I like games... and tattoos. Yes, those.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Call me a sceptic - 2012 ESA Survey - a rant

I'm always sceptical about the results of surveys - it's far too easy for us to lie in order to empower our own sense of self esteem.

A recent example (not necessarily of lying, but more a reinforcing of my scepticism) is the 2012 Entertainment Software Association survey, which tracks the stats of gamers in the United States. Below is the blurb from their website

  • The average gamer is 30 years old and has been playing for 12 years. Sixty-eight percent of gamers are 19 years of age or older. 
  • Forty-seven percent of all players are women, and women over 18 years of age are one of the industry's fastest growing demographics.
  • Today, adult women represent a greater portion of the game-playing population (30 percent) than boys age 17 or younger (18 percent).
  • Sixty-two percent of gamers play games with others, either in person or online. Seventy-eight percent of these gamers play with others at least one hour per week.
  • Thirty-three percent of gamers play social games.
  • Gamers on the go: 33 percent play games on their smartphones, and 25 percent play on their handheld device.
  • Ninety percent of the time parents are present when games are purchased or rented. Ninety-eight percent of parents feel the Entertainment Software Rating Board rating system is helpful in choosing games for their children. Seventy-three percent of parents believe that the parental controls available in all new video game consoles are useful.
  • Parents also see several benefits of entertainment software, with 52 percent saying video games are a positive part of their child's life. Sixty-six percent of parents believe that game play provides mental stimulation or education, 61 percent believe games encourage their family to spend time together, and 59 percent believe that game play helps their children connect with their friends.

Which sounds great right? Female gamers are on the increase. The average gamer is 30 years old. People like Al Gore are saying, "What we’re seeing in games is art at a world-class stage design that is almost unmatched anywhere else. it has been very exciting to me to see so many ideas that integrate social good and efforts to make the world a better place into games.”
—Al Gore.

Brilliant!

Until you reach this point: The survey states that 91% of parents pay attention to the content of the games their children play.

Stop and think about the debate that rages over violence in videogame (not going to go there right now!) How many of these parents do you think lied on this survey to assuage their own guilt about the fact that they don't monitor what their children play?

91% of [American] parents pay attention to the content of the games their children play.

91%


Ninety-one percent!

Really?

I'm in a different position personally I think, because firstly, yes I am a parent, but my son is not old enough to be watching anything other than the Mickey Mouse Club on Disney Junior and dancing to the songs. I'm also a gamer, and most of my friends who are parents are gamers, so we're all acutely aware of the age restrictions etc on the games we play. And thank goodness this is not a challenge I have to face in my life right now - having to put my foot down with my son and tell him he can't play MW3 because it's bad for him even though both his parents do. "It's a big people game."

But is this the case for most parents? My mother certainly didn't know what I was playing when I was young, through no fault of hers of course - I was sneaky like that! But as kids we all are! Plus of course, games simply weren't as high profile as they are now, so the fact that I could bypass the parental controls on Leisure Suit Larry was besides the point. She didn't even buy the game for me, I pirated it from a friend. Plus I was the only one in the house at the time who could really use the computer competently so how would she have known?

I'm always amazed by the people on Facebook who tell me that they're playing such and such a game, when their profile picture looks like they're maybe 14 at a push. Sure I'll recommend an 18 rated game to those people who are of an age, but I'm not going to condone you playing Max Payne 3 or whatever if you're not an adult. Yes you'll probably convince your parents to go out and buy it for you anyway - in fact your probably already have. And if you haven't I'm sure you're moaning to them that all your friends have it and why is life so unfair?

Being a teenager is ridden with these angsty, tormented moments. You'll get over it. And then you'll have to deal with it one day when your kids come to you whining about the fact that you never let them do anything and why are you so mean!? I remember having this same conversation with my mom when I was a whiny teenager.

People will happily stand up and shout about the fact that the games our children are playing are too violent, but instead of telling them, "You can play this when you're older", they cave, buy the game for their child, and then want to blame the gaming industry for producing violent 18 rated games that they allowed their 12 year old to play!

Forgive me for being sceptical of the ninety-one percent of parents who know about the content in the games their children are playing...

Final Words:
Don't watch this video if you're easily offended by swear words. But this is what I often want to tell people.


Sunday, June 3, 2012

Sorcery

I've been playing Sorcery off an on over the past couple of days. It was a game that originally lay on my "to play" pile for about a week, not because I wasn't interested, but rather because I just didn't quite get there.

And so finally, I managed to get around to not just playing through the first level, but actually getting to grips with the game and delving a little deeper.

Sadly though I'm not convinced this game is quite as good as it could have been. It has a very Harry Potter flavour to it, and after seeing the mistakes made here, I'm hoping that the developers of the upcoming Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows game will learn from Sorcery.

That said, Sorcery is probably one of the best Move games on the market at the moment, considering that most of them generally consist of fitness games.


Sorcery tells the story of a magicians apprentice (where have we heard this one before) who unleashes a whole lotta evil on the world when he accidentally breaks an enchantment that he really shouldn't have meddled with in the first place.

What follows is the story of how Finn (that's you) must master his power and save his homeland from the evil Queen of Faerie. Somewhat predictable story, but no more so than pretty much every other fantasy "I'm a wizard" tale that's out there at the moment.

In case you couldn't guess by the characters names (Finn, Erline, Dash and Lady Everfair) the world is based on that of Irish mythology, and features a full cast of trolls, goblins, the undead and will 'o' the wisps.


Visually the cutscenes of Sorcery have a pretty awesome appeal, as they are rather like shadow puppets in nature, and the style of the gameplay is rather... nice. 

Much as I hate that word, I really can't say much more than that. It's ok, but it certainly didn't blow me away. It's pretty enough, but in the same manner as the most games nowadays.

The level design is also a bit of a let down. Whilst there are "secret" (I use this term loosely) areas to be discovered, you figure out very early on that the will 'o' wisps will lead you there so they're not really all that secret in the end. 

Overall you really are just proceeding from area to area, getting rid of enemies as you go and this can become somewhat tedious.

Now down to the big question - why the Playstation Move? 

Is it a novelty? Yes. 

Is it essential to the gameplay? I didn't think so. 

Is it intuitive? Definitely not!

Sure you might feel a bit more like a wizard waving a glowing wand about, but the process of moving and targeting enemies with your wand is clumsy and uncomfortable, and I didn't think too much was added to the game with this feature, other than my somewhat sore arm muscles after waving the Move around for a few hours.

The process of turning a key in a lock requires you to wiggle the Move around uncomfortably trying to get it to register, but mixing and drinking potions isn't overly awkward, although trying to do this during combat can be a little disconcerting.

Overall, if you're a parent you might want to go out and buy Sorcery for your kids as it's a decent enough story with less violence in it than many games, but honestly I don't think they'll get a whole lot of replay value out of it.


As someone who is rather fond of magic and monsters, I thought Sorcery had potential but sadly ended up a bit lacklustre overall.