Call for Essays About Any Aspect of Popular Culture, Present or Past

 
Bookmark and Share
Text:AAA
Wednesday, Sep 10, 2014
Time and efficiency are most often the factor that creates tension in a zombie story, which is about when you will be overwhelmed and then if you have enough time to prepare to do something about it. So where is the source of tension in Dead Rising 3?

It’s always a comfort to me after the advent of a zombie apocalypse to know that I can make a quick stop off at home to pick up a fiery scythe or a sawed off shotgun with a machete mounted on it (or both for that matter) to fend off the undead hordes.


Certainly any game that features the ability to light a scythe on fire or strap a light machine gun to a teddy bear to create a cute, portable gun turret is, of course, not one committed in any way to some form of grim and gritty realism. The Dead Rising games do not share the serious tone of another zombie-infused series like The Walking Dead, in which the need for a survivalist philosophy in the face of an overwhelming threat leads to players making difficult moral and sociopolitical decisions. The only “tough” decisions that you will have to make in Dead Rising 3 are things like whether to use that stoplight that you jury rigged to shoot arcs of electricity to destroy the shambling monstrosities that surround you or to instead use the other similarly jury rigged stoplight that you seem to carry around in your back pocket that belches fire—at least this time out.


Bookmark and Share
Text:AAA
Wednesday, Sep 3, 2014
Ironically, the rules of McMillen's games are about creating situations in which players are confronted with their own foolish tendencies to follow the rules without thinking about them.

This post contains spoilers for Time Fcuk and for A.V.G.M..


At the conclusion of Edmund McMillen’s Time Fcuk, having completed some thirty odd puzzles to get there, the player is instructed to take a pill in order to “end it.” Doing so leads to one conclusion of the game in which the narrator declares that “You’ve learned nothing.” This declaration is followed by a diatribe about the nature of following directions:


This wall of text means nothing, about as much as the basic rules that others set in place for you. The more you read the more you will follow any direction, regardless of the time spent doing so or eventual outcome. You are simply looking for answers. And even though you have been told there will be no answers here you continue to read. The path you are on will only lead to an end. This text will stop, the game will be concluded, and the curtain will eventually fall. We all follow. We all want instruction and comfort. We [are] all stuck in repetition because it’s simply easier than taking a risk and just not reading the text before you. Please stop reading this, it means nothing… about as much as the basic rules others set in place for you.



Bookmark and Share
Text:AAA
Wednesday, Aug 27, 2014
The idea of a video game character that suffers a general decline seems counter to the way in which games are designed. Who wants to get less capable as a character as they progress?

This post contains spoilers for Spec Ops: The Line


Defined in the broadest sense, traditionally comedies are narratives that resolve in a positive way. They are expected to result in a happy ending. The tragedy, however, is a lesson taught via witnessing the ultimate demise of an individual, a demise brought about through steadily declining circumstances. Within this broad context, modern video games could be associated more easily with comedy than they could be with tragedy.


Pac-Man (and maybe all early arcade games) is a tragedy of sorts. It is a “story” about a creature obsessed with consuming dots that will inevitably reach a bad end, since the game cannot be won, cannot be resolved. Modern video games are seldom like Pac-Man, concerned as they are with winning the game and resolving a narrative arc that represents that goal of games, “winning.” Indeed, perhaps games in general, when they take on the trappings of plot, character development, and other aspects of storytelling, are always prone towards comedy because the goal of games in general is to win. A happy outcome (for someone at least) is generally expected in games.


Bookmark and Share
Text:AAA
Wednesday, Aug 20, 2014
If the player of a building game like Clockwork Empires is intended to help build a world in the game itself, shouldn't that player be able to take part in the process of building Clockwork Empires itself?

For the low, low price of 30 bucks, you can play test Clockwork Empires for Gaslamp Games. Or, at least, that’s what it feels like to me when an individual plunks down his or her money for most games labeled “Early Access” on Steam.


My perspective may be a bit retrograde in the post-Minecraft gaming landscape. I’m informed by the old school idea that playtesting is a paid position in a game development company, given that it isn’t necessarily a pleasure to play buggy and unfinished products. Playtesting is a part of the creation of a game, necessary to a video game as copyediting is to a novel. And while I have playtested in an unpaid capacity before, as a beta tester, still I never paid anything for the privilege. After all, it seems a bit like a job.


Bookmark and Share
Text:AAA
Wednesday, Aug 13, 2014
The unusual quality of Leisure Suit Larry exists in the unconventional role reversal of the male as pursuer in favor of the female as the one necessary to complete a game's quest.

As a comedy (and not an especially sophisticated one at that), the Leisure Suit Larry series has always traded on stereotypes. The focus of most of the 1980s era point-and-and click adventure games is on Larry Laffer and his quest to get laid. In most instances, the games have a standard formula. Larry attempts to bed several women, all of whom are typically stereotypical gold diggers, before he finally finds his one “true love” (and since this is banal sex farce “true love,” of course, really simply means “good sex” or at the very least “decent sex”).


For Larry Laffer, the narrow definition of sex always contains a simplistic understanding that sex is a commodity. In Leisure Suit Larry 3: Passionate Patti in Pursuit of the Pulsating Pectorals, Larry will, as usual, attempt to bed at least three women before meeting his dream girl, Passionate Patti. These sexual encounters will end in miserable failure, of course, but they will also be defined by the idea that sex for a loser like Larry will need to be purchased. In the case of this game, Larry initiates sexual encounters by giving a girl a credit card, another is given a deed to some land that he owns, and another is aided in figuring out how to market her exercise video by Larry’s economic advice that “sex sells.” Sex is always for sale in this context, but, also, of course, the boundaries of the point-and-click adventure make the idea of trading objects for sexual experience the only reasonable course of action within this genre. After all, the classic point-and-click adventure is always reduced to solving puzzles by figuring out how to use objects on other objects in order to progress in the game. That the objects of Larry’s affection must be cajoled by yet more objects is unsurprising to say the least (and also unsurprising in a narrative genre in which men and women are most often reduced to objects that represent an idea of what men and women are, rather than in attempting to create realistic imaginings of actual people).


Now on PopMatters
PM Picks
Announcements

© 1999-2014 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters.com™ and PopMatters™ are trademarks
of PopMatters Media, Inc.

PopMatters is wholly independently owned and operated.