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by Nick Dinicola

6 Jan 2012


I like collectibles, but I understand why most people do not. When used poorly, they can intrude on a game in frustrating ways, encouraging behavior that contradicts the gameplay, ruining the game’s pace, or just getting in the way in general.

There are some excellent collectibles: the audio logs in Bioshock flesh out the fascinating history of Rapture, the manuscript pages in Alan Wake serve as exposition and foreshadowing, the badges in L.A. Noire demand a kind of meta-detective work that perfectly supplements the game proper. But in my opinion, the best collectible that I’ve ever had to collect has to be the Riddler Trophies in Batman: Arkham City.

by Nick Dinicola

16 Dec 2011


Earning “levels” and “unlockables” has become a standard carrot-on-a-stick for multiplayer games, and perhaps that’s why they’re not as enticing as they once were. Not only are they common, but they’re no longer a proper indicator of personal skill. When I enter a match and see that I’m the highest level person in the room, rather than feel powerful, I wonder how many people here have already reached the maximum level and started over. In racing terms, how many of my opponents have already lapped me? Even if we take levels as an indicator of playtime, not skill, they’re still confusing because I don’t know who has reset their stats and who hasn’t. These standard systems of progression have become clichéd and that’s why the multiplayer in Assassin’s Creed: Revelations is so refreshing. It presents those same systems of progression in a new light.

by Nick Dinicola

9 Dec 2011


There are about a dozen named characters in Need for Speed: The Run, but aside from some incidental cops and gangsters, only two characters are actually voiced: Jack and Sam, the protagonist and his sidekick. Despite the marketing for the game, it’s clear that The Run doesn’t really care about the story of The Run, yet it still manages to hit one right chord. The characters that don’t have a voice still have a name and a back story, and those simple bits of story make it more fun to race against them than against the other nameless drivers.

by Sean McCarthy

6 Dec 2011


Be it writing online user guides for software programs or writing news articles, I’ve come to accept that the majority of what I write is disposable. An article for the newspaper will soon become the liner for someone’s bird cage. Another article will be quickly skimmed over and then forgotten as yet another article gets someone’s attention. It’s all part of the profession.

I could have worse jobs. As for others in the writing profession, I can’t think of a less enviable task than the writers for the 300-plus books that are scattered throughout the vast land known as Skyrim, the latest in the Elder Scrolls series. Last month, Bethesda’s massive, immersive role-playing game racked up more than $400 million in first week sales.

by Nick Dinicola

2 Dec 2011


A good menu can set the tone for the rest of the game to come, or when done poorly, it can be a nuisance that players try to skip as fast as possible every time that they boot up a game. I’ve written twice before about some innovative menus, and since then, I’ve played three more games that I feel deserve special mention for how they handle this normally bland part of a game.

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