Battlefield Refined

Saturday, February 28, 2009
You might have seen Malech refer to me in his previous post (so awesome, by the way, and god I hope she got pictures of your face) when he brought up Warhawk. His text would have you infer that I like Warhawk.

This is not totally incorrect.

I fucking love Warhawk. It is, hands down, the best battlefield experience to be had on a console. Arguably, (meaning, I think this but you might bring up 1942 or some shit), the best battlefield experience anywhere.

So, that's why I'm here to tell you one simple thing:

Warhawk is awesome.

This is a fact--motherfucking science factamundo--that has, sadly, yet to permeate the 'culture'.

This isn't supposed to be a review. We here at Somnambulant Gamer know (and encourage) that you go elsewhere for such fare. I'm not trying to tell you that Warhawk is a nine or whatever. While yes, it is the sum of vast and dark lines of numbers and text, (or code, if you're going to be a dick about it), that is where its numerical existence ceases. It may not look like much, there, in the Playstation store. But like some ancient, malevolent tome, it practically crackles with dark energy. You can feel it in the room.

So, no, this isn't a little-girl rating. It transcends that fucking shit. This is the gift of enlightenment. Warhawk is awesome. There. Now you know.

It is awesome because:

It is vast.

When you spawn in Warhawk (at any base your team currently controls, which one is up to you), you are on foot. You start with two weapons and can pick up seven more. Or you can get in a jeep. Or a tank. Or a flak. Or a missile turret. Or a Warhawk--(a plane, retard). Or grab a jetpack or an APC or a dropship and pick up a tank and six of your friends and drop them into the enemy base.

There's a fucking bucketload of shit to do.
Even if you suck at killing people. You can capture bases, repair vehicles and turrets, and set mines. You can get first goddamn place without killing a soul. Shit; the game will give you an award for it.

And if you do like killing? Well, mis amigos, welcome to the motherfucking buffet.

In a jeep you can drive or man the turret, a la Halo. In a Tank you can drive and fire or man the hatch. That's right. Pop up out of that hatch with your machine gun and kill some motherfuckers. Or have your buddy drive and man the main turret while you hang out of the hatch with a fucking flamethrower. Yeah, just you try and stop me from getting that flag.

In a warhawk, there are an additional 9 plane-specific weapons; everything from lightning guns to swarm missiles to air mines to cloaking devices. Engage in dogfights, bomb the enemy base, or unleash the full wrath of your weaponry on some hapless enemy turd who just happens to be scurrying along there, in the wrong place at the wrong time. Sorry, old chum.

But wait...there's more!
Play any of Warhawk's...hold on, I actually have to count...six game modes, including the complex and super rad Hero and Collection modes. There are eight maps, each of which with the ability to break down into smaller maps that draw whole new tactics from teams and players. There are three goddamn expansions.

The best part, though?

Warhawk is accessible. Every other battlefield game I've played suffers from either shoddy controls, grating graphics, or a ridiculously steep learning curve. Warhawk is beautiful, with spot-on controls, and because of the innumerable things to do, you'll be getting kills your first round. Excellent map cues, clear visibility and extraordinarily intuitive controls help take the frustration out of what often plagues other online-only games--great players who kick your ass continually. There is a sublime amount to be learned; skills to be honed, weapons and vehicles to master; but you'll be actively helping your team towards victory on day one.

This really didn't mean to become a sales pitch, but I tire of seeing so many commenters on other gaming blogs wondering if this game is any good. There's no reason for a question like that to exist. Get Warhawk. Right now, it's $20, thanks to a Home-centric promotion to advertise the game's new 'command center' Home space; this thing has actual sandbox versions of the Warhawk stages, complete with miniatures, specifically for strategizing and game-launching.

So yeah. Warhawk, bitches.


It's Time

Tonight I sit typing my the light from my PS3. It came to me today in the form of a devious week long planned surprise. I was caught completely off guard by this surprise. Tax returns were hidden, I was rushed out of the house to run "errands" while the onyx machine was purchased and brought into the house.

Today has largely been spent downloading updates and games. We now own Pixel Junk: Eden, Warhawk (that's right Hiro) and Little Big Planet. I had no idea that I'd have to download so many updates for almost every game I have, each one a fairly sizable download. It doesn't really bother me either, It's just unexpected to see such PC-ish behavior from a console. It takes me back little.

I'm quite pleased with the games I've purchased so far. I've played both Little Big Planet and Warhawk before but Pixel Junk Eden is entirely new to me. It's beautiful to the point it makes my daughter go all goggle-eyed. It makes me happy to see so many artistic games a part of the PS3 repertoire.

I've always been fascinated by games like flOw and Pixel Junk Eden. Besides being great to look at, these games focus on a single often very simple concept. Often times, these concept games stick with me longer than most bigger games like your Halo's and your Killzone's might.

To focus on one concept for gameplay forces you to explore the rest of the game space to make the games more interesting, either by creating stunning visuals or perhaps by extrapolating all the various things you could do in the game that are associated with the core concept.

In a way this describes all games, but Games like flOw and Pixel Junk Eden are different in that they don't ever stray from the core concept. Every little action you preform in flOw is directly related to the consumption of your enemies, while Pixel junk Eden forces you to jump and swing everywhere you go.

I'd like to see more games like this hit the market. I think it's high time we started recognizing the simple beauties again. These are the only games I've played since the old cabinet days that have held my interest with such a basic premise. Simplicity is beautiful and if you don't believe me, download flOw, Flower, Echochrome or Pixel Junk Eden.


Tuesday, February 24, 2009
This week saw the release of a few very interesting pieces of downloadable content on Xbox Live. The map pack for Mirror's Edge, the Scorched Earth successor Death Tank, an interesting Alt-country pack on Rock band 2 and of course the Lost and the Damned, the first downloadable episode for GTA IV. Of these, I have snatched up all but the last, which must wait until certain funds have made their way into certain accounts.

The map pack for Mirror's Edge is a beautiful thing. Each map is an abstract playground, the core mechanics of the game laid bare. It's like being able to take a peek under the hood and see all the moving parts exactly as they are. This pack strips away all the crowded detail of city streets and rooftops and give us instead a polished, smooth, sometimes cubist interpretation of that same world. If you own Mirror's Edge already, get this map pack. If you don't have mirror's edge, now would be a good time to revitalize your interest.

When I was a young lad my parents bought a Packard Bell. My dad and I found a game called Scorched Earth on a game disc of the month club thingie. It was, for those of you that either were too young to remember or never played it, a simple tank game in which you fired across a random map at each other until one you died in a spray of pixellated debris. Between rounds you could purchase better weapons, armor, even magnetic shields to deflect incoming fire. It was glorious.

Death Tank is all those things in HD. On top of that, it's played in real time instead of turn based and you now have (at least some times) jump jets that allow you to fly drunkenly around the map. In all, it feels like a mix of Scorched Earth and Worms with all the turn based strategy removed in favor of an anarchic brawl. It's a blast. I would still prefer a turn based game, but the sheer chaos of the rounds fills me with that kind of glee you feel when your parents hand you your first fireworks.

The latest track pack for Rock Band 2 is the second of their country packs,fulfilling the first part of a promise to bring more genres of music to the series. This time around though, it's all Alternative country, a genre of country I barely knew existed until just a few years ago. The standout on the pack for me is Neko Case, who I've been listening to for a long time. While I can't say I'm a big fan of country music, there's something about the twangy sound of a steel guitar that grabs me.

It's a good week for downloading something. Next week I'll (hopefully) have had all the time I need to form some kind of coherent opinion of The Lost and the Damned. Stay tuned.

Riding Shotgun: Halo Wars Demo Impressions Part 2

Sunday, February 22, 2009
I couldn't shake a niggling skepticism, so I went ahead and bought Street Fighter IV instead of holding out for Halo Wars. I don't want to make it seem like I'll never pick up Halo Wars, but I probably won't when it first arrives in my local GameStop. Maybe a week later, depending on its reception. This was probably the best course of action for two reasons. 1) Street Fighter IV is simply a masterpiece, and 2) those vidocs (1, 2, 3 and 4) from Ensemble make the pitch of "we've captured the feel of Halo, and we did it in a RTS game!" way too conjugal for my tastes, as though they'd been sleeping with Bungie's hot wife, but now they merely feel that this relationship was "good while it lasted."

My problem with Halo Wars is that I can't get rid of this feeling that Ensemble made the game because they were told to, not because they thought it was a good idea. And, although they have professed--in those aforementioned vidocs--their enthusiasm with the game's mechanics, their final product, and so on, it seems like the mere need to continually tell me that they've nailed the gameplay makes me question the game demo that I'd played for more than 12 hours. Perhaps with the recent disassembling of Ensemble, they wanted to get a last word? In any case, their once sweet translation of the Halo franchise has turned bittersweet on my palate.

But I like what I've played. And I don't want to dismiss the game entirely.

I especially like the promise of the full game. 2 on 2 and 3 on 3 battles sound like a lot of fun, and I can imagine different combinations of leaders in multi-player skirmishes as the true heart of the game. Ensemble has gone on record in vidoc to show the world the amazing ability to share money in Halo Wars. I'm not sure it's as important an inclusion as they make it out to be--it's been done before--but I'm glad they were trying to mix it up a little.

After spending tons of time with the demo, I feel there are definitely unique features in Halo Wars. I love the Unique units and the hero powers, and I can't wait to see how players come to exploit these features in the finished game. The variations in build-order are going to allow a kind of technique that tournament play usually hinges on. For instance, a quick factory can get you higher tech, but more supply pads can get you more entry-level units to help you expand early on--this, of course, can affect your late-game potential.

I like that units have different kinds of counters, but there seem to be too many kinds of units, in my opinion. This highlights a problem I have with most of Ensemble's games (except Age of Mythology), too many units cause techs to be too broad and ephemeral for a RTS. And it's not entirely evident what units are better than what other units. The game doesn't give you the hit points, the damage, and the armor of any of these units, so you just have to guess what beats what, satiated by their vapid definition of "works well against infantry." I don't even want to guess what deep hellish canyons these folks over at Halo Wars Heaven had to go through to get some of the stats for these units, and they only have about 4 completed.

Hellish indeed.

Temporal Accuracy

Friday, February 20, 2009
Time to tread the waters of World at War a second time as we examine a interesting peculiarity. As I work my way through the ranks online I'm noticing more and more that I'm suddenly and without apparent reason, a much better shot in this game. It may be the Call of Duty feel I'm so used to, it may be a product of the game engine itself, but I have a hunch it's something else.

Long ago, before the Xbox existed, before Call of Duty was a twinkle in Activision's eye, I was playing a WWII shooter on my playstation. The first shooter I ever played on a console, Medal of Honor was the game that solidified my love of the genre and became the first game I truly mastered. I could throw a grenade from almost anywhere on the map and land it with pinpoint accuracy almost anywhere else.

It was here that I hoed my snipping skills to perfection. Medal of Honor filled countless hours of my free time and I dedicated myself to achieving a kill with every shot I fired.

This, I believe, is the reason I am much more accurate in World at War than I am in even Halo. I'm familiar with the iron sights on an M1, I know the kick of a Springfield rifle. I believe, or at least I want to believe that my familiarity with these weapons is an actual advantage online.

Am I wrong? Probably. It's more likely to be some product of my time spent online with Call of Duty 4. It's even more likely that the game itself gives you more of a boost when you're aiming, but somewhere in the dark corners of my mind I'll wonder.

Ah, but we forget, this hypothesis can be tested. After all that's what Hypotheses are for. So, let the games begin. I'll play five rounds of both CoD4 and WaW, gather the average kills per round and see what we come up with. Go, science!

Okay,I did my best to work with comparable weapon loadouts between the two; M-4 for CoD4 and the Gehwer for WaW. In five rounds of CoD4 I averaged about 8 kills per match. Compare that to the five rounds of World at War and my average of 12 kills per round. Interesting

Perhaps there is something to my theory of temporal accuracy. Maybe the fact that I shoot a little straighter is a product of all those hours spent with Medal of Honor. And my parents said I was wasting my time.

Back in WWII...

Monday, February 16, 2009
I picked up Call of Duty: World at War the other day. I figured it's gotten decent enough reviews and finally has that co-op I have so craved. I had my doubts about going back to World War II yet again. As fun as it is to play in that setting it's been done to death. Yet, Treyarch have managed to cobble together a pretty decent game that still feels fresh despite re-treading old ground.

It accomplishes this in two ways, first by taking the player to the lesser explored regions of the war, the pacific and eastern theatres. It makes these two regions the focal points of the game and goes places within them that few others have gone. The final mission of the game has you capturing the Reichstag in Berlin with the Red Army. When I saw the first mission on the eastern front opening in Stalin rad I thought I was in for a serious disappointment. When the next soviet mission had me sweeping the Russian countryside for a fleeing column of German soldiers from the back of a T-34, I peed a little.

The locations aren't the only difference in all of this though. Treyarch made their enemies more than mindless bullet sponges. The way they move, the way they're textured and the way they look puts an all too human element into the enemies. Anyone who knows me understands it's hard for me to get too upset about shooting Nazis in a video game. But after playing through some of the later soviet missions I felt ashamed of myself and my morbid fascination with this part of the war.

The Japanese soldiers and their tactics truly scared the crap out of me while I was playing. Walking through what seemed to be an empty field is suddenly filled with enemy soldiers, all of them bearing down on you at full speed. I don't even want to begin talking about those dark claustrophobic tunnels. *shudder*

Treyarch really had it's work cut out for them with World at War. Call of Duty 4 shifted the focus away from WWII and was lauded for it. To suddenly go back to the old formula and still make the average gamer give a damn was no small task. They made a smart move incorporating the Experience system into their multiplayer. It was such a key part of Cal of Duty 4, it would have been disastrous not to.

Kudos to the folks at Treyarch. I didn't think I could ever like another WWII game . I didn't think I'd ever feel guilt over my actions in a shooter. You've proven me wrong on both counts today, and I salute you for it.

More on World at war to come...

We can haz Video!

Saturday, February 14, 2009
Here it is ladies and gents, our first video. It's up on youtube as well as here, tell your friends and there may be more.

Riding Shotgun: Halo Wars Demo Impressions Part 1

Thursday, February 12, 2009
I'm not sure what to think about Halo Wars. I know, what gives right? It's Halo plus WAR. That should, out of all logical combinations, guarantee satisfaction. But Halo Wars, by recently dissassembled internal Microsoft developer Ensemble Studios, has an uphill battle ahead of it. With the variable success rate of RTS games on consoles--I'm looking your way Tom Clancy's EndWar and Command and Conquer 3 and various offshoots--Microsoft and Ensemble hope the biggest name brand in digital entertainment might impact, at the very least compensate, for the dumbing down done to strategy games in transition from the desk to the couch. They're hoping, but I'm skeptical they can pull it off.

But I'm hoping they can do it.

There's no doubt in my mind that Ensemble knows strategy games. This is the developer of such high-profile, critically lauded games as Age of Empires I, II, III, games I've spent a great deal of time with, games that capture the magic of history and the depth a strategy game should have. Where else can you see a horde of tutonic knights storming gates guarded by trebuchets and Japanese Samurai?

Halo Wars has an essence that Ensemble is known for capturing. Their cunning employ of clustered bases for simplicity, natural expansions, and simplified resource gathering (managed only by the construction of specific buildings at your base; resources are accrued incrementally) play to the strengths of the console experience without making navigation and micro management a trial of patience. If anyone could have navigated this complicated translation, it was Ensemble.

Simplification is the word we're looking for. Building units is simple, without being automated. A radial unit build menu pops up when you select a barracks or a factory, and from here gamers can queue and cancel unit construction and upgrades, or recycle the building in order to build another. Part of the game's strategy, apart from building units and attacking the enemy, seems to be the management of the limited space allowed at each base.

The UNSC, the humans, tech at a much slower pace than the Covenant and have the ability to construct multiple "reactors" (each, principally, gives one tech level) in order to get the required tech level. Balancing how many reactors you have with how many supply depots you have (for more resources), and that's not including miltary buildings so you construct foot soldiers (marines, flamethrowers, spartans, etc.), vehicles (such as scorpions), or air units (vultures). A great deal of strategy seems to be in the order of building construction and recycle. Getting that right unit to counter the air units becomes extremely important in the mid-game.

The Covenant, that I wanted to enjoy playing more than I perhaps did, seem to be a mishmash of the Protoss and Zerg from Blizzard's Starcraft. They utilize lots of small, weak units, but also have a propensity toward shields, which lengthen their lives and keep their buildings up. Like the Protoss they warp in their buildings, but like the Zerg they tend to work best in large masses. The Covenant play a lot differently than the UNSC, because they have the ability to get ground and air vehicles right from the start. To counter this, the UNSC have Spartans (limited to 3) which can jack vehicles, just like in Halo 2 and 3. Spartans aren't too difficult to pick out of a group, so you can usually group-fire at them and keep them from stripping you of your bigger units.

In this way micro management can play a decent role in battles. Halo Wars definitely rewards the player that pays attention to his/her units.

What I'm really concerned about with regards to Halo Wars are the win conditions and fighting mechanics. Individual battles generally favor those who have more units, or better units, as opposed to who strategized best. Frequently, attempting initial rushes (within the first 3 minutes of gameplay) usually results in being overrun by enemies moments after. And once you surround an opponent's base, it's all but impossible (at least in 1v1) for the defending player to really keep you from hammering away, and eventually killing it. The only way to halt an offensive player seems to be by counterattack at the opponent's main, hoping they pull their units away in time for you to regroup.

This oddity is particularly due to the base layout, a bunch of bunkers arranged around a central command center or citadel. The trademark radial style fits with the game's aesthetic, but it eliminates base defense in the traditional sense of RTS games. (You do have the option of building 4 turrets at the main base, and upgrading them.) All units are built through that central command center and rally right in front of it. It's, therefore, easy to contain a base by positioning multiple anti-infantry/anti-vehicle units right in front of the command center.

There are a few things that I'm really worried about.

I'm worried gamers won't feel the game has enough legs, enough of that je ne se qois, enough of that Halo feeling, to warrant a purchase; I'm worried strategy will come down to who can react fast enough by recycling a barracks and building a bunch of vehicles to counter whatever it is stinging your war-torn ego; I'm worried the law of diminishing returns prohibits us from having too much a good thing, and that Halo--fun as it is--will not be enough to keep this RTS afloat; I'm worried that the game is too simple and insipid at times, relying on Zizekian, button-press satisfaction (the dial system/the selection system) in a genre that already functions on buttons and nobs; I'm woried that the game takes the strategy out of Real Time Strategy. As it is, with the data I've got in my Xbox 360, I feel like I'm only riding shotgun in a Warthog that I'd rather be driving. Is this the nature of RTS on consoles?

I'm hoping that online, against other players, Halo Wars' strategy will really shine. In the demo, it's pretty easy to best a Heroic AI.

Of course, this is just a demo. I can't see into the future. And I can merely sip of Halo Wars' intoxicating liquid. At this point, I'm not yet drunk on it. There are too many questions lingering in the back of my mind. Will the game allow bigger struggles over greater distances than the small map given in the demo? How will the other leaders play out? What role will the Flood play in the story? How will 3v3 games feel, and will there be a metagame in Halo Wars worth considering--which factions and leaders will be the most favored?

More impressions to come.

On the Rainslick Precipice of Purchase

Tuesday, February 10, 2009
Like many of us, I will be securing a tidy sum from my tax returns this year. And with said money I will finally be purchasing a PS3. I've talked about it before, even had the thing in my hands at the checkout stand and every time I've changed my mind.

The cost is the greatest barrier to my purchase, obviously, More than that though, I've until recently, had trouble justifying the purchase with the game lineup to offer. It's always been my policy to not buy a console unless I can think of at least five games I absolutely must have. Until just this last year, I couldn't fill that list.

It's no fault of Sony or the console itself, they've just been unlucky. So far, only a handful of the games they offer really grab me, and most that do I already have for my 360. Those that are left however, are really great. Uncharted, Little Big Planet, Metal Gear Solid 4, Wipeout: Fusion and Warhawk are all games I have played and loved the dickens out of.

I don't think I'm the only one that was waiting for a great lineup to buy a PS3. A lot of people I know would love to own a PS3 but are waiting for this game or that game.

A few people out there have said that Killzone 2 is the game that will carry the PS3 through these troubled days. Honestly, I've been glad that so many of the really great PS3 games haven't been shooters. The market has such a glut of them these days, it's hard to tell where one space marine stops an another starts.

I didn't need Killzone 2 to get me through the door, I was already there, fumbling with the knob. Doubtlessly, in today's game market, shooters rule the day, and a solid exclusive shooter can take a console long way. It happened with Halo, and to a lesser extent with Gears of War for Microsoft. Maybe Killzone will do the same for Sony. At any rate, I'll be too busy building my LittleBigCthulhu to care.

I Weep for our kind

Tuesday, February 3, 2009
I just wanted to cast an accusatory shaky finger at all those non-reading gamers out there. You've made us cry! Are you happy now? Now that you've dimmed our hopes, smashed our expectations and crushed our hearts.

At the risk of sounding lie the creaky jointed old man I am, I remember more books than games in my youth. Even now, when I go on a trip I pack my books before the DS.

Really though people, just read a fucking book! Let's be honest, you don't really think of RPG's as interactive novels, you consider them an easy excuse. If you did really consider them interactive novels, it might explain your choice of actual books.

Let me shed some luminous truth on your stunted little heads. Not all novel plots involve amnesia/mistaken identity and destiny in far off fantastical destinations. You'd know that well if you ventured away from your standard RPG for something a little more meaty.

You like survival horror? Read some damn Lovecraft! Every horror author and game designer has all but stolen their material from him since the 50's.

You read these posts, you read Kotaku (likely far more than you read these posts) you can read a decent book. These words are not grass fed domesticated creatures no more than those outside our meager walls are feral beasts that hunger for your tender neck meats.

You want vampires? Put down Twilight and read fucking Dracula! You want adventure? Read some Kipling! You love your shooters? Read anything by Stephen Ambrose! Question mark? Exclamation point!

It's time we took matters into our own hands. What's the bst book I read last year? At the Mountains of Madness, by Lovecraft followed closely by Gentlemen of the Road, by Michael Chabon. Hiro, fellow readers, how about you?

What it's all about

The Xbox has found it's way back into our home. It's soft green glow once again lights the entertainment center. The sound of it's fan soothes me to sleep at night and I dream of Fallout 3 and Prince of Persia. Or do I?

As soon as the Xbox was hooked up, my wife and I were on it, shuffling about in Rock Band 2. I had owned the game since Christmas and had yet to play it. No surprises, we love it and play it often. That same day we plucked on our plastic insturments, I downloaded a bevy of new content from Xbox Live, hoping to catch up on all I'd missed.

On a whim I downloaded Castle Crashers, an older game by the standards of the Maw and Rock Band 2, and certainly not the powerhouse that Fallout 3 or Far Cry 2 are, just a straightforward brawler with goofy, Johnen Vasquez-ish art stylings. Why then has this little game occupied my every waking thought ever since?

First off, because it's been there for a while, it feels more like a kind of discovery. It's something I didn't expect to enjoy. Like that first tentative bite of a new food, Castle Crashers was an iffy purchase at best but now I can hardly get myself to play anything else.

As far as content goes, Castle Crashers has loads of unlockable characters, weapons and entirely too adorable animal orbs to collect throughout your travels. Personal favorite: Pazzo the fox-dog thing.

The clincher for Castle Crasher's is the multiplayer. The comedic style of the game combined with the simplicity of the gameplay make it a great party game to have as just about anyone can pick it up.

Now I dream of higher levels, lightning and my wife's cat-bat-demon-fish-dragon thing and it's deadly lollipop. I will unlock every character, I will find every weapon and I will recover every animal. I want to do it all, but what will I do once I have?

Wait for another content pack.

Today, I Am Ashamed to be Called a Gamer

Monday, February 2, 2009
Today, for the first time in my life, I am ashamed to be called a gamer. When I consider the term applied to me, my initial reaction is something akin to

"Hey now, whoa, not so fast--don't include me with those guys."

But perhaps I shouldn't begin in media res.

The 'action', as it were, began a short while ago, browsing Kotaku.

Now, I have long been aware that our breed permeates the internet. The dirty, dark basements of the web are home to our ilk; And I know there is a certain, disturbing amount of overlap between gaming and such things as tentacle fetishism, hermitism and what can only be described as intrinsic social awkwardness. And I know that it is because of these things and the people who love them that gaming has its--shall we say, fringe members who may not hold the values of the more 'traditional' game nerd. Or maybe it has nothing to do with them. It could be the people whom gaming has suddenly invited in with open arms. Or, probably, it's none of them--they're all gamers, in their own right. Perhaps this is all the sudden, bitter flavor of my own naivete. The point is this: I simply didn't expect to see what I witenessed today.

The headline read: "Now the Hell Will Start". How appropriate.

In the article, his holiness Brian Ashcraft described his busy schedule and how he managed to make time for books last year. Now the Hell Will Start was his favorite book of 2008. At the end of the note, he queried the readership. "What was the best book you read in 2008?"

Paraphrased responses I expected:

"I really liked Fantasy/Scifi book X. It was fun."
"I loved Pop Culture phenomenon Z. So did my Dad!"

etc. There were few of these, at any rate.

Far more, and far more bile-inducing, were these paraphrased responses I didn't expect:

"I didn't read at all in 2008"
"I only read manga XD"
"I consider RPGs interactive novels, so Crisis Core was the best book I read last year."
"I wish they'd start using voice actors more so I didn't have to read so much."

Gamers! What the fuck, guys?! We're the ones who read, remember?! We're the nerds! We're the ones who revel in Tolkien and debate over whether Star Wars books should be canon!

I'm not going to go all 'back in my day' on your asses, but seriously--I thought that we were the ones who helped uphold noble literary traditions. We were the ones who stood up when someone proclaimed that "reading is stupid".

I don't know. With the advent of the Wii, the inclusion of more gamers into our culture, the explosion of technology...I've been nervous that gaming will change. That gamers will change.

Maybe I'm completely wrong.

But maybe we already have.