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Thursday, Aug 30, 2012
Unmanned beautifully illuminates the divide that we create between ourselves and the systems in which we live.

Unmanned begins with an immediate divide: on the left, the game’s title screen, and on the right, a man standing in an empty field, mouth agape. The latest game from Molleindustria, released earlier this year, is just as political and subversive as any of the studio’s previous work. While the game’s central metaphor may seem blunt at first, its sublety surpasses much of Molleindustria’s previous work. Self-proclaimed creators of “homeopathic remedies to the idiocy of mainstream entertainment”, Molleindustria has firmly established itself as a purveyor of critical games. While Phone Story might be their most famed work, Unmanned might be the best from the studio.


Playing Unmanned is an exercise in splitting one’s attention. The game follows Kirk, a military drone pilot over two days as he runs through the tedium of his life. In the first moments of the game, the left title screen fades to a shot of Kirk sleeping. The right, then. is his dreamscape. An arabic man chases him through a field, followed by a woman in a burqa, and a child. If players manage to avoid the family, Kirk spreads his arms and turns into a drone, just before waking. Only in dreams are the player’s points of interest isolated to just one screen.


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Thursday, Aug 23, 2012
Demon's Souls didn't end the way that I expected it would end, but that probably shouldn't have surprised me.

This post contains spoilers relating to the ending of Demon’s Souls.


A few months ago, when I thought Demon’s Souls multiplayer was going offline, I wrote up some of my experiences with the game’s unusual multiplayer elements.  I was burning through the game as quickly as possible (which wasn’t all that fast), but it looked like I wouldn’t be able to finish the game in its original form.  Naturally, only a week after my article was posted, Atlas announced that the multiplayer servers would remain active!  My grueling trek to the end would remain filled with the questionable hints, hilarious death scenes, and downright terrifying hostile PvP invasions.


Several weeks ago, after many deaths and thousands of lost souls, I finally finished the game.  Now that the initial sense of numb disbelief has worn off, I wanted to return with a few more thoughts on Demon’s Souls and its conclusion.


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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.


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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.


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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.


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