Video Game Blogs

Format Mag recently worked with Pushing Play to speak with representatives from five leading video gaming blogs (Destructoid, N4G, Videogamer, Joystiq, and That VideoGame Blog) to get a better idea of what people really think about the culture of gaming as it relates to art and fashion. From in-depth to trival (mostly trivial), we posted questions that would hopefully get tongues wagging; and boy did we ever open a can of worms. Check out the compiled answers below, hopefully the comments provided will give you, our valued reader, some novel insights into the world of hardcore gaming!

Format: How did your site get started and what was your big break?
Tom Orry (Videogamer): At University I met site co-owner Adam McCann. He was working on an online gaming focused site at the time. I got involved and the two of us decided to push it forward as a multi-format editorial site. We launched with the name Pro-G but re-branded to late in 2007.

Nick Chester (Destructoid): I started writing for Destructoid late 2006, after my wife pushed me into it. She figured I spent enough time on the Internet as it was, so why not make a career out of it? But I didn’t start Destructoid — that honor goes to the passionate, brilliant, and crazy Yanier ‘Niero’ Gonzalez. He started the site as a ruse to get into E3 2006; it worked, and now we keep getting invited back, despite any trouble we might cause.

Ken McKown (N4G): N4G started off as three separate sites focusing on each console exclusively. The idea was to create a site that could be driven by community content. After a few months everything began taking off and things became too hectic to keep in several places so we decided to merge them all into one large community. N4G was born and became the hub across the web for all things media… The reason the N4G Network is so successful is because it is entirely driven by our community and we try to give the fans exactly what they want without implementing too many restrictions.

Justin McElroy (Joystiq): We launched way back in June of 2004, sort of as a spin-off blog from Engadget, which is consumer electronics focused. I wouldn’t say that we’ve had a ‘big break’ so much as just continuing to produce consistent, quality coverage for an audience that continues to grow and return to the site.

Matthew Razak (That VideoGame Blog): A fellow named Rain Anderson founded the site a while back for reasons of his own but pertaining to liking videogames and also being awesome at making websites. I think the ‘big break’ actually came right before I signed on with an interview with an ex Xbox executive. Quotes from that interview were picked up by pretty much every gaming site out there, small and large, and was even covered by Yahoo News. Obviously that garnered us a lot of traffic and got people really excited about the site in general.

Format: What’s the difference between an art game and a game with good art?
Tom Orry: My personal opinion is that an ‘arty’ game is something that goes out of its way to have a unique, unconventional look — it will be unlike almost every other game on the market and appeal to a fairly small, hardcore group of gamers. A game with good art is simply that — something that nails its intended look. Fable II is a recent example of a game with exceptional art design. I wouldn’t say it was an arty game, but it captures the fairy tale feel perfectly.

Ken McKown: An art game is something that stands out for its aesthetic beauty or complexity in design. Good examples of this would be Braid or Okami. Good art can be anything that stands out in a game such as the architecture in a say Gears of War or the fact that no two houses in a Zelda game are identical. Good art in games are the minor details that really stand out and make you appreciate the nuances developers take time to put in there.

Justin McElroy: I think it’s the same difference between a sculpture and a building. Though a building/game can be aesthetically pleasing, an art game/sculpture is using its very structure to produce some kind of reaction. If you’ll notice, most ‘art games’ don’t have the best graphics, much like sculpture doesn’t necessarily have to be aesthetically beautiful. And, you know, bad graphics are cheaper.

Format: Between 2D and 3D art, what is more conducive to artistic games and why?
Nick Chester: You need to take this on a case-by-case basis, as it really depends on both the eye of the viewer and the artist behind the work. There’s just as much artistry in creating impressive 3D models and worlds as there is in designing hand-drawn sprites; I think a lot of people forget how much work and subtly goes into bringing 3D worlds to life. In terms of ‘artistic’ games, both are totally viable for bringing a vision to life; it depends on how you use the tools.

Justin McElroy: I think if I had to pick one, I’d have to say 2D, because most art games have been designed to provide a certain experience. Removing an axis of movement could only help to give more control to the artist.

Ken McKown: It really depends on the game honestly. Personally I find 2D art to be more appealing because of the level of detail possible with it. Take a game such as Guilty Gear that has incredible animations and the characters seemingly come to life on the screen. 3D games are becoming more and more capable of doing this as we have seen with such upcoming titles as Heavy Rain which demonstrates actual emotion on the faces of our in-game avatar.

Format: To what extent do graphics matter in gaming?
Tom Orry: No matter what people say, graphics matter an awful lot. Gaming is about having experiences and part of that experience is what you see. Visuals aren’t the most important thing, but there’s no question that impressive graphics help draw you in to the experience. It’s no coincidence that nearly all of the best games ever made have had incredible visuals at the time of their release.

Nick Chester: Again, it depends on the game and the developer’s intent. Something like the updated Xbox LIVE Pac-Man Championship Edition could have been just as addictive and effective with old-school-style sprites. But it would be hard to argue that the emotional impact of a game like Call of Duty: World at War wouldn’t be diminished if it weren’t for its spectacular lighting and other effects.

Justin McElroy: Good graphics are like a designer suit. They’re important for getting you in the door, but if you’re an absolute dullard, you’re going to end up right back on the street. Good gameplay can survive without high-end graphics, but it doesn’t work the other way around.

Format: To what extent does your passion for gaming affect the way you dress?
Nick Chester: Are you talking about the sweet Bionic Commando shirt I’m wearing right now under this hoodie? That’s Capcom’s fault for giving it to me! I guess I’m more inclined to wear a slick-looking videogame t-shirt than a non-gamer would, but I’d like to think I haven’t lost my fashion sense. There’s such a thing as overkill, and the chances of catching me wearing a glow-in-the-dark Super Metroid t-shirt are slim. Although if you know where I can get one …

Matthew Razak: Phew, back to the simple questions. The only way my passion for gaming affects the way I dress is by the fact that I have some shirts that are related to gaming. It hasn’t made me sloppier or messier and if I do say so myself I’m a very good dresser. I game, I represent, but it doesn’t dominate my wardrobe.

Ken McKown: I am embarrassed to say that I own more than my fair share of gaming paraphernalia. This is my hobby and I love to express that with t-shirts and hats and even hoodies. It seems to have become trendy in this day and age to wear the mushroom t-shirts and NES pad belt buckles, but I don’t sport them to fit in, I simply do it for the same reason sports fans wear their favorite team jersey or the same reason people wear concert t-shirts of their favorite band. It is just a large part of my life and I like to express it.

Format: Do gamers have a ‘look’?
Tom Orry: I don’t think so. Gamers are just normal people that like games. Movie-goers, music lovers and book readers don’t have a ‘look’ and neither do gamers. Of course, extreme fans might take things too far from time to time in the pursuit to resemble their gaming idols, but this is just a small minority.

Nick Chester: 20 years ago, I could have answered this question with a yes, without hesitation. Today, with the broad appeal of games, the line has been blurred a bit. There are definitely some gamers that fit a stereotype, but that’s not even the norm anymore. Recently, actress Mila Kunis was on Jimmy Kimmel rambling about her World of Warcraft addiction, going into great detail about guilds and raids. This gives me hope for my future as a Maxim cover model. 

Justin McElroy: I used to think so. Now, such a large portion of the populace is gaming, I don’t think you can define them that way anymore.

Ken McKown: If you had asked me that question five years ago I would have said yes, but nowadays it seems that it is nearly impossible to spot a gamer. With the popularity of the Wii, Grand Theft Auto, Madden and Guitar Hero I seriously don’t know anyone who isn’t a gamer anymore. Sure some people will argue the whole hardcore versus casual, but to be honest anyone who can sit down and jam out to some Rock Band is a gamer in my book.

Format: If you could makeover a video game character, who would it be and why?
Tomy Orry: Gordon Freeman from Half-Life. He needs to grow out his beard and start wearing a Top hat and cape. He’s too generic looking at the moment. You might be able to work out that I’m not overly fashion savvy.

Ken McKown: This is an interesting question, but I will take a shot at it. If I had to give a make over it would have to go to Link from the Legend of Zelda. I guess it is hard for me to buy his bad boy mentality when he wears tights. Perhaps give him some sweet gauntlets and a scar across his face to show his battle-worn face. Then give him a sweet tri-force tattoo and a trench coat.

Justin McElroy: I’d have to say every lead character from every Japanese RPG ever. Please son, cut that hair, you’re supposed to be saving the world, not manning “The Cure” fan club table at the state fair.

Nick Chester: Devil May Cry’s Dante has an over-the-top look that has always bugged me. Long, red-leather trench coats; big, teased white-hair; flashy jewelry. He’s fit right strolling the streets of Harajuku, but I think he needs to dial it back a bit, and spend less time trawling malls for Hot Topic clearance items. Maybe a nice sweater-vest or a cardigan for his next outing. Just please, enough with the red leather jackets. 

Matthew Razak: Sonic, Sonic, Sonic! The poor blue hedgehog has gone from being one of the most badass characters in gaming to a parody of himself. He used to be cool and now he’s just lame. He hasn’t updated since he was created and looks like a joke next to more modern game characters no matter how child directed they seem. I’d love to have Sonic get a total makeover that improves his character (and his games) a bit. Hopefully the upcoming Sonic Unleashed will deal with a few of his current problems.

Format: What console had the best brand image and why?
Nick Chester: Sony transformed a culture and defined our current era of videogames — and who’s willing to admit in public that they play them — with the PlayStation brand. Particularly with the launch of the PS One, Sony made it ‘cool’ to play.

Ken McKown: I don’t think any company has a better image amongst a more variety of gamers than Nintendo. Think about it, when you talk gaming what are some of the first things that come to mind? Mario, Zelda. These franchises are simply timeless and everyone has a special spot in their hearts for the big N. Sony has always had a good track record with gamers and delivered on most of their promises and Microsoft seems to be aiming more toward the gamer this generation which is a very good thing, but Nintendo will probably always be the face of gaming for me.

Matthew Razak: I can tell you what console has the worst brand image. That would be the PS3. Sony has fallen and they didn’t do it gracefully. They just fell as fast and as hard as they could. Before the PS3, Sony could do no wrong. Now their system often looks like an expensive paperweight. As for the best brand image it depends on if you’re talking to the hardcore crowd or not. Most hardcore gamers would tell you that the Wii sucks and is for kids, despite plenty of evidence to contradict this and thus the 360 would have a better brand image. On the flip side most other gamers would tell you that the 360 is nothing but FPS shooters and bloody games, despite evidence to the contrary, and thus the Wii has the best brand image.

However, if you were taking a poll today I would have to say that the Wii comes out on top. They’re everywhere and everyone loves them, even the grumpy gamers sitting in the back row complaining that everyone is now crowding in on their past time.

Format: What games should we be looking forward to in the following year?
Tom Orry: Killzone 2 from Sony looks amazing if you’re into shooters, but Heavy Rain is my pick for potential game of the year. It’s got arty and mainstream appeal rolled into one.

Ken McKown: The next twelve months are going to be exciting. I think the biggest titles to watch out for the rest of 2008 are LittleBigPlanet, Mirror’s Edge, Gears of War 2, Resistance 2, MK Vs. DC Universe, Fallout 3 and Guitar Hero World Tour. Beyond 2008 I believe we will see some truly amazing titles and new IPs including Beyond Good and Evil 2, God of War 3, Resident Evil 5, Infamous and a whole host of new games we don’t even know about yet.

Justin McElroy: There’s a ton of stuff coming this holiday season, but I’m really excited to see what the Assassin’s Creed team will whip up in a sequel. Speaking of guys with style, Altair’s got it. That dude looks like he’s dripping in towels.

More Info: . . . . .

Feature Composed by: Pushing Play

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