Wave Foam – “On Triviality”

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GameTrailer's "Bonus Round"

It is in the very nature of online media to overly discuss that which bears no importance in the long run. It’s to expect, I guess, considering its online, minute to minute, free access, and the ad-money-per-link business model that supports it. Bottom-line is, debate rages about the most useless, unimportant subjects, and when it comes to video-games, the greatest of these hideous topics is the “console wars” – that tiresome discussion that leads nowhere and informs no one. I would have thought that semi-professional and semi-serious programs, such as Gametrailers’ “Bonus Round” could be a bit more captivating and interesting than to watch the constant spewing of forum rant by fan-boys, but then again I have been known to be wrong on many occasions.

The E3 sum up was filled with fan-boy oriented debates on “who won?”, with abstract grades flying around – Michael Pachter on Sony’s conference, “I have to grade Sony on two levels, one on substance, one on presentation. Substance ‘A’, presentation ‘C’.” – and unreflected affirmations that’d be shocking to any viewer with a brain to speak of – Dan Hsu on “Metroid M”, “It feels as we’re taping to Samus Aran’s more human side […] this wasn’t a quick cash in.” The depth of their analysis was simply baffling.

Microsoft's Project Natal Commercials

Microsoft's Project Natal Commercials

To top it all off, their newest episode is totally dedicated to new input methods and interfaces in consoles. It’s nothing more than an apparently credible take on who’s got the coolest controller/interface/online-features in the ongoing console war. They’re not even discussing the games that have been, or are being developed with these new technologies… oh no, they’re discussing the technology and its commercial potential for casual gamers. Never mind the fact that no good games ever come from these new technologies (unless you want to call “Wii Sports” a game instead of a mini-game collection thingy), and that Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo just keep wasting money by cramming useless shit we already have access to in our faster, more intuitive personal computer into their consoles.  Forget that, people want to know who’s got the most unresponsive piece of virtual hardware. Is it natal, the magical wand or the motion plus? WHO CARES? Meanwhile, there’s a shortage on new games and game ideas. The media, like the developers, insists on missing the point.

You can watch the latest “Bonus Round” episodes by following this link.

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  • Comments (8)
    • Coyote
    • June 29th, 2009

    The thing is, new input methods and interfaces were probably the most important announcement of this E3. Outside of the discussion of which one is better (which I agree, it is pointless at this point), all three conferences showed a tendency to “casual” gaming and follow the example that Nintendo set. The acknowledge of that tendency is far more important than the 2 new MGS games Kojima announced, or the newest Final Fantasy game, or almost any other game revealed on this E3, which was pretty lacking in new ideas anyway. Wheter we like it or not (I personally don’t, since I think that leaves us closer to games than to media); Natal and the magic wand are the future of video games, right there.

    Once again, the promise of new ideas in games comes from the independent side. I don’t know about you, but Scribblenauts is a game that is starting to get my atention…

  1. I think Natal is pretty cool, but prob won’t be getting it as requires more waggle than the Wii (which I love) and it takes away from immersing yourself into a game. I know that probably sounds funny… more movement, less into the game? It will take me out of the game, compared to holding a controller and focusing more on the screen than where I might need to put my leg or hand. Rather have simple motions or button tapping and get into the story more.
    The Sony wand thing, I saw videos and was impressed with it, sort of still falls into Wii category as far as control I’m assuming. Don’t care for it, since the Wii already does a pretty good job of motion, and Motion Plus is pretty spot on… so no. Not everything is good just because it’s new, or already done and you put a spin on it. Love how they both (MS and Sony) were bad mouthing the Wii controls before, but now they are all into it. Good writeup by the way, and cool blog.

    • ruicraveirinha
    • June 29th, 2009

    Coyote:

    “The thing is, new input methods and interfaces were probably the most important announcement of this E3”

    It all depends on what you, as a viewer or journalist, deem important. It is not an objective truth. Personally, what is important to me, is that so much electronic ink is wasted one these trivial, obnoxious matters, when games are facing a crisis that goes way beyond wacky controllers. If these guys were discussing what games are doing with these new technologies, or what new games are revolutionizing the medium, I’d be OK with it… but that’s not the point of their conversation. They’re just saying: this will be cool, company A is revolutionizing games, go buy their stuff. When in reality, what we should be discussing is how little innovation, in actual games, was seen at E3. That is the subject that I’d deem important, coming out of E3.

    Cheers guys, thanks for the comments.

  2. all three conferences showed a tendency to “casual” gaming and follow the example that Nintendo set

    I disagree. Nintendo didn’t set this example: they merely made more profit out of it in a shorter amount of time. Casual gaming began years before. And this new and (un)improved game genre always reminds me of EyeToy for some reason.

    The thing is, new input methods and interfaces were probably the most important announcement of this E3

    Sure it was important if your assessment is based on the public response. Everyone talked about this for weeks because crowds are easier to impress with the promise of technology than with actual technology. I’m terribly ashamed that so many people come to me asking my opinion about “Natal”. I think it’s the best stand-up comedian material provided by a videogame company since the release of the Virtual Boy.

    In a male dominated industry, this console war is the present day substitute for “penis wars”: mine is bigger, broader, faster and provides better performance than yours. All consoles do great, in my point of view, when they’re running top quality games. The problem is, to put it bluntly, that there are no quality games around – and that, I think, is what Rui wished to state with this post.

    Right?

    • Coyote
    • June 29th, 2009

    Bruno, I do, indeed, speak out of public response… That is basically the only thing you can “meassure” out of an event like that. Pachter is an analyst, and as such, his perspective is merely the commercial impact of each news.

    I understand where the Ruicraveirinha post and opinion comes from, and I agree with him. But I have come to expect that kind of things out of E3, where remarkable games are sequels (God of War 3), spinoffs (Kojima’s Castelvania), sequels of spinoffs (Modern Warfare 2), or spinoffs of sequels (MGS:Raiden). To expect something different, something completely original, new, refreshing and out of the left field is like expecting to listen about original films through movie trailers in the cinema. Other conferences like TGS or PAX are far more friendly to new/independent developments; but E3 has business all over it, like in “entertainment business”.

    Maybe I just grew cynic with time…

  3. Public response is a controlled factor here. Companies like these spend thousands of dollars in research so as to determine public preferences: Natal is a service to the great majority of game players who, due to lack of experience and foresight, are incapable to acknowledge the extreme limitations of that accessory.

    The wide media coverage comes from the simple fact that Microsoft’s conference had little else to show for: and videogame-related press, especially in the US, has a very large slot reserved for their products. This is not new: however, it does account for the poor performance of mostly all the companies in this E3. As low as my expectations were, this being the paramount of videogame mainstream events, this year’s edition was terrible; and the presence of the new Ueda felt the same as a Rembrandt in a Junior High art class exhibition.

    Rui is right.

    • mors
    • June 29th, 2009

    Here’s a question for the game big bosses around here.

    Think like a company: they know people like buy, they know what excites them, they know how much money is fan-boyism makes … Can we really blame them for developing new interfaces?

    And another thing. This project natal thing has a huge potential in an artistic way. “Interactive art” has gained another way to expressive itself “interactively”. It may be a few (a lot actually) years for that, but the possibilities are there.
    Just check the interaction design Philip Worthington’s Shadow Monsters to see the possible relation.

    • Coyote
    • June 30th, 2009

    I am not going to argue the state of “artistic” games versus “commercial” games. Neither I think E3 is the right platform to expect rational and thoughtful discussions about it, since it is a commercial expo, and as such it has as much introspective as an advertisment. As I said before, other conferences like PAX, TGS or GDC are more refreshing in their proposal, and more critical about themselves (GDC in particular)…

    What I am saying is that the input argument is not such a trivial one (leaving aside which one is “cooler”/”better”/”more fashionable”/etc), because it is an issue that now transverse all platforms, and therefore all games. If they are planning to go all the way with this (and by the effort MS is putting in Natal, it looks like they are) It doesn’t matter if we preffer the new Ueda game or Call of Duty 24, it won’t matter if we get the biggest piece of fanservice or the biggest masterpiece of gaming history, wheter we like it or not, the things we saw in this E3 are likely to be the things that will be used by us to interact with the games in the future. We are not talking about a new joystick or more analog sticks, this is a different experience than what we had before (at least, on the Sony and MS part). And that is not trivial at all in a media that uses interactivity as his most distinctive characteristic.

    So, outside the question of wheter we get better or worst games, better or worst experiences (which, at this point, are merely speculation), if the industry can create powerful and touching experiences that were not possible before, or they will use it as a gimmick like 3D in movies, that is up to be seen; but I believe this is relevant for gaming as a media…

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