Video Games of 2013 [GO]
Jan 3rd, 2014 by Dan


This is where a lot of the magic happened this year.

Writing this list each year is one of my favorite things to do at the end of the year. It forces some perspective on what I played and coheres my thoughts on the experiences this year. I spent less time with video games this year, to the tune of 19 fewer games played. 2013 heralded a shift toward portable games for me thanks to a rapidly maturing 3DS library and a nice, new phone.


Zero Escape: Virtue’s Last Reward – If you thought 999 had the coolest story in video games, you’ve clearly never gotten around to spending enough time with VLR. The advantage of being a one-system game gives 999 a slight advantage in its huge twist moment, but VLR‘s meditations on quantum theory and its further exploration of the morphic resonance forces tons of interesting thought experiments. It’s a narrative gut punch that unravels with a brilliant pace.

The Cave – Ron Gilbert made himself a neat, interesting meditation on obsession and enlightenment, except he also mad ea game with ridiculous padding that required too much repetition of the same puzzles. It’s funny, but, sadly, I wasn’t ever able to motivate myself to go for all the endings.


Professional Baseball Spirits 2013 – I absolutely love these games, but I don’t know if I should keep getting them for a few years. I just don’t have the time to finish whole seasons any more. Maybe I should just get the last PS3 one and wait a while for the PS4 ones to get good?

Fire Emblem: Awakening – Allowing players to grind for levels was a weird decision. I think I got too distracted with grinding and lost momentum and motivation to finish the game. Still got a ways to go…It’s a strong SRPG, but I’m so distracted with other portable games that I haven’t gone back to it yet.


Tomb Raider – Remember when I beat this game on my channel? It was pretty good. I didn’t have high expectations for Tomb Raider remade to be Uncharted, but it actually held its own pretty well. If it had a better handle on its narrative it might have ended up one of the best games of this year, but you just can’t hide significant story details in found audio or text logs…

Sim City – What a shitshow. Seriously. EA really dropped the ball on this one with the overloaded servers and poor handling of their PR. To top it off, city simulation managed to feel simpler and less deep than Sim City 3000 which, I’ll remind you, was released about 14 years ago…

Bioshock Infinite – Remember how I said that audio logs are stupid? That’s the bread and butter of this series and it’s overdone. The shooting lacked a little impact, but the skyhook was pretty fun. Supposedly this game has a cool ending and a neat story, but I’ve had trouble motivating myself to come back to this to finish my series on it.

Dead Space 3 – Played this all the way through with David. Co-op = fun and awesome. Game itself…not so much. Just a laughably bad story, but we had a good time playing it together.

Harmoknight – Tiny little rhythm game by Game Freak. I ended up not loving the timing of the button presses, but I did like the relaxed plot and creative arrangements.


Digital: A Love Story – I don’t really remember why I ended up deciding to explore Christine Love’s oeuvre, but the fact that her first two larger releases were free probably contributed. Digital covers a time period that is slightly before my internet days (one where BBS was king) and the love story is, ultimately, not quite convincing enough, but it was interesting and it tangentially ties into Analogue

don’t take it personally, babe, it just ain’t your story – I rant to all kinds of people about how privacy in the modern era is an illusion. don’t take it personally goes and makes the argument for me. It also highlights how those of us in charge and legislating now still don’t really get it (and probably never will). Never have I seen a game do a better job at illustrating the generational gap and give both fairly substantial and even weight. The only thing I didn’t like was the kind of gross romance subplot…

Poker Night 2 – Remember the first Poker Night? It’s a little more advanced than that, but I like Ash and CL4P-TP less…

Monaco: What’s Yours is Mine – There was a fantastic couple of days where Min, David, and I just rocked most of the Monaco campaign and its prestige mode. Man, what a ridiculously fun co-op game. Especially with the way that David plays with his burrowing through every wall…


Rayman Legends – Better than Origins in some ways. Murfy is interesting too, but I have yet to play a level as cool as the treasure chase levels…


Animal Crossing: New Leaf – Slow and leisurely. The feel-good, laid back game of the year. Animal Crossing might be low on action, but it’s so overwhelmingly nice and welcoming that it feels like the kind of world I’d want to live in. It’s just too bad that the guilt factor of being away for too long keeps me away.

The Last of Us – Yet another game I played to completion on my challenge. The chief problem with The Last of Us is that it’s just not fun to play. There’s nothing fun about the ugly violence committed by and against Joel and Ellie. It’s a brutal, depressing game that beats you down and ends with an unreasonably selfish decision that makes for a uniquely interesting ending and experience.

Professor Layton and the Unwound Future – Didn’t quite finish this one. It’s more Layton. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s not gonna set anything on fire with its innovative ways.


Analogue: A Hate Story – The summer sale allowed me to finally pick up a game I’d heard such intriguing things about. Like Christine Love’s other games, Analogue is about a spaceship society that went kind of…weird. It was heavily modeled on an Joseon society that actually existed and it was a little horrifying. The way it all plays out is a little voyeuristic, but also super interesting and fun. I can’t wait to play Hate Plus to learn how the ship developed in this way.

Shin Megami Tensei IV – This is not Persona. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it’s odd that the two don’t borrow from each other a whole lot more. SMT IV still does things that feel so old-fashioned while Persona feels so progressive and fun. Definitely the best old-school JRPG that I’ve played in a while.

Evoland – It’s all kind of a joke, really, and not a very fun one, unfortunately.

Thomas Was Alone – You play as these little shapes! They’re so cute! There’s a really fun story! British accents!


Pikmin 3 – I was surprised by how much I loved this game. Allowing the player to split attention between three avatars was a brilliant move for efficient play. I’m more surprised that I haven’t yet gone back to finish it because it’s ridiculously fun.

Rogue Legacy – Sharp, tight controls. Super fun conceit with the progression of heirs. Go play it. It’s the Metroidvania/Roguelike-like of the year.

Papers, Please – Have you ever wanted to run a depressing, Soviet-style border checkpoint? Yeah…that’s this. It sounds dreary and boring and it kind of is, but that’s the secret genius of the game. The mundane tasks infect your morality and you actually start trying to game the system in a lot of insidious and awful ways. It’s kind of gross, but also very powerful.


Didn’t start any new games in Sept!


Plants vs. Zombies 2 – I don’t like playing this on my phone. It’s a silly complaint, but the game just isn’t good on that small a space. I’ll come back to it on PC.

Pokemon Y – The revolution we were all waiting for. 3D pokemon is awesome. Less awesome: the still asinine/mediocre story. I just wish Nintendo would step up the level of interest in the story if they are going to continue to try to force more and more complicated stories on the games. Other than that, the perfect pokemon evolution. Seriously awesome.

Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies – So it’s not the best Ace Attorney game out there. It’s lacking the influence of Shu Takami and that has a bigger impact than I would have expected. The game is more anime-y, if that makes sense, and a little less cohesive, but it’s still the best ridiculous, non-real world law simulator out there. Good times.

Hometown Story – Not good times. It’s by the Harvest Moon guy, but it feels half done and not too put together. I only gave it an hour, but I didn’t like what I played so far.


Ridiculous Fishing – Avoid the fish on the way down, hit them on the way up. Slick Disasterpeace music, neat art design, a weird story. Pretty fun way to kill time on your phone.

The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds – The music in this game is so…good. It’s a must to play this with headphones. The way the game handles the 3D graphics is also super fresh and vital. I wish I’d played more, but I’m saving it for after Pokemon and Phoenix Wright.

Super Mario 3D World – The most brilliant execution of game mechanics released this year. That final boss…holy cow! It’s even fun for four players, unlike some of the NSMB games. Perfection. Get a Wii U and play it.

XCOM: Enemy Within – You’d think that the new additions would be incremental and not all that game-changing, but the MEC stuff and the difficulty curve tweaks for Classic have made this game way different and way tougher, but also…more fun. Those robot suits are badass.


Super Mario 3D Land3D World made me insanely curious about Land, another game people rave about. Holy eff. The way the system makes use of its 3D engine is super cool. This game is so full of brilliant platforming that feels more rewarding than anything else. It’s less ambitious than 3D World by necessity, but this game (so far) is just a wee bit better realized on its platform.

NES Remix – Less fun than I was hoping it would be. Making it more Wario-esque would have been better, I think. Still kind of neat and only $15.

Project X Zone – I think I’d need a little more time to have a definitive verdict on this, but it’s reasonably fun. I just want to play as Rockman. Right now.

The Walking Dead 400 Days – Five (very) short stories. Five (very) smartly told stories. I really do love how the vignettes say something about each person in the camp and about each person who plays the game. I only wish they hadn’t tied an achievement to the Paper, Rock, Scissors part.

The Walking Dead Season 2 – Just as polished and well put together as S1, in my opinion. I have no idea why some people haven’t liked the first episode as much. It’s tragic and brutal and just as insane.

Risk of Rain – Played a few rounds with Min and Lee. Brilliant co-op, but it feels just a touch half-done in its menus and interface. Worth continuing to investigate in 2014.

What I’ve Been Doing 8 May 2013 [FB/IB/F/BT/GO]
May 8th, 2013 by Dan


My mom’s dog is so cool! I miss hanging out with her.

After a long, tough week in Florida and a long, busy week in MD I’m looking forward to a little downtime…


Iron Man 3 – A new director means a brand new feel for the movie. Stark isn’t in the suit that much and it just all feels…different, but that’s not bad! I really loved the movie. Good times.


The Americans – Caught another episode of this with Katie. Fell asleep partway through, but it’s not the show’s fault. Still loads of fun and addictive to watch.


How about some classic salsa? Take it, Celia


A Friday Night Lights Companion: Love, Loss, and Football in Dillon, Texas – The essays vary in quality, but it makes me want to rewatch the show so much!

Video Games

Monaco: What’s Yours is Mine – This game is bananas. Getting three people together and watching the chaos…so fun! Reminds me of Bonanza Bros.

Tomb Raider – Finished the game. I won’t spoil too much since I know some of my readers watch the LPs I do, but maybe next week or in a deeper post.

What I’ve Been Doing 22 April 2013 [FB/IB/F/BT/GO]
Apr 22nd, 2013 by Dan

Christmas 2012

I couldn’t really think of a new, appropriate photo for today so here’s a picture of dogs in my family

Nothing really big going on this week. Played a lot of Tomb Raider and edited a bunch of episodes to prep for some dry times ahead.


Not quite this week. Hopefully this one, but I’ll also be fairly busy.


Parks and Recreation – The most reliable Parks and Rec laughs for me nowadays come from the way everyone (Leslie included) mistreats Jerry. Top notch pair of episodes this week, guys.

The Mindy Project – The Santa Fe episode was pretty good. Not amazing, but I laughed.

Community – So tired of the Chang stuff. Don’t really care…The episode itself was passable. I chuckled a few times.

The Amazing Race – Man, I was so worried about Joey and Meghan getting eliminated in Switzerland. So glad that didn’t happen. S3 is shaping up to be fairly interesting too, so I dig that.

The Americans – So far they’re doing a pretty good job of ramping everything up, but I think the FBI stuff feels a little thinner without a partner.


FZ: Side F – Disasterpeace’s collaboration remix album has some interesting tracks and interesting interpretations going on. Neat album for sure.


Not this week either.

Video Games

DmC Devil May Cry – I’m really suspicious of Vergil. I think he’s a bad guy. Poor Kat. Still enjoying the game and I’m digging all the new weapons too.

Tomb Raider – I feel like I’m getting reasonably close to the endgame. There’s a lot more gun battle sections and that’s kind of boring, but at least the plot’s also moving along nicely. Still haven’t run into the Oni again, but the way they’re all hyping it up we’re gonna have a fun confrontation.

What I’ve Been Doing 15 April 2013 [FB/IB/F/BT/GO]
Apr 15th, 2013 by Dan


If you’re thinking this movie looks to be overstuffed…it most definitely is. (Photo by Han Cinema)

I actually had a really busy week considering how little media I consumed Mon-Wed. So much baseball too…


The Thieves – I enjoyed The Thieves, but it had a fundamental issue of elevating every single subplot to maximum import. It was just a little too overcrowded and it wanted to have its cake and eat it too. Still a pretty fun movie. I’m also a big fan of how Korean movies just blend in multiple languages seamlessly. There was Korean, Chinese, Japanese, and English all represented in the movie.


The Amazing Race – Burned through the rest of S3 and, damn, Flo was edited to be really shrill. I’m still glad that she won over Terri and Ian, but Ken and Gerard would have been super fun.

New Girl – Gotta say that they’re doing everything they can to really make Nick and Jess awkward. It’s funny, but tough to watch sometimes. Their characterization of Winston and Schmidt is a little inconsistent though…

Archer – The Sea Tunt episodes lacked some of the oomph of the space station ones from last year, but it was still a fairly hilarious hour of television. The wait for new Archer always feels so long!

Community – The puppets all sounded muffled, but I enjoyed that episode a little more than the dance one. Well…except for the Brie Larson part. I love that girl. She was adorable in the episode.


I don’t have anything really new, so how about my favorite song by The Clash?


Nope. Sorry!

Video Games

Poker Night at the Inventory – Those Four of a Kind and Straight Flush achievements are, well, luck-based. So frustrating! Pumped for the sequel!

Digital: A Love Story – A quick little quasi-visual novel. It’s best quality is how well it emulates the old BBS internet and net behavior in general.

don’t take it personally, babe, it just ain’t your story – More conventional as a visual novel. Mostly interesting for how accurately it captures high school drama, high school social media behavior, and as a parable about privacy and sharing in the modern world.

Tomb Raider – The shooty bits are coming a bit more frequently. Good thing I’m so great at them, right? …Right?

DmC Devil May Cry – Spending time away from character action games makes them tough to play. I forgot how much I enjoyed that game. Gonna have to go back to it. It’s also great since I don’t film it and I don’t have to worry about casting at the same time or editing.


What I’ve Been Doing 8 April 2013 [FB/IB/F/BT/GO]
Apr 8th, 2013 by Dan

Jayson Werth Superfan

There’s such a thing as being too into a player, I think…

Broke the seal on baseball season this week by attending my first game. Marlins at Nats. Of course Miami lost, but it’s the experience that makes it all feel right.


Looper – Best line: “I don’t want to talk about time travel shit. Because if we talk about it, then we’re gonna be here all day, drawing diagrams with straws.” What a brilliantly done movie. Just such a tightly constructed plot. Lots of fun. I really dug it.

Rust and Bone – A little less dramatic than I thought it would be. Probably a result of one plot element too many. We didn’t need Ali’s son along with Stéphanie’s struggles from losing her legs. The prosthetics also put a fairly tight bow on the whole “no legs” situation.


The Americans – I felt like the show was asking us to take too far a leap to mourn Amador so soon into the season. The dude was neat/funny, but he didn’t really have time to capture our hearts, not to mention he was kind of crude. I dunno. Still enjoying the show.

The Amazing Race – The second Botswana episode was great. Speeding tickets, car accidents, etc. Lots of excitement. Bummer to lose Pam and Winnie though. Also fun to see S3 progress alright. Having the Harvard lawyers lose because they didn’t properly read the fine print…well that’s brilliant, isn’t it?


Caught up on an old episode of Alt.Latino where they mentioned a fantastic album by the Giles Peterson’s Havana Cultura Band plus people like Danay Suarez and Silvito El Libre. Good times and good music. Seriously. Listen to it.


So busy with work and baseball that I did not manage any reading. Whoops.

Video Games

Harmoknight – Completed the main campaign. Gotta say that I don’t really dig the boss battles, but that’s kind of minor. Otherwise the game is pretty fun. Worth $15? Maybe just barely.

Tomb Raider – The supernatural element that always mars these video game narratives (can you say zombies or blue guys in Uncharted games?!) have shown up, but I thankfully haven’t had to fight them yet. The shotgun feels pretty nice though.

Trailer Roundup: Street Fighter x Mega Man, The Last of Us, and Tomb Raider [GO/ER]
Dec 10th, 2012 by Dan

It’s the mash-up nobody knew they wanted until today! I mean, this is pure insanity, but it’s also super awesome. Rock vs. Ryu?! BRILLIANT! Can’t wait for that free download.

Uncharted 3 may have been lacking that je ne sais quoi that its predecessors have, but that’s probably because the big guns were working on this sucker. What a fine looking game it is too. Can’t wait to see how this pans out because it looks astounding.

File this one under, “Less intrigued than I used to be.” After seeing the insanely good The Last of Us trailer I thought that the acting in Tomb Raider seemed flat in comparison. There’s also that weird disconnect where Lara kills for the first time early in this game, but by the end (and from the looks of it), she gets comfortable with it real quick. Still, it looks interesting.

Another Tomb Raider Trailer [GO/ER]
Jun 4th, 2012 by Dan

It’s clear that Eidos/Squeenix is taking a TON of inspiration from the Uncharted series, but this trailer does feature a distressing amount of violence toward women. It’s kind of grimy feeling to watch, but this game could be very interesting to play.

Tomb Raider Looks Good? Tomb Raider Looks Great! [GO/ER]
Jun 9th, 2011 by Dan

The trailer for the new Tomb Raider game, titled Tomb Raider (go figure), looks fantastic. It’s the first trailer for a Tomb Raider game to excite me since, well, ever. I’ve never raided a single tomb with Lara and I’ve never wanted to, but this trailer calls back to the great Uncharted 2 trailer of last year and just might be good? I guess it’s silly to get excited about mechanics from a trailer, but maybe Dude Raider (Uncharted) has a competitor in the original recipe explorer.

The Portrayal of Women in Gaming [Game Overview]
Jan 1st, 2010 by Dan

Despite the growing number of female gamers and older gamers, the larger audience in gaming does lie within the 18-35 (or whatever the range is supposed to be), male demographic, which means that games are made primarily for that audience (fortunately (for publishers), most 14-17 year-olds respond to the same marketing techniques). It follows that what comes out of the industry revolves around heavy action and sex appeal. For every indie game that attempts to take a mature look at female sexuality like The Path, there are at least five games where women are two-dimensional characters wearing ridiculous apparel meant to emphasize their unnaturally oversized assets.

Again, it’s not that surprising, right? Sex sells. It starts getting strange when you look at the results of a recent study by Carrie Lynn Reinhard (Hypersexualized Females in Digital Games: Do Men Want Them, Do Women Want to Be Them?). The results of the study showed that men prefer to play as more realistically proportioned women when they play games. They’re also more likely to recommend the game to a female friend if the avatar is more realistic. Meanwhile, women are more likely to enjoy playing as hyper-sexualized avatars and more likely to recommend these games to their male friends. It’s definitely not what I’d expect, but it makes sense given the cultural assault on women to be hyper-sexual and the empowerment the might feel, while it seems that playing as a hyper-sexualized female makes a man feel emasculated.

I guess I can kind of support those conclusions, at least with the way that I see other people play online. My entire character selection strategy is primarily geared toward emasculating and embarrassing my opponents. In almost every game where such a choice is available, I will always make my avatar either pink or female (or both) for the simple reason that it riles up the competition when they lose. I think that perfectly sums up most of the gaming landscape: sexist and immature.

Leigh Alexander is fond of saying that the immaturity of the gaming landscape is mostly due to the immaturity of the men who run it. In article she wrote titled “Bang Bang, Is Creativity Dead?” she quotes:

“There is a cycle in game development. People making games usually make games that appeal to themselves, and choose from a narrow set of inspirations — Star Wars, Aliens, Blade Runner, Tolkien, World War II, super-hero comics, and a few more. Then, those games appeal to a certain set of fans, and some of those fans will eventually grow up to make games themselves, and those games end up looking like the previous generation, because they were made to please a similar bunch of people. That loop just repeats and stays the same size forever.”

-Tim Schafer

This concept has appeared many times in her work when talking about mature games versus “mature” games. Something like the upcoming Dante’s Inferno game is rated mature because it contains gobs of bloody gore and bare breasts. A game like Mother 3, which is outwardly cartoony in appearance, is actually mature because of the way it deals with death, family, and its themes of community and isolation.

I’m not saying that there’s no place for immaturity in art, but when it’s all your work has to offer, it’s almost insulting to me as an adult gamer. Take Team Ninja’s Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball, released on the Xbox back in 2003. Never mind that calling it “xtreme” is already ridiculous, but the game itself is pandering to an extreme degree. The most clear cut goal in the game is to raise the friendship levels of the beach volleyball teams so that you can give your partner as revealing a bathing suit as possible to wear. I was 17 when this game came out and even then I was too old to be amused by such obvious attempts to catch my attention.

The first great hope that we were making progress came in Valve’s 2004 epic, Half-Life 2. Not only was Alyx Vance a smart, capable sidekick to the mute Gordon Freeman, she was realistically proportioned, wore jeans, only barely showed her midriff, had no cleavage showing, and donned a jacket that covered her arms to her elbows. To this day Valve continues to render its female characters in a realistic fashion. Chell, of Portal fame, was also not sexualized and Zoey and Rochelle, the two female leads in Left 4 Dead and Left 4 Dead 2, respectively, are also both modestly attired and realistically proportioned, but Valve is in the minority in this industry.

Also in the minority in the industry are women with positions of power. Video game development is unsurprisingly male-dominated (I say unsurprisingly because, in my experience, most computer scientists are men), but there are a few relatively famous women with positions of power. The first really famous woman I can think of is Jade Raymond of Ubisoft. I know I’m about to be super unfair, but Jade Raymond is known more for being hot than for her roles at Ubisoft. I’ve never played Assassin’s Creed, so I can’t really speak to its quality, but, despite her role as producer of the game, I couldn’t help but feel that Ubisoft was using Jade Raymond as the face of the game for more insidious purposes. I know that almost every video I saw where she was talking about the game was filled with immature comments by viewers about how good looking she is. Again, my statements are not saying anything about how good she is at her job. She’s clearly great at it, since she’s been named president of Ubisoft Toronto,but the immaturity of the medium has prevented some from really taking her seriously.

The other famous woman I can think of (probably because I’m such a fan of her work) is Amy Henning, the Creative Director at Naughty Dog. It makes sense that Jade Raymond has a wiki page, but Amy Hennig doesn’t, yet I feel that Amy Hennig has done way more for women’s portrayal in gaming than Jade Raymond has simply because of the characters that Amy Hennig has created for the Uncharted series.

Like Valve, Naughty Dog’s female characters are strong, confident, and able to take care of themselves. Nathan Drake, the star of the series, does have to rescue them from time to time, but both Chloe and Elena are more than able to handle themselves in the face of danger and both have saved Drake a fair number of times as well. While it is true that Chloe is a more sexualized character thanElena, she’s neither a ridiculous piece of eye candy nor a woman who trades exclusively on her sex appeal to get what she needs. It’s almost incidental that she’s hotter than Elena and, no doubt, a creative choice meant to emphasize Drake’s character arc in the second game as he is forced to choose between being selfish or doing the right thing.

It’s clear through the many interviews and videos of Amy Hennig I’ve heard/seen that she was the driving force behind forcing the moderate and respectful portrayal of women in the Uncharted series. No longer content to continue to watch women being objectified and marginalized in her medium, she was a vocal supporter of the idea that people will still like these games and characters even if they’re not all T&A. To her credit, I’ve never heard anything but praise for the characters of the Uncharted world. T&A or no, I still get hits on my blog on a daily basis looking for dirty pictures of Elena and Chloe. Could it be that men are just as happy with women who are real too? Does everything about a video game have to be a ridiculous empowerment fantasy?

I’m hopeful that the maturation of the field will yield more Zoeys and Elenas and fewer Lara Crofts and Bayonettas (new game set to come out this year focused entirely on the lead character’s sex appeal). It’s not that every game has to have realistic characters, I mean the men of Gears of War are no more realistic than Lara Croft in their own way,not to mention that even popular, respected, mature mediums feature plenty of shallow characters, but it would be nice to start seeing real people in our games.

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