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Thursday, Mar 20, 2014
Is Titanfall catering to me or just acting condescending?

I don’t play competitive first-person shooters very often. I dip into Call of Duty every once in a while, but (as ludicrous as this might sound) it’s more for the story than anything. The sad, brutal facts are that I no longer have the twitch skills nor the time to be very competitive. I have a good time, but bump my head on the skill ceiling quickly.


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Wednesday, Mar 19, 2014
Games seem like the medium that might best challenge the authority of the author, given as they are to allowing the player to manipulate their “texts", to build within their systems, and potentially to break, rearrange, or reorder them in some personally satisfying way. Games seem like that.

No! I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be;
Am an attendant lord, one that will do
To swell a progress, start a scene or two,
Advise the prince; no doubt, an easy tool,
Deferential, glad to be of use,
Politic, cautious, and meticulous;
Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse;
At times, indeed, almost ridiculous – 
Almost, at times, the Fool.
—T.S. Eliot, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”



Having described a painting of two pears in rather minute detail in Wallace Stevens’s poem, “Study of Two Pears,” the narrator of that poem completes his observations by saying, “The pears are not seen / As the observer wills.”


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Monday, Mar 17, 2014
Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons manages to create a unique and seemingly paradoxical game style, a single-player cooperative game in which your right hand has to cooperate with your left.

With its unique control scheme, I like to think of Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons as a “rubbing your belly, while patting you head” simulator.


A kind of co-operative single player game, Brothers manages to represent a sibling relationship through the controller itself. Two characters can be controlled using each half of a controller, thus creating both a sense of unity between the brothers at the same time as representing the autonomy of each character simply through the act of controlling them as individuals and as a unit.


This week we explore how this 2-in-1 control scheme plays out mechanically and narratively in this indie darling from last year.


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Friday, Mar 14, 2014
Part of what makes a great game great is how well it fosters its own illusion.

A couple of weeks ago, Jorge Albor wrote about how horror drives The Wolf Among Us:


The Wolf Among Us [changes] the significance of player decisions… Decisions seem less meaningful in Smoke & Mirrors because none of them lead out of the macabre world deepened in The Wolf Among Us. The result is a strange play experience: not particularly interesting mechanically and certainly not fun, but nevertheless unique and entrancing. (The Horror of ‘The Wolf Among Us: Smoke & Mirrors”, PopMatters, 27 Feburary 2014


I had a similar sense of lessened interaction upon finishing the game. Decisions did seem less meaningful, and like Jorge, I didn’t find that to be a bad thing. The Wolf Among Us is a stellar example of the illusion of interactivity done right. It proves that my specific interactions with a game are not as important as the illusion those interactions facilitate. Put another way, it’s not about how many buttons I press but about what I think each button means.


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Thursday, Mar 13, 2014
Make no mistake, this is not a coming of age story. There is no moral truth to be had here, only complex, ever shifting moral perspectives to grapple with.

As soon as I plunged the pitchfork into his chest, I knew I had made the wrong decision. Clementine’s shocked response stoked my sense of moral repugnance. This was the moment in The Walking Dead’s first season that I knew my decisions in Telltale’s world would irrevocably change not just how the in-game characters saw me, but how I saw my own moral rationalizations within this extreme environment. Throughout the first season, I was in a perpetual state of moral stress.


Two episodes into the second season, and the moral landscape of The Walking Dead has shifted dramatically. It creates what Miguel Sicart calls ethical gameplay, that is it “forces players to address their actions from a moral perspective,” (Beyond Choices, MIT Press, 2013) and these moral perspective shift and change and dramatically so between seasons. While mechanically the game largely remains the same, the new context makes my reassess my actions from a shifting moral perspective. As the world changes around Clementine, so do I.


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