Defining the Next Generation

  • Reading time:28 mins read

by [name redacted]

This article was originally intended as a conclusion to NextGen’s 2006 TGS coverage. Then it got held back for two months as an event piece. By the time it saw publication its window had sort of expired, so a significantly edited version went up under the title “What The New Consoles Really Mean”.

So we’re practically there. TGS is well over, the pre-orders have begun; Microsoft’s system has already been out for a year (and is now graced with a few excellent or important games). The generation is right on the verge of turning, and all those expensive electronics you’ve been monitoring for the last few years, half dreading out of thriftiness and secret knowledge that there won’t be anything good on them for a year anyway, will become the new status quo. Immediately the needle will jump and point at a new horizon, set around 2011, and everyone will start twiddling his thumbs again. By the time the drama and dreams resume, I’ll be in my early thirties, another American president will have served nearly a full term – and for the first time in my life I really can’t predict what videogames will be like.

Cultivating Fear

  • Reading time:12 mins read

by [name redacted]

Originally published by Next Generation, under the title “How to Make Fear“.

With Halloween at hand, surely there must be some way to warp the festive energy to our own analytical ends. Just see what happens when you invite us to a party! Don’t fret, though – though full of long words, our museum of terror takes the well-oiled form of a top ten list. We know how you like your information, and it’s in bite-sized individually wrapped treats. Please… be our guest.

NextGen’s Top Ten Years In Gaming History

  • Reading time:30 mins read

by [name redacted]

Originally published in some form by Next Generation. I was asked not to include 1999 or 2000, because the Dreamcast was perceived as a low mark in the industry rather than a high one. I was also asked to include the previous year, to suggest that we were in the middle of an upswing. So… that explains some of the selections.

In videogames, as in life, we tend to get things right about a third of the time. There’s one decent Sonic game for every two disasters; one out of every three consoles can be considered an unqualified success; the Game Boy remake of Mother 1 + 2 was released in one out of three major territories. With the same level of scientific accuracy, one can easily say that, out of the thirty years that videogames have acted as a consumer product, there are maybe ten really excellent milestones, spaced out by your 1984s and your 1994s – years maybe we were all better off doing something out-of-doors.

It kind of makes sense, intuitively: you’ve got the new-hardware years and the innovative-software years, spaced out by years of futzing around with the new hardware introduced a few months back, or copying that amazing new game that was released last summer. We grow enthusiastic, we get bored. Just as we’re about to write off videogames forever, we get slapped in the face with a Wii, or a Sega Genesis – and then the magic starts up all over again, allowing us to coast until the next checkpoint.

Buttoning Down

  • Reading time:14 mins read

by [name redacted]

Originally published by Next Generation, then later BusinessWeek, under the title “Revolution Pressing the Right Buttons“.

There’s only so much you can do with a button. You press it, something happens. You don’t press it, something doesn’t. If it’s an analog button, and you press it even harder, maybe that thing will happen even more: maybe you’ll run faster, or you’ll punch with more vigilance. Maybe if you hold down a second button when you press that first one, something subtly different will happen. Instead of lashing out with a whip, say, the little man on the TV screen will throw a boomerang. Either way, he still attacks; the second button just changes how he does it. Those are more or less our options: do something, do more of something, or do a different kind of something. It’s all very straightforward. So too, then, is the history of game controllers.

Xbox 360 Launch Analysis

  • Reading time:9 mins read

by [name redacted]

Originally published in some form by Next Generation. Doesn’t seem to be up anymore, and I don’t remember if anything was changed.

Xbox marketing chief Peter Moore has done his job well enough, declaring the 360 launch catalog the “best lineup in history”. Of course, most people see through at least this level of hubris. Just for fun, though, let’s take a stroll through the lineup and see just how it adds together.

A quick glance will show four main categories of software: new games actually developed with the hardware in mind; pared-down PC ports; spruced-up console ports; and the prettiest versions of this year’s disposable sports games.

Manos: The Hands of Fate

  • Reading time:9 mins read

by [name redacted]

Originally published by Next Generation, under a title that I no longer remember.

Generally speaking, the controller sold with a console can be read as a microcosm of the console itself. (You might call it a rule of thumb – though I would not advise this.) That the Odyssey2 came with a right-handed stick and a single button for the left hand tells you that its games are simple, that movement is the central mechanism, and that if there is any secondary function its importance is minimal. That the NES replaces this template with a cross-shaped D-pad for the left thumb and two buttons for the right, labeled from the outside of the controller in the order that your hand meets them, says mountains of Nintendo’s idea of videogames, circa 1985.

Ishmael

  • Reading time:1 mins read

by [name redacted]

I can’t remember his name, so I will call him Ishmael.

It was hard to avoid Ishmael, as he was in most of my classes. Some of those classes consisted of little but heated debate between the two of us, as the other students sat dumbfounded and the teachers hid under their desks. Still, as little common ground as we shared, at least Ishmael was a worthy adversary.

( Continue reading at Insert Credit )

Journalism: The Videogame / Chapter 2 – Role Playing

  • Reading time:1 mins read

by [name redacted]

Videogames are a form of human expression. You can call it art, if you like. You can deny that and call it entertainment. “Art” is merely what happens when the listener starts to apply that entertainment to his own life.

What amazes me is that, as things are now, so few do seem to be listening. We demand and we superficially memorize and cover, yet we’re not willing to put the effort in and meet the games or the people behind them halfway. When we review, we review games as product. As a channel for discussion, we’ve become a weird mix of free PR and advertising, and the latest issue of consumer reports.

Our message is that videogames are objects. The people behind them are their manufacturers, both in a literal and a figurative sense. Our major challenge, then, is to make the leap from understanding videogames as things to viewing them as ideas.

( Continue reading at Insert Credit )

Kof, Please

  • Reading time:1 mins read

by [name redacted]

Where is KoF’03?

I surely can’t be the only one who’s wondering; usually the roster and some hints of the gameplay mechanics are announced by mid-July. And yet, at the time that I write this, SNK Playmore has yet to even confirm that the game is in development, or for which platform it might be intended.

To add to the mystery: when I asked SNK NeoGeo USA Consumer president Ben Herman about the game at E3, he was oddly hesitant. After a few false starts, he said only that it would “make sense” if there were a King of Fighters this year (aside from the 3D one). He wasn’t willing to comment further, but he looked pretty darned unsure to me.

So. What’s going on with this series?

( Continue reading at Insert Credit )

Prelude to Las Vegas? (Or: An Insert Credit Dream)

  • Reading time:4 mins read

Some civilization — Babylonian, I think — which lived in a giant onion-shaped island, with sides that curled up and separated everyone living there from the outside world. Although right in the midst of a bunch of other kingdoms, they had no idea of anything outside the island. After a few tries, the key civilization succeeded in surviving until all of the rival parties on the island were disintegrated. Complex and interesting native music played, as the Babylonian king cast a huge hadoken-style fireball and blew holes in the onion-sides of the island, letting light stream in.

It seemed this was some kind of odd game that I was playing in a place which was a cross between the Insert Credit Fortress, as such, and a prep school dorm. There was a dingy cafeteria and there were older adults in charge. I had trouble getting food to cook correctly, and to find anywhere decent to sleep.

Anyway. Once the remaining webwork of the onion-sides collapsed, there was a flyover of all of the surrounding kingdoms — which were all jammed pretty close together. Princesses were leaning out of several towers, waving. Then I saw The Jetsons. And then Fred Flintstone, dressed as Iori Yagami.

I turned and pointed him out to other members of the Insert Credit crew, who were in what was now a sort of ride with me. They weren’t particularly interested. They had something they wanted to get to, once the ride was over.

So, we all got off and proceeded to walk down a long, carpeted stairway (with rubberized edges to each step, bolted down with large aluminum caps). I inadvertently made eye contact with an asian fellow with a microphone and a camera crew. I think it was the hat that I was wearing which caught the guy’s attention. (Not sure what the significance really was of this hat, aside from the fact that it was given to me shortly beforehand.)

He asked me a question, to which I replied in the affirmative. I stopped, as it seemed he wanted some kind of an interview, dealing with the event we were attention. Everyone else in the Insert Credit crew had gone on ahead by this point; they weren’t paying attention to my absence. I figured that I’d be able to catch up with them eventually, if I could remember where they were off to.

The fellow filmed me for about three seconds, before he became distracted. I was a bit disappointed, as I intended to give him a wholly unexpected impression about the kinds of people who were attending this event.

Bored, I began executing complicated martial arts moves, up and down the stairwell, often using the bannister as a tool. The reporter fellow eventually wandered off, leaving me alone there.

At about that time, I noticed something out of the corner of my eye. The boss at Insert Credit — ex-Sega of America honcho Peter Moore — was in the midst of a private meeting (in a very public lounge area, through which traffic was continuously flowing) with someone from SNK. A really powerful Star Wars game was being demonstrated, on Neo-Geo hardware.

Thing is, as impressive as it was, at the end of every level there were still stylized character portraits with cheesy Engrish quotes written underneath. A Jedi would be saying something like “That’s the last time you mess with the force, dweebenheimer!”

They didn’t seem to mind me watching (if they noticed me at all), so I hung around. After the Star Wars demo ended, a full-motion animated version of Ulala appeared, to boogie along to the Talking Heads’ song “I Zimbra”. She kept pawing at her private areas.

A bunch of text and a mostly-indecipherable Japanese voiceover elucidated the start of some facts about Ulala, including that she has a last name which was eliminated before the first game went into production. It was in kanji, though, so I couldn’t read it.

I think this was a trailer for either a new Space Channel 5 game, or an animated movie based upon the games. It was difficult to tell — especially since after only a few moments of this, I happened to wake up.

UPDATE: Read it again, for the first time!