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by Jorge Albor

17 Feb 2011


Revenge. Some say it is a basic human need—when one is so grievously harmed by another, only retribution delivered in kind can provide catharsis. Others believe the Ghandian proverb that an eye for eye makes the whole world blind. The thirst for revenge has toppled kings and incited mob violence. Undoubtedly, the desire for revenge is a deeply felt human emotion, at times cold and calculating, and at other times heated and virulent.  Although the pursuit of violent retribution is commonly frowned upon, we recognize the emotion as natural, even primal. Vengeance is not equated to justice, although the terms are intimately related. Revenge is a concept laden with complex emotions. In our pursuit of evocative game design, how do video games best capture and discuss the intricacies of vengeance?

Revenge stories abound in other mediums. From Hamlet to Inglorious Basterds, victims have sought retaliation throughout the centuries. No collection of works, particularly in film, so thoroughly dissect revenge than South Korean Director Park Chan-Wook’s appropriately titled Vengeance Trilogy. Park’s three films (Oldboy, Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, and Sympathy for Lady Vengeance) have all received considerable acclaim, and they each deal almost exclusively with revenge in its many forms. While Mr. Vengeance portrays selfish reprisal as unattractive and misguided, Lady Vengeance depicts revenge as disturbing but cathartic, unsettling but spiritually cleansing. Oldboy focuses instead on the power of vengeance, on its ability to swirl out of control, to have a mind of its own, growing inexplicably in scale and completely enveloping practitioners, driving them ever onwards towards terrible acts.

How do games approach Park’s themes? A more relatively recent example is Bioware’s Mass Effect 2, which features the topic of revenge on multiple occasions. During Garrus’s loyalty quest, titled “An Eye for an Eye”, Commander Shepard has the opportunity to prevent Garrus from assassinating Sidonis, a turian whose treacherous act took the lives of Garrus’s old team members. In this tense scene, Shepard stands between Sidonus and certain death. If the player misses the Paragon interrupt trigger, Garrus kills Sidonus without hesitation. Here, like in Oldboy, revenge is a powerful personal force, one that blinds Garrus to reason when most heated.

by Rick Dakan

17 Feb 2011


I play games every day. Literally, every day. I recently tried my best to think back and try to remember some 24 hour period when I hadn’t played any games at all. Even while traveling in London and Berlin, I always found time in the evening to play something on my DS or my Ipad or my laptop. I haven’t been so sick that a few minutes of some digital distraction didn’t seem like a good idea. Of course, there must be some time when I haven’t played a game, but I can’t for the life of me imagine when it would have been. It would have to be before I bought my first Nintendo DS, which was in 2006, so probably five years ago. From a detached point of view, this probably seems like rather juvenile behavior for a man who’s just begun the last year of his thirties and is charging towards middle age.

To be clear, I do not feel one iota of bad about my gaming habits. Rather, I take great satisfaction in them. Mine is a restless—some would say wandering—mind, and I always want some form of active engagement. And while I like a good episode of Top Chef or Castle as much as the next person, most television simply cannot hold my full attention. Indeed, most television plays just fine as a radio play with occasional glances at the images. Similarly, most video games, especially the kind that I play on a DS or an Ipad, aren’t particularly demanding of my entire attention either. Building tower defense arrays or manipulating falling blocks or even deciding on my next turn’s strategies don’t quite entertain my whole brain. Thus, the perfect synergy of casual games and casual TV. Nothing like a Top Gear marathon to clear through those Plants vs. Zombies levels.

by G. Christopher Williams

16 Feb 2011


This discussion of several of Visceral Games products, Dante’s Inferno, Dead Space, and Dead Space 2 does contain major spoilers, especially in the case of the latter two games.

Work, eviscerate, work, eviscerate.  Masculinity in the Dead Space universe is pretty minimally represented in a fairly stereotypical way by the aggressive (but ever handy) Isaac Clarke.

Femininity in this series, however, seems to be grotesquely and decorously painted all over the virtual walls of this and (to some degree at least) Visceral’s other recent game offering, Dante’s Inferno.  That painting is composed of an awful lot of twisted flesh and bodily fluids, though.

by Kris Ligman

15 Feb 2011


There’s something about game boxes that makes them fascinating as objects.

I’ve habitually held onto all my console boxes since childhood, in part because my family were frequent movers, but also largely because I was fixated on their uniqueness and their role as signifiers. As a kid, there was something almost religious about them, as though they’d literally given birth to the fat collection of plastic and computer chips sitting underneath my TV. The fact that game devices were most typically a Christmas gift only enhanced the quasi-Catholicism with which these boxes were silently revered.

Maybe I’m just weird.

Nevertheless, gamer culture is indeed marked by a sort of box fixation. On the one hand, it relates to collectorship—boxes connote not just protection but also completion, which is the main reason that two equally unblemished discs will go for different prices on eBay. On the other hand, they also act as indexes to what the machine or software is as well as what it can potentially be in the user’s hands.

by Aaron Poppleton

15 Feb 2011


Ah, the ‘80s.  That magical time when men did lots of cocaine and women wore those suits with really big shoulder pads.  This was the time of the stock trader, and it is this time that the simple browser based game American Dream seeks to take the player back to.  It has a simple enough goal: become a millionaire by playing the stock market.

//Mixed media
//Blogs

A Chat with José González at Newport Folk Festival

// Notes from the Road

"José González's sets during Newport Folk Festival weren't on his birthday (that is today) but each looked to be a special intimate performance.

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