Reviewer Rodeo: Game Shapers

Welcome to the ZTGD Reviewer Rodeo. Each week, we’ll grab on to the hottest issue, hold on for dear life, and wrassle it to the ground. Are there some games you believe shaped you into the player you are now? If so, what are they and what features do you look for in a game?

Kelsey “rinelk” Rinella
Ascension: Chronicle of the Godslayer for iOS has taught me a ton about mobile gaming. I never really understood before why people wanted games which fit nicely into short periods. It was obvious that this was often all the time they had, but I didn’t grasp why they wouldn’t prefer to use that time to play small chunks of a longer, more satisfying game. The role of short-term memory in keeping track of what’s going on in Ascension is substantial, however, so it’s much harder to play well after an interruption. The avoidance of tasks to which our memories are poorly suited makes much more sense to me now, and is very much something I look for in a game.

I also really like rotating constraints on authorship of outcomes. A game which allowed me to do whatever I liked would present no challenge and would always be the same. One which provided a static set of obstacles would be more of a puzzle, solved once and then of little interest. On the far end, one which either gave me no opportunity to implement an informed decision or prevented all such decisions from affecting the outcome would simply mock my role as a player. I require a game which allows me to feel as though I typically own my results without allowing me unchecked discretion.

This has even clarified my understanding of free choice in life more generally, in that I now think that having a choice isn’t enough. For example, if I get to choose which door I go through, knowing that one leads to certain death and the other leads to riches, but with no information about which is which, I am no more free than if the outcome were decided by coin toss. If these doors were knowably accurately labeled, my choice would be meaningfully free (but so easy as to be uninteresting in a game)

Matt “Lotus9” Quinn
It’s not easy choosing a specific game that influenced my gaming predilections. There are so many firsts that birthed gameplay mechanics and spawned whole genres. Many of these firsts have been accumulated into the DNA of games, becoming essential components of modern gaming. 3D games (not the glasses-requiring kind), platforming, cinematic presentation, RPG elements; these play a role in so many games that I enjoy today and can be traced back to their roots.

Since positive influences continue to snowball, I’ll restrict my thoughts a bit. If I had to pick one game that showed me something I don’t want to see, it would have to be Resident Evil 4. Now, don’t get me wrong. Resident Evil 4 is a great game, and I’ve beaten it multiple times. However, RE4 marked a clear break from the style and overall vision of the first three games. The over the shoulder aiming and action/horror gameplay could be held up as positives influences on gaming or on the survival horror genre. Capcom certainly thinks so, and RE5 is a clear evolution of those ideas, where action has been emphasized over the survival horror of yesteryear. The source of tension and scares in the series has changed with the style of the game. It isn’t necessarily better or worse, just different.

While I wouldn’t want to see action stripped from other game series, Resident Evil was such a big part of driving me towards gaming for good, it saddens me a bit to see how it has changed, most notably starting with RE4. There’s always a chance that RE6 may fill the void left by the previous two iterations, or that some other series will replace that hole in my gaming habits. But as of today, it has been seven years since RE4 came out, and I’m still waiting.

Drew “FrustratedFury” Leachman
If I had to single out some games that have shaped my way of playing and my choices of games, it would have to be divided into certain genres. I’ve always been a big role playing game player. I would be lying if I said that the Final Fantasy series didn’t help shape the love I have for RPGs. The stat tracking, level progression and story telling really hooked me, and I always look for those traits when the newest RPG releases. Don’t get me wrong, games like Dragon Age and Mass Effect have turned me to the hybrid RPG games that have taken over the genre, but my very firsts will always be the Japanese hardcore games.

The first type I ever got into “hardcore” was fighting games. Everyone can probably guess what game I’m about to mention, but I have to name it nonetheless. Street Fighter II will always be the game that brought fighting games into my life and they’ve never really left. I can’t even begin to imagine how many hours (and quarters) I lost into my local arcade back in the day. It was the first game I had ever played that had me looking forward to my next opponent. The way you made your character your own by choosing how to you wanted to play with the options seemed endless.

I used to be a big first person shooter player a good four years ago, and I have to say Call of Duty 2 was the game that turned me into an FPS junkie. Sure, I played other ones before that game, but COD2 was the title that really introduced me to online competitive play. I played every night, and became very good. I even went to every midnight launch for Call of Duty games up until Modern Warfare 2. As much grief I give the COD franchise, it does an amazing job with competitive play, and when I’m looking for a game for online enjoyment, I use that series as the bar setter.

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