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GameSetWatch.com is the alt.video game weblog and sister site of Gamasutra.com. It is dedicated to collecting curious links and media for offbeat and oft-ignored games from consoles old and new, as well as from the digital download, iOS, and indie spaces.

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Column: Bell Game And Candle

COLUMN: Bell, Game, and Candle - 'Sarah Palin Reviews Spore'

September 12, 2008 8:00 AM |

['Bell, Game, and Candle' is, in normality, a regular GameSetWatch column by game commentator Alex Litel. However, for this edition, he has invited prominent hockey mom and Republican vice presidential candidate Governor Sarah Palin to share her thoughts on Will Wright's new game Spore.]

Firstly, I would like to thank the video game web site Game Set Watch for giving me the opportunity to review the new video game Spore. When not encumbered by politics, I like to enjoy leisure time by doing things like hunting, snowmobiling, fishing, praying that Bristol Bear doesn’t do anything else moronic (note to me: remove this from final draft), drinking, and other Alaskan activities.

Much like I have challenged and changed political machinery—namely, the state GOP, which is more corrupt than my old hard drive (that is a geek joke)—up in Alaska, Spore challenges and changes our suppositions of what exactly games are. Your machine does not just immerse you in the traditional game experiences of hunting or racing or bowling or fishing, but fantastical experiences of imagination grounded firmly in the reality of science.

COLUMN: Bell, Game, and Candle - 'What Kind of Game Would Unicorns or John McCain Play?'

September 4, 2008 8:00 AM |

['Bell, Game, and Candle' is a regular GameSetWatch column by game commentator Alex Litel, discussing stuff that happens in the game business. This time - a [verbally NSFW] discussion with a unicorn and a fundraiser foray provide insight into earthly troubles.]

“Oh fuck, Alex, I already have to deal with enough fucking demos; I don’t need different species to come into the fucking equation…. Wait, ‘unicorns,’ are you on 2C-I? (By the way, I must clarify my mention of 2C-I is not at all informed by any actual experiences I have partaken in.)”

“Slow down there, Machiavelli, you know that Sharon wants to have children, and the sailor is not as revered an occupation as it once was. Also, I do not actually know what ‘2C-I’ is, but I’m going to guess it is recreational drug and not automotive nomenclature at its most mundane.”

“Unicorns aren’t real.”

“I know; before Wii Sports, you would have said women over thirty were not a real demographic.”

“Isn’t it a bit demeaning to compare women to unicorns? And there’s no empirical evidence suggesting that unicorns are real. Alas, this industry is so counterintuitive to creative visionaries; I have great ideas like poaching Diablo Cody to bring Variety’s ‘slanguage’ to the twenty-first century and a daytime talk show strip hosted by Shalom Auslander.”

Unicorns

As Machiavelli pointed out above, unicorns kind of do not exist; thus, I took from the Ailes school of journalism and pretended that they do (obviously, the Ailes school of pretending, like that done in preschool, entails no research).

I searched far and wide for a unicorn gaming; I almost was about to just give up and just go for the Shetland pony in Creswick that watches television. But then, I discovered a gaming unicorn named Roger, who agreed to let me interview him.

Me: Hello there, would you like to start off by telling the readership a little about yourself.
Roger: Well, my name is Roger, I am a 23-year-old unicorn who is unemployed, dropped out of college, and enjoys media.
Me: I see. What games have you played recently?
Roger: While…about a week ago, while playing I was playing that artsy Adderall advergame—The Unchronological Undertaking of Stopwatch Strauss—with the puzzle pieces and the time-travelling, I discovered I had adult attention-deficit disorder.
Me: It is called Braid; I think I should say it is not an Adderall advergame. Do you really have adult-attention deficit disorder or were you saying that to be clever?
Roger: Yes, I played Oblivion, but I never understood what was actually occurring at all.

COLUMN: Bell, Game, and Candle - 'In Defense of Marc Ecko’s Getting Up: Contents Under Pressure'

August 16, 2008 8:00 AM |

['Bell, Game, and Candle' is a regular GameSetWatch column by game commentator Alex Litel, discussing stuff that happens in the game business. This time - he ponders about seeming arbitrariness of adulation.]

In a clip from the preschooler-targeted television series Dora the Explorer, a map hops out of the backpack of a girl named Dora and rolls out to show a rolled-up map inside the map affirming fifteen or so times in song that "I'm the Map." The map follows his cantillation with an exclamation that Dora and her monkey Boots need to get to the big piñata, and he knows the way to the big piñata. (From what I understand, Dora's royalties are stored in the big piñata, and the map is demanding a cut of the royalties in exchange for his expertise.)

Elsewhere, in the Middle East of 2014, wheeling and dealing of protracted, ham-fisted exposition is going on at the 41st Annual International Chain Smokers Summit—the number of assertions that "war has changed" because of a move towards "war economy" because of "PMCs" employing "nanomachines," with the linguistic gait of Dan Quayle channeling Irwin Corey, would put the map's re-affirmative tendencies to shame.

Elsewhere, in contemporary metropolitan mimicry, an Eastern European immigrant with an immaculate command of English bursts on the scene where he attempts to avoid getting burst in an adventure filled to the brink with trite, ham-fisted exposition: "the American Dream is great," "the American Dream is not what I imagined," "am I losing myself?" and "shit, the American Dream is incompatible with my set in stone world-weariness."

I have a hunch if Penthouse and Pynchon was associated with or if the Bee's Knees of NYC emblem adorned the cover of Getting Up: Contents Under Pressure instead of Marc Ecko's name, reaction would have been less insolent and more praiseworthy. Sure, Ecko could have been a little more artful in his statements, but this column is about his game that the ostensible hardcore had decided against prior to Ecko's comments, not Ecko himself. (Also, not playing a game and complaining about it is no different than someone else doing the same.)

COLUMN: Bell, Game, and Candle - 'Tall Tales About Anticipation and (Not Much) Accomplishment'

August 1, 2008 8:00 AM |

- ['Bell, Game, and Candle' is a regular new GameSetWatch column by game commentator Alex Litel, discussing stuff that happens in the game business. This time - trips to North Carolina and Los Angeles reveal ineffable truths about the human condition.]

As a young person in this twenty-first century, it is requisite that I participate in some sort of counterculture; that is why my vice of choice is cosmopolitan patience - I love to wait and spend most of my time doing such. These waits could be anything from a David Sedaris book signing to vampire bingo. In addition, there is also the occasional wait related to video games and thus I am here today to share the two most memorable (and possibly only) gaming waits of the first half of 2008.

North Carolina

It is an early February night and, as I do every night, I check out the following day’s “Buzz Waits” on LineWire; I notice something sizzling in a peculiar place—Cary, North Carolina. Being an impolitic fiend, I book the next flight to Raleigh-Durham International Airport.

Eight or so hours later, I come out of my cotton tent and notice I’m in front of an office in front of some guy carrying a Huey Lewis & the News duffel bag and wearing sunglasses and a Cosby sweater. Then I began panicking because I was certain that I had indulged in some sort of hallucinogenic; it was an utterly rubbish wait, perhaps the worst since that midnight screening of The Terminal.

“Hello there, my name is Kudo Tsunoda,” said the man behind me. “What is your name? I am trying to get the names of everyone here at Epic before I enter the building.”

“Oh, I’m Alex Litel, enthusiast of enthusiasm,” I responded. “Where would I happen to be?”

Kudo told me I was at the headquarters of Epic Games, developers of the Gears of War series, and even though I was not an Epic or Microsoft employee, he insisted that I accompany him into his meeting “to ensure that the deciding is not corporatized and actually reflects the interests of the common gamer. Also, I really have not played Gears of War because I am not so hot on the kill-fests with contrived narratives.”

COLUMN: Bell, Game, and Candle: 'The Only Honest E3 Preview'

July 13, 2008 4:00 PM |

['Bell, Game, and Candle' is a regular new GameSetWatch column by game commentator Alex Litel, discussing stuff that happens in the game business.]

I, self-described all-around interactive aficionado Alex Litel, am here to deliver a definitive debriefing on the “hot stuff” to look forward to at this week’s E3 Media & Business Summit that will occur at the Los Angeles Convention Center in Downtown Los Angeles. You may not have heard of some of these games before. Well, now you have.

The Panic in Needle Park Game: A few months ago, I copped some hazel named The Panic of Needle Park from my balloon Netflix. I must admit that I only cooked sixty-three percent of the hazel, but I assume Bob and Helen kick their habits and open a detective agency or bakery. If this is the case, Epicenter Studios is bringing us Sam & Max with humans in place of the dog and rabbit or Cooking Mama sans kitsch. In the improbable instance I am incorrect, I imagine this is a cross between the 2005 version of Narc and that one mission in Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 4 where you collect pink elephants.

Sam Mendes’ Yellow Lasers: Nintendo heard the monotonous shrills of gamers all over the globe demanding more mature titles for the Wii and DS and took action by beaming a bunch of money (via Bluetooth) to Sam Mendes in exchange for his help in crafting what the fact sheet describes as “the most mature work to ever grace the medium.” The game, developed by Retro Studios, “captures the sincere and unadulterated thematic language that has put Sam Mendes at the forefront of British people creating media about America.” The trailer I am not supposed to be telling you about is wicked confusing: a cheerleader in clown makeup engages in racketeering solely because she is bored. Also, according to an insider source, the game involves lasers that are yellow. And by insider source, I mean the title.

LEGO Dog Day Afternoon: Finally, Warner Bros. purchase of Traveller’s Tales appears justified with this unique take on one of the studio’s most famous and acclaimed pictures. The unique charm of TT’s past LEGO adventures has been retained, but the game’s action is primarily “non-verbal communicative gameplay” more along the lines of a mute, cute Façade than block-busting. Seeking to the maximize the value of LEGO Dog Day Afternoon, the game will depart from the film by depicting the robbery in real time in the frame of fourteen hours as actual event occurred and featuring “more than four hundred endings.”

A&R: BioWare Austin’s highly anticipated massively multiplayer game takes place not in the dungeons or far off planets of some established intellectual property, but an industrial netherworld in pragmatic, allegedly irreversible crisis. You obviously assume the role as one in the earthly field of Artists and Repertoire in a dynamic mirror of the real life music industry. Will you go with an indie or major? Will your heart be in it? Will you sink to avaricious depths? Will I stop asking rhetorical questions? It is up to you.

You’ve Got Mail Basketball II: Rebounds Deleted: When Gameloft put out You’ve Got Mail Basketball last year, they brought absolute joy to the three people who wished Nora Ephron would somehow involve herself with basketball. This is obviously the sequel to that game, but the real noteworthy quality about You’ve Got Mail Basketball II: Rebounds Deleted is that the man at the forefront of Anglo nasality—Ira Glass himself—provides color commentary. Yeah, I too had the same “like, wow, this auditory combination is really going to be awkward in a way that is, you know, unprecedented in this medium” response as when I read that The Coup were doing the theme song to MX Superfly. Then, I heard some Ira’s commentary and realized he is simply reading lines written by Nora Ephron.

Madden NFL 2009: A lot of people were puzzled when Electronic Arts announced that they were eschewing the football in favor of "an interactive experience" based on an unfinished and unpublished science fiction novel by Sinclair Lewis for Madden NFL 2008. Then a number of those people played Madden NFL 2008 multiple times, and had little clue on what was happening in the eighty-seven hours or so they spent playing the game, but it was indulgently phantasmagoric. The finale of the game with Milt’s three-hour speech was ethereally didactic, albeit incomplete, and closed with the unforgettable "I snort periphery and I reject superlatives from." I'm happy to report that this year's iteration explains who Milt rejects superlatives from and that acclaimed composer Steve Schnur—whose cacophonous, rough score was primarily why last year’s title was remembered so fondly in the ears of gamers—returns to soundtrack this time around.

In addition to these future masterpieces, there is also the crop of titles announced at E3 that are certain to be “innovative and creative” with the ability to “not just thrill the ‘casual’ and ‘hardcore,’ but attract new demographics to gaming.”

[Alex Litel can be reached at alexlitel@gmail.com and occasionally found at alexlitel.blogspot.com.]