Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Weirdly Sexed Up Evony Advertising Campaign

My latest blog posting over at PopMatters is really less an analysis of a video game than an analysis of a marketing campaign for a game.

A fair amount of virtual ink has already been spilled about Evony and its propensity towards extremely sexed up advertising for what might be a much less than sexy medieval simulation game. However, I wanted to talk a little bit about the campaign and its generally deceptive quality and how gamers might be better targeted by publishers.

Frankly, if you want to sell sex to gamers, then sell sex (but it better actually be a part of the game), however, if you have a different sort of game in mind, then find the right niche for your marketing because the drooling masses that you're luring in are unlikely to stay to drop a dime on a game that just doesn't have what they're looking for in it.

More here:

The Weirdly Sexed Up Evony Advertising Campaign

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Review: Wet

Since I was recently chattering about the bodies of Lara Croft and Rubi Malone, I figured I may as well review the game featuring Rubi, Bethesda's Wet.

As I mention in my review, I really want to love Wet as it is an homage to the exploitation film, a genre that I can't help but admire for its audacity and moralism. While seemingly gameplay that favors visually dynamic combat as a measure of success over any kind of substance would seem like a perfect fit for aping the exploitation genre, but it actually hinders the game. The visual feast of sex and violence that exploitation cinema thrives on suffers in video game translation as it is not a medium that is tailor made for voyeurism.

More thoughts on this idea and the appeal (or lack thereof) of Rubi Malone here:

Review: Wet

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Elegant Tramps: The Bodies of Lara Croft and Rubi Malone

A recent post for the Moving Pixels blog at PopMatters as well as a recent playthrough of Bethesda's Wet got me thinking about the perceptions that we have as gamers (male and female) to certain sexualized female avatars.

L.B. Jeffries's post concerned a study that suggested that female gamers might actually prefer to play as hypersexualized avatars (defined as having exaggerated sexual characteristics), and I wanted to consider how presentation of female bodies beyond the merely biological (taking into account clothing, tatoos, etc.) might also effect how we respond to such characters.

The result of these musings is the following essay:

Elegant Tramps: The Bodies of Lara Croft and Rubi Malone

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Review: The Beatles: Rock Band

Earlier in the week, my former editor, Mike Schiller, wrote a very good review of Guitar Hero 5 that made a good many interesting comparisons between the GH release and the newest iteration of Rock Band. I thought that his observation that there was really "nothing new" about the Rock Band release was ironically the new games greatest strength.

As a result, I have written about the appeal of what is already a fairly accessible casual, party game has only grown more accessible and casual via the addition of The Beatles to the Rock Band set list. It is the age of the material that makes the game more inclusive to the generations that lived prior to the rise of the video game as a major cultural medium, making potential inroads into the Boomer set as an audience for games.

You can read more here:

The Beatles: Rock Band

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Art of Atmosphere: From Bioshock to Wolfenstein

My newest Moving Pixels column over at PopMatters is a look at one of my favorite topics when discussing games. I tend to take an interest in rhetorical features of media, and as a result, I often am interested in how games communicate and the mechanisms that underlie such communication.

I have written a lot in the past about how atmosphere generates certain emotive responses in players. One of my favorite series to consider this way (and the one that really peaked my interests in the way that games evoke emotion in the first place) is Grand Theft Auto. Vice City in particular has always been a game that I cannot help but be blown away by its ability to generate nostalgia through music and other elements.

However, the fullest evolution of communicating a world in recent games (in my mind) has been Bioshock with its stunningly detail oriented build of the city of Rapture. Like GTA's approach to world bulding, it is the little details, music, architecture, etc., in Bioshock that generate a real sense of history to that world that is communicated intellectually and emotionally to the player. I was reminded of this detail oriented build when playing Wolfenstein but then found myself underwhelmed by its aping of Bioshock's more successful elements. Thus, I decided to consider how Bioshock may be influencing current game worlds and where those imitators may have lost their way in emulating their inspiration.

More at the link below:

The Art of Atmosphere: From Bioshock to Wolfenstein

Active Learning: The Pedagogy of the Game Tutorial

A recent run in with the hideous tutorial offered by Hearts of Iron 3 got me thinking about game tutorials and why they work sometimes and sometimes fail miserably.

I blogged about the strengths and weaknesses of active learning (seemingly a rather obvious pedagogy for the particpatory media of games).

More below:

Active Learning: The Pedagogy of the Game Tutorial

Review: Majesty 2

On Wednesday, my review of Majesty 2 was published over at PopMatters. Among other September releases like The Beatles and Wet, it isn't exactly a big ticket item, but it is a pretty solid RTS or simulation.

My interest in looking at it was largely to focus on its fairly unique take on a restricted economy (something that other RTS's sometimes fumble with as they tend to begin with the player struggling with economy but eventually lead to a kind of uncontrollable boom). I liked what I think is a more conservative approach to economy that keeps the struggle more tense and realistic.

Additionally, the game makes some interesting suggestions about the relationships between authority and money. You can read more at the link below:

Review: Majesty 2

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Are We Allowed To Hate Ourselves?: Reconsidering the Prince of Persia

I realize that a fair amount of virtual ink has been spilled on the conclusion of Prince of Persia, some in praise of and some decrying it. But I have wanted to write awhile about it myself because it is such a risky decision to allow the player to be required to not only view this ending but also required to participate in an activity that includes undoing all the work that you have accomplished by playing the game.

In my estimation, it was one of the most dangerous things that I have seen a major game publisher do with a storyline. Even if it means potentially alienating a segment of the audience, I wish more designers would be willing to take the risk of presenting a character that we may play as and also hate.

You can read my thoughts on it at the link below (which, of course, contains major spoilers about the game).

Are We Allowed To Hate Ourselves?: Reconsidering the Prince of Persia

Friday, September 4, 2009

Review of Batman: Arkham Asylum

My review of Batman: Arkham Asylum has gone live at PopMatters. In addition to just really being impressed by the manner in which atmosphere is generated in the game, I found that my dominant interest when playing this new Batman became its collection components.

Emphasizing Batman's role as an investigator, Arkham Asylum does what few games tend to do regarding the rather standardized and overused convention of collecting random doodads: it makes doing so relevant to the character that you are playing.

If you are interested, my review can be found here:

Batman: Arkham Asylum

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Project Runway As a Game? The Problems of Evaluating Style in Video Games

I have a new blog entry available at PopMatters concerning the problems that games have encountered in properly presenting issues of aesthetics and style in the form of game mechanics.

I am particularly interested in the marginal success of games like The Urbz and Playboy: The Mansion in finding a way to make game mechanics that acknowledge the "rules" of fashion and style, and it is at that point, rules' systems that I propose how designers might begin to approach considering how to better generate games that can accomodate and evaluate aesthetic content.

You can read more at the link below:

Project Runway As a Game? The Problems of Evaluating Style in Video Games