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Thursday, Apr 10, 2014
Experimenting with broken design lets you examine the ways small changes could have profound effects on play. We are all better for having played an unbalanced version of a well designed game.

Earlier this week right here on PopMatters, Erik Kersting gave his reasons for why the April Fools’ Day game mode for League of Legends needs to go. I agree with Erik, albeit for different reasons that I’ll get to shortly. But before URF takes a bow, we should spend a moment reflecting on what makes a game breaking event like this wonderful. When balance is thrown out the window, we can learn a whole bunch about good game design.


For those missing out on the manatee-inspired “prank,” Ultra Rapid Fire (URF) mode is the same basic Summoners Rift version of League of Legends with a massive twist. All players enter the arena with an endless supply of mana, 80% cooldown reduction on all of their spells, and a 100% faster attack speed bonus for ranged champions. The result is an absolutely chaotic exercise in keyboard mashing. It’s a treat.


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Wednesday, Apr 9, 2014
The star-singer from Broadway's American Idiot, Rebecca Naomi Jones performed her musical inspirations for "American Songbook".

Not yet a household name, Rebecca Naomi Jones may still be familiar to New York theater-goers for her starring turn in Green Day’s musical American Idiot, Passing Strange and last summer’s gut-busting musical take on Shakespeare Love’s Labour’s Lost. She was invited to perform a set for Lincoln Center’s “American Songbook” series, an honorable and unique music series. Her’s was the second to last show—earlier in the year indie/rock artists like Beth Orton, Jason Isbell, Deer Tick and unique musical performers like Taylor Mac and Patina Miller had their own evenings.


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Wednesday, Apr 9, 2014
Simultaneously invoking the age of the pharaohs and propagating hip-hop futurism, the Egyptian Lover was a stalwart of the West Coast pre-gangsta scene.

Way before gangsta rap became the dominant and domineering style in the region, California’s hip-hop flavor of choice was electro. In stark contrast to ‘90s gangsta rap’s recycled P-Funk grooves and obsession with street authenticity, the more style-conscious West Coast electro of the 1980s looked to European synth innovators like Kraftwerk and, with keyboards and drum machines in tow, melded post-disco innovations with rap bravado to create a slick and sleek brand of futurist dance music. Unfortunately, this pivotal era of West Coast hip-hop is often ignored, both by broader musical histories and even some of the artists themselves who have a certain image they’d like to maintain (if you really want to listen to some of Dr. Dre’s best work, I’d recommend seeking out the tracks he cut in the ‘80s with the decidedly un-gangsta World Class Wreckin’ Cru).


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Wednesday, Apr 9, 2014
In celebration of his 40th year as a published author, we present these five unfilmed, and five already available Stephen King books that are crying out for a cinematic (re)configuration.

Forty years ago, on 5 April to be exact, a book entitled Carrie was released to limited fanfare. Written by a then unknown scribe named Stephen King, while he was struggling, it was actually his fourth complete novel (but first to be published). With an initial run of 30,000 copies, few could imagine the cottage industry it would help fuel. While the hardcover was hardly a hit, the paperback sold over one million copies. King quit his job as a teacher to concentrate on his new career and the rest, as they say, is one of the greatest runs in horror prose history. The mild mannered man from Maine with a wealth of internal demons and a demented way of expressing them would go on to sell a staggering 350 million books, many of which have been adapted into successful (or in many cases, schlocky) movies. In fact, during the ‘80s and ‘90s, hardly a year went by when another King effort made it onto either the big or small screen.


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Wednesday, Apr 9, 2014
Hearthstone concerns itself with the seemingly small, innocuous, and trivial elements of playing a game in a non-digital medium, and I admire the game for recognizing that these may not be details that are completely innocuous or unimportant in terms of why we take pleasure in the act of play.

I love poker chips. I especially love clay poker chips. They have a weight to them, making them feel significant, which seems to me like a good thing. After all, they represent something, money, the stakes that you’re really willing to put at risk in what is otherwise a very abstract game.


A few months ago, I wrote an article concerning the physicality of some representation in video games (”We’re Not Computers. We’re Physical.”, PopMatters, 7 January 2014). More specifically, I focused on the physical actions required of the player of The Room, the iOS puzzle game that asks players to investigate puzzle boxes by manipulating them via touch screen. Like the weight of poker chips, The Room seems to create a physical interaction that through physical representation limits some of the abstraction and distance that games sometimes feature as a result of their focus on mechanics.


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