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

 
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Friday, Sep 12, 2014
Year Walk tells a story that comes alive in its telling, that grows up around the player, out of its display box, and into a forest.

When I was a kid, my mother had me take a wooden mask that we owned outside to destroy it with a hatchet. She said it had haunted her dreams. It was a strange precaution to take in retrospect, but at the time, it made sense. As a child, the dark holds all sorts of ghosts and terrors, and the superstitions and beliefs passed on in family stories become fact when the sun sets.


I can tell you some of the stories I grew up with now—about a pile of cursed clothing or my curandera aunt who could reliably free a house of evil spirits—but they would lose their vigor in the telling. There is a difference between a story about folklore and a folklore story.


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Thursday, Sep 4, 2014
Don’t let the cute characters fool you. Pikmin 3 is horrifying.

This column contains spoilers for Pikmin 3.


I’ve played all of the Pikmin games and have always been slightly uneasy about the message lurking underneath their playful facades. Maybe it’s revisiting the series almost 10 years later or maybe it’s that the latest game more openly embraces its dark side, but Pikmin 3 has put its more disturbing aspects into focus.


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Thursday, Aug 28, 2014
The atmosphere of any live sporting event is a unique slice of that sport’s spectator culture. Where does eSports, and specifically League of Legends, fit in?

I’m sitting near the front row at my first live eSports event. It’s the League of Legends North American Regionals quarterfinals featuring Curse vs CLG, and the stakes are high. One of these teams has a chance at attending the World Championship in South Korea. The other is going home. The two teams file into their rows of computers on stage, while a huge screen starts a countdown to this pivotal match. From somewhere in the back row, up in the bleachers, comes the sound of a vuvuzela.


The atmosphere of any live sporting event is a unique slice of that sport’s spectator culture. Baseball might be about hot dogs, cracker jacks, and long breaks between plays. Hockey might be about chants or throwing octopi onto the ice. They can be heated affairs with hostile rivalries between opposing fans, or they can be calmer affairs dedicated to the appreciation of a match well played. Where does eSports, and specifically League of Legends, fit in?


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Thursday, Aug 21, 2014
Riding into the great unknown in the belly of a metal beast. This beast also has a machine gun.

Titanfall’s second DLC pack, Frontier’s Edge is out and the name couldn’t be more fitting. It’s not really because of the in-game thematic meaning; the Titanfall’s unobtrusive space imperialists vs. space rebels remains an interesting, yet relatively unimportant backdrop. The idea of the frontier is more of a meta theme. Where does the game go from here and am I going to be able to follow?


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Thursday, Aug 14, 2014
Balance is a design concept that sits upon the shifting sands of player perception and behavior.

In a recent conversation between Gamasutra’s Leigh Alexander and Ubisoft Blue Byte’s Teut Weidmann, the games industry consultant warned away other designers from mimicking Riot’s monetization strategies for League of Legends. His point about the company’s monetization through reach is a valid one, albeit not one I want to discuss—at least not yet. Rather, I want to focus on this particular quote:


They release a champion that is always, always overpowered. So the people who pay for the game buy the champion immediately… and then Riot will go in and slowly devalue the price of the previous champion they released.



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