The Playlist / Those Tenuous Twos

by Eric-Jon Rössel Waugh

You may have read the first part of this column in the December 2009 Play Magazine. It was intended as a single article, and the start of a whole series of such lists. In the event, I was asked (due to my incorrigible verbosity) to break the article into three pieces; only the first found its way to print. Here is the column in full.

Used to be, when a game was successful enough to demand a sequel, the design team would do its best to avoid repeating itself. Though I’m sure they mostly wanted to keep their job interesting, the practical effect was that if the games were different, they would both remain relevant. In an arcade, Donkey Kong Jr. could stand handsomely by its father, each shilling for its own share of the coin. You might call them companion pieces, rather than updates or replacements.

When home consoles hit, design teams were even more modest, and were generally left to do their own thing. So starting on the NES, you will see a certain trend: successful game spawns weird, only tenuously related sequel; fans of the original scratch their heads; a greatly expanded dev team releases a third game, which is basically just the first again, on steroids; fans think it’s the best thing ever, because it’s exactly the same, except better! And to hell with that weird second chapter.

Thing is… usually the second game is the most interesting you’ll ever see. Continue reading “The Playlist / Those Tenuous Twos”

Catharsis Is Not Enough

by Eric-Jon Rössel Waugh

Originally published in, I believe, the October issue of Play Magazine.

A new study of gamer health, conducted by the Federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Emory and Andrews Universities and published in the October issue of the American Journal of Preventative Medicine, observes a correlation between extensive videogame use, obesity, and depression.

The expectation going in was that gamers would tend to have a higher body mass index, and “a greater number of poor mental health days” than non-gamers; after studying 552 adults in and around Seattle, that assumption looks pretty much true. Continue reading “Catharsis Is Not Enough”

Brütal Irony

by Eric-Jon Rössel Waugh

Originally published in, I believe, the September issue of Play Magazine.

Remember last year, when the newly-merged Activision Blizzard decided to shuck itself of properties unlikely to lead to a major franchise? Suddenly several high-profile one-off projects like Ghostbusters were left without a publisher. Though most quickly found a new host, Tim Schafer and Double Fine’s heavy metal adventure Brütal Legend was left grasping. In December the recently progressive Electronic Arts stepped up, and all seemed back on track.

Or maybe not. Continue reading “Brütal Irony”

Crowded Field, Modest Diversity Slowly Implodes Industry

by Eric-Jon Rössel Waugh

Originally published in, I believe, the August issue of Play Magazine, split into a few blurbs across a two-page spread. I thought it rather worked in that format.

While everyone is freaking out about the economy, some trends are older and more reliable. Over the last decade, as the game industry has become big business and budgets have skyrocketed, yet everyone has continued to produce more less the same material, more and more groups and individuals have had to compromise. Continue reading “Crowded Field, Modest Diversity Slowly Implodes Industry”