News, Views, and Reviews
It’s no secret: I love video games. When I was very young, video games were either giant cabinets found in bars and arcades or simpler machines like the early Atari and Nintendo systems, and not many people took them seriously. From those modest beginnings, I’ve seen video games grow into a thriving multi-billion dollar hobby that rivals the sports and movie industries. For me, gaming is more than a hobby; it’s a way of life. Every day I’m either happily playing a game, anticipating the release of a new game, or scouring the internet for news on what new technology or new ways of playing video games are approaching. I have a wide range of gaming interests: shooting games, strategy or role playing games, action and adventure, and massively-multi-player-online (MMO) games, and these games are represented on different platforms, primarily the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and home computer. I have a few favorite games and I may prefer one platform over another, but I like to think that I’m very open minded when it comes to consuming digital entertainment.
In addition to gaming, I enjoy watching a good movie or TV show. For movies, the bigger the screen the better. Some may complain of the “gimmicks” of IMAX or 3D movies, but I can’t get enough of it. Anything to immerse us further in the experience is a good thing, in my opinion, because that’s why we watch movies in the first place. Granted, not every movie is a winner, and not every movie that uses 3D is going to use it effectively, so I understand where some of that criticism comes from. As for the television, I gave up my cable subscription years ago, and rely on services like Netflix to watch my favorite shows. With so many shows to choose from, I tend to wait it out, and only watch shows that come highly recommended, after several seasons of high praise and critical acclaim. But, after a few weeks of binging back-to-back episodes on Netflix, I’ll get caught up and then I’m waiting for the next new episode each week, just like everyone else. Fortunately, it’s becoming more common for the big networks to put their recent episodes online, right on their main websites. But one of the other advantages of Netflix is finding hidden gems, shows that I might not have heard of any other way. Again, I like to think I’m very open minded.
Being open to new experiences can be very rewarding. It’s easy to get caught up in what’s popular, especially if that popularity actually reflects quality. There are reasons games like Call of Duty and the World of Warcraft have so many copies sold or monthly subscriptions, as they are very popular and are consistently high in quality. It’s no surprise, then, when other companies try to imitate those successes with cheaper copies of their own, that those versions naturally feel like cheap copies. But every once in awhile, a new show or a new game will come out that breaks the mold and tries something different. That can be pretty risky because people tend to stick with what’s popular or familiar to them. Last year, a hidden gem of a game came out that earned nearly as much scorn as praise, for breaking the mold. By focusing more on story, character, presentation and content than on traditional controller interaction, some criticized it for not being a “real” game – yet others gave it high praise and it in fact earned “Game of the Year” status from many sources. If I had sided with the attitude that it wasn’t a “real” game and not tried it, I would have missed out on a truly wonderful experience. To be fair, The Walking Dead Game IS barely a game; it’s more of an interactive cartoon, a “choose your own adventure” type story. But it’s also amazing. By being open to a new experience, I was definitely rewarded with some of the most memorable characters and heart wrenching moments I’ve ever had in any medium.
As I pointed out in my Welcome blog, these days, everyone is a critic. It’s easy to approach movies or games or TV shows with a critical, even cynical attitude. Yes, to some degree, we should be critical and choose things that are “better” or of higher quality. But that’s not the only way to view entertainment. After all, we’re talking about ENTERTAINMENT, things that are designed to simply give us joy or pleasure. If we are entertained, what difference does it make? Was that movie using 3D as just a “gimmick” or was it enhancing the story? Can that “choose your own adventure” cartoon be technically classified as a “game” or does it even matter?
Another way of saying “open minded” is to say we’re open to the possibility of different points of view. Not just different opinions, but different ways of looking at the same thing. Was The Walking Dead Game a game? Or was it art? Or is it both? If we focus too much on one point of view, we might miss out on these wonderful experiences. So, that’s something else I hope to achieve with this blog: sharing a different view. As it turns out, The Walking Dead Game is based on a TV show, that was also based on a comic book series, of the same name. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a few seasons of The Walking Dead to catch up on Netflix.