Next-Gen Console Reviews from Polygon

Polygon isn't a perfect online publication, but it's often thoughtful and deliberate in its coverage of video games entertainment. Story for story, it's become my go-to site for well-written, timely coverage of video gaming news. Its long form features are especially good.

The Polygon team recently reviewed the next generation consoles, the PlayStation 4 and  XBox One. While the site's long form text reviews (XBox One's is here; PS4's is here) are insightful and well worth reading, Polygon's video reviews of both products, seen below, represent some of the best the site has to offer.

If you follow video games journalism for any length of time, you soon discover that so much of it is ill-written, hyperbolic and downright bad journalism. That's because most of it isn't journalism at all, but attitude- and personality-driven punditry. Blech. Polygon strives to transcend that, and often succeeds.

I'm a PlayStation guy, so I'll eventually pick up a PS4. (My PS3 games backlog, right here on my bookshelf, is still too big for me to justify a PS4 purchase at present.) Polygon gave the XBox One an "8" in its review; the PS4 received a "7.5." For invested console gamers, those scores are interesting — and perhaps even underwhelming. But Polygon is examining the big picture, confident both consoles will improve in time, as new games, UI improvements and software patches are rolled in for both consoles.

These are terrific text and video reviews. They show us what great games journalism looks like.

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J.C. Hutchins

J.C. Hutchins is an award-winning freelance transmedia writer, experience designer and novelist. He helps agencies and entertainment companies create multi-channel narratives to achieve their creative and business goals.

Cathedrals and Garden Sheds

"I'm never happy with what I've written. You imagine, before you start, there's a cathedral, and the moment it starts on the page, it's a garden shed. And then you just try to make it the best shed you can."

—Sadie Jones, novelist

via The Guardian 

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J.C. Hutchins

J.C. Hutchins is an award-winning freelance transmedia writer, experience designer and novelist. He helps agencies and entertainment companies create multi-channel narratives to achieve their creative and business goals.

Is Second Screen Content Actually "Transmedia"?

Laith Graham, an Australian buddy who's followed my career since my 7th Son podcast days, asked me this transmedia-related question on Facebook. I thought I'd share Laith's Q, and my A, here.


Hey J.C.,

I've been wondering about your thoughts on TV-related Apps and Social Media integration, and if it is "transmedia." For example: Sporting events like Formula One and iPad apps that show live track position, or Big Brother showing viewer Tweets and Facebook comments, as well as extra footage going to the viewer's iPhone app while watching the show live.

Is this now mainstream transmedia? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

—Laith


Here's my take: 

These days, the word "transmedia" is being slung about in strange ways, and being applied to different content strategies. By some folks' reckoning, having such "second screen" content is indeed a breed of transmedia — it's certainly content rolling in through a separate channel/medium (the tablet, for instance), and is designed to enhance the experience of the core content.

Personally, I approach and define "transmedia" from a narrative point of view. For me, it's all about story ... which means I think it's best-suited for fiction programming. In this case, a second screen experience that actually pushes in-world narrative content to the viewer in real time (or permits time-shifted engagement) is a more authentic use of the word and content strategy. I'm talking about canonical content, not tweets of what other viewers think of the show, etc.

Of course, this strategy need not start and stop with mobile apps or social media. Savvy showrunners can, and have, hired creators to populate the web with in-world narrative content on YouTube, "personal" blogs, etc. The TV show Castle even features novel titles written by its crime novelist hero ... which then go on sale weeks later in real stores. Crazy cool.

Anyways, that's a longwinded way of saying I personally believe the most valuable application of transmedia storytelling is when it expands and enhances the storyworld of the show — and not merely (and crassly) promotes the show itself. Doing so can deepen interest and evangelism in the show's actual content and characters — which also accomplishes a marketer's mission of promoting the show itself. Everybody wins.


So, that's my hastily-written perspective. What's yours? Am I giving non-fiction and reality programming short shrift? Are there resonant, current examples of TV-based transmedia experiences — be they non-fiction or fiction ... story-driven or promotion-only — we should know about? Pipe up in the comments.

—J.C. 

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J.C. Hutchins

J.C. Hutchins is an award-winning freelance transmedia writer, experience designer and novelist. He helps agencies and entertainment companies create multi-channel narratives to achieve their creative and business goals.

Podcast: StoryForward, Episode 35 -- Christian Fonnesbech

Hey everyone! You’re really gonna like this episode a lot, trust us! In it, Steve chats with Christian Fonnesbech, the Transmedia Director for the upcoming project Cloud Chamber. We talk about story, challenges and more.

Also, J.C. chats with ARGNet’s Michael J. Andersen about the latest happenings in the world of ARGs, and we talk about Douglas Rushkoff’s new book, Present Shock.

Links mentioned in this episode:

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J.C. Hutchins

J.C. Hutchins is an award-winning freelance transmedia writer, experience designer and novelist. He helps agencies and entertainment companies create multi-channel narratives to achieve their creative and business goals.

Podcast: StoryForward, Episode 34 -- Listener Q&A

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It’s another special Mailbag episode! Steve and J.C. answer your questions — and boy, were there some doozies this time!

Links mentioned in this episode:

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J.C. Hutchins

J.C. Hutchins is an award-winning freelance transmedia writer, experience designer and novelist. He helps agencies and entertainment companies create multi-channel narratives to achieve their creative and business goals.

J.C. Talks Transmedia With Jay Ferguson From "Guidestones"

I recently had the great fortune to be interviewed by Jay Ferguson, creator of the Emmy award-winning transmedia experience Guidestones. In these three videos, we gab about the future of the craft, being a creator in the transmedia space, and the blossoming business opportunities for transmedia programming. Enjoy!

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J.C. Hutchins

J.C. Hutchins is an award-winning freelance transmedia writer, experience designer and novelist. He helps agencies and entertainment companies create multi-channel narratives to achieve their creative and business goals.

Podcast: StoryForward, Episode 33 -- The Lizzie Bennet Diaries

This week’s guests are the creative team behind The Lizzie Bennet Diaries: Bernie Su, Margaret Dunlap, Jenni Powell, and Jay Bushman.

Links mentioned in this episode:

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J.C. Hutchins

J.C. Hutchins is an award-winning freelance transmedia writer, experience designer and novelist. He helps agencies and entertainment companies create multi-channel narratives to achieve their creative and business goals.

Podcast: StoryForward, Episode 32 -- Henry Jenkins

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Professor Henry Jenkins is our guest in this episode! He and J.C. sit down and talk about our current culture of shareable, spreadable media in this epic podcast. Also, ARGNet’s Michael Andersen stops by to update us on the latest goings-on in the ARG world, and Steve and J.C. talk Blade Runner, Survivor and their latest console game addictions.

Note: In our conversation with Michael Andersen, John Green was mistakenly identified as a co-creator of The Lizzie Bennet Diaries. We intended to reference co-creator Hank Green instead. We apologize for the oversight. 

Links mentioned in this episode:

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J.C. Hutchins

J.C. Hutchins is an award-winning freelance transmedia writer, experience designer and novelist. He helps agencies and entertainment companies create multi-channel narratives to achieve their creative and business goals.

J.C. joins forces with Protagonist Labs

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Cool things are afoot over at Protagonist Labs. Damned cool things.

When the brilliant team at the new company — led by a duo of entrepreneurs and technologists named Stephen Hood and Josh Whiting — recently contacted me and tipped me to a remarkable new product they were developing, I had a bona fide lean in moment. I think my eyes went a little wide. I know I grinned like a kid.

It's supercool stuff. It's also super-secret stuff for now, but dude. Dude. It's supercool.

Stephen and Josh follow and enjoy my prose fiction and transmedia work, and felt my creative perspective and unique storytelling skillset might help them shape this innovative product. I can't tell you what it is, but I can tell you it's unlike anything I've ever worked on ... and it's right up my alley. I couldn't say no.

And so, it's my absolute honor to announce that I'm an advisor for the company. This is a trailblazing thing we're putting together, something I believe will absolutely be worth your time and attention ... especially if you like the kind of stories I tell, and how they're told.

Other creative people, such as the supremely gifted writer and game designer Will Hindmarch, are also advising Protagonist Labs. I'm flattered to be in such awesome company, and advising such an awesome company. Stephen and Josh are crafting something remarkable, and I'm thrilled to be a part of it.

And be sure to check out Protagonist Labs and its founders (and try to guess what they're up to!) by visiting the company's site, or following the company on Twitter.

—J.C.

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J.C. Hutchins

J.C. Hutchins is an award-winning freelance transmedia writer, experience designer and novelist. He helps agencies and entertainment companies create multi-channel narratives to achieve their creative and business goals.

Podcast: StoryForward, Episode 31 -- Jeff Gomez

In this episode, we welcome Jeff Gomez (Starlight Runner), as J.C. talks with him about his unique brand of world-building in the transmedia space. Also, Steve launches his new project, Hey! Look Up!

Links mentioned in this episode:

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J.C. Hutchins

J.C. Hutchins is an award-winning freelance transmedia writer, experience designer and novelist. He helps agencies and entertainment companies create multi-channel narratives to achieve their creative and business goals.

Hello, Daddy. Hello, Mom. I'm your ch-ch-ch-ch...

Watch your back, shoot straight, conserve ammo, and never, ever cut a deal with a dragon.
—Shadowrunner street proverb

I'm honored and delighted to announce that I'm a contributor to the Shadowrun Returns short story anthology, which will be published later this year by Harebrained Schemes and Catalyst Game Labs.

My story, titled Cherry Bomb, will accompany works from awesome writers (and veteran Shadowrun contributors) such as Michael A. Stackpole, Tom Dowd, Loren L. Coleman, Jason Hardy, Jennifer Brozek and Russell Zimmerman.

I've worked closely with my longtime collaborator — and Shadowrun creator — Jordan Weisman on this story. Fans of my work will recognize some of our past projects, including Personal Effects: Dark Art, Nanovor and the educational transmedia experience Edgar Allan Poe.

I also clocked in time with the anthology's managing editor John Helfers. My objective: To ensure that Cherry Bomb seamlessly and authentically integrated with the existing canon of the badass fantasy-cyberpunk world of Shadowrun ... and intertwined with the narrative seen in Shadowrun Returns, the upcoming video game from Weisman's company Harebrained Schemes.

I've been a fan of Shadowrun since the early 1990s, so this is literally a creative dream come true for me. I fondly recall poring over Shadowrun RPG sourcebooks and playing the Super Nintendo game back in the day. It was a genuine honor to slip into this world once more, this time not just as a consumer, but as a creator. The fact that Cherry Bomb is a canonical prequel to the highly-anticipated Shadowrun Returns game is cool beyond measure.

Last March, Weisman and his team launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund Shadowrun Returns. They had an ambitious fundraising goal of $400,000. Thirty days and more than 36,000 backers later, the campaign earned more than $1.8 million. Shadowrun is a beloved storyworld indeed.

The game — and a package that includes the Shadowrun Returns anthology, and my Cherry Bomb story — is available for pre-order at Harebrained Schemes' website.

If you're unfamiliar with Shadowrun, here's a quick 101, cribbed (and edited) from Wikipedia:

Shadowrun takes place several decades in the future. In 2011, once-mythological beings (such as dragons) appeared on Earth and old forms of magic suddenly re-emerged. Large numbers of humans mutated into orks and trolls, while human children began to be born as elves, dwarves, and even more exotic creatures.

In parallel with these magical developments, the setting's early 21st century features technological and social developments associated with cyberpunk science fiction. Megacorporations control the lives of their employees and command their own armies. Technology advances make cyberware (mechanical replacement body parts) and bioware (augmented vat-grown body parts implanted in place of natural organs) common.

When conflicts arise, corporations and other organizations subcontract their dirty work to specialists, who then perform "shadowruns." The most skilled of these specialists, called shadowrunners, have earned a reputation for getting the job done. They have developed a knack for staying alive, and prospering, in the dangerous world of Shadowrun.

By all appearances, the Shadowrun Returns video game (set in the 2050 era of the storyworld) has turned into something righteously cool. I've gabbed with Jordan a few times over the past year, as the game has been developed. He and his team are busting their humps to make this game something that lives up to player expectations — expectations that have been 20+ years in the making!

It's an unenviable task, but check out this "first look" Alpha gameplay footage, hosted by Weisman and Mitch Gitelman, Harebrained Schemes' studio manager and co-founder. I think they've nailed it.

Like I said, you can pre-order your copy of Shadowrun Returns today at the company's website. If you're keen to snag my story Cherry Bomb, be sure to pre-order the package that includes the illustrated anthology.

Oh, I guess you want to know what Cherry Bomb is about. It explores if two people from wildly different worlds can fall in love while working in an ultra-polluted, ultraviolent superslum. It's also about gunfire. And blood. And pathological lying.

But it's mostly about love. I promise.

—J.C.

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J.C. Hutchins

J.C. Hutchins is an award-winning freelance transmedia writer, experience designer and novelist. He helps agencies and entertainment companies create multi-channel narratives to achieve their creative and business goals.

Podcast: StoryForward, Episode 30 -- Listener Q&A

It’s listener mail time! Steve and J.C. answer your questions, sent in via all the social networks and wonders of technology. Also: We talk about J.C.’s inability to pronounce tall pale British actors’ names correctly.

Links mentioned in this episode:

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J.C. Hutchins

J.C. Hutchins is an award-winning freelance transmedia writer, experience designer and novelist. He helps agencies and entertainment companies create multi-channel narratives to achieve their creative and business goals.

Podcast: StoryForward, Episode 29 -- Mike Selinker

Our guest is Mike Selinker (Lone Shark Games). Mike, whose puzzles appear regularly in GAMES magazine, The Chicago Tribune and The New York Times, talks with Steve and J.C. about his time at Wizards of the Coast, building ARGs like the one he did for Universal’s Repo Men, and his new book Maze of Games. Plus, if you pay attention, you just might hear a mysterious message!

Links mentioned in this episode:

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J.C. Hutchins

J.C. Hutchins is an award-winning freelance transmedia writer, experience designer and novelist. He helps agencies and entertainment companies create multi-channel narratives to achieve their creative and business goals.

Podcast: StoryForward, Episode 28 -- Lina Srivastava

Steve and J.C. spend a little time with Lina Srivastava, as they talk about using transmedia techniques for activism, raising awareness and change. Also, ARGNet’s Michael J Andersen stops by to let us know what’s happening in the ARG world.

Links mentioned in this episode:

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J.C. Hutchins

J.C. Hutchins is an award-winning freelance transmedia writer, experience designer and novelist. He helps agencies and entertainment companies create multi-channel narratives to achieve their creative and business goals.