Latest Blog Posts

by G. Christopher Williams

9 Nov 2011

Kirk Hamilton’s article on Batman: Arkham City and his perception that the word “bitch” is overused by the game’s various thugs and villains has (among other essays concerned with Arkham City‘s approach to women) been making the rounds for a couple of weeks now to both positive and negative response.

Hamilton’s essay is thoughtful and not especially knee-jerk in its consideration of the game’s events and dialogue.  For instance, he writes:

As you make your way around Arkham, you’ll overhear goons from the various factions talking about current events, and every time they talk about Harley Quinn, the B-word gets dropped at least once. Often more than once. “That bitch,” “That crazy bitch,” etc.
To those playing the game: it’s weird, right? Batman: Arkham Asylum‘s Weird ‘Bitch’ Fixation”, Kotaku, 19 October 2011).

While Hamilton seems to want to pose a rhetorical question, I think that it is at least a legitimate question and one that is more open for consideration, perhaps, than a rhetorical question should be.  In answering that question for myself: no, I’m not sure that I immediately feel that it is as weird as he does.  While I think that I essentially agree with his point that “there’s a fine line between edgy dialogue and forced, angry overkill” in fiction, I don’t think that those who argue that convicts and super criminals overusing a slur against women has some ring of authenticity to it are entirely crazy either.

by Mark Filipowich

8 Nov 2011

Recently, the University of Queensland conducted a study on the dehumanizing effects of violent video games (Brock Bastion, Jolanda Jetta, and Helena Radke, “Cyber-Dehumanization: Violent video game play diminishes our humanity”, Journal of Experimental Social-Psychology). The study (accepted for publication but not yet edited or published) has already made its way into the news, and the predictable outcries of “I knew it along” or “this study is garbage” have already begun echoing across the internet.

Every so often this sort of study is released and typically the reaction from gamers is either that the study or newspaper is biased against the medium or any findings that suggest video games increase aggression are moot because television and movies are at least as violent as games. Interestingly, gamers seldom challenge the validity of research that props up the social value of games, such as an also accepted-but-not-yet-published study correlating games with higher creativity (Linda A. Jackson, et al., “Information technology use and creativity: Findings from the Children and Technology Project”, Human Behaviour). Research on video games and violence are most likely perfectly valid and probably should not go ignored: violent images increase aggression and participating in violence—even virtually—arouses aggressive feelings. These are a psychological truths repeatedly demonstrated, even in video games. But what is often overlooked is the context that violence takes place in.

Whether natural or not, violence is a part of the human experience and as a reflection of that experience, art must discuss it. But violence in video games usually reflects only one aspect of violence: that it’s empowering or that it’s a means to stopping a greater evil. Violence in video games is almost universally a means to excite a player and keep them involved in the experience.

by G. Christopher Williams

7 Nov 2011

The boss fight has been a part of gaming since very near to the time of its inception.  Serving a variety of roles in offering greater challenge, suggesting the climax of a game and plot, and just simply creating a spectacle for the player, has the boss fight merely become a cliched and expected “requirement” of games?

This week we consider the history and evolution of the boss fight in gaming, as well as the possibility of alternatives to this most expected of medium conventions.

by Nick Dinicola

4 Nov 2011

Character animation is a good way to evoke sympathy, display character, or define relationships. The best (or at least my favorite) example of this is 2008’s Prince of Persia. While cut scenes and optional bits of dialogue help convey the growing relationship between the Prince and Elika, most of these conversations are just for the sake of exposition. The real character development comes from their animations—specifically, how they interact with each other: How they move around each other while climbing and fighting suggests a couple that have an excellent working relationship, they know each other’s movements and can jump around without getting in each other’s way, the way they lock arms and spin around to switch places on a beam is more playful, suggesting more of their working relationship, etc.

by Scott Juster

3 Nov 2011

“Video games are a young medium.”  This is a common refrain among those who study them.  I know I’ve said it on multiple occasions.  Of course, this conventional wisdom ignores the fact that we’re approaching the 50th anniversary of Spacewar! and the 40th anniversary of the Magnavox Odyssey.  Additionally, thanks to the realities of business and technology, video games age in dog years; the difference between a game made in 2001 and one made in 2011 is much more apparent than two films or novels of similar vintages.  The time to start writing the history of the medium has long since passed.

Thankfully, David Kushner realized this.  His 2003 book, Masters of Doom, chronicles the birth of id Software and the tumultuous rise of two industry legends: John Carmack and John Romero.  It’s a comprehensive book, one that straddles multiple lines: academic writing vs. literary storytelling, a focus on the medium vs. video games’ broader cultural significance, biographical detail vs. a holistic view of the industry.  It’s a difficult task, but Kushner rises to the challenge and creates a work that demonstrates both the many changes and recurring themes in the medium.

//Mixed media

The Thoughtful Absurdity of 'Spaceplan'

// Moving Pixels

"Spaceplan is a goofy game that still manages to pack a potent emotional punch.

READ the article