All posts by Christie

720°: You Either Skate Or You Die

Sports games have come a mighty long way since the 90s. Editor-in-Chief Roger Burton can tell you that much—he knows way more about the major sports game franchises than I could ever dream to learn (or want to learn, but that’s another story).  So I was pretty surprised when we were talking about NES games and he’d never heard of 720°. I mean, really? How do you know so much about sports and games and everything in between but not this? Come on, Burton, step it up. So anyway, now that I’ve proven that I actually know a sports game thing that Roger doesn’t know, I want to share with you all a little bit about this game.

And, of course, why it terrified me as a kid.

720flyer
The Ultimate Aerial Experience!

So, what horrors lurk beyond this gnarly facade? Well…admittedly, not that many, but I still feel weird whenever I think about this game.

Continue reading 720°: You Either Skate Or You Die

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 Sims 4: #ThankYouBaseGame

Flappy Bird & Kim Kardashian: Hollywood Will Save Video Games

Special to Game Losers by Greg L. Mercer

CHAPTER I: IN WHICH THE INTERNET WAS A WEIRD KID GROWING UP

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 Flappy Bird & Kim Kardashian: Hollywood Will Save Video Games

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 On Stopping to Smell the Venomous Alien Roses