It's a Golden Age for Gaming

Friday, April 20, 2012 at 10:00 am
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 It's a great time to be a gamer.


Call this a reassurance topic if you like. Or maybe it's just the ravings of a man staring at the world through rose-tinted glasses. Either way, I can't help but feel like much of the negativity surrounding gaming these days is unwarranted.


Keep in mind that I'm not talking about any particular occurrence or current hot topics, but rather the state of gaming as a whole. It seems like no matter where I look, I keep stumbling upon folks claiming that gaming has gone downhill on a fast track this generation; that the hobby is doomed, stale and being run by greedy publishers willing to run the industry into the ground if it'll mean a few more bucks in the pocket.


I, for one, take a look at the gaming landscape of 2012 and can't help but feel like we've never had it so good.


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Video games: A constant supply of achievement

Friday, April 13, 2012 at 10:00 am
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There are few things more wonderful than that feeling you get when you know you have achieved something; looking back at what you've been working towards only to realize that you have finally reached your destination. You did it. You accomplished your goal. You take a moment to enjoy the rush of endorphins and then move on to the next task, rejuvenated by the excitement from your recent success.


I think that's why I'm a list person. As I plan for a busy afternoon, crowded work week or hectic weekend, I jot down all of the things I want to accomplish, eagerly anticipating the sense of glee that will overtake me each and every time I get to cross something off of that list.


That sense of achievement is also one of the reasons I enjoy being a journalist so much. Every day boasts a never-ending series of deadlines to make as I work feverishly (or so I tell my bosses) to submit copy and photos. It's a steady succession of goal-effort-success, paid off each week in the form of a physical product I can hold up and say, "Look at what I have created."


Yes, it's egotistical. But it also feels wonderful. I'd eat that feeling three times a day if we could kill it, cook it up and slap it on a plate. And I doubt I'm alone here. We all love that feeling of accomplishment. It hits in quick bursts, though, which is probably why mankind is so obsessed with success. We just want to do better and better, thus making ourselves feel better and better each time we accomplish one of our goals.


That is exactly why many of us play video games, too: They allow us to escape into a world where instant gratification is in constant supply.

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Wii U's "Power" Not Part of the Equation

Friday, April 6, 2012 at 1:00 pm
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Rumors started popping up earlier this week that Nintendo's upcoming Wii U console is not as powerful as the PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360. Never mind Sony and Microsoft's next-gen consoles, according to unspecified sources quoted by Games Industry, the Wii U (in the department of graphics, at least) can't even keep up with the current generation.


This has, of course, led to an abundance of doomsayers flooding the message boards, prophesying an end to Nintendo on the back of an underpowered piece of hardware.


While I certainly wouldn't mind seeing Nintendo learn a hard lesson or two, I can't help but laugh at all of this speculation.


There's no guarantee that Nintendo will capture lightning in a bottle with the Wii U, but I'm not one to bet against a winning horse on a hot streak so quickly.


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Hells Yeah to Video Game Warning Labels

Friday, March 30, 2012 at 1:00 pm
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Those crazy congressmen are at it again.


Virginia Representative Frank Wolf and California rep Joe Baca recently co-authored the "Violence in Video Games Labeling Act," a bipartisan bill that, if passed, would require all video games rated "E" and up to bear a warning label similar to those found on a pack of cigarettes. The proposed label would read "Warning: Exposure to violent video games has been linked to aggressive behavior." Wolf and Baca proposed a similar bill back in 2009 which would have seen a warning label attached to all video games rated "T" and up.


It may come as a shock that I, too, am in favor of labeling video games in such a manner. Rather than take broad strokes like Wolf and Baca, however, I believe the warnings should be far more specific to the individual games. Following are a handful of examples for the types of warning labels I would like to see utilized. It should be noted that the research I've conducted is likely far more thorough than that backing Wolf and Baca's latest bill.

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Enjoying the Seasonal Slump in New Game Releases

Friday, March 23, 2012 at 1:00 pm
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I feel like something of a hypocrite for saying this, but these slow months for new game releases sure can be nice. Usually I'm the guy moaning and groaning about the last quarter of the year being crammed too full of must-have titles, pleading with publishers to spread the love throughout a bigger portion of the calendar.


While I certainly still wish for more evenly distributed releases, however, I can't deny how nice it can be to hit a dry spell from time to time.


The first quarter of the year is usually pretty slow. A decent surge occurs through the spring and, come summer, we're faced with that infamous gaming drought.


My usual argument is that those slow seasons would be the perfect time for some of the AAA titles usually reserved for the winter rush to pop up, giving gamers something meaty to snack on while they wait for the usual holiday madhouse of mega releases. But I've been singing a different tune these past few months.


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Why Journey is so Important

Friday, March 16, 2012 at 11:00 am

 

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Journey released on the PlayStation Network this week and, by now, you've likely heard quite a bit of praise being tossed around over developer ThatGameCompany's latest hit. The Metacritic score is stellar, Joystick Division's own James Hawkins adored itand, come December, Journey is likely to garner quite a bit of Game of the Year chatter.

But while everyone lauds the beautiful graphics, engaging presentation, tight controls and sweeping score, one of Journey's best characteristics is being overlooked; namely how uniquely "video game" it is.


What truly makes Journey worth talking about is not just the sum of its parts, but the fact that the experience it offers could not be achieved in any other medium. Unlike the vast majority of its peers, Journey is exclusively video game, through and through.

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Don't Like The Way Capcom Does Business? Stop Giving Them Your Money.

Friday, March 9, 2012 at 10:00 am
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When I first read about this whole Street Fighter X Tekken DLC debacle, my initial reaction was the sort of rage that usually surfaces when I feel that video game publishers or developers are giving their customers the shaft.


The short of it is this: A dude managed to hack into an early copy of Street Fighter X Tekken and, in doing so, uncovered 12 characters that were planned DLC for the game. In other words, there are characters (and alternate costumes, apparently) sitting on the disc that Capcom plans to charge customers for following the game's release.


After I allowed my heels to cool, I started getting upset with my fellow gamers, too. We complain to high heaven about this kind of stuff all of the time, but chances are pretty damn good that Street Fighter X Tekken and all of that extra content is going to sell like mad. We say we're angry, but then we don't speak with the only voice those publishers will actually hear: Our dollars.

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So, I Bought a Vita. Wanna Make Something of it?

Friday, March 2, 2012 at 10:00 am
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At approximately 7:55 a.m. Wednesday morning, Feb. 22, I pulled into the parking lot of my local Target and fixed my gaze on the front of the store. A man in a bright red shirt had just finished wiping down the glass on the automatic doors and headed inside. He was shortly followed by a man that looked to be in his mid-twenties and in a hurry.


"I bet that asshole is here to get a Vita," I thought, exiting the car and making my way inside. "The store isn't even supposed to open for five minutes. This is bullshit."


I had not pre-ordered a PlayStation Vita, as I had not necessarily planned on getting one until the night before its release. As such, my fear was that my sole local provider of gaming goodness would be swarmed with nerds early Wednesday morning, eager to pick up one of the latest handhelds on launch day and leaving me to drive another half hour down the road if I wanted to snag one for myself.


The man in question, it turns out, was in the market for a car charger for his iPod. I was the only "nerd" in the electronics section at the crack of dawn, but at least I knew my recently made purchasing decision was insured.


This week I conclude my epic three-part series concerning the PlayStation Vita, (sort of) explain why I finally settled on picking one up, and give a quick-n-dirty assessment of the hardware and games.

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I Fought the Hype and the Hype Won

Friday, February 24, 2012 at 10:00 am
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Sometimes my resolve just isn't as strong as I would like to believe. I make a concrete, unflinching, definite decision on something, and then I take the exact opposite course of action.


Last week I made the claim that I did not own a PlayStation Vita, nor did I plan on picking one up anytime soon. This was not a decision I came to lightly, but rather something I had been debating since the handheld console's announcement over a year ago.


As of last week I had finally decided that I would not be investing in a Vita. Period. The end. There was no need to argue about it because my mind was firmly made up.


As I sit writing this, the Vita is less than a day away from its wide release here in the States and, honestly, there is a damn good chance I'll be beating down the door of my local Target come 8 a.m., eager to claim one of the shiny bits of goodness for my very own.


If asked why I am having this sudden change of heart, the only response I could possibly give (Other than "I'm weak. Don't judge me!") would be "I couldn't fight the hype."

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Viva la Vita: Is There Room in the Pocket for Sony's New Handheld?

Friday, February 17, 2012 at 10:00 am
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Sony's latest handheld device is finally going global and, within the next few weeks, I think it's a safe bet that quite a few gamers will be living la Vita loca.


I understand how that last sentence could have angered you. But let's face it; if I hadn't said it, someone else would have. Now that we've gotten that bit of ugliness out of the way, let's take a few minutes to mull over this latest shiny hotness being thrust into our sweaty mitts.

 

The launch of a new piece of hardware comes with all sorts of questions to ponder. The biggest, of course, being whether or not the thing will live a life worth remembering. Or, more importantly to developers and gamers, will it live a life worth investing in?


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