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by G. Christopher Williams

4 Jan 2012


This discussion of Batman: Arkham City contains spoilers.

Rocksteady’s Batman franchise features a very competent Batman by allowing the player systems of play that make playing well very easy.  That ease at which the player can slip into Batman’s skin makes some sense, though, since playing a caped crusader that fumbles about at his job would violate the iconic, nearly inhuman qualities of a character whose stock and trade is supreme competence.

That being said, Batman is not quite the same icon as Superman, nor is either one like their Marvel counterparts.  Emotional vulnerability and self doubt plague the very humanly drawn characters of the Marvel universe.  DC characters most often seem more like gods than men, as they deal not with personal issues but problems of global concern: crime, terror, fear.  A vulnerability in Batman that is not emotional or professional, however, is still present in Rocksteady’s version of this DC character (who most often feels less like a human being than an archetypal force of vengeance).  Batman is still human, and unlike Superman, he can bleed.

by Mattie Brice

3 Jan 2012


“Game of the Year” lists. Everybody’s got one, and they all tend to look the same. This year’s blockbuster hits, sequels to long-standing series, new projects created by popular development teams. After some reflection, I realized there were many gaming experiences that I excluded from my own list because I had some presuppositions of what “should” be on such a list. We expect high profile games that cost us $60, typically rewarding games that improve a formula instead of taking risks. If the recent presence of the indie development scene tells us anything, it’s that high end production and price tags aren’t necessary for making a successful game. What about the free games or the extremely niche titles? I decided to put together a small list in the spirit of rewarding some 2011 games that are unlikely to be featured elsewhere but deserve recognition for the risk taking that they took to advance the medium.

by Nick Dinicola

16 Dec 2011


Earning “levels” and “unlockables” has become a standard carrot-on-a-stick for multiplayer games, and perhaps that’s why they’re not as enticing as they once were. Not only are they common, but they’re no longer a proper indicator of personal skill. When I enter a match and see that I’m the highest level person in the room, rather than feel powerful, I wonder how many people here have already reached the maximum level and started over. In racing terms, how many of my opponents have already lapped me? Even if we take levels as an indicator of playtime, not skill, they’re still confusing because I don’t know who has reset their stats and who hasn’t. These standard systems of progression have become clichéd and that’s why the multiplayer in Assassin’s Creed: Revelations is so refreshing. It presents those same systems of progression in a new light.

by Scott Juster

15 Dec 2011


It seems that reports of Shigeru Miyamoto’s retirement have been greatly exaggerated. Last week, an excerpt from Wired‘s extended interview with Miyamoto set off a brief panic amongst players and stockholders. Thanks to a combination of translation issues, alarmism, and poor reading comprehension, the prospect of Miyamoto’s impending retirement loomed large.  Nintendo quickly put the kibosh on the speculation (as well as the stock dip fueled by such speculation) by reassuring the world that: “He has no intention of stepping down. Please do not be concerned” (Isabel Reynolds, “Nintendo denies report games designer Miyamoto to retire”, Reuters, 8 December 2011).

Everything is fine and nothing will change. Miyamoto’s not going anywhere.  Nintendo would have us think this and dedicated fans want to believe this, but it’s only half true.  Things have already changed.  Miyamoto has been preparing for his late-career period for some time.  Even so, we shouldn’t be concerned.

by G. Christopher Williams

14 Dec 2011


The standard hullabaloo has, of course, arrived following the release of the trailer for Rockstar’s Grand Theft Auto V.  One bit of disappointment that some fans expressed in seeing the video for the first time was the implication that the game will feature a standard male lead in this upcoming GTA.  Just before the trailer was released, rumors swirled around the internet that this iteration of GTA might feature a female protagonist, something that no GTA up to now (and really no other open world crime game, barring Saints Row—sort of—but more on that in a moment) had done. 

Actually the rumors have not abated in some circles that a playable female character may still exist in the forthcoming game, as a number of folks have suggested that the absence of the male protagonist in some scenes in the trailer might suggest that this GTA might also feature the story of multiple protagonists.  Some of these folks are still holding out hope that one of these speculative protagonists might be a woman.

Now, this is a notion that I myself have floated before—that it might be interesting for a GTA game to feature a female protagonist.  However, I am also a little skeptical that a reasonably well defined female protagonist might be written for an open world crime game.  Indeed, the one effort that I can think of to do so, in the Saints Row series, is to me a clear failure of imagination and might speak a bit to the problem of creating a female anti-hero within this particular genre construct.

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