This has been a very good year for video games, but it has been an exceptional year for books about video games -- surely the best ever. I can't tell you who will win the prestigious BAGOTY award for 2015, but Cara Ellison's Embed With Games, Simon Parkin's Death by Video Game, and Michael W. Clune's Gamelife are all garnering buzz among devoted BAGOTY watchers.
Tagged With shall we play a game
Bob Whitaker, a historian of modern Britain at Louisiana Tech and the host of the YouTube series History Respawned, recommends Assassin's Creed Syndicate, the entertaining new Ubisoft game set in Victorian London. He likes the way it successfully captures the feel of the British capital in the 19th century, and he particularly likes the way the game depicts the Thames River as crowded with industrial traffic. But he still has some nits to pick.
Where is a guy supposed to dump a body around here? Here is a three-minute video -- taken from a late-game mission but devoid of spoilers -- from Assassin's Creed Syndicate, a game I quite like. The setup: Jacob Frye, the assassin I'm controlling, has just knocked out a British royal guardsman and stolen his uniform. Next, he's (we're?) supposed to stash the body somewhere before escaping, hopefully without being seen.
People are interested in Introversion's very good sim Prison Architect because it tries to model the complexities of life inside a penal institution. People also seem to be tougher on Prison Architect than they are on more frivolous games, for the very same reason: it attempts to simulate the complexities of prison life. How do its creators feel about that ambivalence?
I just played the first 30 minutes or so of Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, and I'm hooked. I'm also slightly -- emphasis on slightly -- less confused than I otherwise would have been, because I asked Jason Schreier of Kotaku and Ashly Burch of Hey Ash, Whatcha Playin'? to talk about why they like the Metal Gear Solid series for the newest episode of Shall We Play a Game?
Sometimes I think a golden age of DLC was kicked off by The Ballad of Gay Tony for Grand Theft Auto IV: Minerva's Den for BioShock 2, Freedom Cry for Assassin's Creed IV, Left Behind for The Last of Us, and maybe even Burial at Sea for BioShock Infinite were all expansions that matched, or even exceeded in some ways, the accomplishments of their source material.
Are video games bad for you? Could they even kill you? That's the kind of rhetoric we're accustomed to hearing from cable television, not from one of the best journalists and critics who writes about games. Simon Parkin's terrific new book, Death by Video Game, ends on just that note, however. "No, video games won't save you -- they might even kill you -- and the jury is still very much out as to whether they improve or imperil the world," Parkin writes in his book's final chapter.
As a good American I was filled with a jingoistic fervour after the triumph of the Evil Geniuses at The International, the world championship for Dota 2, this past weekend. I like video games. I like sports. But I've never watched eSports, not a single match of Starcraft 2, Dota 2, League of Legends, Heroes of the Storm, or anything else. In the hopes of learning more about yet another thing that the United States is better at than anyone else in the world, I decided to talk to Rob Zacny of the new podcast Esports Today on the Idle Thumbs network, for Shall We Play a Game?
Tom Bissell is the author of my favourite book on video games, Extra Lives: Why Video Games Matter, which I called "the finest account yet of what it feels like to be a video game player" when I reviewed it in The New York Times. These days, he is a writer for video games like Uncharted 4, The Vanishing of Ethan Carter, Battlefield: Hardline, and Gears of War Judgment.
On the most recent episode of Shall We Play a Game?, my podcast with former NPR producer and correspondent JJ Sutherland, we review The Magic Circle, a game with a whole lot of BioShock alums in the credits: The Magic Circle's lead designer, Jordan Thomas, was the creative director of BioShock 2, and he also led the design of Fort Frolic, possibly the most beloved BioShock level. He worked on BioShock Infinite, too. Ken Levine, the Irrational Games creative director, is listed as a voice actor. Scott Sinclair, the BioShock art director, is in the credits, too. I may have missed others. We also talk to Gavin Purcell, the supervising producer of The Tonight Show and an alum of Attack of the Show, about playing FIFA with Jimmy Fallon.
On the most recent episode of Shall We Play a Game?, my podcast with former NPR producer and correspondent JJ Sutherland, we review Lifeline, a game designed for the Apple Watch, and Fallout Shelter. I also talk to Cara Ellison, a game designer and critic, about working on Grand Theft Auto IV and Dishonored 2.