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by Scott Juster

23 Jul 2015


What sorts of video games represent the best that the entire medium has to offer? I talk to lots of people about games and the various answers to that question often fall into recognizable buckets. Super Mario Bros. or Doom for their ability to withstand the test of time and also for their long reach. Ico or Shadow of the Colossus for their ability to evoke a rich world through understated visual effects and mechanics. Journey for telling a poignant story while seamlessly (and wordlessly) connecting you to other people. 

What sort of video game best represents the medium’s potential? It’s a question that inspires high-minded thinking and lots of pondering about the nature of art. It usually doesn’t elicit talk about cars that can do rocket-boosted backflips, but maybe it should.  Rocket League is a ridiculous game, and it is a beautiful game.

by Jorge Albor

16 Jul 2015


What does Gotham city mean to you? I have been asking myself this question lately as I play through Batman: Arkham Knight. I spend most of my time gliding around from above, doing my best to avoid boring vehicle gameplay, so I guess Gotham city is its skyscrapers. Or maybe Gotham is the ant-like swarm of enemies populating its streets in endless supply. Or maybe its villains, who have seemingly agreed to carve up the city into their own bite-size portions of malevolence. I suspect all of these are unsatisfying answers.

A sense of place, that ephemeral subjective quality, can be so hard to describe. It shifts and blurs, a combination of emotions, history, politics, and geography. A sense of place can be, at the same time, personal yet collective. For example, I know what Northern California means to me. It is rocky shorelines, vineyards, redwoods, day laborers, and tired hands, among other things. I struggle to understand Gotham city with the same clarity. Why is that?

by Scott Juster

9 Jul 2015


Batman: Arkham Knight is a game about identity crises. Who is the Arkham Knight (and how did he become obsessed with Batman)? Can Jim Gordon reconcile his devotion to his family with his obligation to uphold the law? What really separates Batman and the Joker? Will the Riddler ever realize how annoying he truly is? If the inflated number of Riddler challenges in Arkham Knight are any indication, he is either totally oblivious or sadistically aware of how much of a pest he is.

by Scott Juster

25 Jun 2015


Recore (Microsoft Studios, forthcoming)

E3 wrapped up last week, and I’m still sifting through all the headlines. As always, there was plenty of excitement, but this year’s excitement felt like the good kind, the kind that makes me enthusiastic about what the industry’s big companies are doing. Part of the reason that I follow E3 every year is for the surprise announcements and big reveals, but over the past few years, it had become a morbid fascination. What sort of train wreck would it be this year? Instead of watching spontaneous disasters, I spent this year pleasantly surprised by what the big companies had to show.

by Jorge Albor

18 Jun 2015


Deep into E3 and my ears are still buzzing with the sound of explosions. There’s an itch in my throat that is the telltale sign of a convention pox, and earlier in the day, I overheard an exhibitor say loudly, “I hate E3.” Understandably, at a consumer event that feels like the oppressive churning of an impossibly hungry machine, the games industry can feel like a strange mix of unbridled excitement (I’m looking at you The Last Guardian) and deep cynicism. It’s with this mixed message in mind that I want to make a concerted effort to celebrate some of the non-gaming moments that I find hopeful from the show.

Almost more shocking than the reveal of Shenmue 3 was the appearance of a surprisingly diverse group of protagonists featured in some of the most exciting games of this coming year. It seems some developers are finally learning that female protagonists do not doom a game from selling big.

The heroine of Recorp.

The heroine of Recorp.

Of course Faith returns in the much anticipated Mirror’s Edge 2, as does Lara Croft in Rise of the Tomb Raider. They are joined by the heroines of Recorp and Horizon Zero, both brand new franchises (robot infused franchises at that). Meanwhile, Gigantic, a MOBA-like third-person action game, features a strong woman of color that looks entirely badass, as well as an old woman and a young girl. None of these games hypersexualize these characters, yet all explore entirely different aesthetics. These are not hastily created token characters made to check a box. Rather, they seem built from the ground up out of a genuine enthusiasm to include diverse and interesting protagonists in games.

//Mixed media
//Blogs

Double Take: 'The French Connection' (1971)

// Short Ends and Leader

"You pick your feet in Poughkeepsie, and we pick The French Connection for Double Take #18.

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