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Friday, Jun 27, 2014
Episode four of The Wolf Among Us feels mostly unnecessary. Maybe this is a sign that Telltale should mix up their episodic structure some more.

Structurally, Telltale’s games are pretty linear. We’ve realized that now after seeing the format repeated in both The Walking Dead Season 2 and The Wolf Among Us. Our many choices in these games exist to make that linearity feel unique and personal to us. This is particularly noticeable in The Walking Dead with its constant concern with life and death stakes. As a result, our every decisions feels like it carries that heavy dramatic weight. Each death of one of the game’s cast members feels partially like our fault because of the choices we made, and this gives us a sense of personal responsibility for the actions that have played out. These extreme consequences keep us invested and interested in every little choice made in that game.


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Thursday, Jun 26, 2014
The latest Mario Kart expands its mixture of interventionism and indifference beyond the tracks.

Mario Kart sticks out amongst other established Nintendo series. Like Mario, Zelda, or Metroid, certain constants have persisted over the years. Cartoonish characters, drifting, and wacky items have all become its distinguishing characteristics.  But it’s the last example, the items, that best illustrate Mario Kart’s unique qualities. 


They represent a chance, unexpected upsets, and straight up dumb luck that doesn’t exist in the clockwork levels of Super Mario (there will always be a goomba on the ground traveling from right to left on World 1-1). Zelda’s steady accumulation of items build out a consistent internal logic that governs that game’s world. For example, torches can be lit, the boomerang can spread fire, and therefore the boomerang can be used to spread a flame to multiple torches.  Metroid is similar. Ongoing success is determined by the tools you find, which are discovered through testing your existing skills. In all these games, failure is the result of a lack of knowledge or execution: you either haven’t learned how to succeed or you screw up the implementation.


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Wednesday, Jun 25, 2014
Does Watch Dogs suggest that the only unscrupulous act in the information age is an act of embodied violence?

I still haven’t finished Watch Dogs. I’ve been playing it on and off again (mostly off) since its release, but I just can’t work up the interest necessary to press the power button on my Xbox for the most part.


I love open world games. They’re kind of my thing, but there are two really essential elements of an open world game that are necessary to make them work well in my mind. First and foremost is the world itself. It has to have a personality. It has to be a place that is interesting to occupy. The Grand Theft Auto series is good at this with their evocation of particular eras and of specific American cities and their ability to send up the culture surrounding those times and places. The Assassin’s Creed series is also good at this. It presents interesting places and times in history that are fascinating to explore within the mythology of the eons spanning war between the Assassins and the Templars.


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Tuesday, Jun 24, 2014
When we talk about video games, we don't seem to have the same understanding of "choice" as we do in other media or even in real life.

Morality is conditional. There is no way to determine ahead of time what the appropriate moral decision is for a given situation. A truly complex decision is woven with so many thread and contains so many competing needs that a truly right path may be too difficult to follow through or may not even exist. When we go through life, we are confronted by thousands if not millions of choices every day. Most end up being choices of no consequence. For instance, walking down the sidewalk and observing an insect on the path, the choice to step on it or not presents itself. So small is the choice that it probably doesn’t even enter the person’s mind.


Generally when we call something a choice, we speak of those moments that seem to possess potential consequences and that require conscious thought when considering it. They may be small things, like what to order off the menu or (along the same lines) what car to buy. What we call a choice are things that we stop and think about, weighing whatever considerations we feel necessary and then picking an option that seems reasonable.


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Monday, Jun 23, 2014
The Wolf Among Us explores a very real broken economy through the unreal lives of its fairy tale inspired characters.

Having reached its midway point, The Wolf Among Us forces its protagonist to confront his relationship to the economic forces that are causing Fabletown society to unravel.


This episode we discuss Bigby’s and our own complicity with those forces.


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