Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Oh, my, it's quite dusty in here...

Oh, hello.  *blows the dust off the blog*  I, er, let things sit around here for rather a long time, didn't I.

So, I said back in February that I was going to try to do a monthly best-of link roundup to my work from Kotaku.  That promise very clearly fell by the wayside, and hard.  Sorry about that.  I just ran out of steam, most weeks.  But better late than never, right?

Anyway, a roundup is easier when you know where it ends.  It has been a privilege and a pleasure working with the team at Kotaku.  It certainly made 2012 interesting in a number of unexpected ways.  That particular adventure, though, has drawn to a conclusion; the site and I officially part ways on December 1.  It's time for a new adventure.

Meanwhile, I've got a veritable mountain of links after the jump.  It's not everything I posted at the site (most weekdays, I ran between 3 and 8 stories); just the ones I can remember as a best-of.  Criticism, impressions, and general essays are arranged by month, with all the full game reviews (all of 'em) afterward in alphabetical order.  Because I am nothing if not compulsively organized.


  • Completing Mass Effect 3 for review before its release date, I could tell the ending would be controversial. I was surprised just how controversial.  I felt compelled to deliver a rather impassioned defense of its structure and purpose.**
  • An interview with Ken Levine reveals just how much of an influence Teddy Roosevelt has on BioShock Infinite.  Also, jazz.
  • The Florida Family Association, an anti-gay hate group, takes issue with BioWare's promise to include same-sex romance options in Star Wars: The Old Republic.  I take issue right back at their entire purpose and scare-mongering message.

  • In which I publicly hope that Dragon Age III is a lot like Dragon Age 2, and take a look at what the latter (as well as Origins) actually did very well.  Cue angry mob.
  • Mass Effect 3 becomes the first online multiplayer game that I actually play voluntarily, surprising no one more than me.  Truth is, I love the experience.
  • Video games seek to model and re-create all kinds of human relationships.  So how do they do with marriage?  (Spoiler: badly.)

  • Despite the social cues of fan-gear, and the dominant, pervasive stereotypes about gamers, we're a more diverse lot than anyone generally gives us credit for being.  Including ourselves.
  • There's a reason I get my mom, who would never describe herself as a gamer, new DS games every year on Mother's Day.  (I told a shorter version of the story a year earlier right here.)
  • As Curt Schilling's 38 Studios had a very public, very sordid meltdown, I rounded up and explained how the entire sad saga came to be.
  • There's a reason that non-gamers have a perception of games as being entirely about off-the-wall violence.  We should listen to that argument before we dismiss it out of hand.

  • At E3, I noticed rather a lot of T&A on display.  All the individuals I interacted with were professionals, but the convention overall sure as hell did it's best to try to convince me that 13-year-old boys rule the world.
  • After E3, I began to realize just what the next slate have in common: overwhelming paranoia.  Our era is deeply afraid, and it's showing in our games.
  • I don't mind the Mass Effect 3 extended cut ending, but I find that some of the changes really cheapen the original, unedited final message.

  • I find that Telltale's The Walking Dead is the most compassionate, empathetic game I've played in a very long time.  It expertly uses the spectre of death to highlight the true value of life.
  • In which I feel strange over how very easily an enormous company like Disney can simply rewrite history and with it, our sense of nostalgia and longing. Marketing, man. Wow.
  • IGN's Colin Moriarty explains that if we all just stopped saying mean things about games (including the calling-out of problematic material and attitudes), then true creativity could flourish.  I take strong, voluble exception to this point of view.
  • Journey's thoughtful spirituality and minimalist multiplayer create an extraordinary experience for a fifteen-year-old, generally non-gaming cousin.

  • Microsoft is really not doing the future of PC gaming any favors with either Windows 8 or its attitude toward the PC and its users.  (And I really hate Windows 8.)
  • The guys making XCOM explain to me that it was really important to them not just to re-tint all their white guy characters to fake diversity, but actually to design facial models and female characters to look plausible.
  • I finally manage to track down my first computer, from 1985. It was an awkward and kind of unpopular machine. Sounds just about right.
  • A pair of pieces.  In the first, I look at why most games made of movies aren't so good, while hoping that Star Trek will buck the trend.  In the second, I turn it around and look at why most movies made of games are also not so good, with tentative and cautious hopes for a Metal Gear Solid adaptation.
  • I posit that the $15 monthly MMORPG subscription fee model has well and truly kicked the bucket, World of Warcraft notwithstanding.  The audience of 2012 just isn't willing to play along, anymore.

  • The lawsuit that Stardock filed against its former employee, Alexandra Miseta, seemed to have more going on behind it--and it did.  There's an ugly, unpleasant sexual harassment suit in the works against Stardock head Brad Wardell, and the full exchange of legal threats looks, well, rather sordid.  Reporting the story was one thing, but the saga didn't get actively weird until after it went live.**
  • State Department employee and dedicated EVE Online player Sean "Vile Rat" Smith was killed in Benghazi.  The outpouring of grief and public mourning from his online communities, not generally noted for their kindness and empathy, was remarkable.

  • Mobile and social apps are developing this creepy fad behavior. The useful ones will surely survive, but do we really need cheap knockoffs everywhere?
  • Motion sickness doesn't make one an inherently inferior gamer, no matter what jerks like to say.  It does, however, prevent some people (namely me) from enjoying many of the better modern games.
  • I got to make the world's worst headline pun ever. *mad cackling*  When I am a supervillain, my power will be puns.
  • BioShock Infinite releases a new trailer that looks spiffy, but it's the ugly images echoing the worst of America's vile, racist history that make me the most interested in the game.

  • Wreck-It Ralph isn't just an adorable Disney movie. It's a landmark moment in the merger of gaming culture and the mainstream.
  • PC gaming doesn't have to be the expensive, elitist hobby it's often perceived as being.  It can, in fact, be the most affordable and inclusive way to get people gaming.
  • As a native Bostonian, playing Assassin's Creed III triggers a bout of homesickness, and a sense of weird virtual tourism that I remember from Fallout 3.

Game Reviews:

Hardware Reviews:

**And just for the record, these are my personal favorites.


  1. Welcome back! Your dreams were your ticket out. (The Kotaku gig was better for you professionally, but I like the commentariat here.)

  2. I'm glad to have you back, and I hope your departure from Kotuku was on good terms.  And I'm really grateful for the "best of" links.  You are far and away one of my favorite writers about gaming and its place in culture, and far and away my favorite on gaming and feminism.  (And indeed, along with Alyssa Rosenberg, TNC, Rob Farley and a few others one of my favorite bloggers, period).  That said, while I made a real effort to follow you this past year my hatred of the Kotaku/Gawker lay out knows no bounds, and in the end I couldn't hack it. 

    So from my point of view this is wonderful news, and it has long been clear to me and to all right thinking persons that my own personal preferences are a perfect proxy for all that is good and pure in the universe, so this is good news for the people of earth more generally.  Any hints you can drop as to what the future may hold?

    I'm not going to try and comment on any of the ones I missed, with only this exception:  I thought your article on PC gaming being inexpensive was spot on.  And flatly a better investment; I am just a few years older than you are (I think, but I'm pretty sure.  I'll be 36 in a month, IMS you're 31/2?) and my first PC was the 8088 that my folks bought, and the second was a 386/40 that I bought with the money I got working for my dad the summer after my freshman year of HS.  And much of the experience you describe was mirrored in my own.  (and our economic situation was very much the same)

    But the other thing that being a PC gamer gave me was some skills.  Not amazing skills, not all the skills I would ever need.  But enough skills that even after a disastrous year at college, I could get a job doing technical support, but in 96/97, making 11, 12 bucks an hour wasn't terrible and it got me to a place where I could learn more.  That 8088 and that saved my life, not socially or emotionally, but in a much more direct physical sense; it kept me from a life of burger flipping and failure.

  3.  That is both extraordinarily high company, and extraordinarily high praise.  Thank you.

    As for the PC gaming, yes, you are correct about my age.  We missed the 386 and went directly from the no-HD two-floppy-drive Franklin to the 486/33.

    And as for the skills... I started screwing around with HTML in 1995 because it was there, and with Photoshop in 2002 because I was bored at work in the computer lab and thought I'd learn to make LiveJournal icons because why not.  Little did I know that web authoring and image editing would form the backbone of my daily work at three jobs in a row...