Monday, May 22, 2017

Opinion Piece - Politics In Gaming

In a recent article of GameInformer magazine written by Associate Editor, Elise Favis, readers are exposed to the often controversial topic of placing political elements in video games. According to her assessment, a majority of the gaming community would be opposed to this invasive practice of placing these often not-too-subtle points of contention in their titles. This might be in part due to the ideal of most gamers having a medium of escapism from the world's harsh realities of life. There is an expectation of entertainment value without pondering too much.

There are radical movements such as GamerGate that passionately oppose such realism. However, I share the sentiment that Favis has in that "Politics not only matter, but they also make for better games and better stories." That's not to say that every game should apply such politically motivated components to them.

What are politics anyway? For those of you that are unaware (or those that have tried to repress any form of such discussion), politics essentially boils down to the theories and practices of governing or influencing other people in society. This often means curbing people's actions either for the benefit or detriment of the public. Ideally, the former is more desireable than the latter, but there are those that often use their power and dominion to persuade others to be corruptible.

There have been some games that fall completely flat when trying to spur feelings of activism or social awareness. None come to my mind at this moment, but it's fair to say that a political approach does not always enhance the entertainment value of a video game.

The gaming industry is ever changing though and preconceived notions of fantasy and science fiction have constantly been reshaped to fit the times. Indie developers are always trying to push the envelope digitally with enhanced graphics and storylines. It is thus to be expected that future narratives will mimic and reflect the values and concerns of the decade. As Elise Favis puts it, "The most memorable games are the ones that leave you to ponder their meanings, and politics are just one of the many methods to facilitate discussion."

Furthermore, video games (at least in my own personal opinion) are indeed a form of art, akin to the works of contemporary novelists and abstract artisans. There are numerous stories that can be told with players offered ultimatums that effect the worlds they inhabit, however briefly. Favis uses examples of games such as Mafia III, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, and The Last of Us Part II, but one example that immediately comes to my mind is that of Ubisoft's Watch Dogs 2.

The microaggressive actions of Brody Goodale, senior programmer for the fictional tech company Nudle, upon Horatio Carlin for one instance, brought light to a daily problem in the real world felt by minorities. Harassment and general glares of suspicion are not uncommon from white, privileged individuals towards persons of color, even if they are law abiding citizens.

One scene that stood out for me involved a high tech automobile with an artificial intelligence (AI) that tells Marcus Holloway that facial recognition can’t identify him because his skin is too dark. This was an example in-game of a real-world incident where cameras by HP could not recognize dark-skinned individuals. Watch Dogs 2 is one of my most enjoyed games.

I can't say I didn't laugh when the AI had trouble profiling Marcus, but sometimes humor is the only option we have in order to keep calm in those moments of high tension. Often, comedy and satire increase the awareness of such issues. We're all human. We all make mistakes. No one is perfect. However, that doesn't mean we can't try to be better people. As with all things, we should use a modicum of moderation when applying political undertones.

Works Cited

Favis, E. (2017, June). Get Your Politics Into My Games. GameInformer, (290), 32-32.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Dragon Quest X Scheduled to Release on the Nintendo Switch Fall 2017

Hey everyone! It's been a busy month, so I figured I'd post this information really quick while I still had time. I'm not one to post April Fool's jokes at the beginning of the month (especially when it comes to video games) because I think it's overdone in gaming magazines. This is especially true when you're paying about $22.97 for a 12-month subscription to say, Game Informer with one month's articles being abnormally thin on content and it begins to feel like a bit of a nuisance. It's annoying when you realize that you're paying about $1.91 an issue and feels as if you're tossing that one issue out the window because the editors want to have a cheap laugh (Insert Half-Life 3 jokes here). You could use that towards a STEAM game. Nonetheless, I apologize for the delay for my own input.

Square Enix announced during the Japanese Nintendo Direct earlier this month (April 12, 2017) their MMORPG title, Dragon Quest X, will now be releasing in Japan in the Fall/Autumnal Season of 2017 for the Nintendo Switch. Apparently, there will be a featured free campaign option to help those who played on the (services now terminated) Wii version to transfer all their characters to the Switch version. More details on that will be revealed in a future update. Below is the full fledged video.

Just as a refresher, Dragon Quest X Online: Rise Of The Five Tribes was announced in 2008 by Yuji Horii. There was a long period of silence however and not much was really known about the title until a September 5, 2011 conference in which Mr. Yuji Horii officially revealed that Dragon Quest X Online: Rise Of The Five Tribes would be an MMORPG that would not only be expansive, but very plot driven (Nintendo Power pg. 24, Vol. 272). Players have the ability to change vocations (at special shrine locations) and use skill points in a similar fashion to the previous title in the franchise Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies for the Nintendo DS. They are also able to chose from among five different races (hence the title), from the "sprite-like" Pukuripo, Wedies (aquatic "music-loving" creatures), woodland elves, ogres, or the lofty dwarves. Humans are not made initially available "as the human populated continent has been sealed away by the game's villain and it's up to the other races to liberate it." (Nintendo Power pg. 18, Vol. 273).

The main world, known as Astoltia is comprised of five islands (according to the NGamer Staff for NGamer Magazine and the official Facebook page). One of which, is actually a cluster of smaller, individual islands. There is a central continent in where most of the world's humans reside.

Gamers begin their journeys in Dragon Quest X: Rise of the Five Tribes Online as a human from Etene Village. Later on, the player becomes a new character from one of the five other remaining races (Dwarf, Kuripo, Elf, Wedie, or Ogre).

Players can customize their characters with numerous option, choosing everything from gender to size, as well as naming them and altering their appearances to their own liking. In addition, the player also creates another "sibling" character, which also aids in the main storyline.

Once players reached a certain point within the single player (offline) story mode (approximately 2 - 2½ hours into gameplay), they were prompted to connect online to continue play. This however, required a paid monthly subscription in order to be granted full access. Fortunately, "Director Jin Fujisawa didn’t want that to be a barrier for long time fans of the [Dragon Quest] series". As such, there was an implementation of a "Free Play" period that lasts for two hours each day in which players of all ages could log on and play the online portions of the game without a penalty fee. Whether or not this feature will be implemented in the future Nintendo Switch and PlayStation 4 versions of the game remains to be seen.

Dragon Quest X is currently available on the Nintendo 3DS, Wii U, iPhone, Android, and PC. The PlayStation 4 version will still release this summer in Japan.

I'm really hoping for this game to be localized in the west. If it does come to the United States, it could be the next Phantasy Star Online 2.

Works Cited

1.) Loe, Casey. "A Quest of Millions." Nintendo Power Oct. 2011: 24. Print
2.) Loe, Casey. "The Dragon's Hoard" Nintendo Power Nov. 2011: 18. Print
3.) S. (2017, April 13). Dragon Quest X Marches To Nintendo Switch In Fall 2017 In Japan. Retrieved April 28, 2017, from