: Not All Developers Are Into Progress

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Not All Developers Are Into Progress

I believe we've hit a certain point in this industry where top-tier developers are starting to split into two groups.

Now, if you read a lot of interviews and know the stances many big-name designers take in regards to gaming's current position and future, you know what I'm talking about. On the one hand, there are designers who wholeheartedly wish to leave the stereotypes and old-fashioned standards behind, while the other side consists of the "old guard," so to speak. I don't necessarily mean developers who have been in games for a long time; I'm talking about those who might almost side with Roger Ebert's "games aren't art" claim (which he recanted, if you weren't already aware). They are typically of the "this is supposed to be fun" school. It's the school that doesn't necessarily believe in artistic progression.

In other words, while we have guys like David Cage and Quantic Dream, who repeatedly say gaming absolutely needs to evolve, that we must continue to push into unknown realms of interaction, we also have other guys...who just think we're all taking ourselves too seriously. Some really don't think gaming can be a viable storytelling medium, that video games are, and should remain, "video games," if you get the meaning. Thing is, these game makers remain focused the traditional style of virtual interaction. They want to make the experience better, of course (all good developers do), but "progress" doesn't necessarily mean better writing, in-depth character development, and the inclusion of history, philosophy, or other sciences. No, those should stay in the book and movie venues.

Both sides have a point. But is either side more right than the other? What is the next step beyond something like Heavy Rain? Where are we headed? What if our gaming experiences change so drastically, they don't seem to retain any semblance of the old days? Or has it already happened, and that's exactly why the old guard hangs on and produces certain products... It's an interesting question, I think.

12/3/2010 Ben Dutka

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Comments (34 posts)

Gordo
Friday, December 03, 2010 @ 9:52:30 PM
Reply

Video games have always been art. Art is in the eye of the beholder and is in anything that evokes emotion.

You cannot play Heavy Rain, MGS4 or Uncharted 2 for example and not see them as supreme pieces of art. The emotion felt playing these games ("playing" is too small a word, "embracing" or "experiencing" may be better) is more than I've felt for any movie or piece of music for years.

The video game market is just "maturing" and becoming more segmented into genres. As with Hollywood you have your popcorn films, your adult dramas and your art house.

You probably cannot say one developer is right and one is wrong. It's just a matter of audience and what area they are aiming for.

So a divergence of opinions in "video games as art" may not be a bad thing but can be seen as the industry becoming older and more mature and having audiences diverse enough to cater for multiple genres.

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AcHiLLiA
Saturday, December 04, 2010 @ 2:23:03 PM

yah, just like watching pro skaterboarders in skate videos.

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LightShow
Friday, December 03, 2010 @ 9:54:03 PM
Reply

i'm firmly in the "games are supposed to be fun" camp. i'm also in the cynical "some games that nobody likes are called "too progressive" by the few that do" camp.

new stuff is good. but if the game isnt fun, its missing the point. its gonna get marginalized in the same section as arthouse movies and post modern abstract art.

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Alienange
Saturday, December 04, 2010 @ 10:46:51 AM

Gotta say, that's a comment I 100% agree with.

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Alienange
Saturday, December 04, 2010 @ 7:58:40 PM

My time with Flower was an absolute bore-fest. If someone walked away from playing that with some hippy emotional high, they have seriously got to get out of the basement and go plant a tulip.

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FM23
Friday, December 03, 2010 @ 9:56:57 PM
Reply

Well a game needs to be a game, but a story goes a long way. ACII has a better story than ACB, but ACB is a better game all together. Games that reached and achieved a high level in both storytelling and gameplay are UC1/2, MGS1-4, Bioshock 1/2, RDR, GTAIV, etc. Some games are more story oriented like Fallout who succeeds, but as a game still succeed. Demon Souls is light on story telling, but the gameplay in my opinion is sublime. GOWIII doesn't have the best story in the world, but that gameplay is classic. Even though I enjoyed Heavy Rain, it isn't a game and I'm not sure I will shell out $60 again for another similiar product...I would just wait for it to go on sale, but that won't happen as Heavy Rain is still selling at retail price. People might hate that I said that, but seriously it's not a game. I mean the story wasn't the best thing ever though pacing and atmosphere are classic, so what are you truly left with. And the childrens voice acting was so annoying. This is just my opinion. But something like Heavy Rain needs to exist because it gives gaming a more diverse dynamic, but for $60...there should be more content....no DLC episodes please.

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NoSmokingBandit
Friday, December 03, 2010 @ 10:02:11 PM
Reply

Just like with game, theres a certain balance between well-written and progressive movies and mindless summer blockbusters with guns, explosions, some boobs, and even more guns.

As long as a game is great i dont care about its artistic validity. Mario Kart DS is by no means an artistic or progressive game, but its a great game and i had tons of fun getting gold in every series. Having the contrast between Mario Kart and Heavy Rain is what makes me appreciate each games nuances.

Last edited by NoSmokingBandit on 12/3/2010 10:02:45 PM

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BikerSaint
Friday, December 03, 2010 @ 10:23:24 PM
Reply

This ole fart says "the more they evole, the better".

Just make sure to add in that funtastic factor.

That's how I'll role(pun intended)

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Temjin001
Friday, December 03, 2010 @ 10:25:34 PM
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I think devs have all kinds of great ideas they would love to design. But, whether, or not, that product is marketable is another story. I think games like SoC, Mirror's Edge, Heavy Rain and Flower are a few recent examples of designers who have tried to change the way we think about video games. But these games are hard pressed to garner the attention that Mario, Halo, GTA and GH have received.

Likewise, Marvel and DC have been blamed for turning the sequential art medium into nothing more than spandex wearing, mutant, super powered comic stories. There's been a number of attempts at trying to expand the medium in different directions but none have been as profitable as Spider_Man/Batman/ Superman, etc. The argument is that the decades long dominance of over exposed content solidified a stereo type of the art form.

It's not that games like Mario, Halo and GTA aren't, or weren't original at the beginning, they were, but popular passions and sensationalized media helps to perpetuate the excitement longer than it otherwise would have.




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maxpontiac
Friday, December 03, 2010 @ 10:52:45 PM
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I believe gaming as an industry needs to walk the fine of both aspects. Uncharted 2 was the first game to capture my emotions from start to finish, and on top of the connection I experienced, it was a blast to play. I was left wanting more.

Heavy Rain offered us something entirely new, all the while continuing the same level of emotional response that Uncharted 2 brought me. An awesome experience all in itself, but no where near the thrill ride when compared to U2. It was missing a certain fun factor.

If Naughty Dog were to use some Heavy Rain style of control, it could be near perfection in my book.

I want my hobby to challenge my heart strings but in the same light, I want to have fun doing it.

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Lawless SXE
Friday, December 03, 2010 @ 10:54:38 PM
Reply

I see no problem with the split in ideals here. It is good that games are evolving, developing into more complex and engaging stories, and offering whole new methods of gameplay. I will latch onto any titles where the story takes a front seat. This is actually fantastic, bringing gaming into the realms of art, and placing them on the same level as movies and novels in the way that you can simply enjoy them for what is happening. This is the aim of such games as MGS, HR, UC and Enslaved, among others.

On the other hand, you have games that are made purely for the gameplay experience, with a story that is often weak and used merely as a vessel to prolong the game. But, the focus is firmly on the gameplay and offering the player a huge amount of fun, or replayability. Games like this include, LBP, Demon's Souls, and GT.

But then I see a third category. I see the games that are a mid-point. They have gameplay that makes you want to continue to play it, and a story that also makes you feel the same way. However, neither is necessarily as strong as it is in the other two categories. I would include, GoW, inFamous, Resistance and Ratchet and Clank in here.

Progress is subjective. Sure, the evolution into the mainstream by making the stories interesting is a good way to go about it, but transforming older play styles into a more complex design is also applaudable. I'm cool with both moves for the future.
Peace.

P.S. Sorry if this is a bit garbled, my head is spinning something fierce right now. I can honestly not see straight, and am contemplating heading up to the hospital to find out what's wrong.

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Alienange
Saturday, December 04, 2010 @ 10:49:40 AM

I hope you went to the doctor's. If you can write all that with your head spinning, you're either really ill or you have super powers. It would be good to know which.

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Lawless SXE
Saturday, December 04, 2010 @ 8:37:14 PM

Nah, must have just been a twenty four hour bug. I'm feeling a considerable amount better now.

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Beamboom
Friday, December 03, 2010 @ 11:13:49 PM
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I find all this talk about games being "art" to be a pile of pompous cr*p, to be honest. It's "games", why can't that be good enough?
Flower was a masterpiece. They managed to combine visuals, audio and playability in a way I've never experienced before or after. But one small release like that can't turn an entire multi-million branch into "artists".
Don't get me started on Heavy Rain. There is no room for another Heavy Rain in this world, period. I've had just as much fun playing with the buttons on a video player, forward and backward in slow and fast motion.

Progress is a Good Thing. But it's not progress when a game try to be a movie, a book or a painting. Progress is made by progressing, not towards something else that's already there but towards *new* directions.
And "new", in my opinion, means pushing the game concepts beyond what's possible today, both technically and conceptually.
And that means figuring out how to progress away from what games basically has been up until now: Get rid of the prerendered scenes, away with the pre-scripted events, scrap the dotted "walk here, push there" lines on the ground and deliver a gaming experience that never makes you question "is this a game? Or a movie?", but instead shout "Hot damn, now THIS is a GAME, damnit!"

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Qubex
Friday, December 03, 2010 @ 11:49:55 PM

"Get rid of the prerendered scenes, away with the pre-scripted events, scrap the dotted "walk here, push there" lines on the ground and deliver a gaming experience that never makes you question "is this a game? Or a movie?", but instead shout "Hot damn, now THIS is a GAME, damnit!""

The problem is Beamboom... not everyone who play games are good. I enjoy games very much but I am not good at them. It can take me years to complete them.

I don't want to struggle, and I don't want an impossible challenge, so for me "the push button here", and "follow that line" there are crucial so I can get through it.

Put simply, one can push game concepts far, but always make sure there are options to bring up the help at any time...

Like movies and music, there is no doubt games are and "art form", and give it time, one day you will have digital museums dedicated to the art of gaming.

As our societies evolve and "progress" - so they will change and new experience and concepts will be categories as "art forms" and celebrated like other "art forms" have been celebrated in the past.

Q!

"play.experience.enjoy"

Last edited by Qubex on 12/3/2010 11:50:54 PM

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Beamboom
Saturday, December 04, 2010 @ 12:20:23 AM

Yes, but you play games to experience a given kind of joy, not just to finish it, right? Now how about a game that gives you that particular experience, *without* having to lay out a dotted line in front of you?
Now I have no idea how that can be done, if I knew I'd be sitting writing code now.

Today it's like you indicate: The less you have to be a puppet on a string, the more time you have to spend figuring out "what to do and where to do it". But that only goes to show what a sad, limited state the current games are at. Give a player freedom within a game and what is revealed? A whole lot of nothing, basically. We have to get squeezed into tiny maps to experience the illusion of "content".

My curse is that I can't stand being the mentioned puppet. If they want to direct every little detail of the story I am about to experience then give me the damn movie and a bowl of popcorn instead of this black thing with two sticks on.

In a few generations ahead, when we're sitting with each our PS6 or whatever, then we will look back at todays games like we look at the 70s pinball games now. I guess one can call them art too. But who cares. I want GAMES!


Last edited by Beamboom on 12/4/2010 12:27:08 AM

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Beamboom
Saturday, December 04, 2010 @ 12:39:38 AM

Oh and by the way Qubex: I'm not particularly good at games either. On the contrary, I bet I hold the records in slowest progressions around here. They usually grind to a holt at just about the third boss or so. That's the "end game scene" for me. :D

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Ben Dutka PSXE [Administrator]
Saturday, December 04, 2010 @ 12:40:04 AM

I'm sorry BeamBoom but you're entirely missing the point of something like Heavy Rain. I'm not really going to explain it, though; people who don't get it actually can't get it.

It's not an insult; it's a matter of perception. Games aren't "trying" to be like books or movies; they're evolving of their own accord.

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Beamboom
Saturday, December 04, 2010 @ 12:56:29 AM

I know I don't get the point with Heavy Rain, Ben. That has been crystal clear to me since day one.

However (and this is essential): I do not regret buying it! On the contrary. Attempts such as these deserve the support. *Someone* has to try to push the envelope further, and I will continue to support anyone who try to do so with a certain amount of effort, or we will be stuck in the current fps/tps shallow "action adventure" hellhole forever.

Lord knows they put effort into heavy rain. But that's done now. We really do not need an encore.


Last edited by Beamboom on 12/4/2010 12:57:23 AM

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WolfCrimson
Saturday, December 04, 2010 @ 12:41:19 AM
Reply

OK, which side is the one that believes turn-based JRPGs are still good and not "outdated"? That's the side I agree with.

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mastiffchild
Saturday, December 04, 2010 @ 5:56:13 PM

Different and more convoluted and daft argument entirely, imho. No one ever said turn based rpgs were no longer "good" but the thing is they've reached their ceiling sales wise and, in many people's eyes, as a genre to be advanced with current mechanics and structure.

I LOVE a great number of turn based jrpg and wrpgs but imo the need is there to bring fresh things and impetus into the genre if it's going to survive into the coming years in a healthy state and not merely become a Japanese/eastern pursuit as the long term western turn based fans diminish in number-the genre needs to find a way of balancing the strategy of turn based with the real time immersion of action RPGs and MUST do so without dumbing down either the turn based/strategy or the action itself.


Just cos we don't have a rigid turn basefd set up doesn't mean it has to be "press X to win" either-why can't the two meet without it all falling to the lowest common factor of either system? Differing difficulties which introduce more intense strategy and actual real time skills as they go up with the turn based/strategic stuff done in increasingly short dynamic pauses etc? Wouldn't something along those lines allow for a bit of both and keep us away from the thing about turn based games which baffles newcomers(that it's a bit odd when you think about the "I'll slap you, then you slap me" set up of these games which IS faintly odd and archaic if you haven't been playing that kind of game for an age)AND satisfy the old school need for turn based depth to combat?

Real time shouldn't mean dumbed down and the "action" should needs as much skill and nous as the strategy, no? IO just think the genre needs to breathe to moved on and it's there where it touches on Ben's wider point. Naturally all forms of art and media are dynamic, to my mind, so every developer will move the medium forwards a little as the tech and techniques themselves get more complex and composed so those saying "it's just a bit of fun" will soon find that they're helping defeat their own points of view.

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Lawless SXE
Saturday, December 04, 2010 @ 8:50:54 PM

I think that the evolution of the turn-based genre should come from implementing quick-time events for carrying out the attacks. The attack strength depends on how well you do, and the stronger attacks require far more complex actions. Thus, you retain the strategy of turn-based while allowing for people who usually not be satisfied with it to enjoy the more fast-paced nature. Just my two cents.
Peace.

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mastiffchild
Monday, December 06, 2010 @ 6:31:28 PM

Sure, Lawless, there's plenty of ways and means to be looked into and I feel part of the current malaise we feel ion the jrpg scene is down to devs unsure of how(or whether to) sraddle the two divdes they seem to have:the East/West one(which they should ignore, imho as a good game is a good game and variety is also good)and the new gamer/old turn based jrpg gamer divides.

Personally, I see why those new to rpgs might see turn based combat as fairly daft in it's "after you..." style-something I saw first hand with the way Pokemon divided a lot of my mates when it first landed, mates that hadn't come across turn based gaming at all before then. I also see why old schoolers like their turn based stuff and the strategy it brings-I also think, though, that actually skilled action alongside the strategy would be good and not a bad thing but as the devs aren't sure where they stand they must either grow some balls and make a guess OR go a similar route to what I suggested and leave the differences in the varying difficulty choices, no?

What's REALLY depressing is when a great story is wrecked by combat which, above all else, just feels tacked on and dumbed down. And I mean crappy action combat and crappy turn based compromises-why can't the strategy AND the action be good and easily tailored to the individual gamer? It's not a big coding issue I'm told to instigate various levels and rules for them so what's the issue?

As for the hows and whys your ideas are as valid as mine and I'd like to see both tried orn used in tandem. I'm all for the old style stuff but feel that we can still play that if we want(tons of old style DS and PSP games from Chrono to TWEWY over the past coupla years)and await the game that brings the two sides of the coin together and moves the whole genre towards a bigger future.

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___________
Saturday, December 04, 2010 @ 1:08:44 AM
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for once i agree!
ive said that many times, most developers are not interested in innovation all there interested in is milking the sh*t out of something, AKA sucking out as much money as possible!
cough EA, cough antivision, cough $E, cough crapcom, cough ubisoft.

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Snaaaake
Saturday, December 04, 2010 @ 2:43:30 AM
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CoD will be the inspiration for developers to NOT take their games to the next level.

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AcHiLLiA
Saturday, December 04, 2010 @ 2:30:05 PM

If they're not, at least they can remaster COD: UO for the PS3.

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Fane1024
Saturday, December 04, 2010 @ 3:01:42 AM
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I'm with David Cage.

The further games get from Pong or Donkey Kong, the better, in my opinion.

But I'd never say they should stop making retro games, as long as other people want them.

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Temjin001
Saturday, December 04, 2010 @ 9:57:34 AM
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Something else, I think the term game is way too generalized today for video gaming; It's misleading.

A game is a set of clearly defined boundaries for a specific goal and accompanying obstacles. This can aptly be applied to earlier generation gaming: arcade games, many 8-bit/16-bit games etc. Something like Joe Danger is a great modern example of a GAME. The experience from playing Joe Danger can be described as "fun." The game objects are the game pieces and the visual content simply provides a theme.
In contrast, I've been playing Mass Effect 2 and I can not describe the experience as "fun." But I love experiencing it for entirely different reasons.
The emotions the game draws from me are not generated from the fun of successfully overcoming simple obstacles within a sphere of clearly defined rules and boundaries. The game presents roles, expectations, social interaction, and aesthetic qualities that evoke emotions from me that are independent from traditional game design. It's more like virtual reality in this regard. It attempts to create the illusion that I'm interacting within a living breathing universe. In fact, I think ME is at it's worst when it transitions into a "shooter." At this point, virtual reality is discarded and I need to engage time sensitive obstacles within a set of boundaries that constantly remind me that I'm working within the structure of shooter/action. I can pause the action, select abilities, heal myself etc. but the game is no longer suspending the virtual role within this fictional reality. Instead, it becomes "GAME" time. There's a seam there.

I could actually go much further.. You know, I think I may write a book on this stuff some day =)

And for the record, ME2's combat is vastly improved over the first game. But, from what I've played thus far, there's other modern TPS shooters on the market that still beat it out in this convention. Thankfully, I love the game for entirely different reasons.


Last edited by Temjin001 on 12/4/2010 9:59:33 AM

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GuyverLT
Saturday, December 04, 2010 @ 10:02:52 AM
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Some really don't think gaming can be a viable storytelling medium, that video games are, and should remain, "video games,".

A painting on canvas can be a viable storytelling medium, a movie can be a viable storytelling medium, so WHY in the blue hell can't videogames can be a viable storytelling medium. If there is no progress then of course they won't be a viable storytelling medium. If all developers were in this kind of mind set then we wouldn't have the Uncharted games or the GOW games nuff said.

Last edited by GuyverLT on 12/4/2010 10:08:39 AM

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Alienange
Saturday, December 04, 2010 @ 11:07:17 AM
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Isn't it just a matter of different KINDS of games? What pig-headed fool developer is going to say his better written story makes his game better than the puzzle solving of, say, Critter Crunch?

Or hell, let's use a more recent example. Has GT5 "progressed" much from 3 and 4? Should we be upset because there's no "story?" Sometimes all the progress we want is graphics and sounds.

Games are fun. They always were and they always will be. If a developer wants to "progress" beyond fun, then he and his company will fade away into obscurity.

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GuyverLT
Saturday, December 04, 2010 @ 2:53:50 PM

You're right it is a matter of what genre of game were talking about here because racing games have never really needed a storyline to be fun, I'm mean who the hell wants to play Burnout with sop-opera storyline(not me) but at the same time as I stated in my 1st comment; what would games like uncharted series or Assassin Creed series be like without a good storyline. I'm not saying that wouldn't still be fun but would they be as good as they are now without a storyline.

Speaking of racing games what the hell ever happen to Road Rash series I used to love those games. The road rash series is definitely something I would like to make a comeback.

Last edited by GuyverLT on 12/4/2010 3:01:25 PM

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Underdog15
Sunday, December 05, 2010 @ 3:38:34 PM

hmm... what if being immersed through more artistic mediums is what some of us find fun? Is that not the right kind of fun?

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gumbi
Saturday, December 04, 2010 @ 12:41:35 PM
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I think we need both camps, it gives us diversity in games. There is no right or wrong direction here, they're just different.

We still need games that are just plain fun. Games we can just plug in and mindlessly waste a few hours with and have fun doing it. But I LOVE a good game with a rich story and atmosphere that immerses me in the experience. You don't just play games like that, you experience them and you take away from them a lot more than a couple hours of button mashing satisfaction.

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GuyverLT
Saturday, December 04, 2010 @ 2:45:20 PM

Exactly, well said.

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