Friday, March 24, 2006

Video Games

Sometimes I'm really interested in getting back into videogames--for one thing, it's another skill that will help when I have to "fit in with the guys," and for another, it's interesting to me as part of contemporary digital/visual culture. I think one of the next times I visit my parents I may grab one or two of my old systems and hook them up in my apartment. (Maybe I should even stock up on used games for my old NES and SNES consoles?)

My question for people who read this blog and play videogames is this ... if I were to save up and get a new system, what might present the easiest transition for someone like myself who (mostly) stopped gaming back when the first Playstation console was still pretty current? What system has games or technological capabilities that are, in your opinion, the most far-reaching and interesting? I'm not a technophile, and in fact I'm pretty bad at videogames, but I'm willing to learn, and have tried to do a little research on the current/upcoming systems already. And as far as Playstation 2 titles go, I'm very interested in the two games that Fumito Ueda has designed, Ico and Shadow of the Colossus (pictured below), which, as I understand it, are a little like "arthouse games" ... screenshots from them look fascinating:




8 comments:

Michael said...

Zach, I've done a little research into this, largely because I grew up playing the original NES, and also because I think the design/culture elements in video gaming have grown by leaps and bounds over the past few years. I can't speak with authority on any of the new systems, but I can give you a personal perspective. Of the three new systems (Xbox 360, PS3, and Nintendo's Revolution), it's the PS3 that, to me, seems to offer the most promise. Much of this has to do with the technology in the system itself. According to an in-depth article on Amazon (which I can't find at the moment, but will send to you if I relocate it), the PS3 will have the most processing power out of the three systems, and will also use the new Blue Ray disc technology, which can hold roughly 25-30 GB of data, compared to a standard DVD, which can hold about 6GB or so. I can only begin to imagine what that might mean for the kinds of games it could play (I say "might" because superior graphics don't always result in superior gameplay). If I recall correctly, I think the PS3 will also have options for hard drives and for online play, like the Xbox does. In addition, I believe the PS3 is backwards compatible, which means it will play PS1 and PS2 games, though I don't know if that means they'll be any improvements in the graphics of original games.

Having said that, those of us salivating for a PS3 will have to wait until November, as the release date has been pushed back. Also, I've seen what the Xbox can do graphically, and it's pretty awesome (though I don't know what it's like to play one). Third, I'm still curious about the new NES.

Among existing systems, I've used all three. I like the Gamecube, and it can be had brand new for 99 bucks, but its titles are relatively limited (NES has totally tanked in America for some reason). I think PS2 is the best all-around bet: great graphics, easy to set-up and use, and a limitless amount of games. I've used the regular Xbox the least and never got accustomed to its controller. I always felt it was too awkward, but there are probably many people much younger than me who would feel otherwise :-)

I hope that helps a bit. If you're thinking about possibly getting one of the new generation consoles but want to get a current one now, perhaps it's best to think about which will give you the easiest migration with current games.

Phil said...

I, too, initially stopped my gaming activities when the PS1 was gaining steam (i.e. early 1996), and it's only fairly recently that I've been experiencing the soon-to-be-next-to-last generation of consoles (through the GameCube and PS2, in addition to portables like the GBA and NDS).

As far as which particular console you should get first, I'd follow Michael and suggest you to get a PS2, although I think that the GameCube has many key games. Your interest in two PS2 exclusives should play a role in your decision. (I'm quite intrigued by Shadow of the Colossus myself, and plan to acquire it soon enough.)

Video games now form a central part of my research endeavors, and I have a feeling that dabbling in games might also affect your own, whatever angle you choose to take...

Steve R. said...

While I can't give informed recommendations on next-gen systems (the last system I owned was the N64 way back when), I do get a chance to play new games every so often through friends/roommates who play a lot.

I can definitely say that "Shadow of the Colossus" is an incredible thing -- a minimalist action/adventure game in which the game world is on perpetual pause; where the only animated life in the game is yourself and the bosses. The silence (there's very often not even music) of the huge but stoic game world is eerie and unprecedented in a cutting edge game, most of which tend to pack the game frame with so much information that framerates can't even keep up.

Contained within the huge bossfights, often times ON the bosses, are elements of action, puzzle, strategy, adventure... everything. It's as if the game developers folded up all the gameplay of the environment into the boss arena's and instead of repopulating the world, decided to leave it empty. It's a very melancholy game because of it.

Definitely an arty concept! And well worth playing. Those boss fights are tremendous fun.

Zach Campbell said...

These are very useful responses, thanks! If I decide to bite the bullet sometime between now and next spring and get one of the new systems, I'd probably choose the PS3--the good vibes I get from that are probably strongest. (The backwards compatability is also a big plus, as I'll be able to still play, e.g., Shadow of the Colossus.)

The sorts of games I'll be most into, at first at least, are ones that don't necessarily require lightning-fast reflexes and complicated button-pushing. When I'd play Perfect Dark or Halo with high school friends I'd basically be the handicap player who everyone would go easy on--I just couldn't get the damn targets straight! Strategy games that require quick thinking kill me, too--the only computer games I have really been interested in are the Warcraft ones--pre-WoW, which I've never played--and I'm actually really, really bad at them, and don't play WC3 much.

In the meantime, I may ultimately drop a few Hamiltons and get some old NES/SNES games and just get used to playing video games again.

aaron w graham said...

I've always found it amusing that there were so many movie tie-ins for the original NES: Dirty Harry and The Dirty Dozen immediately come to mind -- not exactly the ideal subject matter for youngsters, of which I was one.

And I seem to have forgotten the title, but I do believe that John Milius "scripted" a WWII game for the PS2 late last year.

Zach Campbell said...

Aaron, for my being a Milius fan I haven't kept up with what he's been doing lately (which is often extra-cinematic). Doesn't he have maybe three films in pre-production limbo? When is The Son Tay Raid coming out, or commencing filming, or whatever? I'd do some research but at the moment it's bedtime, I've gotta get up early ...

andyhorbal said...

All you need, my friend, are R.B.I. Baseball vols. 1 and 3 and an original NES to play them on.

Rik said...

Hi, i'm from the netherlands and i read your question wich console to choose. Wel as dutchman i advise you to ask yourself what kind of games you like mostly, if you like shooters and racing games, i should say, take a Xbox 360. But if your more form the japanese type of games (like shadow of the colosses, final fantasy) wel lets just say rpg games, then i would advise a playstation 3, a powerfull console with a lot of potential. There are a lot of other featers like the blu-rayplayer and a webbrowser. Who will save you a lot of mony in the futere. I hope you can understand everything i wrote beacease i'm from the netherlands and only 16
years old. But i have all current consoles and would prefer a playstation 3.
You can alwas ask me something if you wanne know, rikvand@hotmail.com