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by G. Christopher Williams

27 Jul 2011


Skinny may be a direct follow up to Thomas Brush’s haunting little flash game, Coma.  At least, the game is sprinkled with some secret items that allude to the previous title in the form of an empty bird cage, a fishing hook, and a gravestone. 

A direct relationship between the odd adventure of a seemingly comatose boy named Pete whose effort to free his sister from the basement (which comprises the majority of the plot of Coma) and the adventure of a skinny robot tasked with retrieving batteries to sustain human beings that have been jacked into some sort of hallucinatory subsystem by an AI called “Mama” is never made exactly clear in the new game.

And despite the probable near incoherence of the previous summary of the premise of the two games, nevertheless, there are some rather clear thematic parallels between both games, as well as a clear consistency in Brush’s aesthetic more generally.

by G. Christopher Williams

13 Jul 2011


This post contains major spoilers for Shadows of the Damned

Three things nagged at me throughout my playthrough of Shadows of the Damned.

The first thing was an odd one.  It was the name of Garcia Hotspur’s girlfriend, which is Paula.  I guess that it is just the thin quality of the premise of the game (more on that later) that made me immediately associate her with the similarly named Pauline of Donkey Kong.  Paula is abducted by a large monster at the opening of the game, hardly an original catalyst for a video game adventure (again, more on that in a moment), but still her name and predicament and blonde hair (the original versions of Pauline were blonde on the arcade cabinet of Donkey Kong) made me wonder if Suda51, aficionado of retro gaming, wasn’t giving a nod to “the original” girl abduction game.  Throughout my time with Shadows of the Damned, I kept looking for any other evidence of such an allusion.

by G. Christopher Williams

29 Jun 2011


I noticed that the Grasshopper Manufacture logo that appears in the opening screens of Suda51 and Shinji Mikami’s new game, Shadows of the Damned, is not the version that includes the motto, “Punk’s Not Dead.”  While I don’t feel like Suda51 has fully intended to step away from his infamous “punk rock aesthetic,” this latest game does leave me wondering a bit about the viability of that approach in the climate of contemporary gaming culture.

by G. Christopher Williams

22 Jun 2011


A fair amount of discussion of L.A. Noire has raised questions about how to classify this “game”.  Over at GamePro, for instance, Kat Bailey explains, “I feel like L.A. Noire is a success as a visual novel [. . .] it’s meant to be read and experienced as much as played” and that it is “arguable whether that approach is a good fit for the interactive medium of videogames” (“Second Opinion: L.A. Noire, GamePro, 20 May 2011).  Additionally, Bailey reiterates another criticism that has been leveled at the game that it “relies heavily on pixel hunting and guesswork”.

I spoke a couple weeks ago a little bit about how I felt that the forward momentum of the story and some of the player’s inability to do anything about it relates to the genre of noir itself (L.A. Noire: The Fatalism of American Sticktoitiveness”, PopMatters, 1 June 2011).  While that essay acknowledged the largely linear quality of the storytelling in L.A. Noire, still I find that the notion that L.A. Noire is somehow “not quite a game” because a lot of its choices lead in a particular direction or because the game mechanics include the necessity of a great deal of watching, observing, and pixel hunting is a notion that denies the rather integral relationship that exists between seeing and gaming.

by G. Christopher Williams

15 Jun 2011


While a lot has been said about the infamous “No Russian” chapter of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (indeed, I had my say shortly after the game released in 2009), perhaps less has been written about some of the other sequences in the game, like the chapters that concern defending the homefront.

In large part, I am thinking of the “Wolverines” chapter but also a few of the others that concern defending suburbia from the Russian horde.  What made me think of these chapters again was watching the E3 Microsoft media briefing, which featured some live gameplay of Modern Warfare 3.  A brief moment in the playthrough featured the player surfacing off the coast of what I assume to be the United States and sighting the ruined skyline of a major U.S. city (New York, I think?).

It seems that the Modern Warfare series is interested in some way in “personalizing” the experience of combat for the player by placing him in environments that feel like home, both unsettling the player but also evoking a strong emotional reaction as a result of the realization that what he is doing is defending a space that, for most middle class Americans, feels normally pretty secure.

//Mixed media
//Blogs

Culture Belongs to the Alien in 'Spirits of Xanadu'

// Moving Pixels

"The symbols that the artifact in Spirits of Xanadu uses are esoteric -- at least for the average Western gamer. It is Chinese culture reflected back at us through the lens of alien understanding.

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