The Experience Points Podcast
A weekly video game podcast from the co-writers of ExperiencePoints.net

We have covered our games of the year, but 2010 held far more than just six titles, and 2011 will hold many more. This week on the EXP Podcast, Scott and I discuss some of the game we neglected last week, from games we never played to games we look forward to playing. Join us around the table while we devour our leftovers. As always, we encourage you to leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

Discussion starters:
- What games are people neglecting that deserve more attention?
- What games of 2010 do you regret not playing?
- What games of 2011 do you most look forward to?

To listen to the podcast:

- Subscribe to the EXP Podcast via iTunes here. Additionally, here is the stand-alone feed.
- Listen to the podcast in your browser by left-clicking the title. Or, right-click and select "save as link" to download the show in MP3 format.
- Subscribe to this podcast and EXP's written content with the RSS link on the right.

Show notes:
- Run time: 29 min 25 sec
- Music provided by Brad Sucks

Direct download: EXP_Podcast_110_-_2010_Leftovers.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 6:17pm PST

It’s GOTY season, and we just couldn’t let the opportunity go without talking about some of the outstanding titles we played this year.  Naming the one true “Game of the Year” is a hopelessly subjective task, so instead we each chose three games from 2010 that made strong impressions on us.  As always, feel free to join in on the conversation.  What were your highlights from 2010?

Jorge’s Top Games of 2010:

Mass Effect 2
Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light
Red Dead Redemption

Scott’s Top Games of 2010:

God of War III
Super Mario Galaxy 2
Red Dead Redemption

To listen to the podcast:

- Subscribe to the EXP Podcast via iTunes here. Additionally, here is the stand-alone feed.
- Listen to the podcast in your browser by left-clicking the title. Or, right-click and select "save as link" to download the show in MP3 format.
- Subscribe to this podcast and EXP's written content with the RSS link on the right.

Show notes:

- Run time: 35 min 45 sec
- Music provided by Brad Sucks

Direct download: EXP_Podcast_109_gotys_2010.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 1:00pm PST

In clinical psychology, continually doing a repetitive action with little or no justification is tell-tale sign of obsessive-compulsive disorder. In MMOs, it's just called the grind. Why, after so many complaints, is the grind still a major feature of nearly every MMO RPG available?  Inspired a post from Zach Best writing for Game Design Aspect of the Month, that is the very question Scott and I will be exploring in this week's podcast. You can find the original article and a pouch of magic destiny in the show notes. We also encourage you to leave your own gaming experiences in the comments section below.

Discussion starters:

- Do you enjoy grinding? Does it fulfill an important purpose for you?
- Is grinding a permanent feature of games with leveling mechanics?
- How much of the grind is self-imposed?

To listen to the podcast:- Subscribe to the EXP Podcast via iTunes here. Additionally, here is the stand-alone feed.
- Listen to the podcast in your browser by left-clicking the title. Or, right-click and select "save as link" to download the show in MP3 format.
- Subscribe to this podcast and EXP's written content with the RSS link on the right.

Show notes:

- Run time: 28 min 20 sec
- “The Opposite of Grind," by Zach Best via Game Design Aspect of the Month
- Music provided by Brad Sucks

Direct download: EXP_Podcast_108_-_On_the_Grind.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 8:18pm PST

It’s crucial for games to catch a player’s attention, but what is the best way to ensure that someone will stick around to the end?  This week, we use Leanne C. Taylor’s article to think about the ways both cutscenes and mechanics are used to keep players’ interests.  She examines the concept of the “10 minute rule” that many movies follow when attempting to engage their audiences and examines its applications in video games.  Hopefully, the first 10 minutes of our show persuades you to stick around!  If so, feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

Some discussion starters:

- What sorts of story-telling devices capture your attention when you start a game?

- Are there specific genres that benefit from a particular kind of hook?

- What are the relative strengths and weaknesses of a cut-scene approach vs. a gameplay approach?

To listen to the podcast:

- Subscribe to the EXP Podcast via iTunes here. Additionally, here is the stand-alone feed.
- Listen to the podcast in your browser by left-clicking the title. Or, right-click and select "save as link" to download the show in MP3 format.
- Subscribe to this podcast and EXP's written content with the RSS link on the right.

Show notes:
- “History, Mystery and Story: Games and the 10 Minute Rule,” by Leanne C. Taylor, via Gamasutra
- Run time: 35 min 45 sec
- Music provided by Brad Sucks

Direct download: EXP_Podcast_107_10_minute.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 11:00am PST

In a series of posts lavishing praise on Nintendo's latest iteration on the Kirby Franchise, Kirby's Epic Yarn, Michael Abbot of the Brainy Gamer has been exploring the game's charming concept. It seems these days you can't shake your Wiimote without hitting a title, from both indie and traditional developers, that exploits some of the tactile art designs, lullaby-like musical themes or children's book narration that comprise some of the elements of the "cute aesthetic." Join us this week while Scott and I discuss the adorable betrayals, cuddly characters, and charming anomalies of "cute" games. As always, we encourage you to leave your thoughts in the comments section below and check out Michael's insightful articles in the show notes.

Discussion starters:

- If you had a chance to play Kirby's Epic Yarn, what did you think of the art design? Does it make the game feel "childish" in a bad way?
- Is the textured approach to art design growing old?
- Does the cute aesthetic hold up to the test of time better than other art designs?

To listen to the podcast:

- Subscribe to the EXP Podcast via iTunes here. Additionally, here is the stand-alone feed.
- Listen to the podcast in your browser by left-clicking the title. Or, right-click and select "save as link" to download the show in MP3 format.
- Subscribe to this podcast and EXP's written content with the RSS link on the right.

Show notes:

- Run time: 28 min 17 sec
- "Kirby's Epic Concept" by Michael Abbot, via The Brainy Gamer
- "Plush Tech," Ibid.
- "Kirby's Epic Sound," Ibid.
- Music provided by Brad Sucks

Direct download: EXP_Podcast_106_-_Poking_the_Cute_Aesthetic.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 5:39pm PST

The following information is for your eyes only: This week, the Experience Points Podcast discusses Call of Duty: Black Ops.  Topics such as the game’s campaign structure, its multiplayer philosophy, and its relationship with historical subject matters are covered.  Be careful: surveillance indicates the presence of plot spoilers towards the end of show.  Your mission: listen to the show and then share any of your thoughts in order to add to the growing body of intelligence surrounding this massive gaming phenomenon.  Remember: if you are caught, your Gamertag will be wiped from the records and the government will deny any knowledge of your existence.
 
Some discussion starters:

- Does the single player campaign’s linear style still hold up?  What is the right balance between set pieces and emergent gameplay?

- What makes the Call of Duty multiplayer system popular?  How do rule systems, statistics, artistic choices, and cultural dynamics impact your enjoyment?

- How does Black Ops relate to historical reality?  What is its place among other Cold War fiction?

To listen to the podcast:

- Subscribe to the EXP Podcast via iTunes here. Additionally, here is the stand-alone feed.
- Listen to the podcast in your browser by left-clicking the title. Or, right-click and select "save as link" to download the show in MP3 format.
- Subscribe to this podcast and EXP's written content with the RSS link on the right.

Show notes:

- Run time: 37 min 31 sec
- Music provided by Brad Sucks

Direct download: EXP_Podcast_105_codblops.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 8:56am PST

Court is in session and the fate of video games in California is on the line! Alright, maybe that's overly dramatic. But really, the Supreme Court is hearing proceedings for Schwarzenegger v. Entertainment Merchants Association. The Justices will decide whether banning the sale of videogames to minors infringes the freedom of speech enshrined in the first amendment. Based on the reactions of the court, which you can read here, I don't the industry is doomed quite yet. However, this case raises legitimate concerns worth considering. Join us this week while Scott and I discuss America's founding fathers and the redeeming values, according to Jason Schreier, of nine violent videogames. As always, we encourage you to leave your thoughts on the comments section and check out Schreier's inspirational article in the show notes below.

Some discussion starters:

- What "adult" games have redeeming values for minors in particular?
- How can the games industry help parents manage their children's consumption of violent videogames?
- Should more gamers be paying attention to the Supreme Court case or do we have nothing to worry about?

To listen to the podcast:

- Subscribe to the EXP Podcast via iTunes here. Additionally, here is the stand-alone feed.
- Listen to the podcast in your browser by left-clicking the title. Or, right-click and select "save as link" to download the show in MP3 format.
- Subscribe to this podcast and EXP's written content with the RSS link on the right.

Show notes:

- Run time: 37 min 59 sec
- “Blood Redemption in 9 Violent Videogames" by Jason
Schreier, via Wired GameLife
- Music provided by Brad Sucks

Direct download: EXP_Podcast_104_-_Out_of_Order.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 9:25pm PST

While the main draw of the Nintendo 3DS remains its titular capacity for accommodating a third visual dimension, other thought-provoking features are beginning to emerge.  According to The Wall Street Journal, Nintendo is looking to implement a variety of networking and communication features aimed at turning the device into a platform for social gaming.  Nintendo’s on-line strategy (such as it is) has always been unique, and it will be interesting to see if this strategy signals a bold new direction or simply another half-step towards towards keeping up with Internet-focused devices like the iPhone.

Some discussion starters:

- Is a single-use portable gaming device still appealing?

- What are your thoughts and concerns regarding the StreetPass and SpotPass programs?  Does it affect your attitude towards the 3DS overall?

- Aside from obvious matchmaking functionality, what is the potential of services like StreetPass?

To listen to the podcast:

- Subscribe to the EXP Podcast via iTunes here. Additionally, here is the stand-alone feed.
- Listen to the podcast in your browser by left-clicking the title. Or, right-click and select "save as link" to download the show in MP3 format.
- Subscribe to this podcast and EXP's written content with the RSS link on the right.

Show notes:

- Run time: 27 min 23 sec
- “Nintendo Bets Big on Social DS System,” by Daisuke Wakabayashi, via The Wall Street Journal
- Music provided by Brad Sucks

Direct download: EXP_Podcast_103_3ds_social.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 12:30pm PST

I have been free of World of Warcraft for almost two years now, but already its tendrils are pulling me in - and I'm not the only ex-WoW player being called by the sirens of Cataclysm, Blizzard's next expansion to the iconic MMO. Sean "Elysium" Sands inspires this week's podcast discussion with his article "Is Cataclysm Enough to Bring You Back?" I know my mind has been changed at least once. As always, you can find the original article in the show notes.



To listen to the podcast:

- Subscribe to the EXP Podcast via iTunes here. Additionally, here is the stand-alone feed.
- Listen to the podcast in your browser by left-clicking the title. Or, right-click and select "save as link" to download the show in MP3 format.
- Subscribe to this podcast and EXP's written content with the RSS link on the right.

Show notes:

- Run time: 30 min 02 sec
- “Is Cataclysm Enough to Bring You Back?," by Sean Sands via Gamers with Jobs
- Music provided by Brad Sucks

Direct download: EXP_Podcast_102_-_Return_to_Azeroth.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 4:43pm PST

While reviewers often strive for “unbiased” opinions, the impact of personal taste on one’s enjoyment of a game is unavoidable.  In the current climate of heavily authored and story-based games, is it possible for a game’s plot to impact one’s enjoyment of its game mechanics?  This week, we use an article sent to us by Sam Crisp and written by Kieron Gillen as a starting point to explore this question.  We cover a range of issues including the search for objectivity, the original intent of designers, and the existence of the gaming wolf-boy.  As this is a topic focused largely on opinions, we’re looking forward to hearing from you in the comments.

Some discussion starters:

- For those folks who played Mafia II, did you enjoy the story and did your feelings towards it impact your experience with the mechanics?

- What games have either won you over or turned you off with their stories, rather than their gameplay?

- Is it possible to make any objective conclusions about game plots, or are we stuck in a world of relativity?

To listen to the podcast:

- Subscribe to the EXP Podcast via iTunes here. Additionally, here is the stand-alone feed.
- Listen to the podcast in your browser by left-clicking the title. Or, right-click and select "save as link" to download the show in MP3 format.
- Subscribe to this podcast and EXP's written content with the RSS link on the right.

Show notes:

- Run time: 36 min 19 sec
- “I Am The Mob: Mafia II, Subjectivity And Story,” by Kieron Gillen, via Rock, Paper, Shotgun
- Music provided by Brad Sucks

Direct download: EXP_Podcast_101_subjectivity.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 8:29am PST