READ MORE

All Flowers in Time Bend Towards the Sun: The Cat Lady & Depression in Games

Features, Games and Gaming

Depression seems to be a common theme in indie games. From more overt depictions in Depression Quest and Actual Sunlight to the more opaque in games like Anodyne, it’s a subject many indie titles want to tackle. Continue reading

READ MORE

Softcore Gamer

Features, Games and Gaming

Do you think of yourself as a game enthusiast, or even, heavens forbid, a ‘hardcore gamer’? If you’re reading this, you must be some species of gamer, someone who likes to talk about games and read about games and even, once in a while, play them. Well, I’ve got a question for you: how many of the truly great games have you played?

A recent post on Gamefilter got me thinking about my own video gaming history, which stretches back at this point into the deep mists of halcyon time, the mid 1970s. I’ve been playing games on screens for nearly 40 years, a statement that makes my eyes go a bit wobbly as I type it. I admit that from the early 80s to early 90s, I pretty much only played arcade games, mostly in bars, because bars were a lot higher up my priority list in those days, and I didn’t play much of anything from the early 90s up into the late 90s, because I was wandering around the planet (and also spending entirely too much time in bars, if I’m honest). But still: four freaking decades.

Continue reading

READ MORE

Drinking and Driving

Features, Retrospectives

It’s Friday evening again, and as we’ve done so many hundreds — thousands? — of times before over the past 30 years, the Bearman and I are drinking together. He’s got rye and water, and I have my usual crappy Korean beer. We’re sitting on a cliff at the edge of the caldera high on top on an extinct volcano, looking down into the crater lake under clear blue skies, enjoying the view before we get back on the road. We’re talking about our wives and our jobs and whatever else comes to mind, as we always have, just shooting the shit and trying to figure stuff out. And failing, but the fun is in making the attempt. A storm front looks to be coming in from the east, so we decide to head west, around the rim of the caldera, and make for the ocean coast. We finish our drinks, fire up our engines, and go. It’ll probably take us a couple of hours to reach the seaside, but we have time, and we have booze. The new thing here, though, is that he’s on one side of the Pacific Ocean, and I’m on the other, and there are no drink-driving laws being broken. We’re Online Freeriding in FUEL.

Continue reading

READ MORE

A Short Tale That Illustrates A Universal Truth

Features, Games and Gaming

You are going to die.

Friend, you are going to die. That’s the one thing I can say about you, without the tiniest shadow of a doubt, no matter who you are. It’s one of the few things that all humans share. Awareness of that universal truth might just be the thing that makes us human. We know we’re going to die, and we build glorious, airy structures of belief to help us deal with the Fear, or to convince ourselves it’s not going to happen. But it is. You’re going to die. And whether or not you’re a believer in some kind of continuity of self after death, it is still an End, of a sort. You can believe that you’ll flit around clouds, winged and be-harped with a smiling god enthroned and beaming, you can believe that an eternity of pain and torment and screaming and fear await you because of that time you rubbed your downbelows a bit in church, you can believe the quantum standing wave that instantiates your personality in your skull jelly will persist with or without the meat substrate, you can believe in a self made of spirit that will coalesce with the universal consciousness after your heart stops beating, you can believe in the great wheel of becoming and that you’ll return until you Level Up. Whatever you believe — even if you believe nothing, or have decided due to lack of concrete evidence that it’s best to reserve judgement — dying is going to be an Ending. And just possibly, in some ways, a beginning.

The Stanley Parable is about endings.

Continue reading

READ MORE

Steam Trading Cards: Cynical Exploitation or Harmless Metagame?

Features, Games and Gaming

If you’re reading this, you probably know what Steam Trading Cards are. They’re a metagame recently introduced to the Steam platform, and they tie into the also-newish Market (where game items like TF2 weapons and hats and, to a lesser extent so far, in-game digital goods from other games can be bought and sold for real money that can then be used within the overall Steam walled garden). They also tie into the until-now pointless Badge system, where you are awarded icons on your profile for participating in betas or sales or interacting with the community or just buying MOAR GAMES, and include abilities to customize your Steam profile page with backgrounds, use emoticons in chats, and other silly crap like that.

Cards come in sets, like physical trading cards, can be ‘crafted’ to upgrade them, and are ‘dropped’ — like weapons and hats and other things are dropped in Team Fortess 2 — when playing games that have them. They can be traded, bought and sold. They are also dropped when voting on games to be offered at discount in the current, massive Steam Summer Sale 2013, and more worryingly, when buying games. And that’s where things, for some, get a little… icky.

Continue reading

READ MORE

Living First Person

Features, Games and Gaming, Retrospectives

It’s 1977. I’m 12 years old. It’s a gorgeous Northern BC summer day, one of those glorious fleeting perfect days that are all the sweeter in the frozen north, because the memories of mud and slush barely fade before the leaves have already begun to turn again. Utterly pure blue sky, sun warm on the skin, grass a deep impatient green, a light breeze off the lake that is so invigoratingly packed with oxygen and piney perfume it might as well be aerosolized cocaine. I’m playing third base, it’s what we’d call little league if we called it that in Canada back then, I’m just beginning to feel the awkwardness of adolescence, but the sheer pleasure of being alive and standing on that dirt under that gigantic bowl of sky on that day is more than enough to let me ignore my self-consciousness. I’m a big, strong kid, and even if I’m more bookworm than jock, I enjoy sports.

One of the kids on the other team strikes out, and our gang begins to jog back to the chickenwire fence behind home plate for our time at bat, where there are a few parents hanging out, maybe drinking a beer or three in the sun. I get about three or four loping steps along the baseline before my left leg folds up, with no warning whatsoever, and I go down into the dirt. I try like hell to get up, but my leg just doesn’t seem to want to bend correctly. I don’t remember it hurting as much as I remember being confused, trying to figure out why my leg suddenly didn’t do what I told it to do any more, and then horrified and embarrassed, when my stepdad came out onto the diamond, picked me up, and carried me off.

Turns out that I had Osgood-Schlatter syndrome. I was just growing too damned fast, apparently, and bits and pieces of me couldn’t keep up. The dumbass semicompetent smalltown doctor told us that I’d have to have the left leg put in an ankle to hip cast for six months, and then the other leg — once again, ankle to hip — for another six months after that.

That was pretty much the end of sports for me, at least team sports. That was the beginning — after that long, itchy year, when my first my left and then my right leg emerged, atrophied, pale, and, to my horror, looking like a limb grafted on from a much smaller, sicklier young man — of my lifelong habit of riding bikes with my headphones on down empty highways. And that summer, when the doorway to baseball and swimming and many other things I loved closed, at least temporarily, that the door into computers and the games you can play on them opened. When I learned that it was possible to go places without actually going anywhere. That was the summer my parents bought me my first computer, a TRS-80 Model III.

Continue reading

READ MORE

Rotato Zombies: Meet the Zombies (06.09.2011)

Features, Games and Gaming

TheMadJuggler slaves over his keyboard, trying to figure out how to transliterate a Boomer’s gastric juices.

THEMADJUGGLER: Blurgle? Glurgle? Mlurgle?

Enter Hypothetical Character With Whom to Dialogue, dressed in nondescript blue jeans and nondescript-er white tee.

HCWWTD: Whatcha doin’ Juggler? Is that a new blog post?

THEMADJUGGLER: Well yeah, I’m starting a feature about Left 4 Dead 2.

HCWWTD: That old game? So this is a treatise on rage-quitting?

THEMADJUGGLER: I don’t think you understand… Yes, the Left 4 Dead 2 community at large is a fickle bunch, but my gaming community has developed this band of apocalyptic heroes who play hard and have fun. We range from hilariously carefree newbs to sentient, anthropomorphic aimbots, but we always end up having fun. In the upcoming weeks, I will be posting play-by-play commentary on our most epic realism versus matches

I think you ought to meet the zombies.

Continue reading

READ MORE
READ MORE

SO MUCH TRIFORCE — DiRT 3 REVIEW

Features, Games and Gaming, Reviews

I love driving games. Even though I drive extremely conservatively in real life–and wouldn’t have it any other way–I really let loose with my inner aggressive driver with various video games.

Codemasters games are amongst my favorites. I got introduced to the company through GRID (where’s the sequel dammit??), then DiRT 2 and now the third game in that series. We’ll get to talking about the game itself in a bit but first a little digression about presentation. One of the reasons I hate EA so much, in fact, is that despite buying the rights to use ESPN’s style of broadcast presentation for FIFTEEN FUCKING YEARS is that they have hardly done a damn thing with it until the last few years. Most of us watch football on TV and we’re used to flashy graphics, interesting stat presentations and whatnot. ESPN 2K5–STILL the best NFL football game EVAR–made use of the ESPN experience in a way that still pulls me into the game more than any other. Yeah, EA bought the rights to kill the 2K series but DAMMIT do something with that shit. Grrrr.
Continue reading

READ MORE

Building Game Communities

Features, Games and Gaming, Retrospectives

It seems like game developers and publishers tend to take a few different strategies with how they release and support their games. This can be for any number of reasons, like meeting a release date, reaching specific sales numbers, and experimenting with sales models. Let’s take a look at what works and what doesn’t.

Continue reading

READ MORE

My Mom Plays Super Smash Bros. Brawl

Features, Games and Gaming

This is Part 3 in an ongoing series about my 53-year-old mother’s attempts to play video games. Part 1 can be found here, and all other entries can be found by clicking the “Your Mom” tag, to the left.

I chose Super Smash Bros Brawl as one of the games for her to play, because we hadn’t done a fighting game yet, and Smash Brothers is pretty straightforward and easy to pick up. I also knew that it would have lots of characters in it that she’d recognize from seeing me play Nintendo as a kid.

Continue reading

READ MORE

Are You Stupid, Or Do You Think We Are?

Features, Games and Gaming

This is the story of three cynical, greedy gaming cashgrabs. It is a story of bad design decisions, terrible PR and expectation management, treating customers with contempt, and ample lashings of just plain stupidity. In it, we learn what not to do, how not to do it, and we lose faith in at least one company that really ought to know better.

Continue reading

READ MORE

My Mom Plays Final Fantasy X

Features, Games and Gaming

This is part 2 in an ongoing series about my 53-year-old mother’s attempts to play video games. Part 1 can be found here.

After Portal, I decided to have my mom play Final Fantasy X. I chose this particular Final Fantasy game because it is entirely turn-based. Unlike many other games in the series, almost nothing in the game requires a fast reaction time — you have as long as you want to make menu selections. I figured that this would be make the game easier for her to pick up.  Mom was excited about this, because she knew how much I liked the series.  “I’ve never played Final Fantasy! Can you just start in the middle at 10?”

Continue reading

READ MORE
READ MORE

The Completely Objective Videogame Rating System For The Betterment Of The Industry

Features, Games and Gaming

I once read a post where someone proved, once and for all, that Gears of War is better than Killzone 2. You see, Gears of War was given a 94 rating on Metacritic and Killzone only got a 91. That guy’s crazy, right? Well, he’s not alone. Executives brag about their company’s average scores in press releases and even employee bonuses have been dependent on looking good on Metacritic. The industry is crying out for an objective way to determine the worth of a game (you know, beyond sales) and I mean to give it to them.

Continue reading

Portal Logo
READ MORE

My Mom Plays Portal

Features, Games and Gaming

My 53-year-old mother was recently in town visiting me, and while she was here, I decided to have her play lots and lots of video games. Even though she’s not really a gamer, she played Pong and Ms. Pac Man from time to time when she was younger, and when I was growing up, she would play the occasional game of Tetris on my NES. Currently, she enjoys playing Peggle, Wii Fit, and Katamari Damacy (or as she calls it: “The rolly-up game,”) but that’s pretty much the extent of her gaming experience. Because I am not above exploiting my own family for entertainment purposes, I decided to take notes while she played and write about the experience.

Continue reading

READ MORE

How To Play Quake 1 Like It’s 2011 (not 1999)

Features, Games and Gaming, Retrospectives

Seeing this recent post on RPS got me in the mood to do some singleplayer QuakeOneing. Just thinking about it gave me a shiver of anticipation, and I could hear the shotgun pow-tch-chk, the hiss and growl and roar and the clank-wobbleboom of grenades. That was it: the itch needed scratching. As soon as I got home from work, I got to re-installing.

But if you’re anything like me, you like a little modern gloss on the old warwagon. Leave the gameplay mechanics alone, but the shiny? I like the shiny!
Continue reading