This is one of those games that I've been following casually for some time now. Not particularly on one side or another in the discussion around the game, but purely out of curiosity because it honestly seems to be one of the more ambitious projects I've come across and it seems like the mind behind it (Alex, also known as YandereDev) is still going strong, and I applaud that. It's always nice to see a fan project with truly dedicated people behind it willing to make it happen. One of the biggest hurdles that has been hanging overhead, though, has to be its issue with Twitch.
Now for those of you who don't know, Twitch is a website people use to live stream gameplay, games like League of Legends or Counter Strike are the most popular but in all honesty its not too hard to find someone playing your own personal favorites, with upwards of 45 million users you can find quite a lot on there. A ban from Twitch can seriously hurt your game and this is exactly the problem Yandere Simulator has been facing. For little over a year now. But it seems a few days ago a reply was finally given.
Now it seems that Twitch has given its final verdict on the subject, but before we get into that let me take a moment to actually talk about the game for those of you who don't know what it is. For an abridged version the link in the first sentence will take you to an article I wrote back in January of 2016 when I first got into video game journalism, but for those who want something a little more in-depth read on.
Yandere Simulator is a game inspired off of a popular troupe in some anime shows where the female main character has such an interest in the male lead that she is willing to kill, maim, or ruin anyone or anything she perceives as a threat to their relationship, be it real or imagined. These girls are referred to as 'Yandere' and as the name of the game implies, you'll be playing as one of these well adjusted and completely rational individuals.
Perhaps unexpectedly the game takes place in a High School setting, where you'll be disposing of your rivals one by one, but that doesn't necessarily imply murder. Because killing people is wrong, and the High School love of your life could never love a murder. Instead you'll have to go about your business in private. Quietly kidnapping your rivals, bullying them to the point of suicide, and then framing some other girl to take the fall for you. Kill too many, and you'll start to go crazy and quite frankly, that's not attractive either. One particularly controversial aspect, or at least one that's mentioned frequently, is the panty shot. Drifting firmly into the very sensitive world of sexual harassment, one can choose to sneak a quick pic of a fellow classmates to use as currency and blackmail in your quest.
Did I mention these were all high school-aged kids?
Twitch, in their defense, does make some valid points in its letter to him, which he covers in a video that can be found here on his youtube account. But here's a short list of what Twitch found to be a tad unacceptable with Yandere Simulator.
1) Two gameplay modes depicting characters in the nude
2) A mechanic in which the player takes panty shots to use as currency
3) The only method of eliminating rivals is to murder
4) the setting indicates violence against and sexual harassment of underage characters in a school setting.
But I think the real issue comes from the fact that we have an unfinished game with no official ESRB rating that deals with what could be considered partial underage nudity (panty shots) and the killing of minors (your classmates) and I can totally understand why Twitch might not want this on their site.
But in truth these things are easy to work with/around. change the setting from High School to some kid of pre-college prep school for High School graduates, stress the fact that murder is not in fact the only way to get what you want, as was explained earlier on in the article, and on the whole panty shot thing? I feel like that's not going to be taken out, as the Alex is making an anime-themed game with anime troupes. A rather popular and well known cliche in most anime is the panty shot, it does have a kind of significance in the subculture.
As an extra bonus, Twitch has said in the email it sent to Alex that it even if he were to fix all of that, he might not even be off the banned list of games that Twitch keeps. Because the game is still in development (more on that latter) and these were some of the first mechanics put in place, others might be put into place since the game was last reviewed that Twitch does not agree with or feels like it violates its community standards and guidelines. Twitch doesn't want to have to visit the game every 3 weeks, and has stated it would be happy to review the game once it is more complete. Seems fair. But when will the game be complete?
The game has been in development since April 2014, and I've heard a release date of around 2018-2019. His Patreon account is going, but despite that an interview with Vice has our creator confirming that he doesn't quite feel like the game is complete, he doesn't even feel like it's a game yet; 'it doesn't actually qualify as a game yet – there is presently no "win" condition, for example' being one notable quote from Alex.
His Patreon account has a transparency post from January 6th of 2016 where he clearly divvies up how much money is being spent where and who is getting what, including how much is earned on a monthly basis and how much of it he's keeping (he did after all decide to quit everything else and work on this full time) but as the brunt of the work does fall on him I would imagine that this 5-6 year development period is pretty standard.
I don't think a concrete date has been given, but based on the updates listed on the games personal site progress seems slow and steady, with this most recent round of updates going to the games aesthetic and minor bug fixing rather than core gameplay development. And as always if I hear something else, I'll be sure to give a quick update.
I've mentioned before when I've talked about Warhammer games, how much I love the franchise. I got back into it around middle school and I've stuck with it ever sense, and the very first Warhammer 40k game I ever played was Dawn of War 2, in fact one of the first Warhammer books I'd ever read was the novelization of it. I love it, and I've been a longtime fan and supporter of it, with some 100 odd hours put into the game.
That being said, I don't think I'll be picking up the successor. It had a kick-ass announcment trailer, don't get me wrong it was sick but after I've seen a bit of the game and I've watched some interviews and gameplay demonstrations, I've become increadbily wary of the whole thing. I've touched on the topic earlier in a previous article but I'd really like to get into the details for this one. You're free to agree or disagree and I'm sure much of what I'm going to say has already been said, but maybe you'll find some fresh insight in this most recent list of complaints and concerns.
#1: Static Combat
The biggest problem with big armies is that it essentially devolves into one big blob. To borrow a phrase from a short-lived general in the Imperial Guard, 'Whatever your enemy throws at you, hit him back with that plus more. Dont come babbling to me about fancy-named gambits. Bunch of sad old tinsel covering up the fact that you don't know what you're doing or don't have the salt to get it done. The plus more is all you need.' I think this is a good lesson for us all to take note of.
The problem with Dawn of War 3 isn't the big armies, it's that in every gameplay video I've seen it has essentially come down to a game of who can hit harder in a straight up slug fest. There's no strategy to it, and in a game that calls itself Real Time Strategy, this is an important element. Where's the feeling of reward that comes with outfoxing your opponent if you're just going to bulldoze him with wave after wave of soldiers? I know Dawn of War 2 got quite a lot of hate in the begining for its more squad-focused combat style but it actually forced you to take a moment to think about what you were doing rather than adopting the oh there's plenty more where that came from mentality with your units.
#2: The visual style
A much more common complaint and one that I can understand both angles from. From the developers perspecive they're trying to make a game based on Dawn of War 1 and 2, taking things from both so it makes sense that the visual style is going to be a tad diffrent, maybe even new and unique. I understand that game developers like to be a little creative you know, add their own spin onto it but one has to consider the setting of the game. It's called the 'Grim Darkness of the far future', not the 'bright lights and brigh, clean colors of the far future.'
If I were a more cynical man I'd say there was some breakdown in communication between the cutscene art and gameplay art because on one hand, the cutscenes clearly capture the dark monotone of Warhammer 40k while the gameplay has clean lines, bright uniforms and brighter color pallets, and an overall shiny-ness to it. I feel like it lacks the grit of the earliest Dawn of War games that Relic now claims it is trying to return to with this latest game. Now I'll state here that I do not think that we're looking at a finished product and of course these things are going to be changing as the game develops but right now based on gameplay videos and campaign walkthroughs I am not at all impressed.
#3 Limited Factions
Dawn of War will always center around the Blood Ravens, and I'm fine with that, that's their whole thing, the Chapter has become sort of iconic solely because of the game. But we're starting with the Orks, and the Eldar. Yet again, we've gone and ignored the vast majority of a rather large and detailed setting, taking a risk with bringing in some of the less-represented factions (looking at you, Tau/Necrons) and playing it safe with the most well-known three. I was hoping that when there was talk of a return to the formula for the first few Dawn of War games we'd also be getting the six or seven factions that came with them, not three.
Granted Dawn of War 2 wasn't the most inclusive game faction wise, but at least the Tyrannids had their day, it was actually refreshing to play a game where the main focus wasn't 'stop Chaos' and we got to see another aspect of the Imperium's fight for survival. I will admit I am concerned that we might be looking at a Total War: Warhammer style release for certain factions, like Chaos where once we get within sight of the release system we're going to see it pop up as a pre-order incentive.
#4 I don't need any more RTS games like this.
Let's look at what's being promised for this new game, alright? Big basebuilding, large-scale battles, and special hero units. It all sounds remarkably....standard. Almost like there's another Warhammer game out there that does exactly that, has more factions, has an established trackreckord and an established fanbase. At the end of the day the game still needs to be able to justify the $40 or $50 dollars I am going to be spending on it. I don't think that Dawn of War 3 is going to be worth the investment, frankly and like any other series I think we're going to start to see the limit of how far the nostalgia and devoted followers can carry a game before it falls apart, though to their credit, maybe the changes to gameplay and visual are going to be enough to inject enough new blood into the support base to keep it going for another title or two. But I still think I'd rather keep my money than put it towards this latest Dawn of War.
Anyone who has been following me for awhile knows that I'm no fan of Sega. I think they have the unique ability to take a game, and then burn it to the ground. Quite literally. Creative Assembly, the mind behind the Total War franchise, has been in a tough position with its fans for quite some time due to its practices. Now, I don't mind DLC. DLC can be good and often times DLC is a wonderful extension of the game. Look at Mass Effect 2 for example, Lair of the Shadowbroker is hailed as one of the best peices of DLC in the series, arguably one of the best bits of DLC ever made. A pre-order incentive can be valuable to a company and sometimes is a calculated risk. Will putting a DLC out hurt the companys reputation with its fans?
Creative Assembly has lost a lot of its fan support over the years. Let's look at it through the years. Rome 2 launches with the Greek City States. It launches with the worst launch in Total War history, but it launches nontheless and its reached the point where I've now met more than a few fans who look back on Rome 2 nostalgically. Attila launches, with the Viking Forefathers as DLC. Twice now we've got two fan favorite factions or groups of factions that have been included not as main-game but pre-order DLC factions, despite mild objections. And this doesn't include the Blood and Gore DLC, which inevitably comes up sometime when the game is launched.
Now Total War: Warhammer comes up and does the same thing with the Chaos faction, an undeinable fan favorite and essential to the lore. To their credit, Creative Assembly does realize its mistake eventually. Rob Bartholowmew, Creative Assembly's brand director is on record saying he 'completely understands' that the studio needs to build back its fans trust.
"We think that eventually we're going to get onto that kind of even keel, where people see new Total War content as an unequivocally good thing."
But good news, good news. Recently, Creative Assembly has turned a new leaf. They're still releasing DLC, but they've decided to call it 'Free-LC'. I don't know if its in jest or not, but the concept is solid. The DLC comprises of two individual characters and eleven maps, some of them specific to only one faction for certain campaign missions. It's a small gesture but a definite step in the right direction to fixing years of malpractice and dissapointment.
I can remember December 25th of 2012 very clearly, and not because the world was supposed to end 4 days ago. It was because that was the day I got Empire: Total War and spent six hours sitting in front of my computer watching the download meter tick past at a snails pace. Every two hours if I didn’t save and exit the game would freeze for ten minutes and crash and I never seemed to be able to finish a campaign, but it was the first Total War game I got into and it has a special kind of significance to me. Years later and I’m out of High School and finishing up my third semester of college. I’m still sitting in front of my computer for six hours, and I’m watching a video about the newest Total War game and struggling to contain my excitement.
I think Total War: Warhammer will be looked upon as a wonderful addition to both Creative Assembly and Games Workshop even though I've had my concerns about SEGA, but it would have been nice to see a Warhammer game where the main antagonist wasn’t Chaos, even though that ship has long sailed and Chaos is our big end-game boss in Total War: Warhammer. For example, lets look at the Skaven.
Total War: Warhammer only takes place in the Old World, a continent full of Dwarves and elves, and giant rat men who inhabit a giant intercontinental subterranean empire that extends in every single direction imaginable in addition to your standard human kingdoms. The Skaven see betrayal as inevitable, and the only shame is getting caught. Their society has been described as ‘a tyranny moderated by assassination’ and the Skaven have managed to get the gold medal in fratricide, which after receiving said award they promptly began top slaughter each other to see which one individual got to keep it. I’ve included a map of their empire laid over a map of the Old World (our campaign map for this most recent Creative Assembly product) just so you can understand the true size and scope of it:
The Skaven believe themselves to be superior to all other races, especially those that live above ground. Which pretty much means every other race in the game. Sometimes they put aside their differences and launch an all-out invasion of the Old World. Twice before, in fact, and both times resulted in widespread death and suffering with untold thousands killed or enslaved that is on par with any Chaos invasion. It would have been interesting to see this replicated, where the AI just comes out of the ground (we know the Dwarves have a mechanic that lets them travel underground, and as Skaven are a subterranean race they would most likely have it as well) and attack your armies after causing massive penalties to moral and spreading plagues that weakened everything and everyone. They’d roam the map late game like the Mongols Medieval 1 and would have been a refreshing change of pace from the whole ‘the heretical forces of the Dark Gods have once again united under one banner and march upon the Empire/Imperium’ theme that we see so often in Warhammer. But remember, just because your High Elves or Lizardmen aren’t in this one, that doesn’t mean they wont be in the sequel.
Total War: Warhammer is planned to be a trilogy and I'm sure we'll get our stand alone game of High Elves fighting Dark Elves and Lizardmen, but it would have been nice to see the Skaven represented in the Old World (which our current Total War: Warhammer game focuses on exclusively). We've gotten Bretons and Beastmen but I'm sure the Skaven's day will come soon.
It's been some time since Leviathans was released, the paid content adding in everything from new species portraits to giant space monsters, and it's generally been well received (including myself, but you can read all about my thoughts on it here) but now that the initial excitement has worn off people are starting to wonder. What's next for Stellaris?
Well, we've got a rough outline of what's coming soon. By the end of the year we'll be getting something called the 'Banks' and 'Kennedy' updates. Now of course, they're being very hush-hush about all of the specifics but we do have a list of what Paradox is hoping to accomplish by the end of the year. Now this list is by no means complete and there's quite a bit left out, but there's enough given to give you a general idea of the direction we'll be going with the game in the months to come.
These are three points that Paradox wants to continually update with every expansion:
And here's a list of what the developers WANT but won't make any promises of giving us:
Now I'm definitely envisioning an EU 4 style setup in the coming years in terms of where some of these expansions are going to go, and I think the modding community has done a wonderful job so far of beating the developers to it in some aspects. We already have something akin to more interesting mechanics for Pre-FTL civilizations in the form of this mod which lets you actually play as a Pre-FTL civilization. While Leviathans might have had its few minor flaws I really do think that Stellaris is one of the best games to have come out of this year, and I think when next year rolls around it'll only get better.
I’ve been covering the goings on of Amplitude Studios quite a bit recently, so I think it’s time we talked about something that has been bothering me somewhat ever since I found out. For the uninformed, Amplitude Studios is a Paris based company behind games like Endless Legend, Endless Space, its rapidly approaching sequel Endless Space 2 and Dungeon of the Endless. They’re one of the top publishers of strategy games in Europe, going head to head with Paradox Interactive’s wildly successful titles like Europa Universalis 4. They do this thing called Games Together. It’s where they actively embrace and work closely with their community of followers (including yours truly) to make a better product. It’s why their so successful, and that’s not just me talking. Take a look at what their creative director had to say about it: We wanted to create, before we even heard this name for it, through live development. We wanted to work live, in front of the players. They wouldn’t just be an audience. They could be actors in the game’s development. We could create games together.
Let’s look at it another way, a bit of an example. For their fantasy RTS Endless Legend, they hosted a competition for a fan-made faction as a major playable race. The community just went crazy coming up with ideas and what they ended up with was The Clut of the Eternal End. They’re a faction that only gets one city, and expands by converting the minor factions to their own. Its the primary method by which the Cultists increase their power. The Cultists have the power to convert minor faction villages, regardless of location, to their cause by spending influence points. A converted village is immediately pacified and begins to provide a number of benefits to the Cultists, it’s a fun way of incorporating the minor factions and making them more important to the gameplay. They're doing the same thing right now for Endless Space 2 actually.
Amplitude has a good relationship with its customers, its come far as an indie developer. And Sega bought it last July. Like a pimp looking for fresh talent to line the seedy inner city boulevards that is PC gaming, they’ve been very aggressive about increasing their holdings on the RTS genre. And like a Pimp they seem less concerned about the love that can be born between two parties and making as much money from something before finding some other hole to replace it.
You’ve got Creative Assembly and their Total War franchise, Relic with Dawn of War and Company of Heroes and now they’ve got Amplitude. Let’s start from the beginning, and then as we go through maybe you’ll start to see some of my concerns, we’ll be going through it nice and slow and looking at some common sense facts and well established ideas so don’t jump on me in the comments section. First there’s Total War, and Rome II’s entire Preorder DLC catastrafuck. Largest preorder in Total War history, as I understand. Absolutely record smashing. Now a big deal of that was that you’d get the three Greek city-states if you preordered, absolutely free. If not then pop open that wallet motherfucker. Athens and Sparta were the two everyone was talking about, I don't think anyone remembers the third one that much, they're not important. Listen, the minute the words Spartan faction popped up on the radar every fanboy in existence was going to be all over that because why be some smelly fucking Germanic tribe that only exists in text books when you can roleplay Leonidas in a desperate attempt to distract from the fact that its Friday night and instead of being out with friends you’re glued to the computer like its life-support.
And then it launched and you actually got to play it.
But that's okay, nothing is perfect, even I have my flaws. I think we can all agree that every long running series eventually gets that game. Games like these are often very similar to the nations that inhabit them, even the greats have periods you'd rather not talk about But then Attila walks out and slaps its big'ol pecker around and does the exact same thing with the Vikings, yet another fanboy group.
And then Total War: Warhammer comes around, and this is the point when all of those tensions, all of those issues bubbling just below the surface, building up year after year and injury after injury exploded to the front in an undeniably ugly kind of way, with the Total War fans on one side and the devs on the other. Lets take a look at what Creative Assembly had to say about it, lets hear their side of the story.
We had our four main playable races sorted, and we've planned for Chaos to have a big role to play later in the trilogy. But we really wanted Chaos Warriors in the main game, even without DLC - to give a big, bad end of game 'boss' enemy Race for all players. But we couldn't do that within the resources for the main game. So we added it as the pre-order incentive that also gets sold on day one - making Chaos Warriors fully playable but also giving us the extra resources to add them as an AI race for everyone.
Which is just....suspicious to me, to say the least. Although I do love it, this isn’t Kickstarter. Developers don’t just get the extra money and resources to develop this stuff by people preordering because money doesn’t tend to change hands until release. Certainly the developers don’t really see the money like they do at Kickstarter. Where are these extra resources magically coming from? From Sega.
It’s a long held belief among the more disgruntled fans that Sega rushed Rome 2 and Empire Total War, two Warhammer games that are very well known for their poor launches among the community and while Sega certainly isn’t the first and wont be the last to rush development on a game and force it to release when it clearly isn’t ready, looking at you Dragon Age 2. It is somewhat concerning that since Sega got Creative Assembly back in 2005, the series have been on a slow but obvious decline, with many of the best being made before 2005 and many of the later ones being either re-makes of the original or from past DLC being made into stand-alone games. As Greg Tito over at Destructiod said, setting even a well-made sequel in the crumbling legacy of the once-mighty may not have been a good choice.
Sega also had enough resources to take the choice pieces of meat from the still cooling corpse that was THQ after it went and Bankrupt itself and walked away with Relic Entertainment, the fine folk behind Dawn of War and Company of Heroes. Now I like Dawn of War, I love Warhammer 40k. I’ve got a massive bookshelf full of the books, even a Dark Angles army from when I used to hang around the folks at the Warhammer store in Edinburgh, about a thousand points worth of it.
I think it’s been too short for us to really see the long term affects of the Sega-Relic relationship, and this new Dawn of War game will be a big indicator to me of how things might go down in the future. Hey, hey, you think Relic will make the same stunt, and make Chaos preorder in 40k as well as Fantasy?
Base building is back in force, as is the idea of colossal armies, led into battle by elite heroes and this is where Dawn of War 2 had the right idea. Cut back entirely on base building so the player doesn’t have to worry about stupid shit like having six foundries so they can make one Leman Russ tank and do away with the big battles entirely in favor of skirmish battles where the units are more valuable, freeing up the screen and allowing for a greater amount of tactical thinking and flexibility and actually ponder about the consequences of sending their squad of very valuable and hard to replace level 3 Assault Marines to tango with that Hive Tyrant. Bigger does not equal better.
But I shouldn’t be too worried, right? I mean, they’re promising a spectacle right? Right? Why does it even need to be a spectacle, why can’t it just be, I don’t know, a good game? The warning signs are too big for me to ignore and my gut instinct is telling me that Dawn of War 3 is going to be a spectacle. And not the good kind.
At current if Creative Assembly’s any indicator, Sega’s been taking these companies, and using them to expand their own influence and power, with little care about what actually happens to the fans. Now it’s still in the early days. Sega wont most likely have much sway over the course that Amplitude Studio is going to take because Endless Space 2 is so close.
Maybe I’m just being crazy, Maybe I’m just being paranoid. That DLC I’m worried about? Maybe it’s not because of Sega, maybe it’s because of the huge success of MOBAs and Blizzard games and the obscene money generated by microtransaction-driven mobile games. Maybe Creative Assembly has actually just gone to shit and Relic and isn’t far behind. Maybe Amplitude is going to be fine. But I think it’s interesting that two very well known and well established companies produce quality games, get incorporated into Sega, and then one starts a downward spiral and the other shows signs of cracks in the foundation and that maybe merits a closer look and a bit more scrutiny.
On October 6th Endless Space 2 goes into early access. Fun fun, but why don't we take a look back at what we know about Amplitude Studios latest product? Keep in mind, it's been in development for two years and there's still quite a bit that we don't know. But I'll try to cover everything we do know right now.
There have been several shakeups in the faction rosters from Endless space to Endless Space 2. For example, the Hissho were downgraded from a major faction to a minor one. One assumes to make room for new major factions, such as the Vodyani. A choice that I personally applaud. A quick look over the faction list from the first Endless Space shows that it was a little bit too human-looking. A little more diversity in the galaxy helps for realism and immersion, something that I fervently support in my games especially if they happen to be in the role playing category. Taking a quick look at some of the minor factions has proven to be immensely rewarding in my mind, as it seems that Amplitude has taken a note from Endless Legend and really fleshed them out.
One of the bigger changes that we know of is how we explore the galaxy now teeming with alien-ish life. In the first Endless Space, if you wanted to explore the galaxy you had to take fleets along through wormholes and hope nothing really bad was waiting on the other side for you. But now you have probes. Probes are something in game that you can either buy or make at some point early in the game which will travel out into the galaxy a certain distance each turn. They'll follow the path you've set for them and will reveal everything they come across to you, reducing the need for you to risk your precious ships.
Politics has gotten a boost, and this was a long time coming. Any game that hopes to call itself a strategy game should have some kind of political system and the one in Endless Space two has promised significant improvement over its predecessor. Depending on in-game events (events that you might not have any control over whatsoever) public support for a particular faction will go up. the example given was that if you're near a very violent faction like the Cravers, support for the military faction of your society will go up. Once you've got a new faction in power you'll be able to enact certain laws that will nudge your society one way or another.
All in all, Amplitude Studios has promised us a great game, after three previous successful titles and the backing of Sega now to help publish it there's no reason at all that we should be disappointed. One person who did manage to get his hands on the early access version of the game had this to say about his experience and I think this is the note I'll leave the article off on.
I confess that I might be sold on the early game already. The influence of Endless Legend is clear and welcome, with its quests and fleshed-out, unique races, but it’s the new way of looking at the people who make up these space empires that’s left me most intrigued. The need to juggle all these different species and population groups within the faction is a wrinkle that, until now, hasn’t really been explored in a 4X game – at least not to this extent. The big question, then, is how will Endless Space 2 handle the late game, where so many 4Xs fall apart.
I can very clearly remember the Fox News segment about Mass Effect back in 2008, and the sheer stupidity of it all. In fact, I think the game is still banned in Singapore, but I digress. It seems like we've never been able to get rid of the stigma attached to video games in our society. It doesn't matter how mainstream it gets, how well integrated into our daily lives, it always seems to be brought back up in a negative light. Perhaps the most common being the whole song and dance about how first person shooter games make you more violent and aggressive, more likely to commit a mass murder. And just when it seemed like these accusations were starting to fade away (at least in my mind) it all comes rushing back to the surface but not in the way you'd expect.
It's been a long growing concern in some circles that young men seem to be checking out of society. A growing number are not working, not going to college, and rejecting the real world and turning instead to the instant gratification of pornography and video games. The Sexodus seems to be the most popular term for this trend taking hold of most industrialized societies.
Driven in part by economic woes and a general shift in focus away from men and more towards getting more and more women into higher education, these young men have opted towards a more escapist and leisurely lifestyle.
One young man (22 years old to be exact) who was questioned as apart of a Princeton study on economics stated that 'When I play a game, I know if I have a few hours I will be rewarded. With a job, it's always been up in the air with the amount of work I put in and the reward.' Simply that most young men no longer see the need to go out and work when they've got the latest Halo game, which offers infinitely greater amounts of entertainment and pleasure than a 9-5 job at Ben and Jerry's scooping ice cream. That's not to say its the mans fault at all, or the video games for that matter. But when society in general offers young men either a $60 video game, or a series of jobs and schools designed to prepare you and equip you with the education and money you need to buy a house, start a family, and generally transition into an adult and a (steadily) growing number are choosing the former, you know you have a problem.
No, I don't have a solution. As a young man who can see a great many of the pros to choosing the $60 dollar video game and sympathize with the Princeton interviewee I'm hardly the most unbiased and informed voice out there. But while I am loathe to do so, it seems that those voices claiming that video games are having an adverse effect on young men in America might in fact be onto something.
I loved the Xbox 360 for the wrong reasons. Not for the games, the exclusives or the Free with Gold games. Don't get me wrong, it's a quality system where a lot of my more important moments in gaming took place. New Vegas, Mass Effect 2, the (at least) hundred hours I put into the custom games of Halo Reach with my friends, they're all things I distinctly remember, and look back on fondly whenever I think about playing a game. With my friends. Now those are the key words here.
To backtrack a moment, my first real gaming experience was on the Xbox. All of my friends had one, everyone in my circle of friends had an Xbox. There were no PS3's or PC's. I can remember in the 6th grade when I got my first Xbox I came home from school the following day with a list of fifty gamertags. Everyone from the school bullies who dealt pot behind the Health classroom window behind school to the kids already prepping for Harvard had one. I think among young men the Xbox 360 was more popular a method of communication than Facebook or even Cellphones, I can remember a conversation with a friend of mine recently who graduated a year or two ahead of me who told me that after school he would fill an entire Modern Warfare 2 lobby with his friends and they would pick teams like in gym class.
Now let me be blunt, the games on the PC are better. Having spent time off and on the 360 and the PC and now the Xbox 1 I can tell you that PC gaming is where it's at in terms of content and game quality. But the one area that the PC would consistently flunk out on was the social aspect, the PC multiplayer experience has always been the embodiment of its worst stereotypes whenever I've gotten on the mic or in-game chat in a lobby whereas on the Xbox the worst thing you've got to deal with is the occasional middle schooler who'll rage on you. On the PC I can distinctly recall several times when I was threatened to have my computer hacked and a virus loaded onto it, once someone threatened to track my IP and murder my family, and generally things that run along that vein. The Xbox 360 (or the One) has its fair share of ragers and squeakers, but it doesn't have any of those issues I've found. Sure it'll be a bit harder to find a group of players but it's certainly a much more casual and relaxed experience whereas the most relaxed gaming PC experiences I've had have been in single player.
Now it should be obvious that this isn't a biased article, I'm a biased man and time and time and time again the PC has been proven to provide the superior gaming experience. But when I think of gaming, when I sit down to play a video game I don't really think about how I can replace the dragons in Skyrim with Thomas the train, or how many frames per second. I ask myself, am I having fun? And while the answer is yes, yes I am having fun, I am not having as much fun as I used to playing on the Xbox as we all laughed and tried to speed run whatever game we were playing that week on max difficulty.
The one field that the PC looses out on that I believe to be critical to the modern gaming experience is that its just not as fun as the Xbox multiplayer is. And while that's entirely a subjective opinion and I welcome different thoughts and disagreement, let me leave you with one final question. If the PC was truly superior in every single way (and remember, cheap yet sturdy gaming PC's go for about as much as a Xbox One now) then why do people even buy Xbox's or Wii's or Play Stations?
I got an Xbox one for my birthday this week, yay for me. And in this Xbox one there was a copy of the first Gears of War, among some other party games that no one cares enough to remember or talk about. Gears of War was remastered of course for the new console and let me just say that it looks wonderful. I can remember back when the Gears of war trilogy was coming to a close me and three of my friends at the time all decided that since we each had the set, we would do a speed-run from the very first game to the very last during upcoming February vacation, with the wining team getting 100 bucks (we had each thrown in a twenty). Flash forward several years now and I'm playing that same award winning game from several new perspectives (from a 360 to a 1 and from a high schooler to a university student) and I come to realize something important.
The game I'm playing will be the exact same as Gears of War 4. A good eleven-ish years later and the only thing that will have changed will be the plot and the visuals. And the plot has changed in the most basic of ways. It's gone from the 'gruff soldier and co. fighting for the survival of mankind' to 'my daddy was important and now I'm going off on my coming-of-age adventure' in the most cliche feeling way imaginable.
You've gone from the Locust hordes to a foe called The Swarm. Yes, that's the route we're going to take with our Gears of War 3 sequel. Marcus Fenix's son, our new protagonist will likely be fighting cut and paste Locust with his two friends, who happen to be hispanic and african (if character portraits and names are anything to go by) kind of like how his dad had a hispanic and african friend, but different because they're all younger and even though gameplay shows mechanics are just copied and pasted, its different because this is 2016.
But that's it isn't it? It's the current year you guys. Yes, Gears of War had a award-winning formula and yes, Gears of War was a good trilogy but was Gears of War 4 a game that really needed to be made? Think back to the ending of Gears of War 3. Carmine was alive, the Locust were gone, everyone was on one big tropical Island and Anya Stroud had just told Marcus that mankind finally had a future now that the war was over. Boom. Done, perfect. A satisfying end to a satisfying series.
Do I think that Gears of War 4 will sell a lot of copies? Yes. Do I think it'll be a particularly satisfying experience? No. Because I already have four Gears of War games that are doing the same thing that this one is doing, except the plot is actually solid and the characters are not cutouts of the ones from previous installments. I think the problem with the new Gears of War will be that it's going to use the same formula in an age where all of the people who remember that formula best have since grown, and now want something new. Gears of War 4 feels more like a value title, something made just so they could throw something out there. And based on what I've seen and read I won't be buying.