Sunday, January 18, 2015

The Mentonomicon

What is this? A grand repository of all my video game musings on Giant Bomb, including all reviews, lists and daily article series. It was either this or compile them into an ebook and sell it on Amazon, and I've yet to reach that level of self-aggrandizing audacity.

Why use Giant Bomb for blogging? Multiple reasons. First, the blogging tools on the site are exceptionally easy to grasp, and there's not a whole lot of fuss when it comes to adding images and page formatting like there is on something like Tumblr. Second, the site has an entire database of games to invoke whenever necessary, and a simple hashkey function allows you to attach a link to an appropriate game page at any time while writing. Third, the site has a friendly and lively community and a vigilant moderation team, so there's always folk around to provide feedback or remove infrequent undesirable elements when necessary. For these reasons and more, it's been the home to all my articles, LPs and other features since 2010. (I also like the site's official content a lot too, of course. A "best of both worlds" merging of the worlds of professional gaming journalism and the informal, off-beat, personality-driven gaming video monkeyshines common to YouTube or Twitch.)

The one thing it doesn't yet have is a means to navigate a user's entire blogging history in the manner of a contents page or sidebar, which is where this Blogspot comes in.

How is this list sorted? I generally find myself sticking to a lot of common structural themes while writing, especially of late, and so instead of an enormous, loose alphabetical list I've tried to group these into similar categories to make the whole thing easier to navigate. It also allows me to make separate areas for reviews and lists, both of which are formats I tend to use frequently in tandem with blogs. I've ordered these categories by quantity for the most part.

What's with the asterisks? It occurred to me after the hundredth or so link that this might be a little too much reading material to sift through for the average visitor. Articles marked with asterisks are those I consider my best work, or at least some of my favorites to write.

Game Reviews

Straightforward game reviews. Generally around 1000-3000 words each. I tend to focus on games that aren't already covered by Giant Bomb, unless I intend to provide a contrary opinion. In other words, when I have a view that hasn't yet been represented. Otherwise, I tend to take the game and explore specific points of interest, possibly with comparisons to other games, in a blog or list format.

Game Lists

The primary use of Giant Bomb's list feature is to allow users to drop pages from the database into a list, either as an ordered or randomized assortment of names, for whatever purpose they wish. Most choose to use this feature to keep a running tally of games they own, games they might want, games that they consider their favorites or the games that made their GOTY (Game of the Year) for a big site-wide pool to determine which superlative title is the community's pick for that year.

I've largely been using it to create listicles. Considered a lesser form of video game critique by some, I've nonetheless found the format to be highly conducive to discussing multiple games at once, and I'm often finding ways of tying multiple games together by a theme or recurring feature. I generally stay away from divisive "these are the ten best games that have this feature" set-up, instead going for a demonstrative assortment of games.

Steam May Madness

One of my longest running daily series is an annual spelunk into my Steam backlog, held every May. Steam games are often amazingly cheap, especially when you factor in how often bundle sales for smaller Indie games pop up across the internet, so by this time every year I tend to find myself with several dozen games I've yet to try out, to my own chagrin. It also gives me an opportunity to shine a spotlight on games that often fall between the cracks in terms of coverage, giving advice to those who probably bought the same bundles and are in the same situation of determining where best to spend their time. If I've learned anything about professional video game reviews is that they tend to be aimed at, and read by, those considering if the time investment is worth it, rather than the cost.

May Madness plays out as a daily series of mini-reviews for smaller and obscure Indie games available on Steam. They're often early impressions rather than in-depth analyses, but I do make an effort to beat any game of a high enough quality. Obviously, as a daily series, it's not always possible to beat these games in a 24 hour period, which is where "May Madness: Aftermathness" comes in: an epilogue of sorts where I go back and complete the games I liked the most and provide a more conclusive appraisal.

May Madness 1: Amnesia: The Dark Descent (Frictional Games, 2010) - The first season of May Madness occurred in 2012, and contained 25 entries. This first entry also acts as an intro/contents page.

May Madness More 1: Zeno Clash (ACE Team, 2009) - The second season (2013) of May Madness is functionally identical to the first. This time there are 28 entries.

May Madness Melange Intro - With 2014's May Madness Melange, I compared and contrasted three games with a similar theme or some other connection. This allowed me more freedom when writing each entry, as the series was no longer daily but updated once every three days instead. This intro is also a contents page.

December's Desura Dementia

Same deal with Steam May Madness, only I'm covering games I own on the digital distributor Desura, and in December. Desura tends to be a lot more Indie-friendly, and I'd regularly see games I covered for this feature end up passing through Steam Greenlight to be on that store. At the time of writing these, they were all exclusive to Desura (or the developer's own site). 

December's Desura Dementia Deux 1: Gentrieve 2, LogiGun, Reefshot - Much like May Madness Melange, in 2013 I adapted a multi-game version of this feature to cover more games in fewer updates.

Go! Go! GOTY!

A serial blog that replaced December's Desura Dementia for 2014. Instead of focusing on PC Indie games from a single distributor, I concentrated on games that were released in 2014 in order to fill out a "Game of the Year" (GOTY) list, as I hadn't been playing a lot of new games that year. The format's the same, with an exception: The goal was to finish as many games as possible, so I'd frequently be writing additional material on subsequent days for the games that took longer to beat.

Go! Go! GOTY! Day 14: Mechanic Escape, Spate

Bundle Boggles

Like the Desura/Steam series, only looking at all the games within a single bundle to judge its value proposition.

Things I Think Are Cool: A Flash Game Mixtape - A look at ten freeware browser games, compiled by another user.
LA Game Space Round-Up Part One* - A series that looks at the games given to Kickstarter backers of the LA Game Space project, a museum/workshop of game design in Los Angeles.
LA Game Space Round-Up Part Two*
LA Game Space Round-Up Part Three*
LA Game Space Round-Up Part Four*
Bundle Boggle: Groupees's Be Mine X Part One
Bundle Boggle: Groupees's Be Mine X Part Two
Bundle Boggle: Groupees's Bundle Yourself Part One
Bundle Boggle: Groupees's Bundle Yourself Part Two
Bundle Boggle: Groupees's Be Mine 14 Part One
Bundle Boggle: Groupees's Be Mine 14 Part Two


I go into more detail regarding my fascination with NEC's 16-bit console in the first TurboMento-12 entry below, but essentially it's always been a mysterious missing link in the evolution of the 16-bit console for Europeans like myself. The PC Engine, as it is known in Japan, is an extremely influential system in its homeland, but its failure to make much of an impact as the US TurboGrafx-16 meant that plans to introduce it to Europe were effectively halted. TG-16 games have become available to the European home console market in the meantime, via the Wii's Virtual Console service, but the console that begat both the 16-bit and the CD-ROM generations is still something of a big question mark outside of the US and Japan.

The following games, all released on the PC Engine/TurboGrafx, are explored in a humorous screenshot "Let's Play" style. The "TurboMento-12" blogs are full playthroughs, with their LPs continuing in their respective comments sections, while the Octurbo series simply focuses on the first few areas of each game. (The Octurbo series, as its portmanteau name suggests, is a daily series that persists throughout October.)

Octurbo: Welcome to Octurbo - A contents page for the following. These are all HuCard games, a card-based format.

Octurbo-CD: Welcome to Octurbo-CD - A contents page for the following. These are all CD-ROM games.

Brief Jaunts

Brief Jaunts are simply truncated screenshot Let's Plays where I explore and expound on favorite older PC games of mine. The scope has expanded a bit to include any screenshot LP, including a series during E3 where I instead looked at a quartet of Legend Entertainment's graphic adventure games of the mid-90s.

Observation Logs

More LPs, but this time taken directly from notes made while playing a well-known, bizarre game for the first time. There's no screenshot or video element, as I'm playing them on a console, so instead I present my observations as a chronological bulletpoint list jotted down mid-playthrough. This format is intended for those familiar with the game already, so they can see my reactions in real-time and my musings on what just occurred. It's very lo-tech, but oddly popular, especially where the Metal Gear Solid series is concerned.

Deadly Observations Part 1* - Deadly Premonition (Access Games, 2010)
Mento Gear Solid* - Metal Gear Solid (Konami, 1998)
Mento Gear Solid 2: React-sons of Incredulity Part 2: Plant*


A standard blogging format, I take a subject or mechanic relating to a game I just played and expound on it, bringing in other examples from the gaming world.

A look at the various applications of time.
A look at the various applications of space.
A look at the vertical cities trope.
A look at games that depend on a player's vocabulary. 
A look at 2011's abundance of lesser sequels.
A look at the concept of multiple protagonists in games.
A look at the spurious connection between difficulty and nostalgia.
A look at how games use color, specifically as a gameplay aspect.
A look at lockpicking mini-games and concurring with Giant Bomb's 2011 GOTY.
A look at team-based games, those that take a disparate group of characters who combine their strengths.
A look at Earth-shattering kabooms in games.
A look at games with insect protagonists, and seeing the world from their view.
A look at the protagonist-rival dynamic.
A look at cartography in games.
A look at different types of logic puzzles games can present.
A look at robotic characters, and the different roles they can inhabit.
A look at games that take the absurdist humor route.
A look at deity or godlike protagonists in games, and how they're handled.
A look at games with amorphous shapeshifter protagonists.
A look at three games that I took a gamble on. (Driver: San Francisco, Chzo Mythos, Everblue 2.)
A look at four games well within my wheelhouse. (Scaler, Breath of Death VII, Cave Story, Professor Layton.)
A look at dealing with enemies in discrete waves or as a large crowd all at once.
A look at stealth in games, and its emphasis in certain examples.
A look at how games depict the Grim Reaper, and other psychopomp constructs.
A look at recent games that use pirates or ninjas, and which is the more popular.
A look at games with ghosts, and the different roles they can inhabit.
A look at games that center around meteors, in the wake of the Urals meteor storms.
A look at Shining in the Darkness (Climax Entertainment, 1991) and the browser game Mamono Sweeper.
A look at games with canine characters, and the different roles they can inhabit.
A look at games with a module-based format, and the benefits/cons of such an approach.
A look at Super House of Dead Ninjas, Super Mario Sunshine, Pickers, the Wolverine movie and the SaltyBets phenomenon.
A look at female protagonists, specifically how a group of games I played in 2013 employ them.
A look at optional treasures in games, and how they can be more than just cash and collectibles.
A look at unusual co-operative functions in games.
A look at player choice and agency, and how in some games it can all be an illusion.
A look at DONTNOD's Remember Me and Agharta Studios's Shufflepuck Cantina Deluxe.
A look at staying "loyal" to a game series, genre, developer or the non-game media a game might be based on.

Game Retrospectives

Articles that look at specific games, or game series, and goes into detail about aspects pertaining to those games and other design concerns.

Genre/Mechanic Retrospectives

Here, I take a deeper look at certain game mechanics and how their implementations differ from game to game, and what might be done with similar ideas in the future. Ditto with the usually arbitrary "genre" determinations, and how different games can embody different ideas of what a specific genre designation can mean.

Developer Retrospectives

Like the above two, only focusing on a specific developer and their output.

Console Retrospectives

Like the above, only with consoles and their output.

A look at the PS4's launch.

Soundtrack Retrospectives

Similar to the above, only concerning video game music. A good soundtrack is often greatly advantageous to my enjoyment of a game, and also makes it far more memorable as well.

Japan's Favorite Soundtracks* - garnered from a massive list of 700 VGM tracks chosen by Japanese gamers from NicoNico and 2chan. I look at the games which appear most often on the list.
Japan's Favorite Soundtracks, Again* - looking at the nineteen runners-up.
Soundtreks: Illusion of Gaia - revisiting an old favorite via its soundtrack. I've found video game memories tend to persist longer when connected to good music.
Soundtracks of the Generation* - checking out the best music from the last generation of consoles.

Inspirations and Influences From Outside Games

A series that looks at how certain non-game properties have influenced games.

Game of Thrones: The Game - created before any official Game of Thrones video game, looking at the different ways it could come to fruition (and games that are already similar).
Mento's Movie Magic: Video Game Homages to Alien
Mento's Movie Magic: Video Game Homages to Escape From New York
Going Berserk* - a look at how a prolific manga, Kentaro Miura's Berserk, has influenced Japanese video games.

Old vs New

A direct comparison series, usually taking an older game and a newer one possibly influenced by the former to some degree. It also looks at the evolution of game design from the older game's era and the newer game's era. The last article is a similar compare and contrast, but with three contemporary games.

Comparing The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and Dark Souls and Xenoblade Chronicles.

Game of the Year Awards

A yearly feature since 2010, I give credit (and occasionally abuse) to various games that I might've missed on my top ten games list for that year.

GOTY 2010 Awards
Response to Giant Bomb's GOTY 2010 Awards
The Mento VGAs 2011
The Mento VGAs 2012*
The Mento VGX 2013*
The Mento Game Awards 2014

Resolutions 2013

A few blogs charting the progress of ten gaming goals I set for myself in 2013. Some turned out to be more attainable than others.

Setting the Resolutions
Februrary Check-Up
Mid-Year Check-Up
End of Year Report

Top Ten Listicles

I don't make these too often. That's not to say I'm above listicles, rather that the site has its own list feature for creating them. These are two cases where I made a top ten list via the blog tools instead.

The Mentop Tento: Ten Best Video Game Superpowers
The Mentop Tento: Ten Best Chase Bosses

Wiki Projects

In addition to writing blogs, reviews and lists, I also submit material to Giant Bomb's wiki database on a regular basis. This affords me a greater understanding of games, their background, their history and that of their developers while researching them, and also allows me to contribute to a much larger project to get all that information out there for others to peruse. I largely focus on retro games, and am presently on a quixotic quest to ensure the Giant Bomb wiki has a comprehensive page for every SNES/Super Famicom game (there are almost 1800, for the record). When I conclude a "project" - a comparatively smaller goal, usually a few hundred wiki pages or fewer - I'll write up a summary.

Wiki Project: Super '93* - After completing the pages for all Super Nintendo games released in 1993.
Wiki Project: GameCenter CX* - After completing the ~200 pages for games featured on the Japanese TV show "GameCenter CX".
Wiki Project: Awesome Games Wiki'd Quick* - After completing the ~200 pages for games featured on the "Awesome Games Done Quick" annual charity event by the speedrunning community. 

The Comic Commish: The Previous Generation

I was generously given a membership to Giant Bomb, necessary for viewing its premium content, with the proviso that I provide purchasing advice for the entire previous generation of consoles, moving from the start of 2007 (a handful of months after the PlayStation 3 launch) to the end of 2012 (the launch of the Nintendo Wii U). As well as comics, which aren't too much to write home about (dammit, Jim, I'm a writer, not an artist), there's a lot of discussion of games I felt were worth highlighting from that time.

The Comic Commish: The Previous Generation: January-June 2007.
The Comic Commish: The Previous Generation: July-December 2007.
The Comic Commish: The Previous Generation: January-June 2008.
The Comic Commish: The Previous Generation: July-December 2008.
The Comic Commish: The Previous Generation: January-June 2009.
The Comic Commish: The Previous Generation: July-December 2009.
The Comic Commish: The Previous Generation: January-June 2010.
The Comic Commish: The Previous Generation: July-December 2010.
The Comic Commish: The Previous Generation: January-June 2011.
The Comic Commish: The Previous Generation: July-December 2011.
The Comic Commish: The Previous Generation: January-June 2012.
The Comic Commish: The Previous Generation: July-December 2012.

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