- Activision announced the next installment of Guitar Hero will be none other than Guitar Hero: Aerosmith. Yes, that's right, a full game devoted to Aerosmith songs. Umm... why? Who exactly is the target audience for this? Let's take a look at demographics. We all know the vast majority of gamers are between the ages of 18 and 35. And that includes me, albeit at the upper end of that range. Yet Aerosmith was already on the decline when I bought their album "Pump" back when I was in high school. Most of their really good stuff came out when I was too young to notice... back when I was stuck in the backseat of my parents' car listening to the "soft rock" stylings of Lionel Richie and Neil Diamond. Sure, they no doubt have a few timeless classics (speaking of which, "Dream On" was availble for free download this weekend over Xbox Live) but a whole game? Just for them? And yes, I'm aware that they have released newer songs since Janie first grabbed her gun while loving in an elevator, but really, Aerosmith? I seriously cannot imagine anyone under the age of 35 being remotely interested in this. If they want to do a super-group version of Guitar Hero, then they ought to just cough up the millions in licensing fees and sign Metallica. An all-Metallica version of Guitar Hero would be the proverbial license to print money.
- Speaking of new downloadable content (DLC for the hip kids), new content and new Achievements are available for Overlord and PGR4, two games I was happy to cover in the Achievements Unlocked pocket-guide I co-wrote last winter. And speaking of Overlord, if you hadn't ever played it, you ought to. It's a really fun game and the new content seems to add new bosses, new dungeon enemies, and perhaps some other new stuff. I'm going to check it out this week.
- Kristin tells me that her sister and her boyfriend went into a games store in Long Island, NY recently and came across my BioShock strategy guide. She was pointing it out to her boyfriend and the clerk apparently overheard them. The story goes that the clerk was a little too excited about this brush with the relative of a Z-list celebrity such as myself and proceeded to praise the book a little too much. Then asked my sister-in-law if she wanted to see his gaming tattoos. He had three of them. One was for Guitar Hero and, naturally one of them was from Final Fantasy (probably Aerith). They put the book down and slowly backed out of the store, probably scared for their safety and not a small bit worried he might show them the hidden third tattoo.
- Another note from Kristin's family. Her mother is in charge of recreation and activities for a very swanky "assisted living facility" (it's really a country club with a medical facility instead of a golf course) and she's going to get a Wii for the residents there. A lot of them aren't fit enough to actually go outside and play golf and tennis anymore, but she's hoping to help them stay a bit more active with the Wii. I've ragged on the Wii quite a bit in this space, but I have to admit that not only is this a great example of where the Wii is perfectly appropriate, but also a strong argument for how important it is to pack-in a game (Wii Sports) with the console. How many people would otherwise not be aware of this game and never consider buying a Wii for a purpose such as this? I also recommended Carnival Games so the residents can throw darts and play skeeball too. She says she's not going to let the old-folks know that the games can be played with slight wrist-flicking motions -- she wants them up and about putting some real effort into it. I also recommended picking up (based on second and third-hand knowledge) the game Endless Ocean for the folks who need some brain stimuli.
- For every story you read about the growing number of female gamers, you end up with yet another example of how gaming simply doesn't make any sense to some women. Take last night for example, I was marking on a map where the Diamond Bracelet item was in the game I'm writing the guidebook for. Kristin was standing next to me waiting to kiss me goodnight and commented on how nice it must be to find diamond bracelets lying around in unlocked chests. She was interested because of the jewelry so I had to do the only thing I could do and tell her that, in the game, a Feathered Cap is actually much more valuable. "Well that's [bleep]. Who the hell would rather have a feathered cap than a diamond bracelet? Gamers are so stupid, sometimes." So predictable. And so right.
- I recently submitted a large chapter to one of my editors and he immediately wrote back asking me about a certain piece of text that I had formatted differently. It was text taken from the game that I replicated for the reader so they can read some backstory when not playing the game. There was a ton of it and it took a long time to type. Sometimes if a book is getting too long on pagecount, this is precisely the kind of info that would get left on the editing room floor, sort-of-speak. I replied, telling him what it was and that I hoped it wasn't getting cut because it took a long time to type. His reponse? Oh, they weren't going to cut it, but he was wondering because "the writing isn't... Well, it could be better in those places." That was a good response. A very good response.
- Lastly, I have an exercise for those of you who think videogame characters are well-developed. Try to write a brief biography for each of the characters in the next videogame you play. Nothing too long. Just write two substantive paragraphs for every major character in the game. The phrase "like pulling teeth" is particularly appropriate here. Trust me, I believe videogames can, at times, represent art and that they can offer stories that have at least as much depth as most movies and television series, but the truth is that game creators rarerly ever flesh out their characters. Most games still pigeonhole their characters into stereotyped roles, much like games used to (and sometimes still do) with their level design. For every fire level you have the muscle-bound thug; for every ice level you have the somber, introverted emo kid; for every jungle level you have the wise-cracking chick in overalls... or boy shorts. Game developers have finally, after decades of abuse, stopped jamming jungle/ice/fire/minecar levels down our throat. Let's hope it doesn't take several more decades for games to move beyond the cliched character development too. Some games get it right but we're not completely there yet.