Confessions of a Backseat Gamer

video games

I don’t play video games, but I am a gamer, and these are the titles my husband and I love. This past March, when Amazon delivered a copy of Far Cry 5 to our house, I got really excited for my husband to come home from work. Far Cry 3 and its Blood Dragon spinoff were some of my very favorite games. The characters were compelling and well written, and the quests were worthwhile and unpredictable. I couldn’t wait for Matt to get home so he could pick up the controller and play for me. Because I don’t play video games. Or, more accurately, I don’t play video games alone: Matt and I play them together. He holds the controller, and we go through the game as if we are jointly holding the controller. We decide together which quests he’ll do, the general direction he’ll travel across the game’s maps,        …read more

‘Octopath Traveler’ Is Both a Nostalgic and Thoroughly Modern Role-Playing Game

Octopath Traveler

‘Octopath Traveler’ acknowledges its roots without ever being weighed down by them. Among fans of Japanese role-playing games, or “JRPGs,” the mid-’90s were among the greatest years in the history of the genre. At the center of this golden age was publisher Square — now Square Enix — and its masterpieces like Final Fantasy VI and Chrono Trigger. Despite the limited technology of the Super Nintendo console, the games were able to tell sprawling and emotional stories backed up by strategic, satisfying combat. The days of the 16-bit role-playing game are largely behind us, but Square Enix and Acquire joined forces to remind us why we loved them so much with the Switch-exclusive Octopath Traveler. It makes a brilliant first impression, with some of the most gorgeous art ever created for a video game, but its beauty isn’t skin deep — peel back the façade and you’ll find a nostalgic        …read more

‘God of War’ Is Action Game Perfection

God of War

‘God of War’ takes the longtime Sony series to new heights with a compelling story and amazing moment-to-moment combat. If I had to pick one current-generation console game that best shows off how much the medium has evolved in recent years, I would pick God of War, hands down. The latest PlayStation 4 exclusive is on a presentational level that would’ve seemed unfathomable not long ago. It pushes Sony’s hardware to a degree that makes many AAA PS4 games before it seem as if they were developed for a different, dated platform. The world is stunning, the animations are crisp to a point that even the little things are gawk-worthy, and the cinematics are breathtaking. All of this, the high production value, and top-notch look and feel, could have very well been wasted on the God of War franchise. It’s not that the series hasn’t been consistently good. God of        …read more

Nintendo Labo & Why Toy Construction Sets Are Great for All Ages

toy construction set

Whether you’re four or 40, toy construction sets have something to offer you. Nintendo Labo, the gaming company’s cardboard toy construction set for use with its Switch system, releases this month, and it’s unlike any video game peripheral we’ve seen before. Combining the “do it yourself” approach to building sets like LEGO and K’NEX with traditional gaming elements displayed on your television screen, Labo aims to stoke your problem-solving and creative fires while providing you worthwhile incentive in the form of a fully playable console game. It’s a brilliant idea, and in the weeks following Labo’s announcement, I saw a number of commenters make the same point: “I wish this existed when I was a kid.” Though it is certainly meant first and foremost for kids, Nintendo also encourages “kids at heart” to try it out. Labo and other toy construction sets are a great way for people of all        …read more

'A Way Out' Video Game Brings Back the Lost Art of Couch Co-op

A Way Out video game, games with friends

Chronicling a pair of inmates escaping from prison, ‘A Way Out’  puts a unique spin on the glory days of playing games with friends in one room. Somewhere during video games’ ascent from a niche pastime to a mainstream hobby, the way we play games with each other changed. It happened gradually, as online connectivity became a core focus for developers. Just like the rest of media, video games transformed into a medium dedicated to communities, to offering the tantalizing opportunity to play your favorite game with legions of people throughout the world. Although a welcome evolution, we lost something along the way as multiplayer gaming shifted online: couch co-op. As a kid, I sat on the couch with my brothers and sister playing split-screen multiplayer games. This was before online infrastructure had reached games in any widespread degree. And while I’ve spent my formidable years playing games online via Xbox        …read more

Requiem for the (Un)dying Nintendo 3DS

Nintendo handhelds

Counting down the 10 best games on the Nintendo 3DS. The Nintendo 3DS turns seven in North America on March 27. That’s an abnormally long life cycle in the realm of a handheld gaming system. And with approximately 72 million units sold worldwide (21 million in the U.S.), it makes sense why Nintendo would still want to support its aging handheld. Yet there’s a rather large elephant in the room — the massively popular Nintendo Switch, which doubles as a home console and handheld powerhouse. The brunt of Nintendo’s attention has rightly gone toward the trendy new platform that has taken the world by storm. Nintendo is trying to prolong the 3DS’s life with a brief but attractive lineup of upcoming ports like Luigi’s Mansion, Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker and Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story + Bowser Jr.’s Journey, but the docket of original games in the pipeline is        …read more

Lara Croft Is Back with a Vengeance in the New 'Tomb Raider'

new Tomb Raider

What to expect as Alicia Vikander takes over for Angelina Jolie in the new ‘Tomb Raider.’ Some of my earliest memories of video games aren’t of actually playing them. I have a distinct recollection of watching my childhood friend’s eldest sister playing the ’90s Tomb Raider series on their PlayStation. The original Tomb Raider games were iconic, famed as much for their imaginative stories as for their gameplay. It’s no surprise that over two decades down the line, Hollywood is rebooting the franchise on the big screen for the second time. But the kid version of me probably also intuited something more significant than the simple thrill of the stories. The fact that boys and girls were playing games with strong female protagonists probably struck me as an exciting change from the standardized boyish world of ’90s mainstream video games. In the hyper-macho world of other first-person shooters like Duke        …read more

Blaming Video Games for Violence: A Brief History

violence gaming politics

Politicians have been blaming video games for real-world violence for decades. On February 14, 2018, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz entered Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, and began opening fire with an AR-15 rifle. After Cruz was taken into custody, the death toll stood at 15 victims, mostly students, with two more dying later in the hospital. It was the work of a disturbed and radicalized killer who had ties to a local white supremacist group, enabled by the high-powered weapon he was able to easily acquire due to the United States’ gun laws. A short time after the attack, however, as many Americans began to question why Cruz was able to legally obtain such a dangerous weapon, those in positions of power pointed the finger elsewhere. Florida Congressman Brian Mast and Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin blamed games like Call of Duty. President Donald Trump spoke up as well,        …read more

Video Game Mods Let Gamers Build Their Ideal Experience

mod games

Modding (changing and adding to the code of a video game) creates infinite possibilities for gamers. In modern gaming, the state of a game as released by developers doesn’t necessarily determine its longevity. What often matters more is its potential to be tweaked, overhauled and even completely transformed by mods. PC versions of grand open-world adventures such as Grand Theft Auto V, Fallout 4 and The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim have maintained large player bases due to the commitment of their communities to modify games and, in some cases, change their identity entirely. Sandbox games like Minecraft, DayZ and Garry’s Mod constantly become different playgrounds depending on which mods a user equips. It may sound strange to some that games are being altered by their players. It may even sound impossible, or like some sort of cheat code. In reality, mods are largely created to funnel more enjoyment into the        …read more

‘Cuphead’ Revives the Magic of 1930s Cartoons

Cuphead

The dazzling new game ‘Cuphead’ showcases what makes the earliest animations so timeless. From the very moment you boot up the independent game Cuphead it’s readily apparent that you have stepped into a time machine and traveled to a different era. Right there on the home screen, a black-and-red-clad character with a teacup for a head stands opposite a blue-and-black-clad character with a matching teacup head. Both have bent straws coming from the surface of their cups. Cuphead and Mugman, respectively, arrive on-screen as the protagonists of a 1930s cartoons–inspired run-and-gun video game. And the game retains that wondrous, classic look from start to finish in what is not only an incredibly well-made video game but a reminder of the timelessness of cartoons from the dawn of the Golden Age of animation. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KAriv93tzI0 Cuphead opens with a picture book filled with wonderfully expressive drawings telling the tale of Cuphead and        …read more