Tag Archives: video games

The 2DS: A Point/Counterpoint brought to you by Gamasutra

Nintendo’s announcement of the 2DS came as a shock to many of us, and just as many are wondering what their thought process must be. I’m decidedly sure that this is a Pokemon machine (because it is coincidentally launching on the the same day) aimed at little kids.

 

Gamasutra has had two write-ups since the announcement, one speaking of Nintendo’s already confusing messaging, and another saying what Nintendo is probably trying to actually get across. Give them both a read, and comment here, there, wherever. Being a part of the conversation is cool…or so I am told.

 

What’s so confusing about the Nintendo 2DS?

 

Nintendo’s 2DS is brand confusion in a box

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Thinkcast Vol. 2 Ep. 2

Well, here it is, folks!

 

We got ourselves together again to discuss games, and other things like Turtles, Phil Fish, and Batman….always more Batman.  Feel free to comment below and don’t forget to rate and review on iTunes as well! Thanks!

 

[audio https://gamerswhothink.files.wordpress.com/2013/08/thinkcast-vol-2-ep-2.m4a%5D
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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…

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6SqUzR0XOfA%5D

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

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Wds7RjvDt4%5D – 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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Here’s How a PS4 is Born…

Guys and Girls,

We’re all excited about the new consoles coming out this fall.  Some of us make like certain ones more than others (cough Sony cough) but this is an exciting time nonetheless.  What is always interesting is why certain choices were made in development, why certain tech specs made the cut, or why features got thrown out.  Very rarely do we get a look into that side of the industry.  Luckily, thanks to Mark Cerny, we have that clarity in regards to Sony’s new system.  So, without further adieu, here is Mark Cerny’s Game Lab talk, about the birth of a next gen system.

 

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=JJW5OKbh0WA%5D
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Do Boss Battle Still Matter

Gamasutra put up an article by Vincent Smith that really digs into the problems with modern day boss battles, and hopefully some solutions.  Check it out, its a good read.

 

http://www.gamasutra.com/blogs/VincentSmith/20130626/195094/Meet_The_New_Boss_Same_As_The_Old_Boss.php

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Chiptunes – Not Crunchy; but Still Good.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yJ4CaHqR4XI

 

 

From band Anamanaguchi

-Enjoy everyone, some big posts coming on the ‘morrow

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Gender In(E3)quality

Its unsettling to see that this type of thing still happens, but it does.  This is an interesting rundown of some of the “horror” stories that happened in and around E3 this year. Just as interesting is the continuing conversation in the comments section of the article; where some of the people involved in those stories speak out.  Please give it a read, and be a part of the change.

 

http://gamasutra.com/blogs/PatrickMiller/20130620/194763/5_Gender_Moments_from_E3_2013.php

 

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Don’t Let Sleeping Dogs Lie….

Spoilers for Sleeping Dogs

 

I’ll be the first one to admit that I am bit late to the party on this one.

Sleeping Dogs was the epitome of a “sleeper” game. It came out the same week as Darksiders II, and there wasn’t much buzz going into the game’s release.  Yet, as the reviews came through, the narrative seemed to change.  Garnering solid scores across the board (7’s, 8’s, and 9’s), Sleeping Dogs was no longer living under the shadow of its torrid past as a True Crime successor.  It had become the open-world underdog; a great game that sold based on word of mouth of those that had experienced its fullness of its created Hong Kong.  It was a “cinderella story” for the games industry.  It sold well enough at retail; but it wasn’t until it came up on Playstation Plus that I finally got around to playing it.

I should have played it sooner.

 

SleepingDogs1

 

Sleeping Dogs starts off similarly to moves like the original Fast and Furious; you are an undercover cop sent into the triads to attempt to bring them down without getting too deep.  Yet, it is from that starting point that the developers made a point to have the player start caring about those you are trying to bring down.  I laughed as I began the game, thinking, “I’m not going to go ‘native.’ It’s hero boy to the rescue.”  Yet, the further I played through, the more I began to question my motivations.  When a rival triad gang murders my boss at his wedding, after I had taken his fiancee around town to pick up her things the day before; my first thought wasn’t, “what will the HKPD need to do,” but rather, “get me the biggest gun you can find.”  This is a giant credit to the game’s writing staff and speaks to the strong narrative that they were creating.  There are tons of moments like this peppered throughout the game; moments of just gut, emotional reactions.  This is especially true as you near the end of the game; as it climaxes towards its inevitable conclusion.

 

SleepingDogs3

 

Mechanically, the game is quite sound.  The driving is better than GTA, and the overlay they use on the world to tell you where to go is incredibly helpful.  The cars and bikes handle well, and the game captures that feeling of drifting through the city streets perfectly.  Where Sleeping Dogs really shines is in its melee combat.  Though not as strong as the Arkham games (the new gold standard), Sleeping Dogs’ combat is still quite stellar.  It takes combines the rhythmic and timing based attacks of Batman, and adds in an almost fighting game style combo system.  These different button combinations have your character string different attacks and finishers together to great effect.  It becomes more about managing the group and spacing, than about comboing a single enemy.  Unfortunately, the lock on system isn’t that effective and sometimes button inputs aren’t that responsive; which makes the giant multi-man brawls you fight late game all the more difficult.  The gunplay is exactly what you would expect in an open world action game.  It’s perfectly average; but they do give you a bullet time feature that you can use when you hop over cover.  It’s fun the first time; but when you get good enough to clear out a room of ten+ enemies with one jump, it looses its luster.

 

SleepingDogs2

 

After completing the game, it is not surprising to see why everyone liked Sleeping Dogs.  It gave players an interesting story, solid gameplay, and a place that was both foreign and familiar at the same time.  Sleeping Dogs is better than the sum of its parts; and is worth the play through if you have the time.  Hong Kong is large and vibrant; with street races, criminal activity, karaoke  and much more flowing through its busy streets.  It was an exciting place to tell a story, and I hope that there are more to tell here.  If only I could remember to drive on the left side of the road…..

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Finishing the Unfinished…

Spoilers for The Unfinished Swan

As some of you may know, I am currently playing through The Last of Us.  So far, it is an amazing experience, one that is definitely worth your time. The AAA visuals are unmatched and the narrative strikes a chord with the player like very few games do.  Yet, that game in inherently bleak, depressing, and dark. As such, I turned to some other games to act as palate cleaners in between my ’bouts with the darkness. It was with that mindset that I finally got around to playing The Unfinished Swan.

 

UnfinishedSwan4

 

The Unfinished Swan came out in October of 2012, made by Giant Sparrow; another developer that had made a three game deal with Sony, much like thatgamecompany; makers of Journey. This was their first big endeavor and it was received to critical acclaim; even garnering some nominations for game of the year from different publications. Though compared to thatgamecompany’s previous efforts, Giant Sparrow’s first game tackled a far different theme, and introduced to a little boy named Monroe.

It was over the weekend that I was introduced to Monroe, his paintbrush, and the unfinished work that is the namesake of the game. It only took me around three hours to complete the tale, but when it was all said and done there was a well earned smile on my face. The Unfinished Swan is a game built around a pretty simple mechanic; the player, as Monroe, is able to use his paintbrush to affect the world around him.  In the initial level you use black paint to reveal the world, in another, blue paint to create water.  It is pretty easy game to pick up and play; but it is the themes and narrative that really shine and bring out the game’s best qualities.

 

UnfinishedSwan2

 

Monroe is summoned into this world of paint and fantasy by following his mother’s painting of an unfinished swan.  Through this very Alice in Wonderland premise, Monroe finds himself in tale that seems to be quite similar to the ones that his mother told him before she died.  This secondary story is revealed through storybook panels found throughout the world, told by Monroe’s mother. Revolving around a king that is never happy with his current situation, the tale gives the player a glimpse into the mysterious world that Monroe travels through.  It is a picturesque place, reminiscent of Escher paintings and minimilist works that naturally create a sense of childlike wonder.  The  player is left to affect the world as he or she will, but the less you do, the more magical it seems.  You don’t want to sully the environment that you find yourself in; you just want to walk around the world and experience this magical place.

 

UnfinishedSwan1

 

If the game was just those special moments of discovery, it would still be a good game.  Yet, underneath the childlike exterior is a story about the loss of a parent, and one child’s way of accepting death and change.  To me, and many others, that was where the game became exceptional.  You don’t see these sort of narrative concepts discussed often, if at all, in games nowadays.  It’s a touching story that resonates with anyone who has a relationship with their father and mother.

By the time Monroe finally meets the King at the end of the  game; he and the player have discovered that the King is his father, his deceased mother was the Queen, and he is simply following in his dying father’s footsteps.  Out of context, these moments don’t seem like much; but within the scope of the game they tell a story of accepting the reality of your parents’ lives.  As children, we all believe that our parents are immortal; that they will be in our lives forever.  We see them as kings and queens that rule our lives and the little worlds that we dwell in; yet at some point we have to realize that this can’t be true.  Our parents are mortal, they can make mistakes, and will eventually leave this world; hopefully with a positive legacy behind them.  Monroe’s journey to the king is the journey to that realization; the journey that we all go through at some point in our lives.

 

UnfinishedSwan3

 

The Unfinished Swan is a game to be experienced.  It takes a couple of hours and leaves you with a feeling that warms your heart.  The story alone is worth the journey; but even from a gameplay perspective, that fact that you are not interacting with the world through the barrel of a gun is refreshing.  If you have the time, $10, and a Playstation 3, you would be remiss to not play this.  It was a joy and few games are now.

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