This Portable SNES Looks Like It'd Fit Right In at an Emergency Command PostModder robotairz of Reddit today shared a gallery of this portable Super Nintendo, which he says he made last year but just got around to uploading today. The emergency-management-services yellow of the toolbox and the super snug, shock-proof interior make this thing an awesome addition to someone's disaster preparedness kit.

robotairz was offered $900 for it, and he said he's looking to sell it, so, who knows, if you gotta wanna needa hava, send him a PM. Or just head over and give him a thumbs up for a job well done.

Many more pictures are available through imgur.

a portable super nintendo i made last year. thought reddit might like it. [Reddit]


When Is Cheating In A Game Okay? I can tell you exactly when I ruined Pokemon for myself. It was when I enlisted the help of an Action Replay and an obscure program that let me do just about anything in the game. It was like playing god. Pokemon god. And having this powerful ability completely changed how I see cheating.

I wasn't interested in breaking the game. Not exactly. The world of competitive Pokemon—at the time—was a strange beast. You had your group of people who stuck to online battles using programs like Shoddy Battle, which let you make up whatever team you'd like with whatever moveset and attributes you desired.

When you consider the amount of work that something like that would require in real life, what Shoddy Battle offered is amazing. Normally making one Pokemon—breeding it, then raising it to properly have the right skills and attributes—can take an absurd amount of time. Most people might catch whatever is available and go from there, or go with whatever looks cool. But Shoddy Battle let you make your dream team come true immediately.

Back in real life, Action Replay make what Shoddy Battle made possible—only right in your handheld, not in some offshoot program. That seemed more appealing to me, more... legitimate, somehow.

I couldn't help but pull the curtain back even further.

But the idea of legitimacy is turned on its head when you're using a special tool to achieve something in a game. It wasn't just using the Action Replay to see the hidden values. Unless you're willing to wade through a bunch of tedium, it's kind of necessary to use what is known as ‘EV training.' Basically, when you level up, what stats your Pokemon gains depend on what EVs they've accrued. Every Pokemon has specific EVs that they give you after defeating them, and these are added up every time you level.

When you need a particular Pokemon that only appears 20% of the time in a particular patch of grass to make sure your Charizard has a lot of special attack, suddenly the ability to make sure that specific wild Pokemon appears via Action Replay becomes appealing. I initially bought the device just to take a look behind the curtain, but when it gave me the ability to do more, I couldn't help but pull the curtain back even further.

I figured: I could just leave it all up to chance. Or, I can help myself... but just a little. Whatever I thought about cheating beforehand—that it wasn't okay, that I shouldn't do it—faded away.

I remember talking to competitive community members at the time and the way we would discuss it was kind of bewildering. Pokemon you made from scratch using a cheating device? Like say a shiny legendary Pokemon with an absurd moveset? No good, get that crap away from me.

It was like it was cheating, but it wasn't cheating at the same time.

If the Pokemon isn't normally possible in the game, then your methods are looked down upon. As if all that other stuff isn't also normally impossible in the game.

But if you if you actually had to put in some work in conjunction to whatever you did with your Action Replay? Well, that was different. That Pokemon was okay. You earned it.

Sure you made that Pokemon appear endlessly somewhere in a way it wasn't supposed to naturally. Sure you looked at stuff you weren't supposed to with hidden stats. But, you still battled through all those Pokemon to gain their EVs. You still went through the process of hatching your Pokemon, too.

It was like it was cheating, but it wasn't cheating at the same time.

What people will do to make cheating okay, to justify cheating, is fascinating to me. On a completely technical level, what I did with my Pokemon is ‘cheating.' I went outside the normal game, I altered the experience I was supposed to have. But it didn't ‘feel' like cheating, because there was work involved.

It seems different than, say, paying to win against other players, even though I'm sure someone like that has their reasons for playing the way they do. Even if it's just "I wanted to have fun" or "I wanted to be a dick."

So maybe it's just me trying to feel better about what I did, to make distinctions where there aren't any. It's like saying "yes, this is cheating, but not as much as this other thing is!" Hah, okay, buddy.

And maybe the distinction doesn't matter when talking about contained experiences that don't affect anyone else. It's one thing to cheat on a single player game, it's another thing entirely to cheat when other people are playing clean. You can sully your morals as much as you want: privately, though. It's your business.

It's like saying "yes, this is cheating, but not as much as this other thing is!" Hah, okay, buddy.

The trick here is that with the Pokemon thing, there were other people involved. The entire point of raising a Pokemon with special tools isn't to use them in-game. You don't need to put so much effort into that. Most people try to make 'perfect' Pokemon because they want to use them in battle or want to trade them. Which is to say, cheating exists in this wider social sphere where it's socially acceptable to cheat.

If that's the case, then trying to have this noble, moral and universal idea of what cheating is—" act dishonestly or unfairly in order to gain an advantage"—doesn't quite work. I technically cheated when I played Pokemon...but it was accepted, and widely-done. Can that still be considered cheating? Would stuff like aim-botting still be cheating if everyone did it? But why does it only matter when other people are involved if cheating is a moral thing? I don't think this stuff is as clear-cut as it might seem.

Regardless, the joke was on me: I toyed with what I shouldn't have, and then Pokemon without the power, without the competitive edge, without the extra minutia, became boring. The price of cheating is not always one of integrity.


Ever since I crash-landed in one in Halo: Combat Evolved, I've had a soft spot for those big ol' UNSC Pelican dropships. As it turns out, it's possible for three players to team up in the campaign level "Reclaimer" and hop behind the wheel of one, despite the fact that the story doesn't call for it.

The trick was (somehow) discovered by NoWise10, who demonstrates it in the video above.

It's a pretty involved process, so if you're looking for another tutorial, check out this one by SomeFilthyCasuals, who provide their own walkthrough.

H/T Praxic


The Best Surprises Of 2012Sure, 2012 was a year rife with disappointments. But it was also filled with surprises of the best sort. Since we brought everyone down last week with our list of the biggest disappointments of the year, we thought it only proper to also share the best, most welcome surprises.

Here now, the best surprises of 2012.

You Don't Know Jack Hits Facebook, Rules

After years out of the spotlight, the YDKJ franchise returned to consoles and PC a couple of years ago. It was a lot of fun, and a good reminder that we still liked Jellyvision's brand of peppy, off-kilter trivia. But it was hard not to get the sense that each question brought you closer to the end of the finite number of challenges, and we missed the gibberish question. This year, seemingly out of nowhere, Jellyvision put the game on Facebook, and it was excellent. Turns out the game lends itself to asynchronous social play more than just about anything else on the platform. The more recent mobile version is just as good. You Don't Know Jack isn't just a welcome return of a classic series, it's easily one of the best social games of all time.

Sleeping Dogs

One could be forgiven for not expecting too much from Sleeping Dogs. Originally slated to be another entry the Activision-published True Crime series, it was dropped by the publisher, picked up by Square Enix, finished and published with its current out-there name. It seemed like it'd be another Grand Theft Auto clone. And it is, to a point; but it's also fantastic. It's got a great story, strong acting, and a really fun combat system that, thank the gods, largely ditches gunplay in favor of Arkham City-like martial arts. And perhaps best of all, its wonderful Hong Kong setting gives it a real sense of place. A standout game for 2012, and easily one of the best true surprises of the year.

PlayStation Plus Becomes Worthwhile

The Best Surprises Of 2012Show of hands for everyone who saw this one coming. For a long time, one of the big selling points (so to speak) of Sony's PlayStation Network was that it offered the same services as Microsoft's Xbox LIVE, but for free. (Insert joke about PlayStation Home here.) So when Sony unveiled Playstation "Plus," it didn't quite compute. Why would anyone pay for something they've been getting for free for so long? The early rewards didn't seem worth it—an early download of a demo, early access to a game, or some light exclusive content. But suddenly, Sony went hog-wild and started offering loads of free games to subscribers, and the service got a lot more appealing. As Stephen put it, suddenly PlayStation Plus was making a mockery of Xbox LIVE; later offers like the one that made almost every good Vita game free only sweetened the deal. Good show, Sony; we didn't think you had it in you.

The Walking Dead

It seems strange to call Telltale's The Walking Dead a surprise, but there was a time just this year when none of us saw it coming. We'd known Telltale as the studio responsible for some hit-or-miss licensed adventure games. There was some promising buzz surrounding The Walking Dead if you were paying attention, but all the same, it wasn't until that first episode came out and we played it that it became clear just how special this series could be. By the time they hit that astonishing third episode, Lee, Clementine and company were full steam ahead to Game Of The Year town.

XCOM: Enemy Unknown

Firaxis' XCOM: Enemy Unknown could have gone wrong in so, so many ways. From the moment it was revealed, it almost felt like an apology for 2K's other take on the series, the gaudy, long-delayed first-person shooter. It sure looked like an update of the classic, tactical PC game so many of us fell in love with back in the 90s. But could anyone really pull that off? Yep, turns out Firaxis could. Easily one of the most absorbing, white-knuckle games of the year, XCOM: Enemy Unknown was a resounding success in almost every way.

Sony's Downloadable Indie Lineup

While the PC will likely always have the lion's share of quality indie games, a gamer in 2012 could find all manner of lovely, weird, interesting downloadable games on Sony's console. Papo y Yo, The Unfinished Swan, Tokyo Jungle, Mutant Blobs Attack!, Sound Shapes and of course, Journey. The PS3 might not have gotten many blockbuster system-sellers this year, but the PSN spent most of 2012 as a hotbed of smart, beautiful games. Cheers, Sony.


We've seen so many zombie games. So, so many. And yet in 2012, Dean Hall's Arma II mod DayZ quickly became arguably the greatest zombie game ever made. Harrowing and immensely difficult, it was a "game" like no other, a lawless online hellscape that regularly cranked out unbelievable stories. DayZ was also the first zombie game to reinforce that long-held trope of zombie fiction: Sure, the undead are terrifying, but other survivors are far more dangerous.

The Wii U Controller

The Best Surprises Of 2012The surprising thing isn't that the Wii U's controller, which incorporates a large touch-screen, was cool. It was the way it was cool. I figured it'd be neat for all the reasons Nintendo kept hyping—I can hold it up and look around the game-world, I can use the touch-screen to interact with games differently. And it was neat in those ways. But what I didn't see coming was how nice it would be just to play games on it. I've been playing a lot of Little Inferno and New Super Mario Bros. U, and I always play both games on the controller, not on my TV. Sure, games like ZombiU require both the TV and the controller. And those are cool. But Nintendo seems to have anticipated a desire that none of us knew we had—to play games on handhelds and tablets, even in our living rooms.

Mutant Blobs Attack!

Who could've anticipated that the best launch title for the PS Vita wouldn't be Uncharted: Golden Abyss or even WipEout, but a little indie platformer called Tales From Space: Mutant Blobs Attack!? Certainly not me. And yet Mutant Blobs was indeed was a great game, a smart, challenging platformer that used the Vita's various touch capabilities in clever ways and was loaded with cheeky humor, funny meta-gags and brain-twisting puzzles. It remains one of the best games on the system, even all these months later.


Parsec Productions' wonderfully creepy, super low-budget game Slender was another out-of-left-field phenomenon in 2012. The free PC and Mac game spawned countless imitators, a newfound interest in Slenderman lore and the "Marble Hornets" video series, and a lot of goofy videos of people playing it and freaking out. It's even led Parsec to team up with Blue Isle to make a much more polished-looking sequel called Slender: The Arrival. Will lightning strike twice? We'll see. But it certainly struck once, making Slender one of 2012's most unexpected success stories.

Resident Evil: Revelations

It was quite a surprise that in 2012, when Resident Evil series took a serious beating for both Raccoon City and Resident Evil 6, Capcom would also release one of the best Resident Evil games in a long while. Revelations stripped things down for the 3DS and as a result was one of the most focused Resident Evil games in a long while. Sure, Chris Redfield's action chapters were still more Gears of War-lite than true survival horror, but they mainly served to break up Jill's tense, genuinely scary chapters on that abandoned ship.

The Friend Game

The Best Surprises Of 2012It's surprising that it took someone this long to come up with The Friend Game, seeing as how it's kind of the perfect game for Facebook. In it, you have to answer questions about your friends to see how well you know them—guess the answer they gave, and you get points. It's sort of like OKCupid, only it's more of a literal game, rather than just a metaphorical one. It's a real blast, and along with You Don't Know Jack gives new hope for the future of Facebook gaming.

Rayman Jungle Run

One could be forgiven for thinking that Ubisoft is driving the Rayman franchise into the ground. Last year's Rayman: Origins wound up being one of the best 2D platformers in ages, and suddenly it seemed like we were seeing the little armless dude everywhere. He's not even that cool of a mascot, people! But then again, if every Rayman game can be as good as Jungle Run, I'm not complaining. The game perfectly translates the difficulty and goofy inertia of Origins to touch-screen devices, and looks gorgeous, too. It's one of the few iOS games I still whip out and play regularly, and the perfect-score challenges are just difficult enough to be challenging while remaining attainable. And of course, you get to listen to that amazing soundtrack all over again.

Super Hexagon

Super Hexagon, the other big iOS surprise of the year, goes from "enjoyable high-score challenge" to "insane addiction" in the space of about five minutes. The whole thing is deceptively simple (or should that be deceptively complex?). Keep your little triangle from hitting a line, and don't have a seizure. While Super Hexagon is a lot of fun on its own, some combination of the combination grinding chip soundtrack, the fast-paced die/retry/die rhythm, and announcer Jenn Frank's robot-like encouragement makes it almost impossible to put down.


Sure, we technically knew about ZombiU before E3 2012, but it still came as something of a shock when we finally played it at the Los Angeles expo. Zombies? Sure. A token Ubisoft hardcore launch-game for the Wii U? Okay. But against all probability, ZombiU was actually an interesting game, with a mix of Dark Souls and Dead Island. The game turned out really well, arguably the best game on the Wii U at launch.

Spec Ops: The Line

The folks at Yager Interactive talked a big game with Spec Ops: The Line. Blah blah, adult story, blah, subversive take on video game violence, blah blah Heart of Darkness blah. And yet.. and yet… while the final game was something of a muddle, it was far more successful in achieving its goals than anyone was expecting. Once players got past the (debatably purposefully) boring third-person shooter opening chapters, the story went on a genuinely batshit descent into madness, all leading towards an audacious, ambiguous finale. It inspired Tom Bissell's fantastic essay "Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Shooter", and even inspired Brendan Keogh to write an entire book called "Killing is Harmless," which actually I haven't read, but at the very least prompted more good conversation. For those interested in video game storytelling, Spec Ops: The Line is worth playing as much for its failures as its successes.

Little Inferno

Little Inferno, which was released both on Wii U and PC this November, seems like a simple enough little thing. Players burn stuff in a fireplace, and use the coins they get from burning stuff to buy more stuff, which they then burn. But beneath that casual-friendly exterior lies a surprisingly moving story. That the burning itself is fun should come as no surprise, given that the developers are the same folks who made wonderfully tactile World of Goo. But the dark, clever fable at the game's heart? That's one of the most welcome surprises of the year.

E3: Watch Dogs and Star Wars 1313

E3 2012 was light on surprises this year. That may have heightened excitement around the few games that actually were surprises, though we think we'd have gotten pretty excited about both Watch Dogs and Star Wars 1313 even amid a sea of other announcements. Ubisoft's Watch Dogs was one of the only true, jaw-on-the-floor surprises of the show, made all the better by a lengthy in-game demonstration so impressive that it made it difficult to believe Ubisoft's claims that the game was being developed for current-generation systems.

We'd already gathered some inkling of Star Wars 1313 through the rumor mill, but when it was finally revealed, it looked even better than we'd hoped. The game looks to be ditching Jedi and force powers (hooray) in favor of a more Uncharted-like adventure. It's a shame that game designer Clint Hocking departed LucasArts this year, since this is the exact sort of Star Wars game I was hoping he'd make. Here's hoping Lucasarts has got someone equally talented on 1313, and that they can finally come up with a worthwhile new singleplayer Star Wars game.

Peter Molyneux and Cliff Bleszinski Keep On Truckin'

The Best Surprises Of 2012 Studio departures aren't usually the sorts of surprises we get too worked up about here, but these two stood out. In March, legendary developer Peter Molyneux left Lionhead Studios and Microsoft to start his own independent studio. Then in October, Cliff Bleszinski left Epic Games. While Fable and Gears of War games are all well and good, it's understandable that two developers who got their start in the fracas of pre-millennial PC gaming might start to chafe at their cushy lives pushing out mega-franchise sequels. Given the wild stuff going on in independent PC development right now, both men are almost surely excited to finally be freed of their past successes and starting something new. We're excited, too.


The Best Surprises Of 2012The 3DS XL was a surprise partly just because Nintendo said it wasn't coming, then said it was. But the real surprise was that the super-sized version of the 3DS was a big improvement in almost every way.

Black Mesa

It seemed like there was no way—NO WAY—that Black Mesa could have been any good. A fan-made, group-sourced remake of/tribute to Half-Life, one of the greatest games ever made. A thrown-together team of programmers and amateur writers and voice-talent, regularly delaying the game, speaking in interviews about how thoroughly they'd underestimated the project. And yet… it was good. Really, really good. It was a smart, funny, fun tribute to a classic, and amazingly enough, even improved on the original game in some ways. An astonishing surprise, any way you slice it.

The Best Surprises Of 2012

The Biggest Disappointments Of 2012

Too much positivity for ya? Last week, we rounded up the biggest disappointments of the year. Give them a read here. More »

Surely you had your own surprises this year; let us know your biggest surprises down below.


Kinect Registers Curse Words And Lets You Grief Friends in Dead Space 3 Will Dead Space 3 be scary or not? It's not quite clear yet. But if it is, if it manages to make some of you scream, then something might just happen in-game—if you happen to be playing on Kinect, that is. According to a CVG interview with DS3 executive producer Steve Papoutsis, it works like this:

"We actually have some commands that people will need to figure out," he explains, "But there are commands where you might be in a certain situation and you might yell a specific expletive and it might behave in a way that you want it to."

So if you're the type of person that goes all SH*T F*CK F*CK PISS or whatever after something scares or frustrates you, your potty mouth might result in something beneficial instead of just making other people uncomfortable.

That's not the only curious usage the Kinect will see with Dead Space 3. The game features co-op, and you can give voice commands to do basic stuff like sharing ammo. Not all of these actions are so kindhearted, though. You can grief, but "just your friends!" according to Papoutsis.

These are certainly some of the more amusing uses of the Kinect that I've heard about.

Dead Space 3 interview: "I love seeing our testers freaking out..." [CVG]


NBA 2K13's Replay Cam Gets Rid of Its Own Red Ring of DeathFor as long as I have sought to illustrate posts with screengrabs from the NBA 2K series, I have despised its replay camera. Dedicated guys like MessenjahMatt can still produce virtuoso recreations of famous Air Jordan commercials using the game's PC version, but for the rest of us shlubs on a console, getting a Sports Illustrated cover-quality shot of Blake Griffin water-poloing a dunk over Pau Gasol remains a distant dream.

Well, it gets a little more tolerable thanks to the latest patch. Because even if the camera controls, rotation and centering still drive me crazy, at least that @$&%#@ red circle under the highlighted player's feet can finally be removed. Operation Sports pointed out the feature, noting that it is new to the series and arrived with the latest title update. Just press L1 and L2 simultaneously on your PS3 (LB and RB on your 360) and voila, no more red ring.

If it seems like this feature has been secretly in the game all along, it hasn't been. I just tried this out with NBA 2K12 and an unpatched NBA 2K13 on the Xbox 360 and it wasn't there. After pushing through the patch on 2K13 it became available.

How to Remove the Red Player Indicator Circle in NBA 2K13 Instant Replay [Operation Sports]


The Final Week in Gaming Apps of 2012It's been a good run, but this is it: our final collection of worthwhile mobile games and Gaming Apps of the Day of the year. If this were a television show I'd cut to a montage right about now.

Yep, still not a television show. Instead I'm stuck telling you about the games I've played this week that I didn't get a chance to write about this week. The games I would have written about had it not been for sick children and holiday madness. The Sector 11s and the Ronins, battling bears and sushi chef action heroes.

I'm looking forward to a new dawn of mobile gaming around the corner in 2013. Until then, here are the games you should huddle around for warmth while waiting for the sun to rise.


The Final Week in Gaming Apps of 2012Sushi Hero

A pungent combination of running and slicing live fish.

The Final Week in Gaming Apps of 2012Roller Rally: Snake Pass

It's a roller-skate racing game featuring a stuffed rabbit wearing a rainbow scarf. Of course I played this.

The Final Week in Gaming Apps of 2012Ronin

Another auto-running and slicing game, only this one has sharp, stylish graphics and a nice bit of challenge to it.


The Final Week in Gaming Apps of 2012Battle Bears Royale (also on iOS)

A competitive online shooter with colorful cartoon bears. I'm actually rather good at this. How odd.

The Final Week in Gaming Apps of 2012Rocket Island

A hex-based puzzle game with a steampunk vibe. Normally not a fan of steampunk, but the gameplay is simple and compelling enough for me to overlook it.

The Final Week in Gaming Apps of 2012Sector 11

Crafted by Ian Umemoto, otherwise known as Yume Apps, Sector 11 is a shoot-em up split up into more than 70 mini-levels. It lacks polish, but it's not too shabby for a one-man indie effort.

The Final Week in Gaming Apps of 2012Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery (also on iOS)

One of the greatest games for the iPad and PC is now on Android devices. I mentioned it earlier today, but in case you missed it I am mentioning it again.

Gaming Apps of the Day, December 24 - 28, 2012

The Final Week in Gaming Apps of 2012It May Be Expensive, But It's Still Final Fantasy IV

While not the best Final Fantasy game of all-time (in my reality that's IX), Final Fantasy IV was one of the first role-playing games to feature a deep, character-driven plot and introduced the world to the Active Time Battle system, adding an element of urgency to pressing one button over and over again. That's at least $16 worth of value right there. More »

The Final Week in Gaming Apps of 2012Finger Tied Is Like a Game of Naked Twister You Play With Your Hand

People who bitch about touchscreen games like to complain that "they're so simple." Those people need to shut up and play Finger Tied. More »

The Final Week in Gaming Apps of 2012Take Over the World One RPG Dungeon at a Time

Every corner of this dirty little ball we live on has been mapped and uploaded to the internet. Now it's time to play with it. Life is Magic gives players the chance to team up and take over a fantasy version of the real world, one city at a time. More »

The Final Week in Gaming Apps of 2012You're* Pen is a Mighty Sword in The Grading Game

If your like me, you hate being corrected. Readers know how fast I loose my temper when mistake's are pointed out. Its not that I think I'm always right, I just hate someone telling me when I'm wrong. More »

KotakuMobile is your one-stop shop for all of Kotaku's Android, iOS and Windows Phone 8 game coverage. Follow @KotakuMobile on Twitter and stalk us on Facebook.

The Perfect Game Follows These Eight Rules Over the years, I've played a truckload of video games. Since my youth, when I fell in love for the first and only time—Metroid was what did it, on a chilly autumn night, me with my shirt off, thumbing the controller, over and over, until it hurt—I haven't been able to recreate that feeling of joy, that ecstatic sense of, "This is it. This is forever."

Sure, there are many games that I find amazing—why would I play them otherwise? The Infamous franchise, with its dirty-modern edge and mutant-psionic maneuvers, came close to filling the gap. Demon's Souls got my blood running as well, to the point where I almost missed my last day of graduate school. Uncharted, Halo, Goldeneye, FFVII, Bayonetta, God of War, Shadow of the Colossus, all thoroughly brilliant, marvelously unique. But, as I grow older, I find myself more and more dissatisfied. I scrutinize a title's every pixel, wondering how it could be prettier, cleaner, more fun, or, by contrast, a little less fun. I size them up. I pull them apart. I critique their logic, their purpose, their authenticity-and all this as an amateur, an average gamer on par with what one might call an armchair liberal, concocting and spitting out opinions as if I'm somehow an authority when really, my authority stretches only so far as I can choose where and when to open my wallet. The problem is, I love the concept of games, a digital plane governed by creativity and challenge. But, buying up title after title is really me continuing to to recreate that feeling I had as a starry-eyed youth, that feeling I had when I first played Contra, or braved the Hall of Giants in Final Fantasy. In this modern world of high-octane, eye-bleeding graphics and larger-than life-storylines, I find myself lost in a cycle of instantaneous rushes and cold, clammy comedowns. In the end, most of my energy-charged bouts come to resemble one-night stands. I play a game, I'm mildly amused, and then in the morning, I'm like: "What was your name again?"

Therefore, as an exercise, I've come up with a rubric for what the perfect game might look like to someone like me. I do this not as an expert, but as an un-credentialed novice with a PS3 who grew up playing games and wants to feel again that long-lasting love, rediscover something he can commit to.

For me, the Perfect Game has the following qualities:

The Perfect Game Follows These Eight Rules

It's Got To Be Hot

Okay, so I'm into the whole understatement thing, but honestly, this is the 21st fucking century, and if I'm going to be using a machine that houses the RSX Reality Synthesizer, I'm going to expect some pizzazz. This doesn't mean a game can't be ironic or retro, with side-scrolling innovations like those featured in Braid or Limbo, but, as is the case with the aforementioned, it has to offer some substantial eye-nookie. I don't know about you, but even though I grew up playing Oregon Trail, I've grown to expect Industrial Light and Magic. If that makes me an asshole, then direct your hate mail to George Lucas. I'm sure he's pretty used to it by now.

But It Can't Be Too Hot

Just because something can look good doesn't mean it should look too good. Why? Because, in my case, at least, you'll probably end up foaming at the mouth. Games like Crysis, while unbelievable to look at, make me feel like I'm inside Tony Stark's helmet looking at a Jarvis display while riding a unicycle. I don't find it over the top because it isn't cool to look at it. It is. But, for someone who wants to be able to play a game without learning how to pilot a harrier jet, there are too many goddamned alert indicators and combat combinations. Dazzle me, sure. Get creative and sexy, but don't start whipping me with a cat of nine tails (unless I ask for it) or I'll likely end up calling the police.

The Perfect Game Follows These Eight Rules

Shouldn't Require an Extra Appendage

If I feel like the controls on a game are too sensitive or life-like, I get bored, thinking the design is more about recreating reality than imagining possibilities.

This ties into my previous point, but, in my case, the perfect video game shouldn't require me to learn how to operate the equivalent of a TI-84. While I'm just fine with the array of buttons required to increase one's options in modern gaming, I recognize that what I'm doing is a simulation in the realm of make-believe. Unless I'm actually reaching out Lawnmower Man-style to manipulate space with my fingers in a digital universe, I don't need to be able to control my avatar down to the canting of his or her chin. If I feel like the controls on a game are too sensitive or life-like, I get bored, thinking the design is more about recreating reality than imagining possibilities, that the producers are just trying to say, "Look at how smart we are," without the innovation. And then, of course, I just get mad and turn on the garbage disposal. In my opinion, the most complex and compelling games are the most accessible, based on a natural understanding of what players want. Namely, a way to feel challenged while not feeling patronized. While a good game should be hard, you shouldn't feel stupid while playing it.

Intelligence Is A Must

Even though some may enjoy the equivalent of a drooling Neanderthal in their console, in my case, you've got to have an IQ above 60 to keep the diodes glowing. The Legend of Zelda and Metroid are games I'll always remember for a reason, and not because being fascinated by thirty-year-old consoles makes me interesting (even though it does, right?). It's because, in comparison to the existing fare at the time, those games were smart. Consider the state of the industry in the 1980s, the ephemeral nature of action-based electronics, with the NES being little more than a young buck learning to gallop. While innovative, many platforms had not yet evolved to incorporate elements of search and discovery into their repertoire in a fluid manner. You had open world titles, sure. But Yoshio Sakamoto really broke the genre right open. In Metroid, Samus morph-balls through an open-ended world teeming with space aliens, secret hideaways, frozen beasts, and tantalizing secrets. It started a whole new genre of gaming, and, arguably, is where games like Infamous or Demon's Souls got their start. Intelligence doesn't only account for methodology in this light, but it accounts for foresight, idiosyncrasy, and ultimately, courage. New genres begin to grow stale the second they come out of the mind-oven, and while you also don't want a game to be a fucking Mensa puzzle, that's certainly preferable to it becoming Shaq Fu (even though I did have a fun night or two following Mr. O'Neal through what must have been someone's acid trip).

Carnal Attraction

Okay, I'm not saying a perfect game should make you want to, well, have sex with your television. That would be dangerous. But your love won't be lasting if you don't have that special spark. In this case, I mean endorphins, which is really what you're looking for when you decide to blow off the outside world to sit on your ass with a controller for thirty days. That good old dopamine is what we seek, the infamous pleasure chemical. For me, the perfect game has an exciting, hypnotic quality that lasts for hours. It keeps things accessible, but deviates from the familiar so that boredom doesn't set in. I believe Infamous did this quite well, each new progression feeling known, while at the same time, upping the ante. It made me realize that fun has to be a genuine experience. I say this as someone who has faked having fun before, just to pretend that things are good, that I made the right investment, that the $54.00 I spent was worth more than a cantankerous snore.

The Perfect Game Follows These Eight Rules

It's Only Got Eyes for You

When I'm caught up in a good game, I don't want to think about all the other places it's been, or, even worse, the places it's going to go. I want to believe that what we have together—an intimate, private relationship between forged over hours of interaction—feels authentic. One of the problems I've experienced with some of the more recent Final Fantasy titles, for instance, is that the experience seems overly scripted. FFXIII and FFXIII-2 come immediately to mind, during playing which I experienced boredom, even patronization, from a lack of an open world and thus a lack of choices. In the end, as opposed to previous entries in the franchise, where you were at least fooled by the appearance of free will, the recent additions deprive one of agency. XIII and XIII-2 seem staged to the point where I feel like I might as well be on an airship with five hundred sweaty nerds on autopilot, as opposed to commanding one of my own. For me, the perfect game comes along with a dose of claustrophobia, where you feel surrounded, secure, and at the same time, insecure. Yeah, this might mean I'm a touch psychologically unbalanced, but even in the Super Mario Brothers franchise, while the world is finite, your choices are vast. I want a game to have a good concept, a good story, but I still want to remember I'm playing it. Agency is important.

Has A Good Story, but Is Not Anna Karenina

This ties into my previous point. As a person who reads a shitload—and both writes and loves books—I don't want to play one when I sit down on my floor with my bong and a box of wontons. I want to interact, I want to play, and if I'm reading the equivalent of Proust's Swann's Way whilst winnowing my way through a sixty-hour monster fest, I'm going to set my house on fire. Good writing is very important for games. But it's a different animal entirely from a novel—somewhere between a film and a board game, in my opinion—and you can't treat that combination with levity. People have diverse skill sets, and not everyone can translate those into different mediums or structures. A brilliant essayist won't necessarily make a great poet. (See Jorge Luis Borges' poems for an example of how bad that experiment can go).

…Even though I grew up playing Oregon Trail, I've grown to expect Industrial Light and Magic.

Keeps You Wondering

As with any good story, a great game never truly gives away its raison de etre. You never truly want to know why you're spending endless hours slogging through a digital landscape, unlocking secrets and inching towards the end. Such is the question mark underlying the entire experience. That causes me to ask: "Why do we play videogames at all?" One of the greatest innovations of the original Super Mario Bros., in my opinion, is the game's elusive Princess. You want to rescue her, but aren't sure exactly what will happen if you do, or why you care so much about doing so in the first place. The reward is in the process, the skills acquired, the experience of making one's way to the center of a maze and discovering the jewel of knowledge at its center. Sure, competition plays a big part for many gamers, especially with online games. But, with a really great game, it's the journey that counts. The mechanics, design, and concept that come together in a perfect storm of immersion. Playing is an act of discovery, and every moment counts.

The Perfect Game Follows These Eight RulesUltimately, the very idea of perfection is a subjective experience, one that everyone has to discover on his or her own. And even then, holding out for inscrutable transcendence is just as practical as killing yourself by holding your own breath. A great game, for me, doesn't have to be perfect. But it should at least try to be sometimes, so that, in a universe of overused tropes, discriminatory language, and cynical marketing schemes, we know that someone appreciates us, the person at the bottom of the pyramid.

So then, the question for basement dwellers such as myself remains: "Will I ever find the perfect game?" Or "Does perfection exist in any form whatsoever?" "Is it possible that if I'd have played Metroid for the first time now, as an adult, jaded by experience and repetition, that he'd have scrutinized it to the same degree that he does modern releases, lining them up for shaming in his machines due to a surfeit of self-regard and a longing to return to the womb?" It's definitely possible. I, like the games I play, am far from any kind of ideal. But I also think that, as output increases, and companies become gormandized on profit, seeking to pump out ‘what works,' that we should always remember that love is about commitment. It's far too easy in our modern world to blow through entertainment in the blink of an eye, as opposed to savoring, repeating and coming back again and again no matter how outdated something is. Perfection, in my eyes, is synonymous with timelessness. When I find my perfect game, it will remind me of why I first sat down, with stars in my eyes and a pulse in my wrist: to brave unknown terrain, to try what is barely understood.

Samuel Sattin is a graduate of the Mills College MFA in creative writing and the recipient of NYS and SLS Fellowships. His work has appeared in Salon Magazine, Kotaku, io9, The Good Men Project, The Cobalt Review, J Weekly, Cent Magazine, Out of the Gutter Online, Ink Well, and Generations. He is The Minister of Propaganda and Contributing Editor at The Weeklings, and his debut novel, LEAGUE OF SOMEBODIES, is being released by Dark Coast Press in April, 2013. He lives in Oakland, California, with his wife and a beagle.


How Do You Make a Zombie Apocalypse Kid-Friendly? Ice Cream, Of CourseA few years back I played a little Wii game called Cold Stone Creamery: Scoop It Up, and advertainment piece that involved assembling ice cream cones for random customers passing by a storefront. Thefty Jack's Zombie I Scream is pretty much the same thing.

Well, except your customers are undead and somehow the U.S. government has figured out how to cure undeath via ice cream. Scoop up the right flavor combination and shambling corpses animated by dark magic or darker science suddenly have all of their limbs and skin and boy do they feel silly for trying to eat people.

So it's an undead ice cream game—an undead ice cream game set in Boston, with 35 levels spread across locales like Fenway Park, Faneuil Hall and Harvard Square. How odd.

Is it kid-friendly? Close enough, I say. The zombies are covered with blood and missing limbs in some cases, but there's no gratuitous gore and when you die (I am assuming death is involved) there's no splash of fresh blood on the screen—just an ending.

Zombie I Scream is an excellent example of the weird things I play all day long since taking over mobile gaming duties for Kotaku. It's available on iTunes for $1.99, with an ad-supported lite version costing exactly $1.99 less than that.

KotakuMobile is your one-stop shop for all of Kotaku's Android, iOS and Windows Phone 8 game coverage. Follow @KotakuMobile on Twitter and stalk us on Facebook.

This video might feel familiar. And it might be because you saw one like it here on Kotaku a while back.

Well YouTube creator Kutkop345 is back with another episode of Death Race and it makes the game look just as stunning as the first video did. Take a look.