Playing the Lame Vol. 6

Hola peeps. Mark B here to hook you up with the lameness. Normally I’d be talking terrible gaming, but that’s going to have to wait until next week. Right about now I’m pissed off. It’s a relative kind of pissed off, mind you (I DO have a life, y’know), but I have something to say that’s been wanting out for about a month, and I’m finally at the point where I just can’t keep it inside any more. My apologies; lame gaming next week.

Also, I may be sick. Not entirely sure yet. Sore throat, check, stuffy nose, check. Could be allergies though. I’m drinking Airborne like it’s going out of style and I have my Zicam all set, just in case, but if this is allergies, I might make it a whole year without a cold! Not that you care, but I’d be pretty happy.

And now, to introduce a new section that will get its place here and there as needed:

FEEDBACK:

And here we comment on things others have E-mailed my way for one reason or another. So far I’ve had bits and pieces of stuff, but I got an E-mail the other day I wanted to comment on publicly.

Matt R. contacted me to ask about the wonderful reviews we’ve posted on the site. Or, more specifically…

It’s taken over a month for a new game review to be posted and the first one to get reviewed is freakin’ Curious George?? Are you kidding me?

… we’ve been busy?

It’s not like December and January were good months for games, sadly. But we’re working on review content once again now that the games are starting to come in, so keep that chin up.

And to the rest of you, feel free to contribute any old thing. I don’t mind one bit.

LINKAGE:

Kennedy gets the top bill this week, as he made a comparison between Jesus and Satan, as well as himself and Boy George. I don’t know which is worse.

Lucard takes time from his busy schedule of talking horror to review a DS game. In other news, Hell is unseasonably cold right now. Also, for the record, no, I’m not a furry, but yet, I do do Sweatin’ to the Oldies in an animal costume. It’s part of my prison sentence. Don’t ask.

Gordi Whitelaw talks KENTA and Liger. I’ve yet to see KENTA in action, but Liger is quite possibly my very favorite professional wrestler, ever, period, and as such, I enjoyed the column.

Mr. Brashear writes about DX, and it’s an enjoyable read as always.

Tom says he half-assed it this week. See, the trick, Tom, is to do like me, and half-ass it EVERY week. That way, no one notices.

Eric. Plug. Wrestling, and lots of it. My work is done.

Oh, and I wrote a preview of FFXI for the 360 and a review of a bad game. Enjoy.

PLAYING THE LAME, VOLUME 6.

Or, Here, let me get my soapbox and write my obligatory “I hate the game media” column.

Please feel free to blame 1UP as a collective entity for necessitating this.

So.

I don’t get it.

I just don’t get it. At all.

Hundreds, nay, THOUSANDS of video games come out each and every year. Of those, less than half fall into any category equal to or greater than “average”. Of those, less than half fall into any category equal to or greater than “good”. It’s very difficult to slog through the miasma of crap that is the video game release calendar and find products that are not average, not good, but the rare and often under appreciated “great” we all desire in our heart of hearts. Video game magazines, websites, blogs, et al, are designed to help us sift through all of the sewage and find the gold amongst the iron pyrite and spray-painted dog turds, and in theory they do this without issue. There are often times where this system fails, of course, either because the collective media incorrectly judges a game, or because the masses deem a game uninteresting, or what have you. But this, ideally, is the exception, not the rule.

You might note that this is an idealized perception of the video game industry as a whole. You might, perhaps, note the lack of mud slinging and finger pointing. Perhaps you noticed the lack of accusations of rampant bribery and corruption, or the lack of acknowledgement that games tend to be over-rated. There is a reason for this. See, I’d like to believe that the industry, despite the negative perception it has and the stain of corruption that permeates it to its very core, really DOES work. I’d like to believe that the game media has the best interest of their consumers in mind. And, perhaps most importantly, I’d like to believe that regardless of taste, game reviewers understand that they must distance themselves from the product and, god forbid, review titles objectively, and that their opinions should come second to whether or not the product in question is any good.

Now, I’m not saying everyone here does that. Hell, I’m not even saying I do that. Obviously your opinion is going to factor into your perception of a video game. That’s what the “Miscellaneous” category is for: personal opinion. I mean hell, I thought Shadow of the Colossus was one of the best games to come out last year, and I gave the freakin’ game a 7. The idea is that, regardless of whether or not you love a game, think it’s the cat’s pajamas, whatever, that you can find a way to express such an opinion OBJECTIVELY and without BSing your way through it. If you loved a game, regardless of the score, people will be able to tell, and will check the game out as a result. The inverse is true of games you hate, of course, and this needs to be noted.

The problem is, this doesn’t happen. Every couple of months or so I see things that make no quantifiable amount of sense being written/said/whatever, in public forum, where people can see these things and take this information into their brain. Now, it’s fairly obvious that people aren’t going to agree on all things at all times, and that’s fine. But when you see things that are just flat out mean spirited and untrue, or conversely, shining representations of fanboy puddling, well, that kind of makes you go “Wait, what?” Now, I don’t really like having to re-evaluate my perceptions of people on a week-to-week basis, so I usually try to avoid reading such things, because the last thing I want to do is sit down and wonder exactly how much of a psychopath some of these writers are. That having been said, every so often I’m forced to read things that make absolutely zero sense, which is a solid segue into what I wanted to talk about today.

So, the February issue of EGM hit newsstands, inside of which was the now standard “we’ve run out of ideas” column you see once in a while from magazines: The “Best (X) (P) (T)” column. FYI, (X) is equal to a random number, (P) is equal to the product the magazine covers, and (T) equals the specific time period they’re documenting, ranging from oh, right now, to infinity. In this case, it was “The Best 200 Games of THEIR Time” (capitalization mine). See, the idea here is that these games are the best games ever to come out, not EVER, but at the time they came out. The idea, of course, is that these games are ordered by how relevant and great they were at the time they were released into the market, how good they were, and how well-received they were, as opposed being purely about how good they were as games.

Now, these sorts of lists are usually published either to generate controversy or because the writers have no good ideas left, so I didn’t really get too cheesed off while reading it. But, while perusing the list, I saw something on there I certainly didn’t expect: #171, Beyond Good and Evil. For those that missed it, BGaE was a mundane action/adventure game published by Ubisoft during the Christmas season of 2003 (if memory serves correctly) that garnered a bunch of high praise from just about every magazine on Earth. You probably missed it, I’d imagine, since it dropped to $20 right after the holidays because, shockingly, no one bought it. In case you’re curious as to why no one bought it, well, it was mundane. Mediocre. Run-of-the-mill. IP hated the game, and people like Penny Arcade who are normally akin to lavishing praise on under-appreciated titles didn’t even acknowledge the game’s existence. Even at $20 the game continues to languish in obscurity, despite Ubisoft making enough of the damn things to build a house out of, and despite the massive advertising campaign undertaken in its name. History has made its decision, and that decision was that BGaE was a lame, under-whelming experience that no one wanted anything to do with, despite the massive amounts of hype it generated.

And yet…

The gaming media continues to beat us about the head with this game.

Why?

Why did GMR extol the virtues of this game in practically every issue published from the moment BGaE debuted until the publication’s eventual cancellation? Seriously. In no less than four issues that I actually read I saw them sneak pimps for BGaE into totally unrelated articles. And I bet the editor still wonders why the magazine was cancelled.

Why does everyone wax poetic about the virtues of such an uninspiring piece of work?

Why is this game even ON this list? It wasn’t even a well-received game at the time; hell, it’s STILL not well-received, over two years later… I honestly don’t believe it sold enough copies to make back what was spent developing it, two years after its release to the market. Few played it, fewer liked it, it did nothing, it had nothing to say, and no one gave a damn… except the game media.

Why?

To give you an understanding of why I’m especially annoyed, consider three of the games that ranked BELOW this under-performing piece of shit:

The original freaking Mario Party, from which most other party games can be derived;

Snatcher, which is just personally insulting;

and Dance Dance f*cking Revolution, the game series that SINGLE HANDEDLY KEPT THE ARCADE AS WE KNOW IT ALIVE AND OPERATING, THANK YOU VERY MUCH.

Beyond Good and Evil is more influential and a better game than Dance Dance Revolution. Can you feel that? That feeling in the back of your throat? That’s bile.

I can’t honestly understand it. Niche games like the PS2 King’s Field, Wizardry: Tale of the Forsaken Land, and Choro-Q are poorly reviewed and underrated, despite having solid fan followings of their respective franchises. Games with mainstream appeal like Digital Devil Saga and Tactics Ogre are under-hyped, scored well, then ignored in favor of shinier counterparts that are less interesting.

But this? This two-bit amalgamation of mediocrity with a title ripped off from Nietzsche? THIS is what the media fanboys wank off to in the privacy of their cubicles?

Ico? Rez? Guitaroo Man? Suikoden 2? SMT anything? Radiant Silvergun? Panzer Dragoon Saga? All far superior on every measurable level imaginable, all more respected in ANY way one can quantify, all deemed insufficient in comparison to one of the most uninspiring releases in the history of the medium.

Trying to understand this is like handing War and Peace to a five year old. Hell, I’m almost thirty and I STILL can’t stand the damn book. And don’t think I’m bitching sight unseen here; I PLAYED the damn thing. It was so uninspiring a piece of work that I played it for three hours straight before two of my closest friends, and now, two years later, neither of them remember anything about the game. AT ALL.

I mean, it can’t be bribery and payoffs; bribery only goes so far. You can only offer someone so much cash to buy their loyalty for so long. I find it hard to believe that Ubisoft managed to buy SO MUCH appreciation for one game that two years later, editors and publishers continue to expound at length about the virtues of a game that really isn’t that good, while they allow far greater games to suffer in obscurity.

So either these people really, truly, beyond any possible explanation, have NO taste to speak of whatsoever… or I and everyone I know (and I mean EVERYONE; no one I know liked the game, even a tiny bit, as near as I can tell), as well as most of the gaming public, have no idea what’s good anymore.

Yeah, sure.

“Oh, but Mark,” you say, “this was a month ago. Why can’t you let that go?” Well, I could do so if not for two things that I saw this week that made my brain hurt, oddly enough because of the exact same group of suspects:

1.) EGM running a preview of Rumble Roses XX, featuring an image of some dude reading about the game on the toilet (implication obvious). First, I don’t want to see that. Second, regarding all of the (generalized) complaining about the negative perception of gamers as murderers or perverts, YOU’RE NOT FUCKING HELPING.
2.) OPM running an article talking about games that weren’t well received but were gems of their time, and mentioning, you guessed it, Beyond Good and Evil. That they could place BGaE in the same category as Psychonauts is rather insulting; that they could say the plot was an awesome political statement (which I think is why these guys love the game so much, “OMG, THAT’S THE REPUBLICANS, ROFL!!1!”) just shows that no one in their office read 1984.

All of the publications I’ve mentioned in this article, by the way, are affiliates of the 1UP network, so you can see where this might not just be random chance. It’s a conspiracy, you see… the Butts-Up network is conspiring, not to hurt the game industry, but rather, to give me a frigging embolism.

So, yeah, seeing the same game pop up A MONTH LATER as a “missed gem”, once again, rubs me the wrong way. Stepping over a pile of dog loaf does not a “missed gem” make. It’s $10 used; if people aren’t buying it now, they’re not GOING to. You can walk into your local EBGames and count the used copies of the damn thing in the store on BOTH HANDS. People have played it, hated it, and deemed it insufficiently worthy of keeping. There’s a reason for this: THE GAME IS LAME. SHUT UP ABOUT IT ALREADY.

Okay, yeah, it’s one game. Except that it isn’t just “one game”. It hasn’t been just “one game” for years upon years now. Back when Deep Fear (a Japanese only survival horror game) dropped for the Sega Saturn, Diehard Gamefan was chewing at the bit, crying out for an American release of a game that, frankly, wasn’t very good at all. It’s been going on for over a decade now, and it’s not going to stop any time soon.

Reading that Prince of Persia: Warrior Within was a high 7’s – low 8’s scoring game was insulting when there were game breaking bugs in it out of the box. For those that never experienced it, look up the “Sandwraith” glitch. I had that problem, and there was three hours of play, just… gone. So yeah, I take exception to that.

Reading articles about the lack of original games in magazines that feature “25 to Life” on the front cover is just incredibly disturbing. It shows a distinct lack of perspective, and when you lose your perspective, you lose your credibility.

But this doesn’t stop. I read paragraph after paragraph of people puddling over Disgaea, La Pucelle Tactics, Phantom Brave, Makai Kingdom, and the newly anticipated Disgaea 2, yes, FIVE ITERATIONS of what is more or less the SAME GAME. Meanwhile, Stella Deus and Shining Force: Revenge of Dark Dragon are more or less ignored.

I read all sorts of incredibly high reviews for Mark Ecko’s Getting Up and various and sundry Tony Hawk games, then turn my head and stare as Jet Set/Grind Radio is left to die.

I read high scores for Grandia 3, calling it an awesome RPG with a lame storyline, and my brain locks up. I read about how awesome the combat system is, and if only such a good combat system could have any interesting story attached, and I cock my head and ask, “What about Digital Devil Saga? Shadow Hearts? Hello?”

I read ten page previews for Final Fantasy XII, a game that DOESN’T EVEN HAVE A DEFINITE RELEASE DATE, then look and see five paragraph reviews of SMT Nocturne that unfavorably compare it to Pokemon.

I read eight page reviews for Black, and recall ever so fondly how the company that produced Deus Ex: Invisible War is now gone because the game sold poorly. Shockingly, no one is jerking off about how great Deus Ex: Invisible War was.

I recall articles written about the demise of Working Designs, a company so beloved that game magazines barely even acknowledged their existence most of the time. I recall how Human Entertainment went out of business, and no one could even be bothered to note it.

I read reviews for Tekken 5 and Dead or Alive praising these games for their combat mechanics whilst condemning their lack of originality, and I silently weep at the loss of Tobal.

I watch previewers talk about how awesome Phantasy Star Universe is going to be and wonder why they’re not asking, “Hey, where’s my Phantasy Star Collection I was promised two years ago?”

I see reviewers write glowing remarks about Smackdown versus Raw 2006 and wonder where my Fire Pro Wrestling Z and Touken Retsuden titles are.

And, perhaps most importantly, I read people talking about how they love to keep up on the import scene, and what games they love and so on, and how they’d love to see so many Japanese-only titles come stateside.

Really?

So, where’s my support for Namco X Capcom? How about the Shin Megami Tensei compilation on the Game Boy Advance? Where’s my “Import Spotlight” for Princess Crown? How about retro columns highlighting Langrisser? Where’s my outpouring of emotion for Sakura Taisen? How about petitioning to get that Dragon Force remake stateside? Where’s my Wizardry for the PSP? How about my King of Coliseum? My Snatcher? My Policenauts? WHERE IS MY MOTHER 1 AND 2 BACKUP YOU LYING BASTARDS?

And that’s really the point, isn’t it?

For all their bluster and bravado… it’s all sound and fury, signifying nothing.

You talk tough, but you have no real principles. You say things that sound pretty to get people to agree with you, but you never do anything to back them up. When it comes right down to it, originality does nothing for you; you’re content to play the same drivel over and over again forever, until the end of time.

It’s easy to tell me what I SHOULD be playing when what I SHOULD be playing is being fed to you by your corporate sponsors, isn’t it?

So the point is thus: stop it. Stop with the oversell on the misunderstood classics; nothing you guys think is classic really is. Stop tearing down subsections of the gaming community; if I want to jerk off to Rumble Roses or Dead or Alive or whatever, you have NO FUCKING RIGHT to make fun of me, since I pay your goddamn salary. Stop pretending you give a shit about the hardcore gamers; you don’t, and haven’t in years, because we see through your bullshit and don’t pay the bills anymore. And stop pretending that you’ve imported a video game in the past five years; the only import games you play are the ones companies hand you to play, not anything you hunt down on your own. Just drop the act and tell it how it is: you do what you’re told. There’s nothing to be ashamed of in that; the only shaming thing is lying about it.

And, for those that are wondering, no, I’m not jealous. I’m going to college so I can get a job that allows me to look down in the shower in the morning and not be ashamed of myself. Writing, yeah it’s fun, but unless it’s fiction writing, count me out career-wise. I’d hate to be in that position: finding out that everything I believe is compromised to keep a job I thought I’d love, but don’t anymore.

And that’s the bottom line, isn’t it? Do I have integrity? Yeah, I do. Am I unbiased? Probably not. But I’m not getting paid to do this. I work for free, and if Widro came to me tomorrow and told me “Fuck off, we don’t need you anymore”, I’d be okay with it. It’s fun and entertaining to me, nothing more.

What’s your excuse, guys?

Feel free to come back next week for some actual lame gaming. I’m Mark B. Later.

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