BradShankar

Contributing writer for The Artifice.

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Latest Topics

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The Life and Legacy of Satoru Iwata

The video game industry suffered a tremendous blow over the weekend. Nintendo President and CEO Satoru Iwata tragically passed away Saturday evening. He was 55.

Unlike much of the leadership of modern gaming companies, Iwata is first and foremost a gamer. Iwata has always been deeply involved in games, dating back to the 1980s, where he first started at Nintendo as a programmer. He was an important figure in classic titles like Kirby, Balloon Fight and Earthbound. In 2002, he became the fourth president and CEO of Nintendo.

It would be good to chronicle Iwata’s key contributions not only to the company, but to gaming as a whole. Specifically, many significant innovations in the industry were brought about from Nintendo during his leadership tenure.
-The Wii, which outsold both of its console competitors (the Sony PlayStation 3 and Microsoft Xbox 360)
-The huge success of the 3DS, which continues to sell in spite of an increasing demand for mobile gaming and smartphone use
-The persistence to not give up the Wii U system in spite of fledgling sales, and continuing to develop creative and unique games for it
You can look at how Iwata helped bring Nintendo to record-breaking successes.

On the flip side, there were several hurdles Nintendo faced over the years, such as the commercial underperformance of the GameCube and Wii U systems. You can also look at how Iwata worked hard to help the company as it struggled through these difficult times.

You should also talk about the plans for Nintendo’s future that Iwata set in motion before his untimely passing. The idea that Nintendo would ever bring its IP to mobile games would have likely been absurd to people in recent years.
As well, the company’s plans to partner with Universal Studios amusement parks to make attractions based off its beloved franchises was equally surprising.

Finally, as a fitting tribute to a gaming icon, you can mention the influence and inspiration he gave to millions of people. Many figures in the industry have paid their respects to Iwata since the news broke. Some of their anecdotes about their personal experiences with him and/or his work can be a great way to show the lasting impact he has had on video games.

  • The fact the man was able to pull apart and then port the Pokemon red and blue battle system for N64 Pokemon Stadium is an amazing testimate to his skill (http://www.digitaltrends.com/gaming/iwata-nintendo-retrospective/) – carboncopyben 5 years ago
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  • @Carboncopyben. Exactly. Also Pokemon related, it was due to his effort that the entire Kanto region was added into Pokemon Gold/Silver. I mean, because the Johto region wasn't great enough, he basically doubled the size of the game. I can't honestly think of another developer that worked to add so much content for the players like that. – BradShankar 5 years ago
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The state of downloadable-content (DLC) in the video game industry

Developer of the critically acclaimed The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, CD Projekt Red, recently made headlines for its stance on downloadable content. The studio has been praised for its pro-consumer approach to a business practice that is usually surrounded with a negative stigma. They feel that small content – such as extra weapons, outfits, small quests and in-game items – should be offered for free, rather than at a premium. Projekt Red says that as gamers themselves, they understand that people are paying a lot of money for their product and want to reward the consumer as a result.
Therefore, they’re offering 16 pieces of DLC for free to anyone who purchases the game.

This raises a larger question about the state of DLC in modern gaming. Is it really such a bad thing?

Usually, gamers seem to feel that DLC is a cheap method of monetizing a game and gouging players for additional money on top of the large amount they already paid for the base game.

On the other hand, proponents of such premium content might argue that if done in a meaty, substantial way, DLC can be a meaningful incentive to prolong your enjoyment of a game you might otherwise stop playing. It also can give the developer ways to improve upon or expand what they did in the core, taking player feedback into account. It can also be used to experiment with new and creative ideas that may end up being used in future titles.

You could look at perceived "cash-grab" DLCs such as character skins, extra weapons, etc that are common in several genres such as FPS games.

In contrast, larger DLC content – additional story missions, characters, expansions, etc – are usually more positively received by the gaming masses.

You should talk about instances – like in The Witcher 3 – where DLC is done "right," and others where it is not.

On a broader more, it might also be good to compare the practices between many large gaming publishers – EA, Activision, Ubisoft, Warner Bros., Square-Enix, Bethesda and more.

  • I think most gamers agree with you. There is more incentive to purchase something if the consumer believes that the creator put their heart and soul into it. CD Projekt Red has shown that they aren't just in it for the big bucks, but the quality of their content as well. I recently finished the game and I can say that the game was absolutely fantastic. You could appreciate the effort that was put into every little detail and that made the experience so much better. Then you look in comparison to games like Call of Duty where they re-skin different weapons and charge two dollars each, then rehash popular modes in different settings and charge fifteen, you kind of get the feeling that the immersion of the gamer is not the priority. Recently, DLC has been abused by AAA titles to make a quick buck but 2015 seems to be the year of quality games and Witcher 3 might have marked the beginning of that. – CameronEaton 5 years ago
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  • One may draw attention to a distinction between content relevant and aesthetically relevant DLC. The latter is generally smaller, consisting of weapon/character skins and largely superfluous elements. The case can be made quite convincingly that this is the least grievous form of DLC, as it is beholden to and limited by personal preference.Content such as areas, missions, and even characters or fighting moves are somewhat more insidious as they bear greater potential for abuse. The developer is capable of designing a section of their game to be more difficult, lax with content, or perhaps in its more serious form completely impossible, without the purchase of content driven DLC. This is particularly more important to multiplayer or competitively focussed games by which the winning side may be determined less by skill, and more by their wallets.Thank you for reading, -Jake. – JakeTomosLewis 5 years ago
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Latest Comments

Great article. I’m not another hater of George Lucas (because like you, I actually do like things about the prequels, flaws and all). But one flaw of the series as a whole is the pretty cut-and-dry approach to good vs. evil.

I’ve always loved that a lot of Expanded Universe entries really fleshed out the Jedi/Sith conflict, and added more nuance and shades of grey to what otherwise had been a pretty black and white affair in the films.

(At least, until Disney made it all non-canon lol)

I liked that post-Return of the Jedi, Luke saw how the Jedi way was old-fashioned and reworked the Code into something less restricting and, ultimately, better. Like how he preached “it’s not necessarily what you do Force powers you use, but how you use it that counts.” And he abolished the whole “no-love” rule as well. All for the better, I think.

And the Knights of the Old Republic sequel, Sith Lords, is a really interesting look at both Jedi and Sith, as well as the Force itself. Kreia is an incredibly fascinating character. I love how she actually uses the Force “as she would a poison.” Moreso as a means to an end, than something she actually takes pleasure in using, thinking it as something vile.

The Sith and Jedi both are flawed in their outlooks, and she actually thought that destroying the Force as a whole would better serve the galaxy. Which, while perhaps extreme, is a valid point. Pretty much every single major conflict in Star Wars – at least, the films – in some way can be tied to the struggle between “Light Side and Dark Side.” Would the galaxy be better off without the Force? Maybe so.

The Lost Path of the Jedi

Wow, this is a well-written and in-depth article!

LOL, this took the topic a lot deeper than I was thinking. I like how you looked specifically at female portrayal – or lack thereof – in superhero media.

For me, it’s not even an issue of male or female; it’s the particular incarnation of the character in question.

I don’t really like Carrie Kelley. I know of many fellow fans of The Dark Knight Returns that weren’t too keen on the character either. On a surface level, it makes sense to go with her based on all the other heavily TDKR-inspired elements of DC’s Cinematic Universe. And it would certainly be different, in that she’s a lesser-known and not very commonly used character. But I just feel that Kelley was never developed very well. At least, not in TDKR; I never got far into the sequel, The Dark Knight Strikes Again, so she may very well have gotten her moment in the spotlight there.

But either way, the other Robins (with the exception of Stephanie Brown lol) just have so much more rich backstory to draw from that I feel that going with one of them would be a better choice.

There were some theories that Jena Malone could be playing Barbara Gordon instead. Rumours are her dad may be dead in this universe, killed by the Joker. But Barbara could still be alive, easily. I feel that she’s a character we haven’t seen much of in live-action. Certainly not done well, anyway. *shudders over Batman and Robin*

But beyond Robin, like Jean said earlier, I think the issue more so would be that the movie is already adding a lot of characters to the movie. I’m not going to make the argument that it’s “overstuffed” (many DC fans in turn like to say that Age of Ultron was, so I won’t get into any of that) but I would rather see them focus, as much as possible, on the relationship between Batman and Superman. To be honest, I didn’t want Aquaman, Wonder Woman, or whoever else might appear in this. I’m glad we’re getting a cinematic WW, really, but I’d rather she get her own film first. Heck, I’d have gladly taken a live-action adaptation of the excellent “World’s Finest” arc from Superman: The Animated Series, which focused on Batman and Superman against Joker, Harley and Lex.
For what should be such an iconic and powerful cinematic moment – arguably the two biggest superheroes of all time meeting – I don’t really want to see so many of these other characters.

Of course, they could be limited to what are essentially glorified cameo roles, but even then, just feature Batman and Superman, lol.

Should There be a Female Robin in Batman vs Superman?

“Sony’s superhero powerhouse, Spider-man, was recently bought by Disney.”

I’m not sure if someone mentioned this already, but a small error is present here. The rights to the “Spider-Man” character – specifically, in film – were not bought by Disney. Sony still owns the movie rights to the character. Rather, in February 2015, Marvel Entertainment and Sony Pictures announced plans for a collaborative effort to introduce a new Spider-Man into Marvel’s billion-dollar Cinematic Universe.

Otherwise, a very well-written article.

On the topic of the Sony-Marvel Spider-Man deal, there were reports that one reason Marvel made the deal was because, long-term, they felt it would put them in a good position to buy-out the company should the opportunity arise. With Sony struggling financially lately – really, their only TRULY profitable division at the moment is their PlayStation brand – Disney thought that should the company ever go under, they could purchase them. That would certainly add to Disney’s power.

I think while Disney is indeed “scary big” – as zevcitron said – I personally am not truly worried over their large presence in the entertainment industry just yet. There were rumours last year that Disney was looking to acquire Warner Bros. If that ever panned out, THEN I’d be truly afraid for the industry. Warner Bros. is absolutely huge. With DC Comics alone, they own the other half of the superhero industry. (I know there are other comics publishers besides Marvel and DC, but of course these two are the biggest and most well-known.)

They would, for all intents and purposes, own a monopoly over the superhero genre. THAT would truly get me scared. Some people talk about burnout over superhero movies, especially in light of the huge film slates Marvel and DC have announced. But to me, part of what will KEEP these franchises from getting stagnant is the fact that now there is a direct competition. With Marvel dominating for so long, DC now wants a piece of that multi-billion dollar pie. But entering the fray, they have to truly step up their game. Marvel in turn must do the same, with DC now making their own cinematic universe. If Disney owned both of these comic book giants, I worry that creativity and

And nowadays, thanks largely to what Marvel and Disney have done, Hollywood is very much into shared universes. If Disney continues to expand its wealth of properties, I worry we’d see a future of over-saturation with sequels, crossovers, tie-ins and spinoffs. They’ve already started to do this with Disney Infinity, their toys-to-life game, introducing Marvel and Star Wars characters alongside the likes of Mickey Mouse, Buzz Lightyear and Elsa. Not everyone has taken kindly to this kind of wacky crossover.

Mouse-opoly: Is Disney Dominating the Entertainment Industry?

I wish him all the best writing it – hopefully it turns out great! I’m a bit hesitant to be excited, though. While I absolutely loved The Dark Knight Returns, I really didn’t like The Dark Knight Strikes Again. It didn’t seem to overall be very well-received, either.

Frank Miller's Return To Batman Comics