Nintendo and Innovation

Nintendo has been (and arguably continues to be) the beacon for innovation since the inception of home console gaming.

Whether it be through revolutionary game design, three-pronged controllers, or modular consoles, Nintendo seems to be determined to be the people others will point to and say “they thought of it first.” This is obviously a pretty good business approach. The idea that you need to constantly reinvent yourself and adapt to changing times is still a prevailing one.

But as far as I can tell, this hasn’t always been Nintendo’s plan. And it’s gotten a bit crazy recently.

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Plans for 2017

This is a first!

I actually have a strong idea of what I’m going to do with my creative projects in the coming year. Strong enough to talk about.

The kind of stuff I want to put out all comes back to my enthusiasm about games – things like game reviews, analyses, and discussions of game mechanics and design. To that end, here is a short list of the things I’m going to start devoting myself to:

Streaming and recording: It all starts with playing games, and while I’m playing games I also want to record footage of games to be used in videos and give me something to refer back to for writing. I can also do streams while recording and get my audience involved in my work, adding to the discussion. Internet permitting, I’ll do this fairly often – probably whenever I feel like it rather than at a scheduled time.

Writing: You know, that thing I say I do. I’ll be playing games so I can talk about them, and the main things I’ll be talking about in written pieces will be game reviews and smaller topics (asides, basically) that don’t really need a ton of production put into them. I’ll do my best to stick to a publishing schedule of once a week or so. I’ll also still write about non-game things as I get inspired, but my main topic will be games and gaming.

Video essays: This is the most ambitious thing on my list, but it’s something I’ve been thinking about doing for a long time (at least a couple years). When tackling large topics – like breakdowns of far-reaching elements of game design and the like – I want to take the time to do a full demonstration in both audio and video. Recording game footage and what I want to talk about, writing the script, and editing all that together, will definitely be a huge undertaking – which is why these won’t come out very often, but I certainly hope they’ll be very worth it when they do.

Podcasts: This is an idea that was brought to me recently. I’m not sure how I’ll set these up, but getting a friend or two together and talking about recent events and otherwise shooting the shit sounds fun. The audio will probably get uploaded to my channel like a video would be.

The list above gives a bit of a look of what I want my life to be like in 2017. I want to be all over Twitter, I want to be spending time with friends, I want to be playing games and using my love of games to fuel discussion and think about what they really mean both to me and to others. I’m hoping I’ll be able to do at least one blog post every week, one video every month, and some podcasts and streams here or there to really connect with the people important to me – you all.

I’m gonna have a lot to show next year. It’s gonna be my year to really do what I’m passionate about. Look forward to it!

Alignments and What They Mean (and How They’re Used)

Alignment systems are one interesting way of adding player choice and consequence to a game, in addition to a bit of a role-playing factor.

The typical structure of an alignment system is a scale: “Good” on one extreme, “Evil” on the other, and “Neutral” resting in the middle. Your actions, good and evil, push you toward one end of the scale or the other. In this way, the sum of your actions end up defining who you are in the game’s world.

This also typically comes with quantifiable consequences – some factions in the game’s world may support your actions while others condemn them. Some perks and abilities are only available to a particular alignment, and sometimes the path the story itself takes can be dramatically altered by your actions.

How alignment shifts is also a variable – some games operate off a point system, where you gain “good points” and “evil points” and whichever is greater dictates your lean toward one alignment or the other. Some games operate purely off of choices, where performing a specific action (usually scripted into a significant scene) sends you down a particular path befitting that alignment. Others eschew the “good and evil” rhetoric in favour of a more clan-based system where your relationships with specific factions dictate how the world treats you, not the morality of your actions.

But where this admittedly simplistic framework for a player choice system gets interesting is when the implications of your actions are played with.

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Pokémon Moon (and Sun) – First Impressions

“First impressions” might be a tiny bit misleading since I’ve put over 20 hours into the game thus far, but here we are.

Pokémon Moon is awesome and I can’t stress that enough. I love the new pokémon, the updates to how the game plays, feels, and so on, but there are some issues I do have with it and some observations I feel a need to make.

I could write about how pathetic the trainer battles seem to be, or the exciting new Totem Pokémon mechanic (and how it was totally my idea first, Game Freak!), or the bullshit new “call for help” mechanic, but that’s all for another day.

What I want to talk about is breaking through the 2D ceiling and the effect its had on the game, because it’s remarkable.

“But X and Y, and Generation VI in general, were 3D!” you might say. “But the spin-off games for the GameCube were 3D!” you might also say.

Well… yes and no.

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31/10/16 – Choices

Considering I’ve been sick for a week and haven’t put out pretty much anything in who knows how long, it’s as good a time as any to talk about what’s been tormenting me lately.

There are a lot of things I’ve wanted to do, a lot of things I want to do that I’m not doing, and things that I have been doing that I don’t really want to do anymore. The main issue right now is resolving all of these things and making choices about what I’m going to do with my life and where my life will go.

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Antichamber – A Study of Perspective

Disclaimer: this analysis goes into detail about (and spoils many of) the gameplay mechanics of Antichamber, a puzzle game for PC. If you want the satisfaction of discovering and figuring out these mechanics on your own, you should finish this game before reading further.

I really like puzzle games. Portal. Q.U.B.E.. The Talos Principle. And other usual suspects. These games usually require the player to manipulate their environment to accomplish a goal.

Q.U.B.E. takes this very literally – the primary interactive element in the game is the environment, made out of blocks which sometimes extend and retract. Portal has the player use the titular portals to create pathways within the environment. The Talos Principle goes a step further by allowing the player to place objects which interact with each other throughout a level – and the trick becomes finding the winning combination.

Then comes Antichamber. Antichamber is not like those other games. (At least, not at first.)

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29/09/16 – Inaction 

I’ve learned (or perhaps more accurately been reminded of) a valuable lesson about taking action even if you’re uncertain of what to do.

A wise phrase I once heard is “the wrong thing to do is nothing,” and I think that’s actually very applicable. Inaction like that only results in positive change if you’re lucky, and no change or negative change more often.

I should clarify, however, that when I mean “doing nothing” I mean very specifically an absence of action, an absence of thought, an absence of much of anything at all. Essentially, I mean inaction brought on by the paralysis of fear or doubt.

Deciding very consciously to refrain from a specific course of action is, itself, a course of action. Conversely, when inaction is a product of negative emotions, we tend not to be completely conscious of it – or do not feel in control of it.

What I’ve learned is that I’ve spent a long time in this state of inaction. I’ve restrained myself for fear of causing negative results, I’ve sat lazily and lamented my apparent inability to get work done, I’ve done nothing and hoped for something to happen.

It doesn’t work out that way, generally.

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