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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Soul of a Video Game

With Ghostbusters played and finished and Prototype just not doing it for me, I'm currently playing through inFamous again. My first play-through was a fight for the good of humanity; this time it's about selfishness, destruction, and evil. I wasn't sure just how well inFamous would play a second time but I've been extremely happy so far. I really think that inFamous is a tremendous game that should be played by anyone who's every had an interest in superheroes or a GTA-style open-world.

I'm actually quite lucky that that past few games that I've played have all been pretty good. inFamous is unbelievable; Ghostbusters was funny and entertaining; Prince of Persia was beautiful. It's games like these - games that rely on on story, graphics, and fun - that remind me why I like video games. Sex and violence will always sell video games but it's nice to see that these are not prerequisites to putting out amazing, quality titles.

I hate it when developers try to make their games more "extreme". I hate it when otherwise good games are spoiled by unnecessary, almost comical, infusions of sex and gore. Look at inFamous versus Prototype. Look at Prince of Persia: Warrior Within versus the most-recent Prince of Persia. inFamous and Prince of Persia use sound story-telling and proven video game techniques to create solid blockbuster titles. While these games take few "risks" in terms of shock value or game-play, they bring much more to the table in terms of quality, dedication, story, and heart. When I play inFamous and Prince of Persia, I can see what the game developers were trying to show me with their game besides the obvious graphics, sound, and story. I can sense how much they loved the finished product.

And then I look at games like Prototype. It comes across as a game created to make money. It takes all the features that marketing-weasels would believe are crucial - open-world, gore, lots of powers, awesome combos, hoodie-wearing protagonist dripping with gore and bad-itude - and crams it all into one sloppy little package. While I understand the need to make money and guarantee a satisfactory minimum return on investment, I hate it when these concepts come across so transparently in a video game. I just wish reviewers hadn't been so happy to jump on the "Prototype is awesome" bandwagon.

I'm going to finish up inFamous over the next couple of nights. My only fear is that the next two titles that I plan on playing - Resident Evil 5 and Spider-Man: Web of Shadows - may kill my rekindled love of quality games. But maybe I'll be proven wrong. Maybe I'll stare into the soul of these next two games and see something that I like. Then again, both Capcom and Treyarch have put out their fair share of soul-less crap in the past few years.

Before I go, let me urge those of you who haven't played either inFamous or Prince of Persia to give these games a try. Both games have solid, fluid game-play and terrific stories - though inFamous' story and game-play are both a little better. Shock value and violence are nice from time to time. But a high-quality game developed with a certain amount of love and care can do wonders for gamers out there looking to justify their love of video gaming.

Have a good one!