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by Jorge Albor

14 Mar 2013


The new Lara Croft has arrived, and she is dirty, vulnerable, and violent—a far cry from the classic, clean, and busty super-heroine that has never left our popular consciousness. It is no understatement to say that Square-Enix and Crystal Dynamics have revolutionized Lara Croft. Of course, a lot of credit is owed to Tomb Raider Lead Writer Rhianna Pratchett, who captures Lara’s strength and courage, even when breaking her down again and again. But I also want to specifically spotlight the game’s excellent motion capture and exquisite use of character animations that map Lara’s abilities, frailties, and the world around her with touch.

If there were one theme running through the entirety of Tomb Raider, it would be survival. Lara Croft suffers so much physical trauma and abuse in the first hour of the game, she makes Nathan Drake look like a prop in some poorly acted set-piece of a film (maybe that’s a little too close to home). She gets impaled, shot at, choked, stabbed, nearly drowns, and tossed around like a rag doll, all within the first hour or so of the game. Yet she still stands up, keeps moving, and overcomes. It’s hard not to find Lara an awe-inspiring character.

by Scott Juster

7 Mar 2013


To hear Sony tell it, every piece of their upcoming PlayStation 4 is an industry-changing marvel.  As John Teti aptly writes, their mantra is “More”: more processing power, more polygons, more texture, more social network hooks.  It’s hard to separate substance from static in the middle of the hype storm but now that some time has passed, I’m more confident that the most important feature announced is linked to a single button labeled “share.”  Assuming it’s implemented gracefully (which is a big assumption given Sony’s console software track record), the ability for players to stream and save gameplay footage will have a much larger effect than any amount of increased visual fidelity.

by Jorge Albor

28 Feb 2013


As an avid board gamer, someone who revels in the social dynamics around a tabletop, which are all too rare in video games, I remain deeply confused by the popularity of minimally interactive board games. I understand how creating and managing a system can entertain someone, but playing a multiplayer game of solitaire seems to undermine the very nature and personality of board games. Worker placement games and deck building games are the two biggest genre offenders in this field, although outliers apply. For the most part, I forswear this style of game. However, the recently released and the unfortunately named Legendary: A Marvel Deck Building Game has salvaged many of the core ideas of the deck-building genre by crafting a thoroughly interactive multiplayer experience.

For those that may be board game illiterate, there are a few core systems in deck building games that define the genre and lend themselves towards poor multiplayer experiences in general. First, generally speaking, deck-building games start all players off on an even playing field with identical decks of cards. Players then use the cards in their hands to effect a central tableau of cards, either purchasing new cards to add to their deck or by removing cards from the game. As the game progresses, each player’s deck becomes a unique machine, watered down or strengthened by their decisions.

by Scott Juster

21 Feb 2013


I don’t own any guns, I don’t go hunting, and I’ve never been to a gun show.  Playing with a BB gun is the closest I’ve ever come to firing a real gun.

When it comes to virtual guns, it’s a whole different story.  I’ve taken down entire squadrons with a sniper rifle.  I can differentiate a rifle from a submachine gun with a quick glance.  I’m adept at handling everything from advanced artillery installations to vintage World War II pistols.

Or at least I like to fool myself into thinking this.  In reality, I’m quite disconnected from the basic realities of guns.  My knowledge is mostly confined to surface level observations that ignore the mechanical and social dynamics of the firearms simulated in most games.  Thanks to a couple of gun-focused games and an excellent piece of gun-focused journalism, I realize now that I haven’t given this blindspot enough attention.  Granted, simply recognizing a blind spot is only the first step in correcting it, but you have to start somewhere.

by Jorge Albor

14 Feb 2013


The release of Dead Space 3 brings with it the well-worn discussion of cooperative horror games. For the first time in the series, Isaac Clarke teams up with Sergeant John Carver to offer players a cooperative xenomorph-killing extravaganza. For a vocal bunch of players, the additional company might be fun, but saps the game of its horror roots. Pushed by popular discourse, I fear we may settle on the false assumption that horror and co-op gaming are simply incompatible. While most conversations pit co-op play against “isolation” and “immersion”, I think we can find a place for multiplayer horror games by balancing vulnerability and mutual reliance in games.

//Mixed media
//Blogs

Hozier + Death Cab for Cutie + Rock Radio 104.5's Birthday Show (Photo Gallery)

// Notes from the Road

"Radio 104.5's birthday show featured great bands and might have been the unofficial start of summer festival season in the Northeast.

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