Monthly Archives: July 2010

Games for Non-Gamers- First Person Shooters (aka How Can I Get My Girlfriend to Play FPS)

I’m female, and often as a female gamer, I will get the question, “Yelling at Pixels, you reek of awesome. How can I get my girlfriend to play games?”  They say games – but often they really mean first person shooters. They secretly hope that somehow, their wife or girlfriend will pick up pokemon, love it, then graduate to Halo the next weekend. 

Halo 3

I'm usually the person NOT standing. Courtesy of IGN.com

 To that I say “Dude, you can’t make your girlfriend do or enjoy anything, because she is her own person with her own mind. I also don’t know your girlfriend. Women are not a monolith: we are not the same type of person with the same likes and dislikes because we all have a vagina. Some girls respond to the “shrink it and pink it” method of marketing, but others would puke if they played something cutesy.  In short: listen to what she wants to play in a game then figure it out for yourself.” 

This is the attitude I attempt to bring to this series. I try to say what type of person will possibly like the game, but I also caution that one must figure out what is working, what isn’t and then go from there.  This is going to be doubly true this time around as we take on perhaps the most difficult-to-enter gaming genre of them all: the first person shooter. 

Who May Enjoy First Person Shooters? 

Non-Gamers who have said the following: 

  • I really do want to try something fast, competitive and on-line.
  • I am fine with using a controller
  • I am fine with hearing some of the worst sexist, racist and juvenile language known to man
  • I am fine with people abusing me if I am not good at a game: this isn’t going to bother me
  • I like and want to be apart of a bigger online culture, this really appeals to me

And maybe/possibly: 

  • Alright, my significant other/ someone I care about/the entire gaming universe seems to have fun with this game: I just want to give it a try to see what is up.

What is it? First Person Shooters Defined for the Non-Gamer. 

The first person shooter (FPS) is a genre of game where “you” the character go around and… shoot things. The view-point is first person: i.e. it’s like you are looking through your own eyes onto the play area. Think Halo, Call of Duty and the like. In truth, I mentally include third person shooters, like Gears of War in this genre as well, since so much of the game mechanics are so similar. While all FPS shooters can be described this simply, they all have a slightly different feel. This slight difference in feel can make various FPS games feel much different from each other.

FPS have two main components. First is the single player campaign, where you play by yourself, or cooperatively with a partner, to save the day: just like any other game. However, it’s not really the single player campaign that makes the FPS as popular as it is, the multiplayer campaign tends to be the big draw. 

Multiplayer is where you play on-line with other people from around the world. You will need to have access to the on-line component: the game, an internet connection and if you are console gaming, access to the Playstation Network or XBox Live. 

Sometimes you can choose whatever game type you want, then go into a “lobby” of players waiting to start the match. Sometimes you can play with your own friends, and your leader will choose the game and the “rules” around the game. 

These “mini-games” come in many flavours, but can be broken into three big groups: 

  • Free-For-All (FFA) where you shoot every other player that you see. There are no teams.
  • Team Deathmatch (TDM) where you are put into one of two teams, you shoot anybody not on your team.
  • Objective based games – This is the gametype where you have something to “do.”  You may have to capture the other team’s flag (Capture the Flag: CTF) or shoot one target, or occupy a space. There is lots of variations here.

First Person Shooter Culture: (Warning: Here be Dragons) 

So far, everything sounds pretty good. Very fun, right? Why the trepidation? 

Multiplayer FPS has its own little subculture in gaming. This FPS subculture can be quite unforgiving, as there are many unwritten rules surrounding  how to play”properly.” Just for kicks, go into gaming forum and post “Camping: is it part of smart gameplay or is it cheating?”  Guaranteed, you will get pages upon pages of back and forth passion about one tiny aspect of this gaming subculture. Most of it will be heated to say the least. 

There are unwritten rules about what kind of “load out” to use, (some FPS let you have special abilities, some of these abilities are considered “cheap”) there are rules about what weapons to use (again, some are considered “cheap”). There are rules about how to play the game (i.e. ugh: don’t even get me started). No one agrees on these rules, and it’s rare to see a rational discussion about these things.

To top it all off, for some reason, FPSers can be both vocal and vulgar. If you are a woman you will hear more of it and will consist of anything from the benign (WHAT? You are a GIRL? REALLY!!) to full sexual harassment (guys will send you pictures of their boy-junk over Xbox Live – don’t open pictures from people who are not your friends).  I’m not even going to go into the racism. Let’s just say FPS can highlight the worst of the worst of gaming and on-line culture. 

Why Would Non-Gamers Enjoy This Game? 

GEEZZZZ Yelling at Pixels, if it sucks so much, why do it? 

Because – if you can fall in with a great room, with a great bunch of folks it is possibly the most fun you can have in gaming. The trick is to somehow get to that point where you know enough, know how to handle yourself where you can find these people. 

It also has the potential to be incredibly social. Remember that subculture thing? Well, not all of the folks who are part of that subculture are knuckle dragging neanderthals. Some of them are really cool people. And being part of a subculture is fun. Last time when I was on maternity leave, I got into first person shooters. I was at home all day with a baby, and once she was in bed, it was nice to play an adult game with adults and be silly, loud and yes, a bit vulgar amoungst friends. I enjoyed it, far, far more than this RPG fan ever thought she would have. 

Give it a chance. Just try it. Even if it’s just to see what it’s all about and to try something really different.

Advice for the Non-Gamer 

  • Play the single player campaign. It will guide you through how to play the game. Play it on easy if need be. The objective here is to get a feel for the game, to learn and to not get too frustrated. 
  • Think long term. The people you are playing with/against have *years* of in game experience. You will not be that good. It’s okay. Have fun anyway. You will improve over time. Learn to enjoy your own death sequences, because you will see them often.
  • Be a good team mate. Tell people they played a good game. Try as hard as you can. Pull out the rules you learned in Little League and Timbits Hockey. If people are jerks, don’t worry about it. Just leave the room, and find a new one. Mute, Report, (and theoretically) Pwn.
  • You can mess around with the controller settings. Try it… it may feel better if you switch the axis around or increase/decrease sensitivity.
  • Remember that not all FPS games are the same. There is a different feel to each one. You may like Halo, but you may LOVE Battlefield: Bad Company and vice versa. Rent new games, play the single player campaign until you find something that feels right.

Other Ways to Make the Game Fun

There is strength in numbers. Get a clan.

A clan is a group of like-minded gamers who play together. There are a wide variety of types: some are serious and hold try outs. Some are just incredibly social and are there to have fun.  You can go to the official website of the game you are playing and look in the forums. Let people know that you are just starting out though. Someone will take you under their wing. Just be a good team mate, try as hard as you can. If you let people know that you have not played before, they are not expecting you to help them, they KNOW that you are going to cost them games. But people like to show off their knowledge and some people even (gasp) are really nice and want to help out a junior gamer. 

  • Over 25 and NOT a jackass? Sign up with www.2old2play.com find “J-Cat” (ahem… that’s me) and ask for help. I’ll find you a clan. If you are a woman, over 25, join up with 2old2play, find me and say pretty please: I’ll let you into TheCabal: the woman’s clan on 2old2play.
  • YellingAtPixels Favorite Pick 

    For the newb, IF you have a crew of people to run with… I say that silly custom Halo 3 matches are the way to go. My first clan was a Halo clan. We played a game called “pinball” where the shields were high and the gravity was low. Grav hammers and rocket launchers only. The result? You run around whacking each other with these huge hammers, but when you do, your character goes flying backwards… very silly. Very fun. 

    If you are thinking a little more hard core: I preferred objective based games. Often people with say “FFA is the way to go for newbs.” I disagree: you are on your own too much. Where do you go? what do you DO? No clue. BUT If i’m told to take a position… well, maybe that is something I can do.  

    But keep in mind I rarely play FPS without a full room of folks I know. Too much hassle.

    Important Last Words 

    While games can be fun in and of themselves, it’s also important to have the right atmosphere. First Person Shooters are high-risk, high reward in terms of fun. It isn’t for the faint of heart… but give it a try. And let me know how it’s going!

    Outside the Comfort Zone: Platformers and Touchscreens

    A while back, we made the mistake of letting our three-year old daughter play with my husband’s iPod Touch. We were in the process of buying/selling a house, and … well frankly we needed a bit of a babysitter while we discussed nuts and bolts with the real estate agent.

    We created an Angry Bird monster. Our daughter giggles like a maniac as she flings the birds straight down. Sometimes she even gets a piggy or two.

    A few weeks later, my husband and I were talking with my Aunt about new technology. Now, this woman is not new to tech. Her husband is an IT professional; she writes and is published on-line. But she has never used an iPod. She mentioned how she wasn’t sure she could get the hang of a game using touch screen technology. The three of us chimed in “Yes, you would.”

    At that moment, I saw another example of how having too much knowledge can be harmful. My daughter had as much experience with gaming devices as my Aunt, but didn’t know that the tech was new or that she could not work the touch screen. All she knew was the blue birds split, and the yellow ones go fast. And if you whine when Angry Bird is done, you get no more Angry Bird.

    The result? My daughter was fearless in giving it a shot. And within days she was flipping through menus, and loading up different apps. (We didn’t teach her this. It’s actually a bit frightening.)

    I wonder if sometimes we, as gamers, hobble ourselves by having too much knowledge.  We compare ourselves to “experts” in the gaming field, and believe that we can’t be good at the game. One bad experience with a genre and it’s all over. “Oh, I don’t play stealth games.” “I’m not good at Halo.” “I can’t get through an RPG.”

    I’m guilty of this.  I hate platforming. I suck at it. Prince of Persia, I spent maybe 10 minutes at it. The platforming in God of War made me want to throw my controller through the T.V.  Normally this doesn’t bother me. Too many great games to worry about the ones I won’t like.

    Yet, all of this Limbo talk had me intrigued… but my previous knowledge has me hobbled. I know I hate platformers. Limbo is a platformer, therefore I will hate Limbo.  But that was then, this is now.

    Have I improved as a gamer?  Will I be able to finish it? Is the fear of failing keeping me from experiencing a great game? This one that seems right up my alley, and it seems like one of those games EVERYONE must play. I mean who cares if I can’t complete it. All I will have lost is $15, but gained all the real life experience of seeing something artistic and new and trying something different.

    Well… maybe after we move.

    Vets vs. the FNG: Gaming Mentorship

    It is summertime, and certain aspects of my life have ramped up to insane levels. As always, gaming is a refuge.

    But alas, no energy.

    Mass Effect 2, Dragon’s Age: Origins and Splinter Cell: Conviction in rapid succession sort of sucked the gaming out of me for a while. And again with this “real life” stuff that keeps on hammering away at me. What’s a girl to do?

    Easy: casual or turn based games. Turn based games engage the mind, but leave the tension behind. Lately, my go to game has been Magic the Gathering: Duel of the Plainswalkers on XBLA. So much so, I finally bit the bullet and joined up with Magic the Gathering: Online (MTGO).

    Now, I used to play back in tha’ day. So I understand the mechanics of this admittedly complicated game.  However, I ws not prepared for what I was to face.

    Trading systems, deck requirements, deck restrictions, different game types, live chat, clans, buddies, and on and on. None of it intuitive. None of it explained. Very little help. Now, I’m a lucky lass with connections, so I was basically in a great clan before I entered in my credit card number to buy my membership. (check that nerd cred, yo) But I have no idea how others do it. And this isn’t vanity talking. All my clan members agree… this is one complicated and crappy interface.

    But how do you change something as big as  MTGO to be friendlier to the newb, without alienating the hardcore fans? Slim down the number of cards and abilities, fix the interface (with presumably a certain downtime or time on the new learning curve) and the established players are upset. But if you don’t; you gain no new members… and older members always leave and need replacing.

    We see this often with on-line multiplayer. If you are mere weeks behind the curve in Call of Duty, and the like, prepare to be pwned. Everyone else has leveled up, and you are stuck trying to figure out maps in vain while rocking the basic load out. Forget it if you have never picked up a controller or played a FPS.  And if you don’t have some type of rank or levelling system, well, that kind of sucks too. It’s fun to get better and get a reward for it.

    So. The argument is as follows:

    1. As Vets leave, or ramp down their gaming time for a variety of reasons, developers and publishers have to keep adding new players (FNG) into the gaming experience.

    2. You can’t alienate your current fan base (Vets), a sure thing, for the possiblity of new fan (well… you just have to do the risk assessment). This is marketing 101.

    Therefore…

    3. There is a pull between two different groups: the Vet, and the FNG.

    So… what do we think developers might have to do? They are going to, in some respects, stack the deck a bit for the FNG. Maybe make things a bit easier for them, dumb down controls, who knows? Got to get new players.

    But that isn’t the only option.

    Vets, us gamers, can also be the heroes here. It’s not that fun to beat up on the little guy. We all learned this (hopefully) in kindergarten.

    Let’s be human. Help the FNG learn the damn game. You see someone who has no clue what they are doing… don’t spam kill them. Hell… maybe even send them a FR and (gasp) take them under your wing for a few games. The more FNGs we, as gamers, can convert into Vets, the less the game developers have to do the same.

    Mentorship. It works. Let’s do this.

    Pay to Play Multiplayer – Would you?

    So there is a hot little article running around the web today about the potential to monetize multi-player, in a pay to play model. The article quotes Michael Pachter, a market analyst, who  basically says that large publishers such as Activision are getting ripped off in this whole multi-player deal. 

    The logic is as follows: If a ton of XBL players are playing Call of Duty, Activision should see some of that. But they don’t, they only see the money from the sale of the game, not from the multiplayer. If a game like Call of Duty is driving XBL subscription sales, then Activision should get a cut.  Also if players are spending huge amounts of time on these popular MP games, then they are not purchasing new games. Mr. Pacter states:

    “We think that it is incumbent upon Activision, with the most popular multiplayer game, to take the first step to address monetization of multiplayer,” said Pachter. “It is too early to tell whether that will be a monthly subscription, tournament entry fees, microtransaction fees, or a combination of all three, but we expect to see the company take some action by year-end, when Call of Duty Black Ops launches.”

    From what I see, the response from gamers has been swift and biting. Some are calling for a boycott of Activision is this ever happens. Some say that they will never play another Call of Duty game. Some are taking a more measured approach.

    Here’s my two cents.

    Hey: FPS fans. Stop pretending. You will buy Call of Duty, and pay the extra $10, at most, when the rave reviews start flying and your friends list is full of buddies playing COD. You will justify the extra charge. Right now it is getting people angry, but down the line, when the game hits the shelf, you will have rationalized the extra expense away. After all: the cost-benefit analysis still puts playing a game like COD heavily into the plus column.  $60 for the game, $50 for an XBL subscription and and extra $10 for the COD MP license is $120. Divided by the BRAZILLION hours that some people play in this game and you still have a great product at a great value. A small subscription fee is a drop in the bucket.

    Secondly, the article talks about “providing value” to the player. Now this could be one of two things. One. It could be complete and utter BS, something to say in an attempt to smooth ruffled feathers. If this is the case, Activision and the like will lose respect and draw the ire of gamers everywhere. Not a great business model.

     Two. You know… maybe “providing value”  could actually mean offering something that we want.

    I think the question that is more interesting than “Would you pay an extra $10 for MP?” is “What would you need in order to make that $10 worthwhile?” Cause there MUST be something.

    This could actually be a huge opportunity for Activision and the like to come out of all this being the good guys. How? By actually listening to gamers, and giving us something that we really do want.

    So what is it?

    Free map packs? Free weapons? Free avatar clothing? Microtransactions? I doubt it. This avenue will do nothing more than make gamers see red. We don’t need or want more free crap. Microtransactions don’t excite. Yet this is easy to throw at us. So what else could they offer?

    I would happily pay for a special “COD” buddy list so that I didn’t have to continuously cull my precious 100 slots on my friends list. This would be cool, and a bit different, but it doesn’t make me go “WOW.”

    How about: a stricter enforcement of Terms of Service… and I don’t mean banning people with naughty words in their bio. What if Activision was able to get tough on glitchers and cheaters, racists and sexists, and ban them from Call of Duty. You want to play COD again? Pony up that $10 my friend.

    What about special rooms available just for people new to the multiplayer aspect of the game. You are only allowed in if you have under 20 hours of game time. Helps newbs hone their skills against other newbs. An MP tutorial sandbox.  You could expand this: what about rooms only for people who have prestiged? That way vets can play against vets. Rooms for people over a certain age. I know I hate playing with 12-year-old kids.

    All this makes me go *YES*.

    Do that, and the rest of the gaming community may not only pay the $10, but pay it happily, and demand it from the other guys.

    Everyone wins.

    There has GOT to be a way that everyone can make money and have a great gaming experience: what are your ideas?

    Quick Game Impressions – BarStar for the iPhone

    I’m a sucker for local talent. I like Canadians and I like people who feel genuine passion about their product.

    So when someone named, @barstar tweeted me, saying that if I liked Plants vs. Zombies (I do), I should try BarStar, my interest was slightly piqued. When I found out that they work practically down the street from me, well I decided to give them a shot. Why not? What have I got to lose? Let’s help that Ottawa  job market one app at a time. So a week later, I downloaded BarStar for the iPhone.

    BarStar - Featuring Chase in red; Artie is behind the bar.

    Bottom line: It’s a great little app.

    BarStar a time management game. In this case, our heroine, Chase is a waitress at a bar that she and her brother, Artie have inherited. Chase has to check IDs, take orders, show people where the bathroom is, take in cash and a myriad of other tasks. Artie has to mix drinks, as well as pour wine and beer. And you only have a certain amount of time to do all of this AND make a certain amount of money. Give someone a wrong drink: it’s game over. Take too long, customers leave the bar.

    Over the days and weeks, you can earn enough money to purchase upgrades to your bar. A bouncer will check ID for you. A DJ will keep the dance floor hopping. You can magically make Artie and Chase perform their tasks faster. And so on and so on.

    The controls are very simple, intuitive and responsive. Press where you want to go, drag your finger to the selection. Done.  The screen for the iPhone does not show the entire bar, but this adds to the difficulty. You have to keep scanning left and right to make sure a customer in the corner isn’t getting mad. The difficulty ramps up nicely, some levels have quirks, and force you to play the game differently.

    It’s fun, it’s cute and it also has that pick up and go-ness that is important in a handheld game. I can play a level in a few minutes while I’m waiting in a line up or whatever. There is a mix of long-term strategy (what upgrades do I purchase?) and simple “in-the-now” gameplay.

    I also like Chase as a visual character. She is beautiful without being exploited. She’s also the brains behind the operation. Artie is also decently portrayed. He’s a bit geeky, but not as annoying as I feared. My only criticism is that I can’t necessarily replay a previous level. That is merely my game play preference.  But hey, it’s an iPhone app, its meant to be fun: it is. If that is the only criticism I have: so be it.

    I say, if you are looking for a pick up and play game on the iPhone and you have already downloaded the usual suspects, give BarStar a try, and let me know what you think!

    Sexy Girls! Gaming! Double Bind of Modern Feminism!

    I’m a bit concerned about my reputation. See… my egregious and sinful error is that I have been into a casual gaming kick for a few months. It gets worse: I’m a woman on a casual gaming kick. How can I possibly be respected as a real gamer?

    A long time ago, I was looking up women and gaming, and I stumbled across a rather unfortunate article. I have tried to find it again, but to no avail. It was about “Girl Gamers” and I  bet that the editors cross referenced “Female” “Gamer” and “Model” into facebook and found these gamer women. The “article” was merely a series of pictures of these incredibly beautiful models; some pictures were from their professional lingerie portfolio.

    Everyone ripped into these women for not being “true gamers,” for not having enough gamer cred.  “Ah-hahahahahaha! Stupid Bitch… She said Legend of Dragoon, when it’s Legend of THE Dragoon.”  Somehow because these women were a) beautiful, b) displayed provocatively and c) didn’t play the right types of games – they couldn’t be gamers. 

    I have seen this in my own tours around various gaming communities. Women who are too sexy are loved for their looks, but not taken seriously as people. Other women practically deny their feminine self and go out of their way to identify with the men, to be one of the guys. Both sides of this coin seem like they want to deny that another possibility exists: a smart woman, who relishes in, but does not exploit, her own sexuality.

    I’ll admit… I sometimes have mixed feelings about the HAWT gamer girl phenomenon.  A woman should have the freedom to dress the way she wants to, she can choose her own path, who she has sex with and she can certainly choose her own wardrobe. Don’t ever assume that a woman is stupid if she’s beautiful and outgoing.

    But on the other hand, if your only schick is being sexxxy or cute for the boys, watch out. That only works for a select number of years, then it’s kind of pathetic. Look to be respected for your thoughts first and foremost, be true to yourself, and you can never go wrong. Physical attractiveness gets noticed eventually and all on its own. Then it’s gone and the teenagers win the battle of beauty again as they have since the beginning of time.

    It’s tough, I’ll admit. In a male dominated world of gaming, showing off your sexuality will get you attention, and lots of it. Yes, sometimes it’s not about being sexy for men; it’s about personal expression.  Yet, buying into the “let’s be provocative… FOR THE BOYS!” mentality is harmful. It perpetuates the notion that women are there to be eye candy for the guys. That we exist for the gaze and touch of men.  And this IS gaming… it’s not known to be very liberal on women’s issues.

    And let’s not forget what happens if  women speak out.  Call someone out for being sexist, racist or homophobic and it’s assumed that you are an ugly, man-hating humourless bitch who can’t have any fun. And has cats. And is a lesbian. And needs to get laid.  I forgot fat. Fat too.

    It’s sometimes a no-win situation. Stereotyped as a whore-slut, become a man hating (gasp) feminist or act like something we can never be: men.

    Women have to be twice the gamer to get the same amount of respect as the men. When it comes to hardcore gaming, let’s face it: we are still the minority. Our gender takes us front and centre. 

    It’s a fine line. Should I change who I am to be one of the guys? Ditch my feminine self in order to be taken seriously? If I go with option three, a woman and a feminine one, do I run the risk of being disrespected based solely on my gender?

    And after all this: how does one bring up feminist gaming issues, when the chips are stacked so far against you? 

    I’m not sure. Maybe I’ll find the answer in a game of Puzzle Quest 2. So what if it’s casual? It’s still gaming: it still counts.

    An Unfamiliar Controller – Oh. It’s the Remote. (TV/Gaming/Ads)

    TV Remote - Or so they tell me

    Do I waggle this? I'm kinda confused.

    My In-Laws are great. But alas, they are non-gamers. My father-in-law has mad skillz, yo, on those little card games that come with Windows, and once when there was a touch of family drama I saw my mother-in-law clean up on Wii Boxing (note to self: don’t make mother-in-law upset, she has a devastating right hook) but that’s really it.  They are something that is unfamiliar to me. They are a TV family.

    At home, I’m either gaming, or surfing and writing when I have spare time. My husband is NOT a gamer, bit of a role reversal from most people I know. But he’s typically on-line, reading or writing. The only thing we watch on TV is sports. And sometimes that we even watch on-line.

    The point, if there is one on this lazy summer weekend post, is that I have no interest in TV anymore. None. My In-Laws will ask “Oh what is on Thursday Nights.” and I can’t even name you a channel. Not that I have little screen time, or that I’m a saint or something, but I wonder if this is a trend. And if it is a trend, what does it mean?

    TV, traditionally, is how advertisers make their money. It’s where we see all those fantastic beer, sugary cereal

    Cereals

    How will I know which of these is part of a balanced breakfast?

    and pop commercials – depending on the demographic of the audience of course. I went from watching TV a “normal” amount of TV to practically zero in the 9 or so years that I have been a gamer.  Ads gotta get me someplace. And let’s face it. They are gonna get us in our games.

    Now. I actually don’t mind ads in gaming, if they make sense. In fact I would welcome a NASCAR type racing game with a ton of ads all over the cars, the people etc. Just like in real life. Same with a scene in a mall. It makes sense if there is a Starbucks on every level, as opposed to a “FarLucks” or some other BS rip off. That would add to the realism of the game.

    I’ll even give games a bit of a pass and put up virtual billboards all over. As long as it doesn’t interfere with the “look and feel” of the game.

    But when the ads break that realism, (I’m looking at you Guitar Hero 3) then you have lost me.

    Well not really, cause I will still play your game. And probably subliminally buy your product.

    .

    .

    .

    Damn you advertisers. You win this round.

    Games for Non-Gamers: Civilization

    Humans are wired to play.

    There is a game for every person, if you (or someone you know) hates games, it may be because that person just hasn’t found the right game OR something else made the game unpalatable. This series explores games for non-gamers. This week is Civilization.

    Civilization, and it’s creator Sid Meier are legendary in the world of gaming. Civilization has been responsible for more sleepy office workers than about any other franchise… okay that’s probably an exaggeration. But I’m sure the line “One More Turn.” was coined during one of the earliest installments of this game.

    Who is it for?

    Non-Gamers who have said the following:

    • Games are stupid: there is no thought to them
    • I don’t think I like fast paced action.
    • I like to be challenged
    • I would want to spend some time on a game
    • Controllers are intimidating
    • I may want to play with someone, but maybe not.
    • I like making things from scratch, building things up the way I want to build them

    What is it? The Game Defined for the Non-Gamer.

    Civilization is a  “Turn Based Strategy” game. It’s a strategy (i.e. thinking) game where you take a turn, then the opponent, either the computer or a person, takes a turn. It’s basically a board game, turned into a videogame.  It’s also called a “god-Sim” (god-simulation) because you play as an omipotent being, or leader, and you control your people. Take care of your people, they prosper, don’t take care of them, they fail.

    In this case, you don’t play as a god, but you play as a real life historical leader. Alexander the Great, Cleopatra, Abraham Lincoln all get play as well as about a dozen others. The object of the game is to take over the world. This game is incredibly complex, however, so taking over the world might mean you become the dominant cultural force known to mankind. Or you may be the richest, or you may colonize another planet. Or you may just drop tons of nuclear weapons on your neighbours and walk all over them, the choice is yours. But there is no wrong way to really play or win this game.

    Why Would Non-Gamers Enjoy This Game?

    Turn based games are great for early gamers. They can sit and think before they do anything. They don’t need twitch reflexes (i.e. to be really good at moving a controller fast) in order to win the game. All they have to do is pay attention, and learn the rules of Civilization. Then have fun.

    But while this game is slow on the second to second action, it is fast on the cognitive skills. It’s a thinking person’s game. It isn’t silly or dumbed down in any way. There is even a civilopedia that will give real life information on the leaders, Wonders, units and so on.

    It’s also a game that real gamers play and love. If you want to start being one of the “in” crowd of gamers, this is a fine place to start. (Note: we’re not really all that cool…)

    Advice for the Non-Gamer

    You will need more cities than you think. In the beginning, if you city fills up to over 6 people: make a settler or a worker. I find cultural victories the easiest to get, but that’s because I tend to only have five HUGE cities that have every Wonder imaginable.

    Other Ways to Make the Game Fun

    This game is able to be played in multiplayer! That’s right, you can try to take over your buddies’ territory. Once you get the hang of the game, it’s always fun to play with people you know. The trick to on-line play, especially at first, is to play with people you actually know. The on-line gaming community is not known for being generous with new players.  If you are lost, and need a partner, post a comment and I may be able to hook you up with a Civ gaming buddy. No promises though. YellingAtPixels Favorite Pick

    Before I self-identified as a gamer, I enjoyed playing Civilization a ton. Or as I told my husband “I’m going to take over the world.” Why? I enjoyed creating the Civilization. My favorite part of the game is playing until you discover other civilizations. Then I often started a new game.

    Important Last Words

    While games can be fun in and of themselves, it’s also important to have the right atmosphere. Every non-gamer is a unique individual, and can’t be described in a monolith.  All girls do NOT like pink and cute for instance. Listen to the non-gamer, to find out what she or he really enjoys. Try something out, get feedback, try again.

    Rated M for Adolescent

    A while ago, Leigh Alexander wrote an excellent piece for Kotaku, about the extreme violence in games. In the article she writes:

    But as games get ever more immersive and lifelike, it starts to feel less like healthy play and more like unsettling aspirational fantasy to me. And as the economic competition around the genre heats up, the push for bigger-bloodier-more seems especially opportunistic and shameless. I don’t understand the continuing appeal; I don’t understand the unquestioning audience.

    What I find interesting is that in the debate afterwards, I heard the refrain “Yes, games are violent, but most games are not. Most games in, fact are rated ‘E’.”  An example from the fantastic Ngai Croal:

    Ngai Croal discusses L. Alexander's Kotaku Article

    And I completely agree. Most games are not the overly violent “blockbuster movie” type faire that have people wringing their hands with worry. The games industry is more akin to Pixar’s “Up” than to “Saw.”

    Here’s my problem. I’m an adult. I don’t necessarily want to play a kid’s game, but that doesn’t mean I want something mindless either. Where is our “Saving Private Ryan”?

    I would rather see more games that are rated Mature, not for their gratuitous sex or violence, but for their themes.  I see plenty macho space marines that are underdeveloped stock characters having to save humanity (again).  In see women in games portrayed as ice princesses, vixen-whores or beautiful commandos: none of which are realistic and are a bit insulting.  I see sex scenes straight out of a teenaged boy’s fantasies.  I see games where I blow stuff up real good. Hey, all great games and a ton of fun… but mature they are not.

    For me an example of a Rated M for Mature game, with mature themes was Fallout 3.  Tongue in cheek, laugh out loud funny, and disturbingly violent, yes; this game was also one of the most mature I’ve seen. You play as a survivor of the nuclear apocalypse, 100 years later.  Nothing grows. Raiders that roam the land leave dead bodies hanging in their territory as a warning. There are charred skeletons of children next to teddy bears and toy cars. Mailboxes contain letters of regret: there is no room at the fallout shelter for the homeowners, their bodies can be found inside holding each other. There are prostitutes, not the funny stereotyped BBWs of GTA4, but women who sell the only thing they have ownership of for a night of security. This is just the world, the trend continues as the main and side stories the state’s responsibilities to the citizenry and so on.

    There must be a reason for the lack of truely mature games. Maybe this is what the Rated M market wants and what sells?

    But as the gaming population ages, are we going to continue this trend? It’s one thing to be titillated at a lesbian sex scene with a Goddess, it’s another when the next day you have to take your little girl to little league. Shooting up baddies is fine, but after reading the news on-line… well you may not be as keen. 

    As gamers continue to take on the “games as art” debate to heart, will we see more critical analysis of the story, universe and themes that we see in games? Will we come to a point where we can debate racism, sexism in games intelligently, or will we simply say “it’s just a game” if it all becomes to difficult to defend?