February 10, 2009

Surfing the Web: The High Scorers

Welcome, dear reader, to Don't Save the Princess. In this blog, I seek to discover the creative pulse of the industry by focusing on interactive experiences that engage the player in fresh and exciting ways. As a budding voice in the already saturated field of game enthusiasts, I decided to first scour the web in an attempt to appraise the substance and presentation of both prominent and obscure sites. To do this, I used the criteria set forth by the Webby Awards and ISMA, evaluating based on content, visual design, functionality, and other such categories. These are resources that I will draw on for future posts, and I hope that by building my linkroll (located on the right sidebar), this blog will become a hub for those craving a deeper understanding of non-traditional games.

In order to explore the non-traditional, we must first educate ourselves on the mainstream. The first links I analyzed are the most well known to the gaming community: GameSpot, Imagine Games Network (more often referred to as IGN), 1UP and GameSpy. Cluttered and difficult to navigate, these review-centric sites sometimes act as conduits for public relations departments at the expense of the author's editorial voice. Additionally, IGN and GameSpot intermittently splash full screen advertisements for up to thirty seconds before displaying the site's content. However, they are undeniably influential, and therefore cannot be ignored. A less biased source for assessing the quality of an established title is Metacritic Game Reviews. Metacritic compiles and displays every rating for a title in an elegant, easy to navigate format.

To dig deeper into this interactive medium, I look to Kotaku and 2007 Webby Award winner Gamasutra, both comprised of editorials, interviews, and news stories, presented with a professional and balanced tone. Gamasutra is easier to navigate, as the icons on the home page of Kotaku are too large (see right), necessitating an abundance of scrolling. Think Services Game Group, which runs Gamasutra, also runs a series of sister sites, which streamline the plethora of information found on Gamasutra into several highly focused blogs (Game Career Guide, Game Set Watch, GamerBytes, Games on Deck, Game Development Research, and Indie Games, to name a few). 2008 Webby Award winner The Escapist also projects a well-rounded point of view, but with a more creative presentation.

In order to find sources with stronger bias, I enlisted the help of engines like Blog Flux and Google Reader, stumbling upon pages such as The Ludologist, which encourages a more theoretical understanding of games, and Play This Thing!, whose authors pride themselves in the ability to expose and review utterly obscure titles.

Finally, one cannot fully understand a medium as interactive as gaming without experiencing it. For this, consult the weekly "fun for free" feature on 4 Color Rebellion, or simply go to Kongregate (another 2008 Webby winner) and choose from hundreds of user created games.

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