Your Move

Board games. Video games. Anything but mind games. KMUW commentator Sam McConnell explores the latest (and the time-tested) world of games.

Your Move can also be found on iTunes. Listen or subscribe here.

This commentary originally aired on February 23, 2017.  

Nintendo has been the leader in portable video gaming ever since they basically invented the market segment with the Game Boy in 1989. That doesn’t mean they’ve been the only player, though. 

Smartphones are the most prolific gaming platform out there - while most people don’t buy their phone to play games on, it’s always an option - and there are games of all types available. This wasn’t true before 2007 or so, where your game options on your phone were generally limited to Snake, and, if you were lucky, Tetris. The Game Boy and other portable gaming systems have been around for years, too, but there was definitely some demand for a convergence between the devices.

Speedrunning is a particular way of playing games where the object is to get through them as quickly as possible. Runners use extensive practice, meticulous planning, and often take advantage of glitches and other ways to manipulate the game, all in an effort to finish a game in the shortest time. I’m talking seriously fast - games like Super Mario Bros in less than five minutes, or The Legend of Zelda in 28 minutes.

The game developer Jackbox has been cranking out fun trivia games for more than two decades now. For years, they kept updating their You Don’t Know Jack series with new questions and features, keeping it relevant year to year. But those games only supported a few players, and you all had to crowd around a computer keyboard and screen to play. So, a few years ago, Jackbox started releasing packs of party games that found a way around that, with a controller nearly everyone already has in their pocket - their smartphone.

One of my biggest disappointments this year was Mass Effect: Andromeda. Despite having a pretty OK story, it left a lot of open plot holes. It was clear these were due to be filled by planned expansions and sequels. Unfortunately, the games was so poorly received, especially compared to its predecessors, that its developer Bioware completely dropped support for the game, and canceled all future content. Now, it’s looking like the Mass Effect series might be done for good.

Animal Crossing has always been one of Nintendo’s more interesting series to me - none of the games have an end, per se. Rather, they are mostly about building and maintaining friendships and a community. Although I played a lot of the original on my Gamecube, the installment I’ve spent the most time playing has been on the 3DS - the short tasks the animals had me doing to maintain my village were perfect for a handheld console.

Today, I really wanted to be telling you about how much fun I had playing the new Star Wars game, Battlefront II. I’ve been looking forward to the game most of the year. Battlefront II, which is focused on large team multiplayer gameplay, also has a single-player campaign with a story set right after Return of the Jedi, from the point of view of an Elite Stormtrooper, and what she does during the collapse of the Empire. I really wanted to play this.

In the mid-90s, video games were just starting to make the jump from 2D to 3D. If you go back to a lot of those early 3D games, the controls were experimental and awkward - nobody really knew the best way to make 3D games work, until Nintendo came along with Super Mario 64 and literally defined how 3D platforming games should work.

Now, 20 years later, Nintendo has released Super Mario Odyssey for the Nintendo Switch - a spiritual sequel to Super Mario 64, and the most refined 3D platformer to date.

Last year, Nintendo released the NES classic- a miniature version of their first console, loaded with classic games. It was an instant hit, and sold out right away. And then...that was it. Nintendo restocked stores a few times, but those inventories were also immediately snatched up, and less than a year later, Nintendo just stopped making them.

Jon Reynolds

This commentary originally aired on April 10, 2014.  

Many people are at least sort of familiar with what Dungeons & Dragons is - a role playing game that a group of friends play together using dice and books, rather than a TV and a controller. I love playing D&D, but the games are long, and finding people that aren’t so busy that they can’t play these long campaigns for hours at a time, weeks in a row... well, that’s difficult.

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