Think of the last time you sat down to play a video game with another person — I’d be willing to bet that you were playing with them online. With the development of technology in the modern era, we can now connect with people all across the world in seconds. Of course, this evolution has affected gaming as well. We now live in an age where we can play in lobbies with others across the globe at the press of a button.
I usually begin these reviews by clumsily burying the lede and attempting to provide some sort of context because I think it’s important. We live in a world of franchises, and while the occasional standalone masterpiece like “Return of the Obra Dinn” will pop up now and again, even it comes attached with loads of baggage. “Obra Dinn” was a “Lucas Pope game,” a personal brand that is rapidly becoming a complex and budding franchise of its own sort. Rarely, if ever, can you fully extrapolate a piece of art from the context that surrounds it. And if you do end up tearing your eyes out to do so, you’ll almost inevitably end up coming back to it. But I don’t know where to begin with “Red Dead Redemption 2.” I feel like we almost have to rewrite the book on this one.
Cartoons and TV can act as an important part of our lives as kids. They’re often one of the first major ways we engage with technology, so the media we view can have a big impact on our interests, personalities and even morals. While many of these shows were similar in concept and visuals, there was one show that stood out among the crowd. It has impacted kids since its debut and will continue to for many years to come, a show named “Dragon Ball Z.”
Here’s a mystery: How do you build a well-paced suspense story in a medium where you are the investigator? It’s a lot trickier than you might think. The classic investigative geniuses — Sherlock Holmes, Hercules Poirot, Nancy Drew, Encyclopedia Brown — were all great characters, but they weren’t just great characters. They all served functional purposes in their original stories and kept their mysteries moving. Trying to keep track of subtle details and stay ahead of the characters is fun, it’s a lot of what people come to mystery stories for, but if something is a real stumper the hero is always there to pick up the slack and move things along.
In terms of classic video game platformers, Mega Man has always been the black sheep of the family. Actually, Sonic is the black sheep of the platformer family, but Mega Man is a close second. The Sonic comparison is fairly apt: Both series star edgy blue protagonists and have had an extremely hard time evolving. There are a lot of mechanics in the classic “Mega Man” games that don’t translate well to the modern day. Translating what once was to something new and special is difficult. Not every series can be Mario — popular in 2D, 3D and in every miscellaneous genre imaginable.
Imagine yourself in the early ‘90s. The World Wide Web is revolutionizing the way we communicate, the Cold War has finally ended and the Hubble Space Telescope has been cast off into space. Arcades are bustling as the popular social spot for teenagers and young adults, with a wide variety of different game cabinets for any type of player. However, one cabinet dominated every arcade with an unrelenting appeal: “Street Fighter II.” This single game propelled the stagnant fighting game genre it came from to new heights. The proof? Its $1.23 billion in revenue upon release.
Ever since 2013’s “Tomb Raider” reboot, Lara Croft has been on a successful run. The iconic video game heroine was redesigned to be more grounded and relatable, a change further developed in the 2015 sequel, “Rise of the Tomb Raider.” Even the new “Tomb Raider” movie starring Alicia Vikander was decent — for a film based on a video game, being decent is no small feat.
Spider-Man feels like one of those series that’s never quite going to get it right — one that always passes the bar for greatness, swings effortlessly around the barrier for excellence, but stops short just a half inch of being 100 percent coherent.
I feel it’s necessary to preface all this by admitting that, as a man who plays a lot of games, I’m not the type of person to anticipate new releases. Games are just too expensive of a hobby, and getting caught up in hype trains all the time is a quick and reliable way to lose your shirt. If I didn’t write this column, I’d never pick up a game the first day it was out. With the exception of Nintendo and a few particularly smart indie game developers, every company drops the price of their games drastically a few months after release.
The city of Madison is home to many successful video game studios. Raven Software has helped develop entries in the “Call of Duty” series, while PerBlue signed a deal with Disney to make mobile games for the media juggernaut. For those who aspire to work in the industry, UW-Madison’s Game Design and Development club gives students the opportunity to make games of their own.
Less than two weeks ago, 680,000 concurrent viewers watched Richard “Ninja” Blevins play “Fortnite: Battle Royale” on Twitch, a new record for the video platform. It was a record Blevins had already broken back in March, when 628,000 watched him play the same game with rap mogul Drake.
“God of War” was one of those series back on PlayStation 2 that delighted in being an oddball and benefited from it. It sits up there with “Silent Hill,” “Ico” and “Shadow of the Colossus” as one of those staples that was willing to be a bit more experimental than its contemporaries, playing with mechanics other developers hadn’t before.
If you’d have told me a few months ago that Subset Games, the makers of “FTL: Faster Than Light,” were going to come out with one of the tightest, most interesting strategy games ever made, I’d have laughed in your face.
Jordan Tannenbaum has been a fan of video games since the day his parents got him a Game Boy in kindergarten. During middle school, he and a group of friends played “Super Smash Bros.,” a series of fighting games starring Nintendo’s favorite characters.
As the most baffling game in the most baffling series ever made, “Metal Gear Survive” has reasonable claim to the title of “Weirdest Game Ever.” But break down the forces behind its creation, and it suddenly becomes one of the most sensical, cynical business decisions made in the video game industry.