Thursday, June 28, 2012

Philly Game Jam victory once again for TCNJ alumni and students!

Two weeks ago, on the weekend of July 15-17, a team of TCNJ alumni, students, and friends took home two awards at the 2012 Philly Game Jam, part of the Too Many Games festival at the Greater Philadelphia Expo Center.

The Philly Game Jam is a 48-hour game development competition in which teams of professional, hobbyist, and student game developers compete to build a game with very little time (and even less sleep). All teams are given a theme at the start - an image, quote, or idea to help prompt their creativity - and then they have only their own equipment, skills, and resources to complete a working prototype of a game idea before the weekend is over.

A team of five game developers organized by TCNJ alum Alexander Cap took home two awards: "Judges' Choice" and "Most Innovative", for their game Kairos. Alex was joined by fellow alumni Brett Taylor and Nathan Wailes, TCNJ student Martin Bayer, and friend of the group Arnab Jahangir.

Kairos is a platforming game with puzzles that let the player age (and take years off) their environment in order to reach their goal.

This year marked the third Philly Game Jam in a row that the TCNJ game development community has participated in, starting with the event in Fall 2009 and continuing again at the last event in Summer 2011. Since the tradition began, TCNJ's game development community has continued to grow - in April 2010 the school's first game design club in many years, The Magic Circle, began holding meetings. In January 2011 the group organized a student/alumni trip to the NJIT Global Game Jam site, and in January 2012 The Magic Circle organized a public Global Game Jam site at The College of New Jersey.

This post is my sincere congratulations to the team for not only pooling their talents to create an impressive game, but for strengthening the spirit of community among TCNJ students and alum interested in game design and development. Go Team Kairos! See you at the next Game Jam!

If you are interested in playing Kairos or learning more about the team, please check out the Kairos wiki page.

Friday, June 15, 2012

I Just Want to Be Noticed!

How is it that in the time since I last posted, I've completed the likes of Psychonauts, Bastion, and Professor Layton and the Curious Village, with nary a post discussing them? Three excellent, very diverse games, these: play them when you can.

Recently I was published in MediaPost's Gaming Insider for pointing out a dirty secret of pop entertainment: every story we love convinces us we're special, if only someone would notice. That point is augmented for the brands-and-advertising crowd with some follow ups for how content creators can use that truth to manipulate us all for their own dark purposes.

Is it true? Do we really play games because we're all narcissists? Am I ignoring the very real possibility that I'm the only one who thinks like this? Let me know with a comment - it's the only way I know that anybody notices me, after all, and that makes me feel special.

Now Playing:

Rayman Origins (Xbox 360)
Breath of Fire II (Game Boy Advance)

Saturday, March 24, 2012


Let's walk through a conversation I have on a regular basis.

Gamer Friend: "Have you beaten Mass Effect 3 yet?"
Me: "No, I started the first one, but haven't gotten very far."
Gamer Friend: "You haven't beaten Mass Effect yet?
Me: "Nope, but I just beat Psychonauts!"
Gamer Friend: "I thought you play a lot of video games?"

This is a recent example, but the games are interchangeable with so many others. While you were playing Skyrim, I was playing Pikmin 2. Why? I love old games, dated graphics and all. As much as I'd love being more involved in the zeitgeist immediately after a major release, I love playing games that I've heard good things about for years, knowing I'm in for a treat. Yet, there is always one major force pulling me away, and that's the feeling of isolation that comes from an offline single-player experience.

There is a world of difference between playing a Virtual Console game on my Wii, and playing a retro game re-released on Xbox Live Arcade. If I want to play a 40-hour 90s JRPG alone in my apartment on a weekend afternoon, I can go to either platform. Play on the Wii and I'll have spent the entire day eyeballs-deep in a compelling-if-antiquated fantasy world with nothing to show for it but some carpal tunnel. Play on Xbox Live, and that experience becomes a connected one. My friends see what I'm playing. I can share my achievements. I can see who else has played this game, how far they've gotten, and find out what else they recommend.

If playing on Xbox Live is like seeing a movie in the theater with your friends, playing on the Wii (or an older system like the PS2) is like watching that same movie on an airplane, with the airline's proprietary $3 headphones on, and the overweight guy next to you leaning on your shoulder while he sleeps. The content's the same, but one case is a catalyst for conversation, while the other is a way to keep from feeling dead inside for two hours.

It's these experiences that convince me that Facebook et. al. are onto something with the mantra that social games are better games. I'm excited for a future where every game gives me the option to share my experience with my friends. I won't force it on anybody else, but I'm going to take that option every time.

In the meantime, I'll have to justify my more disconnected gaming sessions in some other way... like writing a blog post about it.

Now Playing:
Chrono Cross (Playstation)
Professor Layton and the Curious Village (Nintendo DS)
Rayman Origins (Xbox 360)
The Witcher (PC)