Chaotic Thoughts: The Red Pixels of Communism

Starcraft 2 zerg

I’m one of those people that feel that videogames contain a deeper meaning; of course, I was an English major— we think there’s deeper meaning in a pile of rocks, so take all of this with a grain of salt. So as I click my way through Starcraft 2, my mind starts to wander while the dozens of SCVs scurry about the blue crystals. Call me McCarthy, but I believe that the primary struggle in Starcraft 2 is the battle between communism and capitalism.

McCarthy Red Scare

Joe McCarthy didn't rock the Zerg rush

Think about it: to protect their way of life, humanity (the Terrans) are fighting an alien race (the Zerg) that swarms across the universe. Furthermore, the Zerg are controlled by a collective mind—or at least were, until a new charismatic leader (Kerrigan) rose up to take over the party.

I also present as evidence the character of Jim Raynor and his crew. Each Terran character exhibits strong individual values, but more importantly, Raynor and Tychus are after capital to fund their war. They will do whatever it takes to discover new mineral reserves and fill their coffers, desecrating sacred ground and displacing native populaces. Sound familiar?

Joseph Stalin Kerrigan

Practically cousins

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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

DAMN DIRTY APE!

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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Halo Reach for the Stars

Halo is what made me buy an Xbox. I had no interest in the original Xbox until my uncle bought one and told me to play it. I spent days over at his house, fighting the Covenant and later the Flood, until I had blown up that giant ring. I was sold. I had already beaten the game, but I wanted to play it again. I essentially bought a console to play one game. Say what you will about the Halo franchise, but the series is the definition of console seller.

When Bungie announced that the Halo Reach Beta would be open to the public, I was pumped. It was the giddiness of being a kid again, and there was a part of me that was hoping Halo Reach would wash out the bad taste left in my mouth from the disappointing conclusion to the original Halo trilogy (and yes, I believe Halo ODST was better than Halo 3, which smelled like and resembled a big steaming pile of Flood excrement). I wanted the series to be great again, and I kept hearing that Halo Reach would be exactly like Halo of old, and let me tell you something: it certainly is.

It’s too bad that the gaming community has devolved.

When Halo 2 came out, it was awesome for a number of reasons, but the most significant was that Halo 2 created Xbox Live essentially. Console online gaming became a reality. It was a magnificent time to be a gamer, and I actually met people on Xbox Live that were decent human beings, people I added to my friends list and still game with every now and then. Gaming was still fun; even first person shooters were still entertainment rather than a bigot-fest and teabagathalon.

Fast forward to the present, and everything about the Halo community feels douchey and smelly, kind of like the inside of a frat house. You don’t want to touch anything; you have a sneaking suspicion that your “brothers” want to bum rape you. They have this odd fascination with dipping their balls into your mouth. You hear the word “bro” and “dude” more often than your own name. These are your faux-friends, the people that want to “network” with you more so than actually hang out. This is the Halo community today in a nut shell.

Bro.

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Don’t Drink the Bungie or EA Kool-Aid (NSFW)

I’m sick and tired of us gamers allowing the big companies to push us around.  I’m looking at you, EA and Bungie.  Recently, both companies have made some questionable moves in my opinion, and everyone seems willing to just bend over and take it.  It’s time we realize we’re better than this and don’t have to sit in a circle and drink the red kool-aid in unison.

First of all, Bungie.  Do you really expect us to believe this is actually a beta and not a huge marketing machine?  Obviously you would never put out a buggy and possibly unworking version of anything having to do with your cash-cow that is Halo.  Of course not. This “beta” is as polished as the real thing.  “Oh no, the grenades are too strong, I must see this change before launch!”  Gimme a break, how is this beta any different than the retail version?  Just release a patch, or don’t–who even cares?  Halo has always been a more arcadey shooter than most others, so why complain now when the grenades are unrealistic?  Too late asshole.  And all you’re doing is making Bungie think it’s okay to call this a beta when it’s really just a demo.  Let’s call a spade a spade here.  This is the Halo Reach demo.  They can document changes on their site all they want. I’s just a front for what is clearly a demo.  This is way too polished to be called anything else.

Way back in the year 2002 I was a part of the Sims Online Beta, and you know why you probably didn’t know that? Because IT SUCKED!!!! The game was buggy as hell and it was work to test that piece of shit, and that should be the point. In a real beta, by the time the game has all the bugs worked out you should be so sick of seeing it you never want to see it again.  And that’s exactly what happened.  Clearly Sims Online didn’t do that well, but the point is, I steered completely clear of it on launch.

So then why should Bungie make such a mass production for a beta that could potentially turn away the market for your game?  Simple: it won’t because it’s a freakin demo that’s already been beta-tested!!!  Wake up and stop pretending you’re impacting the game development process, you sheep; you’re not.  Bungie knows exactly what they’re doing and you’re playing right into it.

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