The Roundup: The Circle Speaks

Still in that line to get your iPhone 6? Luck for you, Circle members have been busy covering everything from phones to VR to loads of games.  So relax and catch up on last week while you wait with today’s Roundup.

Jeff Bakalar and Scott Stein of CNET answer all your iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus questions in this extensive video Q&A.  Spoilers: the tie comes off.

Chris Plante also recently bought an iPhone 6 Plus.  Then he got rid of it.  It’s a long story.

At the first ever Oculus Connect conference, Game Informer’s Mike Futter got his hands on the new Crescent Bay prototype build.  He proceeded to stand up and walk around with it.

Eagerly awaiting the release of Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor?  Then you’ll definitely want to check out Lucas Siegel’s interview with director of design Michael de Plater.

6 impressive student games were showcased last week at the NYU Incubator Showcase.  Evan Narcisse of Kotaku writes on the games and the minds behind them.

Ever notice the lack of arcade-style sports titles as of late?  Super Mega Baseball aims to fill that void.  Samit Sarkar explores the game and the studio behind it over at Polygon.


We here at the New York Videogame Critics Circle want to have in-depth, colorful, and really cool conversations with personalities within the gaming industry. For our debut installment of the series we’d like to call GIFT OF GAB, we sat down with the head honcho behind Unwinnable Stu Horvath, who’s also been the game critic for the New York Daily News. If you’re unfamiliar with this horror-loving, retro-gaming, metal connoisseur who will  smack the living daylights out of you if you cheat at Monopoly, let us break down his stat sheet for you.

As founder and editor-in-chief of Unwinnable and its digital component Unwinnable Weekly, Stu leads a raucous gang of gamers and illustrators who provide a “new way to read the best stories about video games and culture” to the masses. A New Jersey City University alum with a varied skill set in photography, Stu doesn’t follow the “rules and regulations” of the internet. You’ll see in our sit-down with the New York Videogames Critics Circle member that he, and his Unwinnable cohorts, don’t abide by SEO practices or use listicles to get your clicks.

A true student of new media, this scribe who refuses to be boxed in creates compelling content that allows him and those of his ilk to stand out amongst all the unimaginative clutter.

In our exclusive chat with Stu Horvath, we reminiscence about his games journalism origins; mull over his thoughts of the Twitch and Oculus Rift deals that have flooded our timelines; and inquire about how he lost his “video game virginity”. Enjoy!

For the uninitiated, can you talk about how you got your start in games journalism? What was your first piece that allowed you to standout from the freelancers?
I started writing about games while I was a photo editor at the New York Daily News. This was back in 2008, which happened to arguably be of the very best year, release wise, for the previous console generation. Fable 2, Fallout 3, Grand Theft Auto IV, Gears of War 2, Left 4 Dead, Braid and more all came out that year, so there was no shortage of thought-provoking games to write about.

No one else was covering games there at the time, at least not on a regular basis, so I just seized the opportunity. Looking back, the whole thing was just shy of a con job – here’s this photographer with no formal writing training suddenly slinging ink for a major outlet. I think a lot of people took me much more seriously than they should have because of where I worked. None of the folks at the Daily News took my game writing very seriously, that’s for sure.

At any rate, I met some very kind folks, like Harold Goldberg, Elise Vogel (who ran Crispy Gamer at the time) and Gus Mastrapa out in Los Angeles who were very gracious with their advice and free with their time.

That’s pretty much how I got my start – by accident. I am leery of the term “Games Journalist.” I’ve been writing more about horror in the last year than games, does that make me a Horror Journalist now? Seems silly to pen yourself in like that. I’m just a writer who sometimes writes about games.

I was never much for freelancing. I’ve always been more interested in doing my own thing.

Unwinnable has the distinction of being unmitigated by any mysterious powers-that-be. Can you talk to how establishing your voice within the gaming community gave you creative freedom?
I think it was the other way around. I started Unwinnable for me – when other people wanted to write for me, I let them write how they wanted. Because Unwinnable has always been free form, because we don’t chase clicks with SEO-clad headlines and listicles, because we’re genuinely interested in furthering the cultural conversation – that’s why the community cares about Unwinnable.

Unbeknownst to gamers who are reading this interview, freelancers for other sites aren’t often granted the security of owning their written copy. How has Unwinnable been able to keep Mr. Sticky Fingers from robbing your contributors of their bitcoins?
For most of its existence, writing for Unwinnable was motivated by a desire to write something weird or heartfelt that no one else would publish. Getting paid for it was never really part of the equation (which is good, because Unwinnable was usually broke).

At any rate, I decided early on that I had no interest in owning the rights to stories published on Unwinnable, and that’s that.

On the next page, Stu discusses the obstacles he and his team faced in creating a successful site…

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John Azzilonna, the Circle’s newest member, was privy last week to an early peek at Battleborn, the new game from Gearbox and 2K that will launch sometime next year. As Azzilonna interviews the game’s creative director and then, the narrative lead, you’ll see that what’s compelling about the game is twofold.

Firstly, the characters created are inspired by all forms of games and pop culture, so you’ll see nods to everything from Lord of the Rings to SoulCalibur as you play.

Secondly, there’s a MOBA element – from a first person perspective, no less – that may well spawn a new e-sport. Yet as Circle founder Harold Goldberg cautions in the piece, the game is still in the pre-alpha stage of development. We don’t know exactly how it will turn out.

Nevertheless, what you’ll witness via the deft video editing of Gregg DellaRocca, looks promising.


Hello, Gamers! This is the inaugural post for our new franchise entitled ARCADE FIRE.

by Kevin L. Clark

Here, we spotlight the movements, mods, and works of art within gaming culture for your ultimate enjoyment. The weekly post will be your central point to see just how

KILL SCREEN‘s Jamin Warren wrote about how Atli Bollason and Owen Hindley used Pong as an inspiration to revamp concept design. The duo managed to turn the building facade of the Harpa concert hall in Iceland into an open-air arcade. It is not the first time that a major city has been turned into a gamer’s paradise and surely it won’t be the last.

Itching for another fix of some world class basketball after Team USA decimated the global competition? Celebrated modder MGX brings his talents back to the hardwood for an intergalactic, futuristic battle for the ages. In what has become a staple in MkEliteWorksX cap, 2K SportsNBA 2K14 is reimagined with Darth Vader and son, Luke Skywalker, taking on the androids from I, Robot. It’s worth watching and downloading the mod to play against friends while waiting for the NBA season (or 2K15) to start.

8BitGamer always has something fresh and unique to offer when discussing video games and the culture. Enlisting the talents of writer Dragomir Simovic and artist Aleksandar Jovic, the duo take a stab at the not-so-beloved updates made to the popular Call of Duty franchise. If anything, I believe this particular gamer in the comic strip shares too much information.

We’re just getting warmed up! If you see anything that you feel is culturally relevant, artistic in merit, or just all-around cool for gamers — please don’t hesitate to leave a note for us in the comments section.

The Roundup: The Circle Speaks

Come here for some news on Destiny?  Looks like you’ve come to the wrong place… but while you’re here, take a look at this diverse group of stories by the brilliant minds in the Circle!

Microsoft just spent $2.5 billion buying Mojang, the developers of Minecraft. To those who think that sounds absurd (because I’m sure many of you do), Jason Schreier gives us his logic behind the deal.  Following the announcement, Markus ‘Notch’ Persson, former owner of Mojang, released an honest “farewell letter” where he declared his departure from the company.

Apple revealed its new Apple Watch last week.  Scott Stein over at CNET wrote a great multimedia article that tells you everything you need to know.

And if you’re more Android-inclined, here is some good news from Anthony John Agnello about Google Play’s new expanded app refund policy.

Still haven’t worked up the courage to play through Konami’s P.T. demo? Maybe Nick Capozzoli can convince you, or at the very least inform you of what all the fuss is about.

For those of you eagerly awaiting the new Smash Bros. for Wii U and 3DS, Game Informer’s Mike Futter brings you the full character roster, courtesy of some devoted Twitch streamers.

Follow Unwinnable’s editor in chief Stu Horvath as he chronicles his life playing games, sees how far we have come, and reflects on interactivity.

In his first piece as Managing Editor of the NYVGCC, Kevin L. Clark responds to Circle Emeritus, Leigh Alexander’s piece, and introduce himself to the rest of the group.

Wow Oculus Rift

by Kevin L. Clark

Am I playing the character, or am I being me?

This question posed by our own illustrious Circle Emeritus Leigh Alexander, written for Vice the day before Bungie’s Destiny hit shelves, was meant to ponder the concept of “You” in video games. A true Jill-of-all-trades, everything from insightful writing to games consulting, the London, U.K. scribe has always pushed buttons in an attempt to inform, shock, or just make you a true believer of gaming culture. Having been a casual observer of her talent, I figured as my first post as Managing Editor of this here New York Videogames Critics Circle, I would attempt to directly answer the question posed in her piece.

Who am I, you ask?! Well, thank you for wondering. My name is Kevin L. Clark, and I joined the Critics Circle last April. A long time gamer (as I’m sure we all are) I have always wanted to be around my contemporaries talking about the ins and outs of the industry. I wanted to debate the fates of past, present and future games; and challenge societal issues catalyzed by our work. As background, I previously penned for EbonyVibe, and XXL magazines. I originally got my start on the web at AllHipHop, SOHH, and HipHopDX. I’m currently a Content Producer at Black Enterprise, handling both the web and print.

That’s enough about me.

Back to the matter at hand: Are we reflected in the game and the characters we choose? Or are these narratives only designed for us to experience? Speaking solely for myself, I believe that, yes, our personas are willingly reflected in the best games due to the suspension of belief needed to enjoy the journey. One of my all-time favorite games is Telltale Games’ The Walking Dead, and while you don’t have to customize your character à la Destiny, you have important decisions to make that affect you and your companions. As Lee Everett, you are emotionally thrust into his shoes to be the leader in a world full of zombies. Do I shoot this guy’s undead kid or let him do it to have closure? Will I take this box of provisions to feed my group or do I find another way?

I played the game as if I was there, as if I was in Dave Fennoy’s shoes and he was the voice. And real, for me, is to put your best, most positive foot forward in hopes of saving lives and completing each task without disappointing those around me.

On the other hand, the satirical Saints Row is devoid of a code of ethics and morals. You can arguably do whatever you want to whomever you want. Run over a large amount of townies to agitate the cops and engage in a shoot-out — sure! Walking down the street with “The Pentrator” and club opposing gang members to death to take over Stilwater — why not?! Can I still inject the optimistic nature of my real self into a game that offers zaniness at every turn?

The absurdity within the game does not change the way I choose to play as the protagonist I am portraying. For instance, at the end of the game (** SPOILER ALERT **) you are faced with the decision to head to the airport to decimate Killbane or go to the statue and save Shaundi. I still inject myself into the action as the player and go for the latter — saving the woman is penultimate over destroying the bad guy.

Why? Because evil always arises to fight another day in games — and in the real world. While I indulge in these few moments of fantasy I am going to play out a scenario where good triumphs despite the odds. Gaming allows us all to hop into the lives of dastardly villains (Fallout 3) and white-hat wearing heroes and make the decision on how it will all end. Leigh writes that the self in games is an “unsolved problem,” which I believe is easy to resolve: Know who you are before pressing that option button.

Kevin L. Clark is the Managing Editor of the New York Videogames Critics Circle, a lover of Star Wars, and a Brooklynite. You can follow his latest and greatest @KevitoClark!

The Roundup: The Circle Speaks

Sick and tired about being sick and tired of all things #GamerGate?! Put your mind on neutral by reading these incredible stories from our wonderful Circle members. 

Sports fans looking to find out what happened to EA Sports‘ NBA Live ’15 can read Jorge Jimenez‘s piece about why the game was delayed at Dual Shockers.

The Critics Circle‘s own co-founder Andrew Yoon wrote a descriptive piece about his transition from gaming journalist to game developer, which is a must-read piece.

Gamers continue to supersede expectations and surprise the world daily. Digital TrendsAdam Rosenberg wrote about Robbie Lakeman, an Arizona man who is now the best Donkey Kong player in the world.

Over at Mashable, the colorful Chelsea Stark asks if 2015 will finally be the year for Nintendo‘s Wii U. Make sure to leave your answer in the comments section of her piece.

To celebrate Bungie’s recent successes with DestinyPolygon‘s Samit Sarkar takes us all the way back to 1999 to commemorate a little game you might’ve heard of called — Halo.

Jeremy Voss plays the humble narrator in celebrating the 15th year anniversary of Sega‘s Dreamcast console. If you were able to enjoy the wonders of Shenmue, then make sure to pour out some cola for this classic gaming device.


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