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Brandon Erickson's blog

Looking back on the Wii

Now that the Wii's novelty has worn off, a number of questions come to my mind: Is the Wii really all it’s cracked up to be? Does the Wii remote actually improve the gameplay experience? Do motion-sensing controls really do all that much to increase the player’s overall enjoyment or sense of immersion?

Trying to appreciate Halo

Halo 3 Screenshot

Just as English literature buffs should be knowledgeable about the heavyweights of the Western canon—Macbeth, Huckleberry Finn, Ulysses, etc.—so too should videogame critics be acquainted with gaming’s megahits, games like Super Mario Bros., The Legend of Zelda, and, yes, the Halo series. So, like the English lit student who struggles to wrap his or her head around Ulysses, not because it’s enjoyable but because it’s important, I decided that I should at least try to understand Halo.

Tolerating ambiguity: The challenge of making choices in videogames

I have a difficult time making choices in videogames. Usually this isn’t really much of an issue. Most games don’t ask players to choose one path or response over another and thereby close off a particular area or sub-story. On some level, I still cling to the idea that giving players multiple story paths from which to choose and more ways in which to shape their own experience represents an important part of gaming’s continuing evolution. So why is it so hard for me to make choices?

On the inclusion of developer commentaries in videogames

Having recently received The Orange Box as a Christmas gift from my dad, I can now count myself among the multitude of lucky gamers who have experienced Portal. As fantastic as it is—and it is indeed fantastic—one of the biggest revelations I’ve had as a result of playing Portal is the concept of in-game commentaries.

My favorite games of 2007

Frankly, I haven’t played nearly enough games this year to justify making a “best of” list. Not only that, but I think “best of” lists are usually far too subjective to warrant the concreteness with which they’re presented. That being said, I still got to play some truly exceptional games this year. Of the games released in 2007 that I have played, the following three were my favorites.

Stranded on a 16-bit island

As I write this, I'm in a tiny little town in middle-of-nowhere Oklahoma. My cell phone barely holds a signal. The sole television in the house is a 12-inch that only shows programs of a religious nature. All the food is vegan. Alcohol is prohibited. The lone internet connection is a dial-up through a computer that takes several seconds to display a word after it has been typed. Oh yeah, and videogame playing is expressly forbidden.

Defending Guitar Hero and Rock Band: Why there's nothing wrong with being a fake musician

Despite the enormous success and popularity of Guitar Hero and the recently released Rock Band, it seems that there is still a small but vocal group of cynics and naysayers who like to pop up in internet forums and belittle players for "wasting" their time on "fake" instruments when they could be learning the real thing. Here are three reasons why these criticisms are completely out of tune with reality.

Super Mario Galaxy and Nintendo’s continuing critical dominance

The arrival of Super Mario Galaxy marks the continuation of one of gaming's most beloved franchises. It also happens to mark the extension of Nintendo's remarkable streak of critical supremacy. According to the review aggregator site Game Rankings, the top-rated game for each of the last three console generations appeared exclusively on a Nintendo machine. So what does this mean?

Videogame length and the question of quality versus quantity

For most players, videogames are regarded as consumable products, like cheeseburgers. For them, longer game translates to better value and (supposedly) better game. For me, this kind of thinking seems not only narrow, but bad for videogames.

Move over, BioShock: there's a videogame that poses even greater moral challenges

BioShock has attracted a great deal of attention for its central moral question of whether or not to rescue or harvest the little sisters. But as powerful as this dilemma was, there's another game that has left me feeling far more morally drained.
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