Written by Zack in early 2007
Recent technological advances in video games are helping to bring about a new era of interconnectivity and equality. Games have a way of offering a unique glimpse into an amazing world, and a way of drawing us in to the action by encouraging us to explore and learn. Up until recently, the main gateway through which a player could interact with the environment was with a controller or keyboard by pressing buttons. Interaction with others in a game was limited to family or friends who were in the same room as you were. Creating games that were accessible and understandable to a wide range of people simply wasn’t possible. Now, however, new technologies (such as the availability of high-speed Internet and motion-sensitive controls) are breaking these barriers.
For example, examine the young boy playing the Nintendo Wii in the first picture. It is quite clear that he has a physical disability that prevents him from being able to partake in certain physical activities in the same manner as someone without a disability. In some physical disabilities, such as Cerebral Palsy, it is common for the afflicted person to lose fine motor control. Up until the release of the Nintendo Wii, mainstream gaming has relied on the use of increasingly complex controllers. The original Nintendo Entertainment System, released in 1983, relied on a directional pad, start and select buttons, and A and B buttons. The GameCube (the Wii’s predecessor released in 2001) relied on a complex control scheme of A and B buttons, L and R buttons, X, Y and Z buttons, a directional pad, and two joysticks. This overwhelmingly complicated control scheme had a steep learning curve and made it impossible for people with severe motor control disabilities to interact with the game’s environment.
The Nintendo Wii’s main controller is motion sensitive and places the main two buttons right beneath the thumb and index finger. This simplified control scheme has allowed game developers to create games that make use of intuitive movements. In the game Wii Sports, simply swinging the controller allows the player to hit homeruns, bowl strikes, and serve in Tennis. In addition to making games much more immersive, the Wii’s controller makes it much easier for the physically disabled to play video games.
Now let’s take a step back and look at the entire photograph. Here we have what is presumably a family, all gathered in one room and having a great time. In today’s fast-paced society, getting the entire family together for anything can be a challenge. Video games offer a good excuse to bring families together and share in the fun. Everyone is engaged in the game. Even the two women on the sides of the photo appear to be absorbed in the action as much as the children. The amount of enjoyment they are sharing is clearly evident in the smiles on their faces. In my own life, some of the best memories I have are of me playing video games with my dad.
However, interconnectivity isn’t limited to strengthening already present friendships. The rise of Internet access in many homes around the world has opened up a new medium for interacting with others, regardless of distance or language. The second image of the group of teenaged boys demonstrates the widespread popularity of online games. Although it isn’t known, I would guess that this picture was taken in an internet café somewhere in Asia. These cafés have grown tremendously in popularity in countries such as China and South Korea, and are often the meeting spots for groups of friends who belong to the same guild in a certain online game. Guilds can be composed of gamers from every part of the world. When I was an active guild leader in the game Guild Wars, my guild contained not only friends I knew personally, but people from other parts of the United States, Canada, the Philippines, New Zealand, and Europe with whom I formed friendships. In most major online games it is uncommon not to encounter a gamer from another country. Although all the young men in the picture are presumably playing the same online game, they probably aren’t all in the same location in the game itself. Some of them could be defending a castle from the enemy, while others could be across the game’s world mining some rare gems to sell for the game’s virtual currency.
A powerful draw for these games isn’t necessarily the diversity they offer, but the fact that everyone starts out with a fair chance to become the most skilled fighter, the best miner, etc. The character the gamer makes after launching the game is his or her virtual representation through which he or she can interact with the game’s world. This virtual representation is free from the unfair and unwanted traits of its creator. Players of these games can be tall, short, skinny, overweight, or anything else, yet they can have complete control over how they look in the game. The handicapped boy can become a character who can hit homeruns and the girl can become a major league pitcher. While they are playing the game, they are in a world of true equal opportunity.
The teenagers in the second image represent what I earlier referred to as the “hardcore gamers”. Most games are aimed toward this group. One of the first things I noticed about this photograph when compared to the one of the family was that not one of them was smiling. This may be due to the nature of the game they are playing. From the computer screens that are visible, they are playing an online game called World of Warcraft. Although this game (and many other online games) is often noted as being incredibly fun and addicting, they also require total concentration during many parts of the game in order to ‘win’. Most online games like World of Warcraft do not have an ending, and require several hours (and several weeks) of playing time to completely develop the character’s attributes. This sort of game stands in stark contrast to the game the family was playing in the first photo. Wii Sports is a very lighthearted game that was made to be instantly playable by the general audience and doesn’t require multiple hours of playing time to master. Shigeru Miyamoto, one of the world’s most celebrated game designers, summarized the strengths of Nintendo’s latest console when he said “I think the greatest strength of the Wii is that it allows you to create games that are very intuitive and very easy to pick up and play, such that people who’ve never played a video game before can easily pick up the controller and start playing”. Despite the contrasts, both of these types of games utilize a connected, multiplayer environment. One could argue that playing a game with someone else offers a much more dynamic experience for those involved, and, as a result, makes it that much more enjoyable.
Until recent times, what was seen as the ‘gamer culture’ was embodied by the individuals in the second photograph. The industry seemed to think that this large target audience was the only group that would be interested in buying video games. Although the teenage market is large and generally willing to spend (their parents’) money on ‘unnecessary items’ such as music and games, the gaming industry had perhaps become too narrow in its focus. The general population had stopped playing video games because they were becoming too complex and required too much time to complete. The online game Guild Wars makes use of almost every single key on the keyboard, and to be responsive in the game, players have to commit many of these key meanings to memory. As a result, complicated games which take lots of time to beat generally attract those with lots of time to spend; namely teenagers. However, the intuitive approach is getting noticed by many game developers because of families like the one in the first picture. The technology has finally been developed to allow a complicated series of key presses to be turned into a simple motion that many people understand. Games built around this technology are attracting an audience that is much larger than the ‘hardcore gamer’ group. Many families who have been neglected by the gaming industry or were disinterested due to the complexity of the games are now part of the ‘casual gamer’ group that is helping to redefine the gaming industry.
In conclusion, the two photographs depict two very different gaming perspectives yet both reveal how new technologies are allowing unprecedented levels of interconnectivity and equality in gaming. Online games that take advantage of an intuitive, motion-sensitive control system are already in development. These developing titles will make the gaming experience that much more enjoyable and dynamic for everyone from the physically handicapped to the ‘hardcore gamer’ group in many areas of the world.
In an effort to relive my childhood, I will be sharing with you guys the most nostalgic games of my kid years. These games span what I consider my childhood…ages 3-12, and will hopefully give an insightful glimpse at what life was like for me when I was growing up. I am a 90’s kid. I watched the Power Rangers and loved everything that had Ninja Turtles or Batman on it. I was also lucky enough to have a dad who had (and still has to this day) a passion for video games. My origins begin with the NES but it wasn’t until we got the Super Nintendo Entertainment System and the Sega Genesis that I really got into gaming.
Ok, these articles will be part game review, part factual background information and all nostalgia…Be prepared for several tangent memories and barely coherent mumblings as I rediscover my childhood. I will try to show as many screenshots from the games as possible…if not for you..for me to help fuel the nostalgia further. Now that that is out of the way….
Number 10: Mario Paint
I fondly remember my last days before starting school playing this game. What sticks out to me the most about it was the fact that it used a Mouse instead of the controller. I still have the Nintendo mouse…which uses the same plug as a controller…Quite sexy.
The game consisted of several drawing/painting and object oriented ‘programs’. I say programs because there really wasn’t an objective or a way to ‘beat the game’.
After an interesting animation of two baseball players doing sit-ups you’ll be brought to the paint screen. From here you have access to an impressive selection of paint tools…3 different pencil widths…over 15 colors to choose from..and 10 ways to erase (my favorite is the rocket ship). In addition to the drawing, you can also place letters on your drawing as well (english and kanji).
If you’re not much of a free form doodler…Mario Paint still offered many options. There was the Stamp menu which allowed you to create pictures by filling in squares…I always drew castles here while listening to the catchy music. Each section has its own memorable music that will keep looping in your head for days at a time.
There was also the Coloring Book which would load a background image into the drawing program and allow you to fill it in instead of trying to draw it yourself. I was never good at staying in the lines…but it was always fun erasing Mario’s mustache.
Another very cool feature which I messed around with quite frequently but never really understood was the animation page. You could actually animate your drawings and control their play speed. However, I have saved my two favorite parts of the game for last…
Mario Paint included an entire musical composing program. Each of the different icons such as mario’s head or the fireflower represented different sounds heard in games such as Super Mario World. It included the Super Mario theme as a preset and I would replace all of the icons with the dog bark…In the end, it sounded quite amazing…This little program right here is probably the reason I got into music later.
Lastly, Mario Paint had this incredibly addictive and insanely frustrating minigame where you would swat at mosquitoes with a flyswatter. I spent hours trying to beat it. As pictured above…stronger and stronger bugs will appear that you must kill before they shoot out their stingers. If one manages to slip through the deadly wrath of your swatter, you will be stung (above left) and lose a life. The “uaagg” sound effect for losing a life almost makes it worth it…Nevermind…I hated that sound…
Mario Paint…a great game, although it lacked depth and options when compared to modern games…it is still a unique and entertaining game for the age group it was aimed at. As a huge Mario fan from birth, I loved this game and it will always have a special place in my heart. Tune in for my next article as I continue the countdown of my top ten most nostalgic games!
As the years slip away, video games companies continuously give us new games to look forward to. But what if we want to play an older game? The sad truth is that consoles do not last forever. With each year that passes, we lose the ability to play the nostalgic games that we bought with our parents’ hard-earned cash. No amount of blowing or alcohol cotton-swabbing can get some of these games to play, so what do you do? There is a solution…
What are Emulators?
Emulators are light-weight programs that act as functional substitutions for gaming consoles. They not only let you to play existing video games, but also allow you to play hacked (modified) games that contain new levels and challenges (or a complete overhaul of the entire game). Emulators are mostly used for older consoles, like the NES or the SEGA Genesis, but there are also emulators for the newer consoles (though they are generally much more resource intensive). A Super Nintendo emulator can easily run on your old PC and mimic the original games fairly flawlessly.
How do Emulators Work?
Basically all you need to know (unless you want to make your own emulator) is that the emulator program is able to open files known as ROMs or ISOs. ROMs are images of games that originally shipped on cartridges (SNES, N64, etc.), and ISOs are images of games that were originally on discs (PS, Dreamcast, etc.). However, one emulator cannot play all ROMs or ISOs. To play a SNES ROM, you need an emulator that acts as a SNES. To play a PS ISO, you need a PS Emulator. Make sense? Good.
What are the Benefits to Using an Emulator?
Emulators allow you to enjoy an absolutely enormous library of games free-of-charge on your own computer. They take up a very insignificant amount of space on your hard drive (unless you’re using an emulator for a new console), and most of them let you save your game whenever want. Chris and Zack are a part of the NES generation. However, I imagine many of you guys grew up with an N64 or perhaps even a later console, completely missing out on some legendary games. Once a console has lived out its lifespan the only other alternative is to buy it again to play on another console (which will again be replaced in about 3-5 years). What are you supposed to do? Emulators offer the only practical solution for gamers who just want to relive the classics they grew up with and don’t have to worry about working with fragile hardware.
So They’re Perfect, Right?
Well, nothing is perfect. The ESA has made it illegal (and often times impossible) to download some ROMs, making it pretty difficult to find the game you’re looking for in some cases. The most recent crackdown on emulators is due to the new market created by Nintendo’s Virtual Console (Wii) and Microsoft’s market for these older games. These are designed to let you relive your childhood by selling you yesterday’s technology at today’s prices. We believe that while the idea of a classic games marketplace is a good thing, the high prices and ridiculous constraints that lock these purchases to the console fail to solve the overall problem that caused people to turn to emulators in the first place. Oftentimes the companies that made these original games are no longer in existence and are definitely not making any money from sales of the game itself. So, buy the game on Virtual Console if you wish, but we prefer the guaranteed longevity of emulators on our computers. Also, if you don’t want to get frustrated or have your hands burst in flames, we recommend you purchase a USB controller. They are around $10-$15 new but are definitely worth it if you plan on playing any fighting games (see Street Fighter).
So Which Emulators Should I Download?
We recommend the following emulators:
- RockNESX – NES emu
- ZNES – SNES emu
- Visual Boy – Advance, GB, GBC, and GBA emu
- Project64 – N64 emu
- epsxe – PSX emu
Check back soon for our article on the best sites for ROMs.
Instead of something as comprehensive as a Top 10+ list of games that you’ll never get around to playing, I’m going to offer you my favorite five games in various gaming genres. If there’s a game that I didn’t list and you feel hurt or even outraged that I didn’t mention it, then please leave us all a comment about it so we can check it out as well. That said, let’s begin the list.
In this genre (since it is such an overused genre) there are several games that I’ve played that leave me asking myself ‘what the deuce were these guys thinking?’. I’ve tried to navigate around all this crap to present you with the most unique and overall fun games out there so that, hopefully, you will take an interest and check out one of the games I talk about yourself.
#5 Dream of Mirror Online
As strange as the name may sound, this game has a lot to offer. The storyline is summed up on the website as:
“Based on ancient Chinese mythology, Dream of Mirror Online is a world that features sacred artifacts. Central to the story is the sacred artifact “the Kunlun Mirror. According to the legends, the Kunlun Mirror not only created the world, but also has the power to destroy it.
The Kunlun Mirror was originally created to record everything. The Kunlun Mirror reflects the real world and saves a copy of everything over to the Kunlun Mirror world. Time does not exist in the Kunlun Mirror world, only in memories. The managers of the Kunlun Mirror world, the Twelve Mirror Kings, are responsible for the care and operation of the Kunlun Mirror world.”
The gameplay is strongly based in how you form relationships with other players in the game.
Dream of Mirror Online relies on a very comprehensive human relationship system. The characters created by players should develop close relationships with other players and have community interactions.
In Dream of Mirror Online, the player characters are able to develop three types of close human relationships: Master and Disciple, Friends, and Lovers. These combine with three different types of Destined Relationships. Different relationships interact differently. Therefore, building personal relationships with other players is the cornerstone for DOMO players!
Check Out Dream of Mirror Here: http://domo.aeriagames.com/
#4 Fly For Fun
I played this game about a year ago and was amazed at the beautiful graphics and huge community this game offered for free. One of the unique features of this game is the eventual ability to freely fly around the land on brooms and flying boards (as well as fight airborne enemies). There is a lot of grinding in this game, but if you’re playing with a friend then it is definitely worth your time.
Check Out FlyFF Here: http://flyff.gpotato.com/
I first started playing RuneScape back in middle school and I still log into it every now and then to see what has been changed. RuneScape offers a perfect blend of grinding and community that most ‘prettier’ online games completely miss. Jagex, the developers of RuneScape, constantly update it. Although they mainly add members-only content ($5 a month), they haven’t forgotten about the free members that makes the community the fun and open place it is.
Check Out RuneScape Here: http://runescape.com
What stuck out to me the most in Archlord was the incredible amount of detail that was present in every facet of the game’s expansive world. This game was once pay-to-play, but has since become completely free. What sets it apart is the ability for a player to become the Archlord for his or her server. The Archlord has two weeks of fame, access to a castle, a dragon mount, and control of the weather.
Check Out Archlord Here: http://www.archlordgame.com/
#1 Perfect World
Perfect World is a game I stumbled upon recently. I was impressed by both the amazing graphics and the relatively small amount of grinding required to progress in the game. Emphasis is instead placed on quests and developing your character. The game boasts territorial battles, pets that can be trained as mounts, and customizable clothing. There are also some pretty interesting and unique classes including Wing Elf and Beast. Overall, this game looks very promising if you have some time to sink.
Check Out Perfect World Here: http://www.perfectworld.com.my/