Mordin Solus

The very model of a scientist Salarian, Mordin Solus (Mass Effect 2)

I kind of want to talk about game appreciation for a moment… In particular, why fantasy games often help me understand my own humanity more than most other stories. Might sound odd at the first consideration, “how can a witch from the future compressing time have anything to do with the real world?!”. It doesn’t, and that’s why it works. I’ve always believed in order to see the impact or relationship between two things you need to examine the most extreme cases… At that point the relationship is proven or broken. Through isolation you can distill something down to it’s purest form and work from there.

I’ll go over some examples in a minute and you’ll understand. On the subject of understanding though…

Contrived plots shouldn’t need to be understood in order for a game to have merit. As in the real world, you can’t understand everything. Not everything makes sense to you as an individual, even when there’s reason behind it. For the life of me could not explain to you how electronic pulses can create music that is then delivered then through a set of headphones. I get the concept and that’s enough for me to enjoy and find use in an MP3 player though. So left with a world of confusion, making those connections of what you do understand is what matters. Meaning if you’ve played all thirty-seven Kingdom Hearts spin-off titles and need a diagram to make any sense of the plot, just let it go. You’re missing the point.

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As usual, a conversation with folks on Twitter got me thinking further into the topic after virtually walking away. Nearly all games have gone in the direction of adding one in some form. Some thank RPGs for the incorporation of this leveling, while personally I think it’s just a natural evolution of games. I mean if you’re going to dump dozens of hours into an experience, the idea of losing everything at the end of your session just isn’t appealing. The depth being added to the experience creates layers of skill for advanced play while still being accessible when you first sit down. Imagine trying to sort through all the guns and mods in Call of Duty if out of the box you were able to select what you’d want. You won’t have a basis for what’s going on or be able to gradually grow into your play style. Are you a sniper by default, or more of a run and gun infantry player? There’s beauty in a progression systems let you slowly build into what you want from the game. The end result is a win for consumers and developers alike. As a player you get what feels like a tailored experience, and for developers you can widen your net of appeal to welcome new gamers into your world.

With progression systems abound though, what makes them stand out from one another? Just having a system doesn’t mean it’s going to improve the game. Personally the addition of advancement in the Halo series multiplayer starting with Halo: Reach actually turned me off from the series. The idea of prestige in Call of Duty terrifies me from playing; a reset button to completely wipe all your progress to gain a shiny star next to your emblem. Really they can come in a myriad of forms good or bad, but here’s a few notable experiences where the progression system really drew me into the game.

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It’s been a weird time for gaming. The last generation of gaming left many development studio corpses. Tons of indie studios popped up, both independently funded and publicly Kickstartered. Paper magazines have completely disappeared (including the great Nintendo Power) while gamers fondly recall about the early 90’s relying heavily on those magazines. Some of my favorite podcasts just frequently talk about growing up gaming. The general public is willing to spend more time watching games on YouTube and Twitch than trying to play themselves. Hate campaigns are bulldogging diverse creativity out of the scene. Despite all of this, supposedly gaming is at an all-time high industry wise. So what the hell is going on, why is everything so turbulent? Revolution? A rebirth of what we knew perhaps? Maybe something far less dramatic, like the bean counters are calling the wrong shots on a creative medium. Imagine if music could only be created and distributed if it could be carefully crafted by the profitable trends. Not only does it result in horrible music, but more importantly is it’s not a self-sustaining system.

It gets crazy. Awesome things disappear. Futures are unpredictable. Things get bleak… inside the echo chamber at least. It’s stressful and depressing… but these are games, aren’t they? Meant to create joy, have a few laughs, inspire, or test your intelligence a bit? Bare minimum they’re meant to be an escape from your own misery for a bit. I’ve seen quite a few people mention needing to “take a break from games” during all of… whatever this is. I was getting burned out as well from this recreation. It just wasn’t feeling like the good thing I go to for a refresh anymore.

A New World Venue

The Venue for the “A New World” concert

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Shigeru Miyamoto IS Nintendo. His tenure at Nintendo has outlasted any director or officer at the company and has had a stronger influence than any President/CEO has ever had. Just look at a short list of what he’s directly responsible for there… Mario, Donkey Kong, Zelda, Pikmin, and has been involved in the production of several hardware and software projects to come out of Nintendo. Even Pokemon has indirectly sprouted from him, with Satoshi Tajiri suggesting his style was heavily influenced by Miyamoto. Not too shabby for someone who went to school for industrial design and wanted to draw comics for a living. That’s what makes things so interesting and probably why he’s an enigma in the industry. Being a natural he came up without restrictions, structure, and from an entirely different direction than most trained game designers. The benefits of traveling the unknown road, no doubt.

For better or worse, Miyamoto is responsible for Nintendo’s brand above all others. With the absence of Gunpei Yokoi  (creator of the much beloved Virtual Boy Game Boy), he is one of the last voices of the old guard in the house of “Leave Luck to Heaven“. So what will a world without Miyamoto be like for them?

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