Thursday, December 8, 2011

Modern Warfare 3: My (very brief) Journal From the Frontlines

"Worst shooter ever made." That was the first declaration my brother made on his second day of owning Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3. I was a bit skeptical of his analysis, since my brother is rarely happy with any game. He's one of these gamers who can't handle the bitter taste of defeat, and will always blame poor game design as opposed to his skills with a control stick.
I had read the reviews, they were almost all positive, and I was very excited to play the conclusion to the trilogy that re-defined what is expected from a military-style first-person shooter. I ignored the inane warnings of my brother and purchased my copy of Modern Warfare 3 a few days after launch.  
I arrived home with a huge smile on my face. I ripped the shrink wrap off and took a moment to really examine the box art. It was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. In the event that I ever have children, this will still be one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen. The game still had that new game smell. I buried my face in the game case, took a huge whiff, and walked blindly towards my entertainment room.
Imagine my surprise when I ran directly into my girlfriend. I looked up and there she was, guarding the door to my gaming suite. "Hey, babe," I said, always good at greeting my girlfriend in a way that makes her feel wanted. It took me a moment to notice the look of sadness in her eyes. "What's wrong?" I asked, taking another moment to smell Call of Duty.

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Digital Revolution: Count Me Out.

The PlayStation Vita is coming to a store near you very soon, and with it Sony is saying goodbye to the UMD format. Taking a page from the failed PSP GO, the PlayStation Vita will make all games available through digital distribution, with an additional option to purchase titles on physical Vita game cards. All games can be downloaded from the PlayStation Network store, where they are then saved to proprietary flash memory cards.

There are many reasons why the PSP Go failed, and the existence of the Vita means that Sony doesn't think it has much to do with the digital-only distribution. Sony is putting a lot of money into the hybrid PlayStation Vita, and that means they really believe in it as a viable product. More importantly, it means they are testing the waters to see if a future console that solely features digital distribution can succeed.

The only way to make a portable console even more portable is to eliminate the need to carry around games. Testing the waters of digital distribution with a handheld console is appropriate, but it's likely not going to end there. With the recent rise in sales on the Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network, the message being sent by consumers is that they enjoy having software made available to them on demand. It's very possible that the next generation of home consoles will be digital only, or at the very least feature a much larger digital library than we see currently.

If you're like me, your multimedia life is digital already: my music library is on my PC, I stream movies more often than I watch DVDs, and I have bought my fair share of games from Xbox Live Arcade. The inevitable conquest of the virtual console is at hand, and your game discs will soon sit next to cartridges in a museum display. While this may please some of you, I will be dragged into this dark age of gaming kicking and screaming.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Pikmin and Philosophy

"This game is so cute!" That was the reaction my ex-girlfriend had when she played the 2001 GameCube hit Pikmin. On the surface she is absolutely correct. Pikmin is a game that stars tiny little plant creatures, each with their own silly flower hat.

The art direction for the game is as colorful as the pikmin themselves, with a design that makes even vicious monsters seem like desirable household pets. The protagonist of the game, Captain Olimar, flew in on a miniature spaceship while wearing an antenna on his head. Basically, your simple minded ex-girlfriend has every reason to call Pikmin a "cute" game.

I ask that you stop giggling for just a moment. Remove your mind from those happy Pikmin memories, and take just a few minutes to really think about the events that transpired during the game. As I sit here taking my own advice, I begin to feel cold chills when I remember all those pikmin who died by my hand. I can still hear them scream as they fell to their death in water, or became the meal of a giant bug.

I even remember controlling Captain Olimar as he threw pikmin purposely into harm's way, just to occupy a monster in hopes of creating safe passage. Suddenly Pikmin doesn't seem like such a cute game anymore. Below the cuddly surface, this is a dark game seeping with brilliant social commentary.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Review: The Beaver (2011)

"Depression is the inability to find a future." This quote credited to American psychologist Rollo May seems to make a whole lot of sense when  looking at The Beaver, a film about the unique effects depression has on one family.  

Walter Black (Mel Gibson) is a toymaker suffering from a deep depression that has left his business and family in ruins. His wife, Meredith (Jodie Foster), has asked him to leave the house until he finds help for his condition. His oldest son, Porter (Anton Yelchin), hates him so much that he has resorted to smashing his head on the wall, just to forget about the similarities he and his dad share.

Walter has tried therapy and medication, but nothing can break him out of his funk. Walter's greatest fear has been realized: he has become his father, except that his father was at least a successful businessman. Seeing no other options left, he unsuccessfully attempts suicide, only to find himself passed out in a hotel room with a shower curtain rod attached to his necktie.

When Walter wakes up, he finds himself face-to-face with a beaver hand puppet promising him a new life. Walter adopts this persona, only to find that his business begins to thrive. Even life with his family suddenly improves, as Walter Black takes on the role of the Beaver, leaving his old identity behind.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Movie Stills!

Here's a collection of some of my movie still photography. These are all from various college projects.

Special thanks to C & L for being extremely patient while I worked on my lighting skills.

Lighting Project, a set on Flickr.

Documentary Stills, a set on Flickr.

Original Movie Stills, a set on Flickr.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

"Kid Julius" (2011)

A film I produced with some friends. This wonderful short film was made possible by my very talented friend Kevin Hershner, who did more than his share of the work. Follow him on Twitter (@KevinRVA).

"Kid Julius" was an official selection of the 2011 Progeny Film Festival in Blacksburg, VA.

Review: Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2011)

Michael Bay delivers another summer blockbuster based on the Hasbro line of toys with Transformers: Dark of the Moon. The joyous memories I had as a child watching Optimus Prime and Megatron do battle in Saturday morning cartoons were already crushed when Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen was released in the summer of 2009. I’m happy to report that the third installment of the Transformers film saga isn’t any worse than its predecessor, though I’d be lying if I said it were much of an improvement.

The story in Transformers 3 is incoherent, which should come as little surprise considering the plot of last film. It all begins with a spaceship called "The Arc", which crashed on the moon to begin the Space Race. Russia wanted The Arc for themselves, but luckily the good ol’ U.S.A was able to reach it first. To drive this plot home, Buzz Aldrin gives a cameo performance in a scene that contains so much cheese my brain created an odor to accompany it.