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by Jorge Albor

23 May 2013


This is the greatest advertising opportunity since the invention of cereal. We have six identical companies making six identical products. We can say anything we want.
—Don Draper, Mad Men

At last year’s E3, there was a pervasive feeling of a show on the edge of some massive change. We all knew that the following year, 2013, would be the year of the “next-gen” console. The 2012 event was just the vestigial tail of the last console cycle leaving the building. The vague future, at that moment, let us choose to see huge and almost limitless potential.

After this week’s Microsoft press conference, we now know what that future entails. Hell, we all knew it on the show floor in 2012, just no one said it out loud. These consoles will feature shinier graphics, more RAM, and a few new features that tie us closer to our machines. I cannot imagine the expectations of anyone genuinely surprised by the recent console announcements. Were we really waiting with bated breath for a new console to satisfy our unmet gaming and entertainment needs?

by Scott Juster

16 May 2013


The end is in sight. Even as I write this, people are chipping away at 22cans’ Curiosity: What’s Inside the Cube? Block by block, they’re inching towards revealing what Peter Molyneux has described as a potentially life-changing experience for the person that reaches the inside. It’s the type of sentiment so outlandish, so classically Molyneux that it preemptively parodies itself. There has been a lot of talk about Curiosity: whether it’s a game, whether it’s a scam, and (of course) what’s in its center. Maybe I lack faith or imagination, but I think the story around Curiosity is its most interesting feature. Regardless of how you feel about it, Curiosity is a case study of some of today’s most important industry dynamics:

by Jorge Albor

9 May 2013


The Castle Doctrine (Jason Rohrer, 2013)

When I was young, I was convinced armed men would come to our house and kill my father. In my imagination, they would drive up in a white van, machine guns at their side. My dad, who would know their faces, would confront them from the porch, daring them to complete their murderous task before he could pull out his own pistol. Sometimes my dreams would concoct a night-time raid instead, the details similar but painted in more unsettling nocturnal hues. Of course these were delusions, but my sisters believed in them too. Our fears were built on the tall tales my father would share about the drug runs, shoot outs, and machismo-fueled encounteres of his youth. While we had guns in the home (hunting rifles and pistols), they were tools with variable uses. For a variety of reasons, our home was never a place of safety.

The sense of security I grew up with, and lack thereof, remains a compelling force in how I think about the safety of my own home today. Indeed, the perceived need for security is so powerful that it ranks amongst the most valued human rights. The need to “feel” safe, despite how painfully difficult it is to actually measure security, is a driving force in international politics as well. From America’s appropriation of global security to the ongoing conflict in Israel and Palestine, notions of security shape both personal and large-scale systems. As crucial components of social and political systems, naturally games offer a particularly unique venue to explore the notions of safety and the cost of security.

by Scott Juster

2 May 2013


I once moved to the U.K. for an extended period of time.  I can recall very few situations more stressful than that customs line: Did I have all my papers?  What questions were they going to ask?  What would happen if I got waived through but my wife didn’t?  In terms of “immigrations,” it was a relatively mild one. We had given up our apartment and jobs in the U.S., but if we got denied, we still had friends and family to help us out.  We weren’t going to be secreted away by fascist goons, and the laws of both the U.S. and the U.K. were fairly navigable in the grand scheme of things.  Still, watching the border officer review all our paperwork was tense.  The seconds it took for her to reach for her stamp felt like years.  What was going through her mind while she looked at our documents? 

Lucas Pope’s Papers, Please offers one possible explanation, albeit one set in a much more dramatic environment.  It’s a game where you play as an immigration inspector who has to process paperwork and make the decision whether to allow people to cross the border.  Your job is simple: grant or deny people passage to the country.  However, as the game goes on, the human cost of of your decision for both you and those you evaluate becomes apparent, leading to some uncomfortable realizations about the power of social structures.

by Jorge Albor

25 Apr 2013


When I talk about games, I tend to focus on the big stuff. What are the new enemies like? How awesome are the new weapons? Quite frequently, we speak in broad generalizations. The guns in BioShock Infinite “feel good” or, depending on your opinion, are generally uninteresting. The sound of a single gun firing or the amount of audible scratches in every voxophone rarely receives much attention. These features are minute, infinitesimally small in relation to the rest of the game. But together, all these small things matter. Tiny design choices in all games help build readable, compelling, and realistic worlds and systems. For designers who care, it’s the small stuff that makes all the difference.

When little pieces of a game irk you, it is easy to brush them aside as mere quibbles. No one likes a nitpicker, but sometimes, the small stuff can also be immensely damaging. Take Legendary, the recently released Marvel-themed deck-building game. After writing my piece on Legendary, I strolled around the internet looking for reviews. Among nearly all assessments of the game, while overwhelmingly positive, players of the game criticized the lack of variety of the art on the cards.

//Mixed media
//Blogs

Moving Pixels Podcast: Unearthing the 'Charnel House'

// Moving Pixels

"This week we discuss Owl Creek Games's follow up to Sepulchre, the triptych of tales called The Charnel House Trilogy.

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