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Boston Festival of Indie Games: The Aftermath

Back in town after a day of traveling, and I’ve highlighted a few of the games I played over at Push to Smart. I’ll be posting more game highlights throughout the week as well as a few dev talk afterthoughts.

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Hello from Boston + a preview of a new project

Hello from sunny-and-finally-cool Boston! I’m here for the Festival of Indie Games going on at MIT today, as well as some general tourism (with an inevitable Assassin’s Creed III twist). Like last time, I will be updating my Instagram with photos. Unlike last time, I will be posting about my experience at Push To Smart, a new project I’ve been working on with Jaylee (formerly of the best j-pop podcast around, Gaijin Kanpai). I’ll post more specifics about the project closer to the show’s launch. For now, check out Push to Smart on Tumblr and Twitter.

Sony demonstrates its game sharing policy in a parody video--one friend hands is game to the other

Playstation and Xbox at E3 2013: The More Things Change

It’s June 14th, and another E3 has come and gone. Unlike last year, which was a disappointing, monochromatic blur of violence and machismo, 2013 yielded a diverse array of colorful, interesting games, though they were overshadowed by Microsoft’s and Sony’s rival consoles’ first trade show appearance.

The Playstation 4 and Xbox One were undoubtedly the stars of the show–whether they were worthy of the title or not. Their respective predecessors enjoyed a kind of longevity not seen in previous console generations, and for the first time, they don’t have dueling disc formats. By contrast, everyone knows the physical disc (now universally Blu-ray) is on its way out in both systems’ primary markets. The real question going into E3, then, became less how Sony and Microsoft would package their games, and more how they would continue to support a dying format. Put another way, in an industry that plays lip service to innovation, what we really wanted to know was how Sony and Microsoft would uphold the status quo.

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Twofivesix: finding games everywhere

Over the weekend, I had the opportunity to travel to New York for Kill Screen’s Twofivesix conference at The Invisible Dog Art Center. Going in, I wasn’t exactly sure what to make of the conference’s mission statement to devote itself to “the spaces between games, play, interaction and creativity.” After all, in the early days of games academia, linking games to pre-existing media was a red flag. On the other hand, businesses are eager to link products to games under the umbrella of “gamification,” the questionable practice of leveraging the work-reward loop of games for profit. Both prospects left me wary. As it turns out, in the case of Twofivesix, this meant orchestrating conversations between those embedded within the game industry and those circling it from the outside. Although I don’t think these pairings necessarily made me “see games everywhere” as Kill Screen’s founder Jamin Warren suggested in his introduction, it did successfully highlight the fascinating and often overlooked  (if not actively discouraged) links between games and other textual forms.

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Meanwhile, somewhere in New York

I case you missed it, I took a break from playing Deadly Premonition: The Director’s Cut to head to New York for Kill Screen’s Twofivesix conference. I’ll post a more in-depth write-up when I am reunited with my keyboard tomorrow. Until then, you can see photos from my escapades on Instagram.

Bioshock Infinite: Beast of America

The following post assumes that you have finished Bioshock Infinite. It includes some huge spoilers!

I finished my first playthrough of Bioshock Infinite last week, and I’m still trying to process it. On one hand, I believe that it–like its predecessor–exceeded the sum of its parts to become a great game. On the other hand, the points at which these desperate parts fail to align are both frustrating and compelling. I guess the primary struggle post-Bioshock Infinite is reconciling its phenomenal failures with its equally phenomenal successes. Specifically, I’m stuck on its depiction of American racism and classism–that beast of America the trailers pound on about–and the way in which the player engages it.

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Drive-By Reflection on Mass Effect 3’s The Citadel

My resolution to play female-fronted games for Women’s History Month has somehow become PLAY ALL THE MASS EFFECT, thanks in no small part to ME3’s final DLC, “The Citadel.”

In my playthrough (with FemShep!), Wrex dismissed the DLC’s driving conflict as something that “makes sense if you think about it.” Of course, it doesn’t actually make sense–at least not in the game that singled out Sir Isaac Newton as the “deadliest son of a bitch in space.” It does, however, make sense in the game in which all of the galaxy’s problems can be solved by walking towards different colored lights. It felt like a concession, “yeah, we know this is ridiculous, but it’s fun, so just go with it, ok?” And I did go with it. As I said on twitter, it’s a different side of the same coin that gave us the Catalyst. It doesn’t make sense, and the change in tone is jarring, but this time the reward–the emotional payoff–far outweighs the risks taken by muddling the game’s narrative integrity. This time, it felt like players were in on the joke, as seemingly throwaway lines from the game proper came back and paid off in surprisingly funny ways. In the end, “The Citadel” is every bit a love letter to both the fans and the games that brought them together. While it doesn’t fix the final game’s problematic ending, it celebrates what the game did right, and it extends an olive branch to those who felt betrayed by the way Bioware left its saga.

Mass Effect 3 - The Citadel
Eleanor Shepard and her crew.

Gaming Women’s History Month

It’s officially March–a time when people drink a lot, pretend to care about basketball, and endure corporations’ obnoxious attempts to gamify their goals for the new fiscal year. More importantly, it’s Women’s History Month!  The month already has one high-profile, woman-starring game poised to hit the market, while another just exceeded its funding goals on Kickstarter. In their honor, I will hit the pause button on the all-dude games I’ve been playing in 2013–namely DmC: Devil May Cry and Assassin’s Creed III–and focus on games starring female protagonists. Some of these games are old favorites I want to revisit, others I will be playing for the first time. Below is my planned list of games to conquer (or at least give a good go):

  • Heavenly Sword (Ninja Theory, 2007)
  • Parasite Eve (Squaresoft, 1998)
  • Primal (SCE Studio Cambridge, 2003)
  • Gravity Rush (SCE Japan Studio, 2012)
  • Silent Hill 3 (Konami, 2003)
  • Space Channel 5: Part 2 (United Game Artists, 2003)
  • Final Fantasy XIII (Square Enix, 2010)
  • Timely price-drop permitting: Tomb Raider (Crystal Dynamics, 2013)

I realize this list is neither long nor particularly diverse (I played a lot of Squaresoft games as a kid ok?). This is partly due to time and budget constraints, but it’s also nine in the morning and my brain is only sort of awake. Regardless of how alert I may or may not be, I’m always looking for new game suggestions either via twitter or in the comments. Otherwise, wish me luck!