In “Destiny”, it is possible to spend hours just shooting things that come out of a cave.
At what point does a video game become a grindingly menial job?
By Phil Hartup - 26 September 15:16

When the balance of challenge and reward in a game gets out of sync, players can end up doing length, tedious tasks in exchange for a “win”. Do we even know what fun is anymore?

A screenshot from GTA V. Just a game, or a work of art worth critiquing? Image: Rockstar Games
Criticism vs reviews: sometimes, it’s OK to care only about how a game plays
By Phil Hartup - 15 September 17:32

If some gamers want their reviews to be reviews, and others want theirs to be criticism, why don't we accept that the two don't have to be the same thing? 

A game of Dungeons and Dragons. Photo: Will Merydith/Flickr
The evolution of the role-playing game: from table top to video games, and back again
By Phil Hartup - 08 September 18:23

The descendants of role-playing games like Dungeons and Dragons exist in the physical and virtual worlds, and even though they might play very differently, they're still influencing each other.

Titanfall, aka Call of Duty with robots. Image: Respawn Entertainment
Yes, gamers are angry, but why wouldn’t they be when the games industry hates them?
By Phil Hartup - 26 August 15:36

Gone are the days when you just bought a game and then played it. With the pre-orders, rushed productions and all the patches, the relationship between producers and customers is becoming ever more adversarial.  

The entire game is ahistorical anyway, so what’s the problem? Image: Creative Assembly
Why does historical accuracy only matter when a game puts women on the battlefield?
By Phil Hartup - 20 August 12:26

One of the many post-release fixes for Total War: Rome 2, Daughters of Mars, has involved the addition of female soldiers, and a very vocal minority of players are suddenly very concerned with ancient history.

Is all the time in front of that screen time wasted? Photo: Getty
I’ve probably played over 10,000 hours of video games. I could be a concert pianist by now
By Phil Hartup - 18 August 14:31

Escaping into video games is something that people have been doing since video games were first invented. But is it time wasted, or valuable escapism?

A group of warriors in the World of Warcraft. Image: Screenshot
Some of my best friends call me Strawberry: the friendships I made and lost playing World of Warcraft
By Willard Foxton - 04 August 10:02

What began as an addictive game soon became more than that – and it was the friendships, not the quests, that kept players coming back for more.

Have you experienced the Tetris Effect? Photo: Sally Mahoney on Flickr via Creative Commons
How gaming behaviour can spill over into real life
By Mark Griffiths - 01 August 11:32

These phenomena tend to occur when video game players become so immersed in their gaming that, when they stop playing, they sometimes transfer some of their virtual gaming experiences to the real world.

A screenshot of the main character of Grant Theft Auto V hiding behind a police car during a shootout. Image: Rockstar
Cops and robbers: how the police became our new favourite video game villains
By Phil Hartup - 21 July 17:34

The breakdown of trust between the public and the police has been reflected by how comfortable we are killing them in games.

Planetoids in Minecraft, by Mike Prosser. Image via Flickr/Creative Commons
Why indie gaming’s obsession with moneymaking hurts us all
By Simon Parkin - 14 July 8:30

The dominant story of this video game-making generation is the one about the struggling artist who made a breakout hit and never needed to work again, and that’s limiting the kind of games that are getting made.

A still from Hearthstone: Curse of Naxxramas.
Why can’t women compete against men at video games? Sexism, that’s why
By Phil Hartup - 11 July 16:16

The International e-Sports Federation has reversed their men-only policy in favour of one competition for women, and one for everyone else including women. What kind of message does that send?

Still from video game Half Life. Photo: Flickr/Adam Messinger
The problem of the modern first-person shooter in video games
By Phil Hartup - 07 July 15:20

As the first-person shooter has evolved to be bloated in terms of costs and production requirements, its game play mechanics have atrophied over the years.

Spintires is less about how thinks look, and more about how they respond to the player.
Spintires: a deceptively simple game that turns mud, logs and trucks into an addictive narrative
By Phil Hartup - 19 June 15:42

In this game, driving between two points on the map in order to transport some logs becomes a gruelling, fascinating expedition.

Lara Croft in Rise of the Tomb Raider. Image Square Enix
By taking on mental health issues, the likes of Tomb Raider show that video games are maturing
By Phil Hartup - 13 June 13:02

Tackling ideas of sanity, darkness and fear is a welcome effort to move away from the violent and emotionally withdrawn stereotype of a video game hero.

A still from Spec Ops: The Line.
Why is it so appealing to play as a terrorist in video games?
By Phil Hartup - 06 June 16:10

In real life, we abhor terrorism and everything associated with it. So why do so many games manage to convince us that playing at it is fun?

A screenshot from Watch_Dogs, with the protagonist hacking a control panel to electrocute an enemy. Image: Ubisoft
Hack-’em-up Watch_Dogs isn’t as clever as it thinks it is
By Phil Hartup - 29 May 16:00

Ubisoft's much-hyped Watch_Dogs isn't about shooting people - instead, it's all about hacking the world around you to control the city and trip up enemies. Yet this ambitous premise falls flat.

Shop shelves of Grand Theft Auto video game. Photo: Getty
How do you make the perfect sequel to a successful game?
By Phil Hartup - 01 May 14:15

Much like that difficult second album, the sequels to video games are easy to get wrong, so what's the best formula for a successful remake or sequel?

A still from World of Darkness.
Why it sucks that there are so few vampire videogames
By Phil Hartup - 17 April 14:22

With the cancellation of World of Darkness, the chances of a second good vampire game seem small.

A screenshot from Luftrausers. Image: Vlambeer
Why do gamers get squeamish when they might play as Nazis?
By Phil Hartup - 09 April 10:47

Plane shooter Lufthausers has players fighting on the side of a team that looks suspiciously like the Third Reich - a design choice that's left some players feeling uncomfortable.

A blow hole.
I'd rather stick my head in a whale's blowhole than play Facebook's Oculus Rift
By Phil Hartup - 26 March 17:26

Facebook don't want to make great games. They want more users, more metadata and more adverts. Whatever the Oculus Rift could have been is now dead.

A still from a Skylanders game.
Should I be worried that my son is hooked on a game without any credible female characters?
By Belinda Parmar - 26 March 12:04

It’s tough to be “game positive” when your son is addicted to Skylanders, a game in which a mostly male cast of fantasy heroes have to smash and bash their way through a mostly male cast of fantasy baddies.

A player fleeing from zombies in Day Z. (Image: Screenshot)
A rape in Day Z: what drives gamers to go Lord of the Flies on each other?
By Phil Hartup - 24 March 13:22

In a game where players can act out any kind of sadistic fantasy on each other - from taking hostage to force-feeding poison to breaking kneecaps - what incentive is there for humans to express their humanity?

A screenshot from Alien: Isolation. (Image: Sega)
The Aliens horde: the inconsistent movie franchise with the consistently decent spin-off games
By Phil Hartup - 14 March 12:28

While there hasn't been a good Alien movie for almost 30 years, the games of the franchise have been steadily churned out for decades.

Doom, always brilliant, rarely improved-upon. (Image: Id Software)
All these years later, there’s still nothing better than Doom
By Phil Hartup - 06 March 13:44

Development is an evolutionary process, and newer games end up objectively better than the older ones they replace – yet 1993’s iconic game Doom remains as fun and unique today as ever.

Space ninjas in action. Sometimes the old ways are the best. (Image: Digital Extremes)
Warframe: or how I learned to stop worrying and love weird Canadian space ninjas
By Phil Hartup - 24 February 15:09

It's not the most original title, but Warframe's sneaky space ninjas make duck-and-cover shooting fun.

Bioshock: Infinite was one of the biggest games of 2013.
The irrational end of Irrational Games
By Phil Hartup - 19 February 10:47

I come here today not to bury Ken Levine but to praise Irrational Games. When they were good they were very, very good, and when they were bad they made <em>Bioshock: Infinite</em>.

Flappy Bird: what is its secret, and why should we care?
By Phil Hartup - 07 February 17:17

The latest “viral” game is a decent take on a tried and tested formula. But is it really that good, or has it just piggy-backed on our love for <em>Super Mario</em>?

Digital destitution: what happens when you lose real-world money inside a game?
By Phil Hartup - 07 February 10:34

Games like <em>EVE</em> can result in players suffering big financial losses in real-world money. As in-game purchases become more common the problems of balancing what can be bought against what can be worked for will only become more complicated.

A screenshot from Skyrim.
Why games developers should welcome people tinkering with their products
By Phil Hartup - 20 January 17:16

The modding community around Skyrim shows that fans can be just as creative as developers - and that a thriving set of mods for your game can benefit everybody.

Fan art imagining Team Fortress, with women.
Do videogames need their own version of the Bechdel test?
By Helen Lewis - 07 January 11:01

Virginia Woolf wrote that the most striking sentence she read in literature was "Chloe liked Olivia". In games, what would the equivalent be?

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