Latest Blog Posts

by Scott Juster

24 Feb 2011


As long-time readers know, it takes precious little to get me started on Super Mario analysis. Just as he expected, Jorge’s recent post on how 2D sidescrollers fail as multiplayer games (“Double Trouble: Flawed Multiplayer in Donkey Kong Country Returns, PopMatters, 20 January 2011) has inspired me to revisit one of my favorite game design topics: challenge. While I haven’t yet played Donkey Kong Country Returns, I have put a considerable (or ridiculous, depending on your interpretation) amount of time into New Super Mario Bros. Wii.

Despite its cartoonish exterior, NSMBW is a demanding game. This can lead to frustration, especially if players of unequal skill are playing together. The rhetoric embedded in the game’s rules and the philosophies of its creators argue that true success is something that the players actively obtain rather than passively achieve. From a historical perspective, NSMBW’s difficulty is in keeping with tradition, and this legacy is carried into its multiplayer mode. It then becomes understandable why the mode is frustrating; instead of minimizing differences between the players, it demands that weak players either rise above their limitations or rely on the stronger players to succeed. Frustrating as this may be, I argue that NSMBW comes by its challenge honestly and that a team’s failure in multiplayer is more a reflection on the team’s aggregate skill and cooperative dynamics than any inherent failing of the game’s systems.

by Rick Dakan

24 Feb 2011


Only two weeks! Only two weeks until a new Bioware RPG comes out, and I can sink dozens of hours into another sprawling, epic narrative and then do it again for another dozens of hours so I can see what I missed the first time through. These are the games that I game for and even did the usually unthinkable for me: I pre-ordered the limited, special, fanboy edition of Dragon Age II. Despite it’s somewhat clunky combat and less than stunning animations, I loved the first Dragon Age, playing through the whole main game twice, including the massive Dragon Age: Awakenings mega-DLC pack both times. I’d also devoured the earlier small DLC additions, most of which added content to the core game. But then came Mass Effect 2 and other, alarmingly non-Bioware made games, and I lost track of my old friend.

But with just a month to go before new, Dragon-sequel goodness, I thought that I’d catch up on what I’ve missed since I last slipped that disk into my Xbox. I wanted to both reacquaint myself with the game and its story and stoke the fires of my own anticipation for the coming glories. And so I played them all, and now, depending on what your own preferences are, you don’t have to. In some cases, that’s my recommendation exactly.

by G. Christopher Williams

23 Feb 2011


Economies are based on need. Need leads to demand. And what can be more needful than addiction?

The historical and social context of economics simulator High Tea is pretty precisely clarified in its opening text, which describes the circumstances surrounding the game: “1830, Britain is in the grip of a mass addiction to a foreign drug. TEA!”

by Kris Ligman

22 Feb 2011


It’s about time I came clean with you all: I know next to nothing about Nintendo.

My first gaming console as a child was a Sega CD, and I say that specifically because it took 24 hours or so for my father to realize that he needed to go out and buy a Genesis for it to work. He’s been enamored with computers for as long as I can remember and was especially interested in CD technologies of that time period. He couldn’t really care less about games, but full motion video cutscenes, that excited him. Fortunately, it excited his four children as well.

I couldn’t tell you the specific rationale for it now (though it was probably monetary), but my family remained a single-brand household for a long time after that. We got a lot of use out of that Genesis. We even had a 32x! And though no American child can grow up completely without exposure to Nintendo products thanks to classmates and popular media, my siblings and I were all squarely and firmly in Sega camp, back when there indeed were such camps and a blue hedgehog led one of them.

by G. Christopher Williams

21 Feb 2011


More than just a video game, Electronic Arts has given Dead Space the full transmedia treatment, shipping movies, comics, and spin off titles with the same grisly themes. In anticipation of a discussion of the release of Dead Space 2, the Moving Pixels podcast explores the universe of Dead Space as a media phenomenon. 

Is this all about marketing or do these additional properties flesh out the mythos or enliven the concepts of this action/horror hybrid?

//Mixed media
//Blogs

'Wanted' Is a Spaghetti Western That Will Leave You Wanting

// Short Ends and Leader

"The charisma of Giuliano Gemma and some stellar action sequences can't save this sub-par spaghetti western.

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