Posts Tagged ‘Mario’

Wii Mini confirmed, brings cut-price gaming to Canada only

No sooner had Best Buy leaked it than Nintendo officially confirmed the existence of the Wii Mini. With a smaller physical size than the existing Wii console, the Mini cuts out various features to achieve a $100 (£62) asking price. It’s sadly only available in Canada for now though.

One of the main features the Mini loses over its big brother is an Internet connection. That means that you won’t be able to access services like YouTube or Netflix, nor will you be able to download extra games. Instead, the Wii Mini is a no-nonsense console for families to enjoy the arm-waving fun without splashing too much cash.

Oddly though, the Wii Mini will be “available exclusively in Canada during the holiday season”. Bad news if you were hoping to snag Mario on the cheap this Christmas. When I asked Nintendo to clarify if it will be permanently exclusive to Canada or not, it simply stated, “No announcements have been made regarding other regions.” I really can’t think of any benefit of restricting it purely to Canada, but evidently Nintendo has its reasons.

Along with its smaller size, the Wii Mini also comes with a bold black and red colour. A matching red Wii-mote and Nunchuk will come as standard, but presumably you’ll have to match them with other existing add-ons, most of which are white. It isn’t bundled with any games, but no doubt some stores will knock up their own package deals.

If you’re keen on a cut-price console but don’t live in Canada, keep your eyes on CNET UK. We’ll be sure to report any news of a UK launch as it happens. In the meantime, let me know your thoughts on the Mini in the comments below and over on our Facebook page.




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Posted on November 30th, 2012 by  |  No Comments »

Wii U to cost $250, out on 11 November, leak suggests

Glad tidings for Nintendo fans, as a listing on a retailer’s internal site points to the Wii U console going on sale in November, and costing $250 (about £160).

The leak comes via media distribution bods Video Product Distributors, our sister site CNET News reports, with mysteriously named Wii U bundles listed on the company’s intranet system.

“WIIU SYSTEM – GM – 11/11/12 $249.99″ reads one listing, while “WIIU SYSTEM W/ – GM – 11/11/12 $299.99,” and “WIIU SYSTEM 349 W/ – GM – 11/11/12 $349.99″ are also detailed.

Video Product Distributors may not have the most exciting name, but it’s a company that works with the likes of Amazon to supply tech.

What exactly those bundles could consist of is anyone’s guess, but every date is the same — 11 November. That would match my expectations of when we’ll see the Wii U hitting shop shelves, as Nintendo will want to give kids plenty of time to harangue their parents in the run-up to Christmas. The exact UK launch date could well be different, however.

The pricing feels roughly on the money as well, though don’t expect the cost of the console in the UK to precisely tally with the exchange rate — if it costs $250 in the US, then £200-250 would be a safe bet for the British price tag after VAT has been added.

The increasingly pricey bundles could refer to boxed editions of Nintendo’s tablet-controlled console that come with extra goodies, like launch games or a second controller.

Nintendo has a major bash planned on 13 September, when it’ll likely reveal the pricing and release date of its newest toy. I’ve been hands-on with the Wii U already, so be sure to check out the video below to get a glimpse at what to expect.

With a controller that’s as quirky as the Wii Remote but as complex as an Xbox 360 game pad, Nintendo wants developers to get creative and craft gaming experiences that couldn’t exist on any other console, and will appeal to both casual and hardcore gamers.

There’s always the chance that game makers won’t want to bother creating titles for Nintendo’s quirky machine, however — read my thoughts on why the Wii U could spell trouble for the house of Mario.

How much would you pay for the Wii U? Do you think it will succeed or fail? Tell me in the comments or on our Facebook wall.







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Posted on September 12th, 2012 by  |  No Comments »

Slim PS3 news: PS3 News: Sony Announces Release Date For LittleBigPlanet: Karting

Mario is to Nintendo as Sackboy is to Sony. So it makes sense that the hero to so many PS3 players would get a racing game too. The iconic, charming character that sparked imaginations in “LittleBigPlanet” and “LittleBigPlanet 2″ returns this Fall with a two-pronged attack of greatness. September sees the release of “LittleBigPlanet” for the PlayStation Vita, a new handheld title that truly looks to take the new Sony console to new heights, and it was just revealed today that “LittleBigPlanet: Karting” will be released for the PlayStation 3 on November 6, 2012. The game not only promises high-speed action but the kind of customization that fans of “LBP” have come to expect. Stay tuned to About.com for all of the news about “LittleBigPlanet: Karting,” including screenshots, as it’s released.

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Posted on August 7th, 2012 by  |  No Comments »

Nintendo 3DS XL has 4.9-inch screen, out in the UK in July

Nintendo’s made a super-size version of its 3DS console, dubbed the Nintendo 3DS XL, and has confirmed that it’ll be released across Europe on 28 July, and will be sold — astonishingly — with no charger.

Called the 3DS LL in Japan, this gargantuan handheld offers a 4.88-inch (but let’s just call it 4.9, shall we?) upper screen — almost as massive as the gargantuan PlayStation Vita’s.

The lower screen measures 4.2 inches on the diagonal — compare that with 3 inches for the current 3DS. It’ll come with a 4GB SD card and in three colour options: silver and black, red and black, or blue and black.

The new machine measures 156 by 93 by 22mm, which means that despite its extra size, it’s only a tiny bit thicker. It is heavier though, tipping the scales at 336g compared to the 3DS’ 235g weight.

A new design has been thrust upon this mammoth system, with rounded edges that bring the system in line with Nintendo’s upcoming Wii U console. Battery life seems to have been given a boost too, with Nintendo touting three and a half to six hours of game play.

So what’s missing? Well, there’s still only one analogue stick — despite the increased real-estate Nintendo hasn’t opted to add a second waggle-wand to the 3DS XL, meaning if you want to play with two sticks you’ll still need something like the funny-lookin’ Slide Pad.

It doesn’t look like the screen resolution has been boosted, so although visuals will be physically bigger, there won’t be any more detail to see. As such, you might find things looking occasionally blocky.

Finally, the 3DS XL doesn’t come with an AC adaptor in the box, so you’ll have to buy one separately. “Even with the addition of the bigger screen,” Ninty explains, “Nintendo’s aim was to still make the system available at a reasonable purchase price.

“Because of this,” the house of Mario continues, “and because so many fans already own a previous handheld, an AC adaptor will not be included.”

The 3DS hasn’t exactly been a roaring success, with Nintendo issuing a price drop last year to tempt gamers into trying its no-glasses 3D console — so I’m not sure exactly how many people will already have spare chargers lying about. I wonder how many kids will be left playing with an unchargeable gadget come Christmas morn’.

Finally the size is a double-edged sword. This giant new system could make the most of those three-dimensional visuals, but it will make the system much less portable.

Will the 3DS XL be a big success? Or a giant let-down? Let me know in the comments or on our Facebook wall.









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Posted on June 27th, 2012 by  |  No Comments »

Nintendo 3DS sells 4m in Japan – Console news

Wow. Here’s some very interesting reading from the land of the rising sun. The Nintendo 3DS has sold over 4 million units in the 10 months it’s been on sale in Japan, but perhaps most interestingly, over 500,000 of those were sold in the last week, The Verge reports.


Seeing as the brand new PS Vita sold over 300,000 in its first two days on sale in Japan, it seems the 3DS has some serious staying power.


In comparison, Nintendo sold over 5 million units of the original DS in its first 13 months, but that included two Christmases.


So, which games are selling? Well perhaps unsurprisingly, Mario is king. Super Mario 3D Land and Mario Kart 7 have each sold more than a million copies, making them the first 3DS titles to do so. That’s all the more surprising considering Mario Kart 7 has been on sale less than a month, and has actually outsold Super Mario 3D Land (1.08 million as opposed to 1.04 million). The release of Mario Kart 7 may well help explain the surge in interest in the console, though no doubt Christmas did its part too.


The stats come from research company Enterbrain.


The PS Vita went on sale last weekend, and while it sold over 300,000 in its first two days, not all units were without problems: some froze, while others had stains on the screen. Sony issued a software update to fix the bugs. It also priced up all the first-party launch titles, though sadly us Brits won’t be getting a 32GB memory card when it touches down on 22 February. Doesn’t Sony trust us with them or something?


Does the PS Vita have enough to knock the 3DS off the top of the handheld podium? Let us know which you prefer in the comments below, or over on our Facebook page.






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Posted on January 8th, 2012 by  |  No Comments »

Top 20 games of 2011: 10-6

And we’re into the top 10 of our favourite games of the year. Have we got it right, or horribly wrong? Have a look and let us know in the comment section

Tuesday’s countdown from 15-11 prompted an interesting debate on the relative merits of Battlefield 3 and Modern Warfare 3, as well as lots of other juicy issues. What will today’s five titles inspire?

One thing you won’t find is smartphone titles – we’ll be running a separate list for those. But what of your favourite console titles – will they be adequately represented? Judging by some of the excellent games talked about in the comments section for the previous instalment, the answer is a resounding … maybe. Some of them.

Well, what are you waiting for? Let’s continue with our arbitary and highly subjective Top 20!

10. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 (Activision, PC, PS3, Xbox 360)

Oh lord, here we go. Modern Warfare 3 – a glorified map pack, a sullen, cynical insult to gamers, a shameless exercise in pro-imperialist messaging. Or wait, maybe it’s more of what Infinity Ward has been doing really quite brilliantly for the past decade. Super smooth, turbo-charged military mayhem, wrapped around a loopy plot that stretches the game’s naturalistic framework to breaking point. And the multiplayer, with a group of friends and a few hours to kill, is still some of the best fun you can have with virtual firearms and close-proximity combat. Modern Warfare 3 is meaningless, it’s silly, and it has certainly been the most divisive game of the year – we all understand what some people hate about it. But crafted with great care to do exactly what the series always has done and always will, MW3 isn’t part of the problem or the solution, and it certainly isn’t going to destroy the industry – or, indeed, humanity. It’s a game where you shoot baddies, and shoot ‘em good. Frankly, we’ve giving up feeling guilty about enjoying it.

9. Minecraft (PC)

Minecraft isn’t so much a game as an unstoppable indie phenomenon, a sort of reality TV documentary about design, a meta-game, a way of life. There was a time when its creator Notch wasn’t an internet celebrity – how weird is that? But now, with this creative, procedural role-playing build-‘em-up, he and is team have not only invented a new sub-genre, they have instigated a movement in which games aren’t simply released, they’re sort of evolved and mutated over months of beta-testing and semi-availability. If Minecraft were an X Factor contestant we’d all be marveling over its “journey” as emotionally manipulative music played in the background and chunkily pixelated figures congratulated each other in slow motion on the screen. Minecraft is quite probably the greatest story indie gaming has ever told.

8. Super Mario 3D Land (Nintendo, 3DS)

Could it be that the world was ready to love 3DS all along – we just, you know, needed the right games? Well, Super Mario 3D Land is the right game. Taking elements of the original Super Mario Land and combining them with a twist of Super Mario Galaxy, this is a platformer in the traditional Nintendo mould – and by that I don’t mean unchanging and stifled, I mean traditional in the sense that it’s filled with magic, innovation and joy. Whereas in other 3DS titles, the stereoscopic effect has been little more than an annoying parlour trick, here it enforces the beautiful level designs, the sense of space and of Mario’s place in the world. Not the most far-reaching or ambitious Mario title, but as a standard-bearer for this maligned platform, it could turn out to be one of the more important.

7. Uncharted 3 (Sony, PS3)

Oh Nathan, there really is something about that boy. Whether he’s leaping across rooftops as a teenage rapscallion, floundering in the desert or navigating through a seemingly endless boat graveyard, he has so much charm he virtually seduces us through the game. Other titles aspire to be cinematic and think it means epic set-pieces and orchestral music; Naughty Dog knows that cinema is as much about relationships. The surrogate father/son interplay with Sully, the touching rapport with Elena – these are human interactions we can really invest in, so much so that they become genuine rewards for our perseverance. But, yeah, the epic set-pieces are astonishing too.

6. Dark Souls (Namco Bandai, PS3, Xbox 360)

The concept of “player skill” has been largely abandoned by mainstream developers keen to just nudge us gently through their narrative adventures, like kindly care home workers on a seaside day out. Not Dark Souls. Namco Bandai’s dungeon romp is a twisted, pitiless exercise in providing a system and then bashing the gamer over the skull with it until they can do it properly. So many disturbing enemies, so many customisation and progression decisions – all housed within a towering gothic world that combines the nightmarish vision of a Piranesi prison etching, with the intricate workings of a Swiss-made watch. We should all get down on our pathetic knees right now and thank the black empty universe that games like this still exist.

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Keith Stuart

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Posted on December 21st, 2011 by  |  No Comments »

Alice: Madness Returns – American McGee goes back to Wonderland

The latest news:

Former id Software designer on how China inspired him to create a innovative game full of hidden depths

Astonishingly, it is nearly a century and a half since Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland first enthralled the general public with its hallucinatory charms, yet Alice’s allure remains undimmed. Last year’s Tim Burton film saw her reclaim her position at the centre stage of pop culture, and introduced her to a new generation. But it played things far too safe to satisfy true Wonderland aficionados – surprisingly, given Burton’s surreal track record. Salvation, though, may be at hand, in the shape of Alice: Madness Returns, a game in which you get to navigate Alice through the pitfalls of Wonderland.

Alice: Madness Returns has a great pedigree, as well as an unusual provenance. It is actually a sequel, to the only previous Lewis Carroll-based game with any credibility, American McGee’s Alice, although the original came out in 2000. Its creator, the wondrously named American McGee, is a man whose status in the industry was forged as a high-profile member of the id Software teams that defined first-person shooters as we know them – McGee was a leading light on the Doom games plus Quake and Quake II.

To add another curve-ball to proceedings, despite his name, McGee is now based in Shanghai, and Alice: Madness Returns will be the first major western-published game created entirely in China. We caught up with McGee on a rare UK visit. So why resurrect Alice after a decade? “Well, there wasn’t a lot of planning to it. I had moved to Shanghai, and started a studio there, and it made sense at some point during the creation of the studio that it became capable of doing a sequel to Alice. It was never a case of: ‘Hey, it has been 10 years – let’s bring this thing back to life.”

Playing through a demo level confirms that the general format of the original game has survived a decade intact: it’s a third-person action-adventure, mixing platforming and combat, in which you play Alice and must traverse levels familiar in theme to followers of Lewis Carroll. Alice has melee and ranged attacks (she shoots bombs from a teapot) and can spawn clockwork white rabbits which explode after a while. Plus, she can shrink herself down, which also reveals hidden pathways.

McGee elaborates: “We thought there was a combination of gameplay elements that worked really well in the first game, but at the same time, we had the luxury of listening to the audience for 10 years. There were certainly issues about the gameplay: the combat system in particular, so that gave us an opportunity to improve it and put a lot more depth in there. But at its core, it’s still very much a narrative-driven game.”

“In each of the new domains Alice visits, we have a domain-specific ability. So, for instance, in the Queen’s domain, there’s a Giant Alice section, where she gets to eat some cake, stomp around and squish card-guards by the hundreds. There’s side-scrolling in the Oriental domain, which happens by way of these shadow-projection puzzles; it looks very much like a Mario throwback. We also have a section we call Off With Her Head, in the Dollhouse domain. There, she has her head transformed into the head of a doll, and it is popped off, then thrown into a sort of Marble Madness level, where it bounces along and encounters obstacles. I think that really helps to strengthen the variety, which is one of the core aspects of the game.”

Won’t a sequel to a 10-year-old game face accusations of being old-fashioned, though? “I think we may get that comment, but at the same time, I think these classic gameplay mechanisms that you now see re-emerging on mobile devices and in social games will live forever. Somebody who didn’t have the opportunity to play the first game might find it quite refreshing”

As might an Alice fan disillusioned by Tim Burton’s film? “It was funny: we started development long before that film was even announced, so they managed to announce it, get the thing done and launch it in a matter of a year. Meanwhile, we had been working on the foundation and prep-work for the sequel to the game for quite some time. Personally, I was disappointed with the way in which that film came off. The biggest failing, I thought, was that they didn’t focus enough on Alice as a character – it became this ensemble thing, with mainly Johnny Depp as the lead, although he was not that much fun to watch.”

American in China

As McGee tells the story of how he ended up in China, one thing becomes clear: despite the patriotic name, he isn’t exactly about to sign up for the Tea Party. He’s only half-joking when he says: “I was living in LA, and someone offered me the opportunity to move to Hong Kong to work on a game. George Bush had also just won his second election, and I had told all my friends that if he was elected again, I was going to leave, so those two things coincided. Although I knew the production in Hong Kong was a flawed one before I ever moved, I saw it as a good opportunity to get out to the region and get some experience in China.”

“So after two years in Hong Kong, I was bouncing up to Shanghai quite a bit with a friend to start up an outsourcing company there which was servicing the games industry doing art assets. When someone offered me a development deal for American McGee’s Grimm, I said: “I don’t have a studio,” but they said: “Don’t worry about it: go and build one.” So that was an amazing opportunity, and I jumped on it and took it to Shanghai, because by then I had developed some good connections there.”

Surely that must have involved some major culture-shocks? “I think probably the largest shock came not necessarily from the culture, but from the experience of leaving the US and moving to Hong Kong because, when I did that, I had a very “Burn it down” attitude. I literally sold everything I owned – my car, my house and my possessions – and all I was left with were two suitcases and a cat. That’s a very powerful experience, especially when we’ve been brought up in a culture that assigns so much value to possessions. It was very cathartic, though. Moving into China, of course there are challenges, but you get past them.”

Surprisingly, McGee argues that developing games in China isn’t necessarily cheaper, since he still has to adhere to international pay-scales, but what he likes most is the prevailing attitude: “It’s a very optimistic place to be these days. There’s a lot of innovation going on, a lot of change happening and a very blue-sky mentality, especially among the creative industries, because they are now, for the first time, inventing all-new markets, in all-new technologies, and all-new ways of accessing consumers, so that means you have a very young, dynamic creative and consumer culture there, which feeds directly into the culture inside the studio. It’s a nice place to be making games.” Meanwhile, in the west, optimism has never been in shorter supply. But at least Alice: Madness Returns should supply plenty of escapism.

• Alice: Madness Returns is due to arrive for Xbox 360, PS3 and PC on 17 June

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Posted on April 26th, 2011 by  |  No Comments »

Mario and Sonic London Olympic game announced

Latest news:

The duo will be pole-vaulting onto Wii and 3DS, with new events and features for their successful multi-sport adventures.

Sega has announced Mario & Sonic at the London 2012 Olympic Games, the latest in the hugely successful series of multi-sport tie-ins starring the two legendary gaming mascots. The first title in the series to name a specific Olympic location is being developed for the Wii and 3DS at Sega Japan and a release date is expected to be revealed later in the year.

On the Nintendo Wii, the London title is set to boast new sporting tasks such as football and equestrian events, as well as favourites like athletics and table tennis. The 3DS outing is apparently set to feature 50 ‘original Olympic-themed’ challenges, which makes it sound a little like a WarioWare title, which should be fun. Both versions will offer single- and multiplayer modes.

Mario and Sonic were bitter enemies during the 90s when the Super Mario Bros titles went moustache-to-spike against Sega’s Sonic the Hedgehog series. However, the intense rivalry was put aside several years ago when the duo discovered a mutual love of Olympian sporting events. So far, their previous co-projects, Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games and the fiendishly named Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Winter Games, have sold over 19 million copies.

To celebrate the announcement, Sonic and Mario have spent the afternoon travelling around London on a double-decker bus, having their photos taken in front of various landmarks. I’m hoping they were also pictured having a snog outside the John Snow pub in Soho, although I fear this is unlikely.

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Keith Stuart

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Posted on April 21st, 2011 by  |  No Comments »

PlayStation boss calls Nintendo 3DS a ‘babysitting tool’















A senior exec at Sony has given Nintendo’s 3DS a severe verbal beatdown, calling the glasses-free 3D console a “babysitting tool”.

Jack Tretton, the president and CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment America, went medieval on Mario in an interview with Fortune, claiming the 3DS would be an embarrassing accessory for the trendy modern gadabout. “No self-respecting twenty-something is going to be sitting on an airplane with one of those,” he raged. “He’s too old for that.”

Ouch. There’s no love lost between Sony and Nintendo — these latest comments draw on a rich history of bickering, along the lines that Nintendo’s offerings are childish and underpowered, while PlayStation devices are more appealing to hardcore gamers, and are crammed with handfuls of high-powered hardware.

Tretton said Nintendo’s DS family of handhelds offered a “Game Boy experience”, but if he was fishing for a smackdown, perhaps his words were poorly chosen, because now all we can think about are the happy hours we spent playing Tetris on otherwise joyless camping trips.

Tretton didn’t stop at handhelds either, laying into the Wii: “I mean, you’ve gotta be kidding me. Why would I buy a gaming system without a hard drive in it? How does this thing scale?”

Yes, we’re sure that’s what every one of its 85 million owners said when they first saw it: “How does this thing scale?”

But he might have a point — Sony’s ‘hardware overload’ approach does tend to give its products more longevity, with the PS2 racking up over 10 years on sale. And as Fortune notes, Final Fantasy XIII was released on a single Blu-ray disc for the PS3, but had to be spread across three DVDs for the Xbox 360 version.

On the other hand, all the high-spec tech inside the PS3 made it incredibly pricey at launch — something which undoubtedly contributed to its initially lacklustre sales.

Still, Sony doesn’t look to be abandoning its everything-under-the-sun approach to its consoles. Speaking of the upcoming NGP handheld, which is due out later in the year (although it’ll probably be delayed), Tretton had the following to say:

“With the NGP, we asked, what is it that is lacking? We looked at every technology out there, every [bell and] whistle, and how can we make those flexible as possible for consumers to experience.”

The NGP certainly packs a tonne of tech — with a massive hi-res touchscreen, two cameras, two analogue sticks and a touch-sensitive trackpad around the back, it’s housing more hardware than Optimus Prime. But that’ll probably make it more expensive and bulkier than the 3DS, and of course it’s arriving on the scene considerably later.

As for us, we’ve barely stopped playing our 3DS since it arrived, and yes — we’ve used it on a plane. No, we don’t have any self respect.

How do you feel? Do you prefer your gaming hardware simple and cheap? Or would you rather pay a little extra for a tricked-out console? Is Tretton right when he says Nintendo is for kiddies? Let us know in the grownup comments, or on our mature Facebook page.










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Posted on April 11th, 2011 by  |  No Comments »

Video games and art: two must-see exhibitions

Cory Archangel at The Barbican, plus a fascinating online study of gaming semiotics.

Once in a while we like to inform you of art events with a video gaming slant – and two have dropped into my inbox this week. First up, Brooklyn-based digital artist Cory Archangel has an exhibition at The Barbican’s Curve gallery from February 10 until May 22. Entitled Beat The Champ, the installation features a series of monitors showing various bowling games, from the earliest virtual version of the sport on the Atari 2600 to modern iterations on current consoles. The machines playing the games are also being exhibited, each of which has been hacked by Cory to endlessly play the games. I’ve written about Archangel’s work several times on the Gamesblog, and interviewed him while he was curating an exhbition in London. He’s best know for his hacked game installations, including Super Mario Clouds, which features the popular platformer with all the visuals removed apart from the clouds, and I Shot Andy Warhol, a version of the old lightgun game Hogan’s Alley, with famous icons replacing the standard targets. His work is often about changing the contexts and challenging the semiotics of game design and game meaning – but the visual impact of all these games flickering away along the Barbican’s walls will be worth catching in its own right.

Similarly, you can now also visit the online exhibition, The Semiotics of Video Games. The site collates various videos and digital images that analyse how games impart meaning through graphics and icons. There’s some fascinating stuff in here, including another interesting Super Mario work, this time showing one level from the point of view of two Gombas. Some of the prose is rather academic, but the ideas about the nature of empathy, assocation and immersion in video game worlds are worth thinking over and arguing with.

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Keith Stuart

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Posted on February 5th, 2011 by  |  No Comments »