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by G. Christopher Williams

13 Apr 2011


Designed by indie developer Anna Anthropy, Adult Swim’s latest flash game, Lesbian Spider-Queens of Mars, is punishing.

The punitive nature of the game is derived from two sources, both of which appear to be clear inspirations for the game. The first influence is obviously a retro game aesthetic. Lesbian Spider-Queens of Mars apes ‘80s arcade retro gaming in its low res graphics, simple gameplay, and even down to its pre-game splash screens that describe the point values of the slaves that you will be “reacquiring” throughout the game. And, oh yeah, it also borrows from the punishing difficulty of 1980s-style quarter eating masochism.

Which is all well and good, given that the other influence that the game is obviously borrowing heavily upon is a kind of 1970s exploitation theme, more specifically Lesbian Spider-Queens of Mars is more or less a “women in prison” movie ported to game form.

by Kris Ligman

12 Apr 2011


Image of boys playing video games from Inquiry

This past weekend I was given the honor to present a paper at Rutgers School of Communication’s inaugural games studies conference, The Game Behind the Video Game. The conference was broken down into business, law, and society tracks, with a fascinating spectrum of subjects across those subjects. My presentation, held on a society panel along with Ren Reynolds of The Virtual Policy Network and Burcu Bakioglu of the University of Indiana, focused on a particular prosumer subculture known as Let’s Play.

Let’s Play are multimedia videogame walkthroughs. While the Let’s Play community is just one of many out there who marry production of web assets with fan activity, they are an interesting case in their own right for testing the threshold of transformative works.

I find Let’s Plays worthy of talking about from an academic standpoint because they change the meaning of play. I’ve always believed the true proof of legitimacy with any fan practice is simply if people enjoy it. And since LPs are popular, something about them must strike a chord even among those who prefer to play and experience games on their own. What remains is coming up with a framework for the hows and whys of game watching, which is what this series will be doing.

by Aaron Poppleton

12 Apr 2011


A few years ago, a writer by the name of Christine Love released Digital: A Love Story quietly into the wilds of the internet.  Set in a idealized vision of late 1980s computer culture, it told the story of two people who meet on a BBS and fall in love—albeit with a few Gibsonian complications thrown in for good measure.  The story was well written, capturing the feel of not only the first stumbling steps into adolescent romance but also the contradictory connected isolation of the early internet.  The story on its own would have been interesting enough, but Love’s decision to present the story via an old looking interface added to the immersion of the story as well as pushed the right nostalgic buttons for some members of her audience while also evoking an idealized image of the past for others.  In short, Digital was a period piece, set during those infant days of networking when stealing long distance codes in order to connect to a remote BBS was done without a second thought (I suppose it goes without saying that it was also set during a time when long distance phone calls were actually a big deal—before cellular telephones made the concept archaic). 

Digital had its flaws, which are mostly courtesy of its occasionally clunky interface and a few design decisions that were symptomatic of Digital’s short development cycle, but the strength of the writing and the charm of its unique presentation were more than enough to make it something of a critical success.  Here was a solid example of what electronic literature could do, something which hadn’t really been in evidence since the days of Patchwork Girl or Twelve Blue—and Digital’s youth meant that it was better able to take advantage of the electronic format than its predecessors.  Thematically the narrative was exciting as well, as it provided an interesting, if idealized, view of the role of technology in forging new relationships and ways of relating to one another.  Setting it in the early days of the internet (back before it was the internet, really) better helped to highlight these themes by restricting the interaction to text on the computer screen—no pictures, no face to face conversation.

by Michelle Welch

11 Apr 2011


A recent visit to Jeff Goldblum’s Wikipedia entry unearthed what initially appeared to be vandalization of his page’s filmography: a dubious and conspicuously silly credit as the voice of Dracula in a 1996 video game titled Goosebumps: Escape From HorrorLand. I thought for sure that it was someone’s idea of a laugh and a successful one at that. Yes, in the 1990s, R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps series spawned a commercial empire that branded every conceivable item that a child might demand from a parent, so a video game was certainly plausible. But with Jeff Goldblum? I smelled a Rickroll. Logic said that this Wikipedia claim couldn’t exist because if it did exist, there would be a wildly popular viral video in existence, making Count Goldblum synonymous with the word “slumming.” There was no way that something like this could escape the notice of the all-seeing, all-hearing, all-remembering Internet. 

Thus, videographic evidence was sought, and YouTube was consulted. If Jeff Goldblum had ever vanted to zuck yer blood, some enterprising audio/video packrat would have a sample of the game. A quick search of the terms “Goosebumps Goldblum” returned promising results. Scroll ahead to 6:05 in the clip below to see Goldblum do a whole lot more than just voice acting.

by G. Christopher Williams

11 Apr 2011


At Tom’s suggestion, the Moving Pixels podcast crew decided to take a trip back in time to have a look at Jordan Mechner’s 1997 game, The Last Express.

A thriller/mystery packaged within the structure of a kind of much more interactive Choose Your Own Adventure, this point-and-click adventure is really not exactly like any of the genre categories that I just listed.  Featuring a very different approach to the concept of a video game script and some interesting ways of playing with time, The Last Express is quite unique, offering a very mature and very innovative approach to interactive storytelling worth mulling over even a decade later.

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Moving Pixels Podcast: Unearthing the 'Charnel House'

// Moving Pixels

"This week we discuss Owl Creek Games's follow up to Sepulchre, the triptych of tales called The Charnel House Trilogy.

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