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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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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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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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Monster Hunter Freedom uniteI got Monster Hunter: Freedom Unite a while ago on my Vita, played about five minutes of it, got totally overwhelmed, and gave up. The game is HUGE. Whether it’s crafting stuff, figuring out the best armour combinations (which can grant you skills, I think), or just picking a weapon that works for you, the game has tons of content and I’ve seen people say that they’ve sunk hundreds and hundreds of hours into it.

My first instinct when I come across a game like this is “I don’t get it and I don’t want to get it.” That’s a shitty attitude, I agree, but it’s hard imagining myself dedicating that much time to one game when a) there are so many other awesome games out there and b) I do not, in any way, have that much free time on my hands. Still, I’m now trying to get into it again and there’s one thing I’m starting to notice, something that hasn’t really shown up in a lot of other games I’ve played recently: Monster Hunter is weirdly satisfying in an incredibly elitist way.

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Blek

I recently ran across a mobile game called Blek. It’s a paid app so I avoided it stupidly until I saw it show up on a few “Top 10” lists across the internet. So I paid my 99 cents and jumped in.

The game didn’t really seem like much: the opening screen was just a black circle and a smaller blue circle with a hand drawing a half-circle shape. Weird. No instructions, no menus, no flashy splash logo. So I touched the circles, but still nothing.

Finally, after “clicking” around the screen, I swiped my finger and the game opened up. The sketchy black line I had drawn multiplied over and over again, bouncing off the wall and, fortunately, colliding with the blue circle. That was it, tutorial over.

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Eliss InfinityAnyone who has owned or played a Nintendo 64 knows what it’s like to question how exactly you should be holding your controller. Is it left and right? Middle and right? How do I use the Z button if I need the D-pad?

Obviously, things have changed over time, although the same basic principles have prevailed since the arcade era: push buttons and tilt sticks to move and act. Of course, the ubiquity of the touch screen nowadays makes things a little more free-range, although many games stick to the idea of buttons and a single cursor (which is basically the modern equivalent of a joystick). That is, until you run up against games like Eliss Infinity.

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DestinyI haven’t actually played Destiny yet, although I have a feeling that, for the first time in a very long time, I might be willing to engage with a game that is made to be played as a multiplayer experience. The game will be “always online” which basically just means they want you to be online so they didn’t waste their money implementing tons of multiplayer stuff. I’m not certain if the game stops you from playing without an internet connection, but if it does, I’m sure it won’t for long.

Everything I’ve heard about the multiplayer experience in this game makes me reconsider my long-standing hatred of playing online in general. While playing COD or Halo against others online wasn’t fun for me just because those types of games don’t appeal strongly to me, playing games like Borderlands 2 online was still pretty disappointing in some respects, something that Bungie seems to be directly addressing in Destiny.

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Super mario 3D land logoI had a lot of trouble playing Super Mario 3D Land when I first picked it up; there’s something about the moving Mario around in a 3D space that I just couldn’t quite get a grip on, likely because I was so used to side-scrolling with the guy. Thankfully (or maybe not?), the game provides you with a safeguard against losing too many lives on one level: if you die a certain amount of times, the game gives you a Tanooki suit that’s also an unlimited invincibility star at the beginning of the level in question. At first I would sigh with relief but I quickly came to despise it because of how easy it made things.

I’m not saying that Super Mario 3D Land is so easy that it’s not worth playing. I’m not even saying that the leaf ruins the game. What I am saying is that, as game developers, critics, or just gamers in general, we should be aware of what makes a game good for us and why getting a little frustrated once in a while might actually be a good thing.

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Candy Crush SagaThis post was actually inspired by my first few hours of playing DOTA 2, a free-to-play game that just doesn’t feel like it should be free. It’s intricate and fun, easy to get into but hard to master, it even gives you free powerups. So where does it make its money? I don’t actually know, but I’m sure it’s somewhere that isn’t nearly as obtrusive as some of the recent mobile games out there.

My first real experience with a pay-to-win model was playing Bejeweled Blitz against some friends over facebook. It was harmless enough but, as I got more into it, I realized pretty quickly that paying real cash for in game-currency would actually get you a higher score once you used that currency to buy the heavy-duty powerups. Then the icing on the “free-to-play” cake came when I tried to play through Candy Crush Saga without buying a thing.

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Dissidia 012 Duodecim

After seeing a number of articles on the upcoming Hyrule Warriors, I can’t contain my frustration anymore: we need new intellectual properties. My biggest encounter with rehashing an IP came when I was looking for games to play on my newly purchased PS Vita and stumbled on Dissidia 012: Duodecim. I didn’t really look too much into the game but it came highly recommended so I eventually downloaded it. I was in for a surprise.

I booted it up and felt a wave of disappointment wash over me: it was a fighting game made entirely out of Final Fantasy characters. Why does this bug me? Why does it deserve such derision? Why is this guy such a stuck up snob? The truth is, I really like the game as a standalone entity. That being said, I have a theory about the relationship between creativity and reusing IPs: they are inversely proportionate. Basically, the more you reuse an IP, the less you have to care about the way it’s presented.

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