I hadn’t played Deus Ex: Human Revolution for weeks. Considering how much the central narrative revolves around mystery, conspiracy, and corporate intrigue, I resigned myself to suffering through a couple clueless hours before the plot sunk in again. But as the game loaded, I was presented with a pleasant surprise: written recap that I hadn’t really noticed before. The surprise isn’t so much the existence of a recap, but rather how effective yet unobtrusive it manages to be.
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Warning: This article contains significant spoilers for Gears of War 3.
Deified heroes and proud warriors flood the shooter genre. The soldiers of Call of Duty, quite literally answering destiny’s call to fight for freedom, wage a relatively justified battle across the franchise’s many theaters of war. Master Chief (and all the Spartans of Halo for that matter) have become god-like. Their trials and exploits have become legend in their expansive worlds. As players, we vainglorious actors are rewarded with praise through achievements and rewards. It comes as a surprise then when Gears of War 3, the finale to one of the biggest shooter franchises on the market, ignores the trend. While Marcus Fenix and the team do share in macho gloating, the cast of Gears of War 3 share more in common with the ragged and exhausted soldiers of Saving Private Ryan or Band of Brothers. There is no glory for gears, no triumphant chorus to proclaim their deeds, and no exultation at all for a war well fought. In Gears 3, the series’s iconic gritty brown-grey aesthetic finally couples with narrative and gameplay to actually tell a truly melancholy and sobering war story.
Okay, so maybe on the face of it, a game like Zynga’s Cityville (one of many spin offs of the wildly popular Farmville) and Sid Meier’s Civilization World (a transformation of the classic video game into a social game format) only vaguely have some things in common.
Both games focus on the development of cities, creating buildings and growing populations, in order to show your opponents that your civilization is superior to theirs.
But wait a sec, CivWorld is obviously a game about showing off your prowess in evolving a superior civilization, while Cityville is a co-operative playground in which I own my own city, build it, and help others in building their own cities. There’s no competition in Cityville, right?
Not so fast, though, while CivWorld might be more of a traditional “game” in that it has an end goal, a way to win, along with clear rules about how to achieve that win, really there is a potentially more subtle competitive aspect that underlies Cityville as well. And frankly that aspect of competition is why Cityville‘s monetization will probably remain more financially lucrative for Zynga than CivWorld ever will be for 2K Games.
It’s hard to play games on my little netbook. Cardboard Computer’s Ruins barely runs, but it still manages to be strikingly beautiful. A brief, branching dreamscape involving several layers of metaphor, there isn’t much I can say about the actual contents without making the game sound more mundane than it is, so I encourage you just to try it.
We have seen several games try to approximate dream logic, and from an aesthetic point of view, Ruins might come the closest to doing so. Set in a tiny space of uncertain dimension and shifting perspectives, the experience is set so much in a perpetual haze and glow that you can’t be sure of where you are going or what you are looking at.
Maybe serving as a follow up to our discussion of difficulty in games comes a discussion of something that usually makes gaming “easier”, cheating.
We consider whether cheating matters in both single and multiplayer gaming as our discussion strays from the most malicious hacking and griefing to even the seemingly benign use of FAQs and video walkthroughs to help us “get through”.