Curb Your Fanboyism

I often see comments on internet forums about how great one system is while simultaneously trashing another. People seemingly won’t hesitate for a second to voice their opinions on how hard the Xbox pwns and how the PlayStation equivalent doesn’t even come close. As for Nintendo, why, what are you, stupid?

I get that people are loyal to something they love and own. Gamers are very passionate about the things they care about, so as a defensive mechanism these arguments often turn into attacks. Somewhere along explaining why Xbox Live rocks will eventually turn to why the PlayStation Network sucks in comparison, and in an attempt to defend why the PSN is a solid alternative comments will consequently be made about how Xbox Live requires a paid membership to do something that the PSN offers for free. A PC gamer would then chime in on how how Steam is the ultimate network to play online games, only to be retorted by the fact that PC gamers need to upgrade their graphics card every six months. It’s a never-ending loop to brewing something bigger out of nothing.

But these arguments extend far beyond gaming platforms to basically every aspect in the videogame spectrum — Battlefield 3 vs. Modern Warfare 3, Resident Evil vs. Silent Hill, Activision vs. EA, Nintendo vs. Apple, Just Dance 2 vs. Dance Central; just about everything under the sun seems to be worth arguing about.

Street Fighting IV Loading Screen

These kinds of comments are tearing apart something that we all care for so much. It’s been a long and winding road to see how far gaming has become from the past twenty years. It’s taken so long for gaming to be taken seriously by mainstream society, hell, it was only earlier this year did a California judge finally related videogames as art, and because of that they deserve the same level of First Amendment protection as books, plays, and movies. Shouldn’t we spend our collective time and energy celebrating that milestone victory instead of arguing which looks the best in 1080p?

“The PlayStation Move is pointless.” “The 3D in the 3DS is just a gimmick.” “Social games aren’t real games.” These comments are dimes in a dozen on the internet, but the way I see it, different devices and genre of games just serve different purposes for different demographics. Just because you’re not one of the five million people who bought Just Dance 2 for the Wii doesn’t mean the people who did are any less of a gamer than you are. Just because you don’t understand the point of a pricey, albeit limited, portable device doesn’t mean the 3DS is doom to fail. And just because people didn’t spend as much time playing Final Fantasy 7 growing up doesn’t give you the right to invalidate other gamers.

As much as I commend people for voicing opinions, our opinions need to be constructive and of substance. As fans of this finicky, ever-changing entertainment medium, our voices shouldn’t be mindless and alienating because too much of that will end up as white noise destined to be drowned. As loyal gamers, we need to be more encompassing and welcome new gamers with open arms, instead of making them feel intimidated and inadequate. Sure, we need to speak our mind to provide constructive, if not critical, feedback, but like a critique in an art class it’s not helpful when you say “I hate it” without explaining why or how it could be better.

You don’t need to love everything, but you do need to give respect to the games, as well as the creative talents behind those games. You see, the gaming industry, as with any industry, cannot be solely made up of a single genre of games or publisher. For example, can you imagine the music industry to only consists of one artist or genre? Some people like jazz while others prefer metal or hip-hop. I don’t personally listen to hip-hop, but that doesn’t mean I would start bashing on Jay-Z in favor of Miles Davis. These two artists are different, but they’re also essential in ensuring the music industry survives in the modern age of dwindling sales and instant gratification. The same idea applies for videogames and the gaming industry in general.

Pig Up Launcher

We need competition and variety in order for the gaming industry thrive. We need to be respectful of each genre, yes even facebook games, because otherwise the entire gaming lineup would consists of nothing but Michael Bay-esque first-person shooters. As much as I don’t understand the appeal of Zynga games, they’re a pioneer in social media gaming and a success story to peak the interest of other game makers to follow suit. Without the success of CityVille from Zynga, perhaps there would’ve never been a Pig Up! from PopCap Games. Expanding platforms and building audiences is how industries, gaming or otherwise, can blossom and thrive.

And who knows, you may end up liking an unfamiliar game if you just give it a chance.

When top scores used to be good enough

Besides save slots or passwords, the next best thing you’re likely to remember in a NES or Game Boy game is the Top Score. You know, the number where it took months of nonstop practice to take over the top spot, where it was previously occupied by the ever dreadful AAA.

That score meant everything to us when we were kids. As much as our parents tried to convince us that “It’s just a number,” that five or six-digit score singlehandedly sum up our gaming skills and our childhood.

Not only was that score something we were proud of, but it was also something we can brag about with our classmates at schools. Top scores were our original bragging rights.

Then slowly the bragging rights evolved to more than high scores, but to what we were able to find and collect in videogames. Things like the invisibility cloak from Zelda: Link to the Past, or breeding a gold Chocobo in Final Fantasy VII.

Back then, we could easily visit our friends’ house after school or during our days off. But as we grow older, friends fall apart, cousins move away, and life in general gets in the way. In turn, we’re no longer able to easily show off our gaming achievements the way we did in the schoolyard.

Up till now, Nintendo has been taking the old school approach. You can collect everything to your heart’s content with Nintendo games ranging from Animal Crossing to Pokemon to Super Smash Bros. Brawl, but everything you collect lives locally in your console. You can show off your house in Animal Crossing whenever your friend comes over, but there’s also a sense of pride and self-satisfaction by just roaming the town by yourself

Meanwhile, everyone else in the videogame industry has moved on. XBOX, PS3 and now even Apple has brought that idea of collecting in-game achievements to the online world in a leaderboard format. And because your collection is now broadcasted to the entire world (or at least to your friends on your friend list), the basis of collecting something is no longer focused on what you have, but on what you don’t. The self-satisfaction we used to get from our collection has become something of this desire, this need, for instant and constant approval.

I was playing Sim City 2000 again for the first time in years yesterday and ended up staying up all night. I was hooked at playing the game because unlike CityVille, I didn’t have to worry how my city was in relation to those of my facebook friends. I didn’t have to stress about getting the fancy skyscrapers before they would because I have nothing else to compare to. Instead, I was immersed on making my city as best I could. And really, shouldn’t that be the point?

Trust me, I’m thankful for what technology has brought us in the year 2011, but I just wish we can be satisfied with the things we do have instead of constantly yearning for more. You know, the days when reaching the top score was good enough.

Why I'm fed up with CityVille

tl;dr – Zynga, you don’t need to rely on non-stop advertisements and pyramid schemes to make money. Really.

Seeing how I had written some pretty nice things about CityVille and how they can be adapted as life lessons in my previous post, I figured it’s only fair to also mention the not-as-nice elements in CityVille that are driving me up the walls.

To be fair, I actually don’t have any issues with the game’s paying elements for the most part. But a lot has to do with how Zynga (the company behind CityVille) has chosen to implement its notifications as well as a number of specific in-game challenges that leave me a poor impression of the game, and more importantly of Zynga, in general.

Continue reading “Why I'm fed up with CityVille”

Life lessons from playing CityVille

tl;dr – CityVille taught me that the beginning to anything is always frustrating and to use what I have to my advantage.

While I’ve been hiding underneath a rock in the past few months, I still managed to hear about the crazy and seemingly overnight success of Zynga‘s latest social game CityVille. From 0 to 70 million players online within a 30-day launch period is anything but ordinary, so out of curiosity I’ve reluctantly signed up for my first social game experience.

CityVille Loading Screen
CityVille Loading Screen

This isn’t a review for CityVille, but in playing the game for the past two months or so I’ve discovered a couple things that can be served as lessons I can adapt in real life. Continue reading “Life lessons from playing CityVille”