Game criticism has evolved so completely from its early years to the point that many modern reviews would look wholly foreign to the ’80s, neon-jacket wearing kids who read Nintendo Power. Assuredly many outlets do still follow the basic framework established back then. A succinct summation of the game’s features, how well the story holds up, its replayability, etc.—these terms aren’t likely to go away, but they do demonstrate an advancement of the gaming lexicon.
Mundanity is alluring. Typically a sentence like that would seem like a fairly overt contradiction, but when it comes to video games it tends to hold true. Games are built on bombast, splendor and extravagance. Most commercial games appeal to the player looking for the greatest spectacle possible. Graphical power struggles have existed in the industry for decades, but the minute, sparkly details in modern consoles are exacerbated in the battle for people’s loyalty.
Finding humor in games is generally like trying to search for some really blunt needle in a stack of crap—it’s pretty unpleasant usually barely worth the effort. Writing in games is generally horrendous, so trying to garner any amount of hilarity out of stilted scenes is about the best you can get.
Virtual reality isn’t a new fad in the gaming world. Since its earliest inception, there have been hilarious depictions in popular culture of kids entering some futuristic deathtrap masquerading as a VR machine. There has already been many failed examples of trying to immerse players in a virtual environment, such as the quasi-VR Nintendo Virtual Boy that doubled as a retina destroyer.
When Telltale Games released “The Walking Dead” back in 2012, it was mostly known as the studio that was keeping alive the oft-forgotten adventure game genre with some mildly successful licensed titles. They had just come off the maligned “Jurassic Park.” The limited number of people who knew about Telltale were those paying close attention to the industry. Flash forward two years and they’re producing four different licensed series with one of the most popular game franchises in the industry.
Anyone who decided to try out the Internet this past week likely stumbled upon the popular “Twitch Plays Pokemon” stream that just finished up a few days ago. Although it may have taken over everyone’s lives and provided the one reality show that actually seems worthwhile, the dramatic conclusion merely spawned a fresh stream of “Pokemon Crystal.”
When Irrational Games shut its door last week, the industry lost a prominent developer that placed a strict focus on narrative. While "Bioshock Infinite" may not have been the savior everyone hoped it might be, it shipped over four million copies and if nothing else, created a worthwhile dialogue about the nature of sustaining a compelling narrative within the context of a typical AAA shooter.
Students on college campuses have relied on the same crop of multiplayer games to provide enjoyment for what seems like forever now. “Mario Kart,” “Mario Party” and various sports games are always excellent staples, but there’s been a movement afoot in the PC space to create a greater emphasis on local couch co-op. Rather than battling some folks around the world in “Halo”, why not take a trip to yesteryear and enjoy rubbing defeat in your buddies’ faces while they sit next to you.
"Flappy Bird” is dead. The simplistic app that dominated the cultural zeitgeist this past week seems to have perished more quickly than most of my pitiful attempts at its egregiously difficult gameplay. Countless articles were published chronicling the insightful commentary “Flappy Bird’s” success provided for an industry that generally succeeds on stagnation.
Most of the time people are only exposed to the most high profile student produced video games. “Portal” started out as a tiny project called “Narbacular Drop,” created by several college students out in Washington. Valve Software scooped them up and it went on to become one of last generation’s breakout success stories. Carnegie Mellon’s perspective-bending tech demo the other week is another example of a student designed game well deserving of all the publicity it’s received.