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Wednesday, Apr 9, 2014
Hearthstone concerns itself with the seemingly small, innocuous, and trivial elements of playing a game in a non-digital medium, and I admire the game for recognizing that these may not be details that are completely innocuous or unimportant in terms of why we take pleasure in the act of play.

I love poker chips. I especially love clay poker chips. They have a weight to them, making them feel significant, which seems to me like a good thing. After all, they represent something, money, the stakes that you’re really willing to put at risk in what is otherwise a very abstract game.


A few months ago, I wrote an article concerning the physicality of some representation in video games (”We’re Not Computers. We’re Physical.”, PopMatters, 7 January 2014). More specifically, I focused on the physical actions required of the player of The Room, the iOS puzzle game that asks players to investigate puzzle boxes by manipulating them via touch screen. Like the weight of poker chips, The Room seems to create a physical interaction that through physical representation limits some of the abstraction and distance that games sometimes feature as a result of their focus on mechanics.


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Monday, Apr 7, 2014
by Erik Kersting
The results of Leagues of Legends's "Ultra Rapid Fire" mode were hilarious at first, but there's a reason that April Fool's Day only comes once a year.

On the internet April Fools’ Day is a true spectacle. Most tech companies release strange new “products” that are obviously meant to be taken as satirical jokes. Part of the reason this day is so special is because it only happens once a year. The ridiculous nature of Google Pokemon competitions or web browsers for Cats is only funny every once in awhile, if these hoaxes were presented everyday of the year they would get old.


Riot Games, creators of the massively popular League of Legends also play pranks on their users on April Fool’s Day. This year they released a new mode for their flagship game called “Ultra Rapid Fire” (URF), in which players have infinite mana, extremely short cooldowns on abilities, and more gold among many buffs to make the game faster and more twitch based, as the name “Ultra Rapid Fire” might suggest.


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Friday, Apr 4, 2014
The first episode of the second season of The Walking Dead felt like a statement that this season wasn’t beholden to the past. Episode 2 turns this season into one too afraid of change to properly move on.

This post contains spoilers for Telltale’s The Walking Dead: Season 2, Episode 2.


True Detective recently ended its first season. One of the most interesting things about the show wasn’t the show itself, but audience reaction to it. True Detective dabbled in some dark philosophy, making allusions to The King in Yellow, a series of weird fiction short stories that can be considered a precursor to H.P. Lovecraft. Because of these allusions, some fans thought the show would go supernatural. Others thought that the Yellow King would be one of the main characters in a “shocking twist.” Fans are wont to speculate, and the show’s creator Nic Pizzolatto commented on the speculation in an interview, saying, “I just thought that such a revelation would be terrible, obvious writing. For me, the worst writing generally just “flips” things: this person’s really a traitor; it was all a dream; etc. Nothing is so ruinous as a forced ‘twist,’ I think.”


Which brings me to Telltale’s The Walking Dead and more specifically the most recent episode, A House Divided. This second episode of the second season has been described as one of the best episodes that Telltale has ever made, and I could not disagree more. In fact, “A House Divided” has made me lose a little bit of faith in Telltale as storytellers, and it’s all because of a single, ruinous “twist.”


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Thursday, Apr 3, 2014
Broken Age takes a chance by letting us feel the boredom and absurdity felt by the main characters.

The following post contains spoilers for the first part of Broken Age (part 1) and BioShock.


Broken Age is a placid experience compared to many other popular games.  As in most point-and-click adventures, action sequences and reflex challenges are minimized in favor of puzzles and conversations with other characters.  In many ways, most of what you do is mundane: collect items, combine them in goofy ways, bring them to other characters, and repeat.  However, these types of actions fit well with the game’s story of characters rebelling against the banal.  Broken Age is about quiet, yet determined struggle against an oppressive status quo.


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Tuesday, Apr 1, 2014
by Erik Kersting
Nintendo games are memorable more for their grand and difficult moments than for their easy and quick ones.

Lately Nintendo’s games haven’t been incredibly challenging.  Besides the occasional difficult game like Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze or Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn, most of Nintendo’s newer releases are easier than their forefathers. Whether it is creating more linear games like New Super Mario Bros or making less labyrinthine levels in The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds, most Nintendo games have been significantly “dumbed down.”


While this sounds bad, it isn’t always a bad thing. Often by making gameplay more accessible, developers can gain a larger audience, bad mechanics are left by the wayside, and a more streamlined experience can be a tighter, more well developed one, as we can see in Super Mario 3D World. But along with the “easification” of games another mechanic has started to be introduced into Nintendo games and that is of the near invincible experience of playing in “easy mode.”


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