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Worth Reading: 12/06/2013

As December rolls along, the end of the year isn't far off. Tough choices are ahead, my friends. Take shelter in here.

Game of the year is here. In the next few days, I’ll have to figure out what my favorites of the year were, and whittle it down from a list of dozens into a compact set of essentials from 2013.

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As first world problem-y as it might be, it’s a daunting task to cut games that you really loved. 2013 was a fantastic year for video games, and though it might lack a holy shit! standout that unites us all, combing through the list of everything I spent time with in the last 11 months suggests games are in a really good place. Time is our most precious commodity, and it looks like I’ve spent it well from beginning to end.

(Can it really be that Fire Emblem: Awakening was released this year? Holy hell, things started off with a bang. It hasn’t really let up, either, has it?)

There was a moment on Thursday, while talking with Vinny over IM, that it suddenly dawned upon me how close everything was. I only have a precious few days to sneak in more time with games, especially the ones that might be contenders for our personal or group top 10 list, games that I haven’t found the time for otherwise. State of Decay is definitely one of those, and I’m near the end of The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds. That’ll be one I’m sad to see end…

Oh, and so long as I have you, this would be the time where I tell you to play The Swapper. PLAY IT.

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Worth Playing: 12/06/2013

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Look, Nintendo’s not in a great place right now. Even though 3DS had found traction and given the company a lifeline for the future, Wii U is probably a lost cause. Nintendo had a whole year to find its place in the post-Wii boom, and the company managed to squander the whole time. Wired’s Chris Kohler consistently has some of the best takes on Nintendo, and I can’t argue with his logic here. The GamePad has transformed from Wii U’s defining feature to a device that’s strangling Nintendo’s ability to chart a new course with the platform. (For the record, I really like the GamePad!) Personally, Nintendo’s future is one device that functions as a console and handheld, but they can’t just go and flip the switch right now.

"Purely based on where Nintendo is going with its software lineup, GamePad is becoming an optional accessory. All that’s left is to make it an optional purchase. If selling GamePad separately might allow Nintendo to reduce the price of Wii U to just under $200 (with a game pre-installed on the console for extra value, of course) it would look much more appealing next to the $400 PS4 and $500 Xbox One.

If it seems unlikely that a game console would climb down so dramatically and remove the one thing that it pitched as its defining feature, think again. It’s already happened twice this year: Microsoft’s preemptive reversal of all of its Xbox One DRM policies (and making Kinect optional) and Nintendo’s release of the 2DS, which removes the 3-D screen that gave 3DS its name in an effort to knock the price down even further."

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It’s one thing to acknowledge games are primarily targeted at males, but how did we arrive there? Polygon’s Tracey Lien has done the hard work, and her excellent feature charts gaming’s course from an inclusive medium just made games to make games to a medium that realized it could be far more successful by targeting specific demographics. Lien breaks down how marketing has played an enormous role in constructing the dialogue around this issue, and even has explanations for why traumatic world events like the Columbine shooting have played a reinforcement role in society’s view on games. She also makes some great points about how we, as players, have inherent prejudices that make games seem less wide-reaching than they already are. We don’t consider FarmVille a game when, in fact, it is. You might be surprised how many of your preconceived notions are challenged while reading this feature.

"In these early days of game development, video games were made by small teams, oftentimes only two or three people. At Atari, one developer often handled the game's writing, coding, design and art. Video game studios were predominantly male, largely a by-product of men far outnumbering women in the field of computer sciences.

Carol Shaw was the first female developer Atari hired. She is best known for designing and programming River Raid for the Atari 2600 at Activision. She says never got the sense that the games she made were for one gender or another, and there was never a mandate from higher-ups to target a certain audience. When she interviewed for the job, she didn't believe she was at any disadvantage because she was a woman, nor did she feel that video games were the realm of men. She knew not many women held bachelor's and master's degrees in computer science and engineering, but she held both. She was qualified to do the job, and that was that. 'We never really discussed who our target demographic was," she says. "We didn't discuss gender or age. We just did games we thought would be fun.'"

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