Top Five Instances of Bullshit in Video Games in the Last Decade
The Fall of the Sega Dreamcast
Released in 1998 in the middle of America’s hot, sticky love affair with the Nintendo 64, the Sega Dreamcast re-defined the function of the home video game console, but was a commercial failure, and Sega’s Waterloo.
The Dreamcast was a beautiful parcel of firsts. It was the first to utilize an ever improving OS, by not storing a conventional OS on the console, but by loading the latest version of the OS on with each new game; something that may sound familiar to a lot of gamers today. It was the first (widely available) home console to offer an online gaming network, which is enough to earn the device accolades; and along with online gaming came online games, and SegaNet and Dreamarena allowed people to play MMORPG’s, First Person Shooters, Sports games, and platformers online. Plus it had an awesome, purposeless mini-game-type-thing memory card, and while I never figured out what the hell it was, it was awesome. Honestly, the only drawback to the Dreamcast was it’s downward facing controller cord.
The problem of the Dreamcast comes down to timing. It came out in the very middle of the N64 and Xbox generations and its technology was indicative of the limbo it was born in. While online gaming is cool, broadband wasn’t widely available, which made connecting to Seganet a hassle; and at its fastest, dial up is suicide inducingly slow, and it could have used a better controller layout. So without the technology to support it, this prodigious device was discontinued in 2001, taking Sega out of the console wars.
The Dreamcast was a martyr for the consoles to come. Developers of future consoles were no doubt inspired by the innovation of the Dreamcast, and took into consideration its capabilities and failures when developing the true sixth generation of consoles; and the most bullshit part of the fall of the Dreamcast is that it wasn’t given the love or recognition deserving of such a beautiful sacrificial lamb.
Sony deserves credit for its contributions to the technology world, for which the walkman can take 93% of the credit. It’s rare that Sony has an idea of its own: it didn’t put joysticks on original Playstation controllers until Nintendo put a joystick on the 64; It didn’t start a proprietary gaming network until 4 years after Microsoft launched Xbox live; It decided to include a six-axis control feature on the PS3 after Nintendo decided to do something cool with the Wii. So it comes as no surprise that when Sony got its hands on an original piece of technology, it did everything to corner that market.
I’m sure that there were still some intrepid Sony execs, bitter about losing the BetaMax/VHS format war who were dedicated to winning the HD-DVD/Blu-ray war. Sony took something of a gamble and designed the PS3 around the Blu-ray format, which made the cheapest PS3 at launch cost $499.99. There were enough people who would buy a PS3 because they previously had a PS2 (because they previously had a Play Station). They set forth the task of marketing the PS3 in the same way that Sega had marketed the Genesis, making all kinds of myths about its capabilities verses its competitor, and eventually claimed a steady market share, and eventually won the format war for Blu-ray
The most Bullshit thing about Blu-ray isn’t that it’s an inferior format, it’s actually better than HD-DVD in quality and storage space (it also has a catchier name), it’s the fact that it wasn’t necessary. Our games still aren’t written in such a way as to require 50 GB of media, and Sony had an opportunity to truly improve the home gaming experience, and chose to sell a Blu-ray player than can play games and sometimes connect to the internet. They chose to capitalize rather than innovate.
I grew up playing a Sega Master system, praying that one day “Nintendo” (just like in the South, all soda is Coke, all video games were referred to as “Nintendo”) would be an Olympic event, and I could beat the Russians in the final round of Rampage and take home the gold, but that never happened… Instead a bullshit organization was founded to generate publicity for popular game developers.
Major League Gaming has come to represent complete douche-baggery, and rightfully so. The Gamers of the Major League are the best of the best in games like: Halo, Halo, Halo, Call of Duty, Tekken (for some reason), Stracraft II, and Super Smash Brothers Brawl. While most of these games are superb, so were they’re predecessors, and therein lies the bullshit.
Currently MLG only recognizes Halo 2 and Halo Reach, while ignoring Halo Combat Evolved, and that’s just disturbing. Combat Evolved is to the Xbox what Mario was to the Nintendo, it started the new age of video gaming, it was the greatest FPS of its day, and was the giant on whose shoulders current FPS games now stand, and to leave it out of the line up is just remiss. The same thing happened with Super Smash Bros. When Brawl came out, they dropped Melee, which caused a stir in the Smash community because a lot of gamers still assert that Melee was better; one thing is certain, melee was the game that really popularized the franchise, and it should be respected.
The bullshit of MLG is that they are in a position to influence the games that younger gamers are into. If a kid idolizes Tsquared, and Tsquared plays only the newest versions of games, than kids are going to want to buy the newest versions of games. Apart from being a bullshit commercial ploy, this system neglects to recognize video game history; if one can come to truly appreciate 4 and 8-bit games then it provides a deeper understanding of current video games. Sadly MLG ignores where we came from, and that can only negatively influence where we’re going.
EA Buys Everyone
As has been mentioned previously, EA’s “Can a Computer Make you Cry” ad embodied only the best intentions and aspirations for computer programming artists, but somewhere along the way, the beast was awoken and began a fierce acquisitions campaign that would be the envy of any self-respecting fascist state.
Since 1991 EA has bought up 34 Gaming, Social Networking, and Mobile development companies or websites, so it’s not surprise that their de facto motto of “Can a Computer Make You Cry” was replaced with the official motto of “Challenge Everything,” because that’s precisely what they did.
Some of the more notable development studios that EA has aquired:
Id (developer of the Doom series, the Quake series, the Wolfenstein series, and my personal favorite game of all time, the Commander Keen series.)
Origin (the studio that brought you the ultima series amongst others)
Maxis (developer of the SimCity series, The Sims series, and Spore)
Tiburon (developer the Madden series, the NCAA series, and a lot of other shit that I don‘t like to play)
Westwood Studios (who brought you DUNE, the first modern RTS, and Command and Conquer amongst others)
Criterion Games (which is practically responsible for every racing game in stores today)
Hands on Mobile (which is responsible for around one hundred best selling mobile games)
Pandemic (developer of the second best stars wars game franchise known to man, the battlefront series, amongst others)
Bioware (developer of the best Star Wars game franchise known to man, Knights of the Old Republic, and the Mass Effect Series)
With it’s slimy tentacles flailing all around the gaming community, EA has become the gaming worlds prominent monopoly. They’ve been slapped with lawsuits by their employees, citing mandatory 100 hour workweeks without overtime compensation, they’ve encountered ANTI-TRUST lawsuits, and they received an good deal of criticism for their attempted hostile takeover of take-two interactive, which would have eliminated their main rival in Sports gaming.
If it’s not clear by now, the bullshit of this is that EA is putting profit ahead of innovation. EA’s policy has gone from “push the limits of computing software to enable digital interactive media to be so moving that it invokes an emotional response in the user” to “eliminate the competition so nobody else can make games that are more original than ours, so gamers can play the same shit year after year, numb to what they’re missing,” and it’s working.
Duke Nukem Forever
It took Axl Rose 13 years of meditation, research, and artistry to bestow upon the world Chinese Democracy… It’s been 14 YEARS since Duke Nukem Forever was announced.
Apart from blood, strippers, and gore 1996’s Duke Nukem 3D was groundbreaking in that it gave it’s protagonist a personality (albeit a cartoonish chauvinistic one); so when 3D Realms announced Duke Nukem, Forever in 1997, everyone took for granted that it would be released in 1998 and become a staple in the FPS genre… But we couldn’t have been more wrong. Usually you can see a game series evolving and improving to reflect the technical advancements of the time, but in the case of DNF, you can see the evolution of the technology reflected in the game trailer, as they released official trailers in 1998, 2001, and 2006.
Since coming into being, Duke Nukem Forever has been designed using at least 4 different graphics engines, and the rights to publish the games have switched hands 3 times, and in 2009 the original publisher of the Duke Nukem series, 3D Realms, was closed. This is pure speculation, but I think that fact that they hadn’t released an original games since Duke Nukem 3D in 1996 (13 years) may have posed a cash flow problem. But 2K Games picked up the rights to DNF and now Gearbox has either finished the game or is very near finished with development of DNF on a proprietary graphics engine based on the Unreal Engine 2. It’s slated to be released sometime in 2011, but I’m not holding my breath.
The bullshit of it all is that since Duke Nukem Forever was announced, it’s seen 3 different U.S. Presidents, 3 generations of video game consoles, the first Female Speaker of the House, the election of the first Biracial U.S. President, and it’s outlived the United States’ longest military engagement in history. You can find an in depth list of events that have taken place during the development of Duke Nukem Forever can be found here http://duke.a-13.net/.
[UPDATE: The Washington Post announces Duke Nukem Forever ships May 3]
Dreamcast Related articles
- Sega Dreamcast Collection was not worth the wait (geek.com)
- Sega’s Glorious Failure Makes Another (Disappointing) Comeback [Dreamcast] (kotaku.com)
- Sega Unveils Disappointing Dreamcast Collection (escapistmagazine.com)
- Dreamcast Collection Officially Announced (1up.com)
- Sega’s Dreamcast Collection Release Date Announced (godisageek.com)
- Dreamcast Collection Coming To Xbox 360, PC On February 22 (crunchgear.com)
- Dreamcast Collection puts four whole games on PC and Xbox this Feb. (joystiq.com)
- DreamCast Collection Detailed (g4tv.com)
- “Dreamcast Collection due late February” and related posts (vg247.com)
- Sega Confirms “Dreamcast Collection” (wiigalaxy.com)
- Sega Dreamcast Collection coming to PC via download February 22 (news.bigdownload.com)
- “Dreamcast Collection announced (Xbox 360, PC). Release date is February 22, 2011″ and related posts (videogamesblogger.com)
- Ooh La La! Dreamcast Collecting Coming In A Month! (pinkbananaworld.com)
- “SEGAâ€™s Dreamcast Console Announed for the Xbox 360″ and related posts (ditii.com)
- Sega Dreamcast Collection Gettings Ready For Xbox 360, PC Launch (inquisitr.com)
- “Dreamcast Collection releasing next month for 360 and PC, details are unsurprising (Sonic Adventure)” and related posts (gamesradar.com)