I am a 29-year-old journalism student at Marshall University in Huntington, WV. Yes, I am a bit old to still be working on a degree, but various circumstances made the goal impossible to obtain when I was younger. Now that I'm older, wiser, and far, far, far from my parents, I'm completing what I started. I am considering going right back in and getting a Master's in Media.
I've been an avid gamer all of my life, and I enjoy writing about gaming whether it's video games or table top games. You can find my works on Cardshark.com, MMORPG.com, TheGameHeroes.com, Debasedtothis.org, and one lone publication to MTGSalvation.com. I am a website administrator for gaming media website ScrewAttack.com, and I am the creator and operator of indy gaming site Debasedtothis.org(DTT for the regulars).
Aside from gaming, I enjoy massive amounts of news reading, logical arguments, technology, music, literature, friends, my fiancee, and my cats.
Editor's Note: This piece was my final project for my Research and Info Gathering class. I in no way promote this as professional, but it was professional enough to be scrutinized and fact checked by my professor.
I start every morning by grabbing a bite to eat and sitting down in front of my computer. The screen comes to life as I press the power button, and I check my daily news aggregation websites. I look down at the GameInformer magazine next to my desk, but I log onto N4G.com for my daily video game news rather than turning to the magazine for information. I believe that GameInformer is a fantastic magazine, but I can get all of my news faster online. This has been a growing trend for me over the past few years, but is new media slowly dominating the market that traditional media once held?
Despite continued production and circulation, certain areas of traditional video game media have experienced a decline. It is no secret that magazine readership as a whole has been on the decline. Other forms of traditional video game media have also felt the pinch over the last few years. DirecTV, one of the nation’s largest satellite service providers, ceased to carry Comcast’s G4 channel in 2010. G4 is known for its production for the video game review show X-Play, but the popular show hosted by Adam Sessler and Morgan Webb wasn’t enough to convince DirecTV to keep G4 in its lineup. “We are constantly evaluating our lineup in a new world where programming costs continue to rise at significant rates. Since G4 is among the lowest rated networks based on the latest Nielsen data, we decided that it made sense to focus on preserving programming that is more relevant to our larger customer base,” A DirecTV rep said. G4 retaliated, stating that DirecTV was denying G4 fans “the only network that focuses on the popular gaming lifestyle.”
However, gaming fans have other sources of media that focuses on the gaming lifestyle to consume, and these forms of media are available at their discretion. Jared Knabenbauer, ScrewAttack.com’s anchor for the show Hard News, believes that new media reaches gamers faster and better than traditional media. “People using the internet or websites are able to find information about exactly what they want. It allows them to find as much as possible on a single subject,” Knabenbauer said. “[Traditional media] also have restrictions, with most shows condensed into 22 minutes or magazine articles being only so many words. Web-based media has complete freedom on how much they want to say or inform.”
New media thrives on speed of delivery when it comes to reporting the latest news, and with such speed comes the possibility of less depth with each report. New media publications can update hourly with news stories, daily with video newscasts and weekly with podcasts – pre-recorded online audio productions. These updates are much faster than the traditional daily newspaper or monthly magazine, but the extra time possessed by traditional media can lead to rich storytelling. Justin McElroy, managing editor for Polygon.com, believes that new media’s requirement for speed reduces information in stories. “I think that new media has the constant pressure to be fast, faster than anyone else, which can lead to being less informative,” McElroy said.
Video game-related radio programs are not common, but the Internet is thriving with various podcasts to cover all aspects of video games. Podomatic.com’s video games section boasts hundreds of podcasts to choose from, and many larger video game websites also have a regularly updated podcast. Michael Dodd, Clear Channel Communications affiliate and broadcast personality for the This Week in Geek radio show believes that this information shouldn’t be surprising. “Listeners can’t interact with radio right away,” Dodd said. Michael believes that having radio programs online makes more sense. “If you’re streaming your broadcast, you can see how many people are listening in directly on the screen. You’re taking a guess with radio.”
The open terrain of the Internet allows media professionals the chance to start and grow a small media company in ways that traditional media simply couldn’t follow. The need for materials such as printing paper and broadcast equipment is virtually non-existent, and circulation/viewership can be achieved largely by word of mouth. Additionally, this ability to start media sites with very little risk could possibly hurt media ethics and integrity by focusing on news aggregation and even borderline plagiarism as websites rapidly swap stories on a daily basis. “One thing I hate is rewording press releases,” Michael Dodd said in reference to aggregation news sites. “It seems that exclusives happen either by mistake or the journalist knows what he’s doing. The rest of the writers out there are not finding stories.” Jared Knabenbauer also has disdain for news aggregation, believing that smaller media sites aggregate stories and transforms them into commentary in order to gain views.
Not all media professionals believe that smaller aggregation sites pose a threat. Some, like Jim Squires, don’t believe that aggregation sites are paid enough attention in terms of content to be considered threatening. “I think they’d hurt integrity if anyone took any notice of them. [...] The sites that just steal a bunch of feeds and aggregate the news, while unnecessary and kinda slimy, actually have the benefit of positively affecting [Search Engine Optimization] for the sites they steal from because they create in-links to your original content.”
Jeff Gerstmann is arguably synonymous with online games media controversy.
Aggregation and sensationalism are not the only threats to journalistic integrity in terms of games new media. It is the goal and moral obligation of all media outlets to create objective, disinterested reports, but one online media outlet came under fire for terminating an employee for allegedly following this moral code instead of creating a biased product review. Jeff Gerstmann was fired from Gamespot.com in November, 2007 following an unfavorable review of Kane & Lynch: Dead Men where Gerstmann gave the game a 6 out of 10 review score. Gamespot.com denied that Gerstmann’s termination was due to the low review score, and Gerstmann himself declined to comment openly concerning the situation. On March 15, 2012, Giantbomb.com, the games media site Gerstmann co-founded, was acquired by CBS Interactive who also owns rights to Gamespot.com. The acquisition terminated a non-disparagement agreement between Gerstmann and Gamespot, and Gerstmann spoke candidly about his termination for the first time since the incident. Gerstmann confirmed that pressure from advertisers – like Eidos Interactive who published Kane & Lynch: Dead Men – led to his termination. Gerstmann cited tension between the increasingly worried marketing staff and the editorial staff as the initial buildup for Gamespot’s decision to end his position.
New media sites may be gaining the attention of games media consumers, but they may still need to gain the trust and admiration of their peers before they can gain access to large interviews, press releases and convention spots. The Electronic Entertainment Expo, dubbed “E3,” is a yearly media expo that focuses on new video game projects, new releases, new consoles and new technologies. This event is not open to the public, and journalists must meet specific credentials in order to be issued a badge for attendance. Smaller new media publications are able to gain access to the event, but are they given the same opportunities as larger media publications? “Larger outlets are typically allowed more access, whether it be to behind-closed-doors demos, interviews, off site events, and more,” Casey Lynch, Editor-in-Chief for IGN.com, stated. “A [public relations] person wants his company’s product to get the big coverage,” Michael Dodd said. “There is favoritism for sure. It’s all about the numbers.”
Uncertainty of the print medium continues to rise, and many professionals in the media see games journalism leaving the traditional print medium within ten years. “As tablets spread like wildfire, I’m not sure that paper publications will still make sense in a decade,” Justin McElroy said. Jim Squires, Editor-in-Chief of Gamezebo.com, agrees with McElroy, stating, “We’ve been rapidly moving away from the old media models for years, and this is a trend that sees no signs in stopping. We read online, we watch online, we listen online and we play online. We live online.”
Despite speculations that games journalism will leave traditional media, magazine sales have been on the rise. MCVUK.com – The Market for Computer & Video Games – reported that GameInformer Magazine saw increased sales of 55% in 2011 for the Australian and New Zealand markets. The Official Xbox Magazine and The Official Playstation Magazine have followed GameInformer‘s success in Australia, boasting readership increases of 34% and 54% respectively. GameInformer Editor Chris Stead believes that print is successful through good, consistent content and also believes that magazines offer an experience that readers can’t get anywhere else.
The Internet will continue to be a prominent aspect of our everyday lives for years to come, and we will continue to look toward the Internet to meet our demands for information, entertainment and convenience. But, arguments and statistics aside, there will be a continued demand for television shows and a good book to curl up with. Only time can tell whether games media will continue to work with print or fully embrace the digital age.
Halloween is unquestionably my favorite holiday of the year, and just about anything with a Halloween theme catches my eye. Video games are certainly no exception to this rule with interesting titles such as Demon’s Crest, The Haunting, and Monster Party paving the way for today’s genre of horror-themed games. However, one game in particular did an excellent job of mixing good gameplay with sidescrolling action and a unique, dark theme. Decap Attack is a fun romp with a horror feel that is more concerned with fun than taking itself seriously.
Decap Attack(Sega Genesis) Developer: Vic Tokai Publisher: Sega Released: December 15th, 1991(amb) Best deal: $5.00 on average(eBay)
Not an original title, Decap Attack was first developed as Magical Hat Flying Turbo Adventure by Japanese developer Vic Tokai. Magical Hat was published by Sega for the Master System/Genesis in 1990 and features a very colorful, cheerful world featuring vibrant graphics and a gameplay scheme that was later transferred over to Decap Attack. However, the license for the Magical Hat anime was unavailable outside of Japan, so the American and European release of the game was transformed into a darker, drearier – but still cartoonish – contrast of itself, thus creating Decap Attack. The yin to Magical Hat’s yang, Decap Attack strays as far away from the cute, the cuddly, and the adorable as possible – depending on one’s taste and definition of “adorable.”
Story is not a strong point for Decap Attack. It features protagonist Chuck D Head, as he takes on Max D Cap with the help of his creator, Dr. Frank N Stein. Max D Cap has returned from the Underworld with his evil army, has scattered the islands, and threatens to leave Chuck’s world completely shattered. Chuck springs into action to end the tyranny of Max D Cap and bring peace back to his ghoulish world. This rather cookie cutter story is likely the product of story taking a back seat during Magical Hat’s redesign. It does, however, follow the design and visual presentation very well. Despite the simplicity of the game’s story, it fits.
Tried and true platforming mechanics are what shape the bulk of Decap Attack’s gameplay, but there are also slight tweaks to the classic platformer approach to provide a refreshing experience from the norm. As with most platformers of the time, Decap Attack allows for backtracking throughout the present level, various objects and challenges for level differentiation, simple ways to defeat enemies, and the chance to collect powerups and special attacks. The concise difference between Decap Attack and other platformers comes in the form of the ability to collect and store powerups to use when the player chooses and a reanimated skull that the player can toss at enemies like a one-trick boomerang. Players are also given the chance to collect coins throughout stages. These coins are used during bonus stages at the end of each world. Chuck also has arguably the strangest natural attack in the world of video games. He uses his face that is kept in the middle of his chest cavity as a protruding, fist-like weapon.
The atmosphere in Decap Attack isn't exactly sunshine and rainbows.
Pace is an ever-important factor when it comes to a platformer, and Chuck D Head does not slack in the least. Decap Attack certainly doesn’t share the same speed as Super Mario Bros 3 due to the lack of a running feature, but the natural pace of walking, jumping, and attacking does not slow the player down in the least. Chuck is even equipped with an ability to “slow fall” which is especially handy to correct any mistakes the player may make while breezing through a level. It is not at all difficult to speed through levels if the player doesn’t care to find any secrets or powerups, providing plenty of freedom for the player to make his or her own decisions.
As with most platformers, the game presents a boss battle at the end of each world. This traditional cliché, for me, has far too often worn out its welcome, and this feeling is even stronger when I play Decap Attack. I find it annoying that boss fights are simply led into rather than built around. There is no fundamental difference in a stage with a boss battle and any other stage in a particular world. Certainly this seems like a tradition in design when one thinks of classics such as Golden Axe, but it’s fair to say that Super Mario World showed that game design can go far beyond that mindset.
One of the biggest draws for the game is the unique atmosphere it provides in a genre that is normally filled with the colorful, the bright, and the cheerful. Skulls can be seen in the background’s dead, withering trees, many of the enemies are either dead or monstrous(like the werewolves wandering around), and the hero of the day is a headless mummy. All of these creatures reside in what appears to be a dead, barren wasteland where undead life can be found romping across the plains, dwelling on hilltops, or occupying the surprisingly blue bodies of water.
Chuck's world is as strange as Halloween town and even has dead, angry fish.
Animations for the game are smooth, crisp, and rather refreshing for a Sega Genesis title. The cartoonish graphics coincide nicely with the game’s dark theme, and the frame rate is fast enough to provide the speed necessary for an excellent pace and enjoyable gameplay. Small easter eggs like Chuck’s look of shock when running off a cliff give even more life to an already lively game. However, not all animations are enjoyable and awe-inspiring. The animations for the many potions and powerups the game offers are rather trite and forgettable. What could be a dazzling experience fizzles into a moment of mediocrity.
I must admit that I am very responsive to video game music from this era. The music has to be catchy, it has to be entertaining in its own right, and it has to fit. The scores presented in Decap Attack have no problem with accomplishing this goal. The early levels are accompanied by an interesting rock theme, the title screen’s theme is outright awesome, and I dare argue that the theme used for Chuck D. Head’s death sequence is the best death theme in gaming. Analyzing each theme presented is unnecessary; it’s best to say that they are all gems and are each appealing in their own way.
Despite some rather odd sound effects that don't seem to tie in to what is happening, the game has plenty of 16-bit charm with its sounds. I was originally going to criticize how oddly placed the sound effects are, but it simply isn't fair to call Decap Attack out for its cartoonish, wild effects when other oldschool greats have done the same thing. The truth is that the game continues a time-honored tradition of ensuring that the sound creates a fun, attractive ambiance that draws the player in – even if they don't entirely make sense. I praise this game for keeping the tradition going in such great fashion.
Overall, Decap Attack is a great classic that deserves to be played over and over again. It has been a personal favorite of mine for years, and not a Halloween has passed since that doesn’t remind me of this gem. I have included this game in various lists consisting of Halloween-themed games or the best games to play for Halloween, and it deserves the attention I give it. Dust off your old Genesis and give it a try. Or you could always find it on Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection.
We are now finished with NetherRealm’s summer DLC campaign, and while fans enjoy the free costumes that have come out, there is no question that the characters were the main course on Mortal Kombat’s DLC buffet. It is debatable whether or not the DLC is worthy of purchase. However, it is hard to argue against the price versus product ratio that Mortal Kombat 9 offers.
NetherRealm Studios had announced shortly after MK9′s release that there would be extra characters added over time as DLC, but the price of these characters wasn’t mentioned until later on. They eventually stated that each character DLC pack would be worth the equivelant of $5 but would also be offering what they called a Season Pass. The Season Pass would offer fans a chance to get all four fighters for the price of three. Sure, customers would have to pony up $15 at once, but the purchase ensured the download of Skarlet, Kenshi, Rain, and the fourth mystery DLC character – who would more or less be a freebie with the Season Pass.
A discount program for their DLC packages is arguably the best move NRS could make seeing that fans are fervently gnashing their teeth at the idea of paying five bucks per character – something that the heavily criticized Capcom is accused of embracing. Fans want to know that they are getting what they pay for when buying DLC add-ons for their games, and repeated public outcry against single character packages is well documented proof that charging anything above a few bucks for an extra character is very unpopular with customers – which is apparently popular with Capcom.
Paying for content that is already on the disc is not a popular move in the eyes of gamers either, and NRS did choose to go that avenue with the Classic Skins Pack #1(one can only assume that there shall be a CSP #2 later on). The pack offered all of the classic outfits that were given as pre-order content, but the fact that this content was already on the disc still upset some fans and made them wary that NRS and Warner Bros were trying to milk every dollar that they could with DLC packages – y’know, the gaming equivilent of going to the Dark Side.
How do you sell your DLC package? By having Freddy Krueger slap one of your franchise staples in the face
Mortal Kombat 9 needed a home run to sell this as the best DLC package money could buy and a package that boosts the game’s image. That home run came in the form of Freddy Krueger. Freddy has been received with mixed reactions from both Mortal Kombat fans and gamer alike, but the reaction appears to be mainly positive. The addition of Freddy could also reel in some potential buyers who were on the fence about buying the game. Kratos may be a large enough name to spark interest, but Freddy Krueger is a name of legend. I’d argue that anyone who enjoys video games and classic horror films would consider buying Mortal Kombat for Freddy alone.
Furthermore, the success of the MK Season Pass could mean another DLC package in the future. Only the future can tell what would be included in a second package, but the idea of more characters and even mini-games – like Motor Kombat or Puzzle Kombat – doesn’t seem impossible. Many MK fans loved the extra modes in past games, and giving NRS extra time to perfect the mini-games would be the best course of action. If the price of a second package is fair and the content is worthy of purchase, then fans will embrace more.
The most important part of any DLC that involves extra characters is to ensure that the extras do not offset the game’s balance. Skarlet, Kenshi, Rain, and Freddy offer new and interesting ways to play, but their presence is not mandatory in order to win matches. This puts the fear of DLC being a must buy in order to stay competitive to rest.
Skarlet is quick to inform Jade that you don’t bring a friggin’ boomerang to a knife fight
While Skarlet may be the only new character to join the roster, she doesn’t rely on cheapness or bells and whistles to be a worthwhile character to learn. This blood assassin relies on speed, quick hits, and intense combo damage to take down the competition, and playing her is challenging enough to lure in players who are looking for their next character to master and tear through online Ranked matches with. She slightly damages herself in order to inflict more damage on opponents, and she is able to inflict high amounts of damage in under ten hits with fierce combos.
On the other hand, Skarlet’s arsenal of fast attacks and heavy combos may also backfire in the hands of some players who aren’t looking for a fair fight. Her blade and teleport attacks can easily be spammed, and her speed possibly helps the spamming along a little too much. Combine that with her top combos which usually consist of forty-percent damage with eight hits, and it may create a solid reason to nerf her in future patches.
Behold! Kenshi has perfected his pimp slap!
Long time Mortal Kombat fans will remember Kenshi when he first joined the MK roster in Deadly Alliance. Significant changes have been made to Kenshi so that he better represents the blind swordsman with telekinetic powers instead of an alternate Ermac model. His combos are fairly easy to perform, he is able to be played at virtually all ranges, and he is able to dish out heavy damage at close range. I do not believe that he is as good as Skarlet, but he is still a character worthy of playing.
An issue I’ve experienced with Kenshi is that some of his special attacks are entirely too fast to perform and too easy to spam. Attempting to retaliate with one’s own ranged attack leads to a psychic pummeling, and attempting to close in on Kenshi proves to be just as taxing. The best counter I’ve seen to this has been a teleport, and not all characters have a teleport move. Kenshi is also slightly slower than other characters with regular attacks, but his sword combos are easy enough that players can spam six hit combos easier than Liu Kang players can. Kenshi is an easy character to turtle up with, and only patience and strategy can break his ridiculous defenses. Kenshi really can be a lamer’s wet dream.
This has to be the most annoying move ever. You’re just trapped in this stupid bubble…waiting
Next on the list of DLC characters is Rain. He still has several of his classic moves along with a new teleport move and upkick. I have a blast playing Rain. I love to see what I can do with him, and I also love learning more about the character that I didn’t realize at first. Learning Rain’s combos isn’t easy; timing is everything when playing him. His unique style of play and challenging combos is what makes me believe that he is the most interesting character to play out of the whole bunch. Prince’s “Purple Rain” never plays during any fights as or against Rain, but I suppose I can forgive that.
Rain isn’t without his flaws. As mentioned earlier, Rain’s combos are tough to master and require great timing. Couple that with the feeling that Rain doesn’t respond as smoothly as the other characters – at least on the Xbox 360 version – and a headache along with a mountain of frustration is bound to come pouring down. He is also rather slow compared to other characters, and I’ve seen where that can cause issues in some matchups. It is an issue that can be overcome with practice, but it is discouraging to be demolished after practicing up combos just to lose to speed.
Freddy shows off his uncanny ability to steal Liu Kang’s stance defense
Freddy may be the big draw for the Season Pass, but is he worth the hype? NRS did a great job of portraying Freddy. His mannerisms are in place, his special moves make sense, and his Fatalities are amazing. The horror fan in me gets a kick out of the beginning of each match when Freddy emerges from the flames, bellowing a maniacal laugh and sprawling the claws from both gloves. I believe Robert Englund would approve of their work.
Krueger has fun combos, a decent balance, and decent special moves, but I feel that he isn’t very unique other than being Freddy Krueger. He has a teleport move that has been used to death in MK9, he has an attack that can be dialed in for short, mid, or long range, and he has both standing and ground projectiles – attributes that other characters in the game already possess and do just as well if not better. I’m not entirely certain what else could be done with Freddy at this point, but he feels like a mesh of other characters at times. Perhaps I am judging a character that has recently been released too harshly, but I wasn’t truly blown away by what the Freddy character had to offer.
I do not actively purchase DLC for games that I have bought. Like many other gamers, I want to get to the most value in content for what I’m paying. While I – and many other gamers out there – loathe the idea of paying for content that is obvious on the disc to begin with, I can overlook the MK Classic Skins Pack that must be purchased separately to focus solely on what the Season Pass offers. It comes at a fair, affordable price that technically reduces the price of each character to under $4, and it has been supported by free costume DLC that was released over time alongside it. Add in how wonderful the free customes are, and the lack of the Classic Skins Pack becomes even more forgivable.
I find the MK Season Pass to be an awesome buy for anyone who loves Mortal Kombat 9 and Freddy Krueger. There will certainly be plenty of debate over whether it was a worthy purchase or not, but I am thrilled with my purchase. As mentioned earlier, I am somewhat annoyed that the Classic Skins Pack wasn’t included, but I don’t feel cheated at all. The free extras that have been released over time quickly make me forget all about the Classic Skins Pack with such gems as Cyber Sub-Zero dressing up as Hydro for Halloween.