Malik  (5/7/04)

It's another Friday, which means I'm full of rage and angst about the work week.  So, like usual, I'm going to take that anger out on the geek world.  So, without further ado;  I'm Malik, and you're in my world now.

Video Games Involve TV?!?! 

Recently there was an article on MSNBC about how television networks are feeling the hurt of video games. Supposedly the people who should be watching television are instead opting for the more enjoyable pastime of playing games. 

The reasoning behind this data is that the target audience of both game makers and television producers of about 18-35 year old (males) are dropping in television ratings while the money made off of video games is going through the roof. 

This leads to two thoughts for me. The first being that maybe people are switching to video games from TV due to the fact that networks are making really crappy shows. How many more reality shows and sit-coms with no real aim or direction are we all supposed to watch? For me, the answer is simple; no more! Secondly, this makes me think of something else; this data is a bit short sighted since people in this goldmine of a demographic were not polled, but rather they (the "researchers" who came up with this data) put two pieces of data together and called it conclusive that one led to the other. The problem with this is that if I did this type of crap research for my day job, I'd be canned in about 5 minutes. Secondly, who's to say that good games led to fewer people watching TV...maybe really crappy TV with the non-stop reality TV and lack of quality could have actually led people to find alternative sources for entertainment...maybe...or maybe these two pieces of data are unrelated and thus this "study" should be thrown out. 

Of course this is just my let's see what "researchers" say about this, with their infinite knowledge. Supposedly, the experts think the answer to this ratings loss for TV is to introduce crap like G4 to the already overstuffed spectrum of crappy television. Supposedly if people will play games, then they will just as likely watch other people playing games...but not just other people...trendy looking pieces of shit who are as authentic as game players as they are authentic as people. The only good point made on this pathetic attempt at research is that watching people play games is as exciting as watching people read a book. I mean if you're on the couch watching G4 or Tech TV (soon to be one giant conglomerate of shit), what's to stop you from pressing the power button on your XBox, GCN, PS2, or whatever's your addiction, and getting some actual game time in? Nothing. 


The real solution for the issue of TV losing ratings to not to try to pander to the wannabe's with trendy pieces of shit who know as much about games as the average viewer, and instead try to offer something with some entertainment value. 

Secondly, the solution to this type of journalism is to simply stop making giant assumptions without a basis for them. Two pieces of unrelated data are often just that; unrelated. It's this type of crappy research that leads to networks making knee-jerk reactions and thus making bad TV...then we're back to square one. 

Why Can TV Not Contain Video Games?

If television execs want to try to capture some of this demographic (the game playing 18-35 year old male group), why not try something counter-revolutionary. Networks always seem to try to throw in your face mock-celebrities at their viewers to try to get more viewers intrigued by whatever crap is slated to be the next big "hit". This is why we see such trendy douche-bags on G4. Like I said in the last part, the people on G4 tend to be as authentic of gamers as they are authentic of character. 

TV, for the last couple of decades, has been about trying to use a combination of buzzwords, shock, and trendy behavior to capture a demographic who would otherwise not watch said program. Unfortunately, these TV executives who think of said buzzwords and trendy thought usually know nothing at all about the target demographic. I mean, how many times have you watched a TV show aimed for someone in your age group produced by someone twice your age and wondered why the hell would anyone use these tactics to get you to watch? Or what about how often times the target demographic for a show is not the same as the demographic who would actually watch the show? I mean there are a lot of shows on Cartoon Network (a good example) that are aimed at children, but contain humor that is best identified for people in their early twenties, but these shows are only seen by students and the unemployed as their air at times when the working class is confined to a pen...I mean cubical. 

All of this leads me to think that before G4 and Tech TV merge (due to G4...aka Comcast...buying out Tech TV), maybe Comcast and G4 execs should sit down and think about the failings of their shows. Right now G4 only hits a handful of cable communities, so to speak, while Tech TV has a much larger audience (hence the buyout...Comcast is going to use this to gain a larger number of carriers for G4), but maybe G4 is not ready for primetime (so to speak). G4 contains a large mixing of shows that present no real information (such as Blister, the action game show, and Filter, a polling show that lets users vote for their favorite whatever in a series of stupid categories...what's you favorite hero from a FF game? Do you actually care what others think? My answers; I don't give a shit), or are presented by such trendy/yuppie looking douche-bags that the information is all but lost in the "coolness" of the show (like with Sweat, the sports game show, or, a live forum type show). 

Meanwhile, game magazines actually are doing pretty well thanks to some more serious journalism by EGM, etc. So, why do these magazines do so well compared to game related shows? The shows are silly and trendy while the good magazines try to stay more serious to this journalistic pursuit. 


Here's the counter-revolutionary thing I mentioned earlier...try to actually give the shows a serious face to them. For example, G4 has three shows with a lot of potential. There's Pulse, the news show. How about we ditch the all-so-cool-and-trendy hosts and show some people who will get the information across more readily than just their own sense of style and humor. The news is already there, so let's keep it true to it's own nature (being news), and ditch the obstacles to that goal (the hosts). 

Then there's Electronic Playground and Judgment Day. Two quite good shows (for G4 standards). I lump them since they have the same sort of purpose and hosts.

In theory these shows could be quite theory communism theory. However, while they try to give you a sense of actual video game information, the hosts are so biased and closed minded that all reviews are scored with insanity. Not to mention how the hosts of Judgment Day obviously never play a single game for more than a few hours. Thus, we are told how some of the most repetitive of games remain fresh and exciting for the whole experience. Worst of all, for RPG geeks (like myself) these shows are biased (due to the hosts) to give horrible reviews of RPGs. Why not throw in a couple of additional reviewers and actually have the reviews done by people who enjoy whatever genre is being reviewed. Then there's the previews on EP...since previews are presented solely via interviews with the publishers, the hosts lack the guts to actually point out obvious flaws...why not, after the interview session, have a section of just the host (no pressure from the publisher) saying the whole truth (something like, "while the publishers says that this game will offer a lot of variation, and this is true, most of the different game play mechanics just don't fit in this genre")? This could easily remedy this whole conundrum. 

Also, why are there no informative shows dealing with RPGs? Ever since FFVII came out about a decade ago, RPGs have started to go mainstream. So, the execs at G4 should reflect this by having a show about RPGs. However, I don't mean one of their typical shows that lack information...RPG geeks tend to not like it when their games are watered down through trendiness and hype (I should know...I am one of these geeks). However, RPGs are not even touched by G4 (well, they are touched, but it's a bad touch that makes me think the RPGs should call the authorities). 

In other words, to summarize this...G4 should treat their viewers (and potential viewers) with some more respect and dignity before they try to make G4 quadruple in size via the Tech TV buyout. Not only would they keep more of the first time viewers they will soon get, but they will actually be treated with a good deal more respect by the general community (for those who haven't noticed, G4 was hyped by the gaming community prior to it's launch and then treated like a leper after it's launch...for good reason). 

Everyone's Favorite...Hypocrisy 

As I was getting ready to start writing a review of I-Ninja, I realized something. When I-Ninja was first released, many of the reviews all claimed the game had the same short-coming; it was too damned repetitive. For the most part, I do have to agree that I-Ninja is quite repetitive, however... 

At the same time, I could look back at reviews for all of the recent plat formers (and the not so recent ones), and a strong trend can be seen. If a plat former features a very recognizable character or setting, it almost automatically gets a thumbs up. Take for example, Mario Sunshine (and Mario 64, while we're at it), which features everyone's favorite overused Italian stereotype; Mario. 

So, in Mario Sunshine, which got rave reviews (averaging somewhere around a B+ to A grade...or about a 90%, or about a 4.5/5, or whatever symbols/grading system you want to use) and was called by many people to be revolutionary. So, what made Mario Sunshine so revolutionary? Was it the overly used Mario? Was it the method of having about a dozen stages that you must constantly replay (first time you get to the goal...or shine...then you race against the freaky paintbrush kid...then you collect the 5 red coins...then you fight a boss for the shine...then you get 5 more red goes on for about 8-10 shines or trips through each stage depending on if you go for the 2 secret shines per stage)? Maybe the standard issue graphics and camera? Was it the played out enemies (I know, there were like a whole 3 new enemies...whatever)? 

Don't get me wrong; I liked the game. It was fun and it kept me entertained for a good 8 hours. However, you cannot call something so damned repetitive "revolutionary" if something like I-Ninja is called repetitive (you thought I would just briefly mention I-Ninja and then in an ADD inspired bitchfest change subjects to Mario?) for doing the same thing, but a little more uniquely. 

I mean in I-Ninja you actually have more individual stages than with Mario Sunshine with a far different look to each stage (all of Mario Sunshine's stages are simply beach settings...with a few twists...but at heart they are the same). Then with I-Ninja, you have the fun of several different styles of game play; you have the standard platformer (ala Mario) action sequences, the stealthy stages (avoid being seen by guards), the 3D movement of Prince of Persia (running on walls, etc), the riding on a giant rolling ball (a lot like Monkeyball or Marble Madness), the shooting stages (you sit in a cannon and shoot targets, invading armies, etc), and unique boss fights (in the first you are in a giant robot and you basically have a Punch Out! inspired boxing match). What did Mario have again...platformer style levels with a nifty water gun. That was it for Mario. 

So, while in I-Ninja, you do have to repeat levels to get your rank (what color belt you have) to increase, like the ninja equivalent of shine sprites, you have more variety overall. Plus, you have more unique stages to do this repeated game play in. Plus, the repeat performances of a stage are all the same style as Mario did; collect 10 red coins, beat a certain time (just like a race with paintbrush boy), just finish the stage, and fighting a boss...but then there are the shooting stages, unique boss fights, marble rolling levels (including bowling for enemies...they stand in a formation and if you bowl them over, you get bonuses as they explode with the sound of a bowling ball knocking down pins), and most of all, a better sense of random humor. 

So, to summarize this, what's with the hate? Or maybe, what's with the Mario love? 


Well, the solution is really quite simple. For one thing, people (as in the professional journalistic people) need to realize Mario, Nintendo, and Miyamoto can do wrong. Although I think wrong is the wrong word choice...I guess they should realize that they can do (and often do indeed) things less than perfectly. So, reviews should reflect this. Mario Sunshine was a great game, and it was definitely enjoyable...but it was not a nearly flawless game. Hell, I had more cheap deaths from glitches in that game than in any other (anyone else walk through the corner of a wall into oblivion? I know of at least a half dozen people who did this for their first death in Sunshine), so how could you say this game that is a little more repetitive than I-Ninja is far superior when the primary "flaw" with I-Ninja is the repetition? 

So, the second part of this solution is to realize that games must be judged on their merits, not on their merchandise. In other words, if one game with great commercial appeal gets a great score, and another game (with the same basic problems and a few more bonus features) with less marketability gets a far lower score...there is a definite problem. 

That's why I personally like to play the less known games. It means when I review them, assuming there is a more marketable alternative, then my review is, more times than not, the most unbiased one. I mean another example of this whole hypocrisy is how a good deal of dun strategy or general RPGs get lower scores than the FF or general SquareEnix counterparts. Disgaea was called a great game with averages of about 8.5/10 in most publications while FFTA got about a 9.5 (with quite a few 10s) despite lacking a story and having a far less inspired game...which was also far less enjoyable. 

In a nut-shell, this hypocrisy needs to cease. It doesn't serve to do anything besides boost sales for the common games and make obscure ones harder to find (if a good deal of gamers base their purchases on publication reviews, then they won't buy some of the more obscure games that get rated lower on this bias). Thus, the games sell less, and in turn, the smaller companies feel less determined to sell the games in the US. Which leads to me going through withdrawals from good games...especially RPGs. That just pisses me off. 




It's that time once again...I'm out of bitching energy for the week...joking...I am really just out of time.  If I ever want to finish my trip through Disgaea, I need to get this column over with.  Anyways, next week, assuming what usually happens as E3 once again happens, I should have a special all E3 edition of Malik's Bitchings.  I imagine, at the very least, the Doom3 booth should give me enough, but I assume Nintendo will also add fuel to my fire with their DS (or now as it's called, the "Nitro")...until then, if you think I have my head up my ass, have some good points, or want to tell me that FFTA and SquareEnix pwn, tell me.