Burning the Backlog Archive

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Burning the Backlog 4: Soccer flowing through your veins

I’ve been asked to do some really hard stuff in my life. Scantron exams with a pen, read Bret Easton Ellis’ books without falling asleep, listen to Eminem without cringing. […]

I’ve been asked to do some really hard stuff in my life. Scantron exams with a pen, read Bret Easton Ellis’ books without falling asleep, listen to Eminem without cringing. But the hardest thing anyone has ever asked me was to explain the appeal of soccer.

The usual go-to answer of the average soccer fan is: “Watch Messi”. There are very few players that can convert skeptics like Leo Messi, the diminutive Argentine who plays for Barcelona and plays with speed, skill and strategy that have never been seen before in the game.  Hell, one only has to watch this goal (I know, I’m sorry, but it’s the soccer fan’s ritual to link the skeptics until they understand or cut ties.) to understand that Messi is unique not only in soccer but athleticism’s history, period.

But one player can’t possibly explain the appeal of a sport as played by so many different people in so many different ways. I think you need to go back to one of the most basic principles of game design to understand it. And it’s what FIFA 16 gets so right about both video games and soccer.

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Burning The Backlog 4: Grounded To The Sandbox

My best friend and me came of age loving two things: video games and movies. We grew up owning Playstation 2s and seeing games expand as many companies were willing […]

My best friend and me came of age loving two things: video games and movies. We grew up owning Playstation 2s and seeing games expand as many companies were willing to pour money into crazy idea after crazy idea. Games no longer were the simplistic high that Mario and PacMan provided. Games were committed to creating whole new worlds to explore and substantial narratives to live and truly immerse you in them in a way that Fallout or Planescape Torment couldn’t, by simple virtue of their limited resources.

The catalyst for this expansion on the time of the PS2 was, of course, Grand Theft Auto III. It wasn’t the first open world game and it wasn’t even the best. But it was what finally struck a chord strongly enough to convince people that this was the way to go. That big expansive worlds were nothing without a veritable way of navigating them. Previously, all you did was walk and hiked through Hyrule and the Wasteland, interacting with NPCs and trying to find the location of your next adventure, a new community to help and then move on. In a way, it was all very Mad Max.

But in Grand Theft Auto III, you became the inhabitant of a community and you strived to raise above your peers through crime. This vision was in many ways, a butchering of what many gangster movies often do, caused by the filter of the easiest interpretation of movies like the Godfather and Goodfellas. GTAIII is the sort of game that’s written by people who watch gangster movies for the “badassery” of its criminal protagonists and see men as Henry Hill and Michael Corleone as Men, relics from a bygone era that should be revered and seen as sources of inspiration, rather than the symbols of brutality and excess that they’re supposed to represent in their original text. 

This dissonance between the texts that Rockstar would take as direct inspiration and the games they would create to heighten the feelings those movies originally caused through interaction would become the key problem for me as Rockstar built their new empire.

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Burning the Backlog: The Joy of Crime and the Failure of Punishment

Burning the Backlog was inspired by a very simple fact: I own a shitton of games. And the reason I do is because games are ridiculously easy to acquire but […]

Burning the Backlog was inspired by a very simple fact: I own a shitton of games. And the reason I do is because games are ridiculously easy to acquire but they aren’t easy to play through. So as my resolution for the year 2016 I decided to not buy any games until I finish all the games I had purchased previously that I hadn’t played before. So far I have mostly succeeded (I have only bought 7 games in 8 months which beats my average of four games in one month by a fucking lot) And hopefully this project will help me maintain my goal of not going over 10 games for the year 2016

Sherlock Holmes is technically my favorite fictional character of all time. I say technically because while my experience with Arthur Conan Doyle’s work is minimal, Sherlock Holmes is probably the most influential character on the works I love. Sure, I have lots of love for The Hound of the Baskervilles and A Study in Scarlet but they don’t beat my love for Grant Morrison’s take on Batman or Doctor Who, two franchises clearly built on the dynamics that Doyle established with his detached, transcendent genius detective.

Frogwares has been developing a series of video games surrounding one of the most important fictional characters in our culture for 14 years. I won’t pretend I’m familiar with any of them before Crimes and Punishments outside of my attempt at playing The Testament of Sherlock Holmes, a game I remember so little about that I literally had to look at my Steam library to remember it existed in any other way than Hazy Memory To Be Dug Up For This Review.

The installment I got to play all the way through is the relatively modern Crimes and Punishment. I say “relatively”  because its principles of design are clearly point-and-click and reward consistent attention to detail and analysis of story, which are not things you usually find in modern big budget gaming which rewards reflexes and skill creativity. I say modern because my previous attempts at playing through Frogware’s work involved a degree of clunkiness that was rather unwelcoming during most of my play time.

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