Female, Middle-Aged Gamer Speaks
Just read through that one, and yeah, I agree with the author: the range of games available is decreasing by the year. I've been playing various computerised games for years now (since I was about fifteen or so) and quite honestly, the console gaming range these days is pathetic compared to even the variety available five years ago. Ditto the range available for PC gamers.
This is becoming a common problem across multiple media, where the amount of money required to provide content means the investors are less and less willing to take risks with what they have, so they're only willing to provide a new version of something that's already been proven to have worked. Their justification for this is "everyone liked it". There isn't any money being spent on the smaller, niche markets - instead, colossal amounts are being poured into efforts to capture the eyeballs of the One True Demographic (which appears to be 15 - 25 year old, white, middle-class, suburban, heterosexual, Christian-raised, American males).
The rest of us, unfortunately, get to spend our lives looking through shelf after shelf of what "everyone likes", searching vainly for something even vaguely different to the endless loop of FPS; FPS; oh look another FPS; and gee, did you realise there was an FPS here? We're never asked whether we might want something different. (See multiple previous rants re: choice of salt-and-vinegar crisps or vinegar-and-salt crisps when what I'm actually looking for is barbecue flavour.)
( Why I'm not interested in online or 3D gaming )
If there's a game company exec out there browsing around haphazardly, looking for inspiration, here's what I want out of a game (and even though I may be a rare bird as a 40 year old heterosexual, female, Australian gamer, I'm not the only one):
* I want a good story - something that catches me and keeps me interested. Give me plot twists, give me character interaction, give me a reason to keep playing the godsdamned game past the first five minutes and the second cutscene. If you're not sure how to do this, get hold of the writers for the Final Fantasy series and ask them, because they certainly have it down to a fine art. Bioware also appear to have writers who can tell the difference between a plot and a hole in the ground.
* I want gameplay which is consistent. There are four buttons on the average console, and I'd prefer to be just using those. I should not have to remember the equivalent of the emacs macro set (look it up) in order to be able to defeat the second mini-boss.
* I want gameplay which accepts that not everyone is a hyperactive teenager hopped up to the eyeballs on caffeine and energy drinks with the reflexes of a greased ferret on crystal meth. My visual processing and verbal processing are slower than average to start with - they're only going to slow down more as I get older (and I'm part of Generation X, the first gamer generation). So have stuff which doesn't rely on pinpoint pixel perfect accuracy, or exact timing, because otherwise I'll get fed up and switch the game out.
* Oh, on that "growing older" thing, and the slower-than-average verbal processing speed - give me subtitles, and give me a way to turn off the fucking background music (for verily, background music on constant repeat is the number two reason why I'll give up on a game; no subtitles is number one these days, because I don't like trying to guess my way through games).
* Make the game in third person perspective (Third person omniscient if at all possible). I'm one of those weird people who finds First Person perspective (whether shooting or not) makes me nauseous. I get motion sick, because my eyes are telling me I'm moving, but my body is busy saying I'm sitting right there on the couch. I had enough of motion sickness as a kid for a very similar reason (scenery says I'm moving, body says I'm strapped into a seat in the car) to find the combination distasteful. Given the opportunity to avoid it, I will.
* Give me the option not to have to hear about online/multiplayer content if I don't want it. This is something I'm finding slightly annoying in games like Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep and Little Big Planet - there's such an emphasis on the online stuff that I feel somewhat left out because my PSP doesn't connect to our household wireless network (not a deliberate choice on my part; rather an inadvertent choice on the part of my partner, who opted for a secure network rather than one the PSP could participate in). So I don't play those games much.
* Have a pause function in the game. I'm female, and most of the time I'm the only person home. This means I have to be able to put the game on hold while I do things like answer the door, go to the loo, answer the phone or stir dinner. If there isn't an easy way to put the game on hold (even if it's just ducking into character menu mode), I'm going to get annoyed fairly quickly.
* Don't worry so much about making the next version of whatever everyone else is busy selling. If we want any of the famous franchises, we know where to find them. To be honest, the only franchise I'm really all that sold on is the Final Fantasy one - because they very rarely make sequels. Instead, each new FF number is a completely different plot, a different set of characters, a different world to every other Final Fantasy game. Most of them are mediaeval-style worlds, but there's a few futuristic dystopias thrown in there (FFVII, FFVIII, FFXIII) and the characters from one Final Fantasy plotline generally don't interact with characters from another (Dissidia is a special case of pure fan service, ditto the Kingdom Hearts games).
* Oh, here's a thought: have the guts to try risking a tragedy on the market. Not everything has to end all happy and smiley. Take a hint from Square Soft (now Square Enix) - their big breakthrough game for the English-speaking market was a tragedy: Final Fantasy VII. (No, really, the plot of FFVII is a revenge tragedy of a type which wouldn't have been out of place on the Jacobean stage).
( What's On Meg's Consoles, and Why )
Basically, my preferences can be summed up thus:
* If you're going to give me a story, give me a flamin' story. Make it long, make it convoluted, make it tricky to understand - if I'm playing the game to get through the story, I'll come back and play it again to catch the bits I missed the first time (I re-read books for the same reason...). Of course, make sure that the vital plot points are made clear, but the little subtleties can be skipped over.
* If you're not going to give me a story, then give me something I can make a story out of myself - even if the story is just "How I beat the crap out of this next opponent". But don't give me a story which is so scanty it puts some of the costumes on the female characters to shame.
* If you're going to offer eye candy, have some which is suitable for a het female (or maybe even a gay male) to ogle as well. Yes, most of the gamerbois out there won't like it. Did I mention I'm not a gamerboi? It might just be worth doing a little market research and finding out precisely which proportion of the electronic gaming market these days is composed of members of the One True Demographic (see above for description) - I've a feeling they're a smaller proportion than they think they are.
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A Long-Delayed Rant
This one is pretty specific to Final Fantasy VII fandom. If you're not a part of that fandom, you may not find it particularly interesting.
( Fandom Specific Stuff Below )
(All figures are taken either from the Final Fantasy Wiki for fandom specific data, or from Wikipedia.)
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FFXIII - I've seen "The End"
So, I've made the massive effort and completed the main storyline of FFXIII, thus bringing my total number of finished games to 6. As per usual, I've been scribbling various notes as I go, so they're under the cut (for those who don't want to be spoiled.
( Spoileriffic stuff under here )
Overall, I was reasonably happy with the game, although I'm not fond of the "okay, you've finished the main plot, now you can spend another sixty or so hours maxing out your characters if you want to" play style. Particularly since the subsequent time ignores some rather significant plot elements. Now, if it were an honest continuation, following on from the storyline, I'd be happier, but as it is the storyline is just suspended in mid-air, and you're supposed to carry on as though the end didn't happen. It's a useful style of play for people like me, who like being completeists, but I think it worked better in Dissidia.
But that's a minor point. Overall, the game was a lot of fun, full of plot as per usual for Squeenix. To be honest, the plot is the thing I love best about Squeenix RPGs - while there's a lot of fights happening, there's a lot of story happening as well, so the game is more than just a series of fights strung together with a rather thin storyline holding the whole thing together. The unfolding of the storyline (and the multiple time periods this involved) was quite a major feature of the game. The battle system was different (another Square Enix regularity - the battle system seems to change with every new FF game) although to be honest my favourite of the versions I've tried is still the one from FFXII, where the battles were much more integrated into the landscape. It's a good game, well worth the money I spent on it.
 Kingdom Hearts I and II; FF7; FF7: Dirge of Cerberus; Final Fantasy: Dissidia; and now FFXIII.
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New Toy Reflections
Well, after a weekend spent getting at least some use out of my new XBox 360, I have the following to report:
1) Their wireless controllers appear to have a small design glitch, which means occasionally the batteries slip out of contact with the contacts, such that one has to stop every so often to get the wretched thing to reconnect to the system. This generally involves either pushing the battery cartridge up or tapping it a couple of times to ensure everything falls into place.
2) The Last Remnant is designed for people with a large, flatscreen TV. As a result, the majority of the text on my normal sized little CRT telly is so small as to be unreadable. Given this includes things like descriptions of items, battle commands etc, this is clearly a Bad Thing, and means my next purchase from fairy money is going to have to be a new TV.
3) Squeenix have clearly decided their party structure from FFX and FFXII is the ideal one, since I can clearly identify the main character of The Last Remnant as a clueless nitwit who has no idea about polite behaviour (if you've ever met either Tidus or Vaan, you'll know what I mean); there's a grumpy older female character (Lulu or Fran); and I'm sure the plucky younger female character would have shown up within about another ten or so minutes (Rikku, Penelo). So, we just need to find the strong, silent male character (Kimahri, Basch, Auron), the snarkier male contemporary of the hero (Balthier, Wakka) and the serious third female contemporary of the hero who's actually the focus of the plotline (Yuna, Ashe). I've no doubt they're in there somewhere, but I couldn't handle the amount of squinting I was going to have to do in order to keep playing the game.
4) Assassin's Creed has one serious deficiency which I find annoying: there don't appear to be subtitles available (plus it's designed for people who have the larger screen TVs as well... this appears to be a regular thing with XBox games). Given I need either clear mouth movements or subtitles (preferably subtitles) to make sense of dialogue when I'm faced with a tangle of syllables and noises which could be words but which aren't particularly clear. The other alternative is raising the volume to levels where the neighbours are being disturbed, which isn't my preferred one.
5) Tales of Symphonia is a very good game, with an interestingly complex morality woven through it. Bad things happen to good people, the world isn't just "good guys" and "bad guys", and the problems the protagonists are attempting to resolve are believably complex. I like.
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Semi-regular update post
Gods, where to start? It's been a bit of a frantic week-and-a-bit. Let's see - how about I give a rundown of "good things and bad things" and then an expansion in TL;DR below.
- Meds packaged in blister pack, Silver Chain stuff almost up and running.
- Purchased Dissidia on Tuesday, already 9/10ths of the way through the initial part of Story Mode
- Heard from my folks, they're coming back to Perth early
( This is the TL;DR stuff )
- Still depressed
- Court hearing on Tuesday resulted in an order to hand over the house
- Still unemployed
So yeah, how's everyone else doing?This entry was originally posted at http://megpie71.dreamwidth.org/3013.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
An Update - 1 week on from needing help
It's been about a week since I wrote the "I need help" post, and about a week since the breakdown which prompted it. Since then, I've had a few things happen. I've contacted the Silver Chain people about getting some assistance with ensuring I take my medication regularly. From what I've read on their website, they're probably the best people to provide the kind of help I need, which is someone dropping in on maybe an "every second day" basis, in order to ensure I'm taking my meds regularly and getting out of bed at a reasonable hour. They've returned my contact, and advised me to get a referral from a GP, which I did on Thursday last week. Now I have to wait for them to get back to me again, and let me know whether it's possible for this to happen or not.
I'm back to taking my medication, and I'm going to try and keep consistent with it, even though I know I have problems with this (see the above paragraph). So far I'm on day two, and I'm suffering the understandable side-effects of restarting psych medication after about two weeks without it. Or in other words, I'm dizzy, dopey, and a bit distracted at present. This too will pass, but at the moment I'm trying not to move too much too quickly.
( More under the fold )
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So for the last few days I have been mostly playing City of Heroes, or reading the stuff on porn_battle on IJ, chasing down the FF7 anonymous kink meme on LJ or just generally futzing around the web a bit. I've also gone through my plot notes for one of my great big pieces of fic (the one that's at 24K words and counting) and re-organised them into some sort of structure, so I can actually find things. This involved a lot of copy & paste work, and as a result the whole business is now blown out to about 24K words as well. So I have an equal amount of pagespace spent on the plot notes and the actual factual plot. I'm not sure whether this is a good thing or not.
( ISAGN:Spelling checkers with definitions available )
( City of Heroes rambling )
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It's been a pretty good week so far. I've managed to complete a fortnight's worth of job search inside three days (okay, a fortnight's worth of job search equals ten jobs, but still...) and one of those was a contact from a temp firm regarding a possibility. I've also managed to take my meds for three days running, which is a plus given I've been skiving off on the whole job for the past few weeks.
So, before I head in to my appointment with CRS tomorrow morning at 9am, I have to come up with a list of ten occupations I'd be interested in, and a list of about ten companies I'm going to be cold canvassing for work over the next fortnight or so. Oh, and a template for a cold canvassing letter to run a bit of a mail merge on (why spend hours typing out each one individually if I can get the computer to do the hard stuff for me?). Oh, and fill in my fortnightly form for Centrelink, but that's not really a hardship - they're not even asking for details of where I looked for work this fortnight.
Then I'm back to playing KH2 (even though it's one of the few games I've finished out of the pile). I was playing FF8, but I've given up on that for a bit, mostly because I've found myself up to the final disc, and we're up against Adel, and it's just battle battle battle, and I'm bored. So KH2 is a bit of a relaxation exercise, even if Aerith and Queen Minnie do seem to be battling it out for the position of "Ms Valium" (or possibly "Ms Hash Brownies") in their early appearances. About the only thing I have to watch out for is to set the timer on the fridge (it's a small digital cooking timer with a magnet on the back - hence "on the fridge") so that I finish playing at a reasonable hour and get to bed early enough to get enough sleep for my appointment tomorrow. One of the joys of Squeenix games, I've found, is that they don't have a natural "stop" point, where you can say "okay, time to get up and do something different". I mean, yeah, I can fully understand why, but sometimes it's just a little annoying.
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In Which Meg Reviews Games - Final Fantasy VII: Dirge of Cerberus
Overall, I enjoyed it. The gameplay is fairly easy to get the hang of, and once I'd realised that the "attack" and "jump" buttons were the other way around to the ones in Kingdom Hearts 2 (which I'd been playing before I started DOC) I was relatively okay. I'll never be an expert gamer, but I can definitely manage the "point and shoot" interface of this game without too many problems. My biggest annoyance throughout the whole game was when I was attempting to keep track of something which moved fast, I'd inadvertently drop into "scope" mode, which was rather annoying (particularly since at those times, I was attempting to keep track of it in order to dodge the bastard... dropping into a closeup of the surrounding scenery was therefore intensely distracting at such moments).
One other thing I've realised since starting a different game (Dragon Quest: The Journey of the Cursed King) is that this game has a very good mid-game, which is where a lot of RPGs tend to fall down. There's the early game, in which your character is underpowered and you're just starting to collect the plot coupons. Then there's the late game, where you have all the plot coupons and you can send away for the major mcguffin, and in between there's a lot of pointless running around collecting levels so you can beat whichever boss character is next on the list. I tend to find the mid-game section the most boring of anything, since I tend to get annoyed by having to do the same thing repeatedly for no real reason. FFVII:DOC avoids this, by having mid-game sections which largely serve to advance the plot and which don't require an endless repetition of the same basic process. No, I'm not fond of level-grinding, why do you ask?
So, now on to my comments about the plot and suchlike. Most of these are within the context of Final Fantasy VII fandom, and relate the game to previous episodes in the continuity, such as the original game, the Advent Children movie, and what we know of the plot of Crisis Core (which is as yet forthcoming). There will be spoilers (although they're mainly mild ones, and tend more toward characterisation than actual plot points), and there may be obscure jokes.
* Shinra has apparently done a graduate recruitment sweep through Trans Poly U (Transylvania Polygnostic University of Mad Science) in order to have netted both Doctor Hojo and Doctor Lucrecia Crescent.
* Shalua Rui is wearing an outfit which would make the average hooker reach for a nice warm jumper and some comfortable shoes. She's supposed to be a scientist, so why wasn't she portrayed as wearing jeans and a t-shirt, rather than an outfit which makes it look as though she gets her main scientific funding by selling BJs on the outskirts of Edge? Putting a lab coat on over the top doesn't help at all.
* As per the standard anime trope, it appears uncovered female skin is invulnerable. This explains the skimpier armour on both the WRO and Deepground female troopers. I suppose it also explains Shalua's outfit, to a degree, while Rosso the Crimson, being a psychopath, needs no explanation for anything she does anyway (mind you, they should have trimmed the bathmat they attached to her arse - how does she manage to avoid tripping over the silly thing?). Given Shelke appears to be wearing pretty full armour, the development of feminine invulnerability on Gaia is presumably a function of puberty (and Shelke's had hers delayed for about ten years).
* I'm sure there's a reason why Vincent Valentine gets to have all the younger chickibabes (Yuffie, Shelke) throwing themselves at him. I just wish he didn't seem so completely kerflummoxed by it.
* Vincent appears to have a thing for women in lab coats (given he appears to fall arse over ted for Shalua having only seen her twice).
* Vincent on waking up after the events at ShinRa manor: "I'm in hell, and it's full of Yuffie".
* Lucrecia should say what she's sorry for, rather than just being sorry all the time. It'd make everyone's life a lot easier.
* Yuffie appears to have a killer crush on Vincent. Pity he's not able to reciprocate at this stage (maybe she needs to wear a lab coat?).
* It's interesting that they use guilt and emotional manipulation on Shelke, despite the fact she's been effectively living as a computer plug-in for the past ten years. What's even more interesting is that it works!
* More than three words in a row from Cloud Strife - presumably he's now going to remain silent for another three to six months to make up for it. Or maybe he needs to find another "dialogue" materia.
* The phone conversation with Cloud, Barrett and Tifa appears to happen while they're in the middle of a battle - presumably this is just the right time to stop and phone a friend.
* "I don't want the world to end. I just don't want there to be any more pain." - Shelke, showing she is a child after all.
* This story has plot by the bucketload - both in volume and delivery. I'm sure I have bruises from some of it landing on me in lumps.
* Yuffie really has a crush on Vincent. Unfortunately, I doubt he's even noticed, aside from her being a little more annoying than usual. (She really does need that lab coat.)
* I'm picturing a conversation between Cloud and Vincent along the lines of "Now you see why I went off into the wilderness and sulked, right?" - the consequences of saving the world. I can't help but think Cloud's probably glad to be able to hand the job on to someone else.
* I'm not certain what the relationship between Vincent and Shelke is going to turn out to be. I have a feeling she's still dealing with the after-effects of sharing her brain with Lucrecia Crescent, which may mean she's going to wind up treating Vincent as surrogate family. I can see him picking up the role of "big brother" or "random older male relation". I can't really see him feeling anything sexual for her.
* Some questions I'd love to be able to find out the answers to:
- Will Shelke resume the normal aging process now she's not actively required to perform her Deepground function?
- Now Chaos has returned to the planet, will Vincent pick up aging where he left off?
- Given the "G Reports" hint very strongly that Genesis is still alive and with us, can we expect more Jenova-related problems in future?
- What was the story with Cloud and Tifa not being picked up by Deepground in the attack on Edge? Were they forewarned, or just lucky?
[PS: This is also on my LiveJournal and my page at Blogspot]