Honest Review: “The Solus Project”

I think it says something about me that all my Steam games are creepy, atmospheric survival horror while most of my Xbox library is shoot ‘em ups with a story.

There was a lot to like about this game. It was creepy and atmospheric, it was simple yet involved and it was engaging and beautiful to look at. But there were a couple things about this game that gave me pause, including the depiction of the alien overlords at the end of the game and the player movement speed, an important game mechanic in an atmospheric walking simulator.

Teotl Studios and Grip Digital did a really good job of introducing a slow build from a strictly survival-based game to one with elements of mystery and horror intertwined. It could have felt really tedious in the beginning (and did, to a certain degree), but instead I was drawn in wondering how the Solus spaceship crashed and who could live on the capricious watery island setting even before the game introduced the concept of a prior civilization.

As I walked beneath the surface of the islands and deeper into the complex cave system, I could feel the constant pressure to survive easing, replaced instead by the burning desire to solve the mystery of who had lived – and died – here before I arrived, who the Sky Ones were and what they had done to the planet’s inhabitants, and how all of it related to the spaceship crash at the beginning of the game.

I got irritated with the game’s mechanics occasionally, but overall I think “Solus” managed to enforce the game’s mechanics in a way that didn’t take too much away from the overall mystery and atmosphere of the game.

solus project wilson skyline
I was surprised by how little the survival mechanics came to matter towards the end, but I honestly didn’t mind all that much as I mostly play games where eating and drinking are secondary to exploration and fighting. (Source: Gamespot.com)

This game really shines in its graphic and epic world-building aspirations. The game world is huge with several large cells of various weather situations and topographic builds and multiple similarly designed cave cell systems.

[READ: Good story vs. good looks in game design]

However, that carefully created world and all its intricate topography, hidden caves and tunnels, and mountainous hills of geometric columns, felt a little too big sometimes. It often drove me to distraction and I spent countless hours roaming the open wasteland of the islands or the claustrophobic insides of the watery tunnels searching for secrets or relics or hidden caches of alien food.

And while “Solus” was no doubt designed for that sort of aimless open world roaming exploration, it often crossed the line between fun discovery into painfully boring walking.

solus project island topography
Incredibly ambitious and beautifully designed, I was really drawn in by the intricate configuration of the islands’ topography and the alien flora, although I would have liked to see just a little bit of fauna — assuming those angry spike balls were more like sentient sea urchins and less truly living animals. (Source: YouTube.com)

Part of that may have been the movement speed enforcing a glacially slow pace. Although there were relics to increase the overall speed, it never felt fast enough to justify a slow trip across the swaying fields of red island grass. The swimming speed was also incredibly slow and while I would have loved to explore under the fickle waves of the various islands, the swimming speed was never fast enough to allow me to do so.

Essentially, I got bored and frustrated with a lot of the exploration mechanics well before I found all the notes and relics. While some might say I just wasn’t determined enough to find all the extras in the games, I think part of my frustration was justified due to the slow movement pace that didn’t really increase no matter how many relics of speed/movement I found.

In addition to my concerns with the speed of player movement, I also had a serious problem with the ending. Not with what happened, exactly, but how everything was wrapped up and all the questions it left unanswered.

[READ: Twelve questions ‘Rise of the Tomb Raider’ raised and three it definitively answered]

For example.

  • What exactly did the Sky Ones do to the previous inhabitants of the island?
  • What is the genetic relationship between the humanoid previous inhabitants and the humans of the Solus Project?
  • And what in the flying hell is that black ball of rage and why is it constantly trying to kill me?
solus project smoke monster
To be honest, I never really figured out what this thing was or what it wanted with me. And, because of the slow movement speed, I never really found because I spent more time trying to avoid it at all costs than explore the area it occupied for notes and relics. (Source: YouTube.com)

Some of these questions might have been answered in all the tablets and drawings I know I didn’t find among the giant map cells of the game, but I don’t think all of them were.

Regardless, I think the reliance on such a stereotypically alien image — a giant UFO, a strange green power emanating from a staff held by a cloaked leader, the final survivor being taken away for questioning with strange medical devices positioned around them, etc. — was a little trivial and banal. It felt a little hackneyed, not to mention disjointed at times with the supposedly advanced cloaked aliens carving notes into stone tablets while simultaneously using television screens to monitor the island’s inhabitants.

Despite the rushed ending and its clichéd reliance on alien stereotypes, I really enjoyed the game and I definitely think it merits a playthrough if you like survival horror walking simulators. It’s important to note that this game was designed with VR capability in mind as the game asked me every time I launched it whether I wanted to play it in VR, normal game, or a number of other fancy game modes available through Steam.

[READ: Real talk: A VR skeptic talks future of gaming]

However, as I don’t have and probably will never have a VR system, I played it like another video game and still thoroughly enjoyed it.

In any case, game on, from Prolus Command, and let the power of Lara Croft be with you.

creepy as fuck dolls

Top 5 intersectional women in video games

Or why a “color-blind” approach to women in gaming isn’t going to cut it.

It’s no secret that the gaming industry loves the heterosexual white male protagonist. While some steps have been made recently to break the mold (both in the gaming industry and in a larger pop culture context), of the most popular games of 2016, white men were often the featured protagonists.

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Female players make up nearly half of the gaming population, but a paper published in New Media & Society reveals that nearly 90 percent of primary game characters are white males.
Source: Valkymie.tumblr.com

Don Reisinger of Fortune reported on the most popular games according to data from the research firm NDP and the results might not surprise you. Of the top three games – “Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare,” “Battlefield I” and “Tom Clancy’s: The Division” – all of them featured a white male in a main role.

To be completely fair, some had multiplayer or differing story options where players could choose from a variety of characters, but giving players the option to choose from a diversified range of characters is different from actually giving them one intersectional character to play. It’s the same idea behind letting players choose between a male and female character, like many RPGs have done for ages, versus forcing the player’s hand in choosing a female protagonist.

But that’s an issue for another blog.

Setting the issue of diversified men aside, if you’ve kept up with this blog, you probably know I’m in favor of more female protagonists in video games. So I’ve compiled a list of gaming’s top five intersectional women to increase awareness and to advocate for a future where not just more women are featured but more intersectional women are featured as gaming protagonists.

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Aveline de Grandpré ~ “Assassin’s Creed: Liberation”
A mixed race Assassin born of a wealthy French merchant and an African slave, Aveline is a badass lady whose biracial and multinational identity is an integral part of her quest to liberate New Orleans from Templar influence. She recognizes many of the contrasts in 18th century American society and works to correct them, as much as she is able as one lone Assassin against the innumerable and immeasurable forces of injustice and oppression.
Source: Walldevil.com

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Chell ~ “Portal” series
While little is actually known about the “Portal” and “Portal 2” protagonist, the video game canon has generally concluded that Chell is of white European and East or Southeast Asian descent. She is also most likely the daughter of an Aperture Science employee with strong ties to the company as their number one test subject and as one of the only living employees/characters encountered in the game’s universe.
Source: Secondtruth.com

clem

Clementine ~ “The Walking Dead” series
Simultaneously the cutest and most badass zombie apocalypse heroine I’ve every had the pleasure of playing, Clem is the most notable character out of the entire “Walking Dead” series, one who keeps coming back even when other characters drop like flies around her – or like distressed humans being eaten by their undead brethren. Although the Walking Dead wiki lists her race as African American, I’ve, personally, always believed her to be at least partially Asian. From the first episode of Season One, it’s apparent that she is of a middle class suburban background, but everything about her life pre-apocalypse is either assumed or dropped in hints throughout her interaction with Lee and other characters. Regardless, she’s an emotionally deep and incredibly real girl who players watch grow throughout the Telltale series.
Source: Thatvideogameblog.com

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Faith ~ “Mirror’s Edge” and “Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst”
Another badass gaming gal of mixed Asian and Caucasian descent, Faith Connors is the protagonist of the dystopian “Mirror’s Edge” series. In both games, she makes a living by running from an overzealous police force all while jumping, kicking and flipping her way in style through the City of Glass. Her story changes pretty dramatically from “Mirror’s Edge” to “Catalyst,” but Faith’s appearance and kickass attitude stay consistent. If anything, Faith becomes even cooler in the reboot as her hand-to-hand combat and parkour skills are revamped for the Frostbite 3 engine.
Source: Wallpapersite.com

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Nilin ~ “Remember Me”
I did a lot of scouring to try to uncover the actual racial makeup of Nilin, but as far as I could tell, she was only ever listed as “of a mixed ethnic origin.” While a lot of people on the internet were curious as to her official racial identity, a lot more seemed to think it didn’t matter. However, I say it does matter. While her ethnicity may not have played a large role in the game – as Connor’s Native American heritage did in “Assassin’s Creed III” – I still think it’s important to note racial distinctions because a deliberate diverse choice is better than the vocal equivalent of a shrugging emoji which is passed on as an attempt to minimize the effect of a potentially impactful choice.
Source: Wall.alphacoders.com

Even as I wrote this list, it became apparent to me that nearly all the characters that I chose – based on previous playing experience and critical commentary – were of a mixed racial or ethnic background. While I’m not saying that a mixed racial or ethnic identity is not important, I just think it’s something to note that game developers and designers felt they needed to throw a bit of white in with their diverse characters in order to get players to connect with them.

And if that doesn’t say anything about the state of female diversity in video games right now, I don’t know what does.

This isn’t so much a critique of the women in video games right now as it is a reminder that while we all work towards increasing female representation, we can’t just throw more white women at the problem and assume that fixes it.

If we truly want to increase female representation, then we need to take a long look at the intersectional makeup of our society and try to design and develop characters that reflect our multiethnic, multiracial, multinational, complex and beautiful female identity.

So game on, and let the power of Lara Croft be with you.

more intersectional women

Honest review: “Firewatch”

This game’s quiet moments are the loudest in a game with a story narrative driven by dialogue and achingly real characterization.

“Firewatch” is the other walking simulator I played recently, one I enjoyed much more than FunCom’s “The Park.” Although this game too involved the death of a child (spoiler alert), the story was less horrific than “The Park” and featured more honest dialogue and engaging suspense than the jump-scares and disturbing interpretations of mental illness in “The Park.”

Full disclosure, the game did manage to lose my interest for a period, but that had less to do with its story and more to do with a stressful school week and the fact that walking across the map and taking in the stunning scenery of “Firewatch” doesn’t provide the kind of visceral stress-reliving pleasure that comes from shooting pixelated people.

That said, “Firewatch” was truly beautiful in every sense of the word: Beautiful dialogue, beautiful setting, beautiful characterization and a beautiful story. At the end, I was both wistful and heartbroken because the game had ended and I wanted to spend more time with Henry and Delilah.

I was also heartbroken because the story had ended and hadn’t answered all of the questions raised throughout the game play, but I’m incredibly hard to please, especially where a good story is concerned.

The game begins with down-on-his-luck novelist Henry who enjoys the happiest moments of his life and endures the worst any person can experience all within the first three minutes of the game. Although we see nothing of his life in those minutes, we read everything in the style of a Choose Your Own Adventure novel.

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In the first few minutes of the game we get an introduction to Henry’s personality and the reason he might be running away from the world in a unique but unsustainable format.
Source: Thenextweb.com.

Although interesting, this style is abruptly abandoned after the first couple of minutes of the game as we’re caught up to speed on everything about Henry’s sad, lonely life.

The rest of “Firewatch” unfolds in a series of dialogue and story-heavy choices that follow Henry as he traipses through the Shoshone National Forest with the disembodied voice of fellow firewatcher and supervisor, Delilah, guiding him via the two-way radio gifted to him courtesy of the game’s time period, good old 1989.

Their conversations over the radio are at times unbearably charming and painfully pedantic, but, in the end, they give you the entire story in a format that’s less about what’s actually happening and more about the characters themselves and how they respond to what they see.

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I don’t think I’ve ever been more delighted in a game than in the moment where I made Henry adopt this turtle. It’s moments like these that really made the game outstanding.
Source: Firewatchgame.com.

The game really shines in the way it presents the character of Henry and Delilah. They are ordinary people with ordinary personalities and ordinary character traits dealing with decisions and situations both extenuating (a death, a mystery and a fire that threatens to consume all of the Shoshone) and ordinary (a desire to reconnect, to find a new identity and to run away from the real and sometimes overwhelming problems of our daily lives).

Although all of this ordinary may seem boring, it’s actually quite extraordinary because it gives us, the audience, a chance to play and interact inside a novel-like narrative.

Because “Firewatch” was a novel. It was a visually stunning one with interactive capabilities never seen before in the plain print medium that’s nearly as old mankind, but, at is heart, it was a novel with a lifelike and engaging story and real, connective characters.

Now, this isn’t the first time that games have been compared to the literary medium. Naomi Alderman of The Guardian has compared video games to literature with games like “Journey” and “Kentucky Route Zero.” Robin Burks of Tech Times has also compared the two in titles like “The Walking Dead” and “Mass Effect.”

But “Firewatch” is different in its refreshingly simplistic approach. Although the ending left a little to be desired and the end result (a dead kid) is still something that’s hard for some audiences to grapple with, a lot of “Firewatch’s” redeeming qualities are found in the quiet moments of its story.

And quiet moments are few and far between in the fast-paced, combative gaming world, a fact that may merit further consideration as games get more and more elaborate.

So watch on, dear gamers and firewatchers, and let the power of Lara Croft be with you.

Why we need gaming tutorials

However boring and asinine some game tutorials may be, it’s in crazy times like the ones we live in that make me wish life had a tutorial section (if only so I could know what exactly I’m supposed to be doing and how in the hell I should go about getting there).

The early minutes of gameplay are sometimes the most excruciating for veteran gamers, especially in those gems that have been played and replayed a hundred times or more.

For me, that’s the 2013 “Tomb Raider” and it’s 2015 sequel. Ubisoft’s “Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag” is also high on my replay list along with Bethesda’s open-world RPGs “Skyrim,” “Fallout: New Vegas” and the most recent installment, “Fallout 4.”

Each time I start up one of the aforementioned games, I have to resign myself to the fact that there are certain areas I can’t explore, certain collectibles I can’t yet obtain and certain combat moves or actions I can’t perform because of my current level. And that can be irritating, especially when you know what lies behind that level 50 locked door and are just itching to grab that loot, even when you’re only a level 20.

But tutorials are some of the most important part of video games and must be included in order for games to reach larger potential audiences and to give you a clue as to just what in the hell you’re supposed to be doing.

This isn’t a matter that’s up for debate or one that’s particularly controversial, I just think it’s something important to be aware of at a time when the video game market is being flooded with remastered and remixed versions of past games.

But regardless of whether the game you’re playing is brand-new or a remastered classic, it will include some type of tutorial feature to either introduce you to the world of the new game or welcome you back.

Not all tutorials are created equal, however.

One of my “replayable” favorites, “Fallout: New Vegas” has a long concentrated tutorial that begins from the moment you leave Doc Mitchell’s house until you decide you’ve had enough of Sunny Smiles and her teachings of helpful wasteland survival skills.

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While irritating at times, Smiles was relatively helpful in introducing me to the features of “New Vegas” that were different from it’s predecessor, “Fallout 3.” ~ Source: PortForward.com. 

Other games like “Tomb Raider” and various “Assassin’s Creed” titles have a brief tutorial period but with various weapons and skills that are unlocked after enough gameplay. In a way, this extends the tutorial throughout the game, although many gamers would say that it is no longer a gaming “tutorial.”

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Both the hook blade and the rope arrow are examples of unlockable weapons that, while they aren’t included in the game tutorial, can count as tutorial content. ~ Source: TombRaiders.net and Bestandroidsolutions.com

Even with tutorials a lot of game mechanics can be difficult to understand like in the case of the 2013 Capcom release, “Remember Me.” Their Pressen and Combo Lab DLC feature was hard for me to grasp no matter how many times I played through and read over the tutorial section.

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In the end, I had to resign myself to playing through the game wildly smashing buttons rather than creating and executing the various combos the game wanted me to. ~ Source: Nerdist.com. 

So do I wish there was a way to skip through a game tutorial? Sometimes, yeah. But tutorials are part of what makes gaming so appealing to me. Because while some games allow differing dialogue options, quest goals and available paths, video games provide us with a clear start and stopping point, quest markers and even some bonus content along the way to make the journey to the goal arguably more enjoyable than the destination itself.

Now if only our regular lives could reflect the careful organization and coordination of our video games and their tutorials.

Until then, game on and let the power of Lara Croft be with you.

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Good story vs. good looks in game design

Star-crossed lovers have nothing on these two crucial elements of game design that can either make or break a title.

It’s hard to say what’s more important to gamers: good story or good design.

If you asked Telltale Games, they’d probably say good story.

If you asked Activision, one of the developers behind the “Call of Duty” franchise, they’d probably say good design – which is funny considering their aesthetics are a far cry from some of the more visually stunning games with no story that have come out recently (i.e. “No Man’s Sky”).

Oftentimes gamers have different opinions of what constitutes a good story versus what doesn’t. We also have different opinions on game design, i.e. what works and what definitely doesn’t.

Please note that when I say design, I’m talking more about aesthetics and appearance than mechanics and developer patterns. The term “design” can mean both, as some game mechanics and developer patterns can be incorporated as elements of aesthetic design like UI interfaces and tutorial dialogue boxes. But in this case I’m talking more about how the game looks than how it plays.

In an article from Game Developer magazine, Soren Johnson questioned whether or not games should even have stories. Reprinted on Gamasutra.com, Johnson examined the essential interactivity of games and whether or not set stories conflict with that basic element of game structure and composition.

While he did acknowledge the fact that many games often benefit from a story, he stressed the fact that oftentimes games are a chance for the audience to create their own story rather than submit to “a designer’s unpublished novel.”

As interesting and truthful as his perspective may be, I disagree with his notion that story in a video game is more of a crutch than an essential aspect of game design.

In order to engage an audience, to really invest the player in whatever game they’re playing, I would argue that games have to have a story. A game can go pretty far on good looks alone, but the content can be more important than the aesthetics depending on what kind of game you like to play.

Now, I’ve been playing games with a story my entire life. I started with “Assassin’s Creed” and “Skyrim” which both have a defined narrative. Obviously, the narrative is a little more flexible in “Skyrim” mostly depending on the dialogue options chosen by the player character and the different quests accepted or rejected, but both these games have relatively set stories.

Some games don’t have such a set story and don’t need one. If the game’s focus is more on the interactivity and/or non story-based content then a story may or may not be necessary to engage the audience and provide a fun gamer experience.

But a focus on creative storytelling is often one of the best investments a designer can make.

In case you haven’t noticed, I may or may not be a little biased towards video game storytelling. But good design is also a must for games today.

In this day and age with the increasingly fantastic and overblown production value of games released today, good design is almost a given, something that has to be included in order for games to sell.

Now, good game design is subjective and can include any number of styles and types, but a clear design, often implemented with specific stylistic intentions, must be built into a game for it to sell.

Video game purists may argue that some of the earliest and most popular game franchises like early RPG’s, Mario games, and “Tetris” were designed without a specific style or story and they did just fine.

But in order to be competitive in today’s market, video games must have good design with decent graphics and a style appropriate for the game content.

They must also have a good story – at least in this gamer’s opinion – so where does that leave us?

The whole point of this post was to try to determine which is more important, good design or good story. But I don’t think it’s possible to separate them. Objectively, they are both important and there are certainly arguments that can be made on either side, but the best games combine elements of both with a good balance of the two.

This recipe for success does not apply to all types of games and may not fit with what you like and don’t like in a video game, but this is my opinion and something I continually look for in all the games I play.

If there’s not enough story, I tend to get bored. And if the design looks bad, the game, for me, is often unplayable.

But like I said, this is often subjective and entirely dependent on the player, so if you value one element over another, let me know and I’ll try to keep an open mind when I buy and play future games.

So game on, and let the power of Lara Croft be with you.

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5 things we need more (or less) of in video games

Finding flaws in a video game is ten times easier than picking out the things you actually like. And while I’m not advocating for cherry-picking – because if a game is awful it’s just awful and no amount of sugar-coating can fix that – I do think it’s a good idea to focus on what we, as gamers, do like about games rather than constantly moaning about what we don’t.

I recently did some pretty intense soul searching to define once and for all what I want in a video game.

Not only did this help me pick and choose the games I wanted to add to my Christmas List – don’t judge me, I know you have one too – it helped me, as an aspiring game designer, identify those features and characteristics I look for in any video game I play.

While I’m definitely not representative of the entire population of gamers, I like to think I have some pretty good insights into what a good portion of us what from our games.

Dorkly.com detailed eight things gamers supposedly want in an article by Andrew Bridgman. Two of his eight reasons are no more zombie games and while I quietly agree with him, I cannot completely support his reasoning because games like Telltale’s “The Walking Dead” exist.

He also said that gamers really want the ability to control boobs in video games which kind of discredits his other points in my opinion.

Gamasutra did a study of different populations of gamers and found their needs and wants vary from integrated social gaming to harder challenges with more strategy and in-depth puzzles.

While both these articles raise some good points, I can’t agree with either of them because they don’t address some of the larger issues I’ve found in some games.

So here are the top five features that I want in future games (Note the emphasis).

Less emphasis on social media.

In direct opposition to what Gamasutra’s study group said, I think a lot of games have too much emphasis on social media and sharing (I’m looking at you, Ubisoft). While I can’t begrudge game companies wanting users to share their experience and give the company some free publicity, I can begrudge them their dogged insistence on it.

After every memory in “Assassin’s Creed” there seems to be an option to share and rate the memory, something that I think gets in the way in the immersive experience I want out of games.

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I don’t play games to socialize with the people I know on Facebook. Source: Technostore.pe. 

More storage.

This is less of a critique of video games than the consoles and systems they run on. I’ve had my Xbox One for less than a year and I’ve already had to buy an external hard drive to store extra game memory because next-gen games take up so. Much. Space.

With the increased emphasis on better graphics, better mechanics and better gameplay, I understand that games have to be bigger to be competitive. But if games are going to take up more and more space, the systems that run them should at least be able to hold more memory.

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These aren’t the games I’d fill my hard drive with, but my point stands. Source: Youtube.com.

Harder puzzles and more challenges.

This shouldn’t be a big surprise, but I’m not terribly good at video games. I love them more than anything and they will always hold a special place in my heart, but I die. A lot.

That being said, some harder challenges would be welcome in games where a lot of times just the pull of a lever can solve a puzzle. After all, if I really get stuck, there will always be someone who solved it before me and posted a video on YouTube.

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Sometimes it’s just too easy.  Source: Gamepressure.com.

More same-sex relationships.

You would be hard-pressed to pass off Chloe and Max’s relationship in “Life is Strange” as friendly gal pals – the trope often used to disguise female homosexual relationships beneath a thin veil of heterosexuality – but in a lot of other games same-sex relationships are often hinted at without being fully realized.

There are obvious exceptions in games like “Fallout 4” and “Mass Effect” as both give players the option of having same-sex relationships. But those games are made to allow gamers the option to choose between the male and female sex rather than being crafted specifically for same-sex relationships.

This is a direct contrast to the 2013 “Tomb Raider” which featured an incredibly friendly gal pal relationship, one that ended with Lara, carrying her pseudo-bride, Sam, to safety with a misty rainbow in the background. And yet Sam was conspicuously absent from the sequel.

Increased visibility is always a good thing and while all my examples are female relationships, male same-sex relationships would also be nice to see, especially since those type of relationships would help dismantle the stereotypical macho manly man that is often overrepresented in video game titles.

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Friendly “gal pals” these girls are not. Source: Vice.com and Pfangirl.blogspot.com.

If you’ve kept up with my blog then this last want shouldn’t be much of a surprise. More female protagonists.

The game industry seems to be taking a step in the right direction with more and more titles featuring female leads, but the more the merrier.

“Recore” and “Horizon Zero Dawn” and “Tomb Raider” and “Dishonored 2” and “Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate” are all recent and upcoming titles featuring female leads, with other games like “Overwatch” and “Gigantic” offering multiple female playable characters.

Although “Syndicate” has its own set of issues, I still think it’s a good example of how female characters aren’t any less badass than their male counterparts and why we need and deserve more of them.

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These are some badass babes, but we could always use more. Source: Themarysue.com.

If I’m totally off base with my conclusions, shoot me an email or leave a comment below and I’ll update this blog accordingly. This is more of a conversation than a definitive set of rules, so if I’ve left something off that you thing is super important to a good video game, please don’t hesitate to tell me.

Until the time comes that all our gaming wants and needs are fulfilled, we should keep playing games and identifying for ourselves what we want and don’t want in a video game.

Because eventually designers and developers will catch on.

So game on, and let the power of Lara Croft be with you.

Real talk: A VR skeptic talks future of gaming

While many companies are claiming virtual reality will be The Next Big Thing in gaming, I’m not so sure. Mostly because the systems are ungodly expensive and the bang just isn’t worth your buck.

I spend more time than is probably healthy thinking about video games.

In addition to spending pretty much all of my precious free time playing and what is left of my bank account buying games, I write and read a lot about everything video games so I can stay up to date on news games and advancements in the industry.

And lately, I’ll I’ve been hearing about is virtual reality.

Even my own mother – who has to leave the room when I play video games because she hates the thought of them corrupting her beautiful, innocent daughter – wants a VR headset so she can traverse the galaxy from the comfort of her own living room.

But this fanatical interest in VR isn’t anything new.

As Paul Younger from PC Invasion explains, there was a VR craze that lived and died in the 90s, partly because the systems were so expensive and partly because those systems ran on software that was woefully unprepared to deal with the demands of VR.

I mean it’s one thing to slide that ginormous headset over your face and expect to be transported directly into the world of your favorite video game. But it’s a totally separate thing to have your head weighed down by bulky hardware that acts as little more than a mini TV shoved up real close to your face.

Another reason the VR craze died in the 90s: pricing.

Most users assumed that as more and more people bought the fancy new systems, the prices would go down to a reasonable level.

But they never did.

Even now, these systems are worth anywhere from $400 to $800.

A quick Google search told me that the average price is around $500 with the famed Oculus Rift going for $600 and the HTC Vive around $800. The cheapest option is the PlayStation system at $400 and $500 (depending on the package purchased), but while PlayStation is a big name in gaming, they’re a little less known for their VR capabilities.

To be fair though, the only recognizable names in the VR market are really Oculus and Vive, but that’s not to say other companies aren’t trying to make a break for it.

On average, one VR system – which for some manufacturers includes the headset only – is worth 10 AAA console games.

While I’m not sure whether that speaks to the inflated price of video games or the ungodly amount of money users are expected to pay for VR, it does say a lot about why I’m so broke.

Money aside, the games available for VR aren’t the kind of games I’d regularly play, let alone ones I’d love to play on a specialized headset meant to drop me straight into the game.

Steam has a whole category of VR games – definitely more than I thought there would be – but many of them are previews and those that aren’t range from the hilariously stupid – Cockroach VR – to the interesting but ultimately pointless – Rail Adventures Tech Demo.

Maybe I’m being too harsh, but I just don’t understand the hype around VR.

My favorite games are those story-rich titles that keep me immersed and invested in the game without a fancy headpiece weighing my head down.

Call me old-fashioned, but I think I prefer a handheld controller to a motion detection system and a bulky headset that has the power to turn me into a gawking geek looking around wildly while all my friends watch me stare at nothing.

I’m not saying VR isn’t the future. In fact, I think in a couple years it will be exactly that. But first it needs to go through a long process of trial and error, of testing and refining. Some companies may argue that’s exactly what they’ve been doing since the 90s, but if this is what has come out of decades of research and testing then I think we still have a long way to go.

Because while the headsets may have gotten smaller and the computers slimmer and more sophisticated, there’s not a huge difference between headsets from the 90’s and what is on the market today.

In a couple years, I may eat my words about VR and gaming.

But until then, game on, my VR fanatics, and let the power of Lara Croft be with you.

and it wasn't jpeg.jpg

Almost thirty years of research and development and it seems nothing has really changed in the overall design of the virtual reality headset.

Source: Gadgethelpline.com and Staticworld.net.