Games need to fit their own culture, not to be fitted into another

What are the most generic girls’ games you can think of? The term itself may not get much use nowadays, but it was all the hotness during the 1990’s and even in the 2000’s. It used to baffle me back in the day, much like edutainment did.  Girls’ games never had a good reputation to speak of and had a tendency to be lacklustre at best, something you’d find in a bargain bin, or at a stupidly high price because of their unique place among games like Duke Nukem 3D or Quake.

The sort of games we most often associate with girls’ games are the Barbie games, dress-up titles or non-violent adventure games like Chop Suey. You have the occasional 2D action game that concentrates on puzzles rather than mechanical skills, like Mary-Kate and Ashley: Get a Clue for the Game Boy Colour. It’s not uncommon to see a girls’ franchises to be adopted into games, just like the opposite is true for boys’ franchises. With boys being historically the larger consumers base for video and computer games, girls’ games usually got shafted.

The question whether or not sport games fall into either slot has never been raised as such, but maybe it’s a moot point to begin with. I used to have a discussion whether or not NHL games were neutral in their audience with few friends. One of them was adamant that the userbase of any sports game didn’t matter itself, as the games were solely based on real world sports and reflected it. The other argued that because the NHL titles didn’t include National Women’s Hockey League, and the main set of players were boys and men, the game was a boys’ game. The question I always posed was naturally Why didn’t they include NWHL into NHL games? The answer I got was the women didn’t buy NHL all that much.

Considering Super Mario Bros. seemed to be the game that had most equal split in a study done with Finnish students around 1999, the idea of needing your playable character to be the same sex or gender as the player does seem largely unnecessary. Mariosofia (2002) has a chart on the rest of the titles on page 119. The discussion about women needing more representation in video games thus seem to be a bit moot, as the character itself is often a blank state outside RPGs. This is an act of playing after all, and the avatar the player controls is merely an extension of the player; the true actor is the player, not the avatar.

Despite this, the idea of girls’ games stuck around. While in reality it was more than enough to make competent games that bring in excellent gameplay and content, these specific games got separated from the bunch and fitted into the framework of girls’ play culture. This sort of framework fitting doesn’t exactly fit all that right, because this can lead into games that look like something girls might want to play on the surface, but are not anything of interest. Part of this is because of the aforementioned lacking gamplay, and other is that the industry barely has any idea what they are to do with girls’ games. The answer of course is not to do any and concentrate on making good games. We can’t force a readily set media and culture to fit another.

That is not to say games push a certain section out. Electronic games, like any other play-related medium, expects competency from the consumer. It’s the only kind of medium where you can not advance without playing, much like a child’s play like Cop and Robber can’t advance if you don’t play your part actively.

There are also variety of games that generally can fit girls’ play culture despite not being designed around that, at least not initially. The Sims is a virtual doll house. Will Wright even described it as such after losing his home in 1991. Doll houses are associated with girls’ plays far more than with boys, though castle sets and such are essentially the exact same thing, just with a different theme.  Castle Grayskull is essentially a doll house just any Barbie Dreamhouse is. Because the The Sims allows choice what the player can do and with what sort of characters, it avoids the girls/boys issue. It’s not exactly a continuation of either play cultures per se, despite taking notions from both, but it is fully part of electronic game culture.

One thing that defines electronic games as a whole is a set of rules and the play they require. This is shared with all play cultures across the broad and nobody wants to deviate from this. While most of the competitive rules have been inherited what are generally seen as boys’ sports and plays, majority of these sports and plays have their girl equivalent or an outright version. In electronic gaming the differences dissipate even further if we concentrate on what the game culture is in itself. Perhaps a truly neutral game, if you will, is something like a Super Mario title, where the main character can be whatever sort of fellow who appeals across the board and the game content, and the world for the matter, does not weight to any other direction but to the game’s own visual design. Mario titles do not ooze masculinity or femininity. You can argue however much you want about the need to save the Princess, but that always gets tossed on the sideways because that is only a reason for the adventure itself. Like in any play, the act of playing is more important than finishing the play. Hell, the game’s play and its flow should be enough to warrant player wanting to continue.

Games are still a young medium, relatively speaking. Despite this, certain certainties have been solidified already. One of them is the slow dismissal of unnecessary divisions. While boys’ and girls’ games will always exist in terms of targeted market, the genres themselves seem to have gone underground. It would seem the winning formula is to allow the players to step into world of electronic games rather than trying it the other way around. Games are, after all, about the freedom of play and there exists more games than anyone of us knows. We just need to find the ones we like the most rather than try fitting existing ones into a framework we’d like to see them in.

Of course, there is an issue of game culture being a sub-culture under the overall culture, but that’s another post altogether.

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Death of a World

I have been enjoying reading as of late. Not Visual Novels mind you, but books. I used to spend lot of time with books and used the library quite often, but nowadays I feel that I’d rather than something of my own in my hands, so I can do whatever I please with it. A creased page or cover (one of the many reasons I prefer hardcover) won’t bother when it’s fixed properly, something I couldn’t do to a loaned booked. While my bookshelf has its share of books outside comics, guides and other random assortments, I do have a wish to give something new a proper shot. This seems to be turning into a more personal post than intended, but hey, maybe that’s a good thing once in a while.

After some discussion with a book reviewer I across the pond I am familiar with, she came to a conclusion that I should go outside my field of preference, at least for a duration of few titles, and give Terry Pratchett’s Discworld books a go. I come to these things late, as usual. I can’t say I like Pratchett’s works, though the opposite is true as well. I simply have no relationship with Discworld to speak of, less anything to Pratchett himself. How I approach his works, or anyone else’s for the matter, is through neglect of the author. Pratchett doesn’t matter when it comes to his work, the works are enough on themselves. Just as I discourage idol worship with game developers, I extend this to directors, actors and writers. Though I must admit writers do gain a bit more respect from my part on how solitary their work is, but even then the best writers work with their editors or professionals in the field to build their book’s contents the best possible way. While pretty much all Pratchett fans I know have recommend to start elsewhere than from the beginning, I have always preferred to do so. The Colour of Magic and The Light Fantastic, for better or worse, shall serve my entry to the Discworld.

World that has, for all intents and purposes, died with its author.

Pratchett’s daughter has no intention of continuing his father’s work in any way or form. Licensing existing works are another thing altogether, but no new stories are to be written. All this seems a terrible waste. Discworld has been such an influence that even someone like me, who has never opened a book in the series, knows something about the disc-shaped world through cultural osmosis. Things like the world sitting on top of four elephants (one of which has to lift his leg to allow the sun to continue its cycle due to how complex it is), which sit atop A’Tuin, a giant turtle that is swimming across the space. The world has its own rules and magic is much a thing as anything, and bananas don’t grow on trees.

It is of course understandable. A lifework like Discworld garners respect on its own and expectations for each entry were astronomical, from an outsider’s view. Sales numbers probably talk for themselves when it comes to the success and popularity of the Discworld novels, though this would where the argument that it has succeeded because the series just has been that good steps in (and would not be applied elsewhere due to dislike.) Pratchett probably had incredible load on his back with each entry to meet up with the expectations and (apparent) level of quality of his works in general, and we could assume that only he could write what many would consider a true Discworld novel. This, of course, would be bull, as the probability says there is a writer who could match his level and could deliver a proper Discworld title, perhaps even better. It would be a tall order and difficult any way you’d look at it, especially considering how harshly fans of any franchise  with singular creator treat outsiders. Pratchett as a creator will probably stay a a unique writer in the history fantasy novels, but all in all he isn’t the only one, nor he will be the last one of his caliber. It’s largely a matter of time before his niche is fulfilled, though that may not be anytime soon.

Whether or not a world should be laid to rest with its author is a debatable subject with no one true answer. Star Wars, for example, did find better stories when it was outside Lucas’ hands, though Disney’s run with the franchise has left me a cold turkey. Similarly, while the original Star Trek is still a superb show, it was other writers like D.C. Fontana who made Trek more what it became than Roddenberry himself in the end. Then again, Roddenberry and Lucas were able to create worlds, but not write in them very well. That didn’t seem to be the case with Pratchett.

To take this into direction games, just to keep things more in-line with the blog’s tone, using a game’s main director as a comparison point would do. Much like people expect writers to deliver great novels after another, a star director is expected to deliver high-quality games. The most recent example of a complete outsider beating the original creators at their own game would be Sonic Mania, which some have argued to be the best 2D Sonic to date, though I’d give it few years to set in before supporting or opposing such a claim. Retro Studios’ Metroid Prime is another example, where a third-party beat the original creators, and the latest Metroid II remake shows further how Nintendo does not understand the franchise.

Perhaps it would be better the leave Discworld at it is as a monument to its creator after all.

I may come late to popular things, but if the two first novels manage to caught my fancy, there are forty-five other books for me to read. I can understand my friend never wanting to finish the last book in the series, as then she would have to face that there is anywhere to go afterwards. She may read a page or two per year, but even that pace would slow down as she reads on. Indeed, it is a sad thing to see something you love coming to an end.

Music of the Month; Captain Blood


So, let’s take it from the top

I do think these Monthly Musics have become too formulaic, yes. Rather than laying out what’s planned for the month, which still amounts I don’t know yet, I’ll just try to return to the form and write about whatever rather than trying to make an honest to God quality post. But you never do.

The selection of this month’s music isn’t really for anything. While I did say the chosen music would reflect something that’s going to pass on during the months, that’s become less a thing and more a memory. Much like aiming for a theme for the months, because such things never go well in the long run. An occasional special even is alright, but not a constant renovation where there is no need for it.

The original music for the post Top Man’s stage theme from a remixed album, but in the end I decided to switch that up. I’m not sure if I ever mentioned how the Monthly Music started as a sort of carbon copy of Game Soundtrack You Might Don’t Know, but stood apart from that source the very next month. However, in spirit of the original intent of posting video game music you may not know about, I’ve picked a track that’s partially nostalgic for yours truly, partially just kinda out there. Perhaps not really unknown track, seeing Captain Blood‘s opening tends to pop here and there. Then again, it is a version of Ethnicolor by Jean Michel Derre. Honestly, not a bad song. I remember playing this game once or twice at a friend’s place, and it’s very, very strange titles to say the least. Well, at least at the time, nobody had any head how to actually play the damn thing. If you’re interested in a game that uses iconographic communication between different alien species with some flying elements thrown in there, give it a look. It’s an interesting title to say the least, and represents some of the more fascinating titles the European PC gaming had to offer at the time.

Somebody really should write a book about the differences in PC gaming in the 1980’s between Europe, Japan and America.

Remembering all this really makes me laugh at myself. I started playing games on an Atari ST, and now that I look back at things a bit more accurately, we had loads of games with load times and load-in screens going on. All the multi-disc games had those, with Indiana Jones and the last Crusade being a terrible game, yet one that I always wanted to play. Because it’s Indiana Jones dammit. At some point with the NES I got far too used to titles that had no loading times whatsoever. Now, it feels like all games require a patch to install, installing to the HDD, trophy data installation and then something else for whatever reason. Then you get to few minutes of logos before you even get into the main menu. Shows you much consoles have moved away from their roots and have become more and more like computers.

Nostalgia carries only so far, and I do feel that despite all the good memories and things have from our own childhoods, it would serve the future generations better if we wouldn’t force our interest on them.

With all the political bullshit going on left and right, some things will become vessels to messages and intentions. Nothing’s sacred in this, everything’s a fair game. I just wish cartoons for kids would at least be left alone, but seeing how some cartoons are almost made as a political statement from the get-go, it’s no wonder if someone else puts a blatant, direct jab as a joke about something they oppose. It’s disappointing to see some cartoon to have a direct message shoved into it rather build it naturally within the fiction. It’s incredibly easy and direct, but such name dropping takes one out of the story. It’s like pausing a show for a drug PSA.

One of the marks of a great children’s cartoon is when a moral play is embed into the story. Kids aren’t as stupid as people want to make them to be. While He-Man and the Masters of the Universe might get laughs from a modern audience for its end-show lessons, but these were handled extremely well for their time. Furthermore, the moral lesson itself was already embed into the episode itself, making the lesson really more or less a moot point. This, however, did not detract from the quality of the show, even when it had to fight against the remnant anti-violence stance and rules from the 1970’s.

But whatchya gonna do? I just want well written cartoons that I can enjoy with my nephews that don’t shove it to our faces. Let’s wait for few more years before I start watching Gundam with them. That’s the most political this blog mostly gets.

 

Fish simulation

I’ve mentioned Aquzone from time to time in this blog in few different contexts, but never to a large degree. The title is fascinating in its simplicity and function. Aquazone, in its essence, is a virtual fish tank. It’s subtitle Desktop Life says it all, and the title did find most success on Windows and MAC PCs.

While Aquzone may look like some late 1990’s screensaver, it was a bonafide simulator with caring aspects. You had to keep the fish alive and all that. You could even give the fish names and grow attached to them. You could change the backgrounds, put in statues and whatnot in there and so on. You had to take care of the lights and water purity as well. Pretty much everything you need to do with real fish tank. It’s a lot of fun, sort of.

In the above video is pretty much all you get it up front.

The very reason why Aquazone exists is due to people wanting to have fish, but either can’t pay the amount to own a fish tank, the fish and all the little things they require, or as it is the case in Japan, they simply don’t have any room for such contraptions.

Aquazone wasn’t a haphazardly put together title. The development team spent enormous amount of time observing and recording real life fish behaviour in order to replicate that within the title. This went as far as devs’ growing very attached to the fish they were taking care of, something that’s not exactly uncommon when taking care of pets. The team as far as including digital DNA, which determined the aforementioned behaviour and some of the aspects a fish could have. When two fish would mate (yes, you could watch hot fish-on-fish action in Aquazone), their offspring/s would inherit certain modifiers from the parent fish and would exhibit them to certain extent.

The title came and vanished sometime around 1998, though the original seemed to have hit the Mac sometime in 1993, with only few people mentioning it around. I have the vaguest of recollections of seeing this somewhere locally, but it may as well have been at a friend’s place or something. The game found success on the Saturn, because the Saturn was in a weird place when it came to software titles at the time, and saw all the Option Discs that were released for the PC platforms as well. These discs added more fish to the mix.

Aquzone most likely seems weird to most people nowadays. The few people who have talked about it have called it shovelware. Indeed, as a game Aquazone does seem rather lacklustre and missing what would make a good game. Of course, the gaming landscape has changed since the 1990’s, for the better or worse depending on issues, but it still has sequels to this day. I recommend the DS one, the 360 version is sadly region locked for whatever reason.

The term desktop game has pretty much died out with all the games run from PC desktops rather than via DOS. Well, now you’re more or less required to run a game through Steam, but we’ve gone through that few times already. These titles were small and offered wide variety of short but fun interactive games you could play during workday. Solitaire and Minesweeper fall into this same category. Aquazone is essentially one, something you could set up and take of from time to time when you had a coffee break or similar. The Saturn version was pretty much for enthusiasts who didn’t have access to a MAC or Windows PC, as the 1990’s was a freakish era for Japanese PC gaming and IBM standard steamrolling the living shit out of their own national machines like the PC-9801. There’s a writing subject when it comes to Japanese computer games, but that might be out of my scope without rather extensive research.

As a desktop game, Aquazone is a superb title. We could go a step forwards with this and question whether or not it is a game to begin with. With some flight simulators, like IL-2 Sturmovik, the software allows the user to drop the level of realism down to the point of it being essentially an arcade flyer. Flight sims certainly have elements of gameplay to them through missions and whatnot, but something like Farming Simulator series has none. The underlying assumption in all this is that the aim of a simulation is to offer, well, a simulation rather than game play. Kamov KA-50 Black Shark is a simulator well known for its detailed helichopper modelling and accurate-as-hell functions. Just check the start-up sequence required. It is hardly a game, or a game with a very, very hardcore aim to be photorealistic in both visuals and design.

This is not to say that a simulation couldn’t be an electronic game, but rather that a simulation doesn’t need or is not required to be allocated among games. A game like Final Fantasy Tactics could be described as fantasy war simulation RPG, for example, though something like Command & Conquer would fit the simulation bill better. Both of these titles evolved from strategy games played with tin soldiers. A flight simulator on the other hand evolved from the need to educate new pilots how to fly. First with mechanical rigs, which then evolved into a combination of software and hardware. Of course, with flight and plane enthusiasts wanting to make-belief fly their favourite planes, these companies would see a profitable niche and strike true.

It can’t be denied that early computers didn’t have the power to render realistic graphics or physics, which puts questioning simulators as games into question. That, and there are stupid amount of games that still have the sim title attached to them without aiming for any actual simulation. Then again, hardcore replication of reality rarely makes a good game. Even Grand Theft Auto, with its emphasize on photorealism in both visual s and design, takes freedom when it comes to accommodating gameplay elements, like player character actually dying when riddled with automatic weaponry.

The golden middle pathway might be the best idea to take once more and say that some simulators are games without a doubt, with some of them belonging to simulation software category. The strange obsession of calling any and all software that exists on a game console or similar as game is most evident with titles like Aquazone, but it’s also undeniable that without games like it we wouldn’t have Digimon or other pet raising titles.

Video games in Olympics?

Tony Estanguet, the co-president of the Paris Olympic bid committee, seems to know there is some kind of writing on the wall and has held talks with the eSports representatives and the IOC about them joining the Olympic games in 2024. While he argues that digital prowess should be considered a legit sport if Olympics is to maintain its relevancy. Estanguet should look elsewhere first and begin to work on removing the corruption and the financial strain the games cause to a nation.

The idea of digital games in Olympic games is not too far-fetched. After all, the two do share the core common root in games and competition. However, despite their spirit common ancestry, the two beasts are very much different in the end. Olympics have a history on themselves that fetch respect alone, and in the core still aim to celebrate the physical fitness of the human body. Albeit with the healthy help of helping substances and loads of less than clean money. Nevertheless, sports does include activities like chess, but that never got into Olympics by that merit.

It’s all about money, really. If this news bit is to be believed, an eSport star makes money than your average Olympic athlete. With electronic game industry eclipsing Hollywood and movie industry at large in worldwide revenues and cultural impact to the point of political agendas being driven into the sub-culture through sheer force, it’s no wonder Estanguet would like to give this newfangled thing a careful, close look.

Not that the idea hasn’t been amused before, but that’s exactly why modern eSports scene has come to be. Not because it was regarded as sports worthy the Olympics to begin with, mind you. Money goes where the viewers are, and it would seem the newer generations do not value seeing people doings traditional sports (if you will in this context) on-screen, when they could see professional video game players raking in bucks and points like no other. Perhaps the biggest difference is between Olympics and eSports tournaments is that anyone could become a good player with few months time put into a game and compete in a tournament, whereas an Olympic athlete has to live the life. It’s not an easy life either, and not everybody can become the world champion in 100m dash. However, the chance of becoming a damn good Counterstrike player is much more attainable goal.

If electronic games would enter the Olympics via eSports, there would be further shift to appease the broadcasting companies and such even further than what they already are. Outfit bans would become a common practice within these tournament circles to adhere to the high standard Olympics and their broadcasters would demand, which would still be ridiculous considering the same channels would be airing gymnastics, swimming and hurdles, all sports with people in rather skimpy outfits. If eSports would enter Olympics, you can bet on companies changing their designs to fit these standards from the get go rather than sticking to their guns. After all, if we’re to count games as a form of art, then they should be able to present anything the author/s intend without censorship. What a riot.

Thomas Bach is on a high horse when he questionsed whether or not eSports would stand to Olympic rules and would respect the values of sports. They lost that long time ago themselves, but it’s the front what matters the most. He also mentions that the implementation of Olympic rules should be monitored and secured, which more or less can be shortened into They have to change to fit out agenda. The Olympics committee doesn’t see video games and sports and within this generation they never will. Furthermore, there is no reason to see video games as sports to begin with.

I bet there is behind the doors talk about gaming maturing or needing to mature before it can take its place among the higher cultural phenomena like the Olympics. As I’ve argued before, this is a fallacy and video games do not need, should not, prove themselves to be like other media formats or games to stand on their own. The value of games as themselves can not reach its mature point until its hardcore consumers start masturbating over it as art or sports, literal storytelling or other such forms included, and begin to treat electronic games as they are. It’s not going to happen over night or in a week. There needs to be a paradigm shift with time. Electronic games need to achieve similar status to that of poker (or cards in general), where it is universally accepted as a valid form of entertainment where there are possibilities of serious competition while offering the player/s to have a solitary game against the deck/game itself.

No, video games should not be included into the Olympic games. If anything, eSports should create its own official Olympiad similar to Chess Olympiad. Hell EVO essentially is that for fighting games, and they even offer Special Olympics equivalent with the inclusion of Smash Bros. I know, that’s a terrible joke, but I know at least one you chuckled. This format could be easily expanded and included in a larger event, where you could have all the big names in town within the same Olympics-styled event, with e.g. Starcraft being played all the while you have people competing for the next high score result of Donkey Kong. It is a possibility, it just would take loads of money to be organised. Seeing how much money there is overall within these competitive gaming circles, it wouldn’t be a far fetched idea.

We could throw in an additional question whether or not there is a need for such an event. Video games shouldn’t need to be validated through Olympics, or an Olympics like event. Would it be better, in the end, if eSports would stay in somewhat similar form as it is now and naturally evolve to whatever shape it’ll be in the future? Whatever the direction may be in the future, rest be assured either one will shape how the games will look and play, with distinct lack of that original artistic intent being replaced with intent of making the games more sports-like (e.g. overly balanced, but not fun fighting games) and sticking to rules set by a committee outside electronic games industry.

Stuck in the past

What does Star Trek and Star Wars have in common? Both have slew of prequels to them. The idea really is solid; explore how things came to be and see what sort of stories could be made within a certain set of time. The problem with either franchise is that there are definitive elements within those worlds that dictate how certain things must be in their prequels, otherwise the stories would not make sense or even connect.

Star Trek Discovery is supposedly set ten years prior the original television series. One would expect them to follow how the series then should look, albeit updates here and there. After all, Star Trek is a pillar of modern western popular culture in many ways. However, pretty much everything was moved to the side in favour of visuals that follow more along the lines of the nuTrek movies, or the Kelvin timeline as its now called. For a common couch potato this all fine and dandy, and requires little suspension of disbelief. However, for even a light fan of the series, the visual just don’t sit right. All this is of course because the series is developed under a license intended for an alternate timeline Star Trek, not under one that’s meant for the mainline.

There is no problem in making a prequel in itself. The problems rise if the creators want to have freedoms that are not tied too much to pre-existing stories. Especially with stories that are set between set events. Essentially, you’re boxing yourself between a rock and a hard place when it comes to creative freedoms. If you’re not willing to utilise given tools and take advantage of the existing stories, then it’d be better just find someone who can.

This isn’t a hardcore fan’s perspective either. A story of any sorts requires at least some level of respect towards it, otherwise the end product will most likely end up being schlock at best.

A good example of a story shoved in-between two other stories would the Shadows of the Empire. While it was a well made marketing decision to create a Star Wars phenomena without a movie, it did stand on rather good story that utilised elements from Empire Strikes Back that would lead into Return of the Jedi. All the while creating something new.

Say you want to write a story for Star Trek without being hampered down by existing restrictions. That’s an impossible task, but the most freedom you would have if you were to create a sequel story. This would allow you to have pretty much all the freedoms to do whatever you want, with the only restriction being the overall history and relationships between factions. Nevertheless, you could still have Klingons as enemies with a good reason despite there existing an alliance between Federation and them.

Star Wars’ prequels movies didn’t exactly suffer from being boxed between stories, like STD does, but what they suffer from is spoiling and devaluing the original trilogy. For example, Empire Strikes Back has less impact when you’ve seen Anakin becoming Darth Vader. Vader himself changes as a character if you don’t make a mental distinction between trilogies.

Under Disney’s rule, we’re getting new prequels all the time, for the better or worse. Rogue One‘s story was something we’ve seen few times over already, and due to this SW‘s Expanded Universe had to reconcile how things went down between events and who really stole the plans. That, and you couldn’t have anyone alive at the end. That didn’t stop them mucking up the storyline though, as the end of the movie contradicts the opening of A New Hope.

The question that is required to be asked if we even need to see these stories unfold. The fact that Death Star’s plans were stolen isn’t an important story in the end, but what happened afterwards is. The same thing happened with Death Star II’s plans. We didn’t need to see many Bothans die on-screen to understand how heavy their losses were. Mon Mothma does that well enough on the screen with her acting.

For Star Trek, we don’t really need to see the Earth-Romulan war, despite plans existed for it during Enterprise and fans wanting it. There really isn’t need to see what happened between the period of the Original Series and the movies. These would be best explored in supplemental materials, where the fans could enjoy these events the most. This is due to the nature of Star Trek itself; it’s not a story about wars. Deep Space Nine being an exception rather than a rule. Even then, DS9‘s war was naturally developed aftermath of finding a stable wormhole.

Hell, if STD wanted to tell a grim story about Federation warring, the staff could’ve introduced a new enemy and make heavy questions if a society like Federation can exist in its high-horse haven like state when reality does not match it. The Original Series does this to an extend, especially with Kirk, who constantly has to fight to uphold his ideals in a human way. This is the exact opposite to early The Next Generation, where the cast was completely idolised without much shred of humanity. That all came down after the Borg invaded. In retrospect, it could be even argued that Federation was taken down a peg by the Borg and made them realise how their own society had moved towards a more terrible direction.

A natural progression of a story is forwards. Episode VII made the right direction to move forwards in Star Wars‘ canon, whereas we can debate if seeing a film about younger Han Solo was ever needed. If you’ve ever read Han Solo at the Stars’ End, the answer is Yes. However, those who know the book also recognize that Solo in this book is very much a different beast from modern Star Wars’ take on him, especially if the rumours of the solo Solo movie’s original take was to make him an Ace Ventura-like. Midnight’s Edge unsurprisingly has a vids up on the whole issue.

Boxing yourself tight into a prequel takes a certain set of mind, one that has to be able to to utilise given resources, not make up whatever shit you want. Whoever owns Star Trek in the end, be it either CBS or Universal, they really need to move forwards and do a new The Next Generation rather than trying to milk with remakes, prequels or reboots.

Macros and the accepted form of cheating

A while back at a friend’s house party, he showcased the visitors how he had set up a command macro on his mouse to function as a repeating fire in Mech Warrior Online. This macro allowed him to gain a high rate by timing the fire button presses according to the cooling rate. All he needed to do was to press a button. Execution and timing removed, all there was a press of a button.

I admit, this struck me. While macros are accepted in computer game community from the get go practically across the genres, all I really saw was an accepted method of cheating.  Cheating is, after all, gaining an advantage of sorts through illegal means. Illegal in gaming would mean something that would go against the allowed functions of the game. In this sense, there is nothing wrong in using a macro in a competitive game. Nevertheless, yours truly would feel compelled to ask the opposition whether or not it would be alright with them if I were to use macros to enhance my performance.

However, with electronic games the use of assisting programs is counted as cheating as well, as they often give you an advantage of sorts. Trainers directly interject with the intended function of the game and can give advantages like infinite resources or limitless health. The question that I need to ask at this point whether or not we can count macro programs in this category, as they do no directly intervene with the normal function of the game. Nevertheless such function gives an advantage to the player, an advantage that would not exist otherwise. In a competition situation of any sorts against a human opponent, this would be without any doubts be counted as cheating. Not in PC gaming though.

To use a standard 2D fighting game as an example, the use of a projectile within the game is often highly necessary. This necessitates the skill of being able to execute the fireball motion, most often being down, down-forwards, forwards and an attack button, or 236+A if we were to use your keypad as a direction indicator (assuming the player character starts at Player 1 side on the left).  If we were to use the same kind of macro function here, the player would simply need to push a button to throw out a projectile attack. However, due to the different nature of the games, the timing would still be completely up to the player, but with high repetition on the player could throw out this projectile as fast as the game would allow. In some cases, this could mean having multiple projectiles on the screen that the player would not otherwise have, or would have difficulties of executing without said macros.

To re-iterate in a different manner, macros are  a way to handle a mundane task that would take too much time or execution to streamline the gameplay, if you will.

The use of macros have become common to the point of games essentially being designed to use them. The amount of Damage Per Second is various MMOs are essentially tied to macros, in-game or not. An acquaintance asked me if I wanted to play an MMO with him, replying to my inquire whether or not the game required skill or whether or not it Was just about the numbers that it was. You needed the skill to set up the right build to your character and set up the macros so that you maximise the DPS.

Knowledge is not a skill. The search for knowledge however is, and the lack of that is evident on the Internet on sites like Yahoo Answers. To be frank, games like Final Fantasy or Dragon Quest require no skill. They require acquired knowledge of in-world mechanics and how to set up a party to counter these mechanics. You can set up a perfect team and win, or lose if your knowledge fails you. In a game like Monster Hunter the knowledge is about as much required, but the element of skill required to play the game also brings in execution, and that execution brings in

The use of macros are, in effect, replacement of execution and skill. As said, this is accepted within the PC game community as-is. There is no negative stigma in using them, and complex macros that may give even the slightest of advantages is seen as some sort of marvel. An impressive feat of setting up a string of commands that are executed with a press of a button.

Automation is where the world is going anyway. Tasks that used to take a master craftsman or other kind of skilled worker have been slowly replaced by machines.  In few decades even welders will have to wonder what’s next, when the technological level has reached certain point. In similar manner how macros are prevalent in PC gaming, some genres have aimed to broaden their customer base by streamlining their games, effectively, trying to lower the skill required to play them. This of course usually bombs and alienates the installed fan base. A fighting game, for example, won’t see much success if it becomes oversimplified and takes away the sheer excitement of the game. Pressing the same button for time for an automated string of attacks that end in a super is the very opposite way to go. The problem why current gaming has hard time to expand its audience is that it mostly refuses to expand itself. It’s the same shit all over again, and making things easier or dumbing things down (i.e. more accessible) has yielded little results. Games like Nintendogs and Brain Train  managed to be a hit due to them being something new and hitting completely different and untapped section of the possible market.  This is a whole post on its own, and I’m sure I’ve already written about it few times already.

To take yet another position, what does it say about current games and their design when they expect the player to have a set of tools to remove task management from the game? Is the mark of controllable complexity now the hallmark what ultimately separates PC and console games? That’s something we’ leave hanging out.