March 2008


Every writer knows that cliches should be avoided like the plague. But writers are busy little beavers, and given that a stitch in time saves nine, even the best writers occasionally find that slipping into familiar cliches is as easy as shooting fish in a barrel. This is true in game journalism too, where bad cliches can destroy good writing like a bull in a china shop. Seeing as how the proof is in the pudding, as they say, I now present, without further ado, my personal list of dumb-as-a-doorknob cliches that tend to be especially prevalent in video game journalism.

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When Square first announced they were returning to Nintendo consoles with the GameCube’s Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles, FF fan boys everywhere were ecstatic. When it was revealed the game would focus on real-time battles and multiplayer teamwork, fans were perplexed. When gamers were told that the multiplayer mode would require four Game Boy Advances (with GameCube link cables), many were irate.

If you could get past the odd requirements and changes to the Final Fantasy formula, however, there was a lot to like about the original Crystal Chronicles. The game did a good job of establishing a sense of camaraderie, with a division of labor that practically forced players to open their mouths and coordinate strategies. It’s a formula that seems tailor-made for the near-ubiquitous DS, which has made portable multiplayer relatively easy. Unfortunately, the newest game in the Crystal Chronicles series, Rings of Fate for the DS, is depressingly standard and loses a lot of what made the original special.

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Most often, it takes years of work and hundreds of bylines for most game reviewers to reach the point where they even start to get noticed by the average gamer. British-born, Australia-residing author, humorist, and game designer Ben “Yahtzee” Croshaw got there virtually overnight. Since launching the Web magazine The Escapist last August, his Zero Punctuation series of animated video reviews have gained a massive following for its rapid-fire deliver and razor-sharp send-ups of such games as Medal of Honor: Airborne, Halo 3, Guitar Hero III, and, most recently, Turok. He also runs his own blog, Fullyramblomatic.com
Last month, Croshaw’s celebrity was given official recognition at the 2008 Game Developers Conference. He was commissioned to do both a series of comedic shorts for the Game Developers Choice Awards and a typically motormouthed recap of BioShock for 2K Boston head Ken Levine’s keynote.

I chatted with Croshaw via e-mail about how he got start, his rise to fame, and what he thinks of the state of game journalism today.

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Ralph Cooper and Kyle Orland tell you what we have been playing so far in this first quarter of 2008! Glad to be back!!Download (MP3)


This weekly feature, which I started in March of 2008, keeps tabs on the people who write and tlak about video games for a living and the issues surrounding their job.


An introduction to my new press analysis column on GameSpot.

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(And Three Reasons it Still Sucks)

It’s hard to forget the original Nokia N-Gage, the taco-shaped smartphone slash game system that challenged the Game Boy Advance in 2003. In short, it flopped. Nintendo’s handheld system continued to outsell it by 100-to-1 and retailers offered $100 rebates to get the N-Gage out of their stockrooms.

So imagine our surprise when Nokia announced that the N-Gage would live again as a piece of software that can be downloaded onto your phone. We put a beta version of the new gaming platform through its paces to see whether you should trade in your cell phone and Nintendo DS for this all-in-one entertainment package.

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Ever since Nintendo’s Game & Watch handheld electronic games (1980-1991), playing games no longer meant being tethered to a TV. Gaming sans TV often means being far from the electricity-granting power cord that can deliver unlimited play time. As a result, on-the-go gamers have to obsessively watch the clock — and the battery power indicator — to see how many more precious gaming minutes they have left. Here are nine easy ways tips keeping that Nintendo DS or PSP chugging as long as possible.

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