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Wii | The Gamers Blog

 

I must first and for most thank my mother. She helped fuel my pas­sion for gam­ing and took an inter­est in my life from when I was young and still goes strong today. She came across an arti­cle on MSN that talked about where gamers have dis­ap­peared to and that this cur­rent col­lege bound gen­er­a­tion has greater inter­est in engag­ing in the out­side world rather than being in another world. The argu­ment has its good points and its list of mis­fires. The term “gamer” is a mis­con­strued title in a day’s where every­one has a smart phone or tablet that is a capa­ble gam­ing machine. When peo­ple think of “gamers” the first thing that comes to mind is a 30 some­thing– year-old, liv­ing in their par­ents base­ment, and drinks gal­lons of Moun­tain Dew. Yes, there are those that fit this per­sona, but not the vast major­ity. Take myself as an exam­ple, I am cur­rently job search­ing after being with a com­pany for more than 6 years, while I search I am work­ing full time on bring­ing news, and other fun gam­ing related quid through­out the week. My girl­friend and I have lived with each other for just over three years, I have com­pletely aban­doned soda, I am not over­weight, and despite hav­ing a huge game col­lec­tion, enjoy cul­ture, music, movies, comics, and other things out­side gam­ing. Yet, I am one of those peo­ple that if I am on the bus or sub­way, you will see me with a portable gam­ing device not car­ing what you think of me. My friends and gamer cir­cles all have full time jobs, most of them in rela­tion­ships, and enjoy other things out­side of gam­ing as well. Yet we are all pas­sion­ate enough to make a site about gam­ing work within the con­structs of our daily lives. The arti­cle went into detail about the com­ing con­sole gen­er­a­tion and the under­per­form­ing Wii U, as well as the down­fall of Zynga, Face­book, and Apple prod­ucts as gam­ing out­lets. There is one thing in the arti­cle I must cor­rect; Nin­tendo is not hav­ing an E3 press event because of the suc­cess of the Nin­tendo Directs. They feel they can reach more peo­ple through the live web­cast that can be replayed via their web­site and on the Wii U and 3DS. Nin­tendo has already taken respon­si­bil­ity for the Wii U sales with lack of soft­ware and bad mar­ket­ing; the 3DS on the other hand is hav­ing an already stel­lar year and is look­ing to fin­ish strong for the remain­der. There are sev­eral ways to get kids, adults, and cur­rent gamers excited about gam­ing and the prospects of sto­ry­telling, prob­lem solv­ing, team­work, and social aspects that come along with gam­ing. The arti­cle gave a grave reminder that, with this gen­er­a­tion of col­lege bound stu­dents that doesn’t care much for gam­ing, they will be mak­ing the games of tomor­row; and that scares me.

 

Gam­ing, just like any type of media, social gath­er­ing, or sports can have huge ben­e­fits. They can lead to mak­ing some­one feel socially excepted, help with prob­lem solv­ing, can lead to quicker reflexes; they can even help with vocab­u­lary and read­ing com­pre­hen­sion. But just like every­thing in life, it must come with mod­er­a­tion. Tech­nol­ogy is a won­der­ful thing and despite the author claim­ing this younger gen­er­a­tion being fueled by the out­side world instead of the dig­i­tal one, they have always had it. I see 9 year-olds on an iPhone and they are con­nected to Face­book. How many of these peo­ple that are inter­act­ing with the out­side world have their trendy phone on them ready to use that god awful vin­tage fil­ter to take pic­tures and upload them to Tum­blr, Face­book, Twit­ter, or Insta­gram? They have traded one game for another. Face­book likes, re-tweets, and the like have become the new points sys­tem. See how many of these col­lege bound teenagers could live with­out their smart phone and social media for a week. Social media fuels our busi­ness, but if I didn’t have to be con­nected to it, I could do with­out it. Despite Facebook’s slump­ing stock, Face­book has a game built into it with­out any­one putting the word “ville” beside it. This is where some of the gamers of tomor­row have gone, and just like gam­ing needs mod­er­a­tion, less “vin­tage” look­ing pho­tos shot on a bad phone cam­era the bet­ter. Does the inte­gra­tion of Twit­ter, Face­book, and other social media into gam­ing con­soles solve the prob­lem of the dis­ap­pear­ing gamer? Not really and how do we get these social media moguls into gam­ing? By chang­ing the game and dri­ving excitement.

 

The cur­rent con­sole gen­er­a­tion has reached its peak, about a year ago. Despite gamers being con­tent with the PS3 and 360, they need to go. They have ter­ri­bly old tech, poor infra­struc­tures, and there is no room to grow for game devel­op­ment; they are stuck. One thing that Nin­tendo did right, despite lack of horse­power in Wii and now Wii U, was they have brought new ways to play the game. Just like the media darling’s Google Glass and Ocu­lus Rift, they are new ways to immerse our­selves in this media. Sony, with the Dual­shock 4 is try­ing. They know the Move didn’t sell like it should have and it was time to move on from the motion gam­ing and try what is work­ing with tech out­side gam­ing with a touch pad. Now the DS4 still has all the nor­mal con­troller bells and whis­tles, but the inte­gra­tion of a small touch pad to do sim­ple things such as sim­ple actions or using it to select things like a smart phone could be a key in the fight of keep­ing peo­ple inter­ested. Nin­tendo did the same thing with the Wii U gamepad, and added much more func­tion to the device. Most of this gen­er­a­tion, gamers have known one con­troller and did not grow up in the times when each new con­sole devised a new con­troller with new ways to inter­act. I am for­tu­nate to grow up first hold­ing an Atari 2600 joy­stick that had one but­ton. Then with each suc­ces­sor, the con­troller evolved to add more but­tons, ana­log sticks for bet­ter range of con­trol and motion, to hav­ing force feed­back, and to hav­ing pres­sure sen­si­tive trig­gers for more ample con­trol. This con­sole cycle was an odd one. We started with the Wii Remote, Six­axis, and 360 gamepad; and then mid way through got bored and added more in the way of Kinect, PS Move, Wii Motion­plus, and the Bal­ance Board, and lost what made gam­ing spe­cial. With all these acces­sories and new ways we had to have to play the excite­ment turned into groan­ing at the retail counter and then the con­sole col­lect­ing dust. I was work­ing gam­ing retail when Wii Sports Resort came out and peo­ple were upset over hav­ing to buy an addi­tional Wii Motion Plus don­gle for some­thing they already spent money on. I know there has always been an acces­sory through­out the home con­sole cycles, things such as the Super Scope, Sega Acti­va­tor, the NES Power Pad, and Game Boy/ advanced play­ers, but not some­thing that ren­ders a con­troller moot to play some­thing that has the Wii Sports brand on it. I’ve never seen the gen­eral pub­lic clam­ber at a con­sole the way they did at the Wii. Doing some­thing as sim­ple as hav­ing a two but­ton remote so peo­ple could play Mario the way they did back in the 80’s was genius. Sadly because of this Super Mario Bros. Wii out sold both the bet­ter Mario Galaxy titles, but there was that excite­ment for par­ents to show their kids what open­ing a NES and play­ing Super Mario for the first time felt like, and that’s just it. There needs to be excite­ment once again. Yea anyone’s phone can run Angry Birds or Tem­ple Run, but can your iPad or phone be capa­ble of bring­ing you Mario, Halo, or Ratchet and Clank? I know a lot of par­ents that were PS3 own­ers that were excited for Ni No Kuni, the game by Namco, Level 5 and Stu­dio Ghi­bli. It gave the par­ents the deep, rich RPG game­play, but brought the great char­ac­ter design, and art of a Stu­dio Ghi­bli film. It was some­thing you could spend play­ing with your child that wasn’t tagged with any­thing from Nin­tendo. We need excite­ment in the indus­try, we need to cel­e­brate the dif­fer­ent, the fam­ily ori­ented, the indie, the PC, the Free to Play, the con­sole exclu­sive, and the block­buster AAA titles but with­out the hos­til­ity, with­out the fan boy schlock, and with­out stereo­types (includ­ing xeno and homo­pho­bia). If we share the excite­ment with our friends, colleges, passerby’s, consumers, and the peo­ple leav­ing gam­ing behind; we may be able to show them what it is about the hobby that keeps us enthralled with it.

 

There may be other ways to keep peo­ple and chil­dren inter­ested with gam­ing by incor­po­rat­ing it in dif­fer­ent ways. There are art exhibits, con­certs, books, comics, sound­tracks, and other media that the sto­ries games con­vey have bled into. Want to still get in your morn­ing run but what to be excited about the next Halo, lis­ten to the sound­track on your work­out. Love Mass Effect and want the sto­ries to con­tinue out­side of the game, visit your local comic or book store. Comics and books can be read in parks, the beach, on the train, in a plane, on your phone, on your tablet, or at home. I know read­ing game related mate­r­ial or list­ing to sound­tracks as I write or dur­ing my walks brings me to the con­sole space with excite­ment. Lis­ten­ing to sound­tracks of games I have played years ago, trig­gers mem­o­ries mak­ing my brain more active, while I am actively doing some­thing else. When my friends and I were younger, going out­side to play Laser Tag, play in the snow, play wif­fle ball or even climb­ing a tree became some­thing dif­fer­ent because we include gam­ing into those activ­i­ties. Dur­ing snow days my back yard and drive way became the Bat­tle of Hoth, Laser Tag was a mix­ture of Res­i­dent Evil and Juras­sic Park, and play­ing sports games gave us bet­ter under­stand­ings of those sports and we would mimic bat­ting stances, or moves we saw in the games. It wasn’t about the vio­lence or gun play or any of that, it was about cre­at­ing new, fun, and excit­ing expe­ri­ences from what we had played. We incor­po­rated games and story lines into our child­hood play, some­thing I see absolutely none of today. There is just no imag­i­na­tion in today’s youth. Maybe gam­ing is being passed up, because it is a cre­ative indus­try that some­times requires a cre­ative input from the player, and that cre­ativ­ity is just lost. I mean look at the styles of clothes now, none of it is cre­ative, it is all regur­gi­tated from the 70–80’s and I hate it. Maybe this gen­er­a­tion has become cre­atively ster­ile and the only way they can express it is through the new game of social media.

 

There are sev­eral things I have gone over to try and resolve this issue that is appar­ent. There is one way I haven’t yet addressed. In a recent inter­view with Peter Molyneux (for­merly of Lion­head Stu­dios and now at 22 Cans), how the Xbox can be suc­cess­ful, trim the media fat, and make it about games. With this gen­er­a­tion we have seen the sim­ple starts as being a DVD/Blu– Ray player to an entire media hub where it for­gets about being a game con­sole. The Xbox 360 dash­board is so bogged down with media apps, adver­tise­ments and other schlock that it makes find­ing games and game related mate­r­ial a chore. I don’t care that I can tweet, add Face­book friends, order a pizza, or have mil­i­tary pro­pa­ganda flood­ing the advert space; I want it to play games, con­nect me to peo­ple to play games with, and to let me lose myself in story and HD visu­als. Any­one can buy an iPad, Roku Box, or surf the web on their phone. Con­sole mak­ers need to make the con­soles focus and regain what we buy them for in the first place, to play games. I can buy a PC and do every­thing at once. But peo­ple by con­soles because of the dif­fer­ent game­play expe­ri­ences, ease of use, there is no updat­ing hard­ware and they can spend the money and be happy for years with what is in the box. I buy Nin­tendo con­soles for the inter­est­ing ways to play and their core fran­chises. I buy Sony prod­ucts to play orig­i­nal titles like ICO, Shadow of the Colos­sus, and titles that feel at home on their prod­ucts like Final Fan­tasy and Metal Gear. I buy Microsoft prod­ucts for uni­ver­sal con­nec­tiv­ity across all prod­ucts (from my W7 phone, to my Zune, to my Xbox, and my email), for the com­fort­able con­troller, their exclu­sives, and I am a bit of an achieve­ment junkie. Out of all three have I men­tioned that I can watch Net­flix, or get on Twit­ter, or because I like adver­tise­ment shoved into my eye­balls at every turn? No, and that is the way it should be. Each has their strengths and they need to feed off of those and focus on games.

 

With all of these thoughts I hope this lost gen­er­a­tion can take note, game com­pa­nies do a bet­ter job of show­ing that their con­soles are about games, and that games can make more of a social impact. The gam­ing indus­try is mak­ing more money than ever, but with so many techs out there, they are start­ing to not seem viable any more, but that can change and could bring new audi­ences with that change. The indus­try isn’t just loos­ing gamers, but cre­ativ­ity and desire. The “lost” gen­er­a­tion has had so much tech­nol­ogy avail­able from the start that they have become cre­atively numb, and socially inept, to where the only way to get them into gam­ing is to maybe mak­ing it sim­ple again. This gen­er­a­tion is not only ignor­ing gam­ing but other out­lets such as comics, and books as well. I had teen tell me that one Iron Man fig­ure was wrong because he didn’t look like he did in the movie. If he had picked up a comic first instead of insert­ing his foot, he would have real­ized he was wrong. The gam­ing indus­try has to change and we have taken fact to that issue, but maybe it’s also about time this gen­er­a­tion put down the iPhone, crappy vin­tage cam­era fil­ter, jack­ets with shoul­der pads, and social media to find out there is more out there. Maybe there is a mid­dle ground we are miss­ing here, there has to be a com­pro­mise. If I can get my mom to sit down and play Car­cas­sonne on the 360 with me, help her down­load Star Wars Pin­ball on her Kin­dle Fire HD, or have my future sister-in-law be amazed that Gears of War 3 looked more like a movie than a game; then there is hope. If I ever have kids, I would want them to be gamers, read­ers, and media enthu­si­asts as well as active in the real world. I want cre­ativ­ity to flow in every aspect. I have talked about mod­er­a­tion, the gamer’s social con­ven­tion, the indus­try it’s self, and a gen­er­a­tion that is need of cre­ative guid­ance. I want the games of the future to be a proud, cre­ative expres­sion. I want them to push bound­aries both in social, graph­i­cal, and game­play rel­e­vance. I have always hated the term “Video game” because it always implied some­thing that should be used by a child, or that had no artis­tic rel­e­vance, and was mostly looked down upon by the main stream. This inter­ac­tive media is suited for a bet­ter title. So, “lost gen­er­a­tion”, let’s work together to bring that audi­ence back, make con­soles about games, bring excite­ment in the field, and find a term more suited for this new cre­ative empire.

It’s offi­cial. After years of fum­bling around with strange top­ics and awk­ward, seem­ingly untested game­play, Sega has pulled out a truly excel­lent Sonic the Hedge­hog game. Although short, it’s a sweet ride that hope­fully will get the Spin-Dash ball rolling again.

The game fol­lows an incred­i­bly sim­ple sto­ry­line. Sonic’s friends are in the process of throw­ing him a birth­day party when a giant mon­stros­ity (which I shall hence­forth refer to as the Fly­ing Pur­ple Peo­ple Eater) appears out of nowhere and cre­ates a vor­tex which sucks in all of Sonic’s friends. Sonic chases them into what appears to be a giant white limbo. Even­tu­ally, he and the res­cued Tails note that the areas and ene­mies are sus­pi­ciously famil­iar. Upon stum­bling on ver­sions of them­selves from the past, they dis­cover that they’re trav­el­ing through time. It sounds kind of silly, but the sto­ry­line of this game isn’t the point.

The per­son really trav­el­ling through time is the player. Every level in the game comes from some Sonic game in the past, span­ning the whole his­tory of the series from the very first Sonic the Hedge­hog to the recent Sonic Col­ors. You play through each level as both Mod­ern Sonic, who han­dles like you’ve come to expect from Col­ors or Unleashed (or, if you’re unfa­mil­iar with those, Sonic Adven­tures, only with a few new pow­ers and occa­sion­ally sidescrolling) and Clas­sic Sonic, who han­dles the same way he did in the Gen­e­sis days. Each level is bril­liantly reimag­ined, rang­ing from incred­i­bly famil­iar feels with the “cor­rect” Sonic for the level to fit­ting and inter­est­ing spins with the other Sonic.

Every­thing about this game is designed to tug at the nos­tal­gia strings. The lev­els both look and feel famil­iar, with the same ene­mies and many of the same rec­og­niz­able areas as in their orig­i­nal titles. What evoked the most nos­tal­gia from me, how­ever, was the music. Each level fea­tures two takes on the orig­i­nal music for that level, rang­ing from almost-cover reper­for­mances to new and inter­est­ing remixes. I took far longer than I should have to beat the game because I prob­a­bly played my most mem­o­rable level, City Escape from Sonic Adven­ture 2, ten to twelve times before mov­ing on.

Apart from the main story arc and stages (which is, sadly, an incred­i­bly short ride that lasts under 5 hours), the game is full of chal­lenges of all sorts using por­tions of each stage. Some revolve around other char­ac­ters, such as hav­ing to use a search­light to find a cam­ou­flaged Espio, or run­ning through a level with no rings save for the ones that Cream the Rab­bit drops for you. Oth­ers involve using spe­cific items from past games to clear stages within a lim­ited time, or rac­ing a dop­pel­ganger Sonic. If you really feel like hav­ing a nos­tal­gia jour­ney (or you’re too young to have expe­ri­enced it and want to see what it was like), you’re able to play the orig­i­nal Gen­e­sis ver­sion of Sonic the Hedge­hog after buy­ing a con­troller in the item shop with points you earn by play­ing levels.

I loved this game, and with­out tak­ing any­one else into con­sid­er­a­tion, I would have given it a 10. How­ever, there are a few draw­backs to Sonic: Gen­er­a­tions. As I’ve already said, the game is rather short, but bears the weight of a $50 price tag. That’s $10 less than the usual game price, but still a rather hefty cost for the amount of time you’ll spend with it. Also, some of the dia­logue is incred­i­bly child­ish. I under­stand the need to be able to mar­ket a Rated-E game to chil­dren whether it’s nos­tal­gic or not, but a few select lines made me feel like I was watch­ing Nick Jr. or PBS Kids. Lastly, some of  the bosses took a while to beat, not due to dif­fi­culty, but due to sheer con­fu­sion. The final boss, namely, was so con­fus­ingly “sim­ple” that I had to double-check my meth­ods by look­ing on the inter­net. Yes, for a Sonic game.

Com­plaints aside, Sonic Gen­er­a­tions is an excel­lent game for all ages, but most of its effect comes from nos­tal­gic value. If you were ever a Sonic fan, you’ll def­i­nitely enjoy this game. It is a mas­sive step in the right direc­tion after Sonic Unleashed (seri­ously… a were­wolf?) and Sonic the Hedge­hog 2006 (a game so bro­ken I’ve dubbed it my biggest per­sonal gam­ing dis­ap­point­ment of all time and con­sid­ered giv­ing it an AVGN/Spoony-style Let’s Play beat­down.), and proof that Sonic is NOT dead. With Sonic cer­ti­fied “alive”, per­haps all hope is not lost for what could be the great­est Sonic game of a gen­er­a­tion, should it come to be: Sonic Adven­ture 3. Hear me, Sega? Sonic Adven­ture 3. We want it, prefer­ably with Crush 40 cre­at­ing the title theme.

 

Pros:

  • Nos­tal­gia
  • Excel­lent, solid gameplay
  • Nos­tal­gia
  • Qual­ity sound­track, cre­ative remixes
  • Nos­tal­gia
Cons:
  • Very short for a $50 game
  • Dia­logue rather child­ish at times
  • Not much of a plot to speak of
  • Boss fights can be confusing
  • A bit too reliant on Nostalgia

While I typ­i­cally tend to ignore most of the ads on the side of my Face­book page, I occa­sion­ally find one that inter­ests me. That’s how I found out about my now-favorite game store, and it’s also how I first heard about Gun­nar Optiks. Gun­nar Optiks pro­duces glasses that reduce eye strain and enhance con­trast on screens, and are mar­keted towards both fre­quent com­puter users who suf­fer from var­i­ous eye­strain related symp­toms, and towards the pro­fes­sional gam­ing com­mu­nity. Two of the gam­ing mod­els in the Gun­nar prod­uct lineup are endorsed by MLG, and a few more bear the SteelSeries name.

When I first heard about these, I won­dered about them for only a few min­utes before I moved on. They bear a pretty hefty price tag for some­thing that may or may not actu­ally help you at all. How­ever, a full year later, curios­ity and incred­i­bly sen­si­tive, fre­quently blood­shot eyes got the best of me. I got the “PPK” model from Best Buy for about $80 on Tues­day.  My opin­ion of them has fluc­tu­ated, but after using them for a few days, I’m happy with my pur­chase. I’ll talk you through my experience.

One thing to note is that these are not “glasses” in the tra­di­tional sense; they’re designed for peo­ple with nor­mal vision and are more com­pa­ra­ble in func­tion to sun­shades. If you use glasses, I might sug­gest wear­ing con­tacts under­neath these if you truly feel you need the strain reduc­tion. How­ever, in that case, I’d rec­om­mend talk­ing to your optometrist to see if there’s a bet­ter solution.

When I first put on the Gun­nars, I was quite under­whelmed. They turn every­thing yel­low. That’s pretty much all it looks like they do. Look at a screen, and everything’s yel­lower than nor­mal. I was fairly dis­ap­pointed in them within the first hour or so, but I decided to keep them on through­out the day to see how well they worked. It should be noted that an adver­tised fea­ture of these glasses is screen glare reduc­tion. It does this mod­er­ately well, but if your screen is kind of dirty and has an enor­mous win­dow shin­ing on it like mine does, there’s only so much it can be helped.

I really began to notice a dif­fer­ence on the first night of using the Gun­nars. The pri­mary light source in my room is a giant flu­o­res­cent bulb built into my desk, less than two feet from my face when I’m using the com­puter. It’s typ­i­cally a bright, shiny punch to the eye­balls, but the Gun­nars really cut down on the strain that it gen­er­ally causes. It turns out that these glasses are far more effec­tive at com­bat­ing strain in set­tings where your pri­mary light source is flu­o­res­cent or incan­des­cent. In day­light, they’re less nec­es­sary. When I woke up the next morn­ing after first using the Gun­nars, I was incred­i­bly impressed by the lack of red­ness in my eyes. Typ­i­cally, they’re blood­shot if I use the com­puter past midnight.

After a few days of play­ing all sorts of games with these glasses on, I can attest to their per­for­mance enhanc­ing capa­bil­i­ties. How­ever, these aren’t “100 meter dash” glasses, they’re more suited to gam­ing marathons. Wear­ing them dur­ing a com­pet­i­tive match won’t really do much more than cut a bit of screen glare and pos­si­bly increase the con­trast a bit. How­ever, if you’re plan­ning on play­ing a fairly ocu­lar inten­sive game (such as a first per­son shooter or a game with a lot of small things on screen to pay atten­tion to) for hours on end, these will def­i­nitely save you a lot of headache (lit­er­ally). Play for five hours straight with a naked eye, and try again the next day with Gun­nars; you’ll def­i­nitely notice a difference.

While the Gun­nars do a pretty good job of per­form­ing their adver­tised func­tions, they also have to be judged on the same qual­i­ties as any other sort of eye­wear. They’re still, in essence, a cloth­ing arti­cle, so com­fort and style come into play. The PPKs are some of the most nar­row of the bunch, and they look nice, sleek, and pro­fes­sional. They’re com­fort­able to wear for long peri­ods of time, and the tem­ples are thin and flat so as to not inter­fere with headset-wearing. They’ve worked with every head­set I’ve tried wear­ing with them, but there could pos­si­bly be an issue with espe­cially large over-the-ear head­sets. All of the Gun­nar gam­ing mod­els are designed with headset-wearing in mind, and they come in a vari­ety of styles (espe­cially pop­u­lar are the MLG Leg­ends, which are an “Avi­a­tor” style).

All in all, I feel as though the Gun­nar Optiks PPK glasses were a good addi­tion to my set of gam­ing gear. Those of you who don’t pull long stints ingame and don’t have sen­si­tive eyes or headaches might want to give them a pass, but for me, they’re great per­for­mance enhancers. You can order Gun­nars online, or buy them at Best Buy and a num­ber of other stores. The Gun­nar Optiks web­site has a handy store locator.

Pros:

  • Com­fort­able and stylish
  • Good for sen­si­tive eyes, strain-induced headaches, and long gam­ing sessions
  • Don’t inter­fere with head­set usage
Cons:
  • The yel­low tint can some­times be hard to ignore
  • The ben­e­fi­cial effects aren’t imme­di­ately noticeable
  • Not as effec­tive in nat­ural light as in arti­fi­cial light, how­ever in nat­ural light they are less necessary

 

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