Double Agent
Paradise Lost - February 19, 2002 - Erin Mehlos

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within this column are those of the participants and the moderator, and do not necessarily reflect those of the GIA. There is coarse language and potentially offensive material afoot. I want a Greenspan tattoo. Don't say we didn't warn you.

There isn't very much for me to say today, beyond the fact that I am dismayed by the unavailiability of "outmoded" N64 controllers in fine department stores everywhere. Note each and every one of them still has gobs and gobs of third party shit in stock; I suppose because no one would buy them, even at clearance price. Controllers for a console so recently-deceased as the N64 should not be some rarity one must trudge back to eBay for -- especially when said controllers are so prone to going to hell as the N64's.

Healing the scars of time (FFX spoiler in reply)


Once upon a time, before the proliferation of the Internet, poor saps with computer savvy were saddled with an online service known as *Prodigy. Ah, *P. Sweet nectar of gods. Who needed the Web? "Internet" meant e-mail, the Academic American Encyclopedia, bulletin boards and a doofy serial novel called "By the Sword."

As a young grade-schooler I got into the BBs, and spent most of my time in a little club called the Final Fantasy Mediators. And I rememeber the shitfits of joy we had discussing minutia of FF2 and anticipating the then-upcoming FF3. But while some of us were devouring every single magazine that had dirt, someone else raised the idea of a pact -- almost a dare -- for a self-imposed media blackout over FF3.

I agreed -- and it was freaking hard. Copies of EGM leered at me in the grocery store like so many drug pushers. My mom would buy random magazines for me and throw them on my bed, and I'd have to hide it to keep from peeking. It was more sacred than giving something up for Lent.

I still think FF3 is my favorite Square game of all time -- and I think it was due majorly to the fact that everything was a surprise. This was accented later by my weakness when FF7 came out: I was one of the poor bastards who glanced through the walkthrough and found out about Aeris' death long before it was to happen. But the scars have healed.


Ironic. Here I am at the GIA, purveyor of some of gamerdom's sweetest, juiciest morsels of tender game coverage, yet wistfully looking back on the days when I was wholly in the dark with regards to upcoming releases.

Unlike many an unfortunate summbitch, I've been able to dodge the big spoilers: Aerith's demise, the origins of Vivi, Tidus' ties to Sin. Nonetheless, there hasn't been a game since Chrono Trigger that I haven't somehow soaked up character details for, and I think its hurt subsequent experiences. The surprises are less surprising, the wonders less wondrous. When I played through FFVII I'd been leered at from the pages of gaming mags by enough character art and semi-revealing titles, headings and captions, that there was no way I found Yuffie's forest appearance surprising.

Coverage, sans self-congratulatory smarm. Period.

Do I miss the purported days of innocence? Nah. I have this weird thing called "restraint" which allows me to avoid looking at screenshots of upcoming games or perusing every available bit of media that comes down the stream. Or maybe I'm just too lazy and impatient to wait for the pictures to download. If I'm really eager for a game, I'll import the Japanese version for a very expensive sort of hands-on preview, but otherwise I just assume all those media pages that sites like the GIA post are intended for other people, not for humble unworthy little me. I also find myself participating in fewer and fewer venues where people are likely to blurt out unanticipated spoilers these days.

So things are still more or less the same as in the days of innocence for me, as I generally know about as much going into a new game as I did back when I had to glean all my info from EGM. The only real difference is that now I have to put up with the trigger-happy vituperation of various gamers who assume that looking at a few dozen screenshots put them in a position to judge the overall quality of an upcoming title's gameplay. But that's really a small price to pay to be able to get advance tips on upcoming titles without suffering through Quartermann's self-congratulatory smarm.


Ah, touché. Way to play the self-control card, Mr. J.

However, what about the omnipresent evil of pull text, subheadings -- even links themselves...?

Save it

Erin -

Coverage, definitely. Why? Like I said in a previous topic, there's an undigestable number of games out there, great and mediocre alike. I don't have the time to rent every game and see whether it's worthwhile (and I'm kinda broke at the moment anyway), so I rely on sites like this one to give me an idea of noteworthy games. The more information available about the game, the easier it is to figure out whether it's worth a rental or an impulse-purchase.

And I'd bet fifty bucks if I had that much money to spare that I won't be the only one to point out that no one is forcing anyone to look at the 250+ screenshots, at least if they stick to decent websites. If you love preconception-free gaming more than information, you won't click on the link that says "Chrono Break character information, plus 42 new screenshots!"

I haven't played FFX yet, and I've decided I know as much about the game as I want to know. So I stopped reading about it awhile ago, and now I know nothing about the game that I wouldn't get from flipping through the instruction manual. Well, okay, I did accidentally learn the name of the final boss, but that's my own damn fault for browsing through an unmoderated asshole-filled forum. Won't do that again. But getting spoilers and psudeospoilers is the kind of thing that can happen to people who don't read any of the pre-release info, as evidenced by this actual conversation:

MY BROTHER (who was ~10 hours into FFVII): Well, I don't really know much about Sephiroth yet, but he seems pretty cool.

MY BROTHER'S MORON FRIEND: Dude! He kills the girl!

And having said that, let me turn around and say while it's on my mind that I'd prefer it if The GIA would stop revealing the names of playable RPG characters on the main page. In a forty-hour game, giving the name of someone (and identifying them as a playable character) who joins fifteen hours into the game is a spoiler. Save that stuff for those who click on the articles.

-Toma Levine

Hardly an outlandish request. Remember the elation of realizing for the first time that Magus -- badass Magus -- was really gonna join your party?

When was the last time to you felt like that? 1995, probably.

Thanks in part, I'm sure, to pull text revelations to the effect of "Playable characters Bill and Ted revealed!"

Judgement Day is upon us

Sharin' and Carin' Erin,

"Ever miss the blissful ignorance that preceded the internet and its rigorous coverage of every dot of dust on every blossom of clover?"

Dear Lord yes!

I can still recall the carefree, pre-internet days of going over to a friends house and being blown away by a game that I had either never heard of or only seen a teaser commercial on TV. The sheer thrill of absorbing the complete package of, say, Legend of Zelda or Little Nemo without a word of anticlimactic forewarning was almost as memoreable (and sometimes moreso) than actually going through and finishing the game.

Nowadays, with the internet's persistent revelation of play mechanic X and supporting character Y for the entire roster of upcoming games, I find it increasingly difficult to be wowed by a game quite the same way. Granted, we are older and an growing number of games are bland carbon copies of classics, but I think there's still something to be said for experiencing an entire game in one fell swoop, all in one moment in time, rather than having the game "constructed" for you in installments by the media. As a modern-day example, I played GTA3 religiously when a friend bought it, and a large part of it was due to absorbing the entire feel of the game (atmosphere, play mechanics, and story) for the very first time in the initial 30 mins I played.

Of course, the bitter irony is that to avoid this internet-based media saturation, one has to visit sites like yours far less often. So, Erin, perhaps you can explain to the readers why theGIA always seems to be the lesser of two evils, eh?


Because we ... ah ... um ... unearth the well-hidden gems of the industry?

GIA gemology

Erin: Nanny of the Nasty 'Net Nation,

This is one of those 50/50, grey issues in my experience. While the internet is the second home of hatemongers, religious fanatics, and single system enthusiasts, it's also the home of a vast wealth of information. Granted, 99.45% of that information is unfounded rumors and ignorant, unresearched opinion. However, if you sift through the crap, you can normally find all of the nut goodie goodness you could ever hope for.

With that said, I don't long for the old days when all I knew about this hobby came from the pages of gaming rags and what my friends told me. Yes, perhaps I've been oversaturated with info on the more recent FFs, but I don't think that particularly affected my opinions of them. As for spoiler-related stuff, have some friggin' will power and just don't click on it! Is it that difficult? ("Must... not... click") On the contrary, if it wasn't for the net, I wouldn't have discovered many of the well-hidden gems of the industry (Skullmonkeys, Vib Ribbon, Rakugaki Showtime, etc.).

Griffin, who's glad he lives 3 hrs. away from Atlantic City. PBBBBT!

P.S. Alliteration makes the brain hurt.

Alliteration only makes the brain hurt those first few sentences -- once the endorphins kick in it's all good. Feel the burn, dude -- break the pain barrier!

You've hit upon a key point, here. True, lack of prior awareness helped me in deceiving myself that FF2's weak, hackneyed plot really was complex and unpredictable at the time, but without exposure to gaming publications I never would have been made aware of those elusive titles not sold at K-Mart or rented out at Blockbuster. Unless of course a Funcoland employee turned me on to them, as in the case of Soul Blazer. After the callous cruelty the chain displayed in selling me Beyond the Beyond, however, I came to the conclusion they were not to be trusted and turned instead to my first print mag subscription, which went on to do me the service of showing me a larger world; a world of Suikoden, Persona, PaRappa. There was no turning back -- you can't, as they say, go home again. But when you've nothing to go home to but inexplicably pulsating Alex-clones, who the hell cares.

Who can afford ignorance?

Erin, I could afford ignorance about upcoming video games when I was a kid. I was spending my parents' money, so I could afford to make ill-thought-out purchases like Populous or Clay Fighter or take a chance on Mario Paint or Ogre Battle. I didn't need to be ruthless in my discrimination due to a tight, fixed budget that needed to be able to support a family. I had room to stumble.

Not anymore. I need to know all about the games I can buy before I buy them now. I need to be on the watch for experiences like Rez or ICO that I can't afford to miss. I can't afford to devote the same amount of time to a new RPG that I could in college, and my finances are similarly rationed. There's no way I'd fly blind into a FuncoLand and pick out a PS2 title that "looks good". I need better intel than that.

I thought life would be an RPG. I was wrong. It's a multiplayer RTS with a steep learning curve, and it doesn't come with a strategy guide.


This is facet of the debate I'm sure we can all appreciate. It was significantly less traumatic to receive a game your mother bought based solely on the boxart (which barred decent games like Suikoden from the running entirely) when it wasn't your cash. Now that you're old, destitute, and donating plasma 4 times a week to pay the gravity bill, the excruciating realization that your latest game was created from a revamped version of the E.T. engine cuts a lot nearer the heart.

You'll be glad to know I've kissed every GIA staff member for you, long and full on the lips, for each and every enjoyable niche game they've brought to light.

Evasion of truth

I think that I am rather disciplined when it comes to devouring coverage of games. For instance, when Aeris was skewered it came as a complete and total surprise. I knew almost nothing of Zelda: OoT because I carefully avoided all previews. I think it is because the more sure I am that I will like a game, the less I want to know about it, because if I am going to like a game, then any little bit of information about it is a spoiler.

Wanting information about a game is a sign that I do not know if I want to play it or not, so the risk of spoilers has to be put aside. Maybe other people read only information about games they do want to play. How very odd if that is true. If it was me, that would mean spoiling the games I would like, and ignoring the rare gems that the GIA and others dig up and report on (It never would have come to my attention that Rez should have a place in my collection otherwise).

Of course, Nintendo keeps its games very close to its chest, so with Mario Sunshine and Celda I really don't have a choice. I only have 45 seconds worth of grainy low frame rate experience to go on, and I am happy with that because I trust Miyamoto to know more about making a Zelda game than I do. Other people decry its graphics and style, but this doesn't surprise me, because the same people called Zelda the future best game of the century based on only 15 seconds worth of footage a year before!

Those same critics claim to be in some percieved majority, when in reality most of the people who will buy Celda do not even know about it yet. Those who spend their time gleening the internet for every bit of info about the games they want (myself included) are a fairly small (but vocal) minority.


Conceivably, these tidbits of info devoured by and spread amongst this small but vocal minority could lead to fewer of those potential buyers of "Celda" being turned off. "Well the EB clerk told me it was gonna suck and that it looked like the Powerpuff girls...."

Much the way my sister was nearly led to believe she shouldn't buy a GCN because Nintendo was reportedly stopping production due to lackluster launch sales.

Make sure your parents check your candy before you sit down and pack away the whole Goddamn bag, people.

We wouldn't be your PAL for all the world....


"Ever miss the blissful ignorance that preceded the internet and its rigorous coverage of every dot of dust on every blossom of clover? Ever want for the days when we marched into battle free of cynical preconceptions, having already seen 250+ minorly spoiling screenshots?"

how do I say this.....


Spare a thought for us poor Europeans who've had FFX (especially the ending! NOOOO!!!!! Bastards!!!!) MGS2, and countless other things ruined for us before we've even had the chance to play them ourselves. Just poor, innocent browsing. Obeying the laws of *****WARNING FFX SPOILERS SUCKAS!!!!******* What did I do wrong?!?!?!

Magnakai - crying quietly in the corner*

And now, if everyone could bow their head and observe a moment's silence in mournful respect for the decaying carcass of European innocence....

Supporting the habit (FFX spoilers)

Erin ~

I do indeed miss that blissful feeling of loading up that game blindly, only to wonder at what may be waiting for you ahead behind that dark and rotting wooden door or past the humid forest.. Sometimes I even wonder what has happened to those days. However, I do believe that SOME coverage on games is what we need.

How much coverage is too much coverage? FFX is a prime example of too much coverage. Yes, I did buy it, and yes..I loved it, as I'm sure many of you have. But, think of how much more enjoyable it would have been, should you have not known there was same sort of wedding involved with Yuna and Seymour. It would've been one of those moments where that little gossip voice in all of us could have just giggled gleefully..or something. As for the summons, their appeal would have been much more grand should I have not seen even the slightest of an image of their appearance. Seeing them for the first time after working your ways through the temple to earn them should have created a sense of awe, and not the mental thought "yup...just as they showed it would look like...". I could keep trailing on, but that is not the point... The point is, things like this shouldn't happen. For games being developed, coverage should be limited, by the developer, to game specs; such as the basics of system for developement (duh), who is working on the project, brief story, a brief view of how the char. development system works, etc.. As far as media is concerned; to images of the immediate main character(s) (so as there will be surprise characters..which, in my opinion...would have been an awesome idea for introduce him when he plunges down and attacks Tidus..), a few basic monsters, some world shots, a little something to show the look of the game.

Sure, some of you may think opting to avoid exposure to upcoming games is a logical solution, and let those who want to spoil themselves with pre-release delight go right on ahead, as I am sure it already proceeds to be. Fine. Developer's choice. But I do recall quite a number of games in the past becoming part of the background of gaming almost immediately after being released, due to the fact that the game itself did not match up to the screen shots and pre-hype that was spread amongst savy fans. Often, bad translations or shots of features that never work out in the final game often have the tendancy to ruin games that in essence are great games. The media is a very evil tool.

On an ending note, I've got a topic, perhaps one I missed, considering I can't always find time enough to read DA. Working in retail, (yes, it DOES suck.) I have noticed a large amount of people, all ages, complaining about video game prices. Maybe it's just me..but $50 seems reasonable enough for most games, and those that are terrible games have been lowered to match their poor quality. Am I the only one out there who remembers paying well into $70 for FF3, above $60 for chrono trigger, and even quite a few games into the $50 range? For those of you who know where I am coming from...yes, I was a nintendo boy too. Also, keep in mind the fact that inflation has occured since then..putting these $50-70 into ~ $70-100 range. So who is to complain now? One part of my job that annoys me, is having to tell kids, whom can't yet get jobs, that "no, the tooth-fairy's $10 ($10? hell, i'd get $1...stupid punk) can not buy him a PS2 game, tough luck." I remember having to work hard and mow lawns in the exponential quantities to be able to finally dish out that $60 or $70.. Can anyone relate to this?

~ Zach Oldson

Yes, inflation has occured since then, but CD/DVD-roms are markedly cheaper to mass produce than cartridges. And yet, when one considers the losses incurred by console manufacturers, particularly at a system's launch and early in its life cycle, it only seems fair that they rake in their cash with software sales & licensing.


Closing Comments:

There are a lot of very real economic factors that must be taken into consideration when looking at the average going rate of today's games, yes, but from your consumer standpoint, do you feel you've gotten your money's worth? Was $90 too much to pay for a PS? $75 too much to lay down for CT? $8.99 more than Sheep is worth? Your thoughts, if you would....

- Erin Mehlos

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