Author Archives: kylestarr

Kind of Meaningless

Griffin McElroy on the The Besties finale, time stamp 3:32:54:

Maybe music is the closest comparison but there is no other industry, there is no other media where genres are these huge barriers between… There are people who play fighting games who are categorically different than people who play RPGs. I don’t think there are as many genres an any other medium and I certainly don’t think that there’s as big a divide between those genres.

Not only that, but games by their very nature are interactive, meaning… your experience playing the game is going to be different. So by their very nature, there’s no guarantee that two critics played the same thing. I feel like those divides and those experiential differences that you have with a game are only getting bigger and bigger and bigger. That means that calling something your game of the year is completely… Of course it is because you’re the type of person who likes that type of game and you had that very specific experience playing that very specific type of thing. It just seems kind of meaningless.

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Greg Miller, Colin Moriarty, Nick Scarpino, and Tim Gettys Quit IGN

Kinda Funny Games Patreon:

In September, you changed our lives. We launched a Patreon for Kinda Funny, and your response was beyond (BEYOND!) our wildest expectations. The support, the Tweets, the shares — it all showed that we really had built the community of best friends we’re always talking about. And, once we knew that, all we wanted to do was make more content for you.

Enter Kinda Funny Games. Now that we don’t work for IGN, we can talk about the stuff you’ve always wanted us to talk about on YouTube — games.

I was initially taken aback by this news. Four iconic personalities leaving IGN?! There must be bad blood. I was wrong. After 3+ decades of experience at one of the leading video game publications, backed by 1755 patrons at the time of this publication, and a deep desire to speak their mind at any given time, these guys are braving the unknown and entering into an excited new era of media.

I thoroughly enjoyed Keza MacDonald of Kotaku UK’s (ex-IGN) thoughts on the news:

This reminded me of some thoughts I posted in June 2014, derived from Griffin McElroy’s interview with The Indoor Kids:

Baseball diehards can tell you the subtleties in team dynamics. There can be diversity under the same umbrella. Many more sites need to embrace the privilege of instant and educated opinion. If the games community cannot foster intelligent conversation on its own, someone must lead the way.

As an employee of a large tech firm, I deeply understand the desire to freely speak about the industry you are a part of and the prohibitions instated. The benefit Kinda Funny Games has over other would-be media personalities is an established fanbase; however, that makes it no easier to cast aside benefits, workplace friendships, and security.

While I can’t say I am a fan of their humor, I do enjoy their critique of video games. Godspeed, Miller, Moriarty, Scarpino, and Gettys.

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One of These Days I’ll Get It Right

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Jim Guthrie has composed incredible soundtracks for the iOS classic Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP and documentary Indie Game: The Movie. For One of These Days I’ll Get It Right, Guthrie teamed up with producer Solid Mas to release a throwback hip-hop remix record of his work from both soundtracks. It is chock-full of themed movie quotes, turn-table scratches, and an insidious vibe. The most notable record in recent history I can compare it to is RJD2’s Deadringer.

One of These Days I’ll Get It Right is a brilliant album that is much more than just a collection of simple remixes. Like LEGOs, Guthrie and Solid Mas have torn down completed sets and reimagined them as something wholly original. A worthy purchase if you are a fan of Guthrie, hip-hop, film, or a sound from yesteryear.

iTunes | Bandcamp

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ICYMI

Teddy Wayne, The New York Times:

Pre-Internet, we accepted that media had a mayfly’s life span: Yesterday’s news was yesterday’s news, and that was it. If you were the creator of it, you made peace with the notion that people either saw it or didn’t when it appeared, and you moved on; there was no alternative.

If it lingered in the public consciousness, it was because of its durability, not repeated reminders. Content had finite endings and deaths, not asymptotic approaches and long-term vegetative states from which resuscitation is always an option.

Consumers had to make similar bargains: If you went out on a Thursday night during the 1990s, you missed NBC’s “Must See TV” schedule (unless you taped it) and understood that it would be a while before you could see it again. (It helped, too, that there was less media competition in previous decades and, in the case of TV, that dramatic series were generally less complex, so that missing an episode of “Dynasty” might not set you back as far as skipping one of “Breaking Bad.”)

Now, with just about every airing of a much greater number of shows obtainable at any moment, there is no excuse for missing one — and, therefore, a more urgent compulsion to catch up, in case you missed it.

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Playing with Limitations

I’ve linked to Ken Levine’s piece on Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor before, but now that I’ve begun to play the game, an observation struck me.

Levine’s piece revolves around choice in video games, explaining the genesis of the “Would you kindly” moment:

When it comes to story in video games, at best there’s an illusion of choice. At worst, there’s no choice at all. In our work, we tried to say, Well, pal, you really don’t have a choice. So let’s see if we can use that concept to mess with your head. And hence was born the “Would you kindly” moment in BioShock, a moment in video game history primarily remembered for reminding us that, when it comes to player choice in narrative, our medium is limited indeed.

This moment is an iconic take on agency in video games. When playing through Bioshock: Infinite, I took to sniffing out additional commentary on the medium: Does “Booker DeWitt” really mean “Booker, do it,” a nod to “Would you kindly?” Are infinite paths a commentary on respawning? I enjoy the idea of playing with a medium’s limitations rather than ignoring them. SHARP’s Quattron qual pixel technology was a gimmick, but I thoroughly enjoyed the marketing campaign.

In the case of Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor, the protagonist, Talion, is merged with the wraith of Elf Lord Celebrimbor, imbuing Talion with immortality. When killed, Talion respawns and the of Orc rankings are stirred, starting with the Orc who slain Talion last. This justifies respawning and retains a consequence for death.

Video games are inherently fantastic. Meta-rules to mask limitations are not necessary, but with increasingly realistic worlds, they certainly make the experience feel tighter.

Naughty Dog better have a good explanation for Nathan Drake’s resistance to bullets.

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Xbox One’s 7th Core

A very interesting read from Richard Leadbetter at Eurogamer:

Up until recently, both Xbox One and PlayStation 4 have reserved two entire CPU cores (out of eight available) in order to run the background operating system in parallel with games. Since October, Microsoft has allowed developers access to 50 to 80 per cent of a seventh processing core – which may partly explain why a small amount of multi-platform titles released during Q4 2014 may have possessed performance advantages over their PS4 counterparts in certain scenarios.

However, there’s no such thing as a free lunch, and the additional CPU power comes with conditions and trades attached – however, there is the potential for many games to benefit. Firstly, developers need to give up custom, game-specific voice commands in order to access the seventh core at all, while Kinect’s infra-red and depth functionality is also disabled. Secondly, the amount of CPU time available to developers varies at any given moment – system-related voice commands (“Xbox record that”, “Xbox go to friends”) automatically see CPU usage for the seventh core rise to 50 per cent. At the moment, the operating system does not inform the developer how much CPU time is available, so scheduling tasks will be troublesome. This is quite important – voice commands during gameplay will be few and far between, meaning that 80 per cent of the core should be available most of the time. However, right now, developers won’t know if and when that allocation will drop. It’s a limitation recognised in the documentation, with Microsoft set to address that in a future SDK update.

The concessions Microsoft has been making to the Xbox One (revised DRM model, “dis-Kinect”, price-drop, bundles, and now opening the seventh processing core) are admirable, and considering the recent spike in sales, certainly make for an interesting future for the console war. However, these are just that — concessions. Sony has continued to stay the course with compelling hardware and a simple story. Not to mention this is another hit against Kinect and the original vision of Xbox One.

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5 Reasons to Run

This post originally appeared on my previous blog, TheStarrList, on 1/12/13 and earned me an IGN Community Spotlight profile. Reblog comes courtesy of Ben Kuchera’s Four ways to become a happier gamer, and person, in 2015

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1. Boost Your Brain Power

Generally, we are all fans of music. Whether it’s dance, metal, hardcore, or pop, we can usually identify something upbeat or driving in our iTunes Library. While upbeat music is great for getting pumped up, short of studying chord progressions and lyrical meaning, there is little payoff to listening to the same set of repetitive tracks on every jog. For some, music may actually be the reason they dread running. Next time you’re out, try a podcast!

Similar to talk radio, there are tons of free and unique podcasts in the iTunes store. From cooking tips to comedy, tech talks and TED Talks, there is something for everyone. Subscribe to a few podcasts and load up your iPod. Have a smartphone? Download a podcast app for your iOS or Android device!

If podcasts aren’t your thing, try an audiobook. I once heard a story of a runner who would listen to suspense novels while training. Only while training would he allow himself to listen to the books and, assuming they were any good, this tactic kept him from wanting to stop running. It also conditioned him to crave running. During races, he allowed himself to indulge in a playlist of upbeat music. This helped change the pace and created a fresh experience.

Understandably, podcasts and audiobooks are certainly not as upbeat as music. However, unless your are sprinting for a time, a good jog requires endurance over speed, and an informative podcast or suspenseful audiobook will certainly keep you at your paces.

2. Fresh Air

While treadmills are great during extreme weather or the night, nothing comes close to an outdoor jog. As simple as it sounds, a bit of fresh air can do wonders for the soul. After a long workday or at the tail end of being bedridden, busy city streets or a refreshing view of distant mountains can provide for a cleansing of the mind and clear thoughts. Stepping away from your belongings for 20-60 minutes can be enough to remind you of what is really important in life, provide a little inspiration for that project you’re working on, or help sift out those feelings of anguish toward a troublesome co-worker.

As you run, breathe in and take a look around. Get out into the world to remind yourself that the world is much larger than your immediate surroundings. If you are lucky enough to cross paths with another jogger, remember to pass along the motivation with a friendly wave, thumbs-up, or high-five. Tell yourself that those drivers on their commute home are looking at you in envy, wishing they had your drive. Your efforts will certainly inspire others.

3. Game On!

When I began running, I was fairly overweight. Unbeknownst to me, my body did not behave the way it did in high-school. I was still expecting to be able to eat the same junk food and plop down in front of video games with no severe consequence to my body. I was sorely mistaken. I knew that I needed to do something to get back into shape. I had heard about Nike+ and decided to take a leap of faith. I invested $300+ (a lot to a college student) into running equipment, an iPod, and the Nike+ sensor. I began to play a new kind of video game.

We can all appreciate a good game. Most of us grew up playing board or video games because they provided competitive and, in most cases, friendly fun. For those that need a little extra push to head out on a jog, making a game of it can do the trick! Several companies are gamifying the workout experience and the Nike+ service is leading the way! Nike+ not only keeps records of run/walk history including miles run, calories burned, and average pace, it also includes cross-community challenges. See where you rank amongst your friends on the weekly leader-board, be the first to reach 100 miles in the office, or challenge your best friend to a calorie burn competition! As you run and compete, you will earn achievements and kind words from world-renowned athletes, pushing yourself to run a little farther next time or maybe try one extra jog per week. Gamifying the jogging experience is a great way to stay motivated and provide a new kind of gaming experience!

Nike+ is offered through GPS iOS and Android apps as well as a shoe sensor (and iPod dongle in needed) for specially designed Nike+ enabled shoes.

4. Solitude

Everyone needs a little “me” time. Similar to tip 2, solitude can help provide clarity and peace-of-mind. Leaving you to your own thoughts can allow you to sort out those items that have been filling you with anxiety or allow you to solve that problem that’s been gnawing at you for the past several days. For some, solitude can assist in inspiration or a moment of clarity. The ability to completely escape the needs of others and detach oneself from the rest of society undoubtedly allows us to sort out what is really important and a stimulating jog only enhances the experience.

5. Multitask

For those of you that have trouble carving out a chunk of your day to exercise because there is just simply “too much to do,” you likely crave productivity. The best part about jogging is that the four tips listed above can all be achieved on a single run.

Over the course of several years, I have realized that multitasking is my biggest motivation to run. As often as possible, I will set aside 1-2 hours to jog and blog. After turning on my Nike+ app, I quickly throw on a podcast. Be it John Gruber’s Apple-centric The Talk Show, obscure stories across America on This American Life, or staying up-to-date with the latest video game industry news with The Indoor Kids or IGN’s Game Scoop, these podcasts not only fill my interests but they provide me with ideas.

Throughout the course of a single outdoor jog, I am afforded the luxury of audible inspiration through podcasts and sightly inspiration through my environment. I am disconnected from social media, e-mail, and text messages and am able to focus on myself. If I am able to push myself a little farther and a little harder, I may beat the stats from my last run. By the end, I am usually able to churn out an idea or two for my blogs. Within 1-2 hours, I have satisfied my desire to be productive by gaming, thinking, mentally cleansing, and blogging… and exercise!

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Jason Snell on Solo Blogging Stresses

Here’s a great bit about the anxieties of being a new, lone blogger from Jason Snell on The Talk Show with John Gruber, time stamp 1:18:50 – 1:32:45:

Being a one person operation, if you’re busy writing a deep-think-piece about something that’s going to go on for a thousand words, you’re not writing things to post to the site today. I feel like, with a less established site like mine, I definitely feel pressure to keep the lights on every day and try to balance those things. You have a different pace. You can post some links and then you put out a bigger piece every so often.

I like your pace but I don’t feel like I can do that right now. I feel like I need to keep the heartbeat a little stronger because I’m trying to establish myself and pick up an audience I may not have captured yet.

The review of the Retina iMac was an example. It took me two or three days to write that. One of my challenges was always should I keep writing this now, or should I stop and find something short to write and post to the site just to let people know I’m still alive while I’m also writing this longer piece. Trying to find that balance is tricky.

Again, not being on a team anymore, and being just myself, I’ve learned the powerful lesson of how little one person is capable of producing versus a staff.

Snell, formerly of Macworld, launched the fantastic Six Colors blog in 2014.

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2014: Zero Counts Launch + Greatest Hits

In April 2014, I realized my blog TheStarrList had taken a hard turn into gaming. It was time to start something new. I gathered up those gaming-centric posts from TheStarrList along with several lengthy comments I had made on Polygon and IGN articles and stuffed them into a blog formatted after John Gruber’s Daring Fireball. In May 2014, I launched The State of Gaming with the intention to focus on business, controversy, culture, education, history, health, and other topics in the gaming industry. After a link on Daring Fireball, I decided to cool-down the blog’s pretentious title into something more personal. I recalled a childhood debate: When considering “lives” in video games, does “x1” mean you are on your last, or does zero count?

Writing about games has long been a dream of mine, but there has always been insecurity in indulging in entertainment critique and commentary. For lack of better terms, Zero Counts has tapped into a rich well of inspiration, passion, and creativity. By surrendering my inhibitions about games writing, I have written more frequently and published more on varied topics than ever before.

Without further adéu, here are the most popular posts from launch year, 2014:

  1. Hail Mario (linked by Daring Fireball)
  2. Humanity in Hearthstone
  3. Club Nintendo stuck in Mario Kart traffic
  4. Old School Hip Hop is the new Golden Oldies (retweeted by Ben Thompson (@monkbent))
  5. Save developers and you will save your soul

Looking forward to even more writing in 2015.

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Old School Hip Hop is the new Golden Oldies

Rolling Stone:

While radio stations have seen their audience decrease as tech-savvy consumers flock to satellite radio and streaming audio, broadcasters might have finally found a format that can lure listeners back to FM: Classic hip-hop. Playlists that shine the spotlight back on artists like the Notorious B.I.G., Naughty By Nature and Missy Elliott are currently sweeping the nation, with major broadcasters like Radio One, iHeartMedia and Cumulus Media frantically changing the format of underperforming stations to the sounds of classic hip-hop, the New York Times reports.

This makes perfect sense. Hip hop debuted around 1979, now dubbed “old school”. New school hip hop began around 1983, followed by Golden age hip hop in the mid-80s to early-90s. In 2015, this is a 25-35+ years old format.

Oldies, Wikipedia:

In the 1980s and 1990s, “oldies” meant the 15 years from the birth of rock n roll to the beginning of the singer-songwriter era of the early 1970s, or about 1955 to 1972, although this varied and some stations chose 1950-1969.

Between 1980 and 1990, “oldies” encompass a 25-35+ years old format. I may be mistaken but Golden Oldies have always seemed like a tried and true radio station format.

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