Being the UnPWNed Gamer


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When you’re really fearless, nothing fazes you. So, you’ve still got the NES you’ve had long enough for it to be an antique. Who cares what everybody else thinks? So, you still work a job that’s embarrassing to mention when people ask what you do. Who cares if you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do? The point to remember is that no one is going to PWN you because yours is the attitude of victory.

Some people think that being victorious is an external thing, and is all about validation. You grind constantly, and then you form a group and do the same mission that a million other people have done before you. While that is one technical way to “win,” that’s not real victory. Real victory is something much deeper than that. In a sense, you have to walk a path that nobody else is either willing or able to go down if you want to really make it as an individual. Champions have to be different enough to not need a group in the traditional sense, and it can get a little lonely.

The Individual Path

Being undefeatable isn’t about doing what other people have done before you. It’s an entirely different mindset than the one a lot of folks take into their games. In a sense, it’s almost hard to describe what a real individual’s path can be like, both because it’s so potentially variable and because it’s so rare to see. You don’t have to think about yourself by anybody else’s rules or put anybody else’s tape measure up to how far you’ve gone. You have to “do you,” as DMX once said.

Naturally, when you strike out on your own individual path, you’re going to have to face a lot of resistance. Initially, you might be concerned about what other people think when you try something completely different. This is reasonable because you’ll probably get some static for it. Whenever you climb to the top of something, even if it’s just an idea of being better than you used to be, you’re going to have people trying to detract from it. Remember that they don’t really care about what you’re doing, other than the fact that it points out how deeply worn the path they’re taking is.

Abandoning the Labels

Who cares about labels? Are you a nerd, a geek, or perhaps the increasingly rare dweeb? Or are you something different? When you strike out on an individual path, you begin to change in a way most people are never going to understand. You become a force of nature that the world rarely sees, and even more rarely knows what to make of at first. Welcome this change, as it heralds a whole new set of exciting challenges. It’s like when you use Droid phones and discover the vast ocean of possibilities that an open source environment creates. It’s a little scary having basically unlimited options, but it gives you an incredible amount of room to grow.

Gaming and Personal Development

When you game, it isn’t just about having a good time and seeing your friends in a place where you can beat them with mythical weaponry. While those are great parts of the process, they’re not the whole thing. Ultimately, the way you game is the way you live, and you can change both at the same time. To be the unpwned gamer, you’ve got to change the whole way you see yourself. Victory and self-improvement have to become the new fundaments of your very nature. If they aren’t in place, you’ve already PWNed yourself.

  

Is This the Next Leap in Motion Technology?

For a peripheral that is somewhat overpriced, underutilized, and in general vastly inferior to the Nintendo Wii console it seemingly got most of its motivation from, the Xbox Kinect has made quite a splash in the motion based control field.

There are of course the Guiness Book of World Records worthy initial sales figures to back this up, but the real proof of this impact is evident in the creativity this device’s impressive technology has inspired in its users. See while game developers can’t seem to make a good Kinect game that isn’t a dance simulator or Wii sports rip off if their jobs depended on it, the Kinect users have managed to hack into the device to make the basic technology that runs it do some incredible things. These include the entertaining (light saber simulators), the sci-fi worthy (robot controller), and the practical yet cool advancements in basic human interface:

Motion controlled interface has been a dream of sorts for consumers, especially since it was popularized in the movie “Minority Report.” With devices like the Kinect and iPhone, we have gotten closer and closer to this goal, but have yet to fully realize it. Even the impressive demonstration in that video was marred by the fact that the movements needed to actually control the system had to be very blunt, and required full body commitment to make even the simplest of motion commands.

San Francisco based company Leap Motion thinks they might have the inevitable solution. Their device (called the Leap) is about the size of an iPod and works through a USB input your PC or Mac. It reads a space four cubic feet in size, and is supposed to be 200x more accurate than anything else on the market. This means accuracy to within 1/100th of a millimeter, which should allow for subtle finger movements (instead of whole hand and body motions) being able to produce the desired results.

The extraordinary video the company released seems to back that up.

We’ve been promised the moon with motion sensors before, but I have to say that given the advancements in the motion field over the past few years, I see no real reason that the Leap shouldn’t function in the way it claims to. My only real red flag in that video is the video game controller sections. I still feel that we are a ways off from total motion control in games without the use of any buttons, especially in titles designed with mouse/keyboard in mind. Of course in menu heavy titles like Real Time Strategy Games or RPG’s, I could see this device making formerly monotonous navigation somewhat enjoyable.

Even if it’s not yet perfect, at a modest retail price of $70 (pre-orders are being taken now), many consumers might give this device a shot and find their own ways to make use of it when it’s released early next year. After all, that’s the only explanation as to why the Kinect is doing so well.

  

The end of $60 games?

The expensive video games that we buy for game consoles from Sony and XBox have always had competition. There have always been plenty of online options that were free, from multi-player games to free chess. You could find places to play bingo (sign up now) or even do stuff like fantasy baseball.

But the gaming world is definitely changing, and the impact is being felt by the companies that create and sell the most expensive games.

There’s a war going on in the video game world, but it’s over dollar signs, not virtual land.

A boxed copy of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, the world’s top-selling console game, costs $60. Angry Birds, the world’s biggest mobile game franchise, costs $1 for software that you can download in under a minute. The pricing gap between what’s traditionally considered the highest-tier premium games and the fast-evolving mobile, tablet, and social gaming market is widening, and it’s spelling disaster for countless game makers caught in the middle.

According to The NPD Group, physical content sales were down 8% in 2011. This year hasn’t been a cakewalk either, with sales continuing to slide. Though some of the blame can rightfully be foisted upon the decline of the once-mighty Wii, it’s apparent that people aren’t buying games like they used to, and the industry is scrambling to figure out why. But most agree that it begins — and likely ends — with the high cost of new games.

Basically, the mobile world is changing everything. You can go online and do all that stuff you could do before, but these cheap games are now dominating the landscape. It’s not that the ultra-cool expensive games are going away. There will always be a market for quality and visuals. But, as depend drops with more competition, you’ll start seeing more rational pricing for these games. That will hurt the developers, so it will be interesting to see what happens to game development budgets, but the business is definitely changing.

  

GAME REVIEW: All Zombies Must Die!

The zombie genre may be running on fumes at this point, but that hasn’t stopped the guys over at Doublesix from adding another game to the pile with this spiritual sequel to their 2009 arcade shooter “Burn Zombie Burn.” The developers’ latest offering, “All Zombies Must Die!,” is very similar in concept, but the addition of RPG-lite elements adds some much-needed depth to the overall experience. Instead of trying to earn the highest score by mowing down a seemingly never-ending horde of zombies, you’re now tasked with completing a series of quests as you attempt to survive the zombie apocalypse that’s overtaken the ill-fated town of Deadhill. Each of the four playable characters have a unique secondary attack that affects the zombies in a different way (like lighting them on fire or giving them radiation poisoning), but apart from that, they all handle the same.

Where “All Zombies Must Die!” really shows its depth, however, is in the ability to upgrade a character’s specific attributes (like attack, defense, health and speed) and create better weapons using a crafting system where you combine standard weaponry with items found throughout the map. Each item yields the same special ability no matter which weapon you pair it with (for example, firewood adds fire damage), but it plays a big part in preventing the game from getting stale too soon, even if the repetitive nature of the combat makes that an inevitability. Still, the game’s self-referential humor helps to keep things light and entertaining throughout, and it’s an absolute blast to play with a group of friends. Unfortunately, that also proves to be the game’s biggest shortcoming, because multiplayer co-op can only be played locally. The lack of an online mode isn’t the only thing standing in the way of Doublesix’s latest effort from reaching its full potential, but it’s certainly the most annoying.

  

CES kicks off

The biggest technology and gadget show, CES, just kicked off in Las Vegas, and as usual much of the talk surrounds Apple:

Apple is the only company that consistently gets big buzz out of the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas — without even attending.

This year will be no different.

Connected TVs — TVs that connect to and can access content from the Internet — will be a big part of CES this year. And just about everyone in tech expects Apple at some point to launch such a television — an iTV — that easily consumes and shares with other Apple devices content served from the company’s media-storing iCloud.

Microsoft made news earlier by saying this was the last year they would attend CES/ Why attend if Apple gets all the buzz anyways? Maybe Microsoft should focus on new products instead of protecting its Windows/Office cash cow? Or maybe not . . .