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

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Friday, Apr 18, 2014
Device 6 does a wonderful job conveying the physical layout of an environment, but does a relatively poor job conveying the unique characteristics of a location.

Device 6 is a puzzle game wrapped in a text adventure. Most of the story is expressed through text, while sound and an occasional picture are used to facilitate interactivity and add flavor to the environment.

The excellent sense of space comes entirely from the presentation of the text. Chapters begin like a normal book, in which the story is split into paragraphs meant to be read from left to right and top to bottom. Soon the text changes, and it’s no longer organized into paragraphs, it’s organized into shapes that correspond to the layout of the environment. If you’re moving through a hallway, the text is displayed as a single long line, if you’re going up stairs, the text is cut into steps and the screen automatically pans up, or if you reach an intersection, then the text splits off in multiple directions. It’s a clever trick that makes the act of reading unusually physical. The end result is that we have a stronger sense of space than text can usually convey by itself.

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Thursday, Apr 17, 2014
The Stick of Truth represents the best of what South Park offers: satire with sincerity.

When I’m looking to encapsulate a game’s tone and its own treatment of its subject matter, I listen to its music. For example, Skyrim takes its high fantasy very seriously. Forged iron, arcane magic, and fearsome dragons rule the land and are treated with respect. It is an earnest world of sword and sorcery that treats all our D&D fantasies with the reverence that we secretly harbor. Just listen to its theme:

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Wednesday, Apr 16, 2014
The Blind Swordsman at first might seem like madness, a video game without an essential component of the video game, the video part.

When I was 10-years-old, I fell in love with an issue of G.I. Joe called “Silent Interlude.”

It wasn’t love at first sight.

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Tuesday, Apr 15, 2014
It is valuable sometimes to look at something broken to see how well it could work.

The more that I approach games critically, the less interested that I am in distinguishing good games from bad ones. A major complaint of the last console generation is that games cost too much to develop and that they cost too much to play (Chris Kohler, “Videogames Can’t Afford to Cost This Much”, Wired, 13 April 2012), and there’s no reason to believe that that trend will slow down. Under such circumstances, making a bad game is an unacceptable risk. But with the last console generation winding down and the next one’s library not yet fleshed out, audiences seem somewhat more receptive to what “bad” games can teach. Speaking as somebody who’ is always at least a year behind, it’s refreshing that the previous console generation has wound down and the new one has yet to pick up momentum. It has become a time to explore failures.

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Monday, Apr 14, 2014
This week we play a few hands of Blizzard's collectible card game, Hearthstone, while considering its place in the free-to-play gaming landscape.

Another day, another free-to-play release, but this one has been launched by a developer with a long history of bringing virtual addiction to the masses.

This week we play a few hands of Blizzard’s collectible card game, Hearthstone, while considering its place in the free-to-play gaming landscape.

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