Call for Essays About Any Aspect of Popular Culture, Present or Past

 
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Text:AAA
Thursday, Jul 29, 2010
Limbo's aesthetic and gameplay work in perfect synch with one another, and time and again it produces those moments of pure frisson that only a great game can give.

There’s no doubt in my mind that Limbo is art. Just look at the thing! It’s all super-artsy and stuff, with its evocative yet minimalist art style and bleak, moody, creepy, disturbing look. From moment one the game stirred emotions in me, and I think that’s what art needs to do to be art. I felt intrigued by the mysterious world and this strange boy I was controlling. The shadow-heavy world lingers just on the edge of being inscrutable, but never leaves you in doubt about the important things. And that horrifying, damnable spider from the early part of the game? Right now it has my vote for villain of the year. At first, second, and third look, Limbo drove right into my brain, eliciting a full spectrum of experiences. This is a model example of an artistic endeavor unique to gaming.


Yes, yes, Rick’s going on about art and games and stuff again. And of course I’m not the only one hurling the “A” word at Limbo. Some might even argue that the game’s trying too hard to be taken as serious art, but I think that’s a pretty ridiculous argument. Its aesthetic and gameplay work in perfect synch with one another, and time and again it produces those moments of pure frisson that only a great game can give.


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Text:AAA
Thursday, Jul 29, 2010
Like life, Blizzard's classic RPG is often a harsh teacher, giving the test first and the lesson afterwards. But its cruelty is also among its greatest strengths.

I’d been playing the long game. While steadily making my way through the early acts of Diablo II, I’d carefully hoarded gems and runes in my private stash, sorting them meticulously by type, combining and upgrading them when opportunities arose. On approaching the end of Act IV, knowing that a confrontation with Diablo himself was close at hand, I carefully selected the ingredients that I’d need to create a weapon imbued with the powerful properties of a runeword. Checking and checking everything again, I finally took the plunge and inserted the runes into the appropriate sockets. Excitedly, I hovered the cursor over the newly runed weapon but instead of the impressive stats that I had expected, I saw a mediocre blade, crippled by my foolishly having inserted the runes into a sword classified as “rare” and invalidating the recipe. Damn it.


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Text:AAA
Wednesday, Jul 28, 2010
Donkey Kong will get the girl. And you won’t.

Pac-Man will die.


The space invaders will win.


Donkey Kong will get the girl.  And you won’t.


Sorry about spoiling the endings of all those classic games.  A warning seemed a touch superfluous.


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Text:AAA
Tuesday, Jul 27, 2010
A multiple choice exam is looking for a sweetspot of a certain percentage passing, not too high and not too low.

The multiple choice question may be one of the most despised games ever conceived. The purpose of a multiple choice exam is to exclude people in a quantitative manner, be it for admission into schools, licensing professionals, or limiting the number of high grades in a class. Assessing a person on their individual merits is a time consuming process, and once a school or class hits a critical mass of students, it isn’t economically reasonable to scrutinize all of them. Let’s say you’ve got 1000 participants and five people reading their results. You can cut time and costs by figuring out a way to neatly get rid of 500 because they scored under a certain amount. A multiple choice exam cannot be so difficult that you exclude an excessive number of applicants. Most law schools, for example, have a minimum LSAT score that you must score below for automatic denial and a high score for automatic acceptance. Applicants in between those scores are then addressed on an individual level and other factors are introduced. The problem with such a system is that to ensure a multiple choice test produces the right number of passing scores, you have to keep changing the questions.


An article by the National Center for Fair and Open Testing explains, “multiple-choice items are an inexpensive and efficient way to check on factual (“declarative”) knowledge and routine procedures. However, they are not useful for assessing critical or higher order thinking in a subject, the ability to write, or the ability to apply knowledge or solve problems” (“Multiple-Choice Tests”, Education.com). It’s for that reason that a multiple choice question is always limited in scope: it can only be about basic knowledge of a topic. The formula is to have two answers that are blatantly wrong, one that is kinda right, and one that is the most right. One instructor during a review session for the BAR pointed out that on average a student will know the correct answer immediately to 25% of the problems, have no clue on 25%, and be able to boil it down to the right and kinda right answer for the other 50%. So the way that you evaluate the difficulty of a multiple choice question is how similar the right and kinda right answers are. A person who can’t boil it down to those two doesn’t know the basic material and shouldn’t pass.


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Text:AAA
Monday, Jul 26, 2010
Holly Conrad is a costume designer and an avid gamer. By costume designer, I mean sculptor, engineer, seamstress, and designer.

This week we have a special interview for you. We’ll be doing more interviews as time goes on, talking with people who’re not just gamers, but people who’ve been genuinely moved by their love of games.


Holly Conrad is a costume designer and an avid gamer. And by costume designer, I mean sculptor, engineer, seamstress, and designer. She recently became a minor internet celebrity with her audition video for a Joss Whedon produced documentary about Comic Con, in which she showed off the impressive set of Mass Effect 2 costumes that she’s been creating.


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