100w100d: Stress

Animal Crossing

Day 36: A lot of people have told me that I don’t know how to not be stressed. I’m actually quite adept at managing stressful situations but it often takes me some time to unwind even when everything is over.

Today was one of those days when I was sandwiched between back-to-back meetings and having everything due all at once. I managed to get everything out, but the stress lingered until I turned on Animal Crossing, when a villager came up and gave me a gift because I’ve been so nice to her. Ahhh…

I almost got teared up when that happened.

100w100d: Animal Crossing

My New Nickname

Day 27: Animal Crossing is a game that looks incredibly dumb on the surface, simply because you won’t understand its charming, addictive gameplay unless you play for yourself. When I showed my dad this game, he just gave me a look and shook his head.

Basically, you live in a village where your residents are animals. You fish, catch bugs, and gather fruits so you can sell them and pay off your house. That’s pretty much it.

But here I am, ten hours into happily playing this adorable game when the rest of the world is living it up in real life.

100w100d: 3DS

3DS & I

Day 23: I was one of the five suckers who bought a Nintendo 3DS on the first day, back in 2011. Buyer’s remorse was natural with any major purchase, but it hit notably hard for the 3DS since there weren’t any games worth buying in the first six months.

Fast forward to 2013 and I find myself unable to put the system down. Not just for videogames, but for everything from playing music to drawing notes to my friends to counting my daily steps taken.

One of my favorite Nintendo franchises, Animal Crossing, comes out tomorrow — we’ll be even more inseparable then.

BioShock Infinite's unrealistic leap toward videogame progress

I’ve never played the original BioShock and I haven’t gotten past the first Big Sister in BioShock 2, but I can’t wait to get my hands on the new BioShock Infinite game coming out in late 2012.

I’m excited because I’m so drawn to the game’s graphical style. Unlike most western developers who constantly chase after the ultimate realism in videogames, Irrational Games’s Creative Director, Ken Levine, is steering BioShock Infinite into a whole new art direction.

The world in BioShock Infinite is vibrant and detailed but with a comic-book influence, in a way similar to a stylized cartoon in high definition. The characters, in particular the mysterious character Elizabeth, have exaggerated human features.

Elizabeth in BioShock Infinite
Elizabeth in BioShock Infinite

In an interview with Gamers With Jobs last year, Ken Levine explained that:

A movie uses photorealism quite often because it’s free. We don’t get a cost benefit for being photorealistic, it’s the same reason Pixar’s not photorealistic, you just end up creepy… There’s no need to be photorealistic and I think it’s kind of a cop out. I’d much rather play a game that’s stylized.

I love that. It’s not that I don’t appreciate realistic graphics in videogames, far from it, but I don’t think as gamers we should limit ourselves to a singular style of art.

Videogames are fundamentally different when comparing to other art forms, such as writing or photography, because there’s this constant need to be on the cutting edge of technology. Even when it comes to moviemaking where it’s socially acceptable to make no-frill romantic comedies, it’s often considered to be a sacrilege to create a videogame with outdated graphics. Can you imagine Mass Effect 3 with blocky textures from the Nintendo 64 era?

That’s why game designers tend to chase toward art styles that replicate reality. That way, they can show off their latest and greatest achievements by bragging about the quantitative, technical side of art. They start talking the game’s ability to run in 60 frames per second or the computer’s system requirement in order to replicate such reality smoothly. Realism is also something consumers are most familiar with, and why it’s a safety net for most game publishers.

But because of that, it becomes a risk for game designers to implement anything other than realistic graphics because that’s all consumers are familiar with. It would be like how the music industry would only focus on Pop because consumers are only exposed to Lady Gaga.

The thing is, artists shouldn’t produce art that are solely conformed by consumers’ expectations. Instead, artists should create things that represent their creativity, even if they happen to challenge consumers’ perceptions of what art should be. Otherwise, paintings would never move past Impressionism and music would still be consisted of four independent movements.

Legend of Zelda Wind Waker
Can you imagine Wind Waker any other way?

Just imagine games such as Animal Crossing, Borderlands, No More Heroes, or The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker without their distinctive art styles. Imagine if Anime characters are drawn with proportional human features, or if all of Pixar’s famous characters were created with ultra realism in mind. They may still be mind blowing, but in exchange they would’ve lost the sense of magic they are now known for.

BioShock Infinite is exciting partly because its art style is refreshing and it stands out from many of the videogames in the market today. Unlike the latest installments of Uncharted, Call of Duty, or Gears of War where I have clear ideas of what the final products may look like, I haven’t seen enough of BioShock Infinite to really know where (and how) Ken Levine will ultimately take us in the colorful, yet collapsing, air-city of Columbia. And that’s a good thing.

It’s a leap of faith, but one I’m happy to take. I’m intrigued from what I’ve seen so far to learning more about the game, even if Elizabeth does look like a character from Bratz.