Opinion
104 Comments

Conservative, stuffy old Nintendo and its weird habit of wild radicalism

Every big game company has its own personality, its own quirks and idiosyncrasies. Few companies are as quirky and idiosyncratic as Nintendo.One of Nintendo's characteristics is the fierce loyalty of its employees (and its fans), and their everlasting fealty, even after they have moved on. It's almost like a code. I have good friends who once worked there. No matter how much I beg and plead for tidbits of gossip, they just smile down at me, like I'm asking to meet the Tooth Fairy. If you walk through the offices at Nintendo of America, the desks are covered with knickknacks and toys, just like any other game industry place of work. The only difference is that they are almost all Nintendo-themed. It's kinda cute and it's kinda creepy. So it's rare for a former employee to come out and...
Opinion
18 Comments

Borderlands' $400 collector's edition is proof AAA devs go whale hunting too

Not every game can support a $400 physical product. Physical boxes as a whole are likely on the way out. They're expensive to make, ship and sell through third-party retailers, and of course by the time the disc gets to your system there's often a huge patch to download anyway. It's a physical purchase on a technicality; games on discs are basically just a low latency, high bandwidth way to get information to your console. But if you're going to ship a box, you may as well ship the highest margin box you possibly can, which is why well-hyped franchises are resorting to increasingly huge collector's editions. Borderlands is just the latest example. You get a higher profit margin selling plastic than you do selling games, and it's pretty easy to outsource the production of...
Opinion
87 Comments

Your call is important to Google: A YouTube horror story

Early in October, my AdSense account was banned for “invalid click activity.” AdSense — a service run by Google — is the primary means of making money on YouTube. "Invalid click activity" means that either some jerk clicked an ad a bunch of times, or maybe put a clickbot on me to wreck my account. Or it could be a well-meaning fan repeatedly clicked on an ad with the misguided idea that doing that sort of thing works almost like a virtual tip. Unfortunately, it does not, and now I’m banned from making money off my YouTube videos ever again. This is what it's like to call Google "All of our representatives are currently busy assisting other callers." A sympathetic-sounding man’s voice consoles me from what I imagine is an empty warehouse with a single phone on the outskirts of...
Opinion
57 Comments

Don't read the comments, or: How we went insane but made our game better

"Don't read the comments, man."The first time I heard that was from Rasmus Wedin at Boston Airport when we were preparing ourselves to get back to Valencia, Spain, after PAX East. We were reading what the press said about Gods Will Be Watching and found some unpleasant commenters on an article. It's one of the wisest pieces of advice I ever got in gamedev, and heard it again and again after that day. There's even a Twitter account that reminds you periodically to not read the comments. But I did. I've been reading every single comment about our work, and I can confirm that doing so is a guaranteed source of madness. I will never forget the day we released Gods Will Be Watching on Steam. Keeping track of Twitter, web reviews, Steam forums... After several hours of reading wild and...
Opinion
13 Comments

How your taste in games will affect the games your kids play

It's weird to think that in a hundred years time there will be people who feel a strong emotional connection with Minecraft.I'm not talking about the ten-year-olds playing the game now, living to a ripe old age and looking fondly back at lost youth. I'm talking about their kids and even their grandchildren. The love that today's kids are feeling for today's games will be passed onto their descendants, so that, even if Minecraft were to suddenly lose its popularity, the game can still look forward to a warm and fuzzy afterlife through inherited nostalgia, for decades to come. There's a story out today about inherited nostalgia and how studies have found that musical tastes are passed on generationally. The study looked at the tastes of people in their early 20s. Like all of us, the...
Opinion
140 Comments

Why it's worth continuing to cover games with low review scores

"Why are you still talking about a game that only scored six out of 10?"This is a question I often read on Facebook, and in the comments of one of the (many!) articles covering Destiny. It also popped up in stories about the deeply flawed Alien: Isolation. There's this idea floating around that a site's review is the last word on whether that game is good and, more importantly, whether that game is worth further discussion. Here's the important thing: A site's review doesn't tell you what the staff of a site thought about a game, nor does it tell you what you'll think about the game. It's a critical look at that game from the point of view of one person, the writer of that review. Trying to make any review the monolithic last word on that game is pure folly. The review is the...
Opinion
63 Comments

Nintendo in 2015 is all about toys, add-ons and above all, profit

Nintendo crammed a ton into its latest Nintendo Direct presentation, almost to the point of absurdity. There's much to think about here, but what are the big lessons that Nintendo seems to be learning?The company is doing a great job of ramping up amiibo integration, and the addition of near-field communication to the New 3DS XL hardware is a big part of that initiative. Adding amiibo support to existing games, including Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker and the 3DS version of Super Smash Bros., is also a big step in the right direction. Code Name: STEAM has been confirmed to have support for the toys, including the ability to import Fire Emblem characters. Don't worry, Nintendo is making more Marth toys! There's a reason for this push, and it benefits both Nintendo and the retailers. T...
Opinion
123 Comments

The three no-bullshit, realistic rules for parenting and video games

My fifth kid recently turned one year-old, so believe me when I say the precious initial parenting instincts have been well and truly beaten out of me. I'm done with the hand-laundered cloth diapers, the idea that I'll be able to make three meals a day of healthy food hasn't been entertained in years, and when multiple kids are sick I go into survival mode instead of worrying about being the perfect parent. These days I'm more worried about everyone getting through the day alive versus having a clean house and perfectly scrubbed children. This is what I've learned when it comes to video games. They make great baby sitters Television and video games can certainly be abused by parents who want to get out of paying for a babysitter from time to time, and I gotta tell you: It's great. I...
Opinion
97 Comments

Destiny is the Phil Collins of gaming and I'm its Easy Lover

I often made the same sniffy dismissals of Destiny common to everyone who has yet to play Destiny."It's just grinding! The story missions are all the same! Peter Dinklage sounds like an Applebee's waiter reading back a to-go order!" It goes on and on. A combination of boredom and curiosity have driven me deep, way, way deep, into Bungie's dark thrall, and now I'm changing my tune. Not in a gradual way, either. I've fallen. Hard. How did this happen? I'm actually taking breaks from writing this piece to do public events so I can complete a bounty. ... Oh, who am I kidding, I'm taking breaks between public events to work on this piece. That's how bad it's gotten. I have a message for the haters who say Destiny is Dullsville now that I've fully embraced the game with all its peaks and...
Opinion
94 Comments

Patreon, Greg Miller and the real cost of going indie

"What are they going to do for health insurance?" This was my depressingly adult reaction to the news that the Kinda Funny crew quit their jobs at IGN to go indie with a Patreon-supported business. "We had great jobs, great benefits," Nick Scarpino said during the introduction video. And that's gone now, they're on their own. It's a move many of us in the media are going to be watching with great interest. To date the crew is pulling in $15,761 a month from one Patreon, and just over $19,000 a month from the other. That's over $408,000 a year! They're rich, right? The age of fan-supported content has arrived, and the publishing world will never be the same. Hold up a bit The conversation around these numbers has often been "they're doing amazing!" but as someone who has worked in...
Opinion
23 Comments

Why I love and believe in virtual reality

I want to tell you about some of the places I've been in the past few months. Before I do, allow me to describe what I see now. There is a large screen floating a few feet in front of me, and I'm composing this story in a very basic word processor to keep the rest of the Internet from distracting me. This screen, along with my invisible body, is floating in the depths of space. Typing is strange; I'm using hands I can't see on a keyboard that doesn't seem to exist. It's peaceful out here. Where to go, and what to do For the past hour or so I've floated in a space station above our planet, enjoying the view. In this program, "Weightless," I use my hands to control my forward movement. By holding my hands in front of me, palms out, I float in whatever direction I'm pointing toward. I...
Opinion
250 Comments

Pouty Destiny players go aggro over free legendary weapons

"Would you rather have received nothing?" This is the question my mother used to ask me when I was a child and complained about gifts that were closer to the "sock" end of the spectrum. It helped to put everything in perspective: I'll take the sweater every time if the second choice is a big zero. Destiny players, having received their free legendary weapon, may have rather gotten nothing. It's a crappy attitude in general, but what's worse is that they feel the need to send messages to the company that gave them the free item talking about how they're mad they didn't get something else. The image below is a light example of what I'm talking about. Some of the messages are much worse, and the Internet is filled with bellyaching about the free legendary weapon. People don't just seem...
Opinion
91 Comments

Four ways to become a happier gamer, and person, in 2015

2014 was the year I got serious about happiness. It was a strange thing to look at my life and realize how rarely I was happy. I'm making a good living as a writer, which has always been my dream. I have a wonderful family, and we all have our health. It felt like I had hit all the necessary milestones to feel both very adult and very content, but my brain rarely rewarded me with the sort of happiness I craved. I've often heard that happiness is a skill, not a feeling, and I realized how little time I was spending working on the skill of happiness, while waiting passively for the feeling to reach me. It also seemed like my love of gaming and pop culture was hindering this journey, not helping. From Steam sales to streaming content there was always so much to do, so many piles of...
Opinion
264 Comments

2014 in review: the worst depictions of women in gaming this year

The industry made a tiny little half-step in the right direction where the representation of women was concerned in 2014. There were a few great woman protagonists (like Amanda Ripley from Alien: Isolation) and solid side characters (like Amita from Far Cry 4, Ilona from Call of Duty). Dragon Age: Inquisition, Polygon's choice for Game of the Year 2014, had more memorable, strong women characters in one game than we sometimes see in an entire year of gaming. We covered this ground in our recent best women characters of the year piece. But, that's a tiny half-step up from a status quo that's still pretty dire, where so many women characters are damseled, window dressing or playing to tired stereotypes. And there was plenty of that going on. Big budgets, big problems Let's start with...
Opinion
12 Comments

2014 in review: The Last of Us: Left Behind was the best two hours of the year

The guidelines for Polygon's Games of the Year selection process prevented me and my colleagues from voting for The Last of Us: Left Behind. I say that as one explanation for why The Last of Us: Left Behind did not appear in our top 10 games of the year list. The particular regulation that forbade us from voting for Left Behind stipulates that game of the year choices must be "full games" or expansions — not smaller downloadable add-ons. Left Behind's DLC status may render it ineligible for traditional game-of-the-year lists, but it's one of the finest gaming experiences I had in 2014. [Warning: The following contains spoilers for The Last of Us and The Last of Us: Left Behind.] A risky move Naughty Dog already delivered the best story of 2013 with The Last of Us, so players were...
Opinion
74 Comments

2014 in review: the year that sucked for everyone but Nintendo

If I had to throw my stones on one side of the pond, I'd be inclined to agree with some of my colleagues: 2014 was a real armpit of a year. But we're not here to dwell on game failures, or studio closures, or toxic culture, or any of the other negatives — no, none of that, not again. Instead, I'd like to earnestly clasp my fingers together, tilt my head and pleasantly inquire, "Have you heard the good news about Nintendo?" Nintendo killed it in 2014. To the depth and breadth and height Mario's soul can reach, let me count the ways. Climbing the charts Early 2014 started off with tepid numbers from Nintendo. The company was still reporting losses from 2013, even with strong figures from killer titles such as Super Mario 3D World and The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD. Others...
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