What I’ve Been Reading: June 7, 2015

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After a lengthy hiatus, What I’ve Been Reading is back, and it’s got a load of links for you. More

The Ten Biggest Pop Culture Disappointments of 2014

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Warning: This piece discusses sexual assault, domestic abuse, physical assault, and child abuse. If you don’t want to read about that stuff, then don’t read this piece.

It’s time for Refrigerator Rants’ most-treasured annual tradition! Every year, I take a look back at the pop cultural works, events, or occurrences that disappointed me or large numbers of other people. (I’ve decided that I’m equivalent to large numbers of other people.) This year had no shortage of crappy pop culture. In fact, there was so much garbage this year that the perennial tenth-place finisher, the Academy Awards telecast, got knocked off the list. Congratulations, 2014! You managed to produce at least 10 things that were worse than the Oscars this year. Bravo! More

The 10 Best (and 5 Worst) Video Games of 2014

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2014 was the year of the failed AAA launch. Many games from major publishers turned out to be abysmally awful, completely unplayable, or totally overhyped on release – DriveClub, Assassin’s Creed: Unity, and Destiny, to name a few. However, there were a number of gems too, and I’m going to list 10 of them. Included among them are a couple of AAA titles, a smattering of indie games, and at least one weird experiment in interactive fiction.

I’m also going to list the 5 worst games of the year, because it’s fun to mock terrible games. More

What I’ve Been Reading: June 29, 2014

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I’m baaaaaaack! Have some links, my dear readers. More

Game Review: Watch Dogs

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As is the case with all game reviews on this blog, this review will assume that you’ve played the game, i.e. it will contain spoilers for Watch Dogs.

Let me tell you what it’s like to explore the world of Watch Dogs. Picture a vibrant, colourful city with lovingly detailed buildings and structures. Dozens of people are walking around, going about their daily business. Pause for a moment, and you might overhear a conversation about an overbearing boss or a first date gone awry. An assortment of cars and trucks populates the roads, and the pennants on streetlights flutter in the wind. Walk down to the lake, and you can see sunlight glinting off the surface of the water, illuminating the boats’ hulls. Watch Dogs’ version of Chicago is the kind of digital space you could get lost in for hours on end.

Now let me tell you what it’s like to play Watch Dogs. You play as Aiden Pearce, a gruff hacker dude with a trenchcoat and a baseball cap. After receiving an interminable phone call from one of your associates, you hop in a car to get to your destination. Unfortunately, even if you’re trying to follow the rules of the road, driving a vehicle is like trying push a thread through the eye of a sewing needle in a crowded nightclub. You inevitably end up hitting two or three innocent people on the way there, and bit of text that says “Civilian Injured” pops up in the top right-hand corner of your screen, along with a reputation meter that moves ever so slightly to the left. When you finally arrive, you’re told you have to infiltrate some sort of criminal operation. (Man, there are a lot of criminal operations in this city.) So you take out your trusty magic phone and attempt to hack a camera to get a better view of the the lay of the land. Instead, you accidentally move your mouse a millimetre and end up hacking the gate to the compound instead, revealing your position to the “bad guys.” No matter. You pull out your trusty assault rifle, hide behind a conveniently-placed crate, and shoot twenty black people. (You’re really good at shooting black people, since you’ve done it a half-dozen times already.) Once all the black people are dead, you get whatever you came for – a hard drive, video footage, a virus – it’s always a bunch of ones and zeroes in any case, and you hop back into your car to escape. But this time, you’re being chased by the bad guys, so the civilian body count skyrockets during your getaway. Eventually, after ten minutes of driving frantically and aimlessly, you manage to elude your pursuers by hacking traffic lights to cause a pile-up. (The gun with which you killed all those black people is of no use to you while you’re driving.) Then, your phone rings, and the cycle begins anew.

As you’ve probably gathered, Watch Dogs is not a good game. It isn’t a bad one either, really; it’s just a limp, disappointing experience that reeks of missed potential. What went wrong? I’ll offer a few perspectives after the jump.

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Things I’m Most Looking Forward to in 2014

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The last blog post I made was about the things that disappointed me in 2013. But now it’s time to turn our frowns upside-down and look forward to the upcoming things in 2014 that might be great. Music, video games, new technologies – here are the 10 things I’m looking forward to most in 2014: More

The Ten Biggest Pop Culture Disappointments of 2013

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It’s somewhat of a tradition at this blog to look back at the year that was and remember the year’s biggest pop cultural disappointments. Some were crappy albums, TV shows, or video games that we were forced to endure. Others were problematic cultural phenomena. And some were disappointing not because they were terrible, but because they had the potential to be great and fell far short. So let’s take a look at what disappointed me in 2013. More

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