Here’s Why You Should Watch Gameloading: Rise of the Indies


I normally don’t put my hand up for reviews. As most of you know from what I write, I simply attempt to be funny. But I like being analytic and critical on occasions, most especially if I can contribute to debate, or a conversation that inspires higher learning, or just a bit of ‘hmmm-ing or ahh-ing’ at the very least.

Gameloading: Rise of the Indies is a seriously thorough documentary highlighting and introducing us to the world of indie games and the developers behind them. Furthermore, this documentary tries to explore the wider impacts that indie game development have and are having on media and culture.

“Indie game developers are like misfits”

The Documentary opens with an introduction to the developers of the Stanley Parable, who happen to be a two man team (Davey Wreden and William Pugh) who are barely in each others’ presence due to one living in Texas and the other in the UK. They communicate predominantly through Skype and despite all this, they have managed to develop a fantastic puzzle game that received numerous accolades including the IGF Audience Award in 2014.

Amongst other groups, we are also introduced to the immensely fun Train Jam initiative, a collective of game developers who travel together by train from Chicago to San Francisco and collaboratively design new indie games during the 52 hour trip.

We don’t even need that much of an introduction to the now well known Zoe Quinn and her game, Depression Quest, which she describes as an exploration of the idea that choices, or the taking away of such choices can affect game outcomes. As a result, her game is an interesting way for players to understand and relate to serious issues such as depression and how it affects day to day living.

The documentary explores the experiences of various developers, from the creative explorations of Soundself as being developed by Robin Arnott, to the visual ones of Tale of Tales and their obsession with visual story telling.

Soundself
Soundself

These are all people who live and breathe games in ways that your average gamer and maybe your average AAA game developer does not. These are the people Peter Molyneux probably wishes he was, or had in his development team.

These developers see indie game creation as a way to extend their world-view to others. The way many of these indie developers speak about their creations imply a broad emotional affection towards gamers and games in general.  There is a strong sense that they want to share, be it their personal story, a new way of seeing the world or sharing a way to connect with new people you’d normally not meet.

There is a lot of love in the indie game community apparently, and everyone likes to hug each other.

Indie games are a great opportunity to explore new methods to learn. As opposed to the current stereotype that video games isolate the player from their immediate environment (the usual glued to the screen or phone trope), indie games are exploring ways to make games interactive, physical and social experiences that apply the console, computer or handheld as only one part of gameplay.

In short, indie games are made the way they are because the developers behind them aren’t exactly pandering to the stereotype of a screaming multiplayer kid mashing his or her fingers on a console (ie. the horrible way I happen to play Age of Empires).

The one thing I got out of this documentary is that indie games are a deeply personal endeavour, and the developers behind them are literally wearing their hearts on their sleeves in bringing these to the public.

Further, what struck me about the mindset behind indie games was how strong the need to tell a story through games was. Several developers intimated as to how they no longer saw games as quests that needed to be ‘won’, but as journeys that educate and impart wisdom through experience. Soundself could be seen as a new spiritual method to explore meditation and the heartbreaking indie game, That Dragon, Cancer is a deeply personal journey to relate to and understand the devastating real-life effects of cancer. Sometimes, the game doesn’t let you win, but it does help you change.

That Dragon, Cancer
That Dragon, Cancer

It was also a new avenue for people who never even saw themselves as video game creators to become one, such as Christine Love, who used the Japanese game format of the visual novel to tell an innovative alterative history tale about the struggle of women living during the Chosen Dynasty in Korea.

On a technical level, the film is quite polished. And while the documentary segues into different topics, it still feels a tad manic in its exploration of the genre. If it is not conveying the development of one particular game and the personal development of its developer, it is jumping with little to no context on to the next theme or subject. As a result, we are watching the development of the Stanley Parable in the first five minutes, to the background of Soundself’s creation to theories regarding learning and development to the history of indie gaming to exploring games through narrative to Zoe Quinn to visual representations in games to Train Jam to sound editing.

As a result, I never usually get where the story transitions or whether there was a point being made in certain sections.

Nonetheless, the documentary is jam packed with information. The interviews and depictions of certain developers’ journeys are enthralling to watch. These developers are genuine people, with fears and hopes and want nothing but to express themselves through the medium and have their game played.

I tip my hat to the segment charting the journey of Australia’s own Armello. That particular segment was informative in how a small development team pushed to get their game seen at major conventions such as PAX using guerrilla marketing tactics.

It was particularly useful to also have the various challenges of indie game development addressed. From lack of funding (and sleep); to inappropriate marketing skills; to the great scourge of online harassment, we become privy to the tears of stress during game launch, to finding a spare square metre of space at a convention to promote a game.

It is notable that great tact was used to address the spectre of that weird movement that I-shan’t-dignify-with-its-name. It made no reference to the personal reasons for the vitriol between the parties involved.  But rather, painted a picture as to how damaging this kind of harassment is to nurturing an indie community, from discouraging people to create new games to how easily a game developer’s dream can become a personal and deeply intimate nightmare.  None of which is necessary, or particularly helpful to the genre, which takes diversity in storytelling, creative ideas and accessibility seriously.

One thing that the documentary highlighted is how intricately tied a game is to an indie developer’s self esteem. Many developers confessed to feeling ‘impostor syndrome’ on occasion when trying to promote their game, as if being an indie developer somehow made them fake or unworthy to show their talents to the world.

Again, indie game developers just want to hug and get hugs in return, and they really do. The documentary makes the indie gamer scene feel far more collaborative and self supportive than mainstream developing companies do.  Whether because of the lack of general corporate and business support that larger companies can access, or because indie gamers are much more lovable is up to the viewer to decide I suppose.

This documentary has packed a lot of themes and stories into one hour and a half, which, either because of jumpy editing or just through wealth of information, feels a tad longer. But it is hugely informative and you cannot help but feel a strong fondness towards the people featured in it. It is obvious that the documentary’s message is that Indie Games are becoming a genuine cultural movement, filled with a lot of heart and personality and that it is getting bigger. With all these developers also creating easier access to developer tools and creating cultural spaces where these new and diverse ideas can be explored, the rise of the Indie Game is inevitable. And while it doesn’t explore the possible future direction of these games, it certainly shares its hopes for more diverse story telling and exploration of new ways to experience games.

Gameloading: Rise of the Indies
Gameloading: Rise of the Indies

Call of Duty vs. Battlefield: How Gamers Ruin Both… and Gaming


article

Call of Duty vs. Battlefield: How Gamers Ruin Both… and Gaming

When competition ruins appreciation

by Michael Gilbert

© 2013 Michael Gilbert

BAttlefield-4-oxcgnAs gamers, we often come to establish what we think of a game based on our previous experiences.

This shooter is realistic because head shots kill people in one shot, this racer is awesome because my Camaro sounds really loud (just like Dad’s—for those of us with dads that have Camaros), this Mario game is fun because it makes funny sounds and I laughed my ass off (LMFAO for you more apt readers).

We also make comparisons based on games we did or didn’t like before.

Halo is better than Quake because the graphics are better, or, for a more ignorant comparison, World of Warcraft is the worst game ever “’cuz only nerds play that game. YOLO. Swagg.”

But what we fail to do is recognize the smaller accomplishments that actually construct a game’s ‘personality’, as I like to call it.

Something that comparing a game to another simply just can’t do.

Is competition ruining modern gaming?

Stephen Colbert Defends Violent Video Games


news_colbert violent games

Stephen Colbert Defends Violent Video Games

Because facts aren’t true enough

by Nicholas Laborde

©2013 Nicholas Laborde

stephen colbert oxcgnStephen Colbert is what I imagine as the definitive American.

For those who don’t really know who Colbert is, he’s an American political satirist and host of The Colbert Report, Comedy Central’s premiere “fake” (see: satirical) news program.

He invented a word (“truthiness”), has written multiple books, and has his own wax sculpture, among many other things.

In my opinion, he’s the funniest man on television. [Ed.: Nick may or may not have a crush on Stephen.]

Last night, while making fun of NRA (the National Rifle Association) head Wayne LaPierre‘s message before Congress several weeks ago about having armed guards in schools, Stephen spoke his mind on the matter… and it’s perfectly up to his standards.

Find out what Colbert said…

Assassin’s Creed 3 Pro-American Controversy: Ubisoft Marketing A Storm in a Boston Tea-Cup?


Assassin’s Creed 3 Pro-American Controversy

Ubisoft Marketing A Storm in a Boston Tea-Cup?

by David Hilton and Nicholas Laborde

© 2012 David Hilton and Nicholas Laborde

OXCGN is contributed to by a multicultural team of various nationalities and religious faiths and beliefs

This is for UK/Aus so why does it have a great big American flag?

The following is a debate between two hard-nosed Assassin’s Creed fans and students of history: Canadian-born Australian OXCGN Editor In Chief David Hilton takes on proud American OXCGN 2IC Nicholas Laborde.

The topic?

The ever controversial lack of ‘Americans’ getting killed by new assassin Connor in all the Assassin’s Creed 3 trailers and footage shown by Ubisoft.

As both participants are engaging in a debate, they may be exaggerating their true opinions.

We will be dealing with contentious historical perspectives, so if you are easily offended by this sort of debate, better turn away now.  Offence is not intended.

Assassin’s Creed 3 debate

DLC Done Right: Gears of War 3: RAAM’s Shadow


DLC Done Right: Gears of War 3: RAAM’s Shadow

Is ‘extra’ DLC content always a rort?

by David Hilton

© 2012 David Hilton

Downloadable content has had its fair share of criticism.  Most of that negativity is justified.

From pathetic ‘horse armour’ skins to on-disc content that is withheld until unlocked by payment, DLC is often used to extract more money out of gamers.

After all, prices are set and there is no competition.  Unlike hard copies of games you are stuck paying whatever the price point is; there is no shopping around.  Game of the Year editions are the only way out, which is why they are still popular, even for those who have already bought the game before.

Simply trade in your old copy and wait for a good price on the new edition.

It is also easy to get cynical about paying for a few extra multiplayer levels that look the same and play the same with a few extra weapons.

Notable games that actually offer some good multiplayer DLC content are rare, but they do exist: Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood and Modern Warfare 3 both offered diversity of new maps and gameplay.

When new DLC is announced for a game, for the most part I ignore it.

However, if there is one DLC product that might catch my attention it is additional single player or co-op story missions- but only if they offer something that feels new.

Gears of War 3: RAAM’s Shadow does that.  I may be late to the party, but I’m glad I found it.

DLC content: When is it worth it? here

Copycat Games: Is stealing gameplay ideas from others evolution?


Copycat Games

Is stealing gameplay ideas from others evolution?

by Daniel Geikowski

©2012 Daniel Geikowski
Evolution?

A little from Column A, and a little from Column B.

Originality in games has always been an important factor.

Originality allows a game to stand out from the crowd. Over time, games have tended to borrow elements or settings from other games, seemingly gaining inspiration from other titles.

This isn’t to say that games are blatantly copying elements or features from alternate titles, instead it can be argued that it is simply video games evolving. Elements and features are being reworked and refined over time, to suit the specific game’s style.

Is this game truly original?

Originality is far from dead.

New narratives and settings are being created all the time. However, almost anywhere you look nowadays, new games on the horizon contain some familiar features.

E3 this year demonstrated a lot of common elements , with few additions. Here are some strong examples of games ‘borrowing’ from others.

E3 games that ‘borrowed’ ideas here

Is The Arena Shooter Dead?


The Arena Shooter

Is it dead?

by exterminat

©2012 Nicholas Laborde

Part of progression is the simple act of moving on.

We live in a day and age where the past is continually being dwelled upon (see: the influx of HD re-releases), and we’re about to jump into the next cycle of video game technology with the imminent next generation of consoles and engines.

Something that constantly irks me, though, is of how one particular type of game seems to be breathing its last weak sighs; the arena shooter.

The modern mentality coupled with “everyone else is doing it” has led the Call of Duty franchise to momentous heights, and in my opinion, it’s hammering the final nail into the coffin of one of gaming’s most cherished pastimes.

Have shooters lost their way? Find out…

The Top Announcements We Want and Don’t Want at E3 2012


The Top Announcements of E3 2012

What We Want and Don’t Want

by exterminat

©2012 Nicholas Laborde

Ah, E3. The Electronic Entertainment Expo, gaming’s biggest event and easily the largest concentration of information throughout the year.

It’s in the air. Can you smell it? Feel it? Sense it? It’s right around the corner – in fact, from the time of this post, only thirty-seven days away – and this is when anticipation truly sets in and begins to build.

  • Will that hinted-at project be unveiled?
  • Will that sequel get announced?
  • Will that exclusive title go multiplatform?
  • Will Valve finally speak of Half-Life 2: Episode Three/Half-Life 3?
  • Will Star Wars: Battlefront III see the light of day?
  • Will Peter Molyneux claim his next title will cure cancer?
  • Will the new consoles be unveiled?
  • Will I have to sell my firstborn child to purchase said consoles?

It’s quite simply the most wonderful time of the year in the gaming scene, and everyone is ecstatic. But with every E3, there always comes the great anticipations, excitements and – of course – the disappointments and let downs. It’s a given with any E3.

OXCGN is proudly returning to the show floor to provide coverage like none other.

Until then, here are the top announcements we do and don’t want at E3 2012, in no particular order.

Is this the year that all our dreams come true? Read on to see!