Latest Blog Posts

by Nick Dinicola

11 Feb 2011


The vocabulary we use to talk about horror games is inherently problematic because a single subgenre has become synonymous with the genre as a whole. “Survival horror” is widely seen as a synonym for “horror” in general, but the truth is that “survival horror” when used in this context is a very specific kind of horror game that really only existed in a very specific era of gaming.

There’s a lot of nostalgic baggage attached to the term “survival horror”. The two words speak to a distinct type of gameplay and atmosphere: tank controls, weak characters, poor combat, inventory management, fixed camera angels, obtuse puzzles, limited ammo, lots of loading screens, lots of running, journals that fill out the backstory, etc. This type of game was popular on the Playstation and Playstation 2 and was also the only kind of horror game that was readily accessible in mass market gaming. Since there were no alternatives, it was only natural to assume that survival horror was the only sort of horror game, and over time, this kind of thinking became entrenched in the fans of the genre.

by Scott Juster

10 Feb 2011


Subject Sigma and a Little Sister in Minerva's Den, Creasy (Denzel Washington) and Pita (Dakota Fanning) in Man on Fire, Uncle Tom and Little Eva (Edwin Longsden Long, 1866)

BioShock 2 and its side story, Minerva’s Den, do much to expand Rapture’s universe.  In addition to new technology and physical locations, they take the story into new cultural territory.  Grace Holloway and Charles Milton Porter stand out as both the first major black characters in the BioShock universe.  However, the two characters each have unique, multifaceted lives that prevent them from being cast as the token black people in a game dominated by white characters.  At the same time, their racial identity informs their lives and connects them to wider historical events and cultural themes in African American history.

by G. Christopher Williams

9 Feb 2011


Issac Clarke may be the second most recognizable working class hero in video games.  The obviously more iconic plumber and savior of princesses, Mario, comfortably garbed in overalls while cleaning pipes overrun by mushrooms and turtles would, of course, be the most recognizable.  Intriguingly, though, and largely unlike Mario, Isaac is not a working man transformed into a fantastical hero.  Instead, Dead Space is a game that finds heroism in doing real work.

by Kris Ligman

8 Feb 2011


Video games celebrate the state of the present. They’re always centered on the immediate action the player can take: where and how he moves and what result this brings. Games do not cue us to their pasts easily or frequently. Maybe the blank space will tell the player where he’s already moved in a Pac-Man maze or maybe finding a broken crate where a health pack should be reminds him that he’s already been past this area in Tomb Raider, but there is very little sense of an archived human history in these spaces. If nothing else, the past is hard if not impossible to access, seeing as the state of play resides in conflict with the immutable record.

Some games do indeed play with time, like Metal Gear Solid 3‘s unconventional game overs when you create a time paradox or many of Braid‘s platforming mechanics. But for the most part, video games are experienced in the present tense. Yet, I would argue, there are some games that strongly privilege the future state over the player’s current action, and these are usually the games that we find most difficult to talk about in conventional ludological terms.

I’m speaking, of course, of the Japanese role-playing genre.

by Aaron Poppleton

8 Feb 2011


With the recent release of Dead Space 2, it is not surprising to find that my thoughts drift back to the first installment of the series and what about it made the experience worthwhile. From a narrative standpoint, it would be easy to write off Dead Space as “Resident Evil 4 in spaaaaace”, complete with parasitic organisms that seem to have been unleashed by crazy cultists. This might turn a lot of people off (forgetting that Dead Space controls better than any RE game I’ve come across, and I’m including the on-rails-shooters in this) because, well, hasn’t this all been done, before?

Well, yes it has. But has it been done this particular way? Probably not. Additionally, while the mechanics of Dead Space are familiar to anyone who has played a third person shooter in the last decade (I flatly refuse to acknowledge that the much ballyhooed dismemberment mechanic is all that different from learning to shoot zombies in the head), the setting and story (while equally familiar) serve as a platform for presenting a debate that runs throughout the game about posthumanism.

//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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