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by Aaron Poppleton

20 Sep 2011


My barbarian is doomed.  He is absolutely—without a doubt—going to die one day.  I don’t know how or even when (though I have a few guesses as to when), but sooner or later the sword of Damocles suspended above his shaven head is going to drop and that will be that.  I will not have a barbarian anymore because my barbarian will be dead. 

When his end comes—and it will come—and probably before I’m finished playing with him, he will not show up in camp.  He will not be able to revive his companion, run for his corpse to get his equipment back, and continue the fight.  He will just be dead.  This is a difficult thought for me to process, although as soon as I see my barbarian’s health start to drop I panic, start chugging potions, and scramble to open a town portal to escape the fight so I can regroup.  So at least some part of me realizes that there’s a lot at stake here—nothing less than an investment of time that is slowly creeping higher and higher to an inevitable moment when it will all turn out to have been wasted as my barbarian’s corpse rots on the floor of some dungeon.

I know that my barbarian is going to die because if I’m perfectly honest, I am terrible at playing Diablo II.

by Mark Filipowich

19 Sep 2011


Gears of War gets a lot of undeserved criticism for being as popular as it is. Third person, cover based shooting is old hat and haven’t we had enough of burly, neckless thugs gargling curses through gravel and testosterone? The aliens are bad, the good guys are good and Gears of War is just another masculine power fantasy in a medium saturated with the same.

But given the series’ popularity so far, there must be something that speaks to its audience beyond the chest-high walls and the gray/brown palette.

Not only is Gears of War one of the most hopeless games to be released for the current generation of gaming, but there is also more depth to Gears than it’s often given credit for.

by G. Christopher Williams

19 Sep 2011


Difficulty can be frustrating.  It can also create challenge for the player.

This week the Moving Pixels Podcast considers how difficulty contributes to the pleasure and pain of gaming.

by Nick Dinicola

16 Sep 2011


They really have do have something in common and not something as bland as just being games. But first a prologue: for the past several weeks, I’ve been reading the books based on the Gears of War franchise (specifically, Jacinto’s Remnant, Anvil Gate, and Coalition’s End), and they’re a lot better than I thought they’d be and for reasons that I never would have guessed.

These are not action stories. The first major action scene happens halfway through the second book. Rather, these are character dramas, and after reading the books, I’m more than a little angry with the Gears games for wasting this interesting cast of tragic characters. The story that Gears of War wants to tell is the worst kind of story to put in a game because everything that makes the story work doesn’t work in games.

by Jorge Albor

15 Sep 2011


Since I was a child, infectious diseases have been one of my most consistent fears. At mere mention of the Ebola virus, my skin crawls while I fight the urge to wash my hands. As PopMatters’s own Dan Dinello rightly points out, “[p]op culture runs rampant” with disease ”and has for some time” (“The Contagious Age”, PopMatters, 8 September 2011). Contagions have long offered potent analogies for the social and political fears of an era. Early zombie films explored the deadening effect of consumerist culture, while more modern takes on the undead have addressed governmental inadequacies and cultures of violence. While Dinello offers a thorough exploration of infections through film and literature, he only briefly touches upon disease in games. Surely the interactive medium offers wholly unique takes on plagues and pustules? Upon closer inspection, have games upheld the long tradition of exploring social and political issues by horrifying, repulsing, and upsetting us with disease?

The single more terrifying element of epidemics and diseases are how they completely and suddenly upset normalcy. From the global context to our own communities, the dread of disease lies in its ability to upend expectations. As Dinello points out, “In our age of global networking and circulation of people and goods, contagion threatens to violate secure borders, invade our society, and proliferate out of control.” Games may have difficulty evoking this menace when interactivity demands players maintain some degree of satisfying control, even in the most dire circumstances.

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