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Shattered Pixel Dungeon splash

In January, I bought an Android phone. This is only my second smartphone, an iPhone 4 being my first. I had that iPhone for almost three years and loved it, especially the way the App Store organized and presented games. However, I didn’t realize how much I appreciated the Apple App Store until I got an Android.

The Google Play Store, while more expansive, is way too inclusive. Even though I could find my old standbys like Threes and Crossy Road, I was having a really hard time finding any new, high-quality games on the bestseller lists. All of this is just a prelude to me grabbing my new favorite mobile game, Pixel Dungeon, after finding it at the top of many bloggers’ “best of” lists. But what was it about this particular game that made it so addictive?

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Far Cry 4 does a lot of things well. It does driving well, it does badass knife kills well, it even does a pretty good job setting up combat scenarios. Probably the best part of the entire game, though, is the inclusion of tons of different animals and, subsequently, the inclusion of animal bait. It was the specific uses I found for these living elements that made me look more into the term “emergent gameplay.”

A while ago I heard some podcasters complaining about the use of the term when it came from PR reps who worked for big publishers. The podcasters were arguing over whether or not the term was being overused to the point where it was starting to sully the reputation of games even before the game was released. Of course, instead of looking into the term myself, I took this to be true and taught myself to hate the word “emergent”. I have now come to realize that there’s more to the concept than I previously thought.

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shadow of mordor screencap

Shadow of Mordor was definitely not a game I was planning on buying. I had played Assassin’s Creed and I had played the Arkham games; there was no reason for me to play a game that conflated the two. But, as time went on and reviews rolled in, my interest started to grow, especially since no one seemed to be able to really pinpoint anything unique about the game despite loving it so much.

The Nemesis system was lauded at first as being something interesting that draws you in but people were really fawning over the minute-to-minute gameplay loop. I didn’t get it. So it’s parkour from AC and fighting from Arkham Asylum? It’s been done! Turns out there was more to it than that.

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ps4It’s kind of crazy to think that, ten years ago, when I was paying for my N64 with my hard-earned allowance, I was actually a little sad. I wasn’t upset because it took so long to save up that the GameCube was practically already released; no, I was upset because it would be yet another six months before I could actually afford to buy any games for it.

Now, in light of my recent PS4 purchase, I found myself thinking back to that moment with a smile when, as soon as signed in to my PSN account and navigated to the “Library” tab, I saw that I already had a plethora of games to play. Some were old favorites cross-bought from my PS3 and Vita, some were new that I had gotten for free through Playstation Plus. All were welcome. 

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bloodborne splash

I’ve never played Dark Souls. I’ve heard its praise sung on pretty much every major news outlet (not to mention tons of podcasts and blogs) but I’ve always kept my distance. This is due largely  to the warnings reviewers gave when each new game in the series came out: don’t play this if you’re not a hardcore gamer cause it’s really hard.

I don’t really like hard games. I mean, I DO like to be challenged, but some games have always seemed hard for the sake of being hard (or maybe “obtuse” is a better word). The Souls games–by which I mean Demon Souls to Dark Souls II–appeared to be one of those series that I was just doomed to hear about but never actually enjoy. Until Bloodborne.

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wii-console-01-14-15-1

So I bought a Wii recently at a thrift store for 25 bucks. What’s the worse thing that could happen? I waste 25 bucks on something worth 150 bucks (or so I thought at the time)? No Wii remote? No sensor bar? No games? No problem. I could not have been more wrong. The following is a telling of how disappointing it is to buy a used Wii, especially when you don’t do your research.

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Minecraft splash

I tried playing Minecraft years ago when I was still in university but was discouraged by my computer not being able to handle it. Now that the game has been ported to every system under the sun, I figured it was time to give it a real try.

I picked up the PS3 and Vita version of the game and, not surprisingly, was immediately hooked. The slow but steady progress of mining for blocks in order to build basically anything was really addictive and, if you’ve got the time and the brain for it, really satisfying. Ultimately, what it reminds me of most is my childhood experience with Lego and all the possibilities that came with it.

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sportsfriends splash

I recently had the chance to sit down with my girlfriend and my brother to play a local multiplayer game that’s been sitting on my PS3 for ages: Sportsfriends. The game consists of four “minigames” that center around the physicality of the console experience.

What do I mean by “physicality”? Well, I’ve always been a big fan of finding new ways to use controllers, and Sportsfriends scratches that itch in a big way. Most of the games find creative ways to involve you in managing the space that you’re playing in (the literal space, not the virtual space) which is something I can definitely get behind.

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Cthulhu Gloom

A friend of mine got me a card game called Cthulu Gloom for my birthday a few months ago. I didn’t really get a chance to play it until recently, partly because it’s so much easier to pick up a new video game and learn the rules in a virtual environment than it is to actually read a pamphlet full of foreign-looking text and try to suss out how to play something you’ve never seen before.

Still, I took the time to play a few practice rounds on my own before sitting my co-worker down on our lunch break and forcing him to have fun with me. Having now taught the game to two more people, I’m beginning to realize what a huge advantage table top/card games can be when thinking about designing video games.

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Flashback to the year 2000. I’ve had my kickass new N64 for about a year now and have only collected a few games. Things like Majora’s Mask and Pokemon Stadium have entertained me but nothing about them really had me coming back for more. What’s worse, nothing about them made me want to play them when I was with friends (despite the Pokemon Stadium minigames being superb).

One day, I pick up a game called Super Smash Bros. that I had played at a friend’s house. I remembered how good it felt to zoom around the screen as Pikachu (a character I already had a relationship with from the Pokemon series) and decided that I wanted to have access to that feeling 24/7. Almost fifteen years later and, after an extremely long break from the series, I’m starting to get that feeling back.

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