Games are not Serious

Note: This is an old post from the soon-to-be-defunct Slow Gamers. That site is closing, so I’m moving over my Opinion posts from that site to here.


In the never-ending quest to “legitimize” games, it feels like we’ve lost something in the process. Maybe it is nostalgia, or maybe wishful thinking, but I don’t think I’m alone in wondering: why are games so serious all the time?

It isn’t just the games themselves, either, that seem to be so serious. It is now the people around games that are getting more serious. You need to be a gaming monk in order to have any opinion worth taking. If you can’t tear apart a new game because it doesn’t have some specific game mechanic from the past that you enjoyed … well, you don’t have any opinion or a voice worth listening to.

If you can’t look at the current gaming landscape and be discouraged by the endless number of sequels and remakes you might as well pack up and go home. You obviously aren’t a gamer and can’t be listened to.

Why do we take gaming and ourselves so serious? What benefits do we derive by having such attitudes? How does this help anyone?

It seems that you can’t walk ten feet without someone declaring that X game is overrated because Y game did it before or did it better. It is like we all think we are sitting in a room, by ourselves looking over this vast world of “gaming” with a vastly superior knowledge and understanding and can declare whatever we like. We are auteurs! Our opinions are paramount! We are very serious people with opinions on this very serious subject of video games! Listen to us!

I’m not sure why this happens, but it makes us all sound a little funny. I’m unabashedly biased for Nintendo and I won’t deny that fact, but I also understand that my wants and needs aren’t serious. I’m not going to be paralyzed if the next Legend of Zelda doesn’t fix some issue I have with their past games. I can’t take myself so seriously. They are video games! They’re supposed to be fun, right? Maybe?

I have a catalog of video games just sitting around collecting dust (or whatever they might collect sitting in my Stream catalog) that I have never finished because, frankly, I just wasn’t having fun. Oh well. It isn’t a big deal, I have many better things to do with my life than to get upset about video games or the companies who create them.

I’m being quite hypocritical here because I just started up this video game website and will be posting my own opinions on video games hopefully quite regularly. However, I hope that I won’t take myself too seriously. These things are games and should be fun. If they aren’t fun anymore, then walk away, go outside, make some friends, and enjoy life. If you are having fun, then continue to enjoy the games you are playing.

Times change and people change, that is the way things work. Wishing for companies to do things to appease people who are just like us isn’t going to make it happen. We need to enjoy what we do have, hope for the future that things will continue to get better, and get back to enjoying the life that we do lead.

We don’t need to be serious when it comes to video games.


I Do Not Fear the Remake

Note: This is an old post from the soon-to-be-defunct Slow Gamers. That site is closing, so I’m moving over my Opinion posts from that site to here.

John Siracusa has an awesome take on video game remakes (in light of the recent Wind Waker HD announcement by Nintendo) over at Hypercritical, but I wanted to share my own thoughts on the matter.


There have been a number of remakes and re-releases with graphical updates recently, the above image coming from the Ocarina of Time remake for the 3DS. I’m not afraid of these remakes and I don’t wish that they would go away for a number of reasons.

  1. I really like these games and would love to have them available on my new system. Wind Waker has been on my play-again list for a while and now I don’t have to try to find a Gamecube to play it again, I’ll just quietly wait for the Wii U version to be released. I can be patient.
  2. It gives developers a playground to try out new techniques and technologies. As was stated in the Nintendo Direct, Wind Waker HD was born out of trying out different art styles from the different Zelda games on the Wii U hardware. Making a fleshed-out game is only going to give them an opportunity to fine-tune some of their development software and graphics engines so that future games will be even better.
  3. The teams are generally smaller for these sorts of things so it might give the company an opportunity to let junior developers spread their wings a little to gain some valuable experience. I would imagine that remakes are a great way for something like that to happen.
  4. I just want to play these games again!

Alright, the last one is purely my own want. However, I understand the flip side of this as well. These games weren’t originally developed on this system so the control schemes are generally not as smooth (unless a lot of work is done … think Twilight Princess-level work to add motion controls). It also does take talent and time away from new games.

But it is known that just adding people to a project isn’t going to make it happen faster. Just “staffing up” can slow down a project sometimes as people need to get up to speed, might call into question decisions that have already been made, and also usually mean more managerial oversight as well. Those are not good things.

If a company is committed to putting out high-quality remakes (as I expect Wind Waker HD will be … even though I’m guessing it will be Wind Waker U), then I’m not going to fear them.

I will embrace them.


No Excuses

Note: This is an old post from the soon-to-be-defunct Slow Gamers. That site is closing, so I’m moving over my Opinion posts from that site to here.




I think that is one funny picture.

Michael Barnes at wrote So Sick of Your Excuses this past week and it has garnered quite a bit of faux-press.

Please go and read the whole thing because I think he hits it out of the proverbial park. Here is what some might call the “money quote”:

If you make a great product or offer a great service and you treat your customer with respect, you will make money.

Let me repeat that. Consider this a free course in running a business. I don’t think they teach this in MBA school. Memorize it. Jesse Schell- you need to hear this.

If you make a great product or offer a great service and you treat your customer with respect, you will make money.

Go read the whole thing, but you get the idea. Many days it feels like the only sector of the gaming industry pushing for truly fun and original games are the indie developers and publishers while the larger publishers cry foul with decreasing sales and revenues.

You hear of former industry stalwarts being closed or gobbled up and wonder what happened? Well, times change. Apple, with iOS, has taken a lot of air out of the room and those who cannot adapt are probably going to get squeezed out at some point.

Excuses are not going to fix this. Gimmicks to get a few people to maybe buy a few more copies isn’t going to fix this.

Some soul-searching and great games ARE.


Gaming with Kids

Note: This is an old post from the soon-to-be-defunct Slow Gamers. That site is closing, so I’m moving over my Opinion posts from that site to here.


I still remember being sick in grade school and playing The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time in the cold extra room we had on our first floor. It was hooked up to the junky old television we had but I loved it. Over the two days I was sick and the weekend after I beat the game and it still, to this day, is one of my favorite games of all time.

I also remember the original Game Boy that we had and the hours upon hours that I spent “catching them all” in the original Pokemon games. Hours. The game was so simple and yet, just below the surface, you could see the endless well of gameplay decisions that a single boy could make.

My first “online” game was Starcraft on our old Windows 98 SE computer. I would play against people I had never seen and would never know, but we would work together to try to take down the seemingly endless runs of Zerg AI units as our bases were either defended or defeated after each wave.

My first computer was an Apple IIe that I picked up at an auction for $2. It had Oregon Trail, Number Munchers, and Lemonade Stand. I would stay up in my bedroom and play until the wee hours of the morning to try to beat my last score. Figure out the best way to make it to Oregon, or try to get to the next level in Number Munchers.

Now, much later in life, and with kids of my own, how am I going to handle video games in my own family? When I was younger it was easy because my parents had no concept of what I was doing. I was the person who bought the first computer (that Apple IIe), I went out and chose which video game systems we were going to have in the house, I was the one who read up on what was happening here and now and made those decisions.

My parents didn’t know.

However, now I’m a parent who does. The Wii U was chosen by me. Nintendo Land is mine. The iOS games are purchased by me and rationed by my wife and I. There are multiple computer, tablets, phones, consoles, and TVs in the house and on at any one time. Things are very different and the decision now is how do we manage everything.

Video games are like every other form of entertainment: optional. Watching TV is optional. Listening to different forms of music are optional. Reading a book is optional. Drawing is optional. Painting is optional. Running is optional.

You get the point.

So when you are deciding to introduce your kids to video games, I think you need to emphasize that it is something that is optional. Fun. Secondary (even tertiary or later). Unneeded. Enjoyable.

It is also something you will need to make decisions on.

Will you allow violence? How much? How often? Restrict games to a certain type? How often will you allow your kids to play? Will you play with them? Will you help them? Will you always beat them or try to carry them along a little bit?

It is just like EVERYTHING ELSE when it comes to parenting. Gaming isn’t different from watching TV or playing on computer or even playing outside. There are decisions you need to make about how things are going to be introduced and then it needs to be monitored and watched and updated and revisited.

However, both parents need to be on the same page. You can’t fight this battle on your own and if you are not both in agreement you are only going to be making things harder on not just the two of you, but on the child (or children) as well. Talk about it. Really take the time to talk things through and come to a mutual decision between the two of you as to what and how you are going to do things.

Here is my advice. Sit down and make a decision with your spouse as to how things are going to work. Then … play video games with your kids. Show them the ropes. Encourage them. Don’t “go easy” on them all the time because they need to build skills but maybe, just maybe, sprinkle in a “win” for them if they have shown some improvement.

Can’t hurt, right?

But be the parent. Tell them “no” when it is time to say so. Keep your word when you say that they can only play an hour. Be mindful of what games you are going to play in front of your kids. You don’t have to pick “kid games”, but be aware of what you are bringing in the house.

Make it fun! Make it a big deal! Make it something that you do together as a family and not something that they need to go and do in the basement of their friend’s house. I don’t know, I like to think it would have been cool if my dad had spent some time playing games with me.

Talk opening about what games you are playing, why you are playing them, and even why you are not playing other games. In the same breath, BE THE PARENT and also state that sometimes you are not playing a game because that game is NOT GOOD FOR THEM.

I’m not going to get into the whole “violence in video games” thing, but just be mindful. If the game is depicting things that you would not be comfortable letting your child watch on TV, then don’t play that game with them or with them in the room. There are plenty of hours in the day for you to play games without them around.

Put the gaming system in an open space where people can easily be around. Don’t hide it in a small area somewhere. If you want this to be something that is out in the open and that the family is comfortable with, make it something that is out in the open and available. It is easier to parent when you can see it.

Don’t allow the kids to have a video game console in their room. Make their bedroom something that is set aside for important things like sleeping. Keeping major distractions like video games, computers, and other stuff in their rooms isn’t going to help them get the sleep that their bodies need. That also makes it easier to keep the gaming console in the open where everyone can see and use it. Hiding it in someone’s bedroom only makes it harder.

Be a parent. Be involved. Be present and take the time to do research. Video games can be a very valuable family pastime if you take the time and effort to make it so.

I’m not going to pretend that I have all of the answers or that everything (or anything) that I’ve written will work for people. The most important thing is to be present, loving, and supportive parents whether there are video games in the house or not. Just because you have a gaming console doesn’t give you permission to outsource the parenting of your children to video game studios.


The Best of Japanese RPGs for Me

Note: This is an old post from the soon-to-be-defunct Slow Gamers. That site is closing, so I’m moving over my Opinion posts from that site to here.

I know that it is getting pretty common to “hate on” the traditional JRPG (Japanese Role-Playing Game). At least I think that is the lingo that the current generation is using to describe a dislike of something and the derogatory comments given under such pretenses.

I grew up during what might be the “hey day” (what in the world is with this lingo) of the Japanese RPG … mainly the SNES and Playstation Final Fantasy games. When Square and Enix were competitors and FMVs were novel because they were too large for many media types of the time.


Final Fantasy IX is what I might consider to be the last great Japanese RPG from the original Final Fantasy lineage. It might also be my favorite game of the entire series (it is always a toss-up between Final Fantasy VI and IX for me). What is it about Final Fantasy IX, however, that sticks with me all of these years later? What makes a great Japanese RPG (JRPG from now on) for me?

I finished the game during a summer vacation to Colorado and I still remember the feeling of finally beating it … a mixture of elation and sadness. Somehow that game connected with me like few had before or since.

Distilling Final Fantasy IX down to its basic parts is not easy because the whole game seems, more of less, to be a farewell letter from Hironobu Sakaguchi as he stepped away from the series he had created. It was so full of heart, whimsy, laughter, and soul that I really don’t know if I can place my finger on a single thing.


One defining thing for me has always been the setting of a JRPG … which usually revolves around some sort of pseudo-medieval time period. The setting sometimes can get ridiculous. Final Fantasy VI had many elements of science fiction (with VII and VIII taking that even further), but IX went back to the roots and it worked so well. Even The Last Story sits itself firmly in this overall pseudo-setting and it works.

But why?

Part of it has to do with the freedom a storyteller can take with a setting that retains some elements a person might have some history with. Almost everyone has studied the medieval times in some fashion, so motifs and call backs to that era are little items that a designer and storyteller can work from. It can be their starting point, freeing a person to work from there.

The wealth of myth involved in that period as well allows for some expansion. Arthurian myths allow for magic and amazing happenings, which these games were obviously influenced by. It also gives a backdrop, often, for classical characters along the spectrum of good vs. evil.

It might be well-trod, but it is also well-trod for a reason … IT FREAKING WORKS!

The music is also fantastic, artistic, sweeping, massive, and … fitting. That’s really all you want, and it is sometimes under appreciated by a great many people. Go ahead and grab some video game soundtracks and just enjoy the endless mixture of music textures that go into a single game. Motion pictures are not often nearly as ambitious in their use of different styles of music.

It helps, too, when you have one of the greatest companion characters of all time.


Just read up on Vivi on your own time. Looking back now, the Loyalty Missions from Mass Effect 2 (one of my favorite parts of that excellent game) are really just shorter versions of everything you do and learn about Vivi.

That gets down to it, right? Why do I like Star Trek: The Original Series? Mass Effect? Dragon Age? Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic? StarCraft?

It is the characters. The relationships. The “humanity” is where the power really lies.

Some games are meant to be just that, games. Something you have a clear goal in accomplishing and finding the best, quickest, easiest way of accomplishing that goal is all that is important.

For a JRPG, to be truly great in my mind, you need to have excellent characters. Not necessarily characters someone can relate to (but it can help), but good characters that a person can find their own person caring about at the end.

That is why Vivi is so great. That is why Zidane is an amazing protagonist and Garnet a great tragic leader. You end up caring about the characters.

It is why Final Fantasy VI has more heart than pretty much any JRPG recently (The Last Story not in that group). You care about those characters, even when there are 90 of them (exaggeration of course).

Final Fantasy IX had this. I would like more of it back.