4/24/2014

Checklisting

There are 72 career races in FUEL. I've finished 71 of them.

There are 19 different regions, each with 10 different challenges. Of the whopping 190 available, I've completed 120 of them.

There are these barrels that randomly spawn around the world, and you can run into them for points. I've hit 2677 of them.

A while ago, I wrote about how FUEL was the among the best casual open-world games we have, and that its strengths didn't lie in its embedded objectives but rather in ignoring them entirely -- turning off the HUD, and just experiencing its vast, wonderful landscape. And, completely counter to that, I've found myself for the last month or so ignoring what I used to love about the game in order to pursue something that I don't: checklisting.

3/04/2014

The importance of audience

Actual Sunlight closed a book that had been opened for me several months ago with Depression Quest.

Both are experiences that deal with the difficult and entirely not-fun topic of depression, and after completing Depression Quest, I found myself hesitant to call what I'd just been through a "game." Not because of any prescriptivist or mechanical reason, mind you, but because the word "game" felt trivializing. It felt too light. Too whimsical. It also didn't feel right to say that I "played" it, as that word suffered from the same connotations that "game" did. There wasn't any "play" to be had there. Interactivity, sure, but not play. There was nothing joyous or celebratory or playful or gamey about it. It was an experience I trudged through -- one that was bleak, difficult, and frustrating by design.

3/02/2014

Playing god

I originally posted this as a comment on reddit to the /r/truegaming community. It was a response to this post about gamers not appreciating and trying to influence developers' opinions.

I remember when Sanctum 2 launched, and I checked the forums a single hour after release. It was already filled with anger and bile -- all of which had arisen in less than 60 minutes! People had barely tried the game before turning to the forums to trash it and those who made it. The negative community response (which continued well past that first hour) ended up sending Sanctum 2 through a number of patches where fundamental elements of the initial design were changed. And I can't help but think how a lot of that push was rooted in people who flat out refused to accept the game on its own terms.

2/24/2014

The elephant in the game room

Whenever we talk about gender and gaming there's this big elephant in the room: the idea that "women don't play games".

It's an assumption that's false, certainly, as the existence of many female gamers can prove, but the problem -- the elephant -- is that even in light of all sorts of contrary evidence, we still accept it to be mostly correct on some sub-surface level. It's not a high-level assumption that we all came to definitive conclusions about -- it's instead something that sits much deeper, much closer to where we hold our fundamental truths.

2/18/2014

Two things missing from gaming's conversations about sexism

Before I begin, a quick note: I don't want this to come across as definitive or even comprehensive. There are, most assuredly, more than two things missing from gaming's conversations about sexism. I also use "missing" to mean "I don't see a lot of this" -- certainly I'm not privy to every conversation out there, and certainly I'm not the first to express these ideas. I offer these as an observation, not a prescription -- one I make in definitive-sounding language but that genuinely comes from a reflective and open heart. I, like everyone else, am still personally grappling with these issues and I, like everyone else, am flawed and imperfect.

2/17/2014

I don't know what to do with BioShock Infinite

I genuinely try to be positive about gaming.

It's a deliberate focus, happening partly because I find it difficult to submerge myself in the caustic, biting hatred I see in so much online gaming discourse, but mostly because writing has allowed me to understand, first hand, the vulnerability of putting ones' creative output on show for the world.

2/12/2014

"Why is /r/GirlGamers a thing? /r/gaming is not gender specific."

I originally posted this as a comment in the /r/GirlGamers community. It was in response to a user who questioned why there was a need for such a gendered community when reddit's main gaming community (/r/gaming) is, at least structurally, gender-neutral.

2/10/2014

How to love bad games

It's been over six months since first I wrote about the process of clearing my 500+ game Steam backlog. It was quite the phenomenon over on reddit (for a while it was the most upvoted post of all time over in /r/truegaming -- now it sits at #2), and what I wrote apparently had enough staying power with its readers that it still gets linked occasionally. I get a private message about it every so often.

Many (actually most) of the responses were positive, but one of the more frequent, less positive ones I got were some requests for me to sort of "name and shame" the worst games I'd played. After playing literally hundreds of different games, the thinking goes, I am in a better place than most to call a spade a spade and drop names of the titles that were just really, plainly, flat out bad. After all, much of what I played was low-level bundle fodder, right? Little more than accumulated shovelware, you know?

2/09/2014

Interactivity and messaging

I originally posted this as a comment on reddit in the /r/Games community. It was a response to this post about a widespread lack of games with strong messages.

2/06/2014

Zineth

Arcane Kids' tagline on their website is "Make the games you wish to see on the Dreamcast", so it's fitting that their stellar Zineth is practically a love letter to the iconic Jet Set Radio (and its sadly-not-on-Dreamcast follow-up Jet Set Radio Future). It features similar movement mechanics, a similar art style, and even a similar hip sense of cultural awareness (via a fully-functional smartphone mapped to the right stick), but calling it an homage to Jet Set Radio is limiting, as Zineth doesn't so much lie in the shadow of the landmark and regrettably short-lived series as it does exist alongside it. It takes the elements made popular by the game and expands on and polishes them.