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by G. Christopher Williams

28 Nov 2011


Due to some technical difficulties on my end, Jorge Albor quite graciously (and quite last minute) filled in as host for this episode.  This is probably for the best, as he probably did a better job at moderating this conversation than I ever could have.  (For those unfamiliar with Jorge, you really should check out he and Scott Juster’s weekly gaming podcast at ExperiencePoints.net—it’s well worth your time.).

So, this week features a host of new voices alongside Jorge, some of whom identify as gamers and some of whom do not, as the Moving Pixels podcast attempts to explore the concept of the so-called “girlfriend on a couch game.”  As a phrase coined by journalists to describe a particular kind of game, the “girlfriend on a couch game” seems like one in need of some discussion.  We decided, though, not to discuss “girlfriend on a couch games” but instead to see if we could find out what kind of spectators these supposed games are geared for by talking to some “girlfriends on couches” themselves.

by G. Christopher Williams

23 Nov 2011


A feature abandoned in Grand Theft Auto IV, sex appeal was a quality that was represented by a meter in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.  The meter measured the sex appeal of the protagonist of that game, CJ Johnson, which was a quality that the player could alter through the manipulation of various stereotypical representations of his avatar.

The better dressed that CJ was, the higher his sex appeal meter.  Likewise, a sex appeal bonus boosted the stat temporarily when CJ exited cars.  Exiting a pick up truck would fail to impress the opposite sex much.  However, pick up a date in a sports car, and you could expect a favorable response to the character.

by Cat Goodfellow

22 Nov 2011


A rather unpleasant squirrel from Allods Online (Nival Interactive, 2011)

You’d be forgiven for thinking that Eastern Europe doesn’t produce much interesting in the way of games. We don’t hear a great deal about them in the West. Even in Europe, games from Russia and its close neighbors don’t enjoy a great deal of distribution and advertising. It’s not all grey and colorless over there, though. The past few years have seen some genuinely engaging titles surfacing from a swamp of mediocrity, and recent legislation offering Russian game companies government subsidies suggests that there might be more where those came from. With that in mind, here are a handful of the most promising Eastern European games around right now. My only caveats: that they be developed in Eastern Europe, playable in English, and available with reasonable ease.

by Nick Dinicola

18 Nov 2011


A lot of games this year have had great writing, from Portal 2 to L.A. Noire to (of course) Uncharted 3. But last year’s Enslaved: Odyssey to the West remains one of the best written games I’ve ever played. Much of that stems from a script that goes out of its way to avoid exposition, always making sure to imply more than it explains. Two moments in particular stand out, and I still remember them vividly even a year after playing the game.

by Mark Filipowich

17 Nov 2011


There. I said it. And only half the reason was a controversial reader-grab. Nevertheless, even accounting for the nostalgia bias and the changing trends since Final Fantasy VII’s release in 1997, Cloud Strife is still an exceptionally multifaceted character. Of course, there is no one true measure of quality of characters (in games or otherwise) but at the very least, Cloud is one of the rare characters in games with depth, complexity, and a smooth, believable arc of character development.

The first time that the player sees Cloud, he’s vaulting out of a train and single-handedly dispatching a group of armed guards. He’s detached and impersonal, a sword for hire whose only priority is completing his job and getting paid. Cloud is set up as a masculine power fantasy. He’s an elite military specialist gone rogue against an oppressive “corporatocracy”, who is motivated not just by rugged individualism but also to protect the women that he encounters. He reacts to crisis with an aloof swish of his hair and a cocky slouch. For the first half of Final Fantasy VII, the player takes the role of this capable, slightly arrogant warrior figure.

Most video game heroes resemble Cloud after the opening credits. They are outlets of the same male power fantasy. But halfway through the game, layers of Cloud’s facade are peeled away. When he demands that Aeris or Tifa stay out of danger, he’s incapable of holding them back—and indeed both women prove well suited to dealing with danger and are even necessary to the quest. After all, Cloud is not hunting down Sephiroth, he is being led by him.

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