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by Nick Dinicola

16 Sep 2011


They really have do have something in common and not something as bland as just being games. But first a prologue: for the past several weeks, I’ve been reading the books based on the Gears of War franchise (specifically, Jacinto’s Remnant, Anvil Gate, and Coalition’s End), and they’re a lot better than I thought they’d be and for reasons that I never would have guessed.

These are not action stories. The first major action scene happens halfway through the second book. Rather, these are character dramas, and after reading the books, I’m more than a little angry with the Gears games for wasting this interesting cast of tragic characters. The story that Gears of War wants to tell is the worst kind of story to put in a game because everything that makes the story work doesn’t work in games.

by Jorge Albor

15 Sep 2011


Since I was a child, infectious diseases have been one of my most consistent fears. At mere mention of the Ebola virus, my skin crawls while I fight the urge to wash my hands. As PopMatters’s own Dan Dinello rightly points out, “[p]op culture runs rampant” with disease ”and has for some time” (“The Contagious Age”, PopMatters, 8 September 2011). Contagions have long offered potent analogies for the social and political fears of an era. Early zombie films explored the deadening effect of consumerist culture, while more modern takes on the undead have addressed governmental inadequacies and cultures of violence. While Dinello offers a thorough exploration of infections through film and literature, he only briefly touches upon disease in games. Surely the interactive medium offers wholly unique takes on plagues and pustules? Upon closer inspection, have games upheld the long tradition of exploring social and political issues by horrifying, repulsing, and upsetting us with disease?

The single more terrifying element of epidemics and diseases are how they completely and suddenly upset normalcy. From the global context to our own communities, the dread of disease lies in its ability to upend expectations. As Dinello points out, “In our age of global networking and circulation of people and goods, contagion threatens to violate secure borders, invade our society, and proliferate out of control.” Games may have difficulty evoking this menace when interactivity demands players maintain some degree of satisfying control, even in the most dire circumstances.

by G. Christopher Williams

14 Sep 2011


I grew up in an odd era, in which when you wanted someone to play with, you walked down the block (or biked if it was a couple blocks) over to a friend’s house and knocked on their door to ask some scary adult person if Johnny could come out and play.  As dangerous as such a practice is in our more progressive age, in which we clearly know that children’s playtime needs to be rigidly scheduled in what are detestably called “play dates”, nevertheless, I personally parent my own children in a manner quite similar to my own upbringing.  When one of them is bored, I suggest biking over to a friend’s house to see if they are available, all on their own.

Strangely, none of my children are dead yet.  And they also function independently pretty well in a pinch.

by Sean Brady

13 Sep 2011


Back in late August when the Great D.C. Earthquake struck and shook some places up, reports came in that the Washington Monument had suffered cracks and was to be closed indefinitely.  A feminist writer I read every so often personally wished for the whole thing to crumble. Not for reasons of what some might view as purely political relevance, she wanted it to fall because she saw it as nothing more than a “giant erection.”

Arguments over sexual imagery in the modern world aside, the problem with this statement is that it’s completely and utterly void of any historical context or understanding, instead employing modern standards and philosophy exclusively to this reading of the monument’s meaning.  Such statements are particularly damaging to rational thinking, for they presume that any particular event is a spontaneous point in time without causation, a logical fallacy.  As such, it is useful to have some historical understanding when discussing anything made in or events that occur in the past.

by Kris Ligman

13 Sep 2011


I recently loaned my copy of Catherine to a friend, who has kept me aprised of her progress through text messages. This week she texted to vent that the puzzles were sometimes so difficult that they were driving her insane.

“Switch to a lower difficulty!” I suggested.

In my mind, there was no shame involved in this, as a lot of very accomplished adult gamers had also played on Easy mode, and it was basically the acknowledgement of the game’s designers that they had made the thing too hard. And while I had managed to beat the game twice on Normal, it didn’t mean I expected anyone else to.

But my friend wasn’t having it. She described lowering the difficulty as “giving in.”

//Mixed media
//Blogs

Emerging from My Hiatus from Big Budget Games

// Moving Pixels

"I'd gotten burned out on scope and maybe on spectacle in video games, but I think it's time to return to bigger worlds to conquer.

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