Analysis
17 Comments

Can video games teach us to be better people?

At school, I learned about crop rotation, algebra and the Holy Ghost. But there was never a class on how to behave like a decent human being.Perhaps the makers of curricula in 1970s England trusted in parents or the playground to teach children how to be fully emotional and social beings. Judging by the number of arseholes churned out by the system, then as now, they were sorely mistaken. Social and emotional learning (SEL) is the idea that education can usefully teach people how to deal with one another, and how to navigate our complex human mazes. I did not know words like empathy or rapport When I left school I thought 'concord' was just a very fast airplane. I did not know words like 'empathy' or 'rapport' but I knew how to say, "fuck off pal," in a manner hinting at impending...
Analysis
56 Comments

Is Civilization: Beyond Earth any good?

Civilization: Beyond Earth is a lenticulated trick of light, like those pictures of ghosts you see in trashy bars; one moment a pre-Raphaelite beauty, the next a snarling corpse.For a while, it seems like a whole entity, glowing with vitality and life. But then, it shades into a bony darkness, an incomplete thing that whispers of Frankenstein-like stitching. There can be no doubt that this game is essentially Civilization 5, except set in the future, on an alien planet. And yet, playing for the first 100 turns earlier this week (a PR-restriction at a press event) repeatedly, I found myself entirely amenable to the game. If you look for similarities with Civ 5, you will find them in the core of the game's mechanics. It is the same experience, in that your role is to build cities,...
Pokemon
4 Comments

How Pokémon has stayed relevant

Pokémon is not a video game franchise known for making huge leaps. For nearly 20 years, the series has used the same catch and battle formula. And it's working — Pokémon is still popular. The launch of Pokémon X and Y, the latest entries in the main series, saw record-breaking success. In the weekend following its launch, both games sold a combined total of more than four million units to become the fastest-selling 3DS titles. In total, both have since sold more than 12 million units in under a year. And the Pokémon franchise as a whole has sold more than 260 million games worldwide since the release of its first games in 1996. On Nov. 21, the next set in the series — remakes of Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire — will launch for Nintendo 3DS. What keeps a franchise like Pokémon relevant?...
Good Game
100 Comments

Video games trick you into thinking you're in control, and that's bad

I can give you control of this story by simply writing five words: A man enters a room.Instantly your mind is racing, giving substance to that room, life to that man. Perhaps it's a wood paneled room with plush velvet carpeting and a roaring fireplace, or it's bitterly cold in a castle keep, or the room is sheets of riveted steel, soulless, lost deep in space. The man is 20. No, he's 90. He's missing a leg. He's blind. He's wearing a tux. But drop into the digital skin of that man, a specific soldier in a battle standing in a forest in Call of Duty: Ghosts, and that sense of control is gone, gone despite the very real control you have over him with a gamepad. You see, video games expect a lot of you, but deliver very little actual agency in return. In fact, without you at the gamepad...
Analysis
102 Comments

Mass surveillance, Watch Dogs and the militarized police: When strapping cameras on people is a good idea

When an unnamed Ferguson, Missouri, police officer stopped Michael Brown on the street, Brown was walking alongside his friend Dorian Johnson. Johnson and that police officer are the only witnesses to the interaction that ultimately ended with Brown's death. That police shooting has led to a week filled with protests, a week marred by accusations of police violence. One photograph has stood out as emblematic of the police response to these protests. It's a photo of an African-American man, arms raised to surrender, walking backward. Nearly a dozen heavily armed St. Louis County officers march towards him. But look closely at the picture above. Do you see it? There, near the center of the photo, bolted to one of the officer's black helmets. It's a video camera. Serve and protect W...
Analysis
26 Comments

Just how insane is Far Cry 4's bloody villain?

Sporting a shock of platinum hair and a bright pink suit, Pagan Min, flamboyant despot of the Himalayan region of Kyrat, is a fellow who knows how to enter a room.He also knows how to enter a video game. At E3, Ubisoft focused on the villainous character for its big reveal of Far Cry 4, the latest installment in the popular franchise from its Montreal studio. In the trailer, Min arrives at the scene of a border gunfight to summarily execute one of his guards with a pocket-knife before getting all chummy with the adventure's protagonist. Ajay Ghale has returned to the country of his birth, from America, to scatter his mother's ashes. There is a general sense of foreboding as Min, a former drug kingpin rumored to have killed his own father, welcomes Ghale like a long-lost brother. U...
Analysis
25 Comments

The time has come for Wasteland 2 to repay a $3M debt

Wasteland 2 represents a swirling Doctor Who-style time tunnel, a connection between the late 1980s and today.It allows its creator, Brian Fargo, to travel back to the formative days of game design, when he and his peers believed that anything was possible, to recreate the glowing firmament when games were whatever people wanted them to be, before 'genres' and 'categories.' This was a time when the original Wasteland graced now-antique formats like Commodore 64 and Apple II. And it allows Fargo's younger self (1980s coif intact) access to the modern age, a time dreamed of by video game design pioneers of the Reagan era, when powerful computers might allow the creation of hugely complex fantasy narratives. This time tunnel is a loan bestowed by the gaming public, via the magical Tardis...
Analysis
16 Comments

Is Sniper Elite 3 the first shooter that is boring on purpose?

Shortly after Rebellion Entertainment completing Sniper Elite 3, Jason Kingsley, the studio’s CEO and creative director, brought the game home to let his partner have a look at it. They have both visited firing ranges, and she’s a good shot in real life, he says, so he figured she might enjoy it.One evening, as she began a new mission, Kingsley got up, went to the kitchen, made a pot of tea, poured himself a cup and returned to the living room. She hadn't shot anyone. She hadn't even moved. "I said, ‘What are you doing?'; she said, ‘I'm listening and watching,'" Kingsley recalled. "I said, ‘It's been 12 minutes! You've actually — I've made a cup of tea — I've come back in and you're still in the same place! "And she said, ‘Well, yes, I'm just being very careful,'" Kingsley said. The...
Analysis
30 Comments

Video Games: The Movie is a missed opportunity

If the game industry came together to make a movie about its own awesomeness, the result would likely look a lot like Video Games: The Movie.Released today on iTunes, it's a stickily adulatory biography of gaming, from its beginnings in an MIT research lab, to today's AAA and indie efforts. Along the way, the film, partly funded via a Kickstarter, humorlessly reminds the viewer just how "amazing" video games are, via talking heads, mostly middle-aged game professionals, with a random selection of TV actors and writers who like games and think they are important. There are also helpful stats from trade body the Entertainment Software Association as well as a smattering of faintly baffling inserted quotes from the likes of Mahatma Gandhi. Rarely does the story, written, directed and...
Culture
59 Comments

Here's how Dungeons & Dragons is changing for its new edition

Dungeons & Dragons has been no stranger to reinvention.The 5th edition of the game will officially begin its slow, months-long rollout later this month, with the release of the Starter Set; a kit which will include the barebones essentials of what you need to know to play a basic campaign. In the months following, the franchise's holy triumvirate of manuals — the Player's Handbook, Dungeon Master's Guide and Monster Manual — will be released as well. The game has shifted in the past four decades, bouncing between different rules sets, philosophies and methods of play. Role-playing, character customization and real-life improvisational storytelling has always been at the game's core, but how those ideas are interpreted by the game system has changed drastically edition-to-edition. What...
Roster File
3 Comments

Hot foots, farts and fights — but no bites — in sports video games

It can be an agonizing wait, but if you hold the ball on the mound in MLB 14 The Show, with the game unpaused, eventually you will see baseball's most cherished dugout prank: the Hot Foot.The Hot Foot is one of a series of humorous delayed-game scenes The Show serves up whenever the user is in in the field and holds the ball on the mound, without the game paused, for longer than 30 seconds. The Dodgers busted it out in real life on reserve outfielder Scott Van Slyke on Sunday, to the delight of announcer Vin Scully, who narrated the whole thing like a kindly grandfather diverting mom's attention from the kids' mischief. It was a perfect moment for a team leading a game 6-0, having won 10 of the last 13 to catch first place in the standings. On another continent six days earlier, Luis...
Analysis
182 Comments

Gender hypocrisy in online games

As a boy, I'd visit my grandparents' house each summer. We'd watch epic tennis games from Wimbledon. This was the 1970s, when top tennis players were big personalities.My grandparents were delighted by boisterous, emotionally hostile male players like John McEnroe, forever hooting at umpires and taunting opponents. In the women's tournament, they preferred mellower players like Chris Evert, over those who seemed more outwardly aggressive, like Martina Navratilova. My grandparents' attitude was not unusual. Very few people found anything odd in this generally accepted hypocrisy. On those rare occasions when women sports professionals actually mattered (tennis, athletics, swimming), the most popularly accepted were 'lady-like,' as my Nan would say. The world of entertainment has changed...
Good Game
172 Comments

As game players diversify, developers start to rethink the stars of their games

As video games continue to become a massive, mainstream form of entertainment, the sorts of people playing games continue to diversify.Increasingly those players who aren't white and male — the stereotypical view of who plays video games — are asking why they don't have the ability to play the games they love as characters that they can more easily identify with. Why isn't there more diversity in the fictional worlds of video games, where players can be anything that game-makers imagine? The topic, specifically the lack of realistic female protagonists in blockbuster games, became a major talking point at this year's E3 after the people behind the next installment of massive hit series Assassin's Creed said they abandoned women assassins in the cooperative mode of their game because...
Analysis
36 Comments

What is The Pokémon Company?

Pokémon is a series about friendship, competition and jamming fearsome creatures into tiny little balls. It's a quirky, lovable franchise that over the last 18 years or so has won the hearts — and wallets — of millions worldwide. The brand makes up a highly watched kids's show, more than a dozen animated films, a trading card game, merchandise and a video game series that continues to pump out one addictive title after another. But the breakdown of who does what for the mega brand isn't always clear, especially in relation to the generally named apparatus The Pokémon Company. To clear up the confusion, we spoke with the company's director of consumer marketing J.C. Smith and The Pokémon Company International spokesperson Rob Novickas. What is The Pokémon Company? Founded in 1998 in...
Analysis
167 Comments

Why some fans are battling with Notch over Minecraft changes

Around the world, millions of people enjoy playing Minecraft, one of the most successful video games of all time. But an argument has broken out between Mojang, the maker of Minecraft, and the many companies and people which host Minecraft multiplayer servers, and who charge for their services, which include creating game-worlds and play modes based on the game, as well as the sale of in-game items and currency. Mojang points out that its End User Licence Agreement (EULA) prohibits third parties from profiting from Minecraft in ways that it does not approve. This is an entirely ordinary position for any IP owner to take. However, Mojang did nothing to stop these servers from making a profit for years. Only now is the company threatening to back up its EULA. This has upset a lot of...
E3 2014
42 Comments

What is E3? America's biggest video game event explained

E3 is a hulking, ever changing beast. It will eat your enthusiasm, digest and then evacuate it as a gross and raw and cynical sludge. But only if you let it. It can also be special, in a monstrous sort of way. I did my best to explain various components of this marketing machine and put them into the context of the industry as a whole. I don't know if I quite landed on my intended target, but I think I fell close. I couldn't have done even that without the hard work of many great journalists and videographers. This video has a number of clips from years past and I want to use this post to provide proper attribution. More importantly, I encourage you to take the time to watch these videos. They are like historic relics, as exciting, if not more exciting, that the intensely rehearsed...
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