Feb. 28, 2015 | 9:29 a.m.
THE PLAYER “The Order: 1886” wants to be a popcorn flick as badly as it does a video game. It’s a hybrid of interactive and cinematic techniques, putting forth the thesis that someday the two media will be intertwined. The game tells old tales — the Knights of the Round Table and werewolf-like creatures make appearances — and it does so with new twists, such as transporting the medieval and the supernatural to a technologically advanced Jack the Ripper-era London. But let’s back up. Within “The Order” is a gun. This gun is special. It fires a round of bullets that leave clouds of smoke, clouds that could be ignited into gloriously bright flames. “The Order” is a lot like this gun. It takes its aim — ambitiously so — and then blows it up. Often, this story of class […]
Jan. 10, 2015 | 5:30 a.m.
THE PLAYER Broadly speaking, games today are becoming easier to play. New formats, such as mobile and downloadable titles, are making games more affordable and more accessible. But at least one veteran Japanese game designer doesn’t care to follow the trend. Hidetaka Miyazaki wants his games to be imposing. He wants players to struggle. He counts on it — relishes it, even. Sure, he wants players to win, but not before they curse him out. “That’s not to say I don’t want to create a product for the masses, but I want something that will be appreciated by the core,” he says, referring to the most die-hard of gamers. His approach is elegantly old school but modernly (some may say maddeningly) unconventional. During a recent interview, the dapper and bespectacled game director arrived in a suit and discussed the joy […]
Oct. 04, 2014 | 6:00 a.m.
THE PLAYER Though she’s long considered one of the great cinematic heroes, Ellen Ripley has generally been a forgettable one when it comes to video games. Steely in her beliefs yet unafraid to show emotion and a friend to felines, the character made famous by Sigourney Weaver in the “Alien” films possesses as much thoughtfulness as action-star bullheadedness. It’s a combustible cocktail of very human emotional traits that until recently were not easily translated into action video games. But is it any wonder the video game industry has struggled to turn “Alien,” especially the 1979 sci-fi horror film of the same name from Ridley Scott, into a notable game? After all, it’s a story in which firing a gun at the enemy, one that bleeds corrosive acid, is essentially suicide. So guns, the favored weapon for nearly all interactive heroes, […]
Sept. 13, 2014 | 6:00 a.m.
THE PLAYER The opening moments of “Destiny” are mesmerizing. It’s a Mars landing, complete with sparkling views of our galaxy and crystallized red space dust. It’s a vision that looks lifted straight from photographs sent in by NASA’s Curiosity rover. It’s immediately inviting — optimistic, even. This is “present day” Mars, the game tells us, and considering that manned spaceflight isn’t a top legislative priority anymore, watching an astronaut leave a footprint on the surface of Mars is a reminder that a venture into the unknown can be downright inspiring. Then out come the rifles. What’s the fun, apparently, in looking for life on Mars if we can’t kill it? For all the innovation and sci-fi-meets-fantasy overtures here, “Destiny” ultimately doesn’t feel all that futuristic. It’s a refinement, rather than a reinvention, of the dominant video game genre on home […]
Aug. 23, 2014 | 6:00 a.m.
THE PLAYER Deep within dating site OkCupid, there’s a question that treats video games as child’s play. “Would you be willing to date someone who plays video games almost every day, for at least 2 hours?” Two hours may seem excessive for our time-crunched lives, but there’s an underlying implication that the above activity is perhaps a bit weird — a potential red flag about anyone otherwise considered a full-fledged adult. Although the video game industry doesn’t do itself any favors, what with tolerating the boorish behavior of its online communities and relying on games that emphasize gun play, there’s no denying that this is a mainstream medium that still carries a stigma. But the OkCupid question did hit a chord. There are times when even I feel embarrassed about my accruing games knowledge. It’s the moment, for instance, when […]
Aug. 16, 2014 | 6:00 a.m.
THE PLAYER “You’re not too old for those?” she asked. The question came from a date who arched her head and squinted at an assortment of Batman-branded pillowcases in my bedroom. Those six words hovered on the forefront of my mind, forcing me to suddenly call into question every aspect of my life and how it reflected my level of maturity (or immaturity). Adulthood, and how it weighs on us, has been an obsession of late. It’s at the core of Spry Fox’s “Road Not Taken,” a vexing puzzle game with magical overtones released this month for home computers and the PlayStation 4.The questions it raises linger long after a play session. The game has a message: You’re not getting any younger. Or maybe it’s saying you’re running out of time. This is the emotional head space occupied by “Road […]
June 11, 2014 | 11:36 a.m.
Electronic Arts studio DICE is best known for its “Battlefield” games, titles that have sought to hone the video game art of humans destroying other humans. Today, however, the Stockholm-based studio is deep into the development of some of its most ambitious projects in its decade-plus existence, including a new “Star Wars” game, and studio principal Karl Magnus Troedsson says the company is starting to grapple with bigger topics. In working on a sequel to its 2008 game “Mirror’s Edge,” a futuristic thriller in which its female protagonist Faith is always on the run, DICE is using the time away from its multiplayer-focused “Battlefield” to create a more character-driven-story. “DICE is perhaps not that well known for games with a strong character. In ‘Battlefield,’ it’s usually a bunch of guys. Multiplayer has very little focus on character,” says Troedsson, DICE’s VP and group general manager. “We are very intrigued with […]
June 10, 2014 | 6:00 a.m.
The Los Angeles Kings may have vacated Staples Center for New York’s Madison Square Garden this week, but the blocks surrounding the arena have been replaced with a level of testosterone that not even the NHL can muster. Cloaked assassins, military tough guys and a fantasy knight have taken control of the neighboring Los Angeles Convention Center and beyond. All that aggressive advertising can herald only one thing: The Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) has once again landed in Los Angeles. North America’s largest video game trade show, one that pumps $45 million into the local economy, never makes a modest entrance. “The future begins,” is E3’s slogan for 2014, and the 45,000 registrants will ensure at least that the future is hyped. Less than eight months after Sony and Microsoft each released new consoles, this year’s E3 will step away […]
June 09, 2014 | 10:44 a.m.
The world’s largest annual video game trade show, the Electronic Entertainment Expo, kicks off in downtown Los Angeles this week, with more than 45,000 people expected to converge on the L.A. Convention Center for the event. Now in its 19th year, E3 has become a mecca for video game developers, retailers, industry professionals and journalists. The trade show, which is to run Tuesday through Thursday and is not open to the public, often serves as the pulpit for the industry’s biggest announcements, such as last year’s reveal of two next-generation video game consoles — Sony’s PlayStation 4 and Microsoft’s Xbox One. Buzz on the show floor often revolves around the rivalry between the major consoles, and though the wars between the systems couldn’t be more contemporary or contentious, the modern-day brawl has been more than three decades in the making. […]
March 22, 2014 | 7:00 a.m.
Sony’s new superhero fantasy “Infamous: Second Son” opens not with a bang, but with the hissing sound of a spray paint can. As a work of comic-book-inspired fiction, this PlayStation 4 video game aims high, asking right from the start if art can be weaponized. If sulfur bombs and pink and blue lasers count as art, then the answer is yes. Conflicted antihero Delsin Rowe, whom “Infamous” players will control, is a rabble-rousing Banksy wannabe who discovers his hands can conjure smoke and set the world ablaze. His stenciled graffiti art pokes fun at a police state set in a Seattle of the future. Fear brought on by the emergence of humans with superpowers has crippled a nation, turning the Pacific Northwest into a society where segregation and surveillance have run amok. Rowe is thrust into the role of unlikely […]