Five Great Alternative Video Game Weapons

Tuesday, May 8, 2012 at 1:55 pm
Bow and arrow -- regular weapon, regular violence. But some of these other things...

If there's one thing I've learned from playing a lot of Minecraft over the past few days, it's that bashing heads isn't always the best way to deal with your adversaries, even in video games, where bashing heads is almost always a good option. Sometimes the best way to deal with an angry horde of foes is to simply lock your doors, take a nap, and hope they're gone by the time you wake up again.

But even when complete nonviolence isn't an option, weird violence is. Weird violence is like regular violence in that it harms people, but it's like nonviolence in that it warms the human heart. How does it accomplish both of these seemingly diametrically opposed goals? Well, weird violence causes injury in ways that are so goofy or dumb that it's impossible not to smile.

In video games, the available weapons are usually mainstays like firearms or swords. But sometimes a game will give you something different, something a little kooky that still manages to neutralize your enemies. Weird violence ensues! Hilarious!

The following are five indisputably odd ways heroes of video games have destroyed their adversaries.

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Tags: Weapons

Ten SNES Soundtracks That Continue to Blow My Mind

Tuesday, March 20, 2012 at 5:00 pm
Super Nintendo and its glorious, glorious music.
This entry's going to be shameless, shameless nostalgia-mongering, friends. Like the dude at the party who brings up his favorite episode of Doug without any kind of conversational prompt, or the girl next to you at work who turns to you one day and out of the blue asks if you remember what pogs you had, I will now trudge back unbidden through the mist of time and dwell upon things that once were.

And I invite you to follow!

Is there a reason for this sudden urge to trot out some of my favorite Super Nintendo soundtracks? Will it enlighten us in any way or shed some kind of light on the current state of video game music?

Kind of!

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Five Underrepresented Character Types in Video Games

Tuesday, February 28, 2012 at 3:01 pm
This type of guy tends to turn up a lot in video games.
I want you to do something for me. Go to the nearest video game retailer you can find. Bring duct tape.

Don't worry, I'm not asking you to do anything illegal! I'm not asking you to kidnap a Gamestop employee or anything. No, I don't think this is illegal. Though it may get you banned from the store.

I want you to stand outside the store, wrap duct tape around your face until you are effectively blind, and then go inside. Fumble around until you find the game displays. Now select a game, entirely at random, and flail about wildly until you get a sales clerk's attention. (Don't worry, someone who has covered their face in duct tape and is waving a video game around in the air is probably only the third or fourth weirdest person this sales clerk has had to deal with today. Retail is a harsh, unforgiving world.) Now buy the game and exit the store. Apologize if you've accidentally body-slammed anyone during this process.

So now you have purchased an entirely random game. Drive home (please take off the duct tape first) and fire up your console or gaming computer. Pop the random game in and start playing. Now take a good, long look at your player character. What kind of person are they? If you had to describe their personality in one word, what would it be?

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Five Games for Singles on Valentine's Day

Tuesday, February 14, 2012 at 3:00 pm
Valentine's Day is all about love, but it's also about other feelings.

To those with a sweetheart, a happy marriage, a lover or a crush, Valentine's Day is, at best, a time to affirm the mutual love and respect you feel for each other, and at worst it is a day when you exchange mediocre gifts for mediocre sexual favors. But for those who are committed or smitten, it is an undeniably exciting time.

Sure, it may be stressful to nail down the dinner reservations and try to come up with ideas to spice things up (hint: puns always make things sexier!), but unless you fuck up and get your partner a diet book or something, the aura of Valentine's Day is designed to make you feel validated. Everywhere you look, America is both paying homage to and milking money out of your relationship. Though it can be a little disheartening to sense the vigorous corporate hard-on that the greeting card industry achieves on this holiday each year, even that can't dampen the spirit if you're really, truly in love.

But what if you're single? Well, my unattached brethren, we can survive this most syrupy of days. Video games can help. I'm going to tell you how.

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Five Things We Learned From Deus Ex: Human Revolution

Tuesday, January 24, 2012 at 4:00 pm
Deus Ex: Human Revolution is an exploration of whether someone is still human when they have sunglasses built into their face
As we continue the trend of expanding the "Five Things We Learned" series into this-generation territory, we now come to a game that asks important questions like, "Will Detroit still be a cesspool in 2027?" and "If you could shoot metal planks out of your elbows, would you use this power for good or evil?"

Deus Ex: Human Revolution (shortened to DX:HR because honestly, with an acronym that badass, why not use it) is the prequel to Deus Ex, which presented a vision of the future that tapped into the eerie atmosphere of those early days of the new millennium and is heralded to this day as one of the best video games ever made. I've expressed my love many times for the classic original, but did the prequel live up its roots? Can Adam Jensen adequately fill out the big coat of JC Denton?

Having just played through this game, I learned the answers to the above questions -- and much more. And even though I never asked for this, I ended up learning... a little bit about life.

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Five Things We Learned From Dragon Age: Origins

Tuesday, January 17, 2012 at 3:00 pm
In Dragon Age: Origins, you do regular stuff like kill arch-demons and sleep with witches.

I've been severely behind the times on this-gen games for what seems like an eternity. For a long while I had no console to call my own, only a laptop with a graphics card that kept me permanently stuck in about 2005.  Using the computer equivalent of dark sorcery (I think I put a file called "eyeofnewt.ini" in some directory), I managed to trick the machine into running some more recent games like Oblivion or Mass Effect, but the dismal frame-rates made the games more like interactive slideshows, and I usually had to decrease the draw distance so much that my character was wandering through a permanent haze.

Every so often I would remember wistfully the good old days when I was at the cutting edge of gaming, when my father had bought a Dreamcast for us and we marveled at its then-unbelievable capabilities. I have clear memories of shouting at the microphone we attached to the controller to play Seaman, trying to tell my tadpole son that he was a fuck-up and that he'd never amount to anything, all the while amazed that games were so advanced.

For a time  it seemed that those days were gone forever, that the price of New York life on low wages would preclude me from experiencing current games.

But recently a good friend purchased a newer model Xbox 360 and, in an act of gamer benevolence matched by few others, passed his still-perfectly-working previous 360 along to me. And so suddenly I find myself with all the possibilities of modern gaming at my fingertips. Mad with power, I now chip away at a seven-year backlog, devouring the games I once thought I would only be able to play come 2020 or so.

And with new games, come new life lessons. So let's get right to it, and talk about the lessons of one of the first games I popped into that sweet vertical 360 CD tray -- Dragon Age: Origins.

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Game Trailer Songs That Would've Been Weird Yet Rad

Tuesday, January 10, 2012 at 1:00 pm


Marcus Fenix of Gears of War, who is a pretty tough dude, benefits directly from a Tears for Fears cover.

​There's something about incongruity that interests the mind. Two things that don't seem to fit together being combined can be a source of fascination, humor or even awe. It's the reason we are interested in a great many things. Examples of these kinds of odd pairings are everywhere. Sweet and sour pork is one (How can one serving of pork be both deliciously sweet and also mouth-puckeringly sour? Visit your neighborhood Chinese restaurant to find out!). Gator Golf is another ("What could be greater than golf with a gator," a philosopher once mused).

Rat-cat-dog is perhaps the ultimate expression.

Sometimes, video game trailers will rely on this to draw potential players in by matching game footage with music that is both totally unexpected yet somehow extremely effective. The most famous example of this to date is the masterful trailer for the original Gears of War, which featured an armored mega-badass running and gunning against a terrible, alien foe in a bombed-out cityscape to the sleepy, melancholy strains of Gary Jules's cover of "Mad World." It's a dynamic that has worked in other trailers since, including the Bioshock Infinite trailer recently released

I can't help but wonder if this same trick of amazing game footage paired with gorgeous yet unexpected music would work for other upcoming releases as well. So I took the trailers of a few of the most anticipated games coming up in the future and thought about what music might have that "this is ridiculous... wait, actually, this is awesome" effect. 

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Video Games' Unsung Heroes of 2011

Friday, January 6, 2012 at 10:00 am
overlooked cover.jpg
Looking back over the past 12 months of video game releases, it's hard not to feel a bit overwhelmed. The AAA blockbusters got rolling early in 2011 with only a few lulls in the action leading up to the monstrous holiday window.

We saw a lot of big titles this year--both new IPs and a ridiculous number of high profile sequels--as well as some pleasant surprises that managed to sneak under the "awards show" radar.

It's this second group of games I'll be focusing on for this week's column. While pretty much every gaming site on the planet is releasing their annual "top 10 of the year" lists this week, I instead want to take a gander at some of the games that might not be receiving as much attention.

With so many stellar releases this year, it's hard to fault anyone for overlooking a few of these gems. So let's give it up for the little (relatively speaking) guys.

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Ten Slimiest Politicians in Video Games: Part 2

Tuesday, January 3, 2012 at 2:00 pm

Because gamers need to know if their politicians are crooks.

Welcome to 2012, everyone! We hope you've had a nice two days of recovering from the furious hangover with which you invariably ushered in this new year, but now it's time to get down to business. CAUCUS BUSINESS.

That's right, people. It's time to huddle together in mobs and talk loudly about who we would like to be president. It's the 2012 Iowa Caucuses today. The outcome of these caucuses will be scientifically analyzed and a winner will be selected. This candidate will then go on emboldened by his (or her, but let's be honest, it's not going to be her) victory and then may or may not be immediately forgotten.

But while this event of clear national importance takes place in a state of dubious national importance, let us all -- Iowan and non-Iowan, American and non-American, the fervent among us as well as the apathetic -- yes, let us all ask the pressing questions about video games and the politicians within them. And let us be thankful that none of the figures mentioned below can be elected to any form of real-life office.

This is Ten Slimiest Politicians in Video Games: Part 2!

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Ten Slimiest Politicians in Video Games: Part 1

Tuesday, December 27, 2011 at 4:00 pm


Press up on the D-pad to indict!

My friends, my fellow gamers, it's the most magical time of the year.

That's right. That magical time when people can smell the pine needles and the general lust for power in the air. That season where everyone seems nicer than usual, and those nice people show ads on your TV telling you exactly who wants to destroy America. It's that wondrous, festive time when folks wait with bated breath to see if Santa's left them the most precious gift of all: a functioning democracy.

It's primary season! In a little over a week the ponderous, silly wheels of American presidential politics will begin their quadrennial trundle down the hillside of freedom -- beginning with Iowa's caucuses on January 3rd.

So, in honor of another cycle, we're compiling a list of ten of the slimiest politicians in video game history. They take bribes, they kill for influence, and sometimes they are actually huge monsters taking a human form simply for convenience (OLD GAME SPOILERS AHEAD). But whatever their deal, you wouldn't want them in the Oval Office.

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