Category Archives: General

Playing the Canon’s First Birthday: Favorite Search Terms!

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Over in downtown Los Angeles, the entire video game industry gathers to drool over their shiny new toys and indulge in some good ol’ fashioned Schadenfreude as Emperor Microsoft stumbles clothes-less into the next generation. But over the hill here in Burbank, we’re celebrating a much more monumental occasion: The first anniversary of Playing the Canon, over five hundred spambots’ gaming blog of choice!

As my blog has touched the hearts of thousands of visitors looking for Mass Effect walkthroughs, forced instead to wade fruitlessly through boring critical analysis or what-fucking-ever, I thought a fun birthday celebration would be sharing some of my favorite search terms that have brought people to Playing the Canon, your number one source for hardcore Alyx Vance pornography!

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Side Quest: Why This Matters

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On March 27, 2013, my friend David Cole passed away in an automobile accident. He was twenty-seven.

David had one of the sharpest minds I’ve ever encountered in my day-to-day life. He read at a pace and with a level of comprehension that made me feel inadequate on a good day, like a proper numbskull on a bad one. Toward the end of his life, his admiration for Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Team of Rivals led him to read more about Abraham Lincoln in a few short months than most of us will throughout our entire lives. He was also re-reading Infinite Jest, and although “re-reading Infinite Jest sounds like something a snobbish character on a sitcom would do, he never discussed his intellectual proclivities with even a hint of snobbishness or posturing. Of all the media hounds and pop culture junkies I’ve known over the years, David’s interests always felt the most pure, the most born out of a genuine love of the arts and the discourse surrounding them. He didn’t talk endlessly of Faulkner’s brilliance or claim Andrei Tarkovsky’s famously trying Andrei Rublev was his favorite film for any other reason than that they emotionally and intellectually moved him. Yet he also adored the comparatively pulpy Song of Ice and Fire novels, obsessively followed comedy podcasts, and had old usernames inspired by Final Fantasy characters. He loved everything that gripped him or made him think, and if you got him talking on any subject for long enough, he could be touchingly earnest, hilariously self-effacing, and mind-warpingly smart within the space of a few sentences.

I never met David Cole in person, but in this day and age I don’t believe this disqualifies me from calling him a friend. Continue reading

Side Quest: 2012 in Review (and Some Long Overdue Thanks)

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If you follow this blog, you probably won’t be surprised to learn that I didn’t play many new games in 2012.

There are plenty of debates and discussions going on in these year-end wrap-ups that I know plenty about, but don’t feel comfortable commenting on in full. I’m sure I’ll have something to say about that Mass Effect 3 ending, but I have three whole games’ worth of aliens to kill and/or bed before that can happen. I won’t know if Assassin’s Creed III (it’s the end of a console generation, so seems like it was mainly safe-bet threequels this year) really pales that much in comparison to the second installment until I skulk around Renaissance Italy for a bit. I’ve played through the intro of Dishonored, and while I enjoy its art style and will surely have a lot of fun in its Thief-aping mission playgrounds, I put it down to concentrate on titles more relevant to this blog.

I did manage to pick up and trek through a handful of this year’s big indie releases, though. Continue reading

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World 1-1: START!

I was a timer kid.

You know the type. The kid whose daily gaming habits were dictated by the unstoppable countdown of a kitchen timer. (A half-hour on weekdays and an hour on weekends, in case you were curious about specifics.) The kid who, while everyone else was racking up kills in seemingly endless rounds of Diablo and Counter-Strike was finally, FINALLY, going up against Ganondorf after at least six months of piecemealing together Ocarina of Time. The kid who lost every round of Goldeneye because he not once stayed up way past midnight perfecting the art of “Slappers Only!” mode.

If this sounds bitter, that is not my intention. I’m actually relieved my parents took the initiative to keep me from turning into a living extension of my Nintendo 64 controller. It led me to read and write a lot, and to get way too into The Seventh Seal by the end of ninth grade. But now that I’m an adult, I’ve realized video games interest and excite me in ways beyond the childhood obsessiveness of a flightless bird chasing a shiny object. They have an allure and a visceral impact that may not eclipse my love of movies or books, but have enough of a unique emotional pull that gaming is now something forever under my skin and in my head. There certainly isn’t a shortage of young, smart people with blogs who feel similarly.

But between lack of exposure during my youth and betting on the wrong horse these past two console generations (in case you can’t tell, I’m a Nintendo fanboy slowly broadening his taste), there are some serious gaps when I try to discuss gaming culture and heritage. I decided it was finally time to sit down and play the classics, the same way I tried to take in enough of the film and literary canons to at least know what the hell I was talking about. What I’d like to do with this blog is not only write about my personal reactions to these games, but also why they resonate as nearly-undisputed classics. What do they say about the video game medium? What do they illustrate about what games do well? Are they enough to prove that there is a video game “canon,” or is this an art form so in its infancy that this is like trying to write a dissertation onFred Ott’s Sneeze?

In the next few weeks, I plan on writing about Shadow of the Colossus, Ico, Portal, and Knights of the Old Republic; I’ll obviously be adding to this list as I play more games. I’ll also be doing more general entries. (Expect a Mario post shortly following this one.) If writing about games like Ico or Bioshock seems tired, my hope is that’s because these games are the ones worth writing about. We’ll see.

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