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Monday, Jul 21, 2014
This week our podcasters continue to traverse the surreal highways and byways of Kentucky Route Zero, as we focus in on its third act.

The surreal world of Kentucky Route Zero continues to fascinate and confound with the release of its third act.


This episode we discuss this act along with the interlude between it and the previous one, The Entertainment.


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Friday, Jul 18, 2014
Is nostalgia an excuse for bad design? Is it even bad design if it's done on purpose to evoke nostalgia?

My dad can’t watch old movies (let’s say, ‘50s and earlier) because he finds the acting universally terrible. Other people I know enjoy older movies over modern movies. Opinions and tastes vary, but there’s no denying that the art and craft of acting has evolved in the past 60 years. The art has changed, the criticism of that art has changed, and the cultural appreciation of that art has changed.

While the art of yesterday exists as a time capsule of our former cultural and artistic values, what about the modern art that mimics those older aesthetics? By what standards are we supposed to use to judge that art?


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Thursday, Jul 17, 2014
“People like us get forgotten all the time… When we suffer, we do it in silence. And the world likes it that way.” -- Nerissa

Warning: This article contains spoilers for all episodes of The Wolf Among Us.


Speaking in his own defense at his murder trial during one The Wolf Among Us’s final scenes, the Crooked Man, the kingpin of a Fabletown mob of sorts, questions the perspectives of the jurors/townsfolk: “You all act like I’m some kind of tyrant. When your government abandoned you, left you poor and helpless, sniveling on the street corners, I was there to look out for you.” He wants those he most exploited to respect him as a savior, a hero of the people.


This dynamic, between the sufferers (in this case the Fabletown citizens themselves) and the institutions of power, runs through the entire five-episode arc of The Wolf Among Us. Victimhood is a recurring theme throughout the game, consistently used to undermine Bigby’s efforts to solve a murder case far more complex than he first imagined. Issues of culpability and guilt abound, and the game offers no easy answers to the persistent dilemma. The game does, however, send a clear message about focusing on the victim above all else.


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Wednesday, Jul 16, 2014
The questions asked by the behavior in a game are limited in comparison to those asked by choices. They are always about violence.

I’ve spent the last few weeks on PopMatters talking about moral choices and how they can be an effective tool in our understanding of and our engagement with a game. I started by discussing an example of a directed choice, moved on to a more fundamental understanding of why many supposed moral choices in games don’t work, and finally by looking at a different presentation of choices in games like Papers, Please. After publishing all three posts, fellow PopMatters contributor Jorge Albor briefly asked about my focus on consequences regarding moral choices.


It’s true, both the games and my writing highlighted what he called a “consequentialist ethic” whereby the outcome was more important than virtues or values. This has been a bugbear of video games for a long time. How does one get a player to concern themselves with what they are doing instead of what they will get out of it? How does one get that player to not just focus on items or experience, but on story content and so forth? In talking about recentering moral decision making on moral values instead of moral consequences, I want to talk about something that I previously left alone in my discussion: behavior.


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Friday, Jul 11, 2014
The kinds of choices that force us to define what we value and how a game is about what we value are best implemented at the end of that game.

A couple of weeks ago here at PopMatters, Eric Swain wrote about a more complex form of moral choice in games.


It’s not a question of right or wrong, but a question of priorities. The player is offered up two rights and asked to make a choice between them ... The morality here isn’t based on abstract rules, but on the individual player—what they would do and why is up to them” (Eric Swain, “More Thoughts on a More Complex Form of Moral Choice in Video Games”, 24 June 2014)


I agree with everything Swain has written, but I’d also like to add an important caveat to the conversation. These kinds of complex moral choices, the kind that force us to choose between two philosophical truths that will go on to define who we are, what we value, and how the game is about what we value, these kinds of choices are best implemented at the end of a game.


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