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Monday, Feb 21, 2011
More than just a video game, Electronic Arts has given Dead Space the full transmedia treatment, shipping movies, comics, and spin off titles with the same grisly themes.

More than just a video game, Electronic Arts has given Dead Space the full transmedia treatment, shipping movies, comics, and spin off titles with the same grisly themes. In anticipation of a discussion of the release of Dead Space 2, the Moving Pixels podcast explores the universe of Dead Space as a media phenomenon. 


Is this all about marketing or do these additional properties flesh out the mythos or enliven the concepts of this action/horror hybrid?


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Friday, Feb 18, 2011
Having to run from an enemy is scary, but successfully running away is boring.

Modern horror games have it rough. Not only is it hard for anything not obviously in the survival horror genre to be accepted as a true horror game, but even those games that do classify as survival horror have to face a discerning public that’s very picky about any mechanical flaws or inconsistencies. Unfortunately, one of those technical and artistic challenges is also a major staple of the subgenre, creating scary enemies that you can run from.


While I don’t believe that combat intrinsically lessens the terror an enemy can evoke, there’s no denying that weakness is scary. Going up against an enemy so overwhelming that your only recourse is to flee is frightening, but if you can successfully escape, then one has to wonder: just how dangerous is this enemy really? Running away time and time again makes even the scariest, most disturbing monster look stupid and non-threatening.


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Thursday, Feb 17, 2011
The very concept of vengeance is amazingly complex, something we approach in our cultural artifacts with both awe and trepidation. By inhabiting birds, aliens, and even gods, we can explore the darker sides of being human.

Revenge. Some say it is a basic human need—when one is so grievously harmed by another, only retribution delivered in kind can provide catharsis. Others believe the Ghandian proverb that an eye for eye makes the whole world blind. The thirst for revenge has toppled kings and incited mob violence. Undoubtedly, the desire for revenge is a deeply felt human emotion, at times cold and calculating, and at other times heated and virulent.  Although the pursuit of violent retribution is commonly frowned upon, we recognize the emotion as natural, even primal. Vengeance is not equated to justice, although the terms are intimately related. Revenge is a concept laden with complex emotions. In our pursuit of evocative game design, how do video games best capture and discuss the intricacies of vengeance?


Revenge stories abound in other mediums. From Hamlet to Inglorious Basterds, victims have sought retaliation throughout the centuries. No collection of works, particularly in film, so thoroughly dissect revenge than South Korean Director Park Chan-Wook’s appropriately titled Vengeance Trilogy. Park’s three films (Oldboy, Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, and Sympathy for Lady Vengeance) have all received considerable acclaim, and they each deal almost exclusively with revenge in its many forms. While Mr. Vengeance portrays selfish reprisal as unattractive and misguided, Lady Vengeance depicts revenge as disturbing but cathartic, unsettling but spiritually cleansing. Oldboy focuses instead on the power of vengeance, on its ability to swirl out of control, to have a mind of its own, growing inexplicably in scale and completely enveloping practitioners, driving them ever onwards towards terrible acts.


How do games approach Park’s themes? A more relatively recent example is Bioware’s Mass Effect 2, which features the topic of revenge on multiple occasions. During Garrus’s loyalty quest, titled “An Eye for an Eye”, Commander Shepard has the opportunity to prevent Garrus from assassinating Sidonis, a turian whose treacherous act took the lives of Garrus’s old team members. In this tense scene, Shepard stands between Sidonus and certain death. If the player misses the Paragon interrupt trigger, Garrus kills Sidonus without hesitation. Here, like in Oldboy, revenge is a powerful personal force, one that blinds Garrus to reason when most heated.


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Thursday, Feb 17, 2011
I recently tried my best to think back and try to remember some 24 hour period when I hadn't played any games at all. I couldn't.

I play games every day. Literally, every day. I recently tried my best to think back and try to remember some 24 hour period when I hadn’t played any games at all. Even while traveling in London and Berlin, I always found time in the evening to play something on my DS or my Ipad or my laptop. I haven’t been so sick that a few minutes of some digital distraction didn’t seem like a good idea. Of course, there must be some time when I haven’t played a game, but I can’t for the life of me imagine when it would have been. It would have to be before I bought my first Nintendo DS, which was in 2006, so probably five years ago. From a detached point of view, this probably seems like rather juvenile behavior for a man who’s just begun the last year of his thirties and is charging towards middle age.


To be clear, I do not feel one iota of bad about my gaming habits. Rather, I take great satisfaction in them. Mine is a restless—some would say wandering—mind, and I always want some form of active engagement. And while I like a good episode of Top Chef or Castle as much as the next person, most television simply cannot hold my full attention. Indeed, most television plays just fine as a radio play with occasional glances at the images. Similarly, most video games, especially the kind that I play on a DS or an Ipad, aren’t particularly demanding of my entire attention either. Building tower defense arrays or manipulating falling blocks or even deciding on my next turn’s strategies don’t quite entertain my whole brain. Thus, the perfect synergy of casual games and casual TV. Nothing like a Top Gear marathon to clear through those Plants vs. Zombies levels.


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Wednesday, Feb 16, 2011
Motherhood may be the central villain in Visceral's mythologies.

This discussion of several of Visceral Games products, Dante’s Inferno, Dead Space, and Dead Space 2 does contain major spoilers, especially in the case of the latter two games.


Work, eviscerate, work, eviscerate.  Masculinity in the Dead Space universe is pretty minimally represented in a fairly stereotypical way by the aggressive (but ever handy) Isaac Clarke.


Femininity in this series, however, seems to be grotesquely and decorously painted all over the virtual walls of this and (to some degree at least) Visceral’s other recent game offering, Dante’s Inferno.  That painting is composed of an awful lot of twisted flesh and bodily fluids, though.


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