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

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Friday, Mar 28, 2014
The levels in Brothers are specifically designed to convey the story of travel.

Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons captures a sense of scope and adventure that few games accomplish, but that many try. Most games focus purely on the size of a world when trying to convey that kind of scope. Big worlds are, after all, big. But that takes a lot of work. The levels in Brothers are tiny compared to games like Skyrim or Dragon Age, but what they lack in size they make up for in art. The game’s levels are specifically designed to convey—as G. Christopher Williams put it in our Brothers Moving Pixels podcast on Brothers—the “story of travel.”


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Thursday, Mar 27, 2014
An entire year has passed since I last played Journey, but the weathered ruins and scattered tombstones seem instantly familiar. I have come to this place as a pilgrim, transforming play into ritual.

I have made this crossing over glittering sand nearly a dozen times, but this time is different. Two years ago to the day, Thatgamecompany released Journey. Now on its anniversary, to relive my affection for the game and meditate on its excellent design, I glide over the dunes. An entire year has passed since I last played Journey, but the weathered ruins and scattered tombstones seem instantly familiar. I have come to this place as a pilgrim, transforming play into ritual.


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Monday, Mar 24, 2014
by Erik Kersting
Donkey Kong's representation as a character and his success as a hero is important because it keys into what we want in an avatar, someone who is responsible, who puts on a tie in the morning, and does the selfless dirty work necessary to get by.

Mario has always been a hero. Since his first appearance in Donkey Kong, he’s been known as a sort of short and stocky Italian plumber with a will to do good and a heart of gold. Meanwhile, Donkey Kong, now one of the most beloved of Nintendo’s characters, began as the angry villain atop the tower throwing barrels at the lovable “Jumpman” and endlessly taking “Pauline” away. It’s interesting how, as time has changed, so has the appearance of the kindly ape and what that appearance tells us about our perception of our heroes.


There has always been something deeper to Donkey Kong, and considering the extremely obvious reference to King Kong present in his character is a great first step in this regard. Nintendo wanted to create in its audience an immediate feeling of nostalgia and familiarity with the villain of its new game, so they emulated a successful monster from film. Yet this also reveals something about Donkey Kong’s character as a misunderstood beast. King Kong is a tragic figure, misunderstood and tortured, who relies on his instincts, which are all he has, until his fatal fall. Similarly, we can assume that Donkey Kong is a misunderstood tragic figure in Donkey Kong, though the plot is so loose we may never fully understand his motives. Yet, just as King Kong is the main character of King Kong and more interesting than any of the film’s human characters, Donkey Kong is obviously a stronger character than Jumpman, which is why Nintendo had to bring him back for his own game.


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Friday, Mar 21, 2014
It’s easy to be great when no one expects anything. It’s harder to live up to greatness mired in nostalgia.

I’ve been tough on Need for Speed: Rivals in the past (see Need for Speed: Rivals Is at War with Itself” and Need for Speed: Rivals Is at War with Its Soundtrack”). Part of the reason for that criticism is because I really do think the open world concept in the game is stupid, even if Rivals does it better than any other racing games so far, but it is also partly because when I think back on Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit, I think of this one transcendent moment of gaming that would render any comparison pointless.


It’s pretty unfair, especially because that transcendent moment is just as much a fiction as it is a reality. It is partly a result of all the mechanics of the game coming together, part dumb luck, and part foggy nostalgic love. It is less of a single memorable moment and more of a series of great moments that I’ve unconsciously combined into something singularly transcendent. Or so I assume.


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Thursday, Mar 20, 2014
Is Titanfall catering to me or just acting condescending?

I don’t play competitive first-person shooters very often. I dip into Call of Duty every once in a while, but (as ludicrous as this might sound) it’s more for the story than anything. The sad, brutal facts are that I no longer have the twitch skills nor the time to be very competitive. I have a good time, but bump my head on the skill ceiling quickly.


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