Gaming Topic of the Week- Storytelling in Video Games

Every week (or as often as we can), we will get a group of great writers to contribute their thoughts on a particular topic about video games. Each author can address the issue how they please and give their own unique opinions. Please stay tuned to one-hitkills.com and @onehitkills for updates. Please feel free to give us any feedback you feel is necessary and enjoy.

 

By Francis McCabe- @onehitkills

‘What can games learn from film? Nothing’- Shigeru Miyamoto

Just one recent comment from gaming legend and Nintendo executive Shigeru Miyamoto has completely summed up this up swelling of “cinematic” games.  For every game that mixes a compelling narrative with great gameplay, such as cult classic Spec-Ops: The Line (a game with a profound ending that made you reexamine the choices you made throughout), there are heavy-fisted, story-oriented games like Beyond: Two Souls that struggle to engage neither the gamer nor the cinemaphile in me.

Storytelling in games started simply.  There was the “damsel in distress” in Super Mario Bros, the “save the world” in Legend of Zelda, “good scientist vs evil mad scientist” in Mega Man, “why am I so cool” in Sonic the Hedgehog, “whoa, that’s a girl” in Metroid, and the “why is the Red Mage so useless” in Final Fantasy.

Even if you chose to erase terrible FMV “movie-like” experiences with little gameplay like Night Trap from you memory, Narratives started expanding with the SNES and Genesis.  Series like Final Fantasy, Dragon Quest, Phantasy Star, and Shining Force combined a compelling narrative with great gameplay.  They turned the RPG genre in to the go-to genre for storytelling.  Mario didn’t need a story beyond saving the princess, but a RPG wasn’t worth your time unless it had to have interesting characters too.  Otherwise, the 30+ hour slog would bore you into losing interest.

As gaming evolved, the narratives overall still come down mostly to save the world or save this person (who may or may not be the key to saving the world).  Even Mass Effect, a series lauded for its narrative and choice system, came under great fire for the ending to the trilogy in Mass Effect 3.  It was an ending the developers and script-writer sought fit, but not the audience.  It was the equivalent to having a bad series-finale of your favorite TV show.

While certain games are able to scratch the gamer itch while providing a good compelling story (like Spec-Ops) and games can be fun without a story (Mario is still king of the platformer genre), I haven’t found a game yet that aspired to be “movie-like” that I enjoyed.  David Cage, who with developer Quantic Dream, have been trying to accomplish this for over a decade.  Another Sony series, Uncharted, for example, is like delicious popcorn with a delicious butter and cheese flavorings.  The script jells with the fact that your still playing a video game, and the game is fun while giving you short pauses to tell the enjoyable story.  Uncharted scribe Amy Hennig is one of the best in the industry thanks to her ability to work with the develop team to make this delicious popcorn.

Examples like Cage and Quantic Dream, on the other hand, is like McDonalds trying to release a filet-mignon burger.  It just ends up being disappointing as a burger with a meat not properly prepared to be best savored, a fried meat that defeats the purpose of filet mignon.  Their stories, held on their own merit, don’t scratch my cinemaphile itch.  They just end up being over-bloated.  And the game elements are well, just not fun.  I’ve had the same experience with Indigo Prophecy, Heavy Rain, and, most recently, Beyond: Two Souls.  Most people will point to Telltale’s The Walking Dead as the antithesis to my point that “movie-like” games can exist just on story, but The Walking Dead’s gameplay is minimalist at his best and just doesn’t intrigue my gamer itch.  While developers keep trying to make more “cinematic experiences,” the Miyamoto quote should be in the back of their mind.  Games can’t learn anything from movies, they need to forge their own path of storytelling.  And sometimes, a Big Mac is just all what people want.

 

 

By Andrew Cook- @MasterMastermnd

Video games are important to me as an art form and always have been. The instincts I’ve taken as a writer from game storytelling are invaluable, even though that flies against the conventional wisdom about stories in games. Whether I’m fighting to protect Hyrule, uncovering the mystery of the Metroids, or saving the world in Final Fantasy, there is no shortage of great experiences to be had. That being said, playing video games as a writer is a guilty pleasure, akin to adults reading YA books for fun. One of the most fascinating aspects of storytelling in games is how it’s at once immediately satisfying and has so much unfulfilled potential.

Video game stories are often told through cutscenes. This isn’t a problem in itself, but usually they butt against the gameplay in a way that segregates the two, rather than allowing them to embrace and comment on each other. Some understand the core component of a video game that makes it unique is its gameplay, and have tried to break down storytelling barriers by mixing the two, but so far we haven’t progressed far beyond QTE’s and story beats where you keep control of the character. There are two video games in particular I believe have reached the zenith of combining story and gameplay into a seamlessly integrated whole. These are my two favorite stories in video games.

The first is Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty. Sons of Liberty is a dark and complex game, wrapping a grim story about manufactured consent, sham democracy, and America’s tendency to destroy in other countries the democratic ideals it purports to stand for into an elaborate post-modern comment on the form and expectations of sequels and video games in general. The game has substance and wit without being humorless, and often uses gameplay to make its points. Note the pointed difference in character between Snake and Raiden, challenging the power fantasy most games rely on, and painting an effective portrait of the distance between the player and the characters in the fantasies they enjoy. Note how the game purposefully robs you of the satisfaction of finishing bosses, relegating their defeat to cutscene if they’re defeated at all, calling to attention the rote adherence to an outdated convention. From how it compares and contrasts to the story beats of the first game, to having Raiden choose to disobey your commands and embrace a whole new control system for the last hour of the game, nearly every aspect of Sons of Liberty unites into a cohesive vision, setting up, then calling out and tearing apart nearly each and every video game rule. This approach made an immeasurable impact on me the first time I played it, and continues to every time. Metal Gear has long-stayed one of gaming’s boldest series’, the rare military game willing to eschew the standard jingoistic narrative of the genre and actually examine the cost of war and western imperialism’s impact on the world, but it has yet to match the insane ambition of Sons of Liberty.

Killer 7 is a swirling surrealist indictment of American and Japanese politics on a global scale, pointing out their hypocrisies through dense allegory and a collision of eastern and western storytelling technique. It takes the minimalist crime narrative of French New Wave cinema and infuses it with an anime aesthetic and metaphysical storytelling. Its cryptic and byzantine structure, at once about about broken people, broken countries, and the supernatural resonance of trauma, is surprisingly flexible, allowing one story to have multiple levels of symbolism. This core tension is well-buttressed by the gameplay, as it captures the same insane culture clash. Killer 7 is a first-person shooter primarily played in third person and all the enemies dive-bomb you. It has large levels with branching passages but you run through on rails. There’s an RPG element allowing you to power up your character, but only so many times per stage. The game establishes and breaks rules with reckless abandon in order to reinforce and draw attention to the core cultural conflicts at the heart of the story.

These games, for me, represent the most powerful ways to convey story in gaming. Storytelling is an art in itself but its also a conduit to help creators explore what makes an art form unique. Gaming should embrace this and move forward, aiming to deliver experiences that just can’t be had or replicated elsewhere. These two games have thrown down the gauntlet, its time for more games to take up the challenge.

 

 

By Nick DeLong- @MGNickD, Website

I’ll never forget the moment that I found out that Golbez and Cecil were brothers. There we were, countless despicable acts and manipulations later, and this evil arsehole was trying to tell me we were family? For its time, in the early 90s, it was a mind-blowing revelation the likes my young mind had never seen before.

It was precisely then that I realized how special video games really were. It’s even safe to say that that’s where the love affair really started to grow.

I of course had played and enjoyed plenty of games before Final Fantasy IV, but it wasn’t until the glory days of the SNES that I really fell in love with the hobby and started investing myself into it. Final Fantasies, as I called the entirety of the JRPG genre as a wee lad, were my favorite from then on and now, nearly 25 years later, that still holds true.

Final Fantasy IV wasn’t the first game to try to tell a story by any stretch, but it’s the first one that really broke through to me. Before that, I never really understood why I was jumping on things or shooting countless enemies, and I didn’t particularly care. It never crossed my mind that the little people I was controlling would ever represent something more.

These characters and their stories are now arguably as important to gaming as graphics and mechanics. A good plot increases immersion and satisfaction ten-fold, and strong characters can make all the difference between success and failure. Imagine Uncharted with anyone other than Nathan Drake? Or Super Mario Bros. with anyone other than chunky plumbers? In no world would any of that make sense.

On the other hand, bad characters can severely impact my enjoyment of a game as well. Bayonetta 2 is the perfect example of this. It was a beautiful, crazy, fun game that felt great to play, but I HATED the majority of the game’s characters. Loki especially drove me insane, and I couldn’t wait for his scenes to finish. It took it from a potential game of the year contender to just a good experience in that aspect alone.

Games that are completely about telling stories have even rose in popularity in the last ten years or so. Heavy Rain is a great example (though by far not the first) of a game that successfully became an interactive movie. It wasn’t particularly fun from a gameplay standpoint, but the story and characters were so strong that I couldn’t put it down, much like any other good detective story. My girlfriend, who is not at all into gaming, recently gave it a try and completely fell in love with it, to the point of requesting that I find more games like it for her to play.

She went on to complete it in only a pair of sittings, because she was so involved in the characters and their journeys. We had a great time discussing her theories on who the origami killer could be and trying to piece together the backgrounds of the game’s cast that the hours just melted away. THAT, to me, is the mark of a brilliant game. You get so involved that you become completely unaware of the time ticking away on your session until, suddenly, the sun is gone and you’re falling asleep.

Perhaps narrative is the best way to rope in the casual masses? Never mind throwaway gimmicks like motion control and crappy phone games, let’s start sharing our favorite game plots with those we’d like to immerse in our hobby. Games like Final Fantasy IV sparked my ridiculous love of video games, and more realistic fare like Heavy Rain created a great opportunity to share that love with the lady of my life.

Gaming really is the perfect hobby.

 

By Douglas Carter- @ThatZooooooooo, Website

Have you ever played a game and wondered…

“Why am I doing this?”

“Why should I care?”

Just like with most audio-visual mediums, video games thrive on hooking the audience with compelling plots, characters, and settings. They engage the player in an engrossing narrative and world for the player to interact with, which involves, in the case of games, participating in direct involvement with the plot at hand.

Whereas the person takes a passive/observer role in the plot in media such as movies or books, video games, as mentioned above, are different in that they let the player interact with and move the plot directly. Because of that, storytelling in video games has to take a different approach to storytelling than a book or a movie.

I’m really not the best person to talk about stories in games, honestly, but I’ll give it my best shot. I’ll try to give my point of view on how a story in a game can succeed and how they contrast with other media.

I’ll try to cover a few different games, but you’ll probably find that I’ll site Horror and Adventure games a lot here.

Firstly, we should consider the genre of the game. Just like with books and movies, a different genre of game calls for a different type of plot. For example, a Horror game will typically have a different mood and tone than a Fantasy RPG. In a lot of games, the genre can help influence the overall plot, but shouldn’t shackle it. Just because a game is a horror game, for example, doesn’t mean it necessarily mean it has to be dark and fear inducing, it can be light-hearted with maybe some more casual scares; it all depends on what you want to get across in the end. Compare Silent Hill and Dead Rising. Even though they are booth Survival Horror games, Silent Hill is a lot more creepy, while Dead Rising is a lot more light-hearted. It also goes to show the versatile nature of video games and the numerous amounts of different stories that can be created. Think about the type of mood and tone that should be established and what you want the player to feel.

A story needs to take place somewhere, right? Setting can be a great tool to provide a bit of driving force for the story. Using the modern technology available, a truly fantastic world of any type can be created for the players to see. The setting can be a good driving force, but doesn’t need to be locked into its tropes. A graveyard doesn’t need to be dark and spooky, for example. Take an amusement park; compare their uses in Silent Hill and Super Mario Sunshine. One amusement park is dark and creepy, while another is light and fun.

Also a thing to keep in mind is to design the setting and environment to entice the player to explore or highlight areas the player should look towards by drawing their eyes towards it. This is a challenge unique to video games as opposed to other media, and care should go into designing areas that are fun to navigate and explore and provide a sense of discovery. The setting provides the detailed backdrop to the narrative and should enrich the experience and use the plot to its advantage.

Another key feature of any story is the characters that populate the world. A world without any characters will seem pretty barren, although depending on the game, that might be what you want. A host of all types of characters is needed to help the player to keep engaged in the world and the story these characters are a part of. Again, as above with setting, character archetypes shouldn’t be shackled because of who they are. Compare Dr. Light and Dr. Robotnik. They’re both scientists, but their motivations and personalities are different. And compare both of them to a “mad scientist” like Dr. Frankenstein. Characters can be just as diverse as environments, and care should go into making them believable and likeable, or a “love to hate” type.

The most important characters are probably the Player Character(s), Sidekicks/Helpers, and the Main Antagonist, but especially the Player Character. The player will be guiding this character throughout the whole game and experiencing the story along with them. Again, this is a challenge unique to video games. The Player Character is an extension of the player. The player is the character. The player should be emotionally invested in the character and the struggles they go through in the plot. The character can even be the player themself, and a different approach to the plot is slightly different because of that. The player needs to know “why am I doing this?” and “why should I care?” through this character and the plot. Maybe one of the Player Character’s sidekicks needs help, or the Main Antagonist is doing something evil to the player. Also, the Player Character may not necessarily be the good guy/hero either, and again needs a different approach to the story. A bland, boring, or badly written Player Character can really take the player out of the experience.

And now we finally get to the Plot proper, after all the rambling above. Hey, a good story can’t stand on its own, and the above factors (setting and characters) in conjunction with the plot itself overall make a good story. Use the setting and characters to the advantage of the story. Set out why the Player Character should be doing certain things, using the setting and other characters to help guide the player along. It’s like writing the plot for a book or a movie; why the characters and Player should keep going to the end. Again, a myriad of approaches and styles are available each with their own synergies and perks. The plot, characters, and setting should all compliment each other.

The biggest obstacle, other than a good story, is pacing and how the story is presented. Bad story pacing can kill a plot, let alone the whole game. Again, video games is a unique challenge in that the player can dictate how slowly or quickly the story can progress to a degree. A good story shouldn’t have the player dwaddle around too long wondering what to do, but not have the player rush through it either. The story generally follows the same arc as other media too, with a beginning, rising action, climax, falling action, and conclusion; the standard 5-act structure. Again, stories aren’t limited to the 5-act structure, but it is a decent tool to help make a story. The player shouldn’t feel that one part of the story felt too long or too short, or deliberate or unnecessary. Every point in the story should have some purpose to it and encourage the player to keep going through it.

Another challenge unique to games here is designing a story to have multiple viewpoints/character, choices, and endings if it calls for it. While gameplay challenges arise here as well, I’ll focus on what it does to the story.

The player should feel like their choices in the story mattered; if a decision in a game ever feels inconsequential to the player, then it was an arbitrary choice. Even if the game has only one ending, the player should feel like what they did affected the plot in some way, even if it was inconsequential in the end. For example, having some of the characters mention to the player something they did or changing the environment slightly just to show the player affected something keeps the player from feeling their choices were moot.

Designing a story for multiple Player Characters is difficult as well, as you can have them all directly or indirectly intersect, or maybe have them all segregated. I always cite Heavy Rain here, as the Player had direct control over 4 unique player characters with different goals that all intersected and interacted with each other. The characters should compliment each other and drive the plot together, and allowing the player to have a different perspective on the plot can drive the player even more.

The most important part to me is designing the ending, especially if a game has multiple outcomes. If a game has only one ending, the player should feel satisfied about the story’s conclusion and be in agreement with the plot they and the Player Character had to go through. If the ending ever feels nonsensical, it wasn’t a well written ending. It can be a downer ending but again, care should be taken that it makes sense. Multiple endings are a bit trickier. As above, the player should feel like their choices mattered and that they drove the story to this conclusion. The player should feel like things would have turned out differently if they choice different actions previously. All the endings should be satisfying and make sense; the player should feel like they changed the plot to get that conclusion. It should leave the player wondering if they did something else they would have changed the outcome. The plot can have more varying degrees of grey to fill a whole suite of different feelings in multiple outcome, such as some endings being more down than others.

What would I cite as examples of good story telling?

I’m a fan of the Silent Hill games in this regard (the earlier ones, at least). The setting and the characters complimented each other so well and made the plot of the stories so creepily satisfying, especially the Player Characters. Having multiple outcomes was near for me because they all made sense and were a direct result of actions you took. They did storytelling right.

I have a special friend to thank for introducing me to Silent Hill, but I don’t want to embarrass him. If you ever read this, then you know who you are! There are other things I want to say to you too, but I’ll just be quiet now!

Other games I feel have good storytelling were Heavy Rain, The Last of Us, and The Walking Dead. There may be others I’m missing, but those are the ones I have experience with.

So yeah, that concludes my thoughts on what I feel makes a good story in a game. I hope I was able to provide something worth thinking about.

College Football Bowls

Playoffs

Sugar Bowl- 1/1 (New Orleans, LA)
– Seed #1 vs Seed #4

Alabama (12-1) vs Baylor (11-1)

 

 

Rose Bowl- 1/1 (Pasadena, CA)
– Seed #2 vs Seed #3

Oregon (12-1) vs Florida St (13-0)

 

 

Bowl Committee

Cotton Bowl- 1/1 (Arlington, TX)
– At-Large vs At-Large

TCU vs Mississippi St

 

 

Fiesta Bowl- 12/31 (Glendale, AZ)
– At-Large vs At-Large

Michigan St vs UCLA

 

 

Orange Bowl- 12/31 (Miami, FL)
– ACC #1 vs Big Ten/ SEC/ Notre Dame

Georgia Tech vs Ohio St

 

 

Peach Bowl- 12/31 (Atlanta, GA)
– At-Large vs At-Large

Ole Miss vs Marshall (Group of 5 Pick)

 

 

Other Bowls

GoDaddy Bowl- 1/4 (Mobile, AL)
– MAC #1 vs Sun Belt #2

Northern Illinois vs Arkansas St

 

 

Birmingham Bowl- 1/3 (Birmingham, AL)
– American #1-5 vs SEC #9

Cincinnati vs Tennessee

 

 

Alamo Bowl- 1/2 (San Antonio, TX)
– Big 12 #2 vs Pac-12 #2

Oklahoma vs Arizona St

 

 

Armed Forces Bowl- 1/2 (Ft Worth, TX)
– Army/ Big Ten/ Big 12 #7 vs American #1-5

Rutgers vs Houston

 

 

Cactus Bowl- 1/2 (Tempe, AZ)
Big 12 #6 vs Pac-12 #7

*Memphis vs Washington

 

 

TaxSlayer Bowl- 1/2 (Jacksonville, FL)
– ACC #3-6/ Big Ten #5-7 vs SEC #3-8

Clemson vs LSU

 

 

Citrus Bowl- 1/1 (Orlando, FL)
– Big Ten #2-4 vs SEC #2

Wisconsin vs Georgia

 

 

Outback Bowl- 1/1 (Tampa, FL)
– Big Ten #2-4 vs SEC #3-8

Nebraska vs Auburn

 

 

Belk Bowl- 12/30 (Charlotte, NC)
– ACC #3-6 vs SEC #3-8

Louisville vs South Carolina

 

 

Foster Farms Bowl- 12/30 (Santa Clara, CA)
– Big Ten #5-7 vs Pac-12 #4

Iowa vs USC

 

 

Music City Bowl- 12/30 (Nashville, TN)
– ACC #3-6/ Big Ten #5-7 vs SEC #3-8

Maryland vs Florida

 

 

Liberty Bowl- 12/29 (Memphis, TN)
Big 12 #5 vs SEC #3-8

West Virginia vs Missouri

 

 

Russell Athletic Bowl- 12/29 (Orlando, FL)
– ACC #2 vs Big 12 #3

Duke vs Kansas St

 

 

Texas Bowl- 12/29 (Houston, TX)
– Big 12 #4 vs SEC #3-8

Texas vs Texas A&M

 

 

Holiday Bowl- 12/27 (San Diego, CA)
– Big Ten #2-4 vs Pac-12 #3

Minnesota vs Arizona

 

 

Independence Bowl- 12/27 (Shreveport, LA)
ACC #7-10 vs SEC #10 or CUSA

NC State vs Arkansas

 

 

Military Bowl- 12/27 (Annapolis, MD)
– American #1-5 vs ACC #7-10

Temple vs Boston College

 

 

Pinstripe Bowl- 12/27 (Bronx, NY)
– ACC #3-6 vs Big Ten #5-7

Notre Dame vs Penn St

 

 

Sun Bowl- 12/27 (El Paso, TX)
– ACC #3-6 vs Pac-12 #5

Miami FL vs Utah

 

 

Heart of Dallas Bowl- 12/26 (Dallas, TX)
– Big Ten/ Big 12 #7 vs CUSA #1-5

*California vs Rice

 

 

Quick Lane Bowl- 12/26 (Detroit, MI)
– ACC #7-10 vs Big Ten #8

*Central Michigan vs Northwestern

 

 

St Petersburg Bowl- 12/26 (St Petersburg, FL)
– American #1-5 vs ACC #7-10

Central Florida vs Virginia Tech

 

 

Bahamas Bowl- 12/24 (Nassau, Bahamas)
CUSA #1-5 vs MAC #4-5

Louisiana Tech vs Toledo

 

 

Hawaii Bowl- 12/24 (Honolulu, HI)
-CUSA #1-5 vs MWC #2-7

Western Kentucky vs Colorado St

 

 

Boca Raton Bowl- 12/23 (Boca Raton, FL)
– CUSA #1-5 vs MAC #4-5

Middle Tennessee vs Ohio

 

 

Poinsettia Bowl- 12/23 (San Diego, CA)
– Navy vs MWC #2-7

Navy vs San Diego St

 

 

Miami Beach Bowl- 12/22 (Miami, FL)
– BYU vs American #1-5

BYU vs East Carolina

 

 

Camellia Bowl- 12/20 (Montgomery, AL)
– MAC #3 vs Sun Belt #3

Western Michigan vs South Alabama

 

 

Famous Idaho Potato Bowl- 12/20 (Boise, ID)
– MAC #2 vs MWC #2-7

Bowling Green vs Nevada

 

 

Las Vegas Bowl- 12/20 (Las Vegas, NV)
– MWC #1 vs Pac-12 #6

Boise St vs Stanford

 

 

New Mexico Bowl- 12/20 (Albuquerque, NM)
– CUSA #1-5 vs MWC #2-7

UTEP vs Utah St

 

 

New Orleans Bowl- 12/20 (New Orleans, LA)
– MWC #2-7 vs Sun Belt #1

Air Force vs LA-Lafayette

Gaming Topic of the Week- Call of Duty

Every week (or as often as we can), we will get a group of great writers to contribute their thoughts on a particular topic about video games. Each author can address the issue how they please and give their own unique opinions. Please stay tuned to one-hitkills.com and @onehitkills for updates. Please feel free to give us any feedback you feel is necessary and enjoy.

 

By Francis McCabe- @onehitkills

No game is more synonymous with the AAA, blockbuster games industry than Call of Duty.  It is a yearly instant billion-dollar seller.  Whether positive or negative, most people have an opinion on the series and Activision’s handling of it.  From its initial PC roots, to the game that took it to the stratosphere, and one of the most influential games of all-time, Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, to the Infinity Ward exodus and lawsuit, to the EXO suit in Advanced Warfare, Call of Duty series has had a roller coaster ride beyond the game itself.

As a mostly single-player gamer, I’m certainly not Call of Duty’s audience.  While the single-player beyond Modern Warfare has been hit or miss, it is always linear.  You move from A to B, stop, shoot, kill all the enemies who run in your crosshairs, rinse, repeat.  Add to the fact it is only a few hours long and COD is only one my radar as a video game observer, not a player.

There is, however, an undeniable hook for many people to the multi-player.  I have dabbled in the multiplayer in MW, Black Ops, MW2, and World at War.  The gun play feels great and the game runs smooth.  My personal gripe is linked to my own skills.  I suck at multiplayer FPSs.  With the exception of Halo 2, which I poured 100s of hours into online, I’ve never been even mediocre.  Getting into a game, some with friends who have high ranks, put me against other high ranking COD addicts.  Just getting killed on a consistent basis is not fun.  And if a game to me isn’t fun, I’ll move on.

In closing, there is nothing wrong with Call of Duty as it is.  It does make only a few improvements, but it has to keep appealing to its core audience who buy the game and the season pass of map packs every single year.  The single-player is a throw-away, but that is true of most multi-player focused games.  Battlefield 3 is the worst campaign I ever played.  It is consistently polished and its biggest competitors in the military-themed FPS (looking at you Battlefield) can’t even get that right.  Like Call of Duty or not, it is what it is.  It’s not going to really change.  Just bear in mind, as you might not like the game itself, the COD “dude-bros” probably don’t like the game your playing.  But as long as your both happy, that’s all that matters.

 

 

By Ryan Norum- @Chainedsniper, Website

My story with Call of Duty started like quite a few others, Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. I wasn’t an early adopter of the game because I was still playing Halo 3 with my brother. But as time went on, my brother started to play Call of Duty 4 with his friends. Sooner or later I migrated over to Call of Duty because the biggest reason I played Halo 3 was to spend time with my brother. It wasn’t an easy move because Halo has been apart of my gaming history for a long time, but I slowly found my love for Call of Duty 4. Since my brother and I were late to Call of Duty 4, we didn’t bother with World at War. But by the time Modern Warfare 2 came out, we were ready to move on.

Modern Warfare 2 was a game my brother and I played a lot. MW2 is actually the only game I have ever went to a midnight release for. When we got the game, it was a constant back and forth with my brother and his friend talking about our favorite guns, maps, and good scores we had posted. It’s honestly a pretty memorable experience for us and I’m sure we aren’t the only ones to have similar memories. But then, as Call of Duty moved on, so did we. We continued with the franchise through Black Ops and Modern Warfare 3, but I had started to slow down before Black Ops 2. I don’t believe my brother even picked up Black Ops 2 and I only got it for local play with friends and family. With the yearly releases of Call of Duty, I, like many others, got burned out on the franchise and have stopped playing it. Is there anything Call of Duty could do to bring us back? I don’t know.

I always found the situation Call of Duty is in to be interesting. Each year, Call of Duty needs to reinvent itself without changing itself. New systems, guns, time periods, and more were used in hopes of keeping Call of Duty fresh while keeping its large mainstay. Call of Duty might be under the biggest microscope in all of video games. Call of Duty will be attacked on adding new things and also staying the same. Call of Duty is criticized for coming out yearly despite there now being a 3 year cycle for each game. Its a game that always wins and loses at the same time. In the end, I’m personally happy Call of Duty is apart of the gaming culture. It gets a bad reputation from many people. Some of it is deserved and others is baseless. In the end, people enjoy the game and it did bring us some really cool innovations.

 

 

By Andrew Cook- @MasterMastermnd

My opinion on Call of Duty adheres to the ancient hipster proverb: I liked the early stuff better.

I don’t generally game on PC so I never played Call of Duty or Call of Duty 2, but I had some solid fun with friends playing Call of Duty: Big Red One and Call of Duty 3. As much fun as they were, though, they never upset Time Splitters for my gang’s multiplayer shooter of choice.

That changed, however, with the advent of the next console generation, when the series hit its zenith with Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. Modern Warfare was exciting and visceral, its scale and intensity blew away its contemporaries. Really, it had it all: an immensely satisfying (if a little short) single-player campaign, and a lightning-paced, revolutionary multiplayer mode. The story isn’t especially deep, but it is briskly told, and moderately more responsible than most of its jingoistic brethren.

Modern Warfare, for me, easily stands as one of the best shooters of its generation, so you could imagine my anticipation for where the series was headed next. Call of Duty: World at War was passable at best but I knew it was a side game so it wasn’t a bother. Then Modern Warfare 2 dropped. The oddity of its title, Modern Warfare 2 as opposed to Call of Duty 5, didn’t register at the time. I got the game, slid the disc into my system, fired up the campaign… and stopped about an hour later, bored out of my mind. What was inspired now felt like pointless, perfunctory exploitation. Eventually I continued, but the magic was lost.

Starting then, and continuing today, Call of Duty had transitioned into an e-sport, yearly releases of barely tweaked iterations for its large but cultish multiplayer fanbase. Though I have played a few rounds of Black Ops while hanging out with friends, this kind of game just isn’t interesting to me. But really, I don’t begrudge it much. It’s no worse than Madden, or FIFA, or World of Warcraft, games compelling more for their sporting and social aspects rather than particularly thrilling design. I understand lamenting a once proud series denigrated by the leeching grasp of the AAA game industry, but at least it’s just about competing and talking smack with your friends rather than, say, Assassin’s Creed, a basically single-player experience ruined by that same vampiric paradigm.

Activision is as shady a publisher as any, but at least they sold out a series well-suited for it anyway, allowing it to be an easy non-entity on my radar. So, basically, au revoir Call of Duty, it’s not you, it’s me. But also it’s you.

 

 

By Nick DeLong- @MGNickD, Website

As gamers, it can be really hard to step back and accept that, at the end of the day, the games we play are products. They’re produced to generate revenue for the companies that make them, and those companies are always looking for the next big thing. In my eyes, no game better represents this concept than Call of Duty.

Call of Duty has become something of a whipping boy in this industry for that very reason. There is no denying that there is something cynical about its seemingly endless release cycles, but there’s also no way to argue that we continue to vote yes for these games with our wallets. Yes, sales have dropped recently, but it’s still one of the biggest franchises in gaming and will remain as such in the new generation of consoles. It may not regain the footing it once had, but it WILL be there near the top.

Personally, I don’t particularly care about the franchise one way or the other. I’m not at all into competitive multiplayer, and that’s where I feel that Call of Duty really fits in. I play games to have fun, and really don’t care for how stressful and insulting that arena can be. It’s actually the much maligned tacked-on campaigns that I partake in. I love the theatricality of them and how they’re just big, dumb fun. I see them very much in the same light as Summer action films; there just to turn my brain off and enjoy. Still, I just wait until the price drops below $30 before I pick them up, so I’m really not the target audience.

That said, I AM glad to see that Activision is trying to introduce more narrative into the franchise with Advanced Warfare, and that’s the main reason that I’m more excited for AW than any other Call of Duty before. Their use of Kevin Spacey is hopefully indicative of their investment into believable characters moving forward. The new 3 year development cycles should prove to be beneficial for the franchise as well.

To me, Call of Duty also represents another troubling trend in gamers. The need to force our tastes on our gaming peers has been something I’ve really noticed with the popularization of social media. I absolutely can’t believe the amount of tweets or Facebook posts I’ve seen that attempt to shame people for what they buy and play, or the types of games they aren’t interested in. Nowadays, you’re apparently not a genuine gamer if you’re playing anything but indie titles, and I find this absolutely ludicrous.

Sure, indie games tend to be built with more heart and soul than their triple-A cousins, but they’re no more or less a video game than anything else. I’d even wager that some of them are just as cynically produced as the Call of Duties of the world. Hell, how many times has “retro graphics” appeared prominently on a game’s highlight sheet? Pixelated graphics, 8-bit soundtracks, and simplified, hyper-focused gameplay are just as much a fad as anything that Call of Duty offers.

Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE a lot of those games and tend to spend a lot of my gaming time with these smaller titles, but I also don’t use them to shame those that enjoy gaming in the triple-A sphere. In fact, I believe that these two markets complement and justify each other beautifully, and may even need each other to thrive.

Ultimately, I just like video games. I don’t care if they’re massive, big-budget games or tiny little garage games. I don’t care if they’re on new consoles or on my older machines. I don’t care how big the teams that made them are. All I care about is how fun they are to play. In that sense, as long as I enjoy my time with it, Call of Duty belongs on my shelf as much as anything else.

 

 

By Chris Scott- @kaiyanine, Website

“A Shot in the Arm”

As a society we take great pleasure in watching the mighty fall. We actively root against them. Be it sports, celebrity, tech companies, you name it and if it is at the top of the hill, we revel in cheering for it to fall down. Obviously games are no different and for the past few years a level of hate has continuously grown around Activision’s monster franchise, Call of Duty.

For some, Call of Duty represents all that is wrong with the game industry and its continued success angers them to no end. They actively cheer against each annual installment virtually standing on the corner proclaiming this as the one where it all ends. Except each year the franchise shines bright, leaving them more and more bitter at its continued success.

Last year though the first crack in the armor of the mega-franchise began to show. Call of Duty: Ghosts was a disappointment on many fronts. Instead of pushing the series forward with new gameplay, the developers seemed more interested in showcasing the physics of the virtual fish in the game. And this lack of drive for the gameplay resulted in a mostly uninspired effort and it trickled down to the critical ratings scoring the lowest aggregate score for a Call of Duty in recent memory.

The Doom & Gloom Crew used this as proof the series was in a downward spiral. They highlighted new games like Titanfall and Destiny as the heir apparents to Call of Duty’s vacated throne. The thing is, no one told Call of Duty it had lost its crown because this year’s entry in the franchise, Advanced Warfare, is a legitimately great game.

If you don’t like Call of Duty already, Advanced Warfare isn’t going to change your mind. But for those that do like Call of Duty, Advanced Warfare is the best game in the series since Modern Warfare 2. It is, on every level, a complete package that pushes the series in fun new directions.

The single player campaign is, as always, a well paced thrill ride that stands at the top of its class this year with Wolfenstein: The New Order. The competitive multiplayer is rivaled by only Titanfall this year in terms of gameplay (I’m discounting the existence of Halo as the collection isn’t new content). And in terms of progression, loot, challenges, customization, and other options, it blows away its closest competitors, Titanfall and Destiny.

Advanced Warfare is the shot in the arm the franchise has needed for a few years now. And it is going to make the haters really sad but Call of Duty is going to stay the king for at least a little while longer. But that’s OK, at least they don’t have to change up their mantra for another year.

 

 

By Douglas Carter- @ThatZoooooooooWebsite

Call of Duty.

It’s a name that everyone recognizes, gamers and non-gamers alike of any ilk. Even if they never played any of the games, chances are people will be familiar with what the games are about.

I’ll admit off the top, I’m not the biggest fan of Call of Duty, or played many of the games. My experience is limited to Modern Warfare, World at War, Modern Warfare 2, and Black Ops. I haven’t played anything before or after, so I can’t give a completely appropriate synopsis of the whole franchise, but I can try my darndest.

I’ll mainly only talk about the 4 games mentioned above, but I will mention all the games I know of in passing at least.

What I call the “First Arc” of CoD is the first 3 games. The ones set in WW II and started on the PC. Again, I don’t have much experience with these ones, so I can’t say what they’re about or what I think of them. All I can say is that they set up the foundation for what is arguably the best game in the franchise, CoD 4. They got all the core elements In, and was a solid enough game, but being limited to PC initially didn’t let it blossom as much as it could. CoD 2 and CoD 3 did have console releases, and so did the original CoD years later, but CoD didn’t really become popular on consoles until the next game…

The “Second Arc” began with CoD 4: Modern Warfare. In my opinion, this was when Call of Duty exploded and became the big franchise we know today. CoD became a mainstream success on consoles as well as PC, and ensured that more sequels were to come. CoD 4 was a solid enough game. Even though the games are far from realistic, it felt fine to play, and the extra bonus mission at the end of the story was a nice surprise. The multiplayer mode was where all the action was, and how CoD exploded. Everyone flocked to it like candy, because it was solidly built.

They went back to WW II in the next game, World at War. While it wasn’t as well received as CoD 4 was, it introduced a new mode that would be present in quite a few of the games.

Nazi Zombies.

It was basically a survival mode where you held out as long as you could against an endless wave of Zombies. This was probably the mode I played the most. Even though I only had the one map (no internet back then), I just kept playing it. I found it fun and challenging. The Co-op Campaign was a nice bonus too, I just wish they kept that in the other games.

Then, Modern Warfare 2 came out, which definitely exploded CoD into the massive popularity it is today. While I personally think CoD 4 is where the high point is, MW2 was where the biggest explosion was. It became a global sensation with MW2. A lot of people enjoyed the campaign, which continued the story from CoD 4. A new mode, called Spec Ops, included special challenge missions where you could also play Co-op, which I liked playing a lot. The biggest feature was probably the revamped Multiplayer. MW2’s Multiplayer is probably the multiplayer everyone remembers. It allowed for customization of nearly everything about your loadout, and made for some deeper strategies. I have minimal experience with this multiplayer, so I can’t comment too much on it. From what I gathered though, usually everyone claims MW2 to be the best.

What I call the “Third Arc” began with Black Ops. While I might put this in the “Second Arc,” I decided to put it here instead, which I’ll get to. Black Ops took place in a different era and made a different story, which some people liked. I never played the campaign of Black Ops, so I can’t comment on that part. They brought back and improved Zombies mode, which I quite enjoyed again. They also included a “Smash TV” style mode in Dead Ops Arcade. I know I spent quite a bit of time playing Dead Ops Arcade and the Zombies mode. Black Ops’ multiplayer is the one I have the most experience with. Again, all the plethora of customization options from MW2 came over… As well as most of the same general gameplay.

Depending on who you are, you started to split at this point. This is where I started to see the most divide. There were two types of people forming:

Those that liked the gameplay and continued to enjoy it.

Those that saw the gameplay as getting stale and quitting.

While both sides have their point, I’m not here to argue them. Plus, I’ve gotten so sick of both sides, it makes me not want to talk about games at all sometimes. In short, some people continued to embrace it while some people continued to pan it. That’s why I classify Black Ops as the “Third Arc,” because this was when I feel the base started to break. I personally stopped playing the games after Black Ops, so you can take that as you will.

Modern Warfare 3, Black Ops 2, and Ghosts were the next games. I personally know next to nothing about these games, so I can’t even comment on any aspect of them. To me, this continued the “Third Arc,” as I kept seeing the same argument that happened with Black Ops about each game.

And, finally, the catalyst of the “Topic of the Week,” Advanced Warfare released recently (as of this writing). Again, I know next to nothing about this game, so I can’t comment that much.

What I can say is that this may be the beginning of the “Fourth Arc.” Some people I’ve seen pan the CoD franchise for the past couple games are starting to rethink their stance on AW. A lot of people I’ve seen also generally believe this is the best game since MW2. Again, I can’t comment since I know nothing about AW, that’s just what I observed.

If this is still the “Third Arc” or now the “Fourth Arc” is still in the air for me, but I’m seeing that a lot of people are liking it. Has AW turned around what some believe to be a “tired franchise”? Only time will time.

And with that, that’s my take on the Call of Duty series. Again, I’m probably not the best person to ask about CoD, but I hope it was insightful nonetheless.

Our Annual Black Friday Gaming Deals Center

Here is our annual Black Friday Video Game Deal Listings.  Deals are listed by Platform-Game.

Stores Added:

Best Buy

Kmart

Kohls

Target

 

PS4

Consoles

PS4 w/ Grand Theft Auto V and the Last of Us- $399.99 (Best Buy), $399.99 (Target)

 

Games

Alien Isolation- $29.99 (Best Buy)

Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare- $59.99 w/ $15 GC (Target)

Call of Duty: Ghosts- $19.99 (Best Buy), $24.99-49.99 (Kmart), $25 (Target)

Destiny- $24.99-49.99 (Kmart), $59.99 w/ $15 GC (Target)

Diablo III: Extreme Evil Edition- $29.99 (Best Buy), $35 (Target)

Disney Infinity 2.0 Starter Pack- $39.99 (Best Buy), $39.99 (Target)

Evil Within- $24.99 (Best Buy), $24.99-49.99 (Kmart), $25 (Target)

Far Cry 4- $59.99 w/ $15 GC (Target)

FIFA 15- $29.99 (Best Buy), $39.99 (Kmart), $35 (Target)

Infamous: Second Son- $19.99 (Best Buy)

Killzone: Shadow Fall- $19.99 (Best Buy)

Knack- $19.99 (Best Buy)

LEGO Marvel Super Heroes- $14.99 (Best Buy)

Madden NFL 15- $29.99 (Best Buy), $39.99 (Kmart), $35 (Target)

Metro Redux- $24.99 (Best Buy)

Middle-Earth: Shadows of Mordor- $24.99 (Best Buy), $25 (Target)

MLB 14: The Show- $19.99 (Best Buy), $29.99 (Target)

NBA 2k15- $29.99 (Best Buy)

Skylanders: Trap Team Starter Pack- $39.99 (Target)

Sleeping Dogs- $29.99 (Best Buy)

Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition- $19.99 (Best Buy)

Walking Dead: Season Two- $19.99 (Best Buy)

Watch Dogs- $29.99 (Best Buy), $25 (Target)

Wolfenstein: The New Order- $24.99 (Best Buy), $24.99-49.99 (Kmart)

 

 

Xbox One

Consoles

Xbox One 500GB Assassin’s Creed Bundle- $329.99 (Best Buy)

Xbox One 500GB Assassin’s Creed Kinect Bundle w/ free Controller- $429.99 (Best Buy)

Xbox One 500GB Assassin’s Creed Bundle- $329.99 w/ $50 GC (Target)

Xbox One 500GB Console- $329.99 (Kohls)

 

Games

Alien Isolation- $29.99 (Best Buy)

Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare- $59.99 w/ $15 GC (Target)

Call of Duty: Ghosts- $19.99 (Best Buy), $24.99-49.99 (Kmart), $25 (Target)

Dead Rising 3- $24.99 (Best Buy), $29.99 (Kmart)

Destiny- $24.99-49.99 (Kmart), $59.99 w/ $15 GC (Target)

Diablo III: Extreme Evil Edition- $29.99 (Best Buy), $35 (Target)

Disney Infinity 2.0 Starter Pack- $39.99 (Best Buy), $39.99 (Target)

Evil Within- $24.99-49.99 (Kmart), $24.99 (Best Buy), $24.99-49.99 (Kmart), $25 (Target)

Fantasia: Music Evolved- $29.99 (Best Buy)

Far Cry 4- $59.99 w/ $15 GC (Target)

FIFA 15- $29.99 (Best Buy), $39.99 (Kmart), $35 (Target)

Forza Motorsport- $24.99 (Best Buy), $29.99 (Kmart), $25 (Target)

Halo: Master Chief Collection- $59.99 w/ $15 GC (Target)

Killer Instinct: Combo Breaker- $14.99 (Best Buy)

Kinect Sports Rivals- $24.99 (Best Buy), $29.99 (Kmart)

LEGO Marvel Super Heroes- $14.99 (Best Buy)

Madden NFL 15- $29.99 (Best Buy), $39.99 (Kmart)- $35 (Target)

Metro Redux- $24.99 (Best Buy)

Middle-Earth: Shadows of Mordor- $24.99 (Best Buy), $25 (Target)

NBA 2k15- $29.99 (Best Buy)

Ryse: Son of Rome- $29.99 (Best Buy), $29.99 (Kmart)

Skylanders: Trap Team Starter Pack- $39.99 (Target)

Sleeping Dogs- $29.99 (Best Buy)

TitanFall- $24.99 (Best Buy), $19.99 (Kmart)

Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition- $19.99 (Best Buy)

Walking Dead: Season Two- $19.99 (Best Buy)

Watch Dogs- $29.99 (Best Buy), $35 (Target)

Wolfenstein: The New Order- $24.99 (Best Buy), $24.99-49.99 (Kmart)

WWE 2k15- $59.99 w/ $15 GC (Target)

 

 

Wii U

Consoles

Wii U 32GB Console w/ Super Smash Bros, Donkey Kong Tropical Freeze, Super Mario 3D World, and NintendoLand- $359.97 (Best Buy)

 

Games

Disney Infinity 2.0 Starter Pack- $39.99 (Target)

Mario Kart 8- $59.99 w/ $15 GC (Target)

Super Smash Bros Wii U- $59.99 w/ $15 GC (Target)

Skylanders: Trap Team Starter Pack- $39.99 (Target)

 

 

3DS

Consoles

Nintendo 2DS w/ Yoshi’s Island- $99.99 (Target)

Nintendo 3DS XL w/ Mario Party Tour- $174.99 (Best Buy), $149.99 (Kohls)

 

Games

Mario Kart 7- $19.99 (Target)

Super Mario Land- $15.00 (Target)

Theatrhythm Final Fantasy: Curtain Call- $19.99 (Best Buy)

 

 

Vita

Consoles

TBD

 

Games

TBD

 

 

Xbox 360

Consoles

Xbox 360 4GB Console- $129.99 (Kmart)

Xbox 360 4GB Console- $129.99 (Kohls)

Xbox 360 4GB Console w/ Kinect Sports, Kinect Adventures, Forza Horizon- $179.99 (Target)

 

Games

Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag- $15 (Target)

Assassin’s Creed Rogue- $35 (Target)

Batman: Arkham Origins- $9.99-49.99 (Kmart)

Borderlands: The PreSequel- $29.99 (Best Buy), $35 (Target)

Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare- $44.99 (Best Buy), $59.99 w/ $15 GC (Target)

Call of Duty: Ghosts- $14.99 (Best Buy), $9.99-49.99 (Kmart), $15 (Target)

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3- $9.99-49.99 (Kmart)

Dark Souls II- $14.99 (Best Buy)

Destiny- $44.99 (Best Buy), $9.99-49.99 (Kmart), $59.99 w/ $15 GC (Target)

Dishonored GOTY- $7.99 (Best Buy)

Disney Infinity 2.0 Starter Pack- $39.99 (Best Buy), $39.99 (Target)

Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim- $7.99 (Best Buy)

Evil Within- $9.99-49.99 (Kmart)

Far Cry 4- $59.99 w/ $15 GC (Target)

FIFA 15- $34.99 (Kmart)

Grand Theft Auto V- $9.99-49.99 (Kmart)

Just Dance 2014- $9.99-49.99 (Kmart)

Madden NFL 15- $34.99 (Kmart), $29.99 (Target)

Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance- $7.99 (Best Buy)

NHL 15- $25 (Target)

Skylanders: Trap Team Starter Pack- $39.99 (Target)

Street Fighter IV- $7.99 (Best Buy)

TitanFall- $14.99 (Kmart)

Wolfenstein: The New Order- $9.99-49.99 (Kmart)

WWE 2k15- $29.99 (Best Buy), $59.99 w/ $15 GC (Target)

 

 

PS3

Consoles

TBD

 

Games

Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag- $15 (Target)

Assassin’s Creed Rogue- $35 (Target)

Batman: Arkham Origins- $9.99-49.99 (Kmart)

Borderlands: The PreSequel- $29.99 (Best Buy), $35 (Target)

Call of Duty: Advance Warfare- $44.99 (Best Buy), $59.99 w/ $15 GC (Target)

Call of Duty: Ghosts- $14.99 (Best Buy), $9.99-49.99 (Kmart), $15 (Target)

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare- $9.99-49.99 (Kmart)

Dark Souls II- $14.99 (Best Buy)

Destiny- $44.99  (Best Buy), $9.99-49.99 (Kmart), $59.99 w/ $15 GC (Target)

Dishonored GOTY- $7.99 (Best Buy)

Disney Infinity 2.0 Starter Pack- $39.99 (Best Buy), $39.99 (Target)

Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim- $7.99 (Best Buy)

Evil Within- $9.99-49.99 (Kmart)

Far Cry 4- $59.99 w/ $15 GC (Target)

FIFA 15- $34.99 (Kmart)

Gran Turismo 5 XL- $7.99 (Best Buy)

Grand Theft Auto V- $9.99-49.99 (Kmart)

Just Dance 2014- $9.99-49.99 (Kmart)

The Last of Us- $19.99 (Best Buy)

Little Big Planet 2 Special Edition- $7.99 (Best Buy)

Little Big Planet Karting- $7.99 (Best Buy)

Madden NFL 15- $34.99 (Kmart), $29.99 (Target)

Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance- $7.99 (Best Buy)

NHL 15- $29.99 (Target)

PlayStation All-Stars: Battle Royale- $7.99 (Best Buy)

Resistance 2- $7.99 (Best Buy)

Skylanders: Trap Team Starter Pack- $39.99 (Target)

Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time- $7.99 (Best Buy)

Street Fighter IV- $7.99 (Best Buy)

Twisted Metal- $7.99 (Best Buy)

Wolfenstein: The New Order- $9.99-49.99 (Kmart)

WWE 2k15- $29.99 (Best Buy), $59.99 w/ $15 GC (Target)

 

 

Wii

Consoles

TBD

 

Games

TBD

 

 

PC

Games

The Elder Scrolls Online- $19.99 (Best Buy)

The Sims- $29.99 (Best Buy), $35 (Target)

 

 

General

Buy 2, Get 1 Free Used Games (Best Buy)

Nintendo eShop Cards- 15% off (Best Buy)

Gaming Topic of the Week- Physical vs Digital Games

Every week (or as often as we can), we will get a group of great writers to contribute their thoughts on a particular topic about video games.  Each author can address the issue how they please and give their own unique opinions.  Please stay tuned to one-hitkills.com and @onehitkills for updates.  Please feel free to give us any feedback you feel is necessary and enjoy.

 

By Francis McCabe- @onehitkills

I’ve been gaming since the NES era and, personally, opening a brand new game and smelling that new game smell brings back the memories of Christmas morning nearly every time.  There is nothing like the experience of opening a Hyrule Warriors or Bayonetta 2 and popping it into my Wii U.  You get an instant (although not as instant with the advent of Day 1 patches) feeling of satisfaction.  But as time has moved on and my life priorities have changed, boxed games can become more of a burden after that new game smell wears off.  More and more, I’ve been converting over to the emerging digital side of gaming.

Maybe it started with the incredible discounts on the Steam Sales.  I was buying lots of cool games I knew or had never even heard of.  I was a disciple at the alter of Lord Gaben.  The Wii Virtual Console helped me relive some of the best moments of my childhood with out any of the aggravation of setting up and old console or even putting in a cartridge.  Sure, all the Marios and the Zeldas were there, but I had access to titles that never made it out of the original consoles like River City Ransom and Tecmo Bowl.  It gave me all the nostalgic highs without spending minutes blowing into the cartridges and consoles.  GOG fulfilled the same feelings for classic PC games.  The evolution of games on Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network both broadened my gaming tastes and exposed me to new experiences.

I still buy plenty of new games, but it’s getting harder and harder to find space for all of it.  Coupled with the fact that publishers are putting less and less effort into including little more than just the disc in the retail packaging, and the compelling reasons for going all physical media whenever possible is loses its appeal.

The pros of the digital media age are obvious.  After download, games can be accessed in an instant and the prices, for those who can exercise patience for certain titles, can be significantly lower thanks to better sales on a product that is where retailers are worried about their cut of a sale.  While I initially viewed Sony’s PS+ system as a desperation tactic on the struggling PS3, their commitment has given me 100s of retail and download-only games just for the price of $50 a year.  The value can be different depending on how many systems you own, but once I acquire a PS4, I will have a dozen games already.  This is in addition to all the games I can download for PS3 and Vita.

The biggest concern, of course, is the demise of the operation selling the product and losing ownership over a product I paid my hard-earned money for.  While a system like Steam is not restricted by hardware cycles, I have legit concerns about how long Nintendo, Microsoft, and Sony will maintain they’re service on last-gen consoles Wii, Xbox 360, and PS3.  With the expansion of hard drives and the abilities Nintendo and Sony give you to expand them, I can download every possible game and keep them as long as that hard drive doesn’t die, but Microsoft doesn’t offer that option.  At that point, however, physical media games will still be widely available on the internet via Amazon and EBay and at B&M stores like Gamestop.

As with the next cycle, that concern can only grow.  Microsoft’s full-on attempt at control of the games by bought by their customers is something that has gone away for now, but may eventually be introduced piece-meal by Sony or another future competitor.  As someone who stayed away from mainstream PC gaming for years because of the need to tinker with your computer to play the newest games, I was naïve to how draconian DRM can be.  I wish this aspect of the industry will learn from the PR disaster and sluggishly selling Xbox One console became and veer away from that path in the future.

In closing, I have now found equal joy from both digital and physical media.  I will celebrate getting a new hot title from Amazon or from the a store in the same way I just celebrated GOG getting access to LucasArts’s back catalog of classic adventure games.  Outside of buying good games at dirt cheap prices, digital purchases for me must be games I would never want to re-sell.  A shining example is my 3DS with my background populated with instant access to Zelda, Fire Emblem, Bravely Default, and Super Smash Bros.  Actually, ummmm, that reminds me, I have to go.

 

 

By Ryan Norum- @Chainedsniper

When I think of the physical versus digital media debate, I stand on one side pretty firmly. The digital era has brought upon convenience. Programs like Steam and Origin makes buying games easy, quick, and in most cases, it’s cheaper. I wasn’t one of the first to jump onto the bandwagon, but I plan to stay on it and am ready for the long ride. There has even been multiple occasions where I bought a digital version of a game I already own physically. The convenience doesn’t just stop at the buying phase. Not having to manage a bunch of disc is also a plus. Overall, I have been happy with my change to favoring digital media, but I do have to admit, there is something nostalgic and real about the physical media era.

There really was something special when it came to buying the newest game from the store. The whole thing was a process, but as a kid, it was more fun then not. I remember the drive to the store building up my anticipation. I remember speed walking towards the gaming section and being greeted by the wall of games with their beautiful box art. Buying the game and instantly opening it before even reaching home because I just had to absorb everything I could. Whether it was reading the back of the obx or instruction manual it didn’t matter. Then finally reaching home and playing the game for the next few hours. The process is long and tedious when compared to the digital purchases, but as a kid, it created memories. I would never choose to go back to this style of buying games, but I do not regret having it in my past.

It has been a while since I bought physical media. Ever since I stopped playing my consoles, my game collection for them also stopped. This meant that after transferring all the discs to a giant CD case, I had a bunch of game boxes filling up space. I had kept them around for a while to showcase them like books on a bookshelf despite mostly being filler. Not too long ago, I had an idea to reuse the box art as a poster. This would allow me to get rid of the boxes while keeping the memories; my main reason for keeping them around for so long. While I was making the giant poster, a bunch of memories popped up. While the games themselves created the memories, the box art was the trigger of nostalgia. That is something I won’t get from a Steam game. When I view my Steam library, its just a bunch of names. Even games I hold near to my heart is just a bunch of letters on a screen until I actually open it up. I don’t believe memories make up for the benefits of digital media, but physical media has its benefits if this type of stuff is important to you.

 

 

By Wally- @TempleofRetro

Hardware vs Software vs Noware

In today’s ever evolving world of video game collecting, there are many ways to compile and grow a gaming library. From hitting the streets and thrift shops to find that ‘retro’ cart you enjoyed as a kid, to owning one of those classic titles with a simple download, the options to gamers are more vast and expansive than ever.

But what’s the right direction to take? It’s getting harder and harder to find specific titles in gaming shops or out in the wild, and as some retro collectors have found over the past few years, the excessive prices that come with trying to attain these games is getting more and more ridiculous.

That being said, by moving into a ‘digital only’ world, there’s no guarantee that the game you’re looking for is actually available for download. So where’s the happy medium?

Here’s some pros and cons to consider when gaming in the 21st century:

PHYSICAL MEDIA – PROS

Without question, the best part about owning a physical copy of a game is the fact that it’s original. For retro gamers, holding a grey Nintendo cartridge in hand has a very nostalgic, but honest feel to it. Sliding a cart into a classic NES console is a very satisfying feeling, but also brings back a rushing sense of nostalgia. Is that reason enough to purchase the cart? No, but for some it may be.

There’s also the simple joy of having the physical collection. Being able to display your game proudly on a shelf amongst many others is also a satisfying feeling; a trophy case for gamers. But the benefits of owning a physical copy of a game go beyond the visual optics.

There’s a certain level of trust with owning a game. For example, Nintendo’s digital world doesn’t involve a networked account. If you download a digital copy of a game for your Wii, Wii U or 3DS, your game is tied to that specific machine. If it blows up, so does your game, and you’ll be paying a second time just to play the game again. By owning the actual cart or CD, even if your console DOES go down, you have the freedom to continue playing your game on a new machine.

While it’s true that not all gaming companies operate in the same vein as Nintendo when it comes to digital downloads (Sony, Steam…games are linked to individual accounts) the fear of a corrupt ‘file’ or download is something that can be concerning to some gamers.

One of the biggest advantages of being a gamer who enjoys physical media is that there’s never (in theory) a shortage of access to specific titles. By that, I mean to infer that if there’s a game you want, there’s probably a good chance you can own that title. Yes, you may have a hard time finding the game you’re looking for and yes, you may have to pay an obscene (and unnecessary) amount of money to acquire it. Still, you CAN acquire the game. And in some cases, for much less than you’d pay to download it.

In the digital world, just because a game exists, doesn’t mean it’s available for download. If I want to play Contra (NES), there’s no guarantee that Nintendo is going to have it on their Virtual Console. But you CAN purchase the original cartridge. The process may be longer and more expensive, but at least it’s available. The same can be said for games on the Playstation Network and Xbox Live. Sure, they have digital games for download, but their inventory is considerably less than being able to own the physical copy of your choice.

PHYSICAL MEDIA – CONS

As great as it is to own the physical copy of a game, there are some definite drawbacks to collecting this way.

As referenced earlier, it’s not always easy to find the game you’re looking for. Through a combination of game shops, online stores and personal selling sites, you MAY be able to find your game, you may not. And if you do, what is the price you’re paying? For every copy of Coolboarders (PS1) that you can buy for 50 cents, there’s a copy of Snow Bros. (NES) going for north of $200. Retro collecting, specifically, has become a very popular hobby. For some, it’s been a profitable (albeit unfair) source of income, operating on the “buy low, sell insanely high” method of business.

Of course, all the games in the world are great, but if you don’t have the capable console to play the game on, they don’t amount to a hill of beans. With many consoles of past generations getting older and older, the guarantee that the hardware still functions isn’t there. How many retro gamers constantly have to rip apart consoles to replace pin connectors, fans, and other random cogs just in hopes that they bring it back to life? While it’s a fun challenge for some, the ability to ‘plug and play’ becomes a bit of an uphill battle year after year. Cleaning carts, contact pins, consoles and other aspects can be a pain.

Oh, and how many times have you played a game on an older console, and the gameplay freezes? Or the battery save no longer works? Or the CD is scratched beyond repair? Just like that, your game can be rendered useless. And it isn’t always readily replaceable.

Any gamers whose significant others/roommates ‘tolerate’ their gaming collections can attest to the amount of space physical media occupies and the arguments it can create. Whether its loose carts, complete in box, or just an original case, these games take room. And shelving. Lots of it. If you live in a small space, or just don’t have a whole lot available to display your gaming collection, this can be a problem.

DIGITAL MEDIA – PROS

In today’s gaming landscape, digital downloads have become very popular, and it’s the direction the industry is heading. Not only are they easy to distribute to consumers, but its relatively accessible to anyone with an online connection. There’s no limit on the amount of digital copies are available, and there’s no lining up and camping outside your favorite gaming store for midnight releases. Download the game, it’s on your system, and its ready to play.

There’s also the advantage of not requiring numerous consoles to play games from various platforms. Using Sony as an example, accessing their digital library allows gamers to purchase and download games from the PS1, PS2, PS3 and now the PS4…all on one system. That’s pretty handy.

Shelving? A non-issue. One shelf for one system. Pretty simple from a storage standpoint.

Gamers have also been able to grow their collections and purchase a higher quantity of games for a much lower price. ‘Humble Bundles’ and other offers through Steam and online gaming software allows gamers to purchase titles at a greater discount, and many times a lot cheaper than purchasing the physical copy of each game on an individual basis. While some consoles have compilation titles, downloading digitally allows gamers to hold hundreds of games, and in many instances, for a lot less.

For example, Earthbound for Super Nintendo. MINIMUM $200 for the loose cart, or $10 for the download? Same game. Easy decision for most.

Oh, and indie games. Enough said.

Along with independent games, features like Sony’s Playstation Plus allows you to pay a yearly subscription and download games ‘for free’. More often than not, there are some pretty decent titles available and as long as you’re a subscriber, you can keep the games on your machine. While not for everybody, it does allow the opportunity to play games you’ve never tried before at a minimal cost.

As it pertains to downloading titles from the examples I stated earlier, gamers can acquire titles that are linked to their account. A onetime purchase, but could include additional downloads if necessary. A huge advantage, especially if your Playstation suffers the dreaded ‘yellow light of death’. Personally, my original PS3 died with digital games downloaded, and I was very relieved to learn that I could re-download them onto my new console.

DIGITAL MEDIA – CONS

If I pay for a game once, I don’t want to have to pay for it again. Enter Nintendo’s digital philosophy where titles are tied to consoles, not accounts. That’s a big issue. Although it’s something that can change in the future, it’s disheartening knowing that I can have $500 worth of video games that I ‘own’ on my console, but if the console becomes defective, I’m not only down a console, but my entire library (and the associated dollars) is gone.

There’s also no guarantee that you’re going to be able to download all of your favorite titles from years gone by either. Between Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo, they’ve released many titles on their digital networks but it’s amazing how many games have not been made available to gamers. It’s somewhat puzzling considering the outcry from publishers and developers around re-selling titles and third party companies generating revenue from it.

Again, getting back to ‘content’ and it’s availability, you’re at the mercy of Nintendo, Microsoft or Sony, as it pertains to releasing games available for download.

No cover art…no satisfaction of a physical collection…no manuals to flip through…for a nostalgic gamer, it just isn’t the same.

Honestly, I thought I would have more cons for digital media, but I just can’t think of any. However, these are pros and cons that I’ve thought of, and I’m sure I’m missing elements on both sides for both physical and digital. Personally, I’ve been a fan of owning physical media, but as the years go by, it seems more and more that digital makes more sense. Now, that’s just ME and the circumstances in my life.

 

 

By Andrew Cook- @MasterMastermnd

On the question of digital vs. physical I prefer physical media for several reasons. For starters, I think of myself as a casual collector. I’m not the hardcore type who buys two copies of each game and keeps one in the shrink-wrap, but I do like to have a library I can directly handle and admire. Perhaps devoting space to a monument for your own taste is a little egotistical, but it also makes it easy for me to share my favorite experiences with my friends. I don’t have to sell them on anything; I can just lend them the game.

And, to be blunt, I buy physical because I do not trust game publishers or hardware manufacturers and physical media gives me a measure of control over what I own. From the beginning I was afraid the rise of account-based networks would become a way to wrest control of our purchases away from us, and digital sales to charge us multiple times for the full experience. For the most part, especially from major publishers like EA, I believe my suspicions were confirmed. As such, through the entire seventh generation I bought not one game over Xbox Live or PSN, and only downloaded three packs of DLC (all for Mass Effect, and the last of them didn’t download correctly and messed up my game, thanks guys).

I’ve loosened up a bit since then, what with the rise of indie developers and the bountiful support they provide Wii U. It certainly doesn’t hurt that Nintendo embraced DLC and digital with gusto and typical generosity. That being said, I still prefer to buy major releases on disc, that way I know if push comes to shove I can just disconnect and have a disc that plays in a machine. That feels right, and it’s kind of the point, isn’t it? The days when I could just pop Final Fantasy VIII into my Playstation and have fun seem a lot more honest than the current era of patches and day one DLC, and that’s more than just nostalgia speaking.

On top of all that, truth is, I’m just old-fashioned. I don’t have a smart-phone. I don’t use the cloud. I’m 25 years old and I’ve been gaming most of my life, my first memory is playing Super Mario Bros. when I was four or five. We bought cartridges then, so I imagine that purchasing ritual is deeply ingrained into my idea of what exactly gaming is.

For all these reasons, I don’t really see a shift in my behavior unless the choice is made for me. I imagine it will be, we’ve made a lot of advancement since I was a kid for good or bad. It’s important to remember, however, that no matter how we choose to play, as consumers we control the direction the medium takes. It can only be as honest or craven as we allow.

 

 

By Nick DeLong- @MGNickD

I won’t beat around the bush. I am a devout physical media snob and likely always will be. Not because I believe that digital media is any less worthy of my money than physical, especially considering that they’re typically the same product simply being delivered differently. The real benefit is that I LOVE having my various collections on display in my home and thumbing through them looking for the day’s time sink. Flipping through the CD binder for something to listen to on my commute. The experience is almost entirely lost when scrolling through lists of intangible items on some product page.

Even when browsing for movies to watch on Netflix, I miss the days of heading down to my local video store and browsing their collection, flipping the cases over to check out the screens and synopsis, handing it to whatever partner and gauging their reaction to see if we have a winner. This is exactly the sensation that Netflix, Steam, and their ilk (admittedly excellently) emulate, but it loses its appeal somewhat when the tangible element of selecting the item is removed from the equation.

Coming back to games, I of course have a Steam account and a library full of the disparate titles they offer. In fact, I preach the gospel of the service as often as I possibly can. The deals on offer there are insane at times and completely irresistible, making for an excellent companion to my physical collection. I have a Netflix account and turn to it for something watch very regularly, I have an iTunes account full of music, a few eBooks, and piles of games on PSN, XBLA, and eShop. However, when given the choice, I always have and always will choose the physical version of any product over its digital counterpart.

Ultimately, I believe it comes down to the fact that I grew up in the 80s and 90s, when digital media was still essentially a pipe dream. All of the items I have had for the majority of my life have physical products, so that is my comfort zone. I definitely believe that the digital age is coming (if not already here) and that, soon, physical products will become less and less available, but I’m not looking forward to this revolution. I fully expect to be dragged kicking and screaming into it, desperately hanging on to one of my many shelves of goodies.

Long live physical media!

 

 

By Chris Scott- @kaiyanine

For years I have had stuff. Piles of stuff. Stuff everywhere. Books, games, CDs, you name it and it probably cluttered up certain sections of my living space.

And then iTunes and the iPod happened. I stopped buying massive amounts of overpriced music from the local record store. I transfered my collection to digital and began carrying my complete collection of music with me everywhere I went. And then I sold my CDs.

Soon my library of PC games followed the same path as I moved to buying all my games digitally via storefronts like Steam, GOG, and Origin. My DVDs weren’t far behind as I started getting digital versions from places like iTunes and Amazon. And when I got a Kindle my new book buying went nearly exclusively digital. But physical console/handheld games still cluttered up my space.

There are many different reasons for this but the biggest was that being able to trade those games back in. With that credit received, I’d cycle it back into new game purchases. New game purchases were almost always done at a discount because of this, and who doesn’t love a discount?

Every other digital venture presented me with the same product I’d buy physically at a cheaper price when I got it digitally. Music and books were nearly half off. Movies were generally 25% or more cheaper. And while PC games were not generally cheaper than their physical counterparts upon release, finding physical copies of most PC games was time consuming at best.

But digital versions of PS3 and XBOX 360 games did not have these benefits, at least not outwardly. Over the last few years both Sony and Microsoft have done a very good job of enticing people to buy digitally. Weekly and monthly sales on the two platforms offer some great deals on both new and old games and I’ve seen myself buying during these sales amassing a quite a large digital library. But it wasn’t until the Xbox One and PS4 (the WiiU is a different story entirely) that I decided to go fully digital.

Through programs like Xbox Rewards and the point system on my Capital One Playstation card, I get rewarded for making digital purchases from the respective storefronts. Xbox Rewards gives me a 10% rebate on every digital purchase on Xbox Live and Capital One grants me 3X as many points when purchasing on PSN. Coupled with the weekly/monthly sales and programs like EA Access and Playstation Plus, my starting price for most games begins below the suggested retail price.

I will admit that there are concerns with going digital for others that just don’t apply to my situation. I pay for a very fast internet connection and it does not have a bandwith cap. I also early on bought a 3TB external hard drive for my Xbox One, which heavily soothed the storage capacity issue many worry about. And while they don’t affect me, they are very really concerns for many but I’m happy with my choice to go digital only.

Being able to quickly boot up any game I have without leaving my seat is a wonderful feeling. And doing so without feeding the used games culture, whatever you think of it, makes me feel a bit better about my hobby. But it’s mostly about me not having crap everywhere and being lazy. So take that as you will.

 

 

By Douglas Carter- @ThatZooooooooo

Video games have come a long way over the years, from being arcade games and simple niche home games where you spent time after school to the multi-million dollar masterpieces that rival modern movies in cost and scope. With this great gap in time, there has come advancements in the technology used to make them as well, from simple 8-bit graphics to smooth 60 FPS 1080p HD video. Starting with the Xbox 360 generation of consoles as well as the rise of Steam, digital distribution has started to rise to coexist with physical releases as well. Many Independent developers and big name developers alike have been supporting sales of digital content with greater gusto than ever before.

While I personally think the argument of “Physical vs Digital” is a moot point, as both have their place and can coexist peacefully, I’ll still take a scholarly look at the debate to the best of my ability. I was also pressed for time, so I couldn’t do as much research as I wanted, so if I get something wrong, I’m sorry.

So… Which is better? Physical or Digital?

Let’s look at the pros and cons at each…

Note: For the time being, I’m not taking into account DLC and patches. I’m strictly examining the distribution method itself.

Physical Games:

Physical games are the ones we know and love, that come in a hard jewel case, plastic case, cardboard box, or what have you. These are your cartridges, disks, and anything else you can hold.

Pros:

-You have the game on hand and can easily transfer it between consoles with minimum hassle, such as lending and borrowing games.

-You can easily sell physical games to other people, and buy previously owned games easily, with previously owned games being usually discounted

-You have a weapon in a fight.

-That new game smell.

Cons:

-Higher cost to produce all of the disks/cartridges, casing, and related materials for the game in the long run, thus a slighted higher markup on physical games.

-If the cartridge or disk breaks or something, you’re out of luck and need to buy another copy outright. In cartridge based games, this could mean loss of data as well.

-You’ll run out of space to store all those games.

Digital Games:

Digital Games have started to become more and more prominent in the past 8-9 years or so, coinciding with physical games. Their appeals have led to many developers to embrace digital.

Pros:

-Generally lower cost to produce for, thus favored more by independent developers, and usually cheaper to buy.

-You can lose your console or even delete the game, but so long as you have access to the internet, you can always download the game again at no cost so long as you purchased it before. Some games also have cloud saving, but data loss can still happen.

Cons:

-No way to sell the game to somebody else, so no recoup if you want to sell it at some point.

-Hard to let people “borrow” games without generally having access to your account

-If you lose access to your account or have no internet access, and you don’t have the games downloaded on your system, you’re screwed. You have to buy them again if you lose the games.

-Not as easy to transfer games from system to system.

-You’ll run out of space to store all those games.

I may be missing a few things, but as I said, I’m pressed for time, and this is what I can think of right now. This is also shorter than what I usually write.

So… Which do I prefer?

Call me old school, but I personally prefer Physical distribution. I just like having physical things, and being able to just bring my crap with me to other people’s houses for fun times. Digital Games are very convenient, and cheaper in some cases, and some games are exclusively digital, but I just like having things to hold.

And, that new game smell. I could get high off that all day.

Again, I like both methods of distribution and they both have their place, and it’s up to you to decide which method is better for you. I’m in favor of having both available for convenience for everyone!