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by Scott Juster

6 Jun 2012


It’s my first E3, so seeing the massive spectacle itself was strange. Almost everything about the show is loud: the colors, the music, the people. Being on the show floor, surrounded by thousands of people who are there to celebrate and profit off of the medium creates a strange manic energy. While everyone says they are there to have a great time, there is a lot of business being done.

What made the day even stranger was my relatively open schedule. Jorge and I booked most of our appointments for Wednesday and Thursday, which left us with a strange amount of unstructured time. A fair amount of this time was spent waiting in various lines, but the lack of structure also let us stumble on a few less-trafficked parts of the show and also get a sense of some of E3’s less tangible qualities. Here are some highlights as well as a podcast covering the day’s events

by G. Christopher Williams

6 Jun 2012


The first Alan Wake featured that rather old and decaying chestnut of video games, the quest for the princess.  In this case, the princess, though, was his wife, a strange phenomenon for video games—featuring a married protagonist, whose wife isn’t at least dead enough to justify some homicidal tendencies in an epic revenge plot, is kind of unusual in and of itself.

Really, though, it was nice to see that the game’s developers, Remedy, wanted to at least try to confront some more mature topics, like an actual ongoing relationship, in a video game.  And while Wake’s wife, Alice, does indeed get snatched away by the Darkness surrounding Bright Falls (and thus is absent for most of the game), Alan’s own complicity (or at least his own sense of complicity) in the abduction is more interesting than whatever it is that motivates Mario to run off after Princess Peach for the umpteenth time.

by G. Christopher Williams

4 Jun 2012


At the suggestion of a listener, Andrew Grech, Nick and I decided to revisit (for the first time for both of us) the cult classic FPS, No One Lives Forever.

The game has a great reputation for its clever parody of spy thrillers and for its forward thinking game design.  We decided to put that reputation to the test and see if No One Lives Forever has anything to offer gamers over a decade after its initial release.

by Nick Dinicola

1 Jun 2012


This discussion contains spoilers for Max Payne 3.

Max Payne 3 is an exciting shooter. The controls allow for some impressive precision. The options of choosing how to target enemies in “hard lock,” “soft lock,” and “free aim” modes separate shooting difficulty from enemy difficulty (which is a great idea that deserves its own blog post). The combat scenarios are varied and interesting. On the whole, it does everything that a good shooter should do, but it takes a very different road to get there. Call of Duty, Gears of War, and the rest are also exciting shooters, but their excitement stems from their sense of empowerment. Playing them is fun because it makes us feel stronger than we really are, capable of going toe-to-toe with an entire army and winning. The same can’t be said about Max Payne 3. Sure, you still go toe-to-toe with armies and win, but just barely. Max Payne 3 is not about empowerment.

by Scott Juster

31 May 2012


Starhawk (Sony, 2012)

I’m a realist.  I understand why it’s so hard to craft dynamic stories and relationships in games.  With all their random behavior and nuanced feelings, people are hard to track and systematize.  I’m willing to look past the fact that Mass Effect might not allow my Shepard to live out her life as the owner of a space vineyard.  It’s fine that I can’t start a truly intimate, emotional relationship with every NPC in Dragon Age.  I accept the fact that, given enough time and experimentation, the affection that my Sims feel for one another could be expressed numerically. 

In the absence of infinite diversity in infinite combinations, an interesting plot can spice up even the most familiar gun battles and scavenger hunts.  This is one of the reasons that Red Dead Redemption is one of my favorite games.  In a ludic sense, it’s about as “video game-y” as the come, but its story content and dramatic themes convey an interesting (if dismal) message about the human condition.  The problem is that many story-driven games don’t bother to do anything interesting with the plot, which in turn does nothing to help alleviate dull or well worn game mechanics.

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