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Wednesday, Feb 26, 2014
I don't know if any of these games are good. I don't know if any of these games are great. But there is something interesting in all of these games.

Last week while describing my experience of IndieCade East, I promised that I would go over a number of the games that caught my eye and my interest at the show. Well, here it is. There were multiple places that games were on display at the event. There was the Sony sponsored section where a number of displays showed off upcoming indie offerings, those coming soon to PlayStation platforms. This is where I got to try out Towerfall: Ascension, probably the only time that I’ll get to play it against four opponents. There were also several stations to show off student project from an NYU game design course.

The entirety of my list of games, though, comes from a section called Show and Tell. This was a space that on Saturday and Sunday where developers rotated out games that they had on display every four hours. I got to check out a lot of games that I both never would have heard of otherwise or that I just normally wouldn’t have had a chance to see at all. Some were destined for consoles, some for the PC, some for mobile devices and tablets, some for the table, and others really couldn’t be played outside of a dedicated event such as IndieCade.

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Tuesday, Feb 25, 2014
Lightning Returns hits a rare sweet spot that recycles enough ideas and pushes them to such an extreme that it finds novelty in nostalgia. Its identity is its lack of identity.

Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII references several other games in its first few hours. Lightning must gather the souls of a dying world (Valkyrie Profile) on behalf of a divine but untrustworthy benefactor (Legacy of Kain); a clock ticks down to the doomed hour (Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask), and our hero helps locals solve their personal troubles (Persona) before returning to her base safely located in a ripple in time (Chrono Trigger). Lightning swaps out powers and outfits on the fly (Final Fantasy X-2), most of the game consists of side missions that she can approach at her leisure (Elder Scrolls), and her resistance to a corrupt leader gradually prepares her for her fight against the apocalypse (every videogame ever). Later on, references to films, comics (both American and Japanese), and even more games emerge before the game finally settles into a rhythm of its own. Lightning Returns hits a rare sweet spot that recycles enough ideas and pushes them to such an extreme that it finds novelty in nostalgia. Its identity is its lack of identity. Lightning Returns is a cacophony of allusions that builds rather than creates.

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Monday, Feb 24, 2014
by Erik Kersting
It is in the difficulty of Twitch Plays Pokemon that we find its value. If it wasn't for the fact that Red is almost impossible to control, the successes of the group would mean nothing.

Twitch Plays Pokemon is an anomaly. The game, in which twitch users input commands for Pokemon Red via the chat functions of Twitch (i.e. typing the word “left” will move the character left) has somehow become an internet phenomenon. It has been seen by over 20 million people and at peak hours has gone above 120,000 concurrent users, all inputting commands for the poor character of “Red” as he stumbles throughout the game in a schizophrenic daze. Its users have created lore, pseudo-religions, memes, and political commentary in the process. Its success will probably never be replicated and it will be long before anything similar comes close to its popularity, yet, it exists and continues to grow more popular as Red moves slowly throughout the eighteen year old game.

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Friday, Feb 21, 2014
Shadowfall rewrites established plot points so often that it feels like it’s being made up as it goes along by an eight-year-old with way too many toys.

Killzone: Shadowfall flirts with some interesting ideas during its first two minutes, but then it turns into a story so poorly written that it has to be a purposeful parody of stupid shooter stories or else a meta commentary on how prejudice causes one to forget the past.

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Thursday, Feb 20, 2014
Watching the Winter Olympics reminds me of exploring treacherous virtual mines.

Like much of the world, I’ve been watching this year’s Winter Olympics. I must admit that this marks the first time in approximately four years that sports like figure skating and the luge have taken up space in my brain, but I feel like I have plenty of company on this bandwagon. It’s probably a bit more unusual for people to connect the Olympics with video games, but that’s where my mind naturally goes. Seeing these athletes compete at such a high level and in such high-pressure situations helps explain the resurgence of high-stakes video games.

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