"Don't be a dick." That simple notion is the first of Victor Lucas' 3D rules. The others? Don't dick around and don't hang out with dicks. Some would lead you to believe the games press is filled with dicks. It's not. With this in mind, I seek out the best games writing - from news to interviews to reviews and beyond - and highlight it here.

Theme by Andy Taylor, modified by Aaron Hudspeth.


Sci-Fi (Games) Could Do With A Change

Because how many games take place in outer space or in a Not So Far Away Dystopian Future? Pretty much all of them.

Streamline Studios Product Development Director Stefan Baier remarks:

Don’t get me wrong, I love traditional sci-fi, but in our modern world – a world of relationships empowered by iPads and social networks – technology is no longer all that mysterious in mainstream culture. It’s a brighter place, and there is still a lot of green… at least hopefully so.

Then there’s Bitmob’s Rus McLaughlin who is tired of the hulking, white Space Marine:

See, Mr. Space Marine isn’t just a walking, shooting cliché…he also severely limits width and breadth of the story you’re allowed to tell. The second you step into those space-army boots, you’ll spend the next 6-8 hours shooting ugly aliens and/or rival space marines from Planet Enemy, guided by a disembodied voice on a mission of critical importance (despite only meriting a detached squad of four soldiers), moving from skirmish to skirmish while a major engagement plays out in the middle-distance. Possibly you’ll start feeling betrayed by high command’s big picture vs. realities on the ground, or a few surprise betrayals will blindside you, but then you’ll go shoot them.

Baier, Stefan. “To Sci or not to Sci” (May 3, 2012) <http://www.streamline-studios.com/wordpress1/2012/05/03/to-sci-or-not-to-sci/>.

McLaughlin, Rus. “Retire the space marine” (Bitmob: May 8, 2012) <http://bitmob.com/articles/retire-the-space-marine>.

A plea for sanity regarding Metacritic and developer bonuses - Bitmob

Bitmob community writer Graham Zerebeski, as spotted by reader KnucklesSonic8, writes about the brouhaha stemming from game developers’ bonuses being tied to MetaCritic scores. It’s a song and dance that’s been done many a time, but I admire Graham’s ability to cut straight to the heart of the issue. It’s just not sane.

7 ways to build a better end-boss - Bitmob

"What’s up with final bosses" could very easily be the start of a Jerry Seinfeld joke. Fortunately, it’s not, but we’re sure Rus McLaughlin asked himself that very question when writing this list. Here’s an acute observation:

The secret rules of game awesomeness apparently decree that any end-boss must be knocked down three times for ultimate defeat. Maybe they even transform into scarier versions of themselves between sessions! Or else they’re just bigger, healthier versions of the baddies you’ve been killing for hours. Find the exploit — it glows! — give it a good whack, savagely beat enemy while stunned, circle strafe to avoid incoming fire, yadda yadda yadda. Seriously, who put these kindergartners in charge of ultimate evil?

So what are these suggestions? Read his article to find out, silly. 

Also, is Mr Freeze not the best boss you’ve fought in ages or what?

Home, memory, and the music of Earthbound

I’ve really been going gung-ho over anecdotal pieces lately, particularly where they relate to families. Shameless self promotion time: I recently wrote one. To see my friend Layton Shumway write a similar anecdote, in which he, too, gloats about being an uncle was kind of surreal. I got over that sensation in a hurry, though:

As I played with my niece and nephew, I thought back to my own early childhood. Unsurprisingly, I couldn’t remember much — just a few images here and there.

What I can remember are the sounds.

Where’s this going, you might ask. I’ll tell you:

Each location, also known as “Your Sanctuary,” features a boss battle against a grotesque (often humorous) monster of some kind. But the monsters aren’t the point. The real reason for visiting these places is to use the Sound Stone to gather a snatch of a melody. And after those few notes play, Ness recalls a brief memory — a glimpse of his dog as a puppy, a whiff of his favorite food (as chosen by the player), or the sound of his mother’s voice. (emphasis mine)

Shumway, Layton. “Home, memory, and the music of Earthbound” (Bitmob: March 26, 2012) <http://bitmob.com/articles/home-memory-and-the-music-of-earthbound>.

Kids and video games: Why children should play more

For me, gaming has always been something the whole family has been involved in. I learned at a young age to moderate my time with games and television and offset it with other activities. Scott Steinberg’s article implores responsible gaming and more — like kids playing more games. Hmm.

Thanks Kelly!

Playing Resident Evil: Revelations like Halo is a bad idea

Here’s a fairly quick write up on one writer’s experiences with the latest Resident Evil. The twist is that he’s never played a proper zombie game before. This is such a short little article that I was left wanting more - more I say! - so maybe tweet Sam and tell him that.

The biggest adjustment I had to make was made clear after I used 10 bullets to kill my first zombie and had only five left for the next. 

Alegria, Sam. “Playing Resident Evil: Revelations like Halo is a bad idea” (Bitmob: February 27, 2012) <http://bitmob.com/articles/playing-resident-evil-revelations-like-halo-is-a-bad-idea>

Story Matters

A couple of interesting discussions on stories in games came to my attention so I figured I’d highlight them together.

In the first, Bitmob community writer Matt Perez discusses a connection between difficulty and story. He never fully realizes his argument, but he does touch on some sensitive points:

In this sense, video games are perfect for expressing an involving story. The player isn’t supposed to empathize with the protagonist like other mediums; they should be the main character as if everything is happening directly to them. It’s not good enough to simply tell the player that the main character takes huge risks. In a video game, the player needs to undertake the task themselves and experience the risks firsthand.

In the second, Kat Bailey (starting a new column on Joystiq) argues that JRPGs don’t need an enthralling narrative. She makes particular note of the genres origins as a storytelling genre, before dropping this fascinating tidbit:

The dirty secret is that I’ve always been more fascinated by RPG battle systems than the story within the game. In many ways, a character’s mechanical growth is a story in and of itself. When the game begins, your character is a scrub with a wooden sword and a few potions. By the end, they can call down comets from the heavens and instigate supernovas. That’s what I call a character arc.

There’s no right answer to either topic. Where do you stand on these points?

Perez, Matt. “Why difficulty and narrative go hand in hand” (Bitmob: February 15, 2012) <http://bitmob.com/articles/why-difficulty-and-narrative-go-hand-in-hand>.

Bailey, Kat. “Do Japanese RPGs need a good story?” (Joystiq: February 15, 2012) <http://www.joystiq.com/2012/02/15/do-japanese-rpgs-need-a-good-story/>.