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Wednesday, Jul 9, 2014
In A Dark Room, the player begins with a sense only of the immediacy of the self and its own needs, before becoming aware of a small corner of the world around that self, before then becoming aware of how that corner fits into a larger and larger universe.

This post contains spoilers for A Dark Room.


In A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and while still a young boy, the novel’s protagonist, Stephen Dedalus, writes on the flyleaf of his geography book:


Stephen Dedalus
Class of Elements
Clongowes Wood College
Sallins
County Kildare
Ireland
The World
The Universe
(James Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Dover, pg. 7-8)


As an exmple of a bildungsroman, a novel about human development, maturation, and growing up, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man uses this moment to emphasize Stephen’s burgeoning awareness of himself and his relationship to and awareness of the world around that self. Indeed, all human deveopment is marked by this exponentially growing sense of the self in relationship to a larger world. We all begin life with a sense only of the immediacy of the self and its own needs, before becoming aware of a small corner of the world around ourselves, before then becoming aware of how that corner fits into a larger and larger universe.


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Wednesday, Jul 2, 2014
A Dark Room withholds the one piece of information that is traditionally the very first thing established in the rulebook of games: the object of the game.

A Dark Room, an iOS and browser based game developed by Doublespeak Games, is an amazing experience, and it is hard to immediately say why.


Beginning in a dark room that is cold, the player is given a single option to interact with the game by lighting a fire. I’m hesitant to say a great deal more about the game at this point, though, as I think a great deal of the experience of playing it has to do with with not knowing what you are getting into. So, if you haven’t played the game and don’t want to have anything spoiled for you, I would recommend that you stop reading right here and go try your hand at it yourself at one of the links above.


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Wednesday, Jun 25, 2014
Does Watch Dogs suggest that the only unscrupulous act in the information age is an act of embodied violence?

I still haven’t finished Watch Dogs. I’ve been playing it on and off again (mostly off) since its release, but I just can’t work up the interest necessary to press the power button on my Xbox for the most part.


I love open world games. They’re kind of my thing, but there are two really essential elements of an open world game that are necessary to make them work well in my mind. First and foremost is the world itself. It has to have a personality. It has to be a place that is interesting to occupy. The Grand Theft Auto series is good at this with their evocation of particular eras and of specific American cities and their ability to send up the culture surrounding those times and places. The Assassin’s Creed series is also good at this. It presents interesting places and times in history that are fascinating to explore within the mythology of the eons spanning war between the Assassins and the Templars.


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Wednesday, Jun 18, 2014
At some point, League of Legends champions have become for me toys that are just displayed on a shelf, gathering dust, having never been played with. Smite asks me to tear open the packaging and actually get down on the floor to appreciate all the toys I have again.

I wrote last week about the completion of my two year quest to unlock every League of Legends champion without spending a single dime (”On Having Caught ‘Em All”, PopMatters, 11 June 2014). In doing so, I raised some questions about some tendencies in myself as a gamer towards completing sets for the sake of completing sets. Indeed, I have written in the past about how video games play on a very human (or maybe a very modern) need in ourselves to complete tasks, checking off lists of minor goals to achieve “greater goals,” and how I sometimes love doing so and sometimes loathe doing so (“Post-It Note Gaming, or the White Collar Warriors of Skyrim, PopMatters, 8 January 2012).


Another thing that I noted on having completed my quest was that I had almost immediately taken up with playing another free-to-play MOBA that allows me to scratch my collector’s itch by allowing me to not merely collect “champions,” but to now collect “gods” by playing matches of the game Smite and earning “favor” (the equivalent of League‘s influence points) in, perhaps, a new quest to catch ‘em all. While it seems certain to me that I never got over the mania of action figure and comic book collecting that I did as a kid, playing Smite, though, and attempting to start a new collection from scratch has given me a few new thoughts on the sorts of reasons that motivate one to play the sorts of games that include playable collectibles.


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Wednesday, Jun 11, 2014
Am I playing video games or at times merely enduring them?

There are 119 League of Legends champions. As of this week, I own them all, and I have never spent a dime on a single one.


League of Legends is a free-to-play Multiplayer Online Battle Arena, in which five players on each team take on the role of five champions for a 30-40 minute match. Riot Games makes money in the game by selling champions and skins for champions, essentially mere aesthetic upgrades for those characters. Skins can only be purchased with real money. However, champions can be purchased with real money or by earning points by playing games and unlocking them one at a time.


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