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

 
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Tuesday, Oct 14, 2014
by Brian Crecente (McClatchy-Tribune News Service)
Star Wars Battle Pod is a single-player flight combat game that uses an array of high-tech gadgets packed into a gaming pod to drop players into the action of some of Star Wars’ key space fight moments.

Long gone is the golden age of arcades, two decades that saw some of the best coin-op games in history not only take over game rooms, but turn into massive pop culture icons. It was the era, for better or worse, that gave us Pac-Man Fever, a slew of Space Invaders songs and cemented the ubiquity of Donkey Kong.


While arcades games may never return to that former glory, they remain a sort of gaming mainstay across America. You can find them still in bowling alleys, trucks stops, niche arcades and, of course, entertainment complexes like Dave and Buster’s.


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Monday, Oct 13, 2014
This week we discuss the simple and basic approach to the hardboiled genre in 2013's cult favorite, Gunpoint.

The hardboiled detective genre is not known for its subtlety or complication. A good hardboiled tale simply hits you like a right to the jaw.


This week we discuss how Gunpoint presents a hardboiled fiction through simple, straightforward puzzle mechanics and with surprisingly little gunplay.


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Friday, Oct 10, 2014
Motte Island is a combination of Silent Hill and Hotline Miami.

Balancing action in a horror game is always a tricky prospect, but Mottle Island gets it better than most by combing two games that should be completely opposed to each other.


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Thursday, Oct 9, 2014
by Brian Crecente (McClatchy-Tribune News Service)
Sleek, tiny boxes that can deliver a near-endless stream of music, television, movies and games are starting to nose their way into the multi-billion dollar video game industry.

Sleek, tiny boxes that can deliver a near-endless stream of music, television, movies and games are starting to nose their way into the multi-billion dollar video game industry.


Call them set-top streamers or micro-consoles or streaming media devices, the latest entries in this growing market are coming from behemoths like Amazon, Razer and Sony. All three will have their own take on the diminutive devices out this year.


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Thursday, Oct 9, 2014
It’s easy to underplay the “board” part of a board game as merely serving as the boundaries of a game rather than as a fundamental part of a game's design.

Ah, the joy of a physical tabletop game. I could probably tell you the quality of a game based on the sound it makes when shaking the box. Many tabletop game reviewers devote sections of their reviews to discussing tangible components of play and for good reason. The physicality of board games is crucial to upholding a thematic play experience. Compare the feeling of a weighty copper coin versus, say, the flimsy paper money that plagues Monopoly. The thickness of cardboard can make all the difference when measuring the care a designer puts into their game. The physicality of material is crucial, but above and beyond quality in terms of importance to enjoying a game is the use of physical components in complimenting and defining the aesthetics of play.


Despite the fact that all board games have physical components by definition, it’s easy to forget how minute decisions about physical designs improve play. Take The Great Fire of London 1666 for example. Designed by Richard Denning, the game simulates the titular conflagration that razed huge swathes of London in the 17th century, destroying some 13,000 homes. Setting aside the cone-shaped wooden fire markers (delightfully solid by the way), the map design by artist Andreas Resch is gorgeous and instrumental to the aesthetic of Great Fire. Yes, the board itself is drawn as though it’s an old-timey wood print, lovingly reflecting the time period depicted in the game, but more importantly, the game’s spaces are tiny.


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