Game On or Goat Over

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Microsoft versus Sony, Battlefield versus Call of Duty and Forza versus Gran Turismo. These are some of the rivalries that can get people talking about console wars. “Game On or Game Over” is your place to get inside the minds of Nicholas and Andy as they seek to find the true meaning of gaming and tackle some of gaming’s most controversial subjects. Both are award winning authors – although the awards haven’t been mailed or created yet — but trust them. Would they lie to you?

Nicholas: For those gamers who don’t know, the biggest and most highly anticipated Xbox One title of 2015 was released two weeks ago. Of course, I’m speaking of none other than Goat Simulator, the latest instalment in this growing trend of ‘simulation’ titles bringing the true experience of having a beard and eating grass to the living room. From being burnt alive, sacrificing humans to a goat devil and even being thrown around the city after being hit by a truck, Goat Simulator offers it all.

To kick this week’s article off I wanted to first take a look at this trend of ‘Simulator’ games. It seemed to begin with Surgeon Simulator becoming a Let’s Play phenomenon, and within months there were simulation titles for almost everything. Hell, I’ve even seen someone play Rock Simulator online. So, why do you think we’re seeing these sort of (often PC-only) ‘simulator’ titles, and what are your thoughts on Goat Simulator being included as a game in the Xbox One library.

Andy: I did extensive research for this article. I poured countless hours into curating all the different Simulator games, cross-referenced them with their MetaCritic scores and… or none of that is true. I did however go onto the Steam store and typed ‘Simulator’ into the search bar and was amazed when it came up with 40 some pages of results. I honestly didn’t think there would be THAT many, but at the same time it doesn’t really surprise me.

I briefly looked through some of them, and for the most part they all seem to not take themselves seriously. If memory serves me correctly, Goat Simulator wasn’t even really intended to be an actual game. That it was played by a few people and others expressed interest so it was moulded into the semblance of a game and put on Steam where it developed a life of its own and is now available on multiple platforms. I’ve seen footage of Surgeon Simulator, Goat Simulator, Farming Simulator and some Semi-truck Simulator and to be perfectly honest, I don’t get the appeal of any of them.

As far as Goat Simulator being included in the Xbox One library, they already have #IDarb so why not. I get that Goat Simulator is only $10USD, but even that to me seems too much. It further illustrates the hypocrisy of gamers too. Look on message boards, forums, Twitter, Facebook and any other social media site and you’ll see gamers complaining about the price of content, the lack of content and how short content is. Then when a game, and I use that term loosely, like this is released and people buy it up and support it. It’s two totally conflicting messages. What do you think the appeal is behind games like this? How are they able to become cult hits like this when the actual gameplay is not good at all? Do you think some of the appeal is that they don’t take themselves seriously?

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Nicholas: I think the biggest appeal lies in that very point – they don’t take themselves seriously. For me, the term ‘simulator’ was always contrasted with ‘arcade’, and usually was being used to compare physics in racing games as to whether they were realistic or not. Nowadays though, simulator just seems to follow either a profession or noun and is the title of a poorly made web-based game that people like to YouTube themselves being horrible at. This is the second appeal and reason why they’ve become so popular.

I remember scrolling through my news feed and it seems everyone was sharing videos of Surgeon Simulator when it first went viral. There was maybe one or two videos where people would complete the surgery successfully, whereas the rest were breaking ribs, dropping the heart and just waggling the moveable hands around eventually killing the patient. I can recognise that this was different for what most people were playing at the time and I understand why it took off, but it got boring as quickly as it became ‘interesting’, and I too can’t fathom why it’s resulted in such a trend. I guess, like all the Flappy Bird clones, people want to try and be the next big ‘thing’.

When Goat Simulator was first made available for PC I recall it being riddled with bugs. The developers however were intentional with this, and like we mentioned above, the game was designed not to be taken seriously. The models in the game weren’t meant to move fluidly nor correctly. The gameplay was also meant to be random and ridiculous. When I then read an article last week with the developers claiming to only be fixing major bugs, it made me think about that hypocrisy you’ve mentioned above.

Too often do reviews mention even the smallest issues of a game. Assassin’s Creed: Unity’s launch was undisputedly ruined because of the launch bugs. With Goat Simulator though, all that is irrelevant. The game was designed to ignore most bugs and the appeal lies in it being so weird and unpolished. Are we being harsh in calling gamers hypocritical in tolerating games like this, while bashing others for the same flaws? Why do you think this happens though? Does the price justify a dare I say, broken game? Is it even broken if it’s intentional?

Andy: I don’t think we’re being harsh calling gamers hypocritical, because that’s exactly what’s going on here. The very things that gamers complain about for some games, are the very thing that gamers are praising and laughing about, with the majority of these Simulator titles. When was the last time you heard someone say “Did you get that glitch that did <insert a bug here>?” then laugh about it, with a big release title? Now, flip that around while playing one of these Simulator titles, “Did you get that glitch where you fell through the map?” And that’s see as a point of endearment and not a negative. It doesn’t get more hypocritical than that.

So, the next logical argument would be that the cost of these Simulator games is what makes it OK to be rough around the edges, have glitches and have lower expectations. If we consider that a valid argument, should we then not have those same expectations for most DLC for games that are right around that same price? I’m not really sure it’s fair to base expectations of a game on its price. Or base the support of a game on its price. Can you imagine if a game like Assassin’s Creed, Battlefield, or Mass Effect said that they would only be focusing on fixing only the big bugs and glitches in their respective games. Gamers would go bat-shit crazy and blow up every social media site with posts about how horrible the developers are. But it’s OK for a developer to do it for games like Goat Simulator because the glitches and bugs are considered cute and funny.

To put things in perspective, I have been playing a mobile game called Marvel Puzzle Quest which is a free-to-play game. There was an ‘Age of Ultron’ event last weekend that had some server issues causing some players to miss out on a couple hours of game time to earn rewards. The posts on their Facebook page made it seem like small babies and puppies had been killed in those couple hours. Players were demanding compensation, free covers (how you get characters and level them up) and other things along those lines. For a free-to-play game, people wanted compensation! How is it that gamers are OK with some games having bugs and glitches (and it’s OK for the developer to flat out say they aren’t going to fix them), yet other games – even free to play games – aren’t allowed the same and are crucified when they pop up?

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Nicholas: It’s that double-standard that keeps coming up. Sure, gamers all know that when they purchase certain titles (like Goat Simulator) that part of the appeal is it’s essentially broken (or at least riddled with bugs that wouldn’t appear in AAA title), but that doesn’t really excuse the fact that the same vocal group who complain about the fact a few NPCs are floating mid-air in Unity find it hilarious that their goat just spazzed out and was flung across the screen in Goat Simulator.

The compensation situation you just brought up is a fantastic tangent that I’d like to explore a little further. If there’s one thing gamers love more than complaining about issues with their games, it’s asking for compensation when their games don’t work quite as well as they would have liked. I get the entire point of someone buying a product/service, it not working as advertised and then expecting some sort of refund, but for some reason it always seems so trivial to me when it comes to games. I remember when Xbox LIVE went down over the Christmas holidays a few years ago and gamers absolutely lost their bananas. Forums and social media posts were rife with the whines from gamers, and in the end Microsoft ended up giving everyone a free Arcade game. Now I know multiplayer is big for a lot of gamers out there, but so what if Xbox LIVE is inaccessible every once in a blue moon due to a system crash or maintenance. Yes you paid money for the service, but tough luck if you have to go without it for a handful of days and you’re forced to play offline.

Even with the case of Unity, I experienced a handful of issues where NPCs would be floating in the air, some enemies couldn’t be killed no matter how many times I stabbed them and my console crashed twice during the 30 hours of playtime I racked up, but even then, I never thought I was entitled to free content or like I should have demanded a fix to these infrequent and non-game breaking issues. What are your thoughts on this though? If a game has issues that mean it isn’t as fluid as you might have liked it to be, or where you occasionally need to reboot your console, does this warrant a gift of some sort for your inconvenience? If an online service you paid for is temporarily unavailable – do you deserve compensation?

Andy: The one thing that has always annoyed me about the whole compensation for broken games is that most gamers want that compensation, but also keep the game. So, in essence, they want compensation for a game, while at the same time they play that game that is so bad. If I buy a blender at the store and it doesn’t work, I don’t demand compensation from the blender maker and keep the blender. I take it back to the store, get my money back and get a different blender. Gamers seem to want their compensation, while keeping the very thing they are wanting compensation for. It just doesn’t make any sense.

If a game has bugs, do we deserve compensation? The gamer in me says yes, why not? But, the realist in me says no. In today’s day and age, it’s almost expected that every game will have bugs and need a patch or two to really iron things out. If you are one of those gamers that has to have the newest, latest and greatest game the day it releases then you run the risk of there being launch issues. To add to that, if a developer, or publisher, has shown you (the gamer) that they will have issues more often than not on the launch of a game, speak with your wallet and don’t give them those Day One, Week One sales. That, more than anything, will get them to pay notice and try to curb those issues before launch. As it is right now, gamers flock out, buy the game, then bitch about it for two weeks until it’s fixed, then keep playing it.

The issue with Xbox LIVE or PlayStation Plus being down is a different story I think. Especially now, since so much of those consoles are tied to being online. If it’s a few hours downtime or for maintenance then I’m OK with it because those things happen. However,  when that time frame starts stretching into double digits or several days then we have an issue I think. Xbox LIVE and PlayStation Plus are subscription services, and as such gamers should technically have access to those services as long as their subscription is paid up. While neither Microsoft or Sony owe it to gamers to give some type of compensation for downtime, but it is a nice gesture when it happens.

What seems to happen though, is a company provides some type of goodwill offering as an apology and suddenly gamers see that as the norm, and fall into demanding things when smaller things appear. We’ve said it before, and we’ll probably say it again, but if a company (no matter what type of service, or product) does something you don’t like don’t keep supporting them. It’s where I am with Ubisoft’s new releases. Sure they have some good games, but more and more often I am feeling like my money was wasted due to a myriad of issues. So now I hold off purchasing Ubisoft titles until I know either a) issues are fixed or b) there aren’t any issues and it’s a solid/stable release. Gamers are good about being vocal on things they like and don’t like. Yet we are terrible with speaking with our money. We always think “this time will be different.” Why do you think that is? I mean we all know it right? We know money speaks louder than words. So, why then do we keep throwing money away to support subpar releases or subpar games that don’t even take themselves seriously?

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Nicholas: The hype machine is a furious and dangerous beast. For each time we say the last Call of Duty was nothing special nor different to the last game and where we might not buy it next year, a new trailer is released for the upcoming instalment that makes us want it now. At the same time, it’s that continual hope of wishing things are going to be better the next time around. No matter how horrid the launch of the last title was, we’re praying that they’ve learnt from their mistakes and have changed things around. This is the reason we’re willing to put up with so much crap and failings until we finally call it quits. Also, it’s just the desire of wanting something new and exciting. FIFA doesn’t really change much from year to year, but after 12 months of FIFA 15 you just want to be able to play FIFA 16 – not because it’s drastically different, but because it’s got that new appeal to it.

The notion of gamers wanting their cake and eating it too by asking for compensation for a faulty game and then still keeping that game is a fantastic realisation that I never considered. It is almost jovial how petty gamers can seem then when they complain about how bug-riddled a game is yet will hold onto it and keep playing as long as they get a little gift for their ‘woes’.

As I was catching the train to work on Monday I was scrolling through my news feed and saw that Car Mechanic Simulator 2015 had been released on Steam, a sequel to the game of the same name released last year. As I looked at it, keeping in mind what we’ve been discussing above, I thought, “yeah, I’d maybe get that if it was on the Xbox One”. As lame as these Simulator titles are, it sort of interested me at the possibility of learning a little more about the mechanics behind the cars I love so much. So as we wrap this week’s article I wanted to ask you – what Simulator game would you buy if it was created? I’m not suggesting it needs to be bug-riddled but it needn’t be an AAA title either. Why? Also, how much would you be willing to spend on it, depending on how solid a game it was?

Andy: In all honest I’m not sure if there will ever be a simulator game I’d play. Much like fighting games, i.e. Mortal Kombat, Tekken etc. I just don’t care much for them. I don’t see myself ever wanting to be a goat, or a rock, a truck driver, a farmer or a car mechanic. That doesn’t discredit those who play those games. I’ve long been a fan of the adage, “Play what makes you happy.” I’m sure people feel the same way about Need for Speed or Fallout. It’s not that I don’t support indie titles, or small developer titles either as my love for Pinball FX2 and Dust An Elysians Tail are proof of that. It’s just there is nothing about any of these simulator games that makes me jump out of my seat and say “I have to have that game.”

It’s not really a case of bashing a title, or the developer, but when I see a press release from a developer that flat-out says they aren’t going to fix all of the bugs in a game, that disappoints me. It confuses me when a segment of gamers see a bug or a glitch and think it adds character to the game, or is cute but then in the next breath rue other developers for having bugs and glitches in their titles. Like we talked about before, when gamers demand compensation for those things and then you see them playing that very same game, it frustrates me. Gamers demand top-notch quality, they demand high end graphics, in-depth stories and awesome gameplay. Then turn around and are OK with a game that for all purposes is subpar I can understand how developers get confused and aren’t sure what gamers really want.

Regardless though, one of the best things about being a gamer is the sheer amount of choices we have. From the latest greatest AAA title to an 8-bit game made by one guy in his garage the possibilities are endless. It’s not for you or me to decide what others play, and enjoy. If you enjoy Goat Simulator or any of the other Simulator games, more power to you. Above all else, games are about having fun. Graphics, frame rate, controls, and story are all secondary. If you’re not having fun with a game then there is no reason to play it. Who knows, sometime down the road there may be a Simulator game released that catches my eye and gets me to play it. Until then I will look at them and shrug and think “I just don’t see it.” But that’s OK. I’m sure there are people out there that don’t understand my love of pinball either. At the end of the day, play what makes you happy and ignore those who say otherwise.

Tune in next time for the next instalment of Game On or Game Over. If you have any ideas for our next article, feel free to contact Andy or Nicholas on Twitter.