Thursday, April 30, 2015

Mortal Kombat X: Fee-tality

PopMatters is taking a break this week, but here's quick video to fill the space.  Jorge and I journey into the depths of the NetherRealm and realize that we probably didn't bring enough cash.


Wednesday, April 29, 2015

EXP Podcast #326: MK & MK Debrief

Putting the Kart before the hearse.
Nothing says "hardcore" like replacing a C with a K. This week on the EXP Podcast, Scott and I dive into an MK/MK extravaganza! First we try our hands at NetherRealm's Mortal Kombat X, and soon discover our hands are covered in blood and guts. Next we speed through Mario Kart at a blistering 200ccs and measure how well the game holds up in its latest batch of DLC. Kart or Kombat fan? Hop into the comments or shoot us an email and let us know!

- 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: 34 mins  24 secs
- Music by Brad Sucks

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Mortal Kombat X: Ermac and Cheese

Who doesn't love video games so violent they demand a congressional hearing? It's time to mash those buttons ladies and gentlemen, Mortal Kombat X is here. We actually have two videos this week, because when complete brutality isn't enough, there's always the absolute mayhem of Test Your Luck mode.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Bloodborne and Firewalking: Play As Social Ritual

Yea. Bloodborne is kinda like that.
If Dark Souls is like chopping off your own arm, Bloodborne is like walking across a bed of hot coals.

I am not a spiritual person, but I do enjoy looking at games through the lens of ritual. The social performance of ritual has always been fundamental to my experiences with religion as well. As a kid, church was a shared public time of reflection (or castigation) depending on the sermon. Youth groups, on the other hand, were excuses to hang out with friends under the guise of religious teachings. There is a feeling of being part of a larger whole in both, a sense of fitting into a complete circle. It can be deeply self confirmation.

Firewalking is often described with spiritual connotations and fits into the same shared space, shared vein of religious experiences. The crowds that attend these events not only create the tone of a spirituality with the physical trappings and strict rites related to the event, but their presence is both a form of pressure and of support. They can remind you that they too went through this same rite of passage, and that therefore you can also confront your fears and prove yourself more than human.

The discourse around Bloodborne strikes me as familiar, from the in-game encouragement to the meta-chronicling fans do to document the lore of the game or tips for other players to employ in their own journey. Even if they're invading your world or trolling you with fake messages, I get the sense every single Bloodborne player has your back. They want you to succeed because they know how empowering it can feel to face something that appears brutally difficult and overcome.

In the darkest stretches of Bloodborne's nightmarescape, I'm actually optimistic and inspired by the gaming community.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

EXP Podcast #325: The Guitar Hero Live Reunion Tour

Who wouldn't want to spend 12 hours on a bus with this guy?
My my, hey hey.  Rhythm games are here to stay.  It's better to burn out than to gather dust...if you're a plastic guitar that is.  Yes, after years in hibernation, Guitar Hero and Rock Band are back on stage.  Will that lead Jorge and me back to the altar of rock?  Have our dreams of virtual superstardom faded away like so many missed notes scrolling into infinity?  Fire up the virtual record player and find out.

- 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: 39 mins  39 secs
- Music by Brad Sucks

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Bloodborne: Pro Status Speed Run!

Hey, we didn't say it was a successful speed run! Well, I guess running headlong into a being of unimaginable horror could be considered a success, depending on what you're shooting for.


Thursday, April 16, 2015

Self-improvement Through 'Bloodborne'

Dude is shredded
This week on PopMatters, I'm breaking a sweat with Bloodborne.

It started off as a joke on Twitter, but there was actually a good mount of truth to it.  I was getting supremely bored by Bloodborne's load times and I needed to do something to pass the time.  Might as well get off the couch and channel my rage into some pushups.

Video games are often compared to movies or sometimes plays.  I think the best analogue for the Souls games and Bloodborne is exercise.  Playing them requires a level of patience because the rewards are slow and hard-earned.  You train to improve your technique and grind your way to more strength.  Sometimes you make a dumb mistake that ends your set or loses you the game, but it's all in pursuit of a long-term achievement.

You go through recurring cycles of actions and examine each step: Could I have been quicker here?  Is this the right item?  Am I remembering the proper attack routes?  Even if you fail, you can see where things went wrong and work to be more mindful of them in the future.  The meditative aspects of these games could fill up an entirely separate post.

Until then, I'll be working on my upper body strength every time I die in Bloodborne.  I can already feel myself getting sore.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

EXP Podcast #324: Bloodborne Early Debrief

The face of horror...
We are still in the early days of exploring all that Bloodborne has to offer, but the critical conversation about the game is happening right now. If we wait any longer, Yarnham may be inundated with snake-meatballs and ravens! This week on the EXP Podcast, join us to discuss the madness, the beauty, the painful, painful glory of Bloodborne.

Are you playing Hunter? Tell us your stories in the comments below!

- 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: 43 mins 14 secs
- Music by Brad Sucks

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Mortal Kombat: Arcade Trifect

Mortal Kombat X comes out today. To celebrate it's bloody, disgusting, incredibly graphic launch, Scott and I dive back into the arcade classics. It's been awhile, so forgive our lack of "good".

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Decision Making in Life is Strange and Game of Thrones

Alright. There's some life-or-death in Life is Strange.
Life is Thrones? Game of Strange? I don't care what you call it, but playing both playing two very different adventure games is an... interesting experience.

There are a lot of conversations about  Game of Thrones, one of which Scott and I just posted yesterday, but I don't think Life is Strange is getting as much attention as it deserves. This is partly because the decisions you make in Game of Thrones are appropriately BIG. It is Westeros after all. Meanwhile, the world of Life is Strange is our own, and the pacific northwest atmosphere has more in common with Gone Home than anything Telltale has created.

Even so, there's a remarkable subtly in Life is Strange that I really appreciate. Rewinding time to be perfect, to say the right thing, is such a human desire, a social fantasy. Even so, with the power to intervene comes a feeling of obligation (yes, responsibility), and this is stressful, even overwhelming. How much should Max intervene in the lives of others? How much is she willing to sacrifice to help her friends? This is not the high-stakes live-or-die scenario of Game of Thrones, but the tension rises nonetheless.

Slight tangent, the work of the Geek Remix channel on YouTube does a pretty great job of exploring some of the game's surprising depth. I love fan speculation in general, so to see a close reading of Life is Strange is a treat. Games featuring young women in trouble because of viral videos rarely make the YouTube rounds y'know.

The fact I can go from kicking a guy off a 700 foot wall to watering my dorm room plant in the same genre I find deeply satisfying.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

EXP Podcast #323: Game of Thrones, Episode 3 Debrief

Don't even try to talk to Drogon before his morning coffee.
Where do your loyalties lie?  Your house or your queen?  Your brothers in arms or your family?  Actually, you probably shouldn’t answer that; that servant boy over there looks a little shifty.  Don’t worry about trusting us though; we’ll keep all your secrets safe.  This week we recap episode 3 of Telltale’s Game of Thrones.  This installment puts us in the middle of some crucial decisions, which we’re sure will turn out for the best and result in mutual benefit for all involved.  On an unrelated note, can you hold this dagger?  Oh no, that isn’t a blood stain; it’s just rust.

- 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: 58 mins 27 secs
- Music by Brad Sucks

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

League of Legends: Big Papa URF

Jorge and Scott relentlessly spam their ultimate abilities while debating the merits of PC gaming in the living room.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Hunted by the Clock in 'Risk of Rain'

Seems friendly
This week on PopMatters I gush about a game I wish I had played sooner: Risk of RainI mostly like its clock.

I really didn't know much about it, which is kind of hard to believe since it has almost everything I tend to gravitate towards in games: platforming, reflex-based skill challenges, permadeath, randomized items and enemies. It's basically catnip for yours truly.  The part of Risk of Rain I admire above all else is the time management.  

Yes, I realize how dorky that sounds.  But, as a general rule, I think clocks tend to improve all kinds of games.  A time limit speeds up dynamics that might otherwise get boring and adds a sense of urgency to all types of decisions.  I’d play way more boardgames if they had time limits.  I probably wouldn’t be nearly as interested in the Telltale-style adventure games if you could just stand around thinking about a decision during a dramatic moment.

Time precipitates interesting decisions.  Even the most skilled people are challenged to make mistakes when they’re rushed (like the clip from this past Superbowl I included in the column).  Risk of Rain bounds your abilities, level progression, and even the game’s overall difficulty to a timer.  When you pair this with potentially disastrous consequences, you get a game in which your opponent isn’t the only enemy.  You’re also fighting the clock.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

EXP Podcast #322: Earthbound Debrief, Part 3

Is Earthbound a game or art?
We have come a long way from Onett  everyone! This week on the EXP Podcast, Scott and I join Ness, Paula, and Jeff in the world of Earthbound. From secret waterfalls to parental neglect, there is a lot to discuss If you are playing along with us, we discuss the events just up to Summers. We hope you enjoy your stay at our desert shack on the internet

- 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: 55 mins 05 secs
- Music by Brad Sucks