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Text:AAA
Thursday, Mar 22, 2012
Journey offers a glimpse at a kinder, more optimistic side of random matchmaking.

I’m not what you’d call an optimist when it comes to human nature.  All too often, it seems like people default to some state between passively self-absorbed and actively obnoxious.  I can’t help but think that the fact that I frequently play multiplayer video games influences this predisposition.  Spending a lot of time on the Internet probably doesn’t help either.


Imagine my surprise then when I found myself feeling unambiguously positive about my fellow humans.  By the end of Journey, thatgamecompany’s most recent title, I found myself more than appreciative of my fellow gamers’ company.  The game’s quiet, simplistic communication system helped me see the only the best that my fellow gamers had to offer.


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Text:AAA
Thursday, Mar 15, 2012
The most interesting moments of video game solitude are populated by the ghostly presence of the past and future, and they become an integral part of play.

Playing an open world game can be a profoundly lonely and introspective experience. Roaming the plains, deserts, tundras, and futuristic landscapes of fictional lands, my mind wanders. Sometimes I poke and prod the limits of my digital sandbox while I think about my day, zoning out the game world in a moment of zen to actually ponder my real life circumstances. I often pass this downtime thinking about the game at hand, what my characters have been through, or where they are going. These moments of self-reflection take place within a very real, albeit digital, environment that subtly or blatantly shape my thoughts. The most interesting moments of video game solitude are populated by the ghostly presence of the past and future, and they become an integral part of play.


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Text:AAA
Thursday, Mar 8, 2012
When it comes to mobile games' strengths, today's portable gaming consoles are missing the point.

I’ve finally been able to sink some time into the God of War: Origins Collection for the PlayStation 3 after picking it up last fall.  The package contains remastered versions of Chains of Olympus and Ghost of Sparta, the two PSP God of War games.  I’m an unapologetic fan of the series, but I had my doubts going in.  Could a portable version of God of War even work?  Such fears were quickly laid to rest.  Both games are great.  Feelings of doubt were replaced with feelings of regret.  These games are great and I should have bought a PSP!  And since the PlayStation Vita is basically Sony’s attempt at doubling down on the PSP philosophy (traditional console game experiences on a high-tech handheld), maybe I should make the trip to Vita-ville?


Thankfully, a little more time with the games and their unique take on Greek mythology brought me to a realization: much of the traditional handheld market is under the spell of a siren’s song, one that distracts us from the strengths of mobile platforms.


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Text:AAA
Thursday, Mar 1, 2012
The perception of players as a hostile force illuminates the value of looking at games as homeostatic systems in which players are primarily external and chaotic forces.

During a discussion a few months back between Ken Levine and Guillermo Del Toro on Irrational Game’s endlessly fascinating podcast, Del Toro mentioned a significant question that he asks during the design process for his upcoming game inSANE: “What would the asshole do?” Del Toro, a filmmaker by trade, approaches game design very much aware of potential narrative troubles caused by “inventive” players—to use a more tasteful term. As Del Toro explains, “When we finish something that looks really neat and clean and we’ve packed it up, I go ‘Okay. We say they go from A to B to C and they exit through the doors. What if I’m the asshole? I sabotage that.” While maybe a bit paranoid, this alternative perception of players as a hostile force illuminates the value of looking at games as homeostatic systems in which players are primarily external and chaotic forces.


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Text:AAA
Thursday, Feb 23, 2012
For a long time, Nintendo has been an 800-pound gorilla of a business influenced by whimsical artists and run by proudly stubborn businessmen. David Sheff's work proves that Nintendo has exerted considerable influence over the medium's history, and the subsequent years have shown that the company will continue to do so for many years to come.

The title of David Sheff’s 1993 book, Game Over, probably made a lot of sense at the time, considering Nintendo’s enviable position during the era of the book’s original publishing. Sheff’s sprawling account of the early video game industry uses Nintendo’s rise to power as a central narrative to tell the story of a young medium flexing new found muscle. Its subtitle, How Nintendo Zapped an American Industry, Captured Your Dollars, and Enslaved Your Children, is best considered as a little bit of publisher mandated mustard; nothing in the book is as alarmist or trite as those sentiments. Nintendo’s success wasn’t due to sneak attacks or black magic. It was thanks to talented artists, ingenious marketing, and shrewd business decisions. 


In the early 1990s, it seemed like the “game” to control the industry was over and Nintendo had won. Nintendo dominated the medium and looked poised to so indefinitely. Today, with the luxury of hindsight, Game Over takes on a different meaning; the early 1990s ended up being the beginning of the end of Nintendo’s singular dominance over the video game space. Ironically, many of the factors behind the company’s early success led to its subsequent troubles.


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