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Thursday, Feb 12, 2015
I expect Max will learn what many of us face as we age, the reality that all of our decisions have consequences, many of them unintended, no matter how empowered we are when we make them.

Knowledge is a super power in Life is Strange. Well, not really, but close enough. Max Caulfield, the protagonist of Dontnod’s Telltale-esque adventure game, can actually rewind time. This lets her prevent a school shooting and avoid being crushed under a falling tree, sure. But more importantly time travel lets Max weigh her options in conversations. It lets her know just the right words to say or the right facts to hide or reveal. Time travel is a means for Life is Strange to address nostalgia, regret, and the social pressures of growing up.


Recently an old friend got in touch to apologize about an interaction we’d had in the distant past. It was strange to revisit a time that I barely remember, and stranger still to think about my life in that particular moment. I am not an old man, I know that, but even I have regrets. There are people who meant too much to me once that I have let slip out of my life, and there are moments where I wish I could have said the right thing, found the courage to put into words the feelings I wanted to share, to say the things I know now to be true. I have a hard time imagining any life lived without regrets.


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Thursday, Feb 5, 2015
Oops! I accidentally became a mass murderer, slaver, and a dark lord.

Sauron and I don’t know each other very well, so I don’t know if he plays video games. If he does, I bet he is pleasantly surprised by Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor. The game basically turned me into a Nazgûl. To be fair, I was able to escape its influence (for how long, I don’t know), so maybe I’m more of a Gollum than a ring wraith. Whatever the case, I think the game does a better job of promoting the The Dark Lord’s power than it does arguing against it.


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Thursday, Jan 29, 2015
Largely due to its small size and independence from the primary game, First Light is simply better than Second Son, even while it owes its existence to it.

Last week here on PopMatters, Scott Juster described Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker as a “micro-machine”, one of those curious little dioramas that seemed popular when he and I were kids. It is precisely the minute scale but high-quality systems of the game that lets us toss it into the category of games we recently called “Big Small games”. While Captain Toad is a great game, perhaps inFamous First Light is a better example of the experimental value of these impressive, albeit smaller, diversions from the triple A game space.


Like Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker, inFamous First Light is also an offshoot of a traditional full title. First Light, technically, is actually a piece of DLC for 2014’s inFamous Second Son. However, the game is also a completely stand-alone experience. Players do not need to own or have played the first game to dive into the experience. In this way, First Light is an interesting consumer product. Generally, I always consider DLC as a way for developers to incentivize newcomers and keep devotees busy playing a core game experience. The ultimate goal is to prevent people from selling your game back to Gamestop and into the hands of other players without ever receiving a cut of the profit. Our brave new world of “games as a service” seems built as a futile salvo against the used game market.


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Thursday, Jan 22, 2015
Mario’s out exploring the galaxy, but Captain Toad is about examining the most minute details.

When I was a kid, I had a bunch of Micro Machines Star Wars toys. Alright, “kid” is probably a generous term, but I defy anyone to question how cool those things were.


I especially enjoyed the ones that started off as statuettes and unfolded to reveal a meticulously constructed diorama. They were more than dioramas though, since they all had some sort of mechanical trick. Poke around and you’ll find that the Rancor’s cage door moves and that Greedo can be launched out of his Mos Eisley seat after taking a shot from a miniature Han. Something that initially looked simple was actually a collection of intricate details meticulously designed to make the small environment a densely packed one.


Nintendo taps into the same feeling with Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker.


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Thursday, Jan 15, 2015
I believe in Clementine, and so I cried when I ask her to kill my Lee. I believe my friends in Dragon Age: Inquisition, so when I change the decor in Skyhold while they are in mourning, I make believe they notice. Choice feels a lot like faith.

Several weeks ago, when the topic of Telltale’s The Walking Dead came up, a good friend of mine announced that he did not like the game because “your choices don’t matter.” My shock and hostility has subsided, but I still fail to understand how such a perception could be true. Why did the decisions I made lead me to tears while it only led him to frustration?


Meanwhile, the past few days has seen a bevy of writing about Dragon Age: Inquisition and the choices that it contains. Patrick Klepek of Kotaku asks, “There’s much to ‘do’ in Inquisition, but how much of it is meaningful?” While Rowan Kaiser on Unwinnable says, “they’re really gun shy throughout Inquisition, with barely any choice that threatens a player’s emotions throughout the game.” Austin Walker over on Paste states (quite rightly I think), “What trained us to prefer a branching, long-form story over a series of little vignettes? I think if we ask questions like these, we’ll find our definitions of words like “real” and “meaningful” become increasingly complex.” Likewise, Todd Harper chimes in with an, ahem, “stiff” assessment that size does matter.


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