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Tuesday, Jul 1, 2014
Papers, Please is a game where actions do have consequences, but most of it relies on the emotional state and investment of the player.

Choices in video games are often given to us in a moment. The game slows down, highlighting that what is being presented to us right now is a choice. Most games effectively pause during these moments to give the player the chance to consider the scenario. Some, like The Walking Dead and The Wolf Among Us, up the pressure to choose by adding a timer. Still, though, the event is highlighted as a choice.


For choices to matter, they need consequences. But within the safe boundaries of a video game, creating a consequence by external means is an ineffective measure of making them matter, as the rewards in terms of the game itself often end up being considered more than the moral or narrative implications of the choice. Last week, I left off by asking if the player’s own emotional state should be the measure by which we understand a game’s consequences. Yet, such an attempt would have to be outside of those special moments. The player’s emotional state is a continuous thing that is affected by the moment to moment play of the game. One game that was mentioned in response to the original post, in what has now become a series, that has created a real sense of emotional consequence to the player’s action was Papers, Please.


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Tuesday, Jul 1, 2014
by Erik Kersting
The trouble with game tutorials is that you can't live with 'em and and you can't live without 'em.

Aren’t Steam sales great? With so many great new games to play, it can be hard to choose which games to play first. Early in the sale, I picked up two games that caught my eye months ago, Game Dev Tycoon and Prison Architect. The former because of the infamy of its pirated version and the latter because building a prison sounded like fun and the game has gotten good buzz. Yet, my experience in beginning to play these two games could not have been more different.


The first of the two I played was Game Dev Tycoon, a quaint simulation of running a gaming business. Starting the game I decided to skip the tutorial, which I often do when given the option. This did not affect my gameplay in the slightest. I immediately figured out the basics and was already making successful games, critically and financially. I quickly sunk many hours into the game, creating vital new series like the mystery-adventure games Sarah’s Killer, Sarah’s Killers and Sarah, The Killer?, which had critics and fans raving for more.


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Friday, Jun 27, 2014
Episode four of The Wolf Among Us feels mostly unnecessary. Maybe this is a sign that Telltale should mix up their episodic structure some more.

Structurally, Telltale’s games are pretty linear. We’ve realized that now after seeing the format repeated in both The Walking Dead Season 2 and The Wolf Among Us. Our many choices in these games exist to make that linearity feel unique and personal to us. This is particularly noticeable in The Walking Dead with its constant concern with life and death stakes. As a result, our every decisions feels like it carries that heavy dramatic weight. Each death of one of the game’s cast members feels partially like our fault because of the choices we made, and this gives us a sense of personal responsibility for the actions that have played out. These extreme consequences keep us invested and interested in every little choice made in that game.


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Thursday, Jun 26, 2014
The latest Mario Kart expands its mixture of interventionism and indifference beyond the tracks.

Mario Kart sticks out amongst other established Nintendo series. Like Mario, Zelda, or Metroid, certain constants have persisted over the years. Cartoonish characters, drifting, and wacky items have all become its distinguishing characteristics.  But it’s the last example, the items, that best illustrate Mario Kart’s unique qualities. 


They represent a chance, unexpected upsets, and straight up dumb luck that doesn’t exist in the clockwork levels of Super Mario (there will always be a goomba on the ground traveling from right to left on World 1-1). Zelda’s steady accumulation of items build out a consistent internal logic that governs that game’s world. For example, torches can be lit, the boomerang can spread fire, and therefore the boomerang can be used to spread a flame to multiple torches.  Metroid is similar. Ongoing success is determined by the tools you find, which are discovered through testing your existing skills. In all these games, failure is the result of a lack of knowledge or execution: you either haven’t learned how to succeed or you screw up the implementation.


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Text:AAA
Wednesday, Jun 25, 2014
Does Watch Dogs suggest that the only unscrupulous act in the information age is an act of embodied violence?

I still haven’t finished Watch Dogs. I’ve been playing it on and off again (mostly off) since its release, but I just can’t work up the interest necessary to press the power button on my Xbox for the most part.


I love open world games. They’re kind of my thing, but there are two really essential elements of an open world game that are necessary to make them work well in my mind. First and foremost is the world itself. It has to have a personality. It has to be a place that is interesting to occupy. The Grand Theft Auto series is good at this with their evocation of particular eras and of specific American cities and their ability to send up the culture surrounding those times and places. The Assassin’s Creed series is also good at this. It presents interesting places and times in history that are fascinating to explore within the mythology of the eons spanning war between the Assassins and the Templars.


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