Category Archives: Video Games

Ciaran Watkins, VP Of Being Late To The Party

Ah, Old Spice man. How you won over a nation by being a brilliantly scripted handsome man. Now you can prove you were brilliantly scripted by showing everyone the two Black Pencils you won at the D&AD awards the other night. Fantastic.

I’m so awfully late with this campaign, and I’m happy to admit that. It’s something I’ve seen before, laughed at, thought about, and left. The reason being? Kevin Butler, the best thing to happen to Playstation advertising since, well, ever.

Sony’s creation of a rival ‘Old Spice’ man has led to many questions of Which Came First? I like to think it was Butler, but I have a sneaking suspicion that it was the Old Spice Man. However, the premise for both campaigns is simple; A straight talking, incredibly confident, ‘no fuss’ lead male, tells us all what we want to hear, and does it brilliantly. The comparisons are endless, and the childish giggles too.

Here’s a few adverts so you too can decide your favourite. Here’s a hint, you’re probably going to chose the Old Spice Man.

Old Spice Man;

Kevin Butler – VP Of Everything.

If you give him the time of day, you might fall in love with Kevin Butler as much as I did. Probably not though.

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Sony Forced Me To Delete My Life And Start Over.

So I don’t know if you’ve heard, but the Sony PlayStation Network (hereafter referred to as the PSN) has been down for an entire week or so. What most people thought was an outage caused by “hackers”, was actually something much more sinister. It turns out that the entire PSN was hacked. The worst part about this, is the possibility that all of the 77 million account holders could have had personal data about themselves stolen which includes names, addresses, phone numbers, emails, and my favourite parts; passwords and credit card details.

Now that’s obviously an awful thing to happen, and if the rumours are correct, some of our own very important data was actually unencrypted and stored as plain text. Yep, there will probably be a lot more ‘bold’, just to outline the absolutely outrageous. One the scale of one to fuck up, we’re scoring pretty high. The worst part in all of this? Apparently Sony has known that confidential data might have been stolen, since Monday. Two days ago.

That’s two days people should have had to sort their lives out, but for some unknown reason, the news was only broken today. This news has made headline stories, and while Sony offered a blog post on their official blog, I was busy reading about it in newspapers, and on video games websites. It wasn’t until 4pm BST that I received an email from Sony offering advice on what to do next. This is easily one of the largest cases of (possible) internet fraud and identity theft in the ‘internet generation’, and it really doesn’t help that it has become one of the largest PR gaffs on Sony’s behalf.

The question is this; Where does Sony go from here? The first thing is to make sure the network is safe. The second will be to make all their previous customers feel safe enough to use their network. That’s going to take a long time. Most will cry for compensation of the down-time, and that will probably come in the way of a free ‘game’, reimbursement for subscription time lost, or something quite similar. As a quite sane individual I haven’t been scared to death by the problems of today. I’ve actually been quite calm, if a little annoyed, but I have had to change a lot of passwords, and will have to wait until the PSN is up to see if I need to cancel a debit card. Other members of the public won’t have been so lucky. The PSN can work with multiple accounts, multiple cards and multiple email addresses. Some members of the public may only have one password for all of their online usage, and unfortunately for them that has to be changed. The rebuilding of trust in the Sony brand is going to take a long time, and in the video games business, a long time is already too much.

I imagine that the money lost through this blunder (be it through reimbursement or cost of extra security), and the money Sony themselves are going to have to spend to increase consumer confidence is going to be enormous. Expect another advertising campaign soon, just to let everyone know that the PSN, and life in general, is back to normal. Unfortunately for now, the negative PR is still flowing. I’m not exactly adding to the fire, but I’m hardly helping. As a fan of the PlayStation brand, I hope that everything gets fixed up shortly, and they’re able to prove to me the PSN is safe. When that time comes, I’ll happily purchase content from them again, but until that point I’ll stay apprehensive and steer clear. After all;

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Always Bet On Duke Nukem (Taking) Forever

Duke Nukem Forever. A game that’s been in development for twelve years plus. A game that was announced in 1997, and still has yet to see release. It’s name has become infamous to the gaming community for the changing of shipping dates, many a fuck-up with 3D Realms, and more than one lawsuit. However, this entry isn’t about the history behind Duke Nukem and the ‘Forever’ namesake. It’s about a crafty little piece of marketing from Gearbox software, and one that has again set the internet alight with the tiny chatter of gamers worldwide.

Now you have to understand, Duke Nukem Forever has literally taken forever to be released. This is a game that the majority of PC gamers over the age of twenty-three have been waiting years to play. Duke Nukem 3D was a brilliant tongue in cheek first person shooter, that connected with the right crowd, at the right time. Our hero was loud, abrasive, and chauvinistic but more importantly, he was absolutely unquestionably brilliant. He liked to chew gum, smoke cigars, and kick ass, and he was usually out of the first two so had to settle for the third.

Last year when Duke Nukem Forever was announced by Gearbox Software as actually being released, the world applauded. Randy Pitchford, the boss of Gearbox, spoke with pride and genuine excitement when he addressed the world and finally nailed a release date down on the world’s favourite piece of vaporware. I was excited. Gamers were excited. The world was (probably) excited. Websites were furiously posting articles about Duke Nukem Forever trying to soak up as much as they could. Customers with ten year old reservation slips were coming forward to see if their pre-orders would be accepted. Randy made it so. People wanted early access to the demo. Randy made it so. We were finally going to get to play the game we’d been waiting for. The date? May 3rd. May 6th for the more important international audience. Randy had made it so.

A few months have gone past, and we’ve seen the odd trailer, the odd screen shot, and the excitement has somewhat waned. As a marketer, you are presented with the question ‘how do you drum up excitement for your product before it’s release?’. You can release an awesome trailer if you go down Dead Island’s route, or you can approach the situation like you’ve got the biggest balls in the big boys club.

Seriously. Wow. It takes some balls to delay a game like this. It takes some king size balls to delay an already ten year overdue game. The thing is, I don’t actually think the game needed to be delayed. Maybe that’s the cynical advertising shmuck in me talking, but it makes sense. The best way to make fans talk about your game (be it good or bad), taking into context the fact that your game is easily one of the most delayed games of all time, is of course, to delay it again.

Even if the game did need to be delayed, Randy and Gearbox had no problem making a big laugh and hoo-hah about it. And quite rightly so. I watched that video with a grin on my face of a size that would offend the Cheshire Cat. I don’t mind that the game has been delayed another month, and I certainly don’t mind that Randy Pitchford make a brilliant little joke about it. In fact, I think it’s brilliant. I mean, what a video, and what a marketing tactic!

Well done Randy. In my eyes, you can do no wrong. Just don’t delay the Duke again. I can’t have my dreams crushed a third time.

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Map Crunching My Way Back Home

I was made aware of a website last night. A normal looking website, with quite a unique way of using google maps streetview. It’s called Map Crunch. You see, map crunch is sort of like google maps, but it’s sort of not. Map Crunch is special! It’s a website in which you can transport anywhere in the world (providing there are streetview images available), and immediately start to snoop around looking for open windows and unlocked doors of strangers houses. I mean, isn’t that what streetview is used for? Right Daily Mail readers? Any way, you can choose a few different options, like the country you’re transported to, whether or not you’re ‘spawned’ in a city or not, and a final little check box that makes all the difference, hide your location.

It’s a brilliant little tool that can kill a few hours when you’re bored. Just look at this picture! It took me to Antarctica, where I got to see some penguins in street view! I didn’t even know street view existed of Antarctica, but there it is!

So at the moment, it’s quite innocent. It’s a fun website to kill an hour or so on, but some absolute genius has turned it into something so much more. Remember hearing about chatroulette all those months ago? It was the talk of the town for a few months thanks to websites like 4chan and Something Awful proclaiming it as the next best thing? Well I think you’re going to find MapCrunch being talked about sooner rather than later. Someone posted a little game that you can play with Map Crunch, and I’m going to explain it now. It’s not unlike a T.V programme which aired on Channel 4 late at night, but this time when you die in the game, you die for real. You don’t really, that was just for suspense.

http://www.mapcrunch.com

IDORT MODE: Select your country, check cities only, hit N.
CASUAL MODE: Select your country, hit N.
NORMAL MODE: Select your country, hide location, check cities only, hit N.
ADVENTURE MODE: Select your country, hide location, hit N.
/V/ETEREN MODE: Hide location, check cities only, hit N.
S.T.A.L.K.E.R. MODE: Hide location, hit N.

ENDING CONDITIONS:
CASUAL: Find an airport, fly home.
HARDCORE: Walk your ass home.

Protips:
Use the compass.
Click on the road ahead instead of using the arrows for WARP SPEED.

Basically, it’s been turned into a gigantic game of hide and seek, in which you are hidden to a variety of difficulties, and have to seek your way back home either to an airport, or if spawned in your own country, to your doorstep. Don’t understand? Let me show you. First, we’re going to load up mapcrunch. Good. On the right hand side we have the control panel. This is how you start your game of MAPCRUNCH. I like to play Stalker mode, so I’m not going to choose a country to spawn in. Cities only will spawn you in a city, but that’s for losers so I’ll leave it unchecked. Finally I’m going to check the ‘hide my location’ button just above the map, and then I’m going to hit ‘N’ to start my game. Let’s see where it takes me.

And so it begins. Basically, from here I need to find my way to the closest city, find my way to the airport if they have one, and get my bum back home in time for tea. Each ‘game’ is different, and equally frustratingly brilliant. All it took was a little ingenuity on a strangers behalf, and there’s a game that can keep anyone interested for a good couple of hours, and the best thing? It’s completely and utterly free. It feels like I’m using the word ‘game’ incorrectly, as it’s hardly an AAA title running on the newest console, but as an entity that provides fun and wastes time, it’s incredibly entertaining. It reminds me of those ‘hacker’ quests, in which you had to view source code and hidden links in order to get to the next page. This one’s even easier, because it’s all about common sense. Spawn, find town, find city, find airport, go home. If you learn something along the way? Brilliant.

This is a potential gold mine! If this ‘game’ hits off, then what’s to stopping it being bought into by advertisers? The clicks on the website alone will have been driven up monumentally by the likes of the channers and the forum users who are already ‘playing’, and with this blog post I’m helping that even more. Those googleads will become more and more profitable, and the website’s hits will sky rocket. I don’t think the site could be sold, because after all it’s using an existing product, albeit in a new way, but it just seems like it’s the new social hit of the month. It’s an easy to play browser game, and I’d sure as hell choose this over something like Farmville.

Again, like my post on Video Games and The Social Network where I looked at Autolog, this website and the specific way of using it’s innocent features, seems to be another example of how members of the internet communities love to create, share, and play. It’s a great thing to behold, and it’s even better to be one of those people who can say ‘I used that when it was cool, you know, before Ben Folds was on it’. After all, doesn’t everyone want to be that guy with something cool to show their friends? I know I immediately showed this to my girlfriend, and now I’m showing it to you. A little creativity goes a long way these days, and sometimes that’s all that’s needed in this hectic environment. For now though, happy crunching. I’ve got a game to play, and an airport to find. I really don’t think I’m in Texas any more.

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Zombies Virally Advertised My Neighbors

So I’m going to throw my thoughts on that trailer into the pot. If you’ve been living under a rock for about two days, I am of course talking about the ‘Dead Island’ reveal trailer. First comes a warning. This trailer contains zombies. It’s very violent, and some viewers have found it quite hard to watch.

If that was the first you’ve seen the trailer, then I’d love to know what you thought about it! First thing is first. I’m going to try and tip-toe around the use of a child in the trailer and the outcry surrounding that, mainly because a fellow blogger summed it up in a much better way than I ever could. You can read pelekophoros’ entry about the trailer here! What I am going to try and talk about, is the absolutely unwavering success of this advertising campaign.

Here we have a game. A game that was announced three years ago. A game that everyone had forgotten about. If you were the developer or the publisher, you’d want something done about that quick sharp. Especially if the release date was later on in the year. How on earth do you get your name back into and remembered, in the over crowded, over saturated video games market? You can go down the video games website route. You can re-announce yourself in an exclusive magazine reveal. You can create a trailer and get it shown. Heck, you can do loads of things. I can guarantee that the publishers (Deep Silver) and developer (Techland) never thought they were going to get this much attention!

The trailer itself, is rather good. It’s ’emotional’ to a point, as we are obviously conditioned to feel uneasy and upset when we see a child in danger. It’s part of what makes us human. What we are seeing is a family’s vacation gone wrong. We are presented with the moral problems of the family involved. I mean, could you bring yourself to kill your own child if they tried to attack you? Me neither. Any way, I’m doing exactly what I said I wouldn’t. The trailer it self is very well made. It’s shot and edited brilliantly, and works to create something quite moving, while at the same time, incredibly graphic.

It’s obviously been edited to hold back on certain parts of the narrative until later in the trailer, which we can see in the cut/copy time line through out. I can’t really describe the media too well, as it’s been a long time since I’ve had to, but it definitely works. It tells a story, albeit a broken one, and it tells it in an uncommon way. It’s quite similar to Memento, as if the trailer was linear (just as if Memento was linear), it really wouldn’t work that well, or have the overall effect it has;

The trailer has spread like wildfire since it’s original showing and has been discussed left right and centre. Now this could be because the imagery we see is incredibly powerful, or that people have passed it on because they’ve been disgusted at what they see. Either way, people are talking about it!

Let’s emphasise a few key points. People are talking, both good and bad, about a three year old game, that we have absolutely no information on. (Well, when it aired we had none, and now we have a tiny tiny bit of information. It’s an FPS, Open World, Survivalist RPG with Zombies) That’s incredible. This will have shot Dead Island to the top of some most watched lists for sure, and the greatest thing? Not one bit of actual game play was shown. A trailer for a video game, that displayed absolutely no hints of video game play at all. Wow.

The folks over at Axis Animation have definitely delivered with this little clip. This trailer works a reveal, and nothing else, but the game’s name has spread. Thanks to this little media trailer, Dead Island is a game on everyone’s lips at the moment. Will the chatter continue as we continue into the rest of the year? Probably not, but that doesn’t stop the name being remembered for this brilliant bit of media.

Dead Island has gone viral. Just like the zombie infection it’s protagonists are to battle against. Funny. Right?

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The Oldest And Strongest Emotion Of Mankind Is Fear

I’ve been racking my brain for an entry today. I feel like I’ve hit a wall with advertising posts so far, and I can’t dedicate another entry to a video games as no one will read it. I really should take the time to actually come up with some sort of writing plan, or at least a little guide to make this easier on my self so I don’t feel rushed come 9pm. You see, I’ve had the entire weekend off, but I’ve done nothing ‘productive’. Actually, in my eyes, I’ve done something incredibly productive; I’ve spent a fantastic weekend with my girlfriend doing nothing except soaking up each others company, but in a work sense, yeah. Nothing. Nadda. Zip. I haven’t even played one video game this weekend. That’s actually a huge achievement in itself considering I bought Dead Space 2 yesterday!

Then it dawned on me, as I loaded the disc into the PS3 before quickly being told to take it out and pop a film on instead, that this game is going to do the same as the original Dead Space did. It’s going to have me on the edge of my seat, practically filling my pants with complete and utter fear, and I got to thinking; I hate being scared. I don’t like watching scary movies. I don’t like playing scary games. I especially don’t like the sense of dread I get after watching/playing something scary, so why in God’s name am I ready to jump straight into a game about psychological fear and endangerment. There must be a reason somewhere.

There have been a few films and games that have had a profound effect if we take into context the old, ‘shit your pants’, scale. We’re talking about me hitting the ‘Oh God, someone fetch me a new pair’ end. Obviously, for some of them, I just happened to be young enough to not entirely understand what the hell was going on, or to fathom that it was ‘just a movie’ or ‘just a game’. The others, well, they’ve just plain managed to weird me out, make me turn the game off due to the overbearing atmosphere, or actually effect me enough to be scared when the film/game was over. Here’s the three that stick out like ghostly apparitions of sore thumbs.

 

Event Horizon

I guess we should start from the first time I remember being genuinely petrified. Event Horizon, for those of you who haven’t seen it, is a film about a spaceship that has been lost for decades, suddenly showing up in the middle of deep space. A crew go to explore what made the ship disappear, and find out that their worst nightmares await them. Sure, it’s in space, it can’t be scary right? Wrong. I watched this as a naive twelve year old, and I was mentally scarred for months. I could barely close my eyes, let alone sleep. I have a feeling this was one of the reasons I suffered from insomnia as a child, I mean, the movie still scares me to this day, so it was pretty stupid to watch it as a youngster. It’s a perfect example of setting an atmosphere, and managing to keep it going through out the entire film. In the film, the crew start to question what they find on the Event Horizon, and are slowly sent insane. The entire movie feels claustrophobic as the crew had no means of escape, forcing them to stay in the confines of literal versions of their nightmares. It’s hard to explain, so I’ll try to set a scene.

Picture yourself in a train carriage. A long train carriage with no one but you riding in it. It’s dark outside so the only source of light are the overheads. You are about one hundred metres from exits both in-front and behind you. The lights closest to both doors suddenly flicker and turn off. The bulbs in front of those slowly flicker and turn off. The bulbs in front of them slowly flicker and turn off. This happens slowly in about ten second gaps, until the only light that’s left is the one above your head. You know it’s coming, but you hope it doesn’t. You pray the one above you stays on. Click. The last remaining light above your head is extinguished by an unknown source. You are surrounded by darkness. You’re alone, and thoughts begin to fill your head. Your mind wanders to those thoughts you wish it wouldn’t; your worst nightmares. The thoughts you try to suppress on long, dark walks home. You’re beginning to focus on the worst of those thoughts, wondering if it’s going to happen to you. You’re hoping it doesn’t. You’re praying it doesn’t. You begin to wonder when, if at all, the lights will turn back on. You’ve been in the dark now for fifteen seconds, but it feels like a lifetime. You’re frozen to the spot, unable to move. You miss the light. You miss the safety and protection it brought. Flick. Salvation. The lights are back on. You’re alone, but at least you’re safe. Or are you? The only thing left to do is to turn around. Turn around to find your absolute worst nightmate staring right back at you….

So yeah, that’s how Event Horizon works. Kinda. Spoooooky right?

Ringu / Ringu 2: Return Of The Small Scary Girl With Shit Hair.

Ah The Ring movies. The Japanese versions of course! Again, I stupidly watched these when I was about 14. I can remember I was that age, as I had school the next day and rushed into Physics class in the morning with bags under my eyes, and a story of a Japanese film to tell my friends. A film that I forced them all to watch. A film that scared all of them as much as it did me. They didn’t speak to me for a while after that. I mean, I wouldn’t speak to me either! This is probably where I became a proper insomniac. I couldn’t sleep for more than an hour, months after watching the films. I think this is where my crippling need to fall asleep with a film/dvd/tv show on came from. Something I still do to this day! I mean, if there’s something on the channel already, then that stupid girl can’t climb out it!

I’m not going to explain The Ring movies, as you probably know how they go already. Basically, there’s a haunted video tape. If you watch it, you’ll die in seven days. It sounds anything but scary, but I will still never re-watch these films. I’m not stupid enough to do it. I think these two films had me the most scared I’ve ever been. I’m not too fond of creepy young girls with black hair any way, but undead, ghostly versions of scary young girls that can crawl out of my television set?! Fuck. That. I think I was so scared because I never fully understood the films what with them being subtitled and obviously on at such a late time, but the scene where the girl climbs out of the well, and then the scene where she chases the reporter up the side of the well will haunt me for years. I guess the whole ‘little girl’ thing is why F.E.A.R came so close to making this list. Stupid Alma.

 

Amnesia: The Dark Descent

The newest edition to my list, and while it hasn’t plagued me with nightmares, or made me fear for my own life, it’s definitely the only video game I’ve had to turn off at fifteen minute intervals so I didn’t have a panic induced heart attack. This is the best example of a ‘scary’ video game I’ve ever had the pleasure of stumbling across. You’re a man called Daniel. A man with Amnesia (hence the title). You discover a letter written to you, from past you, telling you to go to the basement of the castle you are in, and kill a man named Alexander. Riveting right? You bet your soon to be brown-stained pants it is!

Perhaps one of the main selling points of the game is there are no combat mechanics. There’s no way to fight whatever you find! Most video games give you a huge arsenal of weapons to destroy anything scary you come across, but Amnesia gives you nothing. Your only hope of living is to run. Run and hide. Hide in the darkness, where your thoughts start to get the best of you. In the dark you start to go crazy. The more time you spend in the dark, the more strange noises and weird imagery you begin to see. You live on a supply of tinderboxes to light candles, and a lamp that runs on oil, but they’re in short supply. In the light, you might be safe from your own thoughts, but you can be seen by things you really don’t want to be seen by. I really can’t begin to describe or explain how good I thought think the game actually is, so here’s a little video to whet your appetite.

It’s a fantastic game for only £10 or so, and it’s definitely worth a purchase! I really don’t want to spoil anything, so I’ll stop talking about it. There’s a demo available, so give it a spin! It’s literally the only game to make me shout ‘NOPE’, and then save and exit as quick as I could. It may be a popular meme at the moment, but it’s a meme for a reason.

 
Well, there you have it. Those are the three pieces of media that scare the shit out of me. Maybe you’ll recognise some, maybe you won’t. Why do I still play these games, or watch these films? I still don’t know, but at least I can tell other people about my experiences in the hope they do the same as me. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have an engineer to reacquaint myself with, and a space station to save.

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Your Mom Hates Badvertising

I like to think I’m a good person, with a decent set of morals. I’ve already commented on my hatred for the lack of manners, but I also like to believe that, despite what people may think, advertisers can be good people. I want to believe that I wouldn’t have to sail my entire way of life out of the window just for a brief. I’d like to think that if I was offered a campaign for a client I disagreed with, I’d politely decline and ask to be moved to another brief (I’d probably cave if my job was on the line, but that would take me in a whole different direction on how much one has to value their own decency). I can’t say I want to make the world a better place, because I haven’t exactly tried doing that, but I sure as hell wouldn’t want to make the world a worse place.

There are obviously some ground rules when it comes to advertising, and I imagine they’re quite straight forward. Don’t sell cigarettes to kids. Don’t sell sex to kids. Don’t sell drugs to kids. Don’t sell horse to k… I can carry this on for a while, but most of them are about not selling things to children. There are also boundaries of taste, decency, and common sense that need to be adhered too in the advertising world. For anything that doesn’t meet those stringent rules, there’s the ASA.

Now as we know, moderating advertising when it comes to press, TV and most digital campaigns is easy, but what happens when it’s a viral campaign? A Viral campaign with no particular audience, and available in the public domain, in the correct section of video sharing website. What I’m getting at, is EA’s new campaign for Dead Space 2. A primarily American aimed campaign, entitled ‘Your Mom Hates Dead Space 2’.

Video games already get a bad run in the press. They’re violent. They’re rude. They’re disgusting. They also have the uncanny ability to breed criminals. Grand Theft Auto turns your lovely straight-A student into a mindless killing machine. Manhunt turns your ten year old daughter into a knife wielding hooker. Sonic the Hedgehog makes your son run really fast and steal gold from fat balding men with orange moustaches. All of these statements are deadly true. I promise I’m not making any of them up. I’d call you blind if you haven’t read an article somewhere that blames a random act of violence on some form of video games. The thing is, it’s not people who enjoy video games that turn out to be criminals, it’s the people with problems who turn out to be criminals. Of course to some idiotic people who believe anything the press say, this is all untrue, and video games are the spawn of the devil and need to be destroyed.

The past few years have been good to the video game industry. The markets have expanded thanks to the Wii, DS, PS3 Move and Xbox Kinect. People of all ages and genders are finally playing video games and enjoying them. People who once might have believed that video games are the devil, have had a play on Wii bowling and realised it’s not all about dismemberment and shitting down people’s necks. Video games are finally a good source of family entertainment! They’re no longer lambasted for being violent, because not all video games are. Families are being brought together by having a jog on the spot, or shooting the breeze in a calming game of archery. It’s taken a long time for video games to shake their reputation as the breeding ground for next generation serial killers, and the last thing any one should want to do, is to regress that back any further!

What I can’t understand, is why the people at EA decided to do just that. One hundred Mums were canvassed into taking part in the viral ‘Your Mom Hates’ campaign. Yes, those women in the video are true to life Mums. I imagine they’ve been pulled out of the nearest republican party convention. You know the ones. The people who believe it’s all right for your kids to knock someone up who’s under-age, but god forbid if they use a naughty word, or see something that’s violent while doing it. They have no doubt been chosen to illicit the best kind of reaction as they’re shown footage of a heavily violent, overly shocking, 18+ only video game.

As stated, these mostly republican mums have probably never played a video game. After seeing this footage, they’re going to be walking out of that room thinking that all video games are like this. They’ll be thinking that all games consist of decapitation and horrific death sequences that can ripped straight out of a nightmare. Dead Space 2 is probably going to be one of the most violent mature rated video games available to buy, but how are they going to know that? They’ve been tainted in the name of cheap humour, and an easy marketing route. They’re never going to look at a video game again, let alone have their children play them. They’re going to be the kind of people who petition for the next generation of consoles to be burned at the stake for crimes against humanity. It makes me angry that people who make video games, play video games, and obviously have a passion for video games thought this was a good idea. Thanks guys, you’re ruining it for all of us.

My second gripe with the campaign is an obvious one. Who is the target audience? It certainly isn’t me, a twenty three year old adult with a twenty year background in video games. It’s not my mother, who was once addicted to Tetris and Columns. It’s definitely not my twenty three year old girlfriend who enjoys the odd dabble on Little Big Planet and Nintendogs. Well then, I’m running out of ideas! I wonder who it could be aimed at?! Maybe EA are aiming for a younger crowd? Folks who hate what their mum likes, and love what she hates? I imagine that narrows us down to about anyone! Anyone between the ages of ten and fifteen that is.

That’s funny, as I’m sure this video game has been certified as an eighteen plus? Surely you wouldn’t be targeting an audience who is actually too young to play your game would you EA? You wouldn’t be targeting an audience who are physically incapable of buying your product in a shop because they fail to meet the age range would you? Because let me tell you, if you were, that would be despicable. Games, like movies, have age ratings for a reason. Younger children aren’t supposed to be playing Call Of Duty, Grand Theft Auto and Manhunt. That’s why we have the ESRB and BBFC! To stop unsuitable audiences being able to get hold of offensive material. You wouldn’t let your twelve year old child watch Driller Killer, or Clockwork Orange, so why would you let them play Manhunt, or in this case, Dead Space 2? The campaign is obviously targeting a younger audience, and for that reason I’m disgusted EA. I really am.

The kicker is this; I can’t wait to play Dead Space 2. I’m genuinely looking forward to being terrified and shocked by what I see on screen. That doesn’t matter though, as I’m legally allowed to buy it from a shop. What I don’t want to be considered as, is a plus one for the ‘success’ of this campaign. I don’t want to be considered as a statistic when the shareholders have their next sales meeting. If anything, I really shouldn’t purchase the game out of respect for my morality. Campaigns like this are wrong, and are one of the things I hope I get the chance to change if I/when I get a job. Advertising your ‘mature only’ product to anyone under the age range of ‘mature adult’ really is an atrocity, and I hope at least some of the staff at EA and Visceral feel the same way. I imagine their tune will change when they see the sales figures, but they’ll lose a piece of their soul in the process.

I really hope I’m not the only one who sees a problem here, but what can one person do. Especially one person with a pre-order for the special edition version of the game in question. A pre-order I fully intend on fulfilling. Damn you EA. Damn you.

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Hi, I’m Commander Shepard, And This Is My Favourite Blog On The Citadel

Mass Effect was a brilliant Xbox 360 exclusive. A sprawling, space based, role playing game filled with aliens, space ships, genocide and hot, naked, blue chicks. Mass Effect was also a video game I was very late in playing. I picked it up way after the slue of ‘game of the year’ awards it won. It only cost me five pounds, but it was money well spent. I clocked up at least 30 hours on my first play through, visiting every planet, following through on every side mission, and spending my time completely soaking in the atmosphere of the universe Bioware had created. If you haven’t played the first and plan to, I wouldn’t read this entry. It’s Spoilerific.

Mass Effect 2 was released early last year, again an Xbox 360 exclusive, and managed to follow suit in being a fantastic and utterly compelling video game to play. It was nigh on perfect. I probably hit about fifty hours plus this time round, as I wanted to ingest absolutely everything Bioware had to offer. A year later, and Mass Effect 2 is making it’s debut on the Playstation 3. One of the best series of games this generation, has jumped from an exclusive, to a multi-platform game. That’s amazing in it’s own right, but what’s strange is that only Mass Effect 2 and the finale, Mass Effect 3, are going to be released on the PS3. To an avid player like myself, this seems like such a waste. Obviously the process of porting a five year old game must seem like too much hard work, but I feel the PS3 players of ME2 will be at a major loss when it comes to moral choices, and enjoyment of the universe the game is set in.

Mass Effect forced you to make some incredibly difficult choices. You had to choose which squad member of yours would die trying to detonate a nuclear device. You had to decided whether to kill a companion, or wipe out ever being able to find a cure for his race threatening disease. You had to choose whether or not to release a queen of a species that started a war which cost hundreds of thousands of lives, or be the bringer of death and take that entire species to extinction. There were love interests you could choose between, both straight and gay, and there was a huge choice in whether or not you would save a galactic council of strange species that spent your play through hampering your every move, or let them die and risk having an entire universe blaming yours truly as humanity can take over in their absence.

These choices meant something to me. They affected a universe that I wanted to save. A universe that I wanted to see more of. Your game save from ME1 could be imported into ME2, and the choices you made in your play through, would be continued as canon in the second game. If you saved the council, they would still be alive. If you killed them, then they’re toast for the entirety of the new game. It’s the first time I’ve seen this done with such gusto. Knowing that a choice in the first game could affect the outcome in the third meant that players really had to labour over what would be best for their universe. Every piece of dialogue became important. The galaxy, nay, the universe was at risk! What I don’t understand is how the PS3 players of ME2 will begin to care about the characters as much as I did.

In the absence of the first game on the PS3 system, Bioware created an interactive comic book. A comic book made by Dark Star comics no less! This interactive comic book would present you with the same moral choices from the first game, but in a quick ten minute succession. This left you a game to play, just as if you had imported a save from the original Xbox 360 game. A genius idea, but one with a drawback. How can you reduce something in which most people spent at least 20 hours of time on, into a fifteen minute interactive adventure. You can’t. Eurogamer have been nice enough to put the entire interactive comic online in the form of a clickable adventure. If you have a spare ten minutes, I would love for you to go through it, and post what choices you made, as they seem to way heavily to one outcome. An outcome that was different to the one I ended up with. Here’s a link; Mass Effect’s Interactive Comic Walkthrough

This comic, while flashy, was strange. One thing I noticed was that the Racchni queen in the game was described completely different to the one in the comic. This queen had been captured, and forced to give birth to soldiers. They were crazy, and not capable of doing anything other than fight. The Racchni Queen controls the entire race through telepathy, but these animals were an entirely new breed. I emphasised with her during my play through, and I let the Queen live. It was the right thing to do. In the comic however, she’s portrayed in a strange light, and not as I remember from the game. It seems Bioware have played heavily on tipping the scales in favour of a certain choice. In fact, I found most choices were being pushed to having a favourable option, one that would create a ‘canon’ game for the new player. These choices were definitely not the ones I decided to opt for after hours of deliberation, and it seems ME1 has not been given a respectful showing. Another fact of importance, is that the gay relationship available to the male version of Commander Shepard seems to have been removed. I don’t know why that is, but I’m sure some people would be upset about that.

It’s a shame, as PS3 players will miss out on important back stories, and beautiful dialogue from the first game. The characters will obviously be lacking back story, and that all important link an original player will have to them. Players will miss out on the citadel! Being in awe of it’s size and collection of new races was one of the most amazing things about ME1. The new player will never know what Cerberus really got up to on abandoned planets, nor feel anything for the loss of a comrade on Virmire. These choices the players are forced to choose between won’t mean that much, and this is truly a blot on an otherwise fantastic opportunity to play a tremendous video game epic. The knowledge and back story would, of course, be impossible to implement in anything other than a direct port of Mass Effect to the PS3, but I still think the lack of just that, leaves PS3 players of ME2 at a disadvantage. Commander Shepard would be disgraced.

Please, if you plan to play through Mass Effect 2 on the PS3, do yourself a favour and buy the PC version of Mass Effect 1. You will understand so much more about the universe you plan to save, and will understand the relationships of your characters more than you could if you skip it. The fact Mass Effect 2 is being released for a new platform of people to enjoy, is a great thing, and while I may have been quite harsh on the interactive comic, it still means new players will get to fall in love with the Mass Effect universe as I have. Mass Effect 2 is a brilliant game, one that’s definitely worthy of playing, but if you have the chance, don’t go into the game half blind. You’ll miss out on what makes the series special, and your experience, while fun, won’t be the same.

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Video Games And The Social Network

Social Networking and video games are two entities that are getting thrust together like a couple of teenagers playing spin the bottle. Both of them are highly lucrative markets in today’s digital, non-stop-consumption age, which makes them an ideal match and one that’s being practically forced down our throats whether we like it or not. Let’s look at Facebook (I said look, not open a new tab. That’s right, close it. I’m more important). Millions of users, millions of pounds worth of advertising revenue, and millions of hours worth of time wasted on the damn website. Now look at video games. Millions of players, millions of pounds worth of potential revenue, and of course, millions of hours worth of time wasted on the damn things. At some point, some genius in a suit decided it would be a marvellous idea to combine the two. To cross the streams so to speak.

If you play video games, I’m sure you’ve uploaded the odd, spectacularly captured glitch in your favourite game, updated friends with a status indicating just how brilliant a new game is, or how you just killed the shit out of some strange Italian man on Call Of Duty. If you use social networking websites, then I’m pretty sure at one point in time you will have accepted your friends invite to visit their farm to help plant some trees, stalked your ex girlfriend, or earned some chips to bet away in a seedy, virtual casino. There have always been video games hidden within social networking, and of course, aspects of social networking within video games. Who else remembers the second multiplayer was introduced, and you finally got to kill Oddjob with a proximity mine in the N64 version of Goldeneye. The invention of internet connections capable of downloading enough porn to kill an elephant brought online multiplayer, which meant you didn’t even have to have real friends to play with. You could just jump into a game, and immediately squash a small child, and then rub it in his face via a microphone.

As video games consoles have progressed, we’re presented with three huge gaming services and communities. We have Steam for the PC users, Xbox Live for the Xbox users, and the Playstation network for the, you guessed it, PS3 users (The wii may have online capabilities, but it sure as hell doesn’t have a community to go with them). Three platforms, three completely individual networks, three vastly different communities. That’s before I can begin to touch on the communities surrounding MMORPGS or MMOs like World Of Warcraft, EVE, and the newly released DC Universe. Anyone with half a brain can see they are a social entity in themselves, as the games wouldn’t exist without the social aspect. What with Twitter, Facebook, and Youtube integration being the norm these days, each network is already a keen platform for the job of time stealing, and that’s before you even load up a game!

Gaming has never been more sociable, and it’s never been so easy to be alone and still be with friends. You can jump into games with complete strangers, or set up tournaments with your mates from work, but you can all be sat in your most comfortable chair sipping on a cup of tea. Sure, you can still play split screen, but who needs to when you get to have a whole 32 inches to yourself.

I played Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit today(NFS:HP from now on, as I’m bored of typing the entire thing), and I was introduced to Criterion’s take on a social network. It’s the network players of the game are forced (and this is in no way a bad thing) to join upon playing. It’s called Autolog. I bet you’re probably asking “What is Autolog?” Well, this is Autolog. Autolog… Autolog

It’s a stroke of fucking genius is what it is. Burnout Paradise, another orgasm-inducing racing game created by Criterion, had what I would say was the beginnings of this new network type. The racing area, in this case a city, was enormous, and you could jump into online play with up to eight players immediately. IMMEDIATELY. There was no quitting of games, no waiting for lobbies, no fucking about with your settings. You were shot into an existing lobby with people already participating in a race, or just dossing about trying to do back flips in a pickup truck. It was brilliant at the time, but Autolog is just, wow.

I’ve had NFS:HP for about a week now, and I’ve played it for a good eight hours or so. It’s a great racing game, with stunning graphics, a decent enough soundtrack, and some brilliant game play, but the most impressive thing about this game is definitely Autolog. You’re basically looking at Facebook, within a video game. This talk about ‘walls’ and posting comments to your friends is all well and good, and it’s fun to leave a ‘hahah. I just beat u’ comment afer a good race, but the major draw to this network is the recommendations and alert systems. I am told over and over again by Autolog that I have four friends that play NFS:HP, and constantly asked if I would like to find some new friends to add. This game is actually asking me to add strangers to my friends list. That sounds awfully, awfully strange, but upon inspection, you will begin to realise that the more friends you have playing, the more competitive the game becomes. The more social you are, the better NFS:HP experience you’ll have.

Every race is of course timed. At the end of each race your time is uploaded to a leaderboard, the standard way of score keeping, which been around since, well, forever. The difference here is that when you achieve a time, a time that has beaten your friend’s, this friend of yours is immediately notified of this painful defeat the second they log onto the game in the arrival of a friendly alert. Hidden in this alert is a button which gives them the chance to immediately jump into the same race to try and regain their crown. Again, like Burnout Paradise, there are no menus. One button press and you’re selecting a car to beat your friend, recapture the top spot on the leaderboard, and send them vulgar and derogatory messages of how your time is better than theirs. I can see Autolog is going to be a problem for me.

Sunday evening was the exact moment I fell in love with Autolog. I was online at the same time as a friend who plays NFS:HP. We had the chance to play together in an online event, but instead, what happened was three hours of tooing-and-frowing, PSN messages, forum taunts, and Facebook congratulations. I set a time in a race, a time that just so happened to beat his. Cue Autolog rubbing my victory in his face. About half an hour later I was then forwarded my first Autolog defeat by a very formal sounding lady, exclaiming that my a friend had beaten my super-duper-impressive time. I’m sure you can guess what happened next.

Yep, I loaded that race as quick as I fucking could, and spent an hour trying to beat the new top score. I did, and not only did I rub it his face via Autolog, I opted for Facebook and Twitter embarrassment as well. I beat his time, and I wanted the world to know how shit hot I am at racing. Now, because of that moment of madness, I was left with egg on my face when he posted a nigh-on impossible to beat time fifteen minutes later. His score may be impossible to beat, and I may have looked like a fool for announcing to the world I was the best only to be beaten terribly, but that won’t stop me the next time Autolog tells me a time of mine has been beaten, and I will never ever learn from that mistake, because you see, Autolog is perfect.

It is the perfect middle ground between video games, and social networking. Autolog is just, right. It should be the norm in any competitive video game. I hope Criterion are allowed to sell the concept, as it could end up becoming huge. I couldn’t give three shits about posting photos on a friend’s wall, or leaving a comment about how cool a race was (which is probably why facebook takes up so little of my time). If it really means that much to me, I’ll send them a text, or a PSN message. What’s perfect about Autolog, is that I am immediately told the second I’m toppled from a leaderboard top spot. That’s an important thing for me.

You should probably know I am competitive as hell when it comes to video games. I spent two hours today trying to beat the aforementioned impossible time, knowing exactly how impossible it would be to beat. You can bet I’ll try tomorrow as well, in vain might I add, and you can bet I’ll drop any career race I’m playing to jump straight into regaining my rightful spot at the top of those leaderboards the next time Autolog sends me an alert. You see, second isn’t winning, second is losing. Second is being the best of the shit bunch. It’s not what some one should aim for. I play to win, and I’ll continue to do so. This is why Autolog resonates with me so well. In the quest to be the best, it’s nice to know the exact time when I need to up my game, and get back in the Camaro. I’m actually terrified of adding new friends to my list, just in case they’re better at NFS:HP than I am, and I can’t top the leaderboards any more!

Imagine if Autolog was taken outside of NFS:HP. What if it was an integral part of all video games? You’d turn on your system and would be presented with a small update telling you that Ianos beat your time trial in Burnout, RichieCapone killed more baddies in thirty seconds on COD than you ever could, and that Mark has completely raped your high score in Tetris. If you’re a competitive person you’d be loading those games up less than a second. It would be the perfect social network. If Autolog was cross platform, cross video game, the creators would be looking at an already massive amount of existing users. Any one with a console would technically be a member. In the age of downloadable content, we could be looking at hitting a button to load one game, getting a message, and hitting another button to load an entirely different game, with a different leaderboard and alert to beat. I’m in two minds as to whether or not it would actually work, but someone must be ready to think about trying it. The chance for advertising, increased sales, and more importantly, the ability to rub your success in other peoples face would be overwhelming.

I found out today Autolog has an iPhone app. I can take autolog with me whenever I want. I can set the damn thing to text me the second someone beats a time of mine. I’ll know that when I leave work, I’ll have a job to do. I know I’ll have something to beat. Social Networking and video games may be locked in a wardrobe having a quick fifteen minute smooch, but it won’t be long before the two are married, with very, very, popular children, a wall full of photos, scribbles, and trash talk, and an audience who like nothing better, than to rub a friend’s face in defeat. It sounds like a match made in heaven, and one that could end in a messy divorce. Who knows what the standard of networking will be in video games in the next year? Soon we’ll be looking at a new generation of consoles, and new networks that are brought with them. Gaming can be a personal past-time, but has the oppourtunity to be a huge social past-time too. Now you’ll have to excuse me, I’ve just had an Iphone alert from Autolog, and it appears I have a time to beat.

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Mine-Yours-His-Hers-And-Everyones-Craft

I played Minecraft today. I played it for three hours straight, without a break, without going to the toilet, and without actually getting dressed. That’s right, I fell out of bed at around nine in the morning to wait for a parcel, sat in my computer chair, and opened up the dotexe file through a sneaky steam short cut. I bought my copy of Minecraft the day before the game went into the beta phase, purely because I decided that I didn’t want to pay for extra updates on the off chance I’d actually wanted to play the game. I had known about it for months, and played the free modes hundreds of time. I guess I fell into the trap and am now one of the 800,000+ that own the program. If you play video games, or read any up to date gaming blog, news site, RSS feeds, or geek’s twitter feeds, you’ll have heard about it, but if you still have no idea what I’m talking about, check out the Minecraft website where you can play a free version of the game.

It’s a game about creation and survival. Nothing more, nothing less. You have an avatar. A small character which is dumped into a new, albeit very blocky, world. You are left completely to your own devices. There’s no story mode. There are no set objectives. You want to explore? Go ahead. Do you want to climb the nearest mountain? Feel free! You better be ready for the shit to hit the fan when night falls though, as that’s when the creepy crawlies come out. Your character is left to punch trees, craft weapons, build houses, and mine for all important minerals that make it so much easier to survive. This entry isn’t supposed to be a review of the game, but it’s hard not to give a bit of back story to one of the success stories of 2010.

So far, that game has been bought at least 800,000 times. Let’s assume everyone paid €10 like I did. That’s almost €7,000,000 if you take out tax and paypal fees! That’s a shit tonne of money considering the game was built by one man. One man, building a game as a hobby, and then striking it big. More importantly, he did this with no ‘major label’ backing. He didn’t have Activision, EA or Microsoft throwing money at advertising campaigns to promote the thing, he just had himself, and word of mouth. Just think about that for a moment. No advertising. That’s insane! Sure, I bet he ran between forums posting about his new updates, and maybe got some people to hit up a few viral posts on more popular message boards, but there are still people out there who have no idea about the game. I still can’t wrap my head around that. No advertising. This game has sold purely on the back of word-of-mouth. I wish I was one of the first 100 to buy the game. I’d be sitting in my chair and toasting the success I would have helped create.

If we look at advertising and video games through the ages, we’re left with million dollar T.V campaigns, in-game advertising, and digital work galore. Shit, I can still remember playing Zool on the Mega Drive which was sponsored by Chuppa-Chupps. The things were everywhere! There’s that campaign for Halo 3 in which we were instructed to ‘finish the fight‘, and a similar, but much better version produced for Killzone 2 on the PS3. Who else can remember gunning around a hairpin bend in Paradise City to be confronted by Obama’s smiling mug, telling me to vote in the American Presidential Election! I wrote an essay on the back of that!

With video games finally being recognised as the big money industry that they always have been, how many are we going to see advertised in 2011? Are smaller ‘B-rate’ video games going to get priced out of the market by the new episode in the Call Of Duty series, or the new Fifa game? For the general public who don’t have sites like Eurogamer bookmarked and a subscription to Edge, television and print will be the first time they see new games. It must bring goosebumps to the hardest skinned producers when they’re thinking about launching a new IP. How does the publisher get it right? One wrong move, one bad advert, one missed target audience and the game will bomb. Sure, it can receive all of the critical acclaim in the world, but that doesn’t always translate to sales, (Bayonetta, I’m sorry! I really tried to get people to try you. Why did you have to be so bloody weird).

Microsoft spent just over $200,000,000 on advertising around the release date of Kinect. The metro had it’s front pages taken over for an entire week! Yes Microsoft, I know; I’m the controller. Whoopdee-fucking-do… How is it then, that an indie game, produced by one man, has almost hit the 1,000,000 sales barrier? I know some ‘A’ classed titles that struggled to get there, (Yes Bayonetta. I know you’re the game of last year. People just didn’t understand you. I really did try!). Is it a credit to the game? The creator? The people who played it? Either way, it’s a testament to something, as it was managed without advertising of any sort. In this day and age, that’s an accomplishment on its own.

If I were to talk to a creative in the industry, or one further, a creative director, about their favourite television advertising, I’d be shocked if I were to find a video game advertisement in their top 50 ads of all time, let alone their top ten. I guess it comes with the generation I’m from, that a television ad for Xbox Live actually manages to makes my top ten. Not only that, but a banned one too. It probably doesn’t count, but the ad it self is genius. Xbox live is the online multiplayer service provided by Microsoft for those who own an Xbox360. It allows users of all ages, all genders, all races, and all locations to play together. Bear that in mind as you watch it. It was probably banned for ‘inciting racial hatred’, or because a child would copy it and get shot at point blank by a police officer. Something like that any way. Here it is, another one of my favourite adverts of all time. Hidden in a rambling post about Minecraft, product placement, and video game advertising. I hope it makes you feel as much of a child as it does me. Pew Pew.

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