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Tuesday, Mar 10, 2015
by Marshall Sandoval
Antholojam is a “curated game jam” whose theme last year was the “Golden Age of Science Fiction.”

My father loves science fiction, and as a kid, I would always want to watch the alluring things that he’d have on TV, no matter how creepy. This early education introduced me to some classics, like the X-Files and Planet of the Apes and also some awful B movies. Zoe Quinn and Alex Lifschitz’s Antholojam brought me back to the space operas and scary aliens of my childhood.

Antholojam follows a unique business and creative model. It is a “curated game jam” with Lifschitz and Quinn acting as the editors to this collection of video game short stories. Each of the fourteen games in the download was created during a game jam based on the “Golden Age of Science Fiction” that took place from November 19th through December 19th of last year. “The Golden Age of Science Fiction” is known for its commitment to “hard sci-fi” and its exploration of cerebral themes, and the games in the collection adhere to that formula in a number of ways.

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Friday, Mar 6, 2015
Should the design of a game dictate the nature of the community that plays it, or should the community dictate the design?

Evolve is designed around an ideal situation: You knowing and understanding your role within the group, playing with others who similarly understand their own unique roles, all of whom are in constant communication with each other. In that moment, with those people, Evolve is a fantastic and exciting experience, but the real world is often less than ideal, which raises the question: Should the design of a game dictate the nature of the community that plays it, or should the community dictate the design?

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Thursday, Mar 5, 2015
Any traveler can relate to Earthbound's emphasis on mundane items and limited space, especially those with sinus infections.

Tragedy struck early this week. Afflicted by a particularly annoying cold, I willed myself out of bed and towards a day at work. My calendar was a solid stripe of back to back meetings, my email inbox a teetering tower of Monday-morning emergencies. As I settled into my seat on the train and tried to pretend the screeching metal noises were soothing violins, my itchy throat grew sore. I reached into my bag and my heart sank. I had left my cough drops at home.

After a few wistful moments of starting at the emergency door release lever, I decided to think about Earthbound. I was in the middle of an inventory crisis, something with which Ness and his friends were also very familiar.

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Wednesday, Mar 4, 2015
Shadow of Mordor tells a very stupid story, but we can't stop playing it.

Shadow of Mordor  features some beautifully designed mechanics, combat, and an innovative and interesting system, the Nemesis system, that approaches the development of your opponents in an innovative way.

It also tells a really stupid story.

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Tuesday, Mar 3, 2015
A few indie developers got to show off their works in progress to me at IndieCade East 2015, including Knee Deep, Liege, and Moonshot

“Our hurdles are design related, not tech related.” So says Thomas Grip of Frictional Games at his keynote during IndieCade East. The whole of IndieCade East was devoted to talk about narrative in one form or another. Whether it was the structure of how narrative is conveyed in the medium like in Grip’s talk or the craft of delivering narrative information or discussion of what narratives get told by games, these were the topics of the talks. Additionally, and more important perhaps was discussion about what narratives get lost in the industry.

Consistently the most interesting part of IndieCade East is the Show & Tell exhibit portion on Saturday and Sunday. There indie developers get to show off works in progress, little experiments, games that are ready to play, or something you won’t ever get to play in any other environment. Generally, narrative-based games don’t show well in a convention-like environment, but here’s three that caught my eye.

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