Wednesday, November 19, 2014

1001 ways to Decieve: Part #1 of Android: Netrunner's Review

Android: Netrunner is easily the most stressful, anxiety-ridden game I've ever played at a table.

I'm not being over-dramatic here: this is a card game that was meant to cause you to weigh every move, a game designed to make you work on your poker face and ability to bluff your way out of a paper bag.  The cyberpunk theme adds to this, the amazing card art and the terminology of the game making you feel like you are playing in a dystopian future. Corporations, desperately trying to keep their guise of control and power in place in order to turn a profit; Hackers, risking their lives for money or for rebellious causes, jacking their minds into the web to score big.  The internet in the future is filled with valuable data, but also is filled with dangerous code that can melt your hardware if you don't have the right program for the job.

Every single step you take here feels weighty, filled with the chance of lucky victory or sudden defeat.  Often, I've found myself rocking back and forth in my chair, debating whether or not it's time to run against the corporation's programming to get the big score of points I need to win, or if the face-down prize at the end of the road could in fact be a trap meant to rewrite my brain, ending the game just as quickly.

This constant stress and sense of urgency is the exact reason why this is one of the most fantastic games I've ever played.

Friday, October 24, 2014

It's Time to Move On From #GamerGate

A little over two years ago, the internet unified for an entire day to fight a legislation that would have changed the internet as we knew it. Wikipedia, Reddit, and other giants of the web temporarily blacked out their websites in protest. People rallied to call their local politicians en masse in order to spread word about it... and these people won.  That legislation was known as SOPA, or the Stop Online Piracy Act. While it was pushed as a bill meant to fight piracy, it was really a threat to the very infrastructure of the internet. It was easy to hate SOPA, because it was easy to see that it would do more harm than it could ever do good. SOPA was a thinly veiled effort by media lobbyists to take control of something they barely understood.

Somehow, those seem like simpler times in comparison to GamerGate.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Endless Legend Review Part #1: Hardships as Heroic Adventure

As I played this game late into the AM hours for the third day in a row, I found myself wondering why exactly I loved this game so much.  Strategy games like the Civilization series have been infamous for the "just one more turn!" phenomenon, but Endless Legend took this to the next level for me.  Normally, when I beat the game with a faction, I can put down the game, released from the need for completion, and would come back weeks or months later to try out conquering the world as Germany, or Brazil... or heck, sending the Iroquois into space as the first manned attempts to colonize the galaxy.  Each turn based strategy game is a commitment, as any lover of the genre can tell you, and one that you should contemplate if you have time for before hitting the start button.

Yet, Endless Legend has me hitting 'new game' as soon as my last run through one finishes... not just in a context of completion or achievement grabs either.  I'm not just trying to beat the game with every civilization just because I can, but because I genuinely need to see and experience more sides of this game.  Why is this?  It might be how the game, you realize, isn't just to succeed, to claim victory over other factions.  Instead, the planet Auriga - almost a character all itself - is dying.  You fight for survival and the maintenance of a sense of identity for your faction as much as you fight for victory.

The great success of Endless Legend is in how it make the factions and the world itself come to life through a constant threat of struggle.  It's engaging, it offers a sense of challenge, a need to always grow.  Good game mechanics are a needed baseline for this sort of game - and the ones here are certainly worth mentioning - but for me, its the aesthetics and the premise that makes this game fun, and one of my favorites this year.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Thoughts/Musings on the Smash Bros. Demo for 3DS

I think Super Smash Bros is one of those titles that, if you have any fond memories of it, you've probably wasted whole weekends playing nothing but this title.  Wyatt and I used to have some epic matches on the Gamecube with this:  we found a rhythm, knowing when the other person blocked or would try to grab, constantly rolling left and right, trying to land the final punch or kick.  When one of us scored, it was cause for cursing or celebration...and this is before either of us discovered how competitive the game was becoming at tournaments.  Needless to say, it holds a very special place in my heart. Now, I was lucky enough to snag a code allowing me to download the Smash Bros Demo on 3DS early... so I’ve been playing a lot of it.  Below, in no real order, are some of my thoughts/observations on the game.

Oh yeah, Smash Bros is back!

Friday, August 22, 2014

I reviewed Depression Quest for StoryCade, and you should too!

Zoe Quinn has undeservedly been the subject of a lot of crap lately, as have many other developers. Phil Fish and Polytron were hacked last night. Many developers are facing constant harassment on Twitter, doxxing, death threats, and more. Just because they make games. (If you care about combatting this, Leigh Alexander's article, But WHAT CAN BE DONE: Dos and Don’ts To Combat Online Sexism a good, long read, as well as Mattie Brice's How Do I Help?)

Today, I don't want to draw attention to the controversy, other than the fact that it's happening. What I really want to talk about is Depression Quest (it made my top games of 2013 for a reason).

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition: A First Look, and a Breath of Nostalgic Fresh Air.

When you try to talk about Dungeons and Dragons... how do you begin?  Where do you begin with a game that you can often call an institution, a grandfather to the gaming industry as a whole?  It ushered in not just one, but many worlds of dungeon crawling, of tabletop role-playing. You can certainly argue that it's what helped create a rich video game industry filled with back story and imagery, that without this predecessor, we would have never seen games such as Baldur's Gate appear.  This RPG is an ancient, a gaming ancestor that has managed to stay in the game.  It started in 1974, and is celebrating its fortieth birthday by reinventing itself for the fifth time; in a world filled with flashing screens and automated systems handling things like dice rolls and world generation, this game world stands tall on its precedent.  Its determined, convinced that even though we live in the digital world, might still has something unique and exciting to offer.

A relic of the past, yet still relevant.

Let me save you some time: Dungeons and Dragons, and any table top RPG, certainly does have something to offer, an experience that feels entirely different from a video game.  As the fifth edition hits though, you can't help but ask: is this tabletop RPG still relevant?  Has it adapted to the 21st century?

Saturday, August 16, 2014

We Should Treat Our Inspirations Better

I grew up with a different set of role models than most. While my friends watched Derek Jeter hit home runs, I was laughing at the Rooster Teeth crew while they used Halo characters as digital puppets. While other boys were fawning over Jessica Alba, I was watching the Angry Video Game Nerd as he took a diarrhea dump on Nintendo cartridges. I would say I was the only one, but over the past couple of years I've learned I was not alone.

These days, it seems internet celebrities rank just as highly if not higher than other celebrities. PewDiePie, the most popular streamer of Let's Play videos on YouTube, has ranked higher in influence among teenagers than the likes of even Jennifer Lawrence and Daniel Radcliffe. Rooster Teeth has become such a behemoth in gaming that they have their own convention. As the internet takes over nearly every part of our daily lives, the way we interact with each other changes, as do the people we look up to. And you know what? We treat our inspirations like crap sometimes, internet or otherwise.