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Monday, Sep 20, 2010
We discuss the virtues and vices of using games as a means to evoke emotion and whether they remain "games" in the familiar sense of the word at all.

This week’s podcast contributors, G. Christopher Williams, Nick Dinicola, and Thomas Cross, discuss some recent indie releases.  Our review includes Thomas Brush’s Coma, Alexander Ocias’s Loved, and Digipen’s Solace.


This series of games seem built more to engage and immerse than many similar titles of the Triple A variety.  We discuss the virtues and vices of using games as a means to evoke emotion and whether they remain “games” in the familiar sense of the word at all.


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Friday, Sep 17, 2010
Clash of the Titans: The Video Game follows the original script of the movie, not the reworked script that found its way into theaters.

The recent remake of Clash of the Titans was not a very good movie. The game was fine as far as movie tie-ins go, but as I reviewed it, I noticed several changes in the story that seemed odd. Now, I’ve played enough movie tie-in games to know that the story is often changed to allow for more action. For example, in the game Perseus had to fight a giant flying serpent as he crossed the River Styx, and there was no such fight in the movie. This change makes sense because the game must have more combat sequences to keep a player interested. A change that didn’t make sense was when Apollo gave Perseus the Ferryman’s Coin to cross the River Styx, whereas in the movie it was Zeus. This change resulted in no more action, so why is it different?


Then I read an article by Devin Faraci that went into detail about how much the movie changed through editing and reshoots (“BY ZEUS! THE VERSION OF CLASH OF THE TITANS YOU DIDN’T SEE”, Chud.com, 04 September 2010). To my surprise, the original story had more in common with the game than with the final movie.


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Thursday, Sep 16, 2010
Multi-player is the only real reason to buy Starcraft 2.

I played hours and hours and even more hours of the original Starcraft multi-player before I played a minute of the single-player campaign. I’d just moved out to San Jose, California to start Cryptic Studios, and I was living in my friend Mike’s apartment. He and his co-workers had a regular, after work Starcraft session at least once a week, and Mike was kind enough to let me tag along. This was in 2000, and while online play might have existed, we were all about the LAN party. Their company had plenty of high-end computers and a very robust network, more than enough to handle the eight to 12 people who gathered to play those evenings.


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Wednesday, Sep 15, 2010
Whether intended or not, the progression of achievement in Metroid resembles a kind of virtual striptease. Playing well results in seeing more flesh.

Abbie Heppe’s review of Metroid: Other M over at G4‘s web site provoked a bit of debate a few weeks ago.  It’s an interesting review that goes well beyond a discussion of game mechanics by considering the significance of the presentation of Metroid series protagonist, Samus Aran, within the context of the newest game’s plotline.  Much of the discussion surrounding the review concerned Heppe’s focus on the infantilized version of Other M‘s Samus: “Other M expects you to accept her as a submissive, child-like and self-doubting little girl that cannot possibly wield the amount of power she possesses unless directed to by a man” (“Metroid: Other M for Wii”, G4, 27 August 2010).


Heppe offers a number of interesting examples of this phenomenon throughout the review, to which commenters to the thread responded in various ways.  Some agreed with Heppe’s criticism of the game.  Some merely found it refreshing that a game reviewer would consider such issues at all.  Some dismissed the criticism given that Other M is “just a game” and, thus, unworthy of gender analysis.  Still others noted that the presentation of women as submissive and child-like is simply indicative of developer Team Ninja’s standard approach to female presentation (after all, these are the folks responsible for titles like the voyeuristic Dead or Alive: Xtreme Beach Volleyball) and that Nintendo’s choice to place development of this newest iteration of the Metroid series in their hands would, of course, necessarily lead to this kind of representation. 


I am, likewise, unsurprised that Team Ninja would present Samus in such a way.  Their “aesthetic” and “themes” are pretty obvious.  However, what did surprise me is the sense that many players had that Samus is a female figure in gaming that has previously been presented in a non-sexualized way.  Even Heppe herself says as much about the bounty hunter when she calls Samus, “the most iconic (and nonsexualized) female characters in gaming history”.


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Tuesday, Sep 14, 2010
It doesn’t matter what you try to force a space into being, people will define that space themselves in connection to other parts. A game designer never truly plays their own game.

Bernard Tschumi’s Architecture and Disjunction is a collection of his essays on post-structuralism. Overall, they engage with the idea of applying Derrida’s theories about how people interact with meaning in art to architecture and space. If you need a basic rundown on some ways that architecture and video games relate to one another, you can check out my column on the subject. This is a bit more complicated and explores how interaction creates or destroys meaning in a virtual space. I’ve done my best to make this accessible to someone with no background (or interest) in these fields, but it only works for so long.


The first thing that you need to know is that anytime you see the word “post” next to a term for an artistic movement, it means that they’re talking about the artistic reaction to that movement. So, structuralism is a movement that roughly started with Kenzo Tange in 1960 when he was designing the new Tokyo Bay. It was an abandoning of functionalism, or the idea of making a building super-efficient, and instead organizing it around how people engage with one another. Video game design is extremely structuralist in this sense, all spaces are built around playtesting and studying how people respond to them. Changes are made to change the space to fit a designer’s vision for what people should be doing in that area. Post-structuralism, as a branch of post-modernism, is the idea that the meaning of a place comes from events and spaces relationships to other parts of a whole. Meaning is not controlled by any one specific design, person, or action but rather by all of these things working together. Keep in mind that post-modernism in architecture is not the same thing as post-modernism in the arts. To an artist, it means a critical practice. To an architect, it is a visual aesthetic (17).


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