Why Video Games Are Not An Inferior Art

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Author of the bestselling series The Witcher, Andrzej Sapkowski, has talked about the success of CD Projekt Red’s The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (2015) and how it has harmed the accomplishments of his original source material. He has claimed the new fans of the novels that the video games have brought in are under the impression that Sapkowski’s books were written as an adaptation, and is often having to ‘explain to fans that [he] wrote the books 12 years before the game was made’.

He also argues that he is the one who made the games popular, as the English translations of the novels came out before. While this may be wildly inaccurate, it is also no secret that the games came second and this has been openly confirmed by CDPR. There are some deviations from the novels, but that is down to the creative team of CDPR, who have Sapkowski’s blessing to use the books as the basis of their games.

As someone who both loves and studied literature, I can understand to a degree Sapkowski’s frustrations. I hold literature in high esteem, and there have been many books that have been butchered by the entertainment industry. However, one of my qualms is that the author is rather open about only being in this partnership from a financial angle, in which case I wonder if he really has a leg to stand on when making complaints.


CDPR’s depiction of Geralt of Rivia battling a Fiend

It comes with the territory of creating a world that is dear to you that people will interpret and twist it in ways that you may not necessarily agree with. Sapkowski does acknowledge that nothing will take away the fact that the original Witcher is his, but he then goes on to say that he does not know anyone who has played the video game adaptations as he keeps intelligent company.

Cue irritation.

Sapkowski did claim that these comments were made to create a ‘storm in a teacup’, but unfortunately this attitude towards video games is not uncommon amongst the masses. There are still those who blame games for acts of violence and for creating generations of lazy and socially inept people. To these people, I simply ask you to look beyond. Games are not always about pointing and shooting at something and/or someone. Believe it or not, there are skills that can be learned from playing them, and video games have always been a beautiful art form.

Problem solving, reactions and comprehension are all things that are required to progress in most games. Interacting with the game’s universe to complete objectives sounds easy in theory, but when you throw in additional features such as resource management, character interactions, timed quests, hidden items, secret areas, difficult boss battles and so on, the video game becomes much more of a challenge for the player.


Evolution of Lara Croft, 1996 – present

The slideshow that I have included at the very beginning of this post is but a snapshot into the catalogue of games that have been released over the past few years. Each and every one of them are unique in their own wonderful ways, and each of them are beautiful for different reasons. With no context behind the pictures, they look like the work of talented artists with keen imaginations. In which case, it is baffling when video games as a whole are seen as inferior to traditional art.

The progression of video games is also astounding. Take Lara Croft, as pictured above, for instance. She is one of video gaming’s most iconic characters, and is a force to be reckoned with in her respective appearances in games. Her initial appearance is simplistic by today’s standards, and it is clear she was embellished to appeal to the male demographic, but if look at today’s Lara you will see significant changes.

Lara Croft, as she appears in Tomb Raider (2013) and Rise of the Tomb Raider (2015), now seems much more true to life than ever. Designers abandoned her anatomical exaggerations and breathed new life into her. Using motion capture, Lara now moves like a real person in-game, and in the Definitive Edition of Tomb Raider, the new subsurface light scattering allows for light to pass through her skin before it is redirected. Each strand of her hair also moves realistically, and these are improvements that have been made within 20 years.


Development of The Legend of Zelda‘s protagonist, Link, from Nintendo’s Hyrule Historia

Video games are an immersive experience, and it succeeds in this by doing things that books, television and film simply cannot. You can make seats move during a film in a cinema, but the novelty wears off and becomes comical after a while. Video games force you to become involved in its universe and you help along the story it has to tell. Many developers now opt for a game that has multiple endings so as to create as unique of an experience for their players as possible, which cannot be achieved in conventional entertainment.

The horror genre of video games in particular has thrived on this. You are able to passively watch an actor or read about a character walking into a dangerous situation, but to actually move that character yourself adds a new layer of terror that was previously unheard of.  Being stalked by something that can only be dreamt up in your worst nightmares is truly frightening, and when your only options are to run, hide, fight or die, it’s hard to argue otherwise.

Everything about a video game is put down to hours of grueling work to create something incredible. From rendering a blade of grass to the awe-inspiring soundtracks to create the best possible environment and atmosphere for the player. On top of this, the player has free roam of the virtual universe and when you break this down, it feels almost inconceivable. Yet brilliant games keep coming at us, and I know I’ll be waiting with arms wide open.

There is a game out there for everyone, whether you like to challenge yourself with puzzles, tremble in fear with a horror game or just have a laugh with friends or family.

You’ll only find the right one for you by playing them.





Why is this game still broken?: Pokémon Go

Okay, I know this may seem as though I’m just complaining for the sake of it, and I know that Niantic are releasing updates and trying to fix the app, but I’m still having problems with it. I doubt that I’m the only player suffering but here is why I felt the need to have a small rant.

The new “sightings” feature is terrible. The three-step mechanism that they had before wasn’t perfect by any means (and didn’t even work for most people), but the idea of it was to allow players to know if they were getting closer or further away from a Pokémon that they were trying to capture. Now, the sightings feature does not let players know whereabouts Pokémon are located, but that they are simply within the area. I know that a handful of players received the update in which Niantic are testing out the full breadth of this feature, but the one I have is even less useful than the original broken tracking system.

The above are three screen shots that I took while playing Pokémon Go in the last couple of weeks, and which actually prompted me to write this post. In the first image (left), I was confused because the closest Pokémon to me were a Psyduck, Horsea and Pidgey, and yet a Rattata was the one to annoy me with its presence. Not only is it irritating that common Pokémon such as Rattatas like to pop up at every chance that they can, but even when they’re not supposed to be nearby they still spawn. I would have very much liked another Psyduck instead of a purple rat. Similarly, in the centre picture, a Spearow appeared even though it was third in line after a Zubat and an Eevee. Yet again, in the third screen shot it is clear that a Drowzee was not supposed to be nearby, and yet it appeared anyhow. There was no lure at that PokéStop before or after I passed by, and so I did not understand why a Drowzee suddenly showed up. Now, I’m not sure if the sightings feature lists the Pokémon in the order in which they are closest to the player, but I can only assume so. Which begs the question, why is it so inaccurate?

Now, admittedly, I used to do a lot of my Pokémon hunting in the comforts of a vehicle. I was able to catch the majority of my first Pokémon while my brother drove us to see our cousin, and I was perfectly happy to give up any mileage to hatch eggs that would not be counted by the game because I was travelling too fast. A few updates later and now it is virtually impossible to catch Pokémon while playing in a car (as a passenger, of course. I have to confirm that about a million times before actually playing). It seems as though the game can’t refresh fast enough to load Pokémon when the player is going faster than 20mph. While I will admit that this does encourage players to walk instead of ‘cheating’, it does not mean that the ability to catch Pokémon in a car should be completely nerfed.

As you can see in the above images, I was very close to being robbed of a Gloom. My phone vibrated to indicate a Pokémon appearing nearby and I was confused when I could not see it at first, until I noticed the white rings near my character. I tried tapping them but nothing happened, and I was worried that I would miss out on catching it. I was in a car at the time, and it is not often that Pokémon spawn while I am in a vehicle now. I panicked, but thankfully my mum and I were in a fair amount of traffic at the time and so we were travelling slowly if at all for around 5 minutes. I managed to restart the game and the Gloom reappeared, allowing me to finally catch it. I have not had this issue before the updates and so I can only assume that it’s because of Niantic’s frantic attempt to ‘fix’ the game that more problems have been caused as a result.

I have to say, I’m getting very tired of the mentality of releasing an unfinished game and then fixing it later. This is why I try to avoid pre-ordering games, as I want to know if it’s even worth my money before committing any payments. It makes me wonder when this trend began to surface. I remember when once a game was released, developers had no control over potential glitches or the like. Now, a games developer can release a game any time they feel like it, charge players for the full game and then release updates and patches at a later date. It’s the same issue as what a lot of people are finding after the release of No Man’s Sky, as many features were promised but have not yet made an appearance. Yet because of these promises, people parted with their hard earned cash to pay for a full game but were given barely half of what they were anticipating. It is for this reason that I tend not to pre-order games, because developers will only continue doing this if they receive sufficient funds. Companies are more likely to induce change if you start being smart with where you put your money, not your complaints.

I can definitely see that the popularity of this game is dying down already. Kids will be going back to school as the summer is coming to an end, so there will be a decrease in players actively playing during the day. Even I have begun to play it less, and as you can see I’m only on level 15 at the moment, despite having the app since it released in the UK. I do find it enjoyable, but I still have moments where the game infuriates me. I’m happy to see the low battery mode making a reappearance and the game does seem to be eating up less of my battery, though it is still quite steep at times. I can appreciate that Niantic are working on fixes, but I feel as though they just need to do it better.


Is Dark Souls really “tough but fair”?


A beautifully constructed game with terrifyingly difficult enemies

Dark Souls III
Released: March 24, 2016 (Japan), April 12, 2016 (worldwide)

Praise the Sun! Finally, the release of Dark Souls III (2016) has dawned upon the West and it’s all I can think about. I haven’t had the opportunity to play the game myself, because unfortunately the PS4 has left my university household with my housemate. My computer isn’t good enough to run it either, so I’ll just have to wait. In the meantime, I have been watching some gameplay videos and livestreams of the latest Souls game and I think it’s magnificent. I know that in my Bloodborne (2015) review I talked about how going in with just a little bit of knowledge of the game is the best way to go but I really couldn’t help myself. Having only played Bloodborne I know nothing about the lore in Dark Souls, but despite that it still feels as though it’s a game people can jump into whether they’ve played the previous games or not. Now, everyone who has heard of Dark Souls will know that it’s a game not to be taken lightly because of its notorious difficulty. I will go on to talk about the difficulty of the game, but firstly I want to express some of my opinions about the game itself. Prithee be careful, there be spoilers ahead for Dark Souls III.

I realised pretty quickly when playing Bloodborne that the game wasn’t messing around and both Demon’s Souls (2009) and the Dark Souls franchise are no exception to this. DS3 seems to have taken the middle ground between the original Souls games and Bloodborne by speeding up combat somewhat and including phases that enemies shift into during fights. The first boss had a definite Bloodborne-esque feel to it after its sudden and horrific transformation in the middle of the battle, and it definitely sets the game off to a great start. My favourite boss is undoubtedly the Abyss Watchers for many reasons that I will go into detail in a later post.

Several characters from previous games have made reappearances, such as Andre of Astora and Siegmeyer of Catarina, lovingly dubbed as the Onion Knight by fans. The players even return to Anor Londo, although the city has been robbed of its light after Aldrich, the Devourer of Gods has taken over. Many of these references went over my head but I’m still very interested in the lore, though it is mainly because of the change in pace that has made me consider buying DS3. One of the things I loved most about Bloodborne was how fast the action was and the encouragement of playing more aggressively, which was why I knew that taking out the shield in comparison to the previous Souls games would suit me a lot better. I may be cautious when I play games, but I’m equally just as gung-ho at times. This might also be the reason as to why I love the Abyss Watchers so much. Their lunge attacks launch them several metres towards the player from across the room and they just look so unbelievably awesome. I’m all for giant monsters but these forsaken creatures caught my attention immediately over many of the other bosses. Yhorm the Giant, the Dancer of the Boreal Valley, Lorian the Elder Prince and Lothric the Younger Prince all deserve an honourable mention though. Yhorm looked incredible, the Dancer’s movements had me in awe and the Princes made for an interesting fight.

Now, it’s this extremely steep learning curve that I want to address. The friends that I consulted prior to purchasing Bloodborne all told me that it’s difficult but gratifying once you start making progress. Similarly in DS3, when you’re faced with an enemy that is 10 times your height or a horde of them, you cannot help but feel intimidated, but the only way to progress is to get stuck in. Personally, I do stand by the view that the Souls games (including Bloodborne) are hugely arduous but they are also reasonable, although I do see why people would think otherwise. The prompt in writing this post was after I read a negative review of the game on Amazon on the day of the worldwide release. The reviewer does not state if this was their first time playing a Souls game but I can only assume this is the case as they do mention the game being brutal for new players. One of their concerns was surrounding this ‘tough but fair’ attitude towards the game.

I won’t shy away from the fact that none of these games are perfect. They each have their own flaws, some of which have bled into the newer games. I have noticed that during videos, many people will complain about the frame rate dropping and the fact that multiplayer has a fair amount of lag, which the reviewer on Amazon touches upon. Not only this, but a friend of mine who is a huge Souls fan was very disappointed that the PC version of DS3 had come with a ridiculous bug where the game would crash whenever the player would walk towards or rest at the first bonfire (checkpoint). Admittedly, From Software should have used the Japanese release of the game to find and rectify these issues before its worldwide release to allow for a smoother experience. I do agree with the Amazon reviewer that the game has its flaws, but what game doesn’t?

The parts of this person’s review that struck me were their complaints of being one-hit-killed, the ‘deliberately obscure and obnoxious design’ and how bonfires were hidden behind false walls, etc. Honestly, while reading this I couldn’t stop laughing. Everything the reviewer listed as being unfair has been present since Demon’s Souls, and as such it’s safe to assume these features will continue on throughout the franchise. Not only this, but it’s common knowledge within the gaming world that Dark Souls is ridiculously difficult. If someone should pick up this game, not knowing absolutely anything about it then I do feel the utmost sympathy for them because they will not know what hit them. This reviewer, however, sounds as though they had an idea of what they were getting themselves into. But in all seriousness, the most I knew about Bloodborne before delving into the game was that it was made by the same creators as the Souls franchise and so it was going to be very challenging. I may have picked up the keys quickly but the experience was tough, but one that I was happy to endure because, if anything, the difficulty of the game made me feel more determined to win. I’m not the greatest gamer out there, I never claim to be, but if I can do it then anyone who has the drive can as well.

What it seems to me is that this reviewer knew very vaguely about Dark Souls and thought they’d give it a try because the game is known to be challenging. They were clearly met with graphical issues and the like, which I know is exceedingly frustrating especially after my experience with The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (2015). Alongside this, they most likely also found that the difficulty of the game is nothing to be trifled with but pinned their unsuccessful attempts at DS3 on the game being unfair as ‘fairness isn’t part of this game’s world’. There are several games that I have played where if I die I can wholeheartedly blame the game. In Assassin’s Creed, for example, I have jumped off so many buildings that it should run like clockwork but instead have somehow managed to miss the haystack below me and plummeted to my death. That is a clear example of the game failing the player because of whatever reason. An NPC jumping out from a cell to push you down into an area filled with enemies? No, that’s just Dark Souls.

‘The designer of the game is a self-proclaimed masochist and has the classic Japanese military/corporate mentality where you have to be broken and punished just for being new to the game, to “prove your worth”‘ The Amazon reviewer goes on to write. It’s no secret that Hidetaka Miyazaki has called himself a masochist and channeled his want of an excruciating game experience into Dark Souls. However, this wasn’t because he wanted to punish the players of the game but simply because no other developer had brought out a game that he himself wanted to play. This then culminated into the Souls series, and fans of the franchise are thankful for it. I too think that games have become easier over the years, but this is most likely due to the growth in popularity of video games and so the need to appeal to a wider audience was necessary. The Souls games are quite the opposite and are a series of games for those who want something more challenging than most triple A titles that are currently being released. I’m sorry, Amazon reviewer, but being new to the game isn’t a good enough excuse. It’s the third game of the Dark Souls series, you’ve had more than enough time to become acquainted with it. I know it’s hard, but a few words of complaint isn’t going to lower the difficulty of the game.

(NB: The reviewer that I have been making reference to throughout this post has also left negative reviews of Dark Souls II: Scholar of the First Sin (2015) and Bloodborne. In the latter, they express many similar grievances as that in their DS3 review. They also go on to claim that with ‘no checkpoints before the brually [sic] hard bosses’, the game goes out of its way to ‘deliberately troll the player’. They also wrote that From Software use ‘cheap tactics’ in an attempt to make a difficult game. It’s pretty clear that this person heavily dislikes the Souls franchise and Bloodborne, and yet they continue to buy and play the games. Just sounds like they’re a little salty in my opinion.)

Of course, this reviewer is completely entitled to their own opinion. If they didn’t enjoy the game, then that’s perfectly fine. It’s their loss in the end as they’re missing out on a brilliant game. It could just be that they didn’t have enough perseverance in them. Unfortunately, Demon’s SoulsDark Souls and Bloodborne aren’t the types of games to hold the player’s hand and walk them through the entire thing with reminders of the controls or hints of how to defeat bosses. This is not a game for ‘casual’ players as it does require a lot of time and patience to get through it. It’s a harsh process of trial and error while you roam through the various breathtakingly beautiful and horrifyingly disgusting environments. And when you’re met with the crimson text across your screen to remind you of your fate, you awake at a bonfire anew and run straight back into the action.

Call me a troll, but to this reviewer I simply say: git gud, son.

Dear Ubisoft, please stop


I’m losing track of all these characters

Two posts today, what is going on? Well, in all seriousness, I had a rant burning in my chest about this and I needed to let it out.

I have tried several different methods to approach this post, but it all became too convoluted and wordy in my last attempts. Instead, I’ll jump straight into this. I know I’m not the only one, but I’m getting pretty sick of the Assassin’s Creed franchise. Now, I won’t lie, I loved this series and I put a lot of hours into the games. Upon the release of Assassin’s Creed III, I found myself hating the game much more than I ever anticipated. In comparison to the previous games Connor, the Mohawk protagonist of the game, was the least relatable character I had ever come across. He was arrogant, naive and bratty. I couldn’t sympathise with him enough to actually care about what happened to him. Alongside this, the modern day story line had also run dry. The sudden changes in Desmond’s appearance was off putting and the forced nature of trying to tie in the game with the Mayan prophesy of 2012 was just too much.

I realised that the beginning of the franchise’s downfall was after the second game, when Brotherhood was released. I enjoyed the game very much and it’s only in hindsight that I see its flaws. Brotherhood was a continuation of the protagonist’s story from the second game, Ezio, who was beloved by the majority of the fanbase. Now, initially I didn’t have a problem with Ezio returning, but I’ll get onto that later. Brotherhood was limited in scope as the player could only be in one city, Rome, whereas in the previous installments there were a wide range of places to explore. Admittedly, the map is fairly accurate as I vaguely knew my way around when I actually went to Rome. But in the game, it just didn’t sit well with me. After having the freedom to explore several different cities, I was suddenly restricted to only one. It’s a beautiful city, and the game makes full use of it, but all I wanted to do was jump on a horse and go to other places as I had done in previous games. I feel like I need to be at least fair to the game, as it wasn’t entirely terrible. New types of AI had been introduced, multiplayer had become a thing and the story was still pretty good (which is what I mainly played the game for). I thoroughly enjoyed how the games tied in historical events to their established story, it was fascinating and educational in a way. The game had come out at the same time as when I was watching the TV series The Borgias, starring Jeremy Irons as Pope Alexander VI. Alongside this, but I was learning about ‘worldly’ Popes during the Renaissance in my history class at school. It was like I was learning while not being in school, and I like to learn so I was in it for the story.

Now, I did mention that I had an issue with Ezio as a recurring character. I love the guy, but he was there for 3 games and all I could see was an amazing character growing older and older. I’m sure the developers meant for him to look tired of this seemingly futile war with the Templars but this seemed like too much. Ezio is in his 50s during Revelations, and I did like this game for its incorporation of Altaïr, as his story was left untouched after the first game and I’m quite fond of that section of the lore. Again, the game was limited to one city, this time being Constantinople (present day Istanbul), although there is one sequence of the story where the player is taken to Cappadocia, only to be thrown back into Constantinople with no escape. The design of the map is amazing, I wouldn’t knock an Assassin’s Creed game for the aesthetic aspect of it as they are very well done. However, by Revelations, I was beginning to think that less and less love was going into these games. Alongside this, Ezio is looking significantly older and worn (out) and as he is a fan favourite, it made it even harder for people to accept Connor into the ranks of these great characters. I found it difficult to switch to Connor after playing as Ezio for 3 games and having Altaïr’s name mentioned when he wasn’t a playable character.

And so brings us to Assassin’s Creed III. How I loathe this game. I did like a few parts of it, such as the new hunting feature and the inclusion of the bow and arrow and rope darts, but that was about it. I hated Connor as a character, as I’ve already explained but allow me to elaborate. There were times when Connor was acting out of spite towards other characters, and I’m all for a flawed protagonist as it makes them seem more real, but in this case it was like he was acting that way simply because he felt as though he could. During cutscenes where he would behave aggressively towards Achilles, the closest person that the character has to family by this point, had me feeling completely exasperated. Understandably, the native American is angry at the English settlers for burning his home, in which his mother died. I could agree with this reasoning behind his revengeful outlook on life, but when every sequence of the game has him asking or screaming “Where is Charles Lee?”, I eventually grew tired of it. Ezio’s revenge-fuelled quest was much more tastefully done, as he begins as a weak character who is brought to his senses and starts to see the long term plan and wider picture. Connor is narrow minded and acts on impulse (he’s like Cersei from Game of Thrones, she’s really not as smart as she thinks she is and neither is Connor). Not only this, but Ubisoft had decided to set this game in 18th century America, where certain missions included the removal of the English flag to replace it with the American one. Of course, the game is set around the time when the Declaration of Independence was signed and so the tensions between the Americans and the English were high, but this almost seemed like too much. I was definitely getting a lot of ‘Murica vibes from this game, and that just made it laughable.

It’s because of Assassin’s Creed III that I completely avoided Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag until a couple of months ago. I was convinced that I would never play another game in the franchise until I was told by a couple of my friends that I would enjoy it. They were even saying it was the best one since Assassin’s Creed II (2009), which is a compliment and a half seeing as that game is probably the best game out of this series. I have to admit, I am greatly enjoying the seventh (yes, seventh, and that’s not including all the spin-off games) installment of the franchise. There is so much to do that I don’t even know where to begin sometimes, I am completely spoiled for choice and it’s been a long time since Assassin’s Creed has been like this. Playing as a pirate, who is neither here nor there in terms of the war between the Assassins and Templars, is also extremely refreshing. It is an interesting take on the series, almost as if you become an outsider looking in on the situation. Edward is also a very likeable character, speaking his mind as he sees fit but a reasonable man who is also deeply set in his way of life. It has its issues, like all of the Assassin’s Creed games, but I’m glad I went for it. However, despite my positive response to this game, I do not think I will be buying Unity (2014) or Syndicate (2015).

Upon release, I heard that Assassin’s Creed: Unity was suffering from a lot of bad press. The game was delayed for 2 weeks, which you would think was to make last minute improvements and changes to create the best possible product for consumers. Wrong. The game was plagued with graphical issues, problems with connectivity and even the frame rate was criticised. The developers also had not listened to the criticisms of their previous games, outlining that the restrictive nature of only having one city available was a hindrance to the gameplay experience, and Unity was set solely in Paris. The game had also caused controversy in France, as the developers were denounced for their portrayal of key historical figures during the French Revolution. This solidified my refusal to buy it. If the developers can’t produce a top quality game then why bother giving them my money? Rock Star worked on Grand Theft Auto V (2013) for 3 years to create something brilliant, and while I personally am not a big fan of the series, it was the best selling game of the year for a reason. Ubisoft are churning out Assassin’s Creed games in a similar fashion to Activision and Call of Duty. The company knows it’s making good money from these games, but that is no reason to create a sloppy and superficial game. The industry needs to become more about the quality of the video games and not the amount of money it makes on release. Ubisoft even released Assassin’s Creed: Rogue (2014) at the same time as Unity for the older generation consoles. If this isn’t a ploy to practically take money out of our pockets, then I don’t know what is. After this catastrophe with Unity, I figured there would be no point in wasting my time with the upcoming game, Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate, which will be released later this year. As far as the teaser trailer goes, I am not even remotely interested in this game, despite its setting being in Victorian London.

If Ubisoft were to take more time in creating these games, then they would undoubtedly be much better. Instead they are used to bring in quick money, which gives them a chance to create more careless and depthless video games. I am happy to continue playing the first, second and seventh installment of the franchise but that will be about it as I feel they are the only ones worth buying. I can cope with the technical issues I have found within these games because I actually enjoy them and I will probably review them in the future. I would happily play Unity or Syndicate, but I am not willing to buy them after witnessing the gradual decline of the quality of these games. I’ve been hearing good things about The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (2015), so perhaps I’ll turn my attention to video games that put an emphasis on the calibre of the game rather than the amount of income it brings in.