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You can't always CYOA

Fallout 3 Screenshot

Something interesting I noticed this year was a trend of push-back against "choice" games in which the player did not get to control every outcome. The two biggest examples which spring to mind are, of course, The Walking Dead and Mass Effect 3.

Need for Speed: Most Wanted Review

Identity Crisis

Need for Speed: Most Wanted Screenshot

HIGH Blistering down a sunset highway at almost 200mph.

LOW Hurtling straight into a divider at almost 200mph.

WTF Where is the start menu?!

Consoleation: The grass isn't greener

Super Mario World Screenshot

When I think back to my 20-something self, during the 16-bit era, I remember how starved for video game information I was. We had monthly magazines to keep us in the loop back then, and information was relatively limited. "Oh, this game looks cool!" I would think to myself, but after reading a few paragraphs and seeing a couple of images, that was it.

Extra Credits: Beyond Fun

The guys at Extra Credits ask if the video game industry can move beyond games that are simply "fun." Where are the tragic gaming experiences that don't provide a happy ending? Where are the deep, thoughtful experiences that can't be summed up in a catchy subtitle on the box or communicated clearly via box art? We've seen this question pop up frequently during the last few years and we've even seen the creation of a category of games called "serious games" come out of that discussion. As the name implies, it includes games that provide gamers with something other than entertainment. We've also seen the indie games industry pick up the mantle and releasing promising experimental games across the various platforms.

But efforts like that do not reach the mainstream and Extra Credits argues that it is well past time for the industry as a whole to head in that direction. Without true breadth of content, games will never escape the children's plaything or disposable diversion stigma. An entertainment medium seen as having little to no value cannot fight censorship attacks as we are now seeing in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook massacre. The Obama Administration and Congress might not be so quick to act if there were anything more than grey military shooters and primary-colored wish fulfillment populating store shelves.

Extra Credits: Starting Off Right

Extra Credits talks about hooking the player within the first five minutes. Honestly, this sounds like something all developers would understand to be necessary in capturing the attention of the average person. Television, movies, music, texting, the Internet and other games are all waiting to steal a consumer's attention (and dollars) should a game fail to immediately hook a gamer. But it's hard to argue that this isn't the case. Why else would we still hold up older games like God of War, BioShock and Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare as examples of doing it right? Why else would so many great games languish on "To be Played Later" shelf and sit there long after the hardware they were made for has been discontinued?

Extra Credits: Mailbag #5

A rare mailbag episode has appeared. This brief video has Extra Credits answering fan questions like what they think of Nintendo's Wii U, the Ouya, the Oculus Rift and Electronic Arts advertising guns to Medal of Honor players.

Consoleation: Difficult decision

Rodin's The Thinker Image

As we turn the calendar to 2013, I'm faced with a rather significant decision to think on over the next couple of weeks.

Extra Credits: Digital Rentals and the Online Arcade

Coincidentally, I'm posting Extra Credits video the same week that it was leaked that Sony filed a patent for technology that would ban used or second hand games on its hardware. If true it is evidence of how tightly game companies are still holding onto the old ways of doing things oblivious to newer options. This Extra Credits presentation doesn't criticize such a practice, but it does talk about monetization of games and stress how the industry has moved beyond static price structures. Companies like a Sony (and by extension a Microsoft, a Nintendo and countless third party publishers) would best take notice and evolve with the times.

Extra Credits: Energy Systems

This is another interesting episode from the guys and gals at Extra Credits. This time they cover "limitation systems" or "energy systems," systems used to actually extend playtime or the life of a game. Things like this sadden me only because it makes me more aware of how games (and their creator's) these days are trying to manipulate you into spending more money without realizing it.

Extra Credits: On Game Schools

One thing that the video game industry needs to be more proactive in is the education of the general public with regards to video game schools or game design programs. When people think of gaming schools, they might think of the ones that get the most coverage like a DigiPen Institute of Technology or Art Institute of Vancouver. However, not everyone gets to attend these shining examples. Some aspiring Shigeru Miyamoto's and Ken Levine's might wind up wasting four years and tens of thousands of dollars at a less than reputable institution. That's where Extra Credits comes in to give some advice for anyone thinking about attending a school to actually become a game creator.

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