Tag Archives: Polygon

Why I love video games

Chris Plante in his first piece since returning to Polygon:

I love video games, but what I might love more is the opportunity I’ve had over the last decade to share the imperfect games with other people, people who might have otherwise passed them on their occasional visit to GameStop in search of Madden or Destiny, Grand Theft Auto or Call of Duty. I like finding greatness in the world’s biggest games, too, but I recognize they set an expectation of polish and scope that so many games can’t match. When I criticize a game, I do so to set expectations, to provide context, to interrogate what doesn’t work and to shine a light on what does.

This is exactly how I used to approach music and how I currently approach books. With music, it used to be a mainstream vs. indie thing, but I’ve learned to appreciate the big budget works for what they’re worth as well. With books, it’s less about popularity and more about topics—granularity.

In any case, it’s great to see Plante back at it. A stellar writer and critic. We’re lucky to read his work.

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Brian Crecente says Goodbye to Polygon

Brian Crecente:

So I wrapped things up at Kotaku and joined Grant and crew to help launch Polygon. Then somehow five years whipped by and before I knew it I went from covering presidential press conferences and breaking news on new games to spending my days writing about esoteric pinball machines or the state of gaming and game culture in Cuba.

When Rolling Stone contacted me about joining the magazine on its 50th anniversary, I simply couldn’t say no. I’ve spent more than a dozen years talking about how I wanted to build the Rolling Stone of gaming publications. Where better to do that then at Rolling Stone?

I’ve always looked forward to Brian’s work on Polygon’s Good Game column. Good Game is host to a wonderful catalog of news and opinions about the good happening within gaming — a medium and community continually made a scapegoat of evil in this world. A kindred spirit, Zero Counts was founded upon a very similar message.

Glixel (Rolling Stone’s gaming vertical) has been publishing some spectacular pieces as of late. I’m very excited to see how Brian’s legacy and institutional knowledge from Kotaku and Polygon bolster Glixel.

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The Second Console

Polygon’s newly relaunched Besties podcast, January 2017 episode:

Chris Plante: If indie game developers care and the make “the switch” from Vita to this hardware, I’ll care. Obviously, that wasn’t enough to save the Vita, so I don’t see that as a big thing for other people.

Griffin McElroy: I think that’s a wack comparison.

CP: The Wii U had some of the best Nintendo games and that wasn’t even close to enough to get people interested.

Russ Frushtick: Consider that the Vita died primarily because Sony was dividing their time and energy between the PS4 and the Vita and they eventually gave up. Indies filled in a lot of the blanks, but the most part they just gave up and third-parties gave up, etc. Here Nintendo’s obviously not going to give up because it’s their primary console now.

CP: They won’t give up unless nobody buys it, which is a very real possibility if there are no games from Nintendo or third-party studios.

RF: There are certainly two to three years of Nintendo games pretty much guaranteed.

CP: But like I said, that’s not enough. That just doesn’t work at all for Nintendo. When it doesn’t have third-party developers and it doesn’t have a mainstream gimmick—something that’s going to make people who watch the TODAY Show be like, “Well, I’ve never bought a video game console, but I’ll try this,” then it doesn’t have it.

GM: It’s not going to be the Wii. It’ll never be the Wii. They’ll never do the Wii ever again.

RF: The Wii was an aberration.

CP: That’s a for real problem for them. The thing that they have to [face] right now is, “We are the second console.” If they truly don’t get third-party support and they only have a new game every five or six months—let’s be super generous and say three—then that is a second console for people, which is big money. And unlike the Wii U, which only had to be competing as a second console against people who maybe already owned an Xbox and instead of a PS4 they might buy a Wii U. Now they have to compete with the fact that Microsoft and Sony are going to be releasing new hardware, what, every year? Every other year?

Leave it to Chris Plante to shake me from my Switch hype hypnosis. And I’m glad he did.

I am very much looking forward to the Switch, but Nintendo certainly does not have an easy road ahead of them.

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The Besties Are Back

Polygon:

Though we still don’t have a great explanation as to why, the first ever Polygon podcast has returned on a monthly basis. Join The Besties (Russ Frushtick, Griffin McElroy, Justin McElroy and Chris Plante) as they nonsensically attempt to pick the “best” game released in January 2017.

I was introduced to The Besties when I moved to San Francisco in 2013. Any time I was walking the city, out on a jog, or commuting to work, there was a fair chance I was listening to The Besties. Their comradely and banter provided me company during those moments when my wife was away. (Such is the power of podcasts!)

Over the past two years, what was a monthly show turned annual. This surprise relaunch of the monthly cadence is just what I, nay the world needs right now.

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Polygon’s 2016 Games of the Year

I’m proud to say that I played three of the 10 games chosen as Polygon’s 2016 Games of the Year, my reviews of which you can find below:

I also played Uncharted 4, which I thought to have a profoundly moving story and absolutely stunning visuals. My review, which somehow finds room to discuss Mega Man 7 and 2016’s atrocious Warcraft film, can be found here.

Also of note, Pokemon Go took the world by storm, something unprecedented in video games since the Wii. It may have seemed ambitious to deem it Game of the Year in July, but I’ll argue that due to its cultural impact, I wasn’t wrong.

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Polygon Skips Star Wars: Battlefront Review Event

Polygon:

Review events are a reality of the industry, and in the case of multiplayer-oriented titles, they make sense — it’s very difficult to organize 20-40 people in different locations remotely at the same time, and we introduced provisional reviews this year to account for server uncertainty. We’ve attended review events this year when it made sense to do so, including events for Call of Duty: Black Ops 3Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain and even Battlefield Hardline.

But we will not participate in review events that tie our hands in ways that restrict us well after the general public has full access to the game in question. With that in mind, we’ll be playing the full version of Star Wars Battlefront on EA Access this week, along with many of you, without support from EA. As we have not agreed to any advance access or accepted any coverage restrictions, our provisional review will be live once we are confident in the opinions of our pair of reviewers.

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Provisional Reviews on Polygon

Arthur Gies:

Whatever factors were preventing publishers and developers from setting their games loose upon consumers in an unfinished state have become less pressing, apparently. I’m not actually interested in calling any particular publisher or platform holder out here, as I don’t think I have enough fingers to point at them all. The point is, simply, that it’s becoming harder and harder to know, even on release day, if a game will function on day one, two, three or indefinitely.

I don’t think this is going away. In fact, for the time being, I am absolutely positive it won’t. It will be some time before publishers get the hint that this isn’t ok, where they move beyond lip service about “making it right” and actually start doing the right thing and delaying games that aren’t in a state fit to be sold. I don’t know what it will take for this to happen. I don’t know what the final straw will be for consumers to push back.

That said, I think there’s more we can do to serve our audience and offer some modicum of caution and warning about games we have reservations about.

Like clocks and cars, video games are two-fold: wondrous products made functional by mechanical innards. Video games are at once magical experiences full of narrative, music, design, and animations; at the same time highly mechanical, dynamic pieces of software full of the nuts and bolts of computer science.

Playing a video game is an individual, singular experience. As Griffin McElroy has stated before, “games by their very nature are interactive, meaning… your experience playing the game is going to be different.” Therefore, the critique of a video game’s artistry (design, narrative, visuals, music, etc.) should hold little weight to an individual. Where a video game’s critique should be heavily considered is it’s functionality. If a manufacturer isn’t going to hold up their end of the consumer protection bargain (or be legally held accountable), the duty must fall on the media outlets to inform the public of faulty products and bad business, even better if the outlets can forewarn.

I am excited by this stance from Polygon. Video games are artistic illusions that only work if they are fully functional. If the undying mechanics are broken, the illusion is broken, too.

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‘Vox Media Valued at Nearly $400 Million After Investment’

The New York Times:

Anton Levy, head of General Atlantic’s Internet and technology team, said his firm — like other investors — had typically avoided content creators like Vox in favor of platforms with many capabilities like Facebook and Alibaba. Lately, he said, the firm has had a change of heart.

“We think we are at an inflection point,” he said. “For the next five years, you are going to have the next generation of media platforms emerge. There are parallels to cable in the ’80s. There is going to be a huge amount of value creation.”

The chief executive of Vox Media, Jim Bankoff, has made no secret of his ambition to build his company into a kind of Time Inc. of the 21st century; that is, a multipublication giant with reach into young, affluent homes across the country on topics as diverse as sports and real estate.

The moment I laid eyes on Polygon, I was taken aback by its noisy design, overblown articles, nondescript headlines…

And then it scrolled forever. And ads were limited or nicely designed. And its design reacted to my device in real-time. And the features featured unique layouts. And the video production was on another level. And the “nondescript” headlines were enticing. And the “overblown” articles were full of fantastic journalism and entertaining personality. And the “noisy” design was unlike anything I had ever seen.

I latched on to Polygon’s community and began posting lengthy, passion fueled comments. I realized that these were not comments, they were blog posts. I used those “comments” as the foundation for a new WordPress blog titled The State of Gaming, which I later renamed Zero Counts.

From Polygon to The Verge to Vox.com, Vox Media has changed the way I consume content. Every article includes something of interest. Every layout choice is surprising and exciting. Their dedication to personality, engineering, and design is second-to-none. Congratulations, Vox Media. I saw this coming from a coast away.

UPDATE: Polygon editor-in-chief Chris Grant has sent out the following tweet:

It’s so great to read about this success. Great job, Polygon Team.

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Assassin-in-the-room

Polygon’s Quality Control is a fantastic short-form podcast hosted by Justin McElroy in which video game reviewers (primarily from Polygon) offer insight to their review of a particular new release and answer listener questions.

On today’s episode, Polygon Reviews Editor and guest Arthur Gies elaborated on his review of Assassin’s Creed: Unity.

Upon reading Gies’s review, I was taken aback by the lack of mention to the E3 hubbub surrounding Ubisoft creative director Alex Amancio’s comments regarding the lack of playable female avatar’s in co-op:

It’s double the animations, it’s double the voices, all that stuff and double the visual assets. Especially because we have customizable assassins. It was really a lot of extra production work.

I posed the following unabridged question to Justin via email:

“Arthur seemed to avoid the elephant-in-the-room regarding female playable characters in co-op. While Polygon (and Arthur) has/have made sexualization and representation an impetus for review scores in the past (see Bayonetta 2 (albeit, on the opposite side of representation)), why was this not addressed? Did Arthur feel that female representation did not affect AC: Unity’s overall review? Did he feel the damage had already been done and no more worthwhile discussion could be added? Or was it that Arthur simply wanted us focus solely on the end-product, sharing the detail we may miss when distracted by the elephant?”

Arthur’s response, time stamp 8:20, edited for clarity:

I mean Arno is the character in the game. And I don’t think women are treated particularly well in the game; It’s certainly not even close to the most egregious misstep that I’ve seen in a game this year with regard to that kind of subject matter. And honestly, the game has so many other problems to discuss that at a certain point I feel like I’m running out of reader patience or attention span to get to the heart of the statement that I’m trying to make.

With Assassin’s Creed: Unity, the traversal problems that the series has had for years and the massive technical issues and a really underwhelming story are all things that undermine Unity very seriously. I could go on at length at various things in the game that bother me but those are the most substantive things that hurt the game. It could still have been a fantastic game despite the absence of women in it as playable avatars. [If that were the case], that might have been a discussion I could have had, but that wasn’t as material as everything else.

Thanks for the time and clarity, Arthur.

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Russ Frushtick says Goodbye to Polygon

Russ Frushtick:

But, there comes a day when you feel like you’re not learning as much as you were, or you’re not conquering as many new challenges as you used to. Even with awesome, amazing jobs like this, there comes a time when you feel like you need to try something fresh. Something new. That’s been buzzing in my ear for the last few months and, as of two weeks ago, I let my boss, Chris Grant, know that I was taking the leap. (He was super cool about it, by the way.)

I’ve always enjoyed Frushtick’s work. Sad to see him leave Polygon and the games media-at-large but happy to see him leave on his own terms. Godspeed Frushtick. Looking forward to the August Besties more than ever.

UPDATE, 5/3/16: Russ is back:

It’s been nearly two years since I left and an educational two years at that. I took a break from the gaming industry and expanded into new areas. I wanted to broaden my professional experience, get out of my comfort zone, and dive into some new things. I worked with some great companies and great people but there was always a tugging. A desire to return to return to this place and work with these amazing people.

Great news. And what does this mean for the future of Besties?

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