Showing 21 - 30 of 54 posts found matching keyword: video games

While there was plenty of buzz this year about the DC relaunch of Batman and Detective Comics, the Batman news that has really broken the internet apart is the pending release of Batman: Arkham City, the sequel to 2009's Batman: Arkham Asylum video game. The biggest buzz for the game concerns the excitement that players can now be Catwoman. I remember Halle Berry's Catwoman, and I want no part of that.

However, I have a friend -- for the sake of maintaining his anonymity, we will call him Chris -- who has mentioned to me three times in the past month that he is counting the days until the game is released (three weeks from today). Because Chris is a friend, I'm declaring this a testament to the high quality of Batman: Arkham Asylum and not to the dismal state of Chris' life. If a 40-year old man can be motivated to create a countdown clock for the release of a video game, maybe it's a video game I should consider playing. Once I can find a cheap, used copy, of course.

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Call me a misogynist if you will: I walked out of a GameStop video game store today because of the three employees working, 2 of them were females. I don't mind equal rights for the fairer sex. If those girls want to work in a shitty customer service job, that's fine by me. But they should stick to the jobs in their domain like cosmetics counters, flight attendance, or hooking. Leave the manly work of selling video games to the men who play them, ladies.

I am aware that the Entertainment Software Association claims that 40 percent of American video gamers are women. But are we really going to believe the trade association for the video game industry? They also say that the average gamer is 34 years old and has been playing video games for 12 years. I'm 34 years old and have been playing video games since I was 7! So that proves that their data is faulty. Besides, compared to the US government's claims that women account for greater than half of all Americans, 40% doesn't look like such a big number, does it?

Girls, you can keep your browser-based Bejeweled and Farmville and any other game that you can play with your 3-inch long press-on nails. And if you must have a PS3 to play your adorable Little Big Planet between trips to the mall, I'll not hold a grudge. Those aren't really games, anyway. Meanwhile, if you can stop talking on the phone long enough to remember to stay out of my GameStop, I'll promise to stay out of someplace you like to go. Like, say, hair salons. Or kitchens. Deal?

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Blizzard, publisher of the "more than famous" World of Warcraft video game, has had trouble in the past week selling their new Celestial Steed. Their trouble, it seems, is that everyone wants one. So many people have tried to buy the Steed that the Blizzard shopping carts have had to put people into ques to handle pacing for their servers. Some reports indicate that Blizzard is making as much as $500,000 per hour on this little bit of ephemera.

This boggles my mind. These steeds cost $25 in real, actual, U.S. government-backed money for use in a virtual world. I understand that entertainment has value, but compare that cost against going to the movies: for $10, you'll get 2 hours of entertainment. Can Blizzard's new beast of burden really entertain someone for 5 hours? Sure, it virtually "flies" (insomuch as anything displayed on your heavier than air video monitor can be said to fly), but only as fast as your skill makes it go. To get the most from your Steed, you'll have to spend even more time practicing riding it. Figuring a recurring monthly fee for server access ($14.99) and the actual time spent playing (at $7.75 Federal Minimum Wage for, let's say, 20 hours per week), that's an equivalent expense of about $8 per hundreds of man hours of practice and farming time to get the most from your imaginary horse after you've already wasted time in a virtual line to pony up the real cash. No matter how I slice it, this is a terrible deal: wasting money to waste time.

Paying for play in a virtual world is one thing. But standing in line to pay to accessorize that world, that's something else. Something stupid. Maybe I'm just a cheap curmudgeon, but maybe the world really is full of gullible fools with more money than brains.

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An update to some previous blog entries:

First things first. On my last post, I covered the Scripps Howard celebrity Super Bowl poll. And now that the game is over (damn you, Saints!), it should be pointed out that the celeb who picked closest was Joe Mantegna, who predicted Saints, 28-17. Outperforming a majority of the celebs were video game simulations run by newfangled Madden 10 and classic Tecmo Super Bowl, both of which had forecast a Saints win. So keep in mind that the next time you need to turn to someone to advice, you'd be better off talking to a computer screen than your average celebrity.

On December 17, 2008, I mentioned that New York was planning to tax soda consumption. It failed to pass. According to the Houston Chronicle, a similar fate has just quietly befallen a federal measure with the same intent. Sure, raising taxes on an item to increase revenue and decrease health risks sounds good, but who really wants to pay an extra 15 cents per can of soda when they could instead pay higher income taxes? No one I know, that's for sure.

And speaking of predictions, last week I noted two separate incidents of single-vehicle accidents on the same stretch of road. Now another mysterious accident claimed the life of a third person, who was found mauled in the middle of that road. Police have no clues about the third death in three weeks on Newnan Crossing Bypass, but are guessing hit-and-run at 4AM in the morning. You heard it here first, people. Grab your .30-30s, the Great Deer Uprising of 2010 continues.

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NES Legend of Zelda + sex jokes = funny. Don't agree? Go away. You're reading the wrong blog.

If you haven't seen the Legend of Neil, go to Effing Funny and watch it. Now. I'd embed it here, but the Atom Films embed is a little squirrelly, and I'm not nuts about embedding auto-playing video. The only person who should get to yell at my blog readers is me. (And, yes, I did intentionally use the words "squirrelly" and "nuts" in that earlier sentence.)

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If Madden NFL 10 is college calculus, Batman: Arkham Asylum is kindergarten finger painting.

Batman: Arkham Asylum: Beat up the world with your X button.

To be fair, I've only played the demo. But to complete the demo, I only needed one button on my controller. Apparently anyone can be Batman, so long as they have an "X" button. This is the sort of behavior that I would expect from a Superman game. (Really, if you could shoot laser beams from your eyes, would it really matter if you had any other powers?) Run, punch. Sneak, punch. Drop from the ceiling, punch. While I'm not really expecting a solve-it-yourself Agatha Christie mystery in a video game, I would've like to have seen the World's Greatest Detective featured in something other than an upgraded River City Ransom.

Maybe I could forgive even this if I thought the game looked good. But a Batman wearing plate armor, Joker wearing makeup, Harley Quinn dressed as a circus slut, and a Jim Gordon who has been moonlighting as a body builder are hardly my idea of good design. (It's better than the designs in last year's hideous Mortal Kombat vs. The DC Universe, but then everyone involved with that game should have been subjected to Johnny Cage's Ball Breaker.) And Batman has pupils. Why, oh why, does arcade Batman have pupils? It's not like he's looking at anything.

Despite all of this, it may still be the best Batman game ever. That's damning with weak praise, indeed.

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Madden NFL 10 loudly and proudly proclaims itself as the best NFL game on the market. But look a little closer and you'll realize that it is the only NFL game on the market. And it sucks.

Madden 10: Everything you'd expect a game featuing gang tackling to be.

If you haven't been playing Madden since 1989, don't bother picking up the controller unless your idea of a good time is sitting in rush hour traffic while the car next to you plays music you can't stand loud enough for you to hear over the sound of the horn blaring from the car behind you. Everything about the game is designed not for the football enthusiast but for the Madden-ophile, though the game would attempt to berate you into believing that the two terms are synonymous with its derogatory help text and insulting in-game commentary.

By "help text" I really mean "sarcastic text." Because while the instruction booklet includes an entire page devoted to button combinations for establishing a "Defensive Playmaker" without ever defining what exactly that is, its advice on how to complete a forward pass is limited to "Throw the Ball: X, A, B, Y, or LB." Needless to say, this "instruction" is surprisingly inadequate to the task of conveying the exact level of skill needed to get the ball to what would appear to be a wide open receiver but is in fact a masterfully created interception beacon for the CPU's defense.

Byzantine menus require hours of exploration to decipher. Franchise mode alone shows more non-football data about your team than you could glean in an entire week's worth of NFL Network coverage. Taking the time to navigate the dozens of unexplained play-calling options means that you hear only slightly more delay-of-game penalty whistles than in-game Snickers advertisements. (I'm not kidding: they're everywhere: Snickers heavily subsidized a game that still costs more than $60.) At any given time, there is more information on-screen than F-22 fighter pilots have in their 21st-century HUDs, which is kind of appropriate, as this "game" is more flight-simulator than sports recreation.

If you, like me, haven't at this point in life mastered Madden, the game insinuates, you don't know shit about football. Which is demonstrated in the game's only 2 levels of difficulty: Rookie, which is about as much like real football as a rousing game of Duck, Duck, Goose, and What-The-Fuck-Do-You-Think-You're-Doing-Noob? The learning curve is so steep that "imminent-failure cliff" is a better term to describe it.

So I guess if I don't know it by now, I never will. Oh, well. I just wanted to play an intuitive football game with my favorite teams and players. If Madden's too difficult for me, I guess I'll just go play... oh, that's right. Thank you, EA and NFL for your exclusive contracts. Nevermind.

I should note that the game isn't all bad. My favorite part of the game is the list of Hall of Famer players. Not that you can play them. It's just a list. Embedded in a video game. Taking up space. It's not even a complete list. Among those missing from the list of HoF members is none other thanJohn Madden, the man known for introducing the fun and excitement of the NFL to generations fo fans. And that really about sums this whole game up.

Welcome to Batman and Football Month, everybody!

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For the first time in 2 years (more or less), I missed a day blogging yesterday. And I don't really have a good excuse.

I woke up and immediately found myself on an unexpected trip to Fry's Electronics to purchase a new television. Fry's , like the cosmos itself, is way too big to wrap your head around. I swear that place is bigger than the Hartsfield airport hangers. People just wander around lost in a sea of unending electronic goodies. Truly, it's the American Dream at it's finest/worst (depending on your point of view).

So this is what they meant by

Finally finding the television we wanted (after consulting an aging roadmap, wandering for hours, and and finally gathering directions some friendly Bedouins), we left Fry's only to end up on an unplanned trip to my father's house. "If you're so close, you could at least drop by and visit your lonely old man," I think is a direct quote. Next thing I know, I'm helping dad with his livestock. Whoopee.

Four hours later, we returned home, only to be summoned to my mother's aid. Like my father, she was lonely. However, she didn't request our company, she demanded it, which was probably wise on her part. Mom came over and had dinner with us, and shortly thereafter fell asleep on my bed, right next to my computer. I certainly couldn't compose a blog entry with my mother sleeping, see? (I might be heartless, but I'm not cruel.)

So I was forced to spend the next several hours playing Half-Life 2 on our new HD TV before passing out on the sofa. I didn't mean to not post anything here, but you can see that events conspired against me. Please forgive me, I'll try harder next time.

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For my book report, I read Zap: The Rise and Fall of Atari.

I read Zap: The Rise and Fall of Atari so that you don't have to. While it didn't contain a lot of information that I hadn't read before, it was amusing to read a contemporary account of the collapse of the video game industry following its unprecedented boom in the early 80s. (The book was published in 1984, "the Year of the Apple," and chronicles the events at Atari through 1983, "the Year of the McNugget.")

Author Scott Cohen largely assumes that the reader is abreast of current events in the entertainment industry of the times, obliquely tying Atari's fall to such events as John Schneider and Tom Wopat walking off the set of the Dukes of Hazzard and IBM dominating the market for personal computers. And he doesn't seem to be much on fact-checking. (The man responsible for Wack-a-Mole and the glorious Rock-afire Explosion, one Aaron Fechter, is irritatingly repeatedly referred to as Aaron Fletcher.)

Despite Cohen's limited pop-style of prose -- he was a magazine editor who has penned such probing investigative reports as Don't You Just Hate That?: 738 Annoying Things and Yakety Yak: The Midnight Confessions and Revelations of Thirty-Five Rock Stars and Legends -- he was able to draw some pretty good conclusions about the future of the video game industry. " Selling computers, it would seem, will not be much different than selling cigarettes."

Most amusingly (and perhaps not too surprisingly), the best parts of the book are not what the author uncovered about the dismal state of affairs in 1983's Atari, but what he got wrong about the future. I'm not talking about simply understating how poorly the game E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial was received. (Cohen calls it a bomb, but fails to convey the weight of just how much the game's poor popular and critical reception lead directly to Atari's collapse. There's no mention of the estimated 5 million Atari 2600 E.T. cartridges buried in an Alamagordo, New Mexico landfill in the fall of 1983.) Examples include

  • "No video game company is going to do as well as IBM, Apple, Commodore, or Radio Shack." Does anyone even remember the Tandy?
  • "By, 1986, everyone who can afford and wants a video game will have one, and manufacturers will have to drop their prices further.... Any further growth at Atari and in the video game industry generally, in terms of selling units and bringing in earnings, is going to come from overseas." Cohen was speaking about selling Atari VCSs to overseas markets, and was not predicting the arrival of the Nintendo NES on American shores and the revitalization of the home video game market, even if that had the same affect of keeping the Atari name alive, if barely.
  • And my personal favorite: "if there were a neat little terminal and it put people in touch with everything they wanted to be in touch with, people would stop playing video games." Hmm. I guess after posting this to the internet, I won't go and play xBox.

One more amusing note: according to Cohen, "if a movie were made of his life, Nolan [Bushnell, the founder of Atari and father of video games] says he would like Gene Wilder to play him, but he means Robert Redford." Point of fact is that there is indeed a movie planned for a 2011 release on the life and times of Nolan Bushnell (working title: Atari), and it seems that Nolan will not be getting his wish. It is rumored that Bushnell will be portrayed by Leonardo DiCaprio. Fitting, I suppose, since Bushnell, like DiCaprio, was once the king of the world, even if that world was Pong.

UPDATE May 2021: I just re-read this post and thought I should mention that 12 years later, that Atari movie is *still* in pre-production, now with Chris Pine penciled in as Bushnell. Gene Wilder died in 2016.

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There's a new Batman video game on the market, and I don't own it. There's not much new about that. The last Batman video game that I bought was Batman Vengeance for the PS2. (In fact, that's the ONLY Batman video game I've ever bought. I was given a copies of the late 1980s Batman: The Caped Crusader for PC and 1989 Batman: The Video Game for the SNES. I played the atrocious Batman: Dark Tomorrow briefly on the Xbox, but when I discovered that Batman couldn't overcome a simple chain-link fence, that was the end of that.)

It's kind of surprising that a character as fantastically popular as the Batman has appeared in so many video games (at least a dozen) that have all been so poorly received. It is even more perplexing when you take into account how forgiving the public has been about the personality of the Batman. The character has been reinvented more times than the wheel and continues to be among the world's most popular fictional characters.

I'm pretty sure that making the perfect Batman game wouldn't be that hard. Design a fun game, then make the lead character Batman. Don't work it the other way around. That's how you get Tom Cruise movies.

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To be continued...