Dec 162014

There are so many popular weekend hangout spots I simply can’t stand. Nightclubs are far too noisy and only have cheap beer at exorbitant prices, sports bars may have a far better beer selection and killer chicken wings to boot, but I simply can’t relate to the conversations about the sportsballs being had at the barstools next to me. I thought I would never find a place to appreciate some good liquor in an atmosphere relevant to my interests… until this past weekend.

At the end of an evening of Christmas shopping in South Burlington, Vermont, I stopped by “Tilt,” a fairly new bar in the city. But this was no ordinary bar. The menu boards were bordered with drawings of Pac-Man and Centipede sprites. The menu includes specialty drinks like the “Hadouken,” and specialty burgers like the “King Hippo.” The dark hallway leading to the bathrooms has a black light illuminating fluorescent images on the walls of Guile, Chun-Li, and others from the cast of Street Fighter. And lining almost every wall in the main dining area are classic and modern arcade games and pinball machines, from Asteroids and Pac-Man to The Simpsons and Mortal Kombat II.


That’s right, Tilt is, as it describes itself, a “classic arcade and alehouse.” Saturday was my first time visiting such a magical place of beer and video games (that wasn’t actually my apartment with a Wii U in the living room and a case of Sam Adams in the fridge). It was easily the best social environment possible for adults who appreciate both good beer and good games.

Bars featuring a plethora of classic arcade games have been a growing trend in the past decade or so. In larger cities across the United States exist “Barcade,” currently with three locations in New York, as well as in Jersey City and Philadelphia. On the west coast are places like the far trendier “Insert Coins” in Las Vegas. Overseas is the highly publicized “Mana Bar” chain of video game bars in Australia, famously co-founded by Ben “Yahtzee” Croshaw of Zero Punctuation, among others.

Though not as many Mana Bar locations exist anymore due to a lack of attendance, the Australian gamer bar chain was a first of its kind that clearly set a chain of events in motion in the United States. Bars for video game fans are becoming more common here, and right now they are certainly popular. My visit to Tilt was on a pretty busy Saturday evening, and it’s very likely attendance will see a boost as the bar hosts more special events, like video game tournaments.

But what makes this growing trend of arcades and bars colliding so especially incredible is how they create a social atmosphere like no other; an atmosphere created by bar patrons and employees alike, based on a commonly shared passion for games old and new. I shared several great conversations with the bartenders at Tilt while sipping my local Vermont brew, from favorite classic games to discussing more recent gaming phenomenon, like how exciting it is to play Super Smash Bros. for Wii U.


For far too long now, there has been a negative stigma attached to video games and the culture surrounding them. There is an idea from outside onlookers that gaming is an antisocial hobby. But that is not what I witnessed Saturday night in South Burlington. I saw not only older adults sharing drinks and reminiscing about the games they grew up playing, but also young kids with their families enjoying dinner and playing these games together. People were playing together, and having fun together. Everyone may not socially accept gaming just yet, but adding familiar territory to an arcade such as a bar is definitely a step in the right direction toward that goal. I know I’ve found myself a great place to go and socialize, and through these amazing bars for gamers, I’m sure I’m not the only one who has seen my favorite hobby break into a more social scene.


The Minus World is written by Steven Brasley. You can keep up with his thoughts on gaming via Twitter. Check back every Tuesday for new articles.

Dec 092014

One of the biggest announcements from Sony’s mega-press conference this weekend really got the crowd pumped up: Street Fighter V is on its way…


…But you can only throw those sweet next-gen Hadoukens on the PC and PlayStation 4. Sorry, Microsoft and Nintendo fans.

Nevertheless, the crowd at Sony’s event didn’t seem to mind the console exclusivity for the next installment of the beloved fighting game. Surprisingly, Xbox head Phil Spencer encouraged Sony’s move as well:

Indeed, making Street Fighter V a PlayStation-exclusive game will stir up some good competition. Especially now that each of the big three console developers have their own exclusive fighting games; the Xbox One has Killer Instinct, the Wii U Super Smash Bros., on top of Sony’s latest announcement.

We have now fully entered the next stage of the next-gen console wars. A little more than a year after the launches of both the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, we now have a new battle raging: the race for high-profile exclusives. But this time, console exclusives are not just made up of entirely new properties. Rather, some of the most beloved game franchises in history are taking sides.

And focusing on making classic game series exclusive instead of new IPs definitely comes with some perks for console developers. First, and most obvious, is the brand recognition. As a pioneering title in the fighting game genre, Street Fighter definitely has a large flock of fans. Killer Instinct and Super Smash Bros. are also in similar situations, having developed long-standing reputations. Loyal fans for any of these three games would buy their respective consoles simply to play the next installment.


Additionally, and arguably the best part of this sudden emphasis on console-exclusive classic reboots and sequels, is now more than ever developers will be pressured to bring out the very best in their exclusive classic IP lineups. Compared to selling new IPs to gaming audiences, which could be a hit-or-miss situation, rebooting a classic game in a big way could have a much larger impact on sales, much faster. The source material is there, the fanbase is there, still intact, waiting for a new Banjo-Kazooie that doesn’t have cars, or a new Conker that actually is his own game and not a cameo in a sandbox (see where I’m going here, Microsoft?). Nintendo is already catching on to the power of bringing back some of its classic franchises, with the promise of a new Star Fox, and perhaps even more, on the horizon. Phil Spencer says Microsoft will continue to polish Killer Instinct. Sony is really banking on some success from its Street Fighter deal with Capcom.

It is hard to believe there was so much excitement over Sony’s Street Fighter V announcement, knowing that the game will be exclusive to only one console. But that is just what Sony wants, and just what every other developer hopes for with their exclusive titles. The next great battle of this generation’s console wars will definitely be exciting. With big franchises now declaring their loyalty to only one system, we could see fans making beelines back and forth among the Wii U, Xbox One and PlayStation 4, all to play the latest and greatest in their favorite classic game series.

It’s kind of like Street Fighter – one epic fight for ultimate victory.


The Minus World is written by Steven Brasley. You can keep up with his thoughts on gaming via Twitter. Check back every Tuesday for new articles.

Dec 092014

Are we really so far into December that people are starting to put together “Best of 2014” lists? As crazy as it feels, we are. We’ll have a few of those between now and January, but right now it’s time for This Week in Anime.


Shipping Out

The anime adaptation of Kantai Collection premieres next season, and it’s one of the few cases where I genuinely have no idea what to expect. The source material here is a free-to-play online game that involves building a fleet of historical Japanese naval vessels. This is Japan we’re talking about here, so of course all the ships are personified as cute girls. You build your fleet, level up your ship girls, fight aliens, and try to avoid questioning how it all actually works.

Here’s the thing: the KanColle game only makes some modicum of sense because it doesn’t really show any of the combat. When all you see is a classic RPG-style battle interface, you don’t really have to think about how a five foot tall girl in a school uniform manages to drag an arsenal of naval weapons around without sinking. Adapt that into a visual medium like anime and suddenly you’ve got to start answering all those annoying physics and scale-related questions.

Arpeggio of Blue Steel made the ship girl concept work with AI-controlled vessels, so I assume the people working on the KanColle anime will come up with something. For the life of me, though, I can’t imagine what it’ll be. I’ll be watching in January just to see how things work out.


Weekly Spotlight: Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches


I’m cheating a bit here, as this is half spotlight and half preview. The manga version of Yamada-kun has been in print for a few years, and all 130-something chapters are available in English through Crunchyroll Manga. It’s the kind of series that feels built from the ground up to make the jump to anime, and that’s exactly what’s happening next April. Before the full adaptation comes out, a few one-shot episodes are set to ship with upcoming manga volumes in Japan.

Yamada-kun is a dumb, goofy series, but it’s smart enough to use that blockheaded nature to its advantage. The story starts off with high school punk Yamada switching bodies with straight-A student Shiraishi. It turns out that the two of them can swap back and forth by kissing, and hijinks ensue as they run into other students with crazy powers of their own. The lovably dumb Yamada is the series’ driving force, moving the plot along with his “Hulk smash” approach to problem solving.

Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches is at its best when it steps back and lets its core cast play off one another’s quirks. All of the heroes (and most of the villains) exhibit their own unique brand of stupidity, and it can be a lot of fun to watch them butt heads. In a lot of ways, this series reminds me more of an American sitcom than a shonen romantic comedy. It works equally well in small doses or as a binge read. As for this spring’s anime adaptation, it should be interesting to see how well the voice actors handle playing different characters inhabiting the same body.


This Week in Anime is hastily cobbled together by Paul Jensen. You can follow his ramblings about anime and manga on Twitter. Check back every Monday for new articles.

Dec 022014

Ahh, December… The month when we all look forward to what games will lie beneath our Christmas trees… When we also look back at gaming’s past year… and immediately feel embarrassed with how gaming culture is represented in other forms of media.

I’m talking about the Spike Video Game Awards, which for ten years served as an awkward look at how cable TV believes gaming culture should be accurately portrayed (spoiler alert: they were very, very wrong). The award show’s decade-long run culminated in last year’s re-branded “VGX” awards, which was easily the biggest mistake Spike ever made with video game news coverage. Hosted by a disinterested Joel McHale who spent the entire three-jour broadcast ripping on gaming culture with a snarky attitude, among other problems, the VGX was without a doubt a train wreck.


This year, things are changing. Last month, Spike announced they are dropping the Video Game Awards from their programming. That same day, former G4 and Spike Video Game Awards host Geoff Keighley announced he is producing what he calls “a new independent celebration of [the gaming] industry.” Keighley promises “The Game Awards 2014,” streaming online Friday night, will “show the world the power of games.”

At first glance, Keighley might be onto something with his new gaming awards show. A panel of 28 judges representing various media outlets from around the world picked all nominees and winners, from major categories like Game of the Year and Developer of the Year to smaller but significant categories like Best Independent Game, Best Soundtrack and Best Shooter. This is a huge difference from Spike’s procedures, which allowed viewers themselves to vote. This often led to more mainstream games, like Grand Theft Auto V, earning victory over lesser-known titles of higher artistic merit.


Viewers can participate too, however, voting in a few community categories, picking their favorite eSports players, YouTube personalities, and even Most Anticipated Game, a major category that can only be determined through participation from the audience. Overall, the strategy for who decides what category is far more fair and balanced than in the past.

But “The Game Awards 2014” is not going to be successful solely on these category decisions, nor because Reggie Fils-Aime, Hideo Kojima, Phil Spencer, Valve, Rockstar, and many others signed on as advisors to the show. It all comes down to presentation. If Geoff Keighley really hopes “Games Will Rise” from this show, there are a few things he should keep in mind going into Friday:


Celebrate the developers who work hard to make games possible.

One gaming event that stood out to me this year was the Nintendo Direct broadcast during E3. This particular Nintendo Direct had several segments in which the House of Mario’s many developers talked into the camera about their latest projects. You saw firsthand the pure passion that went into making some new and upcoming Nintendo titles, like Hyrule Warriors and Yoshi’s Wooly World. Video game award shows need so much more of this, a chance for the people behind the pixels and polygons to shine. Even if it is as simple as giving time for acceptance speeches, or having more live shots of developers watching their nominations get announced, “The Game Awards 2014” could give those who work hard on our games a few moments of fame, which they definitely deserve.


Don’t appeal to one particular kind of gamer, but to gaming culture as a whole.

For too long, Spike tried to appeal to the stereotypical Mountain Dew-chugging, Dorito-munching “bro” gamer with its video game award shows. There are all kinds of gamers playing today, from families racing together in Mario Kart and indie game fans to nostalgic retro gamers and, yes, even those n00b-rekin 360-no-scopers. Gaming has expanded into a much wider audience, with various genres enjoyed by different kinds of people. The Grammy Awards offer something for every kind of music lover, from rock enthusiasts to pop, country and R&B. Why can’t a video game award show do the same?

Furthermore, no matter who watches, it is important to create an environment that does welcome all kinds of gamers. Degrading and stereotyping your core audience in the way Joel McHale did at the VGX last year is certainly not a way to gain repeat viewers, or any respect for gaming culture in general.


Fewer commercials, more celebration of great games and the people who made them.

Past award shows by Spike had a serious problem with needing to fill content. Often they resorted to segments that sound innocent enough: a game trailer here, a developer interview there. The problem: every one of these segments was a blatant commercial for a game. Now in order to fund these types of shows, commercials have to happen, which is why I’m not upset that Geoff Keighley is promising several new trailers will air during “The Game Awards 2014.” What needs to change is filling time with commercialized fluff in a show where we expect to see awards given out for achievements in gaming. Award shows are meant to highlight the latest and greatest, not jump forward to what a developer is working on next. Doing so makes the show feel rushed and out of focus. Keep the focus on the people and games nominated that night; show us why they are so great and why we should appreciate them.


Treat video games like the serious art form they truly are.

If the Academy Awards treated movies in the same way that Spike treated video games for ten years, Best Picture would go to the latest Transformers movie each year. If video games are to be respected as an art form, then gaming media first has to treat them as such. There are many amazing games beyond Call of Duty that can be equated to high art, games with amazing stories, character development, music and art direction; games with unique gameplay mechanics or even games that step so far away from your typical story structure that you’re forced to stop and think. If “The Game Awards 2014” can succeed in highlighting groundbreaking artistic achievements in games rather than highlighting what games sell the most copies, it would be a huge achievement that would put games on a much higher pedestal alongside other forms of media.

Games have strived for this for some time, but still some media circles consider them to be too immature. This Friday could change some of that with the proper presentation. It is time for video games to truly have their own Oscars; Tonys; Grammys; Emmys. It is time to treat amazing, mind-blowing, artistic games and the developers who make them with the respect they deserve. Spike may have given gaming a bad reputation on television for the past ten years, but now we have a chance to put a dent in that image.

Now all we have to do is give this a watch, and see if Geoff Keighley can do us justice.


The Minus World is written by Steven Brasley. You can keep up with his thoughts on gaming via Twitter. Check back every Tuesday for new articles.

Dec 022014

This Week in Anime and Channel Chaser will not be running this week. Paul is working on a more in-depth article and Kyle is taking some time off while he starts up a new job. This Week in Anime will return next Monday. Channel Chaser will return in January. Thanks for reading, and we hope you’ll pardon our dust.