Thursday, October 27, 2011

Party Like a Rockstar

Whether you like it or not, "Grand Theft Auto III" changed things. It changed the way we play video games. It changed the way games are looked at in our overall society. It changed everything.
I had never really played an open world game before "GTA III" and I was pleasantly surprised when I found out how open, open world really was. I could walk around aimlessly for hours, never doing anything. I could steal a car, crash it and run from the cops. I could even casually stroll up to a random character on the street and brutally beat them to death with a baseball bat. And then run from the cops.
It was intense and even a little intimidating at first. For anyone who's played "GTA III", the character you play in the game doesn't have much of a history, never speaks, and his name is never revealed. So, the creators of the game want to give the effect that the guy you're playing can be anybody you want him. You could even say that he is YOU.
Rockstar Games gave the player millions of choices and hundreds of missions and left it up to you. You do what you want to do. They only merely hinted at what you could do. All of the sequels and spin-offs only expanding on the same idea. It wasn't until "Grand Theft Auto: Vice City" that I read something that changed the way I look at games.
I read in a magazine, not a video game magazine mind you, that "Vice City" was "the closest a video game has ever been to being a work of art." Don't ask me who said that but whoever they were, they were right. That game was a masterpiece. It was the first time I had ever played a game that I wish was a movie. If it was, I'd watch it over and over again. It was also the first time I can remember that recognizable movie stars provided their voices to a game (and it didn't stink).
Ray Liotta as the main character, who now had a name (Tommy Vercetti) and a back-story, was perfect. He was kind of a scumbag, but he was enjoyable to play. You wanted to hear what he had to say even though most of it was profanity.
"GTA: San Andreas" and "GTA IV" saw more and more improvements. Graphics got better, stories got more interesting and the game play improved. Even though the adult content may scare some and the violence can be a little much at times, no one can deny how much that series has changed the gaming community. Every time an open world game is made, it is instantly compared to "Grand Theft Auto".
The trailer for "GTA V" premiers on November 2nd. I can only imagine where we go from here.
UPDATE (11/2/11): Just saw the trailer and it looks like we're heading back to San Andreas. The preview looked amazing. The graphics look stunning; maybe some of the best I've ever seen. I just wish the trailer showed something about the protagonist. The voiceover really got me excited, this one looks like it could be a very different type of story; maybe even involving a family aspect. A catch that the last couple of Rockstar Games used was the feature of playing multiple characters. I wonder if that will make an appearance in this new one.

(Kinda) Taking a Life

The first time I can remember killing someone was around 1997. I was only about seven years old and my taste for blood hadn't really been conceived yet. I snuck up behind two men in uniform who were carrying automatic weapons. I shot them both in the head with a silenced Walther PPK. They didn't even know I was there.
Of course, this was all in a videogame. I hope I didn't scare anybody. For those of you who got the Walther PPK gun reference, I owe you a Kewpie doll. For those of you who got Kewpie doll reference, I owe you two. The game I'm referring to in case is "Goldeneye 007" for the Nintendo 64. The reason why I'm bringing this up is simple because it really is the first time I ever actually killed somebody in a game. This wasn't like before. At first I was somewhat shocked. I said to myself, "Wow. I just shot those guys. Will you look at that?"
I didn't really know if I was even really right in what I did. Was it a righteous shoot? Those guys didn't even know I was there. I practically executed them! Then I thought about it some more.
"Wait. I am James Bond. I have a license to kill. They are Soviets. If this was a movie, they'd be toast in there too. Maybe this isn't so bad. Whatever, let's just get on with it."
So I proceeded to mow down about 30-40 other guys that obviously weren't very happy with me sneaking around and sabotaging their nuclear weapons plant. The funny part about all of that is that I didn't really care too much about who I killed after those first two guys. I picked up all sorts of assault rifles and grenade launchers, blew people away left and right. I even drove a tank over people and cars and never even blinked an eye. Killing became second nature.
I never realized how this happens until recently when I came upon a episode of "Law and Order" on TV and Jerry Orbach mentioned how "Someone never really gets used to killing another human being. You just try not to think about it." This isn't the case with videogames. Since the player knows for a fact it isn't real life; you can get used to it. It's strangely easy to get used to such a heinous act. It's when the player loses track of where reality starts and stops, that's when the real trouble begins.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Too Close For Comfort

I am not usually surprised by a video game. Truthfully I haven't been totally entertained by a game for a little over a year. This past week I was blown away by a game. I was blown away by a game that I have already played. This may sound ridiculous to some but it is the god honest truth. The game was Call of Duty: Black Ops. To some, this game is one of the best shooters of all time. To me, it was a pretty good game with a interesting premise. I liked the multiplayer but only in spurts. I don't know how some guys (and girls) can play the game online for hours at a time; it's just too much for me.
You may be asking: What was so amazing about a game that has been out for over a year? I got to play the game in high definition with 5.1 surround sound and to top it all off, it was in 3D. I have never come closer to virtual reality than that. It couldn't have been in a better location. My friend and I were in his barely lit basement. It was perfect game immersion.
After about twenty minutes and about two online deathmatches, I couldn't take it anymore. Neither could my friend. I couldn't see how staying in that kind of environment could be adjusted to. The bullets zipped by our heads. The bombs blew up in our faces. We died at least ten times. Yet, we were still hanging around in the basement. It felt like we were just on a battlefield of some sort and now we could sit back in a recliner. It just didn't feel right.
It soon became apparent that the feeling I was having was shared by my friend. We looked at each other a moment. I said to him, "This is frigging nuts."
He responded with, "Yeah man, this is crazy. It's a little too crazy. You wanna get something to eat?"
"Yeah. Let's do that."
Over a lovely gourmet meal at a royal burger chain, we discussed the strange feelings that we had just experienced. How it was weird to go from ducking simulated bullets to having a burger. How it was all just too much to deal with after such a short time. And especially how bad of a headache it was giving us. My friend said that it was too close to being in a life or death situation. "You wouldn't want to play a game that makes you feel like crap. That's not the point of playing video games. You want to play a game that makes you feel like a badass."
We also talked about how if that is like warfare, what is actual battle like? How much worse can it get? I guess the real difference is you don't respawn in reality.
I asked him if he would ever play that game in the basement ever again. His response says it all: "Oh yeah man, I'd play it again. Just not in 3D."

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Quite possibly the best commercial I've ever seen.

Just happened to be perusing the internet today when I found on another person's blog site a small entry about Sony's new advertising campaign entitled: "Long Live Play".

This new campaign is another decidedly artistic venture by Sony, who in the past, has had their share of extremely weird (and that's putting it mildly) commercials that have aired on everything from prime-time TV to multimillion dollar Super Bowl Spots directed by famous, award winning directors. (Wow that was a long sentence.)

One of these aforementioned ads I remember very clearly from my childhood. I remember it so well because of the single fact that it gave me damn nightmares for weeks at a time. Thanks to the magic of youtube, here it is:
That (whatever it was) was directed by Chris Cunningham. His works have gone from ads like the one you just watched to music videos for artists like Bjork. The thing that haunts me more after I watch it now is that there really isn't anything in the commercial that says it's a commercial. You can't even tell what it's for. The only hint Cunningham gives you is the running time in the upper right hand corner. Near the end the number change from digits to the symbols found on the Playstation controller. That's it. Another strange ad campaign from Sony was this one for PS2 where we find David Lynch directing a series of ads. This one got banned:

Here is the new ad. Simply titled: "Michael" is not only appeals to gamers all over the world but also gives gamers pride in what they do. It truly inspires someone to go out and buy not only a Playstation 3 but all of the games that are mentioned within the advert. It's professional looking and for once doesn't leave the viewer scratching his or her head. I think they're on to something here.