Today Telltale Games announced that they'll be doing another of their signature narrative-driven games with yet another phenomenally popular license. Hot on the heels of both Tales from the Borderlands and their take on HBO's Game of Thrones, the next property that they'll be working on is... Minecraft. I first read that news in a post-nap stupor, and I wasn't sure that I was properly awake. Maybe this is a strange joke. Maybe Clickhole dipped into videogame humor again and -- look, I don't know. There were a million things you could have told me that would have made more sense than that particular arrangement of headlines did.
Don't get me wrong, I enjoy Telltale's games and I think they're very good at what they do. I welcome just about any news I hear about what they're working on, especially when it comes to franchises I hold near and dear. But Minecraft is a strange, even ill-fitting choice for their particular narrative-driven formula, and here's why:
It's pretty hard to get work done at this time of year. There's a lot going on, a lot to prepare for and a lot to look forward to, and sitting down to focus on just one thing can be a serious challenge. When I picked up Words for Evil a few days ago on a whim, it was a couple bucks on Steam and iOS and it looked cute and, most important of all, I was desperate for a bite-sized distraction.
And you know what? This simple, roguelike-inspired word puzzler turned out to be exactly what I needed.
Why is it that feminine fashion in video games always seems to indicate something about the character wearing it? Why is it never just a matter of taste? It's the case in countless games, including BioWare's Dragon Age: Inquisition, and the subject of my latest article for Paste. As much as I love Inquisition and its stunning fashions, the way those fashions deal with femininity fits a little too well into some all-too-common media tropes.
Beyond the usual handful of narrowminded people who think dissecting a game's style and design choices is more "superficial" than writing a list of its most obvious mechanical elements would be, I've already gotten a lot of interesting feedback about this post. Pleasantly enough, one of the most insightful comments yet has come from a BioWare employee...
Few people who know me would accuse me of being a romantic, at least not in the modern sense. I don't think much about stealing kisses at the top of the Eiffel tower or cuddling up under a heavy blanket on a rainy day. I have little patience for breathless musical numbers and, to be perfectly honest, I think The Princess Bride is no more than adequate. But even so, there's something about romance in Dragon Age that turns me into a sappy, squeaky mess. It melts my frigid heart every damn time, and while it's not the only reason I enjoy the series, it's certainly a slice of the pie.
Maybe that's why a rage-filled GameFAQs forum thread that's been going around tickles me to the degree that it does. This thread ( titled "This was the last straw Bioware. I am done.") is a real gem, and it reveals a lot about what some players feel entitled to when it comes to romance in their games. Roll up your sleeves, because we're going in:
A new Feminist Frequency video is typically the highlight of my day. Even if I don't always agree with every single item presented, I believe strongly in Tropes vs. Women's message and above all (and unlike an alarming number of people) its right to exist. There's a new video up on Feminist Frequency's YouTube channel today and although it isn't the next installment in the Tropes vs. Women in Video Games series, it's no less worth watching.
In it, prominent men in the games industry (developers and press) read points from a list presented previously in an opinion piece for Polygon by Tropes vs. Women in Video Games producer Jonathan McIntosh about the invisible benefits of gaming while male. Some of them may be obvious, like the disproportionate amount of abuse that women receive regularly in the community. Others may be less obvious. For example...
A narrow corridor, guards at every door, a peculiar arrangement of stairs, and a briefcase. In their default configuration they will lead the hero to a swift defeat, but with some juggling, a little dragging and dropping, they lead him to freedom instead. At first glance Framed looks like a motion comic with rather limited interactivity, but when the action stops and the player takes over a world of diverging, puzzly scenarios opens up.
If you have room left in your heart (or on your phone) for one more ridiculously stylish mobile game then you absolutely need to pick up Framed, and here's why:
On of my favorite features in Dragon Age: Inquisition (and there are a lot to choose from) is the ability to select the materials you'd like to use for an item you're crafting and have that choice reflected in the end result. You'll see it not just in its stats and bonusses, but in how it actually looks. Just as important as picking materials with helpful characteristics is picking a leather for my overcoat that won't clash with the muted blue samite of my sleeves, or making sure that Cassandra isn't running around in bright red and green-tinged metal plate.
It's a fascinating system, but it has a benefit that I'm not sure even its creators intended. There's one thing you can do with these materials that makes every aspect of the game immeasurably better...
Remember Goat Simulator?I don't think there's any other game that I enjoyed as much but played so little of. When it first came out it was a genuinely entertaining diversion, but even when they released a new map I didn't feel much of a need to return; it all just wore thin too quickly. That's likely why their latest piece of DLC (released yesterday) has taken me by surprise. For the first time ever, I'm playing Goat Simulator and seriously planning to play more.
The Goat MMO Simulator DLC is absolutely free, and brings multiple new maps and atcivities into the game. It's simultaneously a snarky response to all the fans who speculated that it would be easy for the developers to patch in online multiplayer and a legitimately purposeful parody of your typical MMORPG.
Yesterday I tried Goat MMO Simulator out for the first time live with a couple of friends, so if you want a taste of what this DLC has in store just watch for yourself (above).
Toca Boca's iOS apps might be better described as toys than games. They specialize in providing the foundational elements of play and then letting their players loose without any further guidance, leading to a lineup of products that resemble dollhouses more than they resemble a lot of their fellow child-oriented apps. Their philosophy is clean and simple, with an up-front cost and absolutely no in-app purchases.
But even though Toca Boca's work is designed with kids in mind, you can still get a lot of joy out of them as an adult. For example, consider their latest: Toca Nature...
The character you make in a BioWare game can be a strangely personal thing. Unless you're one of those weirdos who goes with the default (bo-ring) there's a lot for you to consider before you even start playing. Where's your character from? What life have they lived? What kind of person are they/will they become? What do they want out of the world? Appearance customization is almost the simplest part of the process, even though Dragon Age: Inquisition offers more customization options than ever before.
I mulled all of these things over last night and came up with something I'm happy with, but what about you?