What Video Game Developers Could Learn from Shakespeare

N00b Shakespeare

“A noob by any other name would die as sweet” — xXBillShakespur1616Xx

Let’s face facts: we can stand in our digital ivory towers all day and preach about the artistic merits of video games, but that doesn’t mean that the millions of people who bought Call of Duty, Medal of Honor or Halo: Reach give one lick about plot, character development, etc. I’m not saying that these or similar games are all fluff (some people can make that argument, but that’s not my point here). I’m just saying the hundreds of thousands of people playing Team Deathmatch on a daily basis aren’t exactly in it for the story.

And many (not all, but many) of those diehard fraggers don’t care about games such as Limbo or Braid or Heavy Rain. I know there is plenty of overlap, but the “artsy” games aren’t exactly flying off the shelves like this year’s Call of Halo: Modern Combat Evolved 10. The plot-driven games occasionally do sell well, but what prints the money are novelty experiences. That’s fine, and I’m not hating on First Person Shooters. I love Halo: Reach for its well-designed experience, but it’s not exactly the campaign I’m playing through again and again.

Halo Call of Duty

At ease, fair gentlemen!

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Chaotic Thoughts: The Birth of a Gamer

Today, I’m happy to announce a true miracle of life: the birth of a gamer. No, I’m not a dad (thank God), but in a way, I did help create a new life in the gaming community. This new gamer to join our community of Cake jokes, interactive storytelling, and fanboy-fanaticism is my girlfriend.

This is a feat that most gamers in a relationship can only dream of. Videogames are the point of contention in most relationships—a veritable TV hog, monopolizing the screen while favorite shows are missed. For the longest time, I thought she would never accept videogames outside of Flash games or PopCap creations for the iPhone.

But I realize now that I had approached gaming for her in a completely wrong way. I was asking her to jump into games that I liked rather than pick games we could both enjoy. The first thing we ever played together was Halo ODST’s Firefight mode. I thought this would’ve been perfect; after all, we would be on a team. What better metaphor could there be for a boyfriend/girlfriend gaming team?

Halo firefight

Not exactly a casual experience

Well, that experience ended badly. She was frustrated and angered. She fought with the controls. On top of everything, her pride was injured from the fact that the hallmark Halo announcer proclaimed my Killtrocities, while being frustratingly quiet on her side. This was such a setback that it would be a year before she played a console videogame again.

While she certainly didn’t suck playing Halo, I realize that asking her to play a game like Halo would be like asking a toddler to run before it could crawl. Gamers my age grew up as videogames did: we saw the Nintendo classic controller, the first ever dual-analog stick controller, and now motion controllers. I remember playing Ape Escape, the first game to really use the dual-analog sticks, and having the exact same problems as my girlfriend did: while competent with the controls, I lacked the fluidity required to perform well. It would take years of practice before I could shoot 10 Grunts in the head while on the move.

Ape Escape


I think many people in my age demographic—the (once?) primary demographic for videogame developers—forget what it was like to start playing games. We expect others to play as well as we do now; we laugh at our parents and loved ones as they fumble with controls. Instead, we should embrace their first venture into gaming. Even if they never play a game again, their experience should involve fun and not frustration.

That’s one of the reasons why I think the Playstation Move and Microsoft Kinect (and to some extent the Wii) are great for the industry. Hardcore gamers can complain about the crappy games, but in the end, what these platforms are really doing is opening the door to the total gaming experience—what I define as a blend of hardcore and casual games. I think the videogame industry needs to open up. Not every game has to be about shooting or killing an enemy. Games like Heavy Rain, LittleBigPlanet, and basically every Mario game are popular because they offer experiences almost everyone can get into, whereas Halo, Call of Duty, and Gears of War simply cater to a small group.

Mario Galaxy 2

So this last time I introduced gaming to her, I showed her LittleBigPlanet. She loved the art direction and gameplay mechanics. From there, she started playing Super Mario Galaxy 2. I hopped in as the second player, but soon she was asking me to let her go it alone. I feel confident now she can play any game she wanted on any system.

When we were in GameStop the other day, she said something I never thought I’d hear. She was looking around the store and spotted a poster for Fable 3. Then she began to tell me why she wanted to play it. At the same time I thought about all the grief hardcore gamers give the Fable series, how we complain about Peter Molyneux’s typically exaggerated promises, and yet somehow I didn’t care. The only thing I thought of was experiencing a videogame with someone special, not some anonymous jackass on Xbox Live but a loved one.

Peter Molyneux

Thanks Sir Pete for everything (even if you never live up to your promises)

Written by Neutrally Chaotic

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Call of Duty 4: Modern Borefare 2 (NSFW)

Alright, here’s the thing: after spending time with this game I’ve come to realize war shooters just aren’t for me. It’s not that this game is bad. It’s just not for me. I really couldn’t care less about who’s invading who or reenacting some famous battle. Because this was called “modern warfare” I thought I had a better chance of liking it. Nope, less likely actually.

The more I played, the more bored I became. The campaign never interested me, and I never had a moment that was breathtaking and worth talking about. I kept playing, thinking that maybe I just don’t get it or that there was something I was missing but I never got it. There was never an AHA! moment that pulled me in.  Instead, what I got was a waste of time and loss of 15 hours I’ll never get back. Other than the story being more modern and fictional, I just kept feeling like I’ve played this story before, and I didn’t like it the first time. Ssnnnooozzzeeee.

It seemed like the game created over-the-top moments just because.  For example, early on when you are climbing the ice using the ice picks and you have to jump across the gap and catch yourself, obviously you can’t really make that jump and you are going to miss every time.  So when you go for it the game creates false drama by having you slide and then be helped up, all of which you really have no control over.  Clearly, I was never in any real danger of falling and dying.

Read about my multiplayer experience after the break

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Modern Warfare 2: How Many Times Can Duty Call?

I’ve played all the Call of Duty titles since the original on the PC.  I don’t count the spin off titles, and neither does Infinity Ward obviously, since they weren’t numbered titles, or else Modern Warfare 2 would be Call of Duty 534. If you’ve been living under a rock, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 is huge. Bigger than the Beatles, bigger than Jesus (or at least Passion of the Christ), bigger than sliced bread, nothing can stop this juggernaut.

Nothing, it seems, except for Infinity Ward’s own smugness, which oozes out of every bullet hole in the single player game.

Sure, this game is fun. There are moments that are memorable, and there are moments that will keep you in that sweet spot of frustration. You’ll die, scream at the TV (especially if you’re playing on veteran or hardened mode), and repeat. Infinity Ward has provided plenty of quotes for you to memorize as you wait for the game to reload from the last checkpoint. If you want to just see what happens with the story, I recommend not playing at the harder difficulties unless the game suggests for you to do so.

And of course a lot of people will want to play Call of Duty for the story. After all, Infinity Ward has proven time and time again that they can tell a great story. That’s what separated the first and second Call of Duty titles from all the other World War II games back in the day. But let me tell you now, folks, this story is over the top ridiculous. It essentially takes the almost-plausible storylines from the last six Call of Duty titles, douses them in gasoline, lights them on fire, and pisses on their ashes. It then proceeds to do profane things to the pee-soaked ashes, which I do not care to discuss—that’s how ridiculous Modern Warfare 2’s storyline is.

Infinity Ward must have been on a James Bond binge when they wrote the script to Modern Warfare 2. In fact, some of the James Bond movies have more plausible scripts. Remember Moonraker? That movie was more realistic. I know that’s hard to believe, but here’s some of the story’s dumber elements (SPOILER ALERT after the break):

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