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Thursday, Feb 26, 2015
If each card in Netrunner is a political cartoon, then each deck is a political paradigm.

Last year I described each card in Android: Netrunner as a sort of “interactive political cartoon.” The card game from Fantasy Flight Games is set in a dystopian cyberpunk world in which mega corporations advance hidden agendas while hackers break into secure servers to steal information. The world of Netrunner is ripe with political themes relevant to its fiction and to the real world alike. If each card is a political cartoon, then each deck is a political paradigm.


Take the Anarch faction of runners (hackers), the most recent recipient of a Netrunner deluxe expansion, aptly named Order and Chaos, featuring three new faction identities and a slew of new cards to add to their arsenal. What is an “anarch”? The term conjures up images of masked protesters inciting violence or punk rockers with mohawks, leather jackets, and an attitude. Indeed, there are in fact people in the real world who identify as anarchists but whose political activism only goes as far as refusing to vote. I think we can safely assume the existence of an anarchist aesthetic at least among some disaffected youth.


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Wednesday, Feb 25, 2015
In which the author suggests that the new Lara Croft might be the best example of androgyny in gaming.

Last weekend, I played the board game Bora Bora, designed by Stefan Feld, whose game Castles of Burgundy is one of my favorite board games of recent years. Bora Bora is a Eurogame, which for those that run in board game circles know usually indicates a carefully balanced game with a low running time and probably no dice (though this game actually does use dice). Eurogames are also frequently economic development games that ask players to collect resources and develop an engine to drive an economy. They are also known for their wooden pieces, which often represent resources and people.


People themselves often serve as a kind of resource in Eurogames, since frequently the limited size of a population in such a game determines what jobs can be assigned and what then can be produced on a given turn. As far as people go in Eurogames, like many things in the genre, they are mostly abstracted concepts. They represent the ability to implement an action or to produce a particular good. They represent “work” itself and have little to no personal identity in general. Indeed one of the more general identity markers assigned to human beings, their gender identity, is rarely a concern in Eurogames.


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Friday, Feb 20, 2015
Constant momentum in games like Alien: Isolation means I'm always engaged as a player, but that engagement comes at the cost of fear.

It has been months since I played Alien: Isolation and going back to it now feels strange. It’s still the most impressive big-budget horror game to come out in recent years, but compared to Resident Evil HD Remaster, it also fails to live up to the horror standard of 1996.


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Thursday, Feb 19, 2015
There shouldn’t be any "game over” screens in Westeros. That's too merciful.

Well I knew Essos was dangerous, but this is ridiculous. Five minutes into “The Lost Lords,” the second episode of Telltale’s Game of Thrones series, I’ve seen the game over screen four times. Eventually I make it through the annoyingly deadly bar brawl. I’ve come away irritated but also appreciative of the various evolutionary splits in the adventure game genre. Not all games are like this, and there’s a good chance Game of Thrones can correct its course.


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Wednesday, Feb 18, 2015
Sexuality is an important part of monstrosity, and League of Legends breaks with its traditional depiction of female monsters with this beast.

Biologically speaking, it seems that there is no essential difference between the genders among pac-people. Both Pac-Man and Ms. Pac-Man share an identical body type. It is only markers worn by Ms. Pac-Man that signal the gender difference between the two, her bow and lipstick (well, there is also her mole, which may or may not be painted on a la Marilyn Monroe).


In this regard, Pac-Man and Ms. Pac-Man share something in common with the typical silhouettes that represent the distinction between the men’s restroom and the women’s restroom. These individuals share an identical body type with only the female silhouette differentiated from the unadorned male silhouette by her triangular skirt.


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