Thursday, December 18, 2014

Personalizing Race in Dragon Age: Inquisition

Side note: The art of Dragon Age: Inquisition is gorgeous
My latest PopMatters article is up on race, and sort of why being an elf is the best way to play Dragon Age: Inquisition.

Not really. The game is probably great as a Dwarf or Qunari too. This article largely speaks to the game from my own perspective and experiences, but I suspect Bioware has included enough diversity in their game for nearly anyone to relate to some significant game narrative. For example, I hear playing as a mage is interesting in that the war between Templar and Apostate is that much more personally significant. The mage/Templar conflict, especially as it touches the Chantry and other organizations in Thedas, is fascinating and delivers some genuine heartfelt story beats.

For those not playing an elf or who cannot related to that side of the story, I can see why some of the characters tied to that narrative are uninteresting. Like many others, I too though Solas boring and Sera annoying at first. As the game continued, each revealed unexpected aspects of themselves. Solas now appears more measured and calculating than before. He's not just some elven history fanatic. Likewise, Sera's at times silly and aggressive attitude has become, to me, an understandable hostility towards all the elements of society that attempt to conform her into a mold. She's a "wild card" because she is rebelling against being a one-note character. I find that refreshing in games.

Having a stake in these characters and the lore behind their lot in life also enriches some of the smaller elements of the game. Yesterday I found myself in lands that one belonged to the Dalish and have since been ruined by warfare and demonic rifts. More than in any other environment, I took my time exploring and reading the historical texts dotting the landscape. I was taking lessons from my own life, the fictional life of the Inquisitor, and the perspectives of her companion. It was easy to see the tragedy written across the ancient battlefield, but I also knew the elves survived and transformed like any other peoples. I thought of that great quote from Drink Cultura: "Mexico never left the Southwest, it just learned English."

I know how talking about this kind of stuff can sound flippant, but I do find something special about Bioware's handling of these personal themes.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

EXP Podcast #307: 2014 Games of the Year

Bonus award for best song goes to Sir Paul.
It's that time of year again everyone: the time when we make the painful decisions.  The time when we take stock of the year and elevate three champions that represent the year's high points.  It's our Games of the Year for 2014 (because who could pick just one?).  What experiences from 2014 will stick with you as we get ready for the new year?  Let us know in the comments!

- Here's the show's stand-alone feed
- Listen to the podcast in your browser by left-clicking here, right-click and select "save as link" to download the show in MP3 format, or click play below.




Show Notes:

- Runtime: 53 mins 25 secs
- Music by Brad Sucks

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Trine 2: T Swizzle Edition

My ex-mage brought his new balrog, he's like "Oh my god, did you just call a drake?" Yeah that scaly lizard there breathing flaming hot air is gonna melt your armor baby while you shake, shake, shake.


Thursday, December 11, 2014

Nintendo in the Internet Age

Mario, Matrix impressions are so "90s."
This week's PopMatters post is a look at my Nintendo-sanctioned online time.

Jorge and I are still mad at Nintendo for flagging our New Super Mario 3D World YouTube video.  That whole episode pretty much sums up Nintendo's scattered online approach.  Sometimes they're remarkably forward-looking and sometimes it feels like they haven't been paying attention to what has been happening to the world over the past 5-10 years.

Mario Kart 8 has been spectacular, except when I'm getting flagged for uploading content via the YouTube integration that is part of the damn game.  Smash is adequate, but the bare bones implementation and sketchy net code suggests that Nintendo still sees this as a couch game and (possibly) a tournament game.

On the philosophical side, playing Nintendo games online is a big mental departure from how I've always conceived of them.  The original Mario Kart is still the same game it was in 1992, but Mario Kart 8 is already on version 3.0.  I'd say most of the changes are good, but it still is a shift from the way those games will be remembered and developed.

Being connected to everyone also means your community gets a lot bigger and (for me at least) your ego gets a lot smaller.  I may have been able to beat most of my friends, but the global arena is downright brutal when it comes to competition.  Again, that's not a bad thing, but the fact that even Nintendo's series and the culture surrounding them are facing the Internet's globalizing force.

Enough writing; I need to get back online before all those kids leave me in the dust.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

EXP Podcast #306: 2014 Game Awards and PSX

Vegas baby!
What happens in Vegas gets shared all across the internet! This week on the Experience Points Podcast, Scott and discuss the latest news and announcement from the Game Awards show and Sony's Playstation Experience event. You can prepare yourself for the show by watching the game awards show in entirety right here. For your viewing pleasure, you can also find all the trailers for the games we discuss in the show notes below. Let us know which these games you are most looking forward to!

- Here's the show's stand-alone feed
- Listen to the podcast in your browser by left-clicking here, right-click and select "save as link" to download the show in MP3 format, or click play below.




Show Notes:

- Runtime: 38 mins 18 secs
- Uncharted 4 Gameplay Trailer
- Bloodborn Game Awards Trailer
- Witcher 3 Elder Blood Trailer
- Drawn to Death Trailer
- Wattam Trailer
- What Remains of Edith Finch Trailer
- Tacoma Trailer
- Adr1ft Trailer
- Street Fighter V Trailer
- No Man's Sky Gameplay Trailer
- Legend of Zelda Gameplay Walkthrough
- Music by Brad Sucks

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Ninten-DOH

We were eager to get you another EXP weekly video to you today folks, but unfortunately we received a Content ID warning for playing Super Mario Bros. 3D World a now nameless title. It is an unfortunate turn of events considering I just recently became a proud owner of a Wii U certain console. Not only have I been loving Mario Kart 8 a family-friendly racing game, but I've also dumped many hours into Super Smash Bros. one of those popular fighting games.

As always, it is disheartening to see such a blunt tool used so indiscriminately against fans of Nintendo a certain major publisher. Oh well. We'll have more videos in the near future, many of them showcasing games from competitors, as is necessary. Play us out Paul McCartney...

Thursday, December 4, 2014

My latest PopMatters article is up, in which a document events in a galaxy far, far away.

I really enjoy writing about public cultural events, and nothing fits the bill like the upcoming Star Wars: The Force Awakens release. I personally flop between genuine giddiness and pessimistic trepidation, but regardless of how the film actually comes out, the process of anticipating and theory crafting that comes with the build-up is fascinating.

I actually think this type of fan engagement is quite common in games. The games industry feeds carefully selected screenshots to the masses via the games press, and while most of the time it sits there ignored, occasionally enriching conversations pop up around it, or rewarding communities form around them. I think this is true of the infamous Destiny loot cave, and of the cooperative efforts around the mysteries of P.T. as well.

It's also true of some of the negative things that have occurred in the games industry over the past few years also. Tomb Raider received a lot of flak during its promotional phase regarding its depiction abuse and fetishization. Generally I think the team at Crystal Dynamics did an excellent job in the final product, but the conversation around the marketing strategy was fruitful nonetheless. We should be vigilant in our excitement and in our criticism.

One of the first articles I wrote on Experience Points so many years ago was about the benefit of hype. While a bit more jaded perhaps than I once was, I still believe there is a value in participating in cultural spectacles.