Valve Loves Mods

Half Life

Have you ever played a game and thought to yourself “I really wish that dragon looked like Thomas the Train?” Well if you have, then you are in luck, because mods allow you to do just that. And if you have never even come close to thinking that, then fear not: there is still a mod out there for you. Mods are a great way to make a game more personal and entertaining since mods can essentially change almost any aspect of a video game into something the player wants. However, mods would be nothing without the developers that make the games they are for.

One developer that has been particularly prominent in the modding world is Valve. In fact, Valve was actually born from mods. In 1996, two Microsoft employees—Gabe Newell and Mike Harrington—left Bill Gates’ company to go and try designing video games.  To do this, they acquired the software development kit (or SDK) for the Quake engine and began modding. In 1998, they released their debut product Half Life.

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Sleeping with Thedas

Dorian Romance

As a company, Canadian-based game developer BioWare has been famous for its attempts at inclusivity of minority characters in its video games. Through the years, most notably in its two most famous properties, the Mass Effect and Dragon Age series, BioWare’s concern with inclusivity has been centered largely around that of minorities on the sexuality and gender spectrums. These attempts at inclusivity have been earned the studio commendations for their progressivity and forward-thinking, as well as appreciation from fans for targeting a somewhat atypical triple-A gaming audience—that is, people who are not heterosexual, cisgender men. Perhaps the most prominent example of BioWare’s efforts at representation is its most recent major publication, Dragon Age: Inquisition.

Of the three major Dragon Age titles published so far, Inquisition, released in November of 2014, is undoubtedly the most inclusive when it comes to gender and sexuality. While Dragon Age: Origins (2009) and Dragon Age II (2011) featured multiple straight and bisexual characters, Inquisition is the first of the three to feature not only gay and lesbian characters, but also a character who falls outside of the traditional male-female binary on the gender spectrum.…

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You’re Gonna Have a Bad Time

Undertale

Warning: This post contains spoilers.

The simulation of morality is nothing new. Much of moral philosophy for instance, relies on thought experiments such as the Heinz Dilemma, the Trolley Problem, and the Ticking Bomb Scenario in order to better explain, discuss, and grapple with various moral and ethical conflicts. We may even think of moral simulation as being as old as religion itself, which often uses parables and the promise of moral judgment upon death to exemplify and promote righteous behavior. In simulations such as these, we can better understand how we have come to understand what constitutes as right or wrong, as well as judge the morality of our own actions and beliefs. More recently, moral simulation has spread beyond the realms of philosophy and religion, addressing the secular mainstream and even finding itself as a type of commodity in the form of video games.

Morality and systems used to simulate and measure it have become important features of many popular role playing game series, including FalloutMass Effect, and Fable.…

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Mobile Gaming: Are You Really Having Fun?

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Smartphones are pretty amazing. Seriously, I only just got one a few months ago after having the same dumb phone for 5 years, and it has changed my life. And by “changed my life” I mean “it’s made me waste a whole bunch of time.” Some of this time is wasted on YikYak, some is wasted watching Whose Line clips on the toilet, and some is wasted swiping right on every single human being on Tinder. But all of those pale in comparison to the time I’ve wasted playing games on my phone. As we all know, the gaming and smartphone landscape has been transformed by the emergence of mobile games, but why are these games so popular? No doubt their price, easy access, and simple play mechanics–but I would argue that there is one more element not usually considered. These games trick us into thinking we enjoy them.

Quite an accusation, right? Trust me, I can back it up. I spent this semester helping Prof.…

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A Problem In Video Game Scholarship

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I’ve said it a million times and I’ll probably say it a million more: Video games as a medium are constantly being dumped on. Too many people write them off as children’s toys, unworthy of serious attention and potential for analysis. That’s part of the reason why I’m writing my senior thesis on the modern military shooter genre. I want video games to be taken as seriously as any piece of literature or any film could be. In my thesis, I’m looking specifically at Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 and Spec Ops: The Line and analyzing their uses of violence and how they justify themselves. What’s sad is that it seems like a lot of other critics and scholars aren’t willing to put similar time and effort into seriously analyzing the works about which they’re writing.

Often critics will overly simplify and generalize their discussions about games. Many readings of modern military shooters approach games of this genre merely as extensions of the US military complex, ignoring other narrative or ludic nuances embedded in them.…

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There’s No Place Like Home

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Wow. Gone Home shattered all my assumptions about video games. But before I get into that let me offer two disclaimers. One, this is, in fact, the first video game I have every played from start to finish (unless you count a round of Super Mario Kart) and the first video game I have ever owned. Second, I will be talking about my personal life in connection to this game. If that makes your skin itch, I’m sorry.

In the hyper-masculine realm of popular video games, violence is king. Call of Duty, Grand Theft Auto, Diablo, etc. Games are marketed to men and use female characters as pawns to drive the story and to develop the male protagonist’s character. Women in games are not independent or their own characters, but are rather devices marketed to men. This often means that the female character is killed just to give the male character depth or purpose. In addition there is the completely unacceptable sexual violence in Grand Theft Auto where players are REWARDED for raping women, blatantly encouraging rape culture.…

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Organic World Building Done Right

Ash Lake

When I reflect on what’s missing from a lot of games these days, my first thought is “a cure for my crippling loneliness.” My second thought? A sense of discovery and mystery, of finding and uncovering of my own accord pieces of a game’s lore and world. I like going into a world that feels real, one that feels like it wasn’t created with my satisfaction in mind, but rather could have organically existed without my participation. A game shouldn’t have to spell everything out for me, because its job shouldn’t be to please the player. Not all games have to be fun. Games can be more than just things to do in order to pass the time; they can be challenging, emotionally engaging, thought provoking, and even sad. Not every game needs to make me excited, it just needs to succeed in its own right in whatever it sets out to do. Help from the game or being given a sense of power is nice sometimes, but I usually don’t want a game to hold my hand.…

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League of Legends for the Uninitiated

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The sudden popularity of a certain new video game has a lot of people asking a lot of questions: (1) What is this new video game contraption that all the young folks are doing? (2) How does one play this game? (3) Why does my chest hurt after drinking a bunch of lemonade? (4) Will I ever truly be happy?

Let me try and answer some of those fascinating queries:

  1. League of Legends.
  2. Read the rest of the article
  3. You might have acid reflux
  4. Probably not but hey might as well try

Not that all of those questions aren’t worth discussing, but I’ll be focusing on #2 for the remainder of this article.

There are a lot of reasons you might be reading this. Maybe you want to be the next Faker (Korean pro player, some call him the Lionel Messi of League, others just call him… Faker-sempai) and be a professional League of Legends player. Or perhaps you’re just wondering what it is your roommate is doing that has him clicking so loudly that it sounds like a woodpecker lives in your ear!…

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A Problematic Vision of Gamers

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I like video games. Some say I like them too much, but only those who’ve seen me write “Mrs. Jeremy Games” on the inside of my school notebooks. Recently, my interest in them has started to become academic in addition to recreational; I’ve started to think and write about video games from a scholarly perspective, as you might do with a classic film or piece of literature. To many, writing academically about video games might sound completely ludicrous, like if someone wanted to exhibit paintings of Nicolas Cage at the Louvre or if someone said that spray cheese actually tasted like real cheese. Why is it that most people fully accept paintings, novels, or films as works of art with the potential for analysis, but video games are merely toys for children, not worthy of any scholarly merit?

While it is true that video games are becoming more popular among scholars, they certainly don’t have the widespread acceptance that other forms have; it would be rare to find a professor of video games or someone majoring in Sonic the Hedgehog for his or her college degree.…

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Return to The World of Thedas

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Bioware loves dramatic protagonists. The company did the hero of legend in Dragon Age: Origins, the underdog-turned-champion in Dragon Age II Origins–and in Mass Effect, the main character was the savoir of the entire galaxy. How could they hope to create a protagonist to top that? With, it turns out, a hero as potential new messiah, embroiled in a good old battle of the gods. Dragon Age: Inquisition thrives on the dramatic and the epic: in the plot, in the characters, and in the imaginary world of Thedas. The first plot point is an explosion seen on the title screen when “new game” is selected, which sets the story in motion. From then on–throughout more than 100 hours of content–the game is one of wonders both big and small.

Meet the Inquisitor

The Inquisitor is entirely your character. You get to customize everything about her (or him), from her race and background to her appearance, and even her voice. When the game begins, your character is the sole survivor of the aforementioned blast, which happens to have killed hundreds, ruined hopes of peace in a war-torn country, and unleashed its own chaos into the world via a magical scar left in the sky.…

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