Latest Blog Posts

by Nick Dinicola

4 May 2012


Fez is a easily the most personal puzzle game that I’ve ever played. It’s not personal because it “spoke to me” in any way, but because the biggest puzzle in Fez is figuring out what you know and what you don’t know. This is a puzzle game built around the idea that people’s minds all work differently.

The game, in my mind at least, is split into three layers:

The first layer is the perspective shifting puzzle. This is what you solve to progress in the game. In other words, basic exploration is built on this puzzle. You’ll find cube bits that make up full cubes that unlock doors to more hub worlds, and you can get through most of the game by focusing only on this first layer. However, the final cube bit is hidden behind a rather obtuse puzzle that is not apparent if you are only focusing on this first layer. In this way, Fez nudges you over the edge, down to the second layer of puzzles.

by Scott Juster

3 May 2012


One of my favorite aspects of video games is their ability to simulate worlds that reconcile the conflict between huge spaces and quick trips.  Virtual spaces can be big enough to feel large and mysterious but small enough to mentally map as a contiguous whole, even after you get the ability to fast travel via the equivalent of a virtual jet.  I’ve been replaying The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past recently and have found that I can still remember how to walk from the foot of the mountains to the middle of the desert by memory.  Because of this, the game still retains its sense of place when I take a shortcut by instantly warping around the map.  I may be skipping a lot of obstacles, but I know that they exist, and I know how they connect the world.

This feeling of connectivity is part of what makes the game (as well as many Zelda games) special; the world feels like an ecosystem, one in which fast travel and load screens are concessions to convenience and technical limitations, as opposed to a segmented approach to design.  It’s also a feeling that was impossible for me to have in the latest Zelda title, Skyward Sword, a game whose very structure feels like a series of disjointed plane trips over a disconnected world.

by G. Christopher Williams

2 May 2012


This post contains major spoilers for Fez.

A lot of people think that Herman Melville’s Moby Dick is about whale hunting, which it is.  However, it is really more about hunting.

The part of the novel that never makes it to the silver screen is a whole lot of chapters about whales in general: the biology of whales, the history of mens’ encounters with whales, how whales are seen in religion, etc., etc.  And there are a lot of etcetras, dozens and dozens of “off topic” chapters.

by Brady Nash

1 May 2012


Over the past sixty years, poetry has developed a reputation among high school students for stodginess, complexity, and mechanical twists and turns that only the most hallowed of literary minds could hope to understand, much less care about. I have learned this not only from my own experiences as a high school student long, long ago but from my current students, who I teach in my life outside of blog writing. Poetry is boring and laden with an air of inaccessible mystery, they tell me. This, I tell them in return, is how much of the populace views World of Warcraft and Call of Duty. Video games, like poetry, are often inaccessible to the lay person unfamiliar with a sixteen-button controller. Their power and novelty are lost behind an iron curtain composed of technical skills and erudite understandings beyond the grasp of the outsider.

When I teach poetry, then, I try not to get caught up in the mechanics—at least not at first. I try to imbue the reading of poetry with a sense of novelty, with the idea that these are not incomprehensible puzzles created by some Kafka-esque madman to drive fourteen year olds insane. More, they are bits of thought and feeling, slivers of experience and reflection, carefully arranged to create in the reader a sensation, to translate feelings from person to person. We watch YouTube videos and short scenes from My Neighbor Totoro and I ask them, is this not a poem as well? A small bit of emotion that is here to convey to you some undefined—yet clearly felt—experience.

by G. Christopher Williams

30 Apr 2012


This week Nick and I are joined by Jorge Albor and Scott Juster of the Experience Points podcast to discuss how video games fare as live action properties.

Some of these films are homages, some are there to support their franchise, some are both.  Most are better than what we have seen on the big screen.

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