Posts Tagged ‘new york videogame critics circle’

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.

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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!

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As he finds himself ensconced in a brand, new world, Founding Circle Critic Andrew Yoon writes insightfully about his past in game journalism and his future in game development.

by Andrew Yoon

I remember as a little kid, I used to say: “when I grow up, I’m going to
be a Yoshi.” Eventually, it dawned on me that such a dream wasn’t entirely

That dangling-carrot feeling—knowing that something was just a little bit
out of reach continued when I started contemplating a job in video games
journalism. I loved picking up the latest issue of Next Generation
magazine from the newsstand. I would obsess over IGN, following the
exploits of Matt Cassamassina and the like. I never thought that I’d be
able to get a job like that—not until the day I actually got a job at

I didn’t necessarily think myself qualified for the position. But it was
fairly early in the world of journalistic blogging, and we were making up
the rules as we went along. Things moved so fast back then: I remember it
didn’t take long before I became lead editor of the PlayStation Fanboy
sites and had my very first in-person interview: with Phil Harrison, a
giant of a man that literally had to bend down in order to enter rooms.
“You can buy a better sunset,” I remember he told me of his then-pet
project, PlayStation Home.

Thousands of posts later, talking with the industry’s most influential
individuals became a regularity. I remember beating Shigeru Miyamoto on a
level of New Super Mario Bros. Time to check that off my bucket list, I
suppose. I remember that a video interview I did of Polyphony Digital’s
Kazunori Yamauchi ended up being turned into hilarious GIFs on NeoGAF.
Cross that off the list!

But what else remained on my bucket list? Well, making a game. By the time
I had become Editor in Chief at Shacknews, I had accomplished nearly
everything I could want in games journalism. And so, like that little kid
that said he wanted to become a Yoshi, I told myself “I’m going to be a
game developer.” I didn’t know exactly how, but I thought why not figure
that out as I go along?

In January, I began prototyping early game designs for tabletop games. I
didn’t have any programming chops, but the idea of saying I did a “game
jam” sounded particularly satisfying. Out of those early experiments, I
created a game about imaginary numbers and a game about building (and
destroying) walls. The former would eventually become what I’ve released
on Kickstarter last week as Divorce! The Game.

The past few months have been truly revelatory, and even my limited
experience in game design has given me insight into development that years
in the games journalism side never offered. There truly is something to be
said about simply diving into the deep end and learning through
experience. The amount of iteration (and reiteration) required to make
something fun, balanced, and satisfying can be hard to understand without
going through the process yourself. Even now, I find myself constantly
trying to make tweaks—many of which may be invisible to the end user. I
wonder how different my perspective would be if I ever return to games

To be honest, I never thought that my first game would be Divorce! It’s a
silly two-player card game that has a surprisingly satisfying
hook—you draw two cards, keeping one for yourself while giving the other
to the other player. Still, I had imagined that my debut would be a deep,
serious “art game.” But, I certainly don’t mind starting off with a game
that almost always makes people laugh. Seeing people react in the way I
intended for them to definitely empowers me as a designer.

I also thought that my gaming debut would be in video games. But, given my
limited resources—both in terms of technical talent and money—tabletop
provided a much more viable avenue to pursue. Not to say that I’m simply
“settling” for a card game. It’s a genre I love, and the lessons learned
from my first game are going to make way for even more ambitious game
designs from me in the future. Who knows? If Divorce! takes off, maybe
this actually could become a viable career path for me.

I may never become a Yoshi, but I’ve already accomplished one of my other
childhood goals. My life as a games journalist may be behind me now, but I
hope with the help of the community, I’ll be able to take a leap into my
next: game designer. I already have the business cards printed, so I hope
you’ll consider supporting this endeavor. Otherwise, I’m really going to
regret having made those business cards so prematurely.


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by Harold Goldberg

As another school year threatens to begin, the New York Videogame Critics Circle finds itself in need of a new intern. Interns should be over the age of 18 and in college.

You’ll learn from the best in the business. Here’s a list of our stellar members.

Applicants should:

*Be a self-starter; i.e. meet deadlines!

*Have some writing chops

*Be a good communicator, especially on the phone

*Be able to hold your own on camera, if need be

*Be affable and willing to work hard

*Be super organized.

There is little to no pay for this position.

If you’re interested,

*send a note

*including your credentials,

*a link to writing work if you have it,

*and add your contact info.

*Send that package via the contact form below.

Or, you can talk to me directly at the New York Videogame Critics Circle Community Event tomorrow night, 8/6, beginning at 6:30 p.m.

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

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by Harold Goldberg


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.


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After some serious discussion, our esteemed critics have named the following games as official New York Videogame Critics Circle Awards Nominees. The Awards will take place on February 11, 2014 at NYU/Poly’s Pfizer Auditorium in Brooklyn. Stay tuned for how you can get free tickets.

And a hearty congratulations to all of our worthy nominees!

Big Apple Award for Best Game 

Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag (Ubisoft)

BioShock Infinite (2K Games)

Gone Home (The Fullbright Company)

Grand Theft Auto V (Rockstar Games)

Kentucky Route Zero (Cardboard Computer)

Ni No Kuni (Namco Bandai)

Super Mario 3D World (Nintendo)

The Last of Us (Sony)

The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds (Nintendo)

Tomb Raider (Square Enix)

Herman Melville Award for Best Writing in a Game

Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag (Ubisoft)

BioShock Infinite (2K Games)

Device 6 (Simogo)

Gone Home (The Fullbright Company)

Grand Theft Auto V (Rockstar Games)

Kentucky Route Zero (Cardboard Computer)

The Last of Us (Sony)

The Stanley Parable (Davey Wreden and William Pugh)

Battery Park Award for Best Handheld Console Game 

Animal Crossing: New Leaf  (Nintendo 3DS)

Etrian Odyssey Untold: The Millenium Girl (Nintendo 3DS)

Fire Emblem: Awakening (Nintendo 3DS)

Guacamelee! (PlayStation Vita)

Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies (Nintendo 3DS)

Pokemon X/Y  (Nintendo 3DS)

Spelunky (PlayStation Vita)

Tearaway  (PlayStation Vita)

The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds (Nintendo 3DS)

Tin Pan Alley Award for Best Music in a Game 

Animal Crossing: New Leaf (Nintendo)

BitTrip Runner 2 (Gaijin)

BioShock Infinite (2K Games)

Contrast (Sony)

Grand Theft Auto V (2K Games)

Rocksmith 2014 (Ubisoft)

Ridiculous Fishing (Vlambeer)

Saints Row IV (Deep Silver)

The Last of Us (Sony)

The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds (Nintendo)

The A Train Award for Best Mobile/iOS Game

Device 6 (Simogo)

Icycle: On Thin Ice (Damp Gnat)

Plants vs. Zombies 2 (PopCap)

Rayman Fiesta Run (Ubisoft)

Ridiculous Fishing (Vlambeer)

Rymdkapsel (Grapefrukt)

Type:Rider (Cosmografik)

Year Walk (Simogo)

Off Broadway Award for Best Indie Game 

Antichamber (Alexander Bruce)

Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons (Starbreeze/505 Games)

Gone Home (The Fullbright Company)

Killer Queen Arcade (SortaSoft)

Porpentine’s Twine Compilation (Porpentine)

Papers, Please (Lucas Pope)

Rogue Legacy (Cellar Door)

The Stanley Parable (Davey Wreden and William Pugh)

Towerfall (Matt Thorson)

Statue of Liberty Award for Best World 

Los Santos: Grand Theft Auto V (Rockstar Games)

Columbia: BioShock Infinite (2K Games)

The Caribbean: Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag (Ubisoft)

Your Town: Animal Crossing: New Leaf (Nintendo)

The Greenbriar Home: Gone Home (The Fullbright Company)

Salt Lake City: Last of Us (Sony)

The White House: Saints Row IV (Deep Silver)

Great White Way Award for Best Overall Acting (Combines Male and 
Female Acting) 

Courtney Draper – Elizabeth – Bioshock Infinite (2K Games)

Ellen Page – Beyond: Two Souls (Sony)

Jay Klaitz – Lester – Grand Theft Auto V (Rockstar Games)

Kevan Brighting – Narrator – The Stanley Parable (Davey Wreden and William Pugh)

Sarah Grayson -Sam – Gone Home (The Fullbright Company).

Stefan Rhodri – Drippy – Ni No Kuni  (Namco Bandai)

Steven Ogg – Trevor – Grand Theft Auto V (Rockstar Games)

Troy Baker – Joel – Last of Us (Sony)

The Central Park Children’s Zoo Awards for Best Kids Game 

Animal Crossing: New Leaf (Nintendo)

Disney Infinity (Disney Interactive)

LegoCity Undercover (Traveler’s Tales, WBIE)

Lego Marvel Super Heroes (Traveler’s Tales, WBIE)

Skylanders: Swap Force (Activision)

Super Mario 3D World (Nintendo)

Tearaway (Sony)

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by Harold Goldberg

Recently, CNET’s Jeff Bakalar and I had a conversation about a piece I wrote about Rockstar Games’ Sam Houser for Playboy magazine. Jeff was really kind to have me on, and his opener was akin to “That’s a hard interview to get. How did you get the interview?” I did my best to explain why, but since I’m better with the written word, here’s a bit more for journalists and those others interested in the process.

It was early in the new year when I began thinking about contacting Rockstar Games for a story about Sam Houser. Sam and I had a couple of fine, long conversations which resulted in two chapters in All Your Base Are Belong to Us, a narrative history of videogames I wrote a couple of years ago. Although we had corresponded via email since then, we hadn’t talked or seen each other since. We’d tried to have a get together upstate, where we both have houses fairly near each other. But Sam was always busy with work.

When Rockstar said the interview might be a possibility, I began to think of the right home for a profile. At first, I thought about the New York Times, where I’m a contributor. They indicated they had something in the works about Rockstar, so I looked elsewhere. I thought about contacts I had at the country’s more well-regarded and literary magazines. Yet, even in this day and age, the editors there at these magazines do not know games well, or well enough.

I thought of the better online sites, particularly Polygon. But I remember that when I was invited to apply for a job there, I suggested that I could bring Rockstar stories and a Sam Houser piece to the fold. I never heard back from Polygon at all. (I still quite enjoy what Polygon doing, however, especially those stories written by our members, Russ Frushtick, Chris Plante and Samit Sakar.)

I suggested the story in an email to Playboy, just a paragraph or two of how a story might unfold. For a while, I didn’t hear back. So I began to consider other options, maybe The Atlantic, maybe The New Yorker, maybe the Times of London. But when he responded, Jason Buhrmester responded with enthusiasm and, most importantly, understanding.

I chose Playboy because my editor isn’t just a brilliant editor. He knows games and games history. He understands them and appreciates them as a form of popular art. He’s also part of a team that is bringing back extraordinary writing and topics to the articles portion of the magazine. Ai Wei Wei. Marshall McLuhan. T.C. Boyle. Who wouldn’t want to be part of a magazine with content like that?

But would Rockstar itself go for a story in Playboy? I was happy to hear they trusted me and would be willing to work with me again. Ultimately, they said they were fine with any magazine that would understand what they were trying to do. And they were fine with letting me do a long profile of Sam. There were no deals made. No questions would be off the table. I could ask anything I wanted to ask.

Sam didn’t want to be photographed. That was all right with me; it would have no impact on the story. And I understood completely; I don’t like to be photographed, either.

The primary unknown was timing. Rockstar was in the midst of crunch time with Grand Theft Auto V. Sam was traveling back and forth to Scotland, the location of their Rockstar North studio, to help out with the finishing touches of the game.

The last time I spoke to Sam coincided with the release of Red Dead Redemption, the story-filled western that may be my favorite Rockstar game (the music is part of that, as our Robert Gordon explained so well recently). That particular long talk didn’t happen until the game launched, and that was right up against my book deadline – hard up against it. My editor, at one point, suggested that I drop the chapters. I couldn’t have that. The book would have been incomplete without the Rockstar story. We delayed my deadline, and just when the Witching Hour was nigh, the company came through.

It was the same this time. We originally planned for the piece to coincide with the release of GTA V in September. I told Playboy that if the interview happened by August 15, I could make their drop dead deadline and write the piece in four days. It would’ve been exhausting, but I believed I could have done it – as long as they paid for transcribing.

But by the time Sam was able to sit down in late August, that deadline had passed.

I now would have more time to hone the piece. Since I’m never quite satisfied with anything I write, I was happy to have the extra time.

Sam, who rode his bike in to the office that day as he always does, was enthusiastic and honest (as you can see by reading the piece). What I felt is that the conversation was like the theory-filled “My Dinner With Andre” film by director Louis Malle. I’m no Wallace Shawn, but Sam is like Andre Gregory in that he has thought so carefully about our human foibles, the culture of games and popular culture in general.

When the transcript was done, it was almost 90 pages in length. I had far more than I needed, and could have written a story of 15,000 words. The final draft came in about 1,000 words longer than my 5,000 word limit, and I had already cut a lot. Jason kindly said it was a really difficult piece to edit because there was so much in it that was gripping. But he tightened it expertly.

Eight months after the process had begun, the story was published in Playboy’s Christmas issue. I found it somehow wonderfully ironic that New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly was featured in the same issue as the one of the most important and most controversial makers of popular art – ever.

I don’t know when I’ll see Sam again. As I mentioned in the story, he does covet his privacy. But, from time to time, I’ll look at that transcript again. And I’ll probably become a bit wistful. I really wish I could share the full transcript and the audio tape with everyone. I can’t, unfortunately. But I’ve done the best I can with the story, explaining some of the heretofore unfamiliar inner workings and the candid, fascinating thought processes of an artist at the very top of his game.

Harold Goldberg is the founder of the New York Videogame Critics Circle.


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