Landmark Video Games and Their Film Equivalents

If you haven’t heard, Empire recently broke the embargo date for their “Last of Us” review and, though it has already been taken down, leaks of the review reveal impressions as glowing as could possibly be, including a quote that the title could give gaming its “Citizen Kane moment.”

While that remains to be seen, that quote does bring up an interesting point that sometimes games and films run parallel to each other not in their themes or plots, but in the impact they leave, and the greater ideas they exhibit.

So even though some may initially appear to be as far apart as can be, here are five video games with historically speaking film equivalents.

The Game – Braid


The Film – Reservoir Dogs

What They Have In Common:

There were indie games before “Braid,” just as there were indie movies before “Reservoir Dogs.” Yet both usually come to mind first when considering the word indie, mostly because they each achieved a level of success across every measurable aspect that was unprecedented for independent titles, and opened the door for smaller creators to get their films and games out there with a legitimate chance to make it that simply didn’t exist before.

The Game – E.T.


The Film – Plan 9 From Outer Space

What They Have In Common:

Hey, they’re not all great.

In fact some are just the worst. Both “Plan 9” and “E.T.” are usually the poster children for the “worst ever” argument, even if “Plan 9” didn’t become the scapegoat for the fall of its medium, nor did it get buried in a New Mexico landfill. The real reason that these two are siblings though is because despite their image as the worst, they actually aren’t. Instead both are so bad they have achieved a cult status greater than their actual quality should have allowed for.

The Game – Grand Theft Auto III


The Film – Easy Rider

What They Have In Common:

The American dream, violence, rebellion, controversy, and freedom are all themes prevalent in “Easy Rider,” and “GTA III.” Both challenged the mainstream conscious with their brazen attitudes and controversial style, yet both would usher in new eras of thinking where suddenly the establishment was no longer what had to be, and anything seemed possible. Hell, both even had rocking soundtracks, and the “GTA” series would later feature “Easy Rider’s” stars Peter Fonda, and Dennis Hopper.

The Game – Myst


The Film – 2001: A Space Odyssey

What They Have In Common:

It’s not easy to make an artistically acclaimed and financially successful work that forces people to reexamine their perceptions, but “Myst” and “2001” did just that. Experiencing either was a watermark moment that made you expand your mind, yet both also achieved some unusual financial success considering their ambition. Need further proof? Both also happen to be very confusing, both featured validation of technological innovations (“2001’s” special effects, and “Myst’s” CD-ROM format), and both honestly haven’t aged that well.

The Game – Super Mario Bros.


The Film – Star Wars

What They Have In Common:

Sharing a theme with other entrants in this article, “Star Wars” and “Super Mario” were not the first of their kind, which in this instance means blockbusters.

However, they are both icons of the word blockbuster, because of the impact they made. “Star Wars” would usher in a new era where films were financially viable beyond just box office receipts, and “Super Mario” showed gaming could be successful once more. Even though both would be surpassed by their true successors (“Empire Strikes Back” and “Super Mario Bros. 3”), there is a mystique and undeniable quality regarding these works that makes them not only landmarks, but have maintained their ability to be successfully introduced to new generations.


Two of BioWare’s Founders Are Leaving the Company

Today Bioware Co-Founders Greg Zeschuk and Ray Muzyka announced that they are leaving the company, and possibly video games in general.

Both have made statements on their departure via their blogs, that basically express their interest in moving on to other ventures. Muzyka provides a vague idea of his interests moving forward saying:

“I believe strongly in the power of free enterprise to enable sustainable change, so my next ‘chapter’ will likely focus on an entirely new industry, something exciting, different and frankly downright scary – investing in and mentoring new entrepreneurs, and more specifically, the field of social/impact investing.”

Zeschuk provides a clearer idea of his life moving forward, as he expresses the usual interest of his desire to spend more time with his family along with the more specific desire to get into the craft beer industry:

“The main project I will be working on is a web-based interview show called The Beer Diaries where I interview notable brewers and showcase their beers. If things go well, I’ll work on other beer-related shows, apps and projects.”

The most telling, and somewhat disheartening, statement provided by either man would belong to Zeschuk who also said:

“I’ve reached an unexpected point in my life where I no longer have the passion that I once did for the company, for the games, and for the challenge of creation.”

Greg Zeschuk and Ray Muzyka both got into the video game industry after graduating medical school at the University of Alberta. They worked on medical based computer programs before that same passion for gaming led them, and co-founder, Augustine Yip, to create their first title “Shattered Steel” for publisher Interplay. From that point they spearheaded a studio that’s game catalogue reads like the upper end of most best video games of all time lists. Bioware has revolutionized Western and PC RPGs with “Baldur’s Gate,” made one of the all time great cult classics in “MDK2,” crafted the greatest “Star Wars” game of all time (and one of the most important games period) in “Knights of the Old Republic,” and just recently have made two of the best series of this generation with “Dragon Age” and “Mass Effect.”

More important than any individual contributions, however, are the greater ideas that Zeschuk and Muzyka promoted with Bioware. Through several generations, they helped run a studio that always advanced the RPG genre with each new entry (and gaming as a whole in most cases) and proved yet again that maintaining artistic integrity and achieving financial success are not mutually exclusive in the business. While the departure of Zeschuk and Mzyka doesn’t mean Bioware will no longer achieve those same goals, it is sad to realize that even such legends in the industry can simply lose their passion and walk away.

Of course, like Neil Young said, “Sometimes it’s better to burn out, than to fade away.” Zeschuk and Muzyka leave behind an undisputed legacy that future generations of developers can only hope to duplicate, but should most certainly learn to appreciate. Here’s hoping them the best in the future.

Also, Greg, I’ll buy a case of Baldur’s Beer, or Icewind Ale should they hit store shelves.


GAME REVIEW: Kinect Star Wars

When Kinect was announced for the Xbox 360 a few years ago, one of the first questions on nearly everyone’s mind was whether we might finally get a “Star Wars” game that would let fans act out their fantasies of being real-life Jedi Knights. The device’s motion sensor controls seemed tailor-made for the “Star Wars” universe, so it didn’t come as much of a shock that Microsoft already had a game in the works. Now that “Kinect Star Wars” is finally here, though, some fans might be upset to discover that it didn’t turn out the way they imagined. Although you do get to wield a lightsaber and toss enemies around like ragdolls using the Force in Jedi Destiny – a short but enjoyable story mode where players assume the role of a Padawan on a mission against the Empire – it’s only one of many different modes available.

Jedi Destiny is without a doubt the most fleshed-out of the bunch, but while it certainly delivers on the wish fulfillment aspect of the game (there’s nothing quite like taking down an entire army of droids with a swift swipe of the hand), the controls aren’t always precise, leading to a number of frustrating moments. Still, it fares a lot better than Duels of Fate, the only other lightsaber-related minigame on the disc, which is essentially a stripped-down version of the campaign-based combat that follows the same repetitive formula of blocking, battling for position, and attacking your opponent until he’s defeated. Also included is a solid Podracing game that’s only real downside is that it’ll make your arms feel like Jell-O after just a few laps, and a shallow but fun twist on the arcade classic “Rampage” where you take control of a Rancor and wreak havoc on popular locales like Mos Eisely in virtually every way possible.

The final piece in the “Kinect Star Wars” puzzle is also the strangest: a gonzo version of “Dance Central” called Galactic Dance Off that features “Star Wars” characters busting a move to spoofs of popular songs like Gwen Stefani’s “Hollaback Girl” (“Hologram Girl”) and Jason Durelo’s “Ridin’ Solo” (“I’m Han Solo”). It sounds like a bad April Fool’s joke or something you might see on an episode of “Robot Chicken,” but it’s actually quite amusing in a weird sort of way. Though it’ll likely receive plenty of backlash from fans still complaining about Jar Jar Binks or who shot first, the dance mode adds to the whole party game experience; and for better or worse, that’s what “Kinect Star Wars” aims to deliver. It might not have the replay value to warrant a purchase, but there’s enough here to keep you and your friends entertained for the weekend.


The Old Republic beta is now officially closed


BioWare has officially closed testing on Star Wars: The Old Republic in order to prepare for launch. Over the next few days the official forums will be coming down and re-opening with new features for players to enjoy. If you follow game news in any way, you know the coming months are going to be filled with in-game recreations of classic Star Wars moments and more Wookie sounds than anyone should rightfully be made to endure.

For my part, I cancelled my pre-order a week or so back. I was unsure if I would be playing the game, but I had pre-ordered for early access just in case. After playing the beta several weekends ago I had my decision. The game just isn’t for me. It’s too much of a current generation MMO without enough new life to get my heart pumping. Sorry, BioWare, you missed the mark with me.

What about you guys? Are you headed to galaxies far, far away at the end of the month?


The Next Great MMO: Why SWTOR will Fail

Outdated Republic.

I haven’t done a “Next Great MMO” spot in a while, mostly because MMOs have sort of slipped from my mind a bit. Of late I’ve been spending what I call my “long term game time” in Minecraft, exploring a few different servers in the hopes of finding a ruleset I like. That experience has made me wonder just what will make the next great MMO truly great, and as far as I can tell, nothing currently in development has what it will take, not even Star Wars: The Old Republic.

I wrote a longer piece about the ways SWTOR – one of the most anticipated and ambitious MMOs out there – will fail. I’m sure the game will still sell, but I don’t think it will make a dent in WoW’s numbers. It’s too similar a game and it fails to innovate in the genre. Here’s a quick excerpt from my article:

This is the experience most MMOs fail to deliver. Instead, games like “WoW” and “Champions Online” and yes, probably “SWTOR,” present the player with a paradox. The player is told he or she is going to be a great hero someday, defending the world from some great evil, and yet, as long as the player is playing the evil persists, the villains respawn, and the game world remains virtually unchanged as a result of that player’s presence.

For the full article, head over to our parent site, Be warned, there’s a lot of Minecraft talk, so if you aren’t down with Mojang, it’s best not to click through.


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