Category Archives: Opinionated Much?

My Favorites of 2013 – or Yeah, You Should Totally Play These Games

Let’s be honest.

You don’t care about what my, “Top Ten Games of the Year,” are.

I mean, there might be a small majority of you who do (and I thank you for caring,) but most of you don’t and probably stumbled onto this column one way or another. That’s fine too.

Yet, because you are here and I have your attention; here are my favorite games of the year. A couple of things first; they are in no particular order, these are totally my opinions, and yes, some games were left off because I never played them.

-Cookie Clicker

I sank way too much time into this monstrosity. Cookie Clicker is the definition of a mindless game. You click the cookie. Then you don’t have to click the cookie, it’s clicked for you. Grandmas are then hired, cookie portals opened, you’ve prestiged twice, and you don’t know what you’ve been doing for weeks of your life. In the newest version, they’ve added dungeons. It’s almost enough to bring me back in. Nonetheless, this became a great conversation among me and friends this year, as we all began to click the cookies. It became a bit of a competition, as we all tried to make more and more. We couldn’t even eat them if we wanted to. It was a weird time for all of us.

Cookie Clicker

-Rayman Legends

This is the best 2D platformer in years. Yeah, I throwing it up against that New Super Mario Bros. nonsense. Rayman Origins was a surprise when it came out. It had old school difficulty, tight controls, and a fantastic art style. Fast forward to this year. Legends comes out with even tighter controls, a better perfected difficulty curve, and improved art that makes your jaw drop. It was a wonderful throwback to a simpler time of gaming; and when played with friends, one of the best co-op experiences of the year. Did I mention there were musical levels? Yeah, those were cool too.

-DmC

Man, I love Ninja Theory. Heavenly Sword was a fun, if flawed game. Enslaved really sold me on how that studio can tell a story. Now, Capcom gave them the reigns to Devil May Cry. This game is the definition of metal. The music hits hard, the action hits harder, and even the environment tries to kill you. They even give you a story that actually makes sense and makes you care about the world and these characters. I really can’t emphasize how much I dug the art style this game has. It oozes character and is easily one of the more visually diverse games I played this year. It also has one of the best boss fight encounters in a game in who knows how long. You fight Fox News. Seriously. Youtube it.

-Injustice

I love fighting games. I love DC Comics. Do I need to say more? LOOK AT ALL THE COSTUMES!!!!

-Tomb Raider

This was a bit of a surprise. Not that I wasn’t expecting the game to be good, but that I would enjoy it as much as I did. Tomb Raider goes back to the beginning of our heroine’s story and gives us a new take on the classic franchise. It’s a story about the loss of innocence as much as it is about Lara exploring this lost island. Gameplay wise, it’s less Uncharted and  more Arkham Asylum, but the change was a good one. Uncharted had already out Tomb Raider’ed Tomb Raider, and the game had to do something different. Yeah, I think we all could have done with more raiding of tombs, but let’s save that for the sequel. Also, the game gave us TressFX…that’s awesome.

-Resogun

I just want to say upfront that I am terrible at this game, but man is it addictive. From the moment that it yells at you to, “save the last human,” you are sucked into this visually stunning arcade homage to games like Defender. Between the leaderboards, the multiple ships, and challenge levels; Resogun is one that I keep coming back to on my PS4. There’s also voxels…all the voxels

-Grand Theft Auto 5

Like you’re surprised that I put this here. GTAV gives the player a world to play in. You can go to therapy, bike, golf, steal a tanker truck, dive for treasure, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The game also gave us the most insane, over the top, and possibly evil character in existence; Trevor. Dear lord, I love Trevor. Not because of the terrible malcontent that he is; but because how much he doesn’t care and revels in it. GTAV is a mixed bag for most people. Despite it’s somewhat lackluster mission structure and over the top maybe-it’s-satire-or-maybe-they’re-just-crude humor; I found something to enjoy there.

-Bioshock Infinite

Elizabeth. The Songbird. God Only Knows. There are so many magical moments in Bioshock Infinite that it is hard to narrow down what really grabbed onto me. Even though the story may fall apart towards the end, the roller coaster that Infinite takes its players on is a wonderful one. From your baptism into Colombia to the first time you meet Elizabeth, Bioshock Infinite takes the player on an emotional journey that goes places few games dare to go.

-Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag

Being a pirate and terrorizing the sea is completely fantastic. Sailing around, searching for treasure, and razing ships just hits a chord with me…albeit an evidently sinister one. From the sea shanties, to the well created locales, the game’s atmosphere is designed to bring you into that world. What’s more amazing is that this game brought be back into Assassin’s Creed. ACIII was a terrible mess, and I had sworn off any future installments because of the foul taste that it had left. Yet, as the reviews came in, and the word of mouth spread, I found myself looking at Black Flag. I’m really glad I did. Playing it on the PS4, the graphics are gorgeous and sound design is incredible. Nothing is more terrifying than the thunder of a rogue wave coming at you in surround sound. More than anything, the game is simply fun.

-The Last of Us

How could this not be on my list? The Last of Us is an incredible experience. Joel and Ellie’s story is one of heartache, anger, and loss. It is a story of a broken world filled with broken people; where even the best of intentions ends in pain. There is no happy ending, but there is resolution. It’s easily one the top games of the generation. The gameplay and the story come together in ways that few games do; and it draws the player deeper because of it. For me, this is the reason why I love gaming; and why I believe that this is a growing art form. The Last of Us made me laugh, cry, and rage with its characters; and there were nights where I had to stop playing because I was so emotionally drained. I can’t remember any game in recent memory that has had that sort of effect on me. I cannot recommend this game enough. If you have a Playstation 3, you need to play The Last of Us.

So there you have it; the games I enjoyed this year. There are some great ones that I didn’t get around to for various reasons, but you should play:

-The Stanley Parable

-Gone Home

-Super Mario 3D World

-Papers, Please

Nonetheless, last year was a great year for gaming and this year is shaping up to be something special too. Here’s to 2014 and the magic it will invariably bring!

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Grand Theft Diary – Entry Two

I Need a New Shrink

 

I’ve been seeing  a psychiatrist for my anger management problems. I figure, for a guy who has the occasional psychotic tendency, it’s probably good to go ahead and talk to someone about all that you are going through. I’d like to think that we’ve had a couple of breakthroughs, but it’s hard to say.

 

Most recently, I had relapsed into some…well…let’s just say I was being a ne’er-do-well. After laying everything out for my doc, he said that I was a prime candidate for buying my sessions in bulk….

 

…because I obviously have a lot of issues

 

…and he’s a money grubbing piece of ______ .

 

This obviously didn’t put me in a good place and he and I had, what is becoming quite a regular occurrence, a yelling match. This ended with me storming out.  As left his place, in a fit of rage, did what only came natural…

 

I stole his red sports car.

 

Yeah, it was petty, but it definitely put me in a better place. Hell, I saw someone get mugged and I got their purse back for them. It was a kind gesture, for sure.

 

Albeit, I ran the thief over…and then backed over him…a couple of times..

 

but nonetheless…

 

maybe this therapy thing is working after all.

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Grand Theft Diary – Entry 1

So, it’s been a bit since I’ve posted anything substantial here; and I greatly apologize for that. Nonetheless, one of the giants of the industry was released recently, and it already has broke records by making over 800 Million Dollars in ONE DAY.

 

So yeah, if you thought that Grand Theft Auto V wasn’t a big deal…sorry, you’re terribly mistaken.

 

Because the game is so large, and so much of the fun is created just by being a part of the world; for the next couple of days I am going to be putting up some of my more ridiculous misadventures. I will try to keep it spoiler free, but I’ll make sure to warn you before hand. So without further adieu,

 

Entry 1 – or I just wanted a haircut

 

The game had just opened up for me, and one of the main characters had just been dumped by his girlfriend. Feeling his pain, I decided that he was in need of a new look to help him move on, or at least to make her jealous. So I started driving around looking for a barber.

 

Eventually, I stumbled across one. Now, I try to be a good citizen when I am not acting the criminal. So I parked nicely in front of the shop, I had followed all the red lights, and just walked on into the place.

 

What I didn’t notice was the group of thugs just outside the building.

 

I had just walked past them, but if I had taken the chance to stop and hear what they were saying, I might have reconsidered my choice of establishment. Almost immediately after walking in, one of the guys rushes in and tells me to “f*** off,” and proceeds to take a swing at me.

 

So, I punch him in the face.

 

And all his buddies.

 

I didn’t want to kill them, I just wanted a haircut. So, when the police finally show up, I assume that they are here to rescue me. Just a small man in a violent world, where all I want is to look good for whatever girl I may find at the bar. Sadly, the police officer had a different worldview and I took a shotgun blast to the chest.

 

Alas.

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Phil Fish, Trolls, and the Power of Positive Thinking

Fez 2

 

Earlier this week, Phil Fish cancelled Fez II.  He said that it was a long time coming, and that he is leaving gaming for good.

 

The industry is worse for it…

 

I don’t like Phil Fish.  In fact, I usually find his tirades on Twitter to be on the verge of elitist, but despite my feelings towards the man; his work is amazing.  Fez is still one of the best games out there, and the detail put into the complexity of the game design still astounds even now.  The surprise announcement of its sequel at E3 this year was one of the highlights of the show, and one could only imagine what type of mind-bending puzzles and mechanics it may have had.

 

Sadly, it looks like we will never know…

 

To summarize a somewhat convoluted series of events; Marcus Beer [the Annoyed Gamer] on GameTrailers Invisible Walls called out Fish for not commenting on Microsoft’s policy shift on independent development on the Xbox One.  There was a bunch on name calling, which then turned into a heated argument with quite a bit of people over Twitter; which then in turn led to Fish throwing up his hands and calling the whole thing off.  It had escalated beyond just the industry personalities; the fight echoed like a clarion call to all corners of the internet, bringing forth all sorts of people to the discussion.  It was from this deluge of voices that eventually Fish’s was heard, but it was only to say he was done with everything.

 

 

There are so many of them…

 

For supposedly being “fans” of the industry; there seems to be a flood of harsh words, tweets, and messages that go towards those who make the things that we love.  Fish is not the first, nor is he the last, in a long line of targets that certain “gamers” have targeted with their frustrations, rage, and opinions.  Just recently, a high profile developer from Treyarch was given multiple death threats from “fans” over some tweaks that went out in the recent patch.  The vocal response was so severe that Activision’s Community Manager Dan Amrich wrote an editorial, and had this to say…

 

If anybody thinks for a second that this is okay, it is not. But if the loudest voices in the Call of Duty “community” act like an angry mob instead, guess how the entire world views Call of Duty? Now consider that these Internet Tough Guy rants and demands are not unique to COD, but exist everywhere, in many gaming communities. This is why the world often does not take gaming seriously; this is why gamers are assumed to be immature, whiny assholes. Because the immature, whiny assholes are louder.

 

We’re all better than this…

 

It seems that it has become an assumed fact that the “trolls” (more commonly called “the vocal minority”) will always be there.  Yet, no one has ever seemed to confront the question as to why.  They talk, scream, and voice their ridiculous opinions; and we just seem to tolerate their presence.  It is the actions of these types of people that drive creators like Phil Fish to go away from gaming, that cause fans to never type something on their favorite site’s message boards, and give “gamers” an image that the majority of us have been trying to fight against for years.  It is the actions of these few that color the discussion of the many; namely us.

 

This leads to the inevitable conclusion…

 

Phil Fish’s exit is a sign of the times; that the “trolls” are winning.  We need to step up to do something; but not stoop down to their level.  Fight with positivity; don’t be so quick to criticize because there is most certainly a person who will read that comment.  Don’t feed into the negativity and rather than engage in an internet yelling match, simply ignore them.  Flag inappropriate comments, take advantage of moderation tools, and do your best to better the gaming community you are a part of.  We may not be able to make the “trolls” go away, but we can do our part to silence them back under the bridge they crawled out of.*  Maybe in doing so, we can finally achieve that positive image we are all striving towards.

 

So, to the all the readers….

 

Phil, I doubt you’ll read this, but if you do; come back and don’t give them this victory; show them that we are better than all this, and that we can rise above..

 

and to everyone else, remember we’re all here because we love games; whether as a player, writer, or developer.  We’re all on the same side; sharing in the same joy…be sure to show that more often.

 

*That’s a reference to story of the Three Billy Goats Gruff, a lovely children’s tale; but historically trolls can also live in caves, forests, and the occasional mountain.

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Love and Other Pac-Drugs

We all love Pac-Man. It’s fun, it still holds up after all these years, and the game over music is iconic (not to mention the wakka-wakka.) But look at it objectively; it’s about a man/creature that is constantly consuming pills because he is haunted/seeing ghosts.  You don’t know if he sees them because he takes the pills, or if he takes the pills because he sees them; either way the man is having some sort of psychotic break with reality.

Not to mention the fact that he never wins; no matter how many pills he takes, no matter how far he runs, they always find him.  Even in the best case scenario; he reaches the kill-screen, and then still dies.  It can’t be helped, that’s his destiny, that is his story.

It’s pretty dark…

Pac-Man’s addictive gameplay is based around the concept of “score-chasing.”  The idea is that you are simply trying to consistently get a higher score on each run through of the game; competing asynchronously against the other players who have gone and played on the machine.  It is the “chase” that drives the player; that pushes them to continue on for “one more run.”

What makes it all the more interesting is that in these old arcade style games, even at your best you only have a set amount of time.  Just about every classic arcade game has a kill-screen of some sort; which creates a finite amount of time for the player to accrue points.  In essence, the player himself is haunted by the “ghosts” of players who have come before, spurring him onward; driving him towards his inevitable fate.

That’s pretty unsettling too…

I love Pac-Man and those other classic arcade titles; but I don’t like what they bring out in me.  I start losing myself in the game.  I start to obsess on my faults in technique, and start planning out what I need to do to perfect my run.  They were a type of game programmed to tap into some of our most basic instincts.

The drive to win; to be better; to go just one more time.  Yet, despite the all the drive, all the ego that we throw into it; we all know what the endgame is.  We all know that in the end, we still die.  In a weird way, it is that knowledge of Pac-Man’s mortality that demands the perfection we seek in each individual run.

In some grand fashion; Pac-Man becomes a reflection of our lives.  We know that we all end; we know that we all will fade away into nothing.  That’s why we must take advantage of every single moment; every single chance that life gives us.  Maybe that is why we are all looking for our own “perfect run.”  Whatever that may mean.

Maybe we are all haunted by our pasts; and we are simply running away from the things that seek to bring us down.  We each have demons that follow us, and we do whatever it takes to leave them behind us, or defeat them.

In the grander “Pac-Canon,” we know that Pac-Man turns out okay.  He meets a Mrs. Pac-Man, has a Pac-Baby, and buys a house (because that’s important to him.)  He is able to leave his troubles behind, overcome those dangers, and find his perfect run.

In the end, maybe that’s the lesson we all need to take away from this; to not be so busy chasing the score, that we miss out on what makes this brief life matter.  Maybe that’s how you find your own perfect run; or maybe I am just a guy who put way too much thought into a yellow puck.

Here’s a video of a near-perfect run in Pac-Man Championship DX

 – because I can.

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Who’s Chasing Who? – Hollywood and Video Games

I saw Pacific Rim last weekend.  I loved it for a lot of reasons.  It was big, dumb fun.  It’s one of those movies that if you don’t buy the initial premise in the beginning, you might as well walk right out of the theater.  If you like big robots, monsters, or Top Gun, you should really check this one out.  Yet, out of few complaints I heard walking out of the cineplex, the one that stuck with me was this…

 

“…that was really video-gamey.”

 

Well, that wasn’t the first time I had heard that walking out of the movies.  I had even thought similar things myself walking out of films like 300, Transformers: Dark of the Moon, Green Lantern, Star Trek Into Darkness, and even Man of Steel.  Never once had I considered this a bad thing; but I had never really considered the thought all that much.  Pop culture always has been a snake eating its own tail, constantly reflecting itself over and over again.  What it did get me to think about is how similar both these mediums have become; to a certain extent obviously…

 

Games as Hollywood Blockbusters

 

When you send the conversation this direction, the parallels are pretty clear.  Recently, we here at the site, posted a quote from Ubisoft saying that they won’t even move forward with a project unless it has franchise potential.  More and more the big developers are taking a page from Hollywood, and are creating gaming’s very own “tent-pole” release system.  We all know these titles; games like Madden, Call of Duty, Assassin’s Creed, and Grand Theft Auto.  Studios are starting to rely heavily on the sales of these titles to help sustain the production of the following project.  Suffice it to say, if one project fails, the company has the possibility of going under.  That’s why more and more, you are seeing less and less of middle tier developers.  They can no longer survive in this type of ecosystem.  When this occurred in Hollywood, you saw the rise of the independent film maker; and lo and behold, we all love our “indie games.”  So now, much like their Hollywood brethren, you see a natural dichotomy between what is considered the “big-budget” game and the “indie” project.

 

There is also the fact that games are becoming much more cinematic in nature.  The medium is maturing and telling more mature stories; look at games like The Last of Us, Spec-Ops: The Line, and Bioshock: Infinite and you can see how much this interactive medium has, “grown up.”  Telling these types of stories, however, requires a more cinematic touch and that too is seen in the cut-scenes and less interactive moments in those titles.  One can even look to the games of David Cage, like Heavy Rain, and Hideo Kojima’s Metal Gear Solid, and see that they could be movies unto themselves.  Even in the digital “set-dressing,” one sees the detailed handiwork of the creators.  As games seek to tell more in-depth stories, inevitably we will continue to see them borrow ideas from Hollywood, some good and some bad; but only time will tell.

 

Hollywood as Mass Marketed Media

 

Everyone loves a good summer movie.  They’re fun, they’re (sometimes) mindless, and usually we all walk out happy for the little bit of escapism that comes along with it.  Yet, deep down we all know that these films were focus tested, pre-screened, and reshot to maximize that sort of potential.  They are designed to try to reach as many people as possible to recoup the cost of production.  In a society where gaming in becoming on the biggest entertainment mediums; you can expect that others will try to integrate certain concepts.  Spectacle and CGI are becoming more and more important; creating more impressive visuals and having better and more realistic “graphics,” are now in Hollywood’s vernacular.  Even some of the worse movies in Hollywood have taken on a “level” structure; look at Suckerpunch. [Disclaimer: Please don’t look at Suckerpunch it’s as bad as you’ve heard it is.]

 

Gaming’s drive to “realism,” has permeated into the Hollywood mindset as well.  More and more you are seeing “gritty” and “realistic” takes on source material that cannot be farther from.  The Amazing Spiderman or even Daredevil are classic examples of this.  Neither of these stories are dark, yet if you watch either of these films, you can’t help but think otherwise.  [Disclaimer: Daredevil is pretty bad too; unless you watch the Director’s Cut; then it’s okay.] Yet, this isn’t all bad, as I can only assume that most of us have fond memories of Nolan’s Batman movies, and Singer’s X-Men films; and both of those took a more serious and realistic approach.

 

The fact is; there are a myriad of examples of idea poaching from either side; and it is difficult to say who’s idea it was first.  Frankly, it doesn’t matter because this is the way things are currently, and as much as we may disagree with how this system may be run; we support it by pulling out our wallets.  If you have a problem, don’t go see the tent-pole movie, or go and support your local indie endeavor.  If you don’t, just keep doing what you’re doing.  As our favorite entertainment mediums continue to grow closer and closer together, it is going to be the consumer voice that has the greatest impact in effecting change.  As long as there’s no day one DLC for my movie; I think I’ll be fine…

 

….wait, that’s what my Special Edition is!!!

 

please feel free to comment below…

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Atari to Xbox – A Dad’s Journey or “Why Halo is Fine by Me”

For me, edging close to thirty and he, being in his fifties, my dad and I get along quite a bit.  Some would argue too well; as we both have a penchant for being a complete smart-asses.  Nonetheless, he and I have always had a strong relationship.  Thus, it’s not that surprising that he has an opinion on this whole, “violent games” thing.  This might be because he bankrolled my early exploits, or he has a pretty good head on his shoulders with some good ideas.  He recently emailed me his thoughts on the matter, and what follows are one dad’s perspective on the argument.  I hope you enjoy….

Before you talk about the evils of video games and how they hurt our kids, maybe you should listen to my story.

     My first and only video game “console” was an Atari 2600™.  Every “console” that came after that was not mine, it was my son’s.  His first “console” for his third birthday was an NES.  I wanted the best for him and he had mastered my Atari 2600™ games and it was time to move forward.  The NES™ was followed by the Super Nintendo™, Game Boy™ and the Nintendo 64™.  However, I couldn’t be satisfied…I mean HE couldn’t be satisfied with just one console.  So, it was 1995 and my son wanted a PlayStation™.  It was important. It was great father-son bonding time to sit on the couch and play video games; I mean sometimes he would even let me win; it was quality time.  

     My son quickly learned that the more buttons on the controller, the lower the odds of dad winning the game; which is why I felt we should only play racing games.  Steer, gas and brake; I could handle that. I was an adult, I had a driver’s license and had been driving for years.  Yet, even on the driving games, he beat me like a drum; except when he would stop on the track and let me pass just before I wrecked crossing the finish line.  First person shooters were completely beyond me: what do I push to walk, run, jump, look left, look up or even how do I aim the gun?  But for my son, these things were all second nature.  Fighting games were again beyond what I could do; with their need to press X,X, O, ∆ to do the super move and take down the opponent. In those moments how I longed for my 2600 joystick with just one button.  

     I will admit we did share more quality time “father-son bonding” as we would play through all the characters in Soul Caliber, Tekken, Street Fighter, or what have you.  I would start in the upper left hand corner of the character screen and he would start in the lower right and we would fight until we had gone through all the characters.  I was a button masher and he was a tactician, and sometimes I got lucky and hit the buttons fast enough in the right sequence and would pull of the super move.  We bonded, we laughed, it was good.  

    He continued to play more and we moved on to the PlayStation 2™ and eventually to an X-box™.  In Halo™ I was the “Old Man” and I learned about spawn killing the hard way.  I don’t know, was I a bad dad?  Should I have allowed my son to spend so much time on video games?  Should I have allowed his friends over to play well into the night and supplied them with pizza and Cokes?  I knew his friends (they never let the “Old Man” win), they knew me, I know they didn’t get into drugs and I know they are all doing well as well-adjusted young adults; many with kids of their own now.  In the end, maybe I didn’t do too bad and maybe it is HOW you play the game, and how you see it.  It’s bonding time…

Whenever I’m able to visit my folks, I always try to make sure that my dad and I find time to do a race together.  Recently, it was Split/Second,  as our inner middle-schoolers were delighted to be bringing down buildings as we circled along the track.  For the longest time it was Hot Pursuit 2, where we’d claim that the Opal Speedster was the greatest car in video game history.  I don’t get to see the family all that often, which is why those small moments of stupid fun seem to reverberate through my own personal memory.  The more I consider it all, the more I believe that in some small way, my father stumbled onto part of the answer to this “violent media” issue.

He simply took enough time to care what I was doing…

There have been so many times where I have seen parents take no interest in what their own children care about; take no interest in the content or substance of what their kid is putting into their head.  It makes no difference if it is Mario or Grand Theft Auto as long as it is occupying them just a little bit longer.  There is no problem with kid playing a violent or “adult” game; the problem is when the parent doesn’t care and has no clue what their child is playing.  For my friends and myself, there was never once that our parents didn’t know what “nonsense” we were putting into our heads.  They could talk Halo strategy, Final Fantasy spells, and Risk tactics along with all of us; all because they took a vested interest in what their kids found fun.  We all played violent games, we all shot fireworks at each other, and we all turned out relatively well adjusted.

 Obviously, not everybody has a solid family life; and there will never be one definitive answer to this sort of issue.  Yet, every little bit of what we can offer in the way of solutions can only help.  We live in a world that is coming together more and more because of technology, yet it is that same technology that insulates us from each other on occasion.  So, if you’re a parent reading this, talk to your kids tonight.  Find out WHY they play what they play; what’s in it, and what makes that so damn fun for them.  You’ll probably learn something, and if you’re lucky, find something that you can share with them.

 

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Why They Matter – Lessons Learned From Ryan Davis

Today’s news of the passing of Ryan Davis hit me hard today.  I never knew him personally, nor met him; but when I heard that he was gone, I was devastated.  Maybe it was because I knew that I would never hear, “It’s Tuesday,” in the same way again, or that because the Giant Bomb family was now one less.  Though, the longer it sits with me, the more I believe it is because we lost one of the most profound voices in the industry today.  He had a way of making anyone laugh, whether is was at his or their expense.  He asked the questions that needed to be asked, and then had no problem taking a 30 minute interlude to talk about lawn care.  His words were sharp, his wits sharper; his musical taste impeccable, and he would have found some way to jab at all of us for being so down today.  That’s just who Ryan was.

 

I think we all believed that, like all of our heroes, Ryan would be around forever.  A constant voice in all the noise, like so few can be.  I think that’s why it has hit so hard across the community; we never thought there would be a Tuesday without him.  There was this unsaid assumption that this was the way it was going to be forever.  It’s a bit naive when you say it all out loud, but it’s what we all thought.  Through some force of magic, Ryan had become a part of many of our lives; informing us, making us laugh, and inspiring so many of us, myself included, to try to be a part of that world.  Through his life, he taught us to never be afraid to be ourselves, to drive for what we want out of life, and through his relationships that friends will always be there for you.  I always wanted to meet Ryan; to tell him thanks; to blame him like so many others, for the love I have for this industry and those in it.  Yet now, it seems I won’t have that chance…and that sucks.

 

It got me thinking about all the other “voices” that I may take for granted; the people in the industry that by their presence, continue to push me and so many others to be a part of all this, and continue to make gaming a joyful passion.  There are so many names that would be on that list; that if they disappeared would have similar effects to today.  People like Jeff Gerstmann, Garnett Lee, John Davidson, Brian Altano, Greg Miller, Colin Moriarty, Brad Shoemaker, Stephen Totillo, Arthur Gies, and Anthony Gallegos have all become like close friends to me and many others through their work and podcasts.  They are luminaries and like Ryan did, make this place better for all of us.  Their unique voices, brand of humor, journalism, and style better the industry, remind us all why we fell in love with this to begin with, and consistently brings smiles to our faces.  The breadth of this life is too short for us to not be thankful for what we have now…and for what we had.

 

We were damned lucky to have someone like Ryan be a part of our lives, whether in large or in part.  My paltry sentiment is nothing compared to the deluge that the community is giving to those closest to him, yet I felt to offer mine along with.  It will be hard to realize the next time I hear the Bombcast that it won’t be Ryan reminding me what day it is; but such is the way of things, it seems.  I hope that one day I am lucky enough to be a part of the industry that he so enjoyed being a part of; to be a part of that legacy; to say that he, among others, was one of the reasons that I got there.  Thanks, Ryan…time for some Summer Jams.

 

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The Critic Prediction Aftermath

Well, the E3 Critic Awards came and went; and so we now look back to the score card to see how we did this year…

 

Best of Show

– Titanfall (Respawn Games/Electronic Arts) – Will Win – Won

Best Original Game

– Titanfall (Respawn Games/Electronic Arts) – Will Win – Won

Best Console Game

– Titanfall (Respawn Games/Electronic Arts) – Will Win – Won

Best PC Game

– Company of Heroes 2 (Relic/Sega) – Will Win/ Should Win

– Titanfall (Respawn/Electronic Arts) – WON

Best Action Game

– Titanfall (Respawn/Electronic Arts) – Will Win – Won

Best Online Multiplayer

– Titanfall (Respawn Entertainment/Electronic Arts) – Will Win – Won

 

With the exception of Best PC Game; we called these spot-on.  Titanfall was a media darling this year, and frankly, put on an amazing show.  This is a big win for Respawn going forward, and it is good to see them rewarded for all their hard work so far. 

 

Best Handheld Game

– Tearaway (Media Molecule/Sony Computer Entertainment) – Should Win – Won

– The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Two Worlds (Nintendo EAD/Nintendo) – Will Win

 

This win probably makes me the most happy. Tearaway is an incredible game, both narratively and conceptually.  I have yet to meet a person who doesn’t smile ear to ear when they watch footage from the game.  It is good to see that nostalgia didn’t win out this year.  Don’t get me wrong, Link Between Two Worlds is going to be a wonderful game; but this award was most deserved to be won by Media Molecule.

 

Best Hardware

– Oculus Rift (Oculus VR) – Dark Horse – WON

– PlayStation 4 (Sony Computer Entertainment) Will Win/ Should Win

 

This is the second most exciting win this year, for me personally.  Since its inception, The Occulus Rift has been an interesting piece of hardware.  So, despite my loss in this category, I will gladly give it over to the Rift.  More and more this is looking to be a piece of the puzzle of how we will be playing our games in the future; and that alone blows my mind…

 

Best Action/Adventure Game

 Infamous: Second Son (Sucker Punch/Sony Computer Entertainment) Will Win/ Should Win

– Watch Dogs (Ubisoft Montreal/Ubisoft) – Dark Horse – Won

 

I honestly didn’t think that Watch Dogs would take it again.  Infamous seemed like the better choice, but alas, both games impressed, and only one can win.  Sad to see it wasn’t mine, but I feel I will move on…BEYOND!

 

Best RPG

– Dark Souls 2 (FromSoftware/Namco-Bandai) – Will Win

– The Elder Scrolls Online (Zenimax Online/Bethesda) – Dark Horse – WON

– South Park: The Stick of Truth (Obsidian/Ubisoft) – Should Win

 

Well, at least I picked the underdog.  Zenimax took home the crown in this category, and from the buzz that is out there, it is well deserved. If they can pull off the immersion that the original games are known for, while still creating a functioning MMO, we could have something very special on our hands….

 

Best Racing Game

– Need for Speed: Rivals (Ghost Games/Electronic Arts) – Will Win – Won

 

It’s good to see Need for Speed winning again.  It’s also a good show of faith in the new team.  Black Box and Criterion have been alternating who makes the game each year, but this is the first year that Black Box hasn’t had a hand in it.  In fact, this is a completely brand new studio working on this year’s title.  I can only assume how this type of an award on their first outing can feel.

 

Best Sports Game

– FIFA 14 (EA Canada/EA Sports) – Will Win/ Should Win

– NHL 14 (EA Canada/EA Sports) – Dark Horse – Won

 

To be honest, I didn’t care about this category…nonetheless….HOCKEY!

 

Best Strategy Game

– Company of Heroes 2 (Relic/Sega) – Will Win/ Should Win

– Total War: Rome 2 (Creative Assembly/Sega) – Won

 

I was way off base on this one. Congrats to Sega for beating out Relic…seriously…that’s a big deal.

 

Best Social/Casual

– Fantasia: Music Evolved (Harmonix/Disney Interactive) – WON

– Project Spark (Team Daokta/Microsoft Studios) – Will Win/ Should Win

 

I really thought Spark was going to impress more than it did, but evidently people love Harmonix.  Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE Harmonix, I just thought I saw more going on in Spark than I did in Fantasia.  Maybe that was the problem; Spark was too gamer oriented and not casual enough for the win….or at least that is what I will tell myself.

 

Best Downloadable

– Transistor (Supergiant Games) – Will Win – Won

 

Like anyone is surprised by this.

 

So there you go folks.  Hope we all had fun this year, and we’ll do this again soon!

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Best Things to Do During the Summer Game Drought..

Well, it’s the summer again, and that means absolutely nothing is coming out anytime soon!  (This is especially true this year because of the upcoming console launches.)  Nonetheless, that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun and not be bored.  Here is our, Best Things to Do During the Summer (When Nothing Seems to be Coming Out)

 

1) Play The Last of Us

Seriously; why have you all not played this yet?  This is the frontrunner for game of the generation and is easily Playstation 3’s best exclusive game.  It will take you on an emotional roller-coaster and leave you wondering what all that was about.  I refuse to speak of any of the game’s narrative points in this post, but suffice it to say, this is a MUST play.  Then, once you’ve beaten it, play it again on Hard….then Survivor…the Hard+ ….and Survivor+…..and the multiplayer is good too…….

 

 

2) Enjoy the games you might have missed over the Holidays (or the New Year)

Okay, none of us have enough money to buy all the stuff we want to play. (Disclaimer: There might be people who enough money that they CAN buy all the games they want to play, but I’m assuming that most of us don’t.)  As such, there are probably some things that got missed in the shuffle this year.  Did you miss Sleeping Dogs, Darksiders II, Dishonored, or X-COM.  What about the downloadables that might have slipped off your radar?  Games like Telltale’s The Walking Dead, Guacamelee, Sound Shapes, Journey, Mark of the Ninja, and The Unfinished Swan all come to mind, and should be played.  There is probably a backlog of games that you like that are now totally cheap.  Take advantage of all your newfound free time and play some of them.  They might make your list of best games you played THIS year….

 

 

3) Clean up that Pile of Shame

We all have one of these too.  Games that are in our collections that have been left unfinished.  Whether it is a JRPG you just got bored with, or a game that you liked that got put to the wayside because something else came out; you should hunker down and complete it….or get rid of it.  You will want to have a clean slate going into your new console and so when fall hits, all bets are off.  The odds of you going back and finishing these things gets slimmer and slimmer the longer that new system sits in your living room, so take advantage of this time and finish some of those guys up.  You also don’t want dead weight in your collection either, so if you know you’re not going back, and there is no emotional attachment to it, be done with it.  Cull the heard….

 

 

4) Watch E3 Videos….then Pine over Them…

A lot of stuff gets announced at E3, and if you have a job…I doubt you’ve seen all the coverage and interviews.  What better way to get excited for what’s coming than by looking at all in lovely HD video.  IGN has tons of hours of content that will last you through the summer and beyond; making the wait for the fall all that much harder. They say that absence makes the heart grow fonder, but they are idiots. Watch as much of that stuff as possible…Greg Miller makes some good jokes.

 

 

5) Enjoy your other hobbies

I try to do other stuff besides write about and play games.  Now that the summer is here, I have more time to indulge in said activities.  Read some books, go to the beach, rock climb; whatever tickles your fancy.  You have some spare time on your hands, so go enjoy it in a way that you know you will.  I’ve already downed a couple of books that have been on my shelf, and I’ve been indulging my outdoorsy tendencies occasionally too. Find something else that you love and do it…like this guy….

 

 

or maybe not….that guy is crazy

 

 

6) Troll the Internet

Just Kidding…don’t be that guy.

 

7) Play The Last of Us

Please refer back to Number 1

 

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