Are Games Really That Interactive?

The introduction of the Nintendo Wii, Xbox Kinect and Playstation Move signalled a new era for video gaming. This suave new technology sought to improve player interaction with the games on their television screen, trading in the traditional controller for a highly sensitive sensory system that allowed the real-world movements of players to manifest themselves as in-game actions. Geared up to facilitate a more realistic gaming experience, anything from a user’s punches (in the case of Wii Fit’s boxing option) to their speed and agility could affect and defeat an on screen opponent, taking interactivity to a higher level.

However, despite an ability to faithfully mimic intricate human actions, gaming technology still has much to improve on before capturing the complexity of the human condition, at least from a psychological and emotional perspective. Indeed, realism is often hindered by the rigidity of the inner mechanics of a computer-based console game which can usually only travel in a linear fashion and adhere to strict rules to guide the player to the game’s conclusion, interrupting the creativity, spontaneity and innovation of the individual. Take, for example, Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Vegas, a title with highly sophisticated graphics but one with a lone premise, to shoot and defeat terrorists and do so minus the emotional trauma that should accompany acts of murder. The narrow nature of the game is such that it constructs clear binary opposites between good (the player as a member of Rainbow Six team) and evil (subversive, stock character terrorists), creating a rather limiting and one-dimensional universe.

It is fair to say that this variation of game is much more popular than Japanese release, Way of the Samurai 3. This game is unique in its dexterity and density as, instead of training your character to swat aside all opposition, users can make informed choices to surrender or apologise to fellow combatants. Here, a player’s choices enhance the in-game reputation of their character, their acts of heroism venerated but acts of treachery and violence leading to scorn and hatred. This feature ensures of a deeper emotional development of character, and one that directly affects the direction of the game’s plot, a player’s actions resulting in one of over fifteen alternate story lines and conclusions. A rejection of pre-determined plot adding to the realism and fluidity of the game.

Unfortunately, games that explore the inner psychology of their characters and analyse the morality of their actions as the story line progresses are all too rare. Grand Theft Auto: V, notable for its nihilism and immorality but jointly recognised as a social satire, is soaked in a culture of violence and sexual depravity. Some have claimed that this merely follows the trend of investigating society’s anti-heroes such as television drama, Breaking Bad’s, Walter White but the game’s active encouragement to murder a prostitute and kill enemies by offering trophies as rewards, seemingly validates, and prohibits the player from questioning, this gratuitous behaviour.

Away from the content of a game, developers are however utilising the latest technology, particularly in relation to mobile applications, to optimise a player’s overall gaming experience. Whilst the majority of these games follow a conventionally linear and fixed plot, the rise of push technology is breathing new life into formulaic titles. This is the philosophy behind Dojit-notify, which sends out personalised push messages in relation to a user’s in-game location and their skill level or ability. Designed to help developers liaise directly with a mobile player by helping them through difficult portions of a game, this service adds a further dimension to, and bolsters interaction with, mobile phone games.

Player interaction with games is certainly a multi-faceted beast with some interactive elements displaying far more progression than others. Physical interaction has definitely reached its zenith in the sophistication of Nintendo, Microsoft and Sony’s movement-detector consoles and devices and developer-consumer interaction is advancing healthily with the rise of push technology. However, the most difficult variant of player interaction remains that of emotional mimesis. The dominance of games that substitute the liberty and morals of the player for the fulfilment of a basic, unalterable plot should be a clarion call for all aspiring developers to design a game that grants players freedom of action rather than bowing to the tyranny of tradition.

Gamescom

This years Gamescom will kick off on 21st of August. Europe has got its games conference we’ve always wanted, yet not as glamorous and or has media frenzy as E3 in LA, it still will see the big three in industry show up.

Gamescom opens open to trade and the general public, which E3 has been restricted to developers and press only. This gives the public access to demos and coming soon games on the show floor.

What should you expect on the show floor? There will be playable versions of PS4, Xbox One and the Wii U. Rockstar could have a playable version of their much anticipated GTA 5 game that is due to be launched September 17.

Microsoft have announced they will be looking to hold a press conference, maybe to fix their shambolic showing at E3 and their Xbox One announcement. After the 180 on their DRM policy Microsoft will be looking to win over the gaming industry with you would hope some features and unannounced first party titles which Microsoft have been working.

Sony has promised Gamescom to be the Sony Vita show. There was a lack of focus on the Vita at E3 that left the adopters of the handheld a little disappointed. There was a mention of Walking Dead: 400 Days coming to the system, along with a new bundle but that was about it. Sony will look to announce titles for the Vita as the library of games is looking bleak. But the indie presence on the system is ever growing with more and more developers opting to develop for Sony system, games like Limbo and Hotline Miami being released.

Nintendo bailed on Gamescom last year’s show but this year they return, to show off no doubt its first party titles.

Other publishers attending this year include Bethesda, EA, Konami and others.

Be sure to check back on blogs about us talking about what went on at Gamescom.

Indie Games

First of all, what are ‘Indie Games’?  They are small groups or individual game developers without the financial support of a video game publisher to create independent games. They work from home, basement, rent rooms or if lucky rented office space.

Indie games started on PC back in the 1990’s, known as shareware. Which had small independent companies become huge leading game development studios such as Epic Games and id Software. Gamers were given the chance to try games like Demonsgate, before investing money in them and in return gave those companies exposure.

Fast forward to mid 2000’s with the launch of Steam and Xbox 360 we saw the number of indie games rise.  Games like Fez, Braid and many other games were released and were critically acclaimed, some even the best game’s in their genre. Thanks to Microsoft’s Xbox Live Arcade development tools and Adobe flash let developers create and sell their games on their desired platforms.

We will continue to see the rise of indie games in the next generation console’s, especially on the PlayStation 4. Sony took to the stage at E3 in Los Angeles and showcased a myriad of indie games. Games like Transistor from the makers of smash hit Bastion was shown off. They gave the developers time to be on stage and talk about their games and vision. This is rare publicity on the big stage at E3 been given to indie publishers, you would normally see a larger presence of indie developers at Penny Arcade Expo. This shows where the industry is going and the support companies like Sony, Valve and in the past Microsoft is giving to these up and coming developers.

Power to the Indies!