Monthly Review; Kira Kira Star Night DX

I reviewed 8-bit Music Power earlier this year, a new software title for the Famicom. Now, Riki has produced another title named Kira Kira Star Night under Columbus Circle, and this time it’s an actual game rather than a music album in cartridge form.

Before we start the game up, let’s check whether or not the hardware we have in our hands is as terrible as last time. If you want to be spoiled, the answer is a surprising No.

And now everybody has diabetes
And now everybody has diabetes because of  キラキラスターナイトDX

Continue reading “Monthly Review; Kira Kira Star Night DX”

Enter Nintendo Switch


The rumours were mostly true, the NX, named properly as Switch, is a hybrid.

If you haven’t watched the trailer yet, here it is.

This is first impression by large. You should also check Nvidia’s post about the console.

White and black are passé, the colour we’ve shown is grey all around. It has very little sharp corners and overall looks smooth. It’s what the leaks told it was, and the overall impression is very subdued, but rather attractive. I hope multiple colour options are available, and at least one is in NES colours.

The controller design, or Joy-Con as they call it, lacks a good D-Pad on the go. I understand that it’s a sacrifice that had to be made because of the nature of the machine, but it still sucks. I hope third party Joy-Cons will remedy this, and that third party Joy-Cons can add features that are not in the standard ones. The name Joy-Con is awful tho, it should be anything but just ‘con.’ The Switch is following Wii’s example by showcasing the controller itself first, not any of the launch titles. Could we expect something like Wii Sports? I hope the controllers can function as or with a Wiimote.

Not only that, but the buttons overall worry me. The plus and minus are shaped as they are, which work well with the blind or otherwise visually impaired, but the rest of the console isn’t designed them in mind. There’s no reason they couldn’t be normal buttons.

The idea of having the controllers separate is neat, but the obvious question is how much wear and tear the controllers can take before they don’t click in anymore. Is the lock mechanism exchangeable, or moulded? A lot of little questions like that pop up to me. They are mighty small when playing with a friend, but at least it’s a neat feature. I just hope games will be able to make use of it well. Sports titles at least should be able to. 2D multiplayers could make a triumphant return, even when you’d have to use a stick to control the character on-screen. D-pad or an arcade stick will always be better for the likes of Mario and Mega Man than a thumbstick.

The Pro-Controller is business as usual. I just hope the D-Pad won’t suck.

The stand/rack where the screen unit will sit in looks a bit bland, but nothing that decals can’t fix. The best thing about the Switch at this point is not on the go part, but that it uses game cards. That’s great, I’ve always disliked the disc medium for whatever reason. However, the itty bitty stand that makes the screen unit stand (seen in 1:04 in the video) will break easily. These sort of legs are just awful, and it should’ve been full console width.

This being a hybrid console, Nintendo most likely will not create a DS for the time being. This will be the first 9th Generation console, and it’ll last somewhere 2022. Because of the leaks, the surprise is very low. You will see a lot of previous gen games ported to this, as it is per fashion when a console has no defining feature to it. For example, the NES and GBA saw a lot ports from home consoles, but the DS forced companies to think outside the box and make new games. However, the more software the Switch gets, the better. I’m just hoping most of it will be something new. You can expect Nintendo to release their old games on the Switch.

However, the best thing about the Switch’s video is that it shows people playing together, as a group. It follows the same idea of playing together. However, a lot of the people in there were from certain age range, and I hope this won’t mean Nintendo is going to ignore the rest. Make this a NES 3.0.

Price can make or break the console. This one could be on the expensive side, and that could damage the console’s image. The Switch needs to be cheap and easily available, not a high-end market product. However, what’s more important are the games. This console won’t sell on its hardware, but on the games that will make use of the hardware. Nintendo has shown none as of yet, and the moment we see the games we can make further assumptions about what their goals are.

VR rhymes with itself, like history

The question who asked for virtual reality headsets is interesting. I’ve yet to find any solid documentation on market demand for VR in itself, but yet the game industry periodically gives it a go and it has always failed in the exact same way; the headsets are cumbersome and the games aren’t that hot. The most likely reason why companies still dabble with VR is because of pop-culture.

Remember this? This was what future Internet was supposed to be

Technology doesn’t really carry in how good VR is. You can have the most cartoony VR as possible, but as long as there’s nothing taking the best use of it, i.e. the design is awful, worthless. Gaming as a whole seems to aim to deliver experiences, not games.

VR comes and goes because we seem to regard it as something that is part of the future. SF predicted we’d live on the Moon by the year 2000 but our souls are still weighted down by the gravity. Rather than being out there in space, we’re just sending drones. Fiction can make predictions and sometimes those come true, albeit nobody wanted to see 1984’s thought crime to become a thing.

With the PS VR Youtube is now filled with content creators putting up vids asking whether or not you should get one and comparing it to other VR items. While the word of the consumer might say We want VR, the head of the consumer rarely knows what it wants. Even Iwata knew this. That’s why we need observation first and foremost, and the actions of the consumers really doesn’t admire the VR. VR headsets themselves are part of pop-culture worldwide, especially in sci-fi, but none of the real world sets have left an impact. Well, outside Virtual Boy and that was because it sucked.

As said, no level of technological advancement will make VR as it is currently showcased a genuine hit. There needs to be a paradigm shift in how VR is perceived and marketed to the low-end market, not with six hundred-dollar sets that require a large room to work in. The core design needs come from inside the device, not set it outside of them. To add to that, modern high-end game market is extremely easy to get hyped up, as evident with No Man’s Sky, and easily jumps into whatever bandwagon the industry wants to push. That’s the key too in this whole thing; the industry wants to push something that the consumer actions have shown is not wanted. Steve Jobbs did say that Customers don’t know what they want until we’ve shown them only works if you have a cult of stupid behind you. Apple managed to make big bucks with solid white rechargeable batteries that their core fans hailed as the epitome of new design flavour.

3D failed and the only place where you can see 3D still being hyped is in the movie theatres, because they invested stupidly high amounts of money into getting 3D projectors. Home consumers didn’t care about 3D and the fad died. It will resurface again in the future, just like how VR is cyclical in that way.

Outside the whole technological and marketing standpoint, the human nature abhors VR to an extent. We’re social beings by nature, and VR is essentially secluding one from the world. One of the big reasons why the Wii was such a success is that it gathered people together to play.

Wii would like to play is the core concept of playing together. The Wii was the center of house parties

VR fights against the inclusion of others. But Aalt, don’t you always argue that games are about escapism? Yes, I do, and VR as it is now doesn’t seem to contain many games to emulate fantastic worlds like Ultima. WiiSports is an escape from reality, and you can do it with friends. Tabletop games and RPGs like Dungeons and Dragons are about the same exact thing, and you play those with your friends. Nobody plays D&D alone, I hope.

Thirdly, human body really just hates VR. We are too varied in nature to be confined into one type of controller. Most VR sets seem to forget that people tend to have difference in how good their vision is, and how easily our sight can change. Our eyes are much more delicate piece of hardware than our hands, which can take a stupid amount of abuse before they go haywire. Hell, we still have people fighting over what’s the best controller, when in reality there is no such thing. VR sticks to its guns and has not produced anything worthwhile.

Game business needs to remember that unlike most entertainment businesses, their products are consumed actively, not passively. Their aim should be to deliver to the consumer, not to themselves. Their model should surround themselves around consumer driven ideas, not self-centered navel gazing and circlejerking. Just like with food, we pay them to deliver stuff we want to consume, not the stuff they want to create. Let’s kick a dead horse a little bit more and remind ourselves how Other M ended up being when the creative forces were let free to do whatever the hell they wanted.

There is a silver bullet/s to make a successful game on a console platform, yet the companies ignore the history electronic gaming has in favour for their visions nobody asked for or even want outside idol worshippers. There is a reason why the term fandumb exists, and all of us are part of some. I know I keep saying the same thing over and over again in this blog, which is why I at one point slowed down on commenting game news, because the industry keeps repeating the same things without further considerations. VR is just one of the many things.

Death of traditional television will change game consoles

I’ve discussed how traditional television has been changing to on-demand services for a good while now. What I haven’t discussed much is that this has removed television itself as the central point of the living room, which also means the devices connected will see a drop in significance. Physical media itself won’t disappear as people have been saying for the last ten years or so, but the form it is in will change accordingly.

Granted, saying that television will die is a hyperbole of sorts, but it fits. Just like how VHS died to make room for the VHS. Same shit, different boxers.

I’ve been watching NFL in my local American burger joint on and off, and while I’ve gained appreciation and understanding towards handegg as a sport, it did make me think how easy it is for Big D to showcase something like this in the modern era. Through that I came across the news about NFL viewership plummeting, and while NFL’s popularity has been going down, this is an indicate of where things are going. As television has become decentralised, so has our habit on how we consume it. While we do have differences in how we consume television across the world, the similarities trump them. Just check one of our old ARG Test casts to hear about it.

The game consoles will follow in suit, and if the rumours of NX being a hybrid off home and handheld consoles are true, then Nintendo has probably foreseen this trend. The high-end console gamer will not decantralise his television too easily, he has too many consoles attached to it and too many games yet to be played. For the low-end consumer who infrequently gets consoles and is still rocking his Wii, this won’t be a problem. The industry and some of the high-end consumers have already labelled NX based on the rumours as a gimmick and as the torpedo that will sink the Nintendo ship, but they did that with the Wii too. As a reminder, the Wii made shittons of money.

If the NX is a hybrid console, playing both home and a on-the-road market, it would indeed look like Nintendo is taking into account the death of traditional television. If this road proves to be true, then we have to wonder why do both Sony and Microsoft invest millions into research and development of new ultra-HD consoles that have no central point? While both of these machines could be used for their streaming services, this field is largely overtaken by other machines. After all, these dumbed down PCs will always fight a losing battle if they try to tackle a market outside their own realm. Microsoft learned this after one year of trying to push their movie, television and music streaming services, running back to high-end gamers with tail between their legs. One could argue that Microsoft has seen the death of television like Nintendo, then it would make sense for them to absorb Xbox as a brand back to PC. Sony on the other hand is fucked and nowhere to go.

Console as a media center is largely something that the last generation aimed to realise to its fullest extent. Before that PS2 could play DVDs, but that was laughable at best. Only the original PlayStation model was any good as a CD player either. You always had better dedicated devices for all that, and people tended to favour those. Now, you have tablets and whatnot with their wireless receivers everywhere and you’re able to stream whatever you want wherever you want whenever you want. That’s a harsh battle to fight against, especially when you’re trying to remind the consumers that the main thing the device is for is games. Consoles have been always at their best when they are aiming to deliver a console experience to the consumer.

Whenever Nintendo decides to fully reveal the NX will have three results. First, it will show what sort of device it is, confirm or de-confirm rumours that are about. Nintendo has not fueled the rumour train themselves, and that’s good. That has controlled the hype train, and the best thing what they could do now is to control the exposure from their and developers’ end as much as possible. This is simply to ensure that things won’t leak before they are finished, as consumers sometimes tend make false deductions on one or two trickles of valid information.

Secondly, it will show the direction Nintendo will take with the NX. Whether or not it will continue the way of the N64, GameCube and the Wii U (and Virtual Boy) is still an open question, and personally I would so much prefer returning to the NES, SNES and Wii style mindset that has profited Nintendo the most and has produced best games they’ve ever developed.

Tied to the second point is the last one, which may be the most damning. Thirdly, NX’s revelation will tell us how Nintendo themselves sees where console gaming and television itself is going. Nintendo has a spotty track record in certain aspects, but they have a solid one when it comes to defining trends and dare I say innovate whenever needed. The D-Pad just being perhaps the primary example. Let’s not forget the use of mature technology that they engineered when it came to gaming, though that has been less prominent with their more recent consoles to an extent.

The death of Nintendo has been predicted since the late 1980’s, and now consoles overall are predicted to die. However, it is far more reasonable to suggest that just like music purchasing has changed throughout the ages, game consoles will change and take new shape. They serve a market that’s incredibly wide, if the industry would just decide to provide both high and low-markets. That’s why Nintendo can disrupt the industry so easily when they decide to do so.

Competing as a multimedia device in an era where almost every device has a screen of its own and works as a fully fledged multimedia device is, to repeat, a losing battle. Game consoles and games themselves can only make an impact if they are designed and sold as games first and foremost. With times changing, the device these games are played on have to represent the era, and the era of television as the centre of our homes is coming to a slow end.

Different take on Customers; Dutch officials are stupid

Last time we were a bit late, so let’s be few posts early with this one. To those who are new, Different take on Customers flips the pro-consumer stance I usually have and discuss the other side of the coin. This time, I’m calling all consumers dumb idiots. Yes, even you. Especially when you’re walking around with your smartphone and ruining national treasures.

The recent news about Dutch officials wanting to sue Niantic and Pokémon Company for the ruination of their windswept beaches. This is retarded for three different reasons, the first being that neither aforementioned companies are not responsible of what people do when they’re outside hunting Pokémon. They should sue the people for behaving in a destructive manner because those people are responsible of their actions. You don’t sue an ice cream company because somebody stole ice cream from a vendor a gun manufacturer if somebody shoots a guy. Somewhat weak comparisons for sure, but gets the point across.

The second reason is that Dutch officials themselves are responsible for shitting things up on the beaches. Few months ago Kijkduin got a Pikachu pole, revealed by none other than Rachid Guernaoi of D66 party. Hell, according to a news report, the officials at Kijkduin marketed the place as the official Pokémon Go of the Netherlands. The idea was to boost the local economy, as the beaches seemed to get a lot of rare Pokémon for whatever reason. The officials essentially wanted to take advantage of the situation. It seemed to do the trick, attracting lots of people who would buy fries and soda while trying to catch whatever monsters they could muster. Hell, even the local police Tweeted about the pole.

The promotion worked like charm, and the beaches were swarmed with Pokémon Go players, which boosted the economy, but also began to destroy the sands because customers are idiots who don’t think what they’re doing as long as it’s self-serving. Both the players and Dutch officials are idiots who didn’t stop thinking twice what the hell they were doing. Kijkduin’s officials should’ve stopped twice to think what they were getting into. That is the third reason, shifting the blame. Dutch officials took no efforts to protect the beaches or put up any sort of supervision to control that the players would not screw the place up. Because the realisation came too late, they opted to sue the companies. I highly doubt their case would’ve stood in the court, seeing Kijkduin and Dutch officials themselves promoted the place to an extreme extend. The whole deal is ridiculous bullshit. Carry your own responsibility, Kijkduin.

It doesn’t help that few other places have requested to remove Pokémon spawning from their area. The Pokémon themselves are not the problem, it’s the people playing the game. They are a good case study of consumers who have no self-control and simply run anywhere to get what they want. This can be compared to women trying to shop clothes at a flash sale during Black Friday or when somebody shoots another for their brand new game console. People with certain cars and mindset may have a tendency to speed far past the allowed limit, while someone with a knife may start slashing somebody.

Companies produce goods that make all things possible. As long as an item is used in its intended and recommended way and the consumer is conscious that he is not harming himself or others, everything should be good. That’s the assumption. In reality, either because of ignorance, stupidity or intention almost every piece of equipment is misused to some extent, causing possibly dangerous situations. A beer bottle was never intended to be used as an anal toy, but that’s a fetish you can find videos of. Companies need to consider these things in a serious manner and build their products so that even when misused they could still be safe. So yes, a company producing bottle would need to make their bottles sturdy enough with as little sharp edges as possible in order not to cause any sort of cuts from their product, because people will misuse the bottle, especially if it’s shaped in a certain way.

It doesn’t help that people are ignorant of the products they use, unwilling to educate themselves to use them and gain knowhow. Understandable, not everyone can invest enough time to understand what’s the difference between file and a program, but for the love of God it would do some good.

Let’s be fair, people aren’t dumb. We just don’t think at times, and when we do, we usually think beside the point or make the wrong call. The consumers of game industry are no different, and we can’t blame the industry for their consumers’ actions. Unless they are actively promoting and telling people do damaging actions, the onus is always on the consumer or those on the general consuming end. The deal with Kijkduin and Pokémon Go frustrates me because there are nobody gaining any benefit from the current situation. Kijkduin will see less visitors now while their beaches are already fucked up, Niantic had to remove the spawns from there and the players lost a great spot where to catch some rarities. All because the Dutch officials rode the wave but didn’t think things through at all. Customers never do.

I produced a knife at one time for a customer. Not a fancy one by any degree, one of my early ones with a very simple design. The blade wasn’t too good either, but it did its job and cut well enough. I had to spend more hours on producing a leaflet on knife care, which I have to renew now and then. On top of that, I had to explain the customer how to take care of the knife, oiling it at least every month and so on. Few months later, I heard back from the customer, asking me why I had made the knife so sharp. Her son had cut himself open accidentally while he was using it as a screwdriver and she blamed it on the knife.

Providers can’t change the fact that their products will be misused or could be used as a justification for bad behaviour. It’s something we all need to live with and take precautions as needed.

Is art a game?

The discussion whether or not games are art has been going on for a long time now, but rarely people amuse the thought of the opposite. After all, in the arts field there are rules that are almost indecipherable to the outsider, but the professionals know them through and through. The game just happens to take in the real world, where professionals weight the value of works against pre-existing set of values and scoff at the notion of art as just another waste of time to entertain children and the rich. The rules are not written by just one person, but are tied to a vivid history that gets updated now and then. Nevertheless, much like the origin that is play culture in video games, art world has competition that defines monetary values and rules those follow. This, of course, applies to business world in general, where ideas and thoughts of grandeur are showcased as the main selling point, when all that really is just the front to mask the profit and flow of money. For example, Apple and other electronics companies may sell themselves as a green and responsible companies, when in reality they dump their electronics waste to Ghana as “second-hand merch,” and deliberately design their products to die out faster than intended. Designed obsolescence is something we need to get back in the future.

So art dealing is a game in much sense like any other, but is art itself a game? Specifically, can art be equated to electronic gaming?

Since the 1990’s traditional large audience galleries have been wrestling with interactivity. After all, games are getting called useless waste of time, just like art, but an art gallery does not think this way. I’ve personally met some curators that abhor the idea of gamificating their art galleries. Art galleries are more a slow-paced chess game, where the consumer needs to stop and ponder each and every stroke the painter had done and reflect its message. Games on the other hand invite the consumer to take active part and arguably deliver an instant gratification.

Video games, and games in general, are fun. Their intention is play, to give a pause from our daily lives. Art does not need to be fun. It can be gruesome, stopping and force the consumer to face reality. However, whereas game, and indeed play too, has a challenge to overcome through wits and skill, art does not. Not in the same meaning anyway, art can challenge us to think, but it never requires us to beat a level to see and consume more of it.

In Interactive art and the video game: Separating the siblings Regina Cornwell argues that losing the distinction between interactive art and video games showcases how there is a lack of criticism in post-modern era, that making no distinction between them furthers art’s institutionalism. It degrades art into low-level consumer goods, where being entertained through modern technology becomes the main attraction. Perhaps to this I could add that the simple use of the term art has lost its weight and meaning, as anything can now be art and anyone can be an artist. Indeed, interactive art is not about the rules of the piece, it is about exploring the piece. Games are, in the end, rule driven with end goals and obstacles.

The Louvre is sometimes called the only region free game on the Nintendo 3DS. It, by the very definition of a game, is not one. It is an interactive audiovisual guide. So no, art itself, does not equate as a game. Not even when it’s being produced.

While it is easy to put art and games in the same basket with each other, it seems to be the case that game industry is vehemently wanting to do that, while the art professionals seem to dislike the idea. This wasn’t always the case, as in the 1990’s both sides seemed to dislike each others’ guts. Indeed, even now certain movies are called game-likes because of their direction, action and pace.

Perhaps the most damning is the origin that separates art from games; games are about play, art is not. While some of the rules computer games exhibit can be applied to interactive art to an extent, they are not governing factors. To a painting, such rules can’t be applied to any extent. Where art originates and what it truly represents when stripped down to its barest minimum is more a philosophical question, but perhaps the good old art is about human expression might do the trick. No, playing is not an expression, if you were thinking that. It’s about playing.

Much like how pop-art can be considered as the most spread low-level art in the world, we should consider the existence of game art. While games themselves are not art, they do contain elements that could stand as art. Much like how the neutral space where galleries set their pieces in exhibitions, games are merely containers for what could be considered art. However, element like coding fall into the field of mathematical craftsmanship, not art. Even the motion in such a place is important. The physical motion and seeing pieces as they are in reality affects us differently than seeing something through a screen. Virtual reality, phone applications or any game can’t replicate reality, no matter how advanced their technology is.

Furthermore, game space and art space are not compatible. Game space is very personal spaces, even in arcades. They are not meant to be shared, outside one or two people next to you couch during multiplayer, but even that is largely rendered obsolete through online gaming. Even then we as individuals can decide if we want to call our friends over for a play. Even in arcades this applies, as we are set under strict rules of pay and play, and ultimately are given a respected space while playing a game, even when we have an audience. Art space is the polar opposite, being completely open and public in most cases. An individual can’t decide who has the access to art space alongside them. Games encourage competition and individualism, something that clearly bothers some people to no end, while art space may call merely playful competition in status. All these ideological differences showcase themselves not only the spaces themselves, but also in the arrangement of the spaces and in cultural contexts.

Perhaps the core difference between art and video games is crystallised in Joe Laniado’s review about Serious Games from 1997;

So by way of a game, a diversion, create me a world where I have a clearly defined purpose, set me a challenge – give me a spaceship and something to shoot at.

Keitai marches

The modern mobile game market has two sources of origin; the PC market and the Japanese keitai culture. The PC market is the originator that is most visible in the West, as smart phone are essentially palm computers with a phone twist thrown into them. One could even argue that using the term phone is archaic at this point in their evolution, as calling has become a lesser function over almost everything else you can do with a smartie in your hand. Angry Birds is still a good example of a game that sits well on both PC and smart phones, as are the numerous examples of ports between Android and Steam games. Most smart phone games, mobile games if you will, do not try to hit the high market with their game design but gladly try to hit that low market. There are some high market games for sure, but a smart phone doesn’t exactly offer the best control interface. The fact that mobile phone games tend to resemble Flash and Java games isn’t a coincidence, but a natural growth from PC to its spin-off mobile market. Only few succeed in making a game that could shake things up. Niantic and Nintendo managed that with Pokémon GO, and in the future Nintendo’s titles on smart phones will aim to do replicate this success. The mobile marketplace is a great advertisement spot for them after all. Just like television and comics before it.

What Westerners tend to use their phones for nowadays strongly resembles the Japanese keitai culture with allowing basically everything with relative ease. E-mailing, phone and address books, instant messaging, photo sharing and so on. The usual stuff we take more or less granted was engineered in the 2000’s when J-SH04 was released. It was the first phone with a built-in camera, and basically kicked off the trend. Keitai is also the source of flip-phone fetish some Japanese still have.

When Western mobile market was just testing out possibilities of mobile gaming, Japan had expanded gaming possibilities with online connectivities and had began to implement more social elements within them. Phones in Japan in the early-to-mid 2000’s could be connected, for example, to NTT DoCoMo via I-Mode phones and use them as karaoke devices. Because of Kanji and the need to switch between them and alphabetic letters, Japanese phones tended to be small powerhouses with higher resolution screen than their contenders in the West. This, combined with the smart phones absorbing most of the palm computer market, is the direct progenitor on how modern screen came to be in the end.

Pokémon Go is nothing new in this sense. au was known to be forerunner in their GPS functionality and games. MOGI, socially connected GPS gaming, has a player avatar represented on the screen in real-world map and their aim is to collect virtual objects in the streets. This is around 2004, and Wireless Watch still has their old article about it up, which still does resonate in modern mobile market. If anything, all the little assumptions and suggestions made in the article have become true.

It should be noted that each time MOGI has resurfaced news about it taking spot in mobile game market has been hyped. New Scientist had an article boldly claiming that gamers will soon quit their living rooms and head outdoors in 2008. It would seem that it took Pokémon‘s name and brand recognition to make MOGI what it had been proclaimed to become more than a decade earlier. MOGI of course is more or less an obsolete term at this point as the more popular Augmented reality has taken its place. It’s really the same shit, just different boxers.

The Japanese games and game culture has evolved alongside other more traditional art and crafts fields just in the same manner they’ve evolved with technology. Technology that also evolved to serve the consumers’ needs for communication through various other means. Due to these, the are no clear barriers between each other and as such the barrier between high art and pop-art is much lower, if it exist at all. Western culture still has a definitive difference between the two, but with the generation and cultural exchange that barrier has been lowered and that is evident in smart phones. In their design, user interface, games and how we communicate with each other.

Keitai of course didn’t spur out from nothing. As mentioned before, multiple elements in the culture had to come together in a happy coincidence and intentional design to give birth to keitai culture and nurture it. Pagers are most likely the closest technological analogue without resorting to mobile phones outright, as teens found a way to utilise pagers to signal short messages, e.g. how 88919 would mean hayakuiku, hurry up, let’s get going. The mobile phones saw a price drop around the mid-90’s during which the switch from one form of communication to the other took place. i-mode service’s launch sealed the deal, and modern phone messaging was born.

Western phone culture has been much more rigid in comparison, largely reliant on text messaging, simpler games and so on. Perhaps the infrastructure for similar use at a reasonable price for use similarly extended use of media that the Japanese enjoyed just wasn’t there until relatively recently. However, the Western culture has always been more interested in incorporating home computers’ abilities into mobile phones, and in many ways Japanese keitai culture had already done all the leg work for it. With the advent of pads and smart phones in general, the two sides have come together in sort of fusion, thou there are numerous regional variants still.

What comes next is anyone’s guess. However, one could argue that we are already seeing signs where modern phone culture is going with the devices and how we use them. Mobile phone technology marches onwards in a very fast pace, and I hope we won’t be stuck with only one or two companies leading the way.

Music of the Month; Calling from Heaven

It’s that time of the year again. Things are kicking into higher gear, people are getting steadily busier with their work without them noticing and the festival seasons are creeping upon us without a notice. As such, many things, like the long promised new entry into ARG podcast, is sitting in the backburner, slowly taking its time and waiting a good spot to be recorded. International team-ups don’t tend to work well with timings, when such things are not a high priority.

Castlevania turned 30 years this week as well, so here’s for a classic franchise that will stay evergreen and the games of its origin will never be tainted. Should get around finishing Castelvania III one of these days. Should probably play Super Castlevania IV this Halloween like I did last year, intending to make it a tradition.

There are no plans for this month. I’ve yet to decide any of the themes, thou I do intend to give a proper Monthly Three this time. I did not intend to do one last month, but the three previous posts should really count as one as they do have a carrying theme across them. It’s also a theme that I’m not done with and most likely I will return to soon enough. Branding can be tied easily into disruption, and I’ve got just the thing in my notes to bring it together.

Regarding mecha designs, last month’s Artisanal mecha honestly was something I felt good about. That’s a rarity, but I’m not intending to do a follow-up on it any time soon. Instead, I may do a case study on Gundams’ designs, as one of the frequent search term for the blog is How to design Gundam. It really shouldn’t be anything special, there are set rules of sorts, just like with Muv-Luv‘s TSFs, which sort of is a series wide case study. A TSF comparison should be done this month as well, thou depending how busy I get it will be either one of the two aforementioned. If we’re honest, I would prefer to be busy.

While I try to keep personal affairs away from this blog, I do feel that recent events do make a good addition to this themeless monthly post. Recently I lost a person whom I considered a good friend, not because of death or the like, but because she regarded our world view to be incompatible and that she could not be associated with someone with certain views. It doesn’t matter which they were, the core was the she allowed few things to define me and the whole friendship as a whole. This also means it wasn’t much of a friendship, in the end. I find that immature, at best. A child may throw a temper tantrum when their way is not accepted, but an adult should be able to amuse opposite views and thoughts without accepting them as their own, but also allowing those views to exist.

Similarly, my niece was recently given a name in a naming ceremony, something that bugged the hell out of my parents as religious people. My mother could accept it as difference in values, while my old man most likely will get completely pissed and down the bottle. It’d make an interesting case study where one of them just doesn’t seem to handle his world view being challenged at such a base level, while the other simply deals with it properly.

Humans are not defined by one or two things. We are multifaceted beings with immense depth. Not necessarily complex as such, but we are a collection of multiple things that create a unique whole. To know such a being is not simple and takes time, and the more we become familiar with a person, the more we know of their personal motives and views. I do call that a friendship, but on the Internet that is rather hard to do to its full extent simply because there is no physical presence. Friendship challenges us in many ways, and the more we can be friends with people with opposing views in things without pushing them to change it, the wider view we have on the world and its issues. This is, of course, in perfect world only, as we there are a lot of people who would be willing to push their own views into others or even hurt them to fit their neighbours in their own world view. Live and let live, and all that jazz.

Perhaps it’s just me thinking that one of the things that show maturity is the idea of being able to see things from more than one point of view and consider all of them equally valid. This blog promotes this to a certain extent, as I it does stand from a certain perspective, but I still aim to amuse two or three different arguments for a thing from a time to time. Not to cover my ass or anything like that, but simply because of that multifaceted nature of man.

I may also put up  a new page of scans, if my lil’ side project to collect numerous issues of Comic Lemon People comes to fruition. While I doubt I will ever get a full collection of the magazine, I do find value in the thought of scanning the covers for posterity and historical record keeping as well as list out their contents. A niche project at best with limited use or audience, but for the sake of data and history, these sort of niche projects should be enacted anyway.

There’s a hashtag named #inktober going on in Twitter. I recommend checking that out just for the sake of cool inked stuff it may produce.

Oh, we’re closing up on 700th post, so that’ll be a new Different take on customer again.

In the year 1983

This really turned into a Monthly Three, but this one will be shorter than the two previous. By continuing the theme, who were the ones talking about casual games before it entered the consumer lexicon? The industry, and a bit later, the press. Gaming press never had the best reputation out there and by each year it went from bad to worse and still struggles to be a creditable field. Back in 2015 Reuters had a laughable result when it came to finding journalists with integrity in video game press. While I wouldn’t use Tumblr as any sort of valid source, this one was supported by the recent consumer movement.

This isn’t a discussion about either of those really. Nintendo Power was seen as Number Uno source for Nintendo news, and it really was. It was sponsored by Nintendo and was an excellent tool for them to advertise their products. The same applied to television and other stuff like cereals, the usual stuff. Nintendo’s death has been prophesied each generation since the NES hit the shelves, but Nintendo hitting the lower markets with wider consumer base and building up from there has always been a disrupting model. PCs at the time saw the advent of a new console generation and berated them for their backwards technology, but PC in the end you started to see console-like games on PC because of their success.

During the third generation you saw Nintendo making the market place as we know it nowadays, and when competition pushed their harder edged console aiming for the high-end users with the Mega Drive and PC-Engine, Nintendo pushed out slew of games that again hit the lower market and build their library towards the higher end market throughout the years. However, Nintendo did not repeat this cycle of disrupting the market with the N64 or GameCube. It would be Sony’s PlayStation and PlayStation 2 that would gain the favour of the  lower market due to its insanely large library.

The industry hates when Nintendo is successful, because it pleases the low-end market. Their low-end products usually end up being on the same level, in cases if not better, than the higher end market’s. Either the competing companies fight or flee the marketplace, and usually when you see companies fighting Nintendo they fail because they have some of their low-end team working on a visual copy of a Nintendo game, but not the heart of function. Sonic the Hedgehog was a competition done right when it first came out and kicked Nintendo into fighting mode.

If the industry doesn’t like when Nintendo goes against their wishes, so does the press more often than not. The modern casual-hardcore division is most likely because of Nintendo’s success in disrupting the market over and over again. However, Nintendo doesn’t seem like their history because disruption requires work and effort. It seems whenever they decide to forego disrupting the market, they end up with turkey of a system in their hands.

The current state of gaming is nothing new. PS4 Pro and Project Scorpio are just another round of Atari 5200 against newcoming titans IntelliVision, ColecoVision and Odyssey 2. However, the differences between Sony’s and Microsoft’s consoles are rather miniscule and their library are largely the same. The only competition between the two platforms really is about brand loyalty and the few handful of exclusive games. They have the possibility to make them stand apart, but seeing how MS is absorbing Xbox as a brand back to PC and Sony’s pretty much at a loss what how to proceed in the future, it would seem that Nintendo’s NX will stand as a unique piece. If Nintendo aims to disrupt the market, expect the same old songs to be heard, just tweaked for the modern audience.

In the end, gaming is all about consumers’ choices. Kevin Cook put it well in Playboy’s January issue in 1983: The choice you finally make from among all of these games will depend largely on your personality and on what gets you off. Some of that decision will boil down to whether or not you want action or good looks – every former high school boy can identify with that.

The gaming press will tell us what the industry wants us to hear. After all, they are dependant on each other. The other brings them news, while the other is essentially their PR outlet. It’s not the normies or casuals that want to take your games away, that’s what hypersensitive parents and puritanical movements or such are for. Practising common sense and training your media literacy with an industry like this is a must, and that should be applied to elsewhere as well, like on this blog.

Live and die by the library

While not exactly a Monthly Three, let’s continue from where we left with the previous post about trying to cater to a different audience via Auto Mode. In last console generation, something that has carried to this one, is the notion of casual and hardcore gamers, something that’s more or less a stupid idea when you start looking things into bit deeper.

The market of any product does not have a clear split like that. There exists a gradual level of complexity and price in the market that aims to fulfil desires of different groups. For example, in headphones most people are fine with twenty something bucks pieces that they’ll use for a time until they break down and they need to get a new pair. Sound quality may be all over the place, but it’s cheap and does what the tin says in most cases. Then you go up to hundreds bucks range, where built and sound quality is better, but the consumer who just wants to listen without giving a damn about the higher grades of quality will put their money into something else. Then you have the high-end stuff costing thousands of dollars.

If the high-end headphones are objectively better in-built and sound, why don’t all people put their money in them? That is because the lower tier headphones are satisfactory, not all people care about being an audiophile. Consumer may obtain more knowledge on audio equipment and sound quality, but that does not necessary mean the consumer will value that knowledge. The opposite of an audiophile. Then you have in-betweens, which fall in neither audiophile or general consumer range.

The same applies to games. You have games that strike with the general audience, the simpler and more straightforward games that are easy to get into and take relatively little of your time. When you move towards the upper end of the scale, where simulators, complex game mechanics and numerous other factors in regards of the game design and development begin to stack up, you begin to reach the high-end market. This does not mean a person in high-end market is necessarily hardcore, as games like Super Mario Bros. and Tetris reside in the common consumer end of the spectrum. Games like these are through which consoles live and die by.

The core design of Platinum’s games reside in the opposite niche crowd. It’s visual style and 3D action is something the common consumer doesn’t really care for, and putting in an Auto Mode won’t change this. The game may not be at the extreme end of complex design mechanics like with some tactical RPGs or ultra realistic simulations, and stands in the middle of the scale between consumer scale.

The thing however is, just like with headphones, when the consumer begins to yearn for better sound quality, so does the want to experience more games that expand in what already exists. If a consumer enjoys something like Dragon Quest or some other simple RPG, it can be assumed that they will look into something different and something that could offer a bit more in terms of game content. He may find himself tackling more complex and demanding titles, like Final Fantasy Tactics or even jump to PC and try out Vampire: The Masquerade. It is just as possible that he does not find these titles to his liking, and finds his sweet spots in the more straightforward and undiluted gameplay experience.

However, the current market and developers seem to aim only for games that have rising development and marketing costs combined want to make high-end games, but still open for the general market. This self contradicting dichotomy yields games that may sell well, but ultimately misses both of its intended target audiences.

The Tripple A games’ development is the core problem why console and their games tend to fail nowadays. The Wii U failed because it didn’t have the library the Wii had. So-called shovelware is which keeps a console alive, as it encourages competition at higher levels. On Wii or on any other generation “winning” console you had loads and loads of games that would be called casual nowadays, like the aforementioned Super Mario Bros., yet these games were the things that sold the console. However, modern game developers tend to put their Secondary or Tertiary teams working on these games nowadays, resulting on games that simply do not cut it.

Wii Sports won the generation for Nintendo single-handedly, as it was a game that appealed to the market that had left gaming be since it began to move towards the more complex end of the consumer goods spectrum. Wii Sports was a title that was handled by the First team in Nintendo, making a game that would aim to please and sell. Nowadays, despite the moaning and bitching it caused, the game is considered a definitive classic.

Casual games are not the destruction of gaming. They are its lifeline, and the developers in the industry currently simply can’t do games like Super Mario Bros. They are stuck with one extreme end of the spectrum, desperately trying to replicate success of the other end by producing gimmicky titles and even peripherals while missing the whole point.

Comparison between Flash games and smart phone games isn’t anything new, but it shows how these games, these lower tier market games if you will, have always been around and will always exist on any platform. It was never a new trend.

The higher end of games is arguably  more profitable, which is why publishers and developers push their money and workforce into those titles. However, the high end market in gaming tends to be fickle and the current trend of pushing in-game guides and modes to make the game easier tells us that the high end market is getting smaller.

The high-end market wouldn’t exist without the low-end market. By making yourself a name by releasing great titles in the lower market, you have the possibility to rise towards the other end. Remember the DS? Nintendo started the console by marketing it with N64 ports and other high end games like that. It sold poorly and it was called to be the second coming of the Virtual Boy. However, Nintendo began to release low-end games like Nintendogs. People who got DS for games like it then had the possibility to move to something like Mario Kart DS, and then to Pokémon, Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy remakes. However, Nintendo did not keep the same pace with the Wii U, and it was failure.

The shovelware, as the industry wants to call their bread and butter, is the deciding factor. Hitting all the differences niches and tiers is important, as this casual gaming does not exclude passion. Someone may spend hundreds of hours on a Flash based Tower Defence game, minmaxing his defences and ripping the game a new hole.

A game that is made to be a hit to one tier can be successful with others, but it can’t be forced. A Metal Gear title won’t win any favours from the market that it isn’t aimed at. I guess I’ve made my point.

This is passion at its best, and it’s a lowly arcade game no less