Versus Mode: Negativity, Videogames as Art, Guitar Hero’s Death, and More

GC writers Mark Freedman and Stuart Gipp discuss negativity in gaming, videogames as art, the death of Guitar Hero, and more.

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subspaceTopics in gaming news debated by GameCola writers and industry professionals.

In this edition of “Versus Mode” we have:

vmmark vmstu


Mark Freedman is a current GameCola staff member who writes reviews, news and blog posts, and “What the Crap?“, a column about things we take for granted in gaming that, upon reflection, don’t actually make any sense. He’s also participated in The GameCola Podcast and occasionally posts videos to our YouTube channel. This is Mark’s second appearance in “Versus Mode,” having written previously in NewbieMania II.

Stuart Gipp is a current GameCola staff member who writes reviews and several columns, including “Mid-Boss,” “The Basics,” and “Attack of the Clones.” He’s also participated in The GameCola Podcast. This is Stuart’s second appearance in “Versus Mode,” having written previously with Joel Tandberg.

1. Gamers need to be less negative.

Mark Freedman: As a Member of the Tribe, complaining is in my nature. I complain about the temperature. I complain about my bagel having too much cream cheese on it. I complain about fun-size candy bars having an inadequate quantity of fun. Naturally, I complain about my videogames. Whether it’s because they’re too easy, I have problems playing online, or they’re too dull, I usually have something to say. I think game developers need feedback, both good and bad. Do game companies have user trials? Does anything besides usage statistics come out of betas or demos? I don’t think so. Every time I go to a non-gaming store now, my receipt says I can go online, take a customer survey, and let them know how I feel about what I purchased. Has anyone from the gaming industry ever asked you to do that?

newvegasComplaining is one thing, but the only thing I’ve been outright negative about recently has been the PS3 release of Fallout: New Vegas. Built right on top of Fallout 3 (and, in turn, Oblivion and Morrowind), this game was a steaming pile of bugs, lifeless casinos, and more characters running into walls than you could shake a robotic dog at. How did all this pass by the production studio? Did we really deserve this mess, especially since this is their fourth game using this engine?

In part, I think that gamers do not know what they want, or at least, there is a broad spectrum of what people want based on age, gaming experience, and other factors. People complain that a sequel is either too close to the original (Fallout: New Vegas), or too different from the original (Super Mario Bros. 2). OK, make us some new games, then!

I think that the gaming community is ultimately ignored and the gaming industry is stifling itself. This is why we haven’t seen a Chrono Trigger sequel in 11 years. I think it really says something when you do something more than simply complain, like the fine folks with Crimson Echoes did, actually giving the fans what they want.

As long as the negativity is constructive, I’m all for it. I think we also need less positivity as well, as seen on other videogame sites (yes, there are others…) with five year olds giving perfect ten reviews. Bottom line, you can’t declare love or hate after playing a game for five minutes.

Stuart Gipp: It’d be easier to be positive if the current generation wasn’t so bare-faced in its mission to cheat gamers out of content that previously would have been issued as standard. DLC, for example, leaves things out that would have been in the game in the PS2 era, and charges extra at launch. Usually for things already on the game disc. What’s to like?

But no, this is basically a developer saying “Lower your standards and you’ll like our games more,” which is shockingly mendacious. Consequently, I will give Treyarch a much harder time from now on, as well as advise others not to purchase their games. I will also spread vicious and patently untrue paedophilia rumours about its employees.

2. Videogames are art.

Mark: Just like the hybrid beast depicted in this article, I’ve always felt that videogames combine many great and varied features. They are movies (literally, too). They are albums. They are beautiful paintings. Separately, these components are judged, discussed, and debated as artforms. Surely they are art as well. I think it’s difficult to say that a game as simple as Pong is art. The best example for me is the Subspace Emissary portion of Super Smash Bros. Brawl. On the outside, a game of violence, but look deep enough and there’s a whole story of struggle, sorrow, adventure, and betrayal without a single spoken word (save Solid Snake).


Stuart: Nah. They’re obviously, manifestly not art. They contain art, but an art gallery or exhibition is not, in itself, art. Anyone who says otherwise is a ponce.

How’s THAT for “Versus Mode”?! I should be in this every month.

3. Social games are evil.

Mark: I couldn’t have put it better myself. For a while, I’d go over to my dad’s house, and he’d be sitting there in his sweatpants with matza crumbs on his beard playing Farmville. “What’s the point, Dad?”, I’d ask. I don’t remember the response, but I quickly concluded that there isn’t one. There’s nothing more evil than an elderly Jewish man tending to his horseradish crops in his sweats.

You may start off playing it as a quick time waster while on the can, but eventually, you get hooked. You’re in bed, playing it on your phone. You’re playing it at work, or in the car. Eventually, you reach the maximum level and a Farmville seed is planted in your brain, sprouting a leafy shrub with a Farmville billboard on it, attracting the next victim as you wander around aimlessly getting others hooked.

farmvilleJust kidding—there isn’t a maximum level. You just keep playing until you’re dead.

Stuart: Jon Blow is evil for reaping thousands of dollars in financial gain by tricking gamers into thinking that sub sixth-form writing and My First Symbolism passes as “deep.” Therefore, everything he says is obviously wrong and he is to be regarded with nothing more than disdain. His lie of a game, Braid, opened the floodgates for hundreds of imitators covering up their obvious gameplay shortcomings with facetious “arty” graphics and experimental sound.

Er, anyway, back on the subject—no, of course they’re not evil. Rapists are evil. It’s so gamer-y to have such a visceral, emotional reaction to something so harmless as others enjoying games that they personally do not. The label “social games” is ridiculous anyway; any multiplayer game is social. Any and all single-player games can potentially be social, too. Is that seriously the best term for Farmville that the industry could come up with?

4. The time was right for Guitar Hero to go away.

Mark: I’ve never played Guitar Hero or Rock Band that much because I never wanted to fork over all that loot to buy a bunch of plastic instruments. I had to get someone to draw me a state/activity diagram depicting what combination of PS2/PS3/Xbox/360 controllers could be used on Guitar Hero and Rock Band. Every time I turned around, another sequel or band-specific version of one of the games was coming out. What a headache. Why can’t the game dynamically build a level based on MP3s I already own? You’re going to make me buy individual songs in ANOTHER format? I assume that the songs I buy in Guitar Hero 563 can’t be played in Guitar Hero 564. What’s next? Lego Batman John Kerry Detective John Kimble Guitar DJ Band Hero 5? I can’t take it any more!!!

…eeeeep. But how is Rock Band still around? Surely it’s the same crap, eh? I know Rock Band came out with the drums, microphone, tambourine and that wooden fish thing first, so aren’t they at level technology fields now? Sounds like we have a fake band monopoly coming our way.

Stuart: Another example of gamer hysteria—I love how the URL for that article says “buries rotting corpse.” How melodramatic and duplicitous can we get? The Guitar Hero series was well above average throughout its run, with new features added to every game (with the exception of explicitly marked “expansions” such as Van Halen/Aerosmith). The sales simply dipped (while remaining strong), and so Activision has retired it for the time being. The series holds too much weight to simply be abandoned, so expect it to return soon, better than ever.

5. There’s no way Dead Island will live up to its trailer.

Mark: Wait, what? A game about Crest toothpaste? Paul, I do a fine job at brushing my teeth. Do you really need me to play a game about brushing my teeth? That’s like those stupid games about avoiding drugs and diabetes! Maybe this is an action adventure game where you must defeat those “WE. MAKE. HOLES IN TEETH” guys? Oh, wait…that’s just the ad before the trailer.

Right off the bat, the game looks beautiful. Unfortunately, I’m guessing this probably isn’t gameplay footage. For all I know, Dead Island could be a text-based adventure, or another Chip’s Challenge with just really great cutscenes. I was never really into horror games after Friday the 13th, so I don’t really have anything for this game to live up to.

Stuart: I have to confess that I didn’t watch the trailer, because “Dead Island” is a bollocks name. I assume it is about zombies again. Except, they are on an island, I guess?

Instead of engaging with this question, I will list alternate ideas for zombie-based games primarily focused on location.

  • Dead Abattoir

This would be a belter. Stalking around zombified livestock, their undead moos sending shivers down your spine, with pork scratchings instead of medikits.

  • Dead Recycling Centre

Carefully make your way through discarded bottles and plastics, careful not to upset the zombie flower children. Collect empty tins of beans and trade them in for pennies to save toward ammo for several disappointing guns.

  • Dead Blockbuster Video


To hear more from this month’s “Versus Mode” contributors, you can check out Mark Freedman’s GameCola archive here, and Stuart Gipp’s here.

Do you own or write for a videogame website or blog? Are you involved in the videogame industry? Do you…at least work at GameStop, or something? Well then, you’re just what we’re looking for! E-mail Editor-in-Chief Paul Franzen for details about participating in “Versus Mode.”

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About the Contributor


  1. This is why I can’t write for Gamecola anymore. I would have taken all of these topics and actually seriously discussed them and not been funny what so ever. I’m a bad funny journalist 🙁

  2. Same as Colin. True that I have my moments of hilarity, but they are merely pebbles in the large, boring ocean that I sail upon.
    Excellent arguments this month, good show.

  3. I will agree with my associates above. For whatever reasons, I have difficulty developing humorous solutions. Or maybe I try to hard. Or Meteo sucks the laughter out of my responses and replaces them with bad references to that episode of “Dinosaurs” when the ice age came. I’m much better at writing for my own website.

    Also, Paul hasn’t asked me to write for Versus Mode in a while. He must have been dissatisfied with my previous efforts. But that’s okay. At least I’m not constipated. …often.

  4. “I love how the URL for that article says “buries rotting corpse.” How melodramatic and duplicitous can we get?”

    I’ll have you know that I excel at melodrama and my duplicity knows no bounds.

  5. The problem with multiplayer games are the ggafots that disrupt gameplay with Player-Killing and other “griefing” techniques; believe me, I used to do that siht too, and it ruins it for everyone else. There are other ones I could list, but overall, most games are better off being enjoyed in single-player format, in my opinion.

  6. re: “social games” being a bad label, a lot of genre names are just as bad. All videogames could be considered “role-playing” or “simulation” games, for example.

  7. I can’t tand how “shooter” and “first person shooter” are similar names, but vastly different genres. How about we just scrap genre and say, “of the same ilk as _game name_”?

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