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Thursday, Jun 26, 2014
The latest Mario Kart expands its mixture of interventionism and indifference beyond the tracks.

Mario Kart sticks out amongst other established Nintendo series. Like Mario, Zelda, or Metroid, certain constants have persisted over the years. Cartoonish characters, drifting, and wacky items have all become its distinguishing characteristics.  But it’s the last example, the items, that best illustrate Mario Kart’s unique qualities. 


They represent a chance, unexpected upsets, and straight up dumb luck that doesn’t exist in the clockwork levels of Super Mario (there will always be a goomba on the ground traveling from right to left on World 1-1). Zelda’s steady accumulation of items build out a consistent internal logic that governs that game’s world. For example, torches can be lit, the boomerang can spread fire, and therefore the boomerang can be used to spread a flame to multiple torches.  Metroid is similar. Ongoing success is determined by the tools you find, which are discovered through testing your existing skills. In all these games, failure is the result of a lack of knowledge or execution: you either haven’t learned how to succeed or you screw up the implementation.


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Thursday, Jun 19, 2014
Will Fantasy LCS have the power to bring new fans into the eSports scene, including those who do not watch or even play video games?

I used to hate American football. From a viewer’s perspective, especially one who grew up watching soccer, it doesn’t make any sense. Not only is there a glut of obscure rules and strange plays (The onside kick? What’s that all about?), the sport is also extremely slow paced. Half the team sits down while the other half takes its turn defending or moving the ball up the field in short individual bursts. In fact, a Wall Street Journal study estimated that the average time the ball is in play during a given football match is a mere eleven minutes. What a bore.


Then, several years ago, I started playing fantasy football. For those unfamiliar with the game, it’s that thing all of your coworkers talk about during the football season, even the ones who never go to a game. Each participant in your average fantasy football league drafts individual players from the entire NFL and fits them into specific slots on their team. These teams then face off each week, earning points based on the performance of real life players. If, say, Tony Romo throws four touchdowns, your team might come out big. If, on the other hand, Romo gets sacked and fumbles the ball, he could actually earn negative points for your team that week.


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Thursday, Jun 12, 2014
I find myself paying attention to E3 every year, even though I probably shouldn’t.

I’m writing this on June 8, 2014, the day before E3 kicks off. By the time you’re reading this, all the drama has been dissected many times over. The booths have been packed up, winners and losers have been declared, and many a snarky GIF has been made. I’m nowhere near the whirling vortex of pounding music and perspiring participants that is the LA Convention center, but I will be watching. View this as a retroactive explanation or perhaps even as an apology. E3 is obnoxious, but I still go out of my way to watch it.


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Thursday, Jun 5, 2014
These blasted landscapes between civilization and chaos reveal how vacuous normative roles can be.

Warning: This post contains spoilers forThe Walking: In Harm’s Way.


Telltale’s The Walking Dead is a series about societal roles. As Lee Everett in the game’s first season, you take on the role of a leader, a fighter, and a father. Sometimes you embrace these aspects of the character willingly, other times they are foisted upon you. Navigating the world of The Walking Dead is largely an act of managing the social obligations that we all carry, every day, heightened to an apocalyptic intensity.


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Thursday, May 29, 2014
Who’s in charge in Transistor? Maybe nobody.

This post contains spoilers for Transistor


Transistor is a story about people struggling to maintain control over an ever-shifting situation.  Everyone in the game, be they heroes, villains, or the average citizen, are fooled into thinking that they have exerted a lasting influence over others.  Diversity somehow finds a way to trump their efforts, even the efforts of the person holding controller.


Cloudbank, the game’s high tech cityscape, makes promises of power and influence to its citizens, but it does so in a way that is both limited and prone to arbitrary decision making.  On the surface, the city seems like a democratic success; “users” can vote on everything from city planning projects to the weather and the winners get to see their plans enacted.  In reality, this capricious mass has a hard time staying focused on any long-term structural change.  Votes go back and forth and random pieces of architecture make for odd juxtapositions.


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