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by Kris Ligman

18 Jan 2011

Being the nose-to-the-grindstone academic that I am, I admittedly had no idea what I was seeing when a colleague invited me out to see Mamoru Hosoda’s Summer Wars this past Friday. I really should have known: it’s only the latest award-winning release from Madhouse, the Japanese animation studio responsible for The Girl Who Leapt Through Time (also by Hosoda) and all of Satoshi Kon’s work up until his death. But I digress. The movie is offbeat and quite enjoyable, and I would highly recommend it to any gamers with a thing for anime. Or Facebook, for that matter.

The film is a bit of a tossed salad where plot is concerned, but the central storyline is one in which a young math geek and part-time code monkey, Keiji, seeks to prove himself to classmate Natsuki’s extended family, with whom he is staying over the summer. Events naturally coalesce to give him the opportunity, when a viral super-AI called Love Machine is unleashed onto the web, vandalizing sites and shutting down network hubs to affect everyone from the teenage txter to the communications of entire governments.

What especially impressed me about the film’s depiction of a global network is the enhanced state of media convergence implied to have occurred by the story’s start. There’s a dramatic, almost corny sequence where we get a montage of global network users connecting wirelessly by their phones or DSis, which makes me seriously question the heretofore under-advertised wi-fi strength of the average Nintendo portable. Beyond that, we also have the climactic scene i which Natsuki stands challenging the Love Machine AI with her entire extended family linked in behind her. We get a glimpse of a four-generation household all clutching their various electronic devices, from game handhelds to GPSes, all logged in with their various network avatars as they prepare to sacrifice them for Natsuki and the greater good.

by G. Christopher Williams

17 Jan 2011

While Infinity Ward has take the franchise to more a contemporary setting, Black Ops developer Treyarch had yet to stray outside the boundaries of World War II with its Call of Duty installments until late last year.  With a Cold War setting and a title suggestive more of espionage than traditional battle, the best selling game of last year attempted to tell a slightly different style of war story.

However, is there any real substance to Treyarch’s style this time out? 

The Moving Pixels podcast crew considers this and other questions by evaluating the phenomenon of Call of Duty: Black Ops.

by Nick Dinicola

14 Jan 2011

I hated Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit at first. I hated the handling, the fact that the cars had a sense of weight and seemed slow to respond. It seemed like bad design, why make it possible to crash into traffic then give me an unresponsive car? I hated how the specs for some cars were “classified.” I was afraid to use them, worried that I’d be tricked into using a slower car. I hated the shortcuts that weren’t actually shortcuts, and the lack of damage compared to Burnout. In short, I hated it because it wasn’t Burnout. But I kept playing.

Eventually it won me over. Once I reset my expectations and took the game on its own merits, as a Need for Speed game and not a Burnout game. Also, I unlocked faster and more responsive cars, so now the game actually does feel comparable to Burnout. It struck me as odd that Criterion would hide the best cars behind a dozen hours of lesser gameplay, hadn’t developers learned not to do this? Super Street Fighter IV had no hidden characters, and Battlefield: Bad Company 2 has a “short cut” pack that you can buy to instantly unlock all weapons and gadgets. Yet racing games still force players to start with the slowest cars and work their way up. However, despite my frustrations, the more that I think about it, the more that I agree that this system works for racing games or at the very least for Hot Pursuit.

by Scott Juster

13 Jan 2011

Big Daddy Doll by
Kotaku reader, Nathan

My naturally cautious nature made me apprehensive about BioShock 2.  The original BioShock, while not without its flaws, was instantly hailed as a monumental triumph.  It dealt with serious moral and philosophical themes, commenting on the nature of freedom in both society and video game design.  Rapture’s beautiful, yet decrepit environment told the story of what happens when self interest goes unchecked.  The surroundings were more than pretty set pieces: shadowy corridors, flammable oil, and flooded rooms could be exploited by using various battle techniques to one’s advantage.  It felt like (and to a certain extent still feels like) my ideal game.  It was a complete experience that I didn’t want subsequently altered by the unknown consequences of a sequel.  My adventure through Rapture was personal, and I felt ownership over it and its subsequent legacy.

by Rick Dakan

13 Jan 2011

Conrad B. Hart of Flashback (U.S. Gold, 1992)

A couple of years ago, I picked up a copy of 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die. At the time I was in an MFA program and had to do a lot of reading, but I was allowed to choose the books myself as long as they were of a certain level of quality. I spent a couple days going through the entire 1001 book catalog, skimming and sometimes reading all of the small, three to five paragraph analyses of each book. I came up with a list of about 75 novels that really sounded exciting to me and had generally great results. I read things that I’d never heard of and learned the basics about a whole lot of books that I’ll probably never read. Now that I’m blogging about video games all the time, this seemed like the perfect companion piece for me. What other classic games besides Final Fantasy VII (I know!) have I never played? Let’s find out.

As it turns out, most of them. Like the 1001 Books book, 1001 Video Games You Must Play Before You Die is arranged chronologically by release date, which I think is absolutley the right choice. It lets the book serve as a fascinating history of the industry, showing how games have developed and improved over the last four decades. At 39, I’ve been playing games for pretty much the entire period covered in the book, and I was surprised how many of those early games that I’d played. In the end, though, I only played 468 out of the 1001 on display here. The kind of scary thing was that (unlike with the books) I’d mostly heard of all these games, even if I’d never played them. Flipping through them is a wondrous trip down memory lane, and as the book proceeds, so too does the vividness of the memories. Part of that is because so many of the 1001 potential reminiscences aren’t really that old at all.

//Mixed media

Because Blood Is Drama: Considering Carnage in Video Games and Other Media

// Moving Pixels

"It's easy to dismiss blood and violence as salacious without considering why it is there, what its context is, and what it might communicate.

READ the article