Saturday, February 26, 2011

Pressing Issues in the World of Gaming

Gaming, as a whole, has never been stranger to controversy. It seems the very life-blood of this hobby is holding up a shield and defending ourselves from the onslaught of angry, insecure onlookers, who barely know the difference between "mature" and "slander". But there's been a few things recently that have really made me quite furious, and I think I should make my opinion quite clear on them. This is a long article, mind, so I don't expect you to read it unless you really want my opinions on these issues. For those few of you, see you after the jump.

Internal Beta of Crysis 2 Leaked

Crytek are developers who have, for the most part, been incredibly influential in the evolution of modern action gaming, PC gaming in particular. This is an industry in which you can release basically the same game every year, year after year, and get not only your investment back, but critical acclaim also. Well, Crytek won't stand for it. Crysis was an amazing, amazing game, not just because it required (at release, anyway) hardware that hadn't yet been invented, but because it raised the bar for first-person shooters on the PC. Not since Half-Life 2 had their been an FPS that raised the expectations that all future shooters would be judged upon. The thing is though, more than three years after the release of Crysis, shooters are still meandering about in mediocrity. Crytek, with Crysis 2, have turned their sights on the culprit - console shooters. Halo. Call of Duty. Year in, year out, console gamers have been lapping up the same games in different skins. And so, Crytek will show them all how a game is meant to be.

Of course the hype for Crysis 2 is staggering, especially in the PC bleaches. So it was only a matter of time before something leaked into the torrent sites. That thing was the full internal beta of Crysis 2. It's a right shame that this could have occurred - everything got out, from source code to internal testing programs that track everything. But - and this is a big "but" - that it got out was horrible, but now that it is out... is it really that bad?

It's quite possible that it will affect sales. But, I've actually got my grubby hands on this beta - from external sources of course, LAN fileshares are a godsend for the modern content-hungry PC user! - and it's like reports said. “Crytek has been alerted that an early incomplete, unfinished build of Crysis 2 has appeared on Torrent sites." Now like I said - that it's getting out? Terrible! A travesty! But now that it's been spread around like wildfire? This is a golden opportunity.

Now, think about it from a purely detached viewpoint. An unfinished, unpolished beta, is being spread around to several thousand unique gaming PCs, each computer no doubt suffering from several hundred individual bugs, specific to that machine's make-up. In other words, this internal beta has just become, accidental though it may be, an external beta. And Crytek could not have missed this target harder. "Crytek and EA are disappointed by the news. We encourage fans to support the game and the development team by waiting and purchasing the final, polished game on March 22... piracy continues to damage the PC packaged goods market and the PC development community."

If Crytek had taken this as an opportunity, and not as a threat, consider the developmental advantages. If Crytek had issued an open invitation to the pirates who downloaded the beta, saying, "we are aware that you have come into possession of our internal beta, and we are deeply disappointed. However, we do not hold it against you; and if you could tell Crytek of any and all bugs, glitches, and performance issues, along with your PC's system make-up, we will use it to polish the final product," they just made one of the worst leaks since the Half-Life 2 source code leak, into the biggest open beta in recent history. Big-name games like Call of Duty: Black Ops suffered from horrendous bugs on release - thanks in part to no closed beta - and with Crytek trying to ape games like Call of Duty, it could have used this leak to its advantage and made Crysis 2 relatively bug-free on release. Alas, it has taken it as a threat.

As a sidenote - everyone I know who has played the beta, has one solid opinion - technically flawed, but fricking awesome. They've all said that, based on the beta, they have either pre-ordered or are eagerly awaiting release even further, planning to purchase the game. No-one will not buy the game based on the internal beta. Crytek have every right to be furious, but it is not the death of their sales - if anything, they have an unparalleled advantage to make Crysis 2 one of the best PC games ever made. I hope they realize this, and if not... well, that's just unfortunate.

Sex does not make your game Mature, Maturity does not mean a game is Sex

Here's something for you - Ubisoft is releasing an aimed-for-"adults" mini-game compilation for the Wii and PlayStation Move. It's called "We Dare," and it looks... terrible. Based on the trailer, it is a game for hot, young adults, expected to lick the same Wiimote seductively, spank each other and perform fellatio. Well not that last one... probably not, anyway. I wouldn't put it past 'em...

Anyway, controversy! Controversy sparked over this! Of course it did. This game is a slanderous and obvious cash-in that offends its target audience and isolates Ubisoft's Raving Rabbids fanbase who would usually be interested in a Wii mini-game compilation. But... the controversy is actually over the PEGI rating. Huh, hmm? Is it rated 18+? Yeah, of course, it's for adults... hmmm? Less? 16+? Well that's no good, I mean - what?

It's rated PEGI-12?!

...yes, the controversy over We Dare is not so much the content, but that a game marketed at adults has been rated 12+, instead of a more "mature" rating, like 18+. I mean, judging by the trailer, it does encourage sexually-charged acts of, um, lust. It even encourages homoerotic gestures to some degree (which I'm totally on board with, by the way). However, this is a game that I can't honestly see finding a good market. The "adults" it's selling itself towards, are mature enough that it's a deeply offensive and assuming product that is counting on their hormones doing the buying, not their brains. Teenagers will probably like it (maybe), but if you're a sexually-charged teenager interested in spanking your hot female friend, you don't need a Wiimote down her crack as an excuse - you're going to be having sex anyway. So, is this ratings thing unfounded? ...not entirely. It comes at a time in which Australia is considering outright removing the MA15+ "middleground" rating, causing developers no leeway - they must make their game either for-all-ages M, or aimed at adults and R18+. (This is based on the assumption that the R18+ will be introduced.) So We Dare being 12+, and not 18+, is something of a concern, because it is a game for adults... sort of.

I don't think it matters a whole bunch. The actual content of the game, according to PEGI, isn't sexual at all - suggestive at best, innuendo at worst. It is marketed as a game for adults, though, so perhaps it's worth considering that ratings should be uses as marketing tools as much as the game itself. For adults? It should get an adult rating. For kids? It should get an all-ages rating. Now I have little doubt that the game will sell poorly - or, at best, develop a cult following with the college-aged frat demographic. As for Ubisoft's target consumer? I can't imagine any reasonable adult would consider picking this up in the slightest. But hey, that's just my two cents.

While I'm here on this subject, I want to talk about a game I am very much looking forward to - Catherine. This game by Atlus Games, a Japanese studio responsible for the hit PlayStation 2 title Persona 4 (and the rest of the Persona series, thusly), is marketed as "mature," with depictions of sexuality and mental psyche crossing paths with genuinely unnerving nightmare sequences. The game isn't out in "the West" yet, with a slim possibility it won't (but Atlus is so very coy and they're insanely popular, so it likely will make it eventually - if it doesn't, there'll be some kind of broad demand for it in, like, a petition of some sort.) But now here's the thing, much like We Dare, it is being marketed at and for mature-aged adults - and unlike We Dare, it is actually holding its audience in high esteem. It knows simply making a game sexually charged won't do. The game, on the surface, is built not unlike a Japanese sex interactive manga/novel, but dig deep and it's an actually mature game, using sexuality purely as a vehicle for driving a plot. As apposed to some sex games that use the plot as a vehicle for driving the sex...

So yes. Sexuality done wrong = condescending titles like We Dare. Sexuality done right = smart, genuinely interested titles like Catherine. But it should be noted I'm a (closet?) macrophile, so the box art may or may not have me being a little biased towards Catherine. Oh vey...

Bulletstorm turns you into a Rapist!!

...oh, fuck off.

Andrew Deavin loves videogames, and he hopes that you love them enough to care about these issues, too. Also, check out this week's Extra Credits - hell, check out every week's Extra Credits too. They care about gaming as medium like me (us?), and are playing an important part in the evolution of this very fragile new art form.

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