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Monday, Nov 24, 2014
This week we each discuss the Clementine that we have decided will resolve this season of The Walking Dead.

Yes, I know the image above is one of Clementine at the beginning of this season of The Walking Dead. However, this is the episode in which it all comes back to that moment in which Clementine ponders her past and then considers her future.


The final episode of Season Two allows the player to finally decide who they want their Clementine to be by offering multiple paths to conclude this episode. This week we each discuss the Clementine that we have decided will resolve this season of The Walking Dead.


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Friday, Nov 21, 2014
No one really wants to play a fair game. Video games are unfair, but in our favor, which is what makes them fun, right?

No one really wants a fair game. For the most part, we want a game that skews to our advantage so we can finish it and move on to the next game. It’s unfair, but it’s unfair in our favor, which makes it fun. Generally, when a game is unfair to our disadvantage we call this out as a negative, something to be rectified with a patch or update. However, after having recently played Shadow of Mordor and Alien: Isolation, I’ve come to appreciate how unfair those games can be. They prove that balance and fairness are overrated because the most exciting moments in these games stem from the systems that are stacked against us.


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Thursday, Nov 20, 2014
By addressing real world themes too cautiously, Advanced Warfare wastes an opportunity and subverts one of the few positive narrative trends established in the Call of Duty franchise as a whole.

Warning: This post contains spoilers for Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare.


Kevin Spacey doesn’t come cheap. In Call of Duty’s latest action tentpole Advanced Warfare. Spacey is billed as the star and for good reason. More so than Jack Mitchell (even though Troy Baker tries his hardest), Spacey’s character, CEO and military dictator Jonathan Irons, is the focal point of the conflict in Advanced Warfare. Every Call of Duty game since Modern Warfare in some way has incorporated the political issues of our time in its narrative, and this time the unsettling protagonist represents the fear of an easily exploitable political landscape.


That isn’t to say Advanced Warfare has a clear and consistent political message—quite the opposite in fact. Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare is easily one of the most thematically inconsistent stories in the franchise, generally bungling any attempt at addressing the state of affairs on the global stage with tact. However, I do commend it for trying—on occasion—to elevate a narrative that too easily falls into the “bro-shooter” category of storytelling.


Let’s take a look at the campaign’s first supposed threat to the safety of American citizens, the KVA. Advanced Warfare describes this as a Chechen-birthed global terrorist organization led by a man who calls himself “Hades”. Nevermind the comically evil nom de plume or the fact the game never bothers to explain the KVA acronym. The KVA purports to stand against humanity’s increasing dependency on technology by blowing up nuclear power plants and, uh, using the most high-tech weaponry they can find. Their rhetoric fails to match reality.


Additionally, the motivation for joining the KVA is still entirely unclear. While the Cordis Die movement in Black Ops 2 is more of a loose social collective than a terrorist organization, KVA appears as a powerful standing military that is able to execute simultaneous strikes around the globe. Who does the KVA recruit? What motivates these individuals to agree to their techno-phobic message? Considering the KVA meets in a luxurious tower in beautiful Santorini, Greece, I find it hard to believe that they accurately represent an underground fear of technological progress.


Advanced Warfare revels in its own depiction of our technological future. The new weapon tech is a fundamental part of the game’s selling point. Jetpacks and grappling hooks amp up the traditional shooter and at least in the marketing campaign make war more fun than it’s ever been, which is fine, really. But this glorification of its own technological candy undermines any attempt to address its larger narrative themes. During our recent podcast debrief on the game, my PopMatters colleague Scott Juster rightly pointed out what a disappointment it was when Irons, the ultimate villain in the game, chooses to break the protagonist’s biotic arm instead of turning it against him.


Even so, Irons is the closest that Advanced Warfare gets to addressing real world politics as well as its predecessors. The President of Atlas, the mega-corporation and private military contractor becomes a fascist regime with Irons as its leader, and it’s not hard to connect the state of corporations globally to the story of Advanced Warfare.


Irons is a war profiteer, but more than that, he is one created and even lauded by the countries that rely too heavily on corporate power to exist. During one overwrought announcement at the United Nations (an organization Call of Duty has never treated positively) he states, ““The United Nations is a relic from a different time when nations were unique in their ability to solve the world’s problems. That just isn’t the case anymore. Primarily because you have outsourced the job to me.”


This mistrust of outsourcing and America’s dependency on corporations is by far the game’s most interesting theme. Recovering from a devastating economic crisis, and with numerous critics calling Citizens United a travesty that gives even more rights to corporations with no interest in communities let alone countries, the idea of a company like Atlas with the power to exploit our own international political landscape is an understandable fear.


Irons is an extreme realization of a real fear of “corpocratic” control over governmental rule. Our villains have changed from fascists to terrorists to ourselves. It is telling that the ruins of Detroit feature prominently in one of the campaign’s settings. Many parts of the city, once bolstered by an automotive industry that many believed a permanent fixture, literally sit abandoned. The belief that corporations have the nation’s best interest at heart has increasingly eroded. Advanced Warfare tries, at times, to tap into these concerns by creating an extreme case in Atlas, a company that eagerly exploits our international landscape politically and economically.


Advanced Warfare stops shy of embracing its own themes. Despite Iron’s “evil” rhetoric and demeanor, he is not actually wrong about much. Politics as usual has set the stage for wars across the country. After the devastation of KVA’s attacks, Atlas really does provide a safety net for thousands of suffering citizens. Even New Baghdad, a city we associate with the ruins of war, is built gloriously anew through Atlas funding. If it weren’t for the forces of good (or so the game seems to say), we might actually be better off with a little more corporate rule and a little less political fanaticism. The game mixes its message. It expresses fear towards an over reliance on technological and international corporations, yet glorifies them both as well. By addressing real world themes too cautiously, Advanced Warfare wastes an opportunity and subverts one of the few positive narrative trends established in the Call of Duty franchise as a whole.


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Wednesday, Nov 19, 2014
by Brian Crecente / Tribune News Service (TNS)
If the Xbox One’s launch were a movie, it would fit very neatly into a three-act structure, and we would be witnessing right now the console’s final, biggest moment of crisis.

The video game industry’s most exciting story this generation can’t be found in the likes of The Last of Us, Halo 5 or the latest Call of Duty.


The most compelling narrative to arise out of this new crop of consoles isn’t coming from any video game, it’s the Xbox One’s Miltonian fall from grace and its attempt at redemption.


If the Xbox One’s launch were a movie, it would fit very neatly into a three-act structure, and we would be witnessing right now the console’s final, biggest moment of crisis. What happens next in the launch’s third act seems to rest entirely with the new(ish) head of Xbox, Phil Spencer.


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Tuesday, Nov 18, 2014
by Marshall Sandoval
There were 145 entries in the 7DFS game jam this year, and I played a lot of them. Here’s a list of a few great prototypes that were created during this jam that are worth your time.

For a game jam in just its third year, 7DFPS has drawn some big names. The game jam began as a throwaway comment made by Jan Willem Nijman. He tweeted, “FPSes are a horribly oversaturated genre, indies can easily do amazing new stuff. Who’s up for it?”. Now, he organizes the game jam with fellow independent developers Sos Sosowski and Sven Bergstrom. The seven day challenge has drawn big name participants like Notch, and in recent years, led to full length projects like Superhot. This year’s stylish keynote address is available on Youtube and includes insights from Steve Gaynor, Lisa Brown, and others.


There were 145 entries this year, and I played a lot of them. There’s a lot great prototypes that are worth your time on the 7DFPS itch.io this year, but these are my five favorites, which I selected to give you a sense of the breadth of prototypes produced for this year’s jam.


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