Thursday, November 27, 2014

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

EXP Podcast #304: Playing Day One

Super Smash Bros. WiiU came out on Friday and yet we still haven't shown our complete and utter dominance as Jigglypuff yet. Why all the rush? Because some games are just meant to be played day one. But which games and why? Join us this week on the podcast while we discuss all the reasons you want to hop into the latest games, lest you miss out on something amazing. As always, subscribe below and leave us your thoughts 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:

- "The Unbalanced Design of Super Smash Bros," by Forrest Smith via Forestthewoods
- Runtime: 33mins 09 secs
- Music by Brad Sucks

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Trine 2: Serial Edition

When discussing real-life murder mysteries, what better game to play than Trine 2, right? Exactly!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Mixed Messages of Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare

They do have some excellent MoCap though.
This week on PopMatters, I jump back into the politics of the Call of Duty franchise.

I actually did this once before when discussing Black Ops 2 and the ways it addresses specifically American fears. Every Call of Duty seems to me a push-pull battle between developers who genuinely care about addressing interesting and important themes in their games and developers who just want to make a hardcore bro-shooter. Apparently in the latest entry in the franchise, those who genuinely care have lost ground.

There are of course really interesting themes in the game, especially in regards to international corporations and their lack of accountability on the world stage. But Call of Duty pulls its punches. It fails to embrace the theme and actually hammer it home. Instead of a puppet-threat that actually represents some of the middle-class disenchantment that many Americans feel in particular towards the power of corporations in society, we have a vague indescribable Chechen terrorist organization. Instead of fully criticizing Atlas and their nefarious ways, we see a world genuinely better off than it was because of their wise use of capital.

How does Atlas get all their money? When the UN turns against them, are we meant to assume they are self-operating now? Do they collect taxes from their employees? Why do the majority of soldiers fighting for them do so? The game has no interest in exploring these themes because it relies on Kevin Spacey hamming it up in a caricature of greed-infused villainy.

At the end of the game, the bland soldiers walk away saying it's "only the beginning." Why? What is meant to happen next? Irons represents a singular corporate interest, one managed by an individual not stakeholders or a board of directors. Who is carrying on his lineage and what philosophical ideas drive the remaining employees? We have no answer because, surprisingly, the newest Call of Duty game is also the most conservative thematically.

Listen to our EXP Debrief here.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

EXP Podcast #303: The Binding of Isaac Rebirth Debrief

You should definitely watch the trailer.
Like a demonic phoenix rising from a feces-laden alter, The Binding of Isaac has returned. Rebirth adds cooperative play, scores of new items, and a visual remake (or de-make?). This week we return from our trip in the basement and discuss rogue-likes, faith, and beasts of unimaginable horror.

- 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:

- "The Binding of Isaac Rebirth 2014 Q&A!" by Edmund McMillen via
- Runtime: 49 mins 50 secs
- Music by Brad Sucks

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Trine 2: Take a Look, It's in a Book

Has LeVar Burton ever explicitly denied being a wizard? Could he also be in pursuit of the magical Trine? Has or has he not transported all of us to faraway lands full of incredible characters? That's proof enough for us.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Bayonetta Meets Beyoncé

What she saves on fabric she spends on bullets.
This week I put the pop in "PopMatters" and talk about Bayonetta and Beyoncé.

I have mixed feelings about writing yet another post about Bayonetta's sexuality.  There are so many of them out there and the game is deeper than its image.  For those looking for a little variety, I highly recommend Todd Harper's weeklong series of Bayonetta posts that "leave discussions of her body and sexuality behind, in the hope of finding more about this fascinating game series to discuss than one issue alone."  It's good stuff!

Still, sexuality remains an integral part of Bayonetta's character.  She acknowledges her looks in a self-aware way most sexualized video game characters don't.  Bayonetta isn't one of those "Oops am I being sexy?" or "Wearing this metal bikini into battle is totally normal" type of characters.  She makes jokes about her admirers and taunts her enemies who try to lay hands on her.  The basic combat flow is about calculated restrictions: dodging enemies at the last second as they attack her provides the best attack opportunities and the highest bonuses.  Bayonetta punishes those who try to take more than she is willing to give.

This mixture of blatant sexuality and power resembles Beyoncé and plenty of other popular chart topping ladies.  I included a few mildly-NSFW videos in the post (just be ready to alt-tab at a moment's notice).  There's not a lot of subtlety in lyrics like: "Boy you know I look good as fuck / You wish I was your baby momma / Want me to come around and give you good karma, but no," but I argue that is precisely the point.  Acknowledging and embracing overt sexuality, even a type of sexuality that some people disagree with, doesn't negate your agency.

Then again, maybe all this is just me trying to convince myself that I don't need to nuke my browser's cache after watching a bunch of Beyoncé videos or hide my Bayonetta 2 disc under my mattress.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

EXP Podcast #302: Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare Debrief

Frank Underwood has come a long way.
The yearly barometer for shooters and the games industry at large is out! Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare just hit store shelves we are heeding our own call of duty by reviewing and discussing the latest in the multi-million dollar franchise.

How advanced is it? Will we ever defeat Robo-Putin? What is the most user-friendly design of a grenade? All this and more in this week's episode!

- 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: 49 mins 50 secs
- Music by Brad Sucks

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Spelunky: The Hazards of Alien Technology

Scott and I are at it again with a Spelunky run. We also talk about dreams and a variety of other things, at least when not screaming at each other.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Game Lessons Learned from the Films of 2014

This week on PopMatters, I've found another opportunity to talk about film!

I always find if valuable to think about games in relation to film. Despite the best effort of many to isolate games as some magical realm ne'er to meld with that of cinema, there is a whole lot to learn about storytelling when we cross mediums.

Now let's talk for a second about Interstellar. It almost earned a last minute addition to my list of five important films from 2014, and not because it's good. It isn't. There is enough plot contrivances and overly sentimental dialogue to make four mediocre sci-fi movies. Interstellar isn't all bad. Nolan certainly has a way with grandiose action and I, for one, enjoyed the occasionally oppressive score for all the intensity it created. Even so, it failed to pick up its various messy piece and convey the sense of wonder is tried so hard to create.

It almost made my list not for the thematic contents of the film, but for its scale. The film takes place in the near future, but stretches into the far distant future. Even though I am not the biggest fan of the film, I still think it's a unique viewing experience. There are not many film makers like Christopher Nolan, and even fewer who are freely given the amount of money it took to produce such an experimental work. Interstellar is still a daring exercise in grandiosity. Ultimately Boyhood satisfies that to some extent and thus appears on my list, for an even more epic attempt telling an expansive story, Interstellar still offers valuable lessons for games.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

EXP Podcast #301: Mini-map Madness

Forget the sunset; focus on the map.
Image from Giant Bomb.
Let’s talk about your most trustworthy companion. No, it’s not your dog or that flask you’re keeping in your jacket pocket. I’m talking about the thing that’s tucked into the corner of your vision, quietly monitoring you and keeping track of where you’re going and who you’re meeting: the mini-map. It’s a convenient tool, but how does it impact the way we impact the way we interact with a game’s world? Is there a line between a navigational enhancement and a crutch? How does this all relate to the Galactic Empire in Star Wars? Join us as we navigate are way through these questions.

- 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: 36 mins 50 secs
- Music by Brad Sucks

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Evolve: The Alpha Monster

We find ourselves in the dark alien jungle. Suddenly, four tiny, fleshy creatures begin attacking us without provocation. Confused and enraged, we begin a desperate fight for survival.

 Yup, we got into the Evolve Alpha.