Kotaku

New RPG From The Creators Of Lunar Hitting Vita This YearPublisher XSEED Games will bring Ragnarok Odyssey to the PlayStation Vita this year, it said today.



Ragnarok Odyssey was developed by Game Arts, the company behind the critically-acclaimed (and truly lovely) Lunar and Grandia series. Which makes this delightful news for any and all JRPG fans.



Here's how XSEED describes the game in its press release:




An action-heavy RPG set in the lush landscape of the familiar Ragnarok Online universe, Ragnarok Odyssey is a fast-paced game with a heavy emphasis on melee combat. The game is set in a world where humans and giants are pitted against each other in battle following the death of the world's ancient gods. Based on Norse Mythology, the world of Ragnarok Odyssey will begin to take form as players advance through the story, with new areas opening up as their journey goes on.



In Ragnarok Odyssey, players will embark on a campaign to take down monsters and giants of massive scale, and characters can chain together massive combo attacks both on the ground and in the air thanks to the game's extremely versatile combat system. Massive enemies can literally be smacked across the screen, and players can even up their speed and agility at the expense of HP for particularly challenging battles. On top of this, the game promotes cooperative gameplay, supporting up to four players for ad-hoc and online cooperative gameplay.



Characters in Ragnarok Odyssey are fully customizable, and players are given the ability to choose from up to six job classes that can be changed throughout the game for specific quests. As quests are completed, characters can be upgraded to increase their combat effectiveness.




Sounds neat, no? Very Monster Hunter-ish. And woo for more JRPGs!



XSEED also said it will bring music strategy game Orgarhythm (not to be confused with Final Fantasy Theatrhryhrhyrhyrhyrhyhryrmyhmryhythm) to Vita this year.


Kotaku





width="500" height="333" allowscriptaccess="always"
allowfullscreen="true">

When we say "Dubstep" most people think of hard drops and grinding wubs. But there is a lot more to the genre than that.



When people think Call of Duty, they think of hard explosions and grinding machine guns. But… perhaps there's more to the genre than that?



YouTuber TomahawkTrix thinks so, anyway, with this surprisingly lovely dubstep remix of that first trailer for Black Ops II, featuring a tune from Blackmill Music.



Feels like all those other emotionally dissonant action-game trailers we've seen, only with kinda more interesting music.


Kotaku

How MLB 2K12's Huge Loophole Left a Million-Dollar Prize Exposed to CheatingIt is now four days since the conclusion of qualifying for the MLB 2K12 Perfect Game Challenge and there has been no official declaration of the final eight contestants. Scott Young thinks he should be one of them. And, he says, someone who is going to New York—for a shot at a million dollars—cheated.



Young, who finished 10th in the race, says he was told of an exploit during the startup phase in MLB 2K12, allowing a gamer to make substitutions in the opposing team's lineup while still maintaining the watermark that certifies the game's eligibility for the contest.



In the $1 Million Perfect Game Challenge, gamers were required to select a game from one of the real-world matchups being played that day using MLB 2K12's "MLB Today" feature, using the real-world lineups it provided.



Though the game's official rules only specifically forbid substituting your own pitcher, other communications from 2K Sports, and the commonly understood spirit of the contest, is that no roster changes are acceptable—certainly not ones that replace the heart of the order of a powerful team with much weaker batters.



This is key because in the $1 Million Perfect Game Challenge, throwing a 27-up/27-down perfect game is only the beginning. That feat is then scored according to a number of factors, one of them doing it with a weaker pitcher against a stronger team. This degree of difficulty was shown to gamers before they started an attempt.



The game William Haff pitched, with Liam Hendriks of the Minnesota Twins against the Boston Red Sox on April 25, was rated somewhere near 90 on a scale of 100 in terms of difficulty. That meant the 2K Sports contest algorithm scored the perfect game at 817, good for seventh place and a trip to New York when the contest finally closed. Young, who met Haff online through the 2K Sports forums and later exchanged text messages as the two pursued perfection, says Haff removed all of Boston's best hitters to pull it off.



Young provided to Kotaku screenshots of text messages with Haff that indicate Haff's knowledge of the exploit and his use of it in perfect game attempts, beginning with its discovery on April 21, in a game with Colorado against the Milwaukee Brewers.



"bro ... i just took braun/ramirez/hart out of game lol," Haff says to Young late that night. He was referring to the heart of the Milwaukee Brewers' order—Ryan Braun, Aramis Ramirez and Corey Hart—in a game played against Colorado that day.



"Lol what," texted Young.



"Call me," Haff said.



"I did not break any of the official rules," says the accused gamer. That may not be the point.

The exploit can't be recreated now because at the end of qualifying on midnight, Tuesday, the Perfect Game Challenge mode was removed from the game. But, Young says, Haff not only admitted to substituting out the opposing team's players, he was also able to swap players in his own batting lineup.



The screenshots of the text messages that Young provided me feature a phone number at the top. To get the other side of the story and make sure the texts were legit, I called that number today. Haff answered.



Haff at first flatly denied making any substitutions in the game that qualified him for next week's trip to New York.



"I did not break any of the official rules," Haff said. "And I will stand behind that 100 percent."



I then read back text messages that Young shared with me, and noted to Haff that the official rules do not specifically prohibit substituting players. So I asked him directly if he substituted any players in the opposing lineup in his qualifying perfect game.



"No I did not, and I stand behind that 100 percent," he told me.



Yet Young shared with Kotaku a text message in which Haff described doing exactly that. "u take out [David] ortiz...adrian [Gonzalez]... [Dustin] pedroia..[Jacoby] ellsbury and u got a scrub lineup," he says. "if u put ortiz at 1b...adrian will never come in [by CPU substitution]...cuz of dh rule."



Haff was made aware of that message. Later in the conversation Haff appeared to back away from his assertion that he had not substituted players. Asked a second time by Kotaku, if he had substituted players in his game, Haff said "If you have any questions that need any answers, I refer you to 2K Sports. I stand behind their verification process 100 percent."



The rules do seem to have such a loophole, as they only address substituting your own pitcher, which is prohibited. However, a "checklist"—but not the official rules—on the contest's site says "You may not make any substitutions or lineup changes prior to the game starting. You must use the pitcher and batting lineup that is set to start the game for that particular day."



The spirit of the promotion would seem to be against it. The $1 Million Perfect Game Challenge is designed to drive users to MLB 2K12's "MLB Today" mode.



Still, "its not said in rules u cant...so its legal" Haff told Young in this text message. "but if others find out...u can kiss ur top8 goodbye so i wouldnt tell anyone bro."



'Of course I'm pissed off,' says Young. 'I lost my spot because someone used a loophole when I played my game correctly.'

Young says Haff told him to stay quiet about the exploit. Young didn't, though, telling another person over Xbox Live about it but demanding that he stay silent. That person didn't, and then the conflict boiled over to Facebook and other social media.



Young says Haff discussed the exploit in comments in this thread on the MLB 2K official Facebook page, though he apparently later deleted comments that admitted using the exploit.



In the same comment thread, Young went to the MLB 2K Facebook page to ask the 2K moderator "is it possible to alter the oppositions lineup and have a perfect game count?"



"No," replies the 2K Sports representative. "You need to use the default lineups for both teams."



Whether this can be called cheating or exploiting a loophole, Young—who says he threw two perfect games without using the exploit—believes he missed out on a shot in the contest's final round because of others' dishonesty. He vows that he did not use the exploit in his perfect game, thrown with Esmil Rogers of the Colorado Rockies against the Arizona Diamondbacks, on April 13. That was eight days before Haff's text message to Young, revealing the discovery of the exploit.



His game, Young says, was tied 0-0 headed into the bottom of the ninth, which is why he'd struck out Arizona pitcher Daniel Hudson for the final out. On the very first pitch of the bottom of the ninth inning, the Rockies' Troy Tulowitzki hit a walk-off home run, giving Young the perfect game, and a score that, when it was verified, placed him sixth overall.



"Any person who lost their spot to someobdy who used an exploit would be doing the same thing," Young said, "It's a million dollars. It is a lot of money. Anybody who participated in this put a lot of hours into it.



Reached by Kotaku for comment, 2K Sports said only this:



"The contest was run properly. We look forward to awarding someone a million dollars on May 10 in New York."



That's not good enough for Young.



"Apparently it wasn't run properly, because I have evidence that basically proves otherwise," Young said. "It's a million dollars on the line, they don't want to tarnish their reputation. I'm trying to help make their contest legitimate and help weed out players who played their contest against the rules."



"Of course I'm pissed off," Young said. "I lost my spot because someone used a loophole when I played my game correctly. I should be at least eighth, or even seventh.



Haff seems to think there are others in the top 8 who used the exploit, too. "U really think that guy with 825 [Kyle] Drabek against redsox didnt do it?" he says.



Asked by Kotaku today if he believes that to be the case, Haff said no.



In a text message exchange between Young and Haff, evidently after the Facebook argument, Young says "I'm not doing this to fuck you. I was trying to find out if it was legit so I could do it too. I dont want any score ahead of mine that wasn't done properly.



"Getting my score taken out like that isn't fair," Young says.



"i would feel same way," Haff replied.



Kotaku

Imperfect Game: Big Problems With Million-Dollar Video Game Contest Lead to Accusations of CheatingIt is now four days since the conclusion of qualifying for the MLB 2K12 Perfect Game Challenge and there has been no official declaration of the final eight contestants. Scott Young thinks he should be one of them. And, he says, someone who is going to New York—for a shot at a million dollars—cheated.



Young, who finished 10th in the race, says he was told of an exploit during the startup phase in MLB 2K12, allowing a gamer to make substitutions in the opposing team's lineup while still maintaining the watermark that certifies the game's eligibility for the contest.



In the $1 Million Perfect Game Challenge, gamers were required to select a game from one of the real-world matchups being played that day using MLB 2K12's "MLB Today" feature, using the real-world lineups it provided.



Though the game's official rules only specifically forbid substituting your own pitcher, other communications from 2K Sports, and the commonly understood spirit of the contest, is that no roster changes are acceptable—certainly not ones that replace the heart of the order of a powerful team with much weaker batters.



This is key because in the $1 Million Perfect Game Challenge, throwing a 27-up/27-down perfect game is only the beginning. That feat is then scored according to a number of factors, one of them doing it with a weaker pitcher against a stronger team. This degree of difficulty was shown to gamers before they started an attempt.



The game William Haff pitched, with Liam Hendriks of the Minnesota Twins against the Boston Red Sox on April 25, was rated somewhere near 90 on a scale of 100 in terms of difficulty. That meant the 2K Sports contest algorithm scored the perfect game at 817, good for seventh place and a trip to New York when the contest finally closed. Young, who met Haff online through the 2K Sports forums and later exchanged text messages as the two pursued perfection, says Haff removed all of Boston's best hitters to pull it off.



Young provided me screenshots of text messages with Haff that indicate Haff's knowledge of the exploit and his use of it in perfect game attempts, beginning with its discovery on April 21, in a game with Colorado against the Milwaukee Brewers.



"bro ... i just took braun/ramirez/hart out of game lol," Haff says to Young late that night. He was referring to the heart of the Milwaukee Brewers' order—Ryan Braun, Aramis Ramirez and Corey Hart—in a game played against Colorado that day.



"Lol what," texted Young.



"Call me," Haff said.



"I did not break any of the official rules," says the accused gamer. That may not be the point.

The exploit can't be recreated now because at the end of qualifying on midnight, Tuesday, the Perfect Game Challenge mode was removed from the game. But, Young says, Haff not only admitted to substituting out the opposing team's players, he was also able to swap players in his own batting lineup.



The screenshots of the text messages that Young provided me feature a phone number at the top. To get the other side of the story and make sure the texts were legit, I called that number today. Haff answered.



Haff at first flatly denied making any substitutions in the game that qualified him for next week's trip to New York.



"I did not break any of the official rules," Haff said. "And I will stand behind that 100 percent."



I then read back text messages that Young shared with me, and noted to Haff that the official rules do not specifically prohibit substituting players. So I asked him directly if he substituted any players in the opposing lineup in his qualifying perfect game.



"No I did not, and I stand behind that 100 percent," he told me.



Yet Young shared with me a text message in which Haff described doing exactly that. "u take out [David] ortiz...adrian [Gonzalez]... [Dustin] pedroia..[Jacoby] ellsbury and u got a scrub lineup," he says. "if u put ortiz at 1b...adrian will never come in [by CPU substitution]...cuz of dh rule."



I read that message back to Haff. Later in the conversation he appeared to back away from his assertion that he had not substituted players. So when I asked him a second time if he had substituted players in his game, Haff said "If you have any questions that need any answers, I refer you to 2K Sports. I stand behind their verification process 100 percent."



The rules do seem to have such a loophole, as they only address substituting your own pitcher, which is prohibited. However, a "checklist"—but not the official rules—on the contest's site says "You may not make any substitutions or lineup changes prior to the game starting. You must use the pitcher and batting lineup that is set to start the game for that particular day."



The spirit of the promotion would seem to be against making any substitutions. The $1 Million Perfect Game Challenge is designed to drive users to MLB 2K12's "MLB Today" mode and the authentic game day rosters it offers.



Still, "its not said in rules u cant...so its legal" Haff told Young in this text message. "but if others find out...u can kiss ur top8 goodbye so i wouldnt tell anyone bro."



'Of course I'm pissed off,' says Young. 'I lost my spot because someone used a loophole when I played my game correctly.'

Young says Haff told him to stay quiet about the exploit. Young didn't, though, telling another person over Xbox Live about it but demanding that he stay silent. That person didn't, and then the conflict boiled over to Facebook and other social media.



Young says Haff discussed the exploit in comments in this thread on the MLB 2K official Facebook page, though he apparently later deleted comments that admitted using the exploit.



In the same comment thread, Young went to the MLB 2K Facebook page to ask the 2K moderator "is it possible to alter the oppositions lineup and have a perfect game count?"



"No," replies the 2K Sports representative. "You need to use the default lineups for both teams."



Whether this can be called cheating or exploiting a loophole, Young—who says he threw two perfect games without using the exploit—believes he missed out on a shot in the contest's final round because of others' dishonesty. He vows that he did not use the exploit in his perfect game, thrown with Esmil Rogers of the Colorado Rockies against the Arizona Diamondbacks, on April 13. That was eight days before Haff's text message to Young, revealing the discovery of the exploit.



His game, Young says, was tied 0-0 headed into the bottom of the ninth, which is why he'd struck out Arizona pitcher Daniel Hudson for the final out. On the very first pitch of the bottom of the ninth inning, the Rockies' Troy Tulowitzki hit a walk-off home run, giving Young the perfect game, and a score that, when it was verified, placed him sixth overall.



"Any person who lost their spot to someobdy who used an exploit would be doing the same thing," Young said, "It's a million dollars. It is a lot of money. Anybody who participated in this put a lot of hours into it."



Reached for comment, 2K Sports said only this:



"The contest was run properly. We look forward to awarding someone a million dollars on May 10 in New York."



That's not good enough for Young.



"Apparently it wasn't run properly, because I have evidence that basically proves otherwise," Young said. "It's a million dollars on the line, they don't want to tarnish their reputation. I'm trying to help make their contest legitimate and help weed out players who played their contest against the rules."



"Of course I'm pissed off," Young said. "I lost my spot because someone used a loophole when I played my game correctly. I should be at least eighth, or even seventh.



Haff seems to think there are others in the top 8 who used the exploit, too. "U really think that guy with 825 [Kyle] Drabek against redsox didnt do it?" he says.



Asked today if he believes others in the top eight used the exploit, Haff said no.



In a text message exchange between Young and Haff, evidently after the Facebook argument, Young says "I'm not doing this to fuck you. I was trying to find out if it was legit so I could do it too. I dont want any score ahead of mine that wasn't done properly.



"Getting my score taken out like that isn't fair," Young says.



"i would feel same way," Haff replied.



Kotaku

Five Great Moments in Star Wars GamingIn honor of the high-holy day for Star Wars fans across the globe, commenter Deakor gives us his top five gaming moments in a galaxy far, far away in today's Speak Up on Kotaku.



In honor of Star Wars Day...



So after reading an article here discussing possibly the worst Star Wars game ever I thought to myself, what's the best? If you asked 25 people, you'd probably get 25 different answers.



Then I thought of a more interesting question (to me, anyway). What are the best moments from Star Wars games? They may come from the best games, they may not (I find that mine come from both). So here, in no particular order, are my top 5 Star Wars gaming moments:



1. The first level of Shadows of the Empire on N64:



The overall game was "meh" at best, but the opening level on Hoth simply blew me away. I played and replayed that level more times than I can remember. I recall sitting at home on winter break from college and just passing the controller back and forth with one of my old high school buddies.



2. Starting out on Tatooine in Star Wars Galaxies:



SWG was my first MMO. I'll never forget the feeling of unlimited possibilities that I had when I created my first character and took my first step into a larger world. Ultimately, I don't think anyone ended up pleased with where the game ended up, but in those first moments, I was blown away.



3. The demo for The Force Unleashed:



Another example of a game that was ok at best, but had some sequences/experiences that really stood out. The first time I used the Force to go stormtrooper bowling was quite memorable. The rest of the game didn't really live up to the promise of the demo, but for a little while at least, you really felt like a badass Jedi.



4. Saving Admiral Ackbar in the original X-Wing:



X-Wing is one of my favorite games of all time and I can still remember the mission where I had to disable the shuttle carrying Admiral Ackbar and then defend it long enough from wave after wave of TiE bombers for a Rebel ship to come and rescue him.



5. The big reveal in Knights of the Old Republic:



For someone raised on the original trilogy and subsequently disappointed by the storytelling and writing in the new trilogy (with the possible exception of Episode III, that is), KOTOR felt like a breath of fresh air. Granted there are legitimate issues/complaints about the game, but the "twist" in KOTOR really struck me. Overall this game felt like what the new films SHOULD have been like in terms of tone and story.



So, those are my top 5 moments in Star Wars gaming. What are yours?



About Speak Up on Kotaku: Our readers have a lot to say, and sometimes what they have to say has nothing to do with the stories we run. That's why we have a forum on Kotaku called Speak Up. That's the place to post anecdotes, photos, game tips and hints, and anything you want to share with Kotaku at large. Every weekday we'll pull one of the best Speak Up posts we can find and highlight it here.
Kotaku

The Future of Mobile Gaming Begins with One Week in Gaming AppsIt's not about bringing console games to mobile phones anymore; it's about transforming traditional console genres to suit the smart phone format. See what I'm rambling on about as you browse the Week in Gaming Apps.





Mobile games are beginning to embrace what they are rather than attempt to emulate what they could never be. Take Luke Plunkett's Gaming App of the Day pick, Total War Battles. Instead of attempting a slimmed-down version of the hit PC series, Sega's morphed the series into a strategy board game, perfect for the iPad.



On the darker, Owen Good side of things, Big Win Hockey's pay-to-really-play action demonstrates the simplification of the sports genre into something more easily digestible by the masses.



What other radical transformations will mobile gaming inspire? Tune in next week to find out!



If you have a suggestion for an app for the iPhone, iPad, Android or Windows Phone 7 that you'd like to see highlighted, let us know.



The Future of Mobile Gaming Begins with One Week in Gaming AppsGlitch Tank Cleverly Turns Your iPad into a 8-Bit Board Game Battlefield


If Battlezone and, say, Risk had a baby, it'd look a lot like Glitch Tank. Michael Brough's aggressively retro game turns your iPad into an 8-bit theater of sci-fi warfare. More »






The Future of Mobile Gaming Begins with One Week in Gaming AppsSpellsword Keeps Endless Battling Addictive And Fun


Sometimes you just want to wander around a room and slash things with a sword. While listening to great 8-bit tunes. And squishing adorable baddies like bees and slimes. And collecting spell cards that poison or freeze or incinerate your opponents in glorious violent fashion. More »






The Future of Mobile Gaming Begins with One Week in Gaming AppsTotal War Battles Brings a PC's War to the iPad


Sadly, you cannot play Creative Assembly's Total War games on an iPad. What you can now do, though, is play an iPad game by the same developers, which has almost nothing in common with the series with which it shares a name, but is still worth a look. Total War Battles isn't an attempt by CA to bring the Total War experience to a tablet. It's instead an attempt by the team to create something new, a blend of puzzle game and RTS that makes the most of the platform while still keeping things quick and simple enough to be able to play in short bursts. More »






The Future of Mobile Gaming Begins with One Week in Gaming AppsSaving Alien Lifeforms One Tentacle War At A Time


There is something really fitting about a puzzle game on a mobile device. I'm not sure if its how pensive or relaxing the activity can often feel, or if it's to do with the nature of distractions people typically opt for. More »






The Future of Mobile Gaming Begins with One Week in Gaming AppsI've Seen the Future of Mobile Sports Gaming and, for Better or for Worse, It Looks Like Big Win Hockey


After two years of playing console ports with virtual control pads on my iPhone, I think I'm starting to grasp the future of team sports video games on mobile devices. And it is nothing like what I play in my living room. More »





Kotaku

The First Screenshot of The Elder Scrolls Online Sure Looks Like World of WarcraftGame Informer has posted the first screenshot from The Elder Scrolls Online. Sure looks like a fantasy MMO to me!



I have to say, the more we learn, the less excited I am about this game. Frowny-face.



The first screen and details surrounding the The Elder Scrolls Online [Game Informer]


Kotaku

Facebook Games are the Worst Way to Tell Stories The overlap in intended audience between Empire and The Hunger Games Adventures is probably vanishingly small. Both are found on Facebook but, in tone and in content, aim themselves completely different ways. It seems unlikely that very many players would approach both for long enough to realize that the two are, in every way that counts, the same game.



The former is a semi-autobiographical game following the life story of Jay-Z, from poor kid in the projects to successful rapper to wealthy mogul with a wide array of profitable investments. The latter is a book and movie tie-in, bringing a dystopic future out from the pages of YA literature and out onto the screen. One is about creating an empire; the other is about tearing one down. And yet, despite their stated differences, the two play out in extraordinarily similar ways.



It's not just a matter of mechanics, though those are interchangeable. Both games operate on the familiar-to-Facebook premise that you spend a certain amount of energy to execute each action you take, and — surprise — energy replenishment can be purchased for a nominal fee if you don't feel like waiting for it to regenerate. Both give you sequential missions to move through the story, with each mission involving a certain number of turns talking to NPCs and completing fetch quests. Both offer an array of character customizations, available either through earned in-game currency or via real-cash Facebook credits.



Facebook Games are the Worst Way to Tell Stories On top of the microtransaction-friendly mechanics, in each game, lies the skin of a story. One takes place in a primarily black, poor neighborhood of Brooklyn. The other takes place in a heavily white, rural, Appalachian-inspired future. The two environments are as disparate as possible and yet in many ways, present exactly the same challenge: daily survival, and a rise beyond it, as a member of an underprivileged class.



Sadly, however, the most glaring similarity between the two games is this: they are terrible at telling their stories.



Neither Empire nor The Hunger Games Adventures can put the player character into a compelling position. We are not Jay-Z; we are not Katniss Everdeen. We are not the singular hero on whom the story is modeled, and we can never climb our way to a satisfying climax. We are a side character, modeled after our own real-world person and clumsily inserted into someone else's story.



Games on Facebook are, by necessity, always about you. They are about your avatar, and more importantly they are about your purchases, your score, your accumulated items, your achievements, and your friends. And, in order to succeed, the game needs the player to be exploiting that very "self."



They need you to be you. They need you to be telling your friends. They need you posting to your wall, bringing in new blood, and wanting upgrades. They need to you to want to come back, to feel comfortable, to feel participatory.



But the best and most challenging art, art that would make a player truly aware of how socioeconomic factors and race truly influenced Shawn Carter's life, isn't comfortable. A meaningful story about Katniss's complex relationship to violence and survival isn't something you can easily level up and share in incremental stages with your buddies.



Facebook Games are the Worst Way to Tell Stories The games that tell stories about a single character, by necessity and by definition, focus on a single character. The Hunger Games, as books and as a film, draw our attention because we follow Katniss and the people that matter to her. The real-life biography of Jay-Z is interesting because of his unlikely rise to a position of fame and fortune. Dropping us into a world in the role of nameless sidekick could be interesting if the games were about the worlds, but they aren't. Both Empire and The Hunger Games Adventures are built and sold on the premise of following in an icon's pre-established footsteps.



There are ways that a game could tell a compelling, meaningful story about the world in which The Hunger Games takes place, but Facebook isn't it. A modular, fragmented social experience designed to keep drawing in more players over time isn't it.



Our narrative game franchises, the games that tell the deepest, richest stories, don't always succeed as well as they'd like. But an Assassin's Creed, Uncharted, or Mass Effect still puts us in control of the most interesting character on the screen, the character whose story the game is designed to tell. And in many ways, we give ourselves over to the character as we play. If Commander Shepard visited Ilos, I visited Ilos. If Ezio explored Constantinople, I explored Constantinople. If Nathan Drake mowed down a hundred mooks today, I mowed down a hundred mooks today.



But on Facebook, we never truly inhabit another skin; we never look into another soul. We pile clothes and colors on top of ourselves and play dress-up for a while, with no true hard work required. The games aren't terrible because they're browser-based or low-tech; plenty of successful games are technically undemanding. They're terrible because in the midst of the most personalized, self-centered corner of the world we inhabit, we are nominally pretending to be someone else. That's just not a combination that works.


Kotaku

Cabin in the Woods and the Horror of Video Games



It was a dark and stormy night.



(It was a violent and war-torn night.)



It almost felt like a horror movie.



(It almost felt like a video game.)



The cabin in the woods seemed quiet. Too quiet. Surely all sorts of monsters lay within. It seemed like a good time for a spoiler warning.



(The post-apocalyptic city seemed quiet. Too quiet. Surely all sorts of enemies lay within. It really did seem like a good time for a spoiler warning.)



What kinds of monsters awaited our heroes? Zombies? Ghouls? Hell Lords? An angry molesting tree?



(What kinds of enemies awaited our heroes? Zombies? Aliens? Robots? Space-Nazis?)



Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be the main character in a horror film? What a strange experience that must be. You'd do things you'd never do in real life: Go have sex in the woods at night, run up the stairs when you should be running out the door, split up when you should be sticking together. Eventually, you'd probably get yourself killed.



Cabin in the Woods and the Horror of Video Games



(Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be the main character in a video game? What a strange experience that must be. You'd do things you'd never do in real life: Lead every frontal assault, hop into the gunner's seat of every vehicle, run straight into each room when you should be hanging back. Eventually, you'd probably get yourself killed.)



But you weren't able to help yourself! It was almost as though… someone else was controlling you.



(But you weren't able to help yourself! It was almost as though… someone else was controlling you.)



Five main characters, all gathered together. The nerd, the babe, the good girl. The jock, the stoner. All of them archetypes, ready for consumption.



(Five main characters, all gathered together. The scientist, the femme fatale, the love-interest. The rogue, the comic relief. All of them archetypes, ready for consumption.)



It's always the same: They're introduced as quickly as possible. The tension slowly builds. There's an ever-escalating series of scares, culminating in the first murder.



(It's always the same: They're introduced as quickly as possible. The tension slowly builds. There's an ever-escalating series of battles, culminating in the first boss.)



Every scene is controlled by a director. It's all carefully choreographed to give the audience maximum titillation—every bit of exposed skin, every gory head-wound, every slow-mo murder.



Cabin in the Woods and the Horror of Video Games



(Every level is controlled by the designers. It's all carefully choreographed to give the player maximum titillation—every skin-peeling explosion, every gory headshot, every slow-mo murder.)



What does this say about that audience, then? The horror fans who to watch this ritual bloodletting? We catalogue and obsess over the tiniest details, we chronicle the best shower-murders, the bloodiest eviscerations, the characters who most deserved to die. What does it say about us that we take such pleasure in this?



(What does this say about that audience, then? The video game fans who engage in this ritual bloodletting? We catalogue and obsess over the tiniest details, we chronicle the best sniper kills, the bloodiest gibs, the characters who most deserved to die. What does it say about us that we take such pleasure in this?)



Maybe the answer is darker than we think. Maybe horror films are actually blood-sacrifices to old, dark gods, meticulously crafted in a lab by a team of professionals, wrung for every possible drop of provocative violence. Not out of desire, but out of necessity.



(Maybe the answer is darker than we think. Maybe video games are actually blood-sacrifices to old, dark gods, meticulously crafted in a lab by a team of professionals, wrung for every possible drop of provocative violence. Not out of desire, but out of necessity.)



Cabin in the Woods and the Horror of Video Games



Or maybe... maybe those old gods are just a metaphor. Maybe the old gods are us. We, the audience, are the ones for whom this bloodbath has been engineered.



(Or maybe... maybe the old gods are just a metaphor. Maybe the old gods are us. We, the audience, are the ones for whom this bloodbath has been engineered.)



Did we enjoy the deaths that were designed for us? Did they make us laugh and wince? Did we cheer along with the rest of the crowd?



Hopefully so. Hopefully the blood was enough. Existence depends on it.


Kotaku

What My Favorite Fighting Game Character Says About Me I almost flunked out of college because of Mortal Kombat on the Genesis. (Yes, that's how old I am.) Classes skipped, papers turned in late and reading assignments left barely skimmed, all because I was trying to perfect my Scorpion technique. And while the undead ninja from the gory fighting series is a favorite of mine, he's not the favorite. That honor goes to Lei Wulong, the occasionally drunk kung-fu cop from Namco's Tekken franchise.



I've been thinking about fighting games a lot. For no particular reason, really. The genre's experiencing an upswing lately and stands at a crossroads as the call of e-sports and wider awareness compete against the desire to maintain cohesion.



I get that tension. Fighting games ask for a hell of a lot of commitment. Not just to learning and executing arcane combinations of stick movements and button presses, but they also ask you to commit to other players. You need to study your opponents, sometimes over a long stretch of time or sometimes in a split-second. And in the inevitable clashes that follow, you test your mettle against another's, learning something about yourself and your opponent.







width="500" height="333" allowscriptaccess="always"
allowfullscreen="true">

So, back to Lei. What does he tell me about myself? Superficially, he grabs me for a bunch of different reasons. He's essentially a pastiche of classic Jackie Chan roles from movies like Drunken Master and Supercop, which I first watched in college. But I recently realized that my affinity for Lei goes deeper than those pop cultural resonances.



The thing I love most about Lei Wulong is the fluidity of his moveset. The different stances of his Five Form animal kung-fu he can present to opponents represent a broad range of possibility. During college and the years after it, I spent hours in Tekken 3's training mode. I'd pick my favorite stage—King's sky-high wrestling ring for that killer music—and go at the computer AI for long, long sessions. But more than anything, honing my skills felt meditative. It was almost always solitary. I'd sink into a kind of fugue state: alert, respsonsive yet deeply relaxed.



The way I play with Lei feels almost like some sort of journal-keeping. I can remember when a certain move changed or was tweaked. Other staples of my Lei style feel tattooed on my fingertips. I can't not do them, which probably isn't helpful to building a balanced style.



Lei's a dancer, the kind of martial artist I like to pick in fighting games. Ironically, I'm a shy dancer in real life. (I'll get up if someone puts on some Fela, but will still feel hella self-conscious.) Maybe that's why I enjoy Lei's loose, improvisatory style. Can make his body do he kind of things I can't accomplish in real life. Move from high to low really quickly, surprise my partner and prove I can move with the best of them. (Sidenote: I prefer the way that 3D fighters like SoulCalibur and Tekken let you play with space. And I play on gamepad, because fightsticks weren't really a thing when I was coming up.)







width="500" height="333" allowscriptaccess="always"
allowfullscreen="true">

The Hong Kong crimefighter's not the most powerful striker, but he gives me lots of room to improvise. Again, this probably says something about the kind of self-image I've tried to craft for myself. I try not to walk around with a lot of ego, and put priority to letting myself explore new ideas. With Lei, I always feel like there's always a better way for me to hook one stance into another. I play a little bit with Paul, Law and some other characters but Lei's my main. He's flexible. I try to be, too.



Fighting games—and the enthusiastic community around the genre—remind me of hip-hop. They inherently invite tussle, trash talk and training. There's a built-in aggression, lots of it centered on machismo, because it's an ecosystem built on skills. Skills that are highly quantifiable yet amazingly diverse and open to interpretation.



Yet, there's also a strong suspicion of outsiders within the Fighting Game Community and suspicion from those who control the game. Are they trying to use us, cheat us, milk us and move on? Rap music faced and still faces the same dilemma. It's mainstream now and little debate is given to its worth. Nevertheless, a set of ideas about what is or isn't hip-hop has hardened into a restrictive shell over the decades. It would suck if that happened to fighting games, if notions of the "only these kinds of people play them" sort hindered appreciation of the skill needed to excel at competition.



Going back to college, there were moments when my group of friends would chill in someone's dorm rooms and try to unleash freestyle raps. That kind of in-the-moment creativity always eluded me. Or maybe I was never brave enough. My experience with fighting games and with Lei has been markedly different. I've never been good enough to be a professional competitive gamer but I've been able to express parts of myself with the moves of one specific character. That's been good enough for me.


...