Darksiders: Hey Handsome, We’ve All Got Things To Do Today

Like a lot of little kids I spent a good amount of my little kid money (miniscule) and little kid time (enormous) on buying and reading comic books. My favourites were always Spider-Man and X-Men with the latter holding the bigger part of the timeshare in my pre-teen imagination. Looking back on this period of time, it’s hard to figure out what it was about those comics that exerted such a pull. Now, in lieu of any clearer explanation, I suspect that the hours I poured into thinking about the characters and convoluted timelines of the X-Men had a lot to do with — bear with me — the bright colour palette used in the design of the comic’s cast.

Over time, though, the visual appeal of the X-Men couldn’t compensate for the futility of the insipid, repetitive storylines of the superhero comics and the vast amount of mental real estate that their hamster wheel narratives/character “progression” were taking up. Simply enough, like many other kids, I found myself caring a lot less about these kinds of comics as I got older and found other ways to entertain myself.

I hadn’t thought much about any of this until, very recently, I found myself turning ten years old again for several hours a day. This was because I began playing Darksiders, a videogame that, just like those comic books, was able to cover up its cotton candy fluffiness with a whole lot of flair.

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Feminism is Not a Dirty Word

OK, check this out. Something that shouldn’t be mind-blowing, but, considering the state of recent videogame discourse, maybe (unfortunately) will be to some readers: I’m a straight male and, despite being adverse to self labelling, comfortably identify as a feminist. That proclamation changes nothing about how I’ve always thought and lived.

Should this be a train of thought that should be continued on a videogame criticism site, you may ask? Well, given the apparent inability for the industry to support rational gender and sexuality conversation, it sure seems like it.

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E3 2012; or Survival of the Loudest

The Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) is a competition in which the biggest, loudest person in the room wins first prize. On the trade floor there is no room for subtlety. Everyone must participate in an ear-splitting, epilepsy inducing game of one-upmanship in a vain attempt to stick out from the general cacophony of the event. In the jungle of E3 every booth is a shrieking baboon, beating its chest and roaring at all the other vicious apes in hopes of becoming the leader of the tribe for the coming months.

E3 is, ultimately, not very good for the industry it supports.

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Skullgirls: This is What Love Feels Like!

I’ve been playing fighting games competitively for about 3 years now+; I started with Street Fighter 4, and have moved on into Skullgirls. I’ve played hours and hours of the SF4 series. I’ve gone to local tournaments, and even a major. I’ve gone on forums, argued about tiers and techniques, and spent still more time in practice mode refining and discovering my technique.

I’m not a very big fan of the Street Fighter 4 series.

Developing a Persona Part 2: The Daily Grind

Life can often seem like a nasty, samsaric ritual. Almost every morning I wake up around 8am, take a shower, change the cat’s water, pour a cup of coffee and do the dishes before starting work. Every evening I take out my contacts, brush my teeth, wash my face and get into bed before falling asleep. These are the kind of things that we all just do and, for the most part, we do them mindlessly and automatically because they just have to be done.

Other parts of our day are usually far less predictable. Whether the spontaneity of a surprise phone call from an old friend or an email from a business client bears good or bad news, at the very least it colours our daily routines with the kind of random chance that makes life interesting (if not always enjoyable necessarily).

I play games — and I suspect a lot of people play games — because they also provide my days with that element of unpredictability. Taking part in an unfolding story or trying to win against a digital opponent makes for pretty engaging entertainment. Despite the fact that games, being constructs of cold hard programming, can only offer us a pre-set variety of outcomes (a variety that is always expanding as developers and technological engineers push the medium forward) they can give us a sense of being somewhere else, taking part in a world of chance — a world that can have more in common with the unpredictable parts of our days than the rote, habitual ones.

That isn’t always the case with Persona 3.

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Killzone 2: War Sucks and War Games Suck Too

Killzone 2 exists in a strange place where the Michael Bay inspired bombast of Modern Warfare shares space with the gore-soaked dialectics of The Iliad. For all of its surface problems (and there are many), it is a game about shooting dudes that frequently attempts to impart something far different than the mindless jingoism of its brethren. Killzone 2 has a generic science-fiction plot — the “good guys” of the Interplanatary Strategic Alliance (ISA) are fighting a war against the “bad” Helghast army — but it is also a story about the futility of assigning values to combat fuelled by nationalism and historical injustice.

War is hell, it says, and not just for our team.

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Developing a Persona Part 1: Time Management

The Persona series is revered, the third and fourth entries to the series being particularly adored. A lot of platitudes are tossed around about these games, including (but not limited to) bold claims like their being “saviours of the Japanese role-playing game.” Obviously this warrants investigation so, about two months after buying a PlayStation Vita and playing three actual Vita games on it, I ended up downloading the PSP version of Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3.

Now, a few hours in I’m willing to take a (self-inflicted gun)shot at trying to unpack just what it is that makes this game compelling to so many people.

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