Like most RPGs nowadays, Game of Thrones begins with a character creation screen where we get to choose a fighting style and skill set and so on. It’s very standard until you start to pick your “traits.” These are permanent modifiers named in such a way that it encourages us to think of our character as more than a collection of stats (“Ambidextrous,” “Honed Reflexes,” “Gifted”), but the best part about these choices is that once we’ve picked three positive traits, we have to pick three negative traits that permanently weaken our character.
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There was a palpable excitement about King Kong shortly before its release in 2005. Peter Jackson had just come off the amazingly successful and Oscar winning Lord of the Rings trilogy. Unless Jackson pulls an “M. Night Shyamalan,” his name will forever carry with it instant notoriety, drawing a community towards his work eager to participate in whatever artistic endeavor he chooses to create. Like many other media properties of this sort, this built in community makes a natural target for cross-media promotions and transmedia storytelling. Remember that King Kong video game that—much to everyone’s surprise—was actually decent? King Kong and movie tie-in games like it seldom aim high, but they may yet provide an added value—intentionally or otherwise—to media communities.
Nick: Isn’t spazmatoid an offensive term?
Juliet: To who?
Nick: ...to spazmatoids—like your sister.
—Lollipop Chainsaw (Warner Bros., 2012)
“Beat on the Brat” is a song that gleefully celebrates violence against a child. Of course, the Ramones would also turn a Nazi assault tactic into a catchy pop tune with “Blitzkrieg Bop.” Joy Division embraced the dark irony of their own name borrowed from Nazi brothels run in concentration camps. And, of course, Johnny Rotten infamously declared that he was “an antichrist.” This is the language of provocation. This is the language of punk.
Suda51 and Grasshopper Manufacture, leading as always with their motto and declaration of their own aesthetic, “Punk’s Not Dead,” has once again embraced the role of the provocateur with the release of the developer’s latest, Lollipop Chainsaw. The game speaks the language of misogyny, is gorier than any game since at least MadWorld, and is equal parts rude and profane. If you have any sort of decency, you should hate it—which is exactly the point.
After a long hiatus, Max Payne is back. The voice of dirty neonoir is similar, but not all of the oft celebrated gameplay is.
This episode we consider Max’s transition from the darkened streets of New York to the sun splashed swanky penthouses and seamy favelas of Brazil. We consider how Max Payne 3 may or may not carry on the themes of loss and redemption of the previous episodes and whether or not a cover-based system is a benefit to a more modern version of the franchise.
A few months ago Thomas Grip, co-founder of Frictional Games, the developers behind Amnesia: The Dark Descent, wrote a blog post about the ten ways horror games can evolve. Grip makes a lot of good points, but the first one that stands out to me the most because it almost never happens in video games is the idea of establishing a sense of normality:
In most games the player usually starts out in some strange and not very normal situation…However, much of the good horror in other media starts of very mundane. They build on having the audience strongly relating to what is taking place and being able to draw close parallels to their own lives. For horror games this would mean to establish a very familiar situation and then slowly introduce the horror there. The goal is for the terror to not just be inside the game’s virtual world, but to reach into the real as well. (“10 Ways to Evolve Horror Games”, In the Games of Madness, 26 April 2012)
Then, as if right on cue, Telltale Games released The Walking Dead, which does just that.