Archives for January 2006

Carnival is around the corner

There’s still a little more time to get your submissions in for the Carnival of Gamers #11. Zonk has told me that he’ll accept submissions up until 11:59pm tomorrow night. I have it on good authority that this is going to be a great Carnival, perhaps with a little surprise thrown in on Thursday. The submissions are pouring in. It’s great to see a lot of people participating. Should be a good time!

I’ve also received word from the April host, Unbeliever from MMODIG, that he will be co-hosting the Carnival with Cosmik of n3rfed fame. He says they’ve got the format worked out, so it will be interesting to see how they pull it off. If you’re planning on participating in April, prepare to be mocked. Unbeliever’s a Pro!

I am thinking about hosting the May edition, since it will be the one-year anniversary of the Carnival. I had no idea it would be this successful. I figured interest would die off quickly and we’d have to pull the plug on it a couple months after it started, but it’s actually done better than just survive, it seems to have been well received, at least by most readers. I’m grateful to everyone who’s read, participated, or hosted the Carnival.

In addition to all the good news, Gamers Radio has stepped forward to take the Carnival in June. We welcome them and hope you drop them a visit.

Just the fun ones, please

B000A2R54M-01-_AA_SCMZZZZZZZ_.jpgOver the holidays last year, I had lunch with some of the guys I game with. As we ate, our conversation drifted to the topic of video games, as it is often does. We’ve been gaming together for almost four years now, so we’ve had a lot of “interesting” gaming sessions, ranging from some serious Mario Kart Double Dash matches to almost coming to fisticuffs over a game of Turok: Evolution, of all games. (We had banned the use of the Dark Matter Cube but someone couldn’t help himself and used the cheapest weapon ever to win a death match. It wasn’t a pretty sight.) For the most part, though, we’ve had some great gaming sessions. No matter how competitive we are, Nintendo games in particular seem to bring out a heated, but relatively friendly, competition. No punches thrown, just some serious trash talking.

We moslty talked about Super Mario Strikers, a game none of us owned but all had played. We all gushed about how fun it was and how easy it seemed to play. It’s nothing more than a simple street-style game of soccer with a Mario flair but it’s downright fun. What was it about such a simple game that made it so appealing?

Later that week, I took my Gamecube to work for some lunchtime gaming. We hooked it up to the projector in our conference room and threw down, Nintendo style. We started off with a little Pac-Man Vs. which is the best use of the GBA-GC link I’ve played. Take the simplicity of Pac-Man and then add in multiplayer and you’ve got a sweet party game. We then moved onto some Mario Kart: DD and finished up with Mario Power Tennis. Two of us had played most of these games and the other two hadn’t. It didn’t matter. All of them were easy to pick up and play. Our Mario Tennis matches took a few minutes to get everyone up to speed, but after a little while we were volleying, smashing and saving like pros. It was good, serious fun.

All of these games had something in common – they were either published or developed (or both) by Nintendo. They all have fantastic mutliplayer modes. They’re simple and easy to learn but complex enough to have an element of strategy and discovery. To put it simply, Nintendo just makes fun games. More specifically, Nintendo makes fun party games.

Even their actual “Mario Party” games are great, even though not everyone agrees. Just look at the reviews for the past few Mario Party games. The argument could be made that this particular franchise is getting long in the tooth. But I think that misses the point. The reviewers may give Mario Party 7 a low score and justify it by saying “it’s more of the same” but that doesn’t capture the whole picture. The reviewers have probably been playing Mario Party since it was an N64 game. Most casual gamers have not. So they don’t care if one of the mini games in MP7 is derivative of a game from MP4. It doesn’t matter. It’s fun, no matter how you play it.

So what is it about Nintendo’s games that make them fun? I think Matt at Press the Buttons was on to something when he was trying to explain why he was describing the Game Boy version of Mario Tennis. “So it’s like Pong,” was the common reply when describing a video game version of Tennis. Is Pong fun? Thirty years ago it certainly was. So is the actual game of tennis. A digital version of a fun game – it’s a no brainer.

But that’s discounting the Nintendo/Mario angle. They’ve distilled the basic mechanics of a particular game and make it accessible through simple controls. Sometimes it seems like you can’t be “bad” at Nintendo games. Other people may be better than you, but sucess is usually easy to come by. Are the games artificially easy for the sake of enjoyment? I don’t think anyone who’s played a Super Mario game would agree with that they’re “easy.” Fun? Yes. Easy? Not everytime.

Is it nostalgia? I definitely think that plays a big part in my enjoyment. Most “older” gamers (come on, I’m only thirty!) grew up with Mario and Luigi. So this is like playing with old friends. The familiarity with the characters, their idiosyncrasies and nuances are what we look for everytime we boot up a Nintendo game.

We’re seeing this all over again with the Nintendo DS. Nintendo makes great games that are fun to play for the casual gamers as well as the serious gamer. Will it happen with the Revolution? Will the simple game play continue? Is it a new shift in gaming overall?

I sure hope so.

Comics and gaming

Video games seem to be a popular topic in comics lately. I’m not talking about webcomics like PvP and Penny-Arcade (a couple of my faves). I’m talking about the ones in the newspaper. Bill Amend, writer of Foxtrot, gets gamers. Whether he’s joking about World of Warquest or Nice City, he does a great job goofing on video gamers without be condescending or disrespecting the medium. He is a gamer, afterall. He gets it.

In today’s Dispatch, the one-panel “Six Chix” comic about video games, another writer comes close. Kathryn LeMieux clumsily tackles the issue of whether gaming is mature or not. While I would agree that most M-rated games are anything but mature, her depiction is less than flattering.

Maybe the truth hurts?

Gaming Parents: good little citizens.

It’s been passed around a lot already, but I couldn’t pass up the news story reporting that 35% of parents game. Not only can I include myself in that 35% (even though no one asked me), I loved this little tidbit:

Gamer parents are also likely to be voters, according to the study, with 73 percent of those surveyed claiming to visit the polls regularly. Perhaps unsurprisingly, 85 percent think that monitoring the appropriateness of what kids play should be the job of the parents, not the government or game publishers. Similarly, parents believe by a two-to-one margin that it isn’t the government’s job to regulate games at all.

See that? Are all parent gamers conservatives? Nope. We’re just well adjusted and we’re involved. Involved in our kids’ lives, involved in politics (some of us more than others), involved in rational thinking.

It’s something we picked up while we were gaming.

Redesigning the DS

Man, I come into work this morning and check my feeds before starting the day and gaming sites are abuzz with the quiet announcement by Nintendo, presenting the redesign of the Nintendo DS (from Nintendo’s Japan website. Here’s the Google Translation). Unfortunately I don’t have time to really dig deep into this, since I’m at work, but I must say I both excited and a bit disappointed. Excited because it looks shiny. Disappointed because the redesign doesn’t seem like that much of an improvement. Being the gadget whore that I am, I’ll probably figure out a way to get one of these anyway. I do like the iPod-white, so it’s got that going for it.

I didn’t notice (and didn’t take the time) to find out if this is States-bound. I would assume that it is. Can anyone confirm that?

More to come later.