Category Archives: Food for Thought

An Ode to the Fighting Game Genre

If you were to pick one word to describe your experiences with the fighting game genre, what would you choose? I would choose ‘thrilling’.

Imagine yourself in the loser’s bracket at a local tournament, in the final round of a three-set match where both you and your opponent are  tied. It’s sudden death, and only one winner can emerge while the loser walks away empty-handed. Your heart’s beating faster than a drum, your entire body covered in a cold, nervous sweat; the room only gets hotter with what feels like a million people packed into a single conference hall and dozens of machines running simultaneously. But none of this matters, you are entirely focused on the match, on winning. Your mind races as you try to find the best strategy to take down the foe, but you come up blank. You’ve made it this far, all that’s left is to take a deep breath and do your best.

Round 3, Fight!

But wait, that’s not the end. The fight itself has only just begun. You have now entered a battle of wits and reflexes with the other player. You must choose your actions carefully as any mistake can lead to significantly dire consequences. Risky moves that prove successful are followed by a sigh of relief while a poor choice can prove devastating, infuriating and saddening all at the same time. The match is an emotional roller coaster, and there’s no stopping until one of you dies, or the time runs out.

The round ends, did you win? It matters not. Whether you’re excited or disappointed, your hands continue to tremble. You reach over and congratulate your opponent with a simple, “Good Game”. Only then, can you finally put your mind and body to ease; at least until the next challenger approaches.

That was an example of an experience of mine at a local Super Street Fighter IV tournament. It is one of many high energy, dopamine-boosting moments that I’ve had with the fighting genre, and I’m sure that other fighting game fans have felt the same way at one point or another. Nothing beats the nerve-wracking adrenaline rush that comes with a hype match; and best of all? These occurrences are frequent and plentiful.

Image via Pixel Enemy

“What is your favorite genre?” is a question that I’ve been receiving quite frequently. I adore all genres, but fighters shine brightly amongst them. No other type of game has been able to elicit the same sense of emotion, tension, and reward to me. I’ve sunk countless hours into other competitive genres such as the FPS, MOBA, and RTS games, but in my experience, none of them could live up to the same level of excitement and hype that surrounds the fighting genre and its community.This is all a subjective matter though, and I’m quite sure that nostalgia is a huge contributing factor to my bias towards fighting games.

Of course, you can’t talk about hype without EVO Moment 37:

My brother was born in the 80’s and grew up around arcades. He was particularly fond of the Street Fighter II World Warrior cabinets and would spend countless hours during and after school glued to the machine with friends and other random kids. He knew the game’s in’s and out’s, including various glitches and easter eggs (i.e. handcuffs, invisible throw, shut down). It didn’t help that he played Guile, one of the glitchiest characters of all!

I was born much later, in 1990. Many of the arcades went out of business in my hometown by the time I was old enough to play Street Fighter. That didn’t stop my brother though, he had borrowed a friend’s Super Nintendo and had me playing Super Street Fighter II Turbo at the tender age of 7. I didn’t care much for it though. Once the Dreamcast released in 1999, my brother jumped right on it and picked one up at launch. He bought Third Strike, Alpha 3, Soul Caliber, Power Stone, Dead or Alive, Marvel vs. Capcom 2, and many other games as they were released and I was hooked! The bright and colorful visual effects of each game instilled a sense of awe in me. Mix the pleasant aesthetics with my obsession to win at everything and you have a formula for fighting game addiction. The Dreamcast only lasted so long though, and a fighting game drought began and dragged on until the release of Street Fighter IV in 2008. I was ecstatic. The game looked fantastic and closely resembled the Street Fighter II games that were dear to my heart. My nostalgia was acting up and I couldn’t resist making the purchase instantly! Street Fighter IV was a fantastic game that lead to the rekindling of my love for fighting games once again; I began binge-playing them. I picked up any fighting game that I could get my dirty hands on, including franchise favorites such as Dead or Alive, Soul Calibur, Mortal Kombat, Blazblue, Guilty Gear, etc.

Where it all began:

image via The Pixel Empire

And here I am now, a fighting game enthusiast with a refreshed view of the genre, looking to play and review any and all up-and-coming fighters.

So in short…

Q: “What’s your favorite game genre?”

A: “Fighting games, mainly because I’m nostalgic, but also due to the genre’s ability to generate excitement and create memorable moments. It doesn’t hurt that the community is incredible.”

Q: “What’s your fighting game of choice?”

A: “Usually the latest iteration of Street Fighter, currently Ultra Street Fighter IV.”

What’s your genre of choice any why?

Legendary Former Nintendo President Passes Away and Leaves a Legacy

Old_Nintendo_Logo

Hiroshi Yamauchi is best known for his efforts as the President of Nintendo prior to the current Satoru Iwata. As a businessman, Yamauchi also owned the Seattle Mariners Major League Baseball Team and was once ranked among the top 500 richest people in the world (#13 in Japan). He has an estimated net worth of approximately $2.5 billion USD.

I am writing this post to pay my respects to the late Yamauchi, who had passed away earlier today. This individual is often said to be the driving force that has shaped Nintendo into what it is now. Here’s a brief history lesson of the legend and his incredible journey resulting in the transformation of Nintendo from a small playing card manufacturer into a common household name.

The Japanese powerhouse left his academic studies at Waseda University in 1949 at the request of his grandfather (the president of Nintendo at the time), who had suffered a stroke and lacked an immediate successor. Yamauchi accepted his grandfather’s wishes to become the president of Nintendo with a single condition, that he would be the only family member allowed to work at the company. His grandfather agreed to this condition and passed away shortly afterwards.

Upon joining Nintendo, Yamauchi met the company with an iron fist. Many factory employees at the time did not respect him due to his lack of experience and young age. As a result, they organized a strike, expecting him to cave easily and give in to their conditions. Unexpectedly, Yamauchi responded by firing long-time employees who had questioned his authority. He then changed the company’s name to Nintendo Company Limited and established a new headquarters in Kyoto. He also imposed himself as the sole judge of new products, allowing nothing to enter the market unless he had personally given it the green light.

Wow, talk about a business tyrant! Doesn’t seem like too great of a guy does he?

yamauchi_fit_300x300

Though I wouldn’t wish to work with him, I must admit that Yamauchi had some incredible foresight, intuition, and above all, persistence.

Nintendo at the time of Yamauchi’s induction was a company that produced and marketed a unique, Japanese-style playing card game dubbed Hanafuda. The hand-made cards were Nintendo’s sole focus since 1889, the year that the company was founded. The demand for the studio’s Hanafuda cards were relatively high, but the business plan was quite limited in scope. Yamauchi later made plans to visit the United States Playing Card Company, which the world’s biggest playing card manufacturer at the time. To his dismay, the office and factory turned out to be much smaller than he had imagined. It was at that moment when he realized that the card manufacturing business alone would not be enough to bring Nintendo the success he desired.

Upon returning, Yamauchi took measures in attempts to diversify the company. He ventured into various business investments including a taxi company, love hotel, and individually portioned instant rice. Each of these experiments failed and Nintendo nearly went bankrupt until Yamauchi came across a factory engineer playing with a simple hand-made extendable claw. Yamauchi saw potential in the design and decided to turn the claw into a fully-fledged product, which later landed in the markets as the Ultra Hand.

Ultrahand
Ultra Hand!

The Ultra Hand was instantly recognized and adopted by Japanese children everywhere, and thus shifted Nintendo’s focus into the toy market. The same engineer that invented the Ultra Hand was then solely assigned to the development of new products; some of his later inventions served to solidify Nintendo’s position as an established toy manufacturer.

Technological breakthroughs ushered in a new era of entertainment, and Yamauchi was already one step behind. Companies like Atari and Magnavox had begun distributing gaming consoles that  could be used in conjunction with televisions. The president attempted to participate in the video game market through various methods such as launching Nintendo’s own game console and obtaining the license to sell the Magnavox systems, but none of these plans were spectacular or effective. Japanese games were also later produced by the studio, but Nintendo’s efforts remained irrelevant until Shigeru Miyamoto’s Donkey Kong title became a smash hit in 1981.

Yamauchi’s toy and game development process consisted of three different research and development teams that would compete with one another internally, their main goal was to be as innovative as possible; the competition supposedly bolstered creativity and diligence. Have you ever noticed all of the strange and unique devices, peripherals, and game mechanics that Nintendo has been coming up with for decades? This is probably a result from the development process.

Yamauchi participated with introducing Nintendo’s new gaming consoles to the world and acted as a filter that ultimately decided which titles were to be launched. The president overlooked pitches and ideas from the three core development teams, and many more games were officially released.

Yamauchi played an important role in releasing and announcing the NES, SNES, N64, and Gamecube consoles. He stepped down in 2002 and was succeeded by Satoru Iwata. Yamauchi refused to accept his retirement pension (approximately $9-14 million yen) and left it with the company because he felt that Nintendo could put the money to better use. He had also donated billions (an undocumented amount, but supposedly over 5 billion yen) to build a new cancer treatment center in Kyoto.

The legend lived on until this fateful day where Yamauchi’s life was put to rest by complications of Pneumonia. He passed away at the age of 85 with five surviving children.

On behalf of GamingGrad.com, I would like to thank Hiroshi Yamauchi for all of his contributions and efforts to advance the industry.

Thank you for your efforts in putting a bit of Nintendo into everyone’s lives, may you rest in peace.

Snapshot Gaming

QR Mario

Have you ever noticed the insane overflow of photo-related apps on the app stores? There’s the ever popular Instagram, as well as a digital ocean’s worth of photo editing, stitching, and panoramic software. These apps can be undoubtedly useful on the rare occasion, but there is an extremely small amount of interaction involved. You are literally gluing a few pictures together or simply slapping a filter over one of your shots. With the state of the app market, I for one am absolutely astonished that no one has created a game that emphasizes and fully utilizes the camera attached to a cellphone or tablet.

Here are some possible game designs involving the use of a camera:

QR Codes

QR codes are all over the place, but they generally only serve an informative function.

Scanning a QR code more often than not directs you to a website, usually serving no other purpose. How about a game where you collect puzzle pieces, pets, or items by scanning random QR codes that you see around the city?

Just a regular QR code.
Sweet, I got a new sword!

The Card Game

This one would be like a childhood dream coming to life for me. You could develop a card game centered around obtaining allies and items by scanning physical cards. Let’s use Yu-Gi-Oh as an example:

Picture yourself collecting Yu-Gi-Oh cards and being able to scan the cards you come across into your phone to play with other people via cellular device. Although not quite as dramatic, something like this immediately comes to mind:

This also opens the door to an opportunity to grant more people to play with, since you can play the game with people using cellphone networks or Wifi, rather than having to schedule a time to meet them in person.

The Quest

This one is by far the hardest to achieve technically, but it would be incredible if it could be done. The idea is to create treasure hunt-style game with the use of pictures taken from the device. It’s easier to describe with a demonstration, so here:

You wake up in your bed to birds chirping from a tree just outside your window. – Take a picture of a bird to continue.

You gain 50xp!
You gain 50xp!

You could use some fresh air. – Take a picture outdoors to continue. 

You gain 50xp!
You gain 50xp!

As you bask in the wonderful morning light, you turn around to see that you’re being attacked! – Take a picture of something dangerous to fight the attacker OR Take a picture of a road to run away.

Really? You're going to fight it? You gain 50xp!
Really? You’re going to fight it? You gain 50xp!

…..And that would be the general template of the third and final design of my snapshot series. I hope this post will spur some minds into making a mobile game that can take advantage of a phone or tablet’s camera….. and here’s hoping it doesn’t suck.