Monday, April 19, 2010

Diary of an IPL Fan - Episode 4

This is part of an ongoing series I'm doing for . Re-posted here for those who missed it when it originally appeared.

Day Twenty-five

For a few days, I am not going to write anything in this diary. Maybe that will change the luck for my favourite teams, especially Preity.



Day Thirty-two

Some people are saying that KKR and Rajasthan Royals still have a mathematical chance of qualifying. I didn't know they had that kind of thing in IPL. I thought you have to play matches and win. Not a bad idea. Having a maths entrance exam will help people who are weak at cricket, such as KKR, to still do well in IPL. Maybe the IIT-JEE should introduce a cricket match section also, so that those who have done badly in the IPL still have a 'cricketing' chance of getting in.

Day Thirty-five
Why is Lalit Modi Sir saying all those bad things about Mr.Tharoor-ji ?????? Maybe he is upset that Mr.Tharoor-ji has ensured that Sreesanth will still be around in IPL 4.

And why is everyone upset with Lalit Modi Sir about saying stupid things on Twitter? Shahid Kapoor does it all the time, and I don't see anyone calling for an investigation into Shahid's activities. People are biased against Lalit Modi Sir.


Day Thirty-seven

No! No! No! All my favourite teams are now out of the tournament. How could Shah Rukh, Preity and Shilpa have allowed this to happen?

I'm sorry, but even though I am a fan, I have to blame the Bollywood stars for their teams doing so badly. They spend all their time either shooting commercials and films or attending parties, and don't spend any time concentrating on cricket. If Shah Rukh had spent half the time on actual cricket related issues than he did shooting those stupid car ads, KKR would have qualified for the semi-finals for sure.

I agree that people have the same complaints about the players also - that they spend more time shooting and partying than concentrating on cricket. But they have an excuse - they have to keep up their commitments to their team owners and sponsors. Bollywood stars have no such excuses, na? It's just irresponsibility, that's all. When they are shooting films, do they take breaks to play cricket? So they really shouldn't be taking breaks to shoot films when they own IPL teams. Do you see N.Srinivasan or Venkatram Reddy appearing in ads? No. And look at how their teams are doing.


Day Thirty-eight

I am very upset that Mr.Tharoor-ji and Lalit Modi Sir are being dragged into all these needless controversies. Both are great men, and the public and media should not make up these false stories about them.

There is one South Indian writer (can't remember his name) on that leading cricket website who always writes false news about Lalit Modi Sir and everyone else. I think it must be all his doing - he must have written one of his usual made-up false lying news reports, and caused all this controversy. I am going to inform the CBI through SMS. They will nab him and prevent him from spreading lies about the IPL. Serves him right.

Also, this is all Twitter's fault. I think the government should ban twitter. I won't miss it. I can always keep in touch with Shahid and Kareena through Google Buzz. And Google Wave. But nobody has sent me a Wave invite yet.

Diary of an IPL Fan - Episode 3

Note : This is part of a series that I'm currently doing for . Republished here for those of you who missed it when it first appeared.

Day Nineteen

I don't know why everybody criticises the commentators so much. They are all either former cricketers, or hardworking upcoming actors, and we must repect them for their achievements. Except for Arun Lal. I can't remember exactly what he does, but I remember that his father was also a sports commentator. One funny thing about his father - sometimes he used to be called Anupam Ghulati, and sometimes he was called Kishore Bhimani! Hahaha I always wondered why the same commentator would use different names, but then realized that it was probably so that fans don't get confused - so he used one name for cricket and another for other sports. That and probably some tax reasons, I guess.

But anyway, why always poke fun at commentators and everything they say? I agree that they say very basic and stupid things sometimes, but we must remember that their comments are very useful and educational for people who don't know anything about cricket - such as Shilpa Shetty. And John Buchanan.


Day Twenty

They have selected the Indian team for the T20 world cup - and I must admit that I am disappointed. Why have they only selected Indian players? I can understand if it was for fifty overs format, but in T20 you are allowed four foreigners in the team, no? Why doesn't Lalit Modi Sir explain this to K.Srikkanth ? At least he could have explained it to Narendra Hirwani before throwing him out of that exclusive IPL lounge no?

This is not fair. Now all the other teams will be packed with foreigners, and our Indian team will have none. Surely we are going to lose. And this Srikkanth is always selecting players from his own state - like Dhoni and Raina. Clearly he is biased.


Day Twenty Two

This middle part of the IPL is really very boring. All the matches are beginning to look like each other - no excitement. This is why I am so happy that Mr.Vivek Oberoi has decided to release his new film, Prince, at this time. It shows how much Mr.Vivek cares about the people of India - so he is releasing his film despite the fact that the IPL is going on. Other selfish and greedy producers are holding back their releases until after the IPL is over. This clearly shows that they are only interested in money. Mr.Vivek Oberoi is different - he is not bothered if his film flops (which it surely will, since everyone is watching IPL) as long as the fans are happy. What a man!


Day Twenty Three

My friend laughed at me today for saying that the Vodafone Zoozoo ads have superb animation. He says that these ads are not animated. Hahahahahahahaha. He is a donkey. He probably thinks that Shaktimaan is a fictional character. He doesn't know that I once met Shaktimaan many years ago, when I was in school. Many people have told me that that was just an actor wearing a Shaktimaan costume, but they are wrong. Why would anyone wear such a stupid costume if they weren't actually Shaktimaan?


Day Twenty Four

Damn. I called that stupid telephone line so that I could speak to a cheerleader, and they connected me to R.P.Singh! What a waste! Why would I want to speak to R.P.Singh? So anyway, I asked him if he could introduce me to any cheerleaders. He immediately hung up. I think he doesn't know any. I think tomorrow's 'Star Connect' is with Shane Warne. Surely he will be able to introduce me to some girls. I will try again tomorrow.

Diary of an IPL Fan - Episode 2

Note : This is part of a series that I'm currently doing for . Republished here for those of you who missed it when it first appeared.

Day fourteen

What is Preity's team doing? Selfish, greedy buggers. Don't they want to win to make her happy? Such a sweet girl - she is so nice to them. She even pays them salaries and cheers for them during the matches. No other team owner will do this. And how do they repay her kindness? By losing again and again.

I think Yuvraj is annoyed at losing the captaincy to Kumar Sangakkara, so he is trying to win it back by turning into Arjuna Ranatunga, so that the Sri Lankans will listen to him. Idiot - always worrying about runs, wickets and captaincy. He should realize that Preity's happiness is all that matters.


Day fifteen

Damn. My fantasy league team is doing really badly. I can understand Lalit Modi sir's decision to keep Pakistan players out of the IPL, but at least he could have given permission for them to play in fantasy cricket, no? If I had Shahid Afridi, Umar Akmal and Umar Gul in my fantasy team, surely I would have done well. They are quality players in any format. Why keep them out of fantasy leagues and insult them? I hope that Mohammed Yousuf doesn't retire from fantasy cricket in a huff. The game needs him.

Oh - and speaking of Pakistani cricketers, what's all this about Shoaib Malik marrying Sania Mirza? She should realize we're a conservative country. She shouldn't have married into another sport. But I hope she's happy, and serves her husband better than she serves, period.


Day Sixteen

I am so proud. We finally have a real blimp in India.

I have no idea what it is, but since L.Sivaramakrishnan said that it's some great modern technological marvel, it must be so. Why would he lie? In fact, these Tamils know a lot about technology. They have lots of time to study all these technological things, since they don't have Bollywood to distract them, I guess.

Lalit Modi sir is truly a genius for getting such technologies into cricket. Superbowl is the biggest sporting event other than the IPL - and they also have a blimp made by a tyre company. The IPL is a trendsetter for sure. Soon the Superbowl organisers will also copy the IPL and get cheerleaders, more advertisements and even strategy breaks. Then their tournament will also become as famous as IPL.


Day Seventeen

Harbhajan is a great player, but he should learn to calm down. Why did he shout at T.Suman that day? He only shouts at players who are smaller than him. They should send Sunjay Dutt sir into the ground to deal with players who are indisciplined. Just seeing that costume will be enough to silence anybody. 


Day eighteen

The Hon. Sports Minister has unnecessarily criticized Modi Sir, because he is using cricket for entertainment it seems. Isn't cricket supposed to be for entertainment? Why else are we watching cricket? For education or what? I think they should remove boring old Mr.Gill and make Lalit Modi Sir the sports minister. He will be able to make anything interesting. Even Tennikoit.

Also, KKR isn't doing as well as I thought. But they obviously haven't taken my advice. I told them to buy Sachin - but I see that Sachin is still with Mumbai Indians. And see how well they're doing? I am beginning to doubt my hero Shah Rukh. I don't think they are really following the advice of fans like me - I think it is just some advertising trick.But I know how to reach Shah Rukh - the one place where famous people like him can be reached directly. So see you guys later - need to go and set up a twitter account.


Diary of an IPL Fan - Episode 1

Note : This is part of a series that I'm currently doing for . Republished here for those of you who missed it when it first appeared.

Day Zero
I am so excited that the IPL has begun. A true battle between some of our best and sexiest film stars! May the best person win - Shah Rukh, Preity, Shilpa, Katrina, all the best. Except to that boring Chennai team. K.Srikkanth it seems - who wants HIM as a brand ambassador? And that weirdo who drums on a river.


Day Four

Good that Shah Rukh has finally come to his senses and is accepting advice from those who truly understand and love his team - random people from all over India. Better than trusting Australians like Buchanan. In previous years also I had suggested many strategies by leaving over 200 comments on his team's web site, but I'm sure those idiots who maintained the web site never forwarded them to him. Morons - do they think he can personally visit the site and read all the comments? Lazy.

This time I have sent all my advice in a large book, couriered to his office. I'm sure that newspaper guy, that TV serial aunty and that chicken-catching dude must have done the same. If their advice can help KKR win their first two matches, surely mine will help them even more? Watch out - KKR will surely win this year.


Day Seven

Damn. My 'fake IPL player' blog is not taking off. What's the matter with people - what I write is so much funnier than that guy from last year. Maybe I shouldn't have pretended to be 'fake Anirudh Singh'. I've even copied some of the Fake IPL Player's original posts. Why can't people who watch the same movie multiple times enjoy reading the same blog post multiple times? Snobs. Losers.

Anyway, there's still hope. One gentleman has left a comment on the blog, promoting something called 'Male Organ Enhancement'. Why would he choose my blog to promote something, unless he knew lots of people are visiting it ?


Day Ten

I'm so happy that Preity's team finally won! Her smile is SO much nicer than N.Srinivasan's.


Day Twelve

Lalit Modi sir is a genius and a true visionary. He has managed to get two more teams into the IPL - from Pune and some place in Kerala. He will make everybody rich I think - except for those people who buy these teams for huge amounts of money, even more than English football teams. But this is not a problem for them - they are rich people anyway.

Lots of people are making jokes that Dubai is a part of Kerala, but these jokes are silly and repetitive, and they don't fool me. I know that it is a part of Arab. Kerala is a part of Sri Lanka.


Day Thirteen

Am so excited that I'm going to watch an IPL match next week. I haven't bought tickets, but I have entered many contests, and will surely win at least one free ticket. This is the law of averages. Even Kings XI Punjab managed to win a match, no? The law never fails.

See you guys in a little while.

The iPad could be the next blockbuster gaming console. Seriously.

by Anand Ramachandran. This article first appeared in OPEN magazine.

While the jury is still out on the iPad's impact as an e-reader on the publishing industry, there's one area where it's already being touted as a certain game-changer. The videogames industry has welcomed Apple's self-described 'magical' new tablet with open arms, and almost all major publishers are looking at the device as a serious platform for growth.

Why are developers and publishers all agog about the iPad? The reasons are multiple. The iPhone, with its multitouch capability and accelerometer, proved to be a terrific gaming device, but its small screen size meant that the range of games that were well suited to it was fairly limited. The iPad, with its faster processor, larger screen area and improved accelerometer opens up possibilities for a far wider range of genres to work effectively on the device.

Sure enough, some genres will work better than others. Former GameSpot editor and celebrity gaming journalist Jeff Gertzmann has already said on Twitter that the iPad sucks for playing action games. Action games have always needed quick, responsive controls - especially in terms of simultaneous directional (run, climb) and instantaneous (jump, shoot) input, not the kind of control scheme that touch screens are ideal for. Additionally, mucking about with your thumbs and fingers directly on the screen tends to obscure the action itself, which interferes with the split-second decision making that is an integral part of action gameplay. However, action games such as Call of Duty, NOVA and Mirror's Edge are already doing fairly well on the iPad, and smart designers might yet find a way around these problems that works better than the ubiquitous 'virtual joystick' compromise.

However, genres such as strategy, roleplaying, adventure and puzzle games stand to benefit greatly from the reduced abstraction levels afforded by direct touch-screen input. A cursory glance at the iPad games library reveals a number of heavy-duty strategy franchises already (The Sims, Civilization Revolution, Command and Conquer, Plants vs. Zombies). It's a great fit - since most strategy and tactical combat titles involve constantly clicking on different parts of the screen as the primary user interaction. This works beautifully on the iPad - intuitive, smooth and accessible. Ditto for adventure and puzzle games. In fact, the iPad might just revolutionize standard board games as well. Place it flat on your table and Voila! - an instant scrabble, chess, monopoly or parcheesi board. The iPad's larger screen and ability to register multiple touches also makes it ideal for two-player games such as air-hockey.

Driving games are also enjoying great success on the iPad, thanks to its improved accelerometer making steering completely natural. Need for Speed : Shift, Real racing HD and Asphalt 5 have all had stints in the top seller lists.

Within weeks of its release, games are already the most downloaded apps on the iPad. Over a third of all iPad exclusive applications released are games. Publishers are hoping that the iPad will follow a success path similar to the one enjoyed by Nintendo's Wii - where millions of people who never realized that they were gamers suddenly discover the joy of gaming because of an innovative and intuitive control mechanic. Add a range of affordable games available through a proven digital distribution model (the App Store), and we could be looking at the next blockbuster handheld gaming console.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Destroy. Escape. Create. Solve. The four basic motivations that have powered videogames through the ages.

by Anand Ramachandran. This article first appeared in Gadgets and Gizmos magazine.

The final level in last year's classic Uncharted 2 : Among Thieves was one of the finest cinematic conclusions in the history of videogames, a fitting finale to one of the best games of all time. As the intrepid exporer Nathan Drake, you had to run rings around the game's final boss, while figuring out the way to kill him (your bullets didn't even scratch him), and then make a frantic escape by running, leaping, dodging, clingin on to ledges and get away while the entire building was collapsing around you. It was classic Indiana Jones style high adventure. And it incorporated, in the span of a few minutes, three of the basic player motivations that make up the basic DNA of gaming as a form.

The very first computer game, SpaceWar, established one of gaming's most common conventions - killing the other guy.

Since gaming's earliest days, an overwhelming majority of videogames presented the player with four primary objectives. You kill things. You escape things. You create things. You figure things out. Almost every game from 'Space War' to 'Super Mario Galaxy' to 'Mass Effect 2' has simply featured these four basic motivations in different permutations and combinations. It's a clear illustration of the 'the more things change, the more they stay the same' principle, and a look down gaming's memory lane helps build an understanding of how, beneath all the audio-visual splendour and technological wizardry, games actually force us to keep playing them.

Strangely enough, Pong, the very first videogame, doesn't quite fit into any of these four categories. While it can be argued that the objective of Pong was to 'avoid missing the ball' (as the game's iconic instructions themselves said), this is a bit of a stretch. But the reason becomes clear on a little closer examination – Pong is a representation of tennis (Willy Higginbotham's earlier variant was called Tennis for Two), an adaptation of a real-world sports game. Our study is limited to pure videogames, which leaves out videogame adaptations of sports, board games, or puzzles, which fit into a different evolutionary tree altogether.

However, Space War, the first PC game (which in fact predates Pong) was also the first to establish what is still one of gaming's most popular motivations – kill the other guy. Over 50 years later, this is still the basic thing players need to do in ultra-modern games like Call of Duty : Modern Warfare, Halo 3 and God of War. The simple pleasure of destroying your opponents is what drives a large part of the multi-billion dollar worldwide gaming industry. The implementations have varied through the years – gamers have had to shoot, hack, slash, smash and beat up assorted things which included aliens, monsters, soldiers, pirates, ninjas and multicoloured bricks – but in essence, you had to destroy everything that wasn't you to win the game. It's a very primal survival instinct, and it's not for nothing that combat is pehaps the single most common feature in videogames, so common that many people think all games are violent and there is no other kind of videogame.

Pac-Man's only function was to escape the pursuing Inky, Blinky, Pinky and Clyde. And they would always eventually get you.

Of course, this isn't true. Even as early as the late seventies, games like Pac-Man and Donkey Kong were blazing a different trail. Both these seminal titles motivated the player in completely different ways – instead of the hunter, the player was the hunted. The primary gameplay motivation was escape – you were expected to dodge and avoid your enemies, and reach a point where you could escape and end the level. Sure, you were given tools to destroy your enemies temporarily (Pac-Man's power-pill helped you eat the ghosts, and Mario could grab a hammer and crunch the barrels in Donkey Kong), but they would always respawn and come right back at you. Unlike in Space Invaders or Defender, destroying your enemies was only a means, but not the end itself. You could just as well dodge around them and finish the levels. More games followed that used this formula of escape as opposed to killing – Pitfall, River Raid, Prince of Persia and Super Mario Bros. All featured enemies that were obstacles but not objectives. Running, jumping and dodging with dexterity are more important here than brute strength. The legacy continues well into the present day, with Super Mario Bros remaining one of gaming's most powerful franchises, and games like Prince of Persia, Assassin's Creed and Little Big Planet seamlessly incporporating combat and level-navigation in varying degrees to facilitate escape.

Spore is the culmination of Will Wright's design emphasis on creative over destructive gameplay. Wright's games (The Sims, SimCity) are mostly about creative exploration, and largely lack traditional gaming objectives such as 'winning'.

Meanwhile, Will Wright and Sid Meier, with SimCity and Civilization respectively, created a powerful trend in gaming that emphasized creation over destruction. You built and nurtured cities, and indeed entire civilizations that grew and flourished under your care. The motivation worked in an opposite way to the survival instincts that were catered to by killing or escape based games – appealing to a more evolved, sophisticated need to create and care for things. It bust the market wide open – and a flood of games flowed through the breach into the hands of eager fans. Wright went on to create the bestselling The Sims franchise (in which you created and cared for ordinary, everyday virtual people) and the hugely ambitious Spore (in which you saw your beloved single-cell creation evolve into a spacefaring race of super-beings). Meanwhile, the strategy genre took Civilization's lead and ran in different directions, creating a slew of games in which you needed to build things that would give you the power to destroy other things. Awesomeness followed, and superfranchises such as Warcraft, Starcraft, Age of Empires, Command and Conquer, and Warhammer were born.

The Myst series arguably took the puzzle-solving adventure mainstream. It featured devilishly tricky puzzles that many individuals needed to slyly refer to online walkthroughs to solve. Yes, Millenium Internet Cafe users, you know who you are.

An even more sophisticated breed of gamer demanded the need to flex their brain-muscles a little more – and the adventure franchise tapped into this need. Games like Monkey Island, Space Quest, Gabriel Knight and the blockbuster Myst were essentially stories which unfurled as the gamer solved puzzles to advance the plot. While the pure adventure rose, fell, and then enjoyed a renaissance in the casual gaming space, the 'figure-things-out' mechanic has found its way into every other genre – many shooters, role-playing games and strategy games feature 'puzzles' that need to be solved. With the recent release of 'Heavy Rain', adventure games may yet make a comeback into the mainstream.

As gaming evolves and the boundaries between genres blurs even more, the motivation in games becomes more complex, and most games will feature the four basic motivations – destruction, creation, escape and puzzle-solving – in different combinations. And, as Uncharted 2 has shown us, it can be quite the heady cocktail.

Bioshock 2 and the challenge of extending Rapture

by Anand Ramachandran. This article first appeared on my Game Invader column for the New Indian Express

Rapture is a beautiful gameworld, but rather hard to expand upon.

When Bioshock was first released, it was rightly hailed as an instant classic. However, it was also praised to the heavens for its innovation and gameplay, which was rather baffling. Bioshock's strengths lay in its superb story and breathtaking setting. The visual and sound design were among the finest in the history of gaming, and, as everybody knows, it had the “best water effects ever seen in a videogame”™. The gameplay, however, featured no real innovation (younger gamers – please refer to System Shock 2), the gunfights were cookie-cutter, and the way the game handled player death effectively devalued any real tension the player might have felt during the combat. So while Bioshock remains a triumph of fantastic, atmospheric videogame storytelling, making a sequel was always going to be problematic.

And now, with Bioshock 2, our fears have been confirmed. While the sequel is indeed an excellent game, it simply doesn't blow us away the way its predecessor did.

Because, with Bioshock, the developers painted themselves into a bit of a corner in a couple of ways.

First, they chose surface (story, visuals, sound) over core gameplay. Since the surface was so astonishingly brilliant, this didn''t matter the first time around. But, in a sequel, it was always going to be hard to top that effort, and hence player disappointment was almost guaranteed. Even though Bioshock 2 does feature a great story and impressive presentation, it still lacks the 'wow' factor, because the initial bar was set so high. And, in the absence of these things, the gameplay doesn't hold up very well. Games like Halo and God of War don't really need any major innovations in story or visual presentation, because the core gameplay is so much fun that anyhing else is a bonus. Games like these are perfect for churning out sequels, because fans care only about the gameplay – even small innovations or additional features will keep them interested. Halo 3 is a classic example – I enjoyed every minute of the campaign, although I can barely remember what the story was about.

Second, they created a gameworld that, while being splendid and beautiful, is terribly hard to expand upon. The fiction of Bioshock firmly locks Rapture as a single underground city, the vision of one man, now a complete, dystopian wreck, overrun by lunatics and abominations. While it is theoretically possible to jump through a few hoops and contrive ways to expand the game's universe, the solutions would probably still feel just that - contrived. Bioshock 2, which is set in the same Rapture as the original, still feels fresh yet familiar, but it's hard to see the gameworld sustaining interest through yet another sequel. This is even more important for a game that depends on story and setting to hold the players' attention. Contrast this with the gameworlds created for games such as Halo, Fallout, Mass Effect or Dragon Age – all open worlds which make it easy for the designers to add a planet here, a forest there, a dwarven ruin here and infinitely extend the gamer's virtual playground. While I again reiterate that it's certainly not impossible to extend the world of Rapture, it is difficult to do it in a manner that wouldn't feel forced.

None of this would matter if Bioshock featured gameplay that would stand on its own, without the technical and creative wizardry to prop it up. Sadly, it doesn't. Which just demonstrates that old “gameplay over story” chestnut in emphatic fashion.

Dealing with Death.

by Anand Ramachandran. This Article first appeared in my Game Invader column for The New Indian Express

The iconic death screen from 'Oregon Trail. Never heard of it? Look it up. Now.

Death in videogames is almost as old as the medium itself. A huge percentage of early arcade games had the concept of 'lives' – die three times, for instance, and you'd see the dreaded words 'GAME OVER' on your screen. The concept of 'death' was so ingrained into the medium that even in games where you didn't technically 'die' (you'd just miss catching something, or hitting something) you'd still say things like “I have only two lives left” or “I died”.

Soon enough, most genres replaced the idea of a finite number of 'lives' with the concept of 'health' or 'hit points'. You'd start with, say, a 100 hit points. Whenever you did something stupid, like take a rocket launcher in the face, or fall off a cliff, you'd lose health. When your health was completely depleted, you would die. This was probably done to make games more accessible and forgiving to players – the concept of 'dying' because of a single mistake was pretty harsh. And games were difficult back in the day – a single touch of an 'enemy object', such as a bullet or a spike or the enemy itself, would result in instant death in games like Donkey Kong, Pac-Man or Space Invaders. The 'health' concept at least gave players some room for error. Of course, this also made scalable difficulty easier to implement, since the 'degree' of damage could be controlled.

More recently. Many games began to dispense with the idea of 'health' altogether, favouring a damage system where you would die only if you took sustained damage for a period of time. If under fire, the gamer would simply have to take cover for a few seconds, and 'health' would be restored to normal. Halo : Combat Evolved was probably the first game to successfully implement this feature, and today even role-playing games like Mass Effect 2 have followed suit.

It's fairly logical – gamers hate to die. They hate to have to constantly re-load old save games and play through difficult segments repeatedly. Combined with automatic checkpointing systems, these new ways of approaching player death have made games more fun for the average player. In fact, the legendary LucasArts adventure games (Monkey Island, Sam and Max, Full Throttle) did away with the concept of death altogether – you just couldn't die or get hopelessly stuck in a LucasArts adventure. Hardcore gamers scoffed at this, and missed the frenetic tension of desperately clinging on to the last 'life' or miniscule 'health' – playing extra carefully until a reprieve in the form of a 1-UP bonus or health-pack could be found. At least they still have Super Mario Bros.

Now, the recently released 'Heavy Rain' treats death in a wholly new and intriguing way. The game features a parallel narrative technique where the player controls different characters at different points in the game, experiencing the storyline from their converging viewpoints. And if one of the characters happens to die, due to a choice the player makes, the story simply continues – and the death of the relevant character impacts the way the rest of the story pans out. It's very clever and exciting – and could change the way games tug at our emotions. Sure, games like 'Wing Commander' and 'Final Fantasy 7' featured emotional death scenes that impacted the story, but never of a character that the player controlled.

If it works well, interactive narrative would have taken another bold step. If not – oh, well. There's always conveniently placed exploding barrels.