Category Archives: Editorial

Game Journalism, #1reasonwhy, and the Revenge of the Personal Essay

Fake gamer guys

This week has been a little bit different in the world of game journalism. I mean, there’s still the occasional tasteless PR stunt to remind us that most game companies are just… bad at so many things, but this was also the week of #1reasonwhy. The deluge of  personal writing that has spawned from seemingly out of nowhere this week has been tremendous. I cried once.

And much of this writing, in an industry that still feels incredibly unbalanced for many of the 1reasons put forth on Twitter this week, was from women. The fairer sex has in one week proven beyond the shadow of a doubt that full gender equality in the video game universe would be better for everyone (do some people still think misogyny is a good idea?), and I’m going to highlight a few of the things that you need to read. Continue reading

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Hasbro Family Game Night 4: A Microcosm of the Industry’s Laziness

BALLINNNNNNN

For $9.99, I picked up a copy of Hasbro Family Game Night 4: The Game Show on Black Friday. Something fun and light to play with the girlfriend, you know. After having a good experience with the original FGN a few years ago, I was curious to see how far they’d come. And Kinect stuff, too? Should be good. The games themselves are okay, if a lot more “video game-y” than past Game Nights. But when compared to the earlier entries in the series, it’s obvious just how little EA tried (or cared) this time around.

Then I got to thinking: this isn’t a problem limited to Hasbro and EA. But it is a perfect small-scale example of many of the problems with games today. Continue reading

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THQ’s Humble Bundle: Too Much of a Good Thing


You’ve probably heard of the Humble Bundle – a bunch of indie developers sell their games together in a complete package for a pay-what-you-want price, letting you split your cost however you want between the developers, the Humble Bundle operators, and charity. The games themselves are DRM-free, compatible with Windows, Mac, or Linux, and – almost without exception – a mix of high- and low-profile games from independent developers that you might not have ever had the chance to try otherwise. Yesterday, that changed. Continue reading

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RPGs and the Case of the Missing Experience: A Paper Mario Story

I’m about ten hours into Paper Mario: Sticker Star. For the most part, I really like it. It brings back the turn-based RPG battles of the first two games and leaves out the failed jokes and forced third dimension of the Wii’s Super Paper Mario which, frankly, felt unplayable to me, for a variety of not-quite-tangible reasons. This is lucky; given the name of the platform it’s appearing on, it would have been all too easy to rehash the 3D mechanic in this latest entry.

The level-up system is a bit strange to me, though, in that there is none. You find new one-time-use stickers mostly by random spattered throughout the world, and the only thing that ever increases throughout your dozens of battles is the number of gold coins in your pocket. And, since you can only buy too-weak or too-strong stickers (making the bosses either too hard or too easy), you end up not buying anything, instead relying on the weaponry you find in the field almost exclusively. With no levels to increase, and not enough things to spend your money on, Nintendo has given us no reason to fight any battles. This is less than ideal. And it’s all in the name of simplicity. Continue reading

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Why I’m Going Digital With Paper Mario: Sticker Star

I’ve written before about my love affair with physical media. The look, the feel, the smell, the touch. But Paper Mario: Sticker Star comes out today, and instead of driving allllll the way over there to pick up a copy, I’ll be downloading it from the 3DS eShop for $39.99, while I sleep. I will receive no physical manual. I will have no spot for it on my shelf. I won’t even be able to re-sell it if it sucks.

Never fear: I haven’t given up on the good ol’ hard plastic cases. I thought too long and too hard about this, and I made an exciting list of the reasons why – at least in the case of Sticker Star – I’ll be eschewing the tangible for the digital. This is the first full retail game I’ll have ever paid for and not held the physical game in my hand afterwards. Sure, there’ve been lots of full free PS+ games, but this is a big deal for me! Continue reading

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Curious About Curiosity

“What’s inside the cube?”

Peter Molyneux’s new game (maybe “experience” is a better fit?) is all about  human curiosity. Can the entire world work together, each doing their part of a repetitive, mundane task with the promise of a grand reward for just one player at the end? Curiosity debuted on the App Store just two days ago, and things are already off to a good start. Continue reading

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Game Journalism, Integrity, and Doritos

It’s been a fun few days in the world of game journalism, by which I mean everything went to crap at once, a lot of people got mad, and one guy no longer has a job. And there’s already been lots of words written about this, but these are mine, so they are the best. Full disclosure: they might not actually be the best.

First, the picture above started circling the interwebs (slightly edited to be even more accurate) of a dead-inside Geoff Keighley, surrounded by Mountain Dew Game Fuel and Doritos. He is one of the biggest names in game journalism, and this image is important and iconic not just because it shows how corporate we’ve all become, with our Halos and CoD-pieces filled with Gamer Fuel-soaked jerk socks, but because it shows exactly how the typical internet person views game journalism today. It’s rare to find an image that so completely embodies the glory of what game writing has become in the eyes of the typical 13-year-old Spike Video Game Awards viewer. (Well, maybe this one.) Sure, lots of games writers have fans, followers, readers, watchers… but one negative review of a game that other people loved and they’ll turn on you like *snaps fingers dramatically* that. And don’t forget how a good review means you were paid off by the publisher! Continue reading

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SEGA Is Devaluing Their Own Retro Catalog

I saw a deal on the internet a few days ago: 40+ SEGA Genesis games on Steam for $10. You’ve probably seen these kinds of deals before, too. Between Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection, the SEGA Genesis Collection, SEGA Genesis Classic Collection: Gold Edition, and The Super-Duper Please Forget That We Haven’t Been Relevant for a Decade Dreamcast 4-Pack, I’m not sure if a current console exists that doesn’t feature some sort of bargain-priced retro SEGA collection – usually focused on the Genesis.

Then on the other side of the spectrum, we have Nintendo. Say what you will about the Wii (it’s been a ghost town for years), but the Virtual Console is a retro game geek’s dream come true. Perfectly emulate hundreds of your favorite and not-so-favorite classic games, on your big TV instead of a tiny computer screen, and for only a few bucks each? What a steal! “Oh man, they put the Game Boy Color Mario Golf on the 3DS eShop? That’s the best version! $4.99? SOLD!” But then we see 45 Genesis games for $10 and we balk. Continue reading

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Physical Media: A Link to the Past

I have an entire wall in my living room filled with video games from every era of history. All three PlayStations, both Xboxes, most of the Ataris (including the Jaguar CD), nearly every SEGA console, every Nintendo save the Virtual Boy… If you’re in any mood, chances are I have at least one game that you’d like to play, or maybe even something you could discover for the first time. It can be overwhelming, though – sometimes I can’t decide what I feel like doing today and end up aimlessly poring over old instruction manuals for an hour. But have you seen some of these older manuals? They’re like works of art.

Do I want to shoot aliens today? Command a classic civilization? Make music with plastic instruments? It doesn’t matter; I have an abundance of choice, and just looking at this wall of history – this shrine to our digital past and present – I immerse myself in where I was in my life when I first acquired each particular game, what it meant to me, how it felt learning to play it. I think about how pumped I was when I found Shining Force for $2 at a pawn shop in the middle of nowhere, in some 1,000-population town in Northern Minnesota. I remember rediscovering the feeling of being able to reward myself by buying Chrono Trigger off eBay after a particularly low point in my life. These physical things are much more than pieces of plastic filled with thousands upon thousands of lines of code, waiting to be pulled out for a few hours of entertainment once every few years (if that). They are windows to my past, and every single one has a story.

I don’t get this feeling from digital media. Continue reading

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What Makes Us Stop Playing a Game?

My favorite thing anyone ever said about Minecraft wasn’t from Notch. It wasn’t from some AAA developer or a big-time game journo. It was some random dude on the internet, who complained, “Minecraft isn’t even that immersive or lasting – I got bored after just two months!” My question to him: how long do you expect to play a game?! You can’t play the same one forever. That’s why they keep making more.

Another Everlasting Gobstopper was Skyrim. Despite November 2011 being one of the best months of new releases ever, Twitter was all atwitter with talk of Skyrim until the new year. “Did you do the drunk quest yet?” “I found a talking dog!” “Who’d you marry? … of course you did – she’s super easy.”

Eventually, we all saw the little tricks Bethesda used to keep us playing. The infinite procedural quest generation. The same-y combat. The sense that you weren’t actually playing your own role in this huge, immersive, dead world. But it wasn’t until we’d sunk 50, 100, in some cases 300 hours into this imaginary world that we were done with it. In general, it seemed like we were all enjoying our time with the game. But when it was over, it felt hollow… like we’d somehow been secretly robbed of our last two months of gaming time by sneaky, underhanded developer tricks that just made us want to keep playing the same game. Scandalous, I know! Yet when we only get five hours out of Asura’s Wrath – which also launched at $60 – we somehow feel incredibly cheated, despite the fact that it’s one of the most intense experiences of the current console generation.

It got me thinking, though: what makes us stop playing a particular game and put it on the shelf to collect dust forever? Continue reading

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