Fantastic Arcade!

22 September, 2010 § Leave a comment

Hey folks! I will be attending Fantastic Arcade from Thursday to Sunday. I’m super stoked, as any Austin-area gamer should be, but most specifically for:

  • Friday’s presentation at the Lamar Drafthouse featuring Jonathon Blow, developer and writer of “Braid” (which, if so provoked, I will not shut up about)
  • old arcade consoles retrofitted to play up and coming art games
  • delicious Highball food and drinks
  • CHIPTUNES CHIPTUNES CHIPTUNES

And much more! Basically, it’s going to be the best. Expect coverage starting Thursday night/Friday morning.

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Band of the Now: I, Cactus

19 September, 2010 § Leave a comment

I, Cactus is a fairly obscure chiptunes/electro artist on the 8bitpeoples label. Like Anamanaguchi, he uses chiptunes as a medium instead of a genre, crafting short and nostalgic songs heavily indebted to ambient electronica. Though the songs may be brief, they are catchy and mellow enough to boast a high replay value.

You can download I, Cactus’ self-titled EP for free here at the 8bitpeoples official website.

The 5 Worst Moments for Women in Video Games

17 September, 2010 § 6 Comments

Just as a warning, this post has lots of swears. Read at your own discretion.

Video games have been the realm of men since their first spurt in popularity in the early 1980s. It’s not that women never played “Duck Hunt” or “Super Mario,” they just didn’t flock to gaming like men did. After two decades of being marginalized, underrepresented, and alienated, women are finally a considerable part of the gaming community – 48%, by recent estimates. But after reading this list of little-known and legendary games, you’ll understand why it’s taken so long for women to form a major part of the gaming community.

Case in point: typing in "girl gamer" on Google images. Although very outdated (joysticks anyone?) this was the least offensive and sexualized image.

5. “Daikatana,” or, “John Romero’s about to make you his bitch.” (2000)

(personal computer, Nintendo 64, Nintendo GameBoy)

An oldie but goodie (baddie?). John Romero was the mastermind behind id Software, the pioneering gaming company behind “Doom,” “Quake,” andWolfenstein 3D”: three titles that influenced literally EVERY first person shooter (FPS) game ever made since the mid-1990s. So what prompted the ridiculously smug self-aggrandizing of this little slogan? « Read the rest of this entry »

Shadow of the Colossus, or, “Oh man, WHAT HAVE I DONE?”

15 September, 2010 § 1 Comment

By turns tense, evocative, and downright cruel, “Shadow of the Colossus” (PS2, Team ICO, 2005) is a truly unique gaming experience. This is a game that is more an interactive tone poem about brutally stabbing massive, mostly beautiful creatures to death than a typical fantasy adventure.

Yes, every image from the game is this epic.

The highly unorthodox and mostly nonexistent narrative follows a young man, Wander, who carries a dead woman on horseback to a temple where a booming male/female voice tells him he must kill 16 Colossi across a forbidden and uninhabited land to bring the woman back to life. That’s the first fifteen minutes, but that’s also it in terms of story until the last hour. Favoring extreme minimalism over any concrete plot, “Shadow of the Colossus” forces the gamer into a place of contemplation and silence for much of the game, where they can uncharacteristically think long and hard about just why they do what they do.

« Read the rest of this entry »

Band of the Now: Arcade Fire

13 September, 2010 § 2 Comments

Like most things that wear tight pants I have been a huge fan of French/Canadian/Texan indie powerhouse Arcade Fire since their 2004 debut “Funeral.” Their newest album “The Suburbs” came out a few weeks ago, and while a little different from their previous symphonic bombast still grew quickly on me.

Their phenomenal track “Empty Room” sounds a lot like Square Enix’s resident composer-genius Nobuo Uematsu (who, if you haven’t picked up on yet, I have a huge admiration for) wrote a 90s indie/emo tune, complete with driving distortion, soaring melodies, and relatively simple but highly effective string parts.

Basically, this song kicks way too much ass to be just under three minutes.

Surprisingly, the Uematsu/Final Fantasy link really is there: Owen Pallett, himself a highly capable composer who writes much of Arcade Fire’s orchestral parts, is a huge fan of Uematsu’s soundtracks. Pallett’s admiration was so much so that he named his solo project “Final Fantasy,” until retiring the name recently out of respect for the franchise’s copyright.

See? Being a gaming geek can do some great things.

Band of the Now: Anamanaguchi

9 September, 2010 § 3 Comments

Introducing a new series in this blog: Band of the Now! Like most things with ears I love music. Like most things with blogs I like to highlight and suggest music that I find particularly worthy of praise. This inaugural Band of the Now! ties in well with the video game theme of this blog. Presenting: Anamanaguchi!

The band hails from New York City and recently received much acclaim and popularity for their soundtrack to “Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game!” Their instrumentation consists of a traditional rock band – guitars, drums, bass – as well as a hacked Nintendo NES. Anamanaguchi are a leading band in the emerging chiptunes scene, a genre of music marked by its usage of vintage gaming systems for their soundchips in creating new electronic music. Their take on chiptunes is an idiosyncratic mix of pop punk with traditional gaming sounds; most chiptunes is more electronica influenced. Not surprising, as the label applies only to the means of making music, not necessarily a distinct sound.

If you like what you hear, be sure to check out Anamanaguchi at their website. If you wish to learn more about chiptunes as a genre and scene, I can’t recommend the feature documentary Reformat the Planet enough. Also check out record label 8bitpeoples which puts its entire catalogue online for free. If you want to be a snide, lazy, and base college student then here’s the Wikipedia article for chiptunes (you’re welcome, you bum).

A quick update: video blogs!

8 September, 2010 § Leave a comment

Here’s an article I wrote for this year’s first edition of St. Edward’s University’s student newspaper Hilltop Views. I didn’t choose the title:

Video Blogs Offer Something Hilarious For Everyone

Can you remember an Internet, even a world, without YouTube? Videos were restricted to fairly brief Flash animations (remember Newgrounds, guys?), low quality homemade videos and illegally shared P2P files. Videos were hard to come by because few Internet connections could handle the loading time for large files.

This was a dark and nasty time.

So, let’s all give a big “Thank you!” to Web 2.0. We now exist in a time with nearly flawless multimodal integration; or, put simply, we can watch videos in our browsers and not overload our crappy AOL connection.

Again, thank you Web 2.0!

Blogging was just hitting its stride at the turn of the millennium, and as technology improved, the means of blogging diversified. The first video blogs became popular in the mid-2000s just as Web 2.0 was kicking off and making all our lives better. Many were simply blogs narrated to a camera: peoples’ personal lives, opinions, hopes, and dreams.

That was all well and good, but eventually niches were carved and video blogs became more focused. Video games, music, comics, and anything else imaginable is probably covered by a video blog somewhere online. There are even video blog series, like “lonelygirl15,” a YouTube channel that billed itself as a video blog but was actually (SPOILER ALERT) a fictional show disguised as a video blog.

Also important to video blogging (and the Internet in general) is a work’s memetic potential, or the ability to become popular through word of mouth on the Internet. This potential to become viral is what makes video blogging so interesting: many who try to become viral fail, while the most unassuming and strange videos often rise to the top (looking at you, Diet Coke and Mentos guys).

Here’s an exhaustively brief list of particularly noteworthy contemporary video blogs and their memetic potential:

Today’s Big Thing

[http://www.todaysbigthing.com]

Today’s Big Thing brings you not only a hilarious daily video clip, but five more specialized videos ranging from music to sports. Each video is guaranteed to be hilarious and entertaining, while an extensive back catalogue of videos will keep you exploring the site for hours.

Memetic potential: High. There’s something new every day and the content is generally very funny. The site specializes, obviously, in what’s big on the Internet at the moment, so expect to find fun and contemporary videos.

Hey Ash

[http://www.heyash.com]

From the fairly twisted minds of the Burch family (siblings Ashly and Anthony, dad David, and dog Dusty) comes this highly popular gaming video blog. “HAWP” finds Ashly and Anthony playing, reenacting and parodying popular video games from The Sims to Metal Gear Solid to Left 4 Dead.  Don’t worry if you’re not an avid gamer: Ashly and Anthony are good enough writers to make every video funny to those unfamiliar with a game. And for those who have played it, the videos are downright hysterical.

Memetic potential: Very high. Ashly and Papa Burch are endlessly quotable, from “You’re too late! Enjoy the poop!” to “METAL GEAR!” to Ashly’s unbelievably adorable/vulgar tribute to gaming set to the Discovery Channel’s “boom de yada” theme.

Retro video

[http://www.everythingisterrible.com/]

“Everything Is Terrible!” is what YouTube would look like if it existed in the mid-1990s. The site specializes in cheesy, bad, and just plain weird footage from the pre-Internet era. Want to see the creepy, low quality videos you watched in church or summer camp when you were a kid? Confounding public access television programs? So-bad-it’s-good clips from 70s and 80s B-movies? It’s all here in one useful location. After watching for awhile, you can’t help but throw up your arms and say “WTF”.

Memetic potential: Medium. Although “Everything Is Terrible” offers very entertaining material, it often becomes very esoteric. Certain videos aren’t even funny but deeply uncomfortable or creepy. What does hit hits well, but don’t expect to visit the site without being more than a little weirded out.

(originally printed in Hilltop Views)