Friday, July 15, 2011

The Future of the Video Game Industry

A guy hears video game sound FX coming from the living room. He goes to investigate and sees his roommate playing a FPS video game. His roommate is doing impressively well killing every enemy with headshots. "Damn Dude, you're pretty good at this game, what is it?", he asks.

Without looking up his roommate replies, "It's Call of Duty 21 on the new Playstation EZ1." 

"Oh really?, the first guy says, " it looks pretty cool. Mind if I try it out?"

"Sure thing, dude, have at it", the roommate agrees, and hands over the controller.

"Dude, what the hell is this? This looks like an old joystick from the Atari 2600 or something only it's wireless?! The first guy inquires with surprise. 

"That's exactly what it is dude, the roommate confirms, "it's the same design revamped for modern gaming." 

"You're shitting me, really? How the hell can you play a game with a single analog stick and a single button? The old controllers had like 14 buttons and 2 analog thumbsticks... this seems like a technological regression instead of a progression. Games started out with like 4 bit graphics on a shitty controller like this and then evolved into the Nintendo controller with a D-pad, and 2 buttons and eventually evolved in to the 14 button controllers on the 6th and 7th gen consoles... now were back to a single analog stick and a single button? What gives?" The first guy rambles.

"Well dude it's like this", the roommate explains, "The gaming industry got choked by casual gamers that thirsted for games that were easier to play. You see, the video game industry wanted to expand to reach a wider audience and garner more profits which they did but the new gamers don't have the attention span of a toddler in a toy store and a 14 button controller may as well be a cockpit in a rocket ship. And the games themselves became progressively easier to play. Shorter single player campaigns, regenerating health, unlimited ammo, and auto-aiming. So it's come down to this", -The roommate points at the 60 inch LCD HD 3D monitor behind him and continues, "This game does just about everything for you. All you gotta do is move and shoot which is why all you need is the stick and the button. The game aims for you... just picks one target after another automatically and all you have to do is follow the path and fire your weapon. In fact it targets each enemy with an instant head shot so gamers can feel like a real bad ass with lots of skills."

"Skills!? What fucking skills!? The game does everything for you! I'm surprised that you even have to move and shoot on your own!" The first guy exclaims, "What's the fucking point in even playing it? Fuck this shit."

The first guy hands the wireless joystick back to his roommate. "I have no interest in playing that shit. If that's what passes as a video game today I may as well just watch a fucking movie." And he leaves the room as video game sound FX continue.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Death of Stealth Gaming

A quick look at what is pretty much the general consentaneous list of what the top 20 most anticipated video games of E3 2011 are and you'll see a fairly obvious trend...

1. Mass Effect 3 (Electronic Arts)
2. Battlefield 3 (Electronic Arts)
3. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (Bethesda)
4. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 (Activision Blizzard)
5. Assassin's Creed Revelations (Ubisoft)
6. Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception (Sony Computer Entertainment)
7. Batman: Arkham City (Warner Bros. Interactive)
8. The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword (Nintendo)
9. Halo 4 (Microsoft)
10. Infamous 2 (Sony Computer Entertainment)
11. Duke Nukem Forever (Take-Two)
12. Star Wars: The Old Republic (Electronic Arts)
13. Tomb Raider (Square Enix)
14. Gears of War 3 (Microsoft)
15. Rage (Bethesda)
16. BioShock Infinite (Take-Two)
17. Super Mario 3D (Nintendo)
18. Resistance 3 (Sony Computer Entertainment)
19. Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary (Microsoft)
20. Street Fighter X Tekken (Capcom)

Give up? Nearly half of the games listed above are First Person Shooters. This is the modern trend in gaming today... fucking shooters. 

The Call of Duty franchise outsells every other video game franchise in existence despite the fact that there is hardly any difference between the annually released titles Activision keeps pumping out every year like they're the Duggar family of video games. Seriously... show me some footage of Modern Warfare 2 or the upcoming Modern Warfare 3 and I honestly wouldn't be able to tell them apart. 

Mixing art and business is evil. The end result is profits become more important than brand loyalty. It's the ultimate video game sellout as game companies try to appeal to a larger gaming audience by abandoning what their game was originally meant to be in favor of more action and more casual gamer-friendly features. 

A good example of this is the Splinter Cell series developed and published by Ubisoft. This series was once upon a time my favorite game series. It was a tense game that required patience and planning to get thru... studying guard patrol patterns and waiting for the right moment to move thru either by avoiding confrontation at all or sneaking up on an unsuspecting enemy and dispatching them either with lethal or non-lethal force. Once the enemy was down you had to risk further exposure by picking up the body and hiding it. The ultimate object of the game was get thru each mission undetected... to get in and out without anyone ever knowing you were there. In fact on the hardest difficulty level in some of the earlier titles you weren't even given any ammo for your weapons and had to get thru the game with your knife and gadgets. Engaging in firefights with the enemy was likely to get you dead or seriously wounded quick in only a few shots with no regenerating health. 

This wasn't a game for everyone. Not every gamer has the patience to sit still in one place for several minutes waiting for a guard to move away in order to move thru the area the guard patrols unnoticed. Most gamers want to just shoot every guard in the area then move on and shoot everyone in the next area. And as you can see from the list of games above there's no shortage of such games available. 

Enter Splinter Cell Conviction that came out last spring. The game's protagonist, Sam Fisher has gone rogue and now he's running and gunning thru every mission leaving a large trail of bodies in his wake. He no longer gives a shit if bodies he drops are found by other enemies cuz he'll just kill them too. There is actually no longer any non-lethal option for dispatching enemies and no longer is it possible to get thru a level without engaging with any enemies. A large percentage of Sam's arsenal isn't even suppressed. I don't know about you but I really don't see the point of being stealthy when you're carrying a shotgun. 

Pretty much the only thing that Conviction has in common is the words "Splinter Cell" in the title and the protagonist's name... Sam Fisher other than that it's nearly entirely unrecognizable as a Splinter Cell game. 

The game's stealth mechanics have been toned down so much that the game is more of a 3rd person cover shooter than a stealth action game, and once again looking at there is no shortage of action games available... while nearly half are 1st person nearly the other half is 3rd person. How many of the games listed above are stealth games? 

TWO... Batman: Arkham City and Assassin's Creed: Revelations But even Batman isn't the type of stealth that Splinter Cell used to be, it's more like the kind of stealth in Splinter Cell Conviction. And Assassin's Creed is a social stealth game... hiding in plain sight rather than in the shadows.

I'll admit that Splinter Cell Conviction is indeed a fun game and I would love to play another game similar to it with similar gameplay mechanics... but not at the expense of my love for the type of stealth game that Splinter Cell was originally known for. By all means Ubisoft could do a spin-off using Conviction's gameplay mechanics but bring Sam Fisher back to his roots. 

There are already a relatively few decent stealth games/franchises in the industry and there is class of gamer that truly loves this kind of gameplay including fiercely loyal fans to their franchises. These are the fans that stick by thru thick and thin, but every fan has a limit to how much they will tolerate before they become disillusioned and move on. Having a game developer tweak their games to appeal to a wider audience alienates the fans that grew to love the game for what it was and what it was meant to be. If developers and publishers want to flirt with a larger audience then by all means make other games that will appeal to a larger audience... but stay true to the roots of what your franchises  were from the beginning otherwise it just feels like having a relationship with a partner that enjoys flirting with everyone else more than returning the attention and affection you give them.

Bottom line is there are plenty of games that appeal to a wide variety of gamers without needing to sellout the artistic vision of what the more obscure franchises were originally intended to be.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Selfishness? Disrespect?

If you have a friend who doesn't have a driver license and their own vehicle that depends on you for a rides and they check with you prior to making an appointment to ensure that the time and date of the appointment doesn't conflict with your own schedule and you tell them that you're open to any day of the week but you prefer the appointment was scheduled for the afternoon simply because you're not a morning person and then after the appointment is over they ask you if there are any conflicting days in your schedule prior to setting a date for a follow-up appointment and you tell them once again that any day is fine and later when you ask them when they scheduled the appointment for you find out they scheduled a morning appointment knowing full-well that you prefer afternoons...

Is it an unreasonable expectation to expect that your friend would respect your wishes to schedule their appointments in the afternoons since you're driving them there? Or is it selfish of you expect a friend to schedule an appointment for the afternoon simply because you aren't a morning person? 

A bit more information...

The morning appointment wasn't set out of forgetfulness or necessity, it was set for no other reason than the friend preferred morning appointments contrary to the preference of the friend driving them there. When inquired about why the appointment was set in the morning the response given was: -To get it over with and when told any date was open they assumed that meant any date or time despite having discussed a preference for afternoons previously when setting an earlier appointment.- When the friend was asked why the previous appointment was scheduled for the afternoon they responded because it was discussed prior to making it that the driver preferred afternoons. So the glaringly obvious question is: If the friend was aware of this fact then why the fuck did they do the complete opposite of what they knew their friend would prefer? 

While a morning appointment is a small thing. Having a friend intentionally do something they know you wouldn't like just feels disrespectful and selfish. 

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Religious Indoctrination of Children

‎"Sunday School: A prison in which children do penance for the evil conscience of their parents." — H.L. Mencken

I posted the quote above in a status message on my Facebook page and an atheist friend pointed out in the comments that she felt that parents were well-meaning but misguided. 

I have to agree with her. I think "evil" in that quote is a bit unfitting and religious people are indeed misguided but in my opinion I think it's rooted in religious bigotry... religious people are raised to believe that their religion is the only good, true, and correct religion to adhere to regardless of the fact that religious belief is simply handed down traditionally and had someone been born to another family in another part of the world they'd have been indoctrinated with an entirely different worldview... but religious people don't really consider the implications of that and question what they were taught to believe. This was offered as a challenge by John W. Loftus which he called the "Outsider Test for Faith". He explains it in greater detail in his book, Why I Became An Atheist: A Former Preacher Rejects Christianity, which is the book I am presently reading and it's really quite compelling.

So anyway, religious people are taught that their religion is #1 and everyone else is wrong... on top of that they are taught that people that follow their particular brand of nuttery are the most morally decent and upstanding people on the planet. This creates elitism on top of bigotry and if someone from their flock does something morally objectionable they distance themselves from that person and claim that person wasn't a "true follower" which takes the blame off the belief system and places it on the individual despite the fact that the individual was using their religious beliefs as the motivator for their actions, like Hitler; a devout Catholic exterminating Jews to punish them for the crucifixion of Christ or the leader of the Children of God cult requiring the women in the movement to engage in sex acts with strange men as a method of proselytizing. These are extreme examples of course but they illustrate my point.

So a parent has been indoctrinated by their own parents to believe that their parents' particular worldview is the one true worldview and every other conflicting view is wrong and they are raised to believe that being good, moral, decent, or upstanding requires adherence to that particular worldview. I myself was raised by a strict, devout Catholic family and I remember they used to say things to me like how they desired for me to grow up to be a "good Christian man" as if  "good" and "Christian" were mutually inclusive and it's the only path to righteousness so naturally a parent would want the same for their own children. No parent wants to lead their children down the wrong path.

Problem is everyone seems to think it's a different path and they're all wearing blinders preventing them from seeing their own beliefs and views in the same light as they see the beliefs and views of others.

Therein lies the reason I'm an atheist. The Catholic belief system did not work for me from a young age. In reading about Malcolm X and how he converted voluntarily from Christianity to Islam and further mentored  champion boxer Muhammad Ali down the same path from Christianity to Islam. This was a turning point for me at as a young teen. I had heard of people converting thru marriage by marrying someone of a different religion, but a voluntary conversion? I didn't think it was possible. Certainly no one in my church ever talked about the possibilities of choosing another religious belief. It was actually discouraged and heavily frowned upon. So it came a shock to me that people could convert voluntarily but I didn't really know where to begin at that point. So I started with Islam like Malcolm X and Muhammad Ali. I found it fascinating, but it just seemed like more of the same shit to me and in a lot of ways worse. No pork? No Alcohol? I already thought giving up shit for 40 days of Lent was bad enough.

I went on to study Judaism, Mormonism (I had a crush on a Mormon girl at the time), Buddhism, Hinduism, and a few others. I didn't study these religious beliefs in depth greatly. I didn't even pick up a copy of a Koran let alone read one, but I did get a copy of the Book of Mormon (mainly to impress girl mentioned above) and I cracked it open and read a few pages and was as bored with it as I was with the fucking bible. In fact it's been awhile and I don't remember the content I read but I vaguely remember thinking that it was even sillier and more ridiculous than what I had read in the bible as a Catholic youth.

But my tip-of-the-iceberg research into various religious beliefs lead me to realizing that many seemed to worship the same god (Judaism, Christianity, Islam) yet had branched out with various different beliefs while other belief systems were entirely different. I was overwhelmed with trying to decide which one was right. They couldn't possibly all be right so how would one decide which is right? The only thing that seemed to fit me even remotely was Buddhism but the whole reincarnation thing seemed almost as silly as the crap I was spoon-fed at home. This lead to agnosticism and eventually atheism.

The reason most atheists and other non-believers have a larger knowledge of religion than that of theists who follow them is simply because most of us were once indoctrinated theists ourselves and in shedding that worldview for an entirely new one wasn't easy. For most de-converted believers it's quite a long journey because changing your entire belief system isn't a simple process at all. The new non-believer is giving up everything from their lifestyle to their community to even their own family and friends. Many even choose to remain anonymous and keep their non-belief to themselves while continuing to go to church and participate and fake prayer out of fear of ostracization. There are ministers and priests who are atheists yet continue to quietly lead their congregations because they spent years in education for a career path which is now a lie but it's all they know and especially in today's economy the job market isn't exactly friendly.

I've gotten off track here but my point is those of us who have abandoned whatever religious bullshit we were indoctrinated into didn't do so lightly and took everything into consideration before deciding to break free... this includes studying in depth in your own religion as well as others. And therein lies the additional knowledge we have. But despite leaving our religious beliefs behind us and moving on many of us continue to study religion and read more books on religion partly as a hobby and partly to further satisfy our own curiosity about religions by digging deeper into our original research.


Anyone who knows me well would know that one of my all time favorite films is Kevin Smith's Chasing Amy. Ironically the very first time I saw the film I didn't like it. Perhaps it was due to being raised with a homophobic mindset that I later shed and Chasing Amy was one of the very first gay-friendly films I'd ever seen and at the time I was very much like Banky Edwards (Jason Lee) in the film and I shamefully shared many of the same misguided views on homosexuality that Banky and Holden had in the film. But like the average homophobic male, I still harbored erotic fantasies about lesbians. Somehow to a homophobic straight male the very idea of gay sex between men is repulsive but the idea of gay sex between women is erotic. That being said I had huge celebrity crush on Joey Lauren Adams at the time. That brief topless scene she had in Mallrats is still firmly planted in my spank bank.

Anyway... I've changed... grown... matured a lot since the first time I watched Chasing Amy and today I see it in a completely different light. My favorite character is Hooper X (Dwight Ewell). 

By now you're probably wondering what the hell Chasing Amy has to do with me and introducing myself in my new blog here. It's because even though I'm as straight as uncooked spaghetti, Hooper X is the character I most identify myself with now if you look past the fact that he's gay and black and I'm straight and white. It's due to his worldly yet humorous wisdom on human sexuality but there is one particular quote by Hooper stands out for me more than the rest and it's something I personally feel I can identify with albeit for different reasons than him.

The quote is this:

"Screw that "all for one" shit, alright? I gotta deal with being a minority in a minority of the minority, and nobody's supportin' my ass."

Hooper was referring to the fact that he is black and gay, but for me, I'm deaf and an atheist. Roughly 16% of the US population identifies themselves as atheist, agnostic, nonreligious, or some other similar variation of non-believer, but the number of those that are deaf I imagine that number to be considerably smaller and the number of those who are deaf and female to be even smaller than that.

Yeah, I'm single, surprise fucking surprise, huh?

I've actually given up on romantic relationships and now all I really want is a reliable fuckbuddy who will hook up at least once or twice a week. I had that briefly last summer but she pursued a romantic relationship with another man (since she knew she wasn't gonna get one out of me) and we ended our weekly romps. But if not for that it would have ended eventually anyway for more personal reasons which is a shame really cuz for a 36 year old mother she still had a fantastic body and was a great lay. Seeing her once a week was absolutely cathartic. 

But I haven't always been interested in casual sex. It's only been a bit over a year since I gave up on romantic relationships. It came down to the last 2 romantic interests in my life. The 1st one was my high school sweetheart and mother of my son. There's a long 15+ years story in there I won't get into here but she was my first love and we got back together 10 years later. She divorced her husband to pursue a relationship with me again and in the end it didn't work out for a few different reasons but the biggest one being our religious differences, she simply could not handle the fact that I was an atheist and that the chances of me ever being a religious believer again is extremely unlikely. Jimmy Hoffa's corpse will be found before I find God again. 

Love was not the problem. We loved each other quite a bit and the relationship was great. We got along incredibly and our sex life was insatiable. 

Losing her had me revising my romantic profile. I realized that a relationship with someone who is religious is just not going to work... even if a religious woman were to just agree to disagree with me personally the question would come up about how we'd raise our children... a lot of atheists in relationships with religious people concede and allow their partners to indoctrinate their children with religious bullshit to keep the peace in the relationship and hope that their own influence will eventually steer them out of the indoctrination when they start to think more critically and rationally. This is simply not something I'm okay with although I was going to do just that with my son's mother had we stayed together because I loved her enough to make her happy even tho the idea of poisoning my children's minds with religious bullshit is absolutely repulsive to me.

So my point here is that I realized that I simply would not mix well with someone who desires to infect their entire lives and family with supernatural delusions. Which brings me to the fact mentioned a few paragraphs above here... shortage of deaf atheist women. I can name 2 who are non-believers and only one of those 2 I know personally. She's someone I'd definitely consider hooking up with, but unfortunately she doesn't feel the same way about me. The relationship probably wouldn't work anyway because we're very different in other areas that would affect us. But it's a shame cuz she's one of the sweetest people I know and she's also a very attractive woman. The other one is someone I met online fairly recently whom I don't really know all that well but she shares my view on preferring a good fuckbuddy over a romantic relationship. And since she's an online friend who lives a couple states away she wouldn't be a very convenient fuckbuddy even if we had a mutual physical attraction.

This left me with deciding to prefer a deaf atheist woman if I could find one, but baring that I'd be happy with an atheist woman with normal hearing who shared much in common with me and I found someone online who fit that description and our interest in each other was mutual. To my surprise we had just about everything in common with each other. The only issues I had with her was she was a fairly heavy drinker and a smoker, but she told me she wanted to quit both so I was willing to give it a shot. 

When I develop a romantic interest in a woman it develops quickly. I don't fuck around and I don't really see any reason to take things slow when both partners seem equally enthusiastic. But I was emotionally overwhelmed with how much I shared in common with this woman that when I let myself go things moved faster for me than usual. She seemed genuinely interested in the same things I wanted and we shared so much in common it was uncanny. I joked with her that she was a younger, hotter, female version of me. She was a bit emotionally insecure tho. At the time she was living with a guy she had moved in with that she had romantic feelings for and she thought he felt the same way about her but when she moved in it turned out he just wanted a fuckbuddy. So she was understandably afraid that I could possibly end up being the same way with her. So her vulnerability and insecurity about that actually fueled my romantic interest in her. I tried to assure her that I loved her and truly wanted a relationship with her and not just a regular piece of ass. I loved her enough to really want to make her feel comfortable and secure with me. 

Unfortunately it had the opposite effect. Apparently my attention was overwhelming and she felt that things were moving too fast. At the same time she developed a mutual interest with another man whom she assured me was just a friend but she was raving with excitement about meeting him in a month after blowing off a plan to meet me. At the time I was saving up money for a new TV and was willing to sacrifice that money to help her finance her trip to visit me but she changed her mind about coming. So this attention this other guy was getting from her was painful but I tried to trust that she was truly still interested in me. In fact she even told me in the middle of all this that she really wanted to be with me. So it was all confusing with the mixed signals I was getting from her then shortly after that she told me she was turned off by how fast I moved with her and she was no longer interested.

So these 2 women each had qualities that represented the perfect woman for me... if they were all qualities within a single woman. With one I had a deaf woman that I shared a deep mutual love with but very little in common with. The other one I had nearly everything in common with but love was fleeting. After this I came to the realization that the chances of me finding someone who fills both of those shoes is extremely slim especially at my age where most of the people my age are married or in otherwise committed relationships. So I decided that I was going to stop wasting my life on a pipe dream of foolish romanticism and just live it and enjoy it. So I figured I'd be set if I could just find a decent, reliable, and convenient fuckbuddy. But if I happened to find that and things grew from there and lead to a romantic relationship then I'd go with it, but I've decided to stop actively looking for romantic love. 

But I find it humorously ironic that by dumping me the last woman I was interested in romantically motivated me to become what she feared I would become if she had stayed with me.

This entry has gotten longer than I intended it to be but that's kind of the way I am... I'm extremely expressive in writing. 

I actually have another blog here on Blogger, but it's associated with a Google/Gmail account that I don't use anymore and unfortunately it seems I can't switch emails so I'll be deleting that other account after I notify people of my new blog here.