Games would like their own classy awards ceremony, please.

If you're like me, you've probably never seen a Superbowl game in its entirety, but the Oscars--now that's a live event that's worth spending a night in front of the TV for. Well, if that's the case and you are like me, then I can assume that you watched the 83rd annual Academy Awards ceremony last night. It was nothing out of the ordinary...actors, producers, writers, directors and so on all dressed up with their family members, big-name presenters, entertaining hosts, heartfelt speeches--the usual. Now, I'm not suggesting that the Oscars is a perfect example of what I believe an awards ceremony should be, but I would love to see something similar become a standard part of video game culture.

Sure, video games already have things like the Spike TV Video Game Awards and countless Game of the Year titles are declared every year, but I would like to see something a little more official and organized. Spike's VGAs are all fine and dandy, but for starters, rather than being chosen by people with experience in the industry, the winning games are voted on by the public. I have no problem with things like The People's Choice Awards, but it would be nice to see video games recognized in something other than a popularity contest. Aside from that, Spike is a network specifically geared towards men. I understand that gaming is still dominated by guys, but an awards ceremony hosted by an institution that is specifically trying to appeal to one gender seems a bit unproffesional. And last but not least, the Spike VGAs feature guests like...the cast of Jersey Shore. Snooki? Really?

I'm not sure if I would like to see a new organization rise to the occasion, or one that already exists take it to the next level, but I do know one thing: gamers deserve better than this.


Video Game Romances that I Love

For people who don't play games, it may be hard to believe what gamers have long-known: video games tell some of the best love stories you could ask for. In fact, romance has been a common theme in video games since the days of Pacman and his beloved Ms. Pacman. Personally, I find that games that successfully integrate a compelling love story are far more memorable, so I thought that in honor of the holiday, I would share some of my favorite video game romances with you all (contains spoilers).

Zidane and Garnet/Dagger from Final Fantasy IX
The romance between these two all starts when Zidane, who is part of a plot to steal Princess Garnet, bumps into her as she's attempting to make an escape from Alexandria, the kingdom over which her mother rules. As if drawn to each other by fate, Garnet agrees to let Zidane "kidnap" her so long as he and his band of thieves, Tantalus, assist her in getting to Lindblum to meet with Regent Cid who, as it turns out, was the person who hired Tantalus to kidnap her in the first place. Along their journey, they encounter many sinister foes and witness horrible destruction caused by said foes. This only fuels the involvement between Zidane and Garnet. Initially, Zidane's interest in Garnet is little more than one of his frequent displays of shallow womanizing, but as the two get to know each other and Garnet becomes "Dagger", her non-princess cover, Zidane's feelings for her turn into something more. At the realization that there's little chance of them hooking up with each other, he is left heartbroken, convinced that even if Dagger did love him in return, he would never be suitable for royalty. However, towards the end of the game, Zidane is believed to be dead and when the two are reunited some time later, they embrace their love for each other, making for a very happy ending.

Ico and Yorda from Ico
More innocent than most other game romances, perhaps, Ico and Yorda's is not only essential to their survival but a crucial gameplay element. Ico being a horned outcast and Yorda a strange, gentle sort of ghost, all they have is each other. Both characters are trying to escape from a large and haunted castle inhabited by Yorda's evil, shadowy, ghost queen of a mother and a host of other frightful specters that appear to be made of the same shadowy stuff as their queen. Both characters also possess unique abilities that compliment eachother's. For example, Yorda has supernatural powers that allow her to open certain magical doorways and Ico is strong and agile, able to push around large stone blocks and climb chains to solve puzzles. Ico literally holds Yorda's hand throughout most of the game in order to lead her through the castle and prevent her from being stolen away by the queens shadow monsters who are constantly pursuing the two. After a final showdown with the Yorda's mother, both Ico and Yorda escape the castle as it is turned to ruins and wake up together on a beach after.

The Prince and Farah from The Prince of Persia: Sands of Time trilogy
The unnamed Prince and Farah's relationship is similar to that of Ico and Yorda in that the two are alone in a world filled with fearsome monsters and depend on each other for survival. The Prince is handy with his sword and dagger while Farah is good with the bow. Farah can slip in through small openings to poke around on the other side, and the Prince can scale walls and swing from pole to pole. One of my favorite things about these two is their constant bickering throughout the games. Believe me, it's very entertaining. The Prince and Farah meet in the first SoT game when the Prince's kingdom is overthrowing hers. While this would normally make these two mortal enemies, they don't really have any choice other than to team up after the Sands of Time are unleashed and turn everyone else except the evil Vizier into sand monsters. During their journey to restore normality by reversing time, the two start to fall in love. They even take a bath together at one point. Sadly, at the end of the game, the Prince is forced to go back in time, erasing his relationship with Farah in addition to saving the day. However, he drops some hints before it's all said and done and the pair meet again in The Two Thrones.

Yuna and Tidus from Final Fantasy X (and X-2)
Yuna and Tidus's love story is one of the most popular of the series, and for good reason. These two star-crossed lovers are destined to save the world together, but in doing so, they must ultimately part from each other in a very permanent fashion. They initially meet after Tidus wakes up 1000 years in the future while Yuna's just beginning her pilgrimage to become a Summoner in the hopes of defeating the monsters known as Sin. This would be a very quick fix that would--as Tidus discovers later--take Yuna's life. For as long as anyone can remember, Summoners have repeated this process in order to grant brief, decade-long periods of peace between Sin's rebirths. From the start, the romance between the two isn't looking too bright. However, after some groundbreaking truths are revealed, plans are changed and things begin to look up for the couple. They get to thinking that there's a way to defeat Sin for good without sacrificing anyone's life. This is all good, but it's later revealed to Tidus that he isn't exactly "real", but rather, a dream of sorts that the Gods (called "the Fayth") came up with in order to put a stop to Sin. When that happens, the Fayth will stop dreaming and Tidus ceases to exist. Knowing this, Tidus continues with his mission and ultimately helps destroy Sin for good. Afterwards, Tidus leaves Yuna with a very touching goodbye and disappears, leaving Spira behind, finally at peace.

Sora and Kairi from the Kingdom Hearts series
What can I say? Square Enix is good at romance. Sora and Kairi, along with their friend, Riku, crave adventure. They build a raft together and while they're preparing to embark on their journey to other worlds, the two start to hint at their interest in each other. Unfortunately, before they get the opportunity to make anything of it, their world is overcome by Darkness and destroyed. However, before Sora is transported to another world, he encounters Kairi whose heart, rather than being taken by the Darkness, becomes one with Sora's, unbeknownst to him until much later. Seperated from his friends, Sora begins his journey not only to find them, but to save the worlds from the Heartless. Along the way, he encounters many obstacles and is filled with intense longing for Riku and Kairi. But Riku becomes jealous of Sora, who has been chosen as the Keyblade Master, as well as his relationship with Kairi, who, without her heart, has become "a lifeless puppet". By the end of the game, Sora battles a possessed Riku, sacrifices himself to restore Kairi's heart, and in turn is saved by her. Then, finally, he seals the door to Darkness, restoring peace to the worlds. After this is done, he finds Kairi on a patch of land that is slowly turning back into Destiny Islands. Separated from her, he reaches out and assures her that he'll come back to her. The two are finally reunited towards the end of the second game and all is well.

Well, there you have it. I would love to hear what your favorite video game love stories are in a comment below. Happy Valentine's Day, everyone.


Rift beta: initial thoughts

Last weekend, I participated in a beta event for Trion's upcoming MMORPG, Rift: Planes of Telara. If you've been keeping up with this blog since I first started it, then you'll probably recall one of my earliest posts, expressing my feelings about MMOs. Let's just say that I'm generally not too crazy about them. While I have a pretty good idea of what makes them appealing to a lot of people, games like WoW and Final Fantasy XI/XIV tend to lack practically everything that I find makes video games enjoyable for me. However, despite this, I am determined to continue to expose myself to the genre as it evolves and changes, in the hopes that I will find something that I like. This being the case, when I received an invitation to take part in the three-day beta event for Rift this past weekend, I gladly accepted. Afterall, at the very least, who doesn't like freebies?

Given everything that I had seen/read about the game, Rift actually piqued my interest somewhat. One of the central concepts of the game is that, in order to make things more exciting and less "same old, same old" for players, in places where the barrier between Telara and the other dimensions are weak, openings called rifts appear at random and unleash all sorts of fearsome creatures. This idea was a major plus for me. I have always found the typical MMO formula--accept quest, grind, grind, grind, complete quest, level up--to get old real fast. In addition to the rifts, the process of creating your character and determining his/her class emphases seemed like an improvement over that of other MMOs. And it is...kind of. Ultimately, from what I've experienced so far (about four or five hours of gameplay), Rift is essentially a more polished and somewhat more advanced version of World of Warcraft.

While it's very difficult for me to pick out any specific flaws with the game, I can't really say that it's anything special. Another typical MMO, really. Though, it seems to be one that many MMORPG fans are thoroughly enjoying. While I would not be so audacious as to suggest that Rift is likely to boot WoW off of its throne--a claim that many players are already making--there is no denying that Rift is striving to take the genre to the next level. The game's premise is actually semi-interesting, the soundtrack inspiring, the artwork and animations appealing, the characters unique, and so on. That being said, as someone who has a very difficult time getting into MMOs, I would not pay for this game, as its central design is the same as always with a few perks, here and there. However, for those of you who enjoy games like WoW but are looking for something new to delve into, I would definitely suggest giving Rift a try.

Rift: Planes of Telara is due to come out March 1st, this year. I'll play as much of the beta as I can before the game comes out, and if my opinion of it changes, I'll be sure to make an update in a later post.

Website: RIFT

Image property of Trion Worlds.