Blood, Sex, and Sand

January 31, 2011

For the two people who read this blog, I implore you to watchSpartacus: Gods of the Arena. Actually, if you haven't already, go watchSpartacus: Blood and Sand. The prequel, Gods of the Arena, is really more of a flashback series that melds into Blood and Sand. You end up getting a lot of backstory behind the characters that surround Spartacus in Blood and Sand.

Ignore all the criticism online that it's cheesy, poorly acted, or too violent and sexual. Actually, the last part is kind of true, but how can a red-blooded American say that something is too violent and too sexual? That's like saying sushi is too fishy and wine has too many grapes in it.

What might throw you off is the CGI-blood and the CGI-backgrounds; it's like Zack Snyder watched Caligula too many times and was told to only use computers for all his special effects. Ignore that and enjoy the spectacle. Ignore that and enjoy the writing.

The characters are richly realized, their motivations may be hidden but their goals are clear, and every episode always has at least one character rising to prominence or succeeding at another character's detriment. None of the conflicts between these characters are ever forced or are there simply for the sake of conflict.

And if you are put off by a lot of violence and put off by a lot of sex scenes, then why are you interested in watching a television show about gladiators and decadent Roman life?

Infinity Blade

January 23, 2011

I recently downloaded a copy of Infinity Bladeto my iPad, and I am impressed by the overall design and execution of this game.

Everything about this game showcases either a strong designer or a team dedicated to a strong vision statement. From the intuitive user interface to the straightforward but solid narrative, Infinity Blade represents how to design a game properly.

The developers worked around the limitations of the iPad while bringing a standard "fight monsters and collect loot" sense of play from a lot of fantasy RPGs. However, the combats are quick but not easy, the loot system streamlined, and the leveling up system has some interesting strategic choices; this is the first RPG-style game that I have played that gives an incentive not to grab the biggest, best weapon.

But it's the narrative design that really fires my inner (and outer) gamer. You basically play the son of the son of the son of (and so on) your "first" character, and each time you die, you play the next descendent with all your equipment and levels. Yet the reason for this repeating lineage (and even the reason why you die all the time, and you will die all the time) is perfectly integrated into the story of the game, and is essential for the story of the game.

I haven't finished the game yet, but it makes me want to finish it, and I'm having fun trying to finish it. I say that satisfies all the necessary reasons why you should play this game. At less than $6, I think it's well worth it.