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It almost feels like there needs to be an E3 controversy each year. This year Ubisoft has provided the vocal gaming public with something to critique. If you’ve been keeping up with the E3 news then I’m sure you’re aware of what I’m talking about: Ubisoft’s decision to cut female playable characters from the co-op portion of Assassin’s Creed Unity.

Now, however, in a perfect example of poor timing and developer stumbles, Far Cry 4 director Alex Hutchinson has revealed that his game almost allowed for a choice between male or female co-op partner avatars as well.

So that’s two of Ubisoft’s biggest franchises at this year’s E3 admitting that they had thought about but later cancelled the option to play as a female character in co-op. For both games the developers claimed that this was all down to limited resources and timing. Is that a good excuse or is it just another endemic phenomenon of the corporate status of AAA gaming titles?

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SimCity Panoramic_656x369

IGN announced earlier today that they are changing their review policy for particular titles that have the capacity to transform themselves over their lifespan. Re-reviews will be done on popular games that have been updated, patched, or stuffed full of DLC that it warrants a second look. Since NAG Online is tied in, in the background, with IGN through IGN Africa, it’s a policy that some of the staff manning IGN Africa have to take up as well. Its an interesting change and, I guess, mirrors some of the things being done at Polygon and addresses (but doesn’t yet solve) a few issues I raised in an earlier column, Should Day One reviews be delayed?

There’s a few things to take note of with this announcement, though. Despite the good intentions and the lip service it’ll be paying to games that truly deserve a second chance (along with the extra advertising revenue and the good publicity for the game developer/publisher involved), there are some angles that need to be addressed as they take this further.

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There is this growing negativity surrounding the gaming industry, and it’s coming from a source that it really shouldn’t be: games journalists.

I’m reluctant to use the term “games journalism” because it’s become a label of ridicule over the past few years; a moniker that’s more frequently held up for scorn by people whose opinions differ from that of the writer’s. It’s probably why journalists like Jim Sterling refer to the job with derp-infused variants of “gaermz jernalisms”; it’s that whole “if I own what they ridicule me about, then their names can’t hurt me” mentality. It’s doubly effective because it’s also rather amusing; I do it as well.

The fact of the matter is that the particular strain of negativity I’m referring to is coming from games journalism – I’m not referring to the backlash that’s been levelled at the gaming media in increasing doses ever since Geoff Keighley sat next to some Doritos and Mountain Dew. This is the negativity perpetuated and felt towards the gaming industry by games journalists. It goes by other names: jaded, cynical, world-weary – you get the idea.

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Going into rAge 2013 I find myself once again looking at the front lines of a console war. This generation has sparked some surprises and its been a heated back-and-forth between Microsoft and Sony, with Nintendo sitting on the side doodling in the Mario-themed play park. Not only do we have new consoles from all three players, we also have Valve crashing the party with SteamOS, OUYA desperately trying to find relevance in the $99 market, Android gaming set-tops galore and Nvidia’s Shield, able to massively annoy everyone with the compatible Parrot AR drone. We live in interesting times indeed. But incredibly, that old saying still holds water – the more things change, the more they stay the same.

xbox one ps4

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grumpy old man

As the years roll by (at a frankly alarming pace), everything pretty much gets better. Remember when TVs were huge and brown and required at least two adult men to shift position? Hell, you had to get up from the couch to change the channel (of which there were three).

Now we sit watching a Blu-ray on a 40-inch television thinner than a Romany Cream surrounded by wall-mounted speakers and looking ridiculous in our 3D glasses. Things are awesome now, things are better – it’s a hallmark of our constant innovation and development as a species.

And it’s the same for games, right? Remember when you had to blow the dust out of your cartridges to get them to work properly? You couldn’t save your games – you had to beat them in one sitting or try again later.

Games came spread over seven floppy disks, and were pretty damn difficult to get hold of in the first place. You couldn’t simply log onto Steam or walk into a CNA; it was a network of grubby disks passed between friends before we even knew piracy was something other than peg-legged hobos with swords.

Nowadays games have amazing graphics, enormous development teams and millions and millions of dollars sunk into them. They’re bigger, they’re bolder, they’re prettier and they’re better, right? Well, I’m not sure.

See, I have a niggle in the back of my mind that I just can’t shake – I had more fun playing games ten years ago.

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minecraft gameboy cats

Things have been a little serious the last two Wednesdays, so I’ve decided to lighten the mid-week mood here a little with a look at some of the most ridiculous things people have done in video games. Everyone knows it’s more fun to colour outside the lines, so check out these stories of people playing games in ways they were never intended to be played.

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So I’ve been here full-time for just shy of a full year and its been a great experience. Throughout 2012 I’ve tracked technology trends, reported on some of the most interesting technical achievements and met some great people through the awesomesauce that is rAge. So what’s in store for the new year? Loads more tech than you can shake a stick at, lemme tell you. I’ll run ten predictions by you – let’s see how close I get to the truth. 

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I hate Gamescom. Or should I say, I hate that it’s taking place in Germany, and I’m stuck here in South Africa. I also hate that a number of my colleagues and friends have been flown across the world to attend it, and play with all the exciting, unreleased games that I clearly deserve to play with more than they do.

So to celebrate my FOMO and crippling jealousy, I’m going to write about something that has nothing to do with Gamescom. I’m also going to get super indulgent, and spend the next thirty minutes frothing at my fingers while I excitedly fantasize about five games that I really cannot wait to play.

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You know how it goes, right? You buy a game, start playing it, and somewhere along the line the narrative gets a little dry, or the gameplay becomes a little repetitive. Or you hit a tough patch and decide to give yourself a break. “Put the controller down, man, you’ll come back to this part later,” you tell yourself. But you don’t. Instead, you check out Steam’s front page, and that other game you really wanted to buy when it was released eight months ago is now 66% off. “Sweet deal!” you mumble to yourself before clicking the green “ADD TO CART” box.

Before you know it, you’re halfway through That Other Game, and you’ve totally forgotten about the game you were playing before it. It still sits there, waiting, longing for you to load it back up. At least it’s got company though, sitting alongside an ever-growing list of incomplete games that are beginning to clutter up your “Favourites” folder.

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One of the funny things in life that you encounter as you get older is death. I’m not saying that death itself is funny, or to be mocked at. It’s a seriously serious thing, boys and girls. Deaths do things like mar weddings, ruin happy moments and tear apart families, marriages and friendships. Just like if your group of Playstation-playing friends suddenly has one defecting to the Microsoft camp, death changes everything.

My cat died on Tuesday this week, thanks to complications from Tickbite fever and possibly Feline AIDS. He was nigh on a year old and had been my companion for ten months. He was a domestic short-haired ginger breed and we (my family and I) named him Cassidy. He was my loyal companion whenever I gave him tuna and occasionally he would come and warm up my legs while taking a nap while I was writing or gaming. He would also meow incessantly when he wanted attention or food and regularly clawed my legs up to my thigh in a bid to persuade me to feed him more promptly.

I know that you, dear reader, probably won’t want to read about my cat on this frankly fantastic Friday. I do mix in some game references though.

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