img src=";loc=300;key=key1+key2+key3+key4;grp=[group]" border="0" width="160" height="600"> The inner ramblings of a videogamer: August 2013

Friday, 23 August 2013

Gamer rage: Verbal abuse vs constructive criticism.

The complain culture that has become rampant in the videogames community, and how it lends itself (often unknowingly to those contributing to it) to undermining our right to legitimate criticism, is a subject that I've been wanting to discuss for a while now.

For quite some time now we have been hearing reports and have often witnessed for ourselves, the comments made by the increasingly vocal majority of 'gamers' who post abusive and threatening messages to individuals in the videogame publishing and development profession, in an supposed attempt to show their "displeasure" towards a company or an individual for one reason or another. However as I'm sure you're all well aware, more often than not these comments are full of nothing but hateful and abusive personal attacks being made toward an individual and even their family, typically these comments are made up of hate mail, death threats, rape threats and even homophobic accusations made towards the recipients sexual preference (as if somehow that's relevant) needless to say these commenters 'gamers' as some would call them, come across as unstable, violent, angry sociopathsm spewing needless, unjustifiable abuse.

So what is it that these individuals, or companies for that matter, are doing to deserve such hate fuelled disdain? Well just about anything apparently. When Ninja Theory were approached by Capcom to reboot Devil may cry many 'gamers' apparently thought they were justified in sending hatemail to the small development team, you could argue Ninja Theory's poor PR and general bad attitude toward core DMC fans brought a lot of the hate on themselves, but then it begs the question, just who in the right mind sends death threats due to a videogame franchise getting a reboot? Also, not too long ago Gearbox received much hate mail for the hugely disappointing Aliens: Colonial Marines, after the news got out about the outsourcing of the game and the inner conflicts during development it was immediately apparent how and why A:CM ended up being such a disaster. But again an insane amount of venomous hate and personal attacks were made against Gearbox and Randy Pitchford (one of the five founding members of the Gearbox company) Following on a few months later, EA found themselves in the line of fire (not that they're ever far from it) Customers who had purchased EA's SimCity 2013 were having difficulties connecting to the servers, servers that were grossly unprepared for the inevitable traffic that would be passing through them during the launch of such a popular franchise, that EA themselves decided to restrict to being an online only game. Again, customers who got burned by the these companies have every right to be angry, hey, I was angry too, but the issue here is that the level of hate coming from the hateful vocal majority (and I honestly fear they are the majority) over shadowed any attempts made by the gamers who genuinely did want to get to the bottom of these issues, or just wanted to offer constructive criticism like any passionate gammer would.

It's of course natural to be angry at a company or individual who you feel has either ruined a franchise you enjoy, or created/offered a broken or below standard gaming experiance, but the level of hate directed toward them should never border on violent and/or abusive.
If this keeps up any longer we then may loose our voice intirely, and who could blame a company or individual for ignoring gamers all together if the majority of comments they receive are hate filled and abusive?

We all know that certain publishers and developers bring much of the hate on to themselves, but a question I often ask myself is "what is the point of such personal threats and abuse that gets directed their way?" if it's purely to show displeasure then would not a well thought out competently put together comment, or constructive criticism be more appropriate? Heck, pretty much anything that could be viewed as "constructive criticism" would be preferable when compared to a straight up personal attack or threat to ones person or family. Also it's not like any of these pubs and devs have directly caused any of us excessive grief or personal harm, so why then make it so personal? Is it purely due to anonymity? Is the very fact these people can get away with it the only reason it's continued on for so long? Or are the people responsible really just hate fuelled, whiny, entitled gamers with nothing better to do than attempt to make someone's life a misery? I know I needn't tell anyone here that with the advent of social media and the ease of sharing ones thoughts and opinions openly, it has in turn allowed for more than a few colourful characters to force their opinions on others with no intention of taking anyone else's on board.

There is in all likelihood a myriad of reasons for why these people feel the need to spread such hate and abuse, but it's probably best not to dwell on why exactly that is, so as to avoid becoming hateful, bitter and resentful ourselves.

Instead I want to talk about the necessity of gamers lending "constructive criticism" as apposed to extroverts who complain for the sake of complaining, or who know only how to communicate through hate. If a developer or publisher does something we dislike then as passionate gamers we are obligated to offer constructive criticism where we can, but due to the shear amount of abusive complaints being thrown into the mix, the chance that any of our genuinely valid points will ever get through is often a hundred to one at best. We know this and sadly so do the publishers and developers too, that's if they haven't given up on us as a contributing community capable of offering constructive criticism all together (and honestly who could blame them if they did?) I'm going to mention Phil Fish in a positive light right now, but please hear me out before you start gathering stones to throw my way. Yes, the guy might not have been the most popular and well liked developer, and yes his eccentric outspokenness and overall bad attitude might not have helped matters, but he's still a human being who is entitled to a certain amount of respect, I honestly don't care how "passionate" anyone wants to argue gamers might be as some kind of justification for childish and/or abusive behaviour, the simple fact is, allowing ones passion to get the best of you is not a positive trait, even more so if you're allowing it to cause others emotional harm and grief.

Phill Fish is a talented developer who has unfortunately left the industry, now maybe this is simply a cry for attention (I honestly don't know anymore than anybody else here regarding the matter) or maybe all the hate finally got to him, either way it's safe to bet that if a developer you happened to be a fan of left the industry under similar circumstances it wouldn't be so funny now would it?.

I honestly don't see a way to stop the unnecessary hate people feel towards these publishers and developers, but the only way I see to prevent such abuse and threats from reaching them is to break the integral link between consumer and the creators themselves, this however would be a huge mistake if it were to happen, as this would mean that one of our key avenues for enabling us to help mold the industry into a more desirable shape would be no more. We need to be able to offer constructive criticism, we need to be able to communicate with developers and publishers, otherwise they will be left to shape the industry how they see fit, and as I'm sure I needn't tell any of you, that is an undesirable outcome which we must avoid.

But how can we avoid this, if we allow it to get to the point that publishers and developers are no longer willing to listen to gamer feed back because all they see is hate and abuse? Well as cliche as it sounds the best thing anyone of us can do is to start being a better example, if we want gamers to be taken seriously then we need to be taking our hobby seriously, and to not allow our knee jerk reactions to blatant attempts at instigation to hamper our need to be constructive and diplomatic. Ignore the trolls, disregard the fanboys and if you find yourself in a debate don't resort to childish insults or personal attacks. Once we can prove to the publishers, the developers and to ourselves that the gaming community isn't made up of childish, entitled, whinny gamers then maybe we might have a leg to stand on when it comes to criticising the industry itself.

I'll end with this. To anyone reading who has themselves sent hate mail or posted abusive comments to individuals in the videogame industry, understand this, in the long run you are hurting yourself and the gaming community and I urge you to stop. The videogame industry has already proven time and time again that it is a beast that prefers to dictate to us, what it that we want rather than allow us to be a part of the development and evolution of our hobby. To put it simply, if we offer reasons to be ignored then don't be surprised when we get just that.

Anyway, thanks for reading my blog, if you want to add something or disagree with any of my points then by all means post a comments.

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Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Xbox One back peddling marks gamer victory.

So it's official, Microsoft have yet again revised their policies in regards to their next gen console the Xbox One, this time by removing the feature that makes the Kinect 2 a mandatory requirement for using the Xbox One console, something a great many gamers had issue with. With Microsoft now having done sufficient enough back peddling to power most of Europe for a year (Ba dum tish) I'm now left asking the question "Was it all necessary?" Just what was an intelligent, business minded company like Microsoft thinking when they knowingly went about dividing up their fanbase, and creating these unnecessary walls in the form of unfavourable business policies? only to later down the line revise almost all of their original Xbox One policies, seemingly solely due to the continued bad press and negative PR they have suffered since the Xbox One reveal and Microsoft E3 conference.

This all led me back to thoughts I had been having about Microsoft's inevitable next gen console. Months before the Xbox One was even hinted about being revealed, I was asking myself "what can we expect from Microsoft's next gen console?" would we see another Kinect even though the original failed to appeal to the core audience?, would Microsoft reach out for more 3rd party support and exclusivity?, and would they really have the nerve to continue charging their loyal customers through Xbox Live in order for us to play online?.

I eventually arrived at the conclusion that Microsoft's business model, and policies would see very little changes being made when moving into next gen territory, of course I expected some new features and new exclusives but nothing revolutionary. So then imagine my surprise when Microsoft finally did reveal the Xbox One along with what would shortly be dubbed as "draconian DRM" a mandatory Kinect 2, timed exclusives from 3rd party devs, always online functionality, and major changes to their policies in the form of used game restriction and 24 hour checkins, all while still having the nerve to charge a fee to play online.

I was taken back to say the least (like I'm sure many gamers were at the time) I thought to me myself that there is no way Microsoft can be serious, even after hearing from so many people who didn't at all mind the new policies, it was evident that those who apposed the DRM and other such policies were in the majority, and for good reason. The Xbox One DRM and other new policies had potentially damaging ramifications to gaming in general if they were to become the norm, then eventually the back peddling started and all the negative aspects of Xbox One became fewer and fewer, until finally earlier this month Microsoft announced that the Kinect 2 will no longer be mandatory in order to actually use the Xbox One. Finally! It seems like all the negatives surrounding Microsoft's new console are now gone, but then what does that mean now? Sure most of us have no reason not to get an Xbox One anymore, but other than the that fact most of the negative aspects like, used game restrictions, always online, and mandatory Kinect 2 are now gone, what exactly are Microsoft doing with the Xbox One that differentiates its from the previous generation? par a few new features that aren't at all relevant to "gaming" like watching TV and Skype. Personally the Xbox One just seems like a beefed-up Xbox 360 now right now, and the only reason I think I never noticed this before was because the negative policies were the few thing that actually seemed "next gen" or at the very least seemed to be more worthy of my attention. So then was this just a PR stunt? Could it be that all this negativity surrounding Microsoft's Xbox One was just used as a "Weapon of mass distraction" planed from the outset so that when all the back peddling was done, no matter how lacking in "next gen" appeal the Xbox One appeared to be when it comes to new features and functions (from a purely gaming related view point) it would be looked upon favourably purely because "Microsoft listened to their fans" and fixed everything we had a problem with? Well, I'll let you decide on that.

Now of course you could still argue that Kinect 2 is very much "next gen" and you'd be right in doing so, but it still stands true that the vast majority of gamers are uninterested in Kinect (or motion sensor gaming in general) or at the very least need proof that Kinect 2 can succeed in being relevant to core gaming, something its predecessor failed miserably at.

Cloud based gaming is worthy of mention in regards to "next gen" functions the Xbox One has, Microsoft has stated numerous times how "the power of the Cloud" can boost the power of the Xbox One's specs by the equivalent of three Xbox 360s, potentially making the graphics, processing and gameplay for games being played while the Xbox One is hooked up to the internet, superior to that of the competition. However even now we have yet to of seen any evidence that could validate these statement, with only certain individuals willing to state that it will "improve server quality" many others in the industry are saying Microsoft's overall vision for Cloud based gaming on the Xbox One is but a pipe dream.

Regardless of whether or not the Xbox One has any additional features relevant to gaming (I personally find the Xbox One controller's trigger feedback function to be very interesting) It should be mentioned that the Xbox One has some great exclusives and other equally great 3rd party titles coming its way, that reason alone is enough for most gamers to purchase the Xbox One, heck I myself will most likely be getting the Xbox One now that the Kinect 2 is no longer mandatory. But I'll always be wondering whether or not this whole PR stunt was manufactured to put the Xbox One in the lime light, even negative press is good press, or so they say.

So that's it I guess, maybe Microsoft did plan this whole PR back peddling extravaganza from the start, or maybe they really didn't see the consumer backlash coming due to their ambitious new policies. Either way we win, total victory guys congratulations!

Thanks for reading my blog, if you'd like to add anything or disagree with any of my points, please feel free to leave a comment.

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Sunday, 11 August 2013

Gamers or Gamma testers? The continued development of games out at retail.

For those of you not already in the know, there are typically two stages of "testing" a game is required to go through before it is considered ready for retail. The first stage is called "Alpha testing" which is usually performed by the dev team programmers themselves, to ensure the basic mechanics are coming along and to eliminate any signs of early bugs in the programming. The second stage is called "Beta testing" which is usually done by offering users who are willing to be "Beta testers" a trial version of the game in order for them to test it for bugs, glitches, and other such various errors. Often Beta testers will suggest various changes be made in order to fix balancing issues and/or other gameplay mechanics that could negatively impact the game in it's final form.

Once the testing is finished and the bugs, glitches and various other changes are fixed and finalised, a game is now considered to be ready for retail, although how finished the game is, is debatable at times... As many of you here are probably all too aware of, too often a game hits retail while still needing a few things "ironed out" this can be for any number of reasons but a good example would be. The dev team ran out of time and/or money so the publishers push the game out anyway in order to recoup their losses. Actually, I have my own theory for why many games are pushed out prematurely these days, I believe that often publishers force a game out before it's ready in order to use the profits generated through sales, to pay for the inevitable patches the game will require instead of dipping into their own pockets in order to keep a long overdue project going. Day one patches and DLC, along with drawn out weekly/monthly patches and DLC, seem like a intelligent (if not a little underhanded) way for a company to continue development of their game while consumers are already playing it.

This is of course a purely presumptive theory, but never the less it got me thinking. If we are knowinlgy being sold unfinished, bug riddled games, and we are often the ones who take it open ourselves to report those bugs to the developers, then are we not "Gamma testers"? Only instead of having the privilege of playing an early build of an up and coming game, we get to pay full price for what may in fact be a game that is still in development?

I honestly don't want this "theory" of mine to come across as some kind of "conspiracy theory" my conclusions here are merely presumptions based off of speculation, and as far as such underhanded activities pubs/devs may find themselves involved in goes, that's anybody's guess.

Now, obviously not all publishers or dev teams are underhanded and are up to no good, many development studios do a great job of pushing out worth while titles even if their games may have a few minor bugs here and there, also we have seen many cases of DLC coming out that does actually add something truly great to a game, instead of only attempting to capitalise on the IP's current popularity. Far Cry 3 had great DLC in the form of Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon, and the same can be said for some of the Dead Space 3 and Borderland 2 DLC, also the Bioshock Infinite: Burial at Sea DLC looks to be another promising and worth while purchase that adds to the original game instead of just adding cut content, and fixing issues present in the original.

However, more and more these days it seems that many games are being put out at retail that have either glaring bugs and glitches, broken gameplay mechanics, serious balancing issues or any and all of the above, needless to say the overall quality of many current gen releases is questionable at bet. So What happened during testing? Were the Aplha or Beta testers not doing their jobs? or did the programmers on the development team responsible simply not get around to fixing the issues before development time ran out?.

You have to admit that certain bugs, especially the blatantly apparent ones almost seem as if they were left in intentionally (not that any self respecting dev team would want that) Take Skyrim for example, are we honestly supposed to believe that all those glaring bugs, glitches and other such issues were just over looked? If you want to argue that it's an open world MMO then fair enough I suppose, but what excuse does a primarily offline game like Tomb Raider, The Last Of Us, Assassins creed and DmC: Devil may cry have when they have glaringly noticeable bugs and glitches? Before I go on I'll give credit where credit is due, Naughty Dog did an incredible job with The Last Of Us, so any criticism I have towards the game in regards to bugs and glitches, is diminished somewhat by the shear effort and polish that went into developing such a game like The Last Of Us, but I would be lying to you if I were to say that such instances, like when enemies aren't alerted by Ellie, or other AI members in your party when they blatantly walk (or run) out in front of them while you are sneaking, didn't take me out of the experience at times. However, I do agree that such "errors" aren't "game breaking" and if recent reports are to be believed, they probably weren't "errors" at all, and most likely came about due to needing to get the game out on time and not wanting to have the AI characters constantly alerting the enemy.

But then there are games like DMC: Devil may cry, that have textures still loading 10 seconds after the cutscenes have started, events not being triggered after boss fights due to buggy coding, and the game completely locking up during gameplay. But let us not forget the bug fest that was Aliens: Colonial marines (pre-patches) I think we've all heard enough jokes by now about there being more bugs in the coding than there were in the actual game.

All I ever ask for when I purchase a game is for it to be functional, but what is "functional"? Well, probably a great many different things depending on who you ask, but as for me. Functional is when a games "core mechanics" work without being inhibited by bugs or other such glitches. If you have glitches in the combat, platforming, environment and/or physics mechanics, depending on the type of game you are playing it may make playing the game a chore.

Nobody likes bad hit detection, having the game freeze, getting caught on the walls or other parts of the environment you're in, and nobody wants to see enemies or allies disappearing through walls due to poor collision detection. So long as these few issues aren't present I'm willing to forgive, poor framerate, choppy animations and even pop in textures.

I'll never fully accept the argument that says, games today being broader in scope, more technical and therefore more difficult to create, means that glaring bugs, glitches and other such issues should be expected. The priority devs should have (above all else) is to make their games functional, pretty much everything else should be considered secondary as far as I'm concerned. As I've discussed before, the spectacle many games use as the focus to draw gamers in today, eventually wears off after a while, so if the games core mechanics have glitches or are poorly implemented then it will become apparent sooner or later. The time to fix such issues is not when the game is already in a consumers console, from having been purchased at full retail price, along with day one DLC most likely.

Consumers aren't "Gamma testers" any glaring issues a game has should be dealt with before it hits retail, not after the publishers have accumulated enough revenue from sales to start fixing the bugs and glitches, now that they know their game is profitable enough to make it worth while. Even if this theory of mine is wrong for the most part, if you're expecting consumers to purchase a game then you damn well better make their game worth the price. The leniency shown towards certain companies like Gearbox and Ninja Theory, that seems to come from consumers who think only of the work involved in developing the games they happen to enjoy, extends only so far. When all is said and done, a game being sold at full retail price needs to be of a certain standard, lest we lower the bar in regards to "quality control" and "gameplay functionality" any further.

Thanks for reading my blog, if you have something to add or disagree with any of the points I've made, then please feel free to leave a comment.

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Thursday, 8 August 2013

Sequelization: It's a double standard.

There's a question I often hear posed by many gamers and it goes something like this.

"Why is it that Mario games always seem to get a free pass when it comes to sequels and rehashes, yet game franchises like Assassins creed, God of War, Halo and the like get criticised and sometimes even marked down for it?"

Well I have a theory for why that seems to be the case and it goes as follows.

You see as much as this may seem to be a double standard (and I'm sure many will argue it is) there is a fundamental difference between games like Mario and Assassins creed, Mario in my opinion is very much like a Children's cartoon. Take the old classic cartoons such as Tom and Jerry, Stop That Pigeon and Road runner for example, we would all tune in expecting a certain repetitive premise each week, but with some minor variations to the plot here and there to keep the show fresh and interesting, however the main premise was almost always the same. Tom would concoct an elaborate plan to catch Jerry and Jerry would foil Tom's plans, the Pigeon would always escape Dickdatardly and so would Roadrunner escape the coyote, sure we get games like Super Mario Sunshine, Super Mario Galaxy and the Mario RPG, but they are often an attempt to revitalise the franchise or give us a peak of what it would be like to take the series it in a new and interesting direction, essentially it's akin to a network station bringing back an old classic cartoon series or doing a TV special, Same Yoshi different colour, if you get my meaning.

What Mario has become today, is an exercise in rehashing tried and true game mechanics and plot assets, and combining them with whatever the current hardware allows for, we've seen this whith games like, Super Mario Sunshine, Mario Galaxy and Mario 3D. The Mario games are for better or worse, a video game cartoon with a mascot as popular and versatile as Mickey mouse (if not more so) If you think about it, the very fact that we still get so many Mario games is testament to the very fact that Mario games offer us something enjoyable and timeless, whether that be classic platforming, enjoying a party game with your friends or family, or racing with them at a game of Mario Kart. Now most sequels of these games I've mentioned don't vary much from the games that preceded them, but I believe that's the point. No matter how much you may dislike Mario games they are a near perfect merger of game design meets nostalgia, new gamers will enjoy them because they are fun and accessible, while older gamers will enjoy them due to nostalgia and familiarity, that's not to say older gamers wont find them just as fun due to their game design, it's just that they are more likely to appreciate Mario games due to enjoying the familiarity they offer along with the variations each title offers.

Basically the point I'm trying to make here is that Mario games are so popular, because they offer us a kind of fun, repetitive and familiar enjoyment that's similar to the kind we would find in a long running cartoon series.

However, the problems faced by many games like Assassins creed, God of War, Halo and other such videogame franchises these days, that often focus on an individuals exploits or an overlapping plot/story, is that the following games are expected to take the franchise forward, often also while remaining faithful to the previous games but doing enough to justify themselves as stand alone titles. These "sequels" also bare the unfair, but very important stigma of being judged as to whether or not they are an improvement over the previous installments.

Assassins Creed 3 came under some scrutiny when the choice of location was discovered to be 18th century America, before, during and after the American Revolution. The much smaller, scattered houses and monuments were certainly a far cry from the towering steeple tops of ancient Italy, although it's debatable as to whether or not such a change really posed as a negative, it is worth remembering that when the franchise was first announced way back when, the main features such as climbing tall buildings and performing assassinations were the main focus for Assassins creed, so seeing the franchise appear to be slowly moving away from this and focusing on other features such as tower defence mini games and sailing, is both interesting if not also a little disappointing to say the least. We'll probably have to wait and see how Ubisoft Montreal's Assassins creed 4 fairs which does look to be tacking the series in a more positive direction, before we assume that the Assassins creed franchise is growing stale.

Another sequel that ended up getting a lukewarm reception due to its predecessor is GTA IV, the game offered an improvement in both graphics and gameplay mechanics, yet many believe it to be inferior to GTA San Andreas as it's believed to have maybe taken itself a little too seriously by becoming a bland and boring in some places, though the fact that GTA IV was lacking certain features such as Jet packs and jet plains didn't help with the feeling that the GTA IV was lacking in comparison to GTA San Andreas. However, again it seems that Rock Star are about to fix that issue with their new entry to the franchise, GTA V which could quite possibly be the most content heavy and enjoyable GTA game to date.

God of War on the other hand, is a franchise that I personally consider to have pulled of the idea of sequels masterfully. The first game introduces us to the shamed Spartan Kratos, tricked by the God of war Aries, Kratos sets out on a blood drenched quest for revenge against the God who wronged him. The sequel then builds on the premise by furthering the extent to which Kratos is betrayed by the Gods, whilst also fleshing out Kratos as a character, and the added gameplay mechanics and improved combat helped to escalate the game above that of the original. The final game in the God of War trilogy brought the whole story to an epic conclusion, firmly closing the door on Kratos's journey. This actually takes a lot of guts to do for any developer, but because they were able to provide a concise trilogy (and some decent spin offs) the experience didn't feel tired or over done. Far too many games franchises these days try to milk a franchise for all it's worth, so then by the time the series is nearing its end many gamers have become bored and/or disillusioned with the overall repetitiveness of many games that exist as padding, at least until a official sequel is announced.

Once our hero (or heroes) have "finished the fight" or essentially completed their journey, adding any more to the canon can make the experience feel cheapened, more so if it feels as if that the only reason a game exists is for the developers to milk some extra cash before dropping the IP completely.

So to summarise.

I feel that games like Mario often get a free pass because they are essentially like a cartoon, they often have a single premise with a story and gameplay mechanics that are constantly being, revised, restructured and rebuilt in order to keep the series fresh. On the other hand games like Assassins creed, God of War, Halo and Metal Gear Solid come think of it, all follow the exploits of a protagonist along their journey toward the inevitable end, the games they appear in are expected to constantly reinvent themselves all while keeping true to the original formula, and adding enough new content and gameplay advances in order to prove that the franchise is still relevant.

I'm sure many of you can think of games that follow the cartoon theory approach to game design similar to the one I propose Mario follows, and hopefully you all understand what I mean when I say that other games which follow a plot or story, that has an inevitable end should not be thrown in with games that are designed to be "endless" Anyway I think I'll wrap up here.

Thanks for reading my blog and as always if you want to add anything or disagree with any of the points I've made, please leave a comment.

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Saturday, 3 August 2013

The Portrayal of Women in video games: Acceptable sexualisation vs over sexualisation.

Now here's a topic the googly gaze of the mainstream media never seems to shy away from "the over sexualisation of women in videogames" It's fair to say that not many subjects cause as much controversy between gamers as whether or not blatant sex appeal in video games is "nothing but harmless entertainment" or "degrading to women everywhere" My personal take? Well I'm not one to cast such blanket statements, or hold such black and white views. Instead I would like to pose another "broader" question to you all, and that is. What is the difference between "acceptable sexualisation" and "over sexualisation" of female characters in videogames?.

The first thing I think we need to consider here is, is there actually such a thing as "acceptable sexualisation"? Or does the very fact that a character was designed to look sexually appealing in the first place already classify such a character as "over sexualised"? Now my personal take on the matter is, no, I do not believe that a female character who was designed to look sexually appealing should automatically be labelled as "over sexualised" videogames are entertainment after all, and sex appeal is as valid a part of entertainment as any other. So with that being said we can now go about setting the defining parameters regarding what is "acceptable sexualization" and what is "over sexulisation"

A female character that I feel does well to define the term "acceptable sexualisation" is, Samus Arran, from the critically acclaimed Metroid franchise, although some could claim that Samus's more recent design being a striking, blue eyed bomb shell in a skin tight suit, is in and of itself a form "over sexulisation" however the very fact that she spends the majority of the videogames she stars in, inside of a full body armoured space-suit does well to detract from such claims that she is "over sexualised" Samus is being sexualised, of this there is no doubt, but I personally believe it to be well within the realms of "acceptable sexualisation".

But then does this mean that a female character's attributes must be covered up in order for her to be acceptable? Not at all, we have many videogames with attractive women who needn't hide themselves behind a few inches of steel. One such female character that comes to mind is Lara Croft, from the critically acclaimed Tomb Raider franchise, "Lara Croft!" I hear you gasp, "but isn't she practically the original over sexualised female characters of videogames? Surely the big breasts present on her original character design serve to define her as over sexualised!" (Ok, maybe you didn't say all that, but I bet you gasped at least) Well to answer this perfectly plausable question. Nope, many Women in real life have big breasts, even without having received surgical implants, though granted Lara Croft would have found many of her attempts at acrobatic stunts hampered by paralyzing back pain, purely being a large breasted female videogame character does not by extension, automatically label her as being "over sexualised" because lest we forget, Lara was also (the) ass kicking heroine and female videogame Icon of the 90's. Lara hardly ever used her sexuality in order to get one over on her enemies, and her personality was such that her resourcefulness and intelligence was what lead to her surviving many of her perilous adventures. So, that right there goes a long way to defining Lara Croft as an acceptably sexualised female character, as far as I'm concerned at least.

But what about a female character who is a little bit more up to date? Well how about Lightning from Final Fantasy IIIX? Even though Lightning returns has yet to of hit store shelves many pictures highlighting Lightning's new threads have hit the interwebs, one of which has caused more controversy than the others, but wait, let me take a step back a little. Now while I personally never really saw Lightning as a sexually appealing character before, there are without a doubt those who did and surely still do. It has been mentioned a good few times before how her attire in Final Fantasy XIII-2 was a little more "revealing" than that of her clothing from the first game, however I doubt many consider her valkyrie-esque armour in the second game makes her appear "over sexualised" but what about her clothing in Lightening returns? Or better yet, what about her new breast size? yep Lightning got a level up in the breast department, and it's created some controversy to say the least, but does her larger breast size mean that she is now "over sexualised"? Well maybe, but wait! what about her new sexy Final Fantasy XIV inspired threads? Surely that along with her larger breasts means she is being "over sexualised" for sure!...

OK, I have to be honest here, I'm a little conflicted, you see on the one hand there was really no reason to increase Lightning's breast size outside of making more sexually appealing, and some have said quite rightly, that such a change in appearance to her original design was unnecessary, but if I have to be truly honest (which I do) I'm OK with it... Now please don't hate for saying that, just hear me out OK? You see I understand why Square Enix did it, they wanted to make Lightning more sexually appealing, (evidently) and that, like I said earlier isn't necessarily a bad thing, it was kind of disrespectful and many female gamers have every right to be a little annoyed about it. But like I said, sex appeal is just another piece in creating entertainment, so Lightning's larger breast size while not entirely necessary is also within the realms of "acceptable sexualisation. Now let’s come back around to discussing Lightning’s sexy new Final Fantasy XIV inspired clothing, shall we? Well again, I have to say I was a little conflicted, but I've decided on where I stand with this, you see I beleive that because each one of the costumes Lightning can wear are "optional" (unlike her new breast size) it's not technically "over sexulisation" unless you, yourself choose to dress her up in sexually appealing clothes and decidedly "sexually objectify" her, but even then having seen the clothing I can't say that I would agree on the Final Fantasy XIV clothes in particular making Lightning look "over sexualised" A fair point many gamers have made about some of Lightning’s new clothing options available (clothing options that apparently range from 100 different choices so far) is that they are not the kind of attire many fans believe she would wear. Now this is very much a valid point but, I honestly think that given the fact the player gets to (choose) what Lightning wears, stands in the games favour and helps Lightning returns fit neatly into the category of "acceptable sexualisation"

OK, had to make some tough calls there that maybe some people disagree with, but I stand by my points made. Anyway, I really hope you're still with me because now we're going to discuss what I personally define as "over sexulisation" in regards to female characters in videogames.

And what better way to do just that than with the female characters of DOA (Dead or Alive) which in all fairness is honestly a solid beat 'em up franchise, regardless of that though, even the creator of Dead or Alive (Tomonobu Itagaki) admitted that the female characters of Dead or Alive where made to look sexually appealing purely so the player would want to ogle them. Meaning that from the outset the Dead or Alive girls where being "over sexualised" by design (not too surprising to be honest) However, not much comes close to Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball, which takes the well endowed ladies of the Dead or Alive beat 'em up franchise, and puts them on an Island resort along with a change of attire in the form of various skimpy bikini's. If there is such a thing as blatant over sexulisation in gaming, Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball took it to a whole new level.

Next I want to talk about another recent videogame that has caused some controversy.

From the very early screen shots showcasing the unique art style and controversial proportions of certain female charcters featured in the Playstation 3 and Playstation Vita exclusive "Dragon's Crown" there has been debate going back and forth between gamers themselves, and the mainstream media arguing whether or not the exaggerated body proportions of certain female characters (mainly the sorceress with freakishly large breasts) are over sexualised or not? Well as for my personal opinion, Yes, yes I do think The Sorceress and certain other female characters in Dragon’s Crown are over sexualised. So, should I hate the art style, the game and the developers who chose to design such overly exaggerated characters? Maybe I should, but I don't and I'll tell you why. Vanillaware, the creators of Dragon’s Crown are one of my favourite developers and have been ever since I first played their still criminally underrated Playstation 2 game "Odin Sphere" which I still to this day hold up on a pedestal as one of my favourite games of all time, I also happened to really enjoy Muramasa: the Demon Blade although to a lesser extent. So what I'm getting at here is that Vanillaware isn't just some new dev team trying to make a name for themselves by deliberately causing controversy to sell copies of their latest game (though that didn't stop the mainstream media from pretty much helping to do just that) Vanillaware are a very talented dev team with true passion, they are capable of creating beautiful, vibrant looking worlds and characters all in a hand drawn art style, and I find the attention to detail in many of their character, monster designs and stages to be breathtaking. So while it is true that certain female characters in Dragon's Crown (especially The Sorceress) are over sexualised, it shouldn't really interfere with our enjoyment of what I am hopping to be a fantastic game, and I for one am looking forward to finally getting my hands on Dragon's Crown.

As mentioned above, the subject of women being over sexualised in videogames is nothing new, this is partly due to the fact that there honestly is much legitimacy to such claims. As you already know by now, you don't have to look too far to find a female videogame character that was created solely to be gawked at, but it is also true that there are many bloggers, journalists and others in the media wishing to create a name for themselves, and who wish to use such a controversial topic as "over sexualisation in videogames" as part of their own personal agenda, attempting to create controversy and choosing to see a problem when there honestly is none to be seen. This of course is not the case every time but please do keep that in mind when reading articles and blog posts regarding controversial topics.

Before I rap up here I just want to "reiterate" or better yet "re-structure" and "flesh out" a valid point Jim Sterling of Destructoid fame made a while back in regards to how Men are portrayed in videogames as apposed to Women. What he basically said was that Men in videogames are often portrayed more or less as "ideals" something we as male gamers would want to aspire to be like, as apposed to how Women are generally portrayed in games as "things to be rescued and/or objectified" This was to counter a point that many gamers state when they claim Men are sexually objectified in vdeogames as much as Women are. And in all honesty I actually agree with Jim on this, you see when developers create a male lead they usually create one that we, the player would desire to be, and often they are either large, adventuress, muscular, grizzled, confident and/or capable, or a combination of any and/or all of the above. These attributes can be seen in many popular male leads such as Kratos, Marcus Fenix, Master Cheif, Solid Snake and even Nathan Drake

My point being here is that there is a vast difference between "objectification" and "aspiration" and that when it comes to the roles male and female characters play in videogames, it would be nice to see a little more diversity, although I do feel we are getting there, no matter how much the media tries to blow certain subjects like this out of proportion.

Well if you managed to stick with me till the end, thank you for reading my blog. I hope you enjoyed it and as always if you have anything to add or disagree with any of my points made then please feel free to leave a comment.

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