Here's hoping 2010 is off to a good start for everyone. It would be great if this was the last New Year's Eve we'll have to suffer those idiotic novelty eyeglasses, but somehow I don't see that happening. Alas.
-Like "a game that will make players cry," one of those long-sought measures of cultural legitimacy has been "game reviews in the New York Times." What more could you need for a seal of approval than coverage in the paper of record? Unfortunately, Seth Schiesel still seems to feel the need to grovel to the Times' august readership. His review of Dragon Age buries some good observations under so much hyperbole that an IGN editor might call it excessive. He calls DA "perhaps the best electronic game yet made," which is not to be confused with The Beatles: Rock Band, which was merely "the most important game yet made."
Look, I get where he's coming from. Long ago, I noticed that the more highly I praised a game, the more likely my editors were to tease it on the paper's front page. Sometimes I have to resist the urge to overplay a positive review for that reason, and sometimes I feel the need to explain why a negative or middling review of a big game might still deserve promotion. I can only imagine what incentives Seth has to try to convince his editors, and his readers, that this column is worth their time. But while I don't doubt his sentiments about Dragon Age, he sounds like he doesn't trust his readers to get it without so many adjectives.
Put it another way: I don't get the same sense of desperation for acceptance when Manohla Dargis goes nuts for Avatar.
-One of the good ones, Gary Hodges, has returned to write for a new site called GeekWeek, kicking things off with a 2009 year in review. He's joined there by some former Joystick Division bros, from back before that site went to shit (and, it should be said, became massively more popular). I'll be keeping an eye out for this one.
-I'm still enjoying reading about Modern Warfare 2's single player campaign, especially because it combines so much deft execution with so many idiotic ideas. Tom Cross has a great essay on MW2 at his personal blog, who rightly excoriates everything to do with the dialogue, storyline, and characterizations. And it's not that anybody played this game for the characterizations, but Tom's trenchant observation is that the game does seem to assume that we cared about Soap and Price the first time around.
(To be fair, though, on HBO's Generation Kill, which I assumed to be fairly authentic in its depiction of wartime, they say "Oscar Mike" just as much as they do in this game.)
-We talked about it a bit on the Brainy Gamer podcast, and now you can read Tom Bissell's piece on difficulty in Demon's Souls at Crispy Gamer. It's obviously an exaggeration to say, as I did on the podcast, that games weren't fun when I was a kid, but it's very much true that once you knew how to beat them, most of them took about 20 minutes to get through. All the replay value came from how hard they were to get through. You just had to keep throwing yourself at them over and over, maybe for months.
(And nothing about Demon's Souls sounds fair to me, not remotely. No pause? A guy who kills all the merchants, rendering your in-game currency useless? Higher-level players who can come into your game at any time and kill you? What the hell would make this game unfair?)
-I broke down and bought tickets for PAX East before early-bird pricing ended (you can still buy three-day passes for $50 each), so I will probably see a bunch of you there. I've never been to something like that before. I don't really know what to expect. Since it's in my hometown, I've been flirting with the idea of throwing some kind of pre-show bash the night before, but I don't know. Does anybody even show up early for these things?
Before anyone asks: no, you can't sleep on my couch.
To the weekend!