Random Encounters: The Search for Virtual Reality

ImageBy James

Whenever I play Sid Meier’s Civilization V, I become somewhat obsessed. Civ V is an all-day affair for me, a 6-8 hour job in which I make an empire for the day, and try to keep it running for as long as possible. Civilization is a series of games centered around creating an empire, with the ultimate goal of winning through military, diplomatic, or scientific victories. It’s a turn-based strategy game, and consists of various cities, units and resources which must be placed and organized in the optimal way. Empires can be huge, or they can be small, but there is always a way to make your empire dominate the political playing field. I have had some great empires, and I have had miserable failures. But the thing that always keeps me coming back is the possibility of immersion.

Civ V is probably the best strategy game I have ever played. Its structure is fair, tactical, and simple enough for anyone to pick it up fairly easily. Beginners don’t have a steep learning curve in front of them, but experts can still feel the imminent crushing defeat when they research the wrong technology. The problem is that I never seem to finish a game. The games typically take 10- 20 hours to complete, a length comparable to the campaign of other games. However I have spent many more hours than that in a single game of Civ. While some would say this might be due to a short attention span or the desire to leave the house on the weekend, the truth is, I can never finish a game because the experience is not quite right. Even when I have a perfect setup going, it is still hard for me to continue with the game at hand. Sure, there are alliances, intrigue, spies and enmities, but it still is not quite an Empire. I can control an empire within the game, but I can’t be an Empire. The problem with the game is that I always want more. I don’t want to play Sid Meier’s Civilzation V, I want to play James Sheehy’s Civilzation V.

Videogames are tremendously subjective. Playing as a character can be extremely emotional, and the stories are rich and rewarding for those with the time and attention to appreciate them. The inherent problem with games is the lack of creation. Sure, there are loadouts to personalize, characters to create, and empires to build, but there is always the niggling feeling that something just isn’t quite right. I love games that try to be innovative, with a novel take on an outdated concept, or a new idea entirely. Special mechanics, an interesting concept, or a new style of RPG will always drive me to a game, but in the end, I always feel disappointed. The major source of disappointment is the fact that I still can’t control the core aspects of the game. True, I can control characters, vehicles, empires, even worlds, but in the end, there is always a limit to my creativity. Ultimately, there is only so much that my character can do. And every victory feels all the more hollow with the sense that the possibilities are limited by the vision of the creators.

There is an intricate connection between the two halves of video games. Games try to tell stories, while simultaneously trying to allow the player autonomy. These two halves are hard to manage. Allowing a player to do whatever they want means that sometimes there are huge gaps between the chunks of story. Try to create a coherent story, and autonomy is forced to take the backseat. Some of the best games try to blend these qualities, like Bastion, while others take the opposite path and ignore the story completely to try and create a better experience, like the Civilization series or to an extent, the Grand Theft Auto series. The inherent problem lies with the fact that the gameplay itself can never come close to real. Even with better graphics, there is a fixed limit on how much time and effort the developers are allowed to spend on creating subtle animations that people will never see. Though I acknowledge that there is no possible way to change that, I can’t help but feel frustrated.

Video games for me are not escapes, but rather mental exercises. What happens if I change a parameter? The games are as much a matter of focus as they are of entertainment. They are about a speedier return on investment of my time, a way to make noticeable changes within a short period of time. For me, the personalization of a game is imperative, and as such, I can never be truly immersed in a game until the day when anything can happen in a game. And though I wait for that day with bated breath, I realize that I will have to settle with the games that we have now, and even though my empire might not be as niched as if I ruled the world, it will do for now. In the meanwhile, I will try to sit back and finish an empire.

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Random Encounters: Humanity From Mundanity

5079220070206_220232_12_bigBy Allen

On a fundamental level, role-playing games imitate real life better than most simulation and story-based games. Although the activities that you do in them are usually truncated for the sake of pacing, it still feels satisfying to clear out a bunch of quests in a game and be rewarded with a shiny new axe or a plot revelation. The comparisons to real life go a whole lot deeper than that though. In an average RPG, you play a character that is brought into a strange world with your only tools being what you find or are given. You head out with a goal in mind, and there are various obstacles standing or crawling in your way.

The protagonist wakes up, picks up their sword, equips their best armor, and opens up the quest log to begin a day of adventuring and experience. A businessman wakes up, dresses in his finest and most comfortable suit, and drives to work to build on what he has done the previous day, and hopefully come out of it with a paycheck at the end of the week. The warrior’s reward is dependent on the player’s investment and skill at combat or whatever it is the game asks of them to pass the obstacles. The businessman ideally is improving his work with the hopes of a larger paycheck, but he ultimately does not take that many risks for fear of his steady income ending. Allowing the player to control a character even when there isn’t a crucial conflict going on makes the story feel more believable, and the more dramatic moments exponentially more impressive.

For example, one of my favorite games of all time is Jade Empire. It’s a Bioware game from 2005 where you play as a customizable protagonist making his or her way through an ancient Chinese landscape with a group of allies. Essentially, it’s Star Wars: Knights of the Republic with a more active yet simple combat system, and a more original world. Besides the fact that martial arts and the physical manifestation of each fighting style is a fascinating concept to me, the reason I was obsessed with Jade Empire when I played it was because it was the first game I played that simulated both the most fascinating and mundane aspects of your character’s life. Not every day in my life is full of twists and adventure, but each one is important, and adds up to a cohesive whole. In the same way, not every quest in Jade Empire was about saving the world, but they all provided context and detailed the world. After questioning the townsfolk and collecting evidence, you can return to her with the name of whoever you think committed the crime. I never picked the correct person when I first played it for whatever reason, but the game didn’t penalize you for being wrong. The wrong person was sent to jail, and you were rewarded just as much as you would have been if you had selected the actual killer. Since it’s a game that is supposed to be fun and not unfair, you can always reload an old save and try the quest again, or just look up a guide and beat it without any risk. But doing so robs you of this brief glimpse into this small town and some of its charms. Everybody you question is a liar, the law enforcement is useless, and the woman trusted a few strangers walking into town with a homicide investigation. Just like in real life, I played Jade Empire without reloading my save.

The worst part of any game is the breaking of immersion due to a bug or overlooked design flaw. Sticking with Jade Empire, the trip to that same town is played out as a top-down shooter where you control a hang glider soaring above the forest and fending off corrupt warriors. The reason it doesn’t work or gel with the rest of the game is how easy it is to fail. In the rest of the game, failure is clearly forewarned because of the prominent health bar that is only shown or being depleted in battle. In this awkward, brutally difficult act break, the enemies don’t seem to follow any sort of pattern. The player’s only penalty for failure is their time, but it’s clearly meant to be tried over and over again. Since it’s supposed to be a short diversion, there aren’t any checkpoints in this mission to keep the player from getting frustrated. One could argue that that’s the point, and that they want to show the journey in one fluid series of events, but that just doesn’t work when the game becomes so reliant on reflexes and memorization. By making it easy to fail and annoying to restart, the immersion is broken either way. Even though there are some magic elements to the story, they can’t explain this hang glider miraculously recovering itself at the starting position over and over again. In life, decisions have weight because they are irrevocable.

The argument then becomes: Do I want a game that breaks immersion for the sake of fairness and momentum, or do I want to traipse through a game, making mistakes left and right without stopping? My personal answer lies somewhat closer to the second option. Developers sometimes feel afraid to put failable quests in their games because that supposedly goes against the power fantasy that so many games strive for. But my argument is that, to truly make me feel like I’m controlling a hero, I need to see and control their greatest victories, their most tragic defeats, and the moments in between. A quick trip into town to buy equipment, a failed attempt to woo the local brothel girls, even just a hint that all of the senseless violence committed in the average game has consequences are a few things that make the journey feel believable. By showing me what my character had to do when he or she wasn’t skinning monsters for pelts or watching their home be burned down by a dragon, moments like the murder quest in Jade Empire make me feel less like I’m seeing the highlights of my character’s life, and more like I’m an integral part of it from start to finish.

Random Encounters: A Three Year Vacation

NE staring area

By Allen

It’s 10AM, Saturday, 2008. I get up, and nobody in the house is awake. I quickly eat my breakfast and sneak downstairs. I open a few curtains, and make my way to the family computer. As it powers on, I usually use the bathroom or fiddle with my not-so-smartphone. I have scant few desktop icons. iTunes, Chrome, and a folder or two. First thing’s first; time to check the gaming news. At the time, it was Kotaku and 1UP, with Giant Bomb replacing both of them in later years. But I’m really skimming the article titles. What I really came down for, and what is going to occupy most of my afternoon…is World of Warcraft.

This was my life for about three years. Or at least, the part of it that took the most time. I still remember parts of it in detail, but the quotidian activities are lost to time. I was at my dad’s doctor’s appointment, waiting in the reception room with my mother and sister. I had seen the ads for World of Warcraft on TV, with celebrities voicing over their in-game avatars’ adventures. It seemed strange, unique, and fascinating, but I had never tried it. The monthly fee was a pretty big hurdle at the time, because I was too young to work, and my parents wanted me to spend money on more important ventures. It feels strange looking back and seeing money as the reason not to play a game, and not social obligations or personal skill. I had played the two day trial as a Night Elf Warrior, and it seemed to barely give a taste of the grand world I was about to explore. My mom was surprisingly easy to convince that $30 every two months for one game was a good idea, and it was in that office that the seed of my greatest gaming experiences began.

Let’s be clear, I had plenty of MMORPG experience under my belt, but it was mostly relegated to the free-to-play Japanese variety. I restarted World of Warcraft as a Druid, feeling that it fit my preference to be a healing caster type. I also made one character of every race only to see the other starting areas. I never thought those worlds were connected, or completely persistent. I still remember the intro cinematic ending with a live pan of the starting area, and seeing other players cavorting around was mind-boggling. There’s a whole world in here! And it’s all mine to explore. It was a simultaneously empowering and sobering experience, since I knew everyone else felt similarly powerful. The early game was your typical RPG fare: grinding for levels, powering through quests, and equipping loot. It was a fairly lonely period, with barely any incentive to work with or battle other players. As my character crossed the seas to the main continent, I finally had more group quests and people to do them with. I started seeing regulars, and my friends list grew slowly. Eventually, I approached the level cap, and knew that I had to purchase Burning Crusade, the first expansion, to continue leveling and keeping up with these friends. It really is a brilliant system that Blizzard created, where they let you form these bonds with random strangers right around the time where you need to buy more game to play with them.

I immediately bought the expansion, and made my way to The Outlands, a mysterious, otherworldly series of zones ripe with adventure. At this point, the hindsight provided by my seasoned compatriots meant that I knew which areas to visit, and which to ignore. I had even convinced a real life friend of mine to play. It’s easy to tell someone “This game/movie/show is good, go consume it”. But what’s hard is telling them to devote months of their life to it. Since neither my friend nor I had a lot going on besides school, we were both ready to give ourselves up to this virtual paradise. The first time we met in-game was amazing because, for once, I wasn’t the loser. I was the towering elf in glowing tree armor with a staff and a hot-bar full of spells. I loved that boost of confidence, and it was the main reason I put leveling up on hold to speed my friend through the pre-expansion content. We slayed bosses together, abused the emote system to hilarious results, and got to enjoy the experience cooperatively. Eventually, our characters evened out enough that I could keep questing, and it was merely a leap and a bound away until I was onto yet another expansion.

And then again. Except, this time, we had a guild. A group of like-minded people with seemingly endless play time, and no real-world voices or faces to attribute to them. They were all their characters, unbounded by reality and work. I had a friend who went by the name Oldskool in the game, who was in the same grade as my friend and I, and was interested in playing at our slower pace. We hunted monsters, escaped high-level players (called “gankers”, referring to their frequent “ganking” of us lower-level players), and prepared for the endgame. Raids, which were only playable at the level cap, were some of the best times I’ve had in a video game. They required multiple, coordinated players all playing their roles, and navigating dungeons for high-end gear. It was a privilege to be invited to a raid, and it required scheduling and actual verbal communication. I finally could associate everybody in the guild with voices, and not simply characters. Everybody was incredibly friendly, and it felt amazing to be part of something that huge.

But the honeymoon period was over. Eventually, I made more and more real life friends. I played less, and my guild slowly disbanded. At that point, I was nothing but a virtual wanderer, doing repeatable quests and trying to be a better player. But the world had aged past me. I got up one morning, turned on my World of Warcraft-centric podcast, and logged in one more time. I was flying around as a crow (as Druids are wont to do), and asking in the guild chat if anybody wanted to do anything. Anything at all. Even a brief conversation. Not a single person. Oldskool had quit long ago, my friend was playing less than I was, and it seemed like the journey was coming to a close. I said goodbye in chat, which was met with barely any response, and I flew back to the starting area. I removed all my character’s gear, laid down on a peaceful bench, and logged off.

I went back a few years ago. Someone had offered me the opportunity to play on their account with a new character (my old one had been deactivated, and I lost the password). But it never was the same. Even after another expansion and a greatly accelerated leveling curve, I couldn’t bear to reach the cap again. I was a senior in high school, and I had better things to do. The moment I realized I wasn’t going back was the day I had played for two hours, sat back in my chair, and said to myself “None of those two hours were FUN”. As soon as it wasn’t fun, I was out.

I replaced all that time played with other games, which since then have been replaced with things like going outside and hanging out with my friends. But sometimes I yearn for those times. Real life took a backseat, food and sustenance was an afterthought, and it was all about clicking that shiny “ENTER WORLD” button, only to be immediately greeted by all my Internet friends. I don’t regret any of it, but I’m incredibly glad that I was able to make the transition from such a singularly engrossing experience to a fulfilling, multi-faceted life. Maybe I was compensating for a lack of social skills. Maybe I was making excuses to not do exercise. But I knew that, when I was in Azeroth, I was somewhere familiar. Somewhere I could call home.

Random Encounters: Kentucky Route Zero and A Trip Along the Virtual Highway

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By Allen

We don’t do enough travelling. And by “we”, I’m referring to the grandest of cosmic beings known as humans. We have the ability to soar through the sky, examine the smallest molecules of precious life, and even abandon our terrestrial origins for the great expanse, and yet we spend most of our time where we feel most comfortable, in the homes we’ve lived in all our lives. That’s not to say I’d prefer it if we all went and explored all the time; quite the contrary, the difficulty in leaping out of bed in the morning and saying that you’re going somewhere new is uncommon enough that it should be treasured at every opportunity.

Not every trip has to be physical though. Humans created a cheat code to this travel fantasy, and it is called video games. The human body is left behind for the virtual, the cold suburban wastelands are replaced by verdant meadows filled with unfathomable creatures, and the keyboard and mouse become the sword and fireball. The fantastical sometimes seems preferable to reality for numerous reasons; we are the masters of our characters in games. We control their attributes, words, and overall life goals are imparted onto them. The relationship between player and avatar is becoming more and more intimate with new methods of interaction like the Oculus Rift, and we as a society are inching ever closer to a harmonious fusing of man and game. Fun, the precious feeling that we find in the deepest crevices of these imagined landscapes, is what ultimately keeps us coming back to them.

I recently played the first two episodes of Kentucky Route Zero, a PC game that shook my definition of immersion to its core. Describing its plot would do it a disservice, so I’ll instead provide the framework that exists in all permutations of the game. The player primarily controls Conrad, a truck driver in Kentucky who is looking for an address on Dogwood Drive to deliver precious antiques to. Along the way, things happen. What’s special about the way that it tells this story is how much it relies on the player to move it along. In your average action game, there is a set story to be told, and it is interspersed with loosely-related interactive sequences, usually in the form of combat or puzzle-solving. Kentucky Route Zero seamlessly blends these two elements by making storytelling the game. As Conrad approaches other characters on his route through the mysterious area surrounding Route Zero, the player chooses what he says. Unlike games like Mass Effect or Fallout, these choices aren’t directly changing the way the story plays out on a grand scale. Rather, they affect the pace of the conversation at hand, just like choosing your words does in a real conversation. Think of it like this; Conway approaches a gas station attendant, his dog keeping up behind him. When asked what the dog’s name is, the player chooses either Homer, Blue, or an ambivalent answer. The dog doesn’t have a name; you’re giving it one by saying it to the attendant. Similar to the instant gratification of a genie’s wish, the choices in Kentucky Route Zero feel like they’re immediate and real the moment they are made.

Video game worlds are the most fascinating aspect of the medium to me. Engrossing yourself in the writer and artist’s world and lexicon is as intellectually stimulating and immediately pleasing as the best novels, graphic or otherwise. By making me feel like a part of this mysterious Southern America, Kentucky Route Zero feels like a home away from home. It’s as if I’ve met all of these characters before, and we’re just going on a grand journey together. Very few games entrench the player in their universe in this way, and it’s a problem that I feel plagues most major titles. I come to the independent scene for imaginative worlds and unique gameplay, and I satisfy my equally important need for refined mechanics, simulations of well-known fictional landscapes, and a definitive sense of craft to the larger scale games that we all love so much. I can slice my way through a million zombies in Left 4 Dead 2 (and I have), but I can’t go on a surreal trip through a bewildering, constantly surprising world. Those worlds are static, familiar, and meant to serve the singular purpose of being moved through. I’m going to turn a corner, and encounter yet another horde of zombies. Another weapons cache. And that’s fun specifically because it is so familiar and repetitive. Another example would be the Grand Theft Auto series, where I can expect to play a hardened criminal shooting and robbing his way through a beautiful fictional city in every iteration. I can play a game like that, know what I’m getting into, and then put it behind me as I return to the real world. But Kentucky Route Zero has stuck with me more profoundly. It affected me in a more powerful way than any game has since Valve’s Half-Life 2. Specifically, it made me want to travel. Not in a virtual world, filled with evidence that someone else made all that I see, feel, and do. I want to explore the known universe with my own eyes and with my own experiences. Just as real life is reflected in games, so do the design and narrative choices in games affect my desire to explore the real world. And I might not always be able to travel for whatever reason, but at least I know I have my trusty dog and a truck full of antiques just a few clicks away to keep me company on the road there.

Random Encounters: Roguish Adventures

Recently I started playing the game Rogue Legacy. The game consists of running, jumping, slashing at enemies and using magic, all within a cartoony 2-D platformer setting. More importantly, every playthrough is randomized, with a randomized character and a randomized castle. Every death is permanent, and a character can never be brought back. There are bosses and mini-bosses, random enemies, chests and an upgrade system dependent on the gold you earn from each playthrough. This type of game, a game with permanent deaths and randomized maps, is called a roguelike game. The other example of a roguelike game in my library is The Binding of Isaac, a previously discussed game (https://pmodern.wordpress.com/2013/07/23/frames-of-preference-the-binding-of-isaac/). In the past two days I have racked up a total of 7 hours on Rogue Legacy, and in the past half-year I managed to put up 264 hours in The Binding of Isaac.

I normally don’t enjoy Sisyphean tasks. In any other game, running hundreds of hours with little to no plot development would cause outrage. So, what makes these roguelike games different? Well, first of all, a playthrough is relatively short and delineated. A good run-through of The Binding of Isaac might take 50 minutes, and Rogue Legacy lives are closer to 20 minutes. These games are easy to fit into a schedule without relying on too much time. These games also tend to be fairly simple, reliant on simple mechanics which are easy to pick up and hard to master. The mastery takes time while the simplicity draws the player into the experience.

The first few hours of a roguelike game seem to blur together. The enemies seem the same, and take too long to kill, it’s easy to die and the fun is limited by the complexity of early stages. Then the game hits a certain point. Maybe the breakthrough is one lucky playthrough that gets further than any other attempt. Maybe the character gets an upgrade or a new item. In either case, the game gets interesting again. The spark is back as hope surges back. Maybe this playthrough will be better! It won’t be. But just as you are about to quit, you get lucky and the pattern repeats, until you can finally get to the second level without a lucky item. Rinse and repeat to the end of the game.

Roguelike games seem to epitomize evolution of skill. Within a relatively short time, a player goes from dying to killing, from level 1-1 to level 8-4. Unlike other games which correlate enemy progression with player skill, the roguelike games manage to show the same character in the same circumstances, with a more experienced player controlling the scenario. You have a visually identifiable marker of progress. And even though you just spent 264 hours of your life on a game, it’s hard not to feel proud of finally mastering some skill, albeit a useless one. The gratification, though far from instant, is easily identifiable and for once it’s easy to explain away the time spent. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go spend another 257 hours on Rogue Legacy.

Random Encounters: Bastion and a New Approach to Games

By James

Sometimes it’s not what you say, but how you say it. Bastion is one of those games. The story has nothing that is particularly enthralling: two warring civilizations wind up destroying each other and you are one of the only survivors. The combat is equally banal, a standard-but still tight- set of controls that display competency even if creativity lacks. Weapon selection is varied, and the level system feels familiar and comfortable. The art style is beautiful, a cartoonish portrayal of reality, and the cut scenes are beautiful pans on still shots. The music to the game is fantastic, with a catchy beat and a haunting melody that floats through the levels. All in all, this speaks to an indie development team making a decent game. So why has Bastion captured the hearts and minds of so many? Well, it’s mostly about the narrator.

In Bastion, the entire game is narrated by one character. The narrator is an elderly white man who details every move, from the kid’s falls to the main plot of the story. The narrator’s voice is gruff, but kindly, and the comments range from hilarious to moving.  The amazing part is that this changed the game for me. The thing that Bastion got right was the move towards a narrative. For me, the structure was strangely charming and addictive, but I couldn’t pinpoint why. Then it came to me: the last time I had listened to a narration like this, the narrator was my mother reading a bed-time story. This game managed to dredge up a piece of my childhood in a deeply emotional way. It has been a long time since I sat down and heard a story, so listening to the game was a pleasure.

The storyteller style is fresh and completely unlike any other game currently on the market. You see, most games tell stories, but they tell the stories through cut scenes and brief snippets of dialogue. The majority of time and effort always seems to rest on combat and puzzles. The story has become less and less focused, taking a back seat to action. While this is an acceptable practice, Bastion reminds the audience that gameplay and story don’t need to compete for your attention, but they can be seamlessly intertwined into a completely immersive experience.

Oftentimes I am told that the beauty lies in the interactivity of a game: the fact that you can alter the scenarios to elicit a response from the system. However, in the end, stories all seem to blend together in animated cut scene after animated cut scene, separating the content of the game from the purpose. But Bastion rudely awakened me to the fact that these systems of storytelling should improve past mechanics and cut scenes to where the choices really matter: the gamer’s play.

Random Encounters: How Elite Beat Agents Weaned Me Onto Rhythm Games

The main EBA crew.

By Allen

Elite Beat Agents came out on November 6th of 2006 in America, which puts it after the first Guitar Hero, but before Rock Band stepped in and took over the world. The developer, iNiS, had only put out a handful of obscure Beatmania games, a Japanese-only Ouendan game (the Japanese game that Agents is based on) and the cult classic Gitaroo Man before it, so they were mostly known as the weird Japanese rhythm game people for roughly a decade. Elite Beat Agents came out and took the world by storm critically. Although it was a relative failure financially, it still remains one of the most fascinating and interesting takes on the rhythm music genre, and it was my first experience with rhythm games.

I was never a big rhythm game person. The expensive peripherals and obscure songs were always large barriers for me. The only console I played consistently at the time was my Nintendo DS, and even that was mostly for Pokemon and those weird Mega Man: Battle Network games. I forget what led me to buy Elite Beat Agents, but it could have been a combination of factors. The catchy title, the sparkly box art, or even just a good review I saw online. But the day I put that cartridge into my DS and started playing the first level based on Steriogram’s “Walkie Talkie Man”. It had a cool comic art style, a recognizable soundtrack of hits, and gameplay that can only be described as “gooey delicious”. For those who don’t know, you’re essentially tapping along to the beat of the song on the bottom screen, while occasionally tracing along that paths of various notes overlayed in front of the eponymous agents rocking out. However, it wasn’t just the ease of play that hooked me on this game. Weirdly enough, it was the stories each level told.

One of the biggest complaints of most DS games is how little they use the top screen, usually relegating it to a map or even a static graphic that takes up space. But Elite Beat Agents had a whole other story going on up in that tiny little screen. The premise of each level was that someone in the world had a problem, and it was up to the Agents to solve it with dance. In the style of Charlie’s Angels but with dudes (coincidentally, Charlie’s Angels lookalikes were unlockable later) would ride onto the scene in their cool car and sing and dance to boost the mood of the people around them. Their dances could make people fall in love, they could make people super powerful, and they could even defeat an alien invader in the final level set to the Rolling Stones’ “Jumping Jack Flash”. The fact that I can remember most of the song list by simply humming along to the covers in the game is a testament to both how much of that game I played and how perfect the song choices are. People always talk about how Rock Band introduced them to some band or a song they didn’t know they loved, but Elite Beat Agents was the game that basically introduced me to huge hits like “Highway Star” and “September” (two of my favorite levels in the game). It was rocking, it was rolling, and I’ve never played another game that captured that same zeitgeist in me like it did.

Allow me to wrap up by saying this; every genre has its weird outliers, regardless of the medium. To call Elite Beat Agents a diamond in the rough is unfair to the efforts of all the other rhythm games out there. But it manages to be so uniquely encompassing of how the Japanese view American pop music and how the DS can be utilized to tell stories that I just have to expound every once in a while on why it’s so good. There’s a game in every genre for everyone, and sometimes it just takes some dudes with cool hair and suits rocking out to highlight what’s amazing about these crazy games we all love so much.