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by Rick Dakan

17 Feb 2011


I play games every day. Literally, every day. I recently tried my best to think back and try to remember some 24 hour period when I hadn’t played any games at all. Even while traveling in London and Berlin, I always found time in the evening to play something on my DS or my Ipad or my laptop. I haven’t been so sick that a few minutes of some digital distraction didn’t seem like a good idea. Of course, there must be some time when I haven’t played a game, but I can’t for the life of me imagine when it would have been. It would have to be before I bought my first Nintendo DS, which was in 2006, so probably five years ago. From a detached point of view, this probably seems like rather juvenile behavior for a man who’s just begun the last year of his thirties and is charging towards middle age.

To be clear, I do not feel one iota of bad about my gaming habits. Rather, I take great satisfaction in them. Mine is a restless—some would say wandering—mind, and I always want some form of active engagement. And while I like a good episode of Top Chef or Castle as much as the next person, most television simply cannot hold my full attention. Indeed, most television plays just fine as a radio play with occasional glances at the images. Similarly, most video games, especially the kind that I play on a DS or an Ipad, aren’t particularly demanding of my entire attention either. Building tower defense arrays or manipulating falling blocks or even deciding on my next turn’s strategies don’t quite entertain my whole brain. Thus, the perfect synergy of casual games and casual TV. Nothing like a Top Gear marathon to clear through those Plants vs. Zombies levels.

by G. Christopher Williams

16 Feb 2011


This discussion of several of Visceral Games products, Dante’s Inferno, Dead Space, and Dead Space 2 does contain major spoilers, especially in the case of the latter two games.

Work, eviscerate, work, eviscerate.  Masculinity in the Dead Space universe is pretty minimally represented in a fairly stereotypical way by the aggressive (but ever handy) Isaac Clarke.

Femininity in this series, however, seems to be grotesquely and decorously painted all over the virtual walls of this and (to some degree at least) Visceral’s other recent game offering, Dante’s Inferno.  That painting is composed of an awful lot of twisted flesh and bodily fluids, though.

by Kris Ligman

15 Feb 2011


There’s something about game boxes that makes them fascinating as objects.

I’ve habitually held onto all my console boxes since childhood, in part because my family were frequent movers, but also largely because I was fixated on their uniqueness and their role as signifiers. As a kid, there was something almost religious about them, as though they’d literally given birth to the fat collection of plastic and computer chips sitting underneath my TV. The fact that game devices were most typically a Christmas gift only enhanced the quasi-Catholicism with which these boxes were silently revered.

Maybe I’m just weird.

Nevertheless, gamer culture is indeed marked by a sort of box fixation. On the one hand, it relates to collectorship—boxes connote not just protection but also completion, which is the main reason that two equally unblemished discs will go for different prices on eBay. On the other hand, they also act as indexes to what the machine or software is as well as what it can potentially be in the user’s hands.

by Aaron Poppleton

15 Feb 2011


Ah, the ‘80s.  That magical time when men did lots of cocaine and women wore those suits with really big shoulder pads.  This was the time of the stock trader, and it is this time that the simple browser based game American Dream seeks to take the player back to.  It has a simple enough goal: become a millionaire by playing the stock market.

by Nick Dinicola

11 Feb 2011


The vocabulary we use to talk about horror games is inherently problematic because a single subgenre has become synonymous with the genre as a whole. “Survival horror” is widely seen as a synonym for “horror” in general, but the truth is that “survival horror” when used in this context is a very specific kind of horror game that really only existed in a very specific era of gaming.

There’s a lot of nostalgic baggage attached to the term “survival horror”. The two words speak to a distinct type of gameplay and atmosphere: tank controls, weak characters, poor combat, inventory management, fixed camera angels, obtuse puzzles, limited ammo, lots of loading screens, lots of running, journals that fill out the backstory, etc. This type of game was popular on the Playstation and Playstation 2 and was also the only kind of horror game that was readily accessible in mass market gaming. Since there were no alternatives, it was only natural to assume that survival horror was the only sort of horror game, and over time, this kind of thinking became entrenched in the fans of the genre.

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