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by G. Christopher Williams

25 Feb 2015


Lara Croft from Tomb Raider (Square Enix, 2013)

Last weekend, I played the board game Bora Bora, designed by Stefan Feld, whose game Castles of Burgundy is one of my favorite board games of recent years. Bora Bora is a Eurogame, which for those that run in board game circles know usually indicates a carefully balanced game with a low running time and probably no dice (though this game actually does use dice). Eurogames are also frequently economic development games that ask players to collect resources and develop an engine to drive an economy. They are also known for their wooden pieces, which often represent resources and people.

People themselves often serve as a kind of resource in Eurogames, since frequently the limited size of a population in such a game determines what jobs can be assigned and what then can be produced on a given turn. As far as people go in Eurogames, like many things in the genre, they are mostly abstracted concepts. They represent the ability to implement an action or to produce a particular good. They represent “work” itself and have little to no personal identity in general. Indeed one of the more general identity markers assigned to human beings, their gender identity, is rarely a concern in Eurogames.

by G. Christopher Williams

18 Feb 2015


Rek'Sai from League of Legends (Riot Games, 2014)

Biologically speaking, it seems that there is no essential difference between the genders among pac-people. Both Pac-Man and Ms. Pac-Man share an identical body type. It is only markers worn by Ms. Pac-Man that signal the gender difference between the two, her bow and lipstick (well, there is also her mole, which may or may not be painted on a la Marilyn Monroe).

In this regard, Pac-Man and Ms. Pac-Man share something in common with the typical silhouettes that represent the distinction between the men’s restroom and the women’s restroom. These individuals share an identical body type with only the female silhouette differentiated from the unadorned male silhouette by her triangular skirt.

by G. Christopher Williams

16 Feb 2015


What with all the shooting and the lopping off of heads, romance and video games are not often concepts that gamers think of first when they think of their favorite medium.

Nevertheless, from Pac-Man and Ms. Pac-Man to Master Chief and Cortana, their are some pretty significant couples that remain central to the history of video games.

by G. Christopher Williams

11 Feb 2015


Ah, binary decision making. It is, perhaps, unsurprising that computer games have often presented distinct binary choices to players as ways of enlivening and complicating the stories they tell. After all, computers themselves are built on binary logic. Is it any wonder that the narratives built on top of computer systems often seem to reflect the programmer’s obsession with 1s and 0s, the concept of on and off?

Of course, what this has led to in the recent past is any number of video games in which players play a protagonist that can be developed in stark terms, choosing to play as a good guy or as a bad guy by offering moral choices in games that loudly reflect a broad ideology of “goodness” and “badness.” It has also led to a lot of discombobulated narratives, especially in regards to approaching games about saving the world while playing as a really ugly specimen of human being. Most players seem to opt to play for the “good” ending in games like Fable, inFamous, Dishonored, and the like and probably for good reason. I have written and spoken before about the frequent ludicrousness of the options often presented in these games that supposedly allow players to make complicated evaluations of moral dilemmas. I mean, if the choice is to save a child or to eat a baby, I am really going to struggle with the moral ambiguity of the circumstances, right?

by G. Christopher Williams

4 Feb 2015


Stumbling onto Witch Hunt over at NewGrounds felt like stumbling back into the arcade era. Though I felt the sense that I was playing something from that era almost immediately, it was initially difficult for me to put a finger on why.

Witch Hunt is at its core a tower defense game, a genre of video game that I associate with the last ten years or so, not the video games of the 1980s. Instead, I see the tower defense game as appearing with the arrival of Flash games and iOS as a gaming platform. The tower defense game typically asks the player to be responsible for creating defenses against an encroaching horde of “creeps.” An army of creatures will advance to destroy a central base, and your job is to manage the battlefield by strategically placing towers of various sorts (some may fire quickly and do a bit of damage, some may fire slowly but cause a great deal of damage, some might simply slow the oncoming creeps, etc.) to stop them. Destroying creeps provides money that allows you to purchase more towers or to upgrade towers. Your business is as a field commander managing the economics of a battle.

//Mixed media
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Hozier + Death Cab for Cutie + Rock Radio 104.5's Birthday Show (Photo Gallery)

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