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Friday, May 21, 2010
Choice is meaningless unless we’re weak enough to be affected by it.

Choice is clichéd. We’ve been presented with so many different kinds choices so many times that the average gamer can look past the immediate conflict, whatever it may be, and see the machinations going on behind the scenes. From what suit we wear, to the survival of townships, to the outcome of wars, our choices change the world. All that power seems necessary. If the world doesn’t change, then our choices are meaningless, but that power also dilutes the consequences because nothing ever (or rarely) happens to us, the player. It’s the world that changes, and we feel the consequences indirectly.


In Fallout 3 we can save or destroy Megaton, and no matter what we do, we come out the other side pretty much unchanged; it’s everyone else whose life is at stake. Even in Mass Effect 2, in which our choices from the first game carry over into the sequel, only those directly involved with the original choice cause us to face any kind of consequence in the future. There’s a very linear progression of consequences. Nothing ever spirals out of our control.


Tagged as: bioshock 2
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Friday, May 14, 2010
Certain combinations of these two different media benefit from the experience of each other.

Games make good companions to other media and vice versa because games present an entirely different way of experiencing a story. The first hand experience that we get from games can make us more easily relate to the hardships of a character or expand on the world of a movie in unintentional ways. Or, after watching a movie with a similar story, we might find ourselves sympathizing with the enemies that we so carelessly dispatch in droves in games. In either case, certain combinations of these two different media benefit from the experience of each other and here are a few examples that I’ve collected.


As a general rule, I didn’t want to promote a movie and game combination that developers themselves used to promote their game. So no Heavy Rain and Seven, or Kane and Lynch and Heat, or Borderlands and The Road Warrior, etc.


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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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