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Wednesday, Mar 25, 2015
I'm not especially bothered by violence in media, but the rich-on-poor violence seen in American Psycho and suggested by White Night seem exceptionally detestable.

I’m not especially bothered by violence in media. I’m a huge fan of the films of Quentin Tarantino. I play a lot of video games. Hell, I teach a course every few years called “Violence in Literature & Film.”


However, I find watching the movie American Psycho uncomfortable. There’s something I find upsetting about Christian Bale’s performance of the psychotic yuppie killer Patrick Bateman .I think it has to do with the posing and preening that he does when in contact with his victims. The way that he fawns over himself while taking advantage of his underprivileged victims makes the violence that he perpetrates against them seem all the more detestable.


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Wednesday, Mar 18, 2015
In White Night, it is not a shotgun, but light itself, that is your only ally, and light in in this game is in terrifyingly short supply.

White Night is not the only horror game of recent years to use light and darkness as inspiration for its game mechanics. Both Shadows of the Damned (an action-horror game with more emphasis on the action portion of the equation) and Alan Wake (also probably more of an action-horror game, though probably with more emphasis on provoking scares than on pure combat) used light and darkness to drive their combat mechanics.


Since both games concern confronting supernatural horrors, it seems reasonable to associate darkness, and the terror that it presents by making things unknowable and obscure, with evil, and light, with its ability to make knowable and to clarify, as a means to combat evil. In both instances, darkness within the environment signals a lack of safety and security in the world, and darkness is also intrinsic to the nature of the enemies in the game—along with the need to purge that darkness with some form of light before making those enemies vulnerable to mundane weapons. In other words, light needs to make the dark things into something that can be combated with things we know and understand, firearms and ammunition.


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Wednesday, Mar 11, 2015
In Call of Duty, it takes under 30 seconds to kill five people. Killing five people in The Cat Lady takes eight hours.

In an hour one can kill hundreds in a Call of Duty game, Assassin’s Creed, or Grand Theft Auto. Life isn’t merely cheap in this game, the act of killing is easy, the push of a few buttons in rapid succession.


In so many games, killing is one of the dominant activities (if not the dominant activity of play), and the rapidity of execution becomes expedient to driving the action forward, which is why, perhaps, a game like The Cat Lady feels oddly revelatory.


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Wednesday, Feb 25, 2015
In which the author suggests that the new Lara Croft might be the best example of androgyny in gaming.

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.


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Wednesday, Feb 18, 2015
Sexuality is an important part of monstrosity, and League of Legends breaks with its traditional depiction of female monsters with this beast.

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.


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