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Thursday, Apr 10, 2014
Experimenting with broken design lets you examine the ways small changes could have profound effects on play. We are all better for having played an unbalanced version of a well designed game.

Earlier this week right here on PopMatters, Erik Kersting gave his reasons for why the April Fools’ Day game mode for League of Legends needs to go. I agree with Erik, albeit for different reasons that I’ll get to shortly. But before URF takes a bow, we should spend a moment reflecting on what makes a game breaking event like this wonderful. When balance is thrown out the window, we can learn a whole bunch about good game design.


For those missing out on the manatee-inspired “prank,” Ultra Rapid Fire (URF) mode is the same basic Summoners Rift version of League of Legends with a massive twist. All players enter the arena with an endless supply of mana, 80% cooldown reduction on all of their spells, and a 100% faster attack speed bonus for ranged champions. The result is an absolutely chaotic exercise in keyboard mashing. It’s a treat.


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Thursday, Apr 3, 2014
Broken Age takes a chance by letting us feel the boredom and absurdity felt by the main characters.

The following post contains spoilers for the first part of Broken Age (part 1) and BioShock.


Broken Age is a placid experience compared to many other popular games.  As in most point-and-click adventures, action sequences and reflex challenges are minimized in favor of puzzles and conversations with other characters.  In many ways, most of what you do is mundane: collect items, combine them in goofy ways, bring them to other characters, and repeat.  However, these types of actions fit well with the game’s story of characters rebelling against the banal.  Broken Age is about quiet, yet determined struggle against an oppressive status quo.


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Thursday, Mar 27, 2014
An entire year has passed since I last played Journey, but the weathered ruins and scattered tombstones seem instantly familiar. I have come to this place as a pilgrim, transforming play into ritual.

I have made this crossing over glittering sand nearly a dozen times, but this time is different. Two years ago to the day, Thatgamecompany released Journey. Now on its anniversary, to relive my affection for the game and meditate on its excellent design, I glide over the dunes. An entire year has passed since I last played Journey, but the weathered ruins and scattered tombstones seem instantly familiar. I have come to this place as a pilgrim, transforming play into ritual.


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Thursday, Mar 20, 2014
Is Titanfall catering to me or just acting condescending?

I don’t play competitive first-person shooters very often. I dip into Call of Duty every once in a while, but (as ludicrous as this might sound) it’s more for the story than anything. The sad, brutal facts are that I no longer have the twitch skills nor the time to be very competitive. I have a good time, but bump my head on the skill ceiling quickly.


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Thursday, Mar 13, 2014
Make no mistake, this is not a coming of age story. There is no moral truth to be had here, only complex, ever shifting moral perspectives to grapple with.

As soon as I plunged the pitchfork into his chest, I knew I had made the wrong decision. Clementine’s shocked response stoked my sense of moral repugnance. This was the moment in The Walking Dead’s first season that I knew my decisions in Telltale’s world would irrevocably change not just how the in-game characters saw me, but how I saw my own moral rationalizations within this extreme environment. Throughout the first season, I was in a perpetual state of moral stress.


Two episodes into the second season, and the moral landscape of The Walking Dead has shifted dramatically. It creates what Miguel Sicart calls ethical gameplay, that is it “forces players to address their actions from a moral perspective,” (Beyond Choices, MIT Press, 2013) and these moral perspective shift and change and dramatically so between seasons. While mechanically the game largely remains the same, the new context makes my reassess my actions from a shifting moral perspective. As the world changes around Clementine, so do I.


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