Friday, December 27, 2013

Click Bait "Game of the Year" Post

So it's about time that I did this. In truth, I don't really like the idea of "Game of the Year" for the same reasons that I don't like "Best Picture". The winner will always come down to the sensibilities of voters (voter in my case).

It's not hard to imagine how easily this happens, certain types of people like certain types of games and there are generally standouts in each category. Then there is a kind of ebb and flow of genres. Fighting games used to be much more popular than they are now. Fifteen years ago the MMO didn't really exist and 10 years ago we were still calling them MMORPGs before realizing they were all basically RPGs. Things come and go out of vogue like that fairly easily.

My long winded point is that there is an inherent bias that you can't really deal with. So, to deal with it I asked myself, "what does it really mean to be 'Game of the year?'" And came up with this, Game of the Year is the one game that I would save if all of the 2013 videogames were about to fall into a chasm of space and time.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

PAX's "Diversity Lounges" need to be more

Penny Arcade has a problem. They have a problem that involves race, gender, and sexuality. Instead of engaging with those issues and trying to discover what things have been done in order marginalize several groups of people they've decided to round them up into a corner at every PAX.

Now I realize that I am being somewhat cynical. They haven't even implemented this yet and some people are saying that it's a positive step forward for an organization that has never before demonstrated any sort of support for the groups they would like to round up.

I agree that this is definitely something positive coming from Penny Arcade. Their past can best be described as troubling or problematic and at worst simply flagrantly offensive. The idea of "diversity lounges" and their stated goals makes sense in light of that. However, it's a bandage attempting to stop a raging hemorrhage.

Yes, videogames have an inclusiveness problem, that few will deny (and those that will are wrong). But that's for another day. Right now I want to look at why this is the wrong solution for what I think is the problem.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Where are all the good Star Wars games?

Remember when LucasArts got sold to Disney? Remember when a lot of people were happy because George Lucas wasn't doing anything with the franchise? I was a part of that camp, I was waiting for the second coming of the Force and here it was! The mouse would save us!

Well it's been over a year since the FTC cleared the acquisition. It's been 9 months since it was announced that LucasArt's pipeline was being shutdown and eliminated. It's been 7 months since we were told EA was getting the exclusive licence to the games and LucasArts could only do social. So what have we seen since all this happened? Where are the Star Wars games?

Friday, December 6, 2013

Been away for awhile

So I've been away for awhile working on a lot of other things. Last month I did National Novel Writing Month but it will be a long while before that thing I wrote gets to a point where it's shareable, let a lone readable. This month I'll be working on a lot of different things including a new serial and a lot of videogame things.

Looking down the road I'll be sure to do some end of the year thing as well as post about some games that I've been playing. I shouldn't vanish any more like I did but I definitely will be most frequently, although maybe not every day. That pace got to be a little much.

Any of you who have stuck around, thanks for sticking around. I'll definitely make it worth your while.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Video Games and the State

I'm a voracious reader, I read like 5-20 articles before doing almost anything else in the morning. Or I listen to Morning Edition as I work out. Anyway, I stopped at three articles today because I felt compelled to write something.

The article in question is "Video Games are Making Us too Comfortable with the Modern Surveillance State" by Michael Thomsen and published in The New Republic. It's a great piece and I encourage you to read it, I'm fairly critical of it but that's because it's a great read. (Good writing should invite criticism, scrutiny, and commentary, not deny it).

Anyway, please read Mr. Thomsen's piece, it's really great, and I'll go over some things that occurred to me after the break.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

I Miss My Friends

All of this playing Madden and other online games has really got me missing my friends. It's not as though I miss them as people, I see them all fairly often. However, what I do miss is playing together. I love people watching me play, playing with others, and watching others play. But I love those things when we're all in the same room. Playing online has really taken that away and the new console generation is not going to help.

Let's look at games as being inherently social and talk about what changed.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Valve Announces Steam Machines

So Valve announced something we've all seen coming for awhile now, Steam Machines.

In my modest opinion Steam Machines sort of boil down to computers that are designed for TVs (read: traditional consoles). However, Valve is known for one thing, execution and executing very very well.

I've attached the link to Valve's page and I'll be doing a few impression update type things as I get more information.


Tuesday, September 24, 2013

How Much Does Pedigree Matter?

We often talk about a game as being from the makers of one game or another. It's often used a lot in advertising to promote a game based on the success of it's predecessors. However, recently I've noticed it being used to put down games. Instead of promoting a game based on the success of it's predecessors I've seen detractors rip a game based on the previous work of it's developers.

This isn't about meaningful commentary in a context, this is in response to writers who dig up the long dead portfolios in order to say mean things about a game.

Which leads us to the question: how important is a game's pedigree?

Monday, September 16, 2013

GTA: A Retrospective

Four years ago I wrote a piece on Grand Theft Auto IV that was essentially the productive of an argument I had had earlier in the day. Thankfully, that original thing is pretty hard to track down and I'm glad that it is. Since then, I've grown as a writer and a critic.z

Based on the upcoming release of Grand Theft Auto V, I thought it might be nice to do a retrospective. What follows is a heavily edited and updated version of my original 2009 work.
Grand Theft Auto IV is one of the games that tends to attracts a lot of people, mainly people who love the series, games in general, and also people who would like to scapegoat video games in arguments about media violence. I'd like to take some time to counter some claims that are often made and talk about some things I think are special about GTA IV.

Friday, September 13, 2013

J.J. Abrams on Video Games

As a personal point of pride, I rarely, if ever, feel bad for J.J. Abrams. What did he do to deserve the two most powerful mantles of science fiction cannon? But I digress. GamerHubVideos recently did a short interview with the Lord and Master of Science Fiction (tongue buried in cheek) and Polygon did an article about it which brought it to my attention. They mainly distill quote's from him so I thought I'd break things down and do more of a write up.

To be honest, I've always had mixed feelings about Abrams but this really irked me. Obviously he's on the spot and probably not prepared to be talking about video games, something that he doesn't specialize in. However, he says some interesting things and I'll break them down after the break.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Sony Misstep, No YouTube? (Updated)

I tweeted about this last night after seeing Adam Sessler post about it.

TL;DR version: for some strange reason Sony's PS4 will not allow sharing of video to YouTube, the world's most popular video sharing service. I'm going to state the obvious and say that this pretty lame and doesn't make a lot of sense.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

First Few Hours: Puppeteer

I'm incredibly comfortable saying that Puppeteer is one of my favorite games of the year. I've said it before and I'll say it again, execution is one of, if not, the most important things in game development. Now a lot of other things need to go right in order for a game to be successful, or good, or even fun. However, well executed games often have a bunch of other things going for it.

Puppeteer was developed in house by SCE Japan Studio and is in limited release. It's only $40 dollars and available on disc and on PSN.

More on my time with it after the break.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Why I can't love (or even really like) Madden Ultimate Team

I rarely sit down at my computer and make my main mission to write about something I don't like or complain about something. Don't get me wrong, I do both of those things but usually as a consequence of being a person on the internet. This time I am sitting down to do both at the same time.

I don't like Madden Ultimate Team. Not only is FIFA Ultimate Team better in almost every regard but I can't even begin to understand why people like MUT. It's that bad.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Remember Jade Empire?

Last night a really good friend of mine and I went to see Wong Kar-wai's new film, The Grandmaster. It's a wonderful film and I really enjoyed it. The fight scenes are absolutely beautifully choreographed, they're intense and really gripping.

However, all that got me thinking, when was the last time we had a really good martial arts video game? The answer, for me at least, is BioWare's 2005 triumph Jade Empire.

New Releases 9/9-9/16

Exciting new games for the week!
  • Killzone: Mercenary (PS Vita)
  • Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs (PC)
  • Puppeteer (PS3)
This list isn't exhaustive, not even close, it's mainly to point out games that I would probably consider solid buys across the board for a lot of different gamer types. There will definitely be exceptions to that, obviously Amnesia is not going to be even a weak buy for most people but the release is notable, to say the least of the Amnesia series. It's also in no real order. PS3 owners, pay special attention to Puppeteer.

Friday, September 6, 2013

The Penny Arcade Problem

This is a complicated issue. There are lots of emotions, feelings, and opinions wrapped up here. I've sat at my desk for hours going back and forth on whether or not to write anything about it. I've decided that silence is worse than anything well thought out and measured that I might write.

Video games are bigger than the games in isolation, its more than any singular part of the industry is anymore and what has happened with Penny Arcade, PAX, and Mike Krahulik.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Watch Dogs "14 minute Gameplay Demo" Breakdown

Yesterday Ubisoft Montreal posted this extended gameplay video of their upcoming release, Watch Dogs. I've been hot on this game since it was first announced although people have tried at various points to cool that fire.

If nothing else, the game looks amazing. More after the break.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Not a Review: Saints Row IV

Reviews have a place in the game industry. Like anything that's designed to be consumed or entertaining there's a place for reviews. However, Scholar Two: Press Start and LoneGameMan are not one of those places. Instead I'd like to do recommendations of games, talk about what makes them good, what makes them bad, and talk about who might enjoy the game the most.

I just set down Saints Row IV for what I imagine will be at least several days. It's the kind of game that I think I see myself coming back to again and again and finding new things to mess around with. It's also one of those games that I'd love to have people over with and watch them play. Don't get me wrong, I love having the controller in hand but sometimes it's really nice to kick back and enjoy watching someone else play. So here is my Not a Review for Saints Row IV!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The (Perhaps Accidental) Brilliance of The Bureau: XCOM Declassified (SPOILERS)

This was the least scary picture I could find
The Bureau: XCOM Declassified does a lot of things in a less than spectacularly good manner. The shooting is mediocre, the squad control is spongy, the graphics aren't the greatest, and it took too long too make and costs too much money. However, all that aside, the final act of the game gets bizarre and actually does something really really cool.

Massive spoilers after the jump

Support Mighty No. 9!

I'm a big supporter of Keiji Inafune and the games he's worked on, Mega Man being chief among them. So, of course I'm very excited for his new project, Mighty No. 9. Now I've been critical of Kickstarter in the past, and I am still very critical of a lot of the things it does, but I think this is a worthy cause. Especially so when you consider that it's beginning to feel like Capcom might never release another Mega Man title.

For $20 you get a digital copy of the game. Personally I'd feel more comfortable at the $15 price point but that's just me. I like when I can support a game and then receive the actual product for the funding amount.

Kickstarter Link

Post Labor Day Deluge

It was a nice three day weekend but it is time to get back to the grind. Friday's post was sort of phoned in so I'll be doing a lot of work today and throughout the week. Plenty of great stuff from PAX Prime, also the next 2 weeks promise plenty of amazing new releases. Keep Calm and Game On!

New releases this week:
  • Total War: Rome II (PC)
  • Diablo III (PS3/360)
  • Rayman Legends (PS3/360/WiiU)

Friday, August 30, 2013

Happy Birthday Steam Greenlight!

Valve is celebrating Steam Greenlight's 1 year anniversary/birthday by having a sale on some of the best games the community has Greenlit.

I'm as massive supporter of Greenlight and independent developers in general so if for some reason you don't have any of these titles log on and pick up something. It's not Summer Sale but what is really?

Some highlights include:
  • Game Dev Tycoon 20% off
  • Papers, Please 20% off
  • Organ Trail 50% off
  • Kentucky Route Zero 50% off
  • Anodyne 66% off

Thursday, August 29, 2013

First Few Hours: Saints Row IV

So I finally got to put in some quality time with the newest Saints Row game. A little bit ago a friend asked me how it was because of all the things she had heard, all positive. At that time I could only tell her what I had heard from others, that it was a crazy, offensive, hilarious, self-aware, journey through mayhem.

Now that I've played the game I can fairly comfortably say that's a fair assessment. The biggest thing that Saints Row IV impressed upon me was that it's a true sandbox game. The terms "open world" and "sandbox" get thrown around a lot these days, almost to the point that both are dirty words only to be spoken in hushed tones. However, Saints Row IV actually delivers on that promise, even in a way that GTA hasn't.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Mass Effects: The Banality of Mission Hubs

I remember stepping onto the deck of the SSV Normandy SR-1 like a dream. It was shiny and sci-fi and full of interesting people to interact with. The Normandy is as important to the Mass Effect trilogy as the Millennium Falcon is to Star Wars. The Normandy is like a character unto itself, a microcosm of the Mass Effect universe.

However, for how integral the Normandy is for Mass Effect, it might be detrimental to gaming at large.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Splinter Cell: Blacklist Lasting Impressions

I stayed up fairly late last night to push through the last bit of Splinter Cell: Blacklist but wanted to hold off on writing anything resembling a review until I had actually slept. The game is good, there are plenty of review sites out there who will quantify that for you. The lasting impression, however, is somewhat strange.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Killzone: Mercenary Restores My Faith in Multiplayer (updated)

Killzone: Mercenary may have brought me back into the online multiplayer fold. I just put the beta down and rushed to my computer to write this. That kind of glorious faith restoration. Not only does the game play really well for a beta but there is one amazing thing about it, no one I've encountered uses a mic.

Friday, August 23, 2013

The First Few Hours: Splinter Cell: Blacklist

The First Few Hours is a type of post that I'll write after limiting myself to a sampling from a game. Partly because this allows me to take advantage of the PSN free to play, as well as Steam, but mainly because I think first impressions are very important and I'm sure someone already calls something "First Impressions".

Splinter Cell: Blacklist is an intensely strange experience though a very enjoyable one. From very early on it's fairly clear that this isn't "your dad's Splinter Cell" but something of a hybrid between that an Conviction. The whole game adds up to a great experience but not necessarily one I feel is entirely cohesive.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Welcome to Scholar Two: Press Start

Hello and welcome to Scholar Two: Press Start, a blog dedicated to thinking about video games in a critical and intellectual light. You won't find reviews the have scores here. What that means is that I won't be playing games and assigning them categorical point values. What it doesn't mean is that there will not be any critique going on here. Plenty of critique will be going on here.

A bit on the name. It's supposed to invite conversation. I'll take Scholar One and the world can pick up Scholar Two and we'll get some stuff done.

I will comment on anything from general trends to specific game mechanics. I'll point to games and talk about what they do well and what they do badly. I'll note when a game does something I think is special and should be talked about. I'll talk about when a game does something I think is unspecial and should be talked about. The point of all of this is to do something with video games that is critical and well thought out.

Recently, I've been working on a critical study of video games but there have been problems with that. At every turn and around every corner new questions pop up. Questions which that project cannot address because of its range and scope. Does that mean these aren't important or answer or answerable questions? No, not at all. In fact, many of the questions are answerable and very important, they're just not questions that fall within the scope of that particular project.

With that in mind, it doesn't mean that the purpose of this won't change. Some of those questions are going to demand answers that a blog post might not be able to answer. Some of those answers might demand even more. The scope, breadth, and overall mission of High Function Gaming is bound to change over time. What isn't going to change is a devotion to analytic and thought provoking, or thought provoked, posts about video games and interactive digital media.

I don't have all the right answers and I don't pretend to. In fact, the reason I don't have all the answers is why High Function Gaming exists. Another reason is that I don't have all the questions. I'm not a scholar trying to be a gamer, I'm a gamer trying to be a scholar studying the thing he loves.

Definitely more to come in the next few days but this is finally a start.