A Continuation of Thoughts on Gaming

I thought that this week that I would continue my thoughts on gaming. Why? Because a great game has to have a great story line, game play, environment, mechanics, and of course great writing. In a sense the game is a book. Sort of in the direction of the movie “Never Ending Story”. Where the protagonist learns that he is viewing a real situation while at the same time someone else is viewing his. Obviously, unlike “The Matrix” where the virtual world appears to be the real world, the worlds created by the software companies are not and any one can see that they are fictional.

Okay let’s get into the different styles of games, and here I am not talking directly about the genres within the games themselves; RPG, FPS, MMO, Strategy, Adventure, etc. Here I am talking about whether the games are linear, branching, open, sandbox, closed, things like this. We will start with linear since most games are now that way. In the linear game world you simply go from point A to point B, accomplish the task or tasks set out before you, and if you fail then you must start either the level over again, or at least from the last save or save point before the failure. Within these linear worlds you can either be open or closed. Open referring to the fact that you have a large map (The game world or level you are presently on.) and you are allowed to explore and take the main theme or quest as you please. In most worlds there are side quests which helps the player gain experience for his gaming avatar. Also in many of the open style of games even after the main quest has been solved, overcome, or won, one can then continue to game in that world. An example of this would be “Freelancer”, or the “Stalker” series. In a closed environment there is only the main quest and all the work and obstacles that one has to overcome works you to solving, and winning that problem. Once you have then the game is over, period. And if you had enjoyed it then you just play it again. “Halo”, is an example of this.

Branching is the other major gaming structure and is used very rarely now. Most games that end up on the PC are direct ports from the consols, and that is a loss for the players. Branching is closer to real life in that a decision or action will change a direction in your life. And so it goes in these worlds that have branching story lines. The most famous of this style would be the “Wing Commander” series. While this particular game has been dead for a very long time it, in its time, was the game to play. Here like in life if you failed at something, that something could then come back and haunt you later. If you lost a wingman then that wingman was gone for the entire game from that point. So each failure or success would branch you along the story line until you either lost the game or won it. With a couple of the games the endings varied according to your actions within that game world. But again once the game was over you were no longer able to play within that world. Of course if your avatar died then you would have to go back to your last save. Today the ones that come closest are RPG’s, but even they are truly linear in the main story line.

Just a small statement on the save systems within the game worlds. One of the nice things about games on the PC were the open saves that you could make. Since many adults played here it made sense to be able to save at any time. After all life intrudes all the time. Consols on the other hand were limited on many levels compared to the PC and children more often than not played on them. So game developers developed the save point. Which simply stated means that once you reach a certain point within the game it automatically saves your progress. The major issue with this is that if you do not reach it then everything that you may have accomplished in the game from the last save point is lost and you must do it again. And now that we are seeing more ports from consols to PC’s we are now seeing the intrusion of the save point within these games. Personally I prefer the save as I need to versus the save point. There are too many times that I am interrupted and I need to get something accomplished, and at that time must leave the game. So it can be frustrating to lose all the effort one has put into one’s recreation. But who said life was easy?

Finally, as in a well written book, a well written game, has twists, and turns, and unexpected changes. An example of this would be “Bioshock”. Here you start out believing one thing only to find that by the time you finish the story that everything that you believed to be was false. So like that good mystery or adventure, you are in it for the ride, the changes, the twists and turns, and when finished you find that it indeed was a great ride.

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Published in: on May 28, 2011 at 8:38 am  Leave a Comment  

I’m a Gamer

What does this mean? I enjoy computer gaming. Does this immediately make me bad, someone against society, and willing to do bad things to people? After all that is the stereotype that mainstream media puts out there. But if one was to truly look beyond the hype then one would realize that a good portion of people game. Whether it is casual, such as tetrus, or serious such as one of the many MMO’s that exist on-line. And like anything out there you have people who are addicted, and ones who blame such a recreation as the reason they did what they did. One of the things that has come out of this is the social networks. There have been a number of programs on TV that reflect this trend. And one of the good things that have come out of it, and the internet is responsible, is that it has shrunk the world. It is not unusual to have conversations with people with like interests anywhere in the world. An example of this is back when my sons were still in school they were regularly talking with a girl from China. And while in-game to have contact with people from Australia, and Europe. So this phenomena is world-wide.

Okay why do I game? Actually for a number of reasons, and some of them are the same if the question is asked, why do I read? Both are outlets or recreation. If one reads a good book then you have become the character and followed and adventured with the protagonist and antagonist throughout the story. The only problem with this is the story is unchangeable. If you go back and read it again sometime in the future then the ending is the same, and the path to that ending is the same. But in a game you are the one who influences. What you do determines who your game character becomes. So if you decide that this time through that you want to be mean and nasty just to see how it changes things you can. But at the same time if you don’t then again the story changes to reflect that change. I also enjoy exploring these fictional worlds created by the companies that create them. After playing the game through, I frequently return to play it from a different perspective or try to explore the map worlds to find all the small hidden gems that the developers have placed. I also enjoy trying to get outside of these maps to see the work that has gone into the creation of the games. It’s a whole new perspective, and adds a dimension of appreciation for the work they did to bring these fictional worlds to life. Yes I enjoy FPS’s (First Person Shooters). Here you develop hand-eye coordination and the ability to recognize a situation quickly. So one asks, “Does this or can this help you in the real world?” And believe it or not, the answer is yes. I have found that by being able to recognize a developing situation that it has kept me out of a number of automobile accidents, and other such situations.

Finally I’ll say that it is a good way to relieve the daily stresses of life. To be able to immerse yourself in either a good book or a well-developed game is wonderful. Because in those fictional worlds you can leave the real world behind for a while and relieve those stresses and come out and back to the real world relaxed and refreshed.

Published in: on May 21, 2011 at 10:24 am  Leave a Comment  

Books

Where would we be without books? It doesn’t matter whether they are old school or electronic. They are one of the few things out there that ties us to the past and speculates on our many futures. But if one cannot read then this rich source is unavailable. Books are a rich source of adventure, truths, illusions, and a microcosm of the times that they are written. They can be a cheap vacation, or something that advances our thoughts and education. It allows our minds to stretch ones imagination and to think in directions we have never imagined. Because our imagination is so strong it is one of the reasons that we are disappointed when our favorite book comes out as a movie. Besides it is impossible to put everything that is in a book into a movie because of time restraints. After all one page equals one minute of film time. So a three hundred page book would equal a three hundred minute movie, much too long. So parts of the story has to eliminated, adjusted, or rewritten. So when you go see it, then it just doesn’t work – Harry Potter comes immediately to mind. The books and movies are both excellent, yet the readers of the series complained of what was left out in the movies.

As a writer one must either be writing, or reading. Reading especially in the genres that one writes. I have always enjoyed reading, but when one decides to write, to turn around and begin reading again seems an almost guilty pleasure. After all fiction books are considered a recreation not something for serious study. Yet if one does not read in the genre that they plan to write, then how can they expect to be successful? A good question and one that is answered when one tries to write outside of what they enjoy, or know. Almost universally it is a failure. As in all cases thee are exceptions but to be truly successful one must stay with what they know. So guilty pleasure or not I continue to read.

In conclusion, let’s say that the world is a much richer place because of books, and at times while it can appear that their popularity wanes, with all that there is out there to take one’s attention away from reading and enjoying a good book, it is somewhat surprising that they have held the strength they have. And I do believe that it is something that will remain alive and well even with the changes and distractions in society.

Published in: on May 14, 2011 at 10:19 am  Leave a Comment  

Heredity verses Environment

There has always been proponents on both sides of the issue. Which has the biggest influence on a person? Is it the environment that they grew up in, or is it the genes that they inherited? Of course in something like this there really is no true answer. Each side will have its proponents and it’s doubters. I had to admit that I had always felt that environment was the more important factor in one’s life. Since from my layman’s view what a person lived with and surrounded one’s self with had to be a big influence. Yet, I found that I was wrong. I know that when truly looks at the facts that neither is the ultimate  controller of an individual. But which has the most influence? Ah now comes the arguments pro and con for both sides. Like the truth it is something that is never just black and white, but filled with heavy shades of gray.

When I married my wife, I became a member of an AMF (already made family). She had two children from her previous marriage and one had inherited heavily from the genes of the father. He had been trouble from the beginning and my wife at the time became one of the many abused women. After ten years with this man it finally ended, and after time to recover from the abuse we found each other. The two children were young with the troubled one being the youngest at three years old. We felt that with a healthy environment and set boundaries that this child would join our new family. It never happened. We even had the child evaluated and were told that when the child reached high school age that the child would need to be placed in a twenty-four hour facility. They diagnosed the child with ADD, and we had always felt that there was a possibility of a manic – depressive personality also. We could never have afforded the costs and when the child did reach high school age the child ran away from home. Eventually the child was returned home and we had to find some answers.

Why mention this at all? Because it changed me from one who believed strongly in the environment that one lives in as the big influence, be it positive or negative, to one who now feels that it is the genes that is inherited from the parents that has the greatest influence on a person and their personality. Oh the above story does have a happen ending. The child mentioned above is an adult and is successful the chosen career. Many of the issues are still present, but with conscious effort and the proper medication this person is doing quite well.

Published in: on May 7, 2011 at 9:26 am  Leave a Comment  
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