SPLastic's Game of the Month: September

Well, ladies and gentlemen, it's my time of the month. Stop looking at me like that; I mean the announcement of my Game of the Month.
Hopefully I can remember to keep this going and make it a monthly thing (that'd fit nicely with the name, wouldn't it). So, have a read and post your thoughts.

And, my Game of the Month is:

Sid Meier's Civilization IV: Colonization

This game builds on a classic game formula that has already been revamped with the last title in the series (Civilization IV itself), adding a much more hands-on feel to settlement (instead of city) management, as well as focusing on a under-played genre, the colonization of the New World.
A well rounded 4x romp that leaves me coming back for more. Even if I haven't finished a single match yet.

Runner up is:

Crysis Warhead

It's Crysis, but Crytek fixed everything that was wrong with it - the mediocre firefights that took place in very thick foliage, the haphazard death-trap vehicles and the system-melting requirements. I found the original Crysis got boring quickly, but I haven't grown tired of Warhead yet.
Crysis Warhead is awesome fun to play through, but I don't know how quickly I'll return to the title - and the multiplayer component, Crysis Wars, is MOHAA online with the Crysis suit powers. Not too much fun to be had there.

And a special mention goes out to:

Mercenaries 2: World in Flames

The idea of playing this game was sold to me by a friend who promised largely destructible environments. Having finished GTAIV, I was feeling pretty good about open-world games. Alas, how much one game can do to one's opinions.
Remember how GTA: San Andreas had a really large game world? Mercenaries 2 does the same thing. Remember how GTA: San Andreas had nothing to do in that game world? Well, funnily enough, Mercenaries 2 follows suit.
It annoys me to see open-world games on the market that don't seem to grasp that a small world full of things to do always beat a large, empty world. What makes this game even worse is that the gameplay feels like something that should've been released as a last-generation title. A launch title. That the console quickly pushes to one side and forgets about.
I played Just Cause about six months ago. It was awful for all the same reasons as this game. In fact, the only difference between the games is that you can blow up some pot plants in this one.

That is all! Post your thoughts.

Ignorantus, Ignoranta, Ignorantum!

As a gamer, I witness ignorance towards my hobby on an almost daily basis. Obviously, it's unrealistic to expect every man and his dog to know all the intricate details of the games industry; all that I, personally, would like is that those who feel the need to intrude show some rudimentary understanding of our hobby.

First of all, if you don't like video games and aren't going to take the half an hour it would take to research these games, please stop complaining. If you are in a position of authority (politicians, for example) and feel obliged to make comments, do some research first.

Finally and most prominent is the ignorance of the general public, specifically concerning gaming becoming “cool” as of late, as well as the uninformed opposition seen in so much of society.

On Septemer 4th 2008, a video game called Spore was released for the PC by Maxis Software, the company famous for developing The Sims. Spore allows players to create a creature; beginning as a small cell swimming in the primordial ooze, all the way to their species' exploration of the galaxy. The player has control over the appearance and abilities of their creature, sculpting and painting it as they see fit.

Spore has received criticism from many religious (I say religious, but it's really just Christian and Catholic) groups, who claim that the game is poisoning the minds of children by teaching them Darwin's Theory of Evolution (instead of Intelligent Design) and should be banned from sale. However, it would seem the opposite is true – the player (who we can assume falls under “intelligent”) designs a creature, with the ability to completely forgo the creature's surroundings (the species will not change of its own accord – all changes are player-generated).

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation's TV show, Q&A, recently aired an episode where a member of the audience asked the panel (which included a senator from the Independent, National and Labor parties, as well as the Chief Executive of the Australian Industry Group) about Australia's OFLC (Office of Film and Literature Classification) banning several upcoming game releases, including the highly anticipated Fallout 3. This game was banned for a combination of two reasons: our OFLC has no R18+ rating for video games, and Fallout 3's drug use was deemed inappropriate for an MA15+ rating. This drug use equated to a graphic of a needle piercing the character's skin, and the inclusion of morphine as a usable drug (these drugs have both positive and negative affects ingame).

Q&A's panel seemed to misunderstand the question, going off on a tangent about video games causing violence. I am not going to go indepth into the “video games make people violent” debate, as there is not enough data to prove or dismiss the case (although all published studies seem to point to “No”). One panel member, when talking about the highly controversial Grand Theft Auto series (which is famous for turning people into “car thieves”) mentioned that two of her children play “these types of games”, and she's glad they “haven't turned out like that”.

Now, I don't want to crucify her, but if she's so against these games, why does she let her children play them?

Q&A also states that Australia has no ratings system for video games. To me, this is the icing on their metaphorical cake of ignorance. Australia's OFLC has a very solid ratings system (even if it may occasionally be inaccurate – I'll come to that soon). The only thing missing is an R18+ rating, something that other forms of media classified have.

Any content contained within a game that the OFLC's board deems inappropriate for fifteen year olds must either be removed or the game will not be classified (and in most cases) not sold. Of course, if someone really wants to play a game, they will no doubt download the software if it isn't available commercially – which only serves to disadvantage developers.

In reality, the classification should exist as a guideline, allowing gamers and guardians to make informed choices about the product they are purchasing. Instead, with the omission of an R18+ rating, classification becomes censorship (quick, use google define to find the difference!).

Above, I mentioned that one of the guests on Q&A said that her children play violent video games, and asked why she let them if she is so opposed to such games. It strikes me as strange that those who are against violent video games continue to purchase them for their children. Surely they looked at the case before buying it? Didn't they notice the red sticker in the corner with the box next to it saying, “Strong Violence and Coarse Language”?

These people can no longer play the ignorance card about the content of the games their children play – either they bought the game for the child or they've seen it played by said child; either way, the guardian should have a good idea of the game's content. If they don't fulfill either of those criteria, then more attention needs to be paid to what their own children are doing.

As a teenager attending a public college, I am exposed to what we can consider the most malleable unit of society; which provides a full submersion in the latest fads - a constant idea of what is “cool”. As of late, it seems as though video games have become cool: please note that I didn't say “video gaming”.

All of a sudden, people are wearing shirts with Mario and Yoshio on them, Nintendo logos stare blankly at you from all manner of clothing and every second person you meet uses the terms “noob” and “lol”. Hell, every second person that I meet knows (and is often singing) “Still Alive” (also known as “The Portal Song”).

I have absolutely no problem with people playing games – there is one gaming console to every five Australians, so it's no longer a niche hobby. My problem lies in the blatant ignorance that this new breed of casual gamers possesses. Recently, a celebrity was quoted as saying they owned a “Sony Nintendo” - if you can't pick up what's wrong with those two words, kindly dip your hand in cool water, unplug the computer that you are using and stick your fingers in the power socket.

To reiterate, I have no problem with more people playing games; it's the pretenders that get to me. Once again, I'll use “Still Alive” as an example. Of all the people I spend time around at school, perhaps a total of five have completed Portal, with five more having played it and at the best, a grand total of 15 know what Portal actually is. Yet every single one of the people I associate with can sing at least one line from the song and tell me that it's from “that game...” (except in a few rare cases when people say “from the internet”).

It is good to see all this “attention” for gaming, but it does make my cynical mind think that it'll only be a matter of time until “cool” changes again and all that Nintendo clothing ends up in the bottom of closets lined with the fossils of past fads.

So please, I beg of you, if you are going to become involved in gaming, at least have some idea of what you're getting into. For those against video games, at least take a glance at Wikipedia. Hell, even play Mario Kart – it might just change your outlook. As for those who are doing it because it's “cool”, please actually play games – by not, you're doing everyone a disservice.


P.S.: Attention all teenie boppers – Singstar doesn't count.

"A 'video game', you say? Well, golly! Gee! You mighty space-men of the future will have to teach me how it works!"

-Fry ("A Bicyclops Built For Two", Futurama Season 2)