Tuesday, April 27, 2010

DLC - Blessing or Curse? Curse.

Is anyone else out there as miffed about DLC as I am?

DLC, if you don't know, stands for Downloadable Content. I'm not sure even where this all started, but right now the situation is nigh intolerable. Every big-budget game that comes out has this option for DLC. And what DLC is it? Some short crappy level or map that has no bearing on the core game. And it's always overpriced.

It just seems wrong to me in so many ways. For one thing, the money we have to pay for them. It's ludicrously expensive to pay for something that doesn't really 'extend our experience of the game' as much as we're led to believe. Take Mass Effect 2, for example. I've finished the game. The plot is over. Why bring out more missions with different characters? WHY? Why not just do this for the actual game?? And why charge so much for a few missions? Just let the people who bought the game enjoy a few more hours (more likely minutes) with it!
This actually ruins the core game of ME2, by the way, because once you finish the game you have the option to just go back to the Normandy, where you just float around for no apparent reason and all your party members will speak as if you still haven't finished the game.... and why? For DLC. Great, Bioware. You ruined the feeling of immersion in the game so your customers would find it easier to pay for extra stuff. Thanks.

But it gets more annoying, as sometimes the developers programmed something into the game and purposefully left it out so we could pay for it later! Like with Bioshock 2. Code for the DLC content was present in the actual game, and the DLC simply unlocked it.

But the worst of the worst comes - of course - from Activision. The DLC for Modern Warfare 2, the stimulus package, is just some frickin' maps! MAPS! We should be getting that for free! Hell, we could make our OWN maps! Ahhhh, right! I forgot. We can't. MW2 doesn't have dedicated servers or mod tools, because they wanted to control what maps we could play specifically so they can sell us their shit later. Which is exactly why I didn't buy this crappy game.

But there is salvation: Valve.... Thank god for Valve. I only hope they won't be corrupted by all the corruption that's corrupting stuff around them. They recently released The Passing, DLC for Left 4 Dead 2. And you know what? It was free! Because we shouldn't pay crazy sums of money for games we already own! Console players have to pay even for Valve's DLC, of course. But that's the licencing problem, which makes it their problem.

Eventually it's all about the money for most of them. I'd like to think it isn't, but I also can't believe the barely credible pitch that these DLCs extend the game's life. The ones which were free and that I've tried weren't bad experiences, but they were short and underwhelming. With the money they make from the actual game I'm sure they can provide the DLC for free. Or, you know what? Don't release any DLC at all. New maps for multiplayer games can be made by gamers, or just be FREE as they've always managed to be somehow. And any other sort of DLC I can live without. I don't need another party member in Mass Effect (there are already too many). I don't need another level explore in Bioshock 2. Modern Warfare 2 can go to hell because I'm not playing it anyway. So the problem can be solved.

As a closing thought, I have to say that these developers and big publishers, for all their crying about pirates, aren't making much of an effort to make the games worth the money. Game prices are getting higher (Splinter Cell worth 59$ on Steam? My ass, it does), and we have to pay for more and more meaningless content. Combine that with nasty DRM that treats everyone as criminals, and it almost takes all the fun out of buying and playing a game you own. I'll never download games illegally because I appreciate the work that goes into them, but this money-grabbing attitude of game makers is certainly making me understand people who do.


Well, I feel terrible but there's still no video review prepared. Unfortunately there are many issues on my schedule which are higher on my priority list. Things like papers, assignments, books to read. It's all very hectic and stressful and I won't frighten you with the details. However, I'm still fully committed to this blog and will upload the promised reviews as soon as humanly possible. And even if the reviews take a bit long, I will still keep this site updated with commentary about our gaming culture as often as I can.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

ARE video games art? Should we care?

Roger Ebert who, if you don't know, is a famous (if not the most famous) film critic, has claimed in a blog that video games "can never be art". Or, rather, that we won't see any game comparable to the great poems or novels or films in our lifetime.

This has obviously sparked a gigantic debate on his page with literally thousands of comments either supporting his argument or claiming the opposite, producing numerous examples. I've read some of those and posted a couple of responses myself, but it's really not much of a discussion; Ebert's simply posting on people's comments, occasionally answering one with a chuckle-worthy one-liner. If I didn't know better (and I don't), I'd say this whole article was just to get thousands of people to visit his blog.

In any case, while the actual question of whether games are art or can be is intriguing, I was actually far more interested in other aspects of his claim, as well as the responses to it.

Firstly, the problem I had with the argument isn't so much that he doesn't think games can be art but that he thinks they will never be. He presumes to that we won't see such a game in the near future. An argument that begins with a kind of absolute statement like that is, in my opinion, fundamentally flawed. He has admitted himself he has little experience with video games, so even if he's right, how would he know it?

This brings me to the second point. He thinks he knows the answer because he thinks he has a clear definition of games. In the article, he compares video games to chess, basketball and so on. Clearly, a new definition of 'game' is needed. In the 70s and 80s video games were simply that - interactive, electronic games. But since then they have evolved - containing worlds, narratives and even cultures. Calling them 'games' just doesn't fit anymore. I think big part of the reason people misconstrue video games is because of that anachronistic labelling, and this is the same trap Ebert falls into. He thinks he understands video games because of what he perceives games to be. But video games aren't like other games - with some exceptions, game are no longer about score, rules and competition. They are about narratives, experience, theory and even philosophy.

Another thing Ebert asks is why do gamers even care whether or not their preferred pastime is considered art. This question, however, stems from his ignorance of games as I've just explained. He equates this situation to basketball players or fans wanting their sport to be considered art. But the point is that these games aren't the same, as I've stated.
However, this is the one point in his article I do agree with. It's not about us wanting games to be art, or to be considered art. Games have to do that themselves. When a game comes along that is unequivocally art, games will start to be recognized as such.

Which brings me to my final point - the readers' responses. I haven't read all of them, but of those I did read some were logical and some simply appealed to the emotional impact games are capable of, presenting it as proof they are art. Obviously a definition of art is also necessary, but I'll spare you an attempt to make a cohesive one. However, emotional stimulation is definitely not the sole requirement for something to be art, of that I'm sure. People are claiming by the hundreds that because this game or that made them cry or made them care for the characters and immersed them in the world - that makes the game art. The thing is, it doesn't. These games are wonderful escapism, but that's just not art. Not the high art Ebert is reffering to, at least. Visually they're captivating, but aestheticism, while important, is not meaningful enough.

But the thing is that, unlike what Ebert thinks, some games have begun to touch upon it. Some games do realize that escapism isn't the only venue for games. Introspection, skepticism, thought... some games are starting to enter this territory - even if it's just a byproduct of them becoming so detailed.

Overall, I don't think we'll have to wait as long as Ebert does for a video game to shine as a true work of art.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Slight change in plans


My PC is back in top shape and I've been hard at work on the Bioshock 2 video review. Only problem is, I think it's crap.
As I said before, I'm trying to find my way through these. I want the videos to show aspects of the gameplay but I don't want the whole review to be too long and bore people. So I decided that what I've recorded so far simply was too long and not interesting enough. Plus, I'd have to record a lot of video footage and frankly there's not much of it I can show that's really interesting. So the bioshock review will, sadly, have to be postponed again.

Never fear, however! I bought yesterday a snazzy little game called Beat Hazard. It's another one of those games which uses your music tracks to enrich your playing experience and overload your cerebral cortex. Since this is a fairly small game that's just been released for PC via steam, I feel it's appropriate for me to make a short video review for it as well. It will probably be up in a couple of days.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


I'm theoretically extremely happy.

I've won beta keys for two of the most thrilling upcoming games of the next year or so.

One is Blizzard's Starcraft 2. I don't think there's a game I'm looking forward to more than this one. The first game is one of my all-time favorites. It didn't just raise the standards for the RTS genre but it was also an achievement in storytelling. It really is a masterpiece.

The other game is APB - All Points Bulletin. This game is basically an MMO version of GTA. A persistent online city with hundreds of criminals and bounty hunters. It's a very ambitious game and I'm truly hoping it works out.

Why am I only theoretically happy, you ask? Because I still haven't had the chance to try out either of them. The APB client is installed on my system but their beta testing works in waves, or rounds, so only a certain group of players can play at any given point. So the soonest I'll be able to play it will be on Sunday.

Starcraft 2 is a bit more tricky. I won a contest on CVG.com but I haven't actually received the key yet, so I might eventually not get one at all. That would be a shame but I'm not too upset, it's just a beta after all.

Still, here's hoping I get to play them both and rest assured I'll write up my first impressions of them as soon as I do.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Video Review Delay

I'm afraid I wasn't able to finish up the video review since my PC blew up or something. Actually I'm not sure what's happened but it's not working so I need to get it fixed.

It's things like these that really make me feel like a gamer. Don't get me wrong, I don't hold that title high as a badge of prestige. It's just what I am. But that to me is more than just stuffing a CD into a machine and running a game. It's about this flexibility. It's about having to know more about what you're having fun with to enjoy it to the fullest. That's what makes it more than a hobby.

So yes, sometimes my PC gets shot to shit and I need to fix it, but I wouldn't have it any other way.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Small Update

My review of Bioshock 2 is almost ready and will hopefully be uploaded over the weekend. It took a bit longer than I thought but I have nobly forgiven myself as I'm swamped with schoolwork.

On another note, I felt a bit depressed today as I realized that the new C&C game will be the first one I don't play. I've played every single title since the first one, and it's awful that with Tiberian Twilight they've ruined the series so much that it's just not worth the money anymore. I'll probably buy it out of reverence to the franchise once the game price is cut to around half what it is now. That won't be for a while I reckon but I'm in no rush to play this.

Obviously there won't be a video review for the game, then, but feel free to look at major game sites. Trust me, it's not pretty. It just seems that the whole development process lost track of what C&C was all about. On top of the game itself not being that hot, they added to it the same nasty DRM that requires you to be online at all times.

Ah well. Here's hoping somewhere down the line someone decides to revive the series and bring it back to its glory.