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Gearing up for San Diego Comic Con? Itching to see what Ubisoft has to offer at today’s (July 22) Holiday Showcase? Take a brief moment to check out what your fellow NYVGCC members have been up to.

The illustrious Evan Narcisse recaps his hands-on experience with Nvidia‘s new Shield tablet.

Canada’s second son, Jeff Bakalar, discusses the future of wireless broadband on episode 1,526 of The 404.

Crown Height, Brooklyn’s resident pet-lover, Adam Rosenberg, explains why shutting down Xbox Entertainment Studios is a logical step forward for Microsoft.

If you enjoy playing mobile games, Jill Scharr of Tom’s Guide has some information on how your iPhone may be rigged to spy on you.

Mashable‘s colorful critic, Chelsea Stark, wrote about TrinityVR and their Oculus Rift peripheral, the TrinityVR Magnum gun.

Brooklyn good guy, Kevin L. Clark, managed to stealthily get into Sony‘s 2014 Holiday preview where he highlighted his experiences.

For the people not attending Sony’s holiday jamboree today (July 15) — here’s some informative and edutaining reads from your esteemed colleagues.

Anthony Agnello of Joystiq discusses whether or not consoles should have early access games

Engadget’s Ben Gilbert breaks down the stylized awesomeness that is Cuphead

Jorge Jimenez shares his Nazi shooting experience in the DualShockers review of Sniper Elite III

Stop what you’re doing and read as Chris Plante descends down the rabbit hole after Neo

Polygon‘s Samit Sakar highlights the first Evo Scholarship ever from the NYU Game Center

The incomparable Chelsea Stark of Mashable informs how gaming can change one’s brain size

Each summer, the New York Videogame Critics Circle holds a rollicking community event.

We’re happy to announce that this year, it’s at the newly opened Barcade New York on August 6 at 6:30 p.m. at 128 West 24th Street.

We don’t often invite the community to our regular meetings (probably because of the great amount of off the record stuff we spew).

But this is your rare chance to hang with your favorite New York City game writers from Kotaku’s Evan Narcisse to Polygon’s Russ Frushtick (semi-fresh from hanging with Jay-Z) to Mashable’s Chelsea Stark  - and more.

Here’s a list of our current members, many of whom will likely be there.

Indie game developers are welcome to show off there newest stuff as well!

So come game with us, drink with us and generally shoot the bull with us.

We just might have some cool giveaways, too, like we did last year.

Plus, we’re looking for a new intern. So show up and tell me what you can do!

-Harold Goldberg, Founder

NY-Videogames-Critics

 

As the doors to E3 open, relax after a long day of excitement with some reads from your fellow members!

Mashable’s Chelsea Stark advises us on what to look out for this E3

Dan Ackerma’s got PC gaming at E3 via CNET

Jeff Bakalar’s 404 Podcast celebrates a satisfying milestone!

MTV’s Craig Goldstein retells the story of Chris Kooluris, this time with a little help from the man himself

Stu Horvath of Unwinnable interviews Laird Barron

Adam Rosenberg talks Fantasia: Music Evolved via Digital Trends

 

 

Russ Frushstick has the best of April via Polygon 

Joystiq’s Anthony Agnello talks League of Legends with the Voices of League of Legends playing League of Legends… You got that? 

Jeff Bakalar’s 404 Podcast talks MLB for PS4

 

Stu Horvath and Jill Scharr have a comics roundup via Unwinnable  

Mashable’s Chelsea Stark talks the art of icons… Game icons… like, on your phone icons 

 

by Harold Goldberg

SIGNIFICANTLY UPDATED: MAY 13, 2014

May 13 will likely be lucky for author and filmmaker Blake J. Harris. That particular Tuesday is the day Console Wars: Sega, Nintendo and the Battle that Defined A Generation (It Books), his well-researched and compelling narrative history of Sega, Nintendo and Sony’s battles, will be released. I met the affable Harris a few years ago – shortly after All Your Base Are Belong to Us, my own narrative history of games, hit the shelves.

We hit it off immediately. Harris has many fascinating stories to tell, of his collaboration with Seth Rogen and Scott Rudin for the tome’s film version, of the geniuses of videogames, and of the writing process itself. Part One appears today. Part Two will appear on the book’s release date.

Also, Harris will read and answer questions from Console Wars at the Astoria Book Shop on May 15 at 7 p.m. If you get there early, you can play old school games with the author.

Now, on to the interview.

1) What compelled you to write a book on the Console Wars?

My journey down the 16-bit rabbit hole was as unexpected as it proved
to be delightful.

A little over three years ago, my typically terrible-gift-giving
brother surprised me on my 28th birthday with the perfect gift: a Sega
Genesis, which is what we had when we were kids. Holding that
controller in my hands after so years away from videogames brought to
the surface all kinds of memories and then, after the barrage of that
nostalgia hit me, came all kinds of questions. What ever happened to
Sega? How were they even able to compete against Nintendo in the first
place? And ultimately: what the hell was going on behind the scenes
all that time?

To answer these questions and all the others that kept bubbling up I
wanted to read a book on the subject. But, as luck would have it, no
such book existed. Not only did no such book exist, but I quickly
learned that for an industry as gigantic as videogames there was an
alarmingly small number of books about this wonderfully wild world.

Well, after reviewing my old college econ notes on supply and demand,
I began contacting former of employees from Sega and Nintendo to find
out if there was an interesting story here; something exciting and
dramatic with twists and turns that would appeal to gamers and
non-gamers alike. Needless to say, what I soon discovered exceeded
even my wildest expectations.

2) What do we need to know about Tom Kalinske, who’s kind of the
protagonist of Console Wars?

The most important thing to know about Tom Kalinske is that he’s the
man responsible for the childhood of anyone born in the 70s or 80s.
From Barbie and He-Man to Flintstones Chewable Vitamins and Matchbox
cars, his ability to turn unusual ideas into iconic properties is
second to none. And in 1990, when Nintendo had over 90% of the market,
that made him the perfect guy (and perhaps the only guy) capable of
transforming Sega from an industry punchline into a
generation-defining market leader.

3) What did he do right and what did he do wrong?

He did a ton of things of right. Some that many of us might remember
(like launching the famous Sega-Scream-infused Welcome to the Next
Level campaign), some that many of us never knew about (like
brilliantly and unexpectedly getting the Genesis into Wal-mart) and
some that none of us will ever know or fully understand (like how he
convinced a team of rebels that they truly had the golden touch).

What did he do wrong? Like any CEO, a variety of mistakes were made
along the one. Perhaps the most notable (and perhaps inevitably
unavoidable) was to focus on beating Nintendo (and then Sony) when a
more crafty enemy was lurking much closer than he realized.

Continue Reading »

by Harold Goldberg

My first thought was, What kind of crazy-ass-sorry-ass-wimpy-ass-wack sort of thing are they doing at Bandai Namco?

More than a few of the publisher’s new games are being released as free-to-play games – even the latest Soulcalibur, which I wrote about as my favorite game in the book All Your Base Are Belong to Us (How 50 Years of Videogames Conquered Pop Culture). Isn’t free-to-play a sure sign of sell-out death, “the undiscover’d country from whose bourn no traveller returns” as Shakespeare’s Hamlet ranted?

Or, as J.K. Rowling proclaims in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, “To the well organized mind, death is but the next great adventure.” Is that what the new Soulcalibur: Lost Swords can be?

They come. They go. The fads and trends in videogame culture kind of like an arc of an arrow shot over a tree, over a pond. And then, it falls to earth.

In the last decade, we’ve seen the casual game trend, the Facebook game fads, the rhythm-based music game trend – and a handful of others.

During the trajectory, publishers hope to thrill fans and make money.

With Bandai Namco’s latest slate of games, you’ll see some longstanding console games become free-to-play games.

Over the last few years, flying and fighting games like Ace Combat have not done as well as expected. The same went for Ridge Racer, the arcade-like racing offering which was the staple of so many of Sony’s E3 press conferences – even though Sony did not make the game. Ridge Racer as free to play? It’s true.

So, too, it is with SoulCalibur, which beyond fighting, was rife with myth and backstory for each character. That’s what drew me to the series.

Yet with sales on the decline, Bandai Namco had a tough decision to make.

Should they cancel all the series which are still beloved by a core group of fans, but not as many as at the peak of popularity? Should they fire or reassign the dedicated people who’ve carefully crafted these games like artists create paintings?

Or should they try a new way to make money, one that wouldn’t give the games at least one more chance at relevance?

Bandai Namco decided on the latter rather than the former. But with it, they would try to place these games into a category that core gamers have pooh-poohed, the free-to-play genre.

It’s a big gamble about the personality of those who play – a hope for obsession in the sense that Soulcalibur is actually are free to play for the PS3 – for a while. Despite the idea that the “first one’s free,” the publisher is banking on the player’s rising emotions of greed.

I certainly was skeptical, especially with Soulcalibur, a game for which, to paraphrase the game’s most quoted words, “the soul still burns.”

But when I played at an event, the basic design of the game that features Sophitia, Taki and a host of others, is still the same. It’s not as deep as far as numbers of moves go, but to be honest, during fevered play, I probably used about 10 to 14 moves.

The graphics are a bit stripped down, but still crisp and clear. And I wasn’t able to knock an adversary off the stage into, say, the murky depths. And there’s no online or offline multiplayer at all.

The premise is mainly about a player upgrading, crafting and customizing his or her character. Specifically, each weapon or piece of armor has an elemental aspect, which will increase damage against opponents who are vulnerable to those elements.

You can play through to get free upgrades or you can by stronger upgrades through microtransactions. The publisher hopes players will come in droves to buy upgrades in packs which include tickets to revive you when the going gets tough.

They’ll add a couple of characters each month to see what flies. It’s not the most optimal way to continue the storied Soulcalibur franchise. But at least the series hasn’t died.

Who knows?  If free-to-play becomes a thing for Soulcalibur (or Ridge Racer or Ace Combat), we may see multiplayer online matches or perhaps new console versions. But right now, this is what’s been foisted upon us.

And it’s not too bad at all.

Harold Goldberg, a contributor to The New York Times, is the founder of the New York Videogame Critics Circle.

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