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9:48 AM on 01.12.2013

The Newspaper Chronicles II: Connecticut & Video Games

I wrote another article for my high school newspaper about a week ago. I shortly bring up my opinion on all the video game blame. Check it! Also check it out on my Wordpress with the rest of my writing crap!


On December 14th 2012, Adam Lanza shot and killed twenty children and six adult staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut. The event was an utter travesty, and many mourned those who lost their lives that day. Although the event had come and gone, the media continued to glorify it to the fullest degree. Among the mess of it all, many fingers were not just pointed at gun laws, but also at video games.
With the subject of violent video games already an issue for some people, this occurrence was a catalyst for even more blame. When reported that the killer had played games like Call of Duty and Starcraft, the media jumped right at the throat of video games, and their viewers followed suit. Since the media already pinned the blame on video games, naturally, the National Rifle Association (NRA) did too.
Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president of the NRA spoke On December 21st at a press conference to talk about the incident and suggest ideas for making schools safer. He continued to claim how violent movies, music and games that “sow violence against its own people,” are a big part of these types of crimes. He then listed games like Grand Theft Auto, Bulletstorm, and Mortal Kombat, to provide examples.
Around the same time of the conference, Senator Jay Rockefeller introduced a bill to “study the impact of violent video games on children,” because he is concerned about how it may affect them. Well the question here is why are kids playing violent video games? Every video game is rated for what audience it is appropriate for, and laws are even in place to prevent children and teenagers under 17 from purchasing M rated video games, unless they are given consent.
Regardless of studies done on the effects of video games on children, or even adults, the Supreme Court has already ruled that a California law banning the sale of violent video games to minors under 18 was unconstitutional based on First Amendment rights. Politicians, parents, and citizens have shown concern for these types of things, when in the end, it is the parent’s responsibility. If the parents think it is not right, they have to make the correct decision. Video games, the internet, movies, and music are all things a parent can control, and in no way do any of these mediums need to be changed for the sake of bad parenting.
In addition, other western countries that have exposure to the same exact video games have been documented with a much lower murder and crimes rate compared to the U.S.
In regards to the Connecticut shooting, video games involvement should not be worth any of our concerns, but rather gun laws, and the access to these automatic weapons and bullet magazines to those who are mentally unstable. As Long Island Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-Mineola) stated, "These assault magazines help put the 'mass' in 'mass shooting’,” and anything we can do to stop their proliferation will save lives in America."   read

8:44 PM on 11.21.2012

Review: Paper Mario: Sticker Star

Paper Mario is a series that gained praise for standing out among other RPG’s as a more welcoming and cheery game when compared to the Final Fantasys and other Square/Enix properties. Its humor was something many of these games lacked and it expanded the Mario “universe.” Although I use that term lightly, Miyamoto would rather consider some of these plots non-canon because of how out there they can be.

Super Paper Mario changed the series up with its platforming-RPG gameplay, showing that Paper Mario didn’t have to be just turn-based.

Paper Mario: Sticker Star tries to return to form, but with a bit of a twist and a few too many ideas.

During the Sticker Festival, the citizens of the mushroom kingdom hold festivities centered around the sticker star, although Bowser would rather steal it. In an attempt to do so he ends up crashing into it; absorbing the star’s power. As a result, the five royal stickers are scattered and you must go retrieve them.

Upon the catastrophic destruction of the sticker festival, you meet a sticker that takes the shape of a crown and goes by the name of Kersti. She is essentially your partner and guide for when you are having a bit of trouble. Kersti then instructs you on the ins and outs of holding down “A” to harvest stickers for your sticker album. Once you finish cleaning up the town a bit, and helping out some toads in need, you encounter a tutorial battle.

As everyone may know, recently Nintendo has given hints and help for less experienced players. This game does not do that at all. The tutorial battle only tells you how to choose stickers to attack as well as pressing “A” when you jump on enemies. After this point, the only other elements of battle that are explained is how to use the spinner, which allows you to use multiple stickers at once. After stomping out the few tutorial goombas, you can head to the world map as well as checking out the local sticker shop.

Once arriving on the world map you are given four choices of departure, the first three worlds and the harbor. My reaction was more or less “Oh, I can choose where to go first,” but of course, you actually can’t since there are obstructions keeping you from progressing. I suppose that is alright since the levels are labeled 1-1, 2-1 to imply what order you should obviously progress in, but it leaves you a tad disappointed. This leads right into the next interesting bit of PM:SS – levels! Instead of exploring large areas, you travel through levels in a way that is similar to NSMB. For a handheld format, having levels was a good way to incorporate the pick up and put down play style for some gamers. The levels are not too lengthy and the game auto saves every time you head to the world map, which is convenient for a semi-lengthy RPG.

The major upset for me though, was the lack of originality in what kinds of areas each world was. I honestly felt like I was playing NSMB while looking at this map. You have your grass land, desert land, poison land, ice land and etc. Since the Paper Mario franchise always had such different and appealing places to explore, I had hoped this game would too. It just felt so stale for a game that was supposed to be different from the norm.

One of the first things I noticed once entering level 1-1, was how well the 3D compliments the art style of the game. Seeing as how the characters and set pieces are flat, the 3D helps to make distinguishing depth much easier and also adds to the paper gimmick. The game can really look like you’re staring into someone’s cutesy shoebox diorama. Along with that, if you look at your shiny stickers on the bottom screen and tilt you 3DS, it really looks like they are shining! Neat!

Although not everything is made out of paper, there are a multitude of stickers littered throughout each level for you to peel and pluck for use in battle. At first I was turned off by the idea of having to constantly stop and pick up stickers, but you honestly never notice it. My mind sort of went into auto-peel mode whenever I saw a sticker, making the process more part of the game than a tedious task.

Every sticker that you pick up (excluding key items) is stored on the bottom screen in your sticker album, and can be used in battle. Battle stickers can range from jump to hammer and other usable items. To make it a tad more interesting there are different types of jump and hammer stickers such as the “Line Jump” which allows you to jump on each enemy in the battle a few times. Along with different types of stickers, there is also varying shininess, which determines how much stronger each sticker is.

Now with that in mind, this means that Mario’s power only increases depending on how shiny the stickers are. Here is one of my biggest problems with the game. Because there are no magic points or attack stats which is caused by the sticker system, you also gain no experience from battle. None. In a game that wants be an RPG and a little bit of something else, going into random battles is absolutely pointless. Throughout the entire first world I was able to avoid almost every enemy other than about three mandatory battles.

I thought “They’re going to give me a reason to fight these battles, right?” Wrong. They fix this by throwing too many battles at you while you’re trying to figure out how to complete stages. Some levels have more unavoidable enemies than others, but even then you can decide to run away from them with no consequences. I think it is always good to experiment and try something new, but when you take away one of the main structures of this game genre it feels absolutely pointless to keep playing it. You may find health upgrades in some levels, which is helpful, but otherwise you would be pretty prepared to just beat the game from the get go. Regardless, the battle system isn’t that riveting, which just makes matters worse.

In addition to stickers, you can also pick up what are referred to as “Things.” Before you say anything, let me elaborate. Things are 3D items that you can pick up and are added to the Things section in your inventory. After acquiring a Thing, you can head back to town and turn it into a sticker. Each Thing can be used in a different way and for different purposes. One of the few uses is as a battle sticker to deal a chunk of damage. These Thing stickers can range from a pair of scissors to a jackhammer among other items. Some of these attack stickers are very required to defeat a boss, but which one you should carry on you, save, or use is sometimes not very clear. Since each Thing is one use, you may have to do a lot backtracking because you have either missed the Thing you need or accidentally used it earlier. The banality of this process is so irritating, especially because you may not even remember where you got some of these Things. As a result of wanting to avoid this grueling process, your Things section stays full with each and every Thing you find in fear of having to go back and pick it up again.

Attacking is not the only thing you need Things for (See what I did there! Ha!). Some are used for solving puzzles in a mode called “paperization.” By pressing the “Y” button, Mario can zoom out from the field of view with the help of Kersti, and affect or fix the environment. When in this mode, you may either notice things that can be peeled, or boxes where stickers can be placed. Some boxes are used to create item blocks to upgrade stickers, while larger boxes are for placing thing stickers. One of the few problems you encounter is an unmovable windmill, which can be affected by placing the fan sticker. It adds another charm to the sticker gimmick.

Paper Mario: Sticker Star is a flawed RPG, platforming, puzzle solving mess of failed ideas and is lacking in a silly narrative, rather than “Collect the stickers and save the princess go go go.” Nintendo definitely put a lot of work into the game to make it feel solid, and it is, but it just felt too jumbled and flawed that I was so unmotivated to keep going. The cute aesthetic and fantastic music sadly did not make up for the rest of this game’s flaws.


(I can't get the font size to work??)   read

5:28 PM on 10.22.2012

The Newspaper Chronicles I: Art

Most high school newspapers tend to be about school events, worldwide news, politics, or any other average jazz, but since I joined, I decided to change it up a little. Throughout the next two years of my high school career I am planning to write video game related articles that the general public can enjoy and understand. So mind you, the article is at a length that can be fit into the paper, and the explanations are simplified. Feel free to bring up any errors or give some feedback!

Are Video Games Art?

Ever since video games were born in the 1970’s, it has been a medium that has developed and grown, as well as the public who enjoys them. Although, for a while, and much more so recently, people have been divided on whether video games are truly art.

Early video games were just giant pixels on a screen and had very experimental game play, but they were the start of something even grander. Concepts, ideas, and genres grew like wildfire as developers found new and more complex ways to expand the medium as time went on. Video game music grew from the basic bleeps and bloops to fully orchestrated master pieces. Early narrative began as basic ideas evolving into complex stories, allowing the players to make moral decisions, characters you become attached to and even tear-jerking moments. The art and graphics of games has also exploded from just flat 2D environments to immense, almost real, 3D worlds. All of these aesthetics have developed into the ever expanding possibilities of video games today – which begs the question “Are video games art? Have they always been art?”

Those arguing that video games are art, state that they are a form of expression, filled with multiple elements of what we call “art.”

Since the beginning of video games, story telling was there, albeit simplistic. Not every game has a rhyme nor reason to itself, but the point is a storyline was featured in games even during the 70’s. It may have been minimal compared to the amount of text you may read in a role playing game today, or the many cut scenes you may watch, but it still got the idea across. Story telling in games can vary from just telling you “The Princess is in another castle,” or, deciding whether to save your lover before she falls to her demise, or sacrifice her life for the lives of many. Some games may even be made to only tell a story without any “game play,” such as Digital: A Love Story. In some games like Limbo, the story and the reasons behind what is happening is up to your own imagination.

Without art in games there would be nothing but a white background. The amount of concept art, designing, and drawing that goes into video games is more than you can imagine. The design of the characters, environments, and other factors all count for how the player is going to take in the world as well as what the creator wanted to spawn.

The music in video games, such as the Super Mario Bros. theme or the Tetris theme, have been popularized through our culture because of their catchy tunes, but just as in movies, the background music plays a vital role in setting the tone. Hundreds of thousands pieces of music have been composed by people wanting to give a game atmosphere, beauty, or just some fine jams. Some of these songs are played at such emotional moments in-game that they can truly make a person feel just by hearing it.

I asked English teacher, Mrs. Nessler, for her definition of art, and she said that art is any form of expression and can range from music, film, painting, video games, writing and more.
Many would say that video games are not just about winning, but about the experience as a whole. The populace uses these explanations for their reasoning that video games are art, but some have made some very important counter-points.

On the other side of things, some argue “video games are not art” or “not all video games are art.” Many people see video games as just games and toys used for a hobby and question “how is that art?” Roger Ebert, a respected movie critic, wrote an article sharing his opinion that “Video games can never be art.” Shortly after this statement, he corrected himself and stated “Maybe not never, for that is a very long, long time.” Ebert’s argument is about how a game is a “game” because it is something you win, and you cannot “win” art. He also believes you are meant to gain something from art and feels that you cannot do that within video games. The article received so much backlash that as a result, Ebert retaliated with what he called an “apology.” He apologized for never having played video games, but stuck to his previous statement.

Another perspective of the argument is the business side of the industry. For the past six years, big companies like EA and Activision have gained much attention due to their video game “cash-ins” and other money grabbing schemes. Games like Call of Duty and Madden have sequels released every year and sometimes may seem very similar to each other. Some grow tired of these games, but the amount of money they make is absolutely jaw-dropping – so why stop making them? In the same vein, the amount of downloadable content (aka DLC) made available for purchase after a video game’s release, or even on the day of release, truly make people wonder if it’s all just a scam. The public argues “Why isn’t this already in the game from the start,” and some could care less, but keep in mind, DLC is not needed to progress through a game. From cash-ins, to DLC, to pay as you go, many people disagree that video games are art when they seem like just an easy way to make money off of the consumers.

How do you see it?   read

8:34 PM on 04.11.2012

First Impressions: Skullgirls and Journey

Today I decided to head down to the local 7-11 and pick up a couple of PSN Cards so I could DIGITALLY DOWNLOAD the new 2D fighter Skullgirls and Journey. I made some time in my spring break schedule to spend all day gaming and such. So here's my first impressions on these two gems.

Skullgirls was released as of yesterday along with a demo that I swiftly downloaded for my playing pleasures. Now let me tell you, after that, I was hooked. I was already anticipating the release of this game so getting to finally play it was great. Today I purchased the full version and called my friend who arrived in no less than 5 minutes in his frantic excitement.

First thing I noticed was "Hey, where's the command lists...?" Guess what. There are none. SO WE'RE ALL DOOMED AHAHAHAH. Just kidding, there's a PDF you can download here that has the command lists as well as character bios just for fun. Although I do have to say, figuring out the special moves on my own felt very reminiscent of older fighters that also didn't have in game command lists. In the end we were left staring at these silly sheets instead, but I didn't really mind. It's been rumored that a patch may be released to add in the command lists as well as new character DLC featuring male characters! *le gasp!*

So, our first initiative was to go through the tutorial mode, which we did, I mean...that my friend Nick mostly did. So after all the introductions to the ins-an-outs of Skullgirls we got to delve further into the game. So let me express what I liked about it, and stuff. The first thing that catches my eye is the magnificent artwork and animation the game possesses. The character design is absolutely stunning and very original. The animation is very fluid and flows perfectly with the high speed of the game. With a game like this, I love visuals, and I love Skullgirls' visuals. On the gameplay end of the spectrum I had already said that the fighting is very fluid and fast paced, full of literally endless combos and flashy "blockbuster attacks." In fighting games the soundtracks are usually hit or miss, but I haven't been able to play it enough to really form an opinion yet. Story mode has also proven to be interesting as well. Oh, and guys, don't forget, upskirts.

I had a lot of fun with this "Blazblue/MvC" type fighter and can't wait to play more of it so I can actually not suck! :D

Next up is Journey I've also been looking forward to this game and I was hoping it would meet up to the hype it was getting -- it did. I played the game for about 40 minutes I'd say and I already feel like I have experienced so many different things. Crossed a desert, repaired a bridge, flying through the air, and sliding down huge sand hills. The exploration and ambiance of it all is truly alluring. Shortly after beginning my Journey I came across another fellow journey-er and they helped lead the way around the vast desert; making it really feel like I had a connection with the other player, that I wasn't alone.

All in all I can't wait to see what other beings and mystery's lie in wait for me. It's been quite a Journey so far ;D *rim-shot*


12:55 PM on 02.19.2012

Beginnings: Platforming the Playground

I was born in 1996 during the beginning of the Nintendo 64’s life. As I slowly grew just old enough to play video games I didn’t just have an N64, but also an NES, Sega Genesis, and Game Boy Color. I was already surrounded by hours of entertainment waiting to be had. I remember diving into the world of the Mushroom Kingdom in Super Mario Bros. and Mario 64; the days where I would sit and race through the vibrant worlds of Sonic the Hedgehog; and even counting with Elmo in Sesame Street 1-2-3. Whatever game it was, I always had a blast and could never put the controller down.

Even outside of the television screen my interest in gaming and adventure never faltered. In preschool I would always ask my mom to make my hair look like Sonic or Tails’. I watched Pokemon anytime it was on and knew all of their names. When I took trips to the local playgrounds I would come up with fun games, imagining I was any kind of video game hero I wanted to be. Platforming on the metal contraptions of the playgrounds to accomplish my imaginary mission. All I wanted was for these games to be my reality.

As video games advanced in technology, I did in my own ways as well. I wasn’t a little kid anymore, I was growing up. Every gamer has heard the line “When are you going to grow up and stop playing with your games/toys?” from an adult or that sporty classmate. Well the answer is simple for me. Never. Video games aren’t just toys; they’re music, art, storytelling, a challenge, and overall fun. They’ve even taught me valuable lessons and other things along the way. Video games have led me to be the kind of person I am today, and I’m proud of that. I’m in for the long run and it’s all thanks to a few of gaming’s classics. So, no matter what the developers decide throw at the world of gaming next, I’ll be there.


Anyone else try to imitate and act like they were a video game character? Speak up in the comments!   read

1:10 PM on 12.08.2011

Review: Sonic Generations (PS3)

Review: Sonic Generations (PS3)

After every Sonic fan’s whining and complaining, Sega finally decided to take the best approach to creating a game celebrating Sonic’s 20th anniversary, a simple but fun and exciting mix between classic 2D Sonic and modern 3D Sonic.

Sonic Generations begins with seeing our favorite spiky hedgehog running through Green Hill Zone until an evil shadowy figure appears, casting some funky time magic, but in the future, all of Sonic’s friends are throwing him a surprise birthday party. Eating a delicious chili dog whilst surrounded by happy faces...what could go wrong? Well, the obvious of course. The same shadowy creature appears and opens up portals to what appears to be different stages from Sonic’s past. His friends are all sucked into these different portals and Sonic tries to give chase, only to be knocked unconscious and sent into a world where all these timelines exist together. Now, it is your job to save your friends and fix time.

The basic level select of Sonic Generations is set in a type of hub, where you are able to move about freely to select an Act or Challenge. In every section of the hub there are three Zones and one boss stage. Every Zone is a recreation of areas from Sonic’s past games, but with a twist. Each Zone includes two Acts: one you can play as classic Sonic and the other as modern Sonic.

In Act one, classic Sonic stages are truly what they say they are. Classic. None of the homing attack gimmicks or modern look that Sonic 4 had. Just your simple run, jump, and spin dash; the way I remember it. I really enjoyed and appreciated these levels. Playing through classic levels like Green Hill or Sky Sanctuary was quite the treat. Even a few level design callbacks to the original stages. Later on in the game you even get to explore originally 3D levels like City Escape or Seaside Hill in standard 2D platforming, which proves to be quite interesting.

One thing I really enjoyed about classic Sonic was enemy hopping. A mechanic that wasn’t as important in original Sonic becomes much more prominent here. Enemy hopping in certain areas can lead to shortcuts, brand new paths through the level you haven’t seen before, and red star rings that unlock collectibles. Oh, and spin dashing is insanely fast.

Act two features modern Sonic and as of Sonic’s recent game, Sonic Colors, Sega seems to be slowly bringing Sonic back to life, and this game surely finishes the job for me. Colors’ gameplay is a mix between forward running 3D environments and sidescrolling 2D. Despite it being an improvement, the gameplay and level design still felt like it was missing something. It needed some more polish, and that’s exactly what’s delivered here. Modern Sonic has moves such as speed boosting, sliding, wall jumping, homing attack, and more. All of his skills blend smoothly together in these well designed and vibrant levels.

There’s also an online mode to get your name on the leader boards. Here, you have two choices: Time Trial or 30-second trial. In Time Trial it’s you’re average “get to the goal as fast as you can” deal, but in 30-second trial you’re given 30 seconds to race as far as you can through the level.

One thing that every modern Sonic gamer knows is the massive amount of glitches that come along, but there are almost none. Being able to flow through the levels without the constant frustration of bad level design and interrupting glitches is an improvement I never thought I would get to expierence.

After all three zones are completed, three sets of challenges appear, ten for each stage. There is one key placed in each of these areas that are needed to gain access to the boss. All you have to do to obtain these keys is beat one mission in each area. That’s it. One challenge. Out of 10. Here you can see they aren’t trying to force the extra content on you, but at least having you take a stab at it if finishing the game is all you are really looking to do. I really like the idea that I don’t have to go through an onslaught of these; I guess you could say, side quests, to progress.

You may be wondering, what would provoke me to even play the rest of the challenges if I can just win by playing a few? Collectibles. After every challenge you unlock a new piece of artwork, music, and sometimes even a new skill. The artwork can range from concept art of stages to just original character drawings. The music on the other hand is all from past games. Literally, almost every Sonic game has at least one music track featured. Then when you collect these songs, you can apply them to different stages if you want to mix things up a little. Oh yeah, and they’re just damn fun. Missions ranging from beating another you in a race, having Sonic’s friends help through obstacles, or even bouncing the end level flag to the end of the level as a Sonic 3 callback.

The boss fights are all brought back from the past as well but bigger than before. Although they may look more intimidating or more challenging, they really aren’t. They just didn’t give me the same feeling of excitement as the originals did. Even the final boss is a let down which was kind of a disappointment for me. Rival battles for chaos emeralds are also included as a nice touch and I actually, despite their low difficulty, had a fun time with them.

Another cool addition is the Skill Shop. Here you can purchase upgrades that make finishing stages or completing challenges easier like “Power Sneakers” that make you even faster or the “Flame Shield” from Sonic 3. Up to a max of five skills can be equipped and you also can’t go over a skill point number of 100. So be sure to choose your skills wisely.

Without a doubt though, this is one of my favorite looking PS3 games. It’s bright and vibrant colors just stand out so much in its high definition quality. The green grass of the Green Hill Zone, the ruins of Sky Sanctuary Zone, or even just watching Sonic fly across the screen makes Sonic Generations look outstanding. It’s just such a nice change of pace from the very gray and stagnant colors we usually get in HD, not saying those are a bad thing though. The presentation of the game itself is a little overdoing it for my tastes. The cluttered level load screen to the odd looking pause menu are just, shall I put it simply, ugly. It’s definitely bright, but just a little too confusing.

While Sega had been digging a deeper, and deeper hole for Sonic video games, they finally clambered out of that ditch with Sonic Generations. Fast-paced and polished gameplay, a simplistic story, gorgeous graphics, and plenty of replayability, Sonic Generations really proved itself, and I can’t wait to see what they do next.


This is my first blog post so any comments, tips, or criticism would be much appreciated!   read

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