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by Mattie Brice

17 Jan 2012


There is a difference between “mass appeal” and “accessibility,” though some word-slingers and comment fanatics find the terms interchangeable. Who uses them determines a large part of their meaning, as a lot of gaming discussion also determines who belongs to the “in group” and who belongs to the “out group.” Games striving for mass appeal tend to come from a series or lineage of some sort that include conventions that appeal to hardcore gamers but also attempt to broaden their audience by watering down complex features. The phrase is used pejoratively, devaluing other gaming styles while calling out developers with their eye on gaining more customers. Accessibility is a design philosophy that opens up games to more people without changing the experience for the original audience. It also aims to value a plurality of gaming styles instead of “one over all others,” such as higher difficulties being the ultimate vision or true version of a game.

Arguments concerning mass appeal and accessibility frequently occur over RPGs, a genre going through an identity crisis by trying to satisfy the old guard while fighting stagnation by expanding into new territory (the purgatory of the “give us something new but keep everything the same” demand of gamers). A focus on stats or numbers in general is often included in many gamers’ definitions of what an RPG is, but the focus on micromanaging numbers is the only one way to express character progression. It is far more likely that statistical progression is a given and that a game is built around such progression rather than an organic component of what it means to be an RPG.

by G. Christopher Williams

16 Jan 2012


In view of our topic, this episode of the Moving Pixels podcast is expansive.  In other words, this is quite a long episode. 

Nick Dinicola, Mattie Brice, and I found quite a lot to discuss about the open world genre this week.  It is a genre that has become widespread across the medium over the past decade (thanks in no part to a little game called Grand Theft Auto III).  Worlds of all kinds have been built for players to explore, telling stories in genres as diverse as crime, the western, fantasy, science fiction, and even schoolhouse drama.

We talk a little about what the genre means to this last decade in gaming and what kinds of worlds most compel players to explore them.

by Nick Dinicola

13 Jan 2012


Thid discussion contains spoilers for Battlefield 3.

It’s good for a war game to be cynical; in fact it’s necessary. How else can you mow down hundreds of people with a machine gun and blow up global landmarks with glee? Cynicism and pessimism are—and always will be—inherent to war games (at least, as long as they continue to follow their current template), so it’s in such a game’s best interest to just go with that flow, embrace a cynical view of the world, war, and soldiers. Otherwise, you might end up like Battlefield 3.

EA’s and DICE’s latest offering wants to be cynical, it wants to tell a modern military story with an anti-hero fighting impossible odds, but it also wants to be a tale of heroism. It wants the good guys to win in the end without resorting to their own kind of terrorism, like the protagonists (not heroes) of the Modern Warfare trilogy. But by failing to take a stand either way, the story of Battlefield 3 stumbles in every important scene and becomes so inconsistent in tone that it’s more jarring than the shaky first-person camera that provides the player’s perspective.

by Eric Swain

12 Jan 2012


This discussion contains spoilers for Driver: San Francisco.

The shift ability incorporated into Driver: San Francisco is something that I wish games did more often. I don’t mean what the mechanic does physically in the game, but allowing the main activity of the player to correspond directly to the central core of both play and narrative. In the game, magical realism becomes a means of deepening an otherwise standard crime story, allowing it to plumb psychological depths through the game’s dynamics that it otherwise could not.

by Scott Juster

12 Jan 2012


I’m not yet finished with The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword and I make a point not to formally review anything that I haven’t finished, so consider this a critique. It’s a critique born of the unorthodox way that I’m playing the game, which is itself the reason that I haven’t finished it yet.  For reasons I’m still unclear on, my wife Hanah has expressed interest in Skyward Sword, so we’re doing a quasi-cooperative playthrough. We hand the controller back and forth, I offer hints, and we generally try to stay at about the same level of progress on our respective saves.  We make an odd couple: I’m a grizzled Zelda veteran whose played video games his whole life, while Hanah’s a relative novice to the series and more casual devotee to the medium.  It’s an unorthodox way to play the game, one that’s driven me towards an unsettling realization: neither one of us is all that happy with the game.  This raises the question: Who is Skyward Sword’s audience?

//Mixed media