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by Scott Juster

14 May 2015


One of the most maddening and one of the coolest things about Bloodborne is that it just doesn’t care if you miss things. I’m not talking about optional dialogue trees or one-off cutscenes. I’m talking about entire mechanics, huge boss fights, or even the story itself. Bloodborne has depth and complexity, and on top of that is a layer of obscurity that requires you to examine the game from every angle. As a consequence, it’s easy to wander through Bloodborne with a constant fear of missing out.

The trick is realizing that you will miss out on things. There is just too much for anyone but the most incredibly dedicated player to learn and find on their own. Consequently, the game maintains a sense of mystery throughout all of its stages and each discovery feels a little more special. There are plenty of things that I’ve either partially or totally missed out on, but I’ve found that ultimately I’m okay with that.

by Jorge Albor

7 May 2015


The strongest moment in Never Alone doesn’t occur while playing. Instead it comes during one of the puzzle-platformer’s numerous documentary shorts, which are called “Cultural Insights.” In it, members of the Iñupiat Alaskan indigenous tribe describe the act of storytelling. Like many oral traditions from around the world, their stories impart unique cultural wisdom. They speak to the context of their lives, of their history, and of their future. “We all live in stories,” one interview describes, “And they need to be told. They need to be heard.”

There is a sort of melancholy plea in the speaker’s voice as he says this last line, and as these vignettes of Cultural Insight continue, peppered throughout the game, the weight of desire becomes evident. Look around games, books, films, whatever. The stories of marginalized communities are told too rarely. They are stories meant to be shared, but in many real ways, they are dying. I want to make very clear the respect Upper One Games deserves for making a game with an all too rare perspective before I say this, but Never Alone is a failure in storytelling.

by Jorge Albor

23 Apr 2015


Last week here on PopMatters, Scott Juster compared playing Bloodborne to exercising. He’s right. Playing the game can feel like a gradual and painful investment towards self-improvement. But what of the social elements of Bloodborne? How do the in-game and meta social interactions surrounding the game contribute to the experience of play? To me, Bloodborne is a lot like walking on flaming hot coals.

It sounds strange, but hear me out. Firewalking and and playing Bloodborne really are quite similar, and not just because both sound excruciatingly painful. If you want to compare the two, you can pretty easily create your own firewalking experience at home. First create a small bonfire, traditionally made of hardwood. After a few hours, rake the coals into a rectangular bed of about eight or so feet in length if you’re looking to take a short stroll or upwards of twenty feet for a longer jaunt. Now step onto the coals and walk as briskly as possible without losing your dignity.

by Scott Juster

16 Apr 2015


Unless you’re some sort of professional video game savant, you’ll be spending a lot of time staring at Bloodborne‘s logo. Surprise attacks, traps, one-shot kills, and just plain sloppy play means that you’ll have plenty of time to consider your actions while staring at the Game Over text and subsequent loading screen. Bloodborne‘s unusually long load times enforce this period of reflection. Apparently From Software is trying to cut these times down, but during the last few weeks if you have played Bloodborne, you may have been staring (and seething) at the loading screen for the better part of a minute.

by Jorge Albor

9 Apr 2015


Life is Strange (Square Enix, 2015)

Warning: This article contains spoilers for Telltale’s Game of Thrones and DONTNOD’s Life is Strange.

I am contemplating whether or not to kick someone off a 700 foot wall. An hour earlier I was just trying to decide what to have for breakfast. The first takes place in the cold north of Telltale’s Game of Thrones, the second occurs in DONTNOD’s Life is Strange, two adventure game siblings in what is now quite clearly a genre renaissance. While the deadly realm of Westeros is a far cry from the calm Pacific Northwest, the two experiences are not as removed as you might think. Both games bend genre expectations and explore their narratives while fully aware of their opportunities.

//Mixed media
//Blogs

A Chat with José González at Newport Folk Festival

// Notes from the Road

"José González's sets during Newport Folk Festival weren't on his birthday (that is today) but each looked to be a special intimate performance.

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