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Thursday, Nov 18, 2010
Finishing certain video games is often a question of will rather than a test of skill.

Herman Melville’s Moby Dick sits on my bookshelf like a mountain whose cliffs bear the scratches and divots of many failed attempts at the summit.  My ability as a reader is such that I have the necessary skill to finish it; doing so is a matter of dedication.  The 2005 GameCube game Killer7 enjoys an occasional spin in the disc drive but spends most of its time gathering dust.  Like Moby Dick, I know that I have the basic mechanical skills required to see it through to the end.  What stops me is the the mental commitment required to wade through the unconventional game systems and surreal themes that make Suda’s games so uniquely challenging.


Although it is an extremely odd game, Killer7 illustrates the subtle shift that has occurred in the structure and difficulty of single player games.  The skills needed to finish the average linear or plot-driven game have come to resemble those required in other media: getting to the end of a game is less about sheer skill and more about making the intellectual decision to persevere.


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Thursday, Nov 18, 2010
Of course there are people playing Black Ops who actually remember some of these events from their own lives, and their experience must be even different than mine.

I studied history in undergrad and grad school for six years, but I’ve never worked a day as a historian or a teacher. I have defended my college degree as being an influence and resource on my writing as well as a good way to learn how to think. Also, I can recognize the first 15 Roman Emperors by coins or busts, which is amazingly useful. But now I have an all new benefit to crow about: I get a lot more interest out of Call of Duty: Black Ops because I know something about the historical events that form the game’s backdrop.


These are subtle, fleeting pleasures to be sure, but I really do appreciate the ways that Black Ops works on multiple levels, depending on your familiarity with the era. It can be played like any other Call of Duty game, in which flashing images and maps scroll by at high speed while a serious sounding man expresses concern and ruthless resolve in the face of the enemy. Like those other games, I often went into missions with no clear idea why I was there or what I needed to do. Because Black Ops is spread out across many years and continents and moves forward and backwards in time, this can all be even more confusing than is maybe necessary.


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Tuesday, Nov 16, 2010
Books and movies are not usually about how well you read or watch them. But many games change dramatically depending on how well you play them.

I take back what I said last week about Fable III. It is indeed entirely possible to achieve the best ending with no sacrifice to one’s morals, but it came at the expense of something even more valuable: my belief in the system.


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Monday, Nov 15, 2010
The experience of Minecraft as a sandbox building experience is worth considering and raises questions about what motivates us to play.

With all the furor surrounding Minecraft in the indie game community, the Moving Pixels podcast crew couldn’t help but have a discussion of the game. 


While a couple of us have only had a more limited experience with the browser version, nevertheless, this sandbox building experience is worth considering and raises questions about what motivates us to play.


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Friday, Nov 12, 2010
Fable 3 forces me to make promises to potential allies, even if I don't want to. From the outset, I wasn’t able to be the leader I wanted to be.

Normally I hate it when a game offers false choices, giving me two options when only one will actually progress the plot, the other simply halting things until I change my mind. It’s not really a choice at that point; it’s an illusion and a bad one at that. The first half of Fable 3 avoids this kind of blatant false choice but only because the game doesn’t try to hide its linearity. Instead of giving you two choices, one right and one wrong, it only ever gives you one choice and then just waits for you to pick it. Instead of giving players a false choice, it gives us a forced choice.


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