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Thursday, May 26, 2011
Jorge Albor interviews GameSave, the sponsors of a competition to develop disaster response games.

Beginning June 10th, impromptu teams of game designers, programmers, artists, humanitarian aid experts, philanthropists, and anyone with a passion for changing the world will participate in GameSave, a “hack-a-thon” like competition to develop disaster response games. Over five weeks, small collections of thinkers and do-gooders will brainstorm, design, and produce games that might save lives. With a 48-hour jam session in Seattle, Washington, a final public reception in San Francisco, and potential GameSave events in the future, creators Annie Wright and Willow Brugh aim to make entertainment and humanitarian aid long-term partners. The two GameSave founders graciously took some time with me to discuss the event and the role that games can play in mitigating the impact of disaster,


PopMatters: Can you explain how the idea for GameSave came about?


Annie Wright: Well, basically it was a comment thread on a Gamer Melodico article. I shared it via Google Reader. I believe it was actually about PAX East coverage.


Willow Brugh: It turned into this fantastic conversation, and going back to face to face time, Annie and I wanted to sit down to talk about it.


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Thursday, May 19, 2011
Voice chat is often the most obvious way to communicate in online games, but sometimes creativity and practicality can arise from silence.

I like to think of myself as the strong, silent type in online multiplayer situations.  When I’m not playing with people that I know, I generally keep to myself.  I often don’t even bother wearing a headset.  However, there are times when silence isn’t a choice: non-verbal communication is often enforced by practical, technical, or design choices.  There’s no denying the convenience of being able to speak directly to one’s fellow players.  Even so, some of my most memorable experiences in multiplayer communication have involved very few words.


Voice chat is a well established feature in video games, but it is by no means ubiquitous within the online population.  Unlike Microsoft, neither Sony nor Nintendo has been proactive about giving their online communities voices.  Similarly, while it is reasonable to assume that PC players would have microphones, compatibility issues and a myriad of VoIP clients don’t guarantee the kind of standardization that comes with the Xbox Live’s system and bundled microphone.  Multiplayer game developers must face the fact that a portion of their audience will not be able to speak to one another.


Tagged as: game design
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Text:AAA
Thursday, May 12, 2011
What magic brings us successful reboots and restorations like Batman Begins, and what devilry haunts us with abominations like The Smurfs? Not all franchise facelifts are the same. By taking a look at film and television, we may stumble upon a taxonomy of reboots and help future videogame necromancers invigorate the forgotten.

We live in an age in which franchises long thought dead rise from the grave, their shambling corpses draped with the finery of modern popular culture to create the illusion of vitality. Some artistic sorcerers do manage to breathe life into the sleeping characters of our youth, reminding us of times past and refreshing our longing for their familiar faces. What magic brings us successful reboots and restorations like Batman Begins, and what devilry haunts us with abominations like The Smurfs? (That’s right. I’m calling it.). Not all franchise face lifts are the same. By taking a look at film and television, we may stumble upon a taxonomy of reboots and help future videogame necromancers invigorate the forgotten.


To briefly define my terms, I will liberally use the term “reboot” to encompass resurrecting franchises as well as deviations from the norm, be they forays into different genres or aesthetic re-branding projects. For example, I would include Kirby’s Dream Course in my definition of a “rebooted” or “refreshed” franchise because the creators were trying to maintain certain elements of the puff-ball’s appeal while simultaneously moving the character into a different genre context. The important feature unifying game “reboots” is the attempt by designers to maintain marketable familiarity during a time of significant transition.


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Thursday, May 5, 2011
Lugaru HD surprised me, and not just because I hadn’t expected it to be a game about knife-wielding rabbits. It revealed how often I let my experiences with past games define my responses to new ones.

Back in 2009, I joined 138,813 other people in hopping on the Humble Indie Bundle bandwagon.  It was the perfect opportunity to justify the purchase of more games. I wasn’t just hoarding games and adding to my ever-expanding backlog; I was making a statement by supporting independent developers!  I happily bought a collection of games I knew very little about.  I had played (and loved) World of Goo but had never even seen screenshots of the the rest of the collection.


2011 rolled around, and I realized that I still hadn’t played any of the games for which I so righteously paid.  For no reason in particular, I installed Lugaru HD and proceeded to experience something I hadn’t felt since I played my first video game on my Dad’s early-1980s Zenith computer: total ignorance.  Aside from its title and its menu icon, I knew nothing about the game.  This lack of knowledge drastically affected my response to every portion of Lugaru HD and prompted me to reexamine my approach to video game analysis as well as the pitfalls of knowing too much about a game before playing it.


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Text:AAA
Thursday, Apr 28, 2011
Portal 2 is a marvel, and the Rat Man -- accompanied by Valve’s gorgeous comic -- only adds to the game's charm.

Warning: This post contains spoilers for Portal 2 and its accompanying comic Lab Rat. I encourage you to read the comic, which you can find here before you continue reading.


Last week saw the release of Valve’s much anticipated Portal 2. Already, the game has earned a great deal of well deserved praise. (For an excellent assessment of the game, check out G. Christopher Williams’s review of the game.). Put simply, the game is a joyful masterpiece, an absolute delight to play. Without veering far from the original game’s themes and system, Portal 2 adds several wonderfully implemented new puzzle elements, including laser beams, laser bridges, and a bunch of cool goop. Newcomer Stephen Merchent also voices a hilarious addition to the series in the form of Wheatley. While I adore the robotic British eyeball, I am also drawn to an even more tangential character, someone hidden away in the game itself behind wall panels and in secret rooms. Featured in the comic accompanying the game, and narratively playing a large role in the Portal canon, the Rat Man’s story and presence in Portal 2 enriches Chell and the play experience.


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