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Friday, Jul 18, 2014
Is nostalgia an excuse for bad design? Is it even bad design if it's done on purpose to evoke nostalgia?

My dad can’t watch old movies (let’s say, ‘50s and earlier) because he finds the acting universally terrible. Other people I know enjoy older movies over modern movies. Opinions and tastes vary, but there’s no denying that the art and craft of acting has evolved in the past 60 years. The art has changed, the criticism of that art has changed, and the cultural appreciation of that art has changed.

While the art of yesterday exists as a time capsule of our former cultural and artistic values, what about the modern art that mimics those older aesthetics? By what standards are we supposed to use to judge that art?


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Friday, Jul 11, 2014
The kinds of choices that force us to define what we value and how a game is about what we value are best implemented at the end of that game.

A couple of weeks ago here at PopMatters, Eric Swain wrote about a more complex form of moral choice in games.


It’s not a question of right or wrong, but a question of priorities. The player is offered up two rights and asked to make a choice between them ... The morality here isn’t based on abstract rules, but on the individual player—what they would do and why is up to them” (Eric Swain, “More Thoughts on a More Complex Form of Moral Choice in Video Games”, 24 June 2014)


I agree with everything Swain has written, but I’d also like to add an important caveat to the conversation. These kinds of complex moral choices, the kind that force us to choose between two philosophical truths that will go on to define who we are, what we value, and how the game is about what we value, these kinds of choices are best implemented at the end of a game.


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Friday, Jun 27, 2014
Episode four of The Wolf Among Us feels mostly unnecessary. Maybe this is a sign that Telltale should mix up their episodic structure some more.

Structurally, Telltale’s games are pretty linear. We’ve realized that now after seeing the format repeated in both The Walking Dead Season 2 and The Wolf Among Us. Our many choices in these games exist to make that linearity feel unique and personal to us. This is particularly noticeable in The Walking Dead with its constant concern with life and death stakes. As a result, our every decisions feels like it carries that heavy dramatic weight. Each death of one of the game’s cast members feels partially like our fault because of the choices we made, and this gives us a sense of personal responsibility for the actions that have played out. These extreme consequences keep us invested and interested in every little choice made in that game.


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Friday, Jun 20, 2014
Playing Hack RUN is like living Watch Dogs.

Early on in Watch Dogs, our protagonist Aiden Pearce meets with his contact for the hacker group DedSec who goes by the alias BADBOY17. To his surprise, BADBOY17 is neither 17 nor a boy, but a grown woman, and he tells her, “You’re nothing like I was expecting.” She responds, “Funny, you’re exactly what I was expecting.” And with that one sentence, she sums up everything that’s wrong and disappointing with the character of Aiden Pearce. He’s exactly what you’d expect.


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Friday, Jun 13, 2014
Bound by Flame is bad in such good ways.

The best part of Bound by Flame is its story, but even that is far from flawless. It’s quite flawed, but those flaws actually make the story more interesting. In a weird twist, the things that make Bound by Flame unique—at least amongst its epic fantasy RPG peers—are also the things that make it a lesser story overall. There’s barely any character development for either the protagonist or the supporting cast; the world isn’t well developed; and the game sets up an epic war only to end after a single skirmish. The narrative constantly undercuts everything that makes an epic fantasy epic and almost gets away with it.


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