Siena: The Long Gap Between Fantasy and Reality

Several months ago, I came within inches of ordering a kit from an Italian football club 99% of the people in America have never heard of. 1) Football = soccer. Kit = jersey. The club is Associazione Calcio Siena, or A.C. Siena. The player wears the number 10, and his name is Luca Longo. He holds just about every record there is to hold in the Siena record books, including 552 league appearances and 243 league goals for Siena. For Italy, he was capped 140 times and scored 58 goals. 2) In international soccer, a “cap” is an appearance for your national team.

A.C. Siena no longer exists.

It has been a swift and painful journey down for Siena. The team was in the top division of Italian football, the Serie A, as recently as the 2012-13 season. However, a series of very unfortunate events resulted in the club being forced to go into bankruptcy just a year after that last Serie A season. Because of that bankruptcy, the club could not register for the 2014-15 Serie B season and it was forced to fold. Let’s run through the events that led up to that bankruptcy.

  • Summer 2011: Siena finishes in the runner-up spot in the 2010-11 Serie B season and earns promotion to Serie A.
  • Summer 2012: Siena’s return to the top flight is rewarded with a respectable 14th place finish, eight points clear of relegation back to Serie B.
  • BACKTRACK TO JUNE 1, 2011: This happens. To be honest, match-fixing scandals happen a whole lot in Italian football. But this one was pretty big. Siena is implicated in the scandal but not formally punished until March 2012, when they are docked six points for the 2012-13 Serie A season.
  • Summer 2013: Starting six points (or two wins) behind most of your competitors is very difficult to overcome. 3) For the record, two other clubs were docked one points, and one club was docked two points. None of these clubs were relegated. Siena finished in 19th place, eight points away from safety. Siena would have to return to Serie B for the 2013-14 season.
  • Summer 2014: Siena are forced to start that season even further back for the previous one—they are docked eight points for “financial irregularities.” 4) As were the clubs Reggina and Bari, though they were only docked three points and one point respectively. Bari was docked a further three for their role in the scandal described above. What exactly are “financial irregularities?” In other words, they weren’t paying their players on time. They had registered for this season by the skin of their teeth; relegation takes a hard financial toll on a club. Despite the eight-point penalty, Siena missed qualifying for the promotion play-offs by just one point. Had there been no penalty, they would have finished third in the league and held the top seed for the play-offs. Instead, they remained in Serie B, failed to register for the next season, and declared their bankruptcy.

Siena has reformed, and is now officially Robur Siena Società Sportiva Dilettantistica, or Robur Siena S.S.D. They will start from the bottom, so to speak, mired in the fourth tier of Italian soccer, Serie D. 5) Something similar happened to the legendary Scottish club Rangers F.C. when it was forced to go into administration due to massive debts a couple of years ago. Serie D is not a professional league and, if you know your alphabet, you can conclude that it promotes to Serie C, which then promotes to Serie B, and so on. Long story short, it will be two years at the very least before Siena can even return to the second tier.

Now, you may very well be asking yourself a very important question: Why the fuck do I care?

Well, I have a confession to make. Luca Longo does not exist.

He is a fictional creation.

He is a randomly generated player created by the video game Football Manager 2012. He was born in Potenza, Italy (a beautiful place), on December 15, 1995, but he wasn’t. He entered Siena’s youth system in 2008, but he didn’t. He made his first-ever first-team appearance during the 2014-15 Serie B season, but that hasn’t even happened yet. And I almost bought his kit.

He had some bitchin' hair, that was for sure.
He had some bitchin’ hair, that was for sure.

Football Manager 2012, and many other sports video games like it, routinely create thousands upon thousands of players that do not exist in real life. Their attributes, birthdates, birth places, physical appearances, and even in some cases their likes and dislikes are all randomly generated. Most of these are players you will never see or hear of during your time playing the game—the matches you don’t play or watch still have to be played, because you might want to sign one of those players one day.

The difference between Football Manager and a game like FIFA is the perspective of control. In FIFA, you control everything your team or player does on the pitch. If you’re a skilled enough player, you can control every last movement of the ball so precisely that you render CPU-controlled opponents literally unable to win possession. However, in Football Manager, you play the role of the manager only. You do everything a manager can do—set tactics, sign players, issue commands during matches—but you have no control over the players themselves. You tell them what to do and if the players are good enough they will do it well and if you are good enough those tactics will lead to wins.

That’s part of why that game fascinates me so much. Steam tells me I poured 1,355 hours into Football Manager 2012. That’s a bit much as I freely acknowledge I often left the game running in the background. But that’s still a shit-ton of time. I played through nearly twenty years of in-game time, finishing up in around 2032. By then I had won the 2026 World Cup with the USA, four Champions League titles with Siena, and a bunch of other crap. None of it was real, but…

Part of what sets Football Manager apart from other titles like it is that every player has their own personality. Some players are meek and shy and don’t like the spotlight to be shone on them—if you single them out before a game as the opposition’s best player, they will falter under the increased pressure more often than not. Other players are egotistic to the point of parody—I once had a goalkeeper complain about a lack of playing time even though the club’s starting keeper was also the starting keeper for the Italian national team. I showed his ass the door.

A benefit of the in-depth player personalities is that your players feel more real. Longo started out as one of those shy and meek players—I awarded him the captaincy at a relatively young age and he got stressed about it because he didn’t feel he could handle the pressure. He also expressed concern about some of the older players getting jealous of him. I told him that he was the player most fit to be captain and to continue to play confidently. He held the captaincy for over a decade after that and grew into a player who shined on the pitch but deferred the reverential treatment off it.

But why Siena? Well, they hired me. As a rule in Football Manager games I always start out unemployed, wait for job offers to open up, and I take a job wherever I can. Then, I go from there. In this particular game I held jobs at three different clubs (one in Germany, one in the USA, and one in England) before settling on Siena. What made me settle on Siena was the presence of Luca Longo. His potential was rated at five stars at the tender age of 19 and I wanted to see what he could do.

Part of why I grew so attached to Siena was my playing philosophy. To quote myself in a fake interview I did with myself for a website project, “We were family first and teammates second. Trust was more highly valued than skill. That’s why I only brought in or sold players when I had to. You could argue that I treated it like adopting a child or putting a child up for adoption.” 6) Yes. I am a weirdo. I was very loyal to my players, and I can name at least a dozen of them off the top of my head. Aside from Longo, we have:

Stefano Della Corna, who scored four goals in a Champions League Final; Duplex Wamba, who has an awesome name; Ahmed Ahmed, who also has an awesome name; Lapo Pastine; Alex, who is Brazilian so he only has the one name; Andrea Gaetani; Fabrizio Bovio; Renzo Volpi; Taras Lysenko; Adalberto Roselli; Yuri Dainese, our goalkeeper; Frank Watson; Jean-Charles Castelletto (a real person, actually!); Mame Biram Diouf (also real!); and countless others. 7) I see you doing the thing where you twirl your finger around the side of your head. Stop it.

The culture of trust I built up with these players was actually, incredibly reflected in the game.

*sniff* I got...something in my eye...
*sniff* I got…something in my eye…

I’m going to be perfectly and absolutely honest, here. That made me tear up. A lot. That message made all the time I put into that game worth it. So what if they’re fucking virtual. These guys would die for each other. They are players on a team but the level of trust is so high that any one of them would take a fucking bullet for the other. Now, say what you want about sports video games and video games in general. But that is god damn beautiful.

Unfortunately, my journey with Siena to the top of the world did not reflect real life. The bankruptcy hit Siena so hard that even their legendary pro basketball team had to file bankruptcy and start over from the bottom of the league. That was a huge deal—they won seven straight domestic titles from 2007 to 2013. Imagine the Detroit Red Wings winning seven straight Stanley Cups and then going bankrupt and basically vanishing off of the face of the earth. It’s a stretch of a comparison, but the similarities are there.

But I’m tied to this club for life. Whatever cosmic powers led to me meeting virtual football player Luca Longo at virtual Siena in virtual 2014 means that I will live and die for Siena. As a result of the bankruptcy, the online store no longer exists, so I don’t think I will be able to get that kit anytime soon. I’m going to make sure to not miss my opportunity when and if it ever comes back. My trepidation before was that he wasn’t even a real player. But he’s real to me, damn it.

So what if it’s just my luck that the one obscure European football team I end up strongly rooting for is the one that gets implicated in a massive match-fixing scandal and also goes bankrupt. I’m not a fairweather fan. Because of the stories a simulation video game offered to me, I am Siena, even though I cannot speak a lick of Italian nor can I even name a player currently on the team, partially because I cannot speak a lick of Italian. It all just goes to show you that there is always a story somewhere. I look forward to the new era of Robur Siena SSC. Forza Siena!


 Football = soccer. Kit = jersey.
 In international soccer, a “cap” is an appearance for your national team.
 For the record, two other clubs were docked one points, and one club was docked two points. None of these clubs were relegated.
 As were the clubs Reggina and Bari, though they were only docked three points and one point respectively. Bari was docked a further three for their role in the scandal described above.
 Something similar happened to the legendary Scottish club Rangers F.C. when it was forced to go into administration due to massive debts a couple of years ago.
 Yes. I am a weirdo.
 I see you doing the thing where you twirl your finger around the side of your head. Stop it.

The Sims 4: #ThankYouBaseGame

By Head Editor Christina Rivera

As most of my friends and loved ones know, The Sims is a very important video game series to me. I’ve been playing God to tiny pixel people since I was a preteen and got the first game for Christmas. I’ve achieved more lifetime wishes and aspirations for my Sims than I’ve even attempted to in real life. So, naturally, I was thrilled to follow news about The Sims 4 until release day, and even threw a mini temper tantrum on Twitter when I realized that, in my throes of passion, I’d forgotten to preorder the game entirely. Still, though, I got my game four days later–not bad for someone who rarely cares about getting games close to release! So, naturally, days after getting my grubby little paws on it, I’ve been playing TS4 constantly.


And it’s…weird, but not for the reasons you’d think. Continue reading

The Flight of the Red-Tail

Recently, there’s been a lot of negative publicity surrounding video games and the video game community. A small but very vocal and very cruel subset has wildly tried to quash any criticism of their beloved AAA games, as the reaction to Anita Sarkeesian’s most recent video has proven. 1) To say nothing of the weeks of JonTron shoving thirty spiders’ worth of feet into his mouth.

I considered making this week’s piece a continuation of that very important discussion. Considering women actually dominate the gaming population, it’s critical to consider how women are portrayed in video games. 2) “BUT MOBILE GAMING DOESN’T COU”Quiet, you. But I decided to take a different approach. There are so many people more qualified than me that are already having that discussion. What I can do is prove that video games still have great potential to contribute great things to the world.

In the game FTL: Faster Than Light, you play as the crew of a small ship traversing the dangers of space in order to deliver an important data packet that swing an intergalactic war. It is a wildly difficult game that I have never beaten and the game ends with the destruction of your ship. You make many choices along the course of the game that affect your crew, your ship, and the overall story. No two games are the same.

I wrote a short story based on one playthrough of the game. The story, titled “The Flight of the Red-Tail,” is below. It clocks in at just over ten thousand words and it is an example of how video games, no matter how simple they may be or how small an audience they reach, can inspire. It’s important to criticize video games where we can but it’s just as important to celebrate them where we can as well. Enjoy. Continue reading


 To say nothing of the weeks of JonTron shoving thirty spiders’ worth of feet into his mouth.

Team USA and the No-Good, Very Bad Past Couple of Weeks

Okay, wow. Since my first piece on the Basketball World Cup went up on July 30, a lot has changed. So much, in fact, that the conversation about international basketball has also changed. Not to mention the odds of the United States achieving the success so many people considered was a foregone conclusion have gotten a little bit longer. Let’s run through a timeline of everything that has happened since July 30. Continue reading

Super Smash Sisters

In the first Super Smash Bros. game, released in 1999 for the Nintendo 64, there was, out of twelve playable characters, just one woman: Samus Aran. 1) I’m excluding characters like Jigglypuff that are typically perceived as female but aren’t humanoid. That’s 8.3%. In Super Smash Bros. Melee, released in 2001 for the Nintendo GameCube, the total characters goes up to 25 (if we count Zelda and Sheik, who we’ll call male, as separate) and the women went up to 3 with the addition of Princess Peach and Princess Zelda. We’re up to 12% now!

Super Smash Bros. Brawl for the Nintendo Wii upped the playable characters to 39 (again, counting characters that can change mid-battle as separate) but only added one woman: Zero Suit Samus. Seeing as Zero Suit Samus and Samus Aran are exactly the same person, just with different gear, I choose not to count her as a “new” character. That brings the percentage down to a paltry 7.9%. Yikes.

Things are changing, though. Pardon me for throwing more math and numbers at you, but out of the eleven new characters that have so far been announced for Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS and Wii U, seven are women. 2) This counts Wii Fit Trainer, Villager, Mii Fighter, and Robin, whose gender can be selected by the player. That right there is a whopping 63.6%. So, out of the 36 playable characters confirmed so far, and counting Zero Suit Samus and Power Suit Samus as separate characters because the game insists  we’re now at 30% of the game being women. 3) ZSS offers a lot of pros and cons. It’s good to see she can kick ass without her Power Suit but does her Zero Suit have to be so…form-fitting? Not a majority but it’s getting closer to the percentage of people in the real world that identify as women.

Okay, we’re done with numbers now. Here’s what all that means: they know. Masahiro Sakurai, Nintendo, Bandai Namco, everyone who’s working on this game knows. They know that making everything pink and gendered isn’t the cheat code to make games women want to play. Who knew!

That sounds vague. Let me explain a little bit further. Nintendo has always been a family-friendly company but only recently have they started targeting the family demographic. 4) The release of the Wii in 2006 is, in my opinion, the turning point. As I mentioned in passing in my article on EA Access, Nintendo does its own thing. Though they still make games for “””hardcore””” gamers, the majority of their titles are meant to be enjoyed by the prototypical family.

Most of the Wii U’s top sellers—Mario Kart 8, Super Mario 3D World, New Super Mario Bros. U, Nintendo Land—are games that allow four or five people to play at once. 3D World in particular allows for a great deal of representation: out of the five playable characters, two (Peach and Rosalina) are women. Picture if you will a family playing this game. The young lady searching for a playable character that, at least on the surface, is “like” her doesn’t have to settle for a boy. There are two princesses to choose from. 5) Yes, yes, I know Rosalina is only unlockable near the end of the game.

Let’s add Super Smash Bros. to the mix because it will no doubt be one of the top sellers for the Wii U and tons of families are going to play it. It’s going to send a much better message to women in general than its predecessor. Say I’m reading too much into it if you want to, but let’s say you’re the same young lady from before trying this game for the first time. As opposed to Brawl, where there are only three female characters to choose from on the character select screen, now there are at least eleven.

Do you want to be a cool blue-haired lady with a sword? How about a tiny and cute villager lady? Or do you want the Mii you made to fight for you? What about the Goddess of Light? Maybe you’d like to be one of the princesses—there are three now. There are now many ways to be a woman and kick ass—something absolutely possible in real life but not that possible in Super Smash Bros. up until now.

You might saythat it’s ludicrous to imagine a young girl playing a Super Smash Bros. game. Of course it is! Up until now there wasn’t really anything there for them. The only woman in the original SSB wore a suit of protective armor and the next two games added just two more women. Now there’s a great deal of variety for those young girls to find someone they like and play as them. Who knows, maybe they’ll like them so much they’ll check out the series they were pulled from!

This entire article is dependent on hypotheticals, yes. But it’s absolutely realistic to imagine someone playing the new Super Smash Bros. for the first time, seeing how cool Lucina is with her sword, and wanting to know more about her. Fire Emblem: Awakening is right there. I use that example specifically because Roy and Marth’s inclusion in Melee was exactly what got me (and many, many others) into the Fire Emblem series as a whole.

Regardless of whether or not they’re setting out to include more women intentionally, Nintendo/Bandai Namco/Sora Ltd. Is opening a lot of doors previously left closed. Ubisoft is still reeling from the awful comments about including women in Far Cry 4 and Assassin’s Creed: Unity. Meanwhile, Super Smash Bros. just keeps introducing new women.

The expansion isn’t just limited to SSB. Hyrule Warriors, which comes out for the Wii U in September, has ten confirmed playable characters so far, with seven of them being women. 6) This article was written before the Hyrule Warriors Direct on August 4, which introduced Zant, Ghirahim, and Ganondorf as playable. Part of being a family-friendly company making family-oriented games is, funnily enough, making games the whole family can play. Everything I said above applies to Hyrule Warriors, though I’ll admit that it’s less likely that a casual gamer will step into it.

And obviously, with two long months to go before the first of the two SSB games sees its release on Nintendo 3DS, there’s still a lot we don’t know. Will there be any more newcomers? What characters from previous games got the ax? In the interest of the theme of this article, let’s make some recommendations. These aren’t predictions, per se, but they’re realistic enough to where there’s a chance they’ll actually happen and they’re stuff (I believe) the game should do anyway. Without further ado…


Bet you didn’t see that one coming! Mama (I think that since she does stuff like gardening and camping now we can drop the “Cooking” from her given name) is absolutely a feasible character for Super Smash Bros. If we get one more third-party newcomer I wouldn’t be surprised if it was her. Heck, every single one of the twelve games she’s appeared in has been Nintendo-exclusive. Cooking Mama 5 comes out in America next month. The timing is perfect.

Couldn’t you see Mama being a bit similar to Villager? Obviously cooking utensils would be her expertise but she wouldn’t hesitate to whip out a gardening spade or some tools to pitch a tent from time to time. At the very least, seeing her as an Assist Trophy would be really cool. Plus, I’ll be honest here: I would love to hear the SSB announcer say “Mama!!!!!!”

More reskins!

Currently, there are three characters that have chooseable genders, not counting the Mii Fighters. 7) Those characters are Wii Fit Trainer, Villager, and Robin. There are a few more characters which, though it hasn’t been explicitly stated, could easily have chooseable genders as well. Out of the four Pokémon announced thus far, only Pikachu is a species that exhibits gender dimorphism. 8) You can read more about gender dimorphism in Pokémon here. Most of the differences, including Pikachu’s, are weird and sort of unnecessary.

Do you notice that her tail is shaped like a heart.
Do you notice that her tail is shaped like a heart.

That said, it would be pretty neat to see the minor difference reflected in SSB. It would certainly be a lot cooler than the palette swaps available for Pikachu in previous games, which have just been different types of headgear.

Another possibility for a reskin is Pac-Man. Yes, you know exactly where I’m going with this one. MS. PAC-MAN!!!! If we can put hats on Pikachu we can put a bow and some makeup on Pac-Man and make it a Ms. Pac-Man reskin. Considering she was the title character for the #5 selling arcade game in history I think it’s only fair to show her some love in SSB.

Finally, we have a bit of a stretch: Princess Daisy as a reskin for Princess Peach. It’s actually already sort of the case, though instead of Daisy we have Peach with Daisy’s outfit and hair color. Daisy would, admittedly, need a different voice actor and, in all honesty, might be in no-woman’s-land. She’s too similar to Princess Peach to justify a separate character entirely and yet she’s too different to make a reskin a viable option. Plus, she hasn’t been in a non-spinoff game since her first appearance in Super Mario Land way back in 1989. kill
Dressed…to kill.

One possible option is to embrace the fact that she plays a shitton of sports. Make her a separate character but instead of wearing her dress, put her in some sports gear from one of the spinoff games. Theme her attacks around sports, karting, and partying. She’s characterized as a “tomboy” anyway—I’d love an attack where Daisy just beans people in the head with a soccer ball.

Someone else from Zelda

That’s a bit of a cop-out, yes, but there are so many options. Sakurai said during the roundtable at E3 that the roster has been set in stone since development started so it’s highly unlikely the development of Hyrule Warriors influenced proceedings at all. But, as stated above, the Zelda series is full of women who could hold their own against Nintendo’s best and brightest. Sure, Midna has already been confirmed as an assist trophy, so she’s out of the question, but what about Impa? Princess Zelda’s warrior bodyguard and also one of the Sages from Ocarina of Time is a pretty good résumé. Plus, she was in Skyward Sword apparently. 9) I have not played Skyward Sword.

Considering the three deities in Hyrulean lore are all goddesses it makes sense that a lot of strong women make their living in the world of Zelda, but that’s a topic for another article. Some other possibilities include but are in no way limited to Princess Ruto and Nabooru who are both less likely than Impa seeing as their only major appearances were in Ocarina of Time. Who knows, maybe the success of Link Between Worlds means there’s a Princess Hilda reskin for Zelda on the way.

Dixie Kong

Remember when Nintendo was really pushing Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze earlier this year? Good times. It was a damn good game, for what it’s worth, with the additions of Dixie Kong and Cranky Kong as semi-playable characters injecting a good dose of freshness into a game that, worst case scenario, could have been an awful rehash of the previous game in the series. Instead, new mechanics like Dixie’s ponytail-swirl double jump and Cranky’s cane/pogo stick made it a game that challenged you to think creatively, and also die a lot. 10) The rocket-barrel levels…oh, the rocket-barrel levels.

With only two representatives of the Donkey Kong series in SSB, there’s certainly room for a third. And though the Kong family tree is vast and terrifying, Dixie and Cranky stand as the best bets to enter a SSB game considering all the other Kongs haven’t been heard from in quite some time. Except for Funky. He just won’t stop fucking calling and trying to sell me knives.

Anyway, Dixie Kong has something Cranky Kong doesn’t: she starred in a game, Donkey Kong Country 3: Dixie Kong’s Double Trouble with her cousin Kiddy Kong. That star power, coupled with her recent appearance in DKCTF, makes her a definite option to consider for SSB, even though she may not be a human.

Knowing my skill with predictions (even though these are strictly recommendations), none of these will be correct. But even if they’re not, SSB and Nintendo have both come a long way already and the hope is that it’s not just a temporary thing but a sign of further things to come.


 I’m excluding characters like Jigglypuff that are typically perceived as female but aren’t humanoid.
 This counts Wii Fit Trainer, Villager, Mii Fighter, and Robin, whose gender can be selected by the player.
 ZSS offers a lot of pros and cons. It’s good to see she can kick ass without her Power Suit but does her Zero Suit have to be so…form-fitting?
 The release of the Wii in 2006 is, in my opinion, the turning point.
 Yes, yes, I know Rosalina is only unlockable near the end of the game.
 This article was written before the Hyrule Warriors Direct on August 4, which introduced Zant, Ghirahim, and Ganondorf as playable.
 Those characters are Wii Fit Trainer, Villager, and Robin.
 You can read more about gender dimorphism in Pokémon here.
 I have not played Skyward Sword.
 The rocket-barrel levels…oh, the rocket-barrel levels.

Flappy Bird & Kim Kardashian: Hollywood Will Save Video Games

Special to Game Losers by Greg L. Mercer


Much like video games, the Internet was a weird kid growing up.

A lot of people spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to help it gain legitimacy. The Internet was a goofy place, with entire databases of surreal animated videos, basement-dweller rants, and fan sites for obscure bands, movies or shows. Not to mention, the barrier for entry was a high monthly fee, on top of the $500-$1500 for a computer with a modem. Lots of houses had one to help with your homework and the household accounts, but not nearly every home, and not nearly to the point of usefulness we have today.

Then, in 2005 (we can argue on the exact year but that’s what it feels like to me), the Internet went from being Something About Half Your Friends Have into Something It Would Be Really Weird Not To Have. Mind you, this is only two years before the first iPhone release (which, itself, caused a similar shift re: smartphones around 2012-ish).

What happened? I like to think it was YouTube. Specifically, the Lonely Island “Lazy Sunday” Digital Short. I don’t mean to say all of the sudden people bought millions of computers to watch this video, but I think it cemented YouTube as “the place to watch videos, and no matter how many millions of people watch it, the site doesn’t go down.”

That was a massive turning point. The Internet was finally able to sustain mainstream attention, and it hasn’t stopped since. Ubiquity. It’s something people think of as a public utility, like phone lines and electricity and water. The Internet used to be Weird, and now it just Is.

How did the Internet get legitimacy? How did we get to a point where Internet access is something everyone is just assumed to have? What the fuck does any of this have to do with video games? I’m getting to that. Stay with me, I promise we’ll get there.

Continue reading

Strange and Bad Bedfellows: Xbox One and EA Access

We’re now in the third consecutive generation of Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo being the only major players in the home video game console market. Excuse me for a bit while I pour out a 40 for the Dreamcast.

Okay. Anyway, over the past several years, we’ve reached sort of a pattern. Sony and Microsoft continually butt heads while Nintendo does its own thing. The strongest evidence of this are the launches of their eighth generation consoles—Nintendo launched the Wii U in November of 2012 while the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 launched within a week of each other in November of 2013. Nintendo shifted their focus to families while Microsoft and Sony fall over each other to cater to the Mountain Dew-chugging, Dorito-chomping, headset-cussing stereotypical gamer.

Both models are lucrative, of course. But I’ve already covered Nintendo. And this short piece is going to deal with some news that actually just broke yesterday: the announcement of EA Access, a paid subscription service exclusive to the Xbox One. Continue reading

On Stopping to Smell the Venomous Alien Roses

Special to Game Losers by B. Pearlstein

About a month ago, I bought Starbound in its beta stage through Steam Early Access. It’s a game that’s been called a Terraria clone, not at all unreasonably: you explore procedurally generated 2D worlds, collect materials, and use them to craft survival gear and build shelters. The central thematic difference is that Starbound’s narrative and aesthetics are distinctly sci-fi, with players traveling from planet to planet. I haven’t played Terraria, so I went into Starbound with an interest in the premise but no idea of whether or not I’d enjoy the gameplay.

It turned out that I did, probably more than was good for me. On several occasions, I tried to play “a little” Starbound at night, and stayed up until morning. I’ve explored the mod forum and downloaded a few mods, giving me a wider range of planet types and craftable objects, but that was after I was already thoroughly hooked.

One evening, though, after I had played about 35 hours of Starbound, I realized I wasn’t really feeling excited or entertained. There’s a turning point that occurs for me, and I suspect for others, after I’ve played a game I love for a long enough period of time. The gameplay I used to find so compelling begins to feel like going through the motions in a joyless series of chores. The only way I’ve ever found to reverse this is to put the game aside and return to it months or even years later, when I’m no longer jaded to it. This is a big problem with games that are designed to be played daily, like the Animal Crossing series or virtual pet websites, because the player is punished for inactivity with negative consequences in the game world. The longer you go without playing, the worse things will be when you decide to play again – which can discourage players from returning at all.

The gameplay genuinely is repetitive, owing to the fact that the player is encouraged to spend a very large amount of time hunting and mining. Like Terraria and Minecraft, Starbound places heavy emphasis on mining the land for mineral resources, depleting them, and moving on to repeat this in a new area. Manifest destiny. Starbound takes this a step further: you can essentially empty out whole planets, and this is presented by the gameplay as an effective strategy. The backstory provided for the human race in Starbound states that the nations of Earth went to war over the limited resources in their solar system, which almost feels like a sneaky criticism of the game’s structural principles. But then the problem was made irrelevant by a giant space tentacle hitting Earth until it blew up. Oh, well. Continue reading

Tips & Tricks – The Interview

The just-over-8,000 words below contain the full texts of the interviews I conducted with the four people I worked with on Wednesday’s grandiose Tips & Tricks oral history. Though much of it was quoted in that piece, a lot of it just plain didn’t fit. You’re sure to find something new and interesting below. Again, I would like to thank them all from the bottom of my heart. Continue reading