The Escapist


And so it goes every few years with console videogames. It’s not enough to buy a system and enjoy the games available; we want the system we buy to win. More than that, we want our chosen system to dominate the market, utterly and completely, like the Atari 2600 and NES did way back when.

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Which is why it’s surprising to see T-shirt clad 20-somethings rubbing elbows with polo-shirt wearing grandparents in a 5,000-person strong National Symphony audience at the Vienna, Va. Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts. They’re here to see Play: A Video Game Symphony, a concert that eschews the common symphonic fare of Bach, Mahler and Strauss for pieces by the likes Square’s Uematsu, Nintendo’s Kondo and Konami’s Gregson-Williams. While parts of the audience have never played a game and other parts have never heard a live symphony, they’ve all gathered together to experience another world without fully leaving the comfort of the one they know.

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I’ve always been intrigued by games of chance, but I was never under any illusions about winning money in a casino. With the probability skewed so heavily toward the house, I knew I was essentially paying for the privilege to play games of chance.

But WorldWinner.com would have you believe it’s different. Unlike casino games, where you have to be lucky to win (for the most part), WorldWinner stresses that "the outcome of each competition is determined by the player’s skill." I don’t have the chops to make a six-figure salary at a poker table, but after years of the other form of gaming, I was sure I could beat just about anyone in the right game.

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Everyone is the world’s foremost expert on something. This one fact is the cornerstone of much of the internet. How else do you explain elaborate web pages devoted to everything from shoelace tying to Slurpees? If you’re reading this, though, chances are your expertise falls in the realm of some sort of obscure videogame that only earns you derision when you bring it up in polite company. Not to worry; the internet is there to indulge your obsession and let you actively share it with the world.

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Every gamer is a serious gamer and every game is a serious game.

That’s the impression that the developers, publishers, middleware coders and various other interested parties seemed to be conveying at the two-day Serious Games Summit in Arlington, VA. The message seemed to be that serious games (which generally have a larger educational or social goal) and entertainment games (which generally have the goal of selling as many copies as possible) often share the same underlying principles, and the cross-pollination between the two spheres is improving them both.

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But what about the kind of knowledge that transcends the tactical – the kind of knowledge that lets you truly understand your enemy’s motivations and background, his hopes and fears? As far as most games are concerned, such knowledge is unimportant. The enemy exists only as a part of the environment – a set of pre-programmed rules to be figured out and bested. It’s enough to know that Piston Honda wants to send you a "TKO from Tokyo" or that Cats thinks you have "no chance to survive make your time." We want to know the enemy, just not, y’know, personally.

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I was in the third grade when I created my first and last videogame fan fiction. It plumbed the hidden motivations of the nameless driver from Excitebike who, it just so happens, was actually Mario, transported from the Mushroom Kingdom into other NES games through a secret warp pipe. The page-long story ended on a dramatic cliffhanger, as the final jump of the Excitebike course hurls Mario into another secret warp pipe, setting up an entire series of Mario-in-other-games stories that, to this day, remains unconcluded.

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Imagine a rock concert. The loudest rock concert you’ve ever been to. Make it a little louder, just for good measure.

Throw it into a Las Vegas casino, except instead of the glitz of Vegas you’re in the middle of the decay that is Los Angeles; and instead of jangling coins and neon there are surround sound explosions and endless rows of flashing video monitors.

Stir in a good-sized dollop of siege-mentality warfare, complete with realistic sound effects and panicked jostling for limited resources.

Add in a little dash of sci-fi convention decoration and just a pinch of overpriced food.

Dump in tens of thousands of bewildered, sweaty males (sprinkled with a few scantily-clad booth babes and fully-clothed female PR reps for flavor).

Shake well.

Welcome to E3.

Now, try writing a story in this mess.

(full story)


Wait long enough, and everything comes back in style. It’s true in fashion. It’s true in videogames. So, why shouldn’t it be true in videogame-based fashion?

Gamers everywhere are appreciating the games of yesteryear through compilation discs, legal and illegal emulator downloads, and even upright cabinets at the local mega-arcade/drinking establishment. The trend has been echoed in an explosion of apparel, mainly T-shirts, featuring designs inspired by or ripped straight from the most popular games of years past.

Now, for the first time since elementary school, you can proudly wear Mario on your shirt again. Except this time, Mario is offering "mustache rides." Or offering to clean your pipes. Or offering not so subtle drug references on your boxers.

Back then, Mario was your digital best friend. Today, Mario is your homeboy.

(full article)


Wait long enough, and everything comes back in style. It’s true in fashion. It’s true in videogames. So, why shouldn’t it be true in videogame-based fashion?

Gamers everywhere are appreciating the games of yesteryear through compilation discs, legal and illegal emulator downloads, and even upright cabinets at the local mega-arcade/drinking establishment. The trend has been echoed in an explosion of apparel, mainly T-shirts, featuring designs inspired by or ripped straight from the most popular games of years past.

Now, for the first time since elementary school, you can proudly wear Mario on your shirt again. Except this time, Mario is offering "mustache rides." Or offering to clean your pipes. Or offering not so subtle drug references on your boxers.

Back then, Mario was your digital best friend. Today, Mario is your homeboy.

(full article)


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