June is almost over, so it’s time to run down the games I can’t stop playing right now. There are a few repeats, and a few new games, as well.
Our Darker Purpose (PC)
Flappy Bird is the now unattainable mobile game where you attempt to guide a bird through a series of sewer pipes by tapping on the screen. Last week, the game was pulled from sale for reasons. Either the creator grew tired of the backlash over the poorly designed and/or intentionally extremely difficult game or larger game companies threatened legal action for stealing artwork straight from their games (namely, Nintendo, cause those sewer pipes, grass, and ground design are the same as Super Mario Bros). Now, you can’t even submit a game with the word “Flappy” in the title because Apple will tell you you’re profiting off of another game’s notoriety. Google is also rejecting clones and games with “Flappy” in the title, but they aren’t saying why.
Fortunately, this is 2014. Game designers are very good at keeping things alive if they want to. Flappy Bird clones are all over the place. None are as clever as FlapMMO.
Finally, a ranked list for The Sketchys. There are ranked and unranked categories depending on what makes sense to me. Ranking games makes sense; ranking comics this year didn’t.
2013 was a fantastic year for gaming. It really was. A few noteworthy titles that fall short of my list for various reasons include The Last of Us (great if your eyes are capable of seeing where to go in darkened FPS-level design), Long Live the Queen (frustrating but engaging interactive micromanaging visual novel), Luigi’s Mansion (like the GameCube version, only prettier), Rogue Legacy (best played with a controller even though it was programmed for PC), and Antichamber (the mind-bending maze game with less replay value from 2013).
I’m going to make a preemptive strike on my game awards this year. I like to experience something different in gaming. It’s how Super Hexagon, Dear Esther, Journey, and even browser games like Dys4ia and Orange Roulette made my Best of 2012 list. It comes down to how well the game is made and how strong the concept is.
I’m not going to lie. My 2013 list is going to be even stranger. I’ve become a Steam bundle addict in the past year so I play a lot of tiny little games that exist just to challenge the form and function of video games. For every Tomb Raider I rave about, there’s an Accelerator that does one thing so well and so different from other similar games that I go gaga over it. Which is better? Which will actually make my list? I don’t know.
What I do know is the new episode of Extra Credits tackles “What Is a Game?” with a resounding “Who cares?” They boil it down to interactivity with choice. I like that. It covers everything from 9.03 and Gone Home to BioShock Infinite and The Last of Us. There is no way that every game made will appeal to every gamer, but not liking a game does not make it any less of a game.
So keep that in mind when things like Long Live the Queen, Paranormal, and Papers, Please might wind up going toe to toe with Ni No Kuni, Metro: Last Light, and Arkham Origins. I still have a lot of games to play through but some really wild experiments are catching my interests more than some of the big console and PC titles this year.
With the first set of Anita Sarkeesian/Feminist Frequency’s Tropes vs. Women in Video Games series, I decided to dig into the subject matter in an effort to create a continuing dialogue with the series. Thanks to the trolls, Sarkeesian no long allows discussion on her YouTube videos and doesn’t engage in discussions on social media. She interacts more on the backer’s only updates at Kickstarter. I don’t blame her for guarding the work at this point. I applaud her for refusing to back down from her vision of online media criticism as educational tool.
With Ms. Male Character, I have absolutely nothing to add to the discussion. Sarkeesian’s presentation is air tight and fascinating. It’s totally worth a watch. I think it might be her best video yet including the Feminist Frequency series.
No matter how hard I’ve tried, I have not been able wrap my brain around video game programming. I’ve tried various tutorials, books, videos, and gaming engines and it just doesn’t click.
That’s why gaming jams/challenges/dares appeal to me so much. Ludum Dare is one of the oldest, but the rules are largely the same for all of them. You have 48 hours to write/design/program a brand new game from the ground up on a given theme. That’s insane.
Asylum Jam is trying to do something different with the form. The rules have already been released and they have a positive message. This jam is inspired by a fantastic article on Kotaku from Ian Mahar called “Nobody Wins When Horror Games Stigmatize Mental Illness.”
TooManyGames is a Pennsylvania-based video game convention and expo. This past weekend, they celebrated their 13th year of bringing together gamers (10th year as a convention) and I was fortunate enough to attend the last day.
When I applied for the convention, I didn’t realize that the schedule for the camp I teach theater at was set for back to back training weekends. I thought there was a gap in between. I was wrong.
That meant trying to fit as much of TooManyGames as I could into one day. It was a challenge that was so worth it. TooManyGames was so organized and laid out so well that I could literally go down the line in one section of the convention and meet with half of the indie game developers back to back. I could turn the corner and hit a stretch of used game dealers and dig through my childhood memories playing the NES and Genesis. There wasn’t any wasted space in the design of the convention and that’s a lot rarer than you might think.
I arrived shortly after the doors opened at 10AM and introduced myself. I e-mailed them earlier in the week to confirm I could still grab the press pass on Sunday and was told there wouldn’t be a problem. Not only was there not a problem, as soon as I asked where to go for the pass, the person I e-mailed flagged me down and sent me on my way real quick.Walking into TooManyGames was an overwhelming experience, as any good convention always is. There’s so much to see right away that your eyes take a moment to adjust to the right path for you. I swung through the outer perimeter, checking out the various districts of the convention: a concert hall for chiptunes performances, a huge series of gaming stations with comfortable chairs for tournaments and casual play, plenty of tables for tabletop gaming and demos, long stretches of indie video and tabletop game developers, a large collection of retro and music arcade consoles set for free play, and a huge expanse of dealers and artists peddling their wares.
I wound up making a lot of loops around the show floor in the six hours I was there. At a convention like TooManyGames, there is absolutely no reason to wait on line for something. If someone is playing the Centipede machine you wanted to try out, step on over to Frogger and set the highscore (and then beat it twice throughout the day). If the demo for the soon to be Kickstarted throwback RPG is being played, swing by the developers with multiple iOS and Nintendo eShop titles to try out. There’s so much to do that, even when the convention hit its peak traffic in the early afternoon, you could easily walk by and find a new activity to occupy your time.
It’s hard to even keep track of what happened during the day. I’m so used to panel hopping as a substitute for interactive events or poorly planned convention floors that I really did lose track of time just hanging out with the vendors, developers, staff, and attendees at TooManyGames.
The whole event was just so fluid in the best way possible. You would actively have to set out to not have a good time as a gamer at this convention. At one point, I heard some really cool sounding chiptunes and followed the speakers to the concert hall. The music I thought was a recording was actually live DJs, chiptune performers, and bands performing for most of the day.
At another point, a table with three artists stopped me to compliment me on my shirt. We got to talking about all the different badge classifications at the convention because I was clearly press–laden with cameras, bags, and notebooks–but had a generic guest pass. One thing led to another and we exchanged information for some possible work revamping my web presence with new custom art.Then there was the point where I wound up entering a video game contest just by walking past a booth at the right time. I’m an avid gamer but not a great one and throwback Asteroids-styled shooters are not my forte. Still, the opportunity came up and I had a good time. I narrowly avoided coming in last place and saw my best score of two rounds more than quintupled by the winner (who just won a tournament at the booth next door). To give myself a little credit, I did play better than I expected to. I just got caught up with some minor latency issues being worked on for the Apple OS version of the game still in development.
It always feels great to go to a convention like TooManyGames. There was no way to get lost. The staff were very helpful. There was a huge variety of content to satisfy any gaming fan. For me, it really was too much to try to fit into a day. I focused on the indie developers and had to forego tabletop gameplay, console gaming tournaments, and the panels on arcade and online gaming culture.
If you’re in the greater Philadelphia area and you like games, you should definitely try to make it to TooManyGames in 2014.
Here’s a gallery of the show. Keep checking back this week as I have posts coming up dedicated to the indie games hitting stores near you and some really cool vendors you’ll want to support.
Have you had a chance to check out my GameFanShop partner store yet? Now’s the perfect time to explore. It’s a PC gaming paradise. You get great discounts on PC downloads and get to help support Sketchy Details in the process.There are a bunch of new deals this week for some high profile releases. Dead Island Riptide, the sequel to the ridiculously fun open world island-set survival horror game, can be had for $33.99, 15% off the regular price. Battlefield 3 with early access to all DLC and a ton of bonus features is $39.99, down from $49.99. Darksiders II can be yours for 60% off the regular price, $19.99.
Perhaps the most intriguing sale is Don’t Starve for $13.49. This is a really ambitious indie simulation game where your goal is to survive. You have to forage for food and supplies to extend your life a few hours longer. Don’t Starve is getting really great reviews from indie-friendly critics and even the bad reviews acknowledge that there’s something really cool happening with the game. Check out the trailer below.
The biggest deal of the week is Need for Speed: The Run for $17.99. This game is normally on sale for $29.99 at GameFanShop, which itself is 40% off the regular price of $49.99. That means you can get a really solid racing game for 65% off the regular price.For the throwback pick this week, I have to go with Portal. The devious puzzle game has become embedded in pop culture with its quirky references and plot devices. I mean, you can buy Portal cake mix now. There’s so much more than hype in play here. Portal is sharp and challenging with a brutal wit and mind-bending puzzles. The actual mechanic of creating tunnels in space with a gun instantly became a video game standard that was often imitated but never duplicated. Portal can be yours for $9.99 at GameFanShop.
Those are this week’s deals at GameFanShop. With over 1000 titles to choose from, you’re sure to find something to fit your gaming style and needs. You order the game, register your account, and receive the download code by e-mail for Steam, Origin or whatever proprietary download server the developer uses. You get a great game at a cheap price and I get a small commission that helps keep Sketchy Details up and running. It’s a win/win situation for everyone.