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       We've all been there. Everyone remembers that mission. You and your partner are climbing up the mountains in the snow, striving to pull some slick clandestine operation about getting some intel on a bad guy, or something similar (because let's face...

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Where Did Makoto Go?
Posted on Monday, July 7 2014 @ 16:07:54 Eastern

This member blog post was promoted to the GameRevolution homepage.


Meet Makoto.   Like any character from an RPG, Makoto has his own quirks to stand out in his game, Enchanted Arms. For Makoto, he is a support character who uses the element of Light for most of his spell casting, along with a saxophone as a conduit. He is also impulsive and often acts upon it, throwing logic into the wind.   He is also gay. Annoyingly, flamboyantly gay.   So much so, Makoto is an extremely divisive character in the gaming world. Some see him as arguably the breakout star of Enchanted Arms, the character that was able to provide good comic relief in a fairly light-hearted RPG. Others, however, view him with repulsion because of how he represents the gay community and homosexual characters in video games themselves.    I admit, I am in the latter category, with Makoto essentially feeling like a stereotype: an ultra-feminine, campy gay character who essentially rounds out the cast to forcibly add diversity to the game.    Unfortunately, Makoto has the distinct honor of being the first male, playable homosexual in gaming, an honor that could have been a triumph all the way back in 2006, but instead was met with harsh criticism over time, and for the right reasons.   But why bring up Makoto? After all, Enchanted Arms is a modest hit at best, only memorable for being the first RPG on the Xbox 360 console and for including Makoto in the cast. Makoto is far from the first homosexual to be featured in a video game either; with gay video game characters showing up as early as the mid 1980s, both accidentally and on purpose. Makoto, though, is the last gasp of something that was present in gaming at the time: the stereotype of gay men.    Eight years later, that battle is won.   Well, that’s a loaded sentence. In truth, the fight for LGBT rights around the world continues in many countries, cities, states, and homes, and represents different struggles many gay and lesbian people have. That is the real life struggles many in the community face today, and we should never downplay them. However, acceptance in the gaming world has been won, if recent trends show anything about it.   We have come a long way from the same-sex marriages in Fallout 2 or Temple of Elemental Evil. We are past the debates regarding the genders of Birdo and Poison, and we certainly can see the good and bad that gay characters represent in the world of video games. The years since Makoto have been very kind to the LGBT community, with the likes of clever, non-stereotyped characters of all genders and sexualities to grace the gaming screen. We now have a plethora of diverse roles that break the stereotypes Makoto represented for gay men, from the flawed Gay Tony to the confused Kanji Tatsumi. Companies like Naughty Dog, BioWare, and Bethesda are leading that charge in different ways, and it’s a good thing.   That fight is over. The battles were long and hard, but regarding representation in a video game, it was well worth it. For every Kanji, Bill, and Traynor out there, there is enough hate and slander and ignorance to go with them. Yet for all their hate, their words are hollow due to the rising tide that has continued to gain ground since the late 2000s, and that too, is a good thing. Characters like Sera and Dorian from BioWare's next RPG, Dragon Age: Inquisition, represent the changing tide of gay characters. They are no longer defined by their sexuality anymore like Makoto, and anyone thinking otherwise will be in for a shock when the game plays on-screen.    So where did Makoto go?    A curious question I guess, considering the obvious shift in the gaming demographic the past few years. Perhaps it's best not to even search for Makoto anymore. He is after all, a specter of the past, a ghost that doesn’t exist. However, it is easy to see where Makoto is hiding today, if we really search for it.   See, what Makoto represents is stereotyping, yes, but not the stereotypes for those outside the gay community anymore. It is the kind of anti-gay, homophobic hate that is still touted against the community as a whole, and it is something that seems to be a social taboo in the gaming culture as of late. Simply put, the problems Makoto represents are now rarely found in the video games themselves, and while this is a good thing, it has become the focus of the fight for actual equality, which is not productive in any way.   What do I mean by this? Well, we have hundreds of instances of homophobia perpetuated within the game community towards the gay community. Blizzcon 2011 came under fire when Blizzard aired a clip of Cannibal Corpse front man George “Corpsegrinder” Fisher, going on a rant that called alliance players “emo cocksuckers" who should “slit their wrists.” Earthworm Jim creator Doug TenNapel has made anti-gay comments regarding homosexuals and same-sex marriage. Jamie Durrant would go on to sue Lionhead studios for sexual harassment because he was gay and felt uncomfortable in the workplace due to this fact.   By the way, these are the open examples we know about. Countless others, both working in the industry or just playing video games, are harassed every day. If the statistics spoken about at the EA Full Spectrum Event last year are any indication, roughly 50% of those who work within the industry are still in the closet out of fear of reprisal and hate. Add to this the casual use of the word “gay” or “***got” when playing video games over the mics or in the text chat, the LGBT community has a long way to go before achieving full acceptance.    Yet it bothers me very much that, despite the efforts made by many within the community, and the journalism world for that matter over the past few years, it feels like the greatest fear of all is just another Makoto to contend with. We have seen this happen several times under the watchful eyes of activists and journalists everywhere, to the point of annoying persistence.    Take, for example, Michael Patrick. Patrick is a first-time game developer who created Ultimate Gay Fighter, a throwback to the crude, '90s Mortal Kombat titles chock full of gay stereotypes. Patrick, who is gay himself, argued that the point of the game is for comedic effect, not to make a statement of any kind.    “It’s not meant to be hateful,” says Patrick. “If you allow yourself to make fun of a stereotype in a way that isn’t cruel, I think you diminish the power of that stereotype. I’m gay, and although I’m not a stereotype, I have stereotypical traits. Why not laugh at that and enjoy it?”   Despite the well meaning intent of Ultimate Gay Fighter, many critics exhibited disdain for the title because of its stereotyping. People such as Mattie Brice, Todd Harper, and Toni Rocca are among the most notable to rightfully object to the game, mostly for the same reasons regarding the kitsch approach to stereotyping. Yet, Ultimate Gay Fighter, despite the laundry list of problems it may present in its execution and comedic quality, is still not the new Makoto. Parody, good or bad, is judged based on how clever it is, and bringing attention to Ultimate Gay Fighter over this fact is not defeating, but rehashing, a battle that’s already won.   In fact, Ultimate Gay Fighter is just one example of what feels like a misguided attempt at exposing the problems with the gaming community. For every article regarding Tomodachi Life, Dorian’s sexuality, or transphobia in GTA V, it feels as though the wrath of the LGBT world is slowly but surely losing where its actual focus should be, and that is the real world. These issues have become the new Makoto in name only, while bigger fish are waiting to be fried.    Efforts such as the ThinkB4YouSpeak campaign and the EA Full Spectrum Event represent a more positive approach to showcasing change within the gaming community. More and more, it is imperative for gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgender people to be open about their sexuality while working in the gaming industry. People like David Gaider, Lucian Soulban, Tim Caine, or Jen Havens are, or were, able to openly work on video games without question of their sexuality. Why can’t others buck the perceived trend of gaming culture and eschew what is expected of them? Gaming culture is harsh, and oftentimes unfriendly, but is not invulnerable to actual change. It all starts, of course, from within.   Let us focus on these lofty problems, so slowly and surely, comments regarding sexuality will recede completely. It will certainly not change overnight, but if the first steps of awareness within the gaming community are taken, then perhaps the pipe dream of a curse-free chatroom will be less of a dream and more of a reality. A lofty goal indeed, but one that is possible the more aware we as a culture are to the diversity around us.   What’s more, why can’t game journalists start to recognize this, either? I understand the passions and oftentimes necessary zeal needed to point out stories such as those above, but if characters like Dorian or Ellie are any indication, Makoto will never come back again as the ugly stereotype he has become. It is more prudent to finally push forward and change the culture at large, instead of focusing on the small screen. The LGBT community needs to stop asking where Makoto went, and now draw their attentions to the next battle to be fought. Makoto may return every now and again, both for good or for ill, but it will be a short visit before he realizes he overstayed his welcome. 

The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect the views of GameRevolution, but we believe it's worthy of being featured on our site. This article, posted earlier in July 4, has been lightly edited for grammar and image inclusion. You can find more Vox Pop articles here. ~Ed. Nick Tan

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The E3 Conundrum
Posted on Saturday, June 14 2014 @ 17:41:49 Eastern

This member blog post was promoted to the GameRevolution homepage.


Man, E3 sucks lately doesn’t it?
  Perhaps it is just my jaded outlook on the gaming industry as of late, but for the last few years, the Electronic Entertainment Expo has become a chore to sit through. Gone are the days of excitement for new reveals, a playable game demo or two, or something groundbreaking to reveal. E3 is no longer a commercialist enterprise, but a big budgeted spectacle that is beholden to the lowest denominator.    Perhaps it is just more growing pains. After all, E3 has evolved from in-depth tech demos to a more trailer-focused big bonanza, letting the games do the talking with the support of the paid celebrities or developers hawking some wares in your ear. If this is the case, however, then recent years E3 has become more and more inaccessible to the gaming community as a whole.   Which is ironic, because it is now more connected than ever. With numerous live streams, live blogs, and the use of twitter, facebook, instagram, and other social media schemes has made E3 one of the most hotly seen, recognizable conferences in the world. Now journalists and fans alike have total coverage of E3, something that was unfathomable when the trade show began in 1995.   Yet, with all of this connectivity and total access to trailers, screens and even commentary from the ground teams, E3 feels stale to the palette when consuming it. The bombardment is too overwhelming to soak it all in at times, making it extremely easy to tune out of E3 all together. It also doesn’t help that most of the companies are still up to their old tricks, something that needs to change for future conferences.   The conferences are perhaps the best example of the problems E3 face. For the 2014 show, many, myself included, have complained about the almost “safe” approach each conference provided for their audience. It was a lackluster affair to show off the upcoming lineups for Sony and Microsoft, while Electronic Arts and Ubisoft, the only two publishers big enough to really warrant a conference in their own right, fall into the same trap. It is easy to write it off as “safe” for these companies, but upon closer inspection, some troubling trends become noticeable.   The biggest sin of course, is the lack of gameplay shown for a majority of their showcases. For these companies, the trailers become the king in exciting the masses watching at home, showing off slick graphics and an abundance of action, comedy or drama to set the tone for their video presentation. What’s more, the trailers come in many flavors, from tear-jerking independent titles to bad-ass action romps. A vast majority of the games revealed in these conferences were trailer-specific, and showed almost no gameplay to accompany it.   For the few games that were playable in the conferences, the pattern was the same. With slick presentations and a tightly choreographed video, you see some gameplay footage, sometimes lasting ten or so minutes, showcasing a bit of what the game is about. Battlefield: Hardline, The Order: 1886, Assassins Creed Unity, Far Cry 4; all of these titles practically had the same demonstration presented to you. It was a mini movie over actual gameplay, a constructed demo designed to show off the game, and not be playable.   This style of presentation has been very popular since the massive media buzz titles like Watch Dogs, Far Cry 3, and The Last of Us have achieved in past E3’s. Much like a director orchestrating the action, major publishers are trying to provoke emotions through editing, controlling the response that is expected from the audience. It is a tool that has been used for years by companies, but typically, it was used through shorter teaser trailers that showed off gameplay, versus a ten minute experience that becomes bloated and unrestrained.  Sometimes it works, and works well. This year, the standout was certainly No Man’s Sky. This trick, however, when deployed upon every game in the show, becomes incredibly derivative by the conferences conclusion.   So the trailers are CG and the gameplay is tightened up to a glorified demo. The last problem is the grandstanding done on the stage. In a move that still boggles my mind, we see more developers than gameplay footage in these four conferences, something that is counter-productive to the point of these conferences. To be fair, that was how it was done years ago, a string of developers, publishers, directors and presidents take center stage, outline the plans for the company, show off tech specs or sales figures and then give you tastes of the gameplay.   That was ten years ago, though. After the virulent reaction to the Xbox One last year, and the disinterest in sales figures in a 24 hour news cycle, such practices have become anachronistic to the current needs of the gaming populace. There is no need to introduce ten different developers on stage to peddle a game or two for a few minutes, watch a trailer, then walk off stage like its amateur hour at the Apollo.   You notice I am focusing on the conferences, and not the rest of the trade show. The reason for this is simple, the first impressions the companies give is always their showcase. The E3 conferences have become a show in of itself; it is the marquee time on the websites and most shows now have a “preview” portion beforehand, poorly imitating a red carpet experience before the Oscars. Yet, the ironic aspect of this smoke and mirrors trick is the fact that the meat of the gameplay, the demos on  the show floor, are where we get most of our information now.    Those moments, the live demos, the developer interviews, the private press conferences, show more of the games than the major conference can hope to achieve. One example comes to mind immediately, BioWare’s Dragon Age: Inquisition. The title, winning numerous awards this year at E3, had an over forty minute gameplay demo, showcasing everything from customization, dialogue, combat, and even some story bits to tantalize the viewers, all with the commentary of executive producer Mark Darrah explaining what you see. Yet for the major conferences at Microsoft and EA, the best gameplay footage shown was a minute long video of the player and his party fighting a dragon, which  doesn’t come close to summing up what the gaming public wants to actually see and hear about    So what is the solution? Well, the answer can really be seen by the final player at E3 this year, and the only company that put on an enjoyable experience for the audience, and that is Nintendo.    It is no secret that Nintendo is in a slump at this point. Wii U sales are down, their stocks keep taking a hit, and many, fans and pundits, are calling for the companies death for “failing” to meet their expectations. Yet, Nintendo is getting so much positive buzz over their E3 presentation this year, those previous cries have turned into a triumphant chant of admiration for the company. So what really changed here?   For starters, Nintendo eschewed the traditional press conference again this year, instead creating a 44 minute video presentation that was designed to be live streamed. It was tight and controlled, yes, but it also showed something many of the other conferences lacked; actual gameplay. This certainly benefited Nintendo greatly, especially for newer IPs such as Splatoon and Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker. The extensive demoing was also accompanied by footage of the developers discussing their wares, avoiding tons of buzz words and simply talking about the game and the inspiration behind it. The only other conference to do so was the EA conference, and it was terrible due to the lack of actual footage to go with their upcoming projects.   Nintendo also did one of the smartest moves a company can do this year; it gave the viewing public unprecedented access to their games. The Nintendo Treehouse, the live stream event that spanned for nearly two days total, showed off more gameplay, live, organic demo’s, and even more reveals to the general public for the first time in real time. In an age where social media is the king of gaming journalism, Nintendo tapped into that resource and kept their entire presentation fresh in the minds of the gaming public, casually revealing new characters or games, even by the expo’s end.  If the lines at E3 indicate anything, Nintendo had total control of the show floor this year.    Quite a feat for a company that’s been decreed as slowly dying, huh?   Nintendo is certainly onto something here, and given the success of both their digital event and the Treehouse, it is likely they will continue to do this yearly for E3. Companies like EA and Ubisoft would be wise to take a page out of  Nintendo’s playbook, and follow suit. With a 24 hour live stream, a more off the cuff, organic presentation of their games and demos, and gutting the fat out of their conferences, Both third party publishers would become more bearable to deal with at E3 in an instant. Hell, even Microsoft and Sony should take notice at this point, especially if they continue their dick waving contest against each other.    In the end, Nintendo practically carried E3 this year, that much is clear by most commentators and bloggers in the gaming sphere, but what can we learn from this experience? Times have changed once again, and the other companies need to start finding new ways to make a meaningful impact for a more jaded gamer audience. If all press conferences become digital events, I doubt anyone would mind it. If there was more gameplay, and less CG trailers, I am sure the passion these developers have would shine through more to the public. Lastly, continuous updates and live, unscripted demo of the games is key, as it shows how fun they really are.

The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect the views of GameRevolution, but we believe it's worthy of being featured on our site. This article, posted earlier in June 14, has been lightly edited for grammar and image inclusion. You can find more Vox Pop articles here. ~Ed. Nick Tan

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The Managed Expectations of the VGX
Posted on Tuesday, December 3 2013 @ 13:44:43 Eastern

Is it just me, or do the game of the year nominees for Spike's VGX awards feel underwhelming? I mean, four of these games are critically acclaimed masterpieces, yet it feels like there is no fundamental difference between most of the nominees this year. Of course you can name some, such as genre differences or presentation, but that is honestly irrelevant to the issue at hand. There is this problem we need to address that is continuously growing in the gaming industry; many of the critically acclaimed titles for the year are just the managed expectations of the media, portraying what they think is good, versus what really is good. 
  Well, that is really unfair to say. Out of the five nominees, only two of them I would argue actually have weight to them as a "good" video game; Grand Theft Auto V and Super Mario 3D World. For me, Bioshock Infinite, Tomb Raider and The Last of Us pale in comparison to the others because of what they are emblematic of, this idea of managed expectations for the consumer base. It is not really a question of quality or talent, and not even the hype behind them that likely catapulted these titles to critical acclaim. It is simply a question of what people feel is right for the industry, when in reality it is causing stagnation over growth.
  One could argue that those three games take no risks whatsoever in defining themselves outside of the experience given. Now no one is saying the design of these games is bad either; each game world is unique, dynamic, and rife with its own themes and conflicts that give their respected settings both texture and context that make them memorable. This provides great window dressing to set a story to as well, offering new ideas and experiences for the player to witness. Neither would I dismiss the acting in these games either, which deservedly so garners praise across the board for strong characterizations and dynamic relationships that add a level of complex storytelling to make us empathize with the protagonists.
  Yet for all the praise of the story, the settings, the voice acting, and the characterizations we see in these games, there is one point where the critics seem divided when they write up their reviews, the gameplay itself. Steven Burns of Videogamer.com pointed out that Bioshock Infinite had combat that “suffered from monotony through overuse.” Polygon’s Philip Kollar noted that The Last of Us “leans more on the traditional trappings of third person shooters…These sequences sit at odds with the rest of the game.” Justin Speer of Gametrailers chided Tomb Raider for a similar problem, saying “Lara feels preternaturally skilled at killing, and while she’s clearly emotionally shaken when she’s first forced to kill her first animal, subsequent killings treat furry bodies and human skulls like piñatas filled with experience points.”
  Yet these three games were favorably reviewed, with each selling over 3 million for the year of 2013. Admittedly the dissenting voices are the minority, and this does reflect the quality of the overall product. After all, none of these games are “bad” in terms of broken, buggy or just shamelessly uninspired messes. We have beautifully realized worlds with gorgeous aesthetics, supported by strong scripts all coded into a mesh of dynamic cut scenes that can offer an exhilarating experience for the consumers to watch. However, the key word here is watch, not play. From the ludonarrative perspective, these titles are poor representations of what video games are because of this focus on watching the story unfold. 
  In a way, the storylines in these titles is what is carrying games. Many fans have criticized the flaws in the gameplay of all the VGX nominees, unwilling to buy into the hype that surrounded them. It is a telling sign that a paradigm shift has occurred, a change in the focus of what game critics see as more acceptable for the medium. An interesting aspect of this argument is that up until ten years ago, video games were still marketed on their gameplay, over the storyline. For example, a title like Halo wasn't sold on its dramatic storytelling, but rather its shooter mechanics, with the advertisements reflecting the focus of the marketing. Most games released before the 7th generation followed this pattern of emphasizing gameplay, much to the derision of critics.
  It did feel like for a time, critics pined for something more. Arcade-style games full of gameplay simply weren‘t enough, and for a period in the mid to late 2000’s, almost every game had a story mode, even titles that didn’t need it. It was a time for experimentation in this way  to see what worked, and what didn’t, but as the graphics grew more powerful, the ability to tell emotional stories became much easier for developers to create. This sort of “rose period” for the gaming industry has many benefits, and we see it in the labors of the forerunners that emphasized storylines as much as gameplay. Games like The Walking Dead, Mass Effect,  and the original Bioshock may not be perfect, but they are memorable for being the best at this new paradigm; this emphasis on dramatic storytelling while keeping up with the demands of providing adequate gameplay. 
  Video game stories still have a long way to go before they reach critical acceptance outside of the industry, a key factor at legitimizing games as a visual, tactile, and storytelling art form. Even the very best of the past generation are from perfect, with Mass Effect, Bioshock and The Walking Dead containing flaws in their narratives and how it is presented to the player.  Perhaps this is why the emphasis on tight, constructed storylines is what journalists are managing. We are seeing more and more examples of games which have a high emphasis on story, but minimalist or sometimes rudimentary gameplay. Games like Bioshock Infinite, The Last of Us and Tomb Raider are not compelling video games through gameplay, but compelling video games through their narratives, giving them more kinship to an interactive movie. 
  Our expectations are tailor made to fit this line of thinking; we expect a good story now from a video game, and we expect to see a satisfactory conclusion without lingering issues or a thought-provoking finale. All the while ignoring or tolerating at best mediocre gameplay mechanics or problems with ludonarrative dissonance, we have our expectations managed to a specific line of thought on what makes these games truly great, when in reality they are not the perfect titles we once believed in. 
  Considering the fact that the VGX awards are handpicked by a crop of journalists and personalities, including Brian Crecente, Geoff Keighley, Mike Krahulik, and Jeff Gerstmann, the media has the final say on which games are nominated for this award show, and which game wins. Yet the similarities that most of the nominees have does depict a telling picture, one that asserts to both consumers, developers, and publishers that these are the type of games the media favors. It is a case of commoditization through the control game journalists have, dangerously similar to the payola structure for the music industry which paves way to managing the expectations of the consumer base by carefully controlling what they expect to like for the goal of profit and recognition.
  Now, one could argue that Super Mario 3D World is the exception to this rule, and you are right. It is an anomaly among the other entrants, being a pure gameplay experience over a story-driven masterpiece. Perhaps it was a token nod, or there is genuine love and respect for Mario that is filling the void to add diversity to the nominations this year. Or Mario  is simply filling the gap for a delayed title that journalists expected to nominate this year. I suspected earlier that Watch Dogs was likely to be nominated, again considering the hype behind the title, but its delay forced a quick replacement to the list. This is of course conjecture, but I personally don’t rule it out as a possibility. I would not be surprised if Watch Dogs was nominated next year however, as it would be again managing the expectation that the title will be good, regardless of the flaws it may have. 
  As journalists and consumers, we need to be more critical in this new paradigm shift so that the standards of what a good game are continue to evolve. With the constant whitewashing of critical flaws within gameplay, however, many journalists neglect to remark how issues with gameplay transform the perspective of the storyline. You simply cannot ignore aspects of the gameplay that clash with the storyline anymore, especially if, from a narrative standpoint, it makes no sense for the player to be doing things the character on screen can’t or will not do. 
  A telling trend of this is how numerous posthumous editorials continue to crop up after a critically acclaimed game is released. Pieces from professionals and contributors on sites like Kotaku and Gamasutra are all the more common now a days, often rifling through the negative aspects of these games with a fine tooth comb. These editorials are providing an almost investigative point of view of something that a critical review may have forgotten. Or, in worse cases, simply ignored when showering these titles with praise. 
  We also need to be cognizant of why this is unacceptable. For many games we let these “game conceits” slide because we’re participating in the storyline. Through interactivity by pushing buttons, we show investment into the game by continuing to watch what happens, by pushing buttons when appropriate, and by interacting with the world at pre-determined times. It is a subconscious, near Pavlovian response, pushing buttons to see a desired effect. We allow game conceits to occur because we show interest in only advancing the plot or through enjoyment of the gameplay. Such conceits need to be taken into account now, especially if they begin to break the narrative flow of the game itself.
  This is  a difficult balance to hammer out, yet we have seen some games that are more balanced than others. Issues aside with Mass Effect, it is one of the emblematic examples of interactivity as part of the gameplay experience since it drives the narrative through it‘s gameplay. The Walking Dead is an example of a "pure narrative" game, one that is designed solely on how you structure your narrative through your choices and to present the effects of said choices while playing. Other games, like Spec Ops: The Line, have a linear progression but narrative interactivity through devices that allow more complexity to your actions than what meets the eye.
  Even recent titles can strike that balance and offer gameplay that improves the narrative, while emphasizing narrative interaction. Remember the torture scene from Grand Theft Auto V? That is another example of this, not just pressing buttons but interacting with the experience through the simulation, while simultaneously going through a major plot point in the storyline. It is gripping and shocking, and is designed to be this way because you’re playing it instead of watching it. You are pushing buttons and allowing the torture to happen, and despite any reservations behind the scene, it’s both compelling and interactive, allowing a moment of pathos that can't simply be watched from a cut-scene.
  Truth be told, if I really valued the VGX, the game that deserves the win the most for game of the year is Grand Theft Auto V. While it is far from perfect, as everything really is, it has enough  of a balance between good gameplay and a consistent narrative structure to keep the players engaged, and doesn’t attempt to manage expectations as much as the other nominees. Major flaws aside, it is the only game that gives both the critics and the consumers what they want as well, a good video game all around. 
  Through all of this though, the lesson that critics need to learn is that we need to stop managing expectations for what we perceive as a “good“ game. A storyline can be important, but they are not the only part of a game to focus on. The over-emphasis on story and visual presentation in the past few years has made games less about games, and more about expectations of what you’ll take away from it internally. Critics need to find that balance once more, that hook that allows them to critically analyze narrative and gameplay, and rate it accordingly. Otherwise the message, as seen by the nominees for the VGX, will remain the same, and any growth we can hope to achieve will forever be stagnated to what we always expect.

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Sandy Hook Slaying Turned into Gun-Control Video Game
Posted on Friday, November 22 2013 @ 15:26:43 Eastern

[b]*Note: this article was first posted on Blistered Thumbs and can be found in the link below.[/b] http://www.blisteredthumbs.net/2013/11/sandy-hook-slaying-turned-into-gun-control-video-game/

Can video games be political statements?<...   read more...

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Mike Krahulick, Dickwolf Bully?
Posted on Friday, September 13 2013 @ 12:43:34 Eastern


Is Mike Krahulick a dickwolf bully?   For those not in the know, or are like me and barely cared when this occurred because you find Penny Arcade to be unfunny, back in 2010 Penny Arcade got into some hot water over a strip titl...   read more...

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Seeing the Love: My Time at Video Game Fan Fest
Posted on Wednesday, June 26 2013 @ 12:30:01 Eastern

[Editor's Note: As LinksOcarina comments below, this article is on Blistered Thumbs so it won't be a part of the official Vox Pop competition (yes, I will soon amend the fact that I missed last month's Vox Pop due to E3). However, we thin...   read more...

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Is InXile Crowdsourcing or Outsourcing?
Posted on Tuesday, May 7 2013 @ 22:25:48 Eastern

[Editor's Note: This article was published on BlisteredThumbs and thus will not be eligible for the Vox Pop monthly prize. However, we believe it should still be featured as a part of our community.]

Update: InXile has gr...   read more...

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Remember Me and the Female Touch
Posted on Friday, March 22 2013 @ 10:23:04 Eastern


Why are there no female leads in gaming?    A strange question to ask after recently reviewing Tomb Raider, but it is a fair question considering that there are few female leads in gaming today. In fact, according t...   read more...

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The Ghost of Video Game Violence
Posted on Thursday, February 7 2013 @ 07:54:19 Eastern

October 7th, 2005. In the throes of the Autumn weather, then Governor of California, Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger, signed two bills into law. The bills in question were California Assembly Bills 1792 and 1793--more commonly known as the video ...   read more...

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The Dissolution of Choice, How Choices Matter in Gaming Narrative
Posted on Monday, December 17 2012 @ 13:26:13 Eastern


Note: The following editorial contains spoilers. You have been warned.    "Choices." "Consequences." "Engaging and defining your play style." These are the short and catchy buzzwords of...   read more...

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