Game On, but Not for Everyone

I recently attended the “Game On” exhibition here in Montreal, and was disappointed by it.

I did have high expectations, as it promised the inclusion of 100 games that were all playable, and although presented here at the Montreal Science Centre, it was originally devised by the Barbican. 

So what’s wrong?

The biggest issue I could see is lack of context, and it became especially evident by the fact that my wife – who is not aversed to games and gaming – really didn’t enjoy her time there. She thought she was going to be presented by a proper history of gaming, but to her it just felt like a big arcade – and yes, one that I was partaking in.

But I also noticed this. As much as I had a lot of fun playing old classics like Pac-Man and Galaga on original arcade cabinets, and then revisiting a few old console games (I played quite a bit of Tempest 2000 on Jaguar), there really wasn’t much in terms of explaining why these consoles/games had been selected, and what they really represented to the medium. 

And some of the areas are even worse, like the sections that explain marketing (by sharing a small glass case of GTA merch) and game design (not much more than one wall of post-it notes showing the world building/mission structure of GTA).

Then, there was the fact that some of the things on show were broken, from some of the controllers, to 3 out of 4 music stations simply not working – and this is especially bad since each station is supposed to offer up a different selection of tracks, to illustrate a different aspect of music in games.

If you are an active player of games, then you will probably get a kick out of this exhibition if only from getting to play through a lot of old games you haven’t played in a while – and there’s definitely something satisfying to playing on original consoles, over emulation. But I think the goal of an exhibition like this should be to introduce the medium to people who aren’t already informed on it, and to give them proper historical context for everything, so that they can better appreciate the evolution of the medium, and to better understand why current games are they way they are.

Nice try, but let’s hope we get something better in the future.

Destiny

I don’t usually revisit a game here, especially one that I’ve owned for about a year, but a strange thing happened with Destiny. I had given up on it fairly early on, despite getting really excited for it after I played the Alpha release in the summer of 2014. I loved many aspects of the game – the aesthetics, the sci-fi world it presented, the moment-to-moment gameplay, the feel of the guns, even the vehicles – but the fact that it barely had a story campaign really bummed me out, and when it got to a point where I felt like I needed to start grinding or get some help, I didn’t really want to play anymore. Fast forward close to a year, and for some reason I decided to give it another go – I think it was when I started seeing what was coming with the Taken King expansion, around the time of E3 – and it just clicked this time. Once I was over level 20, I started understanding the fun and satisfaction you get from logging in every day and doing the daily missions, weeklies, hunting down bounties, playing some Crucible, etc. It also helped that I found a few friends who were playing regularly that I could team up with on most nights, which yes, is where the fun of Destiny truly lies. Now, I’m at a point where I’ve played this game more than any other game I’ve played – and I’m just not the kind of player who tends to spend a lot of time on one game, as I’m constantly excited to play new ones – and I so can’t wait for the release of Taken King, and all of the exciting changes, and new environments, it will bring.

Pac-Man 256

I’m at a point where I very rarely play games on iOS these days, which is strange for me as I used to play tons of games that way, especially on iPad – it doesn’t help that my iPad 3 is finally showing its age, and I couldn’t even install the latest version of Duels of the Planeswalkers on it. But yeah, I’m just not really finding myself attracted to a lot of new things coming out on iOS (I used to play all the Telltale games on iPad as well, but have started tiring of those), but I do like Pac-Man, and this Pac-Man 256 game sounded like a fun idea – and you gotta love that the game is inspired by the infamous killscreen glitch. Sure, the free-to-play aspect of it sucks, but then again, I don’t think I’m addicted to it enough that I really need to play more than a few rounds a day. As for the game itself, it’s pretty fun, and the touch screen controls work surprisingly well here – I usually avoid action gameplay on iOS. I doubt I’ll keep playing this for a long time, but for now it’s good fun.

Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris

I liked the first Lara Croft game in this series, and although I was interested in playing Osiris, it’s only now that it’s come out as a PS+ free game that I’ve gotten to play it. I haven’t had a chance to play co-op yet – which is where these games really shine – but I’ve had a lot of fun so far in solo mode. What can I say, it does what it does in a good way, and it’s a type of gameplay and perspective (Diablo-like) that I quite like. Really want to play this with friends locally sometime.

Galak-Z

Another game I was quite excited to finally get to play was the long awaited (mostly because I had been following its development) Galak-Z. I really liked Skulls of the Shogun (from the same studio), and knew that this game would have a fantastic visual sense (which it does), but it’s also a joy to see that it’s a satisfying game to play as well. I won’t lie, at first I thought I wouldn’t get through the first of 5 episodes, but by continuing to play and learning how to control my ship properly, and how to be cautious around enemies, I did eventually start getting better. It’s still a bit more punishing that I’d like – I wish you could replenish your life more often between missions – but I’m willing to persevere and see if I can actually get much further.

N++

I love platforming, but I’m not particularly attracted to games that punish me – I only truly got into Dark Souls once I was able to play it with a couch co-pilot, who coached me through it. I always liked what I saw from the N series, but never ended up playing it that much because of difficulty (I refer here to N+, the first sequel). Getting to know the creators, and understanding/realizing their appreciation for good design (not just in gameplay, but in the graphical sense as well), I started getting excited at the idea of playing N++, and I wasn’t disappointed. From the fantastic minimalist and stark take on graphics – I don’t quite get why this game isn’t getting covered more in the graphic design world – to the insane amount of content, this is quite the game. I’m taking my time with it, going in every couple of days to do a few level sets (they are in packs of 5), and that suits me fine.

King’s Quest: A Knight to Remember

Having grown up playing the original King’s Quest games – not all, but a bunch, and I still have quite vivid memories of playing King’s Quest V, which at the time had cutting edge visuals for an adventure game – I was pretty excited at the idea of revisiting that world, especially as it looked like an interesting (and indie) studio was in charge of producing it. Well, having played through the first chapter (5 are planned), I can I say I had a terrific time being in Daventry again. This game really does feel like what a modern take on classic point-and-click adventuring can/should look and play like (more than what you get from Telltale, which often feels more like a visual novel). Also, they really did a fantastic job with the visuals, with cell-sharing that nicely approximates a cartoon feel. Really can’t wait to play the next chapter.

Journey

I’d forgotten just how much I love Journey. The game was re-released on PS4 recently, and since it’s cross-buy (as with all Thatgamecompany games) I had the PS3 version and so suddenly had access to this version. Last night, after completing the first episode of King’s Quest, I was looking to play something else before diving into Destiny again (the thing I do quite a bit of these days), and seeing that one of my friends was playing Journey, I decided to revisit that. I wasn’t even planning on playing through the whole thing, but that’s just what happens when you play this game (in part thanks to its relatively short play time, which I think is a couple of hours or so). I think Journey on PS4 is the most beautiful game out there, bar none. The aesthetic choices that were made when building this world are just astoundingly good, and as I was playing, I kept trying to think of another game experience that I think is better presented on a visual level – nothing came to mind. As uncool as it is to ask for sequels, I sure would love to visit other aspects/parts of this world, and so would love for new installments to happen.

The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

I was lucky enough to get to attend an advanced screening of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. movie earlier this week, and I gotta say, I really, really liked it. It’s no secret I’m a spy buff, with a mild (OK, not so mild) obsession with Bond, and so when I first saw the trailer for this, it quickly turned into one of my must-watch movies of the year (along with SPECTRE, of course). I like Guy Ritchie as a director, and I was so happy to see that the setting for the movie would be the 60s. Having seen it, it’s just as good as I was hoping, with a great cast, stylish aesthetics throughout, and just a fun 60s era spy action flick – and it actually doesn’t go that heavy on the action, which I didn’t mind at all. There’s also a big vehicle chase scene towards the end that is brilliantly shot/edited. This was a joy to watch, and I really hope it’s successful enough so that we can get a proper series. My big frustration right now though is that I really want to go back and watch the original TV series (I’ve seen episodes here and there when I was young, but never really watched a lot of it) and I can’t understand why it’s not available to stream – Netflix, come on, make this happen.

Garfunkel and Oates

I remember that when this series launched they had a bunch of promo videos online with the two stars singing songs, and at that point I already knew I’d love it. Since it’s on Netflix now (it’s originally an IFC series) I started watching it, and it’s just as good as I hoped. Love these two woman, the show is really funny, and the songs they perform are a blast.