Wednesday, December 19, 2012

My Love Affair With Halo

The first time I played Halo was at an Electronic Boutique in November of 2001, the year that Xbox had come out. This is significant for me because I can not remember anytime in my lifes history of when I was so astounded by a video game that I have a perfect memory of the first time playing it. The level that the game was set on for the demo was the one immediately after the escape from the Pillar of Autumn so my first taste of the game was the visually stunning even by todays standards environment of Halo. I remember staring at the screen at how crisp the graphics look and squealing with excitement when I figured out that if I held down the trigger with the plasma pistol equipped it would charge up and release a greater blast. I knew I had to have one, so I begged my parents for one for Christmas. After some snooping I found that they had gotten me one but I was caught in the process so I wasn’t allowed to play it for a week after unwrapping it. Of course that didn’t stop me from sneaking it into my room and hooking it up to a little tv I had when my parents weren’t home to get a few sweet hours of gameplay in. Finally the week was up and I could be out and open about my love for the Game. Over the years the game stayed relevant both in its appeal as a game and because it became a source of social interactions between my friends and I. This was before online play had become an option and I remember spending hours playing team battles in my basement and the basement of friends, and the feeling of frustration or elation when a score would come down to one kill. Throughout high school my interests strayed elsewhere and I wasn’t so invested in video games but Halo always waited for me like an old friend for the occasional time I would pick it up for a play. When I got to college I found a reawakened love affair as I moved into a house with friends that loved playing the original over the newer editions to the series and many nights were spent playing rocket launchers only on the hang em high level. Those days are gone and Halo has taken a backseat again but I have comfort in knowing that some day it will poke its head back into my life and things will be like they never changed.

The Tommy Wi-Show

I found this a short lived youtube series that stars everyones favorite questionably insane movie director/producer/writer/actor Tommy Wiseau playing video games. The show is called the Tommy Wi-Show and the premise is space aliens have recruited Tommy to test new video games as he is the greatest video game warrior that planet Earth has to offer. The beginning is kind of lame because its’ scripted but once Tommy starts playing the game and he is given freedom to express himself it gets pretty funny. The joke is obviously that Wiseau is terrible at playing Mortal Combat but I thought it was worth the 6 minutes.

Why I Like Left 4 Dead

In the past few years zombies have exploded both literally and metaphorically on the screens of gamers through a large number of title releases. Zombies have always had a significant presence in video games but now more than ever I feel as if developers are abusing their popularity in contemporary culture to crank out more and more zombie based games. I think that the appeal in zombies for developers is that they allow for a wide variety of story lines that center around the conception of these menaces despite how trite they seem. Also in games that emphasize a mass number of antagonists, zombies fit the bill perfectly as not much is needed in developing dead bodies coming at you. This is why I respect Left 4 Dead as a zombie game as it doesn’t try to be anything other than what it is. A balls out zombie shooter with minimal plot line that emphasizes gameplay over all else. The levels are fairly detailed with the settings being typically city streets are farmstead and the ammo is plentiful with the typical tropes of zombie weaponry, shotgun, assault rifle etc. To add some extra sauce to the mix the game has a variety of zombie types which mix up the strategy of the players and keeps the gameplay fresh. This game is very much a ludist’s game as it takes place in a closed world linear environment and the rules and goals are clear: you shoot zombies you get to the extraction point. Hours of fun with friends and no big commitments to plot or storyline.

Unitology and Dead Space 2

The premise of Dead Space 2 takes place on the Sprawl, a massive civilian space station built into the largest remains of Saturn’s moon Titan, which had been broken into pieces during a planet-cracking operation. We follow the continued story of Isaac Clarke who has spent the past three years in an asylum after the events of the original Dead Space. Analysis of the story and setting of the game can be focused on multiple instances of cultural and sociological themes that are relevant in contemporary culture. One of the biggest components of the storyline and consequently the most subject to scrutiny is the presence of the Church of Unitology, a cult-like religion that assumes the role as one of the main antagonists for Isaac. Basically Unitologists believe human life on Earth was created through an intellectual design by some higher form of life. Ironically despite their belief that the advent of man was a science experiment they tend to put blind faith over scientific fact. They believe that after death the bodies of the dead will be resurrected again and the key to this rebirth are these artifacts called Markers. Although the Markers do indeed reanitmate life, it does so by creating abominations called Necromorphs, which disembowel the people of the Sprawl and create havoc. Throughout the game we find out that the church has been using Isaac, who has the blueprints to construct these Markers imprinted in his mind, to build a black Marker on the Sprawl. The Church is arguably a pun on Scientologists, although the game creators have denied this time and again. I believe that the presence of such a sinister organization has a much deeper symbolic and cultural meaning. The church emphasizes the importance of social harmony and unity although its own ranks are determined by a hierarchy and higher positions are bought with money. Also in conflict with this is the church is known to take practice in harmful rituals such as indoctrination procedures and even cases of groups commiting mass suicides. There are members of the church with strong political and economic ties and it is made clear that there is a lot of manipulation and cohersion done in the background. At one point in the game you come across files that have documented potential people within the spawl for conversion. If it wasn’t creepy enough that they have files on everyone each one is complete with a psychological profile with less intelligent and weak-minded individuals marked as great potential for recruitment. The symbolism behind the religion is fascinating and extensive and I could potentially spend a whole essay going in to detail.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Online Gamer!

There is a channel on YouTube called "Online Gamer".  It is their most successful and popular video series.  This is the latest video in the series.  If you have the time, I suggest watching all the episodes of this series if you can.  It is very entertaining and speaks volumes of CoD (Call of Duty) players and FPS gamers in general. A very interesting dynamic of the series is the relation between Aaron (the main protagonist of the series) and Rebecca (his girlfriend and fellow CoD gamer).  Thoughts?

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Video Games and Sports

Post #16
Do video games help you play sports better, or do other activities better? I was wondering if sports games help you learn strategy and other skills that can be applied to real life. I know there are many sports related games on the Wii, which incorporate actual hand movements with the controller. Do these games help you learn the rules of certain sports or activities better? Do you learn recipes better from video games about cooking on the Wii? What do you guys think?

Video Game Streams and "eSports"...

I am not sure how familiar most of you guys are with, but I realized that for the past couple of years, I have used that site (and a few others similar to it such as Ustream) to watch gaming ranging from video game tournaments to friends of mine gaming.  I even have streams (yeah, sometimes I watch more than one stream of people playing in the same game together, or against each other) running in the background much the same way other people do with television.  It got me wondering - is watching people play video games a viable avenue of pursuit?  Personally, I would say no since I only watch people when I am not actively gaming due to other activities or responsibilities (such as college school work).  There is a large section of gamers that argue that video games will one day not only considered an actual sport (some have started call their "version" of gaming "eSports"...I REALLY hate that name and everything it stands for) but also have tournaments and such shown on channels like ESPN and Fox Sports.  What are you guys's thoughts?