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Ode to joy(sticks)

You know what I miss? Joysticks.

Many years ago, a video game system snuck into my house disguised as a computer. While my Commodore Vic-20 had Gemsticka keyboard, many of its games—especially the "good" ones that came in cartridges you shoved into the back—used a Gemstik joystick. This joystick had one button and four directions, and I liked having something to grip as I snuck stolen gold bricks away from panthers or brought scorpion eggs to safety. Having to push and pull on something in order to move took more effort, made me feel like I was running for my life in ways my Nintendo Entertainment System's D-pad could not.

One could blame these feelings on simple nostalgia. The rose-colored glasses effect is probably part of it, but there's something else, too. Gripping the nunchuck attachment to my Wii remote reminds me that it's really nice to have tactile feedback in my weaker left hand; such feedback helps me be aware of where my hand is. Though I can play a lot of mainstream games with no or very minimal modifications, there's something particularly enjoyable—accessible, even—about the old-fashioned joystick.

Video: Robot Chicken takes on PaRappa the "Gangsta" Rapper

Adult Swim goes back to the original PlayStation and shows us why there was no sequel to PaRappa the Rapper 2.

New screens of Kristen Kreuk in Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li

Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li Kristin Kreuk

New images have emerged from the upcoming videogame adaptation: Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li. Starring Smallville's Kristen Kreuk as Chun-Li, it also features Michael Clarke Duncan as Balrog, Neal McDonough as M. Bison, Chris Klein as Charlie Nash, Moon Bloodgood as Detective Maya Sunee, Taboo as Vega among many others.

The Legend of Chun-Li is directed by Andrzej Bartkowiak for 20th Century Fox and is due in theaters on February 27, 2009.

Racial slur found in press copy of Animal Crossing

This is ironic and funny to us, but no doubt embarrassing for Nintendo. Here is a company that limits its games by way of complicated friend codes, weak online features and even its hardware like Wii Speak so as to keep the horrible realities of the online world away from its (apparently) fragile and corruptible userbase. But within one of the special press-only Animal Crossing: Wild World (NDS) cards, you find a racial slur... created by one of the people (its unclear who) hired to play the DS game.

Animal Crossing Wild World sports N-word

A pre-played version of 2005's Animal Crossing: Wild World for DS, sent out to media outlets to encourage connectivity with the recent Animal Crossing release for Wii, contains at least one shocking addition, reports MTV Multiplayer. Importing the saved data from the DS cartridge sent by Nintendo into Animal Crossing: City Folk introduces a host of changes into the game, including one, suddenly no longer E-rated character, Baabara, who now greets players with: "How are you, Ñ---á?"

Huge sale on Transformers @ Amazon

Pardon the interruption on this non-video game related post, but long-time readers know I’m a pretty big Transformer geek and I thought it would be a crime to not share these insane prices. Transformer fans enjoy.

Click here for the complete list

Is Gears of War 2 a tearjerker?

Gears of War 2 

I finished the main campaign in Gears of War 2 last night after chainsawing my way through hundreds of locusts and being sprayed by about a thousand gallons of blood. It was a pretty kick-ass experience on the whole, filled with over the top set pieces and so-bad-its-good dialogue. Given the extreme Gears of War-ishness of it all, however, I was taken aback by two surprisingly dark turns in the story, including one moment that nearly brought tears to my eyes. How could this be possible? Let me explain.

Videogame "addicts" not addicted to games

Ok, that title is a bit off. What it should say is that most videogame addicts aren't actually addicted to games.

That was the finding of Keith Bakker, founder and head of The Smith & Jones Centre in Amsterdam. This clinic, opened in 2006, was the first and only clinic of its kind to treat gaming addicts.

Many will remember when this clinic was first opened. It was reported that there was a flood of inquiries from concerned parents and young adults just coming to grips with the then exploding genre of games: massively multiplayer online role-playing games.

World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King

Using traditional abstinence-based treatment models the clinic has had very high success rates treating people who also show other addictive behaviours such as drug taking and excessive drinking.

But Mr Bakker believes that this kind of cross-addiction affects only 10% of gamers. For the other 90% who may spend four hours a day or more playing games such as World of Warcraft, he no longer thinks addiction counselling is the way to treat these people.

"These kids come in showing some kind of symptoms that are similar to other addictions and chemical dependencies," he says.

"But the more we work with these kids the less I believe we can call this addiction. What many of these kids need is their parents and their school teachers - this is a social problem."

Home vs. NXE: Can Sony's virtual dystopia overcome Microsoft's hollow commercial machine?

Now that I've had the chance to play around a bit with the New Xbox Experience (NXE) and Home, here are my impressions.

Overall, I think the New Xbox Experience is a big improvement and offers a lot of advantages to Xbox 360 owners, provided that they have: 1) a Gold membership; 2) a Netflix account; 3) a sufficiently fast broadband internet connection for streaming "HD" content; and 4) a 120gb hard drive. Unfortunately, I have none of these things.

Being in Home, on the other hand, makes me feel like I'm in some vaguely dystopian future filled with vacant, plastic-looking faces, where everyone's thoughts are controlled by Sony and there's nothing to do other than absorb commercials and play stupid mini-games.

GameCritics.com Podcast Episode 5

This week's topics include:

  • Impressions/reviews of the New Xbox Experience and A Kingdom for Keflings
  • Listener Q&A:
    1. Why do critics compete to give a game the highest possible score?
    2. How has the Wii changed the landscape for gamers?
    3. Why are videogames still regarded as children's games when gamers have gotten older and games more sophisticated?
    4. Can a bad game be good, either in the sense that its development resulted in positives for gaming as a whole, or in the sense that its fundamental badness was a "quality" unto itself?
    5. Do you prefer a game to do only one thing for its duration or that it aim to do everything in small amounts?
    6. Do you guys have the same problem as me with playing single player games in that they feel terribly lonely?

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