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Friday, May 7, 2010
Going after certain achievements teaches new ways to play old games.

Mitch Krpata once tried to describe the different ways that people play games. One of the categories that he came up with was the Completist gamer: “A Completist may be less interested in maximizing his ability to play a game, and more interested in making sure he doesn’t miss anything [. . .] The reward is having no mountains left to climb.” (““A New Taxonomy of Gamers: Skill Players: Drilling Down”, Insult Swordfighting, 10 January 2008).


I’m definitely a Completist. I enjoy exploring every inch of a game world for collectibles and side quests. Normally, achievements appeal directly to this compulsion as they are (essentially) another kind of collectible. However, my Completist nature was recently challenged when I played Mass Effect 2 on the Insane difficulty. There’s an achievement for completing the game on Insane, and it taunted me as the only achievement that I was missing, but I underestimated just how hard the increased difficulty would be. I wanted my whole crew loyal for the end, but there were multiple missions that I avoided because I knew how hard they’d be. My galaxy map soon became so cluttered with so many abandoned side missions that it was hard to read the name of each nebula. I had beaten the game once before, so I knew what was necessary and what wasn’t. I constantly wondered, “Should I complete everything, or should I just complete the achievement?” And I wondered why, exactly, I was playing the game on Insane. Was I playing for the challenge or for the achievement?


Tagged as: achievements
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Wednesday, May 5, 2010
Why did the frog cross the road? Well, for many of the same reasons that Odysseus did.

In observing some fundamental patterns in stories, myth critics, like Joseph Campbell, have observed that one common element that leads to closure in epic journeys is the story of the return home.


The classic example of the story of the return home is, of course, Homer’s The Odyssey. Having participated in the war with Troy, Homer commits an entire epic poem to the story of just getting from the conflict back to the place where Odysseus started, the island of Ithaca.  Essential to this particular story (and other stories like it) seems to be the need for a hero who has spent an awful lot of time gallivanting recklessly in wild and foreign lands to get his shit together and get back where he belongs.


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Tuesday, May 4, 2010
There are people who make money by selling things that don’t exist.

There are people who make money by selling things that don’t exist—even when the buyer knows the thing doesn’t exist. Out of curiosity about how this works, I picked up Julian Dibbell’s Play Money, which is a personal account of his experiences working the Ultima Online gold farming scene back in 2004. I use the term grey market throughout this post because selling in game goods is not exactly illegal, just a violation of the EULA with a company. You risk getting banned and losing your accounts, which can be expensive but not dangerous in the traditional sense. In economic terms, each MMO is probably best viewed as its own independent economy. No two are precisely alike in terms of how you get rich off them. Yet there are still a couple of basic principles that are universal, and I’ve tried to extract those from the book for this post.


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Monday, May 3, 2010
We consider the sharply drawn vision of madness and mayhem that is Batman: Arkham Asylum.

First things first, a number of readers have been requesting that the Moving Pixels podcast be made available via iTunes. Your wish has been granted, and you can now access the podcast through Apple’s site. Please check us out there and any previous episodes that you may have missed.


This week we are changing gears. Following our six-part series on storytelling, we have decided to shift our focus to game worlds and how they contribute to our experience in gaming.


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Friday, Apr 30, 2010
Demon’s Souls claims to be an RPG, but I believe it represents the future of the survival-horror genre.

Survival-horror games have had trouble finding their place on this generation of consoles. Essentially, they have no place. This is a generation that embraces action, a generation defined by the bombastic chaos of Modern Warfare 2. Resident Evil was the first survival-horror franchise to make the transition with Resident Evil 4, and the game was lauded for the change. Silent Hill followed with Homecoming, and games like Dead Space and Left 4 Dead further solidified the action-horror genre’s place over the dated survival-horror.


Enter Demon’s Souls, a game that claims to be a role-playing game but that’s missing many key traits of that genre. There’s almost no story to speak of, and the mere act of character progression has become so common that it’s no longer identified as an “RPG element.” There’s very little strategy involved in combat (it’s more about timing and pattern recognition), making patience a tactic that works every time. As I play through Demon’s Souls, RPG is that last genre that comes to mind.


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