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AK_the_Twilight Blog

The Last Blog

Gamespot is really where I feel I became a gamer. I have the fondest memories of talking with varied members of the community in which I was able to gain both friends and constructive criticism. It was awesome. Unions like the League of Reviewers were awesome. Getting an emblem saying I was one of the Top 100 Reviewers on the site was awesome. It was the kind of exceptional community support that helped me improve my writing and become a better reviewer and opinion-piece writer.

Once I branched off into full-on game writing at Default Prime, I noticed something. I noticed a growing pressure between the gaming community and the press who represent us in the public sphere. The gap between review scores from critics and the community were becoming wider. More and more feature pieces and segments (like the putrid Feedbackula) were being published in reaction to the community. Soon, every comment I saw from various editorial officials on this site was purely either a “thank you” to pandering praise or a smug, ego-inflating takedown of a hateful troll. The communication between intelligent members of the gaming community and this site’s editorial staff was dispelled.

It was here that I had become deeply involved in the gaming press. I broke a story for the first time while writing for Hardcore Gamer (which I no longer do, by a mutual decision), a story that no one had reported on until after I did. It was great. I felt like I dug up a gem and investigated thoroughly to find out about a game’s stealth launch last year. I got praise. My editors smiled and were proud to work with me.

Even better, beyond that story, I got comments from the community saying “thanks for reviewing this game that no one else would” or “I appreciate you answering my question.” Sure, I got messages from trolls or just people who disagreed with me. Some of these I admittedly didn’t know how to respond to, so I didn’t. But I don’t respond to comments to stroke my ego. I don’t dodge valid questions simply to save face, even if these comments might disagree with something that I believe. That’s not how interacting with the community works. I don’t know everything, but I’m not afraid to show that.

I doubt a single user who I knew from this site is still around to hear this. They’ve all left to bigger and better things. Seriously, I see posts here from 2013 or earlier marking departure. Someone leaves because the boards are clouded with trolls. Someone leaves because unions or featured blogs were dispelled. Someone leaves because a writer they liked was let go for whatever reason. The things that people were here for are gone, so the best decision is to cultivate the community back up. You’re not going to win any new or old hearts without some effort to communicate, and I simply do not see that here.

I’m tired of people looking down on the community, because I believe there’s a lot of intelligence in this world we call gaming. I learned this in the featured blogs, which shared many interesting and creative topics that the editorial staff may not have caught, but decided to leave in the miasma of a barren community. I learned this from comments that I read and nodded in agreement over, only to see them ignored while a bigoted troll managed to get attention from writers or mods instead. I learned this from people who are still on staff here, great people who’ve been nothing but kind to me on other social media, and are thankful for the praise that I give them (you know who you are).

But what I see here is a site in disarray, purposely ignorant of what the community can and has done to make gaming better. Gamespot is not Gamespot anymore. They haven’t done anything of worth for their readers in a long time, and in an age where the community is fresh out of trust for the institutions that deliver whatever news we see, I’m going elsewhere. There are many other sites that operate under independent rules, so news can get through smoothly and without distortion. There are Youtube channels like TotalBiscuit that deliver news and opinions with the community constantly in mind, never once thinking of a corporate or philosophical dogma. Go there. Go to where the community is the #1 priority. That is where you will find the same kind of good spirits that I saw here when I was in high school.

Never leave the gaming community. Never be ashamed to be a part of it. Be proud. Be happy. Love the gaming community. Help it grow. Help it live.

Leave a comment. Agree, disagree, whichever. I am open to whatever you say, because I believe in that.


Bet You Didn't Expect Another Blog From Me, Now, Didya?

Hey, folks. sure has been a while, hasn't it? More than six months?

My last blog on this site was back in October; afterward, I took an unofficial hiatus from the site. With most of my friends leaving the site and my own gaming writing moving on to bigger and better things, I did feel like Gamespot had become a shell of its former self. But I know there are still folks on this site, so I thought I'd check in with everyone still hanging around.

Since October, I've joined up as a staff editor for After Default Prime's implosion, I took a break from the professional gaming writing for a while, but around December, I rather haphazardly applied for contribution to the site. The editor-in-chief had apparently read my work on Default Prime and wanted me on board. Since then, I contribute three articles a week and I'm also eligible for reviews. My work is getting much more exposure now; let me just say that seeing a review you wrote on Metacritic is a very special feeling.

As an editor, I've written editorial articles about breaking news and gotten to write official reviews for a number of big titles including Cel Damage HD, Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Z, and even Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes. Hardcore Gamer really fills that void left behind after leaving Default Prime, but now, I feel even more fulfilled. I have an outlet when I can offer professionally published content and people will actually read it.

Aside from that, I've done the unthinkable and rebooted my Youtube channel, PostMesmeric. After getting into a rut during the production of one episode of Vidjagames, I left that thing in a state of disarray. But since then, I've met some folks that have inspired me to fix up the old Mustang and get it working again.

My biggest progression is the debut of my Mez Play series. It's a Let's Play series, but not in the same form as something like Two Best Friends Play. It's not a full Let's Play per se; instead, each video is essentially a highlight reel of different parts of my playthrough, ones that I pick, choose and edit myself. If you've ever seen Rooster Teeth's Rage Quit or Dexter Manning's DexPlay, it's essentially in the same format as those. Since getting the channel back running, I've made five episodes of the series. I've played games like Kingdom Hearts II, Mirror's Edge, and even a browser game where you play as Kanye West on Twitter. The most recent episode of Mez Play has me playing Ecco the Dolphin. It's embedded below:

In between these smaller projects, I'm looking to start streaming on Twitch again on my channel PostMesmericGaming (tentatively planned for Monday nights) and Vidjagames is set to make a comeback as well. I also am actively involved with the channel PowehButton, which is run by a wonderful lady named Almirmiel. I contribute to a weekly podcast on her channel, and once she is able to break her addiction to Elder Scrolls Online (fat chance), we hope to return to our co-op playthrough of Borderlands 2. She sure is super, and she's a big factor in what drove me to get the channel going again. She apparently thinks my Mez Play videos are very funny. That's definitely encouraging. :)

So that's really where I am right now. My sporadic visits to Gamespot revealed to me that there are still quite a few cool folks who've stuck around through the storm of changes, and that's pretty encouraging. I can't say that I'll be contributing or updating here as often as I used to, but I wanted to just keep tabs with the Gamespot survivors and let everyone know where you can find me. I actively use Twitter, so if you want to hear me be stupid through social media, you can find me at @PostMesmeric.

Take care, everyone. :)

5 Ways to Make Survival Horror Not Suck Anymore


Well, it's October, which means it's the one time of the year where talking about horror in video games is timely and appropriate, yeah?

Either way, horror is a very fun topic to talk about in video games, especially nowadays. It's hard to believe how far we've come since the sluggish polygons of Alone in the Dark and the tank controls of Resident Evil. There are lots of ways that horror has changed over time, but not all of them have been in the genre's best interest


5. Make You Feel Like You're Not In Control

While Resident Evil 4 remains one of my favorite games of all time and the scariest game I ever played, I still hear arguments from long-time Resident Evil fans who say that the tank controls of older games in the series are actually scarier than what RE4 has made the series today. After diving further into the subject, I can start to see where these "purists" are coming from. Resident Evil was in fact a scary game in a rather interesting way. The perspective came from a number of static camera angles overseeing the character. When you reached a certain point, the camera would automatically shift to another. This simulated someone watching through security cameras and switching their own view to another screen. As a result, the view implied that someone else was controlling the viewpoint from a remote location, as if they are watching you play the game.

This same idea actually appeared in a less horror-infused game Psychonauts. During the boss fight The Den Mother (boss of the already Salvador Dali-level of messed-up Milkman Conspiracy level), psychonaut hero Raz can use the Clairvoyance ability to access the viewpoint of The Den Mother while she's hidden in the dark. You then see what the boss is seeing; she attacks and Raz can then avoid her attacks. Even though this is a rather light-hearted moment, you still see a viewpoint of your character, with the camera completely out of your control. That's probably what makes this idea even more unsettling: you don't control the view. You're under the power of the game's will, a will that watches you and influences you constantly. It's definitely a technique that the industry has since abandoned, but it still has plenty of creepy life in it.



4. Show, Don't Tell

Giving a game's story context can be a great way in developing an expansive and involving game world. But on the other side of the spectrum, by not explaining anything, a mystery and ambiguity appears. As human beings (a species defined by our unique ability to use logic), we are not fond of not understanding something; it throws off our biological equilibrium. So when you don't have any sort of context, things get creepy: we inherently fear what we can't understand.

That's why horror games benefit immensely from this lack of context. Words are our most powerful ways to contextualize a medium, but horror games work best without words. Pictures are creepy when not paired with words. Once again diving into Psychonauts, the Memory Reels are some of the creepiest moments in any game I've seen. In each level, Raz can find bouncing vaults which, when attacked, reveal slideshow reels detailing dormant memories of the world's owner. These stories have no text; instead, they are dark, Burton-esque illustrations that tell incredibly unsettling stories. Sasha's premature discovery of his parents' sexual relationship, Milla's guilt of letting a group of orphans die in a fire and many other creepy stories. This use of illustrations is a juxtaposition: these dark, surprisingly mature stories are shown in a "picture book" fashion, something more suited for a child. By "watching" these, we are put into the role of a child; we instinctively become vulnerable to this sense of unknowing.

In horror games, it's the way to go. Use cryptic clues and a lack of concrete answers to further our exploration. Examining the environment creates context, but a context that remains ambiguous and unconfirmed. Why else would we freeze up when we are simply set into the level instead of led there by the hand?



3. Address the Player, Not the Avatar

When playing a game of pretty much any variety, you, the player, control a character, an avatar if you will. In these games (horror included), these monsters or NPC's talk to your avatar, be it Mario, Link, Master Chief, Nathan Drake or whoever. You play the role and the game addresses the player through that role.

But everyone now and then, that barrier dividing the game world and the player (the avatar itself) is broken. A character will no longer be talking to Mario or Link, but instead talking to the player, maybe like "hey, you with the controller!" or "don't you dare press that button!" This alone is a rather startling moment because the player is always outside looking in. It's like seeing a group of people having a conversation, then they all of a sudden start looking at you. It's a way of abruptly pushing the player into a game world instead of leading them in carefully.

This tactic has been used in games like Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door and Metal Gear Solid, but its most notorious use is in the horror classic Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem. Occasionally, as the player's sanity meter went down, the game would throw fourth-wall-breaking curveballs at you like showing a silhouette of an insect crawl on the screen, make it look like the TV's volume is being lowered, or the infamous "erasing" of the player's memory card. This is a prime example of giving the player fear not through their character, but through themselves. It's a shocking moment, but also a personal one. Not only are you involved, but you're affected, and being affected means that you have agency in the game. You are a part of the game, so if the world is threatening, it's not the avatar who's threatened: it's you.



2. Change Aesthetics Abruptly and Frequently

We've seen countless survival horror games reuse the same dark hallways and gloomy sewers. It's been a near-requirement since Alone in the Dark, and while they do provide a recurring sense of spookiness, what's especially creepy is when the aesthetics rapidly change into something else.

Here's an example I found in my favorite XBLA title, The Dishwasher: Vampire Smile. One of the bosses is The Invalid, a wheelchair-bound mental patient that cannot attack you directly. Instead, he just plains screws with your head. Right when the fight starts, the screen goes black and the game's graphics go all retro and become 8-bit quality. After a while of NES-style hacking and slashing, the graphics return to normal and The Invalid is mauling on your face. Quickly, the graphics become text-based, like an old DOS RPG. After a while, they then return to The Invalid making hamburger of your head flesh. Eventually, the battle ends and the monster is dead.

These sudden changes in graphic style and mood are extremely disorienting, but in a good way. It adds a feeling of unexpectedness and anxiety. This disorientation means that players are, in a sense, "off-balance." They have trouble adjusting to changes and the comfort of straightforwardness is gone. Think about when you first enter a new level of a game; there is a looming lack of assurance in it. You need a while to get used to things. However, when the game constantly throws new aesthetic design your way, you're in a constant state of disorientation and you feel less in control of your environment, even if you are. Of course, this method can be overused, so it's best to find a clean-cut time slot where changing the aesthetics works best. This varies from game to game, but it's clear that keep the world changing and keeping that unknown vibe alive feeds that anxiety, constantly making the player feel like a newcomer in their own avatar's skin.



1. Keep It Simple

This is probably the biggest issue with the fall of modern survival horror (or as I like to call it, "nu-horror"). Resident Evil 4, despite being a fantastic and memorable game, signified a shift from the claustrophic corridors and stiff controls into a clean, fast action-focused horror world. Over-the-shoulder targeting became a standard for many shooters and taking on a crowd of angry enemies came down to how good your aim was as opposed to how long you can run. Later Resident Evil games followed this template to a troubling low, with Resident Evil 5 and 6 not being scary in the least. Series like Left 4 Dead, Alone in the Dark and Silent Hill followed suit, abandoning the fear that the genre had been known for. The simple avoidance of enemies was replaced with bombastic action scenes that seemed more appropriate in a Michael Bay movie than a horror game. Constant ammunition and supplies made you feel like you could take on a horde of zombies, no matter how large. You felt empowered.

But when you're empowered, you become confident and...wait for it...brave. You feel courageous. You don't feel scared. Fear has been removed from these series because you have such huge arsenals, enormous inventory, or simply a friend backing you up. In this regard, this is why the indie community has done so well with horror games: with a smaller budget and less tech to work with, they have no choice but to keep the game's mechanics simple. They can't pack in a colossal helicopter escape scene because they don't have the money to do it. So instead, these developers use what they have available and let their design create the fear.

Games like Amnesia: The Dark Descent and SCP: Containment Breach are down-to-earth survival horror games. They don't clutter themselves with weapons and action sequences. Instead, you gotta hide. You have to avoid the enemies instead of confronting them. You have to use whatever small amounts of supplies you can find. Simplistic controls, simplistic design, yet you still feel afraid. By keeping combat (if there is any at all) simple, the game is able to focus itself on the fear, not the interaction with enemies directly. You feel powerless in this state; a simple man, by definition, doesn't have much special about him. He doesn't have hypersensory abilities or enormous resistance to damage; he's...simple. He's normal. He's a human, and with that, he's pretty defenseless. And when you have no defense, you are vulnerable to any monsters that hide around the corner.


Well, horror gaming may not abide by these suggestions to the letter, but I'm still eager to see where the genre goes in the next generation.

Take care, everyone!

Half-Life 3 Confirmed by Valve Bug Tracker Group


Wow, it seems that Valve posted two groups for tracking bugs, both dedicated to "Half-Life 3." If this proves true, then Half-Life 3 is actually in development. The bug-tracker is no longer up (whether by traffic or Valve themselves), but like a wise man said, "the internet never forgets."

I think it could actually be happening, friends. Cross your fingers.

Sorry about the abrupt post, guys. Take care!

How Rockstar Made GTA V Completely Immature

Before I get started, folks, here's the plug for my review of the Steam Greenlight game Angry Video Game Nerd Adventures!


Grand Theft Auto III was a pinnacle release for its generation; it pioneered a 3D perspective to its freely structured gameplay. From this view, the world was organic and personable to the player. You were no longer overseeing the mayhem from a top-down perspective like a kid with toy cars; you were controlling a fully modeled avatar and seeing the destruction from a closer view. It was enlightening and used the budding technology in smart and progressive ways.

But for all the things that Grand Theft Auto has done toward advancing game design since 1998, the series is still something of a taboo around the world beyond the flatscreen TV or LCD monitor. Its releases are clear targets for disgruntled parents, critical politicians and anyone who simply can't understand the brief attachments of satire sprinkled throughout the story. But that's a big problem with this satire; it's not broad enough.


You see, satire is a difficult thing to master. To make satire work, the audience needs to know two things: what you're parodying and the fact that you are parodying it to begin with. Take a look at one of the most iconic satire figures in modern TV: Stephen Colbert. Colbert plays his self-titled character on his show The Colbert Report; his character is a right-wing conservative, enforcing a number of Republican regimes such as the 2nd amendment and economic stimuli. There is no question how absurd his character's ideas are, but that's the entire point. He is intentionally making fun of Republicans to the highest extreme, and as a result, this extreme shows how ridiculous their ideas are. The problem? If you don't understand that he's making fun of Republicans, you'll fully support his claims. There are still many people who believe Colbert's hosting character is a true conservative. They think he's serious.

Here's another example. Remember the movie Borat, where the title character is singing the national anthem to Southerners, only to eventually change the lyrics so they empower America like calling other countries "little girls"? You see people in the crowd cheering, but once he starts getting into vividly predjudiced and insensitive jokes in favor of the America the crowd loves, they start cheering less? That's what satire does. It's an exaggeration. But if you didn't see that joke, you'll just think Borat is a forward, but hugely supportive America lover.

But satire in GTA has been tough to understand for the same reason stated above; you don't know if the game is serious or not. In that environment, an environment where the sense of mindless destruction is supposed to be a joke, why doesn't everyone get that? Because Rockstar doesn't seem to think it's a joke. They think they're abiding by their self-developed tradition.


Now I didn't like Grand Theft Auto IV as much as everyone else did. It was slowly paced to me and every interesting mission was interrupted with a transportation method that felt slow, padding the game with uninteresting travel mechanics. But despite my problems with the game, I could see an evolving vision with the game's protagonist Niko Bellic. Bellic was an incredible protagonist; he was violent, but he was a struggling man learning to find the American dream in Liberty City. He wasn't a psychopath. He wasn't out to cause destruction for the rush; he was causing destruction as a way of ultimately finding happiness and a sense of comfort and belonging in this alien city.

So when the three protagonists of GTA V appeared, I simply could not find any source of likability in them. They were psychopaths. The sense of persona seen in Niko Bellic was not present in GTA V. In a way, GTA V was a regression. Rockstar may have opened the city doors wider, but that playful destruction of GTA III and Vice City returned. The motion toward an artful and mature GTA was gone. Now, I mean mature in a sense of evolution and refinement, "ripening" if you will. Maturity doesn't come from mindless destruction; that's not maturity. Maturity is the vision of games like The Walking Dead, Thomas Was Alone and Shadow of the Colossus. It's a pondering sentiment. There's a big difference between a grown man going into an R-rated movie and a 12-year-old sneaking into the same movie.

Don't get me wrong: I don't oust immaturity. I loved Saints Row IV and I loved Conker's Bad Fur Day. They were immature, but they were fun. GTA V's lack of maturity is very noticeable because GTA IV was already so mature. The series was on a path to growth and full development; you could see that it wasn't about the violence anymore. GTA IV was the closest the series has been to art, but GTA V is nowhere near that. GTA IV proved that the series was the cult drama of open-world games, with Saints Row being the Adult Swim cartoon.

The biggest problem I can see with this lack of maturity is Rockstar's approach. They simply made the game bigger and have more things to do. Is that a bad thing? Of course not, but they sacrificed the artistic greatness that GTA IV was approaching. I didn't want to bring this up again, but Rockstar's story template is the issue. Why do we have to have the same protagonist running the show? Why does every secondary character follow the same stereotype? Why, Rockstar, are you so afraid to change your aesthetic?


Look at Red Dead Redemption, what is easily Rockstar's most refined and mature game to date. It was dramatic. It had some goofy humor in it, but you cared about what happened to the characters, mostly because they were diverse and not represented to some goofy stereotype. They were human. They were not just there for giggles. So why has Rockstar shifted back to first gear again? Is it that they thought John Marston's character wasn't edgy enough? Why abandon this sense of incredible progress toward making your series an art, not a science?

GTA V, from a design perspective, is great. It opens doors, offers options and gives the players a long list of things to do. But it's not mature. You can kill as many hookers and hijack as many cars as you want, but this isn't maturity. Violence is not inherently mature. Neither is racism, profanity or uses of drugs/alochol. Rockstar's latest offering forgets the lessons GTA IV showed to them. They've regressed, they've tread down a narrative road that's riddled with adolescent hypnotism, all while pleasuring themselves with their past successes instead of making steps toward something more meaningful.

And gamers wonder why games aren't considered art by the mainstream media.

Take care everyone!

Youtube Spotlight 02: redminus

I'm taking a break from the game-related drama this blog and sharing another awesome Youtube channel in my Youtube Spotlight segment. Before that happens, though, time for plugging! Got an older review for you all. Here's my verdict on Hell Yeah! Wrath of the Dead Rabbit on PSN!



redminus appeared on Youtube with Cranes, an experimental animation that, while good, was not really representative of the kind of animation his channel would later be associated with. He would later earn himself a huge hit with Marvel vs Capcom 3: Dante, a comedy animation in a multi-artist collaboration series where different characters from Marvel vs Capcom 3 would be profiled. It also featured Caxx, a voice actress who would later become a long-time collaborator with redminus. redminus also does a majority of the male characters' voices in his animations, with Caxx performing many (but not all) of the female roles.

Marvel vs Capcom 3: Dante was a big hit on Youtube and Newgrounds, but he didn't hit the juggernaut until Nyan Caxx, an animation detailing a surreal mindtrip by Caxx, who begins having bizarre visions and hallucinations after an extensive viewing of the Nyan Cat video lasting more than 10 hours. The animation was a technical spectacle; redminus' animation skill took many different forms from the space flight of Caxx to the multi-colored poison-induced delusion to the disturbingly sudden reference to the Hellraiser films. It was also a very funny trip through the dangers of overexposure to Nyan Cat.

redminus would later produce the animated opening to the videos for Pokemon master TheJWittz' channel. redminus also animates for Animeme (the channel where famous and infamous internet memes would get the animation treatment) and performs the voices for both Courage Wolf and Insanity Wolf.

Featured video: Goldeen Loves Guitar

redminus doesn't have many videos on his Youtube channel, but they're all incredibly funny and well-produced. After a long decision-making process, I chose to feature Goldeen Loves Guitar, a Pokemon parody where Pewter City gym leader and Jack Johnson-wannabe Brock attempts to demonstrate his acoustic guitar skills for Ash and Pikachu. A listening Goldeen becomes aggravated when Brock starts and stops playing, with Brock laughing at Goldeen's frustration. Eventually, Goldeen gets fed up with the taunting and takes action. Also, the video has an "epic air bass solo." Caxx plays the voices of Ash, Pikachu and herself (among other roles) in the video, with redminus playing the role of Brock (and some other cameo appearances). It's rather short, but the animation is incredible and it has a ton of funny, gif-worthy moments throughout. Watch the whole thing in the embed above and don't forget to watch it till the very end.

Take care, everyone!

Misogyny: You Have Failed, Internet

gta v

If you know me, you know that Adam Sessler (X-Play, Rev3Games) remains one of my favorite gaming culture personalities. I've liked him since Extended Play on TechTV and has become a major influence on my views of gaming. He's a brilliant and exceptionally eloquent man; in fact, he was probably the major tipping point that got me interested in professional game reviews. He stays in close communication with his audience and fellow reviewing community. Below are some things that I think everyone needs to see:

Hey noticing a lot of comments that my GTAV review is "the only one I'll watch" That's a terrible idea...

There are some excellent, thoughtful and sometimes contrary opinions from @jeffgerstmann @JimSterling @Polygon @TheEscapistMag @gamespot

I fully expect, in two weeks for many people to take issues with my feelings on the game, don't read/watch for reinforcement but to discuss

My review isn't "right" it is solely my honest thoughts, impressions and ideas from playing, same with all my colleagues.

This is a list of tweets submitted today by Adam Sessler, shortly after posting his own review of Grand Theft Auto V. I retweeted many of these tweets because they are shockingly appropriate to one of my previous blog entries "Why Nintendo Power Had the Best Reviews." In fact, he used the most important term I noted in my blog within his tweet argument:


What Adam is pushing is a discussion, not a case to prove who is right or wrong. He condemns the idea of using a single review or review outlet to determine a game's value. He encourages going to multiple gaming sites, many having different verdicts for Grand Theft Auto V (The Escapist gave the game a 3.5/5, in fact). This series of tweets is something I absolutely had to retweet. Why? Because it is literally what I was trying to say a week or so ago. Hearing such a powerful and influential figure like that demonstrate views similar to my own is enthusing.

But take a look at the Twitter names Adam drops in his tweet: Jeff Gerstmann (Giant Bomb), Jim Sterling (Destructoid, The Escapist), Polygon, The Escapist, and...


And this is the core topic I want to address in this blog. Editor Carolyn Petit reviewed Grand Theft Auto V for Gamespot, giving the game a 9/10, a slightly lower score than I had expected, but superb nonetheless. After this review went up, everyone began talking about one particular line in Carolyn's review, a note in "The Bad" that negatively pointed out the game's "profoundly misogynistic" subject material

After this appeared, a petition appeared on supporting the expulsion of Carolyn from the Gamespot staff. This parallels another online petition regarding Tom McShea that appeared after he gave The Last of Us an 8/10 score. But while Tom was just flamed for giving the game a certain score based on certain observations he made, Carolyn was flamed for letting political and personal views interfere with evaluating the game. Supposedly, Carolyn believed the misogynistic themes of Grand Theft Auto V's story was enough of an intrusion that it was worth noting as a negative factor in the game's evaluation. The comments in Carolyn's review bashed the review's content, the review's argument, and worst of all, Carolyn's gender background. The claim by commenters was that this particular gender background had skewed the review's verdict to an unfair degree. The petition itself was so chock full of sexist and offensive language that the petition was eventually taken down...twice.

So what does this say about our beloved internet?

It essentially says that the discussion is dissolved.

We are no longer judging games. We are judging people.

Now, I would disagree with Carolyn's review, and personally, I doubt that I would be that offended by the "misogyny" in GTA. Very much like Tom McShea's "panty shot" criticism in Rayman Legends, that sort of aesthetic feature doesn't phase me much on a critical level. However, Carolyn did not like that feature in GTA V...

...and that's perfectly fine. What the Gamespot community is doing is trying to take out their anger and frustration with not having their verdict supported by trampling over someone else's gender background. This isn't just a terrible thing to do, but it really doesn't ease this anger. No amount of derogatory language toward Carolyn will change the score. I've never met Carolyn, but I highly doubt that these attacks will cause enough emotional damage to obliterate reviewer integrity for the review staff at all, Carolyn included.

Seeing the former petition's comments was sickening. The people who posted reasons were some of the lowest forms of life I've ever had the displeasure of knowing they exist. They are literally fighting a losing battle against Carolyn's review, so instead of refining their tactics, they try to start another battle on an unrelated and personal issue. Not only that, but they're using cheap and offensive language.

I think that this obsession with review scores has devalued our gaming culture. Even in this world where you can see gameplay footage of a game before it's released (like in a Giant Bomb quicklook) or even an entire video walkthrough, we still put every bit of our faith into a number. I love writing reviews, but what happened today has shown the darkest side of obsession, the most putrid realm of internet judgment.

If you buy Grand Theft Auto V tomorrow and you disagree with what Carolyn mentioned, that's fine. If you agree with it, that's fine too. Like I said before, these are people reviewing the games. If you don't like the review, do not go after the person. Have some freakin' humility.

Take care, everyone!

Youtube Spotlight 01: Check out these channels!

Hey there, everyone! Before this blog starts, time for shameless promotion! Check out a double dose of reviews, including my thoughts on Playstation All-Stars Battle Royale on Vita and Saints Row IV on PS3!

Considering that I'm taking a break from professional game journalism for a while, I thought I'd make a (hopefully) weekly feature for my blog highlighting great Youtube channels I've found. Each week, I'll spotlight a Youtube channel that I believe is worth your time (or even your subscription). As a kickoff, here's a trifecta of Youtube channels that you should definitely check out. Here we go!



Jon Jafari debuted on Youtube in 2010 with a two-part review of the absurdly disappointing Daikatana game, but he didn't hit success until he started upping his production values and letting his outspoken and frantic personality start becoming the focus of his videos. He's reviewed a number of games since then, including but not limited to Aquaman: Battle for Atlantis, Sonic R and Final Fantasy XIII. His now-defunct website featured a number of other Youtube gaming personalities like the team behind The Completionist and the cast of Continue?.

Jon also became the co-founder of the famed Let's Play channel Game Grumps, in collaboration with animator/voice actor Arin "Egoraptor" Hanson, but retired from the channel after relocating to live with his girlfriend and to dedicate more time to future episodes of his own channel.

His video style has become his most iconic feature, usually featuring bursting text, shaking and inverted images and brief, but comedic image editing. His video style has been a major influence on other Youtubers like Brutalmoose and SpaceHamster. He is frequently joined in his videos by his pet robotic parrot Jacques, who has been known to die on occasion and reconfigure later in the same video.

Featured video: Banjo Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts

Jon has constantly expressed his love of SNES and N64-era Rareware games like Donkey Kong Country and Banjo-Kazooie, so when the newest Banjo-Kazooie game was announced, he was one excited fella. But like many of us, he fell for the ol' "bait and switch" once Rareware removed the series' platformer roots in favor of, as Jon said, "LEGO cars." Jon's writing reaches a wonderful high here, with the editing once again benefiting from his critiquing of the game's structure and constant influx of goofy humor. If you got introduced to Jon through GameGrumps, check out his channel to see some of the funniest videos you'll find on Youtube. Banjo Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts is his best yet.




Austin Hargrave joined Youtube in 2009 as PeanutButterGamer (or PBG, as he calls himself) with a video showing his Top 10 Weirdest/Creepiest Video Game Characters. Since then, he's made a number of iconic videos including his continuing series The G-Files, videos that highlight dark or creepy things in games like Minecraft, weird Japanese arcade games and The Legend of Zelda (including investigation of the Creepypasta "Ben Drowned" tall tale). He also has a series on his channel called To Kill an Avatar, which features videos about untimely or suspiciously exploitative deaths of characters in Pokemon, Zelda and Mario Party. He also is an avid creator of Top [insert number] lists.

His second channel PBGGameplay is a Let's Play channel where he's played games like Super Mario 64, Monster Hunter, Far Cry 3 (featuring his famed freakout over sharks), and The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (where he randomly witnesses the mysterious Headless Horseman after hours of searching).

He's adopted a video style in the same vein as his friend JonTron and also features his pet, a ferret named Pixel. His video for Cursed Mountain features a cameo from JonTron and his video for Weird Arcade Games #2 features appearances from Jirard "The Completionist" Khalil and Greg "The Mediocre-ist" Wilmot.

Featured video: The G-Files: Weird Arcade Games #2

Picking a single video from PBG's production list is tough, but if I had to pick one, it would have to be his return to the world of Japanese arcade games that reinforce the nation's very high weirdness quotient. To save the world from destruction (as reported by the Greg Wilmot-voiced alien), PBG must play a bunch of crazy arcade games from Japan like Parodius and its sexy sequel, Sexy Parodius. He articulates the freakiness of the games he plays "to the tea", making you actually want to play them. Angel pigs, milk that shoots cows and, of course, the "sexy bunny girl in a one piece on a rocket that shoots carrots." And a freakin' weird-as-all-sexy final boss.




After a couple of video game related channels, I'll add some spice to this one by talking about an animation channel. Yaaay! Jaltoid is the collaboration between Dalton Joyce and Emi Kuc, two up-and-coming flash animators who have made Jaltoid a rising hit among the animation community. They debuted on Youtube in 2012 with the six-second-long Happy Birthday Clark video, but since then have expanded their portfolio with some longer, but amazingly funny animations.

Their first smash hit was PewDiePie Commenters, a video parodying Let's Player PewDiePie, or more specifically his Bro army of frequently inept, impulsive and near insane fans. Future animations poked fun at internet culture like Responding To Trolls (which made fun of users who say they don't respond to trolls by...responding to trolls) and Most Beautiful Teen (a video parodying the Facebook popularity contest of the same name).

They have a number of recurring characters like Richard Dickson, The Hardcore Brony and Harold (the creeper). One of their most recognizable characters is Raj "supercodplayer1995" Kapur (voiced by Dalton), a gamer of Middle Eastern descent who constantly shouts about how he's "Number 1" and how he's "better than PewDiePie." supercodplayer1995 also had his own Let's Play channel, before Jaltoid combined videos featuring his commentary into their secondary channel, the Let's Play oriented JaltoidGames.

Their animation is very expressive with bizarre animations and random references to gamesand shows like Sonic the Hedgehog, Spongebob Squarepants and Panty and Stocking with Garterbelt. They also do all voices in their animations themselves (with the exception ofthe luchador in Most Beautiful Teen, which was voiced by their friend Luke "lukeuhcola" Ferguson. They also update their Tumblr frequently and don't like using DeviantArt. And before you ask, yes, they are dating and living together.

Featured video: Girl Gamers

After poking fun at the attention-demanding sort of female gamer in their video Girl Gamer, Jaltoid followed up their hit with Girl Gamers, a video where another female gamer (one who's much less interested in flaunting her female gender for attention) is hit on by Harold, the creepy gamer from the first animation. The "bloo sweatshirt chick", despite her desire to simply play the game, gets into an argument from the returning girl gamer from the first cartoon, with the male gamers looking on in perverted awe. Their writing is stellar here and the duo's voice acting talents are at an all-time high, with Emi arguing with herself as the two girl gamers and Dalton playing every male character (including a clear reference to NeoGeo fan Keith Apicary). Whether you're a girl gamer, a "girl gamer", or just a guy, this animation will leave you laughing.


Take care, everyone!

Why Nintendo Power Had the Best Reviews


The Volume 168, May 2003 issue of Nintendo Power is a very important piece of gaming literature to me. While it showed me a ton of awesome games like Golden Sun: The Lost Age, Pokemon Ruby and Sapphire and Ikaruga, that coverage is not why the issue is so important to me. On Page 10 in the Players Pulse reader fan mail section, there is one submission from a reader that connects deeply with me.


That email is actually from me. I sent this email into Nintendo Power when I was but a mere youngster of 13. I was still in middle school and I had just gotten into reading Nintendo Power, but already I was taking reviews incredibly seriously. I was beginning to compare different outlets' verdicts on certain games. During this time, I noticed video game reviews in my local town's newspaper in addition to those on the TechTV show Extended Play, the Adam Sessler-hosted precursor to X-Play.

That was ten years ago. Right now, though, I am rather embarrassed at how ignorant I was in this email. I seemed to consider Nintendo Power's review scores to be the true and absolute of the scores, with anything disagreeing with them being simply wrong. If any other publication was different, they were instantly considered inferior. The line "I still think you guys are the top in reviews" is probably the part that I'm most ashamed of today. My bias is clear as day.

critical mass

But the staff at Nintendo Power responded to my question with a great answer, saying that they've been surprised at other publications' scores, but also directing me to their Critical Mass section of the magazine. In case you're unfamiliar, Critical Mass is a display of each review staff member's preferred genres ranked from favorite to least favorite. While some love adventure games, others love RPGs. Some hate shooters, others hate sports games.

What makes this so important is that the Nintendo Power staff is citing their bias. They are not hiding behind anonymity and are clearly and publicly saying "some of us dont like these kinds of games." This is also essential in the Now Playing section, Nintendo Power's review section. Let's look at this review of Ikaruga for Gamecube:


Note that, instead of a single reviewer, there are five reviewers looking over Ikaruga. While some reviewers are clearly in love with the game, others found problems with it. In addition to each reviewer giving the game a score out of 5, there are also comments from some of the reviewers, briefly explaining why they gave the game that score. When combined with the Critical Mass section detailing each reviewer's preferences, it becomes incredibly easy to get an opinion from a number of different backgrounds and histories.


This is the best review system that Ive ever seen in my entire gaming life. Nintendo Power cracked the code in making a comprehensive evaluation of a game from a group of people with varied gaming preferences and histories. They also have the opportunity to explain their verdict in tune with their Critical Mass biases.

Now, Nintendo Power changed their review system around the time the Wii was announced, moving into a single score from a single reviewer representing the magazine's verdict on a game. I can't say I was happy with this decision, but with an evolving medium in gaming journalism on the rise, it seems that having a single grade was more efficient than having a discussion between gamers with multiple different gaming backgrounds.

But that's why the five-reviewer system worked so well. It wasn't a single standing verdict; it was a discussion.


It's also why modern gaming review systems are so flawed. You're having a single person represent an entire publication or website's opinion on a game. One bit of bias (a bias that isn't even clearly expressed like Nintendo Power's Critical Mass) can drive users' opinions of the site as a whole. Take the now infamous review of The Last of Us from Tom McShea. Now, I'm not going to bash Tom; he was doing his job, which was articulating his opinion on a game. But when that 8.0 score appeared on the page, the entire Gamespot community went completely mental. The users were not only denouncing Tom, but also the website itself, claiming that Microsoft paid off Gamespot to give their competitor Sony's first-party blockbuster a lower-than-expected score. What happened with that review was the complete indistinguishing of Tom as an individual and Gamespot as a whole. Now, Tom is an employee at Gamespot, so he is representing them as such, but this indistinguishing of Tom and Gamespot completely neglected to mention any sort of opinion from any of the other reviewers on staff like Kevin VanOrd or Chris Watters. What if they didn't agree with Tom's score? If they had other views, why vilify Gamespot as a whole as the problem?

The online ecosystem that we have today does allow for a discussion to arise, but it's spread across many different websites instead being used internally in a single one. Since these websites are competing with each other for traffic, the discussion doesn't become a discussion. It becomes a debate. It becomes someone trying to prove themselves right instead of exploring why others disagree with them.

And I think this all goes back to my teenage attitude in my email to Nintendo Power. I really thought Nintendo Power was the all-knowing Truth in the review world, and today, I'm still seeing people online who function the way I did back then. Gamespot doesn't give a game a score they want/expect; Gamespot is instantly labeled as "untalented" or "crap." They're playing favorites to validate their own beliefs; they dont want to be wrong, so instead of letting their opinion be their opinion, they vilify those who disagree with them.

The closest thing nowadays to a Nintendo Power review system are "second opinion" sections in publications, usually small blurbs from another staff member stating their views on a game, but these other staff members are not given a chance to explain their bias, they're not even given much room to write and sometimes they just agree with everything the first reviewer said. So, pretty much these second opinions are useless. You're just getting a random writer composing a very condensed agreement with the first guy.


When all is said and done, I think (despite some users opinions) that we are grouping these reviewers in very messy ways, treating them as representative sentinels instead of a varied collective of a greater whole. I can guarantee that Tom's verdict is not universal to the entire staff, yet the community treats it as such. I want Gamespot and all gaming journalism outlets to be open to discussion within their staff. I want them to have the courage to say "I dont like shooters," even when offering coverage on the next Call of Duty game. Say "I've loved Sonic the Hedgehog games for a long time" when reviewing Sonic: Lost World. Say "I prefer the PS3 controller to the Xbox 360's" when playing a multi-platform game. Stop hiding behind the internet anonymity; start making your own journalism forum into a more organic and free-form one similar to any old message board.

Don't treat this like a machine; give respect and importance to every individual part, no matter how big or how small.

And to everyone supporting that online petition to get Tom McShea fired from reviewing, quit wasting your time and grow up. Seriously.

Take care everyone!

The Wrong and Right Ways to Make a Breakup: Fictional Relationships

Hey, folks. Quick pre-blog plug: check out my review of Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 1 for PC here!

As bizarrely involved I've become with the fictional relationships of recent television programs, I've always come to the conclusion that the things that occur in them happen for a reason. Every individual part of brilliant epics like Scott Pilgrim have a sense of placement, a careful hand sets them in motion to make the rust on the gears dissipate and the whole machine moving smoothly. Extraneous elements are distracting and the understanding of a relationship is not based in sudden spikes in interest, but a careful slope that eventually leads to a slightly dangerous, but very exciting end result.

The last couple weeks introduced the unsettling realization that careful placement doesn't necessarily mean successful placement. Two television programs I've watched in the past couple weeks have featured relationships that ultimately crashed, leaving a gaping hole of uncertainty in their future. One performed it terribly, while another performed it marvelously.


The first was last week's episode of Adventure Time, "Frost and Fire." After seeing his girlfriend Flame Princess get into a fight with Ice King, leading man Finn has a dream where his is lit on fire. Instead of burning, however, Finn feels enthused and excited by it. In his awakening, he is convinced that he needs to see the dream again and organizes Flame Princess and Ice King to fight once more. Once again, they do and Finn continues to have disturbingly sexual fantasies while sleeping. Ultimately, he takes it a big step further, leading to a confrontation between Flame Princess and Ice King that proves more dangerous and destructive than before. After trying to stop it, Finn reveals to Flame Princess of his manipulation, causing her to leave Finn.

Now, Adventure Time has never been a show with an emphasis on realism. It's clearly fantasy, but in this episode, it tries to have that sense of realistic relationship dynamics seen in something like Scott Pilgrim. However, while Scott Pilgrim showed a positive sense of promise and two characters who are clearly willing to move forward together (flaws and all), Adventure Time made no such effort. It wasn't realistic; it was just depressing. The problem lies in how the writers approached this relationship. Finn and Flame Princess clearly had problems, mostly from Flame Princess's fire form and the recurring theme of withstanding pain (physical or otherwise) in order to find happiness. After episodes and episodes of buildup leading to a canon confirmation of their coupling, one act of petty, perfectly explainable deception led to an implosion on the relationship dynamic. These characters instantly become weak and unable to support themselves under their own stupid egos.

finn sucks

This is especially important regarding Finn himself, who has moved from goofy protagonist to someone who is easily the least likeable character in the series right now. Everything he's done in the season has shown a sense of egocentrism, selfishness and mistakenly impulsive thinking. He played God in "All The Little People", manipulating the mini folk to his own interests. He tried to erase the Lich's history in "Finn the Human/Jake the Dog" leading to a horrific alternate reality solved by Jake and Prismo. In "Too Old," he ignores his past mistakes and instantly starts hitting on Princess Bubblegum again. Every trace of maturity he earned throughout the series is destroyed here and he makes recent Adventure Time episodes suffer because of that.

But I'm not going to sugarcoat this and say that it should've been resolved happily ever after; nothing great has come from comfort like that. Obstacles appear, but the satisfaction comes from the ability to overcome those problems. "Frost and Fire" didn't show maturity. It didn't show personal strength. It showed how terribly fragile these characters are and how one misstep can ruin everything they've built up. It was abrupt and rather petty; I couldn't sympathize with these characters when one misunderstanding can demolish months of hard work toward building something up like that. Its resolution is uncertain, but right now I expect Finn to mess up again, and instantly forget about it, move on, only to screw up again.


This week's Regular Show was equally depressing, but it was here that you could see maturity in its characters. In "Steak Me Amadeus", Mordecai and Margaret, now fully involved in each other's romantic company, go to a local steak restaurant to celebrate. Mordecai wants to officially ask Margaret to be his girlfriend, and with some help from his fellow employees, gets enough coupons to pay for an expensive dinner with Margaret. Upon arrival to the dinner, Mordecai and his friends are imprisoned, accused to be using counterfeit coupons. In an effort to continue his dinner with Margaret, Mordecai searches for the criminal mind who manufactured the counterfeits, only to discover it to be those crazy mechanical animals from that "Fuzzy Dice" episode. In a barrage of gunfire, Mordecai takes cover with Margaret and asks her to be his girlfriend. Margaret replies in happiness, but shows him an acceptance letter to her dream college. Despite their loving feelings for each other, Margaret's one chance at a great future is the only thing preventing her and Mordecai from being together. Margaret runs off in tears and Mordecai is crushed. The final scene has Mordecai mournfully staring out at the park, joined by Rigby.

This was a really sad episode, because it once again had incredible progress and buildup in past episodes. But in contrast to Adventure Time's terribly pitiful characters, Regular Show made this entire situation feel real and believable. Up till now, it took a lot of guts for both Mordecai and Margaret to admit their feelings for each other, but it made the series dynamic and the payoff all the more enjoyable. Here, it was sad, but none of the characters treated it like some game. Mordecai's shocked expression, Margaret running out of the restaurant crying, and the employees watching as it all happened showed that this was something very meaningful to all of them. It never felt disposable.


Mordecai and Margaret knew full well of the obstacles that could've wrecked their relationship; they've been through a lot together over the last four seasons. Embarassing voicemails, love triangles, bears wearing Kaiser helmets, time paradoxes and the Friendzone have all gotten in between them...but they didn't give up. When this bombshell hit, it was heartwrenching, but at the end of the day, what mattered to us is that this mattered to them. You can make the most perfect relationship, but when it means nothing to the characters, there's no point in making it. That's why Regular Show's depressing ending was valid, while Adventure Time's wasn't. It was sad hearing of Margaret's departure, but even without the recurring idea that she could return, this episode was meaningful. It was complete. It gave this sadness a reason to exist.

So what do these episodes mean to us as viewers? They show the wrong way and the right way to approach a heartbreaking relationship severence. What we see here is Adventure Time's terrible motif of mystery and meaningless character relations and Regular Show's mastery of making something truly saddening into something purposeful and justified. I could care less about what happens to Finn right now, but for Mordecai and Margaret, they've shown a real relationship, one that you should really care about even when it's supposedly over.


Take care, everyone!