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darkspineslayer Blog

Pokemon, GO: The power that's inside Gamification

Pokemon Go, the Augmented reality mobile game that brings Pokemon onto the fields and streets of this planet hasn’t officially launched in every major country yet. One thing has become very clear already, though. We all live in a Pokemon world.

It’s taking over social media, lunch breaks and commutes. New trainers of all walks of life, meeting up by chance at local poke-spots in the quest to catch ‘em all. While the stories of strange and horrifying situations like the woman who found the corpse instead of a Goldeen will crop up, what’s far more interesting to me is the social implications.

The ideas and systems behind Pokemon Go are not totally new. Many of the poke-spots, gyms and the basis of the game are almost air lifted from the last game developer Niantic created, Ingress. A game that birthed many of the ideas found within Pokemon Go, but had limited reach. Raise your hand if you knew what Ingress was before this came out? Anybody?

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Already topping the charts in the App stores where it’s properly available, and tons of empirical evidence showing the boom available to anyone who cares to look, Pokemon hasn’t had this kind of reach since the 90’s. All off a concept largely lifted from a far more niche mobile game. This certainly speaks to the power inside Pokemon as a brand, and perhaps, further legitimizes Gamification as a concept.

IGN’s Terri Schwartz made a case for Pokemon Go as the greatest incognito exercise app available in a recent column, which I would have to agree with, but my immediate question is ‘why?’. The best answer to my mind, is Pokemon Go has given a secondary goal to pursue. One of the approaches to applying game design to an every day activity, or gamification, is setting a goal to pursue an end.

I must admit I fell to the lure of the tactic myself. I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t get nearly as much physical activity as I should. Pokemon Go, however, was the primary goal of me taking a walk today. Even though it ended with an unneeded stop to 7-11 probably undoing the whole thing, I went for a walk for no particular reason other than to see what kind of journey I might have on the way to becoming the very best.

This is a powerful, psychological thing, taking something mundane or even outside the realms of something one typically enjoys, like walking for me, and turning it into something engaging. I wasn’t forced into going outside by the app giving me an arbitrary order or schedule telling me it was now “work” time. The only difference between today, and yesterday when I did very little physical, is this small carrot. A little extra goal that made work into fun.

Reach is where the Pokemon magic comes in. Ingress had this magic, sci-fi thing going on, but without question, very few series can boast the cross-generational staying power and popularity of Pokemon. The power of gamification is still being figured out, but nobody can argue against the ability of popular media to influence cultures and bring people together.

Pokemon is one of the few with not only the brand awareness to pull it off, but also the in universe logic to make it work. The DNA of Pokemon, what captured our imaginations since they stormed the planet 20 years ago, is the concept that these creatures could live alongside us, found in the fields and streets, collected and befriended. Actually putting these creatures in our world, even in an artificial, augmented way? It’s tailor made to capture the imaginations of those who grew up with Pokemon and those who still are growing up with it.

Pokemon has had a social effect since the beginning as well. Though trading and directly battling isn’t (yet) part of the Pokemon Go design, we’ve already seen communities form around the game, cataloging Poke-spots, teams collaborating and conspiring to take down territory controlling gyms and just plain old running into each other as they’re out in the wide Pokemon world.

The exciting part, this is only the beginning. The nature of being a mobile app means we can likely expect updates for many years to come, and years of content to keep things fresh. Games and game design have been bringing people together for a long time. What a few very simple game design elements can mean to influencing things much larger than themselves, such as getting a population to reconsider staying on the couch, could change lives.

New Upload: Playstation All Stars review!

Perhaps some of you are familiar with my recent youtube experiments, perhaps some of you aren't. This is the third in a new series of reviews, mainly unscripted, talking frankly about my thoughts on a game. We branch out to the Playstation Universe in the most direct way possible by talking about a celebration of that universe.

Please leave a comment, maybe a like. Subscribe if you want to see more. Until next time, Stay Classy Gamespot.

Metal Gear Rising review

Metal Gear Rising Revengence

Platform reviewed: PS3

Very few series in gaming can have the privilege of standing among the elite likes of Mario, Sonic, Megaman or several other long running franchises, and even fewer can boast such pedigree as Metal Gear. Kojima's opus has some terrifyingly devoted fans, so it wasn't particularly surprising to see some of them wary of moving from tactical espionage to blunt force. Platinum came through with something that is decidedly Metal Gear and all it's own at the same time.

Several years have past since the events of Metal Gear Solid 4 and the fall of The Patriot's hold on the world at war. Foxhound protege turned cyborg badass Raiden has returned to the battlefield with Maverick securities. Charged with defending an African Prime Minister and building their own army up, things go south when a mysterious cyborg duo working with Desperado mercenary group capture and kill the prime minister. Raiden is forced to upgrade himself to compete as he works to stop the ambitions of Desperado. The visual style is pretty on par with the last entry, and while not particularly spectacular at this point it does the job. The fact the game maintains a constant framerate when everything hits the fan is of particular note.

Rising is for the most part, amazingly light on the exposition for the series, keeping the few cutscenes it does have short and visually impactful. The occasional mid level codec conversations do result in the "hand to ear can't do anything" trope, but the pace is typically swift. Rising hardly has the most epic part of the Metal Gear saga, clocking it at six to eight hours. An in depth scoring system for each encounter and an overall rank for each mission encourage replayability, and the unlockable VR missions and currently free DLC chapters further the value.

Battle is flowing and stylish, involving the stringing of light and heavy attacks in a visual and visceral dance, controlling just as flawlessly as he looked in Metal Gear Solid 4. Slicing through legions of cyborgs is satisfying. The main gimmick of the combat, Blade mode is the major focus however. When the bar is charged, hitting the trigger brings Raiden into a stationary position in which time slows and players use the right stick to directly manipulate Raiden's sword. The mechanic can be used as a quick combo extender, deliberate slices can remove limbs from otherwise more dangerous enemies, and a swift bisection can extract a heal from an enemy while dealing a death blow.

This gauge manipulation is the central point of the combat and getting massive combos and taking on massively superior forces feels amazing. It's when the game leaves you one on one in boss battles where seems begin to show. There is no block button in rising, at best you can get an unlockable dodge manoeuvre. Defence relies on a skill the game calls parrying, where you direct an attack toward the origin of the enemy assault. The trick is the game does a terrible job of explaining the mechanic to you, and when it does click, it takes practice to master the touchy mechanic. It's possible to get through a majority of the game without it, but a threshold is crossed at a specific late game boss where you master the technique, or you won't be seeing the credits.

Metal Gear Rising displays the strengths of Platinum and the Metal Gear series in a visceral triumph of gameplay and style. Thought it can be demanding of it's players, the satisfaction of overcoming the challenges it puts before you is constantly rewarding. Metal Gear Rising cuts to the heart of gameplay and leaves you wanting more.

score: 9.5

Extra Life: Support the children

Hey Gamespot

So while browsing Facebook today, Nintendo of Canada's facebook page brought this charity to my attention, and it's something I thought I could believe in, so I decided I would give it a try.

On November 2nd of this year, I'll embark on a 25 hour gaming marathon to raise money for the Calgary Children's Hospital, and I need sponsors. You can give monthly donations or one time gifts, via Credit card. Money stays with the children's hospital and is tax deductible.

I've relied on this children's hospital in my youth, and know that many other kids have had the mispleasure of visiting a lot more often than I ever did, and are dealing with a lot worse than asthma. I think we as a gaming community know the joy that gaming can bring, the huge fantasy worlds that allow us to escape into a reality a little less harsh than our own. This hospital deals with kids that definatly need an escape. I encourage you guys to take a look, and if you can't donate than I ask that you share with someone. Let's help the kids.


Gamespot. Game over man...

Yes, A petition. I wrote a goddamn petition. Do I like going the whiny route? no. But I do feel the need regardless of where this petition or Gamespot may go to put out there just what I think about this. 

My biggest complaint, ditching user created boards.

User created boards may not draw the biggest traffic, but they offer something unique that I can't find on another site. The user created boards offer little pocket communities, some of which i've grown rather close to. Perhaps The Round Table dosn't draw the same traffic as Off Topic, but I havn't found a better group of people to discuss my writing with, and it's something I have started trying to get more serious about. Some of the guys on PUSH are really great people, and having a place to screw around outside of System Wars is great fun. System Wars Magazine and Pedal to the Metal, a couple of user created initives that rival gamespot's own content, have relied on Unions for planning. having to do all that via PM would be a disaster.

Signature limitations, GIFs and levels are disappointing as well, part of the Gamespot DNA. While I'll be disappointed if these remain perminant, I don't belive they will be as detremental to the community as the lack of UCBs.

all in all, I've put quite a bit of time and effort into my contributions to Gamespot. I really don't want to see it hit reset and lose everything that made it great. 


A year in Inaba: Persona 4 Golden review


A year in Inaba: Persona 4 Golden

What is the mark of a great game? Is it engaging gameplay that keeps you coming back? Flashy visuals and presentations that bring you into the world and won't let you go? A well written story and a loveable cast that you can't help but become attached to? Persona 4 Golden doesn't make that choice, but rather opts for the full package. The result of the amazing attention to detail is one fantastic game, let alone for the Vita.

Persona 4 Golden drops the player into the shoes of a transfer student, moving to small town Yasoinaba, to spend a year under the care of your uncle while your parents are working overseas. Just as school ramps up, a strange serial murder case rocks the small hamlet and weird dreams, headaches and a voice lead you to discover the ability to enter a world inside TV sets, a deadly world when fog covers Inaba and the apparent main method of the killer. Soon enough, you awaken the awesome powers of Persona, the power of the heart made manifest. You and your friends begin an investigation to pursue the killer, learn the nature of the TV realm and rescue the attacked who have been placed inside that world.


It's a well written story that takes its time in all aspects. You as the player is thrown into this world with about as much instruction as the player character. The first several hours of the game are heavily structured, as you are introduced to some key characters, the world around you and the story, but once you get over the hump you get an almost overwhelming amount of choice. Choice in how to spend your days, who to spend time with, when to pursue the investigation, and when you simply need to study. The choices you make in day to day life have an impact on combat in the TV. By spending more time with certain people, certain types of Persona can get an experience boost when fused, yet another facet you are left to explore and learn on your own. The social links you build with your party members, classmates and general townsfolk provide a great deal of the character development and backstory to the people you meet, each one with a story to tell. This leaves a great deal of the story up to the player to write for themselves, but carries tangible benefits in combat to give a meaning to those who could take or leave the dialog as well.

Inside the TV is where you'll find the engaging, if fairly standard, dungeon crawling RPG gameplay. Forming your party from up to three other characters, you'll lead your friends through varied dungeon environments, climbing floors and battling enemy shadows. You can purchase or find new weapons, armour and accessories that boost your personal stats and grant helpful buffs to specific attacks. Winning battles grants you chances to draw cards for more money, experience, stat boosts or new Persona. These Persona can then be taken to a specific person to be fused into new Persona and pass their skills to ones that may otherwise not learn a specific move. The Pokemon-esque element of catching them all adds another addicting layer, and as the only character that can use more than one Persona, it behoves you as the player to keep mixing persona and maintaining a team that can handle any situation.


Persona 4 presents itself in a fashion that deserves the name "Golden". Everything is crisp on the Vita's gorgeous OLED, bringing a vibrancy to the different environments. The colourful art style gives each major character a distinct personality, further emphasized by the amazing voice acting throughout. The story can swing from the silly, to the serious, to talking about boobs and back to serious again while feeling natural the whole time. The amazing soundtrack, the kind of j-pop that somehow you never get tired of, is expanded from the PS2 release and sets every mood perfectly. While the character models themselves sit with a static and blocky face, the close up for major characters that shows up during conversation shows an adequate range of emotion.

Persona 4 Golden is a compulsive experience that won't let go once it sinks it's teeth in. While it takes a few hours to really get moving, the payoff for those who can get through it is an immersive world, brilliant story full of memorable characters and engaging, if generic JRPG battles to back it all up. If you own a Vita and don't own Persona then your simply doing it wrong.

Score: 9.5