Five Underrated Narratives Of 2011 That You Can't Miss

Wednesday, December 21, 2011 at 1:00 pm
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This year will go down in history as one of the biggest ever in video game history. It'll be known for the three month period where a dozen giants all fought one another at the top of a mountain of cash, battling it out for supremacy over the eager masses. It'll be known for sending the surging entertainment medium even further above the rest. 

But, even more than popularity, it deserves to be recognized as a momentous year in video game storytelling. A few notable games have risen to a high level of critical and commercial success that will ensure their legacy sticks around for a while -- stories told through the video game medium that are complex and robust on a level that we don't see often at all. Portal 2, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, Uncharted 3. Those games have brilliance in them, and are rewarded handsomely for their achievements due to robust marketing campaigns, a lot of high-profile coverage, and enthusiastic fan bases.

However, there have been some smaller games that have come out this year that aren't getting the kind of recognition they deserve. Recently, we've been able to rely on independent developers and international creations to push video games forward as a narrative medium. This year is no different, except that it is more laden with diverse stories than in years past, and we're able to experience strange, dark, beautiful tales of all sorts. For your viewing pleasure, I've put together a short list of those games that may have slipped under the radar. Games that will stir you with story.


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Bad Gift Guide - Five Recommendations

Wednesday, November 30, 2011 at 4:00 pm
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Just like my uncle who gives me an XXXL Harley Davidson shirt  and lottery tickets every Christmas, some of your friends and family deserve weird, bad and downright horrible gifts for the holidays. So, as a gamer, you can exact revenge by offering some of the worst video games of 2011. Check out our ideas, and be sure to offer yours. 


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Ten Video Game Characters We'd Like to Have a Beer With

Tuesday, November 29, 2011 at 1:00 pm

 

 

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I AM BECOME BEER, ARBITER OF MEN

As a rubric for determining the worths of all types of people, the old "would I like to have a beer with them" test reigns supreme. We hear this question posed across the spectrum of American discourse, from politics ("Sure, he's clearly the better candidate and the other guy keeps confusing Austria with Australia... but would I want to get a beer with him?") to establishing friendships ("She's smart, funny... but aloof.  Do I want to get a beer with her?") to philosophy ("So, class, Plato's point was that if you were the owner of the Ring of Gyges, you could have a beer with anyone in the world without consequence... but would it be just?"). We may be paraphrasing Plato slightly here.

The point is that "would I like to have a beer with this person" has become, in our culture, synonymous with "do I like this person on an instinctual level."

We've all heard the "most influential" or "baddest-assed" lists compiled of video game characters. But why not apply the all-important "get a beer with" test to these same characters? It's an almost completely original idea! So here it goes -- ten video game characters we'd like to have a beer with. 

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Five Things We Hope to Learn from The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

Tuesday, November 8, 2011 at 10:00 am


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The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim -- putting the "fan" back in "fantasy."

Oedipus has survived for millenia as a dramatic figure, because the story of his life is so compelling. In Oedipus's search for a cure to the plague of Thebes, we see our own compulsion to uproot the evil and misery in life. In Oedipus's discovery of the horrible truth that he killed his own father (ANCIENT GREEK THEATRE SPOILER ALERT), we recall every time we've accidentally brought ruin upon ourselves. And when Oedipus leaves town, once a beloved king, now a blind exile, we recognize that even the mighty may fall.

As a gamer, the Nintendo 64 Kid holds a similar place in my psyche -- he is an archetype, a figure who reflects my own thoughts, emotions and dreams. When I see N64 Kid's complete rapturous meltdown because he's received a gaming system, I understand the yardstick by which my excitement about future video game releases can be measured.

I was pretty stoked about LA Noire, maybe 0.4 N64Ks (if one N64K denotes a level of excitement equal to that of Nintendo 64 Kid). And I clocked in at about 0.65 N64Ks in the days leading up to the release of Deus Ex: Human Revolution. But I think now I may be approaching 0.8, 0.9 N64Ks of exhiliration... I may even pull a full-on 1.0.

Guys, I'm really excited for Skyrim. And I'm not alone -- fans and reviewers not lucky enough to have snagged an advance look at Bethesda's newest Action-RPG smorgasbord are wildly speculating about what the game will be like. And so, here's my own speculation -- five things that, Nine Divines willing, we will learn from Skyrim.


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Five Things We Learned from the Internet About Video Games and Comedy

Tuesday, November 1, 2011 at 12:00 pm
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The internet thinks these guys are comedic gold; though we can probably agree this was not Bethesda's original intent.

One point that has been raised in the past concerning video games is that they generally err on the side of being humorless. Luckily, there are notable exceptions -- classic games like the ridiculous Space Quest series come to mind, and recent offerings like the Portal games prove that it's quite possible to produce a gaming experience that is both emotionally satisfying and deliberately funny.

But while it's true that humor is certainly a part of some great games, it's also worth admitting that many games do seem rather devoid of any considerable levity. You, as the player characters of these games, trudge along and accumulate headshots or gather magic crystals or make arrests with nothing in the way of lightheartedness except perhaps the occasional smug joke at a fallen enemy's expense.  So does the prevalence of these types of games mean that gamers are uninterested in humor? That we would rather take ourselves too seriously than have a laugh?

Not necessarily.  There's a compelling case to be made that even the most dramatic games have the potential for uproarious comedy -- that's one of the massive perks of the medium. Heavy Rain can be a chilling meditation on love, control and evil, or, if played in a certain way, it can be a gut-bustingly funny series of skits on people miserably failing to do simple tasks (or doing them comically slowly). A dark tone set by a game requires the gamer's cooperation, because a gamer can turn any game into a farce by finding humorous glitches, awkward gameplay, or simply by playing the game extremely poorly.

YouTube offers ample proof that video games contain some of the weirdest, most unexpected comedy of our generation. And here are five prime examples.
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Five wicked zombie slayings in video games

Monday, October 31, 2011 at 12:00 pm
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Die, walker, die.
Did you catch last night's episode of The Walking Dead, or rather, did it catch you? The AMC television series is throwing all kinds of twists and turns at us. We were left wondering about Shane's shaved head and T-Dog's blood poisoning, among other things. Will the team ever find Sophia?

I finished the episode last night and thought about how it compares to zombie video games. Though an excellent drama, The Walking Dead is nowhere near as violent as some recent releases featuring the undead. To prove my point, I dug up gore-y videos from such titles as Dead Rising 2, Call of Duty: Black Ops and Dead Island. The videos speak for themselves, showing just how creative us zombie slayers can be. Add for your favorites in the comments.   

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Ten Awesome Video Game Launch Trailers Of This Generation

Thursday, October 27, 2011 at 11:00 am
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With all of these awesome games coming out, it is pretty easy to get swept up in all the advertising. No other industry in the world puts quite the emphasis on marketing that the video game industry does, and while it can be kind of sickening to be bombarded with "BUY OUR PRODUCT" over and over again, there's a lot of artistry in the works. Sometimes, you gotta just sit back and enjoy it for what it all is.

We've selected ten launch trailers that really resonated with us. They are generally huge titles that sell millions of copies -- but there's a reason for that. Littler games don't have quite the budget to create a large-scale trailers that shift in and out of live-action and sing with orchestras and feature famous voice actors. And that's okay. For this post, at least.

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Five Video Games That Simulate What It's Like to Be a Surgical Technologist

Wednesday, October 26, 2011 at 11:00 am
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By Greg Voakes

Your parents might have written off video games as just a useless waste of time that can only teach you about the medical profession by showing you just how many brain cells the human mind can lose in a day. However, thanks to recent advancements in graphics, gameplay and interactivity, even the smallest and least powerful consoles and home computers can accurately depict what it's like to work in the OR or the ER as a paramedic, nurse or surgical technologist.

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Five Things We Learned From Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell

Tuesday, October 25, 2011 at 5:00 pm
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Splinter Cell -- it's about to get subtle up in here.
Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six
is a classic game that we covered a few weeks back, concerned primarily with an elite government squad that operates with total subtlety and efficiency. The existence of Rainbow is known only to the highest ranks of officials, and in carrying out their orders they act with both decisiveness and a high degree of caution.

Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell is about a dude who is so fucking subtle that he makes the highly-trained, low-profile operatives of Rainbow Six look like drunk cowboys with six-shooters. His name is Sam Fisher, and he is stealthy from the moment he wakes up to the moment he goes to sleep. And we're not sure if he ever sleeps.

Splinter Cell is about an international crisis sparked by a coup in the Russian border state of Georgia, and the new head of state's nefarious plans. Figuring out what this shady figure wants and defusing the plot before something awful happens is going to take an operative who is so subtle that when he makes a joke, you don't laugh at it until days later. So sneaky that he makes the best cat burglar in the world look like a loud trombonist in a shitty high school marching band. So awesome that he's voiced by Michael Ironside.

Sam Fisher is the perfect man for the job, and sneaking a mile in his shoes teaches us many things about life, love and silent takedowns.

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10 Cool Videos from New York Comic Con 2011

Monday, October 24, 2011 at 11:00 am
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Conned into awesomeness.
Well, New York Comic Con 2011 is far over, making way for the hype machines of 2012. Did you go? I went as a speaker, meeting tons of professionals and also gathering stories for this very blog. Packing the Javits Centers, the masses got the latest on games, comics and film, and they bought a ton of awesomeness.

But don't take my word for it. Check out some NYCC footage from fans and indie reporters, and feel free to share yours.

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