My colleague Mike Suszek of Joystiq, with whom I appear bi-weekly on the Press Row Podcast discussing sports video games, has begun an initiative to help many face down their Piles of Shame: Four in February.
The goal: Beat four video games in the month of February. That's it. It's kind of like National Novel Writing Month, if writing a novel involved sitting on your ass and playing 48 hours worth of video games (give or take). Mike brought this up on the latest edition of the podcast, and just now created a Facebook page for the goal, so if you're up to it, check in there.
I asked Mike if Four in February requires you to beat four games you've never played, or four games you simply haven't yet finished. His reply: "Do it any way you want! There are no rules."
The idea is solid, certainly builds community and camaraderie, but January may have been a better month for it. Hardcore gamers, the constituency to which Mike's appealing here, are facing a February release calendar that includes, among others, Dead Space 3, Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time, Aliens: Colonial Marines, Crysis 3 and Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance. None of those reviews are mine, but on a personal note, DC Universe Online has a new expansion coming Tuesday that intrigues me. I haven't played the game in a long time and I have a toon sitting on level 28, but I don't think this counts.
The image above is of Mike's four games: Assassin's Creed I, II and III, and Portal 2. I've beaten AC I and II, left Brotherhood incomplete long ago and haven't touched the series since. So I'll commit to these four: The Walking Dead (all five episodes; I'm through three of them.) Does that really count? Well, considering my other three, I think so: Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood and Assassin's Creed III (yes, like Mike, I'm skipping Revelations on the way to III) and the most shameful game atop my incomplete list: Red Dead Redemption.
We'll see how I do. That's biting off a lot. I tell people all the time that "I'd have so much time to play video games if my job wasn't to play video games." And my sports duties have me spending a lot of time on games that can't be "beaten" per se. (I'm not about to commit to taking my Road to the Show player to the Hall of Fame. That would take two months by itself.) I'm a momentum queen when it comes to open world games, so RDR may be played from the beginning, although crap, it's a long slog when you get to Mexico, if I recall.
What are your four?
Four in February [Facebook]
Welcome to your Sunday read of the week's best in web comics. Make sure to click on the expand button in the bottom right to enlarge each comic.
Nerf NOW!! by Josué Pereira.
Published Jan. 25.
Read more of Nerf NOW!!
Penny Arcade by Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik.
Published Jan. 23.
Read more of Penny Arcade.
Awkward Zombie by Katie Tiedrich.
Published Jan. 21.
Read more of Awkward Zombie.
Manly Guys Doing Manly Things by Kelly Turnbull.
Published Jan. 21.
Read more of Manly Guys Doing Manly Things.
Brentalfloss the Comic by Brent Black, Andrew Dobson and Dan Roth.
Published Jan. 22.
Read more of Brentalfloss the Comic.
Virtual Shackles by Jeremy Vinar and Mike Fahmie.
Published Jan. 21.
Read more of Virtual Shackles.
Corpse Run by Alex Di Stasi.
Published Jan. 24.
Read more of Corpse Run.
Nerd Rage by Andy Kluthe.
Published Jan. 25.
Read more of Nerd Rage.
Nerf This by Scott Ferguson.
Published Jan. 23.
Read more of Nerf This.
Hotline Miami is one of the most vicious, violent games in recent memory. This video by PulpitPower explores what would happen if we put Hotline Miami's savage protagonist in some old-school games (and a couple of newer ones, too!) The results are about as horrifying as you'd expect.
The worst part is, watching this, you think to yourself—hey, sure he's bashing Link's head in. But, I bet it would feel good to play!
Damn the ways you've made us all complicit, Hotline Miami. Damn the ways.
Wreck it Richard (Hotline Miami VS. Your Childhood) [PulpitPower]
Dead Island's meatheaded special edition premium—a butchered big-boobed torso—provided the laughs for this week's Kotaku 'Shop Contest. Among the finalists inside you will find Manti Te'o, the Major Award, Chewbacca (a very, very close runner up) and overall winner Nude_Eskimo!
Those wanting to work for WibiData better have impeccable Portal problem solving skills. Part of the application process for the San Francisco tech startup involves completing a custom level, based on the company's offices, says the New York Times.
A teaser of the custom level can be seen above. WibiData, a computer engineering firm, created the mod as a test for new applicants. The company's CEO said that playing Portal (and Portal 2, upon which this mod is based) he felt the game challenged his reasoning in the same way as a complex programming problem.
WibiData commissioned modder Doug Hoogland to create the level, which features WibiData's offices and a secret (nonexistent) test laboratory beneath them. Hoogland, notes PC Gamer, came to WibiData's attention after he built a wedding proposal mod in Portal for a customer of WibiData.
The level is available for download at WibiData's website.
Unable to get any satisfaction from Glee, 20th Century Fox Television, or its lawyers, Jonathan Coulton has put his version of of Sir Mix-a-Lot's "Baby Got Back" on iTunes, called it "my cover of Glee's cover of my cover," and will give proceeds from its sale through February to charity.
Coulton put the song on iTunes today under the title "Baby Got Back (In the Style of Glee)." For good measure, he changed his iTunes icon to a picture of him making the L-for-Loser hand gesture, which is used in Glee's logo.
Coulton is the artist who wrote and composed Still Alive, the iconic closing-credits song of Portal.
Tim Schafer, founder and CEO of Double Fine Productions, today shaved off his beard. This event was shown live to more than 700 viewers.
Schafer yesterday tweeted that he would remove his facial hair. The beard's demise evidently was tied to a weight loss goal. He had been on a "green juice fast" since the beginning of the month, shedding 25 pounds.
The current form of his beard apparently dated to around 2005. Previously, Schafer had worn a soul patch—"My late 90s, early aughts look," he said, as he used a beard trimmer (brand unknown) to pare down his facial hair before finishing the job with a razor.
"I've got my Psychonauts weight and my Psychonauts facial styling," he added.
No word yet regarding plans for a Kickstarter to grow a new beard.
What's happened in the business of video games this past week ...
QUOTE | "Because we're weirdos and don't like to do things like we're supposed to!"—American McGee, founder of Spicy Horse Games, explaining why they just launched a Kickstarter for Akaneiro towards the end of development.
QUOTE | "You're always going to get a gamer that just wants to shoot things."— Lee Kirton, marketing and PR director for Namco Bandai, explaining why marketing Ni No Kuni is difficult.
QUOTE | "That's the biggest risk of all, to be just simply bland."—Jamie Cheng, founder of Klei Entertainment, talking about why they took chances with the design of the wilderness survival game Don't Starve.
STAT | 29%—Amount that Microsoft's Xbox revenue dropped in the last quarter of 2012 compared to the previous year's quarter; Microsoft shipped 5.9 million consoles compared to 8.2 million in the same quarter the previous year
QUOTE | "I don't think we're going to struggle trying to get people to understand it; I think we're just going to struggle to make enough units."—Laird Malamed, former Activision SVP and now COO of Oculus VR, talking about the company's new VR headset.
QUOTE | "The traditional games and Hollywood model... creates a master and servant relationship."—Nick Beliaeff, senior vice president at Trion Worlds, talking about the difference in how their new game Defiance was created alongside the Syfy TV series.
STAT | 75 million—Number of iOS devices sold last quarter, according to Apple; that includes 47.8 million iPhones and 22.9 million iPads.
QUOTE | "I'd love to cover you guys, but no one really wants to read that stuff."—Dan Hsu, editor-in-chief of GamesBeat, talking about why mobile games don't get covered much on game sites.
QUOTE | "For every sequel that's the big question: how far do we push innovation?"—Tommy Francois, director of IP development for Ubisoft, talking about how Ubisoft tries to turn out hits every year.
QUOTE | "A 'rescued' THQ would have limped on like a crippled animal, shedding talented staff already spooked by one brush with corporate death."—Rob Fahey, former editor of GI.biz, talking about what caused the death of THQ.
STAT | $50 billion—Amount of revenue Google had in 2012; the company is expecting another strong year for Android devices
Evidently, removing scary scary violent video games from arcades is a trend now. So reports the Associated Press which, quite typically, can't be bothered to name any of the video games involved.
The AP brings up the news from earlier in the month when Massachusetts yanked some light gun games from arcades in rest stops it owns on the Massachusetts Turnpike, after a family complained they were inappropriate. Now, a guy in Yonkers, N.Y. complained to a private company—the owner of a global movie theater chain—and got action. Two removals. This constitutes a trend.
I'll tell you what is a trend, as I've seen it throughout the five years I've worked for this publication and reported on this type of story: The refusal of newspapers, newsmagazines, local television and television network reports—the "mainstream media"—to give the titles of objectionable games in the issues they're reporting on. It may seem a petty thing but it's actually important.
If this was a story about a school board banning books, you can be sure they'd name which ones. If a library was removing violent films from its collection, I think the reporter would ask for the titles. It's important to know if a library is removing, say, Commando as opposed to Platoon, or Song of the South as opposed to Cinderella isn't it? Doesn't that help the reader justify the reasonableness, or lack thereof, of the decision?
But video games, no one can be bothered to tell us which ones. Apparently that's not relevant to those writing and editing these stories. Bullshit. It's a form of symbolic annihilation and it reflects a mainstream assumption that the entire medium is irredeemable, and its guilt is justifiably collective. It means that every video game is violent, or that "shooting video game" tells you all you need to know, because a game that has a name is now a game that can be distinguished from others, or have its actual relevance to gaming culture described.
Instead, we have what are likely a bunch of early-2000s light gun games that no one plays anymore standing as authoritative representatives of video gaming's content and cultural reach.
That's not to say games are never named. When they are, it's typically to prop up some assumption about why some suspect or malefactor was playing it. Call of Duty is frequently named in this regard. World of Warcraft got prime billing because it helped portray Anders Behring Breivik as a game-addicted loner (which he likely was). But when it's a game that actually isn't tied to a crime or a person, more a social problem, good luck getting its title in a report. (There are exceptions; The Boston Globe went so far as to name Time Crisis as one of the cabinets pulled from the turnpike stops, but there were unidentified others removed.)
This is how you get to the point where Adam Lanza is assumed by lawmakers, think tanks and civic leaders to be game-addicted or corrupted by Call of Duty. That's what's driving the current conversation, where the president and vice president are calling for federal research into the effect of violent video games on kids, as a response to a mass shooting incident. This connection is made through one statement and one statement only: a quote attributed to a plumber who had done work in the Lanza home.
The only title named by one of Lanza's friends, who actually knew him? Dynasty Warriors. This scary scary violent video game story becomes a lot harder to sell to the general public when the title involved isn't the global bestselling military shooter phenomenon, but a Japanese-made beat-em-up. Indeed, this friend said Lanza was "a big fan of Japanese culture," and also collected Pokémon cards.
The Express, the UK tabloid who talked to the plumber, did its damndest to make Dynasty Warriors the culprit, calling it a "shockingly violent fantasy war game." But no one's repeating that slur, because Dynasty Warriors is a) not that and b) not as identifiable or as reducible to stereotype as Call of Duty. See? That's why names are important. It helps readers verify the accusations made against them and the credibility of those making them. (As a commenter below this reminds, the NRA named names in its deranged news conference. But one of them was Kindergarten Killer, a 10-year-old flash game, badly damaging the claim and painting it as unreasonable scapegoating.)
So, please, reporters, take the time to get the goddamn names of the games. Get all of them. Get them every time. A credible report will have them. A credible statement will give them. If the spokesperson for the movie theater company or the department of transportation doesn't know them, that tells you the real story: that political figures and big business are motivated not so much by propriety and decorum in the spaces they control, but fear of bad PR. And that's an older and more credible trend than this nonsense.
Arcade video shooting games pulled after massacres [The Associated Press via KOMO-TV.]
Amazon throws some pre-order bait with bonus credit offers on big titles coming out in the next couple of months. Meantime, GreenMan Gaming's own 25 percent off coupon is still going, along with Microsoft Store's offer of $20 worth of Microsoft Points on 11 titles there. Those deals highlight more than 100 in all in this week's edition of The Moneysaver.
Editor's Note: Today marks the final week Deals4Downloads will be providing its list of digital distribution bargains. The site is closing down at the end of this month. We thank Deals4Downloads and its management team, Sebastian Lindig and Michael Krenz, for all they provided to The Moneysaver over the past three years (going back to when it was known as Weekend Coupons) and wish them the best.
Amazon added $10-$20 bonus credits to pre-orders of five AAA titles.
• Feb. 5 release Dead Space 3 Limited Edition (360, PS3) with $20 Amazon Credit is $59.99, free shipping (list $60)
• Mar. 5 release Sim City: Limited Edition (PC DVD) with $20 Amazon Credit is $59.99, free shipping (list $60)
• Mar. 12 release God of War: Ascension (PS3) with $10 Amazon Credit is $59.99, free shipping (next best $60)
• Mar. 19 release Crysis 3 Hunter Edition (PS3, 360) with $20 Amazon Credit is $59.99, free shipping (next best $60)
• Mar. 26 release Army of Two: The Devil's Cartel Overkill Edition (360, PS3) with $20 Amazon Credit is $59.99, free shipping (list $60)
Green Man Gaming's 25% off pre-order coupon is still working and stacks with credit/cash-back bonuses.
• Jan. 29 release Dungeonland (PC download) is $7.50 (list $10)
• Feb. 5 release Omerta: City of Gangsters (PC download) with $2 Credit or $1 Cash Back is $25.50 (list $40)
• Mar. 5 release South Park: The Stick of Truth (PC download) with $3 Credit or $2 Cash Back is $45 (next best $49)
• Mar. 31 release Metro: Last Light (PC download) with $2 Credit or $1 Cash Back is $45 (next best $60)
• Apr. 2 release Defiance (PC download) with $2 Credit or $1 Cash Back is $45 (list $60)
• Apr. 23 release Dead Island Riptide (PC download) with $2 Credit or $1 Cash Back is $30 (list $40)
Amazon has a few digital bundles deals worth considering this weekend. While we've seen these prices before, it's a rare opportunity to pick up multiple games for cheap.
• THQ Mega Pack (19 PC downloads) is $24.99 (separately $366)
• 2K Mega Pack (9 PC downloads) is $24.99 (separately $232)
• 2K Shooter Pack (4 PC downloads) is $9.99 (separately $102)
• Desert to Sea Bundle - BioShock, BioShock 2 & Spec Ops: The Line (3 PC downloads) is $9.99 (separately $47)
• The Crazy Action Pack (3 PC download) is $9.99 (separately $48)
Amazon has more PC download and console game deals for the weekend.
• NBA 2K13 (PC download) is $14.99 (next best $30)
• The Sims 3: Supernatural (PC download) is $13.59 (next best $40)
• Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes (Wii) is $10.99 (next best $20)
• Microsoft Store offers 1600 Xbox LIVE points with select 360 game pre-orders. As of Friday there were 11 eligible titles.
• Last Tuesday's release Ni no Kuni: Wrath Of The White Witch (PS3) is $57.99, free shipping from J&R and $60 elsewhere.
GameFly has a few good weekend PC download offers, plus they launched a coupon code for extra 10% savings. The coupon is only usable once per account.
• Dishonored is $26.99 (next best $55)
• Borderlands 2 is $26.99 (normally $50)
• Mass Effect 3 is $13.49 (normally $30)
• The Walking Dead Game is $11.24 (next best $25)
• SimCity 4 Deluxe Edition is $8.99 (next best $12)
• Crysis Maximum Edition is $6.74 (next best $25)
• Psychonauts is $4.49 (list $10)
Green Man Gaming has a 20% off coupon that works on several new releases and stacks with instant savings.
• Batman Arkham City Game of the Year Edition (PC download) is $6 (next best $15)
• Last Tuesday's release Max Payne 3: Deathmatch Made in Heaven Pack (PC DLC) is $8 (list $10)
• Last Tuesday's release Rush Bros. is $11.96 (next best $15)
• Last Wednesday's release The Cave is $12 (next best $15)
• Last Wednesday's release Strike Suit Zero is $16 (list $20)
• Today's release DMC: Devil May Cry is $40 (next best $50)
• Feb. 13 release Chernobyl Commando is $12 (list $15)
• Alpha Protocol is $12 (list $15)
• International Snooker is $10.40 (list $13)
• Spellforce: Complete Collection is $8 (list $40)
• Kairo is $6.40 (list $8)
• Alan Wake is $5.99 (next best $30)
• The Whispered World is $4 (list $10)
• The Lord of the Rings: War in the North is $4 (next best $20)
• Laxius Force is $2 (next best $7)
• Mortal Kombat: Arcade Kollection is $2 (next best $10)
• Starvoid is $2 (list $10)
• Halo 4 (360) is $39.99, free shipping (next best $54)
• The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings Collector's Edition (PC) is $39.99, free shipping (next best $65)
• Hitman: Absolution (360, PS3) is $27.99, free shipping (next best $40)
• SSX (360) is $14.99, free shipping (next best $20)
• Tomb Raider Trilogy (PS3) is $14.99, free shipping (next best $25)
• Diablo 3 (PC/Mac) is $29.99, free shipping (next best $56)
• Resident Evil 6 (360, PS3) is $29.99, free shipping (next best $40)
• Test Drive: Ferrari Racing Legends (360) is $20.99, free shipping (next best $27)
• Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance (3DS) is $19.99, free shipping (next best $40)
• Crosswords Plus (3DS) is $19.99, free shipping (next best $29)
• Tiger Woods PGA Tour 13 (PS3) is $18.99, free shipping (next best $30)
• Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 (360, PS3, PC) is $18.99, free shipping (next best $38)
• Wonderbook: Book of Spells (PS3) is $17.99, free shipping (next best $32)
Origin PC download deals.
• Game of Thrones is $10 (next best $40)
• The Sims 3: Diesel Stuff Expansion Pack is $10 (next best $20)
• Mass Effect 2 Digital Deluxe Edition is $10 (next best $30)
• Battlefield Bad Company 2 is $6.99 (next best $20)
• Alice: Madness Returns is $5 (next best $10)
• Last day for the Toys 'R' Us "Save $20 off 2 Wii U games" sale for titles priced $49.99 or more. [Dealzon]
• Xbox 360 Live 12-Month Gold Membership Card for $34.99, free shipping from NewEgg on eBay deals started Friday. If that sells out, it will be that price again from Best Buy starting Sunday. Next best is $40 at Amazon. [Dealzon]
• Nintendo 3DS XL (Blue/Black) is $179.99, free shipping from Best Buy. Next best is $200. [Dealzon]
• Xbox 360 4GB Slim Console is $179.99, free shipping and comes with a $20 gift card from Best Buy. Next best is $200. [Dealzon]
• PlayStation Move Deadmund's Quest/Sports Champions Bundle is $69.99 with $5.94 shipping from Best Buy. Next best is $87. [Dealzon]
• Wonderbook: Book of Spells PlayStation Move Bundle is $44.99, free shipping from Best Buy. Next best is $60. [Dealzon]
• Turtle Beach Ear Force N11 Amplified Gaming Headset for Wii U and 3DS is $34.99, free shipping from Best Buy. List price is $50. [Dealzon]
• Wii U Stereo Headset is $9.99, free shipping from Best Buy. List price is $20. [Dealzon]
• Alienware M17x with Radeon HD 7970M 2GB GPU is $1,599 after coupon from Dell Home. Rare value config spotted on Dell's site, just the base config with only the 7970M upgrade, which isn't available if you customize the base config on Dell's main Alienware offers page. Cheapest config with this GPU Dell advertises is usually $2,000+ because of other upgrades they build in to raise the price.
• Dell Inspiron 17R laptop with Ivy Bridge Core i7-3632QM, 8GB RAM, 1TB HDD, GeForce GT 630M is $749.99, free shipping from Dell Home. New low by $50. List price is $1,119.
• Lenovo IdeaPad Y500 95412SU gaming laptop Ivy Bridge Core i7-3632QM, 8GB RAM, GeForce GT650M, Windows 8 is $799, free shipping from Lenovo. List price is $1,149.
• Samsung NP365E5C-S05US budget laptop with AMD A6-4400M, Radeon HD 7520G, Windows 8 is $299.99, free shipping from Best Buy. List price is $370. Not a gaming powerhouse, but the Radeon HD 7520G integrated GPU can actually handle games like Diablo 3, FIFA 13, CS:GO, etc. If you play older titles and you just need something, this $300 laptop might do the trick.
• Alienware M14x revision 2 gaming laptop with Ivy Bridge Core i5-3210M 3rd Gen, 8GB RAM, 2GB GeForce GT 650M is $1,117.55, free shipping from Dell Home. New low by $50. List price is $1,229.
• Lenovo IdeaPad Y400 95232HU gaming laptop with Ivy Bridge Core i7-3630QM, 8GB RAM, GeForce GT 650M is $743.20, free shipping from Lenovo. List price is $929.
• MacBook Air 13 MD231LL/A with Ivy Bridge Core i5-3427U 1.8GHz, 4GB RAM, 128GB SSD (newest model, 2012) is $999.99, free shipping from Best Buy and Amazon. Next best is $1,100 and it's $1199 from Apple Store. It's not a gaming laptop, but the price is so good for a MBA that it's a good consideration for those with low GPU requirements or casual gaming. For example, the Intel HD 4000 can still power League of Legends, which will have an upcoming Mac client soon.
• Dell XPS 8500 with coupon is still available, comes with Quad Core i7-3770 (3rd Gen), Radeon HD 7770 2GB, 16GB RAM, 2TB HDD + 32GB SSD, Blu-ray is $999.99, free shipping from Dell Home. List price is $1,400.
The following listing of digital download bargains are grouped by distributor.
• 2K Shooter Pack is $9.99, save 91 percent.
• The WTF Pack is $9.99, save 90 percent.
• 2K Mega Pack is $24.99, save 90 percent.
• Desert to Sea Bundle is $9.99, save 89 percent.
• 2K Strategy Super Pack is $19.99, save 85 percent.
• Spec Ops: The Line is $7.49, save 75 percent.
• Dead Space Complete Pack is $7.99, save 80 percent.
• King Arthur Complete Collection is $7.50, save 75 percent.
• Tales of Monkey Island Complete Season is $8.74, save 75 percent.
• The Guild Complete Collection is $7.50, save 75 percent.
• Hot Shots Golf: Out of Bounds Complete Collection (PS3) is $12.49, save 50 percent.
• Jet Set Radio (PS3) is $4.99, save 50 percent.
Kotaku thanks our coupon partners for providing these and other great deals. As always, smart gamers can find values any day of the week, so if you've run across a deal, share it with us in the comments.