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Thursday, Dec 15, 2011
To hear Miyamoto talk about retirement is a good thing.

It seems that reports of Shigeru Miyamoto’s retirement have been greatly exaggerated. Last week, an excerpt from Wired‘s extended interview with Miyamoto set off a brief panic amongst players and stockholders. Thanks to a combination of translation issues, alarmism, and poor reading comprehension, the prospect of Miyamoto’s impending retirement loomed large.  Nintendo quickly put the kibosh on the speculation (as well as the stock dip fueled by such speculation) by reassuring the world that: “He has no intention of stepping down. Please do not be concerned” (Isabel Reynolds, “Nintendo denies report games designer Miyamoto to retire”, Reuters, 8 December 2011).


Everything is fine and nothing will change. Miyamoto’s not going anywhere.  Nintendo would have us think this and dedicated fans want to believe this, but it’s only half true.  Things have already changed.  Miyamoto has been preparing for his late-career period for some time.  Even so, we shouldn’t be concerned.


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Thursday, Dec 8, 2011
Skyrim's logic lays the foundation for an enveloping, albeit precarious, form of world building.

While strolling along the vast expanse of wilderness between Skyrim’s major settlements, I chanced upon two mages dueling each other to the death. One was a fire mage, the other a frost mage. After killing them both (they were hostile, I promise), I took a moment to marvel at the consistency of it all. Here, in the middle of nowhere, I encountered something that I might have easily missed: a continuation, perhaps, of an eternal feud between fire and ice. While this duel might otherwise appear as a scripted event for my benefit, the fire/ice battle in a frozen landscape instead enriches the world of Skyrim. While the picturesque landscape and Nordic atmosphere constructs the environment, logic lays the foundation for an enveloping, albeit precarious, form of world building.


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Thursday, Dec 1, 2011
Making a challenging game that is defined by mechanical and narrative minimalism is a brave choice, one that we're lucky Team Ico made.

Even though we’re in the thick of new release season, I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about a ten-year-old game.  Of course, Ico isn’t just any old game, and its recent HD remastering provides ample justification for replaying it.  This time around, the critical distance and sharpened visuals gave me a fresh perspective on the game.  After experiencing Ico again, its confidence in the player, stark environments, and mysterious story struck me as decisions that were as brave as they are artistic.


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Thursday, Nov 17, 2011
Unlike a video game hero, the action hero doesn't have to practice that tricky jump a dozen times, and he never gets wasted by a fluke grenade. The action and the story of a great blockbuster movie is designed to make the experience as novel and streamlined as possible.

The following post contains plot spoilers for Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception.


Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception dispels any doubt regarding the series’ aspirations.  Uncharted strives to step into the void left by Indiana Jones as popular culture’s premiere pulp-adventure series.  It’s an impressive effort. Nathan Drake is a roguish charmer with the capacity for sentimentality and violence.  He’s surrounded by memorable sidekicks, villains, and love interests.  The game’s plot darts about the globe, giving players an opportunity to virtually explore exotic lands and defy death in spectacular action sequences.  From tonal, thematic, and artistic perspectives, Uncharted is a welcome experience for those of us who have been waiting for another Indiana Jones since 1989 (like any rational person, I disavow The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull‘s existence).


Unfortunately, the series’s very existence as a video game often proves to be its greatest undoing.  For years now, I’ve argued that Uncharted‘s dual existence as a cinematic adventure is at odds with its devotion to the structure of a rigorous action game.  Uncharted 3 is the clearest example of this conflict.  Difficulty spikes and repetition clash with the story’s breezy cadence.  At around eight to ten hours, Uncharted 3‘s campaign overstays its welcome, mostly thanks to its gameplay.


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Thursday, Nov 10, 2011
Big budget games have usurped film as the go-to venue for spectacle.

Two weeks ago I discussed a promotional video in which Harrison Ford plays Uncharted 3. The advertisement capitalizes on our familiarity with Ford as an adventure movie icon, in particular his role as the much loved archaeologist Indiana Jones. The commercial, I argued, positions games in pop culture as the natural offspring of film, the medium that inherits the proverbial torch, bringing swashbuckling cinema adventures into an unparalleled medium. After encountering some of the stunning set pieces in Uncharted 3 and seeing the mad and chaotic encounters of Battlefield 3 and Modern Warfare 3, I am inclined to agree. Specifically, the huge triple-A titles that consistently rank among our yearly top tens have become the new vanguards of spectacle, creating outrageous scenarios and environments that give even the well budgeted cinematic piece a run for its money.


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