The nightmare is over: They're not coming for your games

Recently Gamespot Editor Carolyn Petit, speaking with me on a panel at the GaymerX2 convention in San Francisco, recounted a private message she received in response to a review of Gone Home."I got this message from a reader and it was pretty well-worded, and well thought-out … but what he was saying is, essentially, ‘well, Carolyn, you shouldn’t have given Gone Home such a high score because if game designers see games like Gone Home getting so much acclaim then we’re not going to have traditional games anymore!’" Time and again, this leitmotif of gamer-speak arises: the idea that someone, somewhere is going to take your games away. A "terror dream" that sees us reliving the paternalist past and lashing out at all criticism in hopes of keeping the grasping hands of the censor at bay. ...

Dota 2 needs a white flag

I have spent more hours stuck in games of Dota 2 that I couldn't possibly win than I've played any other game this year.Let me rewind for a minute, to give some context. After this year's International Dota 2 championship, there's been a lot of analysis from people much smarter than I am about the game's "meta." The meta of Dota 2 relates to the relationships between characters, the nature of its current balance: what characters work competitively; which characters don't; what strategies are most viable; etc. I especially enjoyed Chris Thursten of PC Gamer's analysis of the state of the game in his breakdown of the International's grand final between Chinese teams Newbee and ViCi Gaming, which resonated with me on several levels. [The current patch] isn't friendly to strategies...

Why Shadow of Mordor's undead Elven hero and sexy Sauron are such a big deal

Monolith Productions revealed that Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor's mysterious Wraith character is Celebrimbor, the original forger of the Rings of Power in J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle-earth legendarium. Celebrimbor does not appear in the The Hobbit or The Lord of the Rings, which means most of Tolkien's modern audience will be introduced to this Elven warrior through the game, not through Tolkien's work. Celebrimbor's time in Tolkien's world occurred long before Thorin and his Company of Dwarves challenged Smaug for Erebor, and his work is directly responsible for Bilbo Baggins being such an excellent burglar due to his use of the one ring. With this one character addition, this one plot point, Monolith Productions has proven the lengths to which they are willing to go to make M...

Learn how to copy, and know when to steal

There are developers and publishers finding huge success with brand-new ideas, but the majority of profitable games take proven ideas and add a bit of spin to them to find an audience. There's nothing wrong with copying the work of other games, or other genres, the important thing is to know why you're copying, and do something interesting with your own product. "Look at the game you are thinking of copying, the one that got all those YouTube views, and look at why it worked, the decisions and choices, the objectives," Volume and Thomas Was Alone developer Mike Bithell wrote in a recent blog post. "How the surface of the game achieved the outcome, and then come up with something different that may duplicate some of that success." He describes a meeting where his then boss asked how to...

Wonder Woman's new look isn't half bad

Wonder Woman made a much-ballyhooed appearance this weekend at Comic-Con, sporting her new look from the upcoming Batman v. Superman. Here she is. Actress Gal Gadot's portrayal isn't challenging anyone's definition of conventional attractiveness. She's a thin woman in a sexy outfit. And those boots look a lot like they've got wicked heels. But, especially compared to the way other women have been portrayed in superhero fiction, she looks pretty badass. She's looking fierce, muscular and ready to fight, and while her armor doesn't look exactly practical (breast plates are no good, folks), her costume looks appropriate for an Amazon. As many have pointed out, there's a definite Xena vibe to the new look, which makes a lot of sense, given the Warrior Princess' own ties to the...

Want to win the console war? Here's how

Isn't it about time the console companies finally figured out the big, big secret about making a successful games console?You and I know this secret, but if the likes of Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony understand it, they seem to let it slip their minds from time to time. The trick is to make something that people want to buy; not something that companies want to sell. The trick is to make sure that you are selling games consoles and not high-falutin' super-boxes. Undoubtedly, Xbox One was launched as something that its creators wanted to sell, rather than something an appropriately sizeable number of people wanted to buy. Must Read Why you should wait before buying a new console Microsoft spent much of 2013 telling anyone who would listen that Xbox One was more than a...

The most progressive game of the summer is the one you're probably not playing

Video games have been my home since I was young, and today I'd argue that they're even more than that — they're part of my livelihood. But the experiences they've given me have always been narrow, filtered through the eyes of one beefy white guy after another.Yes, it's hard enough to get developers to add women as playable options into their games, let alone minorities with fluid sexuality. Yes, there are a hundred reasons we've heard that seem to gently take our hand and explain why it can't be done. It's disheartening, predictable and, sometimes, bullshit. Games can change. We just need to learn a thing or two from Kim Kardashian: Hollywood. Why it matters The Kim K. game is a mobile social sim in which you create a character and do your darndest to push them up the hill to fame....

But WHAT CAN BE DONE: dos and don'ts to combat online sexism

Editor's Note: After publishing Brianna Wu's excellent opinion piece on the level of harassment women have to deal with in the game industry earlier this week, we received a lot of feedback. One question we received from some frustrated readers was: What can I do to make a difference? To help answer this, we've reprinted this post from Leigh Alexander's blog with her permission.You may notice that a lot of things happen to do with sexism on the internet. Sometimes someone has done a sexist thing and people are talking about it. Sometimes someone has written an article about the time they experienced sexism and other people are having feelings about it. Sometimes a particular woman or women is being harassed on Twitter and you are witnessing it. As you know, sexism is bad, and when bad...

Never back a Kickstarter without a programmer (and other tips for not losing your money)

One of our concerns when prepping our 2013 Kickstarter campaign for Road Redemption was that a high profile Kickstarter-funded project would fail to deliver on its promises, thus ruining the public’s confidence in crowdfunding in general. Indeed, over the past year, a number of Kickstarter-funded video game projects have failed to deliver anything to their financial backers, with the $567,000-funded Yogventures being the latest. As a Kickstarter-funded development team, we think it’s important to examine these failed projects and identify aspects that led to their failures. Hopefully it will help potential backers of future Kickstarter projects know what red flags to look for. If you ask for money, know what you're doing with it Looking at the Yogventures post-mortem, it’s clear...

In the face of recent wins, Nintendo's lack of online functions is no longer forgivable

Nintendo is a company that, for better or worse, is completely blind to the trends and innovations of the gaming world around it. This allows the company to make interesting and bold leaps with its software and hardware, but it also means that Nintendo is often laughably behind the rest of the gaming world when it comes to basic features. Small steps are being made to fix this issue, but the baffling lack of competitive online or account-based features make the Wii U feel like a prior-generation console. At this point we're not mad at Nintendo, just disappointed. Especially after the release of games like Mario Kart 8 that help breathe new life in the hardware, and a wonderful slate of games shown at E3. The problem A recent update to the Wii U allows you to move your content to...

No skin thick enough: The daily harassment of women in the game industry

Content warning: This post contains graphic language, slurs and triggering content"Women are the niggers of gender," the email said. "If you killed yourself, I wouldn’t even fuck the corpse." I blinked at my phone, fighting simultaneous urges to hurl my phone across the room in anger and cry. Later that day, someone texted me my address — telling me they’d "See me when I least expected it." I haven’t been out to my car at night by myself since January 2nd. My name is Brianna Wu. I lead a development studio that makes games. Sometimes, I write about issues in the games industry that relate to the equality of women. My reward is that I regularly have men threatening to rape and commit acts of violence against me. If you are a woman working in the games industry, especially in a public...

Gaming's favorite villain is mental illness, and this needs to stop

One of the most destructive aspects of mental illness is that it is invisible. There is no obvious physical indication that someone is struggling with a mental health concern.They don’t swell up or wear a cast or waste away, evoking the sympathy and understanding of those around them. They sit at their cubicles or their home office desks or behind their bathroom mirrors and often suffer in silence. The discussion surrounding mental health can also be invisible. It’s one of the least-understood public health concerns, despite how common mental health problems can be in the population. This lack of open conversation creates an atmosphere in which mental health issues and the people who live with them are stigmatized and made to feel like outsiders, unable to address their concerns with...

Quit Twitter before you're hard, quit Instagram before you're soft

It took New York a decade to turn me. Friends in the city said it would make me a bit tougher, a bit gruffer and a bit harder, but I didn't believe them. But it has, and I should leave. I'm a Midwest boy. We had a good run, but this is probably for the better.There's a saying that you should leave New York before it makes you too hard and leave Northern California before it makes you too soft. I believe the notion originates from Mary Schmich's "Wear Sunscreen," a commencement speech that became the unlikely spoken-word jam of the summer of 1999. I appreciate the advice, and I'd argue it applies to more than just the geography of where we live. This week, I can't help but feel these clear rules whenever I sign into social media. Quit Twitter before you're too hard, I think. And quit...

Dark, satanic and dangerous: What we need from the new Doom

The original Doom games were much more interesting than their sequels and the games influenced by their design would suggest.The color palette was rich, filled with deep greens and reds, bright blues and the beginnings of the brown-and-gray aesthetic that would be popularized in Quake and has since ensnarled so many modern, often boring first-person shooters. The levels popped, and often reminded me of the aggressively bright coloring of early punk records. Doom was the first game many of us felt we had to hide from our parents; it felt like something that was better kept in our sock drawer, next to the dog-eared copies of pornographic magazines. The game was fast-paced and bloody, but more than that it was legitimately shocking for the time. Bodies hung from the ceiling, and gore...

QuakeCon is a PC gaming haven, and no company can change that

The first QuakeCon was organized in 1996 by a handful of id Software fans, who wired their computers together between rooms and hallways in a hotel near id Software's Mesquite, Texas office.The few dozen attendees at the beginning of the event came together to play Quake over a LAN connection on a large scale; an opportunity that brought attracted over 100 gamers to the event by the end of the weekend. When id Software caught wind of the convention, they stopped by to commune with their most diehard fans. John Carmack led an informal group chat with the attendees, where he discussed the technical ins-and-outs of the company's games, and got feedback from fans that would help shape future titles. This year's QuakeCon is an important one for the history of the event. It's the first year...

GaymerX is necessary, but it may not be here next year

GaymerX is a convention for LGBT gamers, allies and friends, with the aim of making everyone in the community feel welcome and accepted.It's like any other gaming convention, full of panels, parties, and devs and publishers showing off their games, but with an inclusive focus and run by people from the community. I spent the weekend attending, and it was a rousing success. The con made a splash on social and drew a large crowd, even though it was competing for mindshare with such massive events as EVO, the DOTA tournament The International and the final game of the world cup. "I was glad there was that much buzz!" GaymerX president Toni Rocca said. "Last year, we kind of got screwed in regards to press." Rocca noted that there's been an expansion of coverage concerning issues of...
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