Sunday, 27 April 2014

A Personal Gaming History

I personally almost see my-self as an out sider in this gaming community. Quite simply I have played very few games in my time. As a young kid growing up in Pembrokeshire and briefly in the south of France gaming wasn’t an option, although this is where the story begins. 
Cezanne-Mont Sainte-Victoire

One of my earliest memories is potentially my first gaming experience. The setting is a mates house who I remember was allot older than me, a rustic French seemingly dilapidated farm house, waffles (my only experience of homemade waffles) and an early computer game. I remember watching him play this game very briefly. In the game you played a survivor of a plane crash into what appeared to be a Himalayan style, dense tropical forest. You having survived the crash fined that you’re being hunted by a Gorilla with a taste for human flesh.

What struck me most about gaming was the sense that you felt the emotions of your character in game. In this scenario it was fear, being lost and being in constant peril never knowing when the Gorilla was going to emerge again as you made your way through the world.

The strangest thing about this memory is that I have never been able to identify the game, whilst righting this I spent some time trying to find and name the game. I’m beginning to think that this is actually a memory of a dream.

At least I know for certain that around this time I was introduced to Duke Nukem 3D by my cousin Sam. Duke Nukem 3D came out in 1996, which would make me four years old, I’m thinking I was a little older simply in order to remember this. 

A little later Yves and his daughter Gladys from the Farm we lived on got a Nintendo as did my cousins Sophie and Laura. But here there is a theme my house hold never had a games console. I had to go round people’s houses to have a go. The only Nintendo Games we had were Donkey Kong and a Super Mario Bros game.  We did have a Macintosh, but this doesn’t enter my memory until many years later.

Then we moved back to wales into a small cottage in Hook Village, Pembrokeshire. Here initially I don’t believe there was any gaming.

We out grew the cottage and moved to a larger house down the same road, with this move appeared a PlayStations. The Macintosh also found some games during this time we had Command and Conquer Red Alert and also a version of Maze War, Maze Wars is argued by some to be the first FPS. The first alliteration of Maze Wars came out in 1974.
With the PlayStations came many new worlds for me to disappear into, Crock, Spyro, Gran Turismo 2, Medal of Honour 1&2, Tomb Raider, Apocalypse, MediEvil, Duke Nukem: Time to Kill, Tony Hawks Po Skater 2 and many many more games.

All these games are extremely nostalgic to look back at. During this year I have returned to some of these to try and re-ignite my passion for gaming. I finished Apocalypse in its entirety; this is the game that has probably influenced my life the most. Though this game a world and its people are brought to life. Apocalypse is set in a dark, twisted, quite cheesy, Rock and Roll future, yes it’s very nineties and doesn’t actually make any sense, but when you’re shooting down helicopters to System of a Down in a Gotham style City, or Entering a Club via a cemetery to yet more New Metal the games going to be awesome. To be honest Apocalypse isn’t a very good game, it’s mess, but it is probably the coolest game ever made.

Then one Christmas morning I woke up to find an Xbox. Within a single gen we had gone from 


To this

This was mind boggling, I remember spending hours just walking around scoping into everything, in amazement, YOU COULD SEA INDIVIDUL BLADES OF GRASS!!!

When Halo 1 and 2 happened I could not get enough of these games, I daren’t say how many hours I put into these. The vast endless landscapes, amazing art, vast world w
ith its own history and Mythology, a rich engaging, deep plot, it was a true golden moment in gaming. Halo is also successful enough to be vastly despised by the “gaming” community who will often see it as a simple FPS that was clunky and unchallenging which is actually true of the game. But I personally regard how much a game challenges me very low on my list of priorities. 

Another Game I hold in high regard is Need for Speed Underground. I’m obsessed with cars but fined racing games to be extremely boring. I loved Gran Turismo 2 but I was a kid back then I found it easy to project myself into the game and create my own plot and character. Playing Forza 5 recently, I felt I was simply a machine mindlessly unlocking stuff and gaining achievements, I didn’t care. Especially with the plague of racing games the option to have a racing line available, this negates all aspects of it being a racing game, now you’re not really aware of the car you’re in or your environment in game, you’re simply trying to keep a line central in your screen, and reacting to the colours.

Need for Speed underground had a plot and was in a convincing world. The plot is extremely simply as you would expect but it keeps you playing through the game. You get attached to your character and want him to succeed. Now using the visual upgrades and your choice of car you can project yourself into the game and personalise it.

Need for Speed at this point hadn’t quite lost touch with reality, the customisations and the choice of cars was realistic for the environment they were portraying, as was the racing. Because of this it was very easy to believe it was you in the driving seat, with real physics.

Tony Haws Underground was another huge success for the same reasons. Although it was allot further down the path to madness that games developers feel they need to follow to keep their audience interested. This was easily the last playable Tony Hawks Game. It’s hard to project yourself onto a character that’s doing million degree flips whilst leaving the atmosphere and spawning props to add to the spectacle.

A game that breaks this rule to some extent is Need for Speed Most Wanted, because it was just so much fun. Most Wanted reintroduced cop chases also so it didn’t feel like part of the Underground universe so you didn’t feel like it was sullying the world they had already created.

Need for Speed Underground 2 was good, but quite boring, I don’t know why as it did a lot of good things. The open world was good, being able to Race with cars you bumped into on your travels was also good, as was the introduction of raceway tournaments with obviously no traffic.

But the game did have one truly cataclysmic floor, which always puts me off returning to it. In the first Underground one of the best features was you had magazine covers taken of your car if you passed certain events. You could then view these covers at any point. In Underground Two these magazine shoots still existed and were much improved, you could now change camera angles, open doors, move hydraulics, show off your ICE (Interior Car Electronics), eject plumes of coloured gas and drive around to find a nice back drop.  But after all this the magazine cover you had painstakingly choreographed would never be seen again. So you could never look back at your journey through the game and re-visit previous designs and cars like you could in the first so easily.

Then the Gen changed again with the arrival of 360 and PS3. I missed the majority of this generation, it’s only within the past 3 years that I’ve bought a 360. I feel that this has severely screwed up my ability to game. During this time the art of making a game was honed, but along with the skills of the player. Players leant the language of games and could subconsciously complete tasks like reading an environment and understand which way to go, or simply react to a QTE, these are things I struggle with.

After a long hiatus from gaming I returned with Fall Out 3, Halo 3 and Halo ODST. I found Halo ODST to have truly amazing game play, but with very little or lack of any real plot. Halo 3 in my opinion is a mess; I found the environments and general tone of the game not compatible with enjoyment.

Fall out 3 I found to have a huge amount of potential, but never paid out on it. At huge moments during your characters development through the game, there is no development, and you don’t care about the huge plot points as they occur. When you find you dad your interaction don’t inspire any emotion, similar when he dies, and when you return to your home Vault. Not only don’t you care but the characters in game don’t care that you’ve returned.  But the plot could have been good, and the environments are beautiful, truly the best thing you can do in a Bethesda game is walk about and explore. But what you fined is normally a bit naff, and doesn’t actually make any sense.

The same can be said for Skyrim, but the environments here are so beautiful you almost didn’t care as long as you could explore the world via the plot. The plot though is lacking so you soon get bored and start just walking about, which in Skyrim is actually great. This though does make your character now a kind of deserter, Dragons are terrorising the region and you are Skyrims only saviour, and yet you’re doing nothing. So now you don’t like the character you’re playing, which is a problem, you are no longer a Hero.

This has become a very lengthy Personal game history blog. There are still a few a few games to go but I feel I should leave them for another time. This is a list of games which I felt I had something to say about, it is not every game I have ever played by any means. Although I have put down some negative points about many of these games, I own them and I continue to play them. This is just something which I do, I tare everything apart and try and fined every fault, I wonder what I would have done differently. I try not to let this ruin the great game that I started with. For example Skyrim is a game I’m very critical of although it’s probably the game I have put the largest amount of hours into, currently about 120.

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