After playing the demos of the upcoming Forza Motorsport 3 and Brutal Legend, I came away with a different feeling or thought. It was a thought that has been ebbing in me since the time I first played Batman: Arkham Asylum (had to look up the correct spelling there). I realized what this thought finally was after playing the demos last night. However before I get into explaining what this thought or idea is let me first rant a little about what possibly led me to even have this idea.
I consider myself a gamer not because I play games for hours on end, but because when I actually do play games, I enjoy every minute of it and I'm engrossed in it. I cannot play a game for the sake of playing. I have to play for the sake of being entertained. There is a difference; I'll show you.
When you play, yes you are being entertained but you are working as well. Play believe it or not, is a kind of working. When you work, fustrations always arise. Not to say these fustrations are bad, as the fustration one gets is due to lack of success which only urges you to succeed. (eg. playing football and getting sacked thus losing yards, or building ten tanks only to find out your enemy sent twelve apaches to take them out before you thought you won him in Red Alert 3.) However, this fustration does not exist when you are being entertained. When you're entertained, the only modes of fustration would be your immediate environment or the low quality of the product. Moreoever, the low quality itself is not the principle cause of your fustration, rather it is the fact that you have spent money on such a product. The cheesy storyline or the glitchy graphics would humor you more than cause you to sweat a pint and curse EBgames for their return policy, if anything else. That said, imagine "playing" that low quality game with all of those said glitches and cheesiness. it would be immensly fustrating and you would blame your foolish self for not heeding those poor metacritic.com reviews. Notwithstanding that obviously a game is not a movie and in a game you pick up a controller and play but that is the point that I hope I am getting to and that is that when you do play a game you should -as in a movie- be entertained, period. Since a game is nothing more than an interactive mode of entertainment, one should find himself engrossedly entertained. Few games manage to accomplish this. Many fail to meld interactivity with entertainment and what you get are bad games. Or medicore games, or even highly accoladed titles like Bioshock. "What? Are you nuts?" , you ask? Let me explain because I don't want you to think that I was not entertained by the masterpiece that is Bioshock.
Ask yourself this. As you walked through the debris filled corridors of that once great deluged city, killed your first "big-daddy" after seeing the tail end of an airplane almost kill you. Weren't you amazed and utterly blown away? However, now ask yourself this. After being hit by one of those annoying and seemingly endless "splicers" and almost dieing yet again after you've just spent your last medpack and fully knowing that you shouldn't have gotten hit by him because you almost snapped your analog with how far back you pulled to try to dodge his swing, after discovering that almost half the plasmids in the game cannot practically be used unless the game specifically has set it up, didn't you on occasion get fustrated? Yes, ofcourse, those were mere nitpicking fustrations and ofcourse, this is what playing a game is all about. But, is it really? Or should it really? What about in GTAIV when you were tasked to take out two bikers and while in hot-pursuit you got side swiped by a crazy taxi making you think that they got away only to find out that they slowed down so you can "catch-up", but then they sped up again when you got closer and since your health was low from the last accident, the next tumbling suv forced you to restart and trace your steps all the way to the mission start only for this to happen again and again until you ran out of time and had to run off to work or to school. (Breathe deep) Then you don't come back to the game for more than a week, if not more. Yes, you did have moments where you wanted to play it, but the last experience with it caused you to pass on the game everytime until your buddy got you to play online with him again or asked you to borrow it and rushed you to beat it already. "You're not a true gamer! That's why your talking about this nonsense!" , you say and yell and you may be right. However I've been playing games since as far back as I could recall. I remember trying to impale my Nintendo with forks and spoons to get at least five precious minutes of Contra. I remember vehemently arguing with people at Toy'R'Us in line to play Mario 64. I remember spending hours as a savvy "chaos" breeder trying to get new mutations in Sonic Adventure. I remember the first day I staggerd onto Halo and took the beach for the UNSC. For crying out loud, as loud as those little crappers scream from Gears 2, I know I'm a gamer so let me get to my point!
Games are funny sometimes. Or maybe the developers are? But anyway, sometimes a games main pull is its excellent ability to make you feel like you're in a movie e.g. being able to move characters around in cutscenes or Mass Effects interactive dialogue system. And then there are those other times where games entertain simply by their gameply mechanics e.g. the fighting segments of the recent Batman or Halo 3s visceral shootouts. Most of the fustration from playing games (at least for me) comes from times when you are not in the games main pull area and are in its weak area e.g. Batmans lack of exploration or interactivity with the environment in between sections or being lost in Rapture for more than thirty minutes. Thus you're stuck in this alleyway between the games "fun" parts and its fustrating parts with no choice but to live and stay there. However I believe this is finally going to change and its starting this fall. It's starting with Forza Motorsport 3.
First off, the menus are artistc and original. The way the camera slowly pans and spins around the your car of choice as you decide which color is right for your current mood is ingenious. Then, when you finally pick a color( took me about five minutes) you pick your course. After the course loads, the camera slowly pans around the beautiful landscape, titillating you as you tweak some more settings. Once you're tweaked and hit start, your car lines up and its engines roar. However aside from the graphics and nice interior view, after gaining control of the car, there isn't nothing really special about it at first glance. But the real treat is the rewind button where at the quick press of the back button, the entire game rewinds as far back as you keep holding that button down. This is different. This has never been done in serious racing games like this. And trust me it is serious. You can even see the cars tire change shape as the cars lean in and out of corners. Previous Forza or Gotham racing games were insanely fustrating when just before winning first place in a race, you slightly scrape a corner and lose the race because you looked away for a split second to listen to whoever and then have to restart the entire race all over again and hope to even get to first place again. With this new feature, give me racing simulation anytime. And since I'm not particulary a racing fan, I could always mess around in the replay edit mode, where I heard you can create your own movies? Hmmm, I'm intrigued.
"But you haven't even played the whole game yet you risible fool!", you roar, and yes, I could see your point. However, based from what I played and from what at least the devs are promising, this game is looking to change not only the way racing simulation games are made but universally the way games are looked at and produced.
I haven't played Brutal Legend too long, but I felt it should be mentioned because of the beginning part when it asked me if I wanted to bleep out the profanity or not while the character was in mid-sentence? You see people? This is what I'm talking about. Bringing back "interactive entertainment". Or bringing back options. Did you know that we as intelligent beings interact with our entertainment in different ways? I'm glad that game designers are finally realizing this and so the replay movie maker in Forza is one way we can "choose" how we want to interact with our entertainment. On that note, I culminate this blog with saying this to any developer who actually made it to the bottom of this blog, bend the rules of what is the "norm". Bring back interactive entertainment.