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“As a game, The Banner Saga is much more than its mechanics. Yes, the turn-based strategy gameplay is well-made and worth the price of admission, but much of the experience is anchored in its writing, its art and its music.

That music was composed by an increasingly well-known name in video game soundtracks, Austin Wintory (who was nominated for a Grammy for his work on the incredible game Journey – the first video game to receive that honor). But its DNA can be found here in Dallas, with the Dallas Wind Symphony.” — Read the rest at The Dallas Morning News.

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“My dad enjoys hunting, fishing and fighting fires. I enjoy reading, philosophy and not exerting myself too much. But while we might not have a ton in common, we do play a lot of games together. Military shooters, mostly, as he gets easily bored by many of the slower moving, story heavy games I tend to play alone. I was never going to follow in his footsteps at the fire department, and he was never going to read Kant with me. So instead, we’ve bonded on virtual battlefields. – Read the rest at Joystiq

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Rogue Legacy is an immensely rewarding action game that strikes a terrific balance between permadeath and progress.Read the rest at GameSpot.

Review — Rogue Legacy

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I didn’t expect to like the Ouya at all. As it stands, I like it a little. It’s far from overtaking my other systems (especially the PC), but it’s got some promise, and I’d like to see more great indie content on it. With a little extra work it can be an OK media box, and if you’re willing to bend/break the law to emulate other systems, the device is perfectly capable. – Read the rest at The Dallas Morning News

Ouya review: The cheap little Android console that could be (but isn’t yet) a great indie game box

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An engaging combination of board game mechanics and pure storytelling, 7 Grand Steps is an addictive telling of one family’s journey through history. — Read the rest at GameSpot.

Review — 7 Grand Steps

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“Unique visuals and clever puzzle design help the philosophical puzzle game The Swapper feel fresh throughout its relatively short life span.” — Read the rest at GameSpot

Review — The Swapper

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Terraria is just as magical and content-rich on consoles as it is on the PC, although the controls aren’t ideal for every situation. — Read the rest at GameSpot

Review — Terraria (360/PS3)

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When nongamers hear the term “competitive gaming,” they may not know exactly what to expect.

Playing video games is stereotypically seen as a solo activity, performed quietly in a dark room. At best, someone not familiar with video games’ competitive nature might imagine something akin to the World Series of Poker, where the action is slow but the stakes are high.

What most nongamers may not realize is that professional gaming has become a world not unlike that of many other sports you may follow. There are teams, sponsors, live commentators, huge spectator events and a lot of money on the line, not to mention a lot of energy in the room. Perhaps the biggest competitive gaming name in North America right now, Major League Gaming (MLG), has been to Dallas many times before. It’s back this weekend with $170,000 in prizes spread across three huge games: Call of Duty: Black Ops II, League of Legends and StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm (released just days before the tournament begins).

– Read the rest at The Dallas Morning News

2012, for me, was outstanding. That wasn’t true for everybody close to me. My father had issues with his job. My mother spent far too much of this year in the hospital with health problems. I saw good people lose jobs and lost a friend and colleague who I was just getting to know. I wrote almost no fiction, despite some people badgering me to do so.

But I don’t want to focus on the bad stuff. In terms of great, heck, amazing events, 2012 was a packed year for me. This post is about that. If you want more in terms of inspiration for the new year, might I suggest Neil Gaiman’s post?

e32012nintendoI made my first trips to E3 in LA and PAX Prime in Seattle: Going to E3 was one of those things that, as a kid, I thought I’d be using as a sort of measuring stick to say “I made it.” It was for the game industry elite, I thought (I didn’t realize at the time how many people basically sneak in), and if I made it there then I was obviously writing for a site like GameSpot full-time.

Well, I went as a freelancer, and it wasn’t all necessarily as glamorous as I imagined it to be, but it was still pretty awesome. I was thankful to make the LA trip with my freelancing buddy Tim Poon, and I made the Seattle trip with my awesome wife (sorry, Tim, but she’s a better travel companion for me).

Over the course of E3 and PAX, I managed to meet tons of my fellow freelancers, as well as many of the people who helped inspire me to write about video games in the first place. I shook hands with Jeff Gerstmann and Greg Kasavin, have a quick conversation with Brad Shoemaker and stand in line to see Assassin’s Creed III with Ryan Davis. I was able to thank Justin McElroy in person for some advice he had given me about being in the industry. I sat down in a bar with Dale North and got tons of advice on everything from writing to dealing with PR. I got to have a nice chat with Kevin VanOrd, who is a great guy and a great editor. I got to make fun of Susan Arendt’s driving in LEGO City Undercover. These people (and many others) have all been influential in some way in making me the games writer I am today, and meeting them was an absolute honor. I hope to shake more hands as time goes on.

Eventful events: I also covered an MLG tournament, two symphonies, two comic conventions and QuakeCon 2012. I think these alone made me leave my house more often than I did in 2011.

I started freelancing for another outlet and kept freelancing for other great ones: One of my first freelance reviews of 2012 was for Joystiq, which was a big, awesome deal for me. That eventually led to me attending a local preview event as well as covering QuakeCon for them, which was extremely exciting. I hope I get more opportunities to write for them in 2013.

On top of that, I was able to chip in with launch coverage of two new systems for GameSpot (the PlayStation Vita and the Wii U) and write a couple reviews and a fun feature for GamesRadar, which was the first site I ever freelanced for. Thank you, editors, for continuing to trust me to write things for you. It makes me extremely happy.

BubbleLife Media also deserves a shoutout for giving me part-time employment for a brief time early this year, when I desperately needed it. The people there are phenomenal and treated me very well. I miss seeing them on Fridays for lunch.

292132_4079392473952_412069074_nI got to interview and talk to some of very cool people: I’m not good at doing interviews. It’s part of my job that I still need to improve on quite a bit. I always feel awkward, get flustered, and am never sure what to ask next.

But I’ve been getting a lot of practice lately, talking to a lot of people in the game industry but also people outside of it. A personal favorite was chatting with Ted Dekker and Tosca Lee, two authors I felt astonishingly comfortable talking to, in part because I had met them both before. They and other authors provided one of my 2011 highlights: The Ragged Edge writer’s conference. It was great seeing them again in a different context, and really exciting to have them both post that interview on their Facebook pages. (It’s the little things.)

I became an online editor at The Dallas Morning News: I grew up reading the Dallas Morning News (well, OK, I read the comics more than anything else), and for a long time since I started writing for The Daily Toreador in college, my mom would tell me “You’ll be working for the Dallas Morning News someday, staying close to home and making money!” I thought this was crazy for many reasons (not the least of which being the idea that a journalist would make much money), and didn’t necessarily expect to be where I am today. I mean, when I started writing for the DMN, it was as a freelancer for QuakeCon 2011 and then as a volunteer video game blogger. I was too narrow-minded to think I had any skills outside of writing about video games, maybe. But now I’m with the publication full-time, working both for and with some fantastic people. I like it.

525823_3961693211544_1228065311_nI married my best friend: Yeah, I know, this is the most important item on this list. But you don’t start the show with the show stopper, right?

Bonnie and I finally got married in April of this year, in an outdoor wedding that we tried (but sort of failed) to keep small. We had no wedding planner and very little in the way of hired help, which made the event both more stressful and more special. A family friend officiated. A family friend catered. One of my best friends played music. A good friend made the cakes. Bonnie handled most of the decoration ideas herself and then her family helped execute on it all. It’s probably something of a miracle that it all came together as well as it did, but it was worth it.

We bought a house: Bonnie and I spent the past year and a half or so (including the first several months after getting married) living with my parents. I probably love and tolerate my family more than most people do, but we still needed our own place pretty desperately. That finally happened as the end of 2012 was starting to draw near, and we couldn’t be happier with the place. I finally have an office in which I’m surrounded by books.

So… 2013, huh? It’s going to be kind of difficult to top several elements from 2012 (what am I gonna do? Get married again? Buy a second house?), but that doesn’t mean I’m going to just roll over and get comfortable.

Gaming-wise, we will hopefully be seeing the release of two new consoles, which is exciting and will hopefully lead to some more awesome opportunities. Now that I’ve gotten into the groove of my full-time gig, I’d like to spend some more of my free time pitching articles and writing more.

On top of that, I should probably both read and write more fiction in 2013, even if I don’t publish a word of it. It’s what got me into writing in the first place. I owe it some attention.

Speaking of needing attention, I should probably update this website a little bit, yeah? It’s been awhile. But I’ve been busy, dang it!

I hope the rest of you had similarly awesome years. Here’s to another great one.

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Spending time with Asura should make you glad, not mad. — Read the rest at GamesRadar

Review — Asura’s Wrath