Friday, October 28, 2011

The Armchair Gamer Podcast SpecialSode #1: Halloween Horror!

This week on the Armchair Gamer Podcast, we have a special episode. Rather than discussing the boring old news of the week, we (Nick Schneider, JJ, Michael Fox, John *Jman* and myself: Braden Fox) discuss horrorifying games. This discussion isn't limited to horror games, per-se. In fact, as you will see, we go into the very concept of fear as an emotion experienced while playing any game. Join us on this quest into the darkest corners of our mind, won't you?
Listen here:
Or, help us conserve bandwith and check it out on iTunes and drop a review!
Braden Fox (Me)!/Gamebeast23456 Also, I write news articles for
Nick Schneider (TOGNick)!/TOGNick He writes for a website:
JJ (The Journey Man)!/Thejourneyman66 He's Lazy and Does Nothing... :)
Jon Gregory (Jman240)!/JMan240 And He Edits This Battlefield Website Or Something
Also, please check out the blog:
Music In This Episode:
Dead Space Music: I've Got You Devolving Under My Skin:
Dancers On A String (From BioShock):

Sunday, October 23, 2011

A Response To A Game Design Aspect of The Month Post: Microtransactions!

Last month, a post on a blog I respect was made about the concept of microtransactions. Not only did this article have a good, and blessedly brief, description of microtransactions- it posed some very important questions, questions I feel many developers (and publishers) should consider more closely, if they care about being fair to their consumers. I hope at least part of the industry is worried about not being jerks, though there isn't much evidence to support that concept.

(First, before you go on, read the blog post here)

The question I personally want to concern myself with (though there plenty of good queries in this blog) is this:
"Do microtransactional games prey upon gamers' (or children's) addictions?"

My feelings on this are very strong. Personally, I feel games like FarmVille are extremely insideous in design. Unlike retail or downloadable games, where you have a set price you have to pay, FarmVille is marketed as a game where you don't have to pay anything for the game. And, practically, that is true. You don't have to pay for anything; it's possible to play and enjoy Farmville without paying for it. However, you are at a very noticeable disadvantage if you do not take part in the microtransactions. Once you get hooked on the game, there is a very, very good chance that you may find yourself spending small amounts of money to get upgraded tools and plants and other such things just to keep your competitive edge against your friends. Also, I should point out the fact that Facebook is an equally insideous place to put the game. After all, you are constantly bombarded with reminders from your friends and the game itself that you need to keep playing, and you really should spend some money on a new tractor, while you are at it.

Our brains are wired very precisely. We love having specific objectives and goals we need to accomplish; the reason that we are so goal-oriented is simple, we had to be goal-oriented to survive. And since your mind really only does have a limited capacity to consciously seperate a virtual space from reality, you could very likely find yourself taking the most efficient route to succeed in FarmVille. The cash route.

Of course, I understand that every game has similar incentives to keep you playing, and to keep you wanting to enjoy a product. Leveling up, unlocking areas, having complex puzzles that almost give you a sort of high when you solve them, these are all methods constantly incorporated in games to keep you playing. But, as this article points out, what seems like a small amount of money at the time has a way of stacking into piles of money that could finance the exploits of a James Bond villain.

But, then again, these games are loved by a lot of people. Maybe I'm just cynical, that's all.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Grand Theft Auto 3: Leaving Behind A Trail Of Controversy.

As some of you probably know, the 10-year anniversary of the release of Grand Theft Auto 3 is upon us. If you didn't know, Rockstar's official twitter has no doubt made it very well known to you. When we look back on this very, very influential game we see two very distinct ways that this title impacted gaming. The first, and most obvious, is mechanically. This game literally created a subgenre, innovated in ways that many influential games can hardly dream of. And then, of course, one remembers the controversy surrounding this game.

One of the best articles I found regarding this whole legacy of controversy was from a controversial news site, Kotaku ( Not only does this article do a fine job of highlighting one of the earliest instances of someone blaming GTA for being objectionable, it also points out that the very objectionable content the mainstream media points to really doesn't exist. The article points out that the crimes committed in the game's narrative were not any worse than what has been observed in many crime movies, and many crimes are actually avoidable. Also, it mentions the ever-apparent fact that the game was not marketed toward young children. THERE'S AN M FOR MATURE ON THE BOX. No one's trying to sell the next Grand Theft Auto to little Billy.  

I think this anniversary of GTA is a good time to be reminded of how games are still portrayed by the mainstream media. If the fiasco with Bulletstorm was any indication, the same unfounded prejudices present in 2001 exist today. Perhaps, because of the enhanced graphics and gameplay, these harmful stereotypes are more present then ever. When well-animated brains spray out of people's heads in many popular games, it's easy enough for FOX or MSNBC or CNN to take all the sophistication behind games like GTA or even Bulletstorm away (because they can) and conclude that they are nothing more than toys that aren't even appropriate for kids. And, as long as people eat up these misconceptions like first-class ribs, there is no reason for these news agencies to stop printing and reporting falsehoods about an industry that's very, very promising and is trying to find it's footing throughout the world.

Since when was it "acceptable" for large news sources to blatantly lie about topics that are important to many people (such as game devs who need to sell enough of a game to keep a job for themselves and their families) because it increases ratings? It's a sick practice, and I hope some day we can stop all the media manipulation of facts.

Metro 2033 Review: Overlooked Brilliance

Game: Metro 2033

Genre: FPS, Survival Horror

Console played on: PC

Rating: M

Every once in a while a game will come along with enough guts and balls big enough to slip past my guard and steal my heart from right under my nose, (Don’t ask why it was there, Trust me you don’t want to know.) Metro 2033 is the latest member of those thieves’ heart burglars.

Visuals: Graphics wise, Metro 2033 is fairly pretty looking game (With the exception of a few character models here and there, and the fact that all of the characters tend not to blink that often) but, its aesthetics are what really make it a beautiful game. Everything in the game feels like the apocalypse swept in not too long ago and left the world (or at least your part of it) in shambles. Everything from the environments you go though (like the dark, gloomy and decaying metro system you travel most of your way and the bitter, icy-cold, nuclear winter on the surface), to the people you see in the metro station, to the weapons and items you use, have the feel of an apocalyptic depression to them and not in a gray-brownish kind of way.

Story: Metro 2033 is based off of the Russian book of the same name and while that is cool (And I suddenly have a hankering to read said book) it does leave the game with a few holes in explaining thing. For instance the game doesn’t really explain what the mutated monsters were before the apocalypse or why there’s a war going on in the metro  between Communists and Nazis, or even how the Nazis got there all of which I’m guessing was explained in the book.

Gameplay: Starting off the gunplay is very solid; most of the guns in the game feel good to fire (With the exception of Pheumatic weapons which I found to be pretty useless) I did find that regular Iron sights a lot better than the scopes (though that could just be me.) Depending on what difficulty you play it will be either plentiful or not.
 The enemies consist of your basic human (I’m fairly sure you’ve heard of them) Opponent to a somewhat wide variety of mutated monsters (By “somewhat” I mean most of them are a grayish color but they form into a bunch of different shapes.)
In the future, this is what librarians look like.
In the game your main source of currency is military grade bullets. You read that right bullets=money… Well kind of. “High grade” ammo is your money; dirt ammo (Basically the crappy quality ammo) is what you use on most enemies. When you get to friendly metro stations you can spend your money ammo on items (gas mask filters, throwing knife, grenades and medkits), Dirt ammo and better weapons. This gives the game some light RPGs elements in a way. Will you spend money on more dirt ammo? Maybe some throwing knifes, a better gun perhaps? Maybe just save it up for the next station. Who knows maybe you’ll find a better weapon later on.

Throughout the game you will also find certain levels that can be completed in a more stealthy way (Most particularly during the “Front Line” mission) and there are routs past enemies but I felt like there’s nothing really to distinguish as the “Stealthy way” to complete said mission and I tended to only find them after I had already killed a bunch of guards.

One thing I absolutely loved was the well thought out items that you use throughout the game. For instance, you want to check your current objectives you press the objectives key and it brings out a note-book and lighter. By pressing the right mouse button/360 trigger you look at your current objectives and by pressing the left button/trigger you flip your lighter on in order to see it better.

Are you about to go to surface? Not without your trusty gasmask you won’t! During surface missions the gasmask provides some extra tension as you keep track of your gauge, filters and how much damage your gasmask takes. Now I never actually ran out of filters since there is always a dead body around I could loot for them and there’s usually a spare gasmask around to replace your damaged one but, I still had the feeling of “am I going to make it to the end?” whenever I went to the surface.

One item I especially liked was the watch. Your watch is kind of the Swiss army knife of the metro. When you put your gas mask on it tells you how much air you have (though I found this to be flawed since it always seemed to be in the red even when I put in new filters to my mask), It comes with three LED lights (Red, yellow and green) which act like the light crystal from Thief and tells you how hidden you are and Last but not least, it tells time. Not in game time but actually time (or you know what ever time you set your computer’s/360’s time to) seriously, it actually acts like a real watch!

Checkpoints could have, no,should have been done frequently. At times I would find myself begging for another one to appear before I got myself killed (Which I knew would be very soon). That’s one of my mains flaws against the game outside of it killing off most of the characters before I got to know them more.

Final Thoughts: Metro 2033 has impressed me, which, isn’t an entirely easy thing to do. The game has its flaws such as: it could do with some more frequent checkpoints and the main storyline had a few holes when it comes to explaining some things but it’s the best example, I’ve seen, of elements in game telling a much grander story than the story in game.


Is It Time To Evolve? (A Look At Genre In Games And It's Relation To How Games Are Perceived)

I am a huge supporter of the idea that video games, a media that was created as an electronic toy, is quickly evolving into an artful medium (I'm not going to go down the road of the whole Video games are/aren't art dicussion, because it's done to death.) The focus on atmosphere, story, and other experential elements is increasing greatly this generation of games, and with that arises several problems that have existed since the inception of video games. The problem I am speaking of today is this: Video games aren't defined into genres by the experiences they offer, or the themes that they deal with in the game, they are defined by gameplay mechanics. They aren't categorized by the experience you have with the game, necessarily, they are categorized based upon the vernacular (game mechanics) that game developers use to transfer ideas and stories.

In the early years of video games, the setting up of genres based upon gameplay mechanics made more than enough sense. After all, not only was the technology behind video games extremely primitive, games were toys. Even the people who spent time developing games were keenly aware that what they were making was nothing more than a toy, a piece of entertainment. A basketball isn't advertised as an object that you can create great stories with, because it's just a toy. It has only one intended function; no one promises you anything more than something you can play basketball with. The same principle applies to early games. In Super Mario Bros. you were performing a series of platforming challenges to accomplish a goal. That's all. No doubt, it has fantastic design and is an all-time classic, but it's very apparent that this game exists solely have fun.

And for a while, this idea of defining games based upon their mechanics worked fine. Even very sophisticated games, like Final Fantasy or Deus Ex, still were very refined versions of a basic style of game. The complexity of games until around this generation was still limited to something that could (usually) be comfortably described using this system of genres. However, in many cases, this is no longer true.

I'll do something I'm a big fan of. I'll use BioShock, because it's a very good example of a game that succeeds on a mechanical and artistic level. Now, if you wanted to, you could still identify this game as a first-person-shooter; a game where you use guns to defeat enemies in a first-person perspective. However, defining this game like that does it a huge disservice, one I find almost offensive. Because Call of Duty is a first-person-shooter, as well. Defining Call of Duty and BioShock as "similar" games, is like saying a more recent Stephen King novel and Edgar Allen Poe short stories are similar. Call of Duty is NOTHING like BioShock, beyond the very shallow comparison that both are games that require you to shoot at people in a first-person-perspective. The whole purpose of BioShock is that it's a unique experience in a dark, compelling world. It's an intense, philosophically charged game that has so little in common with COD it's like night and day. So why are they both classified as the same type of game? Because of that old, outdated idea that video games are toys that exist only to provide basic experiences of say, shooting a guy and jumping from one platform to another. It's that mentality that causes games to be looked down upon. How could you accept a medium at all as a form of personal expression (or of, *sigh* aaaarrrt if you must) when it's defined by mechanics, not experiences?

I'm not saying that games need to have higher meaning than being fun just to fit them into a different genre system.I love shallow experiences where I can just shoot bad guys and not worry about heavy-handed experiences as much as the next video game blogger. All I'm saying is that, maybe, it's time for us to look past a game's mechanics alone to determine what kind of experience a game truly is, and put it in a genre accordingly.

Friday, October 21, 2011

The Armchair Gamer Podcast Episode Five: David Cage Is A Poser, Man.

In this episode of the Armchair Gamer Podcast, we discuss Batman Arkham City being freaking awesome, what DC heroes should get a video game makeover, why I don't like David Cage's attitude toward games and the direction that he wants to take our industry, and a lot of other interesting, in-depth conversations about the future of video games.

Listen to the podcast here:
Or download it off iTunes here:


Braden Fox (Me) Twitter:!/Gamebeast23456
Nick Schneider (TOGNick) Twitter:!/search/TOGNick Blogs:

And the comic he spoke about:

Listener Question Of The Week:

This is assuming alot, but if you are listening to this podcast and you want to be associated with it, we have a way for you to do so effectively. It's called the listener question, and I'll try to do one every now and again. Here's this weeks double-parted question:

DC has basically confirmed that a DC-comics based game will be coming out next year. However, at the time of this writing- the exact name is unconfirmed. What DC comics franchise would you like to see ported to a game?
Also, who do you think could replace Mark Hamil as the voice of the Joker?
Just drop a comment, or hit us up at

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Armchair Gamer Podcast Episode Four: Superman64- Best Game Of All Time... (And Other Blasphemy)

This week on AGP we have Michael Fox, Nick Schneider, JJ, and myself (Braden Fox) as the hosts. We discuss Batman Arkham City's online pass, Mass Effect 3's online, how we are going to occupy the game industry, my man-crush on Ken Levine, and how awesome Superman64 is.
Also, if you are somehow offended by anything that is said in the podcast, I deeply apologize for whatever...

Listen to the show here:

Also, go to iTunes:


Intro: MC Lars "OG Original Gamer"

Outro: Valve Theme


Braden Fox (Me) (Gamebeast23456) Twitter:!/Gamebeast23456

Michael Fox: Twitter:!/MichaelFox00

JJ Twitter:!/Thejourneyman66

TOGNick Twitter:!/TOGNick

(By the way, we're stepping up this podcast very soon. TOGNick is getting a new means of recording the show that doesn't suck, we're going to start organizing better, we're getting a Facebook and a blog. I am excited for next week, where a fantastic episode will be recorded of the Armchair Gamer Podcast. Thanks for listening.)

The Armchair Gamer Episode Three: "Picasso" Says The Shadow Gamebeast!

Ladies and gentlemen, the three hosts of the Armchair Gamer Podcast are silly individuals who enjoy just rambling on comicly. We all do. So in this laugh-packed episode, we not only cover a record number of video-game related topics, we also go bat-crap insane. I realize that I have an unseen darknesss in my soul, we discover our own Dan Stamp, and we reminisce about how someone forgot to sign the user agreement. Not only that, but we cover some diverse topics in the games industry today. Join us on this magical ride through space and time itself!

You can listen to the magnificient podcast at this page!

Topics We Discuss and their links:

Team Bondi About Done For:

IPhone 4S Announced:

Valve Gives Us Free Stuff:

Double Fine Makes Every Other Studio Look Like Jerks:

Steve Jobs Death
Some very talented people work marginally hard every week to provide you this service that is the Armchair Gamer. Here are some bloody

Show Plugs

Gamebeast: I write for an indie website called where I write news articles. Also, if you use the twitter you can follow me right here:!/Gamebeast23456

TOGNick: He writes for cash money at a website called go and support the son of a gun. Also, if you use Twitter- don't hesitate to follow him!/TOGNick

Thejourneyman: Sadly, he doesn't get paid to write, or even writes as a hobby.. Sad face. Anyway, you can still follow him on the Twitter machine:!/Thejourneyman66

Some Show Notes:

1) We are still looking for guest hosts to join the madness. If your interested on being on the podcast, please leave a comment on this blog or my profile page.

2) If your interested in making a basic logo for the Armchair Gamer Podcast, I will give you something as a reward. No idea what... Something.

3) We're currently in the process of getting an interview with a guy named Christopher who is a game developer currently working on an indie PC title: Imagine Me. We may have to phone in his performance. If so, cool.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Armchair Gamer Podcast Episodes One and Two.

These are the first two episodes of my videogame podcast. These are only the first two episodes of my first podcast. Expect a lot more episodes and podcasts. Here it is, boys and girls.