oh hey there, Spring =) (at The Lake Merritt Pergola)
current status. beautiful Bay Area day. (at Bonsai Garden at Lake Merritt)
at Lake Merritt
looks like next weekend we take her for a spin.
celebrating Melanie’s job snagging.
This should be good.
Like anyone else who loves them some games, I’ve always enjoyed reflecting on the year and framing it with some of my favorites from the year; especially with 2012 which felt like one of the most prolific years in gaming. There were so many new experiences from developers large and small; and for the first time, I feel like I just can’t keep up with all the remarkable content that I’m seeing and hearing about. But from the games that I did play this year, here are the ones that I enjoyed the most.
Taking place in a wonderfully detailed and completely new world in games, and then double downing on the originality of the concept by giving the player an addictive blend of deadly stealth powers, and you’ve got the main reasons why I enjoyed Dishonored so much. From a gameplay and fiction perspective, everything about it just felt new and fresh. With its invitations to play the game in a style all your own (so compelling, I played through it twice), to the fantastic level design that speaks perfectly to main protagonist Corvo’s traversal powers; I thought Dishonored was a welcome breath of fresh air in the action-adventure category and completely out-‘assassin’d’ Assassin’s Creed. Although, personally, I wished the game was named “The Outsider” to give a bit more runway to tell more unique stories about the most interesting character in the game in possible future entries into the series; I still look forward to seeing what these guys do next.
I don’t know why I like Persona 4 Golden so much. Surrounded by corny, yet believable characters and ridiculously repetitive but amazingly appropriate music; Persona 4 presented me with a brand new way to enjoy JRPGs. As these things go, the moment to moment gameplay mechanics are fairly traditional. But when you start digging down into all the countless options you have to build the most bad-ass Personas, which are based on your character’s social standings with your friends in the serene Yasagami High School, which are themselves accessible through building up your own character’s stats, there ends up being an incredible amount of depth. When you throw in a campy murder mystery and a super snappy interface, it ends up being one of the most addicting games you could hope to play. And that music…did I mention the music??? So bad…but so damn GOOD.
I think The Walking Dead isn’t a completely great game, but it’s an important one. For all its quirks and jarring action sequences, it broke the mold on how to tell a story in video games. Visually speaking, its art style goes a long way towards portraying some of the most memorable characters I can remember in a game; but that’s of course, the first layer. I’m not talking good characters as in, ‘wow that guy is such a badass’ or ‘say, that voice acting is pretty good’. I’m talking about characters as believable as the best episode in the TV series of the same name. For a video game, that’s saying quite a bit. I think games have come a long way as an art form; but it’s usually either hyper-real, or wonderfully abstract. The Walking Dead showed everyone that while the presentation wasn’t perfect, it will (hopefully) pave the way for more games to provide accessible entertainment that offer the same respect for the player’s attention to the fiction; but with a more memorable, immersive score and more compelling gameplay mechanics (aside from the wonderfully implemented dialogue choice system, which is essentially the most compelling ‘gameplay’. It kept me hooked, and I can’t wait to see what they do next with this series.
Now here’s an itch that I haven’t had scratched in quite a long time. Not since Final Fantasy Tactics have I been so hooked on a Strategy game. Civilization was good; but this… THIS SHIT. When I boot up XCOM, I need to get mentally prepped because you just can not fuck around. And that’s what makes it great. Your dudes will die on the battlefield if you don’t take every single precaution, cover every angle, and utilize all your abilities and develop your characters, base, and equipment to keep pace with some crazy ass aliens. The base building / research aspect of the game is a fun hook that provides you with a ton of options to go about defending the earth. Dropping in on the battlefield however, there’s always a sense of tension in the air that’s present not only when you’re scouring for encounters, but every move of a heated engagement as well. It’s a tough game, with just the right peaks and valleys as it pertains to the difficulty and great graphical touches and a srs bsns soundtrack that always puts you right in the action, every time. Before, I thought Firaxis were those cool guys that made Civ. Now, it’s pretty clear that when they make a game, they friggin’ MAKE a game. Respect up for that studio, and I’ll be looking forward to what they do next; be it more XCOM, Civilization, or whatever else.
I’m fairly biased towards Journey since I’ve been a fan of thatgamecompany’s work since they released flOw and Flower a few years back, not to mention I drove the online marketing strategy for this title and had the awesome experience of presenting that plan to Jenova Chen and Kellee Santiago down in Santa Monica. But I’d like to think that my reaction to the game wasn’t due to any existing preconditions on my end. Journey provides a beautiful and stirring experience; as much so as the most moving Pixar movie, but it does so with its own original gameplay fingerprint that almost doubles as a unique experiment in psychology. At the end of it all, Journey uses an incredibly well-presented ‘it is what you make of it’ story to frame one of the best aspects of being human: companionship. Short, sweet, simple, but grand; Journey was the most memorable and meaningful game for me in 2013. It’s my game of the year.
That pretty much sums up what I thought were the best games of 2012. Other notable titles that I played, and enjoyed a lot, but didn’t quite make the impact that the above did are Assassin’s Creed 3, Mass Effect 3, Gravity Rush, Halo 4, Darksiders 2, Sound Shapes, Dyad, Transformers: Fall of Cybertron, The Unfinished Swan, and Lumines: Electronic Symphony.
On the platforms I don’t play too much, the most fun I had on iOS was with Super Hexagon, Hundreds, and Puzzle Quest. The most fun I had on a PC game last year was Dustforce.
Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to make the time to play the following fine games: Far Cry 3, Papo & Yo, Sleeping Dogs, Hitman: Absolution, Mark of the Ninja, and Black Ops II; all of which I’m sure I’d enjoy, but not sure if I’ll be able to get to them before the next wave of games with DmC, BioShock Infinite, and Metal Gear Rising. Something tells me having a back catalog is something I’m going to have to get used to. 2013 is looking to be an incredibly busy year with finalizing my PMP credentials, planning a trip to Europe in May, moving in with Melanie, and of course work here at SCEA offering up more challenges and opportunities that are keeping me super engaged.
Mini tree done. Noodles time.
I remember working to get into the gaming industry, if there’s one thing that I didn’t expect to take on, it’s the type of studies and growth that I’ve been pursuing within the SCEA (Sony Computer Entertainment of America) group. In regards to the stuff I’m working on with the PlayStation Network Community Management group, it’s really taken on quite a few different levels that I find myself really enjoying.
For one, there’s the engagement with the community. Since the specialization of the group last April or so, it’s been really great seeing the group evolve and determine just how we can make a difference in the things that come under our purview. Since I started with SCEA with a focus on the traditional marketing side working on PlayStation Plus (the subscription business that’s been turning heads in the gaming space in terms of the value it delivers), I’ve been able to continue that focus by blending good ol’ fashioned marketing techniques with community management and building a relationship with the PSN community. To then connect that community data and feedback with the larger Plus picture to create a really compelling picture of the business…it’s really something else.
Then there’s defining our PSN community. For the most part, our community could be defined as any number of groups, whether that’s the entire population of PlayStation 3 gamers connected to the internet, or whether it’s the superfan/critic who are incredibly vocal on our channels. But of course, that definition directly speaks to what strategy we would do to well, do our jobs. For the most part, our group has aligned with focusing on the superfan. As a result of focusing on that superfan, you get some of the most passionate voices both praising, and critiquing PlayStation, that you’ll ever find..like..anywhere. Building a relationship with those guys has been one of the most rewarding parts of the job. And determining what the themes of their feedback is from week to week, answering questions and addressing issues; all while just having good conversations with them simply as a gamer on PlayStation.Blog or on the PlayStation Forums (and future TBD channels), is strangely addictive.
But one of the bigger things I’m focused on is projectizing Community Management for PSN. I’ve been studying to get certified as a Project Management Professional (PMP for short. Yes the jokes just write themselves) for some time. I’ve still got a ways to go and don’t plan on being certified until Fall 2013 (it’s akin to studying for an MBA, just less time commitment and $$) . But the things I’ve been learning, and some of the overarching principles of formalized project management, I find incredibly applicable to the work that we do.
Of course, just like most other things, you can’t just learn something, and then expect it to be instantly adaptable to the framework that you work in; despite the fact that PMP is applicable in any field/industry. But the focus that I’m looking to do for our group is to identify what initiatives we can make our mark in; whether it pertains to creating an all new community experience, outlining processes to fix issues quicker and enhance communication between all groups involved, or any sort of temporary endeavor that results in a defined result, service, or product. I want our group to find those projects, and then set up a properly defined plan to accomplish those goals and track them accordingly throughout the life of the project.
It sounds like common sense right? But the funny thing about proper project management, is that in an era where there’s so many moving parts in any number of organizations, it’s tough to find these practices applied in a true, formalized project management manner. So in terms of projectizing something, it’s something that I really get a kick out of installing in our team. We’re well on our way, and are already working on a number of different things that I’m excited to see get through. But there’s tons of room to grow here, and it’s especially exciting to see it happen in the field of Community Management which is still such a young practice to begin with; alongside something as dynamic as PlayStation Network.