After two seasons on the air, Game of Thrones has captured the heart of the internet. The books may have been popular, but it was HBO’s series that made it into the phenomenon that it is. Since the adaptation hit the airwaves it has been ripe for gamification. Games based on screen franchises are usually rushed cash-ins forced on a studio’s junior development team. It’s rare that they reach large audiences, and it’s rarer that they deserve to. But the good will that the audience has built up around Game of Thrones and the intimacy that the show has garnered with its viewers means that from a marketing standpoint, basing a game off the show seems intuitive. The problem that nobody seems to have considered is that the kingdom of Westeros is a miserable place that nobody should want to be in.
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Slender is a free indie game by Parsec Productions based off the Slender Man mythos that originated in a Something Awful forum thread about fake paranormal pictures. His creation and history are a fascinating story, a community-driven monster myth in the making, so it was only a matter of time until someone made a game about him.
Last week I visited “The Art of Video Games” exhibit at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C. It’s an ambitious attempt to give an overview of the medium’s development from it’s inception to the present day. It’s difficult to do justice to an entire medium in the space of a few galleries. Major blindspots exist (like the arcade and handheld scenes) and philosophical questions (such as the difference between narrative and ludic storytelling approaches) get flattened out in the interest of making the exhibit approachable for a wide audience. Regardless, it’s pretty neat to see a video game exhibit in the same building as Gilbert Stuart’s George Washington portrait.
Most of the exhibit used video and static artwork to demonstrate the featured games, but my favorite gallery was the one with playable games. I don’t think I’ll blow anyone’s mind by saying that the best way to understand video games is to play them, and I think the chosen titles served as a good sample of the best the medium has to offer: Pac-Man, Super Mario Bros., The Secret of Monkey Island, Myst, and Flower. Visitors weren’t simply playing these games, they were experiencing the interactivity that makes games unique and taking part in the generational and social dynamics that have risen up around the medium.
A number of critics (including myself) have reacted with some trepidation to some of the preview coverage of the reboot of the Tomb Raider series. Early previews of the adventures of the new Lara Croft tended to focus on the idea that the vulnerability of a younger, less experienced Lara would be a big part of the effort to tell the story of Lara’s origins as an archaeologist and all around stoic bad ass.
One such preview described how in the early parts of the game, as she has her first encounters with violence “she bleeds and bruises, trembles and cries, but ultimately pushes forward” (Meagan Marie, “Tomb Raider”, Game Informer, January 2011, pg. 44) . These images of vulnerability describing the video game icon seem unusual, though they make some sense in terms of the game’s storytelling goals, which seem to be, as noted, seeing how Lara became the character that we have come to know only as a mature and highly competent heroine over the last 15 or so years. This is “Lara before she was Lara”, after all.
// Moving Pixels
"This is an interactive story in which players don’t craft the characters, we just control them.READ the article