Category Archives: video games

The biggest tech hits and misses of 2013


Edward Snowden: the most wanted man since Julian Assange.

So what were the biggest technology related stories in 2013? There were quite a few, but here are the 10 most important.

Selfies take over:

With the Oxford Dictionaries naming “selfie” as the word of the year in November, the self-portrait’s domination of pop culture was complete. Even U.S. President Barack Obama, British Prime Minister David Cameron and Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt recently got in on the action with their own selfie at Nelson Mandela’s memorial service.

Is the self-portrait, followed by its inevitable sharing on social media, a sign of society’s growing narcissism? It’s a topic that’s now being debated. Over at the Globe and Mail, Navneet Alang argues it isn’t – it’s merely the latest evolution of how people are defining their identities while communicating with each other.

I think it’s even a little more innocuous than that. Whenever I show friends or relatives vacation photos of famous monuments or gorgeous vistas, they always wonder why I’m not in them. People like to see other people in photos – it’s often what makes them interesting. Read the rest of this entry »


The best Canadian-made games of 2013

don-t-starve5The year is drawing to a close and I’m on vacation, so you know what that means: it’s time for wrap-up lists. Yessir, it’s that annual tradition where news outlets and even bloggers pre-emptively fill space with retrospectives of the year that was, so that we can all go out and drink booze at holiday parties – or sun ourselves on a Mexican beach, as it were.

A good place to start, I think, is to take a look back at the year in games. I’ve penned a few retrospectives for the Globe and Mail that should be running this week, but in this space I thought I’d focus in on Canada specifically.

The past year was a bit of an off one for the games industry, given the console transition taking place starting in November. Many developers threw their resources into designing new games for the Xbox One and PlayStation 4, with the majority of that fruit not expected till next year. In 2013, it was thus slimmer pickings as publishers relied mainly on churning out more and more sequels, with fewer true standouts. That certainly held true with Canadian developers.

That said, it’s generally easy to compile a list of at least 10 good, made-in-Canada games any year, given the sheer volume of quality pumped out by our developers. Here are my subjective 10 favourite of the year: Read the rest of this entry »

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Posted by on December 16, 2013 in video games


Unions aren’t the answer for games industry

Hinterland's The Long Dark: better than unions?

Hinterland’s The Long Dark: better than unions?

Further to yesterday’s post on inequality, there was an interesting screed on labour issues in the video game industry this past weekend over at Jacobin. If you’re not familiar with the publication, it bills itself as “a leading voice of the American left, offering socialist perspectives on politics, economics, and culture,” so yeah, it was obvious where the story was going to go.

The article takes aim at how big video game companies overwork and underpay their employees, at least as compared to other software jobs. Among its most egregious findings is that a “whopping 84 per cent of respondents work ‘crunch time,’ those notorious 41+ hour work weeks which line up with the end of big projects. Of those, 32 per cent worked 61-80 hours week (and usually goes on for months).” The game industry, it appears, readily takes advantage of young workers who have a passion for the medium.

The proposed solution, which really shouldn’t be surprising given Jacobin’s political bent, is unionization – that workers need to get organized and demand better treatment from management.

The labour issues certainly do exist and a good number of employees, if you talk to them, do complain about long hours and sometimes tedious work if they’re on the lower rungs of the company. But unionization is a terrible idea that ignores the naturally occurring, self-correcting solution already under way. Read the rest of this entry »


Posted by on November 12, 2013 in video games


Remember when brand didn’t trump art in games?


Today, Doom would probably just have been Wolfenstein 2.

It’s Call of Duty day, which would typically be the biggest day of the year in entertainment (technically), given how much money Activision’s annual shooter brings in. This year, the storied franchise – now in its 10th year and iteration – is unlikely to be the biggest breadwinner, given how incredibly fast Grand Theft Auto V hit a billion dollars (it took only three days), but it will still make some handsome bank.

As a long-time fan, I actually quite enjoyed this year’s installment, Call of Duty: Ghosts, more so than the past few releases. You can read my full review here. I also wrote a quick piece that tries to explain to non-fans why the series – and first-person shooters in general – are so popular.

In putting together a sidebar for that story about the most important FPS games in the history of the medium, I noticed a fascinating trend that seems to say something poignant about the times we’re living in: brand has become a stronger selling feature than the artist, at least in games. Read the rest of this entry »


Posted by on November 5, 2013 in video games


Why no vampire games? Blame Twilight

bloodrayne-2-wallpapers_18432_1680x1050I recently had a chance to have a very Halloween-themed discussion with Josh Bridge, executive producer and creative lead at Capcom Vancouver on the Dead Rising 3 video game for the upcoming Xbox One console. Much of the conversation centred on zombies and why they seem to be everywhere in pop culture these days.

His take on it – which is detailed more fully in a piece I wrote up for the Globe and Mail – was intriguing, in that he blames (or credits) the trend to terrorism. The War on Terror, ongoing since 2001, has succeeded in kicking up a lot of fear and dread that is now manifesting itself in zombie fiction, he says. Zombie stories, after all, usually deal with themes such as unexpected disaster and man’s inhumanity to man.

Interestingly, I deal with another horror sub-genre – vampires – in my upcoming book Humans 3.0. Vampires are another kind of monster that, if you’ll excuse the pun, refuses to die. Like zombies, they seem to be everywhere in pop culture too. I spoke to legendary vampire author Anne Rice about why this is and her thoughts were illuminating: Read the rest of this entry »

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Posted by on October 30, 2013 in video games


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