Continue Screen – 2Q2015

Continue-screen

LMH & BHB May 2015-fixed

Life happens but we must move forward

There comes a time when every boss needs to think about her future.

I have been working on Gaming Insurrection full-time for the better part of eight years. And, let me tell you, these long eight years have been simultaneously heartbreaking and rewarding. We’ve survived getting bigger, getting smaller, losing co-founders, dropping to a two-man crew and upsizing the amount of content we produce on a quarterly basis. Through it all, I’ve been sustained by my love for video games and journalism. That’s partially the reason why I’ve been doing GI for as long as I have: because I love those two things, specifically. Once upon a time, they were my life and I needed something to do. But then I grew up. My tastes, along with my job, changed. I went from a married 20-something living with my husband, to a divorced 30-something with disposable income, living at home and taking care of my parent.

And I gave up journalism and nearly gave up video games.

In the middle of working on the 4Q2011 issue, my producing partner and husband of seven years decided he couldn’t be married anymore. Immediately, we separated (I’m being nice here and biting my tongue) and in the short run, I realized that I wasn’t going to be married anymore to this person. That’s the reason why I slowly changed my name back to Hicks throughout GI.

In the long run, I realized there was going to be a long-lasting change to GI. My baby, my idea, my piece of the pie was being changed through no fault of its own, and I had to do something. So, I recruited writers and continued on my merry way. Half way through producing the 2Q2012 issue, I learned that GI Mama was diagnosed with a terminal illness. This time, everything changed permanently. My focus shifted even though I was still involved in journalism and would be for another two years. Once I figured out where I was going to go and what I needed to do, I started planning to move back to Columbia and care for my mama in her final years. At about the same time, I came to the realization that I wasn’t going to be able work in journalism any longer and suddenly, GI became superfluous.

Over the course of the next two years, I thought about whether I still wanted to do this thing called Gaming Insurrection. It’s time consuming and with the job that I have now and fewer writers, everything had taken on a veil of “too much.” I creatively became burnt out and nearly stopped playing games altogether. I felt that I had told all of the stories I wanted to tell, the tales that I came up with when I began GI in the winter of 2002 in my kitchen. I was, truthfully, so hurt by the dissolution of my marriage that I didn’t want to touch another game ever again. That was significant, by the way, because my husband wasn’t just my spouse; he was also my gaming partner and the reason why I restarted GI in the first place. The idea of talking about games stemmed from our late-night conversations at our favorite Waffle House in Anderson, S.C., which is where I was when I decided to restart the dream. My Xbox 360 sat untouched for months at a time, and I dreaded playing everything that I owned — especially Borderlands — because even the slightest playthrough of anything reminded me of the years I spent sitting in front of a TV playing with him. The dream was dead, as Marvel Comics’ Onslaught would say.

But did the dream really die? Well, now that I’ve settled in at home, missed a few deadlines for the first time and decided to be just a small force of two, I can say with a modicum of certainty that I want to continue doing things for a little while longer. No, I don’t make money from GI. Yes, all I get is the satisfaction of being an editing overlord to my longtime writer-turned-boyfriend/partner (that really is the best perk, by the way). And, yes, I do get the occasional “You’re really talented. And a supreme video game geek.” But the reason why I keep coming back, putting out issues, traveling and coaching? It’s because I like this. GI, in its own twisted, crazy way, has been there for me when the world was falling apart around me. No, it’s not a real person, but I’m pretty sure it loves me, and I love it, too. So, here’s to another year of creativity and video games … because I can.

Lyndsey Hicks is editor-in-chief of Gaming Insurrection. She can be reached by email at lyndseyh@gaminginsurrection.com

19

07 2015

Postmortem — Borderlands 2 — 1Q2014

Borderlands 2 postmortem-web

Returning to Pandora one year later

Lyndsey-2013-cutout-onlineIt’s been one year now since Borderlands 2 came screaming into my game library. Actually, it’s been more like one year and two months since the loud and brash shooter sequel made its acquaintance. And much like a new friend of a friend that you just met at a bar while getting drunk because you passed the bar exam, you have a few shots and look back on that night with a certain fondness. Fondness for your liquor, that is, not the new friend. More than likely, that new friend is now asking for money and showing up at your apartment at all hours of the night just to “hang.” But, I digress. Borderlands 2 is like that new friend except you don’t have to spend money for companionship. That is, unless you really feel like blowing your money for some decent distraction-type entertainment.

When the game was released, GI was in the throes of change and a new quarter. Change came in the form of me going it alone, since my previous partner who guided me around Pandora decided to head for parts unknown. I was on my own, but I was excited. I was ready to live life on Pandora with characters of my own and experiences shaped by my own actions without someone who knew the story by heart standing over my shoulder telling me that I was going about getting my murder on the wrong way.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m by no means a snob when it comes to killing things with help. I will never turn down an offer of joint killing when it comes to Borderlands, but I will be frank with you all: It sucks when you want to put your own brand of mayhem and death to the test and there’s someone who is literally sitting next to you going, “You should go here. You should change your class mod. You should use this gun. You should do this mission first.” Constantly. So much so that you learn the story before you even get started. Because they’re playing the game all day. Every day. You see my problem now? It was constantly in my face. So, I really didn’t get to enjoy the first game as much as I probably could have on my own. Of course, I probably wouldn’t have discovered it without that former partner so there’s that. But mostly, I was ready to rock on my own in the world, kind of like my real-life situation at the time.

GI was pulling out the stops on what we’d learned with the new game before its release. I wanted detailed coverage but I had to settle with what I could get in about three weeks of play. I bought the game as soon as I could, and I jumped right into the single-player campaign quickly. Now, I’m usually not in the habit of reviewing a game as soon as it comes out, mostly because I haven’t played enough of it to give you a good opinion. That’s why I leave the Now Playing hype machines to the experts like William Harrison. He’s on the ball when it comes to current games, and has the time to review things that the other writers don’t with the possible exception of Daniel Gibbs. But this time was different. We’d promised a review and we were going to deliver. And deliver we did.

I pulled my review goggles on and made a point to get down and dirty with the game. How did the second game handle the sequel transition? Was it worth coming back to Pandora for what was probably the ninth time (saying you did two playthroughs with all four characters of the first game)? Did Borderlands 2 live up to the hype and anticipation? Well, I’m still playing a year later, so it managed to do something right, I suppose. I’m usually not a fan of sequels — especially to awesome games — because I feel like it never works as good as the first time. But Borderlands 2, much like my drunk friend of a friend from the beginning, surprised me. It’s good company. I’m still learning things about the game well more than a year later, and I haven’t even touched the DLC or all of the characters.

Do I like it as much as the first game? No, and here’s why: It’s just not the same grittiness or stunning simplicity of Borderlands. Borderlands was frighteningly simple in its “killed or be killed” premise. The sequel, I feel, has some ulterior motive in its quest to get one over on me, the player. Yes, it’s funnier and a little more polished than the first. But, coming back to that new friend, it’s still asking me for money. For EVERYTHING. The first game had its DLC and costume stuff, but now there’s more monetization of everything in the game practically, and that’s not what Borderlands started out as. This isn’t to say I dislike Borderlands 2 for it, but there’s a limit of which I’m mindful when it comes to giving up maximum dollars for a game. Borderlands 2 is approaching it.

When I think back to the lead up to Borderlands 2, I’m reminded of the feeling I had in my heart of hearts. There was a sense of dread, that somehow the sequel wasn’t going to live up to the billing, and I’d be disappointed since I’d been waiting for at least a year for the game. I can tell you that I wasn’t disappointed. Afraid of change? Probably. But I don’t regret giving the game my attention and time. After all, as my Xbox 360 beacon proclaims, it’s still a new day to ride or die on Pandora.

Lyndsey Hicks is editor-in-chief of Gaming Insurrection. She can be reached by email at lyndseym@gaminginsurrection.com

04

01 2014

Continue Screen — 2Q2013

Continue-screen

An American woman in love with Japan

Lyndsey-101612-cutoutWhen I was in the seventh grade, in the heady days of 1993 and 1994, I fell in love with a nation. That’s not an easy feat, let me tell you. I am a red-blooded American woman who loves herself some of the good old U.S. of A, but my love for video games was unmatched, and it didn’t take long for me to figure out where they came from mostly.

In those halcyon days, I was an ignorant little wretch, playing what I could when I could with little money. All I could depend on was my mother getting paid every two weeks so that I could have a pittance of what she earned in the form of an allowance. I received $25, and the ink on the Treasury Department stacks was barely dry before I’d find a way to blow it on my favorite hobby/habit. Why, I could have saved millions by now probably if I hadn’t bought countless issues of GamePro and EGM that were summarily read at dinnertime from cover to cover. The gaming news of the day was most important for me, and I learned the behind-the-scenes nuts and bolts of the trade and gaming journalism all at once. Call it a supplementary education if you will.

While I received a quite proper game education and academic merits in Columbia, S.C.’s public institutions of learning, at the arcade I was becoming cultured in the ways of the people speak. And at home, I was learning subtly about a country I’d never seen and still haven’t ventured forth to in the ensuing 20 years: Japan. My first glancing blow with the Land of the Rising Sun was through Street Fighter. Now, I realize like most people who play the series that there are several nations represented in the World Warrior tournament. Japan is one of many. However, the primary language spoken among all of the characters in the original version of Street Fighter II — with the exception of Zangief, Dhalsim and Guile — is Japanese. And yes, even Ken Masters, who is half Japanese, speaks Japanese fluently.

So, when I booted up the game after ignoring it in favor of Mortal Kombat, I realized there was something going on there and it wasn’t the good old English I was used to hearing. The shock of hearing the language for the first time was akin to being set free to roam in the world for the first time: I didn’t know how to act. I soaked up the language, enthralled with E. Honda’s stage and the concept of sumo. I’d never even heard of sumo at that point, and though I was aware of China and some of the food that I thought came from there (Americanized Chinese food is among my favorites), I had no idea about the history, customs or culture of either China or Japan. All of that changed when I did a shoryuken for the first time.

I dove into the world of a land I didn’t know with abandon. By the time my eighth grade year rolled around, I knew more about samurai and sumo than most 13-year-olds and I finally understood that Japan, at that point, was the place I needed to be because every game that I’d ever played had come from there. And thus began my lifelong dream of traveling.

I also had to learn two concepts at that point: Cultural sensitivity and open-mindedness. As a black teenage girl and now as a black woman, I had to learn that there are other people in the world besides myself and my own race of people. At the same time, I realized that there are people out there in the world that have preconceived notions about who I am and what I love. While I have a deep appreciation for Japanese culture, it is impossible for me to ever become Japanese. I can’t think Japanese, I certainly can’t speak it and I would never claim in any way, shape or form to understand the country’s way of life. However, I can indulge myself in what it has to offer and open my mind to it as well. So, when I’ve heard someone say that I am trying to “turn Japanese” because I happen to love geisha or watch a lot of anime or play a lot of video games, I shut that nonsense down.

That’s what this entire issue of Gaming Insurrection is about this quarter: We appreciate.

Lyndsey Hicks is editor-in-chief of Gaming Insurrection. She can be reached by email at editor@gaminginsurrection.com

06

04 2013

New column: Continue Screen — 1Q2013

Editor’s note: Continue Screen is a new column written by various members of GI on a quarterly basis. It’s basically a rant about whatever they want to discuss in the gaming industry. In 1Q2013, Contributing Editor William Harrison starts things off with a discussion of THQ’s policies.

Why marketing games the right way can make, break you

By William Harrison

Hello everyone, and welcome to one of what I hope will be many a mix of factorial and some personal experience/opinion editorial reports to come; so, please,bear with me. There have been many games in the industry that have been made with great hype, interesting media campaigns, hell, even Super Bowl placement all to sell to the consumer at large as well as the gaming community. This is done all with the hopes that they will be able to fund their next big or, sometimes small, idea that balloons way the hell out of control and takes on a life of its own. That’s where some, but yet a small part, of the delays in release come from. Publisher THQ could have learned a lesson from this and known to delay the game Homefront until it was more than just a polished turd with a really good story.

I say this because I was one of the many people who bought this game from the now-defunct developer KAOS Studios only to discover that it wasn’t worth the multimillion-dollar ads that it was portrayed to be. What we (i.e. the gaming community) actually got was one part of a great and somewhat original story, and an underdeveloped multiplayer that was a badly cloned mix of Call of Duty and Battlefield.

OK, before I go any further, I feel I should explain the whole developer versus publisher relationship for those who aren’t too familiar with how it works, better known as the consumer at large. Why do you think developer/publisher Acclaim was in business for so long? Not because they made great games; it’s because their subsidiaries, or developers, made great games for them.

Acclaim is now no more for the most part because of the business practices that lead to some of the subsidiaries — well, all of them – to jump ship to different publishers. It was more or less because of the fact that as a developer/publisher, Acclaim could produce (develop) and distribute and then sell (publish) its own games under the label of Acclaim using a majority of the profits from the other developers that work for them. Of course, they didn’t tell their subsidiaries this; I’m guessing it was made to look like a fine print transaction or something similar. Hell, they might have had the balls to be like “Oh by the way, we’re raising the percentage rate we make off every game sold under our label. Tough shitzu and deal. Have a nice day.” But that is an investigative editorial for another time.

Hopefully, I explained the relationship well enough so that you get the fact that just because a game has the THQ label on it doesn’t mean that they made the game, per se; it just made it available for the public. They may have had very little to do with making the game except for putting money toward it getting made. That doesn’t mean that the publisher has all their money in the right place. Take the game Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine from Games Workshop (creator and co-developer) and Relic Studios (developer), which is a platformer for the consoles and PC. When they got together to make this game, it was one of the best platformers I’d played in a long time. Granted, my main love is fighting games and anything that takes longer than eight hours to beat total play time (cough, RPGs, cough),but I occasionally like to relax with a Devil May Cry or a Sonic Adventure-style game where exploration is as fun as mowing down the masses.

But I digress. The simple fact of the matter is that some companies like to hype games they believe will sell a lot of copies, regardless of the fact that it might not be finished or that it has a great multiplayer system. Well, yes, I know it has worked for a lot of first-person shooters like the Call of Duty series and Battlefield as well as helping the Medal of Honor series pick up where it left off and make a decent game again. Yeah, EA, that was a shot at you … because my wrath is next upon you.

Anyway, Homefront could have been a great game had THQ decided that the game was ultimately not ready for release and then pushed it back to make to make a really good game worthy of a good single-player and multiplayer mode that was worthwhile. Unfortunately, what we got was a shooter that was buggy, not very good in some aspects, and looked liked it should have been released on PlayStation 2 or maybe the first Xbox.

Then, you have Space Marine, which had little-to-no hype whatsoever and is a very solid platformer that offers the right amount of challenge for all players. I think the combat system is slightly the basis for future Darksiders titles, but I could be wrong. The bottom line is this: Don’t try and jump in with both feet expecting to knock it out of the park when there more established titles that raise the bar. In the very least, don’t phone it in and pour money at the problem hoping the ad campaign will make everyone not notice how much of a polished turd it is. Even if it is polished, it’s still a damn turd.

William Harrison is a contributing editor for Gaming Insurrection. He can be reached by email at editor@gaminginsurrection.com

 

05

01 2013

GI visits Lost Ark Video Games

Lyndsey Hicks, editor-in-chief

Gaming Insurrection has a long history of making impromptu road trips in search of arcades and game stores. We love the thrill of the hunt, and traveling in general, so when we have the chance to get out and see different things that involves gaming, we do it.

Imagine our luck then when we stumbled upon Lost Ark Video Games in Greensboro, N.C. Lost Ark is a small shop that sells games and — surprise! — features an arcade filled with pinball machines and cabinets. Import and domestic games are offered for systems from the days of the Atari through the modern consoles. There are quite a few fighting game machines (i.e. Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 and Super Street Fighter II Turbo), but there are some gems, such as Vs. Super Mario Bros., Vs. Ice Climbers and a Nintendo Play Choice that features Super Mario Bros. 1 to 3.

While we were out, we decided to document the experience. Look for a longer feature sometime in the new year. In the meantime, visit Lost Ark at www.lostarkvideogames.com.

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19

08 2012

2Q2012 is now available!

Content for the second quarter 2012 is now available! Stories this quarter:

Classic Focus: Super Mario Kart: GI goes in-depth with a look at the characters and weapons of the game and the tracks we love in the classic Super Nintendo racer.

Mortal Kombat II tournament Finals: We finish off our six round Mortal Kombat II tournament. Find out who took the crown in GI’s first tournament.

Reviews: We critique Halo Reach, Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, Namco Museum, Sonic Mega Collection and Onimusha in Ready, Set, Begin! and  ESWAT: City under Siege, Wheel of Fortune and Tetris Attack in Retrograde.

In Retro Game Corner, we take a look at reboots of several popular franchises. When is it time to start over and when is it time to let it go? We give our opinions on which series need to restart and which should leave things alone. In our continuing look at the 150 Pokemon of Red and Blue, we examine the evolution chain of Pidgey, Pidgeotto and Pidgeot. And the Dance Dance Revolution Spotlight focuses on Trip Machine Climax, Destiny and Cartoon Heroes (Speedy Mix).

On The Strip, we talk about the moral failings of the X-Men’s Charles Xavier and study up on Avengers stalwart Dr. Strange, Earth’s sorcerer supreme in the Marvel character highlight, property review and top 5 list.

Download the latest issue at www.gaminginsurrection.com

02

04 2012

Animal Crossing Chronicles #08: 2Q2012

Animal Crossing ChroniclesTokyo resident Samus finds the landscape coming back to life as winter becomes spring again in her adopted hometown. Are there surprises left behind as the snow melts?

02

04 2012

Animal Crossing Chronicles #07 – 1Q2012

Animal Crossing Chronicles

We’re sticking with the photo album format for Animal Crossing Chronicles. It offers a detailed view of life in Tokyo for Samus. This quarter, fall has given way to winter and the possibility of snow was the talk of the town. Enjoy photos from the fall and winter 2011 in Tokyo!

 

01

01 2012

1Q2012 now available

The 1Q2012 issue is now available!

This quarter, we begin our Classic Focus series. Starting with the legendary platformer Castlevania, we will examine older franchises and games that made an impact for old-school gamers. This quarter’s feature includes a brand new video series to accompany Classic Focus honorees: Classic Play. Visit our Youtube channel here to watch new videos.

Ready, Set, Begin entries are Forza Motorsport 2 (X360), Tony Hawk 3 (GC), Dungeons and Dragons Heroes (Xbox) and Mega Man X (SNES). Retrograde takes a look at Mortal Kombat (SNES), Earthworm Jim (SNES), StarCraft (PC) and U.N. Squadron (SNES).

Over on The Strip, GI tackles Ultimate Avengers in the property review, quotes from Ultimate Avengers in the Top 5 list, Cable in the Marvel character highlight and All-New Tenchi Muyo Vol. 2 in Otaku Corner. Editor in chief Lyndsey Mosley discusses the bashing of direct comic book movie lifts in the Strip Talk podcast and column, going solo in hosting duties for the first time.

A new feature for GI begins in the Dance Dance Revolution Song Spotlight. The concept: Three songs are highlighted from 1st mix through SuperNova. Check out our DDR terms glossary while you’re there and watch videos of the quarter’s selected songs.

 

01

01 2012

Change coming to GI

Lyndsey Mosley

Lyndsey Mosley, editor in chief

Several months ago, I said there would be changes coming to Gaming Insurrection. I am proud to announce that indeed change has arrived for GI.

The first significant difference is that GI is going to a smaller size. We’re changing the way we look and it will be immediately noticeable in the actual size (12×12) and in quality. This switch will occur beginning with the 2Q2012 issue, available in April 2012.

The second significant difference is in the production quality. GI has finally made the leap to Adobe InDesign and Acrobat for page layout and GamingInsurrection.com will be produced using Dreamweaver. These production tools are the standard in the industry for publication creation and we’re excited to make the move.

The final change, or addition rather, is the start of a new video feature. I’m personally beginning a series called Editor’s vlog. As of this post, there are two episodes available, which can be viewed here or at our YouTube channel.

12

12 2011