Latest Blog Posts

by Mark Filipowich

2 Aug 2011

At this point, it would be redundant to mention that video games are more influential than ever. Even without the unprecedented sales and number of players, games are everywhere, even when they aren’t games. Once upon a time a successful franchise was lucky if it could get a kids cartoon or maybe a background shot in a movie. But now even modestly received games are spreading into novels, comic series, anime, table top games, and films. Blizzard even holds an annual writing contest for fans that want to contribute to their favourite game’s lore. But a byproduct of these “extended universes” is games that are contracted and simplified. The original work of art—the game—is left shallower because the deeper layers are reserved for other, more established media.

It should be said that a work of art that migrates across media is not a bad thing; it wouldn’t make much sense to complain about the multiplicity of media in a multimedia column. There are a number of reasons to expand a game into other art forms. It makes obvious business sense and no medium ought to restrict its content just because other media explored a concept first. But games face a danger in dealing strictly with action and leaving all the characterization and drama up to novels, comics, or other means of storytelling. Game developers ought to have enough faith in their games to tell a complete and self-contained story without having to fall back on novels to tell the story for them.

by Kris Ligman

1 Aug 2011

With an intentionally provocative name, Fat, Ugly or Slutty? has become a hit among readers for highlighting the sort of over-the-top trashtalk women gamers experience. From the cliched to the farcical and even the truly sad, FUoS is one part Why Was I Banned?, one part Hollaback, and eight parts “you have to read it to believe it.”

We managed to track down three of the four FUoS admins—gtz, likeOMGitsFEDAY and inklesspen—a few weeks before PAX Prime to talk about the origins of the site, their own gaming experiences, and some of their favorite submissions. We also ponder a few meaningful questions about the state of online gaming—and what a site like Fat, Ugly or Slutty? can mean for it.

by Nick Dinicola

29 Jul 2011

Bioware’s sequels don’t follow the usual path of video game sequels. Rather than going “bigger, better, and more badass” and upping the stakes, both Dragon Age II and Mass Effect 2 lower the stakes of the story, and all the attention that would normally have gone into crafting action scenes goes into crafting characters instead. Bioware’s sequels are inherently character driven, more so than their predecessors, and nowhere is this more obvious than in the climax of Mass Effect 2. The suicide mission is a love letter to the game’s characters, even as it kills them off.

by Scott Juster

28 Jul 2011

Last month, I wrote a short piece for a PopMatters feature about great games for summer.  In it, I praised the newest Mortal Kombat game’s approachable, yet sophisticated fighting system as well as the game’s respect for the series’ roots.  Mortal Kombat is a game that wields nostalgia with surprising subtlety.  Familiar characters perform trademark moves and spout classic taunts, but nods to the past generally avoid crossing over into the territory of exclusionary in jokes.  The game’s violence and camp sensibilities are presented in such a way that communicates the game’s mixture of both the shocking and the silly to new players, just as the original did nearly twenty years ago.

But twenty years is a long time, both in the video game world and in society at large.  People change, politics change, and the medium changes.  Despite its deference to the past, Mortal Kombat cannot fully recapture the essence of what made the original special for me and a generation of players.  This is not necessarily a weakness; many of my fond feelings towards Mortal Kombat are linked to troubling times that I am happy to leave in the past.  This is simply a personal story about the role Mortal Kombat played at a specific time in history, at a specific point in my life.  As absurd as it might sound, Mortal Kombat was a formative experience for me, both in terms of my relationship to video games and my broader cultural and political identities.

by G. Christopher Williams

27 Jul 2011

Skinny may be a direct follow up to Thomas Brush’s haunting little flash game, Coma.  At least, the game is sprinkled with some secret items that allude to the previous title in the form of an empty bird cage, a fishing hook, and a gravestone. 

A direct relationship between the odd adventure of a seemingly comatose boy named Pete whose effort to free his sister from the basement (which comprises the majority of the plot of Coma) and the adventure of a skinny robot tasked with retrieving batteries to sustain human beings that have been jacked into some sort of hallucinatory subsystem by an AI called “Mama” is never made exactly clear in the new game.

And despite the probable near incoherence of the previous summary of the premise of the two games, nevertheless, there are some rather clear thematic parallels between both games, as well as a clear consistency in Brush’s aesthetic more generally.

//Mixed media

NYFF 2017: 'Mudbound'

// Notes from the Road

"Dee Rees’ churning and melodramatic epic follows two families in 1940s Mississippi, one black and one white, and the wars they fight abroad and at home.

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