Gastrogamer – Insert Coin to Replay

I’m… BACK!

[ Insert Coin NOW! ]

Gastrogamer took a bit of a fall hibernation due to increased schoolwork, but Full Sail has been good to me lately and I’ve quite enjoyed the course work over the last few months. Now, with Fall in my sights, and a slew of holiday gaming sales on the rise – I’m sort of amped up on an endorphin high with the excitement of getting my hands on some of the newest games hitting the market.

I’ve got everything from web-based indie games, to AAA blockbusters to cover, but I plan on doing it in a timely fashion. Here’s what I’ve got on my schedule in the next coming month:

  • Indie Game Coverage Galore
  • Assassin’s Creed III Review
  • Amazing Spiderman Review
  • Holiday Gaming List
  • More Inspirational Gamers
  • Wreck It Ralph! Review
  • A Tabletop Discussion: DnD and Pathfinder
  • Personal Game Development News

So, stick with me folks, and I assure you I’ll continue to provide you with continuous game info, accessibility, and discussion as we head towards the holiday seasons!

Why I Think There Should Be A New Live-Action Batman Series

Good morning fellow gamers, now today is Wednesday, which means that I pretty much, have no scheduled item to talk about. That being said, I’m more than eager to fill today’s slot with a thought that’s been mulling in my brain as of late. I’ve tried to hold it in, but the thought just keeps beating at me. Now I know in past weeks those of you who have followed me will recall that I have an overwhelming love and appreciation for Batman.

I’m practically enthralled with anything that has his logo plastered all over it, and I consider the Batman: Arkham series to be one of the best superhero games to ever be released. This got me wondering though about one very peculiar detail, which many may have overlooked:

Why hasn’t there been a live-action Batman TV Series since the 1960’s?

Is it because Batman’s too provocative of a comic book to be put on the small screen? Is it because Christopher Nolan’s had so much high quality success with his Batman universe that nobody else wants to dare to attempt take on The Dark Knight in a small screen adaptation? I want to know, because honestly I think that’s what television is missing lately. I remember when I was younger and watching every different form of Batman I could glue my eyeballs to:

  • Batman ( 1960’s – Adam West )
  • Batman: The Animated Series ( 1990’s – Kevin Conroy )
  • Batman Beyond ( 1999  – Will Freidel )

My point is – Batman’s been around, and for as many cartoon iterations that he’s had over the years I’ve always longed to have a live-action one back in my life. I’ve wanted a Batman show that I could look forward to as an adult now.  I remember watching the 1960’s version on AMC with my grandparents and remembering how campy and humorous it was – but it still made me retain a memory and that’s what counts.

Holy Batarangs Batman! He's right - so what do we do now?

So, where do we go from here? Batman: The Animated Series was probably one of the most well known Batman lore ever to be produced for the small screen, certainly we wouldn’t dream of tarnishing that – but I suggest we honor that tradition with a live-action version for today’s modern audience.

Many adults, like myself, were once comic-book reading nerds hunkered down in their rooms like it was a burrow at Bag’s End. Why should they have to be subjected to comic book ideologies designed for children? So that poses a brand new question:

If a Batman: Arkham series [or a live-action Batman of any kind] was made for television – what channel would broadcast it? – And who would fulfill the roles?

Well it’s worth noting that within the past couple of years we’ve seen a dramatic leap of some major movie faces taking roles upon the small screen – and I think it’s a joy to see that. You’ve got actors like:

  • Steve Buscemi [Boardwalk Empire]
  • Dustin Hoffman [Luck]
  • Anna Paquin [True Blood]
  • Keifer Sutherland [Touch]
  • Dominic Monaghan [Lost]
  • Olivia Wilde [House]
  • Jennifer Morrison [Once Upon A Time]

My point is that television audiences are now getting experiences that they never have, with actors that they’ve only thought were film based stars. They are branching from their traditional formats and coming to the small screen, which, provides a wonderful backdrop for a high-production live-action Batman to be able to successfully be done for this generation. The station it would go to would have to be one willing to take a risk.

Oh Cape - You tried to be a superhero the people needed, but hey, I watched.

There’s always this sort of risk/reward thing when trying to develop comic-book television shows. [ just look at the clearly under-watched and under-rated Cape from NBC ] The benefit for anyone who were to grab this franchise though, would be the popularity factor. Batman is an insanely popular pop-culture icon. If you slap a Bat-Signal on a television screen they will come [ if even for only a moment if it sucks. ] So, how do we begin, and who would play these roles? Well here goes:

I personally say that some of the higher end, more premium networks would have to take charge of this if it ever came to be. I’m not saying shows like Smallville, The Cape, and other comic/sci-fi genre shows aren’t good on networks, but there’s something that premium channels like HBO and Stars can provide franchises like Batman – freedom of expression. The comic book versions of Batman are surprisingly dark and often deal with lots of very intense violent situations that I don’t think could accurately be depicted via a network company judging on my past viewing experiences.

Is it possible that a network could pull Batman off?

Yeah, certainly, I’ve been thoroughly enjoying Fringe and Grimm and they’re much darker than past shows on their respective networks, but my point is, taking away that risk of restriction will help to tell a better-rounded story – so my vote goes to HBO, Showtime, or Stars.

Now on to, who would play these iconic roles?

This is a very difficult task and by no means am I an expert or am I a casting agent who knows what he’s talking about when it comes to placing people in roles. These are just a gamer’s musings on who he feels would fit and suit a live action television version of Batman: Arkham. Honestly, I’m hoping people will disagree with me and post their own opinions of cast members. The more odd and interesting the better, who knows if suggestions made here may actually become a reality some day?

Batman:

Now some folks may hurt me with this suggestion – because nobody will ever out-do Kevin Conroy for a Batman voice. Conroy has something special in his soul that allows him to be the quintessential Dark Knight – but I digress. I personally believe though that one man may be able to pull this off if given the chance. I’m a massive Mad Men fan and for some reason whenever I see John Hamm on the screen I instantly think of a certain superhero billionaire playboy – of course there is also Matt Bomer from White Collarto contend with. Either gentleman, I feel, has the charisma and swagger of Bruce Wayne, while still having enough intensity and muscle to put on the cowl for a television screen.

Oh, no sir, I don't think so - Batman Off!

I'm brooding, I'm cool, I -could- be Batman!

Harley Quinn:

Now Harley was probably one of my favorite Batman vixens when I was growing up. There was just something so charming about her flirtatious nature, her charisma, and her brute ruthlessness that was so deceptive to the common of Gotham. This is why, when I scavenged through the remains of Hollywood I was disappointed that I couldn’t put Brittney Murphy in this place [ RIP Brittney Murphy ] I always felt that Murphy would have made a wonderful Harley due to her humor, infectious personality, and take-charge female attitude. Alas, I had to look elsewhere and so my choice for Harley would have to be none other than Malin Akerman.

She’s already got enough geek-cred for being a vital part of the Watchmen series as Silk Spector. She’s got humor and wit and we’ve witnessed she’s definitely got some ass-kicking vixen in her. Definitely my one and only choice for Harley Quinn at the moment, but any other suggestions are extremely welcome.

Oh I think Joker wouldn't mind this woman being obsessive...

Joker:

 This one is extremely hard to deal with. I find Joker to be the one villain I can never place a face with. I was also one of those guys who, when posed the question as to whether Heath Ledger could pull of Joker, stated that I couldn’t picture him fulfilling that role. How stupid do I look now hmm? I was blown away by his performance, so to even attempt of fill someone in this spot is hard – extremely hard. I’m going to try to anyways though – so please outcry your distaste if you think my choice blows.

My choice for Joker comes off of two things:

Can the person play an evil villain convincingly? – and does the person have a wit to them when doing so?

I originally wanted to throw NPH’s name out there – because I felt he did a wonderful job as Dr. Horrible, but alas, Neil Patrick Harris is just not imposing or vicious enough for me to consider him a real threat in the Batman universe. I finally broke it down to two people I feel could fill that role: Steve Bucemi or Michael C. Hall.

This guy gives me the creeps without even trying...

If that doesn't scream psychotic Joker I don't know what would...

Steve may seem like an old choice, far too old to play a supposedly 30-something Joker, but Bucemi is a wicked, dark, brooding badass in Boardwalk Empire. He exudes this aura of fear in people even for his lanky stature and I think that’s something that Joker brings out in his character. Hall would be my second choice, because he’s younger and he’s got experience playing a serial killer on television’s Dexter. The man knows what playing a psychopathic individual is all about and he can do it with style. So either of these men I think would make fine additions to the Joker pool for a tv series.

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Beenox vs. Batman: When Comic Books and Video Games Work

Comic books have become a major staple in the social culture of the world, and they have been for quite some time. Whether it’s been the friendly neighborhood Spiderman, Peter Parker, or the brooding, billionaire vigilante Bruce Wayne running around the rooftops of Gotham as Batman; comics have become synonymous with the youthful, adventurous spirit in all of us. They give us a sense of adventure, intrigue, and make us feel amazing as we follow the vibrant pages of story lines from cover to cover. The sad truth of the matter is that the vast superheroes that we’ve witnessed over the years, haven’t really translated well to a video game screen.

The mass populous has become ensnared by this comic novelty and many graphic novels and comic books are becoming mainstreamed blockbusters, epic television shows, but it’s only been in the past couple of years where I’ve seen comic book superheroes really crack the preverbal barrier of video game console success. Today we’re going to take a walk down memory lane and discuss some horrifying examples of superhero games, as well as two current titles that I personally believe optimize what our gaming industry is capable of when it comes to bringing our comic book alter-egos and childhood heroes to the virtual screen. Let’s begin with the bad so we can climatically rise to the aspects of the good games that work and why they work.

Bad Superhero Game # 1: Superman 64

Now I was in love with my Nintendo 64 as a child, and I coddled my cartridges like a baby coddles a pacifier, but Superman 64 was like the black sheep of my love affair. The game was utter garbage and is considered one of the worst superhero games to ever be created. This was disappointing for me, because I love the Man of Steel. I grew up believing that through all the trials and tribulations in my life that somehow I must be like him, if I was able to deal with all of the struggles of my life like lead bullets bouncing off Superman’s pectorals.

This game makes Superman look like a drunken pub brawler, and makes his ‘Man of Steel’ persona fade faster than a plate of nachos at a football game. The worst part about this game, is that I ultimately wish it had never been made – that way, I didn’t have to destroy Superman’s reputation and say that his pixelated flying into walls and poorly timed fighting mechanics didn’t make me cry inside. [ Rocksteady, if you’re watching, I suggest this is the franchise you decide to save next! ]

Bad Superhero Game # 2: Thor: God of Thunder 

Do I even need to explain why a movie game title is going to inevitably be bad? Look at [almost ] any direct movie/game superhero title and you’ll see the average scores on those games are horrendous. The reason I included Thor as my second example though, is because it’s a MODERN game. It just came out recently following the release of Thor in theaters, and even though I’m not a severe Thor lover, I was really hoping for a game that would MAKE me love him.

The sad truth is that this game doesn’t even play well. The mechanics are clunky. The storyline makes me long for my yesteryears when I didn’t even know video games existed, so that I ultimately wouldn’t have to experience this mess, and just overall in the realm of things the game doesn’t sell what it was designed to sell. Perhaps it’s because the developer was Sega, and sadly, most every movie game that Sega has produced – to me – has been lackluster at best. I would love to see someone attempt a reboot of this franchise, but until then, I’m content with my Batman and Spiderman success stories.

Successful Superhero Game #1: The Batman: Arkham Series [ Asylum and City ]

My goodness, if there was one game in the past couple of years that I can honestly say made me truly FEEL like the superhero that they promoted it would have to be the Batman: Arkham series. London developers, Rocksteady Studios, has made me a true believer that video games based on my favorite superhero can be truly possible! I grew up with Batman fever. I knew every line to every Batman: The Animated Series episode, I read the comics, I even played the NES games and anything that was Batman I followed. In the recent release of Batman: Arkham I was blown away though.

Batman: Arkham City –  12 Minutes of Gamplay:

Never before had I witnessed a game that had stuck so true to the core fan-base. The intriguing storyline, the meaningful characters, the challenge maps to make me feel like Batman, the Riddler challenges to allow me to have to think intuitively during gameplay and the vast wiki-like backstories that I could collect as Easter Eggs throughout the game. All of these pieces made the Batman: Arkham series a standout in how superhero video games should be made.

Now were there flaws, certainly, I won’t ever say a game is exactly perfect in every shape and form. There’s always room for improvement upon the last idea, but the fact is, that the Batman: Arkham series is a stand-alone master class in what a good superhero experience should be. The fighting mechanics were fluid, the story lines were solid enough, and the menu work made accessing weaponry fairly easy. People should take notes from Rocksteady, and Rocksteady should take note that their DC lineup that Warner Bros. has backing them is extensive and fans would love to see other superheroes get ripped off those pages as well.

Successful Superhero Game # 2: Spiderman: Shattered Dimensions

Now I was skeptical about this game when it first came out, because I knew nothing about the developer Beenox, and thought that a brand new company couldn’t possibly design my hero Peter Parker in the shining light that some of the current movies had cast him in. The game also featured four dimensions instead of sticking with just Peter, and that concerned me, but you know what? I was wrong. The game actually works quite well, despite a few qualms I had with certain levels. Beenox gave me a quippy, witty, smart ass Peter Parker. They gave me cell-shaded graphics, which, for that particular game were a perfect and welcome transition.

The gameplay mechanics could have been smoother in places. I often times felt like some of the 2099 Dimension levels became cumbersome and difficult to handle in terms of the swing mechanics. The storyline, while a tad odd, made sense to me and  it wasn’t too confusing. The game itself, due to the cell-shading decision probably isn’t too grand of a choice for players like color-blind gamers, due to the harsh contrast tones on some of the models. The game though is a great stance on what a good superhero game should be. These games could definitely incorporate some other functions like subtitles for actual sounds within the game, rather than just dialog for deaf gamers, but both the Batman: Arkham series and Shattered Dimensions sell me on superhero games.

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Inspirational: Indie Game: The Movie

Hey there folks, so tonight, I can’t sleep. I’m driven mad by the desire to do artwork, create, imagine, sort out my ideas and my passions. I’m enthralled by the allure of what may very well, one day, be on video screens and consoles everywhere – but first I have to gather my pants together logically and realize something drastic. The video game industry that I see on television and news, and perpetuated in magazines is probably not going to be the same reality I’m going to have to face. It’s probably not going to be a walk in the park, and I’m probably going to get my face stomped on more than a couple of times by idea bashers and nay-sayers.

I’ve grasped this concept. Do I still want to move forward and be a game designer?

You bet your sweet Princess Peach backside I do!

Now this week I’m discussing a movie, that quite honestly, I’m ecstatic that something like this is finally being made! Those of you in the gaming world have probably heard of movies like King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters or Chasing Ghosts: Beyond The Arcade. Both of these movies are excellent documentaries of the old school video game arcade market, but now, the gaming industry has switched it’s attention to the indie circuit. The newest documentary to loom it’s lustrous digital locks in the face of the world, is a movie called Indie Game: The Movie.

The movie chronicles the game development process and interviews some of the most prolific indie game developers currently on the market. The creators, James Swirksy and Lisanne Pajot, take you on a journey through the lives of the designers and give you and inside look at the struggles trials and tribulations that game designers must overcome to succeed as independent entities in this industry. I personally can not wait till this movie comes out, and I want to see it in theaters.

If it doesn’t make it to theaters, I think I will be deeply saddened, but that just gives me even more incentive to buy a collector’s edition of the DVD whenever it’s released. If I get an opportunity to see the movie I will undoubtedly be writing a review for it, but I personally think that any designer worth his [ or her ] giga-bytes should definitely take a look at this movie. If you’re serious about getting into game design, it’s a really good glimpse inside of a very challenging field. It doesn’t scare me really, but rather, the movie gives me hope and inspiration to continue working hard towards my goals.

I know I want to be a designer for the video games industry, and the only way that I’m going to make it there is by having confidence in myself and practicing my abilities over and over until I end up with products like the fine gentlemen represented in the movie: Edmund McMillen and Tommy Refenes [ Super Meat Boy ]; Phil Fish [ Fez ]; and Jonathan Blow [ Braid ]. If you like any of these games, if you like games in general,  if you have a desire to see how games are actually made, or you’re just hankering for some cool nerdy movie art – I suggest you check this out!

I personally feel like, as designers [ or aspiring ones ] we become motivated and driven when we see other people’s successes. We begin to believe and have that ” I Can Too!” attitude like the books of our childhood emulated. Our minds begin to unfold the many vast ideas of our youth. Our childhood dreams and wishes come flowing out onto the paper, and if we use this sudden rush of inspired wisdom to the fullest, then success is surely in our midst. I feel like we grow as people from learning from other designers. We witness what they’ve done, how they’ve drawn, what mechanics they’ve implemented, what rules they’ve imposed, and we take the best and most entertaining to us and we warp them to fit games that we want to make. So – as you’re watching this, I ask of you, take away from this movie:

Drive, Inspiration, Motivation, and Determination.

Enjoy and I hope everyone gets a chance to go out and see the full movie!