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by Scott Juster

21 Apr 2011

Works that feature traditional narratives often enjoy the distinction of being the most popular, critically acclaimed, and carefully analyzed form of video games. Blockbusters like Mass Effect and Red Dead Redemption center around plots reminiscent to those found in film or literature. Popular independent games like Limbo or The Path also adhere to themes that have been explored in other forms. Obviously, video games differ from these traditional media, as players actively collaborate in the story and have at least some control over crafting the character behavior. Thus, game criticism often focuses on the dialectic between the themes a game’s plot conveys and those advanced by its rule systems. The BioShocks of the world elicit a preponderance of essays that parse the ways in which their stories and rules interact, but comparatively little is ever said about about what Gran Turismo tells us about the cultural role of automobiles or whether Madden NFL makes implicit arguments about football’s social value.

I recognize the bulk of my work has (and will probably remain) focused on games with plots, but I thought I would try and mix things up a bit. What kinds of values do games without stories impart? What do they say about the medium and about culture in general?  In search of answers, I turned to Picross 3D.

by Rick Dakan

21 Apr 2011

Chapter 1 of Rage Quit is available here.
Chapter 2 of Rage Quit is available here.
Chapter 3 of Rage Quit is available here.
Chapter 4 of Rage Quit is available here.
Chapter 5 of Rage Quit is available in .pdf format here.

She needed to talk to him. She needed someone to tell her what to do next. In her old world, in the zones she knew backwards and forwards, she’d long ago outgrown the need for instruction. She knew all the variables and all the possibilities and all the winning strategies. Then she’d found the hole into the rest of the world and the number of possible paths multiplied beyond her ability to count in the amount of time she was willing to spend counting. One quick calculation was enough to discern that exploring all the possibilities was impossible. She’d have to make some choices, and choices meant finding more data.

by Kris Ligman

19 Apr 2011

This week we continue unpacking the details of my recent conference paper on Let’s Plays, multimedia videogame walkthroughs, presented earlier this month for Rutgers. Last week offered an overview of the two main motivators behind game watching, creating types I called the Spectator and the Passenger. Today we look to Let’s Plays themselves to start drawing connections between performance and viewership behaviors as well as fan practices.

A standard text for this series in understanding the role of Web 2.0 in media sharing is Henry Jenkins’s Convergence Culture (New York University Press, 2006). I would also recommend Sports Fans (Daniel L. Wann, et al, New York: Routledge, 2001) for more about spectatorship theory as it pertains to both competitive and non-competitive sports, a connection direly critical to understanding certain aspects of online and offline game spectatorship.

by G. Christopher Williams

18 Apr 2011

It was a shooter that was nothing like a shooter.  Given the imminent release of its sequel, the Moving Pixels podcast crew felt that it was time to take a step back into 2007’s Portal.

We tried to spare ourselves from just revisiting the old “cake is a lie” memes and the like and instead found ourselves revisting the tight pacing, innovative gameplay, and, oh yeah, we talk about the rivalry between GLaDOS and Chell.

by Nick Dinicola

15 Apr 2011

Broken Sword: The Angel of Death (THQ, 2006)

Looking at the state of adventure games today, there seem to be three identifiable types: those that adhere to the traditional 2D point-and-click interface (Syberia, Gray Matter), those that embrace movement on a 3D plane (Indigo Prophecy, Heavy Rain), and those that do both, allowing you free movement in a 3D world while keeping the 2D interface (most of Telltale’s games). It’s interesting to see how each deals with the problems of a 3D world. One group avoids it altogether, another embraces it, and another tries to find a happy medium. And make no mistake, a 3D world is very problematic for a point-and-click adventure.

Nowhere is this more evident than when a traditionally 2D series tries to make the leap to 3D. I recently played and finished Broken Sword 2: The Smoking Mirror and thought that it was an exceptionally intuitive and streamlined adventure game. When I started Broken Sword 3: The Sleeping Dragon, which made the leap to 3D, I was impressed by the new visuals but all the intuitiveness and streamlined design were gone. The series took a giant step back just as it took a giant step forward.

//Mixed media

Notes, Hoaxes, and Jokes: Silkworm's 'Lifestyle' - "Ooh La La"

// Sound Affects

"Lifestyle's penultimate track eases the pace and finds fresh nuance and depth in a rock classic, as Silkworm offer their take on the Faces' "Ooh La La".

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