Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Another Brick In The Wall, Pt. 2

In Part 1, we explored an abridged history of plastic-instrument games and their surge and ebb in the general market. In this installment, we will examine how specifically the two major primary-developer/publisher pairs (Neversoft/Activision of later Guitar Hero titles and EA/Harmonix of Rock Band) approached their products, and the shortcomings of the principles guiding each. Since hardware was by and large interchangeable and affected each series equally, the differences in tactics boil down almost entirely to software and available content libraries. Let the case study begin!

This is what the thunderclap at the end of a Slayer song looks like...

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Another Brick In The Wall, Pt. 1

Western audiences were by no means unschooled in games with action synced to music thanks to the contributions of Bemani (Dance Dance Revolution, Beatmania)  in arcades, while the likes of NanaOn-Sha (Parappa the Rapper, Vib-Ribbon) and iNiS (Gitaroo Man, Ouendan) made ventures on consumers' home and portable systems. Their appeal, however, was often limited by song selections and/or original compositions that did little if anything to line up with American popular musical taste, as well as often highly abstracted translations of input. It was the synthesis of Western music selection, home console availability, and the tactile sensation of simulating playing a guitar (borrowed from Bemani's GuitarFreaks arcade cabinets) that became the core of the first Guitar Hero game.

Notice: only 3 colors... and mandatory guitar tilting.

Monday, February 27, 2012

In The Flesh?

I realize that my first two pieces, while topical, were just slightly behind the zeitgeist. In response to this, I will now go as far as possible from what is current in games to what seems to be nearing an end, or at the very least is well out of the honeymoon phase. And I will take three parts, an introduction post and a conclusion post to do so.

So: plastic-instrument rhythm games!

Wait, don't go, I promise I will do my best to keep this interesting.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

A Hepling Hand

Jenny, Jenny. Who can I turn to?

It seems we are once again in the midst of another Bioware writer kick-up thanks to the joys of instant communication. Given that I threw in a couple of jabs at the developers in the first article I wrote, I figure there's no harm in a small follow-up in the wake of this non-event slapfight in which everyone came off poorly. Which is totally different from every other time something similar has happened between two or more jilted nerds.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Why Games Shouldn't Want To Be Art

There are currently a lot of phrases you should avoid when discussing video games in 2012. "Ludology" might be well on the way to being one: in a time where the upcoming slate of well-hyped AAA games include Mass Effect 3, Bioshock: Infinite, Halo 4, Max Payne 3, and Grand Theft Auto V, the "narratological" approach to games as easy and direct parallels to better-established forms of media (primarily film and theater) is enjoying a notable vogue. It speaks volumes that phrases like "the 'Citizen Kane' of video games" have been bandied about seriously in recent years with little to no humiliation on the speakers' behalves. This is turn points to the persistent hand-wringing over whether games are "art" or not; some still prickle at Ebert's original take from nigh on six years ago that they never can be.

But what does all this fervor point to? Where does the necessity to proclaim games as an high art-form, as a "legitimate" medium, stem from? And is it possible that he is not only right… but that it shouldn't matter?