Metroid and The Last of Us - Has a strong Bond!

Spoiler warning: This post contains spoilers for The Last of Us (little ones), the Left Behind DLC for The Last of Us (big ones), and, well, 1987’s Metroid. If you’ve read any of my other posts on The Last of Us, you know I’m a huge fan of the game. But after playing the Left Behind DLC a few years back, Naughty Dog gave me a whole new reason to love the game. To explain why, though, I need to go back over a quarter of a century…to Metroid. Metroid is an awesome game & So is the Last of us It was in August of ’87, and it is now. The fighting is fun, the level design is good, it offers open exploration and multiple endings (which apparently helped spur the advent of speed running as a thing, since players wanted to see the different endings, which depended not on in-game actions but on completion time)…and all of...

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A Special Story from Season One Telltale’s The Walking Dead

Spoiler Alert: This post contains spoilers about Season One of Telltale’s The Walking Dead. Telltale Games’s The Walking Dead: Season One was a revelation. The developing relationship between the player-character Lee, a man badly in need of redemption, and his young charge Clementine amidst the zombie apocalypse provides a rock-solid emotional dramatic core to the narrative. Even the smallest choices about how Lee speaks and acts seem important, knowing that Clem is watching—and learning—from what you choose to do. The vast majority of player agency is dedicated to these forking paths of dialogue and action. Shorn of most traditional gameplay, Season One is as close to the ideal Of interactive cinema as gaming has come. The experience of guiding Lee (and Clementine) through their awful world is consistently appealing…if not always fun. The Choices: Even from the beginning Season One makes your choices painful and meaningful. A look at the statistics on major choices in...

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Video Game Achievements & Trophies - How Far will you go for Them

One of the biggest innovations of the 7th generation of video game consoles was the persistent metagame of achievement and trophy hunting. Though there were a few limited precursors (Activision in 1982!), Gamer scores originated with Xbox 360 achievements in 2005, but Valve and Sony quickly realized what a smart idea it was and added achievement and trophy systems to Steam and the PS3 in 2007 and 2008, respectively. Nintendo failed to get in on the act, and still hasn’t with the Wii U. I love achievements/trophies, and I hate them. They add variety to my gaming and also an occasional stubborn, obsessive focus on point scoring that can make gaming less fun. Here’s what achievements and trophies have done to my experience as a gamer. Why I love achievements and trophies (which from here on out I’ll just call trophies or achievements rather than both for the sake of brevity). When...

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Mobile Ports of Video Games: Carry Your Past in Your Pocket

The release of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas for iOS and Android last month got me thinking about the increasing number of Mobile Ports of Video Games being ported to mobile platforms. Not all mobile ports of PC and consoles games are good, but with so many here already and more coming all the time, there’s an astounding amount of quality gaming experiences ready to download to your phone or tablet. Games Being Ported to Mobile Devices Mobile games are often developed using the Unity engine, which allows developers to create high quality games on any platform. However, porting these games to mobile devices is not always straightforward. Developers need to consider how much time and effort they want to put into adapting the game to fit the smaller screen size and controls. Some games are easier to port than others, of course. You have games that require barely any changes, of...

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BioShock Rapture Vs BioShock Infinite, Which Game Will Win?

Just finished a re-play of BioShock Infinite the other day. There are so many reviews and gamers calling BioShock Infinite one of the best PS3 games ever made. I’ve been so excited to actually have time to re-play this masterpiece “It's hard-to-make time with kids” Lol... I have played the first two games in the series so; I have truly enjoyed the underwater world of rapture. Uncertainty came over me, when I heard about the game being played in the clouds It didn’t sound much like a BioShock game. The story of the game is pretty in depth, with the whole Elizabeth character and all the missions to have to complete in order to finally reach Comstock. My question I had to answer; would this game be as creepy (scary) as the previous two games. It’s going to be hard to beat the gameplay, and the story, not to mention the element of...

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Old School Gaming - What Games to Play & Where to play Them

Retro Video Games have come a long way since its inception. Although general knowledge suggests that the likes of Spacewar or Pong as the earliest form of video games, they are merely an evolved version of electronic games or computer games. Let's take a brief over-view of gaming history, and then showcase of the best retro video games that made gaming what it is today.   The Cathode-Ray Tube Amusement Device Long before the iconic Pong became a thing, two physicists named Thomas T. Goldsmith Jr. and Estle Ray Mann filed the first patent to the Cathode-Ray Amusement Device in 1947. Although the device never made it to the mainstream market because of production cost, it eventually got the title of being the “first patent for an electronic game.” The Cathode-Ray Tube Amusement device paves the way to the creation of the first AI (Artificial Intelligence) for an electronic game through Noughts...

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Gaming Perspectives - The Right Way & The Wrong Way to do it!

“Gritty Action Movies.” “Suspenseful Morality Sci-Fi Movies from the 1930s.” “Whistleblower Steamy Psychological Animation Based on a Book Set in Biblical Times About Trucks, Trains, & Planes.” Genres can be weird, right?  Game genres can be as simple as “driving “(DriveClub) or “FPS” (Battlefield) or as elaborately specific as “first-person stealth action-adventure role-playing games” (Uncharted 4: A Thief's End). Genres can be really helpful: when I find a game I like, say Dishonored 2, identifying aspects that appeal to me, like stealth, helps me find other games I’ll probably enjoy (like the Metal Gear Solid series or the latest Thief reboot). But genres can stifle creativity if developers or publishers choose to make an easily marketable game rather than taking genre-blurring risks—or when thinking using conventional genres leads developers to not even see some of the other possibilities out there. Games that Skillfully Switch Up Genres and Viewing Perspectives Offer a Great...

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Why Hasn’t There Been a Great Movie Based on a Video Game?

When I saw the roller-coaster-like movie Gravity, I was surprised to realize that I occasionally felt like I was watching a video game on a giant screen. The film fluidly changed perspectives back and forth from third to first person, often framing the action as a game would, and the focus on challenging environments presenting life-and-death decisions almost constantly was also very game-like. The sheer effectiveness of Gravity and its resonance with game conventions brought up a question I find myself asking at least once a year: why hasn’t there been a great movie based on a video game? Mainstream movies based on video games have been around for twenty years now Since Super Mario Bros. in 1993 (though the first game-adapted movie was a 1986 Japanese Mario Bros. anime). There have been over thirty released internationally since then, including high-profile films like Mortal Kombat, Wing Commander, Tomb Raider, Pokémon, Resident Evil,...

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Perfection! Telling A Compelling Story with in Game Music

In 2010 I was a music minor in a composer’s group at my college that met once a week to discuss various issues in music and composing. One day I proposed to the group that at an upcoming meeting I’d make a presentation on video game music as a serious emerging venue for the musical art form. A couple gamers in the group got it, but there were a lot of blank stares from people whose impression of video game music had solidified, unfavorably, in the 8-bit era. I put together a short presentation, focused mainly on music from Final Fantasy VII and VIII, but I never got to make it – the group had many other things going on, and because it was the thing that the group saw as most expendable, the video game music presentation kept being the thing that was pushed back, right up until I graduated...

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How Grand Theft Auto's Gameplay Has Changed Gaming forever! GTA

One title. Three words. 16 sequels. Over 350 million units sold. “Grand Theft Auto” has risen from relative obscurity to earn a spot on the Mt. Olympus of great game franchises. 2022 marked the 25th anniversary of the year “Grand Theft Auto” was released. Believe it or not, back in 1997 there was no fanfare, no stampede to Circuit City or a Virgin Megastore or whatever now-defunct retailer sold the title. It was just a “cult” hit—but one that would go on to revolutionize video games. So here’s looking at the humble beginnings of this cultural landmark Through to its current success, and why it’s just as crucial to gaming now as it was then. Really, it’s no surprise that “Grand Theft Auto” was a slow burn. It was originally only released for MS-DOS before being ported to Windows and, eventually, the Sony PlayStation. The graphics were crude, and the sandbox level...

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Enough is Enough - When to Throw in the Towel Mid-Game?

When it comes to games with stories, I’m a completionist. I’m a story completionist rather than a gaming completionist—once in a long while I’ll aim for 100% completion in a particularly great game, but mostly I’m content to do the main content and a selection of the side quest-y stuff.  But I almost always finish the main campaign of games I start. Or at least I used to. In the past couple of years, I’ve found myself giving up on games halfway through more and more often. Which puts me in decent company, as recent studies suggest that even among dedicated gamers, about 10% reach the ending of a given title and only about 1/3 of gamers finish even the most successful games. As I’ve gotten older and face more demands on my time, I’m more likely to put down a game that’s sort of fun but a big time commitment....

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Five of the Best Space Themed Video Games of All Time!

We live in the age of the space opera. Guardians of the Galaxy showed that there’s a cool way to do a superhero story in space. The Star Trek and Star Wars franchises are back with a bang, spawning several movies and spinoffs that are almost guaranteed to make a killing at the box office. But here’s the truth – as immersive and awesome as all of these movies are, there’s nothing quite like strapping yourself into your own, custom-built craft and exploring the far reaches of the cosmos. With that in mind, let us take a look at five space video games That nail the joy, exploration and wow-factor that floating through infinity would feel like. Elite Dangerous When the first Elite game came out in the 1980s, it was an instant hit because of all the amazing features it had. You got to wander around the galaxy in your...

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The Top 5 Most Badass Spies, Secret Agents in Video Games

They drop in through the ceiling. They crawl in through tunnels. Furthermore, they send their enemies to the afterlife in a silent, noiseless maneuver. They charm beautiful men and women and travel the world, taking on incredible risks and pulse-pounding missions. They even have cool theme songs. Not only that, but they’re Jason Bourne. James Bond. They’re the people who call when everything else fails. You know who we’re talking about – spies. Secret agents. Every kid who’s grown up in the last few decades has had dreams about seducing beautiful women in a foreign country while they’re on a mission to steal the sheikh’s rubies (insert mission of choice here). Today, we’ll be looking at some of the best spies That have been featured in video games throughout the years. Cate Archer – No One Lives Forever Cate Archer is a certifiable badass. On the cover, she might look like...

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The Best Superhero Video Games of All Time - Batman, Marvel

Superheroes. They’re everywhere. The success of superhero films in the last few years has brought the spandex-clad do-gooders out of the basement and into popular culture. We’ve seen them destroy alien invasions, save people from burning buildings, and shrink to a size so small that it can only be understood by theoretical science. But, you know what’s even better than watching your favorite superheroes save the world in eye-popping 3D? Playing as your favorite superheroes. That’s right. Suiting up as your favorite character and plowing through a host of bad guys in a video game is an extremely fun experience, if it’s a good game. And there have been a LOT of bad superhero games (I’m looking at you, Catwoman!). But luckily, there have also been a lot of good ones. So without further ado, here are the best superhero video games of all time (in no particular order). The Arkham Series...

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Exploring the Magic Behind the Golden Age of Arcade Gaming

Today, millions of people from all over the world take part in a multi-billion dollar a year industry called competitive gaming. The rise of eSports has facilitated this trend—and people take it seriously. At any given championship bout, sometimes with hundreds of thousands in prize money on the line, teams of stone-faced competitors bark orders into headset mics and furiously mash buttons while legions of fans cheer them on. It’s a spectator sport for the new millennium. But this is no modern phenomenon. Competitive gaming dates back to the earliest days of the neighborhood arcades. It was here that friends would watch other friends feed quarters into Galaga, Donkey Kong and Pac-Man machines, going head-to-head with other amateur competitors. So what turned the typical video arcade into a cathedral for wayward youth? Here are some reasons arcades have passed the test of time. Arcades appeared at the intersection of technology and culture By...

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The Good, Bad and the Ugly with TellTale Games

Spoiler Alert: This post contains spoilers about The Wolf Among Us and Season Two of The Walking Dead by Telltale Games (and implied spoilers about Season One). In a previous post, I discuss why I think Season One of Telltale Games’s The Walking Dead is a brilliant achievement in episodic narrative gaming. In a follow-up, I discuss how Episode Five of Season Two of The Walking Dead achieves similar greatness. Here, though, I will address what went so wrong in between. Bigby Wolf and Clementine are both sympathetic player-character. Both Bigby and Clem are consistently forced to make difficult decisions. But here’s where the first core problem sets in that differentiates these games from The Walking Dead: Season One: their choices are rarely significant to the plot or emotionally meaningful enough to really drive investment in the characters or the game. In The Wolf Among Us A large percentage of Bigby’s choices have to do with...

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The Reasons XCOM'S Story Works Perfectly in Video Games

Partway through XCOM: Enemy Within (the expanded version of XCOM: Enemy Unknown), I realized that its video game story would never work in a movie.  It wasn’t that the premise wouldn’t work – alien invasions are hardly confined to video games—it was the way the story was being told. There was absolutely no attention being paid to characters’ personal lives. What you learned about the main characters Central Officer Bradford (whose name I had to look up just now), Dr. Shen in Engineering, and Dr. Vahlen in Research—is confined to how they do their jobs. The tension in the narrative comes not from a love story, a personal trauma overcome, or a motley crew of misfits learning to work together despite all odds, but from the choices that the player makes as Commanding Officer. Will you prioritize the right research and engineering projects to keep from being overrun by the technologically superior alien...

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What’s the Secret to Pokémon's Success after So Many years?

1996 is the year that the little cuddly monsters called Pokémon first appeared on everyone’s favorite Game Boy. The title was a labor of love created and slaved over by famed designer Satoshi Tajiri, who, as legend has it, was inspired by his childhood hobby of collecting insects. This seed of an idea eventually grew into a premise involving the collection of monsters for combat purposes. For its part, Nintendo was ambivalent about releasing the title at first, only doing so initially in Japan. But after a strong response in that country, Nintendo took it to the states, and a global phenomenon was born. So why has Pokémon continued to dominate for so long while other would-be franchises (Bubsy the Bobcat, anyone?) died with a whimper? While opinions may run rampant on the subject, here are five cogent arguments that should help explain Pokémon’s global domination. Pokémon Games are the Swiss...

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Game-Breaking Glitches: A Problem That Needs Resolution

Maddeningly, we’ve all had the experience. You’re progressing through an enjoyable game, devoting your time and being rewarded for it, when all of a sudden there’s a glitch. A glitch that makes it impossible for you to carry on as you were. A game-breaking glitch. If anything, this seems to happen more often these days Mainly due because though dev teams are bigger and publishers throw more money at AAA titles than ever before, the scope of the games has gotten so big that it’s easier for a weird set of game-breaking circumstances to slip through the cracks in the Quality Assurance department. More pessimistically, it seems that since the advent of downloadable patches, developers are more willing to ship games with a less thorough testing process and fix them later in order to hit their release deadlines. On the one hand, then, bugs are the price we pay for epic...

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Diamonds in the Rough: Awesome Parts of Awful of Games

I played Thief the other day for the first time. Thief is not a great game. It’s mostly a pretty mediocre game, especially if you’ve played the far superior Dishonored. The story is dull, poorly paced, often incoherent, and not particularly well voice acted. The gameplay is only okay, and the design of certain areas and sequences is a poor match for it. But level 5 of the game—the asylum—is one of the scariest levels in gaming that I’ve ever played. It made the time I sunk into the rest of the game (20+ hours) worth it. It is truly a diamond in the rough—a brilliant moment in a morass of mediocrity. If you start playing Thief and feel the way I did about it, I recommend that you do what you need to do to get to chapter 5, then decide after that if you want to just turn the game...

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