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RIP Robin Williams (1951-2014)
By KevinS
Posted on 08/14/14
Robin Williams (1951-2014) Robin Williams was an absolutely exceptional comedian, talented actor, and holder of a special place in video game history: He was the first really famous gamer I know of. I’m sure there were others, but they kept a comparatively low profile, unlike one...


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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 a fast-growing gaming medium that have found a way into the very heart of modern game design. It is almost inescapable in the current market to find a game not touting how much “impact” your choices have. And yet, for each choice we see, within them is a growing illusion of what they truly represent. Having control and impact on the choices made in games is something of a misnomer, because in the end a fundamental question needs to be asked: How much control does the player actually have over their choices?   It really is a tough question to answer. On the one hand, the player should have mastery of the domain of the video game they are playing, control of the aspects and movements of the protagonist in that diorama of pixels. On the other, the developers set the rules of the game through the same mechanics, essentially forcing players to operate within the world as well as controlling the plot through allotted and limited number of in-game choices. One could argue that the player should dictate what is allowed by the parameters of the game design, but no game is a blank slate. This is even more apparent when we see the type of control implemented by the developers that perpetuate the illusion of choice, the common cries of "railroading narrative" often being the loudest. Let’s face it, that is all we see in gaming, a fabricated selection of choices with predetermined consequences, all connected in a defined matrix that can never be deviated from, at least fully.   So perhaps the better question to ask is why? Why do we put up with these predestinations? How can developers make these choices and consequences matter, when it often seems like they rarely do? Perhaps we can find the answer to these questions by analyzing an example from this year. Easily one of most critically acclaimed titles of 2012, this game is perhaps the most emblematic example of how the choices are irrelevant yet poignant at the same time, reflecting this strange dichotomy well. I am, of course, talking about The Walking Dead from Telltale Games.    What, you thought I was talking about something else?
    Without going into too many spoilers, The Walking Dead has you play a singular protagonist, Lee Everett, in his plight of survival against the undead along with a group of survivors in rural Georgia. Within the plot you are given spur-of-the-moment choices—timed responses that offer a way to interact with the number of characters around you, as well as some more emotional choices such as choosing who to save in a given situation or deciding how a character should die before they reanimate into a one of the flesh-eating undead.    These type of choices offer variety, yes, but what do they do for the plot? In many ways, very little. See, The Walking Dead as a plot-based game is shackled by its set narrative—you are going from point A to B regardless of what you choose, even if the consequences change in the middle. And the moments where the plot does deviate from the choices made would eventually become inconsequential to the final outcome of the overall experience, which is almost railroaded into a pre-determined endpoint for the series. So picking to save the life of one of two characters in Episode 1, in this example Carley or Doug, only to have that chosen survivor dying in Episode 3, is an unavoidable moment in the plot. The survivor is shot and killed regardless of what you do.    But the caveat to this is simple: While the plot remains unchanged save for a few deviations, the story is what becomes the emotional output that people latch onto. The story is essentially what the entire narrative is all about; the emotional resonance behind the moments of the plot. It is easy to say “Lee saves Carley over Doug” because the plot demands a character death. But the story takes shape through this action; Lee saved Carley and the story continues with Carley backing up Lee and his actions. That validates the choice made, and allows the player to become more attached to characters like Doug or Carley outside of who you wish to save.    So it is a subtle difference, but a difference nonetheless that developers typically employ to fabricate an emotional response for the player. In a way the illusion of choice is purposely perpetuated by the developers, where the outcome is essentially set in stone in one, two, or ten different ways; the only thing that changes is how you get there, or what path you take to get there. It is a well-crafted lie that eventually becomes railroaded, because players always find a moment that rings false to the intended message of "choice and consequences." The Walking Dead is no different, with the climatic and, in many respects, somber ending to the first season reflecting such a moment that never fully changes the fate of some characters, but allows the player to feel that emotion because of the story created en route to the ending.   But it is through this difference where we see a strong sense of attachment to both characters and actions in many story-driven games. The narrative is what sustains such attachment through the actions the protagonist takes, be it directly through player intervention or indirectly through the plot. And from this many games walk a tightrope to avoid the pitfalls of an unsustainable narrative, one that is all plot, no character, or vice-versa. The Walking Dead, despite the fact that it essentially lies about the choices having consequences in a mechanical sense, is able to surpass any snags the plot may have because the narrative was well-told, allowing an emotional experience that feels like the choices mattered.
    It really is no different than other story-driven games involving choices and consequences. Dishonored locks you out of choices based on how you respond to certain situations, forcing you to deal with the consequences while rarely changing its fixed plot. Sandbox titles such as Skyrim hold sometimes massive repercussions for the world you are inhabiting, despite the consequences behind these earth-shaking plots essentially being invisible in-game. And I don’t think I need to retread new ground regarding the Mass Effect series and how the choices were always huddled into a singular conclusion at the end of each game, regardless of the number of outcomes presented.
  But this is the primary appeal for choice-based mechanics. Much like those old "Choose your own Adventure" books, you essentially are creating your own story based on the elements available. Is it full control of the games outcome? In pretty much every case: no, especially when you are dealing with a series of games, such as the episodic way The Walking Dead presents itself. Because you have five episodes, each part acts as a building block to the finale, which is always pre-determined to end in one of two ways canonically. But what makes that moment special is the story, as it is what these sequences of events are all about, the very soul of the choices made to reflect the journey you, the player, goes on.   The point being, the choices given to the player are almost always an illusion to make it seem like they matter. But what makes them matter is not that they are there, but that they allow the player to feel the impact of these moments through the story. It is within choosing the Stormcloaks over the Imperials, in curing the Genophage over tricking the Krogan, in saving Doug or Carley, where the narrative takes shape depending upon our choices. But because of this seemingly betrayal of trust in the audience to distinguish the two styles, the theme of choice have become a pariah of sorts thanks to this perceived notion of railroading storylines.

In actuality, that is nothing new or against the mechanical design of the choices given in video games. For story-driven games, the choices will always be tied to a plot written by the developers, but controlled by the players. The real value of this is not that the story eventually doesn't matter, but that the journey the story takes, the changes in the narrative because of how the player controls the story, will make the experience worthwhile. It is a gamble each time, and this past year we have seen many games succumb to the wrath of players because the plot ended a certain way.   In the end, we need to take to heart the fact that in the end there are no true consequences, no fully changed outcomes to be gained in a fixed plot. But there are consequences in the choices made because of our attachment to them, to the characters and the often moral implications of their predicaments, that allow us to shape the eventual narrative we experience. It is through this illusion of choice where we see the crux of the narrative that gamers become attached to, and in the end the choices matter only because we made them that way. We control the illusion by making the choices, which in turn help us tell the story, the emotional meat of the experience.    So don't blame The Walking Dead or the next game following the buzzwords of "choice" and "consequences" for eventually removing the facade of the choice in an instant. What truly matters in a narrative is not that the plot can change, but that the circumstances of the plot, the actual story behind your actions, dictate the tone of the overall experience. In doing this, Telltale Games, along with many other industry leaders can craft stories with hard choices and consequences for them. But a little give and take regarding what can be influenced, and what can't needs to be recognized for the illusion to work its magic.

It's come to my attention that this article was posted on another site. So to be better safe than sorry, it's been removed from the Vox Pop, but this blog will remain.  ~Ed. Nick

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Fiction Over Fact: Why EA Is Destined To Lose When It Doesn't Deserve It
Posted on Wednesday, September 19 2012 @ 12:36:47 Eastern

This member blog post was promoted to the GameRevolution homepage.

A sort of disclaimer before I begin. It is not every day that I normally throw myself out there with the purpose of starting a conversation to discuss discourse of the general gaming audience, but with the calm before the holiday storm ebbing away and with little news to really report at the moment, now is as a good as time as any to really sink my teeth into something that has been troubling me for a while now.   I admit as a pseudo-journalist, I tend to over-value truth and integrity to the point where I am sometimes gobsmacked at the reactions of the “uninformed” around me, and fight with every fibre of my being to stem the tide of misinformation. Not because I am some sort of journalistic elite entitled to his opinion due to my stature, but because it is more of the right thing to do to actually foster a more positive outlook on the industry as a whole. Take today’s example, for instance, as we go down the road of discussing the merits of Electronic Arts.   Yes, good old EA, the “cancer that is killing gaming” depending on which slack-jawed attention-seeker you currently believe. Not because they are right, mind you, but because they believe they are right, a universal truth based on a perpetual myth of things. As is such a case, it is quite easy to stack the house of cards against the corporate entity and erode its foundation with spewed hatred ad-nausea. It’s like it’s hip to be a hater of a game company on the internet, and because of that perception, EA will always be fighting a losing battle.   What do I mean by this? Well, wind the clock back a week, and you see what I mean. It was reported that EA was under fire for promoting the idea that single-player games were no longer going to be developed under their label. At least, that is what the spin doctors of sensationalist titles took from the comments by EA Games President Frank Gibeau. For example, Destructoid’s own Jim Sterling ran with the quotation and used it to call doom and gloom for the company based on the singular soundbyte, which is as follows below:    "We are very proud of the way EA evolved with consumers," he said. "I have not green lit one game to be developed as a singleplayer experience. Today, all of our games include online applications and digital services that make them live 24/7/365. “   Sterling of course penned the article titled “EA Boss Proudly Refuses to Publish Single-Player Games.” on Destructoid, and in an instant, EA loses. Just like that, they no longer have credibility or clout to counteract any dissenting voice on the internet.
Of course, upon closer examination of the quote and the context it was said, things are not as dark as Mr. Sterling, and other journalists among the gaming-sphere, would have you to believe. For starters, the quotation were remarks taken from promotional materials for a cloud-gaming conference, a place where the talks would likely reflect the discussion of online applications and digital services, as described in the quotation. It also doesn’t distinguish what digital services are considered “non-singleplayer.” Not that my opinion matters so much in this case, but non-single player can have several meanings, from online leader boards found in score games like Rock Band, to applications tracking single and multiplayer progress like Halo 3. Of course, multiplayer and co-op modes have also made appearances as well, some correctly implemented and some not. But does this truly lead to the death of all single-player games?

To be fair to Gibeau, this is not an earth-shaking stance from him, as he has spoken in similar terms since 2010, discussing how social interactions and connectivity are the way to go. In fact, EA as a company has been fairly vocal about this idea of social interaction; COO Peter Moore has stated his opinion on the future of gaming as it transitions into the more lucrative free-to-play model for everything out there. See, the trick is to differentiate the multiplayer aspects, something that looks to be in the forefront of Gibeau’s mind when he replied to the criticism made by his comments on Kotaku.   "Let me clarify," Gibeau began. "What I said was [about not greenlighting] anything that [doesn't have] an online service. You can have a very deep single-player game but it has to have an ongoing content plan for keeping customers engaged beyond what's on the initial disc. I'm not saying deathmatch must come to Mirror's Edge."   Gibeau chuckled at his own example and continued to explain what the shape of EA's game-making approach will be moving forward. "What I'm saying is if you're going do it, do it with an open-world game that's a connected experience where you can actually see other players, you can co-operate, you can compete and it can be social. Everything that we do, we see the telemetry coming in telling us that's the best way to build our business and that's the best way to build these experiences and be differentiated from others. Yeah, I'm not suggesting deathmatch must be in Bejeweled. It's just… You need to have a connected social experience where you're part of a large community."   It should also be noted that Gibeau’s stance on social interaction is nothing new in the industry, since several high-profile leaders in the industry have described similar ideals in different ways. Essentially, Gibeau is discussing gaming as a service over a commodity, echoing the stance of giants such as Satoru Iwata, who recently discussed how the New Nintendo Wii U will have a critical social component that is mandatory for the future of gaming. Valve’s CEO Gabe Newell also is a proponent of this ideal; speaking at the Sony conference at the 2010 E3 that “the needs of gamers and developers are evolving. Specifically, it‘s not just about chips rendering pixels or calculating nav meshes, it‘s about giving gamers a complete, social connected experience."   No wonder EA wanted to buy Valve—they think alike on this issue.   This new development philosophy may also be the reason why Half-Life 2: Episode 3 is never going to come out, since Newell once said back in 2011 that it is finished with episodic content. And we can see this “gaming as a service” model used by Valve without much penalty, Team Fortress 2’s entire Manconemy is emblematic of this change, creating a drop system, a barter system, and an online store in the blink of an eye to add to the service model, and longevity, of Team Fortress 2. It offers microtransactions and interactions with players, all of which adheres to the service model Valve has adopted. All of which is also met with pure praise by fans.    But I digress, because we are talking about why EA is destined to fail, and in the end it becomes perception above all else. What is the real difference between Valve and Electronic Arts? Well, one was voted the worst corporation in the United States in an arbitrary online poll, while the other is lauded for being a shining light in the gaming world. Critics and entertainers alike seem to universally agree on this myth, that EA is, and always will be, evil and destructive, while Valve can do no wrong and the best company in gaming today.
    Opinions aside for each company (in which I personally don’t see a difference between the two since they both make quality products), it seems clear that there are other differences under the surface argument here. Of course, one can say that EA has been doing their emulations of Valve wrong, and that is somewhat true. Origin being a prime punching bag for critics is again, emblematic of that whole perception. But the shortcomings of Origin aside, why does one company get the pass while another gets the boot? Why do both follow a similar business model, but people cry foul against one of the two?   I can’t answer this. Hell, it can be argued that their models are not the same, although the goal they are attempting to achieve is within both of their sights. Of course reaching it on different terms is up for interpretation, but that is besides the point. In the end, it doesn’t matter if EA copied everything Valve did for their race to gaming as a service—they would still be seen as a blight by the near-sightedness of those around them, as “the inexorable march towards videogames becoming one indistinguishable mass of grey sludge continues," according to Jim Sterling.    But it is Sterling’s, and other journalists' chicken-little attitude regarding a narrow point of view that causes the sky to fall in this myth. Not to discredit Sterling too much here, but the fact that he is openly against gaming as a service model (if an episode of Jimquisition is to be believed), and yet, when reporting on the story about EA’s alleged buyout of Valve, Sterling made the comment, “It's really hardly surprising, given that EA likes to buy hot studios and turn them into hit factories. I hope Valve continues to resist though -- we need more companies like it in this industry, not less.”   A rather curious choice of words [Particularly since the right word is "fewer", not "less". ~Ed. Nick], considering Valve is essentially doing what he hates. Of course, the context is everything, although Mr. Sterling has yet to really give context to the line, since it can be interpreted in several ways, like I am doing right now, putting words into Mr. Sterling’s mouth. Clarification is key.    But all is fair though, because EA is evil. Right? So it doesn’t matter what Sterling or those reading really think. Of course it can be argued that there is major differences between the business models of both EA and Valve, and rightfully so there are. But that is wholly irrelevant in the end because even if they were the same, the company would be called a copycat for taking ideas from one to use on their own. Either way, Electronic Arts can’t win.   So it boils down to perception, a slanted myth that everyone has a "my side" bias based off of hypotheticals. It is one thing for a fact to reach the ears of listeners and to be used to create an opinion; it is another entirely to eliminate those facts because of such bias. Journalists, entertainers, bloggers and gamers alike each come loaded with bias, and it skews their vision when facts are present. It is a fact, that EA is going to follow a gaming as a service model, and hopes to implement a social interaction, through multiplayer, co-op, online connectivity, or social media application, and free-to-play microtransactions into their product line. It is a fact that Valve is doing the same thing, with minor or no differences, social interaction, in-game currencies and barter systems, micro-transaction models and online connectivity. It is a fact that they are not alone in this practice, as the comments by Iwata weeks ago indicate. And it is a fact that EA is receiving the brunt of this hated despite being guiltless to the practices around them.   Hell, the recent reveal of Command & Conquer: Generals 2 inclusion of a single-player mode is proof of this, despite even adding the mode and listening to the rather vocal feedback of the gaming community, the overall feeling is one of uncaring neglect. It doesn’t matter if they cater to our needs—it will still be terrible because it’s EA. So to complain about what was missing, and then getting what was missing yet dismissing it immediately is okay because we know how EA operates. I think my point is made clear here, that it doesn‘t matter what EA can do to help itself, be it damage control or just being generally responsive to their fanbase. They will always be hated, no matter what.    Hell, maybe I am just being biased myself. It is certainly possible. But it is also hard to give a pass to one group over the other when both do the same thing, only in different ways. One can say it is a false equivalent, and I won’t dismiss it, but all that remains that it becomes irrelevant to the fiction that we perceive, leaving the facts drowned out by the noise with little chance to rise above it. In the end, it may be too late for EA to ever change their image, but they should not be blamed for the evils of the industry as much as they are, because they are just doing what everyone does best—adapt and survive a changing tide.

The opinions expressed here does not necessarily reflect the views of Game Revolution, but we believe it's worthy of being featured on our site. This article has been lightly edited for grammar and image inclusion. It has been submitted for our monthly $20 Vox Pop prize. ~Ed. Nick

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Separate but Equal: The Narrative and the Gameplay.
Posted on Monday, March 14 2011 @ 10:37:39 Eastern

The recent release of Dragon Age II has kind of compelled me to write this piece. It is something that has been on my mind for years, something that is starting to become a grim reality that anyone who is a fan of video games is facing. It is also something that, whenever talked about, usually is met with skepticism and scathing remarks, probably because the subject is difficult to discuss.

For me, and many gamers, there is a point to where we begin to yearn for something more, something tangible and fun but at the same time compelling and emotional. Many gamers are mostly right-side brainers when it comes to this question; they want something fun and they will seek out what will sedate their cravings. Be it shoot-em ups, deep RPGs, sport simulations, whatever it may be, gamers will pick their poison and pretty much sink hours upon hours into titles for inherent satisfaction. And while this is a common and wonderful pastime to pursue, the past several years there has been a movement slowly gaining ground that is just as powerful in terms of enjoyment.

Narrative structures in games have come a long way from the exposition found in manuals back in the 8-bit era. Stories in gaming have increasingly become more complex, and even tiered like the movie industry, showcasing AAA blockbusters, B-movie experiences, and enthralling dramas to name a few of the genres that we see. From as early as the SNES we have seen narrative structures begin to evolve into a more cinematic experience. Be it 50 hour RPGS made by Bioware or SquareEnix or the exposition seen in Bioshock and Heavy Rain, many games have crossed a threshold where the focus is now not only on visuals and gameplay mechanics, but also narrative structure and characterization. It is impossible to see a review or write an article without mentioning a storyline in a game. Even sports titles have crossed this threshold now, creating custom made stories such as what was seen in Fight Night: Champions.

But as narratives become more prominent in games, many fear that aspects of gameplay will begin to suffer. Typically the story and the gameplay design were often segregated; considered separate parts of the development cycle and often included in the final product after the gameplay was created. Most games often have a tacked on story which gives way to stilted narratives, while on the flipside we see story heavy games suffer with terrible gameplay design. In a way, a game like Call of Duty would be the former, while Heavy Rain would be the latter for a comparison.

Now narratives in games are more than just stories; they need to be either meaningful or entertaining to the user which would give them satisfactory enjoyment out of the experience. Take Grand Theft Auto IV for example.  That was a game that, no matter how good the narrative was in hindsight, there was great inconsistencies with the structure and tone of the story. The world is an alternative take on modern day America, satirically mocked by a foreigner making a life for himself. But the seriousness of the tone was not matched by the world itself. For example, the radio stations, fake advertisements, sexual innuendos and euphemisms all compounded a mixed message. It became less of a satire and more of a schizophrenic experience.

On the flipside is the game Saints Row 2. The game is the bizzaro of GTA IV because its world is cartoonish in many ways; the missions and sexual innuendos here also satirize typical American culture and the gang lifestyle, and do it better than GTA IV did. Going to the extremes of absurdity created a more light-hearted and entertaining experience. But like GTA IV the tone was inconsistent; this time mired by more serious moments that were meant to tug at heartstrings and make you feel empathy for a character that, by all intents and purposes, murders people wantonly and is dressed like a clown.

It should be noted that both Saints Row 2 and GTA IV also had problems with their gameplay. Saints Row 2 attempted to go for a more cartoonish experience, but the structure of missions and the perks for doing side missions to perfection often lead to the game becoming broken due to cheats like infinite ammo or special weapons designed for max killing. GTA IV attempted to inject realism into the game by adding cell phone conversations that call during missions, use of the internet and photography, and even scheduling events on your phone. All of this was annoying at best and use in game to push the story along at least once each, pretty much adding too many features that creeped into the gameplay. It is an annoyance that occurs for the first half of the entire game, learning new features even after 15 hours are invested into the title.

So the marriage of narrative and gameplay is far from perfect in the examples above. We see a lack of focus in terms of how a story can be told, because the gameplay mechanics and overall design can showcase inconsistency if left unchecked. We also see gameplay mechanics look out of place and less fun if they are not implemented in a way that could actually benefit the player, or at the very least a way that would not annoy the player because it can detract from the overall experience. But the past few years there have been some great examples of achieving an experience that is both entertaining due to narrative and gameplay features.

Which brings me back to Dragon Age II. The game is far from perfect, and everyone agrees with that. The gameplay elements are less polished than they should be and have those same annoyances that begin to creep into the gameplay as GTA IV had. But Dragon Age II is important in another way, and that is the attempt at marrying gameplay elements into an evolving narrative. Note that this is not a new technique, as Bioware has attempted this numerous times before with games like Mass Effect, Jade Empire and Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. Other games such as Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4 and Demon Souls have also done this, but to varying degrees of effect.

The gameplay in Dragon Age II is fluid to fit two different styles of play. One is a tactical style that allows the user to pause the game during action to select abilities and actions for each party member, or to set tactics that allow the games A.I to control the movements of your non-controllable companions. Both methods work well and are valid attempts at tackling the numerous enemies that you face in game, and give the player a lot of freedom to experiment with the makeup of the party. The second method is to play it action-style, again using hotkeys for special abilities and hitting buttons for basic attacks and pre-determined combos already in canned animations.

Both methods are valid ways of playing, making party makeup crucial to balance encounters, especially on the harder difficulties. But the gameplay is not just the combat or the micro-managing of items and such, but also in terms of storytelling.

Dragon Age II follows in Mass Effect’s footsteps in telling a narrative story through the eyes of a single protagonist, known as Hawke. How you play as a character affects the world, and as such the gameplay in game. Depending on choices of allegiance with NPCs in game it can lead to different or deviances in the questlines later in the games ten year timeline. We also see the reactions of companions to your choices; they can become angered or inspired based on the choices of dialogue. In many cases, party members would react like any human (or elf ) would, and either vilify or exalt the hero Hawke for his decisions.

It not only affects gameplay due to the types of quests that become available, but also due to the final makeup of your party. Your companions are not just a group that is rallied together and blindly follow you; instead they have motivations, convictions and opinions that allow them to freely choose what they wish to do. Early on in the game you lose one of your siblings in the prologue all because of the class you decided to play as. That changes the makeup of the narrative immediately, and therefore changes the story for the remainder of the game. Later, the surviving sibling can die again, or be removed from the game and join a faction that you have no control over, only making guest appearances throughout the storyline until the climax where they may either rejoin you in battle, or die by your hand.

In fact, several characters in Dragon Age II have their fates all in your hands. Without giving too much away, there are several points in game where companions will leave the party forever, die by your own executions, or even fight you if your points of view disagree. The characters are fluid enough to fit into any role the story can dictate, and again the gameplay changes drastically with the amount of companions you would have left, and how they, and you, would react to the events that occur in game.

And the beauty of all of this is that, for the most part, it is unavoidable. You cannot save your sibling in the prologue, you cannot prevent the events the characters occur, and you cannot dictate how they will react. Towards the end of the game I had the choice of killing a companion for a grave act he preformed, or letting him live and either fight with us, or run away. In the end, no matter how much I agreed with him about the situation in the game, I had to kill him because it was what Hawke, my character invested into the narrative, would do. From a gameplay standpoint I sacrificed one character for two others, and from a narrative standpoint I followed through with my own convictions, however hard it was to do so. That is masterful storytelling, and the outcome was, for a moment at least, a coupling of narrative and gameplay elements.

We have seen narratives and gameplay go hand in hand before. From the audio diaries in Bioshock  to the timed conversations in Alpha Protocol , many games can encompass the gameplay into the narrative, but few can find the perfect harmony for an entire game. Dragon Age II was a step in the right direction for finally ending the segregation of story and gameplay, instead of making it a specific instance where the gameplay and story are combined; it attempts to encompass the entire game as a narrative experience.

Does it succeed? In the end, no. Limitations to the gameplay and the story structure force it to reach a conclusion that, while it makes sense from a narrative standpoint is inexcusable in terms of gameplay. There is also a disconnect between interactions still, and the numerous glitches and errors that mire the game world are too noticeable to not be mentioned. But what Dragon Age II does right is that it opens the doors for endless possibilities of seeing these two separate elements merge into one, becoming equally important as to how a game can stand on its own without one side or the other criticizing the importance of their respected camps being the reason to play the game to the point of venomous vitriol.

In the future we will see more innovation and attempts made by developers to encompass a storyline into gameplay elements. Dragon Age II may not be the best game ever made, but it is important because it takes the first steps into a larger world where the consequences of one’s actions early on can affect the outcomes based on the narrative. It was able to blend narrative and gameplay in a way that was fluid and complex, a way that forces the player to make decisions that will change how the game is played. For some, the future will be a revelation as to how games will be viewed. For others it shall be barely noticeable because they deem it pointless. For everyone though, they will be enriched by experiences unparalleled before because these separate but equal parts to a game will finally be separate no more.  

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My Link to the Past: Reminisces on Legend of Zelda
Posted on Tuesday, February 22 2011 @ 05:29:52 Eastern

Today is a red letter day for video games. By red letters I mean the crimson N of course, and the brain child of Shigeru Miyamoto and Takashi Tezuka that I am referring to is The Legend of Zelda. The original game has just turned 25 years old ,...   read more...

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NaNoWriMo Entry 2: Blind Date
Posted on Tuesday, November 2 2010 @ 14:47:31 Eastern

Here is entry number two for my thirty day odyssey to see how long I can have creative juice. I hope you enjoy "Blind Date."

Blind Date

      Liz was trembling madly as she clasped her ...   read more...

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NaNoWriMo Entry Number 1: The Simple Things
Posted on Monday, November 1 2010 @ 20:52:12 Eastern

For those that do not know, Novmeber is National Novel Writing Month. It is a challenge for aspiring writers to pen a 50,000 word story in thirty days, a hefty task indeed. One that at best I got about 36,000 words or so at my peak.

La...  

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Playing Wargames: The story of “Under Ash” and the lessons learned from it.
Posted on Tuesday, October 12 2010 @ 15:55:34 Eastern

 With “Medal of Honor” being released today, I did want to bring up another first person wargame that has been in development and was released in the year 2000, a classic known as “Under Ash.”

Now many of y...  

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An Open Letter to Robert Kotick
Posted on Monday, July 12 2010 @ 17:16:06 Eastern

Dear Mr. Robert Kotick,

While I know you are a busy man as the CEO of Activision-Blizzard, I implore you to take some time to read this open letter to you, sir.

As a gamer for over twenty years, I have seen many trends c...   read more...

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National Poetry in Your Pocket Day
Posted on Thursday, April 29 2010 @ 13:19:37 Eastern

And now for something bleak...


Clouded mind, clouded judgement,
trapped in a thick black haze,
consuming, controlling my very thoughts,
stuck in an endless maze.
No entrance, no exit,

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Modern Myths, Interactive Adventures
Posted on Thursday, April 22 2010 @ 14:37:28 Eastern

Throughout my years in school, even to this day, I have always been fascinated by the stories of mythology and legend. The fantastic stories of Greeks like Perseus and Odysseus to Athurian Legend have been great facets of shaping my psyche on storyte...   read more...

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