The Get Outside Guide

Friday, July 13, 2012 at 1:00 pm
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I have a confession to make: I haven't been playing too many games lately.

That's not because of the summer game lull - there have actually been some solid titles as of late. No, it's because of the operative word in the last sentence, "summer." Like I do every year, I made a New Year's resolution that I would get outside more and get more exercise. Every year, I fail to uphold that resolution.

Until this year.

This year, I've been spending a lot of time outside. I've been running, jogging, camping, walking the dogs, working in the garden, etc. This year, my resolution stuck.

It stuck because I approached getting more exercise like a gamer. I found technology to help me work towards my goal, upgraded my gear, and found goals to work towards. Presenting the Joystick Division Get Outside Guide!
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An Interview with American McGee

Friday, May 4, 2012 at 12:00 pm
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BY JASON HELTON

You very rarely hear stories as downright amazing as American McGee's.  From humble beginnings as a high school drop-out, a chance meeting with new neighbor John Carmack changed his life forever.  Starting with a customer support job at software developer id, to eventually Shanghai, China where he founded Spicy Horse Games, American McGee has created some incredibly memorable moments in video games.  I had the pleasure of talking with him last week about all things gaming, his two upcoming releases Akaneiro and Big Head Bash, used games and much more.  
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Whiteout Doesn't Work on Software: Why Mass Effect Deserves Not To Be Neutered

Wednesday, April 4, 2012 at 10:00 am
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By Jason Helton

It's finally time for me to weigh in on the Mass Effect 3 debate.  To be fair, I need to paint the picture of where I stand with the series.  I liked ME1, loved ME2, and I am currently playing ME3.  I do NOT know the ending that has caused so much controversy, mainly because I haven't had time to play the game through.  Being the completionist that I am, it's going to take me some time before I get to this allegedly horrible finale, but it's safe to say that I am a fan of the Mass Effect universe.  But I don't need to know the ending of the game to have an opinion about the controversy, because this isn't all about Mass Effect.  

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Operation Raccoon City And The Reviewer Problem

Tuesday, April 3, 2012 at 10:00 am
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This isn't a review of Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City.

It can't be, because I haven't played ORC the way a critic plays a game. I played it like a gamer plays a game. You may not be aware of this, but there's a big difference. Before I get to that, though, I should explain a few things about the mechanics of reviewing games.

Like most video game publications, Joystick Division receives a lot of games from publishers. Most of them are specifically requested for review. Some are not, but show up anyway. ORC falls into the latter category. If we request a game, it will get reviewed, no question. We try to review all those games that show up unsolicited as well, but as we have a small staff and limited resources, we can't always get to them all. But when a game from a major franchise like Resident Evil shows up, we try our best to cover them.

Which can lead to problems like the one with Operation Raccoon City. 

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Hijacked: A True Tale of Xbox Hacking

Wednesday, March 14, 2012 at 2:30 pm

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By Jason Helton​


About two weeks ago, I publicly posted the following rant on my Facebook:

I extend both of my middle fingers to the rat bastard that stole my Xbox Live account and tried to run up my credit card with video games purchases. Damn it, the only person who runs up my credit card with video game purchases is ME!

I curse you, your gamertag, and your great grandmother! I hope you experience nothing but getting pwned until you atone for your digital sins. May your Avatar be cast into the Pit of Eternal Damnation, and my your Xbox get the Red Ring of Doom. And when you replace that Xbox, may that one get the Red Ring of Doom too...twice. And may the alternator in your car burn up, and that cheap integrated RADEON video card in your PC burn as well. And may you get Montezuma's Revenge, on your wedding day, hopefully while you are at the alter in front of your friends and family. 

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Woohoo, Freshmen Can Benefit from Videogames

Monday, February 20, 2012 at 5:00 pm
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Written By: Rich Shivener
I'm sitting in an airport in San Antonio, musing about the conference I just left. It was 31st Annual Conference on the First-Year Experience, a series of workshops and breakout sessions mainly focused on first-year (code: freshmen) students, and those who instruct them on the university level. On behalf of a university, I gathered tons of ideas about technology, active learning and reading programs, and among those ideas, there were a few I'm excited to share with the gaming community.


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Tags: Education

Remembering the Good Times: A defense of video game classics

Thursday, February 16, 2012 at 5:00 pm

Prince of Persia.jpgSome time ago a friend of mine borrowed Prince of Persia: Sands of Time. He hadn't played it When it was released and since that time it's constructed a very respected legacy. It's one of those games that you just "should" play. To be high-minded about it, Prince of Persia is a "classic." My friend returned it a week. "I'm sorry," he bowed his head in shame, "but I just couldn't do it. I couldn't get over the graphics." His isn't an isolated case, we've been spoiled by increasing production values and better looking and sounding games. It's creates a sort of graphical chauvinism that makes it difficult to appreciate games more than a few years old.



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What is a Video Game?

Thursday, February 2, 2012 at 4:00 pm

Pong.pngFor the last week or so, Joystick Division has been having a pseudo-conversation about the value of story in video games. While I think most of us here put a fairly high value on what games have to say, it's relatively to consider storytelling so heavily. Nobody questioned the value of "the story" in Bad Dudes: ninjas kidnapped the president and he can only be rescued two dudes...that are bad. Even though some of the very earliest games were clearly an attempt at telling a story, any "story" to speak of was subservient to gameplay. Games are played, you play them as a game, you don't consume them as a reader of literature. But the development of more sophisticated fantasies, nuanced plots, structured narratives and other academic sounding words have challenged what a video game even is.

As stripping the term down might suggest, a video game is a game played on video. Take table tennis, put the paddles on a screen and you've got a video game. We can call it Pong. You can read the diametric separation of paddles as allegory for the uncompromising competition between feminine and masculine identities in the player but that argument falls apart very quickly (it's also liable to have you permanently uninvited to all future family events). Pong is just a game on video. That's all the term means. But Heavy Rain isn't just a game on video--in fact, as a game, there are significant shortcomings that make it not worth playing at all--Heavy Rain is a story told by a developer and a player. Pong and Heavy Rain are both called "video games" even though they really aren't the same thing at all.

Putting an epic storyline into Pong would be as pointless as it would be absurd, just as much as taking the story out of Heavy Rain would make it unapproachable. But even in the case of Heavy Rain, calling it a "game" means that the mechanics it operates on must, in some way, comply with the design of a game. A game has rules, it has conditions for victory and defeat. If there's any story at all, it must come after the conditions for a game are met. This leads to a false dichotomy between gameplay and story, where priority has always been given to the former--although less since the latter has permeated deeper into the medium. The more control story has over the experience--as in the case of Heavy Rain--the more likely audiences will be to question whether it should even be called a "game" at all.



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MLB Featuring Ken Griffey, Jr.: A Love Affair, Rekindled

Thursday, January 26, 2012 at 2:00 pm

 

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​By: Drew Paryzer

I declared myself done with video games early on in my undergraduate education. As I saw it, I had spent enough hours of my life rabidly pursuing secret levels and alternate endings and mini-games that - I proclaimed grandly, to myself, in my head - amounted to prolonged digital masturbation. (I won't mention my senior year relapse during which I performed such tasks as essentially being Super Mario World TWICE in a week, due to an accidental file erase.) I travelled for a year right after I graduated, and didn't touch a controller for that entire time. I got philosophical about it -- "Oh, my former self who built a bunker of Link and Yoshi to blind himself from the anxiety-filled ambiguity of modern experience yadda yadda yadda." I convinced myself that listening to Radiohead B-sides while looking at some dry mountains in Chile was what I should actually be doing.

When I returned to the States, I moved to Los Angeles with two actor friends and steeped my days in a soul-crushing mix of menial office work and hours of solitary, misplaced TV writing at assorted Starbucks'. It was soon into this debacle that one of my friends acquired his brother's old Nintendo 64. Larry David was probably somewhere in my peripheral vision the first time we fired it up, and the smell of Stouffer's Dog-Food Lasagna was most likely seeping out from our microwave. All I know for sure is when I wrapped my hands around that triple-stalactite of a controller, my liberal-arts pretentions melted away. I remembered that I LOVED VIDEOGAMES. Simply, truly, deeply. Deliberate identity formation, be damned.


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The Bioware Method: Why Bioware's stories are so good

Thursday, January 26, 2012 at 10:30 am

 

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​With Mass Effect 3 just a few months away and Dragon Age 3 officially announced, not is as good a time as any to talk about Bioware. The company has long been lauded as one of the few developers that have put an emphasis on storytelling. Even their games that have featured largely unimpressive gameplay have been remembered as classics just because of how well the story was told. But with Bioware's latest two series they've found a very unique way of telling a story with the mechanics through each property's protagonists. Shepard and the warden are both vehicles for the player to act in a separate world and individual characters in their own right.

 

There are a number of ways RPGs can tell a story but for convenience's sake, we'll polarize them in a graduating scale with Elder Scrolls or Fallout style characters on one end and Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest on the other. Bethesda's RPGs feature a faceless set of eyes airdropped into a strange new world; in this world the player is free to wander and change the landscape and politics however they wish. The player and the protagonist are one, they share the same motivations and are driven by the same interests, they have the same knowledge and they are guided by the same morals. Opposite are the Square-Enix heroes that are fully written in a strict narrative. The player and the characters are separate entities experiencing a plot from very different perspective. No matter how convincing the cosplay, there is only one Cecil, and he is not the same person as the player that guides him.

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