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

 
Bookmark and Share
Text:AAA
Thursday, Aug 16, 2012
I see systems everywhere I look, but games contain too few of the ones that really matter.

In 1996, non-fiction writer John Krakauer joined a group of eight clients in an attempt to climb Mt. Everest. On the evening of May 10th, a storm made traversing the mountain nearly impossible. Of the five team members that reached the summit, four lost their lives on the frigid peak. Eight climbers total from four different expeditions died during the event, and seven more would follow before the season was over.


A year later, Krakauer published Into Thin Air, his personal account of the story. The work is a haunting attempt to uncover the truth about what happened, to gain some glimmer of understanding about these events. There is no value to be found in the deaths of those climbers, only revelations about human systems on the raggedy edge of survival.


Bookmark and Share
Text:AAA
Thursday, Aug 9, 2012
Metroid: Other M captures the look of other Metroid games, but it fails to capture their spirit.

I’m spending some time going through my video game backlog this summer, which is why I’ve been playing Metroid: Other M.  I understand why it wasn’t particularly well-received.  I think the game’s systems are actually pretty interesting, but I can definitely see why the third/first-person view switching and motion controls would irritate some people.  I’m much more sympathetic to criticisms of the game’s story and writing.  Abbie Heppe’s review sums up my feelings on it.  Other M is marred by a hackneyed, unimaginative script and a portrayal of Samus that characterizes her as scared and subservient.  It’s truly disheartening to see one of video games’s most competent female protagonists reduced to a child-like state of obedience.


I actually think these weaknesses are symptoms of a larger problem with the game, though.  Other M suffers because it tries to emulate some of the series’s traditions without understanding why they are important (or even if they are important at all).  The blind devotion to the accumulated lore of the Metroid saga stifles the game.


Bookmark and Share
Text:AAA
Thursday, Aug 2, 2012
The Walking Dead is a well told piece of storytelling, regardless of its length, but the short episodic form makes the game's features that much more interesting and engaging.

Tell Tale’s The Walking Dead has earned a bevy of critical praise—and for good reason. Sharp writing, gorgeous artwork, and Robert Kirkman’s compelling source material create a thoroughly entertaining piece of admittedly minimally interactive fiction. Although the episodic game’s completion is far from over, the current releases prove that a well told story told in an episodic format can set itself apart from both epic triple-A titles and one-off indie adventures. Yes, The Walking Dead is a well told piece of storytelling, regardless of its length, but the short episodic form make the game’s features that much more interesting and engaging.


Currently only five games make up the entire collection of Walking Dead episodes. The game follows the story of Lee Everett, a man headed to prison for murder before the zombie infestation changes everything. Early in the first episode, Lee befriends a young girl named Clementine and becomes her guardian. He also meets up with another rag tag group of survivors. As expected in post-apocalyptic fiction, the conflict within the group poses as much of a threat as the undead masses outside their hurriedly assembled shelter.


Bookmark and Share
Text:AAA
Thursday, Jul 26, 2012
I'm immortal, and I'm bored.

In the Twilight Zone episode “Escape Clause,” a hypochondriac named Walter Bedecker strikes a deal with the devil.  Bedecker is granted invulnerability and immortality with the understanding that, should he ever wish to stop living, his soul will become property of Satan.  Confident that he’ll never tire of an infinite life of perfect health, Bedecker happily signs on the dotted line.  Of course, this being the Twilight Zone, things don’t turn out too well for him.  Bedecker’s newfound immortality ushers in a profound sense of boredom.  Without the fear of death, life gets dull.  Bedecker begins committing increasingly dangerous crimes in the hopes of finding some excitement and is ultimately sentenced to life in prison.  Facing an eternity behind bars, he exercises his escape clause and cedes his soul to the devil.


I bring this up both because I love the Twilight Zone and as a way to explain my obsession with consequences in video games.


Bookmark and Share
Text:AAA
Thursday, Jul 19, 2012
How might game designers exploit our hidden vulnerability to spatial-inspired psychosis? The good news is that many already do.

Every year, 50 to 100 tourists visiting Israel, the vast majority devout Christians, succumb to what is colloquially known as Jerusalem syndrome. Awed by the ostensibly holy nature of their surroundings, they begin to exhibit strange behavior. Many perform acts of spiritual and physical cleansing before taking to the streets and becoming ad-hoc prophets and messiahs. Seemingly normal individuals begin delivering sermons to passers by. Others partake in daily activities to prep the world for the second coming of Christ. Yet others genuinely believe that they are Jesus reborn.


This phenomenon is not localized to Jerusalem. Stendhal syndrome is the name of a similar psychosomatic illness in which sufferers may succumb to dizziness, fainting, confusion, and hallucinations when surrounded by art, particularly in Florence, Italy. Similarly, Paris Syndrome describes the psychological disorders of predominantly Japanese tourists that every year experience temporary psychosis partially brought on by the disconnect between their idealized perception of Paris and reality. While Jerusalem syndrome is engendered by the city strongly matching cultural and in this case religious expectations, Paris syndrome is evoked by the disjuncture between expectations and truth.


Now on PopMatters
PM Picks
Announcements

© 1999-2014 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters.com™ and PopMatters™ are trademarks
of PopMatters Media, Inc.

PopMatters is wholly independently owned and operated.