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by Jorge Albor

16 Feb 2012


I watched Jackie Estacado grab a man by the feet and then literally rip that man’s spine out through his anus, and I think I liked it. Afters hours of playing The Darkness II, I have disemboweled and torn to pieces so many screaming men that I fear for my sanity. Have I grown so accustomed to wanton slaughter that ripping someone in half evokes only a momentary shock before fading into the backdrop of video game violence? Now might be a good time to reassess that question of video game violence and gore in particular before we let gradual technological progress sneak moral questions past us while we remain fixated on the light show in front of us.

To be fair, there is a comical element to the ludicrous dismemberment portrayed in The Darkness II. Enemies all look like clones of each other and therefore lose their semblance of humanity pretty quickly. The mutated and mask-wearing opponents also distinguish themselves from regular human beings, making their messy and violent passing a little less disturbing. The game is also rendered in non-photorealistic cel-shading, giving everything a sketchy comic-book feel, distancing itself from our own moral universe.

by G. Christopher Williams

15 Feb 2012


The premise of The Binding of Isaac seems a skewering of religion, as the game parallels the story of Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son, Isaac, with tendencies towards religious mania and child abuse.  The game begins by introducing us to a more contemporary version of Isaac and his mother, an avid viewer of Christian television.  Believing that she has heard a voice from God that has instructed her to purge Isaac of evil, she aims to do so.  This request, to purge her son of evil, is put to her twice before the more ominous command to kill her son is finally given.

Thus, begins the game, a shmup and rogue-like that obviously owes something to games like Zelda, Bezerk, and Diablo.  Isaac’s attempts to escape his fate lead him to flee down a trapdoor in his room into an underworld full of grotesque monsters that he battles with his own tears (the “bullets” of this shmup).

by Mattie Brice

14 Feb 2012


Dragon Age II is subversive on multiple levels, focusing on character relationships with fluid sexualities instead of the usual epic storylines. What most people miss upon a superficial playthrough is BioWare’s statement on contemporary social issues. Everyone can recognize the set-up: the Templars as the safeguard of tradition and society, while the Mages represent the oppressed and the often abused. It’s not a huge leap to compare this conflict between social (typically religious) conservatives and minorities like the LGBT community.

The game exaggerates the relationship, creating a situation that couldn’t happen in reality. Thus, the philosophical ideas that inform the conflict aren’t constrained by the factual details of our world. No one is implying that the LGBT community turn into blood magicians and that the religious march out to cage and murder them, but this conflict still echoes the tensions felt in the lives of real people. BioWare was successful in avoiding moralizing by not choosing a side, while providing enough interactions to allow the player to take a stance on their own. While it is easy to side with the Mages, especially when one thinks of them as social minorities, one cannot ignore how many of them do resort to blood magic and turn into demons.

by G. Christopher Williams

13 Feb 2012


This week Jorge Albor and I are joined by game designer Matthew Gallant to discuss Riot Games’s free-to-play sensation, League of Legends.

There is much to talk about here, from Riot’s successful business model to its varied gameplay offerings to its management of its very large and (*ahem*) very complicated community.

We consider this video game and the nature of such “eSports” from just about every angle.

by Nick Dinicola

10 Feb 2012


This post contains spoilers for the main quest of Skyrim in the very first paragraph.

After playing Skyrim for 90 hours, I saw something that changed my view of the world (the virtual world, that is). I saw one dragon bring another dragon back to life. The latter began as bones, but skin formed and stretched over its wings and skull until it looked alive, reversing the death animation that I’d seen a dozen times before. Then they started talking to each other, then to me. Since when did dragons talk? According to what Skyrim lore I know, the shouts that I had learned that can kill people and beasts are based on words from the dragon’s language; their conversations are battles. But here were two flying lizards, right in front of me, speaking in English and not killing each other. It blew my mind.

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