Lara Croft Is Back with a Vengeance in the New 'Tomb Raider'

new Tomb Raider

What to expect as Alicia Vikander takes over for Angelina Jolie in the new ‘Tomb Raider.’ Some of my earliest memories of video games aren’t of actually playing them. I have a distinct recollection of watching my childhood friend’s eldest sister playing the ’90s Tomb Raider series on their PlayStation. The original Tomb Raider games were iconic, famed as much for their imaginative stories as for their gameplay. It’s no surprise that over two decades down the line, Hollywood is rebooting the franchise on the big screen for the second time. But the kid version of me probably also intuited something more significant than the simple thrill of the stories. The fact that boys and girls were playing games with strong female protagonists probably struck me as an exciting change from the standardized boyish world of ’90s mainstream video games. In the hyper-macho world of other first-person shooters like Duke        …read more

Blaming Video Games for Violence: A Brief History

violence gaming politics

Politicians have been blaming video games for real-world violence for decades. On February 14, 2018, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz entered Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, and began opening fire with an AR-15 rifle. After Cruz was taken into custody, the death toll stood at 15 victims, mostly students, with two more dying later in the hospital. It was the work of a disturbed and radicalized killer who had ties to a local white supremacist group, enabled by the high-powered weapon he was able to easily acquire due to the United States’ gun laws. A short time after the attack, however, as many Americans began to question why Cruz was able to legally obtain such a dangerous weapon, those in positions of power pointed the finger elsewhere. Florida Congressman Brian Mast and Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin blamed games like Call of Duty. President Donald Trump spoke up as well,        …read more

Video Game Mods Let Gamers Build Their Ideal Experience

mod games

Modding (changing and adding to the code of a video game) creates infinite possibilities for gamers. In modern gaming, the state of a game as released by developers doesn’t necessarily determine its longevity. What often matters more is its potential to be tweaked, overhauled and even completely transformed by mods. PC versions of grand open-world adventures such as Grand Theft Auto V, Fallout 4 and The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim have maintained large player bases due to the commitment of their communities to modify games and, in some cases, change their identity entirely. Sandbox games like Minecraft, DayZ and Garry’s Mod constantly become different playgrounds depending on which mods a user equips. It may sound strange to some that games are being altered by their players. It may even sound impossible, or like some sort of cheat code. In reality, mods are largely created to funnel more enjoyment into the        …read more

‘Cuphead’ Revives the Magic of 1930s Cartoons


The dazzling new game ‘Cuphead’ showcases what makes the earliest animations so timeless. From the very moment you boot up the independent game Cuphead it’s readily apparent that you have stepped into a time machine and traveled to a different era. Right there on the home screen, a black-and-red-clad character with a teacup for a head stands opposite a blue-and-black-clad character with a matching teacup head. Both have bent straws coming from the surface of their cups. Cuphead and Mugman, respectively, arrive on-screen as the protagonists of a 1930s cartoons–inspired run-and-gun video game. And the game retains that wondrous, classic look from start to finish in what is not only an incredibly well-made video game but a reminder of the timelessness of cartoons from the dawn of the Golden Age of animation. Cuphead opens with a picture book filled with wonderfully expressive drawings telling the tale of Cuphead and        …read more

Speedrunners Take Gaming to the Next Level


Speedrunners defy logic to complete your favorite games in staggering times. Some people are good at a video game, and then some people are speedrunners. Speedrunning — the act of completing a video game as fast as possible — would seem somewhat like a natural progression for improving at a game. The more you play, the better you get and the less time it takes to make progress. But speedrunning entails much more than simply getting extremely good at a particular game. Successful speedrunners shorten play-through times through unnatural mechanisms. Sure, they’re better at their game of choice than 99% of players, but they’ve also found and learned to play in ways even a game’s developers never thought of. Essentially, speedrunners push a game to its limits and then some, all in the pursuit of shaving off minutes and seconds from their runs. Speedrunning has been a subculture in gaming        …read more

Why ‘PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds’ Is Topping the Charts

PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds

‘PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds’ brings in up to 2.5 million players per day. Here’s why the multiplayer battle royale simulation is such a hit. Bluehole Studio found moderate success with a massively multiplayer online title called TERA, released in 2012. When TERA switched to a free-to-play model in 2013, the game boasted more than one million users. As of March of this year, TERA eclipsed 25 million users worldwide. But there was a much more significant event for the independent studio that same month. Bluehole wouldn’t know it at the time, but the early-access release of their sophomore title — a very different type of game — would turn Bluehole into the hottest independent studio in the business. You probably haven’t heard of TERA, but ask anyone who even casually pays attention to video games, and they will probably nod if you mention PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG). Development started on PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds in        …read more

‘Super Mario Odyssey’ Perfects the Mario Formula

Mario’s latest adventure, ‘Super Mario Odyssey,’ is part greatest hits, part unearthing of endless potential. For more than 30 years, Nintendo has captivated the world with the platforming genius that is Super Mario. If one game franchise were universally considered the flag holder for all video games, it would undoubtedly be the lovable, pint-sized, mustached man. What Super Mario has achieved so consistently across more than a dozen mainline games is to capture the art of the “aha!” moment, that smile-inducing lightbulb that makes one thing clear — Nintendo thought of everything. Super Mario games are ceaselessly clever, utterly charming and fun for all ages, and Super Mario Odyssey adds so much to the legacy. Even with Mario’s expected brilliance, it would’ve been hard to predict the sheer excellence of our determined hero’s latest adventure. Super Mario Odyssey, the series’ Nintendo Switch debut, accomplishes two very different feats in        …read more

Horizon Zero Dawn Enters the Frozen Wilds

Horizon Zero Dawn game

We’re in a land like no other... Horizon Zero Dawn developed by Guerrilla Games and published by Sony Interactive Entertainment available exclusively for the PS4, is an open-world RPG with a variety of geographical locations and ecotopes from frozen mountain ranges to hot, dense jungles and all teeming with life and automatons in this postapocalyptic future. The game’s hero, Aloy, is a young hunter on a journey to find her destiny. Aloy develops her skill set and savage aim to hunt the huge variety of Machines and to defend against rival tribes. She’s also quite the badass. Her fighting dynamics vary from a bow to hand-to-Machine combat with her spear, and even gaining the ability to override certain Machines, upon which she can also ride, making it easier to traverse the vast landscape. As in other RPGs, like the new Assassin’s Creed, our hero also has the ability to upgrade her skills        …read more

Assassin’s Creed: Origins — Millennia in the Making

Assassin’s Creed: Origins

Assassin’s Creed: Origins is ancient history. Like many fans of the series, I’ve played the Assassin games for a long time and have looked forward to each new edition, including Assassin’s Creed: Origins. Until now, we’ve known relatively little about the characters’ true origins, and now it looks like we’ll be given much more of the story. What makes the series truly unique is its ability to constantly surprise. With every game, players learn more about the Brotherhood and the Templars. For example, when I played as Haytham Kenway in AC3, the reveal at the start of the game gave me one of the biggest surprises ever. Using real-world events from a historical fiction perspective, the Assassin’s Creed game focuses on a centuries-old struggle between the Assassins, who fight for peace, and the Templars, who desire peace only through complete control. And now it would seem it’s not just centuries        …read more

Should Combat Video Games Show Psychological Realities of War?

combat video games

‘Call of Duty’ is heading back to World War II, but we need psychologically multidimensional combat video games. With modern computing technology, video games can come close to photorealism. For many genres, this is an advantage. In sports, adventure and action games, more realistic graphics are enticing and increasingly immersive. Shooters, the most lucrative genre — particularly first-person shooters — have also benefited from the uptick of graphical power. While more lively graphics immerse gamers in the scene, for some they raise questions about the ethical nature of shooters when simulating historic wars. As games become more aesthetically realistic, shouldn’t the horrors of war be depicted accurately thematically, along with offering additional, more diverse layers? Call of Duty: WW2 will take the series back to World War II for the first time in a decade and the eighth time in the series. Games centered on World War II launched        …read more