Friday, August 24, 2012

Susan Cain On the Power of Introverts

I am an introvert.

That may seem a silly thing to write, on a blog about myself. A silly thing to say, for someone that has hosted a podcast for six years that is now airing weekly on a radio station, or someone who regularly attends conventions filled with thousands of people, and has interviewed scores of comic creators, game developers and media personalities.

But the fact remains that I am often at my most comfortable, and most creative, when I'm alone. And something that I've struggled with my entire life, is the pressure from those around me, and society in general, to be an extrovert.

Writer Susan Cain just did a fabulous Ted Talk about the power of introverts, and why it's important to let them be who they are. You can watch it in the player below. If you're an introvert like me, it will likely resonate with you. And if you're not, maybe it will give you a little better understanding of those in your family who are introverts. Susan just put out a book about this subject as well, and I can't wait to read it.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

3DS XL First Impressions--I Love It

Even though I hadn't really planned on it, I ended up grabbing a Nintendo 3DS XL when they went on sale yesterday. GameStop was offering $100 toward the XL if you traded in your old 3DS, and combined with some other games I traded in, I got the new XL for a mere $11. Turns out it was worth $11 and then some.

I bought an original 3DS on launch day, and I haven't played nearly enough to justify my $250 investment. My biggest complaint wasn't the lack of games after launch, but rather the form factor of the device itself. The 3DS was just too darn small, and playing it for any length of time actually made my hands hurt. Over the past several months, there's been some great games for the 3DS that I haven't even bothered to pick up. I have a ton of old NES and GameBoy games on the device from the Ambassador Program and my eShop purchases, but I rarely fired up the handheld to play them. Ironically, the game I spent the most time with was Resident Evil Revelations (an awesome game), partly because the added bulk of the Circle Pad Pro made the device more comfortable to hold.

My first thought in taking my new 3DS XL out of the box was that it was exactly what the original design for the device should have been. Not only is the display substantially larger than the original, but the device feels a lot more comfortable to hold and play. I fired up Super Mario 3D Land and was really impressed with how much better of an experience it was playing on the XL versus the original 3DS. Even the 3D comes across better. Reading web pages on the built in browser (not that you'd actually spend much time doing it) is actually reasonable now. I could actually see myself using Netflix on the device now, something I did one time on the old model.

So, while I haven't spent too much time with it yet, I am really liking the 3DS XL so far. I don't know if the GameStop deal was a one-day thing, but if it's still going on, I think it's worth trading in your old model for this one. I know I'll get a lot more playing time out of the 3DS moving forward.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Death and Return of Co-Op Critics

Back in mid-2011, I started a new podcast segment on Secret Identity with a friend of mine, Dan Evans. The idea behind the segment was that we would have in-depth discussions about a particular game or series of games. These 'segments' actually ended up as stand-alone episodes of the podcast, due mostly to their length (they were about an hour each). We ended up recording two episodes, one on the third-person shooter Bulletstorm, and one on the first two games in the Mass Effect series.

At the time, Dan and I planned to do episodes on a fairly regular basis, and so I decided to start up a blog where we could not only post episodes, but also have additional written discussions about other games as well.

Things started off well, and we even convinced our friend Kim Wong to write a few articles for the blog as well.

And then things just sorta fizzled out.

We went the better part of a year without Dan and I recording a new episode, and our posts on the blog pretty much ended as well. I was actually considering letting the domain expire this year, as it didn't look like we were going to do anything with it.

But then, Mass Effect 3 came out. Dan and I are such big fans that we had to get back together and discuss the end of the series, and so another Co-Op Critics episode was recorded and posted. I then got to thinking about Co-Op Critics, and what it could be moving forward. I knew Dan and I still wanted to talk games whenever we could, and I talked to Kim about us starting to post regularly on the blog again. He suggested we bring in another avid gamer who liked to write about his experiences, Dave Fetterman.

And so, after some discussion, we decided that Co-Op Critics will live on. We will record podcasts when we can, but the focus of the blog will be the four of us talking about the games we play, why we play them, and the things we think about when we're not playing them.

Some of the things I post here will make their way over there as well, but don't just go there for me. Dan, Kim and Dave have some very interesting things to say as well. In fact, Kim and Dave both posted some great articles this week already.

So, if you're so inclined, check out and let us know what you think. Thanks!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Marvel's Refusal to Call 'Marvel NOW!' a Reboot May Actually Hurt Them

There's an excellent article over on Comics Beat by Todd Allen about some concerning sales numbers from Marvel. One of the main points of the article is that when you look at non-event books and non-#1 issues, sales numbers on Marvel's monthly books are not good. There's some good breakdowns as well as a contrast to DC sales that you should check out in the full article.

The point that really resonated with me, though, is something I've been thinking a lot about lately as well. Those of us who read comics know a reboot when we see it. November's 'Marvel NOW!' project is a reboot. BUT, Marvel continues to insist that it isn't a reboot (or a relaunch), but merely a jumping on point for new readers.

Here's the problem--I don't think the new readers are going to come, and it's because of the way that Marvel is talking about 'Marvel NOW!'. Marvel is worrying so much about not upsetting current readers by calling this a reboot that they're not generating excitement outside of current readers.

Think about how much mainstream coverage that DC garnered because of their line-wide reboot. How many new and lapsed readers started checking out DC books again because of all the buzz around a new DC universe? How many books did you try out because you knew this was truly a continuity-free jumping on point? For me, it was at least twenty new books, and while I may not be reading all of them now, I have consistently tried out different titles from the new line, and have settled into getting many of them each month. Deathstroke, Superboy, Teen Titans, Wonder Woman, Swamp Thing and Animal Man are just a few of the properties I had little interest in before the reboot, but have consistently picked up since.

With Marvel downplaying the significance of their reboot, they are actually killing all the buzz for it. Yes, we are excited about new creative teams, but what else is there to get excited for? Outside of a few creators I really love, I won't be picking up nearly as many of the new books, because I didn't read AvX, and I don't read most of the titles that are tied into it now. Right now, Mark Waid and Leinil Yu's Hulk is the one new book I am planning to get. That's it.

Not to mention, many (if not all) of these new books are going to be $3.99. Contrast that to the fact that almost all of the DC New 52 was launched at a $2.99 price point, and there's another reason to not try new titles when 'Marvel NOW!' arrives.

DC took a big gamble last year with the New 52. Some longtime readers have sworn off of their books, because they don't like the new universe. But almost a year into their experiment, it has been a sales success for them. As Marvel get closer to their 'Marvel NOW!' launch, I think they need to fully embrace the idea of a reboot/relaunch, instead of walking a line between longtime fans and new readers that could result in no one ultimately being that interested in it.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

IGN's Review Format Revamp Continues an Encouraging Trend in Game Journalism

Today I was reading an article over on IGN about how they are looking at revamping the way they review games on the site. They've solicited reader feedback, and it seems like they've kicked around some really interesting ideas about how reviews might look on IGN in the future. From what I gather so far, they are going to be moving away from the composite scoring system they have now, which I think is a great idea, as it's pretty convoluted.

I am not a fan of review scores in general, as they take the focus away from the content of the actual review, and allow people to just focus on the bottom line. Review scores will never go away though, especially for video games. as they are completely ingrained in every facet of the industry. In many cases, developers and PR people have their pay rate affected by the Metacritic score of a game.

I'm sure IGN will settle on a review style that still includes scores, but hopefully it will better emphasize the content of the written reviews over those scores. I would even be in favor of a system that encouraged you to read the actual review by having to click at the end of the article in order to reveal the review score, almost like the "terms and conditions" page that pops up when you install an app on your phone or computer.

In any case, IGN's current efforts to evolve how they review games continues the trend of longtime gaming sites changing the way they talk about games, and what their focus is overall. 1Up has made a nice transition to more feature-related content, and Gamespot's direction under John Davision has also been more feature related.

Anything the major gaming sites can do to move away from the PR driven news bites that have dominated coverage over the past several years is a good thing in my book.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Gearing Up For the Final Chapter of MO STACHE

This week the penultimate chapter of Mo Stache came to a close, with the Mystaxians closing in on Mo and Dave. How will our heroes escape? What will happen to Lhiy Chalhav, the other Mystaxian from Mo’s crew? What does AJ think of all this insanity?

These questions and more will begin to be answered starting September 19th!

For those that have been following our little saga, John Cordis and I take short breaks after each chapter to regroup, recharge and get ready for the next chapter. As this next chapter is the final one, it’s doubly important that we review the script and are on the same page as we head down the home stretch. And, we should probably spend some time with our families as well.

We’d like to thank everyone who has been reading our story since it began in September of 2010. We”re very excited to about the upcoming final chapter of our story and it’s safe to say it will be the most action-packed chapter of the four.

So, stay tuned for the final chapter, and if you haven't checked us out yet, you can read the first 82 pages of Mo Stache over at right now.