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by Kris Ligman

1 Feb 2011


LittleBigPlanet 2 might have unintentionally oriented itself toward a more elite playerbase than it realized, but you can’t mistake the good pedagogical intentions of its developers. These games are meant as Western child-rearing in a nutshell, deliberately multicultural and gender-inclusive, actively encouraging self discovery and mutable identification.

There’s just the little problem of its execution. Or rather, how it sets up and fails to deliver where it counts.

Let’s begin by considering LittleBigPlanet 2‘s approach to character design compared to more “mature” titles, like a BioWare RPG. If gender isn’t the very first item that you select, it’s certainly up there near the top. By contrast, LittleBigPlanet 2‘s character customization (which has not been altered terribly much from the original) stresses a sort of free play with gender and expression. Certainly you can gender yourself and dominant references to the series mascot as “Sackboy” enforce a specific interpretation, but there is nothing in the text itself that says a player can’t freely decide to be one thing, then another, then both, then neither. She can add an afro to her wedding dress, give the Raiden outfit Meryl Silverburgh’s wig, or whatever else she fancies. Not only can the player do this, the game wants her to do it. Experiment is what it encourages. Be playful with your identity.

by G. Christopher Williams

31 Jan 2011


Shifting settings from the mall to the casino, the Dead Rising series hasn’t changed in its commitment to gross excess and superficiality. 

In a similar sense, much of the approach to grappling with the zombie hordes has not been altered significantly in the 2010 follow up to Dead Rising.  The player is still tasked with killing zombies and psychos, while ensuring the safety of as many of his fellow survivors as he can.  The more subtle changes (“subtle” being a term that is normally very rarely applied to a Dead Rising title) come in terms of combat tweaks, some changes in difficulty, and some very different psycho fights.

This week the Moving Pixels podcast crew discusses the good and bad in those changes and whether or not the follow up is a worthy successor to one of the more popular early titles of this hardware generation.

by Nick Dinicola

28 Jan 2011


Ratchet and Clank know how to have a good time. Over the past few weeks, many of the big games that I have played have been disappointing in one way or another, but never Ratchet and Clank. Even after six console games and even more for the portable systems, the Ratchet and Clank games have proven to be consistently entertaining and innovative, and the most recent entry in the series (which I’ve only now gotten around to playing) is no different. In its controls, combat, and characters, Ratchet and Clank: A Crack in Time never forgets how to be fun.

by Scott Juster

27 Jan 2011


Spoken dialogue has become increasingly important to video game storytelling.  Increasingly, actors that have gained fame in film or television are lending their talents to video games.  However, not all celebrities receive the typical Hollywood treatment when they step off the red carpet and onto the digital plane.  Instead of plastering an A-list celebrity on every poster and putting them front and center, many video games deal with celebrity in subtle ways.  I’m neither a movie nor a casting director, so I can’t speak very well to the business dealings of voice acting.  But, from a player’s perspective, celebrity talent in games takes a variety of forms that range from celebrated, to subtle, to self-aware.

by Rick Dakan

27 Jan 2011


I began and ended my career as a video game designer with superheroes. I had an idea for what I thought would be the next big thing in online gaming—Everquest, but with superheroes! This was in the days before World of Warcraft when Everquest was the big dog with its hundreds of thousands of subscribers. Luckily for me, I knew a guy with a ton of internet bubble money who wanted to get into game development, and we were off and running. Three years later, I was fired—although I stayed on as a freelancer through the eventual launch of City of Heroes in 2004. It was quite a ride for me personally, but the end result (owing only a tiny portion of its success to my influence) was a cool, fun game that was a best seller out of the gate. I was even a fan and played it more than was probably good for me. Of course then World of Warcraft came later that year and blew everything else away. Even I switched over to WoW for a while before eventually giving up on MMOs for other pursuits. I’d had my fill.

One of the many odd things that happened during my time working on City of Heroes was that the word “superhero” and the phrase “super hero” disappeared entirely from our vocabularies when it came to speaking publicly about the game. It turns out that Marvel Comics and DC Comics hold a very, very dubious trademark on the term. I still think that this is total BS, but no one wanted to have that fight or pay those lawyers. So, our game was instead about “super-powered heroes.” I don’t know if my old company’s second game, Champions Online, used the word or not, but it began life as a Marvel Comics-based MMO, so maybe it did. But there’s a stupid, semantic argument to be made that now, seven years later, the world finally has its first “real” superhero MMORPG—DC Universe Online.

//Mixed media
//Blogs

St. Vincent, Beck, and More Heat Up Boston Calling on Memorial Day Weekend

// Notes from the Road

"With vibrant performances by artists including St. Vincent and TV on the Radio, the first half of the bi-annual Boston Calling Festival brought additional excitement to Memorial Day weekend.

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