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[Gamer Diary] What I’ve Been Playing… March 2012

2012 April 11

March was a big one in the world of gaming and not just because of the titles that came out. Here in the UK there’s been other big news that I’d be somewhat remiss not to mention, so please forgive me if I veer slightly away from a simple account of what I’ve been up to. So today I’ll be talking (briefly) about Mass Effect 3 and the Xbox Kinect but I’ll also wander into the murky world of the financial crisis and its impact on gamers cruising the high streets.

First off: the games.  Obviously there’s Mass Effect 3, but as I’ve mentioned before, there will be a full post dedicated to that shortly.  For now, though, I’ll say that it’s a great addition to anyone’s collection: well-constructed story, superb combat mechanics, good graphics and generally an absorbing and engaging universe.  The ending(s) have caused issues among some fans of the franchise, and although I shan’t say here what they were or why that is, I’ll just say that I had no problem with the way it ended.

an Xbox Kinect avatar - a CGI caucasian figure with reddish-blonde spiked hair, a red t-shirt and black combat pants. Image: author's own.Better then that we talk about the Kinect.  I got one at the beginning of March and a few little games to go along with it.  Kinect Adventures is the title that comes with every single sensor (if you’re buying second-hand, be sure to check!) and it is a simple bit of fun.  You use your body to complete little challenges on the screen, collect points and progress through various ranks of adventurer.  It’s a little bit addictive when you first get the Kinect as it’s all very new and novel and amazing, but in the long run it would probably hold the attention of younger gamers or be best suited to family-centred gaming sessions.

I also got Kinect Sports (the first game), which proved much more popular between my partner and I.  You get the option to partake in six different events: Football (Soccer), Bowling (10-pin), Table Tennis, Track & Field (which contains six events in itself), Boxing and Beach Volleyball.  Again, this is a great bit of fun and you can use it for a spot of exercise as well.  You can play against four levels of computer opponent, as well as playing against your friends (or with them) online or in the same room.  You garner points and progress towards Champion status, but really it’s all about the amusement and the potential for collective gaming.

There are another two Kinect games knocking about my living room, but I didn’t want to talk about them as they don’t have the rather pleasing feature I’m about to detail.  The Kinect games that use your Xbox Avatar in-game (especially in Sports) are also populated with lots of other Avatar people as your opponents or team-mates.  Now, this may not sound altogether too ground-breaking or interesting, but for me it was quite nice to see a fairly equal mix of – albeit randomly generated – Avatars of all descriptions.  In simpler terms, they aren’t all male.  Even on team sports that are traditionally ‘single sex’ sports (like football) you have men and women of all ages charging about the pitch with you.  I thought that was a nice little nod – particularly for games that will have a lot of younger, more impressionable gamers – just to say “Hey, women exist too!”.

A purple splatter of paint on a white background with the word 'GAME' in white on top of the purple. The logo of the Game high street shop.
Now for the depressing stuff.  The company Game went belly-up in March and already my local Gamestation (part of the group) has been stripped bare and locked up tight, never to be set foot in again.  I admit I rarely bought anything from Game or Gamestation, but as the last notable games-only high street chain, it’s sad to see it fail.  As a PC gamer at heart, I felt the group had forgotten about me over the years as it focused more on console gamers – and that’s fair enough if that’s where the money is – but apparently that didn’t bring in enough revenue to save them.

Things were not helped when EA refused to supply the group with copies of Mass Effect 3 on credit and they had to give everyone who had pre-ordered their money back.  Even a few days before they closed up shop, the Gamestation I usually wander around was begging for trade-ins of the title as not a single brand new copy was in sight.  I suspect this may have been the last straw for many customers, but the advent of the internet worked its evil glory too: after all, if you can buy a two-week-old title for £15 on Amazon when it remains £30+ in a high street store, why would you go that extra mile and pay more?

It is, nevertheless, a little saddening to see the group suffer the same fate as many other high street names.  Should they remain, in one form or another, I hope they can take a more competitive stance on the price war with the internet and stop pricing themselves out of the market. Game’s statement has more detail on the immediate results of their entry into administration.

cover for EA Games' Skate 2- a simple design with the title in white font overlaid across an image of two upturned skateboards.

One final word…

Coincidentally, a couple of days before Game was declared a financial black hole, my partner bought himself Skate 2.  You may remember January’s Gamer Diary, where I mentioned watching him play Skate and lamented that there were zero lady-boarders.  Well, in the second instalment, there are girls flying around on boards, and you can also choose to be one.  Super!  Also, the mechanics and graphics are much improved.  It has, however, to me been dubbed ‘Skate 2 AKA “Shut up, Reda!”’.  Don’t worry if you don’t know who Reda is; all you need to know is he talks too much.

Next Time

I’ll be honest: I don’t yet know what the remainder of April will bring for me.  Never fear!  I will locate juicy content for you and in the meantime you’ll soon be able to read all about what I made of ME3 at last.

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