Last year, I was sitting next to my buddy at a hockey game at the Memorial Arena in Victoria, British Columbia. We obeyed the voice telling us to stand, removed our hats and welcomed some aspiring local vocalist to sing what would, no doubt, be a rousing rendition of Canada’s national anthem. After a quick internal check to see if my ears were working (sadly, they were), I confirmed that it was the national anthem I was hearing.
Oh, for it to be any other song, for the butchery and obnoxiousness wouldn’t pain me as much. A true Canadian wouldn’t derive anything but sadness from this version of O Canada. The singer was trying too hard, she hit high notes where there shouldn’t have been, she hit low notes where low notes should never go and she stretched it out with unnecessary wailing and impromptu head and hand movements. It was way too long and over-produced. I turned to my buddy and said, “you know, it’s not a cover.” He agreed. READ MORE
My very first Serotonin was about how good games make failure fun. The concept was, through good design, it would encourage players to switch strategies and try again, rather than frustrate them to the point of quitting. I seem to have come full circle with this edition; the latest triumph my group had over Dungeon Defenders was an arduous, brutal journey of frustration, death and Game Overs. This went beyond a game making failure fun. This was an exercise in constant futility, humiliation and bewilderment. I would never have gotten through this one level had it not been for the excellent group dynamic of which I was lucky to be a part. Sometimes good game design isn’t enough. READ MORE
Editor’s note: The following contains spoilers for the second season of Telltale’s The Walking Dead.
Telltale’s The Walking Dead was my top game of 2012, so my expectations for the sequel were about as high as they could be. After finishing it and letting the impact settle, I can safely say it met every expectation I knew I had and surpassed expectations I didn’t know existed. This will land a spot in my top ten at year’s end for many of the same reasons its predecessor did: top-notch directing, excellent pacing, professional voice acting and brutal choices that force your inner moral compass to show itself, one way or another. The Walking Dead: Season Two retains much of what made the first game successful, but deviates so far from the story arc of Season One that it becomes a totally different experience and is richer for it. READ MORE
My dad and I used to joke around about the moon landing. We laughed about how crazy it would be if the whole thing was faked. We humored our curiosity by researching all the literature and pictures attempting to sway popular opinion, and some were even almost convincing. We still talk about it today, how NASA is an entity shrouded in mystery, how it could be hiding interstellar secrets from us and how it’s entirely possible they could have doctored the photos. READ MORE
I moan about a lot of things, like how the traffic lights don’t sync up on Cook Street between Johnson and Yates. Or how much sunscreen I have to use during the summer, or even how the seagulls near my apartment seem to be practicing for the Sam Kinison choir, starting at 4 a.m. I’m sure we all have our little irks about life we want to change, and some are empowered enough to do so. If I were smarter, I would take a different route home from work, wear a hat when I’m outdoors and move away from mating birds.
Some grievances are beyond my help, or at least I can only do so little. The Snackbar staff are well aware that I’m a positive person, but when it comes to a lack of sequels for my favorite game series, I can turn from Mr. Rogers to Oscar the Grouch at the drop of a trash can lid. Lately, I can’t get Suikoden out of my head and how a Suikoden VI could knock it out of the park. READ MORE
I’ve written about LAN parties before, but I’ve never been to anything like this. The International 2014, the championship tournament for Dota 2, was held in Seattle from July 18 to 21. It was easily the biggest spectacle in competitive gaming. It was certainly the most lucrative, as the collective prize pool was over 11 million dollars, with the winning team taking home almost half of that. But how was the event? Was it successful? What does it mean for gaming? And, of course, how did it make me feel? READ MORE
It’s a column shake-up! Andrew Passafiume steps away from New Game+ for a week to explore his emotions in Serotonin.
I’m a sucker for good mystery novels, especially pulpy noir stories. I grew up reading Joan Lowery Nixon and eventually graduated to the big leagues: Raymond Chandler, James M. Cain and many others. This is why I found myself eagerly anticipating the release of Murdered: Soul Suspect. I wasn’t optimistic about it, but it gave me the vibe of a cult classic in the making.
Playing through it made me realize why mysteries in games are even more satisfying than novels or films. Those stories are about the mystery, sure, but you are only a mere witness. Games, such as Murdered, make the act of solving these mysteries compelling in and of themselves. Sure, you want to know what’s really going on, but being tasked with figuring it out on your own is what makes the mystery truly shine.
I’m not proud that I’ll probably go see the fourth Transformers movie. I could tell myself, “Henry, you’re an adult. You don’t have to go see a movie you don’t want to see.” It’s no use. I’ve seen the first three movies and everybody’s talking about how horrible it is. How dare I deprive myself of such collective misery?
The first movie was fine, in no small part to Steven Spielberg encouraging director Michael Bay to restrict computer-generated imagery and use more practical effects. The fight scenes were fun to watch because you could mostly see what was going on. There’s no accounting for taste, but giant, transforming robots fighting is a genuine treat to watch. But the key factor was perspective; I could see what was going on. READ MORE
Sometimes we have no idea what we want, despite our vehement insistence that we do. This goes for nearly all aspects of life; our tastes change as the years go by, for food, friends, hobbies, athletics, television, books… you name it. Nearly everything and anything that you enjoy, perceive and think about will change as you get older. Nearly. But when it comes to some things, we stand firm and withstand any change life throws at us. We’re stubborn, even in the face of intelligent persuasion. READ MORE
Realism in games is a touchy subject. There’s a distinction between praising a game for being “so realistic” and a game verging into “too realistic” territory. Make a game that mimics real life and you won’t have a very fun game. It must be a fine, wobbly line that developers walk to ensure there’s a mix of suspension of disbelief, a rational plot and a physics engine that will allow us to appreciate, but not critique too harshly.
Currency, or rather acquisition of currency, shouldn’t be as much of a chore in games as it is in life. What drives our society shouldn’t necessarily be present in games. Sure, we enjoy a different political world, or different sociological issues that mimic the near future of our own, but it’s a fine line. That being said, I truly believe that artists, animators and level designers should welcome our little planet with open arms when it comes to constructing levels and use its landscapes as a source of inspiration when creating new worlds. READ MORE