL: Faster than Light both capture different specific aspects of Star Trek. Mass Effect captures the space-faring, intergalactic political strife while FTL captures the moment-to-moment battlestation duties of an Enterprise Captain. Both of these in isolation make for fantastic games on their own, but combining them would be about half of the overall Star Trek formula. However, both of those games lack the fundamental spirit of the shows.
In FTL, you are a Federation Captain on the run from the “Rebels” for some unknown reason. Your goal is to rendezvous with the remnants of the Federation. This means that you are not doing what the crew of the Enterprise was. You are not exploring, seeking out new life, or boldly going where no one has gone before. Instead, you’re blowing shit up, bargaining with slavers, and constantly running with your tail between your legs. Now, I do remember an episode of TNG ( Parallels) where a Grizzly Adams-looking Capt. Riker refused to go back to a universe where the Borg had taken over. This makes me think a Star Trek game like FTL or Mass Effect 3 could work under that context, but let’s establish the Trek that is, instead of the alternate-universe Trek that could be, first.
Speaking of Mass Effect, it also captures Star Trek in some striking ways while also making a distinctly individualized universe. The political machinations and diplomatic struggles are there with the Turian/Krogan/Salarian conflict. The other races of the galaxy don’t trust the new kids on the block, the humans. And of course other races and worlds having their own hangups, like the Quarians manufacturing artificial intelligence that almost wipes them out. Bummer. These conflicts don’t mimick Trek so much as they capture the essence of that part of Trek.
However, Star Trek does not have piles of dead bodies lining a corridor leading you to the conclusion that yes, resistance is futile. Which is essentially what Mass Effect 3 wants you to believe. This doesn’t need to be a bad thing, but, as I’ve said before, I’m tired of it. Seemingly every game tells me that everything is going to end poorly no matter what I do and I should just kill myself (also, this sentiment was not well-explored). I want some games to provide me with a vision of the future I can look forward to, even if I won’t see it.
Don’t Worry, Be Happy
Optimism, awe, wonder, and hope are the foundations that Roddenberry built Star Trek on. The aesthetics, allegories, and battle mechanics have been replicated before but not these core themes. And I applaud Bioware and Subset Games and other studios for taking inspiration and forging their own works. But those works contribute to my malaise of gritty, serious, cynical art that permeates American culture and my generation in particular right now.
So, how does one make a Star Trek game feel like Star Trek? First, make characters that embody the best aspects of humanity. Intelligence, altruism, empathy, and respect for others are the important ones. These characters need to be good at their jobs as well as be caring and respectful of others and other cultures, even the cultures with whose morals they don’t agree with. Picard and Riker don’t exactly agree with one alien culture’s idea that everyone should die at 60, but they understand that cultural norms, morals, and vices are all relative. Ethnocentrism has no place on a Federation starship.
Therefore, relationships among these characters can’t play out the way they would in among real 21st century people. Moving through dialogue Mass Effect-style would have to lead the player to try to reach situations best for everybody involved, or to make a moral judgment and aid the greater good, whichever that may be. Crafting dialogue that gives meaningful choice and conveys a specific, defined character is tough. But these tough choices don’t have to conflict with the ethos of Star Trek, which acknowledges that our pasts and cultures make us unique from one another, and it could still lead to externalized conflict. It could also provide an outlet for you, the player, to discuss these issues in-depth with your crew. Next-generation technology’s allowance for more memory space could conceivably allow for more dynamic conversations, reactions, and arguments. Maybe a discussion of a certain issue with your crew could be as scintillating as a battle with a Klingon warbird.
But good weapons-training does. Even if humans are benevolent explorers, there are plenty of assholes out there. And a good Star Trek game needs some good space battles. Those could and should absolutely take inspiration from FTL. That game provides a tentative blueprint for Star Trek to follow in the interactive realm. Many of TNG’s best set pieces involved crew members diverting power, raising shields, and solving problems on the fly in the middle of a crisis. But what of dealing with intruders onboard the ship and on land? Well, how about we take a look at Grand Theft Auto V?
GTA V’s best feature? Switching between protagonists at will. Envision the following scenario: the captain sends an away team down to a nearby planet to investigate something. His/her first officer reports that negotiations have gone to shit, the transporters don’t work, and now they’re about to murdered. Then, an enemy ship appears. The player switches between FTL-captain’s eye space battle to third-person shooting as the first officer on the planet. Not only are the developers giving the player a choice in how he/she plays, but they are highlighting the different tactical approaches and skills of different crew personnel while also highlighting the fact they share a common goal. And it’s all done through the mechanics.
Speaking of these crew members, I think they need to be, to some extent, their own personalities. After all, a 21st century man or woman would not be as, well, morally upright as these characters. We’re dicks, to be blunt. But you have to take in mind that player agency transcends pushing the action forward. It also means changing the course of the action. This means that choice has to walk a fine line between player-interaction and character-appropriate. And it might be the toughest line to walk. It’s something that very few, including Casey Hudson, Jake Rodkin, and Sean Vanaman, have been able to nail.
But beneath all of those mechanics, lies the most important aspect of Trek. A Star Trek game should be about all these things, as well as wonder, awe, exploration, and optimism for the future. Nailing that vibe will be a tough challenge, but after my recent exploration into the TNG, I genuinely think gaming can benefit from a game that tells us not every future has to be a dystopia, that we don’t have to be cynical little shits, and that humanity can move forward if we just tried.
That’s what Star Trek could be.
Earlier this week, Michael weighed in on his top picks of 2013. Now I’m taking my stab at making a list.
It’s a tough thing to do in a year that saw amazing indie games hit the scene, the releases of huge titles that were in development for years and the debuts of two brand-new consoles.
Like Michael, this past year has been tough for me as well. Living on unemployment benefits for both incomes in my household has held me back from being able to play nearly as many games as I would have liked. However, services like Gamefly are wonderful for those of us with expensive hobbies and empty wallets. Friends who can afford the newest consoles also come in handy.
Then there’s school. It’s a sort-of catch-22 because I’m working toward my educational goals in journalism so that I can one day make money for tapping at these keys, but at the same time it keeps me from doing what I love: spending time with my wife, my cat and my game controllers.
Nonetheless, I narrowed it down from a list of those games I was able to play. Agree or disagree, this is my list.
Have a different top 3? Let us know in the comments!
Knack received a lot of critical disregard, probably because it’s a launch title for a new system and is coming from a legend in gaming by the name of Mark Cerny.
This put a lot of pressure on the game, and to some degree, it didn’t live up to that hype. But was it as bad as most reviewers made it out to be? For me, no.
I feel the critiques of Knack were overly-harsh and that with the massive amounts on the plates of the various gaming journalists who were busy reviewing a 20+ pile of games along with a new system, the game wasn’t given the time it deserved.
On its surface, Knack is a 10-hour action-adventure game with a lot of familiar elements and nothing really new. And despite its debut on the super-powerful new PS4, it doesn’t bring the level of beauty and technical amazement that a game like Uncharted did for the PS3.
But for a launch title, the game does a lot right. For one thing, it’s fun. It’s easy on the easy difficulty setting, which keeps it approachable to younger and casual audiences, but it’s challenging on normal and hard (I believe it even has a very hard setting), which makes it fun for gaming veterans as well.
Where the game shines is with multiple runs from start to finish and I think this is where reviewers missed the boat. It especially shines when you have a group of friends who play because the game features a collectibles system that requires going back and playing the game more than once. Collectibles are discovered at random, but players can choose the collectible they’ve found or one a friend has found. It’s an interesting take on the idea of online play.
Overall, Knack may feel a lot like the Lego games, have a story similar to Uncharted and look a lot like a Disney movie mixed with Ratchet and Clank, but it also feels a lot like the console experiences of my childhood with games like Crash Bandicoot, and it even has a little bit of Mario mixed in at times.
Bottom line, this game is fun and it’s a great addition to the PlayStation 4′s launch lineup. There’s a lot to improve on for the next installment, but that doesn’t leave me disappointed in the first game, it leaves me excited for the sequel.
2. Grand Theft Auto V
This is not only one of the best game of 2013, but it’s easily one of the best games I’ve ever played. I still say Sleeping Dogs is my favorite game in this genre, but then again GTA and Sleeping Dogs are really in two different realms when it comes to these types of games.
After the abysmal mess that was GTA IV, I had high hopes for GTA V, but at the same time I had my reservations. In fact, it wasn’t until I saw this trailer that I was even excited about the game. After getting my grubby little paws on the game though, my opinion completely changed. From the moment I hit the gas in the first car the game allows the player to drive, I was hooked.
As many people probably know by now, Grand Theft Auto V is an experience like no other. It’s fun, content-packed, has a great story that isn’t too short, but isn’t too long and it encompasses all of the things that made past GTA titles so awesome. In, short, GTA V is a masterpiece and it truly is the experience that GTA IV was supposed to be.
1. The Last of Us
If you read my review of Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us, you already know I loved the game.
This was a title I was hyped for, which is not something I usually do, and it delivered on every last bit of that hype.
From start to finish, The Last of Us is a beautiful, fun and memorable experience with one of the best stories in a video game that I’ve ever had the pleasure of surviving through.
If you still haven’t played The Last of Us, you’re doing yourself a disservice. Please, go out and pick up a copy of this amazing game. For more on The Last of Us, read my review here.
WWE 2K14, Disney Infinity, Tomb Raider, Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time, Lego Marvel Super Heroes, Grid 2, Deadpool and Resogun.
I didn’t get to play everything I wanted to this year. That’s par for the course for someone undergoing such a big transition in life. In August, I quit my job, moved out, and went back to San Francisco State University to finish my Cinema degree. It’s a move I’m still reconciling in my brain with my extreme distaste for the city of San Francisco and my new appreciation for interactive art that has quietly surpassed my love of film. It’s also a move that’s left me without an income and less reasons to buy games, but I managed to finagle some before and after the move that really stuck with me. So, here they are. Enjoy, bitches.
Call of Juarez: Gunslinger
To call this a “no-frills” shooter undersells it, for Gunslinger is full of frills. It’s just that the frills are outstandingly clever and complement the core shooting experience in ways that add to the cohesion of the game, instead of diminish it. A linear corridor shooter set in the Old West, Gunslinger contains an assured sense of style that elevates it above other shooters of its type. From the presentation to the active shooting mechanics, Gunslinger is all about riotous fun. My personal favorite way to play was to rock two six-shooters and kick down doors using the slow-motion mechanic, blasting enemies in the face to yield vibrantly-red cel-shaded blood spatters.
While that makes for an exciting shooter in and of itself, the narrative conceit of Gunslinger makes it an uncommonly smart shooter. Techland showcases an uncanny understanding of American mythmaking. Riffing on the legendary and romanticized nature of the American West, the developer simultaneously indulges in the legend and undermines it. Silas Greaves, the main character, acts as the framing device, telling of his bounty hunting exploits in a Kansas saloon. He bends the truth, refutes others’ testimony, and drunkenly amps up the stakes of his flashbacks to ridiculous levels. Greaves builds up the myth and the fiction as you play through it and realize how crazy killing hundreds of people is. But since Greaves is such an unreliable narrator, it all fits into a cohesive whole that textures the character and his world better than games 10x this size.
I knew literally nothing about this game when I played it, except for its high review scores. I was skeptical; it seemed like another case of critics lapping praise onto a small independent title for being “emotional” and not necessarily good. Playing Gone Home illustrated why I should never be so presumptuous and disrespectful of the opinions of those critics. Gone Home isn’t just emotional, it’s unique. Taking you through an empty, upscale, suburban house, the game places you as Katie Greenbriar, a college student just coming back from a year abroad.
The main character of the game is arguably the sister Sam, whose story mirrors the real struggles of millions of men and women around the world. Her love affair, told through diary entries accompanied by superb voice-over acting (think BioShock audio diaries), provides the main anchor through the game, but if you scour the house enough, you’ll also learn about Katie’s parents, both of whom are struggling with their own issues. Exploration and narrative are the components of the minimalist ethos of Gone Home, and it provides a truly touching story in a mere two hours. It’s an anomaly in the gaming landscape, avoiding genre trappings and focusing on realism in a way that no game has ever dared to focus.
Creating a work of art in high-profile commercial industries is the realm of few artists. Christopher Nolan and Quentin Tarantino are two filmmakers who can basically do whatever they want with high budgets and create great films. In the games industry, Ken Levine stands as one of gaming’s best working auteurs thanks to his work on the BioShock franchise. And BioShock Infinite, his first game as Creative Director, cements that status. Infinite is bold, daring, provocative game-making. It’s relentlessly violent and endlessly inventive. It throws out new ideas on the fly throughout its 10-12 hour campaign. Shooting isn’t the best part in Infinite; at times it feels like filler. But at other times, it’s the most exhilarating ride of the year, especially when skyhooks get involved. Jumping on and off those rails to get different perspectives on the battlefield, as well as access to different tears, create a dynamic rarely seen in modern shooters.
But the writing really is the main draw here, and it’s fantastic. Racism, revolution, religious zealotry, patriarchy, and patriotism all get explored and drenched in blood, as Levine and the team at Irrational Games construct a beautiful, sun soaked paradise…if you’re white.
And when the oppressed, mostly colored working class of Columbia takes up arms for the revolution, they turn out to be just as vicious as the oppressors. Irrational pissed people off with this decision, but that’s the kind of “fuck you” game and narrative design that doesn’t get much traction in $200 million epics. It also speaks to what might be the core theme of the entire BioShock series: violence begets violence. Extreme ideologies like religion, patriotism, and racism fuel the endless cycle and ruin lives. And amidst all of this, Levine and his writers explore choice and consequence with interdimensional travel and a man and a woman whose relationship elicits utter shock. Uncompromising and unconventional as hell, Infinite compelled me more than any game this year.
SCG counts down the best places to get deliciously cold and caffeinated beverages for those long gaming sessions
If you’re a gamer (cheap pop: especially a Sac City Gamer, wink), you’re no stranger to late night sessions with your favorite MMO, sports game, racer or shooter.
Energy drinks can be a good friend for those of us who have that problem, but the issue I find with energy drinks, especially Red Bull, is that they taste like crap.
So what’s a gamer to do if they need that extra boost of gamer fuel at 4:30 in the morning while trying to get through that particularly hard battle during a game of Dark Souls?
For me, it’s all about coffee. Not only does it provide that much-needed boost of caffeine, but it also tastes good and doesn’t hit you with such a hard crash during the credits or that long Metal Gear Solid style cutscene.
The problem is that hot coffee (no, not that hot coffee) in a traditional mug doesn’t mix well with expensive electronics, plus having to pause to take a sip sort of kills the immersion.
The solution is obviously cold coffee to rescue us just like all those super heroes we like to play as in said video games. But what’s the best cup of cold Joe to go with your 300 lap Gran Turismo race?
We’ve got the countdown of the top 10 drinks that taste good while still upping that game. Our list consists of coffee from fast food establishments and local coffee shops so if you’re not from the Sacramento area, you may not have heard of some of these. However, there should be something on the list for everyone.
HIT THE JUMP TO CHECK OUT OUR LIST!
I’m calling it right now; we should have an Oscar equivalent for video games. The pageantry, the bombast, the self-appreciation, and the glamour that dominate the Academy Awards are not what I refer to when I say this, although I do want those components as well. What I want is a respectful show. A show of reverence for what is becoming a more important pillar of popular culture.
We need it because what passes as an awards show is a goddamned travesty. The Spike VGX was a nightmarish failure of gargantuan proportions. Between Joel McHale acting like a complete asshole and Spike continuing to treat this like a giant commercial, this was just another example of Spike TV not getting it.
Like in the past, the show was more focused on marketing than reverence. The most noteworthy positive aspects were the reveals of Telltale working on a Game of Thrones game and the announcement of Hello Games’ No Man’s Sky. Geoff Keighley also interviewed developers and Reggie Fils-Aime about upcoming games in an apparent attempt to come off as more legitimate. That’s not good enough because those interviews are still just pieces in the marketing machine, manufacturing hype instead of reverence, despite Keighley’s intentions. And worse yet, those pieces of marketing still took up the screen time that the actual awards should have had.
They announced Grand Theft Auto V as the Game of the Year an hour into the three hour stream. That should have been a huge deal that capped off the night. Instead, it was rattled off casually to make room for Fils-Aime to talk about another Nintendo necromancy in the form of Cranky Kong.
The VGX still treated games as products, not as art. The marketing-first approach signifies this, but so do the awards categories. Here are some VGX categories: “Best Action Adventure Game,” “Best Xbox 360 Game,” and “Best Shooter.” Here are some Oscar categories: “Best Director,” “Best Costume Design,” “Best Cinematography,” and “Best Art Design.” The Oscars value specific artistic achievements while the VGAs/VGX go for broad product descriptions.
And throughout the show, Joel McHale did the best he could to completely derail it. I only assume McHale knew what kind of trash he was working on, but that still doesn’t excuse his flippant attitude and transphobic jokes, especially when Geoff Keighley was so clearly trying to be enthusiastic. If Spike TV/Game Trailers try to continue this event, Keighley should be the sole host. Unless they want to outsource and pursue Jeff Gerstmann or somebody like that. Either, this event needs a charismatic and informed individual to host. Not somebody just showing up for a paycheck.
And for guests, it needs actual game developers and stars, not B-list celebrities. Tim Schafer, Sean Vanaman, Harvey Smith, Jennifer Hale and other famous gaming figures should be the ones on stage. They and their ilk should be in the crowd applauding each other for their achievements and talents, dressed in their best attire.
The VGAs have been torn to pieces every year by games journalists and fans. You might be wondering why we even watch it or if we can ever be satiated. I personally watch it because I want it to be good. I don’t enjoy getting pissed off every year I tune in. It’s just that it’s still so bad that I can barely believe it. I’ll stop criticizing it so harshly when Spike TV figures out that the only thing I and many others want is a show that respects the medium and doesn’t shit talk us.
I definitely agree with Michael here. I posted on Facebook during the overly-hyped, way-too-long rap and music performance of GTA V’s soundtrack that Spike needs to stop making video game award shows and they need to do it now. It was no lie.
The show was atrocious. The “World Premieres” weren’t even any good and didn’t announce much, if anything at all. In the past, we’ve gotten some pretty cool game announcements at these shows – usually the only saving grace – but this year it was a whole lot of nothing.
As Michael pointed out, the hosts were lame. The concert sucked, the overall feel of the show didn’t give off a video game vibe at all and the point of the show, the awards, was overshadowed by advertising, boring interviews and a presentation that felt like it was aimed at 80-year-old non-gamers.
Overall, I think Spike needs to stop. When video games were a niche, “nerdy” market, a show like this may have passed, but the sales of GTA V alone show that the video game industry is huge and the industry really does deserve better. I applaud Spike for trying, but their efforts to make this show more relevant, interesting and exciting have been futile. Until they can figure out how to make it work, I think the world is better off going without a video games award show.
Sac City Gamer casts its votes
The air date for the 2013 Spike TV Video Game Awards has been announced, as well as the list of nominees for each category. The three-hour show, dubbed VGX because, you know, it’s next-gen, will air on Dec. 7 at 3 p.m. Pacific Time.
According to Spike’s official website, the show will feature the usual awards, game announcements and, I’m sure, shenanigans.
“VGX will break news worldwide by showcasing world-premiere game trailers, in-depth extended demos of the next generation of games and interactive one-on-one interviews and panels all in an intimate studio setting,” states the website.
As the above suggests, the format for this year’s show is a little different as it will stream online and on a multitude of connected devices, including PS3 and Xbox 360, as opposed to airing on Spike’s television network. The company says it will show highlights from the stream on Dec. 9 at midnight on the network itself.
In addition to demos, interviews and trailers, the show will feature awards given by a council of judges in 20 categories as well as a fan-voted “Most Anticipated Game” category. Gamers can also tell the council who they’d like to win the rest of the categories, but those choices will ultimately be left up to the chosen few.
Click here to vote for the game you’re most looking forward to and hit the jump for our predictions (in bold).
Sac City Gamer will bring you a list of the winners as soon as its available so as always, keep it locked to your number one Sacramento gaming resource.
CLICK THE JUMP TO SEE OUR PREDICTIONS
Diamond Dallas Page, Scott Hall and Jake “The Snake” Roberts step into the virtual squared-circle
2K Sports posted a video today via its Facebook WWE 2K page featuring wrestling legends Diamond Dallas Page, better known as DDP, Jake “The Snake” Roberts and Scott “Razor Ramon” Hall.
In the video, originally posted on YouTube by DDP, Hall challenges Page and Roberts to a game of, you guessed it, WWE 2K14. The legends get back into the ring by playing a few matches but DDP and Jake get a little upset when they don’t get their way.
First, Page is angered when he realizes he is not featured in the game (don’t worry DDP, the fans are upset about it too), especially since there are three versions of Hall and DDP was in last year’s game. Hilarity ensues when Hall suggests an alternative based on the fact that a current star uses DDP’s finishing move.
Then, Roberts gives up after botching a top rope move and storms out of the room after declaring he’s “going back to Pong”.
The three legendary grapplers are connected through DDP’s Yoga program, which has helped Hall and Roberts get over their drug and alcohol addictions and get back into shape, over the course of the last few years. DDP’s program has been successful thus far and the trio seems to be good friends.
I mean who else can you beat up in the virtual wrestling ring if not your friends?
Well, Hall thinks he may have the answer to that with a little challenge at the end of the video, but you’ll have to watch it to find out.
That is, if you aren’t afraid of “The Bad Guy”.