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by G. Christopher Williams

24 Nov 2010


A few weeks ago I extolled the virtue of the Fallout series as a “scrounging simulator” (Fallout, the Scrounging Simulator”, PopMatters, 27 October 2010).  A weird pleasure can be derived from these games just in poking through the ruins of a wasteland, finding material and evaluating its worth, locating junk to cobble together into useful weapons and apparel, and then bartering with other wasteland inhabitants to get what you really need.

While this odd “game within the games” measures your efficiency and encourages frugality and “traveling light”, it also, of course, strongly parallels the genre interests of the series as an experience of a post-apocalyptic world.  It successfully weds mechanics that promote what I experience as a strangely pleasurable activity with the story of a wasteland traveler.  However, while I enjoy this simulation of a conservative and frugal economics, there are other elements of simulation that Fallout provides that, while perhaps as seemingly authentic as a scrounging simulator, I derive far less pleasure from.

by Kris Ligman

23 Nov 2010


Note: The grotesque subject matter of this game might be troubling for some readers. Please proceed with caution.

I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with the Saw franchise—that is, I love reading about it, but cannot for the life of me watch it. This is a bit of a persistent problem for me. I’m a creepypasta addict as well, but when it comes to actual horror movies (or games), I find I don’t have particularly good tolerance for them.

So it is anyone’s guess why I downloaded Beautiful Escape: Dungeoneer, a recently released independent title made by Nicolau Chaud using RPG Maker 2003. The premise casts you roughly in the role of a would-be JigSaw, luring hapless victims back to your house so that you may stuff them in your basement dungeon. All sexual overtones that you might expect ensue. The specific goal of the game is to design your dungeon with a series of traps just torturous enough that your prisoner will escape within an inch of their life, so brutally maimed and traumatized that they’ll inevitably kill themselves—a “beautiful escape” comparable to a kind of sadomasochistic orgasm. Allowing them to survive with adequate health to call the cops results in a Game Over. Killing them in the course of the torture, on the other hand, is permissible, but it docks points from your score.

by G. Christopher Williams

22 Nov 2010


While we like to put game mechanics in nice little boxes in order to describe to others how a video game plays, nevertheless, this generation of games has seen a lot of cross breeding between game genres, making it harder to easily describe what a game essentially “is”.

From leveling up in an FPS to purchasing upgrades in platformers, the last decade seems one fixitated on hybridization as a form of innovation.  In particular the pleasure derived from evolving characters, mechanically and narratively, seems to be one of the more popular means of appealing to players who want to have a hand in developing the role that they will play in a game.

This week we discuss such hybrids and what the strengths and weaknesses of taking a Frankenstein-like approach to design might be.

by Nick Dinicola

19 Nov 2010


Last week I wrote about Fable 3 and the forced choices we’re faced with as we fight our way to the crown, this week I want to write about the forced choices that we’re faced with as king.

As king, the game presents you with a series of good and evil choices, so on the surface, it looks like you’re choosing whether to be a good or evil king: Choose between forcing child labor or building a school, building an orphanage or building a whorehouse, dumping sewage on the poor or building sewage plant. By this point in the game, you’ve probably already decided what kind of king you’re going to be, good or evil, so your answer to these binary options is obvious. You’ve probably already made the decision without even seeing the question.

by Scott Juster

18 Nov 2010


Herman Melville’s Moby Dick sits on my bookshelf like a mountain whose cliffs bear the scratches and divots of many failed attempts at the summit.  My ability as a reader is such that I have the necessary skill to finish it; doing so is a matter of dedication.  The 2005 GameCube game Killer7 enjoys an occasional spin in the disc drive but spends most of its time gathering dust.  Like Moby Dick, I know that I have the basic mechanical skills required to see it through to the end.  What stops me is the the mental commitment required to wade through the unconventional game systems and surreal themes that make Suda’s games so uniquely challenging.

Although it is an extremely odd game, Killer7 illustrates the subtle shift that has occurred in the structure and difficulty of single player games.  The skills needed to finish the average linear or plot-driven game have come to resemble those required in other media: getting to the end of a game is less about sheer skill and more about making the intellectual decision to persevere.

//Mixed media
//Blogs

Double Take: 'The French Connection' (1971)

// Short Ends and Leader

"You pick your feet in Poughkeepsie, and we pick The French Connection for Double Take #18.

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