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

 
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Thursday, May 29, 2014
Who’s in charge in Transistor? Maybe nobody.

This post contains spoilers for Transistor


Transistor is a story about people struggling to maintain control over an ever-shifting situation.  Everyone in the game, be they heroes, villains, or the average citizen, are fooled into thinking that they have exerted a lasting influence over others.  Diversity somehow finds a way to trump their efforts, even the efforts of the person holding controller.


Cloudbank, the game’s high tech cityscape, makes promises of power and influence to its citizens, but it does so in a way that is both limited and prone to arbitrary decision making.  On the surface, the city seems like a democratic success; “users” can vote on everything from city planning projects to the weather and the winners get to see their plans enacted.  In reality, this capricious mass has a hard time staying focused on any long-term structural change.  Votes go back and forth and random pieces of architecture make for odd juxtapositions.


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Wednesday, May 28, 2014
In Transistor, a woman lacking a voice and a man lacking a body manage to complete one another. It is a game of impotent men and potent swords.

Perhaps, the most intimate relationship that is typically developed in most video games is between the player and that player’s weapon. After all in most games, the gun or the sword becomes the dominant way of interacting with the world, one of the few ways that we can “touch” that world or shape it, destructive though that shaping might be.


As a result, in video games, it is props that we become more familiar with than characters, coming to know them and depend on them with only the occasional bit of advice or hint of friendship or camaraderie provided by an NPC or the voice of a tutorial.


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Tuesday, May 27, 2014
While Device 6 is a game about exploring textuality. Simogo's other game of exploration, Year Walk, explores the ritual and folklore of an equally unusual but seemingly more mundane landscape.

Following up on our previous discussion of Simogo’s quirky iOS title, Device 6, this week we take a look at Simogo’s other little game about exploration, Year Walk.


While the two games share an interest in how players are presented with and interact with virtual spaces, a commitment to to a unique aesthetic, and a quirky and unusual world marked by puzzles and riddles, the two games definitely do not so obviously resemble one another in other ways. Gone is the maze of textuality that defines Device 6. Instead, the player explores a barren Northern European landscape in an effort to perform a ritual ages old.


This week we discuss the similarities and differences between the two games as well as what makes Year Walk a particularly compelling game world to explore in its own right.


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Friday, May 23, 2014
We often don't notice in games how the world must be sacrificed for our progress.

This post contains spoilers for A Dark Room.


A Dark Room is a difficult game to summarize in genre terms. It’s an iOS game that is part RPG, part strategy game, open world text adventure—or something like that. It is Candy Box, but far less upbeat. What it “is,” however, is less important than what it is about.


A Dark Room is about the relentless pursuit of progress, that continual self-improvement that so many games are structured around. I love progress in whatever form it takes in a game whether it be an expanding world or new abilities or new tools. That progress is compelling when it works, and addictive at its best, but there’s a much darker side to that progress and A Dark Room revels in the disturbing intersection between obsession and improvement.


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Thursday, May 22, 2014
Netrunner is a constant battle of wits and aggression, a struggle for power, for constant dominance... except when it isn't.

Netrunner is a game of mega-corporations advancing their nefarious agendas while protecting their servers against anarchic, criminal, and DIY hackers. The game creates a beautiful asymetric system (which I delve into in greater detail here), a tense and shifting play space that creates some of the most exhilarating tabletop gaming matches you can experience. Netrunner is a constant battle of wits and aggression, a struggle for power, for constant dominance… except when it isn’t.


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