Posts Tagged ‘BioShock Infinite’

tomb-raider

Jan 10

How 2013 was a pretty good year for video gaming women

Now that 2013 is finally over, it’s time to analyze a particular trend we’ve seen a lot in the last 12 months. Believe it or not, last year was pretty great for women in video games. They had leading roles and they managed to make their presence felt without looking too provocative. Don’t get this the wrong way; men are still ruling the industry, but to some extent it’s great that some developers paid more attention to a woman’s role as well in a video game.

Tom Raider was successful because it was led by a female

That’s right! Tom Raider might have had great mechanics, design, and visuals, but we have to admit that it attained success because it was operated by a female character-player. It was definitely a refreshing move and it brought an air of freshness to the whole gaming experience. Previous versions of the game were additionally based on a female character – namely Lara Croft – but this time the makers really managed to focus on other characteristics too, not just on the sexuality of the character-player.

Although the young Lara Croft we’re used to is definitely an appealing virtual female, her looks and general appearance haven’t overshadowed the most important aspects of the video game. She’s not getting any special treatments in the game and she’s not afraid to get stabbed or shot just to attain her goals.

Game developers have finally realized that female characters in video games can be sexy without looking too provocative. That’s exactly what the makers of Tom Raider did; they created a good-looking Lara Croft whose one tough character, but she doesn’t have to look too naked just to draw some attention.

“The Last of Us” “BioShock Infinite” and “Beyond”

We’ve grouped “The Last of Us” with “BioShock Infinite” because they use women the same way into the game. Some have catalogued these two as the best of 2013, and to some extent that’s true. Both Elizabeth and Ellie have a special connection to the male character as they’re successfully waiting to be rescued.

“BioShock Infinite” and “The Last of Us” are being led by male character-players and the way women are integrated into the gameplay converts them into assets and not liabilities males have to constantly keep safe. In BioShock, Elizabeth is perfectly capable of taking care of herself, so you don’t have to worry that her life is constantly in danger. As a matter of fact, at some point she will help you take down the bad guys.

In The Last of Us, you’ll be surprised to see how tough Ellie can be. She’s directly involved in the combat and she’s capable of taking down the bad guys by herself, without additional help. In spite of the fact that the women in these two games have to be rescued, they’re well-rounded characters able to fight back.

Beyond is a game you either hate or love. It is one of the most disruptive video games of the year that focuses its gameplay on a woman, played by real-life actress Ellen Page. Story-driven by an extremely intriguing plot, beyond centers on Jodie Holmes, and it’s up to you to decide if she lives or dies.

Some other notable games centered on the presence of female characters were Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag and Call of Duty: Ghosts. Their role was not that notable, but at least they were present and they didn’t have a provocative purpose in the games, which was surprisingly interesting. At last game developers have started to use female characters for different purposes in video games, and from what we’ve seen so far 2013 was definitely a great year for women in the virtual environment.

Nov 09

Randomness and Video Game Design

Randomness in games is a recipe for disaster. There are some games like snakes and ladders in which everything is random. The roll of the dice is random, the placement of both the snakes an ladders are random and the winner is random. The game requires no skill and has a level playing field. This is one of the reasons it is a great family game, as a child of four playing for the first time has just as much chance of winning as their experience father, who has played many times. However, if you are creating a game for those over the age of six then randomness should be kept to a minimum.

In most cases, games need set rules and laws to govern play. These rules allow players to learn and get better at the game. If you think of tennis for example, the rules are set and anyone can play. However, only those willing to put the effort in truly excel. If randomness is introduced players would not seek to become professionals as they could never truly control the game. In some cases, such as XCOM the randomness is introduced at the very beginning in the placement of the enemy aliens. This randomness works well as it changes the game from memorizing where the aliens are, to a more strategic game where the act of playing requires skill.

Games like the original Mario and Sonic games required the user to play the levels and memorise the layout in order to achieve the best outcome. Whilst fun, it left little playability after the levels had been completed. More recently, games have introduced additional elements to extend playability such as three different star achievements which are achieved when certain criteria is met. This feature does extend the game but only by a factor of three.

One such random occurrence in modern games is the infamous winged blue shell in Mario Kart. The blue shell is a power up given to the last place player and pretty much instantly, takes out the player in first place. The game itself is fantastic and has spawned a slew of clones but one thing that does stop it from being a fully playable game is the blue shell. I know it is part of a range of balancing measures to keep the game fun for all players but it ultimately punishes good players and those who have attempted to master the game. When you see gamers play Mario Kart at a competitive level you will notice that a tactic has emerged where played actively try NOT to be in first place and that by sitting in the middle of the pack is the best strategy when competing.

I don’t think I have explained myself fully here but the moral of the story is that if you intend your game to last, and tempt players to really invest time and effort in your game, then keep randomness to the absolute minimum. It will just turn players off and pigeon hole your game with many others in the ‘good fun for five minutes’ bracket and lose players who will follow and promote your game. Obviously, some exceptions to the rule exist but trust me; my logic is sound.

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