Latest Blog Posts

by Nick Dinicola

10 Jun 2011

Avatars must be honest with their players. No matter who they lie to over the course of the game, they’re always honest with us. We know our avatar intimately but are also limited by what they know. If they don’t know that they’re a secret villain or hero, then we won’t either until the big reveal. It’s very difficult to have an unreliable avatar in games because he/she is our only connection to the game world. If they are not to be trusted, then what is? No matter what persona they put on for others, we know their true self. We play as their true self.

Consider John Marston from Red Dead Redemption. In the beginning, Marston is a mysterious cowboy, but over the course of the game, we learn about his wife, his son, and his desire to live a peaceful life. Marston says he wants to leave his violent past behind him, but during all the moments that we’re in control, he’s surrounded by and causes violence. This disconnect between his words and his actions reflects the core philosophical question that Red Dead Redemptions asks its players: Can we leave the past behind? The game clearly answers “no.” Marston is not actually a family man—that’s just a persona he puts on among family. The real John Marston is the man we control, the man of violence. The player sees the avatar for who he really is; there are no secrets between them.

by Nick Dinicola

3 Jun 2011

All strategy games are puzzle games at their core. Even if the former are more mechanically complex, you’re still always faced with a specific problem and have to figure out the best solution to overcome it. So it makes sense that both genres would eventually be combined in an explicit way. Might and Magic: Clash of Heroes is hardly the first game to combine blatant puzzles with an overarching strategy, but it takes a very clever approach to the issue. This is a strategy game through and through, but on a very small scale, that’s only possible because the puzzle mechanics replace the large scale elements of most strategy games.

by Kerrie Mills

1 Jun 2011

I should establish right up front that it’s not that I don’t seriously value Wikipedia. Quite the contrary.

Those that do not—I suspect—are mostly people not old enough (or perhaps not trivia-loving enough) to remember back when gathering info on the most picayune of subjects involved a race to see if you could get to the library card-file drawers before the mice did. At least, you hoped it was mice.

If you didn’t actually feel like playing “name that mystery stain” that day, and you wanted more than the most cursory People profile on your latest pop-cult obsession, you had to go inquire of a person whose body language totally blared “I just got out of the convent, and what do you want?!” in giant neon letters. Then, of course, it turned out—once the first computerized catalogues sputtered into greenish pixilated life—that the convent had not offered IS courses.

Trust me, kiddies, it was awful.

by Nick Dinicola

27 May 2011

L.A. Noire embraces the frustrating trend of shipping with retailer exclusive pre-order bonuses. Depending on where you order the game from, you’ll get one of four exclusive cases. There’s one unique to Best Buy, Wallmart, GameStop, and one for the PS3. The most annoying thing about these “deals” is that the content is digital and could easily be made available to everyone, but business politics dictate that they remain exclusive for a set amount of time. The upside to this situation is that L.A. Noire has also embraced a different kind of pre-order bonus, a physical product that allows us to experience the game in a new setting: the real world. GameStop’s exclusive Badge Pursuit Challenge is more alternate reality game than video game and that makes it far more entertaining than any extra in-game case.

by Nick Dinicola

20 May 2011

Dragon Age II is about prejudice, against refugees, foreigners, and those among us who are simply different. The citizens of Kirkwall hate the refugees from the Blight, they hate and fear the stranded Qunari, and like everyone else in the world of Dragon Age, they fear mages. Oh, and mages fear the Templars. The conflicts are well presented; neither side is very sympathetic as the victims often lash out with violence at their oppressors, justifying further oppression. Dragon Age II seeks to explore this vicious cycle of hate, and for the most part, it succeeds. Prejudice against mages isn’t just a major theme, it’s an important plot point with ramifications that will change the world of Ferelden. However, this delicate balance falls apart whenever the player is put in the role of victim because the player is never truly victimized or oppressed.

//Mixed media

Con Brio: The Best New Live Band in America?

// Notes from the Road

"There’s a preciousness to McCarter and the rest of the mostly young band. You want to freeze the moment, to make sure they are taking it all in too. Because it’s going to change.

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