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Tuesday, Aug 9, 2011
What can reality television teach us about self-sabotage in gameplay?

Okay, so this isn’t all that related to gaming. But if my senior editor G. Christopher Williams can write about Dancing With the Stars, RuPaul’s Drag Race should be an acceptable subject. It is, after all, a competitive reality show emphasizing craftsmanship and performance, two skills we should find recognizable as players.


One of the more interesting, idiosyncratic features of Drag Race is the “Lipsync For Your Life” segment, in which each week’s bottom two contestants must present a choreographed lipsync routine to a designated song to avoid elimination. These routines can range from the sad and pitiful to the stunning and glorious, but none of them seem to compare to the elimination in Season 3’s “Jocks in Frocks” episode between Carmen Carrera and Raja.


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Tuesday, Aug 2, 2011
Today we look at Atlus's idiosyncratic new puzzle game about relationships, Catherine, and an unexpected parallel to be found in science fiction.

This discussion of Catherine includes major plot spoilers.


Atlus games rarely make any sort of practical sense, but they at least possess an internal logic. Towers must be ascended, dungeons must be traversed, and walls must be climbed, if not to thwart ancient eldritch horrors then to peel back the psyche of the self. In this respect, I find that Catherine performs quite admirably, even if it doesn’t venture quite as far in as I might have preferred.


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Tuesday, Jul 26, 2011
Bastion's narration establishes a suitably oppressive mood that is as richly textured as the game's visuals.

Note: Mild spoilers ahead.


I seem to be seeing cowboys everywhere.


As I continue to go through Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series (now up to book four, Wizard and Glass), I’m beginning to draw parallels everywhere I look. On that front, it’s difficult to look at Bastion, the latest XBLA darling to join the ranks of Braid and Limbo, and not feel some resonance with the rustic, science-fantasy setting of Dark Tower. Both couch themselves in the mythic post-western of Sergio Leone. Both depict a world that has physically as well as metaphysically come apart at the seams. And both address the inexorable fate of their protagonists.


My full review is still forthcoming, but in the mean time, I’d like to spend today talking a bit about what many would consider the most distinctive part of Bastion—its “dynamic narrator,” Rucks.


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Wednesday, Jul 20, 2011
A few idiosyncratic passages from the cult classic series by Stephen King may have a lot to say about ludic point-of-view.

I have recently taken to listening to Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series at work. Audiobooks don’t make the day go any faster, but they at least feel slightly more productive than listening to music or putting Netflix on in the background for a straight eight hours. That, and it feels like the only way that I get any reading done.


Having just closed the last audio file on the second book in the series, The Drawing of the Three, two impressions fill my mind. The first is that I can’t fathom what the objection would be to making a videogame out of this series, as it’s so obviously organized like an adventure RPG, party recruitment and all. The second is that Drawing of the Three provides an excellent analogy for understanding point of view in gaming and gaming’s fourth wall.


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Tuesday, Jul 5, 2011
The idea of nothingness as a final reward neatly drives home for the player the grimness of Planescape: Torment's reality.

In recent weeks I have been running a little experiment on my personal blog, Dire Critic. Several months ago I was enabled by a group of friends to invest in some classic Bioware CRPGs. I had only ever played the first Baldur’s Gate as an adolescent and it seemed I was long overdue to correct that. Partly inspired by Kirk Hamilton and Leigh Alexander’s FF7 Letters and suggestions from (recent Moving Pixels podcast guest) Eric Swain, the process quickly organized itself into a sort of interactive book club. Consciously patterned after the Vintage Game Club with the AV Club’s Rowan Kaiser as advisor and a smattering of Twitter followers playing along with us, our first game on the agenda was the critically lauded cult favorite Planescape: Torment.


I really had no idea what to expect. I try to keep as blank a slate as possible when going into media, be it a film or a game. I rarely even watch promotional trailers. So with no preconceived notions about Torment at all, apart from knowing it was “writerly” and built with Bioware’s Infinity engine, I downloaded my DRM-free copy from GoG.com, installed it, patched it to the high heaven, and ventured into the land of the dead.


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