Call for Essays About Any Aspect of Popular Culture, Present or Past

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Friday, Jul 25, 2014
Is story so tangential to the gaming experience that even a self-professed story-lover can play an entire game and not glean a single plot point from it all?

I hate skipping cut scenes. I never do it. I understand wanting to get into the game quickly, but cut scenes are important. They’re part of the experience, whether you like them or not, and they’re a major mouthpiece for what the game is about thematically. Beyond that, I’m very interested in how games tell a story, their ambition versus the reality of execution. Often the failures are just as interesting as the successes.


But all that didn’t stop me from skipping the cut scenes in Sniper Elite 3, and the one important story cut scene in the Destiny beta. I know, I’m a bad person, but I just didn’t care. I didn’t care about the characters, I didn’t care about the plots, and I didn’t care about the themes. I didn’t care about anything those games had to say, and I don’t know exactly why.


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Thursday, Jul 24, 2014
Can we overcome the Darkness through the power of dance? We’ll see.

I’ve been thinking about dancing in video games and not in the Dance Central, “you are the dancer” sense. I’m talking about games where dancing is far from (at least as far as I can tell) the central interest of the game. I’m talking about the Destiny beta, a weird place where you are the universe’s savior and also its interstellar b-boy. Dancing is seemingly a light hearted and minor action in the game, but it is an important illustration of how difficult it is to maintain a game’s thematic tone.


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Tuesday, Jul 22, 2014
Fighting games are more deeply centered on physical movement than any other game genre and that focus highlights the myriad of ways that motion can be presented.

It’s strange what can become normal when disbelief is suspended. So much of what is culturally understood about guns, government, science, other people, and so on is informed by the liberties taken by popular fiction. Fiction reflects reality. People can tell fiction from reality, but each still informs the other. Video games have tried with varying degrees of success to capture a somewhat accurate reflection of reality in a number of ways, but one area that they still tend to fall short in is in portraying a sense of physicality. Digital avatars are most often a neutral blob of pixels waiting to be unceremoniously shredded apart, or they are inorganic and plastic representations with barely any feeling of tangibility (Mark Filipowich, “The Gamer’s Dressing Room”, Game Church, 14 January 2014.). Graphical fidelity feels like a natural excuse, but the relatively low-fi Walking Dead series is able to communicate the pain, exhaustion, and physical terror of its characters through the smallest audiovisual cues and Twine artists like Merritt Kopas and Kaitlin Tremblay are also talented at communicating a sense of physical presence in their textually based games.


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Monday, Jul 21, 2014
This week our podcasters continue to traverse the surreal highways and byways of Kentucky Route Zero, as we focus in on its third act.

The surreal world of Kentucky Route Zero continues to fascinate and confound with the release of its third act.


This episode we discuss this act along with the interlude between it and the previous one, The Entertainment.


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Monday, Jul 21, 2014
by PopMatters Staff
PopMatters seeks essays (1,200 to 3,000 words, usually) about any aspect of popular culture, present or past.

(If you are interested in pitching a review of some specific current work or performance, please contact the appropriate section editor.) We prefer careful analysis of the chosen subject matter with the intention of supporting an original thesis; we aren’t particularly interested in articles that merely want to promote their subject. An assessment of what ideological work a given pop culture phenomenon performs (i.e. what has allowed something to become popular, what’s at stake in its popularity besides money, how it is situated in a historical or geographical context, etc.) is especially welcome. Ideally essays will draw on sophisticated interpretive strategies derived from a theoretically informed point of view, but will be presented for a general reader in lively, accessible language.


For examples of the diversity of topics and range of approaches we welcome, please have a look at PopMatters features and columns archives.


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