Attention Bloggers! Want To Share Your Favorite Hidden Gems From Last Gen?

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By: Chris Hodges, Editor-in-Chief

As the seventh video game generation finally seems to be coming to a close, I thought it would be a good time to look back at some of the hidden gems from that gen.But rather than just do what I always do and hurl my own personal opinions at everyone, I thought it would be fun to get some different perspectives. So I’m reaching out to my fellow bloggers and asking if anyone is interested in contributing their own personal list of the five best hidden gems of the last console generation (meaning PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and Wii). You can use whatever criteria you want as far as what constitutes a hidden gem–it can be games you don’t think enough people have heard of, games that didn’t sell as well as you believe they should have, games that you feel are unfairly disliked by the community at large, whatever you want it to be. Just pick your five, write four or five lines about it, and that’s it. And if you’re in another region besides North America and want to share some hidden gems from your own region that maybe weren’t even released here, all the better!

I’ll compile all of the lists into one post, of course linking back to either your blog as a whole or your own direct companion piece on the topic (cross-promotion for the win!). So just leave a comment or email me via the contact page, and we’ll start getting these top fives compiled. I also plan to do an accompanying reader poll on the topic, which I’m going to put up on Wednesday, March 23rd, with the results for that poll posted on Wednesday, March 30th, so I’m shooting for having my/our top fives done by then as well.

So get thinking, and let me know soon if you’re interested. Should be fun!

Enslaved

My Thoughts About Europe’s Thoughts About the NES

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By: Chris Hodges, editor-in-chief

A few weeks back, I wrote an article about the consoles that had the longest spans of time between their launch and last official game release. When discussing the Atari 2600, I rather casually remarked how the NES had “taken over the world” and therefore made things difficult for Atari in the latter half of the 80’s and into the early 90’s. Someone on Facebook pointed out to me–in not the warmest of ways–that the NES didn’t exactly take over the world; it mostly just took over North America and Japan and was only a minor presence elsewhere (especially Europe). I would like to say that I didn’t see a response like that coming, that I wrote that sentence without a second thought to how it might be taken by a reader from a region that wasn’t taken over by the NES. But that would be a lie.

I have participated in multiple debates with people from across the pond about the NES’ impact or lack thereof in terms of the worldwide video game industry in the 80’s. And some of them got pretty heated. So I most certainly was not unaware of how my hyperbolic inference of the NES’ global domination might be taken by someone in Europe (or elsewhere). For a moment, I considered writing the sentence differently, or at least making a parenthetical clarification that by “the world” I mostly meant “the world as I knew it.” Obviously, I ended up deciding to leave the statement as-is. And even though nearly half of the Chi-Scroller’s views in all of 2015 came from European nations, that Facebook commentator was the sole dissenting voice about that particular comment. So it wouldn’t be fair to paint all European gamers as being overly sensitive about proclamations of the NES’ market share. Most are probably so used to hearing about it over the last 30 years that they just figure it is what it is.

What made this whole thing more complicated, of course, is the internet. Back when we used to only have words printed on stacks of stapled-together paper with which to write and read about video games, things were typically written by people of a specific region for people of a specific region. When a British magazine would talk about football, there was no need to make clarifications about how it’s called soccer in America, or about how it’s not especially popular in America. Because it didn’t matter; it was a British magazine for British readers, so it talked about things in that context. Sure, sometimes those clarifications were made, like when an American film critic called a movie “one of the best American films of blah blah blah,” so as not to discount the rest of the world’s cinema or give the impression that said film was inherently better than movies being made elsewhere. But for the most part, whether it was movies, sports, music, celebrities, food, or whatever else, each region talked about things in a vacuum, not really feeling the need to make constant footnotes about how proclamations about those things did or didn’t pertain to other regions. Then came the internet, and with it, a potential global audience for absolutely every letter typed and syllable spoken onto it, and suddenly people started reading things that didn’t mesh with their own experiences within their own regions. Whereas Americans had spent years referring to the NES as the savior of video games and the only thing that mattered in video games between 1985 and 1991 without a second thought because nobody in America was going to bother disagreeing with that, now we had people who grew up in that era where the NES barely made a dent having issue with such assertions.

I can definitely see how it would seem smug of Americans to disregard the NES’ small market share in other parts of the world, especially when it therefore also disregards the platforms that thrived there instead. As powerful as our nostalgia is of growing up with the NES, so too is the nostalgia of the kids who grew up with the ZX Spectum, Amstrad CPC, et al. The protectiveness that we feel over Europeans downplaying the NES’ success is the exact same protectiveness they feel when we do the opposite. It’s an attack on someone’s childhood memories, on how they spent sleepovers and summer vacations, on how they defined what it meant to be a kid. We’re all fiercely protective of those memories and of the things associated with them, and it awakens the beast within us when someone scoffs at them or tries to discount them.

That’s something that we all need to keep in mind, on both sides of this argument, is to respect the experience that others’ had even if it was completely different than our own. And perhaps more importantly, to not take it personally when someone talks about the elements of their childhood like they were the only things that mattered in the whole world–because to them, that’s how it was. The NES was the whole world of American children of the 80’s, and European children had completely different things that defined their whole world.

So the next time I refer to the NES as “ruling the world,” just know that what I’m really saying is that it ruled my world. No need to take it personally. You have the games that ruled yours, and my lazy prose shouldn’t be seen as an attack on your childhood. That said, I am extremely humbled by how many people across the world actually read what I write, and I hate the thought of my doing anything to alienate anyone who takes time out of their day to read my silly opinions. So I will try and go easy on the America-specific proclamations in the future–or at least use parenthetical clarification when I just can’t help myself.

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Why Does “Censorship” Only Bother Us When Boobs Are Involved?

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By: Chris Hodges, editor-in-chief

The word “censorship” is getting thrown around in video gaming circles a lot more than usual lately, and most of the outrage seems to focus on four specific games Continue reading “Why Does “Censorship” Only Bother Us When Boobs Are Involved?”

How PCs Have Already Won The Console War.

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By: Steve Zachmann, contributor

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about where I stand when it comes to how I choose to play my games.  Growing up I was a console gamer. I never played Zork, or The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy or any of the other text-based adventure games.  I was a Nintendo kid, through and through.  In the 16-bit era I was a Genesis fan, and later an SNES fan.  I was also the proud owner of a Playstation 1.  At some point though, the PC weaseled it’s way into my gaming habits, planted it’s spiky tentacles in my heart, and shoved consoles out of my gaming world.  For years and years I would have put myself in the hardcore PC gaming community.  I wasn’t as hardcore as many, moreso than others, but I certainly was not a console gamer anymore.  In fact, I probably put less than 50 hours into games on my Xbox 360, as opposed to the thousands of hours I poured into PC games.  As the years have gone by though, I’ve found myself less and less attached to the PC.  I would say that at this point, I’m truly platform agnostic.  I’m in a place in my life where I no longer care enough about any single platform to defend it.  I have no allegiance to the PC, the Wii U, or any other console.  Show me a platform that quickly and easily allows me to play the games that I want to play and you’ve sold me.  That said, I’m confident that the console wars are over, and that the PC has won, but probably not for the reasons you think.

Back in the late 90’s there were very compelling reasons to choose console games over PC games, many of which had to do with convenience.  The process for playing a console game was simple; buy the game, play the game.  The process for playing a PC game was significantly more complicated.  You’d have to buy the game, install the game, possibly patch the game, possibly tweak graphics settings, hope that your 6 month old $500 graphics card could keep up, hope that Windows updates didn’t break anything, etc…  You could then play the game, hunched over your desk like a troll.

The funny thing is, instead of the PC adapting to the console’s simple, minimalist approach to gaming, the console adapted virtually all of the PC’s annoyances.  First off, consoles now all have hard drives with storage that you have to manage.  Virtually all major triple-A games have significant install sizes, too.  When you buy a console game, you have to make sure you have enough space on your hard drive for the install.  That’s a PC problem if ever there was one.  Then there’s the issue of patching.  The words “day 1 patch” are uttered with such frequency regarding console games that I have to chuckle when I think of the quaint old days of popping in a game and expecting it to work.  And speaking of working, gone are the days of console games that simply don’t hard-crash.  Back in the day I remember my NES games not working, but 99% of the time it was because you had to blow on them, not because the software wasn’t made to run on the OS while the Facebook app was running in the background.

Consoles also have firmware updates now, too.  Harkening back to the 90’s again, this idea just seems ridiculous.  Your PS1 was your PS1.  It didn’t even have firmware, for all we knew.  It worked on magic and pixie dust, for all we knew, but barring hardware failure, it worked without exception.  It never needed updates, or patches; it never crashed or slowed down because it was trying to multitask too much.  The most hilariously damning piece of evidence to support my claim is the latest firmware upgrade for the Xbox One; it’s running Windows 10.  To be clear, the Xbox one is actually a PC.  At least in as much as the Steam Box is a console.

What I’m getting at here is that the PC has already won the console wars because every major console on the market is built on hardware and software paradigms pioneered by the PC.  That doesn’t mean the PC is better, it simply means that the PC was first.  You can choose to prefer “console” gaming or “PC” gaming at this point, but the truth is that they’ve been bleeding together for far longer than fanboys on both sides of the fence want to admit.  The Dreamcast had a keyboard, that felt like a cardinal sin at the time.  Xbox 360 controllers can be used (natively) on the PC.  HDMI makes it just as easy to plug a PC into a television as a console.  Virtually every digital game service overs automatic patching, cloud save, and other features that mimic consoles.  As the years go by there becomes less and less difference between PC gaming and console gaming.

PCs and consoles have fewer and fewer exclusives as well.  When the Genesis and SNES were duking it out it seemed like there were entire libraries of exclusives for each system.  These days I can barely think of a reason to align with any console maker or the PC (except you Nintendo, you big non-conformist weirdo).  Also, the term “exclusive” is often substituted for “console exclusive” which means it’s also available on PC.  I see less and less in the way of games that distinguishes a given console.  When I think of Xbox, I think Halo, when I think PlayStation I think Naughty Dog.  Nintendo is certainly a holdout in this sense (which, by the way, is why I bought a Wii U) but neither of the others, or the PC, has any one library that is worth losing my mind over.

Finally, let’s talk about emulation for a minute.  Backwards compatibility is a great thing, and it’s something that I feel is a great selling point for anyone with a large physical catalog of games, but any console that is re-selling digital copies of games isn’t using backwards compatibility, they’re using emulation.  Nintendo sells all sorts of NES games on it’s eShop and those games are emulated.  You can play those games on the PC as well, via the same type of emulation.  The only difference is that when you do it on the PC you’re stealing.  The point here is that emulation is not a PC term anymore, and will never be a PC term anymore.  The PS4 can’t play PS1 games (which is completely reasonable, by the way), but I’m sure it could emulate them.  Emulation is a fine concept, as long as it’s done legally, and it’s not one that console makers are afraid of.  But again, it’s just another in a long line of reasons why PCs and consoles are a whole lot more alike than most of us stop to realize.

Personally, I believe this is all a moot point.  I believe that someday, within the next 10 years, none of us will own consoles or PCs, but rather subscribe to services that stream games directly as we play them, like Gaikai.  That type of service isn’t ready for prime-time yet, at least not in the US, but it will be one day, and when that day comes we’ll all just be renting time on massive game servers rather than owning pieces of hardware that sit in our homes.  I, for one, welcome our digital gaming overlords.