My 5(ish) Favorite Games of 2012

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We’ve been talking about Game of the Year stuff as a matter of course over at Game Front. Everyone makes their top picks each year, and while we’re streamlining the number of awards and hullabaloo that’s going into it for 2012, we’re still doing it.

At Game Front, the system is democratic, and certainly a few of my favorites aren’t going to get mentioned. But I played a lot of really solid games this year, so I thought I’d take this opportunity to run them down and bring back the Tuesday Top 5 list convention, which I’ve fallen off from lately.

And so:

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Why Players Go So Nuts Over Choice

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I know, kind of a lot of video game blogs lately. I’m knee-deep in one of the busiest months of freelancing of the year for the medium, so it’s about all I have to talk about right now. That should be changing pretty soon as I start to do some more fiction work and other things. In the meantime, this is going to have to be about video games again.

And yeah, Dishonored is still on my mind. First, the game started out with a bit of a lovefest. Day One reviews for the game were glowing — it is, after all, a game about a supernatural assassin who has a vast many choices about how to approach those assassinations. And the majority of the praise for the game is for its freedom: You can decide to do a lot of stuff, or not do it. You can pick and choose your way forward, you can avoid things, you can strive for other things. You are the decider, or at least you feel like it, because even if your destination is mandated, your journey to that location is not.

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Dishonored and the Art of Indirect Storytelling

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I’ve finally gotten a chance to play through the full experience of Dishonored this week, after having previewed it repeatedly. It’s one of the cooler games I’ve gotten a chance to experience this year — safe to say I enjoyed it thoroughly. I put all the thoughts I had on it into a review.

Something at which Dishonored excels is its storytelling, but it’s weird because storytelling is also one of its weakest points. When the game sets you down and has characters yammer away at you, explaining everything that’s going on and giving you no further ability to interact with them, it’s actually kind of boring. While the characters come to be pretty round and interesting later in the game, those info-dumps of exposition can really break up the flow of the game.

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Crazy Busy October and Crazy Weird Resident Evil 6

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October is a major time for video game releases, and thus I’m finding myself with plenty of freelance action going on in the next few weeks. There also might be a few new developments brewing by the end of the month, and while I’m not able to discuss them just yet, they are occupying my time.

So I’m keeping today’s post a little shorter because I’ve got some World of Warcraft to get to for work, plus interviews to plan for the week. But let’s talk a minute about Resident Evil 6.

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5 Truths About Games Journalism

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It’s not as much fun as you think.

Inevitably, readers on the Internet always seem to subscribe some incredible attributes to games journalists. Usually these have to do with the exorbitant checks we must be receiving from publishers and developers to sway public opinion. I figured today I’d take a minute and clear up a few misconceptions about the glamorous life of playing games for a living, for your edification.

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‘Aliens’ is Ripley’s story, not Hicks’ story

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In the early part of next year, there will be a game released that is a direct continuation of the storyline of Aliens. This pleases me to no end.

But I have lots of reservations, and the most recent was one based on the fact that Gearbox, the developer behind the game (titled Aliens: Colonial Marines), recently announced that it would be adding playable female characters to the game for its cooperative and multiplayer modes. What worries me about the situation is that it took a lot of griping and even an online petition signed by about 4,000 people to get Gearbox to decide to make playable female characters available in the game.

The entire Alien franchise is a story about women. Every film sees a fundamental reversal of gender roles. The primary characters are almost always women, and when they’re not, they’re supporting characters. Even the very nature of the alien, with its roots in actions of rape and violence, is geared toward a woman’s perspective. Alien is about women.

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5 Tips: Breaking Into Freelance Games Journalism

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I’ve been working steady as a games journalist for better than two years now, and occasionally I’m asked about how to get into the industry. There are no hard and fast rules, unfortunately — nor is breaking into the industry at all easy for anyone. I wound up here by a confluence of lucky circumstances and persistence.

However, it’s definitely possible to get work as a freelancer, in any segment of journalism. But freelance work is as much about playing salesperson as it is writing, and you have to be able to handle both in most circumstances. The bad news is that being your own salesman as well as writer kind of sucks. The good news is, you can distinguish yourself if you’re a little bit savvy and willing to work for it.

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How I wound up a video game industry journalist

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Occasionally I get asked about how I wound up doing what I primarily do for a living, which is working as a freelance games journalist at GameFront.com, as well as how others might make their way into the industry. I know quite a few people who’d like to find a way to do what I do, so I figured a series of posts to that end would be useful. Here’s the first.

Mine’s not a particularly inspiring story, except perhaps for how mundane it is — it carries an air of “I’m a games journalist, and so can you!” So I mean to impart the tale and a few tips along the way maybe, though it’s probably not an experiment that can be replicated.

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Looking to the Gaming Community for New Stories

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Something you learn quickly when working at a small video gaming website like the one for which I work, GameFront.com, is that access of any kind is really hard to come by.

Quickly, it becomes really difficult to execute what you might call “journalism” in other circles. Doing research and getting interviews with the people who actually make the games you’re writing about is notoriously difficult, and the entire industry is under tight controls by public relations companies. The game-making industry controls the message as best as it can, whenever it can, regardless of what the message is. Innocuous questions go unanswered all the time because information control is power in this industry, and publishers wield it. It’s hard to blame them, really.

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