An Interview With Phil Spencer: Highlights from the SXSW Gaming Expo 2014

Microsoft Game Studio’s Corporate Vice President sat down with Geoff Keighley of Spike TV for a one-on-one panel for the South by Southwest Gaming Expo, Sunday March 9th at the Long Center for the Performing Arts. During the session, Spencer gets candid about missteps in the pre-launch marketing of the Xbox One, unhealthy fan attitudes in the console wars, and possibly taking for granted some of the early Xbox titles gamers want to see revisited. In addition, he reflects on the early process of building the original Xbox library, the impact of the free-to-play games market, and is pressed by Keighley on the lack titles showing the power and value of Kinect.

(Over) analysing The Bureau: XCOM Declassified’s chest-high walls (to within an inch of their lives)

I’ve done a close reading of the chest-high walls in The Bureau: XCOM Declassified and I’m happy to report that I think they could be a meditation on the tangible benefits of improved graphics. Furthermore, I reckon their implementation also questions if our lust to achieve increased verisimilitude between real and digital worlds is misguided.

Do Volatile Gaming Communities Build Commendable Personalities?

Since the dawn of LAN play, MMOs, online feedback, live chat, ventrilo, and headsets, competitive gaming became a transformative role in the entertainment industry. The simple act of decapitating another player, cursing their brains out, and basking in bloodlust was – and still is, a type of ‘high’. It’s fun. It’s exciting. It’s addicting. Call up some friends, grab a good FPS, headsets, some cheap beer, and we’ve got ourselves a solid night.

The Last of Us being turned into a movie and the video game movie issue

Well this is odd. I had planned to make a post on video game movies and now The Last of Us has been announced as being turned into a movie. Perfect timing I guess. And my reaction to that is…well I’m kind of terrified. Don’t get me wrong; I totally want people to experience The Last of Us. Everyone should. It’s by far one of my favorite pieces of art ever, not just video games. I do wish that people would spend the time to learn video games and play them because The Last of Us is meant to be a video game and nothing else. And right there is the issue with video game movies. They were never meant to be movies especially considering how unique video games are to any other medium, that interaction with the controller is just as important as the writing, gameplay, acting, whatever. It’s as crucial especially for something like The Last of Us where the interaction makes you feel like Joel, it makes you feel the tension he feels and it makes you feel even more so for Ellie.

Planets³: Minecraft in space?

Planets³ came onto my radar a while back, before it was on Kickstarter. It was picked up by multiple websites as a game with great potential. That while it has the most impossible name a game has had so far. I mean it is very fitting, but no one is going to trouble themselves with figuring out how to get that ‘³’ in there every time.

Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons

Within moments I knew Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons was different. The game offers a simple to describe, but complicated to learn control scheme: there are two brothers and one controller, with each brother getting a joystick for movement and a shoulder button for action. The elder brother is the left, and the younger is the right. At all times the elder is the left, and the younger is the right.

Fighters: A more in-depth clarification

The fighting genre is my favorite of them all, and it’s appropriate since the very first game I played is Street Fighter II Turbo on the SNES. Suitably, this is the same game that established the genre. I say established as opposed to created because it’s often argued that no-name titles on the Commodore 64 implemented the key aspects of what make a fighting game. In spite of that, the genre didn’t exist until Street Fighter II hit the market. This isn’t to say that in the industry today, every fighter needs to emulate the gargantuan franchise in every single aspect. The fundamentals need to be there however, and I’ve created a list of criteria to clear the confusion that’s prevalent among gamers.

iPad Mini with Flappy Bird sells for $8K on eBay amid listing takedowns

Yesterday I was berating my kids for not previously downloading the oh-so-popular Flappy Bird app that has been a big source of controversy lately. I only learned about the app being removed from the app store from a group of carpool kids that I drive to and from school – and my ears perked up when one of them told me that some Flappy Birds “try-hards” were buying used devices with the app still loaded on them for around $1,000 on eBay.

The addictive nature of games (mainly Candy Crush)

Fads in the mobile and online gaming industry have continuously increased with the use of Facebook and many other social media outlets.  Constantly, developers are attempting to find the easiest, most complex, addicting games that will bring in either a quick dollar or millions of dollars.  For example, the ever popular “Candy Crush Saga” created by King Games brings in an average $633,000 per day.  That per day analysis says something really interesting about the game.  Sure, a lot of what comes in is probably ad revenues, but something else that strikes me about games like these is the fact that there are ways to purchase currency and points through the game.  With just a dollar, you can buy enough “points” or other currency in the game to continue playing even after your lives have run out.

Irrational Games shutting down: What does it mean?

Irrational games, the major game studio behind the Bioshock games, is essentially closing down according to Ken Levine who says, “I need to refocus my energy on a smaller team with a flatter structure and a more direct relationship with gamers,” which basically means that he is laying off nearly everyone except 15 people. This is a very strange piece of news that I didn’t expect at all. Is it because Bioshock Infinite didn’t sell well? Is it because Ken Levine simply wants to take himself creatively somewhere else? It just leaves so many questions to be asked.

The Last of Us: Left Behind review

Left Behind reminded me why I loved The Last of Us so much. It was easily my favorite game of 2013, and possibly my favorite game of all time. When the first and final single-player DLC, Left Behind, was announced, I couldn’t wait to jump back into the incredible world that Naughty Dog created.