Roughly one year ago, Square-Enix released two games: one, the refined version of an attempt to bring their flagship series into a new generation; the other, ostensibly not a Final Fantasy game at all, but a fresh start with a new series, drawing on their roots. Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII and Bravely Default released within the same week of one another in North America, almost forcing a comparison between the two.
It’s true that Square-Enix did something remarkable with Bravely Default—they made a Final Fantasy game without any of the twenty-five years of baggage and expectations that are associated with the name. Despite SE’s claims to the contrary, however, Bravely Default is a Final Fantasy in everything but name. As an RPG with job classes, airships, a large overworld map, a four character party, and a crystal-centric narrative, all it’s missing are a Cid and some chocobos.
Then, there was Lightning Returns, with the almost impossible task of redeeming two games that Western gamers were decrying as the the “death of Final Fantasy,” despite no one actually agreeing what constitutes a “true” installment of the series, while Bravely Default was praised for its old-school Final Fantasy feel. In fandom tradition, opinions became polarized and extreme, and the games were raised up as examples: Lightning Returns was everything that was wrong with the series, and Bravely Default was a chance to start again. Bravely Default was the future of Final Fantasy.
But if we are to take seriously the comparisons between these two games, and present each as an option for the future of Final Fantasy (and, subsequently, JRPGs as a whole), then I sincerely hope that it is Lightning Returns that Square-Enix decides to emulate.
Continue reading It’s All Pleasant Jiggles ’til Somebody Gets Hit with a Bolt of Lightning
So I’m going to IndieCade East.
And I’m pretty excited—not just because it’s a videogame conference and the last videogame conference I went to, Kill Screen’s Twofivesix, was practically life-changing (maybe not life-changing, but life-affirming, at least)—but because I’m going solo.
That may not be true—I’ll put out a few more calls on social media asking who’s going over the next few hours or so—but so far, so just me.
I like to play. I like to play, even alone.
Continue reading Flying Solo
Dear future video game by [INSERT YOUR NAME HERE],
The best thing about gaming is making a game. As much as I love talking to other games when they’re all polished by a team of distant people with mysterious developing and publishing motives, I like to get down and dirty with a game that doesn’t even exist yet. I know it sounds difficult, but the reward is crazy good.
There are tons of free tools and awesome people that will help you be great. That’s why the Internet is magical. I made my first game with my best friend. We used GameMaker, made our own graphics, used royalty free music, and failed to distribute it because we suck (but I’m working on fixing that).
Although the conception of said game was made in response to a prompt for a college course, we spent a lot of time making it something we believed in. We are terribly sarcastic ladies, but we also sometimes hated how characters were portrayed in games. So we made a six-minute experience to joke around about how ridiculous we think some game characters are. For me, I wanted the game to make other games (or maybe their creators) think about what they were doing; I wanted to make them feel a little guilty for thinking that negative stereotype scripted characters were acceptable.
This topic may not be what your creator has in mind for you, but have faith. She has feelings, thoughts, and all sorts of cool new mechanics that can make you feel your own special way. It doesn’t matter if you’re a little slow or glitchy or short. You don’t have to be perfect because no game ever is really. Imperfection is what makes games feel real.
So what are you waiting for? Go be you.
Until next time,
P.S. Don’t forget to let me know how you’re doing! Stay connected, and it’s been a real pleasure.
[header image from creategames.tumblr.com by @PixelProspector]
I know the last post was a little bit of a downer, but we’re getting to the fun part real soon. I promise.
Just one more maudlin anecdote.
For a while, I didn’t think I could make anything creative. I didn’t have any interest in writing about love, death, or any cliché. I wasn’t even sure if I was smart enough to comment on media like Ian Bogost does. Unfortunately, this was not a standard I came up with on my own. It was reinforced in school activities and everyday speech. When I was in tenth grade, my literature teacher told his students that no one in high school should write poetry because we, as teenagers, know nothing. Opinions like it came from multiple sources, so I never created; I never even tried.
That’s where Anna Anthropy comes in. Her book Rise of the Videogame Zinesters: How Freaks, Normals, Amateurs, Artists, Dreamers, Drop-outs, Queers, Housewives, and People Like You Are Taking Back an Art Form is what every gamer needs to hear. Whether you like it or not, all gamers are partakers in this art form. Video games are the only medium that requires participation. Anthropy takes that a step further to say that being a participant alone isn’t enough to make the gaming experience great. She has a unique and personal perspective throughout her book. It’s written in the first person, and many of her examples are of games where she knows the creators and can somewhat speak on their behalf. Although she claims that this book is not a how-to guide for game development, she does offer many useful tools and advice for creating your first game.
Continue reading The Rise of Us
Let’s be real: 2014 was a year full of suck for games. Between lackluster games and #gamergate, the gaming community took quite a hit. As a female gamer, this year was the first time I had logged off of a multiplayer experience in fear of being bullied beyond repair. In the end, this event only seemed to reaffirm the misogynistic conception of gamers in the public eye.
I can’t say I learned much from these social atrocities, so it’s time to take a different approach. This series of Player 2 posts will consist of two books every gamer should read to help the community. This week, we’ll briefly discuss How to Do Things with Videogames by Ian Bogost.
This book is a collection of short essays about a range of topics. Bogost depicts why video games matter in today’s media-driven culture. Each topic is explored in plain language to be accessible for every reader while introducing important new media scholars like Marshall McLuhan. It’s shallow enough for the everyman but specific enough for a game scholar to go to the appendix and research each topic further. Each essay is full of applicable, real (game) world examples that act as flint for deeper discussions of the medium. The gameography alone is expansive enough to traverse a diverse amount of gaming content. Even if you’re a well-versed gamer, these topics will give you a definitive vocabulary to explain things you already know while teaching you about other concepts you had no idea existed. (For me, it was the content management behind those creepy Burger King Xbox 360 games a few years back.) Bogost covers a range of topics from games-as-art to Easter eggs to political use of the medium. For now and for the New Year, I would like to talk about one chapter in particular: Reverence.
Continue reading How to Do Things