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July 13, 2014

Gaming Thread 7/13/2014

I know, I know, you're watching the World Cup finals or the EV Finals right bow but this week I've got a guest post from David Queener aka Scar3crow, an interesting cat that I talk to online.

Go HERE to watch and bet fake money on EVO. The BlazBlue Grand Finals was frigging amazing as Dogura choked away to Garireo. Killer Instinct Grand Finals is on right now.

Harada is also announcing Tekken 7


Playing in the Mainstream

by scar3crow

It is said that politics is downstream from culture. This is indirectly often reiterated by Ace's posts about cultural tone and direction. It is followed by sites like Twitchy and the Big Hollywood portion of Breitbart. But more and more games are a dominant strain of that culture which shapes the political disposition of the public.

Where movies, TV, music, and books can show us what to think, or how to think, games can train us to think that way by requiring it, and rewarding it. Repetition helps you pass the test, but doing lets you teach the class. What a generation plays can mold how they approach problems (politicking), treat resources (economics), and what challenges resemble (root ontology). Games have historically been systems of pattern matching. You observe the game, you discover the pattern, you run the counter pattern, and progress to new content. During this you are rewarded in a number of ways, and the events are justified through a story.

Games have the strengths of all previous art forms to shape culture, as well as the power of creating habits and mental shortcuts. This isn't to say that games are necessarily leftist propaganda, but rather the philosophies of a developer naturally come through - though good designers will often go for what works best (regardless of if they realize that the default is their belief system) so as to make the best game as they know it.

Look at the stories games seek to tell with the same discerning eye you would use for film, literature, or music. Particularly consider the message the gaming media says about them. My go to example is the way sites like RockPaperShotgun and others treat Call of Duty, as a jingoistic, Fox News oriented game, when the stories themselves treat America as an at best bumbling and incompetent power that needs to be rescued by Europeans time and time again.

So consider the cultural impact games can have. Not so much in the setting, but in the mechanics. What it teaches to have regenerating health, where simply avoiding damage for a short period removes the impact of previous harm. What it teaches to have foes respawn and eventually become farmable. What it teaches to reduce people to vending machines where you can skip what they are saying (kudos to Borderlands for putting in literal vending machines for what players most commonly want). I try not to think too much on it mechanic wise when playing a game, but you can't avoid it in the story. As games continue to further imitate Hollywood, we can expect this to become more prevalent - especially with so much of the industry concentrating in deep blue states - and so we should be further on guard for what behaviors our games have us practicing.

I like to use games as an escape, but having worked in the industry for six years, I have seen the echo chamber that is the political mindset and knowledge of many of the content providers. Sometimes we just can't escape.

scar3crow intermittently writes content such as this at sca3crow.com where he focuses on game mechanics, and the loathsome state of gaming journalism. You can follow him on Twitter, @scar3crowdotcom


Since I'm completely topical with horrible timing, here is my top 5 Soccer games.

MegaMan Soccer (SNES) - For goofy arcade soccer gaming, I don't think there has been anything that has topped this for me. It's got special moves and just an overall fun about it with some Bill Laimbeer's Combat Basketball style jank to the whole proceedings. Wish I didn't sell my copy, it's gotten kinda pricey over the years for a complete US copy (still $50 just for the cart)

International Superstar Soccer Deluxe (SNES) - Great physics with a killer touch in curling the kicks. Also had the best AI at the time for sports games without it being rubber banding it's way to wins. Also gave birth to the animation standards that Konami was king of for 10 years. Sadly it had a small print run in the US so it commands a good $100 or so for just the cart.

Pro Evolution Soccer 2008 (PS2, PS3, PC, Xbox 360, Wii) - The last good entry in the Winning Eleven/PES series and frankly the last good soccer sim game. There really wasn't a bad bone to pick in the game as it nailed everything perfectly IMO. Sadly with them constantly getting their asses handed to them by the FIFA games in sales, they ruined the series in chasing EA's juggernaut.

Sensible World of Soccer 96/97 (PC and Amiga) - First game to blend competent management sim with a decent game of footy. First game for me that got me into management sims but it was also the game that has really nailed ball physics IMO.

Football Manager series (PC, Mac) - The only series to be able to match Out of The Park baseball series for depth in the management sub-genre. And it does a good job in presenting it's power point gameplay. The yearly released of this and the yearly OOTP is all the management sims you need for a year.



Abyss Odyssey (PC, PS3, 360) - The weirdos from Chile, Ace Team (Zeno Clash and Rock of Ages) have made a procedurally created sidescroller with what is supposed to be an interesting combat system. Gonna go out on a limb that like the other games from Ace, it's not gonna be worth buying.

Magic The Gathering 2015 (PC, Android, iOS, 360, XBO) - Another year means another Magic digital game that isn't MTGO. It came out for the iPad last week and like last year's entry, the early word was that at least that release is buggy as all hell so it might be releasing like how last year's entry was. They supposedly have expanded the "deck building" in this year's game. Eh, $10 and it's easy to get your money/time worth out of it even if it's not MTGO.

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