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Opinion pieces that aren't long or detailed enough to be considered feature articles.
Matt Barton's picture

YouTube Rejects Matt Chat for Partnership

YouTube finally got around to sending me an email today concerning the application for a partnership I put in months ago. Here's what they said:

Matt Barton's picture

Farmville is a Networking Marketing Scam, not a Social Game

ScamvilleScamvilleThere's a post over at Slashdot declaring a "new reality of gaming." Basically, they're arguing that recent trends in social gaming, particularly Facebook games like Farmville, are showing an increasingly skewed demographic of middle-aged female gamers entering the market. The post points to a number of articles that make the usual assumptions about this demographic, namely that their time and tech skills are too limited to enjoy traditional videogames, but they are willing to play these because of the simplicity and social aspects. Rohin Dharmakumar of Forbes argues that games like Farmville and The Sims, which simulate reality, "are the new escapism." All of this is leading up to the prediction that it's just a matter of time before social games start hitting a billion or more in sales, perhaps eventually eclipsing sales of conventional videogames.

Matt Barton's picture

What Games Do

Unit OperationsUnit OperationsI've been reading Ian Bogost's book Unit Operations lately. It's fairly dense and clearly of interest mostly to academics (Bogost's background is in comparative literature), but I like his line of questioning very much. Here's a quote I particularly like: ""Instead of focusing on how games work, I suggest that we turn to what they do--how they inform, change, or otherwise participate in human activity" (53). He envisions a comparative videogame criticism that would go far beyond the usual talk of technology and narrative to "understand how videogames reveal what it means to be human" (53). I'm really looking forward to reading how Bogost himself answers these questions, but wanted to ponder them myself a bit first, and I invite you to join me.

Matt Barton's picture

Games Destroying Relationships? Awesome.

Oh, boohoo. Hubby would rather play Call of Duty than snuggle with honeybear. And I'm supposed to care why? You guessed it. It's another silly survey making the rounds: "Could computer games spell the death of your relationship?" (considering that most gamers can't spell anything, much less "deth" and "realashionship," I guess the answer to that question is "hellz naw.")

Matt Barton's picture

The Free Sample: Explaining Minecraft's Enviable Success

Minecraft: It takes more than screenshots to sell gameplay.Minecraft: It takes more than screenshots to sell gameplay.I'm certainly not the only one who has ever wondered why so much of modern gaming (and, if we look back, past gaming) is so focused on graphics. Surely, there are more important issues at stake when we discuss a game--for instance, its rules, setting, story, modes, and so on. There is a reason why so many people still enjoy Tetris, for instance, whereas games whose major appeal was graphical (such as The 7th Guest) fade quickly after the initial blitz. Most people who bother to give it much thought will quickly come to the conclusion that graphics have much less to do with their enjoyment of a game than the marketing seems to suggest or even insist.

I have given the matter much thought over the years, but keep coming back to marketing. The reason why graphics continue to dominate most discussions of game quality is that so many of us depend on them to learn about new games. In particular, I'm thinking of still shots--screenshots that can be put in a magazine review or advertisement, the back of a game box, a website, and so on. It's enlightening to look through a stack of 80s gamer mags and see "eye-popping" screenshots of games that look woefully crude to us today. It has always been easy to put these images on the marketing materials and use them to lure gamers. It is something that gamers can see or glance at, then make a snap evaluation of the game's quality. The fact that this evaluation is so often wrong does not seem to deter gamers the way it should.

davyK's picture

Middle-Aged gamer's collection - R-Type "Box Set"

R-Type Delta (PS1)
R-Type Final (PS2)

The shmup genre has many landmark titles scattered across its early history; but there are influential shmups and then there is R-Type. Its main innovation, the force orb which can be attached to either end of the ship or left to wander free may open up all sorts of possibilities - but R-Type's levels are pretty strict - it is a trial and error memory based shooter which probably wouldn't be successful today - so the creativity hinted at by the force orbs isn't entirely realised. Still, these games deliver lots of entertainment despite this and their high difficulty level, and are still well loved by shmup fans.

Matt Barton's picture

Facebook Farmville Leaks and Privacy

It looks like Facebook is back in the news over security issues again, this time over a leak in apps including Farmville and a Texas Hold'Em game. The leak amounts to leaking real names and your friends' names to advertisers and trackers. I hope that no one using Facebook nowadays has any illusions about the company's lukewarm approach to securing their privacy, but the fact that headlines like this still arouse controversy suggests otherwise. At any rate, I'm of the opinion that Facebook's unacknowledged quest to wean people from internet anonymity is a good thing.

Chris Kennedy's picture

Piracy Troubles Finally Solved

After years of struggle between those that would create software and those that would steal it, Capcom has finally found the perfect, DRM-free way to prevent people from stealing the PC version of Super Street Fighter IV.

They're just not going to release it.

davyK's picture

Middle Aged Gamer's Collection #7

#7 Parodius Deluxe Pack (Sega Saturn)

I started blogging on this topic with a shmup and here's 2 more. The 1st two games in this great and criminally ceased series are on this disk. This landed on my doormat this week - however I'm still gaining ground on covering my collection as this is a bit of an indulgence. I already have a PAL copy of this for my PAL Saturn but this Japanese copy is for my white Japanese Saturn. With an Action Replay 5-in-1 I can play the PAL version on my white Saturn but its nice to have the true 60Hz version - the intro sequence is slightly different but the main reason is the rumours that extended use of an AR 5in1 damages the Saturn expansion port as the PCB is too thick.

These are 2 great games - the first one is showing its age now but the second game is still an auditory and visual overload. Parodius is a spoof or parody of the Gradius games - the gameplay is the same but the graphics look drug inspired and the music is made up of weird remixes of classical and other well known tunes. I posted a fairly hefty review of this series on the original AA site which can still be found there as the staff here have kept that up. Here's the link : http://www.armchairarcade.com/aamain/forum_viewtopic.php?7.8391

Being shmups they suit the middle-aged gamer on a time budget and the kids like this series too due to the visuals but also the large array of characters you can choose to play with. I'm still chasing the 1 credit kill on these though - I find these games just as tough as the Gradius originals but somehow they aren't as annoying due to the overall oddness of these titles and the obscure Japanese cultural references they are stuffed with.

These games are also available on lots of other platforms including the SNES, PSP, PC Engine and PS1 (there's even a GameBoy port) - but I stick with the Saturn versions as it has a better reputation for handling 2D.

Looking at these games and considering my age I sometimes wonder if I'll ever really grow up.

Matt Barton's picture

Some Thoughts on Videogames, Autism, and Vaccination

In our earlier discussion concerning a non-linear history of videogames, the topic of immersion keeps rising to the surface (a mixed metaphor if there ever was one). I've always been fascinating by the idea of immersion, or "being in the zone," as some gamers like to call it. But what is it about certain games (and certain gamers) that allows this phenomenon to occur? Is it something about the audiovisuals, the rules, the gameworld, the narrative, or the reward system? Or perhaps it is a combination of all of these? Or is it...the vaccines almost all of us received as children in the 70s and 80s?

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