Latest Blog Posts

by G. Christopher Williams

22 Nov 2010

While we like to put game mechanics in nice little boxes in order to describe to others how a video game plays, nevertheless, this generation of games has seen a lot of cross breeding between game genres, making it harder to easily describe what a game essentially “is”.

From leveling up in an FPS to purchasing upgrades in platformers, the last decade seems one fixitated on hybridization as a form of innovation.  In particular the pleasure derived from evolving characters, mechanically and narratively, seems to be one of the more popular means of appealing to players who want to have a hand in developing the role that they will play in a game.

This week we discuss such hybrids and what the strengths and weaknesses of taking a Frankenstein-like approach to design might be.

by Nick Dinicola

19 Nov 2010

Last week I wrote about Fable 3 and the forced choices we’re faced with as we fight our way to the crown, this week I want to write about the forced choices that we’re faced with as king.

As king, the game presents you with a series of good and evil choices, so on the surface, it looks like you’re choosing whether to be a good or evil king: Choose between forcing child labor or building a school, building an orphanage or building a whorehouse, dumping sewage on the poor or building sewage plant. By this point in the game, you’ve probably already decided what kind of king you’re going to be, good or evil, so your answer to these binary options is obvious. You’ve probably already made the decision without even seeing the question.

by Scott Juster

18 Nov 2010

Herman Melville’s Moby Dick sits on my bookshelf like a mountain whose cliffs bear the scratches and divots of many failed attempts at the summit.  My ability as a reader is such that I have the necessary skill to finish it; doing so is a matter of dedication.  The 2005 GameCube game Killer7 enjoys an occasional spin in the disc drive but spends most of its time gathering dust.  Like Moby Dick, I know that I have the basic mechanical skills required to see it through to the end.  What stops me is the the mental commitment required to wade through the unconventional game systems and surreal themes that make Suda’s games so uniquely challenging.

Although it is an extremely odd game, Killer7 illustrates the subtle shift that has occurred in the structure and difficulty of single player games.  The skills needed to finish the average linear or plot-driven game have come to resemble those required in other media: getting to the end of a game is less about sheer skill and more about making the intellectual decision to persevere.

by Rick Dakan

18 Nov 2010

I studied history in undergrad and grad school for six years, but I’ve never worked a day as a historian or a teacher. I have defended my college degree as being an influence and resource on my writing as well as a good way to learn how to think. Also, I can recognize the first 15 Roman Emperors by coins or busts, which is amazingly useful. But now I have an all new benefit to crow about: I get a lot more interest out of Call of Duty: Black Ops because I know something about the historical events that form the game’s backdrop.

These are subtle, fleeting pleasures to be sure, but I really do appreciate the ways that Black Ops works on multiple levels, depending on your familiarity with the era. It can be played like any other Call of Duty game, in which flashing images and maps scroll by at high speed while a serious sounding man expresses concern and ruthless resolve in the face of the enemy. Like those other games, I often went into missions with no clear idea why I was there or what I needed to do. Because Black Ops is spread out across many years and continents and moves forward and backwards in time, this can all be even more confusing than is maybe necessary.

by Kris Ligman

16 Nov 2010

I take back what I said last week about Fable III. It is indeed entirely possible to achieve the best ending with no sacrifice to one’s morals, but it came at the expense of something even more valuable: my belief in the system.

//Mixed media


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