Category Archives: Video Games

Video Games from Playing to Watching Part 4: Games as Art

His face is on South Park. His fist is on your nephew’s shirt. His name is all over the internet, and odds are you’ve seen at least one of his videos on YouTube. You know him as PewDiePie. Although you wouldn’t see him critiquing a painting or enjoying a sculpture on a regular basis, he does appreciate film and editing. Is he himself an artist? I wouldn’t say so, but some of the games he plays just might be art.

This is the final part in a four part series. If you missed my previous entries you can start reading the first part here!

What defines “Art?” Russian author Leo Tolstoy in his essay “What is Art?” gave several definitions for art.

“Art is an external manifestation by means of lines, colours, movements, sounds,or words, of emotions felt by man.”

“Art is the production of some permanent object or passing action, which is fitted not only to supply an active enjoyment to the producer, but to convey a pleasurable impression to a number of spectators or listeners, quite apart from any personal advantage to be derived from it.”

Do video games fit into either of these definitions? Absolutely! Art is recognized by being primarily visual in the form of drawing, painting, or even dance. Eventually photography and film would fall under this umbrella definition of “Art” as well. So why not video games?

Video games are visual. In fact many games even have specific art styles that they draw inspiration from like the gothic Dark Souls or the chibi styled One Piece Treasure Cruise, two games that I have mentioned on this blog before.

Games also couple their visuals with both sound design and music. Whether it be the classic themes from Tetris or the Operatic Rock of Halo music can be just as iconic as the game that it was made for. Just listen to this song from Bioshock and tell me that it isn’t art?

What about the other definition? Do video games provide pleasure not just to their creators, but to an audience as well? Whether you play video games or not it is undeniable that they are enjoyable for many, many people for a number of reasons. Some people play MMOs to make friends. Others play platformers to challenge themselves. A great deal of people play games for escapism from the tedium of day to day life and so on… Entire communities develop around games.

Games even inspire people to create art like this scale map of Lordran from Dark Souls. lordran

I love video games. They have been a major part of my life. I made this very blog to celebrate them and their contributions to society. I’ve used video games as escapism from long days at school, as a coping mechanism when I went through depression, as a means of making and connecting with friends. Video games have helped shape the person I am today and I will always be grateful for that.

 

Hearthstone: Whispers of the Old Gods

This is our first Mobile Game Monday about a game that isn’t exclusively a mobile game. In fact most would argue that Hearthstone offers a better experience on PC. That being said it is still a mobile game that is very much worth your time and the latest expansion offers some exciting changes to the game.

The most notable change is the new “Standard format.” This is a godsend from Blizzard. Hearthstone is a game that suffers from two major issues. It is incredibly unforgiving to new players and power creep. This format is the answer to both of these issues. Now only the original cards and the most recent expansion can be used to make decks. This makes the game much more streamlined for new players and gives veterans the chance to play new and more diverse decks.

You can still play the game’s previous format now known as “Wild,” but I don’t understand why anyone would want to.

This expansion also comes with some much welcome card reworks like Knife Juggler’s attack being reduced and the removal of the Force of Nature and Savage Roar Druid combo that has been the staple of the class for the past two years.

Hearthstone is a game that I have been playing since the Open Beta. It’s a fun collectable card game featuring characters from the popular MMO World of Warcraft. It’s a fun game for both the casual and the hardcore fans. So why not give “this thinking man’s version of Candy crush and the idiot’s version of Magic the Gathering” a try? If you log in soon enough you’ll get a few free packs just for logging in and another ten for winning about 12 or so games. Happy cardslinging!

Goodbye and good riddance to overpowered cards like Dr. Boom!

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See you in Hell Secrets Paladin!

Video Game from Playing to Watching Part 3: eSports!

“If you are watching ESPN2 right now and actually taking it seriously, you are the biggest virgin ever”  – Craig Cochran (Some moron on twitter)

On April 10th, 2016 Heroes of the Dorm was broadcasted on ESPN2 for the second time. The final series between Arizona State University and UT Arlington aired on the same day as Kobe Bryant’s last game before retirement. When asked what he thought Bryant said that he didn’t care.

This choice though disappointing to sports fans like Craig, makes a major statement to gamers everywhere. There is more money in broadcasting ten college students playing a video game than there is in Kobe Bryant’s last game. This is a big deal!

In my previous installment of this series I embedded an image that depicted the share of live video streaming traffic by volume. Twitch.tv had an overwhelming share of 43.6%

How do they pull so much traffic? Twitch isn’t just about connecting with the various personalities that stream on a daily basis. It also broadcasts various tournaments and events from all around the world. During the League of Legends 2013 World Championship over 32 million different people turned in to watch the event. 8.5 million of them watched at the same time. Needless to say Twitch’s chat box was moving too fast to read. It had more livestream viewers than the Superbowl.

Why is eSports gaining in popularity? That question has a deceptively simple answer in that it is the exact same reason games like Football and Basketball are popular. People simply want to watch people play their favorite game at the highest level of play. Just like in any other sport players have big personalities and the scene is packed with rivalries and controversy.

The Smash Bros. eSports scene has popular personalities like PPMD, M2K, and Mang0, controversial tweeters like Westballz and Wobbles, and players that people just love to hate like TSM Leffen. When commenting on what made the Smash Bros. community so great, YouTuber Omni said “We’re home to the best heroes, the best villains, the best commentators, the best content creators,  the best streamers, hell the best fans!”

Although the eSports scene is still young, it has come far in such a short time. It is extremely popular with a young male demographic, but does lack the mass appeal that traditional sports does. The gaming community has done its best to make up for that with their love of competition and desire to push eSports into the mainstream. Although video games only appear on TV occasionally in America, Korea has channels dedicated to video game competitions for games like Starcraft 2 and League of Legends.

Plenty of people were upset by ESPN hosting Heroes of the Dorm. Here are some of the best angry tweets.

A collection of my favorite Heroes of the Dorm tweets

 

 

Licensed but, Good? One Piece: Treasure Cruise

It’s time for another Mobile Game Monday!

Not too long ago I released a post about licensed games and their tendency to be mediocre at best. So I thought it would be fitting for me to play a licensed game for this week.

Keep in mind that I’ve seen about 75 or so episodes of the anime I wouldn’t consider myself a fan of the series. That being said true One Piece fans will love this game!

The combat is surprisingly fun for how simple it is. Yeah it’s just timed tapping the screen so that your characters attack in the proper order for maximum damage, but it’s engaging enough. I also like that the game doesn’t play itself. There are plenty of mobile games that do. The game’s art style encompasses the tone of the show. It’s exaggerated, bright, and detailed.

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The game’s best feature is the crew building aspect. You can form a crew of up to six characters from nameless grumps to the show’s main characters, heroes, and villains. The game features a power-up system where you sacrifice characters and materials to level up your favorite crew members. You can then evolve them, kind of like Pokemon, so that they look and fight like true terrors of the sea.

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Don’t let the charming art style fool you though. This game is for hardcore fans of the series, because the difficulty spikes are sporadic and intense. It’s an absolute grindfest which can be a nightmare, especially when you have a limited Action Point bar. When it runs out you’re done until it fills back up (at a rate of 1 point every 5 minutes.)

Even if you don’t know a thing about the anime or the manga, the game fills you in with “cutscenes” which are mostly just still drawings with text, but it’s a nice touch. Although the game is rife with microtransactions it’s a fun little time waster and a darn good way to spend a Sunday Afternoon.

 

Video Games from Playing to Watching Part 2: Livestreaming

“There’s nothing more boring than watching someone else play an RPG.” – Kazuto Kirigaya (SAO)

Apparently the main protagonist of popular anime Sword Art Online has never heard of Twitch.tv and the fact that it was purchased by Amazon for $970 Million.

Last time I covered YouTube’s part in making video games more viewer friendly in the form of fan created content and eventually Let’s Plays. In the middle I briefly mentioned why Let’s Plays are so successful both in terms of production and fan consumption. They provide the viewer an experience. The ability to watch someone else play and react to a game at a fixed point in time. If it’s boring then the viewer can just click away, but if something scary or funny happens then the viewer is hooked. What if instead of a video, the viewers were watching a live broadcast?

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Enter Twitch.tv “The worlds leading video platform and community for gamers.” Their words not mine. What Twitch allows for is a longer, more community driven experience that happens in real time. YouTube does not allow for a community driven environment because interaction is call and response. Video and comment. Twitch provides a live broadcast with a live chatbox where viewers can communicate with each other and the person streaming. They can have conversations, ask questions, and post emotes exclusive to the site like Kappa, PogChamp, and FrankerZ.

Another one of Twitch’s strengths is authenticity. A YouTube video is edited down and can be scripted or forced. You can play up your reactions for more views. Twitch is live and most streams last for hours. Full-time streamer Lobosjr said in an interview “I’m much more vulgar on stream but when it comes down to it, that’s pretty much who I am in real life, minus the obscenities.”

Twitch’s biggest asset however is also its greatest weakness. If something isn’t happening then people will click away. If a streamer takes a bathroom break or leaves to get food from their kitchen then hundreds of people click away. To avoid this problem charity livestreams like the bi-annual Zeldathon rotate out their streamers constantly so a game is always being played and something is always happening on camera.

Recently YouTube has developed its own gaming platform not-so-cleverly-named YouTube Gaming. It functions similarly to Twitch, but with the option to save the broadcast directly to your YouTube channel. It also functions as a mobile app allowing for people to stream games from their phone. A few years ago this would have been innovative and certainly would have driven traffic to the platform, but with so many communities developed around Twitch it looks like YouTube Gaming will have to settle for second best.

Did you miss the first part of this multi-form post? Read it here!

Video Games from Playing to Watching Part 1: YouTube’s Gaming Debut