The Philosophy, Art, and Social Influence of games
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Ack
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Re: Diverging from the mainstream

by Ack Sun Apr 07, 2013 11:37 pm

Since 2010 began, I've beaten 148 games across a variety of formats and genres, though during that period I had two very weak years where due to life events I didn't have much chance to sit down and play. I'm currently trying to make up for it this year, and so far I've already beaten more games than I had in the whole of 2012. At this rate, I'll have beaten more games than in 2011 sometime during the summer.

If you really require beating games as the standard for knowing a game, then I suppose that can seem a daunting task. But I really don't think you do. Yes, mastery of an individual title can take a long time and constant dedication, but that doesn't mean you have to master every game to have a deep understanding of a genre. I consider myself very knowledgeable on certain video game genres, and I can tell you quite a bit about games I haven't beaten. I've never beaten Ultraman: Towards the Future for the SNES. But I can still tell you all about it, its hidden options menu, the three endings, its poor animations, etc. And yes, I do read about gaming. Not only blogs, but history books, biographies, cultural studies, etc. I pore over lists of releases and gameplay videos. I feel relatively confident in my knowledge, though I don't know everything. Nor do I have to know everything.

The same can be said for film or literature. Do you like science fiction movies? What did you think of Aelita, Queen of Mars? Things To Come? On the Beach? Metropolis? Alphaville? Stalker? Burst City? Just because you might not have seen these examples doesn't mean you can't be knowledgeable about the area. Like horror stories? What did you think of The House on the Borderland? Do you agree that The Black Stone is the best Lovecraftian horror story not written by Lovecraft? Do you prefer The Haunting of Hill House or Hell House? What do you think of the book Darker Than You Think, better than The Howling? What is your opinion of The Castle of Otranto?

The depth of human art across various mediums, including literature, film, and video games, is so vast as to be an abyss. It is impossible to read, see, or play it all. No human being can do it in any of those fields. The same can be said for music, for theatrical performance, or for any other field of art. And even if you could experience all that currently exists, so much has been lost in each as to render the point moot. As an example, Shakespeare was not the most popular playwright of his day, but the man who was has no surviving plays. We can't even begin to fathom what he wrote or how it beat out the likes of King Leer, The Tempest, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Othello, and many more.

Oh, and some quick math: if you live to be 75 and watch 100 unique movies a year, you will only watch 7500 films by the time you die. That really isn't that many. It's best not to worry about such things. I did for a couple of years while extremely depressed, and the thought nearly drove me mad.
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Re: Diverging from the mainstream

by dsheinem Sun Apr 07, 2013 11:42 pm

Ack wrote:Since 2010 began, I've beaten 148 games across a variety of formats and genres, though during that period I had two very weak years where due to life events I didn't have much chance to sit down and play. I'm currently trying to make up for it this year, and so far I've already beaten more games than I had in the whole of 2012. At this rate, I'll have beaten more games than in 2011 sometime during the summer.

If you really require beating games as the standard for knowing a game, then I suppose that can seem a daunting task. But I really don't think you do. Yes, mastery of an individual title can take a long time and constant dedication, but that doesn't mean you have to master every game to have a deep understanding of a genre. I consider myself very knowledgeable on certain video game genres, and I can tell you quite a bit about games I haven't beaten. I've never beaten Ultraman: Towards the Future for the SNES. But I can still tell you all about it, its hidden options menu, the three endings, its poor animations, etc. And yes, I do read about gaming. Not only blogs, but history books, biographies, cultural studies, etc. I pore over lists of releases and gameplay videos. I feel relatively confident in my knowledge, though I don't know everything. Nor do I have to know everything.

The same can be said for film or literature. Do you like science fiction movies? What did you think of Aelita, Queen of Mars? Things To Come? On the Beach? Metropolis? Alphaville? Stalker? Burst City? Just because you might not have seen these examples doesn't mean you can't be knowledgeable about the area. Like horror stories? What did you think of The House on the Borderland? Do you agree that The Black Stone is the best Lovecraftian horror story not written by Lovecraft? Do you prefer The Haunting of Hill House or Hell House? What do you think of the book Darker Than You Think, better than The Howling? What is your opinion of The Castle of Otranto?

The depth of human art across various mediums, including literature, film, and video games, is so vast as to be an abyss. It is impossible to read, see, or play it all. No human being can do it in any of those fields. The same can be said for music, for theatrical performance, or for any other field of art. And even if you could experience all that currently exists, so much has been lost in each as to render the point moot. As an example, Shakespeare was not the most popular playwright of his day, but the man who was has no surviving plays. We can't even begin to fathom what he wrote or how it beat out the likes of King Leer, The Tempest, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Othello, and many more.

Oh, and some quick math: if you live to be 75 and watch 100 unique movies a year, you will only watch 7500 films by the time you die. That really isn't that many. It's best not to worry about such things. I did for a couple of years while extremely depressed, and the thought nearly drove me mad.


Great post, Ack.
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Re: Diverging from the mainstream

by Erik_Twice Mon Apr 08, 2013 11:51 am

It's interesting that the thread has taken this turn because I have been very concerned lately about what a game critic knowledge base should include. In fact, I'm almost done with an article covering sixty games I feel every critic out there should play, kind of a very basic knowledge base.

It takes more time than an equivalent list for films would, around 500 hours just by playing and not beating games, while the famous 102 movies for basic "movie literacy" critic Jim Emerson wrote would take 250. It is indeed harder. But that doesn't excuse not having any kind of knowledge base!

You don't need to play every single platformer or Dragon Quest clone. But I think you should play Cosmic Encounter, Xevious and D&D as well as The Secret of Monkey Island or Megaman 2 because they offer a clear example of excellence and historical significance. Some boardgames or roleplaying games aside the average user of this site has played every single notable videogame ever made or enough of them to offset any they are missing. I'm probably the least experienced of the list of users Dsheinem mentioned by a significant margin.

I'm not very eloquent today but I think you guys are onto something :D
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Re: Diverging from the mainstream

by ExedExes Mon Apr 08, 2013 11:53 am

I was gonna come in here and make a post just like Ack did :lol: But yes, I always appreciate the history and the ins and outs of as many games as I can study, and preferably play. As he said, I may not have played everything, but if it's something I know and watched videos of, read reviews of, studied a bit more of, etc, I would have nearly as much of an experience as those who played through it. Even though I don't play the most modern stuff, it doesn't mean I'm not interested in it. For example, the past week, I've been catching the buzz over Bioshock Infinite and reading more about it, knowing the series' history as a game in the "Shock" series, and enjoying the first System Shock when it first came out (plus, I'm always interested in games running on the Unreal Engine).

That is also the reason why I enjoy doing write-ups for the Together Retro games here at Racketboy. Researching the Wing Commander series for March's game was a ton of work, but I gained so much from visiting all sorts of dedicated sites and didn't realize all the games, spin-offs, and merchandising the series had, and for me, the best part is to share it with everyone else.
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Re: Diverging from the mainstream

by Ack Mon Apr 08, 2013 11:54 am

General_Norris wrote:It's interesting that the thread has taken this turn because I have been very concerned lately about what a game critic knowledge base should include. In fact, I'm almost done with an article covering sixty games I feel every critic out there should play, kind of a very basic knowledge base.

It takes more time than an equivalent list for films would, around 500 hours just by playing and not beating games, while the famous 102 movies for basic "movie literacy" critic Jim Emerson wrote would take 250. It is indeed harder. But that doesn't excuse not having any kind of knowledge base!

You don't need to play every single platformer or Dragon Quest clone. But I think you should play Cosmic Encounter, Xevious and D&D as well as The Secret of Monkey Island or Megaman 2 because they offer a clear example of excellence and historical significance. Some boardgames or roleplaying games aside the average user of this site has played every single notable videogame ever made or enough of them to offset any they are missing. I'm probably the least experienced of the list of users Dsheinem mentioned by a significant margin.

I'm not very eloquent today but I think you guys are onto something :D


I'm now extremely interested in your list of titles. I'd love to hear your choices for such a list and your reasonings for why each is on there.
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Re: Diverging from the mainstream

by J T Mon Apr 08, 2013 1:51 pm

dsheinem wrote:Then there are people who really know a particular genre or a particular era well. I hold their opinion in esteem for that niche (e.g. JT, mjmjr25, retrosportsgamer) but not always for games outside of it.


I'm curious which era or genre it is that I seem to specialize in. I'm assuming you mean PC games or indie titles because that's something I'm most vocal about here, but I'm not sure. I've actually played and beaten more NES and SNES titles than anything else, I just don't talk about that stuff as much because it's not my current focus. When I started on racketboy, my main specialty was the PS2, but I only occassionally chime in on that.

Ultimately, what interests me the most about old or new games is interactivity. I'm fascinated by how video games are able to boil down the essense of a real world experience. And I don't just mean simulations, like a Gran Turismo game that tries to be as close to real life as possible, but also games like Mario Kart that take the concept of something and boil it down to its fundamental elements. While Gran Turismo has most everything you can think of in regards to racing, Mario Kart is about vying for position, screwing your opponent to get an edge, and in a metaphorical way, I think that Mario Kart's rubber banding racing and red turtle shell screw overs cut to the heart of what we love about racing, and perhaps does it even better than a Gran Turismo because it focuses on what's exciting about the race. I especially love when gameplay elicits emotions, like the fear inducing hide-and-seek gameplay of Amnesia, or the ruminative self/world exploration of Dear Esther, or the thoughtful melancholic repose of The Graveyard.

Anyway, I think I've gone off track. Ultimately, my point is just that I don't care about what is mainstream or what is niche. I care about the interesting ways that games model physical experiences, emulate private experience, and elicit emotion responses all in the service of unique interactive narrative.
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Re: Diverging from the mainstream

by Erik_Twice Mon Apr 08, 2013 2:47 pm

Ack wrote:I'm now extremely interested in your list of titles. I'd love to hear your choices for such a list and your reasonings for why each is on there.

I'm working on it! But it's going to take a couple of weeks, specially since my new blog isn't quite ready yet.

Note that it's just a list of important games, I won't try to list anything because it just isn't possible :lol:
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Re: Diverging from the mainstream

by Menegrothx Mon Apr 08, 2013 8:50 pm

General_Norris wrote:It's interesting that the thread has taken this turn because I have been very concerned lately about what a game critic knowledge base should include. In fact, I'm almost done with an article covering sixty games I feel every critic out there should play, kind of a very basic knowledge base.

Only sixty? I'm very intrested in hearing those. When I got into retro gaming/collecting properly this was one of my initial goals (getting a wide enough grasp of gaming as a whole so I could become a a game reviewer) but I eventually gave up because I know that it's not sensible to force myself to play a myriad of games I don't enjoy playing and that becoming a professional game reviewer in the first place is almost impossible :)

I guess you're looking at very refined game design rather than aiming for a complete picture of all different genres, although I think it's important to have both (to know what excellent game design is all about and have a wide enough perspective on different genres so you can critically analyze any given game of it's genre). Naturally all genres aren't as demanding or versatile as RPGs, but imo you should atleast play the following just to get a grasp of what the genre really is like:

Ultima+Wizardry (maybe some other really early computer games, Dragonstomper, maybe some ADD on Intellivision)->Dragon Quest+Final Fantasy->late 1980s/early 1990s stuff (Dungeon Master, most of the Ultima games, YS, Fire Emblem and Phantasy Star games, later FF and DQ games, roguelikes etc)->mid+late 1990s stuff (Chrono Trigger, FF6+7&8, Earthbound, Diablo, Fallout, Baldur's Gate, Planescape: Torment, System Shock, Suidoken, Vagrant Story etc)->early/mid 2000s stuff (Deus Ex, Arcanum, FF X, KOTR, Morrowind, Fable etc) and modern stuff (Mass Effect, Demon's souls etc)
I'm far from a RPG expert so I forgot to mention many noteworthy games but the general idea is to get to know all the different aspects of the genre.
1. The foundation (Ultima+Wizardry->Dragon Quest)
2. New games that use the basic formula (Phantasy Star etc)
3. Games that do innovative things and take certain aspects of the core formula to new directions+games that mix the core formula with another genre (Ultima 4-7+Underworld, Earthbound, Chrono Trigger, Planescape: Torment, System Shock/Deus Ex/S.T.A.L.K.E.R, Persona, Parasite Eve, Popful mail etc). This is an on going process that's not tied to any certain time perioid or console generation. Like when 3D and FPS became popular, some FPS games implemented RPG elements into them.
->Totally new subgenres (Rogue [rogue-like], Dungeon Master [Dungeon crawler], Ys [Action RPG], Corporation [FPSRPG], Fire Emblem [SRPG] etc)
4. Even more refined games based on the basic formula (most SNES RPGs and early/mid 1990s WRPG dungeon crawlers)
5&6 A new way to present the basic formula (SNES->PS1 2D->3D in JRPGs, jump to isometric view and more sophisticated RPG mechanics in WRPGs during the late 1990s and then the jump to "cinematic" style and 3D both in J- and WRPGs).

I think that even if you only focus on games that are either unique or created a new style/subgenre, you'll still have to play something like 20 games minimum (Ultima 1,3-7+UW, Wizardry, a rogue-like, Dragon Quest, YS, Final Fantasy 6-8, the storytelling&convention breaking of Earthbound and Planescape: Torment, a 16 bit RPG, a 32 bit RPG, a PS2 era RPG, a strategy RPG, FPS game like System Shock/Deus Ex/Vampire bloodlines, an isometric Fallout/Baldur's Gate/Arcanum type of RPG, Betrayal at Krondor/Lands of Lore/Might and Magic type of 1st person view RPG/Dungeon crawler, a new cinematic W and JRPG like Mass Effect and Final Fantasy 13 etc...) Even after that there's many 8 and 16-bit, PC&modern RPGs that use different kind of battle systems and so on. I do agree that if your goal is to have vast amount of general gaming knowledge, it's redundant to play a game like Final Fantasy 9 if you've already played 7, since 9 doesn't bring anything new to the table.

Luckily most genres aren't as versatile (and lengthy) as RPGs, but still in most cases it's not enough to play just a few of the most important&well designed games, even if you don't plan to go "in depth" you still need to see how much divergence exists within the genre. Like fighters for example. Early games (3-6 different should be ok) ->Street Fighter 2->SNK fighters (Samurai Shodown and King of Fighters espescially)->3D fighters (Virtua Fighter, Battle Area Toshiden, Tekken, Fighters Megamix->a few of the less popular ones that did something innovative like Bushido Blade and Tobal no 1)->late 1990s 2D fighters->important and innovative games of the modern era and last generation (guilty gear, MVC3, Tekken 6, Blazblue, SF4, Soul Calibur 4/5, KOF XIII, SFvT and Persona 4 Arena atleast). And it probably doesn't hurt if you try some more obscure 1990s fighter games (arcade exclusive, Japanese Saturn imports, PC and Amiga games etc).


In my opinnion it's a good thing if game reviewers specialize into certain genres
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Re: Diverging from the mainstream

by Ack Mon Apr 08, 2013 11:30 pm

Haha, while I agree that people really getting into gaming should play all those, I don't think you need to have played all of them immediately. Let's take fighting games for instance: if you really want to study the fighting game in depth, sure, it will take a heavy look across the wide spectrum of its history. But to get an idea of the genre, you can do it by hitting only a few bright spots: Street Fighter 2 Turbo, Mortal Kombat, Virtua Fighter 2, Tekken, Soul Calibur, King of Fighters '98, Super Smash Bros., Marvel Vs. Capcom. That will give you a good idea of what the genre is about and some of the varying styles it can employ.

Once you want to start delving further, branching out into the respective series of those games is a good idea, or the series that receive the most play at the time on the tournament circuit. So if you are in a community that plays lots of Samurai Shodown, get to know the series, just as you should probably learn at least a little something about X-Men: Children of the Atom for MvC3. But to be able to write effectively about fighters, you really don't need to have experience playing Yie Ar Kung Fu. If you want to really delve into the genre, sure, learn about it. But for a working knowledge of fighters, you don't need it.
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Re: Diverging from the mainstream

by Erik_Twice Tue Apr 09, 2013 6:01 am

Menegrothx wrote:I guess you're looking at very refined game design rather than aiming for a complete picture of all different genres

Actually, I am going for a complete picture, trying to cover as many trends as possible. It's not a list of great games and I couldn't cram Netrunner into it. even if it's beyond amazing :lol:

It's also very basic. I want to keep it to a very accesible number so there's less of an excuse not to play them!

Surprisingly, there are very few computer RPGs I find important to play since Dragon Quest clones aglutinate most of the market. And when Toon, Paranoia or Amber Diceless Roleplaying, actual RPGs, haven't made the cut I can't put FFVII in there.


By the way, I expect a big slapping for omitting many games and an ever bigger one because I added RPGs and Boardgames. Also a slap from those people for not including enough of them :lol:
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