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Matthew Kaplan's blog

Know thy console

Tatsunoko vs.  Capcom Screenshot

Tatsunoko vs. Capcom is a great game. Too bad it's on the Wii.

Going through the motions

Microsoft Project Natal Image

As you probably know, Microsoft's Project Natal and Sony's Arc (rumored name) face inevitable launch this Fall.  Given the Wii's extraordinary success bringing affordable motion controls into the family market (using cheap airbag-style accelerometers, no less), it's easy to see why Microsoft and Sony are putting so much time and money into creating the "next generation" of 1:1 motion controls. But did either company ever stop to think whether these peripherals are really going to change the way consumers view their products? And have consumers figured out what exactly motion controls add to the gaming experience?

And now for a musical interlude...

Perhaps you've seen Sega's recent commercial for the game Bayonetta?

It's an oddly subdued (well, considering the subject) and classy commercial for such a bombastic game, and what helps it to achieve this effect is the music playing in the background: Skream's "Let's Get Ravey" Mix of La Roux's "In for the Kill."

I love game commercials. They usually represent everything BUT the game that is being sold, and this eerie accompaniment is no exception. The real Bayonetta includes an earful of bizarre J-pop.

Redefining property: The digital distribution dilemma


Imagine selling lightning in a bottle. It's a curious and somewhat paradoxical image, isn't it? Our heads can't quite wrap around the idea of packaging the intangible... of owning a fleeting moment in time that leaves behind nothing when it is gone. That's because lightning isn't an object. It's an idea. It's the way our eyes and minds make sense of natural phenomena, ionic polarization and discharge in the atmosphere. These phenomena exist in physical space, in our reality, but the visual impact of their interaction—the brilliant ghost image left in our heads, the multi-veined concept we call "lightning"—doesn't exist as we perceive it. Yet it exists for us.

Gaming and the academic job market

Heavy Rain Screenshot

How many lucky souls get the chance to do what they love for a living?

I love to teach. I love to write. And now I know for certain that I love to teach and write about video games. Teaching a Writing about Popular Culture course this past semester gave me my first taste of what it would be like to engage students on a topic that is truly meaningful to me, not just as a hobby, but as an intellectual interest and lifelong pursuit.

Why Demon's Souls isn't GOTY material and other strange tales

Demon's Souls Screenshot

Forgive this bit of Scroogery on Christmas (hey, it's not my holiday).  I'm mostly reacting to Gamespot picking Demon's Souls over Uncharted 2: Among Thieves as Game of the Year for 2009. It's a positive reaction to the action-RPG title that I've seen elsewhere, so I'm not entirely surprised. But I also feel it's the latest in a series of hyperbolic reactions calling the game "new" and "inventive," when what I really think people are reacting to—both positively and negatively—is the game's difficulty.

A PlayStation Portable Buyer's Guide

Jeanne D'Arc Screenshot

It's been a tough week for Sony's handheld (at least in the States). NPD sales figures revealed that both the PlayStation Portable and Go variant have been sales busts as of late, and the highest-selling PSP title cracked only the top 150. Well, I'm here to offer some holiday cheer for PSP owners and Sony-philes in the form of an extensive Buyer's Guide. The PSP is a favorite platform of mine: I've purchased the console itself four times over, and have (sadly, depending on your perspective) played a majority of the games available for the system.

What if Mario were a Jew?

New Super Mario Bros. Wii Art

One can very reasonably argue that religion does not play a role in most video games (other than those which are "edutainment" or pointedly religious to the point of proselytizing, ala the Left Behind series) for the same reason that many cultural and ethnic factors do not: It's just not part of what we look for in an avatar. You don't really see a "Buddhist" slider in the Elder Scrolls character creation screen, after all. But is that really the case? That games remain pleasantly ignorant of religion and ethnic culture because we will them to do so?

Matt's Year in Review, Part III: My Favorite Games of 2009

Uncharted 2: Among Thieves Screenshot

Big surprise, I know. Uncharted 2 will inevitably rack up countless Game of the Year honors and will be forever remembered as a crowning jewel in the PlayStation 3's game library... but it will deserve every glowing remark, every spot of praise. While I was similarly fond of the first Uncharted game, Uncharted 2 expands upon the successes of its forebear with even more stunning graphics, breathtaking set pieces, and some of the best voice acting and writing in the business.


SlamIt Pinball: Big Score Screenshot

Confession: I'm a pinball nerd. Even worse, I'm also a video pinball nerd.

My new obsession is Technetium's painstakingly detailed pinball simulator, SlamIt Pinball: Big Score (shown above and available via Steam for a mere $5). The re-release of the Williams collection on PS3 and 360 was terrific. Zen's releases on those systems have been quite stellar as well. But they ain't no Big Score.

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