Sunday, January 8, 2012

The Top 10 From 2011: Best Editorials

In which I highlight some of my best articles from 2011. Shameless self-promotion with a chance to get some of my favorite pieces back on the front page. Huzzah.

This time around I'll be ranking ten of my favorite editorials, those opinion pieces where I rant with divine authority on the industry: what's wrong with it, what needs to change, things that are good and we need to see more of, etc. I apparently had a lot of opinions back when I started this blog; here are some of the more interesting ones that also tend to have more original ideas and analysis than what other critics come up with. Click the full article for the full list.

In which I basically just rant about some of the absurdly illogical architecture and engineering in the original Half-Life, complete with lots of pictures. Granted it's just a video game, and we're not meant to take them too seriously, but some of the stuff in there makes absolutely no sense at all (like that giant fan, whose only "on/off" switch requires you to climb beneath the spinning blades of death), which is distressing considering how much attention that game gave to realism and immersion. Read more of my words (and view more of my pictures) on the matter here.

In which I describe the factually objective reasons why the PC is superior to the consoles. Such factors as mod support, superior graphics power, and measurably better precision all go into it, but the main factor is that the PC is inherently generative, meaning that anyone can write software or make hardware for it, allowing for a wider range of possibilities and all kinds of creative endeavors that you would never get on consoles. Read more of my words on the matter here.

In which I complain about how cutscenes ruin the tension in horror games. They're all about survival, feeling vulnerable to death or leaving yourself hanging by a thread. But then the cutscenes pull the controls away from you, and whatever tense, horrific thing happens during them, you can safely resign yourself knowing that you'll come out alright in the end, because they can't possibly give you a game over screen in a cutscene. Unless you're playing Resident Evil 4. Read more of my words on the matter here.

In which I argue that certain kinds of "artsy fartsy" games without overt, conventional gameplay (such as The Path and The Void) are still wholesome endeavors for the industry. Some people complain that these games get so caught up in being artistic that they forget to be fun games, but I don't think all games necessarily have to be fun "games" to be enjoyable. Sometimes a game can be a little more than just a video game, and therefore should be judged on different standards. Read more of my words on the matter here.

In which I complain about how binary most morality meters turn out to be, specifically in BioWare games. For the most part your decisions become way too polarized, forcing you to be a perfect angel or pure Satan-spawn, when neither option is particularly realistic or practical. Most games end up making the system entirely arbitrary, where you have to stick to one side through the whole game to get the benefits, which completely ruins the impact of taking stances on moral issues. The Witcher is the only game with a morality system that I've wholly enjoyed. Read more of my words on the matter here.

In which I talk about the various thoughts that go into reviewing a game, and how certain games always tend to score better with mainstream, professional reviewers. Basically, my hypothesis is that professional reviewers appreciate games that are explicitly easy to review (ie, they're easy to play because of extensive polish), so no matter how bland or mediocre the game is, super-polished AAA games will inevitably score in the 70+ range. Other factors go into it, of course; read the rest of my words on the matter for the full picture here.

In which I debunk a number of claims in a news case about how violent video games cause people to commit real violence. This is a case where a teenager shot both of his parents (killing his mother) because they wouldn't let him play any more of Halo 3, with a "teen killer expert" denouncing violent video games with generalized claims that betray his own misunderstanding on the medium. As tragic as this case is, there's just a whole bunch of stupid things with this news report that I had fun picking apart with logic, research, and my own education. Read more of my words on the matter here.

In which I speak blasphemy to the fanboys of OOT, explaining point-for-point why MM is the better game. Ocarina was phenomenal for its time, and MM took that same formula and improved it in a bunch of different areas. The biggest thing about MM is that it has a more interesting world with better characters, more emotion, with more at stake, and more sophisticated gameplay. Best of all is the fact that the story is completely unique in the series. Read more of my words on the matter here.

In which I speak more blasphemy to different Zelda fanboys, explaining point-for-point why TP is the worst Zelda game to date. Nearly everything in TP is just an uninspired re-hash of the exact same things done in previous Zelda games. It doesn't do anything truly original, and most of its core elements (notably the Twilight Realm and the wolf transformation) are just not good. There's a whole lot more to it, though; read the rest of my words on the matter here.

In which I talk about how motion controls are actually a step backwards on the path to total immersion. Some games work really well with motion controls, but these tend to be the more quirky games and party games (like Wii Sports, Wario Ware, etc); for most of the conventional video games, all the motion controls do is add an extra layer of input between you and the TV, which just goes to remind you that you're not actually a part of what's happening on screen, you're just playing a video game in your living room. Read more of my words on the matter here.

This isn't really an editorial, but it's worth mentioning. Here I compiled a list of 20 of the best, most memorable soundtracks that I've experienced from the games I've played, complete with a selection of sample tracks that best demonstrate the music from the games. I think it's a pretty cool list, and I spent a lot of time listening to tracks and narrowing everything down, so I wanted to share it again. Check it out here.

I had a lot of fun writing this one. It was my inspiration for the periodical series where I watch TV episodes that feature video games as their primary plot element, and break down all of what's wrong with them and poke fun at their ineptitude. Most of those episodes are pretty awful, and are a combination of really enjoyable to make fun of, and downright disgraces to the medium. So here's just another bump for an article I enjoyed writing. Check it out here

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