2K Sports to the Rest of the Industry: “If You’re Having Executive Producer Problems, I feel Bad for you Son…”

Apparently rap mogul Jay-Z just can’t resist the hard knock life, as he looks to start a new endeavor to add to his 99 problems, and feed his empire state of mind.

I’ll stop now.

But there’s no stopping Jay-Z these days, as evidenced by his recent partnership with 2K Games on their next basketball game,” NBA 2K13.” According to reports, Jay-Z will work on the game in an executive producer capacity. What this means, exactly, no one knows, as executive producer is about the vaguest job title there is in the entertainment industry. In this case, though, it’s probably safe to assume that he won’t be handling the programming duties, or reshaping the foundations of the popular series with exciting, and fresh gameplay concepts and artistic directions. Of course, considering that the last two NBA 2K games make a strong case for being some of the greatest sports or basketball titles of all time, the promotional and soundtrack work Jay-Z will more likely be involved in is probably going to be enough in the way of contributions to insure that this celebrity involvement doesn’t disenfranchise any of the series regular fans.

Of course, a Jay-Z hidden character “NBA Jam” style wouldn’t be out of the question either. I’m also not ruling out the possibility that the Brooklyn Nets (of which Jay-Z is part owner) are probably going to be slightly better than necessary in “NBA 2K13.” Like Michael Vick in “Madden 2004,” or Brock Lesnar in “Smackdown: Here Comes the Pain,” unnecessarily good.

Still though, I wish that just once we could get a celebrity tie in to video games that actually generates excitement. Like Alan Moore working on “Fallout 4,” or Quentin Tarantino producing “GTA: V.”

Or, better yet, Bill Murray.

 

Nerdiest and Greatest Marriage Proposal Ever

I have cynicism running through my veins like a pessimistic parasite on a mission.

But even I have to admit that sometimes, things so incredible happen that you are forced to stupidly smirk at them no matter what your disposition in life may be.

Such is the case when it comes to the matter of the marriage proposal of one John Zekind to his girlfriend Kara Richter.

John actually contacted Jellyvision Games and asked them if they would help him program the proposal in their game. Since these were the guys that worked on “You Don’t Know Jack” for Facebook, they were of course awesome, and complied. After a short questionnaire to help them determine the best way to handle the proposal, Jellyvision gave John access to his special proposal for Kara to log onto and play. After a few of the usual questions, she got hit with the big question. Natually, she clicked yes, and turned to find her ring bearing fiance.

Of course, as a huge “You Don’t Know Jack” fan, and noted cynic, I kind of want to hear the response to one of the no questions the team no doubt had prepared.

Insta Poker app helps you improve your game

I’m addicted to my iPad, particularly when I’m on the treadmill or in airplanes. I mostly use it to watch TV series like “The Wire” or “Sons of Anarchy,” but I also love the apps and games as well.

There’s an app for practically everything now, so we shouldn’t be surprised to see a new app for poker games. There’s a new instructional poker game for the iPhone, iPod and iPad called “Insta Poker.” As you’re playing the game and make a decision, text comments from a pro pop up to give you immediate feedback, letting you know if you made the right or wrong move, and why. The feedback comes from pros like Antonio Esfandiari and Huck Seed. So now you can kill time on a plane with a game that might actually make you money, unlike complete time-wasters like Angry Birds.

Interestingly, the hands in the game are real hands track real events, like hands that took place in televised tournaments or at other high-stakes poker games. The key to this app is teaching you strategy as you’re playing which is critical if you want to develop into an effective poker player.

The game packs for the app cost 99 cents to $6.99, with the most expensive ones having around 15 hands, so the game isn’t cheap. But when you consider how much money you can win in your poker future, or at least how much less money you can lose, then the cost is really a drop in the bucket, or at least comparable to that turkey sandwich you’re ordering at the casino while justifying several more hours at the poker table.

Video Game Documentary “Critical///Path” Looks to Examine the Art of Gaming

In 1954, director François Truffaut wrote a piece called “A Certain Tendency in French Cinema.” It was there he posed the ground-breaking theory that a film director could become an auteur. Essentially, Truffaut was trying to tell people that a true director created a film with complete artistic control, much in the same way that an author creates their stories. If this doesn’t sound mind blowing, you must remember that the film industry at this point was still largely under the thumb of the studio system. It was still strictly show business, and there was little mention regarding the higher idea of the art of filmmaking. Truffant openly challenged this idea with an essay, and then spent a career backing it up with works like the film “Breathless,” a movie so dynamic in its presentation and style, that those who “got” it, didn’t hesitate to call it art.

Of course, Truffaut wasn’t the first director to create auteur works of film. Instead, he was just the one to really stand back and look at this ability that a director had over his work, and lend a name to it. Jean Renoir, for example, had been creating “ahead of their time” works of auteur filmmaking all throughout the ’30s. Furthermore, Truffaut certainly wasn’t the last auteur as men like Alfred Hitchcock, Martin Scorsese, and countless others since proved that a good director really does craft a film, and is able to transcend the idea of movies as mere industry in doing so.

I mention this because the truth is that up until this point, there are very few people who openly use the word auteur when talking about game developers. Fortunately, for anyone truly interested in the gaming industry, filmmaker David Grabias does use that word. Specifically, he says, “There are plenty of people who are known, but they aren’t necessarily known as auteurs. Within every studio there’s always one or two people who are really visionaries.”

Even more fortunate is that David is currently working on a series that looks to express and exhibit that very belief called “Critical///Path.”

Details are slowly emerging about the project, which has apparently been in the works for two years and is a culmination of over 30 hours worth of interviews with some of the leading minds in the gaming industry. Produced by Artifact Studios, “Critical///Path” will feature interviews with gaming developers that include Cliff Bleszinski, John Carmack, Hideo Kojima, Sid Meir, Will Wright and more. Each installment will showcase individual developers covering topics that range from industry specific subjects such as “First-Person vs Third-Person” to broader ideas like “Bonding Through Adversity.” Style-wise, the series is being compared by some to “Inside the Actor’s Studio.”

I love this concept, and the roll call of talent on hand so far is pretty incredible. What I especially love is that, unlike other video game documentaries and similar works, this isn’t a defense of the industry as much as it’s a celebration and exploration of it. When people like the developers mentioned are approached to defend the gaming industry (which happens far too often), they are naturally going to let their passion overwhelm them and come out with closed fists and defensive minds. An open forum like this instead allows them to take that same passion and come out with open arms, allowing anyone with a true interest into the artistic side of gaming, an unprecedented chance to gain an honest look at the processes and ideas that fuel it.

Besides, of course, providing these developers their deserved levels of exposure, that’s the other function I hope this series will ultimately serve. Because much like the film industry at the time of “A Certain Tendency in French Cinema,” the seeds for a true artistic evolution in gaming are well sewn. Really all we need is for everyone in the industry, from developers to fans, to enter the mindset that such a revolution is possible, because it’s already happening.

Why the Number 3 Isn’t Taboo in Video Games

I probably don’t need to tell you, as there is a good chance most of you have seen it at least once already, but the third installment of Christopher Nolan’s Batman franchise, “The Dark Knight Rises,” hit theaters this weekend, and is attempting to bring the series full circle by pulling off the rare cinematic feat of releasing a third movie that equals, or even surpasses, the quality of the two that came before it.

The history of movies is plagued with bad third installments (“The Godfather Part 3,” “X-Men: The Last Stand,” “Spider-Man 3” to name a few) and very few successes. While this can be attributed to a number of factors, the fact remains that a complete movie trilogy usually falls apart at number three. What’s odd is that video games do not share this problem. In fact, the history of video games has shown that the third installment can sometimes yield a truly great game, if not the greatest of the series.

Don’t believe me? Then take a look at some of the greatest third games of all time.

“Tekken 3″

 

The “Tekken” series hasn’t quite disappeared off the face of the earth, but the series’ heyday has long passed. “Tekken 3” was the pinnacle of the series’ excellence, and to this day remains one of the most perfectly designed fighting games of all time. “Tekken’s” established gameplay style reached absolute excellence, and did so with one of the greatest roster of fighters ever assembled. “Tekken 3″ also added a couple of very fun game modes in Ball Mode (a competitive beach ball contest) and Force Mode (a “Final Fight“style brawler), that were so entertaining in their own rights, it seemed like Namco had finally resorted to rubbing it in other fighting game developers faces.

“Tekken 3″ remains the 8th highest rated video game of all time on Game Rankings.com, and more importantly is still fun to play today. The first two “Tekken” games were good, but thanks to “Tekken 3″ they are also largely irrelevant.

“Grand Theft Auto 3″

I dreaded writing this list, because I knew I’d have to include this game. The truth is that I have nothing more to say about “Grand Theft Auto 3.” Over the years I’ve exhausted every single combination of words to describe how “GTA III” is one of the greatest and most revolutionary games of all time, and how its overnight release changed the entire video game industry. I simply can’t go on anymore about its amazing gameplay that is bested only by its mature storytelling, which is further overshadowed by the incredible little design decisions that permeate the entire game. I’m also sick of mentioning “GTA III’s” classic line up of characters, and those unforgettable radio stations that lent “GTA III” one of the greatest game soundtracks of all time.

And of course, I can’t fathom bringing up one more time how this, the third release in an otherwise previously non-noteworthy series, completely stunned everyone who never saw it coming and changed this franchise from cult hit at best to worldwide phenomenon considered both the most popular in its field at the time, and the most artistically sound as well essentially making it “The Beatles” of video game series.

Yup, I’ve just got nothing more to say about “GTA III.”

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