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["Stop It" is a weekly feature which serves as a forum for me to express my opinions on things in the video game industry or community that need to stop. Despite the fact these things may never stop, this will, at the least, fuel discussion. Got something to say? Hit up the comments and keep the discussion alive. Got a lot to say? Register for a Gamer Limit blog and write a response.]

As a completionist, more often than not, I find myself trying to do and get everything in a game. In the good old days, time and commitment were the only things between me and that very goal. Now, I have one of the most absurd obstacles to overcome: pre-order incentives.

What was once an afterthought has now snowballed into a giant nuisance. Stop it! Read more… »

[We Need to Talk is a weekly feature that puts you in the driver's seat of the discussion. Got something to say? Hit up the comments and keep the discussion alive. Got a lot to say? Register for a Gamer Limit blog and write a response.]

I continue to be astounded by the things that people say. It seems that whenever a videogame company announces a new product, or announces a price to go along with it, angry people come frothing forth hoping to get a slice of the “I’m a spoiled brat” pie.

This week, official news of Microsoft Kinect’s final price point appeared, and at $149.99 USD, absolutely no one was surprised. But pissed, yep, they were definitely pissed. The funny thing? The vast majority were, and are, pissed for stupid reasons, and it’s just getting pathetic.

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I have only pirated one game in my life. I had picked up the Xbox version of the Star Wars game Republic Commando, expecting it to work in my new Xbox 360. That’s when I discovered that the 360 hadn’t been updated yet such that Republic Commando was backwards-compatible, and there was no information about when the next title update was coming which would allow me to play the game. Angry and frustrated, I downloaded a copy of Republic Commando for PC from a bit torrent site. Just a few days later, the Xbox 360 received the needed update to allow me to play the console version, and I deleted the pirated PC version from my hard drive.

The only way I was able to deal with the qualms of Catholic conscience generated by pirating Republic Commando was that, in my mind, I’d already given the appropriate parties my money for the privilege of playing the game – and I was angry. It’s easy to justify this sort of thing when you’re angry.

I was discussing Starcraft II with a friend last night, and he told me that it wasn’t a game he’d be willing to buy, but he might pirate it. As the owner of copyrighted material, myself (a trio of screenplays written in my sordid youth), I am generally in favor of the arguments against piracy. Anyone who works hard to produce a product should be paid for the right to use said product.  In this case, however, I found it difficult to chastise my friend, because I understand his perspective.
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They’re everywhere in video games right now, it seems. A recent email alert from the iTunes store linked me to a page that must have had 20 zombie iPhone games ready for purchase. Call of Duty: World at War’s Nazi Zombies practically drove map pack sales for months, and I’ve thought about picking up a used copy of the game explicitly to have access to it again. The speculation that the zombies are returning in Black Ops consistently pops up in gaming news.

Age of Zombies is the top selling PSN Mini. Borderlands had a zombie-themed DLC add-on. Crackdown 2 tossed some zombie-like creatures in for good measure. Red Dead Redemption is going to have zombie DLC. Fat Princess is rumored to have a zombies mode coming, for chrissakes. Is enough enough?

Not for me. Zombies and video games are the perfect mix. Among other reasons, zombies work in video games generally for the same reason that Nazis will always make the best opponents for first person shooter titles: you don’t have to feel bad for killing them because, hey, they’re  zombies. You don’t have to take anyone’s crap because you enjoy slaughtering thousands of them. You’re not engaging in violent behavior. You’re training to ensure the survival of your species, ladies and gentlemen.

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Some dismiss it as mere myth; others believe it was part of an elaborate conspiracy fabricated by Sony to improve the credibility of its inaugural console. Well, allow me to let you in on a little secret, friend: the Sega Saturn did exist. And it was good!

Yes, it may have been the ginger kid of the console world, but the unpopular system saw some fantastic exclusives that have sadly been relegated to the dusty space beneath our memories along with the console itself. Well, I’m here to grant one such title a final encore before the curtain closes on it for good: allow me to introduce Mr. Bones (stop giggling in the back). Read more… »

The online PSN service has long been heralded as one of the PlayStation 3’s greatest assets, principally because, unlike its arch-rival the Xbox 360, it is available without the need to pay for the privilege of online gaming. Imagine, then, the faces of bewilderment as SCEA President Jack Tretton announced with enforced enthusiasm PlayStation Plus, a new premium service available exclusively for the charge of a subscription fee.

The idea is that hardcore PSN users will be showered with a stupendous supply of freebies, discounts and early demo and beta privileges, which sounds jolly spiffing on internet paper. But is it such a tantalising prospect in practice?

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I have never understood the acronym “MMORPG”, because it lies.

Role-playing games are what I played as a kid in high school. Combat tables, equipment, and loot only served as structure for the interactions between our player characters and the non-player characters (NPCs) portrayed by the Dungeon Master. The role-playing was the heart of the experience.

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[We Need to Talk is a weekly feature that puts you in the driver's seat of the discussion. Got something to say? Hit up the comments and keep the discussion alive. Got a lot to say? Register for a Gamer Limit blog and write a response.]

No videogame genre can survive without evolution. Hell, nothing can survive without evolution. Over time, something bigger and better will appear, and survival of the fittest dictates that one must adapt or die. There are no exceptions. Whether it takes a year or a century, the weak will fall and the strong will take their places.

So, what videogame genre is in greatest need of a lesson in natural selection? There are countless answers, and your own is likely colored by your own experiences. For me, it’s the fighting game. Despite a couple of somewhat important evolutions, my own preferences are issuing an ultimatum: try harder or lose me forever.

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The 18th Century hosted the Enlightenment, a movement centered on the questioning of traditional institutions, the rise of rationalism, and the adoption of modern science. A significant element of the Enlightenment was the rise of the public sphere: the areas of social life where people congregate, freely discuss societal issues, and influence political action.

This period was not a single movement, but a public awakening tied to a code of values that inspired conflicting and competing philosophies. The words “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it” are regularly attributed to the philosopher Voltaire, and are famous for the characterization of the period. However, they are no less applicable to the state of the contemporary games industry or the internet for that matter. Read more… »

Before I went to film school, I watched the Academy Awards. I believed they were a sincere arbiter of what the “best” movies were in a given year. I did not understand how those decisions were made, but trusted that the people making them had expertise which I lacked, and so I did not question their decisions. I learned in school that a small minority of the members of the Academy were people who actually knew anything about the art of filmmaking, i.e. directors, actors, cinematographers, or screenwriters. The rest of them were producers, agents, distributors, and other “suits” who really only knew about one thing: money.

Hollywood has patted itself on the back with award shows like the Oscars for decades, and no one wanted to see that the emperor had no clothes. Whatever clothes he’s wearing now are being seen on Blu Rays or DVDs sent through the mail instead of through film projected onto movie theater screens, and fewer consumers are willing to purchase those Blu Rays or DVDs every year. There’s a reason why ticket prices are skyrocketing, and why we’re being flooded with a series of remakes. Hollywood is creatively drained. They’ve beaten the tropes to death. The audience has figured out that there’s nothing under the hood, and aren’t willing to pay what Hollywood is asking.

I’m finding distressing similarities in the seeming mentality between those who hand out the Oscars, and those who handed out the E3 Game Critics Awards; considering the similarities between the two industries, the present state of film may say a lot about the future of video games.

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I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a total hypocrite when it comes to videogame difficulty. All at once, I find myself wishing that games presented more of a challenge, yet whenever I play an especially difficult game that makes me lose progress, I feel that my time is being wasted. One thing I know for sure is this: even when trudging through an especially difficult game, I rarely feel truly threatened.

In modern experiences, the simple fact is that true feelings of danger are hard to come by. We’re given experiences with the ability to save anywhere, liberal checkpoints, and overall low difficulty, and in many ways, I wouldn’t trade this for anything. Given this, how can games at the very least achieve the illusion of putting us in grave danger at every corner?

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Electronic Arts’ campaign to fight used game sales, code-named Project Ten Dollar, involves offering free DLC to people who purchase their games new and charging everyone who buys the game used $10 to download that content. There is a version of this campaign called Online Pass, which gives purchasers of new EA Sports titles the ability to play online for free, and charges anyone who buys the game used $10 for the privilege.

Most of the criticism I’ve read about Project Ten Dollar stems from those who may be facing these $10 purchases, and their arguments make little sense to me. Used copies of games usually go for $54.99 at GameStop if the title was released within the past one or two months. If you have an Edge card, you save an extra 5%. Is it worth saving $7.75 at the expense of missing out on a bunch of content? And if someone waits long enough for the used copy of the game to run at $39.99 or less, even if they do spend the $10 for the “free” DLC they have still saved $10 off the retail price of a new copy.

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