I've now watched both the Nintendo and Square conferences, though I don't consider myself much wiser.
Popular opinion seems to be that Nintendo shit the bed somewhat with their offerings, though I'm not sure I particularly agree with that assessment. Unimpressive by comparison perhaps.. which is too bad considering that they kind of snuck in a win last year with Splatoon and whatnot.
I'd say that Starfox is guilty of the crime of failing to excite, but that's hardly a capital offense. There was a hell of a lot of J in that presentation so Pete at least should be pleased -- good to see Yokai Watch (the hyphen is unnecessary) and Fire Emblem represented. Animal Crossing Designing Spaces is... certainly something! I think teasing Metroid and then delivering what amounts to Metroid Party wasn't a smart move either from a social media perspective, but what do I know? Apparently you have to be a muppet to understand the minds of Nintendo execs these days.
I also feel that if you're going to go whole hog and consumate the profane work of commerce and plastic that is the Skylanders/Amiibo union then the logical option would be to lead with Wario as the representative mascot for the initiative -- Bowser would be a distant second.
I am ready to admit that Mario Maker is potentially a big deal but I feel the same way about it as I do about Little Big Planet: Smart on somebody's part definitely - not for me.
Square's goofy. Just Cause = Just Silly. I realize this is the whole point but eh -- too many games and too little time for this kind of unstructured underpants mayhem. Kingdom Hearts includes Disney rides which is neat I guess... but as Square said themselves they are struggling under the weight of their own history here and I'm not sure there's any way out for them.
Relative to the above, World of Final Fantasy looks like a weird bandaid solution that won't actually fix the core problem of Square having too much history and not enough differentiation between its properties. I have no problem with adorable chibis but the fact is plain that the company is now now so bloated with character chaff that getting up to speed quite literally requires something like 500+ hours of retroactive play.
It's not like the Square characters even have tons going on under the hood personality-wise compared to their Disney counterparts. Most actual character-character Square hero/herione would be... who. Yuna? After that... Kefka? The best you can say about someone like Cecil or Rinoa is that they were adequate stand-ins for the time. The entire cast of FF XIII is now a vaguely crystal shaped blur. It's going to be a hard row to hoe to get anybody to give a damn about Rosa or the guys from V.
I see this problem as well for FF VII, AKA that "not in the top 5 final fantasies" Final Fantasy. It was a big deal for its time no doubt, but I think that they'll have to pull a Mad Max Fury Road if they want to make it work effectively in 2015, which is to say go back to the well entire. What people want isn't actually Final Fantasy VII, it's the memory gestalt they summon to mind when they recall FF VII across 20 years of distance. They want high school, sitting up late into the night with a PS1 thinking about highschool age girls while Boyz to Men plays quietly in the background. In the biz, if you can actually pull off this feat of Total Recall it ought to be called "Pulling an XCOM".
As for female protagonists, let me keep it brief: I think Lynette made the point for me, but yes - what I was saying about female protagonists boils down to the difference between Dragon Age vs the Witcher - ie. games where you create an avatar of your choosing (which can be whatever you want) as opposed to games where a character is created for you by the developers.
I am personally more a fan of the later approach than the former approach, unless you're playing something like Dark Souls in which case your character might as well be a bucket for all the objective difference it makes.
In my mind a character like Geralt is going to trump a cypher like the Dragonborn every time -- you only have to play Planescape Torment to understand why. Saying that female models and skins are growing in number (while true) misses the point i was making about the riskiness of specifically casting a woman as the Character Character in your AAA game.
Naughty Dog wasn't allowed to even put Ellie in center stage on their box art and we know this sort of thing has a track record of being commercial poison as oft as not thanks to bad marketing, insecure manchild consumers or just straight up not going entirely whole-hog when it comes to making a AAA game the best it can be (historically) if it stars a woman. Remember Me sheds a single tear.
I believe it's good to see this objectively visible change in the industry equalizing the scales. If you need a reason, imagine you are a father with 2 young daughters (as Alex is) or are a woman who grew up loving video games but who now feels increasingly alienated and shouted into the margins by the virulent and toxic attitudes of a boys only club (as my Wife regularly does) or simply is a person who lived through the 90s when a love of video games equated to public shame and dating poison in the world of High School romance. It doesn't have to be this way. These aren't quotas on the part of publishers, they are steps in the correct direction if what you're interested in is games being taken seriously as a medium by culture at large outside the gaming ghetto.
Now, that other bit:
I have a friend who believes that the central problem facing the world today is the fact that Internet bubbles / social networks now allow a person to exist 100% safely insulated from ideas that they don't already pre-agree with. As a result he feels we have lost our ability to debate like intelligent people with people who don't share our views -- all our diplomacy cells atrophy as we sink into simple 140 character shit flinging at each other.
There is only one time in the history of the Squad when I've come close to actually going "Goebbels" on anybody - 10 years of archived memories will attest to the exchange of free speech here at the Squadron of Shame. In case you're curious, the time in question was fairly recently when Lynette mentioned to me that she no longer felt safe posting on the boards where she'd been a member for YEARS because of the amount of malice that her relatively polite postings were bringing down from a vocal few noobs.
Rather than cause a perceived ruckus in a place that she believed others were currently enjoying, my wife simply shut her mouth, bottled her words and more or less disappeared from the boards entirely -- which, if you've been paying attention is kind of the problem with the entire goddamn culture in the first place and wasn't exactly conducive to the kind of Squad I wanted to build.
Watching this made me furious, and I did indeed have the ban hammer at the ready at that moment, ready to wield it against my Squad Brothers. But in the end cool heads prevailed. I didn't evict anybody and I'm not likely to throw anybody here off the boards in the future as long as we keep things within the realm of the civil. Lynette can stick up for herself, but it's shit that it came to the point where this was even an issue.
On the subject of GamerGate - I loathe it of course but it's not like this is a deep secret or anything - 10 seconds on the boards will confirm this. I've deleted more pages of Beige Posts on the subject than any of you know.
...BUT I've always tried to hold to the idea that the Squadron of Shame is not Beige's Place To Do What He Likes With but OUR place, with the emphasis on the Our. While I hate the hashtag I also know that you fellows are smart people with thought out opinions on things and I don't claim to speak for one and all. If you want to make the case about specific grievances, I'm willing to meet you halfway with as open a mind as I can muster. I'm not likely to change my mind, but it's not necessary that I do for us to have a civil culture.
In the absence of any kind of overt Squad mission statement vis-a-vis "Forgotten Games of Shame" (which is kind of archaic in 2015) I believe that this club represents a sanctuary of sorts for people to just talk intelligently about games in a civilized way.
All of you are my friends, and yet some of you have GamerGate sympathies or are apologists in some way for the quote-unquote movement. If you're genuinely curious I'd be more than happy to enlighten you about my reasons for hating GamerGate, but I haven't dropped that Beige post yet because honestly nobody asked for it. The short answer is twofold:
a) As a movement it has disgraced "gaming"on the public stage so utterly that it's set the whole perception of medium back a generation or more, just when we were getting solid footing. A simple office poll at work revealed that the entire web department had ceased self-identifying as "gamers" simply as a result of the drama though we all still talk videogames all the time.
b) Its appearance on the cultural stage has driven a deep and potentially ubridgable wedge between me and a number of very close and dear friends, which ***I cannot stress enough** is ***heartbreaking*** to me. I make friends slowly and value my friendships deeply and so I curse this blight for bringing an unwanted brother-on-brother divide to my world, even though I realize that it was the culture wars writ large and not GG specifically that summoned the schism. It was a question of when, ultimately -- but this fact makes me bitterly sad as I feel it illustrates the absolute worst facets of a culture I believed we'd grown beyond as a people.
The Squadron of Shame is one of the few avenues I have left at my disposal to demonstrate that there may be hope for the dream of the Farmer and the Cowman being friends. If there isn't room for civilization here, there isn't room anywhere. Ergo, no bans yet -- which isn't the same thing as saying anything goes. If there is a morality here, let it be an aggregate of the sentiments expressed by the board's members. If this environment gets too bitter for me to handle or if I stop recognizing myself in the sentiments and style of argument being expressed in this place I'll be the one to leave -- but I promise that I won't burn the place down on my way out for those who want to stay.
Nobody shouts at the Squadron of Shame - nobody harasses or demeans one another. Everybody listens. Even if your politics don't match mine -- or, hypothetically let's say you play weird and questionable games that make the average layperson uncomfortable to look at, you have a right to say and do what you please here as long as you make a case for your ideas in front of your peers and back up your reasons with something approximating a legitimate argument.
My goal with the Squad has always been a collective of people who try to dig deeply into the stuff we discuss here - I trust you guys to bring quality grist for the discussion mill. I stood by you all when we played Katawa Shoujo together even though that one mission split the squad in half, for chrissakes. Shit like Song of Saya is worth talking about.
You don't have to couch your words in metaphors and side-glances and wink-winks at the Squadron of Shame -- just don't expect me to sit back and smile if you identify vocally as a Death Eater or something. This is my home too, and I won't have fucking Visigoths bringing the property values down. Sincerity, honestly, intelligence and humanity. Surely we can agree on that much.