Musings of a Gamer III
I had to throw this post together in a hurry, so you will have to excuse the lack of polish. Besides, something is better than nothing. Probably.
1. Brink & Bringing Out the Worst in Gamers
From gaming blogs to expert insight, the internet has brought the gaming community together and helped it move towards the forefront of popular culture. Unfortunately, it is also a breeding ground for fanboyism and trolling where any idiot can have a prominent voice, detrimental to a hobby which still struggles to some degree with the stigma of being the past time of children, adolescent shut-ins and anti-social rejects.
Brink, a team based FPS, was released a week or two back to mixed reviews. Whereas most agreed that there were fundamental problems with the game, they differed hugely in their overall take. A few claimed it was still a very good game, most rated it as rather average and a minority deemed it truly awful. But what was more surprising than this inability to achieve industry wide consensus was the venom directed by users and commentators to the individuals and sites that scored it poorly. For some reason, people really got their knickers in a twist and became overly defensive about a game which clearly did not fulfil its potential. Being a day or so before the general release, most of those who were flaming the reviewers would not yet have played Brink themselves, and it turned into a pointless and rather depressing slagging match of the most childish kind.
Name calling aside, one interesting point that was raised was that a handful of the less glowing reviews were conducted without taking into consideration an already announced day-one patch which was expected to fix some of the smaller problems. This brings into question the larger issue of how to review online multiplayer games, which are liable to improve after release as the community expands and the developer continues to make small fixes on the fly. For what its worth, my stance on reviewing a game is that if the publisher deems it fit for release, then its fit for review. It's all well and good promising future fixes, but a reviewer can only offer an opinion on the game as it stands, when they review it. Besides, patches don't help gamers who are without an internet connection - admittedly a very limited audience for a game of this type. Nonetheless, for the purpose of a review the product must be judged by the state it will be available at retail, and not what it may become in the future.
2. Welcome Back PSN
The PlayStation Network is finally up and running again in most regions. Online fragging and drifting may now resume as we emerge from the darkest days of the PS brand, that is unless you are in Japan where it remains down. The Japanese government will not allow PSN to go live until Sony answer some pressing questions regarding the events of the last month and what measures have been put in place to prevent it from happening again. I'm not sure if this is a case of the Japanese government being a little overzealous, or perhaps other countries should be following their lead by demanding the same of Sony.
Anyway, once the PS Store returns - 24th May is the date being floated online - PSN users will be offered a welcome-back package of goodies which includes a month test-drive of PSN+, free identity theft insurance and most intriguing of all, a choice of two out of five free PS3 games. Those with a registered PSP account will have a further choice of two portable titles from four on offer. For the PS3, Europe is getting Infamous, Ratchet & Clank: Quest for Booty, Wipeout HD, Little Big Planet and Dead Nation (US gets Super StarDust HD instead of Ratchet). Although these titles are all quite old, its quite a nice collection from a company who knows it must work hard to earn consumer confidence. InFamous in particular is an excellent game, and its inclusion here is likely to bolster interest in this summer's sequel. My sympathies go to those people who bought retail copies over the last month, once it received a heavy discount in advance of the sequel.
Sony were never going to offer a straight credit to PSN users - the very suggestion was ludicrous - though I wouldn't be surprised if they offer developers and publishers impacted by the downtime some sort of financial relief. It will be good to get the store up and running, and I look forward to the influx of backlogged titles that were put on hiatus over the last month. And for the record, I will be downloading Wipeout HD and Ratchet & Clank.
3. Hold Your Horses
The next COD Modern Warfare is still six months away and has only been teased to the tune of a couple of generic screenshots, yet my inbox is already jam-packed with pre-order announcements from the Amazons and HMVs of this world. Yes, please take my £50 for a game I know nothing about, other than what its front cover may look like. Of course, you know what you are getting when it comes to COD and it has pretty good track record when it comes to sales, which is no surprise when hundreds of thousands of gamers will be more than happy to hand over their hard earned cash on blind-faith alone. One day the series will fizzle (circa Modern Warfare 9: Return to Mars) and we will look back on these days the same way we now view the height of the music genre, when plastic instruments ruled supreme. But for now at least, I don't think Amazon will struggle for pre-orders.
4. Video Game Bars
I love video games themed bars, as they combine two of my favourite past-times: gaming and drinking. Last week saw the induction of yet another themed bar, albeit for a limited time, as a Resident Evil/Biohazard watering hole sprung up in Tokyo. Marking the 15th year of everyone's favourite zombie franchise, Capcom has taken an existing bar and filled it to the rafters with Resi memorabilia. The pictures I've seen look really shoddy, like someone has printed out zombie pictures off their laptop and blue-tacked them to the wall. Still, its the thought that counts and the first game of the series wasn't exactly known for its high production values, after all.
Tokyo boasts a number of video game bars. One of the most popular was probably Luda's Bar, a Dragon Quest establishment on the god-awful Roppongi strip, where fans of the series could shell-out on small but expensive drinks and portions of food, before being chucked out after their allotted time. A better option for anyone visiting Tokyo are the more general video game bars, the best of which are A Button, hidden away in the back-streets near Akihabara, or 8 Bit, similarly hidden but on the outskirts of Shinjuku. Both are limited for space, but offer an array of retro games to play whilst enjoying a collection of game inspired drinks. You never know who you might bump into in these places, as the last time I was in 8 Bit I met the IGN crew, who were in the city for TGS. I distinctly remember speaking for a while with Ryan Clements, though being that it wasn't the first bar we had visited that evening, I doubt it was the most lucid of conversations. Does the US have many gaming bars? I certainly don't know of any here in the UK, unfortunately.
5. Where in the World?
If I'm not rambling on about video games, then chances are I'm probably talking about Japan instead (see above). They are two of my favourite topics, and as regular readers will be aware I recently lived in Tokyo for four years (I bang on about it all the bloody time!), but currently reside smack-bang in the middle of England. As much as my wife and I enjoy living in old Blighty - I am fortunate enough to have a secure job and a very supportive family - there are parts of our life in Tokyo which we do greatly miss. We came back to England 18 months ago with the intention of giving it a good go so we could make an informed decision regarding where to settle long-term. We have decided that now is the time to start seriously weighing our options, as at the moment we feel like we are treading water, unsure if this is to be our life moving forward. Basically, its time to commit one way or the other.
Its a decision that weighs heavy on us both, as whichever we choose it will mean saying goodbye to family, friends and a way of life for a significant period of time. As we know from experience, emigrating is a costly, time consuming and stressful affair and is therefore a decision which we won't take lightly. Both options offer different exciting opportunities as well as drawbacks, not to mention the fact that if we do move back to Japan I'll be stuck with a blog called toomanywires-UK!! Depending on our decision, I will also use this time to once again explore different opportunities in the video game industry, something I gave up on when we first moved back to the UK due to financial and location restraints. At the time it just wasn't a realistic career path to pursue, and paid positions were few and far between.
We hope to reach a decision shortly. Although we won't rush such an important life-choice, we do want to emerge from our current limbo as soon as possible so we can fully invest in whichever situation we choose. So if my output here starts to thin-out over the coming weeks, you'll know i'm working on something that, for the time being, has taken precedent.