Latest Blog Posts

by Eric Swain

24 Jan 2012

Many years ago there was a contentious debate concerning where video games got their meaning from. The debate was broken up into two camps: the narratologists, those that believed that a game’s meaning came from its story, and the ludologists, those that believed that a game’s meaning came from its mechanics. Then, it was thought to be somewhere in the middle. Now most agree that a game’s meaning comes not from a single element but from all of its elements interacting with one another. These are called a game’s dynamics.

I talked about the meaning in Driver: San Francisco before as emphasized by the games narrative elements and worked to establish a deeper meaning derived from the synthesis of those elements with the game’s mechanics. This worked when “reading” the game in hindsight, but in looking at Driver: San Francisco during play, we see a different process at work.

by G. Christopher Williams

23 Jan 2012

"A Few Cards Short", Dead End Thrills

This is a weird episode.  Because while all three of our podcast regulars appreciate Arkham City on some level, boy, do we all have some criticism to level at this sequel to what many feel was one of the best games of 2009.

by Nick Dinicola

20 Jan 2012

Minimaps can be helpful, but for some games (or most games, for me personally) they can be too helpful. Since a mini-map usually gives you more information about your surrounding than the surroundings themselves, I usually find myself navigating a world using the mini-map exclusively. This first became apparent as I played through Final Fantasy X, the first Final Fantasy game to have 3D environments. I’m sure they looked incredible, other people seemed to think so, but I never really noticed because I spent most of the time staring at the mini-map when I ran around each level. The word could be confusing, paths split into multiple parts and all of them looked the same. Whereas, the mini-map was a simple top-down view that stripped away all of that beautiful, confusing graphical detail.

by Mark Filipowich

19 Jan 2012

Recently I wrote an article for another website entitled The Problem With the Legend of Zelda. The problem, in a nutshell, is that since Ocarina every Zelda game has been essentially the same and the only time that the series is interesting anymore is when it breaks from form. Unsurprisingly the article was met with vehement disgust, but one of the recurring counterarguments in response to it was that Zelda could not succeed as a business venture if it were to change too radically.

That smacks of absurdly mixed priorities (whether it’s my priorities or the general gaming audience’s priorities, I can’t say). To me, a great game is an artistic accomplishment that ought to earn as much as it costs to make; anything more should be treated as a bonus, not an objective. But are games really works of art or are they commercial products? These aren’t mutually exclusive concepts, but it still isn’t clear which force dominates the production of games.

by Jorge Albor

19 Jan 2012

The strategy game genre has long featured elements that mirror or model colonization, including many of its inhuman components. The Civilization franchise, for example, explores the process of colonization as players settle foreign lands, occupying territory forcibly from “barbarous” natives. Up until Civilization V, the series also included slavery. Perhaps Firaxis removed human bondage from the series to avoid discussing such a sensitive issue distastefully. Sid Meier’s Colonization does the same, which Trevor Owens of Play The Past rightly criticizes: “If someone wants to play a game where they replay the colonization of the Americas shouldn’t they have to think about the history of slavery as well?” (“Sid Meier’s Colonization: Is It Offensive Enough?”, Play The Past, 23 November 2010). Should we shy away from potentially intriguing and evocative historical systems?

Owens makes a compelling argument that Colonization should actually be more offensive. While I agree, this article is not about Colonization. Yet it is about slavery and what a particular game, a board game in fact, can teach us about the risks and rewards of modeling historical events in games.

//Mixed media

Tricks or Treats? Ten Halloween Blu-rays That May Disrupt Your Life

// Short Ends and Leader

"The best of this stuff'll kill you.

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