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Wednesday, Jun 11, 2014
Am I playing video games or at times merely enduring them?

There are 119 League of Legends champions. As of this week, I own them all, and I have never spent a dime on a single one.


League of Legends is a free-to-play Multiplayer Online Battle Arena, in which five players on each team take on the role of five champions for a 30-40 minute match. Riot Games makes money in the game by selling champions and skins for champions, essentially mere aesthetic upgrades for those characters. Skins can only be purchased with real money. However, champions can be purchased with real money or by earning points by playing games and unlocking them one at a time.


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Text:AAA
Tuesday, Jun 10, 2014
It doesn’t matter if you play the light side or the dark side. People are still compelled to behave a certain way based on their circumstances, and individuality only really matters to the individual.

I’m really rooting for Always Sometimes Monsters. I want people to play it and talk about it because it tries very, very hard to be a part of a conversation. Sometimes it tries too hard, but in the current videogame climate, where “being political” is an assumed sickness (Todd Harper, “Erasing your audience isn’t ‘fun’: The false choice between diversity and enjoyment”, Polygon, 22 May 2014) and creating subtext is a marketing department’s afterthought (Brendan Keogh, “Big games are often light on themes”, The Conversation, 27 May 2014.), it’s refreshing that the developers of Always Sometimes Monsters deliberately approach the politics of class, sex, race, and gender with the goal of communicating something. It approaches these issues with a narrative device that is—to me—unique in games. Its narrative is procedurally created.


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Monday, Jun 9, 2014
We hate them. We love them. What makes the side quest so agonizing, yet so alluring?

We hate them. We love them. We complete them, except when we don’t complete them. What makes the side quest so agonizing, yet so alluring?


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Text:AAA
Friday, Jun 6, 2014
By its nature, luck should be inconsistent, but Badland, an iOS puzzler, can evoke the feeling with easy regularity.

All games want to be beaten, even the hardest ones. All games are made with the idea that a player will eventually see its end. If not, the game would just be a single level. The danger of this desire is that a game that wants too badly to be beaten can become too easy. Without challenge (and a good story, but that’s besides the point of this post), there’s only boredom, but luck can make a lack of challenge exciting. Luck may be looked down upon in most mechanics-driven games, but it’s an important factor in creating tension. The tricky thing about luck is that it is, by its very definition, inconsistent, which makes it all the more impressive that Badland, an iOS puzzler, can evoke the feeling with easy regularity.


Badland is not a hard game, it clearly wants you to progress through it at a steady and relaxed pace. There are hard parts, sure. The puzzles get more inventive and tricky as you get further into it, but for most of the early levels, it’s the kind of game that you know that you will be able to reliably finish a couple levels during a short bus ride. It’s a game that wants to be played, and it wants to be beaten. However, it doesn’t want the player to get complacent. It wants to be simple and thrilling at the same time.


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Text:AAA
Thursday, Jun 5, 2014

Since the recording of our podcast episode on Hearthstone, I’ve been playing the game pretty much every single day and have yet to spend a dime on it. I was a huge Magic: The Gathering player for a good many years, but I eventually had to give up as I could no longer afford the constant influx of new sets and the need to buy the new cards for the new metagame that would arise as a result. And I’ve lamented having given up the game ever since. I still get that itch to play a card game, and I’m grateful for Hearthstone‘s free-to-play set up because of this. I can scratch much of the same card flopping, spell slinging itch with Hearthstone that I did with Magic for free. Economically, Hearthstone makes a lot of sense for a player like me.


Comparing the prices of packs is never going to be an exact science. While Hearthstone packs are cheaper than Magic packs, they come with fewer cards. Yet there is a smaller maximum of any specific card that one can put in a deck in Hearthstone and duplicates can be unmade for crafting dust. You can’t trade Hearthstone cards like you can Magic cards, but packs can be bought with in-game gold earned by winning games. In the end, though, it’s not about comparing these prices but what the effect each model has on the flow of play. I feel that there is a trade off in strategic depth that comes along with the free-to-play model—even one as well done as Hearthstone‘s.


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