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Thursday, Dec 11, 2014
When it comes to modern online experiences, Nintendo soars one moment and then stumbles the next.

Like any dutiful Wii U owner (or, for that matter, any Wii U owner at all), I’ve been playing a lot of Mario Kart 8 and Super Smash Bros. for Wii U lately. Both games have significant online components, which has me reviewing Nintendo’s approach to the modern video game landscape. To be fair, the Wii was a connected console, but its adventures on the Internet were quite shallow compared to its successor. Seeing some marquee Nintendo games embrace current expectations around multiplayer and social content is exciting, but there are still plenty of oddities and ambiguities to resolve.

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Wednesday, Dec 10, 2014
Here are five of the best mobile games of this year, games that defy the stereotype of iOS and Android games being no more than simple time wasters.

It’s human nature that after one comes to a conclusion about a topic that one holds on to that belief. That sounds like a rational thing to do, until you remember that time moves forward and that things change. Opinions on mobile games, like that they are somehow lesser than “real” games, are still as prevalent as they were a few years ago. This opinion has always been nonsense, of course, but one can see where such opinions come from. Such games are primarily time wasters, something you play in a few seconds and then shut off without thinking much about the experience. Frequently such games come jam packed with levels and updates, and they devalue everything released on mobile platforms since most of them are available for 99 cents—if the developers charge anything at all.

Like most opinions, this one is one that is seen in retrospect, seen from a time when Angry Birds, Cut the Rope, and Temple Run were new and represented the standard for what appeared on mobile devices. Times change, and the idea that mobile is only the province of time wasters or dubiously ethical free-to-play games is an out-of-date notion to anyone who is even only casually paying attention.Here at PopMatters, we recently recorded podcasts on two mobile games, Device 6 and Year Walk, both games by Simogo, that came out last year and challenge the notion of what a mobile game is. Here’s a few more great mobile games from this year that I’ve played.

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Monday, Dec 8, 2014
Spec Ops: The Line is rife with atrocities and tragedies, and challenges us to consider the choices we make in video games and in the real life "game" of war.

We have written a bit about Spec-Ops: The Line here at PopMatters, but we have never explored this 2012 game on our podcast.

It’s hard to understand why as The Line may be the best antiwar war game ever made, rife as it is with atrocities, tragedies, and a thoughtful approach to considering the choices we make in video games and in those more impactful real life “games,” wars themselves.

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Friday, Dec 5, 2014
In its attempt to be minimalist, Stranded removes all the things that drive an interest in atmosphere, mystery, and exploration.

Personally, I love a game with any kind of minimalist aesthetic. I still feel haunted by Metrolith and Home, I’m still mocked by Blackbar, I still go gamble in Tower of Fortune, and I think One Finger Death Punch and A Dark Room are two of the best games of the year. However, that said, Stranded is an example of everything that could go wrong when a game tries too hard to be “minimalist.”

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Thursday, Dec 4, 2014
From fan fiction to theorycrafting, sharing in the spectacle of a film or game’s release is a great opportunity to engage with art, even before release.

“There’s been an awakening, have you felt it?” Because everyone else has. The internet is abuzz with rampant speculation, arguments, and lengthy screeds about the first reveal for Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The teaser, released last week, speeds past in a mere 88 seconds with short but chilling voice over and a few brief images from a galaxy, far, far away. Even so, the glimpse at the franchise’s rebirth has stirred up a storm of chatter and for those willing to dive in and all those hopping aboard the hype train, a year of shared excitement and conversation.

I love these types of shared cultural experiences. I remember intimately the first time that I saw Bungie’s teaser for Halo 3. I was in a packed room at PAX Prime. The teaser had already been shown at E3 earlier that year, but I don’t remember having heard about it until the moment that Martin O’Donnell’s amazing score started to play. The crowd instantly reacted as a chill passed through the room. Cortana speaks: ““I have defied gods and demons. I am your shield. I am your sword.” Even now the teaser gives me goosebumps. It recalls a shared excitement between fans, something similar to the ripple of excitement stirred up by Star Wars.

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