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Once, video games were my life.

Much bigger than a hobby, I spent all my waking hours either playing or thinking about video games. Every spare dollar I got went towards a new game or a new console. I used to spend hours calculating exactly how many months it would take at my current allowance rate to save up for the original Nintendo DS. I lived and breathed video games.

I’d be lucky if I even thought about them any more. 

To be more specific, I’d be lucky if I could find a single one I enjoyed playing.

Something happened to me my senior year of high school. Suddenly, I did more considering what to play than actual playing. I would spend most of my day deciding on what to play, all the while browsing Youtube or other similar sites. When I did finally start to play a game after hours of deliberation, I’d end up only playing for a few hours at most. A game once in a while would come along and really capture me (Fallout 3 had me in its grasps for over 40 hours), but in general, my playtime was diminishing faster than I could realize what was happening.

College came next, and so did Minecraft. I spent my entire two years in college playing Minecraft… and nothing else at all. Nothing else could hold my interest for more than a few minutes, and even with a giant library of Steam games, I could search through them entirely and not find a single game that sounded any sort of interesting to me, even games that I had played before and loved.

After college was when things started to get even more grim. No longer was I just not playing games. No, the months following my college career, I started to actively dislike video games. Most games made me upset; I started to demand a very high quality from every game I played, or I lost interest. If a game had day one DLC, it immediately went on a list of “I’m never playing this game.” If the game had fun concepts but was lost in a sea of bad voice acting, I’d never touch it again after the initial play. My standards went ridiculously high. Games like Bastion and Dishonored were just two of a very select few that actually had me playing them until the very end.

And that basically brings us to today. I play maybe, maybe five hours of video games a week. Nothing can hold my interest, and the games I do play, I am very negative about because I find flaws in everything.

Metal Gear Revengence has an awful blocking system and I never played more than two hours of it. Transistor didn’t live up to Bastion, and it disappointed me. Legend of Zelda: Link Between Worlds was more dribble from Nintendo, who is absolutely stuck in the past and on life support from a machine called nostalgia. Bioshock Infinite bored me to tears. Tearaway was too easy. Last of Us was too hard. Darksiders II is a collect-three-things-over-and-over simulator.

My hobby has turned to ash, and I can’t see why or a way out.

How come games aren’t fun to me anymore?

I find myself watching Let’s Play channels on Youtube because I enjoy watching other people enjoy the video games I used to enjoy. It brings me pleasure to see people having fun where I used to as well. Let’s Play videos are the closest I can get to enjoying my hobby anymore. 

So what is causing me to hate these things that I used to love so dearly?

Am I depressed? Well, maybe. I certainly was in college. I was on antidepressants for a while, though I’m not sure they actually did anything for me besides give me awful side effects when I stopped taking them. And besides, wouldn’t video games actually help fight depression? I thought that was the point, to escape from the real world.

Are games just bad? No, I honestly don’t believe this. There are some awful business practices that have gone on in the past few years in the video game industry, but in general, there are many games that have come out that have been considered some of the best games ever made. Some of the highest rated games of last year I actively disliked, but that doesn’t make them bad games. This is not the answer.

Have I just grown tired of video games? Ah, there’s the rub. The likely answer to that very sad question is: “yes”. As much as it pains me to admit it, I might have just grown apart from video games over the years. There’s no doubt that I can still enjoy playing a game with a friend once in a while, whether it be the random Mario Kart game of a quick match of CS:GO online.

But the awful truth of it is, I rarely enjoy video games when I’m playing them by myself.

I think me and video games broke up, but I cannot for the life of me accept that. I’ve invested so much of my energy, my money and my life into supporting my video game hobby, even the mere thought that I’m no longer interested in them makes me weep. What would I even do without video games? Knit? Ride bikes? I’ve lived with video entertainment for so long, I’d be absolutely lost without it, yet my life obviously has no love for the hobby.

So what is the final conclusion to this post? Is there even one? 

No… I don’t think there is. I will never give up on video games because they’re too ingrained into my life. They literally molded me to become who I am today. My house is organized around the best and most comfortable way to play video games. It’s like a relationship: and sure, maybe me hanging on to video games even if we’re not meant to be is like a very unhappy couple staying together just for the kids. But since no-one else is involved in this particular situation, I have no problems kicking and screaming to keep the relationship going as long as possible.

And there are those odd games that I seriously do enjoy. Farcry 3. Dishonored. Bastion. Minecraft. Call of Duty: Black Ops. They don’t come around very often, but when they do, at least those few short hours as I’m playing those games, I can pretend that me and video games have a solid relationship; that we still love each other.

It won’t hurt as much that way.

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I just recently got myself a shiny new Playstation Vita. The machine is a real looker, and I find myself just holding it in my hands and gawking at the device. Sony really got the look of the thing down really well. However, no gaming machine can get away with looking pretty if there are no games to play, and the Vita is no exception; I spent the first two weeks of owning the device just looking at it because there were just no interesting retail games to pick up. I started out with Katamari, and while that was a nice distraction, it seriously did no favors to prove that the Vita was any sort of a capable gaming machine. But then I remembered that they had released the Metal Gear Solid HD collection on the device.

Now, I’m a huge Metal Gear Solid fan. I’ve played through the entirety of the Solid series many times, and find myself completely enamored by how good almost every aspect of the games are. So thinking that I could own Metal Gear Solid 2 and 3 to play in the palm of my hand made me very excited, and I picked the games up as soon as I could.

Like any self respecting gamer should, I started with the earlier game, Son’s of Liberty. I was in awe of how much fun I was having, even though I’ve beaten the game probably close to five times before. Maybe it was just the shock of playing this fantastic game on a portable device that had me so excited, but I played through the entire thing in about three nights.

Then it was time to move on to Snake Eater.

Before I start, a bit of back story. I was never a huge fan of Snake Eater. Yes, I did beat it back on my PS2, but I never really liked a lot of things about it. However, I was younger back then, a lot less wise than I am today, so I decided to go into the Vita version with completely blank expectations: I was going to give Snake Eater a completely new opinion.

As it turns out, younger me wasn’t as dumb as I had thought. 

The game, while a perfectly fine game in itself, is easily the worst of the Metal Gear Solid series, and I intend to, as fairly as I can, compare Snake Eater to Son’s of Liberty, Gun’s of the Patriots and the game that started it all, Metal Gear Solid.

Let’s start, shall we?

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I’ve been playing games for a very long time. I’ve seen many different types of games come and go, become popular and lose their popularity. I’ve seen genres die, and genres come alive. Currently, in this day and age of video games, the popular thing to do is make games as cinematic as possible; to try and mimic a movie. Game after game I play I notice that I’m watching more cut scene than I am playing and even when I’m playing, the developers make it seem like I’m still watching a movie by taking the gameplay and adding dynamic camera angles or cinematic quick time events; all of it working towards a more movie like experience. And to me, this couldn’t be farther off from what I expect from a video game.

Not to say that there is anything wrong with video games being cinematic. One of my favorite series of all time is the Metal Gear Solid series, and those games pride themselves in being incredibly cinematic, with hours after hours of movie like cut scenes. So no, there is nothing wrong with a video game trying to imitate older forms of media. But sometimes, I just want to play a game. And that’s when a game like Lollipop Chainsaw becomes my saving grace, because it’s the most video game like video game I’ve played in a long time.

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Hi there!

Yes, it’s my very first post in a LONG time. Believe, I understand that. These are the first words I’ve written specifically for this blog in months, and that saddens me. However, yesterday I started in a new adventure, and it deserved documentation. I figured, perfect time to make a glorious comeback to my blog, after so many missed words. So, here’s what’s going on: I’m making a video game.

Yup, you heard that right. I’m in the very beginning processes of making myself a video game. I’ve got the premise, I’ve got the gameplay styling, and I’ve even designed a few levels. I have a main character and I have one enemy. The game is very rough and will certainly change a lot in the future, however, the game is started, and it can be played, and it does exist. And I will be updating this blog with news and information about how the progress is going as I add more levels and more features. So continue to check back often, as I’ll be working on it quite a bit. It’s my new years resolution to have this game finished and published somewhere before the year’s end. I will make it happen.

In the mean time, here is a screen shot of the most recent build:

Happy New Years!

I hadn’t played a Mario game in nearly a year and a half. Super Mario Galaxy 2 came out in the summer of 2010, and that was the last I saw of the Italian plumber until this winter in 2011, with the arrival of Super Mario 3D Land. Yes, you read that right. Not Super Mario 3D. Nintendo decided to get a little more creative with their names this year, opting out of simply adding a 3D to the end of all their games, instead giving them a little more personality, and in the case of Super Mario 3D Land, the title describes the game perfectly. The 3DS iteration of classic Mario combines multiple games, from the amazing 2D platforming of Super Mario World on the SNES, to the more modern 3D worlds of Super Mario GalaxySuper Mario 3D Land has it all. And it was good timing too: Nintendo’s newest handheld console, the 3DS, hasn’t exactly had the brightest history so far. From delayed and canceled games, to a drastic price drop not three months after launch, nothing seemed to be looking good for the newborn handheld. But despite Nintendo pushing remake after remake into our faces, early adopters have been looking forward to the promise of a brand new Mario game since day one. And let me be not the first to say that Super Mario 3D Land was well worth the wait. The game gives life to the console and gives meaning to its existence. Without Super Mario 3D Land, my 3DS would still be sitting under a pile of clothes in the corner. The game is the first “must own” title for the 3DS.

Read the rest of the review here, on Guide2Games. 

Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo have already given their press conferences at E3 (Electronic Entertainment Expo) this year, and, as any self-respecting gamer should do, I’m going to reflect on all three of them.

Microsoft 

Microsoft was the first to take the stage, early Monday morning. Well, early in California; I had time to hit the snooze button seven times, roll out of bed, make some coffee, browse the internet and leisurely mosey over to the IGN streaming site before noon hit, Eastern time.

Microsoft started out with an epic, ten minute demo of Modern Warfare 3 running on the Xbox 360 console (not without “proving” that it was in game due to a controller connection interruption). It showed some pretty cool cinematic, though it did seem that the game was reusing quite a few assets used in Modern Warfare 2. Regardless, the game is sure to be the same, action packed romp that it always is.

Then came the new Tomb Raider reboot, which had the new, less-but-also-somehow-more sexually attractive Laura Croft getting stabbed, beaten, bruised, punched, and battered all to hell as she made her way out of what looked like a sacrificial cave. It looked quite exciting, and this will be the first Tomb Raider game that I’m actually looking forward to, let alone feel excited for.

Cliff Bleszinski, later, came on stage, and, together with the help of Ice-T, beat a enthralling single player mission on Gears of War 3, taking place on a ship that was actively being eaten by a giant squid-octopus hybrid thing. Looks to be pretty fun and over the top, as is expected out of Gears of War games.

Then Microsoft started shoving Kinect shit games down our throats. 85% of the entire press conference was glitchy, buggy, boring and unintuitive Kinect games that didn’t interest me in the slightest. Come on, Microsoft, Kinect doesn’t work; quit trying to sell it like it does.

Of course, they also announced the Halo 1 remake, which is a completely remade and high-definition of the original game, single player and all. It will have online co-op and online multiplayer with the original maps and some new, updated ones. I didn’t get super excited about that, but hey, Halo is fun, and fun is good.

At the very end of the conference, Microsoft showed us a Halo 4 trailer that left of right where Halo 3 did; with Master Chief floating away in a space ship. It looks like it could be cool, but I worry about the series without Bungie behind the helm.

Overall, Microsoft showed off some cool, multiplatform games that were interesting, but the majority of the gamers were flat, cardboard Kinect games, and that just doesn’t interest me.

Grade: C-

Sony

Sony started off with something they really needed to do: an apology. And while that was a nice enough gesture, they didn’t really phrase it in a way that made much sense. Instead of “Hey, look, we’re sorry about everything”, the phrasing made it seem like “We’re sorry you couldn’t enjoy everything that we know you love and is awesome on the PSN”, which is sorta the same, but it comes off like an advertisement more than an apology.

Then we got to the real stuff. Uncharted 3, duh, looks awesome. And by awesome, I mean FUUUUUUUU insane. This is a series that gets worlds better every iteration, and considering the first one was a very good game, that speaks wonders about the quality of the stuff Naughty Dog puts out.

Resistance 3… is another Resistance, which is to say, “yawn”.

Then Sony went into something that I hold very dear to my heart; HD remakes of older games. I’m oh-so pumped for the Shadow of the Colossus and ICO remakes, but ovbiously I’m going to buy the Metal Gear Solid remakes as well.

The press conference was littered with games that supported the Move controller. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, the Move shows so much more promise than Kinect, but so far, I still haven’t seen anything that makes it a must own peripheral (which is why I don’t have one), and E3 didn’t do much to rectify that. Try again, Sony.

The new Sly Cooper game looks very nice. Having never played his games before, I’m tempted to go back and explore the older games to get ready for the new one.

But easily the biggest surprise of all of E3 (surprise, and nothing more) was the Playstation Vita. Weird, new age-y name aside, Sony showed quite a bit of games running on the console, all of which looked like console ports. I guess that’s not a bad thing, but at some point, you have to ask yourself “Wouldn’t I rather be playing this on my actual PS3 and my HDTV?” I think that is the main problem that the Vita is going to come across, but I digress, that is not the exciting news I was referring to. No, the biggest surprise out of E3 2011 was that the PS Vita would retail in America for 250$. 250$!!! People had been guestimating at over 300$ and into the 400$ range, and for Sony to pull a “Yeah, we’re the same price as Nintendo” just blew me away. I’m still having problems believing it. Nintendo has got some work cut out for them.

Overall, Sony was interesting, if not terribly exciting. The PS Vita was easily the best part of the show, but still, it just wasn’t all that fun.

Grade: B-

Nintendo

Nintendo started off their press conference with a real orchestra playing Zelda music at Miyamoto’s request. I mean really, how can anything top that? They can’t… they just can’t.

After some quick footage of Skyward sword and some announcements about more Zelda games coming to the Wii, 3DS and DSi, Nintendo moved right onto their newest console, the Wii U. And this is where things started moving downhill.

They announced the name. Then they showed us a controller with a screen. Then, as the audience scratched their heads, they started showing games using this new controller. There was no announcement of a new console, no pictures of any sort of new hardware. It was just this controller. No one could figure out what exactly it was. Was it an extension of the Wii? Was it a portal gaming console that connected with the Wii? It wasn’t until minutes passed that it finally clicked for a lot of people: There was a new console, but Nintendo wanted to focus on the controller as the new expereince. Well, cool, Nintendo, except you confused everyone watching and I’m sure there are still some people confused as to what the crap was going on.

So yeah. Wii 2. HD graphics. About as powerful as the current generation (2006 technology. Woo) with another gimmicky controller that no one will take full advantage of. Sure sounds like Nintendo!

Then they moved onto 3DS stuff, and as a game deprived 3DS owner, was a good change of pace. The showed us some gameplay of the new Mario game, the new Mario Kart, the remake of Star Fox 64 and some Ocarina of Time 3D footage. The coolest surprise was the return of Luigi’s Mansion, and boy did it look nice! That’s easily become my most anticipated 3DS game (aside from Ocarina, which comes out soon!).

And… that’s about it for Nintendo. Their 3DS showing was all nice and dandy, but I just had a problem with the way they presented the Wii U (WEEEEUUUUU). But still, they put on a much better show than Sony and Microsoft.

Grade: B

Nintendo is going to release their console before 2012; confirmed, E3 2011. It looks like new device, called the Wii U, will be more powerful than the 360 and PS3, which is pretty obvious, considering the 360 and PS3 aren’t getting any younger. This is a pretty exciting thought; having a new console in a little more than a year. But it also puts all three companies in a sticky situation. 

Obviously, by releasing the Wii U a year or two earlier than when Sony and Microsoft are expected to release their new consoles (both who have repeatedly said they’re waiting until 2014), Nintendo will have a rather large head start in the next console wars. Nintendo will have the stronger console for nearly two years, and that means that 3rd party developers will (hopefully) develop 3rd party games that can only run on the new tech in the Wii U, and that will lower the sales of both the 360 and the PS3.

Because of this bold move, it seems unlikely that Sony and Microsoft will sit idly by and watch Nintendo suck in profit. Two years is a LONG time, and during that time, Nintendo will move millions of units and make billions of dollars in software sales, and all the while, they’ll be stealing possible sales from both Sony and Microsoft. Seems like the first logical thing for them to do would get that new Xbox and Playstation out as early as possible, but it’s  unlikely that either Microsoft or Sony are anywhere close to being ready to release their console next year (both of them, Microsoft mostly, are focused on Kinect and Move, so it’s unlikely that they have their full force working on a new console). That would put a hurried console release sometime in the later part of 2013, with a E3 2013 announcement, which would only put them a year behind the Wii U, and, as we’ve seen from the past, that’s an acceptable amount of time for consoles to be released apart without some serious backlash to either company.

This one year gap would also help Nintendo. As it stands, if the Wii U is released in 2012 and the new Sony and Microsoft consoles in 2014, that leaves a two year gap in technology that Sony and Microsoft will CERTAINLY fill. When 2014 rolls around, the PS4 and Xbox 1080 will be nearly double the power of the Wii U, and the consumers and developers will all have the same problem that we have in this generation: Nintendo is stuck with an underpowered machine. However, if Microsoft and Sony move their conoles up by a year, that only puts Nintendo one year behind in terms of technology, and there will be a lesser chance that the gap will be quite as big.

It’s hard to play so many guessing games right now when we have no solid dates on anything. But, drawing from the past, and how much companies like to make money, it only makes sense that Microsoft and Sony won’t like it when Nintendo profits for two extra years, and will want to prevent that from happening by moving their console launches to 2013.

Steam, Valve digital online platform, is incredibly popular. No, really, at almost any given time, there are over a million gamers playing some sort of game, and it’s usually much higher. There are so many things to love about Steam, whether it be the convenience of having your games available to you whenever you need them, having your saved games follow you around, or simply making it easier to keep in contact with your gamer friends!

This, however, is NOT the best thing about Steam. No sir, people flock to Steam like the i on Apple products because of the deals that you can get on games.

Steam is known for dropping prices on games to insanely low prices. Every weekend, there is a weekend deal that usually knocks off 50% to 75% off of a range of games. In the middle of the week, they have a feature called “Midweek Madness”, which does another 50% to 75% of a single game. Just recently, they’ve introduced daily deals, which, as you can imagine, cuts the price of a game daily. And this isn’t even counting holidays, where Steam sales just get ludicrous, with hundreds of games on sale for dirt cheap.

Digital downloads are becoming more and more popular as the internet speeds increase and as more and more devices can hold tons of games. I, myself, own over a hundred games on Steam (which is probably a bad thing), so whether we like it or not, and regardless of if it’s going to erase physical distribution, digital distribution is here to stay.

There is one problem though: Steam is the only one who is doing it correctly.

No, no, there are plenty of good places to download games. Xbox Live has a very nice collection of downloadable content and games on demand, as does the Playstation Network, Amazon, Direct2Drive and a large number of other online distributors. However, none of them have the insane deals that Steam does, and this is the main problem. Content on other platforms is almost always more expensive than it would be to just buy the physical game used or otherwise. Xbox Live is the worst with this; their games on demand are SO much more expensive than walking into Gamestop and picking a used copy up, but Microsoft will never drop the price because they don’t want the user to feel like they’re getting a steal. And this is pretty common for most downloadable services; physical copies are less costly than digital ones, and that completely defeats the purpose of a digital copy, which is convenience.

And yes, before you say anything, a lot of companies are following Steam by making deals as well, however, it’s just not enough. Digital content (specifically of older games) should not cost 100% more than their physical counterparts, yet that’s still where we are at. Until every digital distribution company hits the same stride that Steam has, I don’t see them succeeding well enough to eliminate physical content whatsoever.

UPDATE: This topic has been updated after the events of E3. I’ll have more to say on the topic later, but for now, go here to read the slightly updated topic. Hit the jump to read the original article, unedited.

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Getting my 3DS just a mere week ago, I’ve already fallen in love with the three dimensional, two screened machine. I’ve spend countless hours, late into the night getting destroyed by random strangers at Street Fighter IV and crashing into Mario’s castle in Pilot Wings. Not many experiences compare to the first moment when I turned the 3DS on and saw my little Mii pop up in 3D without those annoying glasses. And as much as I love the little device, I have just one problem: why do we need two screens?

In the three games I’ve had the opportunity to play (and all the little apps that come with the 3DS) on the 3DS, none of them use the bottom screen for anything more than menus or… well, nothing. Pilot Wings use it for menus, ones that could be used just as easily on the top screen. Street Fighter IV uses it for special attacks that could very well have been mapped to an actual button instead of one of the four giant buttons on the bottom screen. The Mii Plaza and the Augmented Reality games don’t even do anything with the bottom screen. This begs the question: Why does this system need two screens?

If Nintendo had opted to make the Nintendo 3DS a one-screened, they could have made the system half the size. They could have made the top screen (the important one) bigger and maybe had improved the performance of the device with the extra space. There are many possibilities to how Nintendo, being the creative bunch they are, could have improved their device had they had the extra real estate, and yet they added the extra screen, one that doesn’t even get used… at all.

The touch part of the bottom screen is obviously a plus; it makes for some interesting games and features. But why not just make the top screen touch as well (like the NGP). That would solve that simple problem.

Not to say that there isn’t a reason to have a bottom screen. Obviously, there wouldn’t be any backwards compatibility if they rid the console of the bottom screen. And of course there are many games (on the original DS) that DO take advantage of the bottom screen. However, do the pros outweigh the cons? Would getting rid of the screen make the console much better, or much worse? I guess we’ll never know, but I have a hunch; from what I’ve seen so far, the bottom screen is not getting used enough for it to validate its existence, so why not just get rid of it?

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