Brief Hiatus

To anyone who actually follows me regularly, I’m going to be taking a short break for about a week or so. I don’t want to burn out on writing, so I’ll just take it easy for a few days and get my head back in the write place for when I return. 😀

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Your Cheatin’ Heart Will Tell On You

One thing that is typically regarded as unacceptable is cheating. That is… Unless you’re talking about video games. Then apparently it gets a little fuzzy. In reality it doesn’t, however there are still multiple perspectives, so I guess we should talk a little bit about them.

There’s two distinct types of cheating in video games – the kind that are left there by developers intentionally and the kind that are implement by the players post-development.

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Well okay, then there’s this guy…

The first type, the intentional cheats, often come on the form of codes. In many games, you enter a set of buttons on a gamepad and then press start. In others, you type in actual words to a message box. In The Sims, for example, you could press ctrl-shift-c and open up a text log to give yourself money, reset your sims’ moods, delete otherwise undeletable objects, and more! In Starcraft, you could type into the chat log to make yourself invincible, improve your weapons and armor, remove building requirements… You get the idea.

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Our friends over at wikiHow make cheating easy!

These are obviously to be used in the event that a player is having trouble, or simply doesn’t want to deal with one aspect of the game. They are also relegated to single-player modes so they can’t be abused in competitive play.

However that brings us to the second kind, the UNintentional cheats. These come in two varieties themselves – by abusing the code within the game or adjusting other aspects yourself to give an edge. The first can involve just knowing what you’re doing or utilizing a “game enhancer” such as the Game Genie.

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You know, though these things aren’t a big deal, they sure make it sound like you’re breaking the law. I mean, “video game enhancer” is an awfully suspicious term.

The second is more akin to modding, where you go in and alter the source code of a game yourself. The difference though is that modding as a practice is totally harmless (unless an inept modder breaks their game…) and often welcomed by communities to enhance the game (there’s that word again…) Cheating this way is usually more sinister, especially when applied to multiplayer games. As previously stated, though this sounds like it should be universally considered wrong, there’s an argument that it shouldn’t be. If the person is capable of overcoming the safeguards in a system, it is argued, then they should be permitted to, oh say, alter the rate at which they can attack another player or aim at another player automatically and hit every time.

Although I don’t think this argument is valid, it, and the argument that game developers shouldn’t be allowed to track such cheating methods, exemplify another aspect of gaming: entitlement. Gamers have a notoriously large sense of entitlement. Whether it’s what a game should be like, how fast they should be able to beat a level, or the expectation of always winning, gamers will make unreasonable, selfish demands because they feel the developers are obligated to them in every sense. Therefore it makes perfect sense that some people feel justified in cheating. They deserve anything they get their hands on, and they’re not going to let a silly little thing like fun or fair play get in the way of that. And that really is what I think we should all keep in mind. When you cheat at a multiplayer game, you’re not cheating the company who made it (necessarily), you’re cheating another gamer out of a good time. And if that’s what you want, we may as well just go back to unplugging other people’s controllers.

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I Think You’ve Mistaken Me for Someone Else

When you make a mistake in a game, you die. Or lose. Or sometimes you stumble across a secret or method you never though of for winning! But usually it’s one of the first two. Many gamers grew up in a time where they remember dying constantly before beating one level. With each mistake, they learned something new. More and more, however, we’re seeing games get forgiving. Our mistakes have fewer penalties. This is unthinkable to the aforementioned gamers. According to them, gaming has been taken over by casuals who force developers to water down mechanics in order to appeal to a broader market. This complaint sounds like sour grapes, and there are definitely far too many “hardcore gamers” who venomously attack people who don’t stack up, reminding everyone that they beat games when they were “actually hard”, however there is something to be said for the frustration had by people who paid a steep price for entry into a hobby only to see it become easier with each passing day. You got really good aiming with a particular gun, but then the developer put in a missile launcher that any idiot can use to kill you in one shit. You beat games with convoluted passwords and continues, when now you can just save anywhere and restart at the same spot after death (or sometimes not even die!) You endured trial and error to figure out which tokens you needed to buy that piece of endgame equipment, only to have a patch come out that practically handed it to new characters. It’s easy to understand why someone would be frustrated that all their hard work wound up meaning nothing. Full disclosure, I still think this is sour grapes, but I don’t want to take away from the frustration. So let’s discuss how games approach mistakes, and what it may mean that games today are “easier”.


Let’s talk about older games. In the late 80s and early 90s, video game consoles were only starting to truly adapt to the capabilities of their technology. Suddenly detailed backgrounds and character sprites were possible, controllers utilized (mostly) well-implemented button systems, programming was capable of generating more and more complex patterns and reactions. Though they were looking much better than their Atari-ruled predecessors, it was still a bit of a sandbox, with certain limitations that wouldn’t be overcome until later. This time period is when a the first generation of “gamers” really came into their own. Before this, video games were simple diversions or the realm of coding “nerds” fighting for high scores. With them now accessible, all kinds were playing around with soldiers who fought aliens, plumbers who fought turtles, alien soldiers who fought other alien soldiers…

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Alien. Soldiers.

This combination of new design and new gamers created the perfect test setting. Gamers were not only required, but were willing to die again and again and again in order to truly master a game. While some games took it a little too far and garnered criticism, they still were used as badges of honor for any gamer daring and persistent enough to actually beat them.

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Make one wrong move, and you see this.

So flash forward to today. We see games with autosave features that activate every few steps, tutorial levels that hold your hand through every mechanic, free lives everywhere! We live in a world where Pac Man went from this…

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Waka waka waka waka…

To this…

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It also used to be harder to find inflation fetish art!

Much of this is to do with the exponential advancement of gaming technology and storage space. Games can just do more things now, and one of those things is tell you how to play the right way and allow for you to keep playing regardless of how bad you do. Also we’re not modeling our games off of titles designed to suck money into an arcade machine.

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The concept of trial and error given form through the power of quarters.

It seems like this shouldn’t even be an issue. If there are easy games and there are hard games then each camp should be happy and anyone who is complaining is kind of a jerk. This is mostly true. However, there are some games, especially online games, where the two camps overlapping is impossible to avoid.

Recently, Final Fantasy XIV Heavensward released a patch to update content and make certain things easier. Before this patch, players had to spend weeks on end mastering mechanics and gathering materials to receive a piece of high quality gear they could use to take on the hardest fights in the game. Certain items you could only receive once a week, others required amassing special currency to build up enough. Many people struggled for months to finally get their hands on a fully powered Relic Weapon. This patch changed all that. This patch drastically reduced the requirements, requiring less currency and lifting the restriction on weekly drops, making the items accessible for each time you performed the duty involved. Many were thrilled. Many were angry. I happen to have been of the former, but I can understand the frustration of the latter. Now all of their devised tactics, their dedication, their putting up with the occasional asshole player who would undo everything in a particular dungeon they had tried so hard to master, it was all rendered pointless. The mistakes made by those who had squandered their currency, fumbled through dungeons, idled away were suddenly rewarded.

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WHYYYYYYYYYY?

I definitely think making video games appeal to a broader audience is a good idea. I also think that people who complain about games becoming “too casual” really need to get back to condescending people on their Xbox headsets. But I think it is fair to suggest that there’s still a place for serious mistake making in games, and a place for forcing the player to learn. It doesn’t have to be impossible, but it doesn’t have to be insultingly easy either. However, if anyone really thinks hard games have gone to the wayside, they are dearly mistaken. Perhaps their mistake is that they aren’t looking hard enough.

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Please Call the First Witness!

The Phoenix Wright series is filled with all kinds of colorful characters – attorneys, defendants, and, of course, witnesses all filled with quirks and often given punny names. So today I’m going to discuss some of my most and least favorite witnesses in the game. I’m limiting myself mostly to people who were only witnesses, without being defendants or main characters, in order to focus on these bizarre bystanders. Also it should be understood that I will be talking about these characters from the perspective of an American player, so I will only really look at their US localized personalities.

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So Many Minis!

One of the best ways to get me to sink hours into a game is by giving me something to collect. It can’t just be any random, generic item with an ugly texture though. It has to be something fun, something I can connect to, something that has meaning to the internal world the game is in. Achievements aren’t quite the same either, although I do enjoy pursuing the obscure ones. The collectible needs to be a “tangible” object – a trophy, in-game furnishings, or a miniature for it to grab my interest.

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Some people say “blatant cash-grab.” I say “blatant cash-grab that I at least like.”

Nintendo got its start as a trading card company, and it really shows. I like to keep this fact in mind whenever a new collection-themed game or accessory set comes out. It’s also no wonder that most of my favorite games that feature collectible elements are Nintendo franchises. Heck, I even play Nintendo Badge Arcade.

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Some people say “blatant cash-grab.” I say “blatant cash-grab that I at least like.”

When Super Smash Bros. Melee came out, with its cross-franchise trophy collection, I was hooked right away. I would collect and then just go through them all again and again, and when I noticed a character was missing, I’d keep going. This is a trend that continued as I played the rest of the series.

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I just really love looking at everything I’ve already seen with factoids I already know. SHUT UP. I’M FUN.

Also when you obsessively poke around these things, you find weird stuff developers forgot. Like Daisy’s third eye!

However my absolute favorite collection side-quest is The Legend of Zelda Wind Waker’s Nintendo Gallery!

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SO. MANY. MINIATURES.

In Wind Waker, once you get a pictograph and can travel to the Forest Haven, you can unlock a secret location called the Nintendo Gallery. From there, you can travel the world taking pictures of EVERYTHING. The townsfolk, the enemies, even the cute little crab that scuttles about and burrows in the sand when its scared! There are two catches: first, your picture has to be good enough that you can see the subject, preferably from head area to toe area; second, it takes Carlov the sculptor a full day to make these marvelous miniatures; cut the guy some slack though, he runs the place all by himself! Besides, you can just turn day to night and back again. It counts.

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If you love what you do, you never work two Songs of Passing in your life.

Once they’re finished, you can look at them and they’ll give you little tidbits of information about each character, from preferences to personalities to history to relationships! It’s such a wonderful little side game, in a game series that is already full of awesome collection-based activity.

I sometimes wonder why I bother finishing games, since I would likely just sit around collecting things forever if given the chance. Though I guess eventually you run out of figurines to gather, knickknacks to craft, and trophies to collect and you have to progress the plot. At least until they (probably Nintendo) come out with a constantly connected, ever-updating, cross-series collectible game that will likely lure you into paying more just to get… more… … Wait…

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Oh…

 

Fifty Shades of Shiny

It was a pretty normal day. I had been playing through all of my Pokemon games again. I was on LeafGreen and I was just past Vermillion City, leveling up my Pokemon. I had recently decided I could pay a little more attention to the internal stats of the game and thought it would be a good idea to get some extra speed on some of my slower Pokemon.

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Move it, you load!

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I See the Fire in Your Eyes

So today I figured I’d do another character spotlight. This time, I’m going to talk about one of the characters that stood out to me in an old RPG made in the USA. She was a spunky young woman who came from your hometown. I’m talking about Elizabeth from Secret of Evermore, otherwise known as Fire Eyes.

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Her eyes shining blue and fiery.

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