June 2008

In this episode of Press Start, Kyle Orland and Ralph Cooper discuss video game journalism as well as what we have been playing/losing/winning at! Enjoy!

(download MP3)

The media tend to come at video games from a lot of different angles. Various stories might alternately treat gaming as a multibillion dollar business, a growing cultural phenomenon, an art form worthy of critique, or the leading edge of a technological revolution. But there’s another potential gaming angle that gets comparatively little coverage or respect from the press in general: gaming as professional sport.

This is slowly beginning to change, though, as more and more media outlets begin to take pro gaming seriously. CBS, Spike TV, USA, and DirectTV have all experimented with pro gaming broadcasts to various degrees, and G4 recently announced a deal to show Championship Gaming Series events on its network.

The entire pro gaming subculture is also the subject of a new book, Game Boys, a fascinating look at pro gaming’s efforts to gain respect and attention through the lens of two competitive Counter-Strike teams. I talked with Game Boys author Michael Kane about his experience writing the book, the current state of pro gaming on television, and whether or not video games could become the next great spectator sport.

(full article)

When a console maker and a publishing house get together to create an “official” editorial product, the result usually straddles the fuzzy line between editorial independence and official access. Even if the actual content is fair and duly critical of the licensing company, there’s still the problem of perception. Without clear lines of division between promotion and editorial, readers might well wonder where the “official” part of the title ends and the independent voice of the editors begins.

This fuzzy line gets even fuzzier with Qore, a first-of-its-kind downloadable “interactive” magazine for the PlayStation 3. Qore is created by Future Publishing (the house behind all three “official” console magazines) but “presented by the PlayStation Network,” making for a product that is a confusing hybrid of advertising and editorial that often ends up feeling more like the former than the latter.

(full article)

“This article is awful! The author is so biased!”

It’s a quote that should be familiar to anyone who’s ever read a comment thread on a major video game Web site. The accusation can apply to a review (which is, by definition, supposed to be biased in one direction or another), a news story (which, theoretically, should be free from any undue bias), or, really, any piece that the commenter doesn’t personally agree with. The implication, of course, is that the author is being unfairly swayed by some unseen factor (money, swag, advertising pressure, or even simple personal preference) and that therefore their reporting or opinion shouldn’t even be considered.

While throwing up an anonymous accusation of bias is easy, answering the charge isn’t always so clear-cut. When I put the question of biased coverage to members of the gaming press, the answers ran the gamut.

(full article)

It’s like a monster truck you can pour into your face!

In this latest episode of Press Start Kyle and Ralph discuss the benefits, drawbacks, and fun of Wii Fit!Download (MP3)

Remember back when mixing karaoke and videogames together was enough to rank as truly revolutionary all by itself? It may seem hard to believe now, but it was just five years ago that Konami’s Karaoke Revolution proved that a game could be successful just by scrolling some song lyrics and measuring how well the players were singing the notes behind them. Sony’s SingStar series reinforced this proof, gussying up the basic concept of Karaoke Revolution with music videos and a wide mix of songs spread out over a dozen European expansion discs since its initial 2004 release.

Of course, the rhythm game genre hasn’t remained static since then. Games like Rock Band and the upcoming Guitar Hero 4 have enhanced that basic, karaoke-based gameplay with drumming and guitar playing, providing a relatively varied four-player party experience in the process. Suddenly, a game that merely lets one or two players sing along with their favorite songs seems more tired than inspired. Suddenly, the SingStar series and its karaoke game ilk are on the brink of obsolescence.

Thus the scene is set for the PlayStation 3 version of SingStar, Sony’s last-ditch effort to save the series, and indeed the entire genre, from becoming a minor footnote in the history of the rhythm game. The game largely succeeds in this mission, not by revolutionizing the karaoke gameplay itself, but by expanding it into a new frontier of online features that will hopefully give some legs to the ailing concept.

(full article)