Category: reviews

Game over man! Game over!

I went to the Game On exhibit in Chicago last Monday and I give it thumbs up. I had heard that they used emulators, but almost all the machines there actually were on original hardware. They did have one MAME machine connected to a big screen but the rest were actual arcade machines and consoles. I finally got to play an Atari Jaguar and have to agree that it does have a very odd controller. It seems like it your fingers should go up in the front but it doesn’t have trigger or shoulder buttons.
There were some omissions, of course. Computer games were under-represented. There was no Doom, or Quake or even Ultima or Diablo. There was, however, the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.
Other omission were online games of all kinds and fighting games (there was a copy of one of the street fighters). In fact, the only FPS game was Metroid Prime which people claim isn’t really a FPS at all.
Despite these holes, the exhibit was rather complete with everything from Space Invaders to DDR, from Donkey Kong to Prince of Persia: Sands of Time. We spend three hours in there playing games. All in all, it was worth the trip. Check it out if you can!

Games as Texts…

In between playing Thief 3, I got a couple books in the mail the other day and I’ve started reading Half-Life 2: Raising the Bar and The Making of Doom 3. Both books are visually amazing, but they are interesting in comparison to each other. The Doom 3 book is full of suitably scary and gothy fonts and layout, while the Half-Life 2 book is more slick and streamlined. The Doom 3 paperback, Half-Life 2 hardback. It is obvious that they meant the Half-Life 2 book to be more of a coffetable book. So far the Half-Life book is much more informative than the Doom one, at least in terms of background info. The Doom book is much more concerned with the technical things, while the Half-Life one is a more historical book.

The biggest thing though is that the Doom book has an author, Steven Kent, while the Half-Life book is simply “by Valve.” Who knew that beside making games, the folks at Valve wrote books? Seriously though, while the book is full of lots of quotes, almost like a commentary track on a DVD, there still had to be someone who sat down and interviewed these people and put all this into some shape. Since I tend to spend a lot of time interviewing people and putting those interviews into some sort of order, I’d like to see the person who did that get some sort of credit besides contributing editor or manager. It is interesting that a company like Valve that has had issues with people stealing their work, would put out a book without attributing it to someone. There’s all kinds of theft in the world. Just because some of it is legal doesn’t mean it is any more right…

On another note this is my 101st post on movable type (ok, sure there might have been a couple test posts in there, but still!) Of course before I used movable type, I had a site on geocities that I put up sometime back in 2001, and then started using blogger in April of 2002. I finally moved to my own dot com site in January of 2004 where I will be for a long time to come. 101 posts in a little over a year, not so bad, if I do say so myself. Thanks for reading!

Happy Birthday to ME!

It is my birthday! I’m 31. Weeeeeeeeee!!!

Haven’t been playing many games lately. Been busy with the school starting again. Watched Video Game Revolution on PBS last night. Nothing that other documentaries haven’t gone over a million times before, but entertaining at least. Of course, we saw all the usual suspects interviewed: Steven Kent, Nolan Bushnell, Henry Jenkins and the like. So I guess since this is at least the 3rd Videogame history that has appeared in the past 5 years, we can see the canonization of videogame history being built. Atari, but they stole it from Baer, then they sold it to Warner brothers, then Nintendo came along, then there was Doom and some kids killed people and Grand Theft Auto is a great game but morally questionable (note: that is the ideology of these programs, not me. I have a hard time taking seriously claims from people who haven’t played the game, because every time i try to go on a killing spree in GTA3 the cops are on me in a heartbeat). While they did talk about violence a bit, at least our good friends Dave Grossman and Jack Thompson weren’t mentioned (and thankfully, neither was Robert Thompson) nor was there any talk of rape in Grand Theft Auto. However, there was a lot of minor errors, or deceits. Showing Vice City while talking about GTA3 and showing Super Nintendo games while still talking about the NES.

The most interesting thing about these docs though, is that they make it seem like the US is the main contributor to gaming. Even when they mention Japan, they don’t really mention the impact of Japanease games. And Europe and other parts of the world? Unless you are talking about Tetris, forget about it. I’m interested in getting some more of an international perspective. Besides the interesting Game Over is there anything about the history of videogames that isn’t explicitly about America?

I’m Dreaming of a White Dungeon

Since the weather here is frightful, I thought I would give a little update on my reading material.

I finished Dungeons & Dreamers recently and found it to be interesting and entertaining, if a bit scattered in its focus. Like Masters of Doom, it is a non-academic historical look at gaming, with particular interest paid to RPG’s specifically the role that Dungeons and Dragons and the Ultima series had in the development of videogaming.

I might write up a formal review for Reconstruction, the web journal that published me last review, so I won’t go into too much detail here. Let me just say that I found the first half that focused on Garriot to be very interesting and once it moved away from him I found it to be rather fragmented in focus and not nearly as personal or as interesting. It is a good light read and fun. I think I would recommend Masters of Doom over it. However, that may be simply due to my stronger interest in FPS games than RPGs.

Gamers a Documentary

I purchased Gamers: A Documentary back before Thanksgiving. I usually review books as soon as I finish reading them. For some reason it didn’t occur to me to review this documentary untill just before Christmas.

I submitted it to an online journal some fellow Bowling Green alums are running called Reconstruction. The review is now up.

So head over to Reconstruction and read my review. You might as well read the whole site as well. They’re smart kids doing interesting work. Rock on.

The Video Game Theory Reader discussed

I was getting ready to sit down and write my review for The Video Game Theory Reader and I thought I’d look around and see what others have said about it. I ran across a message board with some interesting reviews of some of the articles over at Matt Barton’s site.

As for my own thoughts on the book, let me just say that it is an interesting book. A bit too film based for my tastes. Like any anthogy, a couple articles rock, a few are just average and the rest are just lame. There are a couple more lame articles than I would like, but overall it is worth reading.

more coming…