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John Azzilonna and Gregg DellaRocca packed up their video gear and took it to Sony‘s recent evening of game demos on the West Side of Manhattan.

Specifically, the John and Gregg focused on games that have a spooky, creepy aspect to them — to say the least.

You’ll see other Critics Circle members throughout the video as well.

For instance, Anthony Agnello from Joystiq makes an appearance.

See how many other Circlers you can find in the background!

But mainly, enjoy this, our Halloween video program.

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Here, we spotlight the movements, mods, and works of art within gaming culture for your ultimate enjoyment. The weekly post is your central point to see just how video games influence the world around us.

With Halloween soon approaching, we here at the New York Videogame Critics Circle might not be going around the town asking strangers for candy… but surely enjoy thrills and chills. GameCrate‘s Quibian Salazar-Moreno asked a few noted gaming journos and some members of their community to detail what classic survival horror titled scared the bejeezus out of them. You’d be surprise to learn just how many times Silent Hill and Resident Evil actually makes the cut.

There hasn’t been a LEGO set that was worth shelling out a whole lot of dough for until now. Kotaku‘s Gergo Vas highlighted an interesting piece of art that features a MOC GORILLA MECH. To the naked eye, it could come off as a character from the much ballyhooed Half-Life 2 series. Unfortunately, the custom-designed minifigs have been detailed by artist Kosmas Santosa on his website’s official page. All in all, if you were wondering just what to do with your holiday cash — purchasing some gaming-inspired LEGOs could be a just treat.

Ever wondered just how Walt Disney was inspired to do the work that he did? Well, according to Kyle Hilliard over at Game Informer, the House of Mouse has just released a 10-part documentary which will recap the history of how Harmonix and Disney forged an alliance to gift the world Fantasia: Music Evolved. Pegged to the game’s release last week, the captivating piece of cinema, the behind-the-scenes look at Fantasia: Music Evolved gives a strong look at how gaming and illustration go hand-in-hand and how both compliment each other.

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 let us know @HaroldGoldberg, @KevitoClark, and @HarryRabinowitz.

As we approach the holidays, Circle members have been hard at work bringing you reviews, news, and the latest happenings in games!

Jorge Jimenez reviewed the hotly-anticipated Xbox One exclusive, Sunset Overdrive, over on Dualshockers.  Jeff Bakalar also reviewed the game over on CNET.

Craig Goldstein talked with police to compile a list of law enforcements’ favorite games.  And yes, Lego Batman is one of them.

Samit Sakar reported on Extra Life’s annual “Game Day,” where participants raised over 5 million dollars for charity.

Jason Cipriano gave his review of Platinum’s The Legend of Korra, the developer’s first licensed, download-only title.

Lucas Siegel reviewed Disney Fantasia: Music Evolved, the Kinect-based music adventure by Harmonix.

Jeremy Voss picked up (and most likely put down)  Alien Isolation.  Reads his thoughts on Shouts From The Couch.

As an extra bonus for the week, we’re also spotlighting Chelsea Stark‘s exclusive look at Condition One‘s first Oculus Rift documentary entitled Zero Point.

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In which an ardent, young writer channels the ghost of George Plimpton, co-founder of the The Paris Review and legendary participatory journalist. Here’s what he learned.

by Jason Tabrys

I discovered one thing quickly. Eric “Problem” Wright, Zach Farley and Steve Gibbons clearly have a lot of fun when they play Madden Football, a game that they’ve each been playing since the mid ’90s version of the game premiered on the Sega Genesis. But while they love the franchise, playing it nearly everyday is serious business, a part of their jobs. Wright is a champion pro-gamer and Farley and Gibbons literally write the book (the Prima guide) on Madden Football every year.

Wright’s pursuit of playing Madden professionally started in high school when he stepped away from playing real sports like football and basketball after being introduced to the existence of The Madden Challenge. The sight of a winner holding a check for $50,000 didn’t hurt either.

“I knew I wasn’t going to make it to the NFL; that’s unrealistic. You see the numbers of the people who make it there, so why not try Madden?”

Though Wright, 26, wasn’t an immediate success, he soon found ultimate glory as the winner of ESPN’s Madden Nation (which brought him his own big check for $100,000). Victory in the Madden Challenge followed in 2008, 2010 and 2013. Wright tells me that if there were a Madden 2015 tournament next week, he’d be ready.

Employed full time in an unrelated field, Wright’s part time job as a pro gamer has taken him on 18-hour drives from West Covina, California to Denver and to Dallas. His supportive mother served as his carpool partner on early road trips.

Wright is focused on maintaining his edge for competition while playing against a group of friends who also play on the circuit (and the occasional random opponent online). But it’s Farley’s and Gibbons’ job to make everyday Madden gamers into better players.

To do this, the two 28 year old friends who have been playing Madden together since college to refine their skills and write their guide book while occupying a Boston office 11 months out of the year. They also run MaddenTips.com, a site where they sell a bundle of their offensive and defensive playbooks (and Eric “Problem” Wright’s playbook) to those seeking an advantage over the competition. The pair also posts tips and top plays on the Prima Games YouTube channel.

It’s also their responsibility, in their role as a part of EA Sports’ Gamechangers program, to help make a better game by traveling to EA Tiburon. There, they advise the Madden developers and get their first hands-on with the game. That’s where that 12th month goes.

“We always try to get 1,000 hours of play time in before the game comes out. That requires around a month of living in Orlando, Florida so we can play the newest builds and talk with the people who actually make the game on site. This means being away during the summer when our friends are at the beach getting a tan. The only tan we get is from the brightness of the TV screen.”

Isn’t being away difficult? “Sure, you are excited to get home after long trips. But Madden is not only our job but our passion, and it’s great when those two things overlap.”

These guys clearly put in the time and they clearly have no shortage of passion. But how good are they at the actual game? I mean, really? I mean, I felt I was pretty good, too. And I love Madden a lot. I decided to find out first hand in an online match versus Zach Farley.

How did our adventurer fare in his match? Find out on the next page…

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Here, we spotlight the movements, mods, and works of art within gaming culture for your ultimate enjoyment. The weekly post is your central point to see just how video games influence the world around us.

The things that gaming engines can do nowadays are spectacular. Full of 1080p HD goodness, there are more and more titles that are helping to create a dynamic shift within the culture. Shoshana Kessock, over at Kill Screen, writes about the new survival adventure game from Mojo Bones. Just in time for the impending season change, Impact Winter finds players scavenging in a world covered in snow after an asteroid touches down on Earth. The idea is creative and clever as the dystopian theme is an extra incentive for why cultured gamers should check out Impact Winter.

Fans of game design will absolutely have a nerdgasm when they check out Mari Shimazaki‘s artwork from the “highly controversial” Bayonetta 2. Kotaku‘s Luke Plunkett shared the finely drawn pieces which also lead to some interesting thoughts behind the art from Platinum Games‘ lead character designer. Without giving too much of the game’s story away, Shimazaki goes over “the colors, accessories, and patterns” chosen for the game. A highlight of the chat is finding out what a few of Bayonetta’s unlockable costumes are.

The burgeoning tech scene in Michigan has been written about extensively the past few years. Gaming is now the latest to make a splash in the Great Lakes state. Scott Atkinson of MLive reports about an event at the Flint Institute of Art that proves that video games are more than just entertainment. The Art of Video Games opens at FIA on October 25th and will run until January 18th, 2015. As players venture through five levels of awesomeness, they learn how the culture evolved from lo-fi tech to fully actualized works of art. There will be an open arcade outside the exhibit and a pre-opening party on Friday, October 24, from 6-9:30 p.m. Parents with children are well advised to let their youngling make a game-themed craft inside the FIA art school. For more information, please click here.

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 let us know @HaroldGoldberg, @KevitoClark, and @HarryRabinowitz.

This week, we have features, interviews, videos, explainers, and reviews, all from the lovely members of the Critics Circle.

Harold Goldberg published his long-in-the-making, 5000-word cover story on League of Legends, eSports, and Cloud9 HyperX over at Playboy Magazine.

Alex Navarro sat down with Vinny Caravella for another GiantBomb quick look, this time for Duck Dynasty.

Ben Gilbert educates the masses on Google and Oracle’s upcoming (and ongoing) legal battle over coding and Android.

Adam Rosenberg interviewed creative director Jens Matthies about Wolfenstein: The New Order and its incredibly deliberate design choices.

Jeff Bakalar reviewed The Evil Within, Shinji Mikami’s latest entry to the survival horror genre.

Anthony John Agnello reviewed Persona 4 Arena Ultimax, the follow up to 2012′s Persona 4 Arena, which is the fighting game spin-off of 2008′s Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4.  It’s a bit complicated…

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by Harry Rabinowitz

I don’t like playing games in public.  I get self-conscious, embarrassed, like I have a group of critics watching my every move, even when no one is paying me any mind.  I want games to be respected by everyone, and when something inherently silly, childish, sexist, stupid, mundane, poorly written, or poorly designed happens in the game I’m playing, I can’t help but turn around to see if anyone’s noticed.

And half the time, someone does notice.  I have the pleasure (and curse) of playing games around game designers.  Designers can strip a game down in a matter of seconds, either making you look smart for choosing to play that game or look like a tasteless buffoon.

Most days, it’s the latter.  Recently, I was watching a friend of mine play Final Fantasy XIII, a series that I am very familiar with, but an installment I have not touched.  Throughout the play session, I was intrigued by the battle system, character progression, story, and world.  Only an hour or so in, I hadn’t really decided if I “liked” the game or not.  Like many JRPGs, the character designs were easy to poke fun at, but I made fun of Snow’s plaid waist scarf and Vanille’s triple stringed yo-yo staff thing in an endearing way.

That is until one of the many MFA game design students begins to take note of the game.  After watching for about four minutes (and calling a robotic scorpion boss monster “cute”), he stated, “So this game is just walking down hallways, watching cutscenes, and rolling a bunch of dice?”  My friend replied, “basically”.

Final Fantasy XIII, 6 years in development, millions of dollars in the making, broken down into a sentence.  After hearing that, I looked back at the game and it seemed like trash, an utter waste of time.

This is why I don’t like playing games in public.  It constantly feels like I need to defend the game I’m playing, or even my right to play it.  After watching a five minute long cutscenes with shaky dialogue, I feel like I need to explain why this is worth my time to the board of “proper game designers” behind me.

But after playing one game demo in public, I threw all this out the window.  Bayonetta 2 showed me that, if I’m having fun, maybe I shouldn’t feel the need to defend myself.

It helps that Bayonetta 2 is utterly insane.  You can see what I mean for yourself on the next page.

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