Matt Barton's blog

Matt Barton's picture

Games for Girls: A Look at Her Interactive's Nancy Drew series

If you haven't ever heard of Her Interactive, it's about damn time you did. They're the world's only--only!--developer focused squarely on the girl market, and they've been churning out amazing games based on the classic girl detective series, Nancy Drew. What I want to do here is introduce the games and talk a bit about why I think Her Interactive has been so successful. Though many people would like to pretend Her Interactive didn't exist when ranting about "the industry's failure toward women" and the like, I think it's important to look at these games and try to figure out why they're so much better than the average "girl game."

Matt Barton's picture

Don't Download this Song! Weird Al's Take on the RIAA

I really don't know where I'd be today if it weren't for Weird Al Yankovic. I grew up with his music, listening to his casettes on my ghetto blaster until they wore out. By that point, I had them memorized, so all was good. :-) Anyway, I have some very big news for Weird Al fans like me (and Bill!) Weird Al has just released another free song: Don't Download This Song. It's a satire on the music industry's war on file sharers. Definitely worth a listen, no matter which side of the issue you're on. Enjoy!

Matt Barton's picture

Making Better Games for Women: Or, No Binary Ever Made Love to a Woman

Why are so few women interested in gaming? The answer is simple: It’s the binary, stupid.

Every six months or so there's a little flare up in the media about how the videogame industry has failed women. The usual argument is that 99.9% of games are designed for and marketed exclusively for young males, and women (as well as gay players) are ignored. Game developers and publishers don’t care about women because women don’t care about videogames. And so it goes. While this argument is ill-informed (it totally ignores the amazing success of Her Interactive's Nancy Drew series, which has been a hit among pre-teens as well as adult women of all ages), I’m the first to admit that there is a problem when the few games that do feature women use them primarily as sex objects. However, rather than blame the game industry and give the same old tired statistics and claims, I think it's time someone pointed out that the true problem is the hardware: or, more specifically, the architecture of the computer itself. It is my belief that the computer's architecture was itself designed with and for a particular mindset, one most comfortable in the world of "binary," or simple either/or decisions--in short, the masculine mind. This fact has made it especially difficult for women to become proficient in programming and, by extension, the computer industry as a whole, since all programs (applications as well as games) have been built on this masculine framework.

Matt Barton's picture

Games as Great Works?: Serious Game Criticism

What are the greatest videogames ever made? No doubt, you've read just as many silly top-ten, top-twenty, top-fifty, and top-one-hundred lists as I have trying to answer this deceptively simple and straightforward question. The question is actually anything but simple and straightforward. It's a profound question that reaches as deeply into our gaming hearts as a stiletto dagger, and, until we can answer it convincingly--for all time--then we folks who style ourselves as "serious game critics" might vacate the premises, tails tucked tersely. In this article, I'll try to explain what makes the question so difficult, hopefully opening up and further expanding the friendly conversation begun in my post on Elite.

Matt Barton's picture

Firebird's Elite: A Look Back at the Greatest Game Ever Made

Firebird's Elite, released in 1984 for British computers and quickly ported to the major platforms of the day--is the greatest videogame ever made. It is to videogames what the movie Citizen Kane is to film--a Mozart standing boldly against the Saliere's of his day.

Matt Barton's picture

Jane Jansen's "Gray Matter" Adventure Game in the Works

When it comes to designing and developing great graphical adventure games, three names stand out far and above the rest: Ron Gilbert, Rand Miller, and Jane Jensen. I doubt they need introductions, but suffice it to say that these are the folks responsible for The Secret of Monkey Island, Myst, and Gabriel Knight--games so different from each other that it's almost ludicrous to lump them together in a single category. Gilbert's games are focused on light-hearted, satire, comic humor and Disney-like themes. The Myst games are clearly about hopelessly captivating environments, mostly surreal, and puzzles that would be at home in any Zen garden. Jensen's Gabriel Knight series, on the other hand, is about the characters and the dramatic (and supernatural) dilemmas they always find themselves in. It's about as close to an "interactive television show" as I've seen.

Matt Barton's picture

Shatner to Voice Kirk in Upcoming Star Trek: Legacy

Here's exciting news for Star Trek TOS fans: Shatner himself will be voicing Kirk in Bethesda's upcoming Star Trek Legacy. Furthermore, he's already out publicizing the game and drumming up enthusiasm for it, mainly because he feels that the Star Trek franchise has dropped to impulse and needs a good game to buck it back up to warp speed. Although Shatner apparently doesn't play videogames (his grandson will teach him, he says), it's nice to see a TV and movie star of his stature really stepping in to the videogame scene. The game itself sounds interesting enough. From what I'm able to gather, it's a massive space strategy game that covers all eras of Trek, starting with TOS and carrying all the way through to Enterprise. There will also be support for Xbox Live, and I assume PC players will be able to join in as well. That's exactly the kind of game that would've had me bouncing off the walls with glee back in 88.

Matt Barton's picture

These Game Musics are, uh, Suck

Error Macro has a blog up that's so funny it'll have you in tears: The Worst Songs in Videogames. The author has really done some great work here, both in selecting these horrid numbers and actually sampling them for your listening, er, torture? In actuality, these are really hilarious, and it brings to mind all those suits and culturally clueless Japanese business overlords who gave this crap the thumb's up.

Matt Barton's picture

Remembered Realms: Revisiting SSI's Legendary Gold Box Games

Gold Box Games. It’s hard to exaggerate the kind of nostalgic reverie that these words are able to evoke in true fans of SSI’s legendary computer role-playing games (CRPGs). Incredibly, it’s been 18 years since SSI released the ground-breaking Pool of Radiance (PoR) in 1988, but contemporary CPRG makers are still trying to live up to the standards it set. What I want to do here is take you on a brief tour of the SSI’s legendary Gold Box line, starting off with the classic and best-known Gold Box games, which are set in the Forgotten Realms AD&D universe. From there we’ll take a glance at the Dragonlance games and, lastly, the Savage Frontier series. Along the way, I’ll try to offer as much commentary as I can from my own experiences playing these games, both as a youth and as an adult. Hopefully, what will emerge is some understanding of what made these games so wonderful, and why it’s still a challenge even nearly two decades later even to match their appeal, much less exceed them.

Matt Barton's picture

The 25 Greatest Home Computers--According to PC Magazine

PC World is running an extensive feature called The 25 Greatest PCs of All Time. While I'm a bit skeptical of any such list that doesn't include the Commodore 64 (the list editors seem to think the Commodore Amiga 1000 was a "much better computer"), it nevertheless describes several interesting machines.

Syndicate content