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Found 134 results

  1. I've given years of my life to writing about video games. When I was little and asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I always responded "I want to be a game designer!" It turned out later that I was terrible at learning how to code, so I decided I'd write about them instead. When I say that I've wanted to work in this industry my entire life - that it has been my dream - please believe me. Now imagine how heart-crushing it is for me to say that I feel deeply disappointed and saddened to be a part of the video game industry after the events of this past week. I believe that Extra Life is one of the most positive video game communities out there and a real force for good in the video game industry, the wider video game community, and for people who have no relationship with video games whatsoever. That force for good is what I want to address right now, because I think that to remain silent on this issue would be a tacit acceptance of deplorable behavior. Video game community, we have a problem. The past seven days have been eye-opening for anyone who watches the game industry closely. I will not get into the nitty-gritty details of events because those aren't what I want to discuss. Essentially Zoe Quinn, the indie developer of Depression Quest, became the target of a campaign of hatred which began because of sordid accusations that she traded favors with Nathan Grayson, a writer at Kotaku, for favorable coverage; a claim that has since been refuted by Stephen Totilo, the Editor in Chief of Kotaku. However, simply because the accusations were made, harassment began to flow into Quinn's twitter feed and inbox. Video game "fans" sent her threats and insults. People who profess to love video games stole personal information and shared her home address and nude photos on the internet. There is more; the attack went on for days, but you begin to understand. In the face of all of that ugliness, Zoe Quinn stood her ground. The more hopeful among you might think that this is where things end. You might assume that the mob of anger eventually accepted that a grown woman like Quinn could have a romantic relationship with someone in a field of work similar to her own. Unfortunately, you would be wrong. Someone professing to be one of the leaders of both Anonymous and 4Chan, essentially declared a cyber war on Zoe Quinn and anyone of her professional acquaintances who might support her. Quinn's sites were hijacked and riddled with viruses. The contact information from her Skype was used to infiltrate other developer's personal computers as well. Notably, Phil Fish, the outspoken creator of Fez, was hacked. All of his personal information, as well as the information of his development company, Polytron, was spread across the internet. His site was hacked to better spread viruses and his information. It was a straightforward attempt to ruin him personally, professionally, and financially for the crime of being friends with Zoe Quinn and speaking up on her behalf on Twitter. In this situation, as in most others, I find myself asking why. Why are people attacking and attempting to destroy the developers who make the things that they claim to love so much? After giving it a fair amount of thought, I believe the answer is that there is no one reason that motivates so many people to lash out. Each person who is participating in these attacks does so because they think that it is a statement against what they see as corrupt video game journalism or because they didn't like Depression Quest or because they felt that what Quinn did in her private life as morally wrong. Or - or - or - or - or, there is no end to the mental gymnastics that go on to justify each individual saying something horrible from the cover of internet anonymity. One of the strangest parts of this whole ordeal is that many people simply believed Quinn's initial accuser and then assumed that Quinn and her developer friends were creating a conspiracy of victimization via staged hackings. But those rationalizations only apply to Zoe Quinn's situation. Why does it seem like the gaming community more than, say, the community of people who are passionate about film, seem to be prone to this sort of outrage? We've seen it aimed at David Vonderhaar, Anita Sarkeesian, Jennifer Hepler, Adam Orth, and Stephen Toulouse. We've seen the video game community assure that EA was known as 'The Worst Company In America' for two years in a row. People at BioWare received death threats over the ending of Mass Effect 3. Heck, these are only the incidents we know about from people in the industry who are willing to discuss the topic. Some people are fearful about revealing their identities to talk about the harassment they experience because it can always get worse. I could keep listing examples, but this is all nothing new. It has been going on for years. It is painfully obvious that this kind of behavior, this mass of vitriolic virtual hate, should be completely unacceptable. Yet the reactions I see from commenters and forum posters on various sites seem to be ones of apathy or of finding enjoyment in the spectacle, as if these attacks have nothing to do with the people standing on the sidelines. Many point to a 'vocal minority' as some sort of mysterious and elusive culprit behind these attacks, as if that somehow makes hundreds of personal attacks each day better. Who greets that vocal minority with silence and allows that kind of ugliness to fester? Others claim that there is some sort of formula where Developer X says Y and earns response Z, which makes developers the ones at fault for bringing the harassment upon themselves. However looking at the examples in the previous paragraph, very few made what could be considered incendiary statements. For crying out loud, David Vonderhaar changed the stats on a digital gun and received hundreds of threats. Was it really his fault for doing his job balancing Call of Duty? The aggressors are at fault in almost every case and yet the wider gaming community has come to accept this sort of behavior as par for the course. We either sit silent or reach for the popcorn bucket. Personally, I've reached my limit break for sitting silent and accepting a mob mentality ruling the game industry. The real issue, the one that exists underneath all of the hateful things that are being said, is that we have forgotten the importance of respect. Look no farther than YouTube comments or most comments sections at all for that matter. We don't know how to talk with each other without slinging insults at each other. We have forgotten that it is okay to dislike someone or be angry or bitter without lashing out. It is the difference between a reaction and a response. We have become an internet culture that finds it acceptable to merely react like an animal, rather than respond like a human being. A reaction is immediate and emotional, while a response is considerate and rational. The instant we resort to name calling, insults, or belittling we have give into reaction and lost the argument by virtue of having nothing else of value to say. This is not what Extra Life is about. Everything about Extra Life is for the kids. As a result of that core focus, I believe that Extra Life has one of the most loving, caring, and genuinely respectful communities in the gaming space. I know that we already ask all of you to give what you can to support Extra Life, but I'd like to ask one more thing from all of you. Take the values that you share as a community and demonstrate them in whatever other online groups in which you take part. Maybe this isn't the best solution, maybe it seems a bit trite or saccharine, but I think it is better than saying nothing at all or fighting hatred with more hate. Let's just be excellent to each other.
  2. I've given years of my life to writing about video games. When I was little and asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I always responded "I want to be a game designer!" It turned out later that I was terrible at learning how to code, so I decided I'd write about them instead. When I say that I've wanted to work in this industry my entire life - that it has been my dream - please believe me. Now imagine how heart-crushing it is for me to say that I feel deeply disappointed and saddened to be a part of the video game industry after the events of this past week. I believe that Extra Life is one of the most positive video game communities out there and a real force for good in the video game industry, the wider video game community, and for people who have no relationship with video games whatsoever. That force for good is what I want to address right now, because I think that to remain silent on this issue would be a tacit acceptance of deplorable behavior. Video game community, we have a problem. The past seven days have been eye-opening for anyone who watches the game industry closely. I will not get into the nitty-gritty details of events because those aren't what I want to discuss. Essentially Zoe Quinn, the indie developer of Depression Quest, became the target of a campaign of hatred which began because of sordid accusations that she traded favors with Nathan Grayson, a writer at Kotaku, for favorable coverage; a claim that has since been refuted by Stephen Totilo, the Editor in Chief of Kotaku. However, simply because the accusations were made, harassment began to flow into Quinn's twitter feed and inbox. Video game "fans" sent her threats and insults. People who profess to love video games stole personal information and shared her home address and nude photos on the internet. There is more; the attack went on for days, but you begin to understand. In the face of all of that ugliness, Zoe Quinn stood her ground. The more hopeful among you might think that this is where things end. You might assume that the mob of anger eventually accepted that a grown woman like Quinn could have a romantic relationship with someone in a field of work similar to her own. Unfortunately, you would be wrong. Someone professing to be one of the leaders of both Anonymous and 4Chan, essentially declared a cyber war on Zoe Quinn and anyone of her professional acquaintances who might support her. Quinn's sites were hijacked and riddled with viruses. The contact information from her Skype was used to infiltrate other developer's personal computers as well. Notably, Phil Fish, the outspoken creator of Fez, was hacked. All of his personal information, as well as the information of his development company, Polytron, was spread across the internet. His site was hacked to better spread viruses and his information. It was a straightforward attempt to ruin him personally, professionally, and financially for the crime of being friends with Zoe Quinn and speaking up on her behalf on Twitter. In this situation, as in most others, I find myself asking why. Why are people attacking and attempting to destroy the developers who make the things that they claim to love so much? After giving it a fair amount of thought, I believe the answer is that there is no one reason that motivates so many people to lash out. Each person who is participating in these attacks does so because they think that it is a statement against what they see as corrupt video game journalism or because they didn't like Depression Quest or because they felt that what Quinn did in her private life as morally wrong. Or - or - or - or - or, there is no end to the mental gymnastics that go on to justify each individual saying something horrible from the cover of internet anonymity. One of the strangest parts of this whole ordeal is that many people simply believed Quinn's initial accuser and then assumed that Quinn and her developer friends were creating a conspiracy of victimization via staged hackings. But those rationalizations only apply to Zoe Quinn's situation. Why does it seem like the gaming community more than, say, the community of people who are passionate about film, seem to be prone to this sort of outrage? We've seen it aimed at David Vonderhaar, Anita Sarkeesian, Jennifer Hepler, Adam Orth, and Stephen Toulouse. We've seen the video game community assure that EA was known as 'The Worst Company In America' for two years in a row. People at BioWare received death threats over the ending of Mass Effect 3. Heck, these are only the incidents we know about from people in the industry who are willing to discuss the topic. Some people are fearful about revealing their identities to talk about the harassment they experience because it can always get worse. I could keep listing examples, but this is all nothing new. It has been going on for years. It is painfully obvious that this kind of behavior, this mass of vitriolic virtual hate, should be completely unacceptable. Yet the reactions I see from commenters and forum posters on various sites seem to be ones of apathy or of finding enjoyment in the spectacle, as if these attacks have nothing to do with the people standing on the sidelines. Many point to a 'vocal minority' as some sort of mysterious and elusive culprit behind these attacks, as if that somehow makes hundreds of personal attacks each day better. Who greets that vocal minority with silence and allows that kind of ugliness to fester? Others claim that there is some sort of formula where Developer X says Y and earns response Z, which makes developers the ones at fault for bringing the harassment upon themselves. However looking at the examples in the previous paragraph, very few made what could be considered incendiary statements. For crying out loud, David Vonderhaar changed the stats on a digital gun and received hundreds of threats. Was it really his fault for doing his job balancing Call of Duty? The aggressors are at fault in almost every case and yet the wider gaming community has come to accept this sort of behavior as par for the course. We either sit silent or reach for the popcorn bucket. Personally, I've reached my limit break for sitting silent and accepting a mob mentality ruling the game industry. The real issue, the one that exists underneath all of the hateful things that are being said, is that we have forgotten the importance of respect. Look no farther than YouTube comments or most comments sections at all for that matter. We don't know how to talk with each other without slinging insults at each other. We have forgotten that it is okay to dislike someone or be angry or bitter without lashing out. It is the difference between a reaction and a response. We have become an internet culture that finds it acceptable to merely react like an animal, rather than respond like a human being. A reaction is immediate and emotional, while a response is considerate and rational. The instant we resort to name calling, insults, or belittling we have give into reaction and lost the argument by virtue of having nothing else of value to say. This is not what Extra Life is about. Everything about Extra Life is for the kids. As a result of that core focus, I believe that Extra Life has one of the most loving, caring, and genuinely respectful communities in the gaming space. I know that we already ask all of you to give what you can to support Extra Life, but I'd like to ask one more thing from all of you. Take the values that you share as a community and demonstrate them in whatever other online groups in which you take part. Maybe this isn't the best solution, maybe it seems a bit trite or saccharine, but I think it is better than saying nothing at all or fighting hatred with more hate. Let's just be excellent to each other. View full article
  3. Today I was going to write about gamescom reveals and do my best to leave the hulking shadow in the room untouched. The universe, it seems, had other plans for me. An odd confluence of events left me without power, giving me several hours to type this up on the battery life afforded to me by my laptop. So, the issue I’ve been doing my best to avoid for the last 24 hours begins to come front and center. Since I started writing for Extra Life over a year ago, I’ve been committed to making it a positive space free of the cynicism and spiraling negativity I see elsewhere on the internet. I’ve probably slipped up on more than a few occasions, but that has always been my goal. With that in mind, it is time to tackle the topic that has been heavy on my heart and mind since yesterday evening: Suicide. That might not seem like the most positive of subjects, but I think it is one that does more harm than good when left unaddressed and ignored. By now you have probably heard that the beloved comedian, Robin Williams, has reportedly taken his own life. When I heard the news, I thought it was a joke, because it made no sense. He seemed like such a happy, funny, hopeful individual that exuded charm and affection like some sort of genetically enhanced super soldier of happiness. To me, just seeing him in a movie was enough to feel the comedy equivalent of being wrapped in a warm blanket. That someone like that could take their own life seems ludicrous, right? Immediately after being momentarily incredulous, I realized that it made all the sense in the world. Some of the most miserable people in the world appear to be doing fine. They laugh, cry, smile, etc. Sometimes it is genuine; often it is just an act. I kicked myself for even disbelieving for a few seconds, for falling into the trap of “but he seemed so happy and funny, and he had everything going for him.” I should have known better; I have firsthand experience with how miserable someone can be without showing outward signs. In school, I was the kid that others decided to hate for little to no reason. When one of your peers tells you that he’s going to have his brother come and kill you the next day or another tells you he hates you because you smile too much… well, those are things that stick with you. I got really low during those years, but I wanted so much to be liked that I never showed that side of myself to anyone, because how could anyone like the miserable person that hid behind those smiles? If nothing else, I can understand that what a person projects into the world isn’t necessarily what they have inside of themselves. For some reason, this seems to be particularly true of great comedians. Like the saying goes, there is a grain of truth in every joke and a lot of jokes deal with some sort of pain, be it physical, emotional, psychological, etc. It seems like most, if not all, comedians suffer from some form of depression or thoughts of suicide. We should all take this as a reminder that sometimes it doesn’t matter if a person has a loving family, how well off they might be financially, or how much they can make us laugh; that person could still feel worthless or be in pain we know nothing about. You might be wondering, “Yeah, this is great and all, but why are you writing about this here?” I’m writing about this on Extra Life for one plain, simple reason: Robin Williams was one of us. I don’t know about the rest of you, but for me, that hits close to home. This was the guy who loved to play Call of Duty, who named his daughter Zelda in part because his favorite game was Ocarina of Time. He loved Portal and had a number of Warhammer 40k armies. He loved anime like Neon Genesis Evangelion, Ghost in the Shell, and Cowboy Bebop. Robin Williams was like you or me. The demons he faced could be like the ones you battle every day. That’s why I think it is important to have this conversation. One of the key things to remember about depression is that it is often different from how it is portrayed by most media. Some people experience depression as a constant, simmering rage. Others feel apathy so intense that they can’t get out of bed in the morning. Another thing to keep in mind about depression is that it is often not something that can be overcome with sheer willpower. Depression has many root causes, like chemical imbalances that make it difficult for people with depression to feel joy or psychological traumas that have ingrained a harmful way of thinking about themselves and the world. Sometimes it is both of those things together to varying degrees. This is all compounded by the general stigma associated with depression. Many people view depression and thoughts of suicide as weakness, when often it is something over which those afflicted have little to no control. Here’s the thing, seeking professional help when you feel like you are struggling to make it through the day, at risk of harming yourself, or are contemplating taking your own life is not weakness. It is one of the hardest and bravest actions you can take. If you need help and don’t know where to turn or what to do, this is the national suicide hotline: 1-800-273- 8255 The people who work the phones on the hotline will not think you are silly or overreacting. They will take you seriously and work hard with you to get you the appropriate help. Many of them have been through similar experiences themselves and can truly relate to your current state. While Williams has passed away, it is of overwhelming importance that we remember him for what he represented in many of his most beloved movies. I always walked away from his films with a feeling of laughter, warmth, and kindness. Beyond those, there was always the feeling that there would be a better tomorrow. Robin Williams gave me hope. Now that he is gone, perhaps that hope is one of his greatest legacies. Right now, it is something to which I cling. You will be missed.
  4. Today I was going to write about gamescom reveals and do my best to leave the hulking shadow in the room untouched. The universe, it seems, had other plans for me. An odd confluence of events left me without power, giving me several hours to type this up on the battery life afforded to me by my laptop. So, the issue I’ve been doing my best to avoid for the last 24 hours begins to come front and center. Since I started writing for Extra Life over a year ago, I’ve been committed to making it a positive space free of the cynicism and spiraling negativity I see elsewhere on the internet. I’ve probably slipped up on more than a few occasions, but that has always been my goal. With that in mind, it is time to tackle the topic that has been heavy on my heart and mind since yesterday evening: Suicide. That might not seem like the most positive of subjects, but I think it is one that does more harm than good when left unaddressed and ignored. By now you have probably heard that the beloved comedian, Robin Williams, has reportedly taken his own life. When I heard the news, I thought it was a joke, because it made no sense. He seemed like such a happy, funny, hopeful individual that exuded charm and affection like some sort of genetically enhanced super soldier of happiness. To me, just seeing him in a movie was enough to feel the comedy equivalent of being wrapped in a warm blanket. That someone like that could take their own life seems ludicrous, right? Immediately after being momentarily incredulous, I realized that it made all the sense in the world. Some of the most miserable people in the world appear to be doing fine. They laugh, cry, smile, etc. Sometimes it is genuine; often it is just an act. I kicked myself for even disbelieving for a few seconds, for falling into the trap of “but he seemed so happy and funny, and he had everything going for him.” I should have known better; I have firsthand experience with how miserable someone can be without showing outward signs. In school, I was the kid that others decided to hate for little to no reason. When one of your peers tells you that he’s going to have his brother come and kill you the next day or another tells you he hates you because you smile too much… well, those are things that stick with you. I got really low during those years, but I wanted so much to be liked that I never showed that side of myself to anyone, because how could anyone like the miserable person that hid behind those smiles? If nothing else, I can understand that what a person projects into the world isn’t necessarily what they have inside of themselves. For some reason, this seems to be particularly true of great comedians. Like the saying goes, there is a grain of truth in every joke and a lot of jokes deal with some sort of pain, be it physical, emotional, psychological, etc. It seems like most, if not all, comedians suffer from some form of depression or thoughts of suicide. We should all take this as a reminder that sometimes it doesn’t matter if a person has a loving family, how well off they might be financially, or how much they can make us laugh; that person could still feel worthless or be in pain we know nothing about. You might be wondering, “Yeah, this is great and all, but why are you writing about this here?” I’m writing about this on Extra Life for one plain, simple reason: Robin Williams was one of us. I don’t know about the rest of you, but for me, that hits close to home. This was the guy who loved to play Call of Duty, who named his daughter Zelda in part because his favorite game was Ocarina of Time. He loved Portal and had a number of Warhammer 40k armies. He loved anime like Neon Genesis Evangelion, Ghost in the Shell, and Cowboy Bebop. Robin Williams was like you or me. The demons he faced could be like the ones you battle every day. That’s why I think it is important to have this conversation. One of the key things to remember about depression is that it is often different from how it is portrayed by most media. Some people experience depression as a constant, simmering rage. Others feel apathy so intense that they can’t get out of bed in the morning. Another thing to keep in mind about depression is that it is often not something that can be overcome with sheer willpower. Depression has many root causes, like chemical imbalances that make it difficult for people with depression to feel joy or psychological traumas that have ingrained a harmful way of thinking about themselves and the world. Sometimes it is both of those things together to varying degrees. This is all compounded by the general stigma associated with depression. Many people view depression and thoughts of suicide as weakness, when often it is something over which those afflicted have little to no control. Here’s the thing, seeking professional help when you feel like you are struggling to make it through the day, at risk of harming yourself, or are contemplating taking your own life is not weakness. It is one of the hardest and bravest actions you can take. If you need help and don’t know where to turn or what to do, this is the national suicide hotline: 1-800-273- 8255 The people who work the phones on the hotline will not think you are silly or overreacting. They will take you seriously and work hard with you to get you the appropriate help. Many of them have been through similar experiences themselves and can truly relate to your current state. While Williams has passed away, it is of overwhelming importance that we remember him for what he represented in many of his most beloved movies. I always walked away from his films with a feeling of laughter, warmth, and kindness. Beyond those, there was always the feeling that there would be a better tomorrow. Robin Williams gave me hope. Now that he is gone, perhaps that hope is one of his greatest legacies. Right now, it is something to which I cling. You will be missed. View full article
  5. I’m going to be trying something a little different with this article and, if you will graciously allow me, I’ll explain why (I apologize in advance if you get no enjoyment out of this or find it altogether terrible). I take my job as a critic seriously. As a result, I have a tendency to read/watch/listen to criticism of not only games, but also of other forms of media. My basic college education focused heavily on literary analysis, which proved early on in my career to be surprisingly applicable. I say “surprisingly” because one of the sentiments I often read in comment sections or hear in conversation whenever a topic compares mediums is how diverse storytelling mediums are too different to have common traits. I am probably simplifying to suit my needs here; however, I can agree that it may seem a bit odd that literary criticism can be helpful when looking at and making sense of video games. But that background is what shapes my perceptions and ultimately shaped how I think about games. To me, video games are another vehicle for narratives. The medium itself has its own language, but it is a Frankenstein’s monster of a language made up of disparate elements from other mediums. For example, have you ever thought while playing a game with fancy, new-fangled graphics, “Why is there a lens flare?” Why do we call them “camera controls” instead of something more blunt, like screen adjustment controls? The answer is because video games often borrow from film. The language isn’t what is important, though. My main point in bringing up the example of film is to be able to segue into the fact that I love reading criticism of all kinds, especially of film, because I find that it often deepens my insight into the medium that I have chosen to involve my life with personally and professionally. In other words, to better understand video games I think it is important to look at what other mediums can teach us about video games, even if it is often an indirect education. There is one critic in particular that I would like to call out as someone who, though primarily focused on film, routinely delves into issues that plague narratives in a way that I find particularly helpful when approaching video games. I am, of course, referring to Film Critic Hulk. Now, I’m not going to go into much detail about who Film Critic Hulk is or his credentials or anything like that, primarily because doing so isn’t terribly important, but also because this person writes anonymously under a pseudonym. Suffice it to say, that this individual is both incredibly smart, eloquent, and someone who can articulate what makes stories work and what makes them buckle or break. The reason I bring up this particular critic goes back to what my first paragraph outlined; namely, I enjoy reading other criticism focusing on other mediums because it broadens my knowledge of those mediums while also shedding light on the one toward which I find myself most attracted. Several nights ago, I found myself reading an older article from back in January of this year about a documentary called The Act of Killing* (which is seriously a fantastic film and an important one, though not necessarily enjoyable or pleasant). In the article, Hulk doesn’t provide a review, but instead dissects how the film succeeds in truly moving an audience to achieve something that can truly change society for the better. I’m afraid that my meaning in the previous sentence was a bit vague, so let me rephrase: Hulk dissects how the film reveals an honest truth about life to the audience. The article is great and I highly recommend that you both read it for yourself and go on to read some of Hulk’s other writings about movies and the film industry. Now you might be wondering about the purpose of all of this preamble. While I was in the process of reading through Hulk’s article, I made numerous connections between the world of video games and the world of film. As I was in the process of making those mental leaps, I thought of how neat it would be if I could give readers a way to arrive at the same conclusions in a similar manner. To that end, I encourage readers to follow me on a small mental excursion to examine video games through (if you will pardon the parlance) the lens of film criticism. And so, we begin. (Note: The writing style of Film Critic Hulk is all caps. I apologize in advance if that irritates you.) --- To begin his essay on The Act of Killing, Film Critic Hulk uses a quote from Andrei Tarkovski: The allotted function of art is not, as is often assumed, to put across ideas, to propagate thoughts, to serve as an example. The aim of art is to prepare a person for death, to plough and harrow his soul, rendering it capable of turning to good. Now, people can debate the definition of art and what art is capable of and how it functions until the end of time, but what Tarkovski seems to be getting at here is that art, all art across all mediums, functions as a way to challenge the soul and mold it into something that can do good in the world. In other words, art reveals an honest to goodness truth about human nature, which is a topic that often leaves people staring at their feet. Real truth is something that forces us to confront reality, an experience that can often be unpleasant, and motivates us to change for the better. Hulk then goes on to say in the essay proper: THE BLUNT TRUTH IS THAT MOST PEOPLE DON'T EVEN THINK OF MOVIES AS BEING VEHICLES FOR IDEAS... OR EVEN AS ART. TO MANY, CINEMA IS A SOMEWHAT DISPOSABLE THING. A WAY TO PASS TIME. A MODE OF ESCAPISM. A LARK. This is where video games come in. You can replace the words “movies” and “cinema” with “video games” and the same blunt truth that applies to film also applies to games. I’d argue that even more so than movies, most people don’t think of video games as being vehicles for ideas, let alone vehicles for truth or something that could be capable of ‘harrowing’ a soul. I’d argue that the average person considers video games to be power fantasies, time sinks to while away youth, or a mental escape from the daily grind of life. Perhaps I am doing the average person a disservice by giving only three very narrow ways of looking at video games as a medium. I think a more accurate statement would be that the average video game player views video games as something trivial. The truth is that many people view video games as 'just games,' a train of thought that the very name of the medium both implies and reinforces. While I do think that there are games that have important ideas to convey and that the medium is capable of revealing human truth, many, many, many video games do their utmost best to be indulgent, escapist, power fantasies. Don’t get me wrong; I don’t think there is anything inherently wrong with a game being an indulgent, escapist power fantasy, but I do think it is easier to carelessly transmit a message that could be harmful through a project that is trying its best to be devoid of narrative ideas. Hulk gets at one of the powerful aspects of stories in the second paragraph which is that, “STORIES CAN TAKE THAT DIDACTIC THING WE CALL ‘ADVICE’ AND RENDER IT INTO EXPERIENCE; MEANING IT CAN MAKE US EXPERIENCE THINGS BEFORE WE ACTUALLY HAVE TO DEAL WITH THEM AND GUIDE US IN THAT PURPOSE.” Empathy is one of the most powerful motivators for human beings and it is empathy that allows us to learn from the experience of others. Video games in particular are suited to learning vicariously through others without having to live through the reality first hand due to how strongly people bond with in-game characters. Or rather, people have a tendency to insert themselves into video game narrative. I’ll approach that previous sentence a bit backwards: Of those of you who played Telltale’s The Walking Dead, which of you talked with friends about the decisions you made? I’m going to take the liberty and assume that it was most of you. Strictly speaking, however, “you” are not a character in the The Walking Dead universe, but that doesn’t seem to matter so much, does it? It still feels like you are the one responsible for whatever befalls Clementine because you were the person making Lee Everett’s decisions. If people can empathize with a character to the extent that they consider the decisions they made for how that character should act as their own actions, that goes far beyond the amount of empathy typically experienced while watching film. We feel as if the challenges and problems faced by the video game protagonist were actually our own. While none of us are likely to live through a zombie apocalypse, the sad truth is that every one of us will at some point struggle with very real issues like depression, hatred, domestic violence, or death. In recent years, there has spring up a small subset of games that explore some of the more deeply tragic and personal aspects of being human. The currently-in-development That Dragon, Cancer puts players in the shoes of a father whose son is going through cancer treatment. Zoe Quinn’s Depression Quest attempts to convey what it is like to exist with depression. Papo y Yo deals with alcoholism and abusive fathers. Papers, Please puts players behind the desk to deal with the paperwork of an immigration officer. Cart Life asks players to try to live as one of three street vendors on a small budget. These are games that use stories and mechanics in an effort to promote understanding of and empathy for these various situations. As time goes by there are more of these games being released and concepts outside of “shoot bad guy” being explored. To me, that means I can hold out hope that one day video games will inspire the type of social and societal change that The Act of Killing seems to have produced in Indonesia. Hulk puts The Act of Killing alongside movies like The Thin Blue Line (which gave a man his life back after being wrongly sentenced to life in prison) and Harlan County U.S.A. (the filming of which prevented violence and allowed the coal miners of Harlan County to live better lives without dying from the black lung). While I can rattle off a dozen games that have revolutionized game development or inspired social change within the gaming community, the fact is that, outside of Nintendo’s Super Mario Bros. catapulting Mario into cultural ubiquity, I can’t think of a video game that has had an impact on society at large. I believe there are four reasons for this. First, video games are the newest storytelling medium. Film and photography have had over a century to mature and hone their respective crafts, while widespread video game development has been around for less than half that time. This puts video gaming at a severe disadvantage when trying to enact change outside of the core gaming community. Second, though photography and moviemaking both rely on technology for their arts, video games are the most technologically reliant medium. As technology has progressed, the ways games are both presented and played have drastically changed. Compare Pong to Missile Command to Super Mario Bros. to Chrono Trigger to Ocarina of Time to Halo to BioShock to The Last of Us (I know that was a long string of _____ to _______’s. I apologize). Yes, the graphical differences are plainly evident, but generally speaking the advances in technology have affected how well games could tell their stories. In fact, the improvements in graphical fidelity have allowed games to draw upon film for language cues that people new to gaming can more readily understand. Third, though 58% of the American population plays video games, that still leaves 42% who don’t have anything to do with gaming. Gaming probably needs to be as ubiquitous as music and film, or at least close to the level of consumption, in order to really bring about a widespread change that everyone can see and understand. Finally, it is hard to for anything to be taken seriously when its own definition trivializes its importance, which is exactly what the term “video game” accomplishes. According to Google’s dictionary, the definition of a video game is, “a game played by electronically manipulating images produced by a computer program on a television screen or other display screen.” Google then defines the word game as, “a form of play or sport, especially a competitive one played according to rules and decided by skill, strength, or luck.” There are numerous problems with these definitions, but for the purposes of this essay the primary difficulty is that narratives aren’t strictly won or diversionary and the games we are ideally talking about here are the ones that make use of effective narratives. I am convinced that video games will one day move society, but they just aren’t quite there yet. Imagine that the following quote from Hulk’s essay replaces the word “cinema” with “narrative” to illustrate how far video games have left to go: WHAT CAN BE SUGGESTED IS THAT THE ACT OF KILLING IS AN ATTACK ON MITIGATION ITSELF. ONE THAT ZOOMS IN ON THE SPECTACULAR COGNITIVE DISSONANCE AND REFUSES TO RELINQUISH UNTIL WE ACTUALLY FACE IT. AND WHAT THIS FILM IS DOING IN INDONESIA IS SO MAGNIFICENTLY REAL; PRECISELY THE KIND OF REAL-LIFE EFFECT THAT IS SO UNIQUE TO POPULAR CINEMA THAT, QUITE FRANKLY, IT RENDERS ALL THE OSCAR TALK KIND OF SMALL. The plain and simple truth is that video games, for as heartrending, adventuresome, fantastic, and magnificent as they can be, are still in the stage of development where the industry struggles to have award shows. It is an environment where the prospect of putting on an award show with some semblance of dignity is a goal for which many strive. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing either, a quick look at any part of the VGX award show from 2013 proves those people have their work cut out for them. But it is important to remember, especially in a medium as new as video games, that awards should not the end goal. When we are talking about video games that hit the world straight in the gut; games that grab onto a truth and refuse to let go until we collectively face said truth and are changed by it for the better… well, games like that haven’t been made yet, but they are worth waiting for. It should be noted that I am not saying that the narrative-focused video games that we have now are rubbish or that they don’t have great stories or messages. I mean to say that there is nothing like The Act of Killing in video games. The Act of Killing gives its audience something that they need. In fact, most games strive for the direct opposite of need and merely try to deliver what their players want. There is a very large difference between what people need and what people want. Most games cater directly to what people want: power, escape, excitement, puzzles, etc. But very rarely do video games aim to give players something that they might need; video games that present hard truths in a way that we can accept. For that very reason, the number of games that have personally affected me and changed the way I look at the world seems to be miniscule compared to the number of games that I have played. For the record here they are: Shadow of the Colossus, The Stanley Parable, BioShock, BioShock Infinite, The Last of Us, and Mass Effect 3. *Spoilers for Mass Effect 3 in the following paragraph* In fact, many of the points I’ve been getting at so far can be perfectly summed up in going back to Mass Effect 3 and how people reacted to its ending. Now, there are certainly a lot of people out there who felt the original ending didn’t seem to fit with the rest of the narrative (and also that the “extended cut” of the ending didn’t go far enough). I never really felt that way either before or after BioWare released the patch which clarified several lingering questions. The internet threw around the term “entitled gamers” like a slur as tens of thousands of players expressed their dissatisfaction by petitioning BioWare to change the ending of their game. At the time, I questioned why people had the unprecedented outrage that is usually reserved for angry mobs or human rights violations. Let’s be honest, many games have unsatisfactory endings or laughable writing, but even the most disgruntled of gaming communities don’t usually file complaints with the FTC. With the distance of a couple years, it seems obvious that this is a potent example of players inserting themselves into the story; they felt responsible for the actions that Commander Shepard was taking and that gave many a sense of ownership toward the narrative of the Mass Effect franchise. I’d guess that there were a lot of people at BioWare who actually wanted players to feel like the story of Mass Effect was really theirs, but the nature of the story they were telling wasn’t conducive to a satisfying ending catharsis. Mass Effect 3 requires that the Commander Shepard that players have developed and bonded with throughout the course of three games released over five years sacrifice his/her life. That is a huge amount of time and effort put into this story and the ending! While perfectly sound in a traditional narrative sense, it clashed so much with what people wanted from the story that people felt slighted; they felt wronged. The outrage was very real, but so were the other emotional reactions to Mass Effect 3 which at the time were largely overshadowed by the ending controversy. It made people laugh, cry, and rage. It motivated tens of thousands of people to band together for a common purpose. Now that I think about it, Mass Effect 3 could very well be the best example we currently have of how video games can enact change on a large scale. The pressure from the gaming community eventually caused BioWare to buckle and release the extended ending DLC (something that has never sat right with me). It might not be an example of motivating change in a positive or productive direction, but it did unite people to a collective cause on a scale that I haven’t seen in the video game community. Perhaps all of this talk about video games being anything more than fun distractions from real life seems ridiculous to you. But, then, why do we tell stories in video games? Are they just to add texture and context to the gameplay? Why do developers like BioWare attempt to tell nuanced stories dealing with weighty issues in video games? IT WAS A QUESTION ABOUT THE EXISTENTIAL HEART OF WHY PEOPLE WANT TO DO SOMETHING SO TRIVIAL AS TELLING STORIES IN THIS MEDIUM. IT SEEMS SO SILLY IN A WORLD FULL OF PEOPLE WHO DO REAL THINGS. TEACHERS. DOCTORS. FIREFIGHTERS. THE KINDS OF FOLKS WHO FILL THEIR DAYS WITH MUNDANE HEROISMS AND GET LITTLE TO NO RECOGNITION FOR IT (AND OFTEN, THEY GET OUR DISDAIN). BUT THE REASON THIS INDUSTRY CAN FEEL SO HOLLOW AT TIMES IS THAT WE ARE ACTUALLY MESSING WITH SOMETHING INCREDIBLY POWERFUL: THE AFOREMENTIONED LETHAL COMBINATION OF IMAGE AND SOUND. AND IF WE HAVE MADE SOMETHING WITH THE POWER TO MAKE PEOPLE CRY IN 30 SECONDS, THAT CAN MAKE PEOPLE OPEN THEMSELVES UP AND LEARN TO WALK A MILE IN ANOTHER MAN'S SHOES, THEN WHY DO WE JUST KEEP USING THAT INCREDIBLE POWER TO MERELY INDULGE PEOPLE? […] [WHEN WE ASK THAT QUESTION] WE ARE WRESTLING WITH THE FACT THAT WE ARE USING ONE OF THE MOST POWERFUL TOOLS ON THE PLANET FOR TRIVIAL PURPOSES. OR WORSE, WHEN WE THINK OF ANWAR RECREATING HIS FAVORITE GANGSTER SCENES, WE CONTEMPLATE THAT WE MIGHT BE DOING SOMETHING THAT COULD EVENTUALLY LEAD TO GREAT HUMAN COST IF NOT HANDLED RESPONSIBLY. Gaming is still at a place where, for all of the digital bullets, death, and games about war, the game that most effectively understands violence is a post-apocalyptic zombie narrative. Seriously, have you ever taken a minute to think about how weird it is that compared with The Last of Us, the Call of Duty or Battlefield franchises feel tame and sterile? The main difference there is that The Last of Us shows us the human costs of taking a life, both in the brutality of animations and in the way the characters are affected by their own violent actions. In comparison, our digital war games approach their topic with all of the nuance, depth, and seriousness of a group of second graders on the playground pretending to have a shootout. I’ve never been a person who thinks that video games inherently make people more violent, but I do think that video games can influence how we think about the world when we accept them without thinking. It isn’t wrong to have dumb shooters set in times of war, but I think there is something wrong and perhaps even irresponsible when almost all war shooters that approach the topic are silly, empty, and fangless. For all of the emphasis Infinity Ward puts into making Call of Duty look and sound authentic, how is it that Valiant Hearts captures the humanity of war better than the last six Call of Duty games? The video game industry is capable of great things, I know it in my bones. Why do we keep using that incredible power to merely indulge people? We have seen through Extra Life that people uniting around their common interest in video games can save lives and change their communities for the better. Imagine if that passion was backed up by games that could inspire a similar revolution in the world. Let us know in the comments if you found this type of writing helpful/interesting or if you weren't to keen on the idea. We'd love to hear from you either way! *The Act of Killing is available on Netflix Instant if anyone is interested in checking it out for free, and a variety of other services for around $9.99. **The image of the sunflower is actually not a real sunflower. It is from Mass Effect 3. Anyone remember where?
  6. I’m going to be trying something a little different with this article and, if you will graciously allow me, I’ll explain why (I apologize in advance if you get no enjoyment out of this or find it altogether terrible). I take my job as a critic seriously. As a result, I have a tendency to read/watch/listen to criticism of not only games, but also of other forms of media. My basic college education focused heavily on literary analysis, which proved early on in my career to be surprisingly applicable. I say “surprisingly” because one of the sentiments I often read in comment sections or hear in conversation whenever a topic compares mediums is how diverse storytelling mediums are too different to have common traits. I am probably simplifying to suit my needs here; however, I can agree that it may seem a bit odd that literary criticism can be helpful when looking at and making sense of video games. But that background is what shapes my perceptions and ultimately shaped how I think about games. To me, video games are another vehicle for narratives. The medium itself has its own language, but it is a Frankenstein’s monster of a language made up of disparate elements from other mediums. For example, have you ever thought while playing a game with fancy, new-fangled graphics, “Why is there a lens flare?” Why do we call them “camera controls” instead of something more blunt, like screen adjustment controls? The answer is because video games often borrow from film. The language isn’t what is important, though. My main point in bringing up the example of film is to be able to segue into the fact that I love reading criticism of all kinds, especially of film, because I find that it often deepens my insight into the medium that I have chosen to involve my life with personally and professionally. In other words, to better understand video games I think it is important to look at what other mediums can teach us about video games, even if it is often an indirect education. There is one critic in particular that I would like to call out as someone who, though primarily focused on film, routinely delves into issues that plague narratives in a way that I find particularly helpful when approaching video games. I am, of course, referring to Film Critic Hulk. Now, I’m not going to go into much detail about who Film Critic Hulk is or his credentials or anything like that, primarily because doing so isn’t terribly important, but also because this person writes anonymously under a pseudonym. Suffice it to say, that this individual is both incredibly smart, eloquent, and someone who can articulate what makes stories work and what makes them buckle or break. The reason I bring up this particular critic goes back to what my first paragraph outlined; namely, I enjoy reading other criticism focusing on other mediums because it broadens my knowledge of those mediums while also shedding light on the one toward which I find myself most attracted. Several nights ago, I found myself reading an older article from back in January of this year about a documentary called The Act of Killing* (which is seriously a fantastic film and an important one, though not necessarily enjoyable or pleasant). In the article, Hulk doesn’t provide a review, but instead dissects how the film succeeds in truly moving an audience to achieve something that can truly change society for the better. I’m afraid that my meaning in the previous sentence was a bit vague, so let me rephrase: Hulk dissects how the film reveals an honest truth about life to the audience. The article is great and I highly recommend that you both read it for yourself and go on to read some of Hulk’s other writings about movies and the film industry. Now you might be wondering about the purpose of all of this preamble. While I was in the process of reading through Hulk’s article, I made numerous connections between the world of video games and the world of film. As I was in the process of making those mental leaps, I thought of how neat it would be if I could give readers a way to arrive at the same conclusions in a similar manner. To that end, I encourage readers to follow me on a small mental excursion to examine video games through (if you will pardon the parlance) the lens of film criticism. And so, we begin. (Note: The writing style of Film Critic Hulk is all caps. I apologize in advance if that irritates you.) --- To begin his essay on The Act of Killing, Film Critic Hulk uses a quote from Andrei Tarkovski: The allotted function of art is not, as is often assumed, to put across ideas, to propagate thoughts, to serve as an example. The aim of art is to prepare a person for death, to plough and harrow his soul, rendering it capable of turning to good. Now, people can debate the definition of art and what art is capable of and how it functions until the end of time, but what Tarkovski seems to be getting at here is that art, all art across all mediums, functions as a way to challenge the soul and mold it into something that can do good in the world. In other words, art reveals an honest to goodness truth about human nature, which is a topic that often leaves people staring at their feet. Real truth is something that forces us to confront reality, an experience that can often be unpleasant, and motivates us to change for the better. Hulk then goes on to say in the essay proper: THE BLUNT TRUTH IS THAT MOST PEOPLE DON'T EVEN THINK OF MOVIES AS BEING VEHICLES FOR IDEAS... OR EVEN AS ART. TO MANY, CINEMA IS A SOMEWHAT DISPOSABLE THING. A WAY TO PASS TIME. A MODE OF ESCAPISM. A LARK. This is where video games come in. You can replace the words “movies” and “cinema” with “video games” and the same blunt truth that applies to film also applies to games. I’d argue that even more so than movies, most people don’t think of video games as being vehicles for ideas, let alone vehicles for truth or something that could be capable of ‘harrowing’ a soul. I’d argue that the average person considers video games to be power fantasies, time sinks to while away youth, or a mental escape from the daily grind of life. Perhaps I am doing the average person a disservice by giving only three very narrow ways of looking at video games as a medium. I think a more accurate statement would be that the average video game player views video games as something trivial. The truth is that many people view video games as 'just games,' a train of thought that the very name of the medium both implies and reinforces. While I do think that there are games that have important ideas to convey and that the medium is capable of revealing human truth, many, many, many video games do their utmost best to be indulgent, escapist, power fantasies. Don’t get me wrong; I don’t think there is anything inherently wrong with a game being an indulgent, escapist power fantasy, but I do think it is easier to carelessly transmit a message that could be harmful through a project that is trying its best to be devoid of narrative ideas. Hulk gets at one of the powerful aspects of stories in the second paragraph which is that, “STORIES CAN TAKE THAT DIDACTIC THING WE CALL ‘ADVICE’ AND RENDER IT INTO EXPERIENCE; MEANING IT CAN MAKE US EXPERIENCE THINGS BEFORE WE ACTUALLY HAVE TO DEAL WITH THEM AND GUIDE US IN THAT PURPOSE.” Empathy is one of the most powerful motivators for human beings and it is empathy that allows us to learn from the experience of others. Video games in particular are suited to learning vicariously through others without having to live through the reality first hand due to how strongly people bond with in-game characters. Or rather, people have a tendency to insert themselves into video game narrative. I’ll approach that previous sentence a bit backwards: Of those of you who played Telltale’s The Walking Dead, which of you talked with friends about the decisions you made? I’m going to take the liberty and assume that it was most of you. Strictly speaking, however, “you” are not a character in the The Walking Dead universe, but that doesn’t seem to matter so much, does it? It still feels like you are the one responsible for whatever befalls Clementine because you were the person making Lee Everett’s decisions. If people can empathize with a character to the extent that they consider the decisions they made for how that character should act as their own actions, that goes far beyond the amount of empathy typically experienced while watching film. We feel as if the challenges and problems faced by the video game protagonist were actually our own. While none of us are likely to live through a zombie apocalypse, the sad truth is that every one of us will at some point struggle with very real issues like depression, hatred, domestic violence, or death. In recent years, there has spring up a small subset of games that explore some of the more deeply tragic and personal aspects of being human. The currently-in-development That Dragon, Cancer puts players in the shoes of a father whose son is going through cancer treatment. Zoe Quinn’s Depression Quest attempts to convey what it is like to exist with depression. Papo y Yo deals with alcoholism and abusive fathers. Papers, Please puts players behind the desk to deal with the paperwork of an immigration officer. Cart Life asks players to try to live as one of three street vendors on a small budget. These are games that use stories and mechanics in an effort to promote understanding of and empathy for these various situations. As time goes by there are more of these games being released and concepts outside of “shoot bad guy” being explored. To me, that means I can hold out hope that one day video games will inspire the type of social and societal change that The Act of Killing seems to have produced in Indonesia. Hulk puts The Act of Killing alongside movies like The Thin Blue Line (which gave a man his life back after being wrongly sentenced to life in prison) and Harlan County U.S.A. (the filming of which prevented violence and allowed the coal miners of Harlan County to live better lives without dying from the black lung). While I can rattle off a dozen games that have revolutionized game development or inspired social change within the gaming community, the fact is that, outside of Nintendo’s Super Mario Bros. catapulting Mario into cultural ubiquity, I can’t think of a video game that has had an impact on society at large. I believe there are four reasons for this. First, video games are the newest storytelling medium. Film and photography have had over a century to mature and hone their respective crafts, while widespread video game development has been around for less than half that time. This puts video gaming at a severe disadvantage when trying to enact change outside of the core gaming community. Second, though photography and moviemaking both rely on technology for their arts, video games are the most technologically reliant medium. As technology has progressed, the ways games are both presented and played have drastically changed. Compare Pong to Missile Command to Super Mario Bros. to Chrono Trigger to Ocarina of Time to Halo to BioShock to The Last of Us (I know that was a long string of _____ to _______’s. I apologize). Yes, the graphical differences are plainly evident, but generally speaking the advances in technology have affected how well games could tell their stories. In fact, the improvements in graphical fidelity have allowed games to draw upon film for language cues that people new to gaming can more readily understand. Third, though 58% of the American population plays video games, that still leaves 42% who don’t have anything to do with gaming. Gaming probably needs to be as ubiquitous as music and film, or at least close to the level of consumption, in order to really bring about a widespread change that everyone can see and understand. Finally, it is hard to for anything to be taken seriously when its own definition trivializes its importance, which is exactly what the term “video game” accomplishes. According to Google’s dictionary, the definition of a video game is, “a game played by electronically manipulating images produced by a computer program on a television screen or other display screen.” Google then defines the word game as, “a form of play or sport, especially a competitive one played according to rules and decided by skill, strength, or luck.” There are numerous problems with these definitions, but for the purposes of this essay the primary difficulty is that narratives aren’t strictly won or diversionary and the games we are ideally talking about here are the ones that make use of effective narratives. I am convinced that video games will one day move society, but they just aren’t quite there yet. Imagine that the following quote from Hulk’s essay replaces the word “cinema” with “narrative” to illustrate how far video games have left to go: WHAT CAN BE SUGGESTED IS THAT THE ACT OF KILLING IS AN ATTACK ON MITIGATION ITSELF. ONE THAT ZOOMS IN ON THE SPECTACULAR COGNITIVE DISSONANCE AND REFUSES TO RELINQUISH UNTIL WE ACTUALLY FACE IT. AND WHAT THIS FILM IS DOING IN INDONESIA IS SO MAGNIFICENTLY REAL; PRECISELY THE KIND OF REAL-LIFE EFFECT THAT IS SO UNIQUE TO POPULAR CINEMA THAT, QUITE FRANKLY, IT RENDERS ALL THE OSCAR TALK KIND OF SMALL. The plain and simple truth is that video games, for as heartrending, adventuresome, fantastic, and magnificent as they can be, are still in the stage of development where the industry struggles to have award shows. It is an environment where the prospect of putting on an award show with some semblance of dignity is a goal for which many strive. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing either, a quick look at any part of the VGX award show from 2013 proves those people have their work cut out for them. But it is important to remember, especially in a medium as new as video games, that awards should not the end goal. When we are talking about video games that hit the world straight in the gut; games that grab onto a truth and refuse to let go until we collectively face said truth and are changed by it for the better… well, games like that haven’t been made yet, but they are worth waiting for. It should be noted that I am not saying that the narrative-focused video games that we have now are rubbish or that they don’t have great stories or messages. I mean to say that there is nothing like The Act of Killing in video games. The Act of Killing gives its audience something that they need. In fact, most games strive for the direct opposite of need and merely try to deliver what their players want. There is a very large difference between what people need and what people want. Most games cater directly to what people want: power, escape, excitement, puzzles, etc. But very rarely do video games aim to give players something that they might need; video games that present hard truths in a way that we can accept. For that very reason, the number of games that have personally affected me and changed the way I look at the world seems to be miniscule compared to the number of games that I have played. For the record here they are: Shadow of the Colossus, The Stanley Parable, BioShock, BioShock Infinite, The Last of Us, and Mass Effect 3. *Spoilers for Mass Effect 3 in the following paragraph* In fact, many of the points I’ve been getting at so far can be perfectly summed up in going back to Mass Effect 3 and how people reacted to its ending. Now, there are certainly a lot of people out there who felt the original ending didn’t seem to fit with the rest of the narrative (and also that the “extended cut” of the ending didn’t go far enough). I never really felt that way either before or after BioWare released the patch which clarified several lingering questions. The internet threw around the term “entitled gamers” like a slur as tens of thousands of players expressed their dissatisfaction by petitioning BioWare to change the ending of their game. At the time, I questioned why people had the unprecedented outrage that is usually reserved for angry mobs or human rights violations. Let’s be honest, many games have unsatisfactory endings or laughable writing, but even the most disgruntled of gaming communities don’t usually file complaints with the FTC. With the distance of a couple years, it seems obvious that this is a potent example of players inserting themselves into the story; they felt responsible for the actions that Commander Shepard was taking and that gave many a sense of ownership toward the narrative of the Mass Effect franchise. I’d guess that there were a lot of people at BioWare who actually wanted players to feel like the story of Mass Effect was really theirs, but the nature of the story they were telling wasn’t conducive to a satisfying ending catharsis. Mass Effect 3 requires that the Commander Shepard that players have developed and bonded with throughout the course of three games released over five years sacrifice his/her life. That is a huge amount of time and effort put into this story and the ending! While perfectly sound in a traditional narrative sense, it clashed so much with what people wanted from the story that people felt slighted; they felt wronged. The outrage was very real, but so were the other emotional reactions to Mass Effect 3 which at the time were largely overshadowed by the ending controversy. It made people laugh, cry, and rage. It motivated tens of thousands of people to band together for a common purpose. Now that I think about it, Mass Effect 3 could very well be the best example we currently have of how video games can enact change on a large scale. The pressure from the gaming community eventually caused BioWare to buckle and release the extended ending DLC (something that has never sat right with me). It might not be an example of motivating change in a positive or productive direction, but it did unite people to a collective cause on a scale that I haven’t seen in the video game community. Perhaps all of this talk about video games being anything more than fun distractions from real life seems ridiculous to you. But, then, why do we tell stories in video games? Are they just to add texture and context to the gameplay? Why do developers like BioWare attempt to tell nuanced stories dealing with weighty issues in video games? IT WAS A QUESTION ABOUT THE EXISTENTIAL HEART OF WHY PEOPLE WANT TO DO SOMETHING SO TRIVIAL AS TELLING STORIES IN THIS MEDIUM. IT SEEMS SO SILLY IN A WORLD FULL OF PEOPLE WHO DO REAL THINGS. TEACHERS. DOCTORS. FIREFIGHTERS. THE KINDS OF FOLKS WHO FILL THEIR DAYS WITH MUNDANE HEROISMS AND GET LITTLE TO NO RECOGNITION FOR IT (AND OFTEN, THEY GET OUR DISDAIN). BUT THE REASON THIS INDUSTRY CAN FEEL SO HOLLOW AT TIMES IS THAT WE ARE ACTUALLY MESSING WITH SOMETHING INCREDIBLY POWERFUL: THE AFOREMENTIONED LETHAL COMBINATION OF IMAGE AND SOUND. AND IF WE HAVE MADE SOMETHING WITH THE POWER TO MAKE PEOPLE CRY IN 30 SECONDS, THAT CAN MAKE PEOPLE OPEN THEMSELVES UP AND LEARN TO WALK A MILE IN ANOTHER MAN'S SHOES, THEN WHY DO WE JUST KEEP USING THAT INCREDIBLE POWER TO MERELY INDULGE PEOPLE? […] [WHEN WE ASK THAT QUESTION] WE ARE WRESTLING WITH THE FACT THAT WE ARE USING ONE OF THE MOST POWERFUL TOOLS ON THE PLANET FOR TRIVIAL PURPOSES. OR WORSE, WHEN WE THINK OF ANWAR RECREATING HIS FAVORITE GANGSTER SCENES, WE CONTEMPLATE THAT WE MIGHT BE DOING SOMETHING THAT COULD EVENTUALLY LEAD TO GREAT HUMAN COST IF NOT HANDLED RESPONSIBLY. Gaming is still at a place where, for all of the digital bullets, death, and games about war, the game that most effectively understands violence is a post-apocalyptic zombie narrative. Seriously, have you ever taken a minute to think about how weird it is that compared with The Last of Us, the Call of Duty or Battlefield franchises feel tame and sterile? The main difference there is that The Last of Us shows us the human costs of taking a life, both in the brutality of animations and in the way the characters are affected by their own violent actions. In comparison, our digital war games approach their topic with all of the nuance, depth, and seriousness of a group of second graders on the playground pretending to have a shootout. I’ve never been a person who thinks that video games inherently make people more violent, but I do think that video games can influence how we think about the world when we accept them without thinking. It isn’t wrong to have dumb shooters set in times of war, but I think there is something wrong and perhaps even irresponsible when almost all war shooters that approach the topic are silly, empty, and fangless. For all of the emphasis Infinity Ward puts into making Call of Duty look and sound authentic, how is it that Valiant Hearts captures the humanity of war better than the last six Call of Duty games? The video game industry is capable of great things, I know it in my bones. Why do we keep using that incredible power to merely indulge people? We have seen through Extra Life that people uniting around their common interest in video games can save lives and change their communities for the better. Imagine if that passion was backed up by games that could inspire a similar revolution in the world. Let us know in the comments if you found this type of writing helpful/interesting or if you weren't to keen on the idea. We'd love to hear from you either way! *The Act of Killing is available on Netflix Instant if anyone is interested in checking it out for free, and a variety of other services for around $9.99. **The image of the sunflower is actually not a real sunflower. It is from Mass Effect 3. Anyone remember where? View full article
  7. April Fool's Day is a wonderful time for the video game industry. A time for tech companies, developers, and publishers to come together, let their hair down, and show a bit of their hilarious humanity. This year you can see Optimus Prime in Titanfall, a new fighting game from Blizzard, and Big Head Mode in Guild Wars 2. First up, a new mobile game from S2 Games is looking to do something never seen before in the mobile gaming space. Their next game aims to be something totally unique and wonderful, like a digital snowflake. Prepare to take to the skies with Bastion and Xander! You can download their incredibly original game here. Next, and possibly most disappointingly, Google announced the Google Maps: Pokémon Challenge. Essentially, players use Google Maps to catch Pokémon that can be seen in the real-world using mobile phone cameras. Why can't this be a real thing? Nintendo, get on that. IGN has become somewhat infamous for its April Fools' Day pranks. This year they rose to meet expectations with an exclusive trailer detailing the first piece of Titanfall DLC which features Optimus Prime. Developer Image & Form has announced a major update to the game SteamWorld Dig. Forget all the fantastical elements of mining that you might have picked up from games like Minecraft, Terraria, or even their own game; SteamWorld Dig is going realistic. CEO Brjann Sigurgeirsson detailed what this will mean for the game: This new update means that we’ll totally revamp the acclaimed gameplay and graphics in SteamWorld Dig. Rather than focusing on steam-driven robots in a steampunk Western setting, we have decided to follow recent gaming trends. In particular, Goat Simulator from our friends at Coffee Stain looks like it’s going to be huge. Therefore we’ve changed SteamWorld Dig into a real-world mining universe, with real people, real grit and all. It’s taken a while, but here it is: Real-World Mining Simulator! For a long time, we had this silly, romantic notion about mining. Swinging that pickaxe was easy, almost effortless, even exciting! The new version will tell it like it is. Every dull chore in the mines will be questioned, every descent preceded by a negotiation, and quite often Malcolm will rather call in sick, which will lead to a standstill and a delightful pause. It’ll be very realistic. It’ll be great! Real-World Mining Simulator has numerous interesting features like trying to avoid contracting the Black Lung and procrastinating. You can read more about it here. Sega took the opportunity today to reveal their new peripheral, the MEGAne DRIVE. Worn over the eyes, it translates languages, shows your dreams, and works with hundreds of other peripherals. Here are some of the highlights of the gear as translated from Twitter: "Speed shock! Visual shock! Sound shock! ... More light and more to the emotional." "Tonight is Samurai war, tomorrow is to bike hero when it comes transform." "Your delusional power master MEGAne if?" Needless to say, with marketing phrases like that the MEGAne DRIVE looks to be on track to dominate the VR market. Square Enix decided to make a little goof of their own with a crossover between old-school Final Fantasy and Thief. It is entirely in Japanese and there doesn't seem to be much to interact with or accomplish, but is still pretty amusing. OverClocked Remix has decided to launch their new in-house band with the name Rough McGruff. They also require all band members to have beards. This probably definitely maybe in no way relates to YouTuber Smooth McGroove. The new game mode added to League of Legends today, Ultra Rapid Fire, has the goal of providing maximum fun by eliminating mana and energy, giving all champions 80% cooldown reduction, and doubling the attack speed of ranged champions. Playing the game mode will net players an exclusive icon. BioWare has decided that their online store was incomplete without a Garrus Vakarian Body Pillow. Retailing for $40, the pillow is guaranteed to calibrate to your body and provide support, both on the battlefield and in bed. For those of you who have been on the internet for a while, remember Homestar Runner? The site has been dormant for the past four years, but today marks the end of that humorless dry spell. New content has appeared on the site and reassures everyone that the things they found funny in the early 2000s is still pretty dang funny. Just sit on the intro screen for about 10 seconds to see what's been added. CERN, the European organization that operates the world's largest particle accelerator and is on the cutting edge of science, today decided that its website would better suit the dignity of its institution better if all text on the website was in Comic Sans. To quote CERN's head of communications, James Gillies: This is an important year for CERN and we wanted to make a bold visual statement. We thought the most effective way to communicate our research into the fundamental structure of matter at the very boundaries of technology was by changing the font. And it makes the letters look all round and squishy Blizzard Entertainment had a number of astounding press releases today. To begin, they announced that they would be changing the name of the upcoming expansion to StarCraft II from from Legacy of the Void to Herald of the Stars. Details on the renamed expansion are tantalizing. Blizzard promises new units, weapons, armor, hairstyles, and a dance editor. It also appears that the name change is at least partially due to the desire to keep the same acronym that derived from the current expansion, Heart of the Swarm. Blizzard also announced a new fighting game titled Blizzard Outcasts: Vengeance of the Vanquished. Outcasts features many of Blizzard's second-tier heroes and villains duking it out in glorious 8-bit graphics. Where else can you see Deckard Cain beating down Arcturus Mengsk with an old magic tome? Guild Wars 2 has rolled out the Big Head update in its latest patch, doubling the size of all in-game heads. The reason for this change can be traced back to a study revealed in this photo. It turns out that science has determined that larger heads lead to larger amounts of fun. Happy April Fools' Day everyone! View full article
  8. April Fool's Day is a wonderful time for the video game industry. A time for tech companies, developers, and publishers to come together, let their hair down, and show a bit of their hilarious humanity. This year you can see Optimus Prime in Titanfall, a new fighting game from Blizzard, and Big Head Mode in Guild Wars 2. First up, a new mobile game from S2 Games is looking to do something never seen before in the mobile gaming space. Their next game aims to be something totally unique and wonderful, like a digital snowflake. Prepare to take to the skies with Bastion and Xander! You can download their incredibly original game here. Next, and possibly most disappointingly, Google announced the Google Maps: Pokémon Challenge. Essentially, players use Google Maps to catch Pokémon that can be seen in the real-world using mobile phone cameras. Why can't this be a real thing? Nintendo, get on that. IGN has become somewhat infamous for its April Fools' Day pranks. This year they rose to meet expectations with an exclusive trailer detailing the first piece of Titanfall DLC which features Optimus Prime. Developer Image & Form has announced a major update to the game SteamWorld Dig. Forget all the fantastical elements of mining that you might have picked up from games like Minecraft, Terraria, or even their own game; SteamWorld Dig is going realistic. CEO Brjann Sigurgeirsson detailed what this will mean for the game: This new update means that we’ll totally revamp the acclaimed gameplay and graphics in SteamWorld Dig. Rather than focusing on steam-driven robots in a steampunk Western setting, we have decided to follow recent gaming trends. In particular, Goat Simulator from our friends at Coffee Stain looks like it’s going to be huge. Therefore we’ve changed SteamWorld Dig into a real-world mining universe, with real people, real grit and all. It’s taken a while, but here it is: Real-World Mining Simulator! For a long time, we had this silly, romantic notion about mining. Swinging that pickaxe was easy, almost effortless, even exciting! The new version will tell it like it is. Every dull chore in the mines will be questioned, every descent preceded by a negotiation, and quite often Malcolm will rather call in sick, which will lead to a standstill and a delightful pause. It’ll be very realistic. It’ll be great! Real-World Mining Simulator has numerous interesting features like trying to avoid contracting the Black Lung and procrastinating. You can read more about it here. Sega took the opportunity today to reveal their new peripheral, the MEGAne DRIVE. Worn over the eyes, it translates languages, shows your dreams, and works with hundreds of other peripherals. Here are some of the highlights of the gear as translated from Twitter: "Speed shock! Visual shock! Sound shock! ... More light and more to the emotional." "Tonight is Samurai war, tomorrow is to bike hero when it comes transform." "Your delusional power master MEGAne if?" Needless to say, with marketing phrases like that the MEGAne DRIVE looks to be on track to dominate the VR market. Square Enix decided to make a little goof of their own with a crossover between old-school Final Fantasy and Thief. It is entirely in Japanese and there doesn't seem to be much to interact with or accomplish, but is still pretty amusing. OverClocked Remix has decided to launch their new in-house band with the name Rough McGruff. They also require all band members to have beards. This probably definitely maybe in no way relates to YouTuber Smooth McGroove. The new game mode added to League of Legends today, Ultra Rapid Fire, has the goal of providing maximum fun by eliminating mana and energy, giving all champions 80% cooldown reduction, and doubling the attack speed of ranged champions. Playing the game mode will net players an exclusive icon. BioWare has decided that their online store was incomplete without a Garrus Vakarian Body Pillow. Retailing for $40, the pillow is guaranteed to calibrate to your body and provide support, both on the battlefield and in bed. For those of you who have been on the internet for a while, remember Homestar Runner? The site has been dormant for the past four years, but today marks the end of that humorless dry spell. New content has appeared on the site and reassures everyone that the things they found funny in the early 2000s is still pretty dang funny. Just sit on the intro screen for about 10 seconds to see what's been added. CERN, the European organization that operates the world's largest particle accelerator and is on the cutting edge of science, today decided that its website would better suit the dignity of its institution better if all text on the website was in Comic Sans. To quote CERN's head of communications, James Gillies: This is an important year for CERN and we wanted to make a bold visual statement. We thought the most effective way to communicate our research into the fundamental structure of matter at the very boundaries of technology was by changing the font. And it makes the letters look all round and squishy Blizzard Entertainment had a number of astounding press releases today. To begin, they announced that they would be changing the name of the upcoming expansion to StarCraft II from from Legacy of the Void to Herald of the Stars. Details on the renamed expansion are tantalizing. Blizzard promises new units, weapons, armor, hairstyles, and a dance editor. It also appears that the name change is at least partially due to the desire to keep the same acronym that derived from the current expansion, Heart of the Swarm. Blizzard also announced a new fighting game titled Blizzard Outcasts: Vengeance of the Vanquished. Outcasts features many of Blizzard's second-tier heroes and villains duking it out in glorious 8-bit graphics. Where else can you see Deckard Cain beating down Arcturus Mengsk with an old magic tome? Guild Wars 2 has rolled out the Big Head update in its latest patch, doubling the size of all in-game heads. The reason for this change can be traced back to a study revealed in this photo. It turns out that science has determined that larger heads lead to larger amounts of fun. Happy April Fools' Day everyone!
  9. When we hear news coming out of a big gaming conference like GDC, often it relates to the next big AAA game. However, sometimes that news is about a little game that is hoping to make a difference. Enter: The Forest Project. The Forest Project is a game being put together and crowdsourced by Opaque Multimedia with the goal of using it to provide dementia patients with a soothing visit to a forest, something they might not otherwise be able to experience. using Unreal Engine 4, their goal is to create as high fidelity of an environment as possible, while maintaining easily understood interactive elements. Though dementia patients are the initial target of this endeavor, patients with various cognitive conditions like Alzheimer's or brain trauma could also benefit from the soothing virtual world presented by The Forest Project. Additionally, the game provides care givers with the opportunity to move around a virtual home while experiencing the effects of dementia, allowing them to better understand the people under their care. The idea is that as caregivers better understand their patients, the quality of care goes up. The team at Opaque is looking to raise $90,000 in crowdsourced money to fund their game, a sliver of what many games seek on services like Kickstarter. Should they raise more than their intended goal, more environments are planned like a beach or Christmas-themed areas. Be sure to check out the team's crowdsourcing page if you'd like more information on their project, goals, or if you'd like to be one of their backers. View full article
  10. When we hear news coming out of a big gaming conference like GDC, often it relates to the next big AAA game. However, sometimes that news is about a little game that is hoping to make a difference. Enter: The Forest Project. The Forest Project is a game being put together and crowdsourced by Opaque Multimedia with the goal of using it to provide dementia patients with a soothing visit to a forest, something they might not otherwise be able to experience. using Unreal Engine 4, their goal is to create as high fidelity of an environment as possible, while maintaining easily understood interactive elements. Though dementia patients are the initial target of this endeavor, patients with various cognitive conditions like Alzheimer's or brain trauma could also benefit from the soothing virtual world presented by The Forest Project. Additionally, the game provides care givers with the opportunity to move around a virtual home while experiencing the effects of dementia, allowing them to better understand the people under their care. The idea is that as caregivers better understand their patients, the quality of care goes up. The team at Opaque is looking to raise $90,000 in crowdsourced money to fund their game, a sliver of what many games seek on services like Kickstarter. Should they raise more than their intended goal, more environments are planned like a beach or Christmas-themed areas. Be sure to check out the team's crowdsourcing page if you'd like more information on their project, goals, or if you'd like to be one of their backers.
  11. The five episode documentary series Super Game Jam is shooting to show people what its like to make a game in under 48 hours. Put together by Devolver Digital, the series will focus its attention on five teams of two people each as they attempt to create a game within 24 hours. Each episode of the docu-series will spotlight one of the teams, their struggles, and their journey to create the best game they can under intense time restraints. The average length of each episode will be around 30-40 minutes. This series will be a must see for those who want to better understand the game-making process. April - Episode 1 - Set in Utrecht, Netherland, the premier episode will feature Richard Boeser (Ibb and Obb) and Jan Willem Nijman (Ridiculous Fishing, LUFTRAUSERS). May - Episode 2 - Will be in Berlin, Germany featuring Christoffer Hedborg (Shelter, Pid) and Dominik Johann (Impetus, LAZA KNITEZ!!). June - Episode 3 - Features American game designers Adam Drucker (doseone, Samurai Gunn) and Sos Sosowski (McPixel, Doom Piano) in Oakland, California. July - Episode 4 - Devlolver will take viewers to Gothenburg, Sweden and showcase Martin Jonasson (Rymdkapsel) and Jonatan Söderström (Hotline Miami). August - Episode 5 - Takes place in England, where Tom Francis (Gunpoint) and Liselore Goedhart (Remembering, Nott Won’t Sleep) will create the final game of the documentary. Other than the months shown in the announcement trailer, no firm dates for these episodes has yet surfaced, but we'll let you know when they do. Also, it is important to note that these mini-documentaries will be releasing via Steam. View full article
  12. The five episode documentary series Super Game Jam is shooting to show people what its like to make a game in under 48 hours. Put together by Devolver Digital, the series will focus its attention on five teams of two people each as they attempt to create a game within 24 hours. Each episode of the docu-series will spotlight one of the teams, their struggles, and their journey to create the best game they can under intense time restraints. The average length of each episode will be around 30-40 minutes. This series will be a must see for those who want to better understand the game-making process. April - Episode 1 - Set in Utrecht, Netherland, the premier episode will feature Richard Boeser (Ibb and Obb) and Jan Willem Nijman (Ridiculous Fishing, LUFTRAUSERS). May - Episode 2 - Will be in Berlin, Germany featuring Christoffer Hedborg (Shelter, Pid) and Dominik Johann (Impetus, LAZA KNITEZ!!). June - Episode 3 - Features American game designers Adam Drucker (doseone, Samurai Gunn) and Sos Sosowski (McPixel, Doom Piano) in Oakland, California. July - Episode 4 - Devlolver will take viewers to Gothenburg, Sweden and showcase Martin Jonasson (Rymdkapsel) and Jonatan Söderström (Hotline Miami). August - Episode 5 - Takes place in England, where Tom Francis (Gunpoint) and Liselore Goedhart (Remembering, Nott Won’t Sleep) will create the final game of the documentary. Other than the months shown in the announcement trailer, no firm dates for these episodes has yet surfaced, but we'll let you know when they do. Also, it is important to note that these mini-documentaries will be releasing via Steam.
  13. The film, titled KAZ: Pushing The Virtual Divide, centers around the 15 year evolution of Gran Turismo and Kazunori's development team. Basically, the documentary explores how Kaz has attempted to capture as much of the essence of racing as possible within Gran Turismo. As the film unfolds, it becomes clear that who Kazunori Yamauchi is as a person drove his dedication and commitment to realism and ultimately spread that quality to the rest of the development team. The documentary itself is beautifully shot, with more scenic locations than you might expect from a retrospective look at video game development. People involved in nearly every area of development make an appearance, as well as some professions that draw interesting parallels to Gran Turismo; unexpected guests appear from origami artists and race car drivers to sculptors and surfboard shapers. Though available on Hulu since January 22, the documentary is now being made freely available across various streaming sites including: YouTube, Vimeo, and Reel House. The Vimeo version of KAZ will have English subtitles right off the bat, with Japanese, Spanish, Brazilian Portuguese, and Canadian French added over the next few weeks. The Reel House site will be receiving extra content including downloads for a few of the original songs found in the documentary. View full article
  14. The film, titled KAZ: Pushing The Virtual Divide, centers around the 15 year evolution of Gran Turismo and Kazunori's development team. Basically, the documentary explores how Kaz has attempted to capture as much of the essence of racing as possible within Gran Turismo. As the film unfolds, it becomes clear that who Kazunori Yamauchi is as a person drove his dedication and commitment to realism and ultimately spread that quality to the rest of the development team. The documentary itself is beautifully shot, with more scenic locations than you might expect from a retrospective look at video game development. People involved in nearly every area of development make an appearance, as well as some professions that draw interesting parallels to Gran Turismo; unexpected guests appear from origami artists and race car drivers to sculptors and surfboard shapers. Though available on Hulu since January 22, the documentary is now being made freely available across various streaming sites including: YouTube, Vimeo, and Reel House. The Vimeo version of KAZ will have English subtitles right off the bat, with Japanese, Spanish, Brazilian Portuguese, and Canadian French added over the next few weeks. The Reel House site will be receiving extra content including downloads for a few of the original songs found in the documentary.
  15. After 14 years, China's Ministry of Culture is drafting new rules regarding video game consoles. Surely Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo are salivating at the thought of an untapped market valued at an estimated $10 billion. As of right now, the ban has only been lifted in the free-trade zone of Shanghai. Bloomberg reports that Cai Wu, who heads the Ministry of Culture, will be in charge of writing up new regulations that will be imposed when the ban is fully lifted. The restriction of consoles was put in place in 2000 as a counter-measure against the influence of non-Chinese culture. "Things that are hostile to China, or not in conformity with the outlook of China’s government, won’t be allowed," stated Cai at a press conference earlier today, “We want to open the window a crack to get some fresh air, but we still need a screen to block the flies and mosquitoes." Cai Wu has been operating the Ministry of Culture since 2008 and has relatively moderate views regarding control of the arts. His general stance seems to favor a degree of deregulation of commercial artistic enterprises, which includes video games. While none of the major console manufacturers have announced specific plans for console releases in mainland China, Microsoft has made a $79 million partnership with a Shanghai organization to bring a degree of business to the free-trade zone. View full article
  16. After 14 years, China's Ministry of Culture is drafting new rules regarding video game consoles. Surely Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo are salivating at the thought of an untapped market valued at an estimated $10 billion. As of right now, the ban has only been lifted in the free-trade zone of Shanghai. Bloomberg reports that Cai Wu, who heads the Ministry of Culture, will be in charge of writing up new regulations that will be imposed when the ban is fully lifted. The restriction of consoles was put in place in 2000 as a counter-measure against the influence of non-Chinese culture. "Things that are hostile to China, or not in conformity with the outlook of China’s government, won’t be allowed," stated Cai at a press conference earlier today, “We want to open the window a crack to get some fresh air, but we still need a screen to block the flies and mosquitoes." Cai Wu has been operating the Ministry of Culture since 2008 and has relatively moderate views regarding control of the arts. His general stance seems to favor a degree of deregulation of commercial artistic enterprises, which includes video games. While none of the major console manufacturers have announced specific plans for console releases in mainland China, Microsoft has made a $79 million partnership with a Shanghai organization to bring a degree of business to the free-trade zone.
  17. If there is one thing that I’ve learned from writing in the video game industry it is that people go bananas for top ten lists. Since console generations don’t come along every day, I thought I would take this opportunity to reminisce on the past few years of gaming history and write a list. Ladies and gentlemen, without further ado, I present to you the top ten video games of the previous console age. 10. The Stanley Parable The strength of The Stanley Parable isn’t in its gameplay, which consists only of movement, or aesthetic, which is that of a bland office building. No, the strength of The Stanley Parable lies in the high-caliber writing and the fantastic voice acting by Kevan Brighting as the Narrator. The Stanley Parable explores the issues of game design in a hilarious fashion and makes its points by responding to whatever the player does. The difficulties of creating for an interactive medium are so clearly illustrated by what players decide to do that it is hard, or even impossible, to imagine The Stanley Parable in any other medium because so much of what it has to say is told through a player’s interaction with it. And that is something that I have never experienced to such a degree with anything else in this medium. 9. Sid Meier’s Civilization V It is by no means an overstatement to say that Civilization is one of the best turn-based 4X strategy franchises on the market. While Civilization IV also came out during this generation, the dramatic shift away from squares in favor of hexagons and the elimination of unit stacking opened up more interesting combat scenarios and paths to victory. The end result of revising these mechanics was a much more fluid and exciting game relatively free of massive stacks of units entrenched against each other. Smaller empires became more viable and more mechanics were added later through hefty expansions that deepened the gameplay and added unique paths to victory such as espionage and faith. Civilization V strikes a great balance between the various methods of victory: combat, culture, diplomacy, and science. Other turn-based 4X games that follow in Civ V’s footsteps will surely be taking cues from this shining example of strategy for the foreseeable future, which earns Civilization V a place on this list. 8. Red Dead Redemption One of the biggest problems inherent to the design of open world games has always been effectively conveying impactful stories. Allowing players to goof off or pursue side quests between important plot points often diminishes the effectiveness of an open world game’s storytelling. Red Dead Redemption seems to be the exception to the rule. While there are sidequests and plenty of distractions to keep the completionists busy for years, the main focus of Red Dead Redemption never wavers from protagonist John Marston’s quest to escape the specters of his checkered past and save his family. That dedication to story eventually pays off with what ranks as one of the best video game endings ever that is shocking, sad, anger-inducing, and ultimately satisfying all at once. The ending alone would be enough to elevate red Dead Redemption to a position on this list, but toss in solid third-person shooting mechanics and leaving it out would be a crime. 7. BioShock Infinite I’m just going to come out and say it: BioShock Infinite had the most interesting narrative of any first-person shooter released this generation. Some people might argue that the first BioShock was better in some respects, but Infinite had so much more to offer on a narrative level that it makes the original look like a pale reflection. Themes of racism, isolationism, overzealous nationalism, religious persecution, predestination, and more pervade the game and open it up for interpretation on numerous levels. Furthermore, carrying on BioShock’s tradition of meta-comments on gaming and gamers, the ending of Infinite not only takes into account all of the players of BioShock Infinite, but also retroactively the players of the first BioShock and provides a new perspective on the material in both games. On top of that, Infinite’s city in the clouds was astoundingly beautiful which provided a great contrasted with the horrific violence and bigotry that lurked just beneath the surface of Columbia. Remember, there is always a lighthouse. 6. Mass Effect 3 The culmination of the Mass Effect trilogy was the ultimate payoff for players who had spent years of their lives, two games, and several packs of DLC building up to the final conclusion of a galaxy in peril. After carrying over the same Commander Shepard from game to game along with the baggage of all the difficult decisions made along the way, the finale carried so much meaning for players. Mass Effect 3 was better for all the time spent developing the characters in Mass Effect 1 and 2. The ending left people so vehemently divided because they cared so deeply about the universe of the series and the ending wasn’t what they expected. Was it bad? Personally, I enjoyed the game before the extended ending was released and I enjoyed it afterward. The game was more than its ending, though. Mass Effect 3 was a vast improvement over the first and second entries in the series: the story was more focused, the sidequests were more interesting, and combat was drastically improved to the point that an enjoyable multiplayer could be built around it. More than any of that, though, I loved Mass Effect 3 because after all of the choices I made as a player over the course of five years, the story came to feel personal, like it belonged to me. And, well, that was special. 5. Braid Jonathan Blow’s masterpiece was one of the first big indie hits and became a symbol for what indie developers could achieve in a modern market via digital distribution. What many people found appealing about Braid isn’t hard to see: fantastic art design, interesting time warping mechanics, and an abundance of clever puzzles. At first glance, Braid appears to be a traditional 2D platformer in the vein of Super Mario Bros. However, anyone who believes Braid to be nothing more than a pretty game with cunning mechanics is sorely mistaken. Tim, Braid’s protagonist, becomes the most interesting element of the game by shrewdly playing with the commonly accepted conventions of the platforming genre. By the time the credits roll, Braid has introduced the concept of the unreliable narrator to video games (or would that be the unreliable avatar?) and left a feeling of uncertainty. I’ve played through Braid multiple times and I’m not sure I’ll ever fully understand it, but I am sure that it is one of the most influential games of this generation. 4. Portal Portal is the textbook example of near perfect game design in the modern era of video gaming. Its simple-yet-complex gameplay slowly escalates in difficulty along with a gradually revealed antagonist who is delightfully sadistic and entertaining. The game world similarly reflects the gameplay design by going with a deceptively simple aesthetic. Sterile environments surround the player initially, but eventually cryptic warnings in nooks and crannies start to peel away the benign façade. One of the best parts about Portal is that it knows not to overstay its welcome. The game is long enough to be satisfying and feel like an adventure, but short enough so that the mechanics of the portal gun don’t start to feel overused or gimmicky. Portal isn’t just one of the best games of this generation, but it can hold its own as one of the best video games ever made. 3. Journey The minimalistic, “less is more” approach to game design has always appealed to me since Ico made waves back in 2001. Thatgamecompany has taken a similar design philosophy to heart with fantastic titles like Flow, Flower, and ultimately in their Opus, Journey. Journey is a simple platformer with some minor points of open exploration and only the barest hints of online play, yet its sophistication and subtlety set it so far ahead of most games that it feels transcendent. The animations and art direction are so well crafted that every time you jump you can feel the joy radiating from your character or the tense fear of being hunted. The musical score of Journey can touch even the stoniest of hearts and dredge up considerable emotion. All of these are great, but one of the most remarkable aspects of Journey is the inclusion of drop-in online co-op. Other players online can walk into and out of your game, drastically altering the experience with their presence. Some people are friendly and helpful, others lone wolves with no time to spare. Journey can be funny, sad, angry, lonely, and joyful all at once. Quite simply, Journey is a beautiful game in every sense of the word; a game that everyone should play at least once in their lives. 2. Bastion Developer Supergiant Games is one of the most amazing developers to spring into being this generation. They have a knack for crafting amazing games with a signature artistic and musical flair. Bastion’s quality is obvious from the first minute of gameplay. Playing through the shattered fragments of Bastion’s world is like stepping into a fantastical storybook unlike anything you’ve ever read. The similarities to a story book are further reinforced by the compelling narration that follows players’ every move, emphasizing the simultaneously wonderful and sad fairy tale feel. The amazing soundtrack by Darren Korb is a huge credit to Bastion and works with the other audiovisual components to enthrall players. The story takes unpredictable turns as it gradually unfolds and ultimately leaves players with a heartbreaking choice. Bastion is a fairy tale that spellbinds players and doesn’t let go until the credits roll. 1. Minecraft The sheer genius of Minecraft is that it gives players a set of tools and then unleashes them within a world that is practically infinite. That world, and by extension the game, can become pretty much anything the player wants it to be. Feel like building something without having to worry about pesky things like deadly monsters or dangerous falls? You can play in a creative world where you have the ability to fly and have access to infinite resources. Do you want a more adventurous experience? Start a survival world and brave the horrors of night and Nether to find the gateway to The End. Content update after content update have been added to the game for free since its release, leading to more blocks, more monsters, more… everything. While offline Minecraft certainly shines, playing online with friends and tackling a colossal project or deciding to journey together into the unknown begets a spirit of camaraderie and excitement unrivaled by many triple-A releases. On top of that, Minecraft’s simplistic aesthetic strikes me as incredibly beautiful, to say nothing of the endless supply of texture packs which add new visual effects. The massive popularity of Minecraft speaks to how much it resonates with its players, and while popularity doesn’t necessarily indicate quality in any form of media, in this case it is not hard to see why so many people have fallen in love with the title. No other games this generation come remotely close to what Minecraft offers its audience: The chance to unlock pure imagination. Feel free to tell me how wrong I am, agree with me, or even better share your own lists in the comments. View full article
  18. If there is one thing that I’ve learned from writing in the video game industry it is that people go bananas for top ten lists. Since console generations don’t come along every day, I thought I would take this opportunity to reminisce on the past few years of gaming history and write a list. Ladies and gentlemen, without further ado, I present to you the top ten video games of the previous console age. 10. The Stanley Parable The strength of The Stanley Parable isn’t in its gameplay, which consists only of movement, or aesthetic, which is that of a bland office building. No, the strength of The Stanley Parable lies in the high-caliber writing and the fantastic voice acting by Kevan Brighting as the Narrator. The Stanley Parable explores the issues of game design in a hilarious fashion and makes its points by responding to whatever the player does. The difficulties of creating for an interactive medium are so clearly illustrated by what players decide to do that it is hard, or even impossible, to imagine The Stanley Parable in any other medium because so much of what it has to say is told through a player’s interaction with it. And that is something that I have never experienced to such a degree with anything else in this medium. 9. Sid Meier’s Civilization V It is by no means an overstatement to say that Civilization is one of the best turn-based 4X strategy franchises on the market. While Civilization IV also came out during this generation, the dramatic shift away from squares in favor of hexagons and the elimination of unit stacking opened up more interesting combat scenarios and paths to victory. The end result of revising these mechanics was a much more fluid and exciting game relatively free of massive stacks of units entrenched against each other. Smaller empires became more viable and more mechanics were added later through hefty expansions that deepened the gameplay and added unique paths to victory such as espionage and faith. Civilization V strikes a great balance between the various methods of victory: combat, culture, diplomacy, and science. Other turn-based 4X games that follow in Civ V’s footsteps will surely be taking cues from this shining example of strategy for the foreseeable future, which earns Civilization V a place on this list. 8. Red Dead Redemption One of the biggest problems inherent to the design of open world games has always been effectively conveying impactful stories. Allowing players to goof off or pursue side quests between important plot points often diminishes the effectiveness of an open world game’s storytelling. Red Dead Redemption seems to be the exception to the rule. While there are sidequests and plenty of distractions to keep the completionists busy for years, the main focus of Red Dead Redemption never wavers from protagonist John Marston’s quest to escape the specters of his checkered past and save his family. That dedication to story eventually pays off with what ranks as one of the best video game endings ever that is shocking, sad, anger-inducing, and ultimately satisfying all at once. The ending alone would be enough to elevate red Dead Redemption to a position on this list, but toss in solid third-person shooting mechanics and leaving it out would be a crime. 7. BioShock Infinite I’m just going to come out and say it: BioShock Infinite had the most interesting narrative of any first-person shooter released this generation. Some people might argue that the first BioShock was better in some respects, but Infinite had so much more to offer on a narrative level that it makes the original look like a pale reflection. Themes of racism, isolationism, overzealous nationalism, religious persecution, predestination, and more pervade the game and open it up for interpretation on numerous levels. Furthermore, carrying on BioShock’s tradition of meta-comments on gaming and gamers, the ending of Infinite not only takes into account all of the players of BioShock Infinite, but also retroactively the players of the first BioShock and provides a new perspective on the material in both games. On top of that, Infinite’s city in the clouds was astoundingly beautiful which provided a great contrasted with the horrific violence and bigotry that lurked just beneath the surface of Columbia. Remember, there is always a lighthouse. 6. Mass Effect 3 The culmination of the Mass Effect trilogy was the ultimate payoff for players who had spent years of their lives, two games, and several packs of DLC building up to the final conclusion of a galaxy in peril. After carrying over the same Commander Shepard from game to game along with the baggage of all the difficult decisions made along the way, the finale carried so much meaning for players. Mass Effect 3 was better for all the time spent developing the characters in Mass Effect 1 and 2. The ending left people so vehemently divided because they cared so deeply about the universe of the series and the ending wasn’t what they expected. Was it bad? Personally, I enjoyed the game before the extended ending was released and I enjoyed it afterward. The game was more than its ending, though. Mass Effect 3 was a vast improvement over the first and second entries in the series: the story was more focused, the sidequests were more interesting, and combat was drastically improved to the point that an enjoyable multiplayer could be built around it. More than any of that, though, I loved Mass Effect 3 because after all of the choices I made as a player over the course of five years, the story came to feel personal, like it belonged to me. And, well, that was special. 5. Braid Jonathan Blow’s masterpiece was one of the first big indie hits and became a symbol for what indie developers could achieve in a modern market via digital distribution. What many people found appealing about Braid isn’t hard to see: fantastic art design, interesting time warping mechanics, and an abundance of clever puzzles. At first glance, Braid appears to be a traditional 2D platformer in the vein of Super Mario Bros. However, anyone who believes Braid to be nothing more than a pretty game with cunning mechanics is sorely mistaken. Tim, Braid’s protagonist, becomes the most interesting element of the game by shrewdly playing with the commonly accepted conventions of the platforming genre. By the time the credits roll, Braid has introduced the concept of the unreliable narrator to video games (or would that be the unreliable avatar?) and left a feeling of uncertainty. I’ve played through Braid multiple times and I’m not sure I’ll ever fully understand it, but I am sure that it is one of the most influential games of this generation. 4. Portal Portal is the textbook example of near perfect game design in the modern era of video gaming. Its simple-yet-complex gameplay slowly escalates in difficulty along with a gradually revealed antagonist who is delightfully sadistic and entertaining. The game world similarly reflects the gameplay design by going with a deceptively simple aesthetic. Sterile environments surround the player initially, but eventually cryptic warnings in nooks and crannies start to peel away the benign façade. One of the best parts about Portal is that it knows not to overstay its welcome. The game is long enough to be satisfying and feel like an adventure, but short enough so that the mechanics of the portal gun don’t start to feel overused or gimmicky. Portal isn’t just one of the best games of this generation, but it can hold its own as one of the best video games ever made. 3. Journey The minimalistic, “less is more” approach to game design has always appealed to me since Ico made waves back in 2001. Thatgamecompany has taken a similar design philosophy to heart with fantastic titles like Flow, Flower, and ultimately in their Opus, Journey. Journey is a simple platformer with some minor points of open exploration and only the barest hints of online play, yet its sophistication and subtlety set it so far ahead of most games that it feels transcendent. The animations and art direction are so well crafted that every time you jump you can feel the joy radiating from your character or the tense fear of being hunted. The musical score of Journey can touch even the stoniest of hearts and dredge up considerable emotion. All of these are great, but one of the most remarkable aspects of Journey is the inclusion of drop-in online co-op. Other players online can walk into and out of your game, drastically altering the experience with their presence. Some people are friendly and helpful, others lone wolves with no time to spare. Journey can be funny, sad, angry, lonely, and joyful all at once. Quite simply, Journey is a beautiful game in every sense of the word; a game that everyone should play at least once in their lives. 2. Bastion Developer Supergiant Games is one of the most amazing developers to spring into being this generation. They have a knack for crafting amazing games with a signature artistic and musical flair. Bastion’s quality is obvious from the first minute of gameplay. Playing through the shattered fragments of Bastion’s world is like stepping into a fantastical storybook unlike anything you’ve ever read. The similarities to a story book are further reinforced by the compelling narration that follows players’ every move, emphasizing the simultaneously wonderful and sad fairy tale feel. The amazing soundtrack by Darren Korb is a huge credit to Bastion and works with the other audiovisual components to enthrall players. The story takes unpredictable turns as it gradually unfolds and ultimately leaves players with a heartbreaking choice. Bastion is a fairy tale that spellbinds players and doesn’t let go until the credits roll. 1. Minecraft The sheer genius of Minecraft is that it gives players a set of tools and then unleashes them within a world that is practically infinite. That world, and by extension the game, can become pretty much anything the player wants it to be. Feel like building something without having to worry about pesky things like deadly monsters or dangerous falls? You can play in a creative world where you have the ability to fly and have access to infinite resources. Do you want a more adventurous experience? Start a survival world and brave the horrors of night and Nether to find the gateway to The End. Content update after content update have been added to the game for free since its release, leading to more blocks, more monsters, more… everything. While offline Minecraft certainly shines, playing online with friends and tackling a colossal project or deciding to journey together into the unknown begets a spirit of camaraderie and excitement unrivaled by many triple-A releases. On top of that, Minecraft’s simplistic aesthetic strikes me as incredibly beautiful, to say nothing of the endless supply of texture packs which add new visual effects. The massive popularity of Minecraft speaks to how much it resonates with its players, and while popularity doesn’t necessarily indicate quality in any form of media, in this case it is not hard to see why so many people have fallen in love with the title. No other games this generation come remotely close to what Minecraft offers its audience: The chance to unlock pure imagination. Feel free to tell me how wrong I am, agree with me, or even better share your own lists in the comments.
  19. At some point, everyone who participates in Extra Life has no idea what they are going to play for 24 (this year 25!) hours. Some people plan out their gaming session weeks or months in advance, others decide to wing the whole event, giving it no forethought. Then there are the people who are caught somewhere in-between those two groups. Hopefully, if you are one of those individuals wracking your brains regarding what titles you'll be playing for 25 hours, this list of suggestions will help you narrow down your options. As we all know, livestreaming games has become one of the most popular activities marathon-ing activities for Extra Lifers. Broadcasting gameplay to the world, raising money from strangers to do ridiculous things or talk in funny voices, it sounds like a relatively simple. However, one of the tricks to putting on a successful livestream is picking games that people will be interested in watching. Streamers need to hook viewers in with something weird, fast-paced, relevant, or nostalgic. Here are some ideas to consider if you are planning to go the livestream route. StarCraft II/League of Legends/Dota 2 - All three of these games have several things in common, but most importantly they are fast-paced, fun, and three of the most played games in the world. Have some gaps in your schedule? You might want to consider showing off your pro gamer skill. Alternatively, grab several friends and undertake a mission to be as silly as possible in your games. Mass reaper rush? All Yordles, all mid? Courier-minion push? The possibilities are endless(ly entertaining)! Also, all three are free (thought the free version of StarCraft II is pretty limited), so what are you waiting for? Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time - Some people just want to see one of their favorite games from the past replayed. With the live chat functions, viewers can shout out encouragement, reveal secrets in the level, and berate marathoners for skipping side quests. Ocarina of Time is a great option for streamers because it holds entire warehouses of nostalgia for gamers who played it back in 1999 and is still incredibly fun to play. Also, give someone grief if they are going to skip the Biggoron’s Sword quest. Shadow of the Colossus - The goal is to show viewers a game they may have never seen before or a type of game that they would never play/have the opportunity to play on their own. Shadow of the Colossus accomplishes this because there has never been a game quite like it, aesthetically or structurally. Sharing unique experiences is the lifeblood of an interesting livestreaming event and Shadow of the Colossus is certainly an experience worth sharing. Outlast - If there is one thing that people love to see on a livestream more than anything else is someone devolve into a laughing blubber-mess while playing a video game. Horror game accomplish this feat with ease, especially if they are actually designed well. There are millions of videos of people trying to play Amnesia: The Dark Descent, so why not play Outlast, a game that improves on the formula set forth by Amnesia. Just remember to bring your safety blanket in case you need to hide from the monsters. Dark Souls - Overcoming seemingly impossible challenges is fun to watch for spectators; almost as much fun as watching someone rage at a video game. Blisteringly difficult titles like Dark Souls or Demon Souls fit both accounts marvelously. Just make sure that people know your stream is going to be NSFW if you are planning to cuss like a sailor after the Taurus demon beats you senseless for the fourteenth time. There is a small but ever-growing subset of games that can only be described as bizarre. These oddities are a blast to play with a small group of friends or as a livestream event. Some fall into the category of so-bad-they're-good, while others are mystifyingly strange, yet intriguing. People love to watch these spectacles unfold and love even more when people are confounded by outdated controls, terrible graphics, or awkward design decisions. Deadly Premonition - There is something charming, yet utterly broken about Deadly Premonition. Animations look odd, characters are baffling, and the story is full of things like invisible friends, squirrel-obsessed nuts, and imaginary zombies. And pop-culture references. Lots of pop culture references. OverBlood - If you want to see one of the least terrifying horror games from the early days of the PS1, look no further than cult favorite OverBlood. Polygonal zombies, awkward relationships with robots, archaic game design and more contribute to one of the most entertaining spectacle games. Earth Defense Force 2017 - Have you ever wanted to have access to weapons with infinite ammo and take on hundreds of giant ants, giant spiders, flying saucers, and death robots? If your answer is something resembling yes, then you might want to check out EDF 2017. The gameplay is incredibly fun and everything from the story to the animations to the over-the-top-weapon-effects is silly. Oh, and it is co-op. Grab a friend and blast everything that moves. Mr. Mosquito - In Mr. Mosquito you play as a mosquito/robot that preys upon a Japanese family. As you suck their blood, you slowly drive the family insane. Strangely enough, this game is actually pretty fun. Where else are you going to see a Japanese mother doing back-flips and uttering death threats to a mosquito? El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron - Honestly, it is pretty hard to describe El Shaddai other than by saying it is what I'd imagine an acid trip would look like. When it first came out, I played through it and took notes. A few excerpts from those notes: “Creepy line lady,” “Face sticks,” “Girl on a ghost sheet, thing,” and “running on cloud waves.” If you want to play a visually stunning and mentally befuddling title, it might be time to meet the ascending Metatron. Sometimes gamers are in it for the long haul. They want a game that can occupy their attention for an entire 24-hour (or 25-hour) marathon. There are a number of quality games out there, but many of them simply aren't long enough to involve a person or a group of people for a whole day. Luckily, we came up with a few ideas for games that can last for weeks and sometimes years. Total War: Rome II - Just start a campaign of Total War. Just... start one. I recently finished my first full campaign of Rome II. I would not have been able to finish it within the Extra Life time frame. Can any of you finish a Total War: Rome II campaign during Extra Life? *Throws down the gauntlet.* If so, you should let us know and maybe we can recognize your achievement. Civilization V - There is literally a marathon setting for Civilization. However, even on the quick setting, one game of Civilization can easily kill time for an entire Extra Life marathon. If you are playing a Civ game with friends, all the backstabbing, backroom deals, and the just-one-more-turn nature of Civilization are perfectly suited to a 25-hour gaming session. Sins of a Solar Empire - Sins of a Solar Empire has been around for five years and might not be as well-known as other RTS games like StarCraft, but the scale of the game is well beyond any other RTS I've encountered. Players conquer solar systems that can encompass dozens or hundreds of worlds with fleet sizes that can number in the thousands. The game is paced slowly, but can quickly ratchet up the tension when large scale conflicts ensue. Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch - Role-playing games have a long and storied tradition of lasting for a year and a day. If you want to cultivate the patience of a Jedi, play through all of the Final Fantasy games in sequential order. Ni no Kuni is no different, but it is well worth spending the time playing, if for no other reason than to witness the beautiful world created by the famed Studio Ghibli. XCOM: Enemy Unknown - A game that revolves around tactical, grid-based combat and fighting off an alien invasion that can last for hours and hours with the fate of your squads and humanity resting on every choice that you make? Yes, please. XCOM will stretch you to the limits of your tactical prowess and it won't pull any punches on the higher difficulties, nor will it allow you to reload earlier saves if you lock yourself into an iron man mode. While longer games are great, there is something to be said about games that you can finish in one sitting. Some gamers have large backlogs of games that they’ve been meaning to play, but haven’t gotten around to finishing. With 25 hours to fill, now is a great opportunity to play some of those smaller games that may have fallen off the radar. If you want to play and finish multiple games within the broad confines of the Extra Life marathon, here are some ideas to consider. Call of Juarez: Gunslinger - One of my favorite games from this year, Call of Juarez: Gunslinger is a fast-paced, arcade-y FPS that takes place as an old drifter is telling about his life as a bounty hunter. Of course, since it is a story, embellishments occur and the levels shift around you as you play. It is pretty creative and fun. And of course, you can play this game from start to finish and still have time for other games during your marathon. The Stanley Parable - The Stanley Parable has a limited appeal. It has a lot of things to say about philosophy, game design, choices, and storytelling. If you aren't interested in those topics, then The Stanley Parable might not be for you. You control Stanley as he walks through an office building to discover where his co-workers have gone. Every choice you make has consequences, but then again, every choice you make has no consequences. That previous sentence sums up the title rather well. If you play through the game once, it might take you around a half-hour to finish. Playing through several times trying to see all there is to see, will take maybe three hours. Mark of the Ninja - One of the best stealth games in recent memory, mark of the Ninja places players in the role of a ninja who has been marked, giving him terrible power, but at a price. The gameplay is tight and the stealth feels simple and fair. The game can be completed in about five hours the first time, through, but in as little as two or three hours (possibly even less than an hour?) by someone who really knows what they are doing. Brothers - A Tale of Two Sons - Brothers is a neat little indie game from Starbreeze studios. Made in collaboration with Swedish filmmaker Josef Farnes, the game revolves around two brothers searching for a cure for their ailing father. Gameplay revolves around having the two brothers interact with the environment and solve basic puzzles. The end result is a roughly three hour long work of beauty that leaves players satisfied. The Wolf Among Us - The latest episodic series from Telltale is pretty enthralling. Characters are interesting, the plot thickens in a satisfying manner, and, as of right now, there is only one episode available, which means that the completion of The Wolf Among Us takes only a few scant hours. On November 2nd, not just video games can be played. Tabletop games are also more than welcome. If you're leaning toward gathering a few friends and throwing dice or flipping cards, we have a few suggestions so you aren't completely without ideas. Risk - This game has ruined friendships. People tend to get mad when you break a diplomatic arrangement in an attempt to conquer all of Asia. There are numerous variations of Risk (my favorite being Lord of the Rings) and most of them are pretty fun. You just need to be able to gather a group of people who are willing to spend several hours or days with you, depending on the luck of the dice. If you are lucky enough to have such true friends, be careful who you stab in the back in your quest for world domination. Arkham Horror - Set in the midst of a Lovecraftian Armageddon, Arkham Horror tasks players to work together to stop a randomly selected horror from beyond time and space from coming into our dimension and destroying everything. Monsters must be fought, clues must be found, and be careful not to lose your mind to madness. Munchkin - Another game that destroys friendships (I had a friend who nearly flipped our game table), Munchkin combines various fantasy tropes and very basic Dungeons and Dragons concepts into a simple, fun card game. There are oodles of expansions that bring in other genres, like Westerns, Sci-Fi, etc. and can be combined with the core Munchkin deck. Any Tabletop RPG - There are an awful lot of pen and paper RPGs out there and there is no reason why people can't summon up their Dungeons and Dragons or Exalted or World of Darkness groups to run a huge role-playing session. Maybe you are finally having that long-awaited final confrontation with the main villain that would otherwise take three or four sessions to conclude, or maybe you are going to start a new campaign and want to have a really cool, prolonged inciting incident. There are tons of possibilities. Settlers of Catan - If you've never played Settlers of Catan, the name might make it sound a bit odd. The basic premise is that a bunch of different people decide to settle this island called Catan and begin building settlements and roads with the goal of becoming the most powerful faction on the island. Building requires resources, which need to be acquired from the surrounding countryside or by trading with other players. Settlers quickly becomes similar to a poker game, with each player trying to bamboozle the other into thinking they aren't far enough along in their faction's development to pose a game-ending threat. It might be worth a look if you've never tried it. That's all of our recommendations for now, but we'd love to hear some of yours! Share in the comments below or on Facebook to give more ideas on what you think would be good games for the marathon. View full article
  20. At some point, everyone who participates in Extra Life has no idea what they are going to play for 24 (this year 25!) hours. Some people plan out their gaming session weeks or months in advance, others decide to wing the whole event, giving it no forethought. Then there are the people who are caught somewhere in-between those two groups. Hopefully, if you are one of those individuals wracking your brains regarding what titles you'll be playing for 25 hours, this list of suggestions will help you narrow down your options. As we all know, livestreaming games has become one of the most popular activities marathon-ing activities for Extra Lifers. Broadcasting gameplay to the world, raising money from strangers to do ridiculous things or talk in funny voices, it sounds like a relatively simple. However, one of the tricks to putting on a successful livestream is picking games that people will be interested in watching. Streamers need to hook viewers in with something weird, fast-paced, relevant, or nostalgic. Here are some ideas to consider if you are planning to go the livestream route. StarCraft II/League of Legends/Dota 2 - All three of these games have several things in common, but most importantly they are fast-paced, fun, and three of the most played games in the world. Have some gaps in your schedule? You might want to consider showing off your pro gamer skill. Alternatively, grab several friends and undertake a mission to be as silly as possible in your games. Mass reaper rush? All Yordles, all mid? Courier-minion push? The possibilities are endless(ly entertaining)! Also, all three are free (thought the free version of StarCraft II is pretty limited), so what are you waiting for? Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time - Some people just want to see one of their favorite games from the past replayed. With the live chat functions, viewers can shout out encouragement, reveal secrets in the level, and berate marathoners for skipping side quests. Ocarina of Time is a great option for streamers because it holds entire warehouses of nostalgia for gamers who played it back in 1999 and is still incredibly fun to play. Also, give someone grief if they are going to skip the Biggoron’s Sword quest. Shadow of the Colossus - The goal is to show viewers a game they may have never seen before or a type of game that they would never play/have the opportunity to play on their own. Shadow of the Colossus accomplishes this because there has never been a game quite like it, aesthetically or structurally. Sharing unique experiences is the lifeblood of an interesting livestreaming event and Shadow of the Colossus is certainly an experience worth sharing. Outlast - If there is one thing that people love to see on a livestream more than anything else is someone devolve into a laughing blubber-mess while playing a video game. Horror game accomplish this feat with ease, especially if they are actually designed well. There are millions of videos of people trying to play Amnesia: The Dark Descent, so why not play Outlast, a game that improves on the formula set forth by Amnesia. Just remember to bring your safety blanket in case you need to hide from the monsters. Dark Souls - Overcoming seemingly impossible challenges is fun to watch for spectators; almost as much fun as watching someone rage at a video game. Blisteringly difficult titles like Dark Souls or Demon Souls fit both accounts marvelously. Just make sure that people know your stream is going to be NSFW if you are planning to cuss like a sailor after the Taurus demon beats you senseless for the fourteenth time. There is a small but ever-growing subset of games that can only be described as bizarre. These oddities are a blast to play with a small group of friends or as a livestream event. Some fall into the category of so-bad-they're-good, while others are mystifyingly strange, yet intriguing. People love to watch these spectacles unfold and love even more when people are confounded by outdated controls, terrible graphics, or awkward design decisions. Deadly Premonition - There is something charming, yet utterly broken about Deadly Premonition. Animations look odd, characters are baffling, and the story is full of things like invisible friends, squirrel-obsessed nuts, and imaginary zombies. And pop-culture references. Lots of pop culture references. OverBlood - If you want to see one of the least terrifying horror games from the early days of the PS1, look no further than cult favorite OverBlood. Polygonal zombies, awkward relationships with robots, archaic game design and more contribute to one of the most entertaining spectacle games. Earth Defense Force 2017 - Have you ever wanted to have access to weapons with infinite ammo and take on hundreds of giant ants, giant spiders, flying saucers, and death robots? If your answer is something resembling yes, then you might want to check out EDF 2017. The gameplay is incredibly fun and everything from the story to the animations to the over-the-top-weapon-effects is silly. Oh, and it is co-op. Grab a friend and blast everything that moves. Mr. Mosquito - In Mr. Mosquito you play as a mosquito/robot that preys upon a Japanese family. As you suck their blood, you slowly drive the family insane. Strangely enough, this game is actually pretty fun. Where else are you going to see a Japanese mother doing back-flips and uttering death threats to a mosquito? El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron - Honestly, it is pretty hard to describe El Shaddai other than by saying it is what I'd imagine an acid trip would look like. When it first came out, I played through it and took notes. A few excerpts from those notes: “Creepy line lady,” “Face sticks,” “Girl on a ghost sheet, thing,” and “running on cloud waves.” If you want to play a visually stunning and mentally befuddling title, it might be time to meet the ascending Metatron. Sometimes gamers are in it for the long haul. They want a game that can occupy their attention for an entire 24-hour (or 25-hour) marathon. There are a number of quality games out there, but many of them simply aren't long enough to involve a person or a group of people for a whole day. Luckily, we came up with a few ideas for games that can last for weeks and sometimes years. Total War: Rome II - Just start a campaign of Total War. Just... start one. I recently finished my first full campaign of Rome II. I would not have been able to finish it within the Extra Life time frame. Can any of you finish a Total War: Rome II campaign during Extra Life? *Throws down the gauntlet.* If so, you should let us know and maybe we can recognize your achievement. Civilization V - There is literally a marathon setting for Civilization. However, even on the quick setting, one game of Civilization can easily kill time for an entire Extra Life marathon. If you are playing a Civ game with friends, all the backstabbing, backroom deals, and the just-one-more-turn nature of Civilization are perfectly suited to a 25-hour gaming session. Sins of a Solar Empire - Sins of a Solar Empire has been around for five years and might not be as well-known as other RTS games like StarCraft, but the scale of the game is well beyond any other RTS I've encountered. Players conquer solar systems that can encompass dozens or hundreds of worlds with fleet sizes that can number in the thousands. The game is paced slowly, but can quickly ratchet up the tension when large scale conflicts ensue. Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch - Role-playing games have a long and storied tradition of lasting for a year and a day. If you want to cultivate the patience of a Jedi, play through all of the Final Fantasy games in sequential order. Ni no Kuni is no different, but it is well worth spending the time playing, if for no other reason than to witness the beautiful world created by the famed Studio Ghibli. XCOM: Enemy Unknown - A game that revolves around tactical, grid-based combat and fighting off an alien invasion that can last for hours and hours with the fate of your squads and humanity resting on every choice that you make? Yes, please. XCOM will stretch you to the limits of your tactical prowess and it won't pull any punches on the higher difficulties, nor will it allow you to reload earlier saves if you lock yourself into an iron man mode. While longer games are great, there is something to be said about games that you can finish in one sitting. Some gamers have large backlogs of games that they’ve been meaning to play, but haven’t gotten around to finishing. With 25 hours to fill, now is a great opportunity to play some of those smaller games that may have fallen off the radar. If you want to play and finish multiple games within the broad confines of the Extra Life marathon, here are some ideas to consider. Call of Juarez: Gunslinger - One of my favorite games from this year, Call of Juarez: Gunslinger is a fast-paced, arcade-y FPS that takes place as an old drifter is telling about his life as a bounty hunter. Of course, since it is a story, embellishments occur and the levels shift around you as you play. It is pretty creative and fun. And of course, you can play this game from start to finish and still have time for other games during your marathon. The Stanley Parable - The Stanley Parable has a limited appeal. It has a lot of things to say about philosophy, game design, choices, and storytelling. If you aren't interested in those topics, then The Stanley Parable might not be for you. You control Stanley as he walks through an office building to discover where his co-workers have gone. Every choice you make has consequences, but then again, every choice you make has no consequences. That previous sentence sums up the title rather well. If you play through the game once, it might take you around a half-hour to finish. Playing through several times trying to see all there is to see, will take maybe three hours. Mark of the Ninja - One of the best stealth games in recent memory, mark of the Ninja places players in the role of a ninja who has been marked, giving him terrible power, but at a price. The gameplay is tight and the stealth feels simple and fair. The game can be completed in about five hours the first time, through, but in as little as two or three hours (possibly even less than an hour?) by someone who really knows what they are doing. Brothers - A Tale of Two Sons - Brothers is a neat little indie game from Starbreeze studios. Made in collaboration with Swedish filmmaker Josef Farnes, the game revolves around two brothers searching for a cure for their ailing father. Gameplay revolves around having the two brothers interact with the environment and solve basic puzzles. The end result is a roughly three hour long work of beauty that leaves players satisfied. The Wolf Among Us - The latest episodic series from Telltale is pretty enthralling. Characters are interesting, the plot thickens in a satisfying manner, and, as of right now, there is only one episode available, which means that the completion of The Wolf Among Us takes only a few scant hours. On November 2nd, not just video games can be played. Tabletop games are also more than welcome. If you're leaning toward gathering a few friends and throwing dice or flipping cards, we have a few suggestions so you aren't completely without ideas. Risk - This game has ruined friendships. People tend to get mad when you break a diplomatic arrangement in an attempt to conquer all of Asia. There are numerous variations of Risk (my favorite being Lord of the Rings) and most of them are pretty fun. You just need to be able to gather a group of people who are willing to spend several hours or days with you, depending on the luck of the dice. If you are lucky enough to have such true friends, be careful who you stab in the back in your quest for world domination. Arkham Horror - Set in the midst of a Lovecraftian Armageddon, Arkham Horror tasks players to work together to stop a randomly selected horror from beyond time and space from coming into our dimension and destroying everything. Monsters must be fought, clues must be found, and be careful not to lose your mind to madness. Munchkin - Another game that destroys friendships (I had a friend who nearly flipped our game table), Munchkin combines various fantasy tropes and very basic Dungeons and Dragons concepts into a simple, fun card game. There are oodles of expansions that bring in other genres, like Westerns, Sci-Fi, etc. and can be combined with the core Munchkin deck. Any Tabletop RPG - There are an awful lot of pen and paper RPGs out there and there is no reason why people can't summon up their Dungeons and Dragons or Exalted or World of Darkness groups to run a huge role-playing session. Maybe you are finally having that long-awaited final confrontation with the main villain that would otherwise take three or four sessions to conclude, or maybe you are going to start a new campaign and want to have a really cool, prolonged inciting incident. There are tons of possibilities. Settlers of Catan - If you've never played Settlers of Catan, the name might make it sound a bit odd. The basic premise is that a bunch of different people decide to settle this island called Catan and begin building settlements and roads with the goal of becoming the most powerful faction on the island. Building requires resources, which need to be acquired from the surrounding countryside or by trading with other players. Settlers quickly becomes similar to a poker game, with each player trying to bamboozle the other into thinking they aren't far enough along in their faction's development to pose a game-ending threat. It might be worth a look if you've never tried it. That's all of our recommendations for now, but we'd love to hear some of yours! Share in the comments below or on Facebook to give more ideas on what you think would be good games for the marathon.
  21. With Halloween right around the corner and fright-filled games like Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs and Outlast lurking on store shelves, we here at Extra Life thought it would be a great opportunity to delve into the origins of video game horror and get some insight into how the genre has evolved. Though people debate over what exactly constitutes the very first horror game, the earliest one argued for is Mystery House, an Apple II adventure game from 1980. The title was one of the first adventure games to feature graphics and was the first game created by Roberta Williams, who later went on to make the long-running King’s Quest series. Mystery House locked players in an old, Victorian mansion with several other people and a murderer on the loose. The player must figure out the identity of the psychopath before he or she is the last victim. In what became a trend for following games attempting creepy atmosphere and visuals, the story was based on a pre-existing property, in this case Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None. The other game most often credited as one of the first games designed to scare players was Haunted House (where are people finding all of these scary houses?) released for the Atari 2600 in 1982. Due to the limitations of the system, the game didn’t look like much with pixels roughly the size of fists. The player, represented by a pair of eyeballs, has entered a haunted house to retrieve pieces of an urn that belonged to the late Zachary Graves. Spooky things like spiders, bats, and ghosts hid around the house and had to be avoided at all costs. The unnerving mechanic which separated this title from others of the time consisted of the character’s use of matches as a light source. The matches gave vision for a few seconds before they would go out or whenever an enemy entered the same screen as the player. This gave Haunted House a feeling of tension and suspense as you never knew when you might be in danger. Over the following years, there was a period of games which, though they drew heavily on horror imagery, weren’t necessarily horror games in the true sense. Many of them were simply cash-ins on famous movies, going for shock value with depictions of violence that hadn’t been seen in video games at that point (Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Halloween, The Evil Dead). Other attempts at horror games during this time were adventure games attempting to capitalize on famous horror properties like Dracula, Jack the Ripper, Frankenstein, and Wolfman. One of the few original games to attempt horror between 1982 and 1989 was the 1986 arcade light-gun shooter called Chiller which places players in the role of a torturer with the goal of torturing people in the most efficient and gruesome manner possible. The game ended up being less horror and more horrible, falling into the same camp as the movie cash-ins going for shock rather than substantial scares. The game wasn’t widely known due to how few arcades were willing to host the cabinets on their premises due to its distasteful content. People can debate the first “real” horror game prior to 1989, but that year the genre undeniably solidified around two video games: Project Firestart in the West and Sweet Home in Japan. Project Firestart hit the Commodore 64 toward the end of the console’s lifespan after a long and troubled development process in the hands of Dynamix. In an effort to create durable laborers to work in space mines, the nations of Earth began dabbling with genetic engineering. What could possibly go wrong? When the research space station in charge of safely producing space mining monsters stops responding, it becomes the player’s job to find out why. Upon reaching the station, it basically becomes a side-scrolling Dead Space, almost 20 years before Dead Space was a twinkle in the eyes of its development team. The player is tasked with figuring out what went wrong on the station and search for survivors. Firestart introduced numerous concepts such as limited ammo, terrifyingly strong enemies, and journal entries that fleshed out the events and world; ideas still present in many games of the horror genre today. The Japan-only Sweet Home released in late 1989 for the Famicom as a spin-off of a movie of the same name. Rather than being an attempt to milk money out of the relative success of the film, the game attempted to be a genuinely unnerving game. Following the plot of the film, Sweet Home begins with five people arriving at the Mamiya mansion to recover valuable paintings that had been left there by its previous owners. Upon entering, they become trapped by a malevolent spirit and must battle their way through ghosts and monsters to find an exit without being crushed by the crumbling building. Each character has a special ability or item that helps traverse the environment or aids in the random battles. Each character also could be permanently killed and there were five different endings depending on how many people survived their ordeal in the mansion. Additionally, each character had a very limited inventory to carry items for combat or puzzle solving, creepy journal entries were scattered around to flesh out the story of mansion, and the narrative was certainly creepy and unexpectedly dark for a game at that time. For the next few years the genre wouldn’t see any development outside of more video game adaptations of horror films like Clive Barker’s Hellraiser and A Nightmare on Elm Street. However, in 1992 Alone in The Dark became the first widely successful horror game, exploding the genre out of its niche. Developed by Infogrames (that isn’t a typo) and released on PC, Alone in The Dark was the first 3D horror game. It added its own innovations to the horror formula through the addition of “tank controls,” false audio cues to alert players to non-existent danger, and dramatic fixed camera angles. Infogrames understood that having elements of unpredictability could toy with players’ expectations to effectively deliver scares. The story, from either the perspective of a private investigator or an inquisitive niece, was also fittingly dark dealing with death, hangings, and other gruesome monsters. After entering the old Derceto Mansion to investigate a recent suicide, the player becomes trapped and evil begins to manifest throughout the mansion. Gameplay focused on solving puzzles and managing limited inventory space, as well as some light combat elements. After clearing a portion of the mansion, the entire mansion became open for exploration leading to an unnerving sense of freedom as enemies stalked the building. After the success of Alone in The Dark, the video game industry began to realize that some players actually wanted to be scared by their games. What followed could be seen as the blossoming of the horror genre, a growth that included memorable successes, forgotten gems, and many hilarious failures. View full article
  22. With Halloween right around the corner and fright-filled games like Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs and Outlast lurking on store shelves, we here at Extra Life thought it would be a great opportunity to delve into the origins of video game horror and get some insight into how the genre has evolved. Though people debate over what exactly constitutes the very first horror game, the earliest one argued for is Mystery House, an Apple II adventure game from 1980. The title was one of the first adventure games to feature graphics and was the first game created by Roberta Williams, who later went on to make the long-running King’s Quest series. Mystery House locked players in an old, Victorian mansion with several other people and a murderer on the loose. The player must figure out the identity of the psychopath before he or she is the last victim. In what became a trend for following games attempting creepy atmosphere and visuals, the story was based on a pre-existing property, in this case Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None. The other game most often credited as one of the first games designed to scare players was Haunted House (where are people finding all of these scary houses?) released for the Atari 2600 in 1982. Due to the limitations of the system, the game didn’t look like much with pixels roughly the size of fists. The player, represented by a pair of eyeballs, has entered a haunted house to retrieve pieces of an urn that belonged to the late Zachary Graves. Spooky things like spiders, bats, and ghosts hid around the house and had to be avoided at all costs. The unnerving mechanic which separated this title from others of the time consisted of the character’s use of matches as a light source. The matches gave vision for a few seconds before they would go out or whenever an enemy entered the same screen as the player. This gave Haunted House a feeling of tension and suspense as you never knew when you might be in danger. Over the following years, there was a period of games which, though they drew heavily on horror imagery, weren’t necessarily horror games in the true sense. Many of them were simply cash-ins on famous movies, going for shock value with depictions of violence that hadn’t been seen in video games at that point (Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Halloween, The Evil Dead). Other attempts at horror games during this time were adventure games attempting to capitalize on famous horror properties like Dracula, Jack the Ripper, Frankenstein, and Wolfman. One of the few original games to attempt horror between 1982 and 1989 was the 1986 arcade light-gun shooter called Chiller which places players in the role of a torturer with the goal of torturing people in the most efficient and gruesome manner possible. The game ended up being less horror and more horrible, falling into the same camp as the movie cash-ins going for shock rather than substantial scares. The game wasn’t widely known due to how few arcades were willing to host the cabinets on their premises due to its distasteful content. People can debate the first “real” horror game prior to 1989, but that year the genre undeniably solidified around two video games: Project Firestart in the West and Sweet Home in Japan. Project Firestart hit the Commodore 64 toward the end of the console’s lifespan after a long and troubled development process in the hands of Dynamix. In an effort to create durable laborers to work in space mines, the nations of Earth began dabbling with genetic engineering. What could possibly go wrong? When the research space station in charge of safely producing space mining monsters stops responding, it becomes the player’s job to find out why. Upon reaching the station, it basically becomes a side-scrolling Dead Space, almost 20 years before Dead Space was a twinkle in the eyes of its development team. The player is tasked with figuring out what went wrong on the station and search for survivors. Firestart introduced numerous concepts such as limited ammo, terrifyingly strong enemies, and journal entries that fleshed out the events and world; ideas still present in many games of the horror genre today. The Japan-only Sweet Home released in late 1989 for the Famicom as a spin-off of a movie of the same name. Rather than being an attempt to milk money out of the relative success of the film, the game attempted to be a genuinely unnerving game. Following the plot of the film, Sweet Home begins with five people arriving at the Mamiya mansion to recover valuable paintings that had been left there by its previous owners. Upon entering, they become trapped by a malevolent spirit and must battle their way through ghosts and monsters to find an exit without being crushed by the crumbling building. Each character has a special ability or item that helps traverse the environment or aids in the random battles. Each character also could be permanently killed and there were five different endings depending on how many people survived their ordeal in the mansion. Additionally, each character had a very limited inventory to carry items for combat or puzzle solving, creepy journal entries were scattered around to flesh out the story of mansion, and the narrative was certainly creepy and unexpectedly dark for a game at that time. For the next few years the genre wouldn’t see any development outside of more video game adaptations of horror films like Clive Barker’s Hellraiser and A Nightmare on Elm Street. However, in 1992 Alone in The Dark became the first widely successful horror game, exploding the genre out of its niche. Developed by Infogrames (that isn’t a typo) and released on PC, Alone in The Dark was the first 3D horror game. It added its own innovations to the horror formula through the addition of “tank controls,” false audio cues to alert players to non-existent danger, and dramatic fixed camera angles. Infogrames understood that having elements of unpredictability could toy with players’ expectations to effectively deliver scares. The story, from either the perspective of a private investigator or an inquisitive niece, was also fittingly dark dealing with death, hangings, and other gruesome monsters. After entering the old Derceto Mansion to investigate a recent suicide, the player becomes trapped and evil begins to manifest throughout the mansion. Gameplay focused on solving puzzles and managing limited inventory space, as well as some light combat elements. After clearing a portion of the mansion, the entire mansion became open for exploration leading to an unnerving sense of freedom as enemies stalked the building. After the success of Alone in The Dark, the video game industry began to realize that some players actually wanted to be scared by their games. What followed could be seen as the blossoming of the horror genre, a growth that included memorable successes, forgotten gems, and many hilarious failures.
  23. Most people will associate the word “literacy” with literature, and rightly so. Both words stem from the Latin root litterae which roughly translates to letters. Literacy, or the state of being literate, refers to the ability to read, write, or otherwise comprehend something. If someone lacks the ability to read, they cannot understand or appreciate a book. It becomes a collection of lines on paper that flaps and flops around when given a good shake. Reading makes books valuable; it unlocks the information they contain. This seems like common sense, but only because it is the most straightforward example of literacy. There are many different types of literacy besides reading and writing. If something requires a bank of pre-existing knowledge in order to understand it, that knowledge is required in order achieve basic literacy in that subject. When people first began making movies, there were no set standards. Length, film type, subject matter, editing, everything could greatly vary as there were no agreed upon consistencies in the burgeoning film industry. It was the Wild West as far as movie makers were concerned. This translated into a time of experimentation during which film makers realized that they could “cut” film to create different shots. Instead of having one long take, directors could have different angles, and indicate the passage of time without actually showing every second passing. This might seem a given to modern audiences, but to people who had no experience making or watching movies it took a while to pick up this new visual language. Learning that an hour long film can span decades isn’t something that everyone just inherently understands. It takes time to build up a certain amount of visual literacy, to gain the ability to comprehend the graphic language of cinema. Much in the same way, it takes a great deal of time to learn the language of video games. Video game developers are still figuring out accepted conventions of the medium and so are their video game playing audiences. The element of interactivity inherent to games creates so many variables for creators and users that it is likely this exploratory moment for games will last much longer than it did for film, especially given rapid improvements in technology to which the industry must adapt. However, given that people are playing, understanding, and enjoying games it seems clear that a language of video games has emerged over the years, distinct from any other medium. Two distinct graphical presentations have also come into being; cutscene visuals and gameplay visuals. Cutscenes operate more along the lines of film, they can show action from multiple perspectives, the player has no direct control over them (unless the part in question includes a quick-time event), and that static quality has led to higher visual quality in cutscenes of the past, though that gap is quickly being bridged as technology advances. Gameplay visuals, meanwhile, are a completely different beast and vary wildly depending on the genre. If there is anything consistent to be said about the graphics during gameplay segments it is that the virtual camera is almost always consistent and depicts events in an easily understood chronological order. Gamers also learn to accept the virtual worlds presented in-game during gameplay with a degree of suspension of disbelief. Players aren’t thrown for a loop when in-game characters don’t react to floating health bars or enemies that seem to materialize from thin air. Music and sound design also play crucial roles in understanding the video game. Both function similarly to cutscenes and gameplay presentation, but with more nuance and genre specific meaning than I want to delve into in this general overview. Suffice it to say that both are important and add a lot to the overall experience, but they apply too specifically to different genres for someone to generalize in a way that does both elements justice. Control schemes are one of the most crucial hurdles to becoming video game literate. Every game requires some way to interact with the digital world, but not every game uses the same control layout or even device. Playing a game with a mouse and keyboard, a controller, a touchscreen, or motion controls are all very different experiences with differing learning curves. In fact, I’d argue that this level of differentiation is why video games have taken so long to seep into mainstream culture. Learning one game can be hard, but when each game has different rules and the controls keep changing it almost seems unfair to people who are trying to learn how to enjoy gaming. Over time, certain consistencies have evolved. For example, on a dual analog stick controller, the left stick usually dictates movement, while the right directs the camera. In shooters the left trigger usually makes aiming more accurate, while the right trigger fires your weapon. However, these general observations can prove inaccurate when looking at different genres of games or when taking into account remapped or alternate controller layouts. Without going into insane levels of detail, there seem to be general rules that you can apply to some subsections of gaming, but don’t work for every game or every player. Gameplay needs to be taught making it one of the most unique features in any medium. Nearly every video game has some sort of tutorial or introductory level for that very purpose. Over time, there different types of gameplay mechanics have become established genres that prospective players can expect to have similar elements and rules to what they have learned before. Gamers began to pick up on the subtle patterns that permeate games in given genres and develop affinities for certain types of games. The end result is that experienced gamers have the feeling that they know how to play a game in a familiar genre even if that title might use different parameters and rules. Amazingly, even though video games present numerous barriers and challenges to their players, people are more than willing to sink hours into learning how to play an RTS or days into grinding through a long RPG. Why? I’m not really an expert on the subject. I’m just a guy that knows how to write, but I’ll take a stab at it. The answer is that there is no one answer. Much like the variables that exist when a player interacts with a game, I expect that everyone’s answer would be a little different because everyone is bringing something different to the game. The challenges of learning and overcoming may be difficult, but I do know that at the end of the journey, at least for me, the victory seems sweeter. Do you agree with me? Am I a crackpot? Let me know what you think in the comments! View full article
  24. Most people will associate the word “literacy” with literature, and rightly so. Both words stem from the Latin root litterae which roughly translates to letters. Literacy, or the state of being literate, refers to the ability to read, write, or otherwise comprehend something. If someone lacks the ability to read, they cannot understand or appreciate a book. It becomes a collection of lines on paper that flaps and flops around when given a good shake. Reading makes books valuable; it unlocks the information they contain. This seems like common sense, but only because it is the most straightforward example of literacy. There are many different types of literacy besides reading and writing. If something requires a bank of pre-existing knowledge in order to understand it, that knowledge is required in order achieve basic literacy in that subject. When people first began making movies, there were no set standards. Length, film type, subject matter, editing, everything could greatly vary as there were no agreed upon consistencies in the burgeoning film industry. It was the Wild West as far as movie makers were concerned. This translated into a time of experimentation during which film makers realized that they could “cut” film to create different shots. Instead of having one long take, directors could have different angles, and indicate the passage of time without actually showing every second passing. This might seem a given to modern audiences, but to people who had no experience making or watching movies it took a while to pick up this new visual language. Learning that an hour long film can span decades isn’t something that everyone just inherently understands. It takes time to build up a certain amount of visual literacy, to gain the ability to comprehend the graphic language of cinema. Much in the same way, it takes a great deal of time to learn the language of video games. Video game developers are still figuring out accepted conventions of the medium and so are their video game playing audiences. The element of interactivity inherent to games creates so many variables for creators and users that it is likely this exploratory moment for games will last much longer than it did for film, especially given rapid improvements in technology to which the industry must adapt. However, given that people are playing, understanding, and enjoying games it seems clear that a language of video games has emerged over the years, distinct from any other medium. Two distinct graphical presentations have also come into being; cutscene visuals and gameplay visuals. Cutscenes operate more along the lines of film, they can show action from multiple perspectives, the player has no direct control over them (unless the part in question includes a quick-time event), and that static quality has led to higher visual quality in cutscenes of the past, though that gap is quickly being bridged as technology advances. Gameplay visuals, meanwhile, are a completely different beast and vary wildly depending on the genre. If there is anything consistent to be said about the graphics during gameplay segments it is that the virtual camera is almost always consistent and depicts events in an easily understood chronological order. Gamers also learn to accept the virtual worlds presented in-game during gameplay with a degree of suspension of disbelief. Players aren’t thrown for a loop when in-game characters don’t react to floating health bars or enemies that seem to materialize from thin air. Music and sound design also play crucial roles in understanding the video game. Both function similarly to cutscenes and gameplay presentation, but with more nuance and genre specific meaning than I want to delve into in this general overview. Suffice it to say that both are important and add a lot to the overall experience, but they apply too specifically to different genres for someone to generalize in a way that does both elements justice. Control schemes are one of the most crucial hurdles to becoming video game literate. Every game requires some way to interact with the digital world, but not every game uses the same control layout or even device. Playing a game with a mouse and keyboard, a controller, a touchscreen, or motion controls are all very different experiences with differing learning curves. In fact, I’d argue that this level of differentiation is why video games have taken so long to seep into mainstream culture. Learning one game can be hard, but when each game has different rules and the controls keep changing it almost seems unfair to people who are trying to learn how to enjoy gaming. Over time, certain consistencies have evolved. For example, on a dual analog stick controller, the left stick usually dictates movement, while the right directs the camera. In shooters the left trigger usually makes aiming more accurate, while the right trigger fires your weapon. However, these general observations can prove inaccurate when looking at different genres of games or when taking into account remapped or alternate controller layouts. Without going into insane levels of detail, there seem to be general rules that you can apply to some subsections of gaming, but don’t work for every game or every player. Gameplay needs to be taught making it one of the most unique features in any medium. Nearly every video game has some sort of tutorial or introductory level for that very purpose. Over time, there different types of gameplay mechanics have become established genres that prospective players can expect to have similar elements and rules to what they have learned before. Gamers began to pick up on the subtle patterns that permeate games in given genres and develop affinities for certain types of games. The end result is that experienced gamers have the feeling that they know how to play a game in a familiar genre even if that title might use different parameters and rules. Amazingly, even though video games present numerous barriers and challenges to their players, people are more than willing to sink hours into learning how to play an RTS or days into grinding through a long RPG. Why? I’m not really an expert on the subject. I’m just a guy that knows how to write, but I’ll take a stab at it. The answer is that there is no one answer. Much like the variables that exist when a player interacts with a game, I expect that everyone’s answer would be a little different because everyone is bringing something different to the game. The challenges of learning and overcoming may be difficult, but I do know that at the end of the journey, at least for me, the victory seems sweeter. Do you agree with me? Am I a crackpot? Let me know what you think in the comments!
  25. Piranha Games has currently raised $102,640 for the Canadian Cancer Society through a special promotion honoring a five-year-old fan who lost her battle with the disease in May. For $10, fans and supporters of Sarah can purchase Sarah Parries' Jenner, a specific type of mech that Sarah favored while playing MWO with her father. All of the proceeds from the mech go to the Canadian Cancer Society. The offer ends on August 20, so if you want to try out MechWarrior Online with a fancy new mech that will never be available again you still have time. The actual mech itself will have grant a 10% experience boost and be treated like a normal JR7-D. You cannot buy more than one, the Jenner will not be transferable after purchase, and it cannot be resold or returned. “Get 'em good!” - Sarah Parries For more information you can visit the FAQ on Sarah's Jenner and if you feel like purchasing one for yourself, you can head over to the fundraising page.
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