CFP: The Legacy of Radiohead's 'The Bends' 20 Years On [Deadlines: 29 Jan / 12 Feb]

 
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Tuesday, Jan 20, 2015

This post contains spoilers for The Vanishing of Ethan Carter.


There’s a saying when it comes to writing fiction. Never reference a better work in your own writing. You’ll only make the audience wish they were reading that instead. The saying is only half true. In reality, the effect of making a reference to other pieces of fiction is generally an enhancement of the feelings an audience already has towards your work. Making a reference to a better work in one that the audience isn’t liking, will make them wish they were reading that instead. However, making that same reference in a work that the audience is liking, will make them appreciate it as an homage or possibly as a deepening of the thematic message of the original. This goes for movies, poems, songs, and, yes, video games.


Ignoring for the moment that making a direct reference is complicated, it is a substantial risk because it can have the above effect of making the audience wish they were reading/watching/listening/playing the other work right now. The Vanishing of Ethan Carter does refer to the works of H.P. Lovecraft and other genre fiction, but peppered throughout the game world are a number of side stories that have an unfortunate, detrimental effect. Those short side stories make me wish any one of them were the focus of the game instead of the Carter family.


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Monday, Jan 19, 2015
We are now a year into the next generation of consoles, but many of our favorite video games of 2014 remain the smaller, quieter indie titles.

As we do each year, we discuss what was for us the standout video games of last year.


We are now a year into the next generation of consoles, but many of our favorites of 2014 remain the smaller, quieter indie titles.


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Friday, Jan 16, 2015
It turns out that in a role playing game, hit points aren't as important as we think.

Health is generally considered an important resource in games. It makes sense. When we run out of health, we die, we lose, and we have to start some portion of the game over again. We always like to know how much health we have, and in RPGs, a very numbers-driven and statistic-heavy genre, we like to know exactly how much health we have.


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Thursday, Jan 15, 2015
I believe in Clementine, and so I cried when I ask her to kill my Lee. I believe my friends in Dragon Age: Inquisition, so when I change the decor in Skyhold while they are in mourning, I make believe they notice. Choice feels a lot like faith.

Several weeks ago, when the topic of Telltale’s The Walking Dead came up, a good friend of mine announced that he did not like the game because “your choices don’t matter.” My shock and hostility has subsided, but I still fail to understand how such a perception could be true. Why did the decisions I made lead me to tears while it only led him to frustration?


Meanwhile, the past few days has seen a bevy of writing about Dragon Age: Inquisition and the choices that it contains. Patrick Klepek of Kotaku asks, “There’s much to ‘do’ in Inquisition, but how much of it is meaningful?” While Rowan Kaiser on Unwinnable says, “they’re really gun shy throughout Inquisition, with barely any choice that threatens a player’s emotions throughout the game.” Austin Walker over on Paste states (quite rightly I think), “What trained us to prefer a branching, long-form story over a series of little vignettes? I think if we ask questions like these, we’ll find our definitions of words like “real” and “meaningful” become increasingly complex.” Likewise, Todd Harper chimes in with an, ahem, “stiff” assessment that size does matter.


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Wednesday, Jan 14, 2015
The player isn't an audience for the comedy of Jazzpunk. The player instigates the laughs.

During the first mission in the surreal cyberpunk comedy-adventure game Jazzpunk, the player may run across a frog who is trying to hack into a Starbuck’s internet service in order to use the company’s WiFi. This “side quest” initiates a mini-game that essentially resembles the arcade classic Frogger, as the player takes on the role of the frog attempting to reach his interface device by hopping skillfully through oncoming traffic.


However, unlike in Frogger, in which the player is given three lives to successfully traverse the screen from its bottom to its top, following the player’s first failed attempt, the game doesn’t load up the next froggy life for the player to continue trying to get to the other side of the screen. Instead, the game switches back to the frog in the Jazzpunk world who now wears a cast on one of its legs and who asks, “Again?,” before the player can make another attempt. What follows is frogs being squished over and over again in the Frogger clone with an interim screen following each “death” that shows the Jazzpunk frog suffering more and more injury. By the fourth or fifth failure, the frog is nearly in a full body cast and crutches, and he simply pleads with the player, “Please, no more!”


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