Latest Blog Posts

by G. Christopher Williams

30 Jan 2012


Saints Row: The Third is a title that arrived at the close of the year to a surprising amount of fanfare.  Most often seen as a Grand Theft Auto clone, though sometimes admired for some of the polish that it brought to the open-world, crime game, the Saints Row series has often been treated as a competent, but not especially exceptional alternative to GTA.

By ratcheting up the general insanity of its world (way, way up) and embracing extreme stupidity and the extremely puerile, though, Saints Row has seemed to have drawn much acclaim.  Our podcast crew debates the merits of this over-the-top aesthetic and considers the relative value of “just plain fun.”

by Nick Dinicola

27 Jan 2012


Video game controls are complicated. Not just using them, but creating them. Whether or not something controls well can be extremely subjective, but even if a developer creates a universally praised control scheme that everyone else latches onto as a template (I’m looking at you Call of Duty), that doesn’t mean that it’s an ideal control scheme. There is no ideal control scheme, even within a single genre (i.e. Halo to counter Call of Duty).

Amy, a recently released downloadable horror game, has taken a ton of flack for its broken controls. The curious thing is, however, they’re not broken. Not at all. Amy’s controls, being so deliberately derived from classic survival-horror games, aren’t so much broken as they are antiquated. However, old doesn’t mean bad. The mere fact that these antiquated controls are effective at evoking suspense is proof that they’re not broken. Rather, they’re just not player friendly. But isn’t that the point of horror?

by Scott Juster

26 Jan 2012


It was a rough weekend for Bay Area football fans.  It was an especially rough weekend for Kyle Williams, the San Francisco 49ers’ kick returner.  His two unfortunate fumbles were crucial parts of the 49ers’ defeat and the end of their Super Bowl run.  Now that the disappointment is starting to wear off, I find myself able to appreciate the disastrous sequence of events in an academic sense.  There’s something exciting about a game in which the most carefully designed strategies can be dashed by unforeseen events.  Football is a beautiful combination of meticulous planning and implementing those plans under pressure, a description that also apples to most video games.

by Chris Gaerig

25 Jan 2012


Counter Strike version 1.3 was the first video game that I played online in any capacity. In my high school years, I was a Nintendo devotee, which afforded the bare minimum of online gaming experiences. Though I owned Phantasy Star Online: Episodes I & II for the Nintendo Gamecube, the $10-a-month charge to play online was too steep for my part-time, $7 an hour job. So when a friend told me to buy Half-Life in order to play alongside him and millions of others in Counter Strike for free, I was sold.

To this day, I have never played more than 30 minutes of the original Half-Life. After settling into the competitive, online playing field of Counter Strike, I found all other functions of the game superfluous. But Counter Strike is unique, and not only because it revolutionized the first-person shooter. It was a successful online multiplayer experience ostensibly without a single-player accompaniment.

by Eric Swain

24 Jan 2012


Many years ago there was a contentious debate concerning where video games got their meaning from. The debate was broken up into two camps: the narratologists, those that believed that a game’s meaning came from its story, and the ludologists, those that believed that a game’s meaning came from its mechanics. Then, it was thought to be somewhere in the middle. Now most agree that a game’s meaning comes not from a single element but from all of its elements interacting with one another. These are called a game’s dynamics.

I talked about the meaning in Driver: San Francisco before as emphasized by the games narrative elements and worked to establish a deeper meaning derived from the synthesis of those elements with the game’s mechanics. This worked when “reading” the game in hindsight, but in looking at Driver: San Francisco during play, we see a different process at work.

//Mixed media
//Blogs

Players Lose Control in ‘Tales from the Borderlands’

// Moving Pixels

"This is an interactive story in which players don’t craft the characters, we just control them.

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