20090406

Blast from the Past

Today John Romero posted a video sent to him by Dan Linton. Dan visited id Software in November 1993, and this is the footage:


A Visit to id Software from john romero on Vimeo.

At around ten minutes the footage of John playing a pre-sound effects version of Doom starts. It's a laugh :)

20090401

Update For The Sake if Updating

My survey regarding the age of gamers has closed long ago, but I just haven't felt the urge to apply my mind to the results. I will do so, however not just yet. I've got too much going on to really write anything useful right now.

20081210

Is More Better?

Recent games forum discussion has influenced this site a bit lately. First it was the question of how old gamers are, and now it's the old chew toy that is women in gaming. I say old chew toy because it's a subject that yields up hours of discussion and debate on a range of related points, which you can just worry at forever.

This time I'm explaining why I think the idea that more women should play games is a load of complete bollocks. I hear countless stories of guys trying to get their girlfriends into gaming and failing miserably because the girlfriends get bored or dislike it, and I figure they at least have a good reason to try and get a chick to play: it would allow them to play more without the word 'neglect' being bandied about, would mean they would have gaming in common and could enjoy it together, and in a serious relationship would mean justifying games-related purchases would be less of an up-hill battle.

I can also understand why siblings or flat-mates would want to get one another into it. The more gamers in a family or flat the more games will be available in the house and the better the gear will probably be, due to a group-interest-driven set of financial priorities. A multi-gamer household is a fairly logical reason to try and convince someone in that household disinclined to play to give it a try, and lets face it girls are less inclined than guys.

I just don't see why you'd want to get more of either sex to play certain types of games when they don't really want to do, since it doesn't benefit anybody at all. Getting more people (of any sex) into gaming makes sense. More gamers = more money in the industry, more games-related events going on in the world, and more people to have gaming in common with. I just haven't seen a single argument that inclines me to agree that more gamers of a particular sex is a good thing. Sex should be a non-issue in gaming. Gaming is the great equaliser, until people start regarding gamers with or without penises as special. Then it just gets uncool (and sexist).

The funny thing is that logic doesn't seem to apply when people consider gamers. Think about it: the people who were kids and gaming in the 70s, 80s, and 90s are often still gaming. Do people think they've stayed teenagers all this time? A huge number of those early gamers are parents now. Some have kids and others have kids who're now living in their own homes and looking at having their own kids. I don't get how people can miss that fact, unless they assume nobody keeps gaming after the age of 20 or something.

I did play my first video games in the 70s, and then didn't play any in the 80s, but I went back to them in the 90s, and the reason for the gap was I was a party teen, rather than a gamer teen. I got over it when I got over my teens. Talk about being the anti-stereotype!

Oh! I almost forgot: note that we're not talking about gaming as a whole here. I've been told that games like Animal Crossing, Wii Sport, Buzz, Brain training, and SingStar aren't in fact games. They're 'utilities'. Yeah, I know. I don't get that either. This is what I have been told though, and it boggles the mind. We are eliminating all the games most likely to attract women from the discussion, because they apparently don't count as games.

So we're talking about traditional games, of the sort that's been in development since the 90s. We're talking about FPSs, racers, fighting games, flying games, stunt games, adventure games, and the like. The REAL games.

Apparently more women should play them. Why? Well I'm told that on one hand that it's because it would dispel the misconception that gamers are asocial, awkward, spotty, teenage boys. Personally, I think if the fact that there are more 'real' gamers over 24 than under (see The Age of Gaming), and that people like Robin Williams and many other celebrities play games, and that games makes more money each year than Hollywood doesn't dispel misconceptions about gamers then more chicks won't do a bloody thing either. Gamers have misconceptions about gamers, so how are non-gamers supposed to know what the gaming population is like with any degree of accuracy?

They can't. They have no idea. Really, misconceptions about the gaming population is a whole other story, because more female gamers won't help, and we can pretty much ignore that as a reason to get girls gaming.

What else? Another reason is to make gaming more of an 'in' thing to do. I assume this means a more generally and openly acceptable thing to do. Now, I think the 'utilities' I've had to eliminate from this discussion do more good in that direction than more girls gaming can possibly do, because they get grandpa, aunty Elsie, and your dad spending hours playing...sorry, 'utilising' a console, where normally they'd watch TV. I guess because those aren't games (I hope someone told Joe Public that) they don't count, so we need more girls to play. Um, hold on, we already established that it doesn't matter who plays games, because the non-gaming public doesn't notice. Scrap that idea then...

If women want to play 'real' games they do. I do. All but a few of my female friends do. Most don't want to. That's okay too. If they don't want to then they shouldn't. I can see why they shouldn't. I don't like playing team sports. If someone tried to tell me they wanted more women to play netball or softball or rugby, so I should take part I'd tell them where they could get off. If I didn't like 'real' games I'd resent someone trying to get me to play them just to satisfy their idea that we need more ['real'] female gamers.

I don't see any good reason why women should play games that don't appeal to them. To even up the statistics? That's a bad reason. To fulfill a desire some gamers have to have more female gamers around? Also a bad reason. The only good reason to play games is because you love to play them (or you really want to share in your sex-slave's down-time). Anything else is time-wasting. The only reason to want someone else to be into the same games you are is if you have a relationship with them and want to share the love.

Given that these women who 'should be gaming' probably already have great hobbies and sports they take part in (if they have time), I can't see them giving it up for something that doesn't push their buttons. Not for those of you who 'want more female gamers', anyway. You weirdos! :P

I doubt the scrap-bookers post on their forums about how scrap-booking needs more males to partake. I shouldn't imagine that train-spotters discuss how to get more women into the railyards. I'm almost 100% sure that the quilting club doesn't wonder why they can't get more boys interested. I also can't imagine that the developers of Animal Crossing wonder why why more women play their game than men. What's the point? If girls are going to game or train-spot, and if guys are going to scrap-book or quilt (or 'utilise utilities') they will, but what does it matter if most don't? I think people have some kind of idea that girl gamers are rare, and that rarity makes those of us who do game somehow special. We're not. We're gamers, and as much as every girl likes to think she's special, she's not. She's a person. Get over it.

The only people with anything to gain (apart from the boyfriends and flatmates) from more female gamers are the games studio boffins wanting to crack the female gamer market. I don't mean general ('real') games that girls happen to play. I mean the games specifically aimed at girls. The games that aren't games. The 'utilities'. Women will be a very lucrative market, and that makes the money-men behind games publishing drool. That drool has absolutely nothing to do with boobies.

As an aside, some of the people who want more female gamers have a hard-on-related rationale, i.e. chicks are sometimes hot, so more gamer chicks = more hot gamer chicks, therefore we need more female gamers (to increase the odds of hot chicks playing with them). What they don't think about is how utterly humiliating it would be to have your arse handed to you by a hottie, who then proceeds to ignore you because you're a hormone-soaked toe-rag with nothing she wants. Worse yet, she may not want to play with you at all, because you're not in her league, in gaming skill or sex appeal. She may be a complete bitch, you see. After all some girls are complete bitches and the more girl gamers you have the better the odds are that you'll encounter a complete bitch.

In my view gaming does NOT need more girls. It needs more gamers. I really don't give a rat's arse whether they have penises or not. It shouldn't matter. I'm going to repeat my core opinions here for emphasis, so you finish reading this with them in mind:

The only good reason to play games is because you love to play them.

The only reason to want someone else to be into the same games you are is if you have a relationship with them and want to share the love.

20081207

The Age of Gaming

I've recently been involved in a small discussion about the age of gamers. Some young whipper-snappers have the idea that gamers tend to be young. Note that this impression is reinforced by the people they hang out and game with, so it's understandable, but they doubt the international studies that have shown that the average is in fact somewhere in the 30s. For this reason I'm conducting a poll, which will run through until the end of February. Please tell us your age.

Invitations to participate have been posted on NZGames, NZGamer, and GPForums.

NOTE: '>60' should really be '≥60', but I can't fix it now polling has begun.

20081206

Decisions Decisions

Unlike most people BaM and I get every console gaming platform close to release, if not at release. We have EVERYTHING! We make a point of it. There's never a title we can't play, a feature we miss out on, or a platform we haven't experienced. It's a great way to go about things, but it's not for everyone.

Most people look at the console gaming situation with an eye to buying one console. This might be because gaming isn't the big life-style element for most people that it is for us, or due to budgetary constraint, or might simply be because those involved just want to keep it simple. This raises the issue of which console to buy.

I think that the discussion of which platform to choose is the most oft-repeated one on any games community bulletin board, and with reason. Reading someone else's thread doesn't necessarily help you, now does it? People responding to those trying to make this decision will possibly tailor their responses to suit the actual buyer, rather than as general responses, and when it's your turn to make a choice you'll want to be putting forward your priorities, preferences, and ideas for discussion amongst your sage companions, without reference to another buyer's requirements.

Through recent platform releases there have been divergent prices, feature-sets, time-frames, and libraries. You'd think this would make things easier, but apparently it doesn't. People want the added BR DVD thing that comes with PS3, they want the pricing of Wii, and they want Xbox Live, which is only available with the 360. Obviously they're not going to get this combination. So what's the drill?

You have to be realistic for a start. You need to realise that you will not get everything you want at the price you want, and you won't necessarily be able to get every game you want for the console you end up buying. This is very much a case of 'tough shit'. Suck it down and start looking at things rationally, or buy them all, like we do.

Those of you this applies to can stop reading now. For the rest of you:

Firstly you must know your budget. If you can afford the PS3 then you've got a full range of options displayed ahead of you, and that is great, but doesn't actually make it easier to choose. It just means you have more options. With budget comes scope. Can you afford any of The Three*, from Wii to PS3, or are you limited to the Wii and the 360? Got it? Good, that's step one nailed.

You also need to be very clear about what is really important and what would be merely 'nice'. Obviously a PS3 with live, all titles, and a Wii price tag would be ideal, but as we established that's not going to happen you have to prioritise.

The first place I'd start, theoretically, if I had to choose one console (never happen, but moving on...), is with the libraries. That is, the title list, both out now and coming soon. Looking at a platform's present and upcoming games is a very good place to start when populating priority columns. For example, if the 360 has twice as many titles you want a piece of, out now or coming soon, than the other consoles then that can be added as a major plus, along with Live if that floats your boat, and the fact that it costs less than the PS3.

After titles I'd look at features and technologies included. For example, wireless network, hard drive storage, connection ports, optical drives, teleporters, etc. These need to get ticks in 'w00t!', 'nice', and 'meh!' columns, according to your desires. Look really hard to whether adding these later (retrofitting) will be another case of Compu-Global-Hyper-Mega-Net bending you over and giving you a good spring clean, or a possibly good option down the line too. Sometimes upgrades are possible with minimal ouchies, such as in the case of PS3 hard drives, and at other times the story is very different (Google ' Xbox 360 HD DVD drive' for more on this).

Once you've covered the libraries and features it's down to a subjective evaluation of the relative values of these machines to you, versus the price to be paid. Look at your columns and add them up. This gives you numerical values for each console on a three-way array. Think, discuss with those sharing the purchase, if there are any, and you may find the decision is made that easily. Sorted!

Then again it may not be. If this is the case then you really need to back away and do some more research. It may also be that in six months an exclusive title will be announced that just takes care of the uming and ahing for you. I think Little Big Planet and Halo are those sorts of titles, and this kind of clincher shouldn't be underrated.

If I haven't helped you to choose, and you really need to choose right now (Christmas purchase?) then I'll refer you to any number of games community bulletin boards, Google, and your credit line, because I can't make this decision for you. I'm just here to write about it.

Best of luck.

* Handhelds not withstanding, there are three current-generation consoles available to you as a buyer, in case you didn't know already.

20081127

Nostalgia Trip - 'Grr!'

I'm having a bad week, intellectually speaking, not helped by the fact that the summer heat seems to have finally started ramping up, rendering me floppy and inert. In an attempt to inspire myself I've been reading over my past works, and have found one I still really like and absolutely agree with, despite major shifts in my views and perspective over the past six years. As a result I'm doing the unforgivable and posting something I wrote in 2002. It's pretty old school, but here it is:

20021009 - Grr!

There is a movement in the gaming world, and no, I don't mean the bowel movement that is cheating, and I don't mean the gaseous emissions commonly found on Counter-Strike and RA3 servers in the form of young players with attitude problems. I'm talking about the 'grrl gamers' who feel the need to converge, sans the boys. This movement has caused resentment, discomfort, and downright hostility in many players. It basically segregates certain female gamers from the rest of us and tags those certain gamers as asking for special treatment.

Now, I'm told the reasoning behind this movement works thusly:

Because of [A] we should bring about [B], and this will lead to [X]

[A] Woman gamers get sexually harrassed, disparaged, and generally picked on when playing
on public game servers. Women are intimidated by the thought of LANs full of male gamers. Women should be encouraged to play games. We need more women gamers.

[B] Give woman gamers the 'sanctuary' of all-girl clans, tourneys, servers, and LANs/LANday seating areas.

[X] More women will play, women will compete more often, and women will attend public gaming events more, and will therefore blend in with the general gaming population more effectively and in larger numbers.

I'm going to open with the idea that we need to get a higher proportion of the world's gamers to be female before getting global, but first I will lay down some parameters within which I am working here. I am talking about gamers who play FPSs, since this is the scene I am part of and this is the game genre I see the 'grrl movement' as impacting upon most. I also wish to point out that I am a benign and conscientious objector to this movement, not some kind of raving hate-monger - think of me as the draft-card burner of gaming sexism. I do have robust reasons for feeling the way I do, and I am writing this as a reaction to a recent messageboard conversation with another gamer (this is for you - Ultron -, hereafter referred to as 'Ultron', as the '-' is a major part of my punctuation), on Quake3World.Com.

Ultron raised some important points, the most provocative of which is that this movement of female gamers is sexist and infringes on the rights of male gamers, in the same way segregation of non-whites has in our many societies. I'll get to that further in though. First onto the implication that we need more chick gamers.

The basis for the concept itself eludes me quite frankly. I ask 'why?', because I don't see any reason to expect a group of people socially conditioned and naturally inclined, for the most part, to find FPS-style gaming repugnant to take part on the principle that 'we need more of them'. If women want to play FPS so be it and I welcome them, but why go against inclination? It's not as though that is somehow going to miraculously make things easier for those of us already partaking of the sport of fragging. Only full integration can do that. The very idea that sheer numbers will be the difference between women being 'gamers' rather than 'girl gamers' is about as valid as the premise that pouring more cream into the milk will stop the milk and cream from separating, when all you need is a more effective method of homogenisation. Integration, acceptance, and welcome doesn't come about that way and it's not going to start working that way because 'it would be nice if it happened'.

If we got more girls fragging we'd simply have more girls fragging, and why I say this will become clearer later on, so bear with me.

The most difficult issue to address is that of intimidation, but to my mind there is a solution: integrate what girls there are and get them playing seamlessly with the guys. Then the more timid chicks won't be so scared to leap in themselves. As it is they see girls cutting themselves off, with the exception of myself and my kindred sisters*, and they encounter guys so unused to women just getting on with the gaming that every time they see a chick they suffer serious testosterone surges.

How appealing and reassuring is that to a newb? It's not. It's patently terrifying, and it's not going to change while we're all sectioned off, alienated, and peering warily at each other through the inch of bulletproof glass that is the 'grrl gamer' movement.

Is intimidation a factor in female integration problems? They say that if we separate the women from the men, both literally in terms of having women tending to play only women, and in name, in that women-only clans form, we will end up with women more willing to play because the fear of harrassment (being a minority) and playing men in general will abate. The main problem with this is that these women are not integrating. They are propagating the barriers that divide female and male gamers, and enhancing the differences between us.

Highlighting the fact that we're different or a need to have our own little paddling pool is not acclimatising men to our presence in their midst. Neither is it desensitising women to the reality that many public game servers are rife with flames, taunts, and somewhat bad sportsmanship. If a woman plays in the apparently civilised and undaunting environment that is all-female she is going to be as shocked by, if not more shocked by, the mainstream public playing arenas.

That is to say, gaining confidence floating around in the lagoon does not prepare a girl for surfing the coral reef breakers. Nor does it familiarise the surfers already out there with her presence, so they'll share their breaker space gracefully. Throwing more women into the lagoon, or even the breakers won't help either, especially if the women try and flag off areas of the surf for their exclusive use. The other surfers will be more likely to turn into sharks in that case, and the females will be seen as ground-bait for a feeding frenzy. Okay, that surfer metaphor has to end now...it's just naff.

Resentment, or overly politically correct nurturing is going to be the result of this segregation, because no gamer likes to see a group cut itself off from the main body and exclude them from its dealings, and a few who don't, instead of being openly hostile, will cater to it, strengthening that segregation from their fellows. It is, as Ultron claims, sexism, despite it's benign goals, and it is harmful to the gaming scene as a whole. I don't think it's quite on a par with the horrendous segregation that apartheid in South Africa is forever associated with, nor the segregation in the US that marred much of the earlier and middle parts of last century. Nor does it match even the day to day, 'under the rug' racial imbalance that exists all over this planet of ours right now, but it is a very real injustice in my opinion, and to many of the male gamers excluded by the 'grrls' it's a real bone of contention. Guys like Ultron are evidence of this.

*The servers I play on these days have a fairly high proportion of female players, relative to many of the other servers I've played on, because around these parts Freezetag seems to appeal to women more than RA3, Urban Terror, and the like. This means that, aside from my own experiences with integration (successful I might add - I've never had any trouble) with the main fragging population, I've been able to see a group of female gamers successfully assimilated into the collective that is the general gaming community on these Freeze boxes. It works. We're all just gamers, and we play, and we all take our knocks with the rest of those we play with, and there is no A/S/L, sexism, or sex-specific abuse that the guys don't get also. If it can work on the scale of a five or six server community why can't it work globally? No reason that I can see, except that we have these little isolated communities of chicks, playing in glasshouses.

Am I an enemy of the 'grrl movement'? No, but I won't take part in it. I will however open myself to discussion with the grrls if they wish to counter my arguments. I have in the past had many debates with women from the school of thought I'm referring to, and we've had little impact on one another, but that's not to say that it's impossible to 'open negotiations'. I think being as benign and open as possible to new arguments and discussions is a positive thing. I will not condemn these women for their methods, because their end goal is the same as mine and that's the main thing for me, but I cannot condone what they're doing to try and achieve this goal because I think it both ineffectual and unfair on the male gamers. As I have said before in past arguments, I wish any gamer well in their enjoyment in, and success with the pastime of gaming, no matter their angle, so long as they share my mission to get things running smoothly in gaming. I feel very strongly however that that mission is a 'Mission Impossible' without immediate and full integration of female gamers into the general population.

So that was a glimpse of my mind in 2002. It's dated by the games and servers discussed, and I have no idea if the grrl gamers still have their all-female clans and LANs, but the principles still apply. I probably couldn't put it better now than I did then either, so it's entirely apt that the old content be republished. I hope you enjoyed it.

20081121

Escaping the Upgrade Cycle

Gaming has been a huge part of my life for years. My career, social life, moments of leisure, and financial priorities have been and will continue to be shaped by gaming, games, and gamers. To start with I had a dinky wee Pentium with a second generation 3d card (ooooh! flash!), and I played Quakeworld. I had to take 'Sealegs' for the motion sickness to start with, and I couldn't play for long at a time, but man, I got a rush from the gibs.

Then I upgraded to a Pentium II and Quake 2 came out. Ugh! It was nasty. I never could get into Quake 2. I sat on QW until Quake ]|[ Arena came out and blew a huge wad on buying a 'new' gaming rig hand-me-down from a much wealthier gamer buddy, who was a complete upgrade addict.

Time and time again after that I blew large amounts of cash on faster, better, hotter, and noisier gaming machines and components. Video cards was the worst element of the upgrade war. Every hardware generation there was the budgetary battle, and video cards cost more then than entire machines do now. It was insane.

When Q3A had waned and been replaced with Battlefield my husband and I decided it was time to hang up our Radeons and retire into Consoleville. We always had every console gaming platform in our home in any case, and we'd save a bomb on hardware if we stuck with machines that only rolled over every four to six years.

So that was it. chiQ gave away the gaming mice, custom KB configuration files, rocket jumping, and strafe-jumping, and moved to the couch with her controllers.

It's a bit sad really. I was at my gaming peak when I was playing competitive Q3, always proudly bearing my clan tag on the public servers, getting sad if I wasn't getting up there on the scoreboard at the end of each map, feeling utterly elated if I topped the table for even one map, and always knowing almost everyone on the servers I used. I loved it. I miss it.

That said, I can't spend all my spare money on hardware any more. I've got other stuff that I need to pay for, and lets face it, I am an old hack: I have yet to find a single recent game that pushes any of the buttons QW and Q3 pushed for me.

So, I've escaped the upgrade cycle. Every so often a new console will come out, and one of our old ones will go into a cupboard, but the frenzy of 'keeping up with the pwnz0rs' has ended. I'm getting old.

WTF is a Kiwi & Why Do I Care?

A kiwi is a person from New Zealand...and a bird from New Zealand, and a fruit which isn't from New Zealand. We refer to ourselves as kiwis, because we identify ourselves with the bird. We named the fruit kiwi because it's brown and fuzzy. More about that later.

New Zealand is not part of Australia. New Zealand is not a backward hole without electricity or mod' con's.

New Zealand, AKA Aotearoa, NZ, and 'koiwoilend' is a lovely country to the south-east of Australia. We have some slightly odd native fauna, most notably the Kiwi, the only bird with nostrils at the end of its beak and hinged feathers, a really big bush snail that nobody ever sees, and only one mammal, a small bat. We also have a huge prehistoric bug, more famous in foreign climes as the name-sake for Peter Jackson's outfit, Weta, and a rather a small but absolutely genuine dinosaur, with a vestigial third eye, and a very slow life-cycle, called the Tuatara. The rest of our native animals are rather conventional birds, bugs, and sealife, so I won't go into those.

We also have some rather cool native flora, one of which is a really big tree called the Kauri, another of which is apparently a bit of a pest in South Africa, where it's been introduced and thrives, and is called the Pohutukawa ('the NZ Christmas Tree'), and the last of which is a small tough alpine grass, that nothing eats.

So much for nature. Apart from that we're very proud of our national rugby side, the All Blacks, who we like to think are the world's best, but never win the World Cup. We have a rich and rather artistically talented culture from our Maori people. We also have some very talented yacht designers and users.

We're also known for appropriating Chinese Gooseberries and renaming them 'Kiwi' (because they resemble our national bird, sans beak and legs, i.e. ovoid, brown, and fuzzy), our somewhat stroppy attitude to nuclear power, a refusal to fight when we can make peace, and an annoying younger brother kind of relationship with Australia.

I'm from NZ. I wasn't born there, but I was raised there and love it like mad. I have a Maori motif tattooed on my body in a couple of places, and a very irrational pride in the All Blacks, which has very little to do with their actual ability as a side. Every summer I get a burnt nose, eat many, many sausages, BBQed and wrapped in bread with lots of tomato sauce, and spend whole days completely encrusted in sea-salt and sand. Every winter I wear old school NZ ug boots, curse NZ's housing insulation and ventilation standards, and get sad from lack of sunlight. Every year I buy new games and play them on one of our many consoles*, and sometimes I really like the games I buy and I finish them.

I am going to post the odd thing about those games, the ones I don't finish, and stuff that goes on in between. Sometimes I'm just going to go off track a bit, and come across as a bit senile. Don't hold it against me. I've grown up in the back of beyond, in a country with a flightless weirdo bird and a fern as national symbols, and you have to make allowances for people like me.

If you want to get in touch you can mail me, or comment on posts. I'd love to hear from you.

* I've given up PC gaming for consoles but I'm a fragger at heart

20081120

I Have Views

I'm a kiwi gamer. I go by the handle 'chiQ'. I have some pretty daft views, but some of them might be worthy of your attention. I've started this blog because of these views, and their lack of outlet. I post news that might be of interest to NZ gamers at www.nzgames.com, but only if it's not on every other games news site on the planet. I also post my random blurts at blurt.chiq.net, but they're on a broad range of subjects. What I don't publish (until now) are my views about video games-related issues, news, and ... stuff.

That's what this is for. I'll post my opinions of games, and no doubt my opinions of games issues. For the most part it will be very chiQ-centric and personal, so if you don't care what I think don't bother bookmarking this.

If you are interested then you're either daft or you have experienced my me-ness before, and liked it. Either way I wish you the best of luck in life. Your judgement may be a bit out of whack, but at least you're interested in something!