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Friday, May 7, 2010
Going after certain achievements teaches new ways to play old games.

Mitch Krpata once tried to describe the different ways that people play games. One of the categories that he came up with was the Completist gamer: “A Completist may be less interested in maximizing his ability to play a game, and more interested in making sure he doesn’t miss anything [. . .] The reward is having no mountains left to climb.” (““A New Taxonomy of Gamers: Skill Players: Drilling Down”, Insult Swordfighting, 10 January 2008).


I’m definitely a Completist. I enjoy exploring every inch of a game world for collectibles and side quests. Normally, achievements appeal directly to this compulsion as they are (essentially) another kind of collectible. However, my Completist nature was recently challenged when I played Mass Effect 2 on the Insane difficulty. There’s an achievement for completing the game on Insane, and it taunted me as the only achievement that I was missing, but I underestimated just how hard the increased difficulty would be. I wanted my whole crew loyal for the end, but there were multiple missions that I avoided because I knew how hard they’d be. My galaxy map soon became so cluttered with so many abandoned side missions that it was hard to read the name of each nebula. I had beaten the game once before, so I knew what was necessary and what wasn’t. I constantly wondered, “Should I complete everything, or should I just complete the achievement?” And I wondered why, exactly, I was playing the game on Insane. Was I playing for the challenge or for the achievement?


Tagged as: achievements
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Friday, Apr 30, 2010
Demon’s Souls claims to be an RPG, but I believe it represents the future of the survival-horror genre.

Survival-horror games have had trouble finding their place on this generation of consoles. Essentially, they have no place. This is a generation that embraces action, a generation defined by the bombastic chaos of Modern Warfare 2. Resident Evil was the first survival-horror franchise to make the transition with Resident Evil 4, and the game was lauded for the change. Silent Hill followed with Homecoming, and games like Dead Space and Left 4 Dead further solidified the action-horror genre’s place over the dated survival-horror.


Enter Demon’s Souls, a game that claims to be a role-playing game but that’s missing many key traits of that genre. There’s almost no story to speak of, and the mere act of character progression has become so common that it’s no longer identified as an “RPG element.” There’s very little strategy involved in combat (it’s more about timing and pattern recognition), making patience a tactic that works every time. As I play through Demon’s Souls, RPG is that last genre that comes to mind.


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Friday, Apr 23, 2010
Michael Thomsen makes a strong case for shooters on the Wii. I don't agree with everything he says, but he's got me excited for the future.

I play a lot of shooters, first person, third person, cover-based, or run-and-gun. I like the genre, and I like to think that I know on a basic level at the very least what makes a good shooter. I also don’t think there are many good shooters on the Wii. I believe that the best by far is Dead Space: Extraction, followed by Red Steel 2, and Metroid Prime 3: Corruption. It’s telling that each of these games limit our movement to some degree. Dead Space: Extraction takes it away completely, while the other two let us lock on to enemies, so we don’t have to worry about turning around. Wii shooters have always struggled to find the proper balance between moving and shooting, and I think that this is one of the reasons they’ve always felt smaller in scope and ambition than shooters on other consoles. They want to be big, but they just can’t compete, and according to Michael Thomsen from IGN, they shouldn’t.


Thomsen wrote an article a couple weeks ago about, and he made two points that stuck with me. convincing me that he just might be on to something.


Tagged as: wii
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Friday, Apr 16, 2010
Why did Bayonetta generate so much controversy while Rubi Malone went completely ignored?

When Bayonetta was released, it sparked discussions in many blogs, news outlets, and podcasts about the portrayal of women in games. When WET was released no one really seemed to care. Buy why? Why did Bayonetta incite such discussions, both defending the overt sexualization of her character and condemning it, whereas nobody paid any attention to Rubi Malone, a similarly strong female character that (despite the name of the game) isn’t sexualized at all?


I believe that there are two reasons.


Tagged as: bayonetta, wet
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Friday, Apr 9, 2010
The men of B-Company are those rare kinds of anti-heroes that are extremely likable, completely selfish, and show zero desire to ever change.

In so many games, we’re always tasked with saving the world, sometimes the universe, or at the very least, the day. It can get tiring after a while, so I find it refreshing when a game gives me a different kind of objective, something selfish and un-heroic. The first Battlefield: Bad Company did just that. It put me in a squad of likable, selfish soldiers who would rather go chasing gold than follow orders. It was a fun adventure, but in creating these anti-heroes the game walked a very fine line.


Anti-heroes are nothing new in games, but creating a likable anti-hero is a challenge in any medium. Kratos from the God of War games has always been held up as the epitome of the anti-hero: violent, seemingly without morals, and uninterested in any conversation that doesn’t further his quest for revenge. Yet, despite these traits (or because of them?), he remains a very popular character. However, one of the more common criticisms against God of War 3 is that Kratos has gone over the edge. The level of violence that he inflicts on others is excessive to the point where he seems more like a villain than an anti-hero, and so picking a side in this battle between Kratos and Zeus is really just picking the lesser of two evils.


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