This is what we’re going to next week

So Adam of, curator of Game Over: Continue, was in town to work on the upcoming gallery show.

“Did you go to the first one?” Adam asked me.

“N-no…” I admitted. “But! That’s why I’m definitely coming to this one. Guilt!”


Game Over: Continue opens at GRSF on March 27. Check out the list—there’s art from trailblazers like CUPCO, Jeremyville, and Bigfoot. Plus, four special game/art installations will be playable in-store.


Tripping to the blips of Bit.trip Beat

Kevin Bunch’s Otocky retrospective reminded me that Bit.trip: Beat just arrived on WiiWare!


After rearranging my Wii’s disk space to accommodate the comparatively large download—catch you on the flipside, Paper Mario—I settled in for some truly excellent, old-school synesthesia.

Bit.trip: Beat is a paddle game: think Arkanoid, Breakout, Pong or, ahem, Circus Atari. Here, though, the paddle control is gracefully approximated by very gently rocking the Wii remote forward and back. As with classic paddle games, the controls are ‘twitchy’ and require only very fine movements.

Your onscreen ‘paddle’ (which is to say, your avatar, or, you know, the line) moves vertically along the far left of the screen, and little pellets fly onto the screen from the right, hurtling toward the paddle. And the point is to hit them. Simple. Each pellet represents a kind of a musical note, too, so as you bat the pellets away, the game’s melody emerges. So far, easy enough.

But as you progress through the game, the choreography of the pellets becomes increasingly intricate. Soon those specks are weaving in and out of one another, changing shape and size, or cruelly altering their course midflight. In that way, Bit.trip: Beat is a classic gamer’s classic game: it’s all reflexes and pattern memorization.

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Daily Linksplosion: Sunday, March 15, 2009

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Eliss would be great if I were any good at it

I’m really, really bad at Eliss, the multi-touch plate-spinning game for iPhone. I think my failure falls somewhere in my personal Venn intersection of shortsightedness, panic, and a total lack of coordination.

You’re nodding and thinking to yourself, “Stop worrying! No one can be that bad at Eliss.” You’re wrong. I am starting to realize there is something genuinely wrong with me.

There are 20 levels. I passed the first stage after a day of trying. I can’t pass the third stage.

I can see what needs to happen, and I want to make that happen, but I’m graceless and stupid, my brain motoring at half-speed. I’ve shown Eliss to others, demonstrating its artfulness and my stupidity. Friends invariably pluck my iPhone from my hands, to show me how it’s done, and then they don’t want to give me my phone back.

“Stop beating my phone game,” I snapped at Scott Sharkey, grabbing at my phone. I put my iPhone somewhere private he couldn’t get to it, like in my purse or in a drawer, I can’t remember. Scott smiled at me quizzically.

This is so frustrating because Eliss is obviously the raddest game for the iPhone yet. And I can’t play it! It’s right in front of me, and I can’t do it! I’d wanted to talk about it once I’d played it except I can’t. I can’t do it. And everyone else can!

Anyway, you’ll love it. It’s a $3.99 download.

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Daily Linksplosion: Thursday, February 26, 2009

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Digital Download Korner: 10 games for your MacBook

Look, I realize that Mac gaming is, on the whole, an oxymoron, like ‘jumbo shrimp,’ ‘diet cake,’ and ‘libertarian.’ And if you want to play on your Apple laptop, why, you’re even worse off—seemingly relegated to ports, casuals, freebies, and castoffs. Until recently, even Apple admitted you were better off dual-booting into XP.

But you bought a MacBook Pro anyway, knowing full well what you were signing onto. “It’ll be a dedicated workstation,” you told yourself. “I’ll only do work on it; I’ll be careful with disk space and RAM; I’ll spend all the rest of my days trying not to covet PC gaming.” But one morning you woke up and you realized iMovie wasn’t cutting it anymore. I need to download ten games that are totally ideal for my MacBook Pro. That’s what you said. That’s what you sound like.

Fortunately, I was sitting at my word processor when I distinctly heard your cry of despair. And your cry of despair coincided with the 25th anniversary of the Mac, erm, two weeks ago.

What luck, then, that I’ve made this list of ten games! Each one is downloadable, every one, ideal for MacBook gaming. Enjoy!

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Crayon Physics Deluxe on NPR

A few days ago, Jeff Grubb tweeted that Petri Purho’s just-released Crayon Physics Deluxe was, at that moment, the subject of NPR’s “All Things Considered.” I am an admirer of National Public Radio, so of course I tweeted back, and soon after, Alex Litel saved the day with a link to the audio. Team effort! Good hustle, everybody!

In the video, Petri demonstrates the wicked-cool tablet PC version of Crayon Physics Deluxe. He also demonstrated the tablet PC software at the Bay Area Maker Faire this summer.

I just adore Petri. He interviews so well, I think, because he has such boundless graciousness. This exchange happened:

“But it does seem like you’re sort of standing that tradition [of big budget, blockbuster video and computer games] on its end, a bit, no?”

“Yeah—and I don’t think I’m the only one. There’s been a lot of really small games that have come out in the recent years, like World of Goo and Braid and Aquaria. And these are small games usually made by one or two people…”

I loved that Petri was able to describe indie game design in a way my mom could understand.

I did learn one new thing from the woefully short (five minutes!) interview: as I’ve always suspected, the children’s book Harold and the Purple Crayon inspired the game.

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Why aren’t you playing Multiwinia?

I thought we struck a deal, here, you guys. I’d periodically mention that Defcon is the greatest game ever made, and then when the time came, we’d all pick up copies of Multiwinia. Right? So why aren’t you playing Multiwinia?

Perhaps you are waiting for Darwinia+ to be released for XBLA later this year (edit: sometime next year)? Understandable! Perhaps you don’t have a PC to play Multiwinia on? I’m right there with you, cowboy. But maybe—no offense—you didn’t know the game had come out?

Kieron over at Rock, Paper, Shotgun chanced upon Chris Delay’s lengthy missive over at the Introversion forums. A big part of the problem, Delay notes, is a profound lack of coverage:

It’s been three weeks since we launched Multiwinia, and today Metacritic shows four reviews (the minimum required for a metacritic average) for the first time since game launch. By comparison, Defcon had nearly thirty metacritic reviews within a week of launch. Of the reviews we have arranged with websites and magazines, less than 20% of them have been published at this time. One british games magazine has declined to review Multiwinia at all—ever.

In the end, Delay urges a SAVE MULTIWINIA campaign. There’s only one way to get the word out, folks, and that is by getting the word out.

With that said, I made this hip and attention-getting banner. Do with it as you will.

The Multiwinia demo is available as a free PC download, here. Tell your friends!

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Happy first anniversary to The Hacktory

I’m kind of loving Philadelphia lately. I love Geekadelphia, from whom I have borrowed liberally (shout-out to Eric!). I love the lads at Gamervision. I love the Liberty Bell and all it represents, which is liberty. And then there’s the VGXPO, which is something that is also in Philadelphia.

And now I am completely in love with The Hacktory.

While I was questing through in search of the Gaymers video, I came across “Geeks and Toys Go Wild,” a viewer-created video of a Hacktory-sponsored event. The tiny DIY fest is so rough-around-the-edges and charming, just magical LEDs and chip music and, probably, alcohol. The Hactory video at Current may never make it all the way to TV, so—for now at least—you’ll have to check it out online, either here or embedded here:

I feel like there is this incredible nerd culture in Philadelphia that the rest of humanity doesn’t know about. Specifically, the goings-on at The Hacktory—classes on how to design circuit boards, or events with chiptune musicians dimly lit by demoscene graphics—remind me, bittersweetly, of the art collective gatherings and events that so captured my imagination when I was some college kid having her first brush with adulthood in her first real city. These community events were sincere, earnest, and wholly unmarketable. They were, to quote the Philadelphia Weekly, “Authentic Geek.”

Incidentally, The Hacktory turns one year old this month, hence the illustration of a layer-cake with LEDs that I am ‘borrowing’ from their blog.

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Used and retro video game store opens its doors in San Francisco

I live in San Francisco. Recently, I was walking to the grocery store to buy some avocados, when suddenly I saw a giant sandwich board advertising something called “Star Games.”

That seemed new. I looked around. I didn’t see any game stores anywhere. Also, the last time a sign lured me into a “game store,” it had turned out to be one of those D&D hangout places. I’d marched right in with palpable confidence and decisiveness, and then I’d suddenly stopped just inside the door, completely frozen in place as I stared at shelves full of rulebooks. Then I realized all the preteens at the back table had stopped playing—now, they were staring at me in silent horror. And then I went, “Oh,” and slunk out miserably… not because I dislike tabletop gaming, mind, but oh boy do I dislike being sheepish in front of preteens.

Anyway. I walked past Star Games again on Friday. This time I was on my way to the Ninjatown DS Sneak Peek at Double Punch. But there Star Games was, cozily glowing in the dusk, just like a cottage in a Thomas Kinkade painting. I was already late to Double Punch, though, so I hurried past.

And though I’ve never actually walked into the store, I’m already really fascinated by Star Games: I have never seen an independent videogame store in San Francisco before.

Sure, I’ve been to retro and import game stores in New York City and in Chicago. I’ve heard of mythical game stores in New Jersey and Seattle. Even Corpus Christi, Texas, has Play Again.

I’ve also heard a pretty believable rumor that one of the Bay Area EBs or GameStops does more business than any other franchised game store in the United States—a credible claim, because our area is chock-full of video game developers, PR, journalists, bloggers, publishing companies, tech industry people, and… well, you know, gamers. Since there’s such a huge, well-informed (and generally well-paid) crowd of gamers here, why hasn’t San Francisco had any notable import game stores up until now? Or, if we ever did, why do they all close down? Isn’t this a primo market for that niche?

I’ve long held a theory about import stores, and it is this: many of those stores manage to scrape by and stay open by not selling their inventory. If a store has valuable retro and import games—WonderSwans still in their packaging, for instance, and unopened Zelda CD-i games—those shelves full of priceless, unsold relics turn the establishment into a kind of museum, into a beautiful paean to dusty basements and wasted Saturday mornings. What, then, will Star Games’ shelves look like after everyone in San Francisco has taken off with their HoneyBees?

Location, location, location: I am already worried for Star Games because the store is in an accessible location. The game store in Chicago is clever because it is so geographically inaccessible—so, by the time you’ve finally geared up for a weekend trip to the store, you’re only too happy to blow all your money.

But I am a loving pessimist. Star Games, the Bay Area is ready to love you. You will be the one to turn the tide. You will be the greatest game store to ever open its doors in San Francisco.

Star Games has been open for just over a month. I will visit sometime this week and return with a full report.

Star Games
1657 Powell St., between Green St. & Union
San Francisco
(415) 398-4766

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“Thank You Mario But Our Princess Is in Another Castle,” by the Mountain Goats and Kaki King

John Darnielle specializes in melancholy, sometimes sparse narrative-songs, so no real surprise there, right? But nothing could have really prepared me for this.

Darnielle, better known as the band The Mountain Goats, collaborated with fellow singer-songwriter Kaki King on the video game -themed single, “Thank You Mario But Our Princess Is in Another Castle.” It’s the final track from Darnielle and King’s upcoming vinyl-only (?!) EP, Black Pear Tree.

Apparently this song debuted on Pitchfork late last week. In the accompanying blurb there, Darnielle explains: “The song is sung from the point of view of Toad.”

Stereogum helpfully posted the dates of Darnielle and King’s “Last Happy Night of Your Life” autumn tour, which includes stops in major metropoleis like SF, Chicago, NYC, Austin, and Brooklyn. Concertgoers will be able to pick up the Darnielle/King EP at the shows.

(Via 61 Frames Per Second)

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Pixelicious ‘Owl Boy’ to be playable in early ’09

Yesterday, indie dev team D-pad Studio announced their 2D platform/adventure game Owl Boy. In development now, the boys at D-pad expect to have a playable build by March 2009, just in time for the Independent Games Festival.

Guessing only from preliminary screenshots, Owl Boy’s splendidly retro art has that rusted-cog aesthetic everyone likes so well. Can’t wait to hear more as it unfolds.

(Via the inimitable TIGSource)

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“An interview with the designer of Braid”

Chainsawsuit is a pretty weird comic. It isn’t specifically a comic about video games, but its author does play games. He also thinks about cooking, doctors, and Superman.

This strip is from last week. I like it a lot.

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Kloonigames: 24 months, 24 games

Prolific game designer Petri Purho doesn’t need a gimmick, but if he has one, it is this: the man is committed to making one new game every month.

And he’s no slouch. As Kloonigames approaches its two-year anniversary, Petri has created the Big List o’ Games, a one-stop catalog of his 24 most recent creations. Many of them are must-plays for anyone interested in indie game development—so go check them out! Go on! Shoo!

Congratulations on two years of Kloonigames!


Make a 3D video game, dance at the afterparty

Gamma 3D flier art

Who’s flying me to Montreal in November? Anyone?

At long last, the fine minds at Kokoromi have announced the Where, the When, and the What of the third annual GAMMA showcase.

Presented in collaboration with the Society for Arts and Technology and the Montreal International Game Summit, the event will be held on November 19th, At the SAT, in Montreal.

Developers around the world have until October 15th to submit their games. Kokoromi will announce the chosen games on November 1st.

And as with every GAMMA event, this one culminates in a great big art show game party with everybody wearing 3D glasses.

This year’s theme is stereoscopy; entrants are required to make their games compatible with red and blue -lensed glasses. (According to the official rules page, exceptions will be made for hacked Virtual Boys, however.)

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