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Friday, Dec 24, 2010
In 2010, a few big games seemed willing to take a risk and comment, directly and metaphorically, on current political events. Sadly, only one actually had something to say.

Gaming and politics is not an unusual combination when you think about it. Many games deal with politics, just not real-life politics; politics as a general idea remains oddly popular. Just look at how many games this year revolve around the idea of a revolution:


In BioShock 2, Delta must save Rapture from Sofia Lamb’s perverted collectivism. In God of War 3, Kratos fights to overthrow the monarchy of the gods. In Final Fantasy XIII Lightning and her crew fight against their corrupt government, as does John Marston in Red Dead Redemption. In Fable 3, we’re tasked with violently usurping the throne from our brother, and in Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, Ezio must economically usurp Rome from the Pope.


But none of these plots play out as a meaningful discussion of modern politics. BioShock 2 at least touches upon some interesting political ideas, but even it stays as far away as it can from current events. These plots are really just narrative shortcuts used to make the hero an underdog because who doesn’t love an underdog? Players want to overcome great obstacles in games, and what obstacle is greater than a king, a president, a Pope, or a god?


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Thursday, Dec 16, 2010
Machinarium’s game design, art style, and narrative themes toy with conventional ideas about humans, robots, and adventure games.

In an industry dominated by fast-paced shooters, streamlined RPGs, and instant-access mobile games, it is easy to see adventure games as niche or even archaic.  The slow-paced, obscure, single-solution puzzles that comprise most adventure games take patience.  The zany worlds of many popular adventure games, such as the Monkey Island and the Sam and Max series can make it seem like adventure games have a language all their own. 


Machinarium clearly follows in some old adventure game traditions.  But, by tweaking long standing conventions and combining them with novel artistic design and storytelling, it creates a unique identity for itself and the player.  Although it is set in a world populated by robots, Machinarium’s gameplay and aesthetic work together to tell a story about humanity.


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Wednesday, Dec 15, 2010
I don't ever want to see the body hit the floor. I want to only hear it. Assassin's Creed has habituated me to play in a way that enforces a certain dramatic performance on my part.

You know the scene in the movie.  Our hero has just left something flammable or explosive behind.  He lights a cigar, enjoys a few puffs, then tosses the cigar over his shoulder.  As he strides slowly and indifferently away, an explosion of flames marks his passing.  Pretty cool, huh?


Countless movies have riffed on this cinematic image.  Richard Rodriguez’s Desperado, for instance, springs instantly to my mind, but there are countless others.  There is a certain cockiness on display in these scenes that develops the hero as a badass in such scenes that seems driven by a number of the details of such a performance.  Part of it is the cool and frequently slow walk away from the scene, part of it is that the hero never looks back at the destruction that he is responsible for.  As a result, we are left with an image of self-assured competence and professionalism on the part of the hero.  He is so certain of the outcome of his actions that he doesn’t even bother to check on his success and has no fear that the flames will reach him.  After all, he understands destruction so intimately and so consummately, why bother?


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Text:AAA
Tuesday, Dec 14, 2010
Today we look at two themed independent titles that showcase two different facets of what we now call the art game: game as system and game as anti-system.

It’s been either a very affectionate or very cynical year in the field of independent games, with at least three single-named titles taking a spin with ol’ l’amour in 2010 alone.


My first review for this site back in July was on Alexander Ocias’s Loved, in which the past tense is used to signify guilt and manipulation of the player rather than the word’s more innocent connotations. Earlier in March, we saw the release of independent user-generated MMO Love from Eskil Steenberg, the painterly aesthetic of which much has been written. A final entry, unrelated to Steenberg’s, is the new flash game Love which has recently shown up on Kongregate from designer Contrebasse.


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Text:AAA
Monday, Dec 13, 2010
Bethesda's latest iteration of the Fallout series offers Sin City as one of the last remaining beacons of hope in their postapocalyptic American Wastleland.

Bethesda’s latest iteration of the Fallout series offers Sin City as one of the last remaining beacons of hope in their postapocalyptic American Wastleland.  Despite the buggy quality of the game at release, many players still found themselves “all in” for this expansion of the retro-futuristic universe.


This week the Moving Pixels podcast crew discuss the subtleties of socialization, scrounging, and survival in New Vegas.


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