Gaming without your brother

Tag Archives: XCOM

Originally published on 10/30/12

So this is old rage by now, because this draft has been sitting, waiting to be finished, for at least a week, but you know me and my ability to hold on to rage . . .

I saw GameSpot.com tweet an article with some inflammatory lead-in like “Are all gamers stupid?” or something ridiculous, so naturally I took the linkbait and then watched a GameSpot.com video feature Edmund McMillan, Cliff Bleszinski, and a number of other prominent gaming names, articulating their opinions about whether or not games are getting dumber.

I was almost instantly incensed. What kind of dumb generalization is that, “all games are being dumbed down”?! Of COURSE “all games” aren’t being dumbed down. Are some? Naturally. There’s a huge market for the less intelligent who also love video games. And really, you know what, I shouldn’t even be that dismissive. Really, there are people that buy from that pool of games because they don’t want to think when they play video games. And I’ve been there, I get that. Sometimes you’d rather mindlessly kill things than work through puzzles or an emotionally compelling story. That doesn’t mean you’re missing brain cells, it means you just want a relaxing, thought-free evening every once in awhile.

I wrote out paragraphs and paragraphs of a tangent, but I reigned myself back eventually to what my point is (you’re welcome): the gaming community and industry is now too big to say crap like this. Back in the day, you could make sweeping generalizations about gaming and video games and your exceptions would be one or two titles, so people got away with it. Now? There are hundreds of games released in a year. Potentially thousands, depending on what you’re counting. Some people enjoy “dumbed down” games, some people only enjoy those games once in awhile, and really, those games that appeal to the lowest common denominator of gamers are the biggest cash cows for publishers, so yeah, they get a lot of face time in the media (and some games get media time because they’re just awesome and not dumbed down, like Dishonored).

But there is so much more out there! And the sad thing to me about the video was that Edmund McMillan (co-creator of Super Meat Boy, arguably one of the hardest games of its generation) and Cliff Bleszinski know that. I know they know that. But they must be seeing the games that demand more out of players as exceptions rather than norms. And really, I’m not sure there is a gaming norm any more. Again, the industry is too big for generalizations.

We’re seeing factions and pockets of specific gamers pop up all over the place. Indie gamers, racing gamers, only platformers, only MMO  players, only FPS players. There are all kinds, and I’m grateful, because it takes all kinds to make this beautiful gaming world go round. When you get that kind of genre passion, that leads to experimentation to take something you love so deeply to another level, just to see what can happen. And that innovation elevates the industry, despite any of the “dumbed down” games that some think are ruining it.

I guess in the end my rage was really just sadness. I’m sad that from the inside out, the industry is being hated on from people that a) worked to change it in the first place and b) have seen it’s growth and should know better than to generalize such a diverse place. For shame E and Cliffy B. For shame.

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Here’s the thing: I’d love to write about the great games I played at PAX, but I’m too busy implementing the awesome knowledge I got at PAX. For example, I’ve applied to about a billion jobs tonight. That may or may not be hyperbole. The point is, I didn’t review games like I was supposed to tonight because I’m trying to do what all the geniuses at PAX panels told me to do. Here’s what they told me, that I am now going to share with you all:

Started out the weekend with Destructoid

Started out the weekend with Destructoid

  • First I went to the Destructoid panel on Friday morning. I had zero idea of what to expect, but things started off on the right foot when a Destructoid employee randomly handed me a Razer Taipan mouse. Sweet! I’m now an insta-fan. The biggest piece of advice I got was to post like crazy on sites internal blogging systems. For example, I blogged a lot on that IGN system when I was trying to get to E3, but apparently I shouldn’t have stopped. Sites that have internal bloggers like to hire from that pool. I didn’t get a chance to ask if they wanted original content or if it didn’t matter, but because I’ve already invested money and time into this blog, I’m going to double post from here to IGN to Destructoid to BitMob, to any other place I can find.
  • I went to what was called the PC Gamer Mega Panel as well that had Notch, Dean Hall, Sean Vanaman, a guy I should know who is a big wig with that new XCOM game coming out, and another guy I should REALLY know because he was big time involved with Bastion at SuperGiant games. Man, ultimate fail with names right now. Anyway, it was mainly just fascinating to hear these guys talk about storytelling in video games (the subject of the panel), primarily because they had two true developer-created stories in The Walking Dead and Bastion, and XCOM to a certain extent, but then it was juxtaposed against the player-created worlds of DayZ and Minecraft. Just really incredible to listen to and contemplate. Put that in your brain basket and chew on it for awhile. Leave comments with awesome insights. One great insight in my notes that I wrote down was “Create real loss in games,” ala DayZ. Another post with more thoughts on this forthcoming.
  • Friday night I got the best advice of my life from Chris Kohler, from Wired. I asked the panel if I should give up my writing job because it wasn’t in video games, or keep it because it was writing, and the advice didn’t exactly match my question. But one of the panelists mentioned that her fiance just happened to be a gaming journalist and I could talk to him afterwards, and of course I did that. So I got to ask him my question and he said “Well if you really don’t care where you end up, script writing or journalism [which I don’t] then you should just get into the industry by any means then work your way towards writing.” BOOM. DONE, CHRIS KOHLER. Finally a definite answer to something I’ve been puzzling over for months now. So, I’ve been applying to all kinds of jobs tonight. Mainly SEO, writing, and PR stuff, things that I think I would still enjoy doing if I were actually hired and have a minute amount of experience in, but man . . . very time consuming. Also, it should be noted that that is not an absolute direct quote from Chris Kohler. That was the gist of what he said to me, personally. I don’t want to get in trouble with Chris Kohler for a misquote or something. Chris Kohler.
Good day if I start with Destructoid and end with Wired.

Good day if I start with Destructoid and end with Wired.

Saturday’s panels were less helpful to me, but somethings that might help you:

  • These are great tools to use to start actually making games with little to no programming knowledge: Construct 2, Game Salad, Game Maker, Unity. Even though the panelists of the “Breaking into the Industry” panel weren’t writers, many of them started making games on their own to then work their way into a company and to get where they wanted.
  • The number one advice in the “How Not to Write a Game Review” panel was to be specific and to not use cliches. For example, don’t say something was good or bad, but make sure you mention specifics and if you reference a past game or different game in comparison, you gotta explain that to. THIS was the panel that I got Evan Lahti’s card from PCGamer.com. BOOM. Small victory.

Long. Lots of text. Nothing to funny or exciting. But I know the majority of anyone reading this blog post is someone who like me is blogging for fun and trying to get somewhere. So I thought maybe I could let you benefit from my experiences. To close, I’ll share the inspiring story from Niero Gonzalez, founder of Destructoid, that I hadn’t heard before.

He started a a gaming blog all on his own. He would get up early to schedule blog posts about gaming news throughout his day while he was at his day job, he would then sneak onto his blog to post and write during his day job, and then he would stay up late to write more content to auto-post the next day while he was at work. In his first year, he published 2,000 blog posts. And when he saw PAX was coming up, he called to see how he could get there with a media badge and they said all he had to do was show them his professional website. So with his minimal knowledge of web design, he made his site look as professional as he could, PAX bought it, and he got a media badge to go cover his first PAX. He posted mostly humor, and just about anything he could find in his first year, and that’s how he started his following.

It was kind of intimidating to hear that story, to be honest, but I also found it inspiring. He did it, guys. We can too. It’ll be really hard, but we can. I don’t think that’s naivete, I think it’s hope and hard work. My goal, for the record here, so I can be held accountable to strangers on the internet, is to make it to PAX with a difference badge next year, whether as an exhibitor because I helped write and develop a game or as a media representative because I’m writing for an outlet, or my own blog that I tricked them into thinking was real. I’m not sure how, at the moment, but next year I’m going to PAX as more than an attendee. And you can too!

Yeah, that was a stretch of a Colbert reference, I'll admit it.

Yeah, that was a stretch of a Colbert reference, I’ll admit it.