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

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Wednesday, Jan 8, 2014
Ice Pick Lodge has ported a childhood game, Hide and Seek, to the PC. In doing so, they acknowledge the terror that lies in being seen, in being found out.

Despite its surreal images and obscure plotline, as a game, Knock-Knock is built on a simple foundation. The game’s developers, Ice Pick Lodge, have ported a childhood game, Hide and Seek, to the PC. In doing so, they acknowledge the terror that lies in being seen, in being found out.

The protagonist of Knock-Knock is an insomniac known as the Lodger, who is haunted by (and hiding out from) a past that he claims that he doesn’t even remember clearly. Living alone in a house deep within a forest and miles from any kind of civilization, the Lodger spends his nights in a fog of semi-somnambulism, desperately attempting to put his house back in order.

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Wednesday, Dec 18, 2013
Edmund McMillen's A.V.G.M. is a test of fortitude and relies on the assumption that gamers are unwilling to resist their own masturbatory instincts.

Edmund McMillen and Tyler Glaiel’s 2010 entry into the 48 Hour Global Game Jam, A.V.G.M. has simple enough instructions. The game’s initial screen consists of a bare room drawn in black and white, which includes only a single window and a light switch on the far right hand side of the room. An arrow indicates that switch and the text that accompanies it explains everything that you need to know to play the game: “Click the switch to make items appear. Click and drag items to move them.”

The instructions are plain enough, while the game itself is sadistic, grotesque, and twisted (as one might expect from McMillen, the designer of Super Meat Boy, The Binding of Isaac, and even a game called Cunt).

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Wednesday, Dec 11, 2013
The Wolf Among Us's quick time events typify the hard boiled genre better than any elegant combat system would or than any analytically driven puzzle solving might. Moments less to be won than to be survived or endured.

While I’m aware that a lot of people are pretty pleased with Telltale Games’s handling of The Wolf Among Us, I remain (at least presently) more enamored with their handling of The Walking Dead than this newest Fables property.

Part of my issue (again, at least presently) is that the protagonist of The Wolf Among Us, Bigby Wolf, and his supporting cast just seem to lack the same compelling interest that Lee Everett and his fragile charge Clementine did, as do the significance of the decisions, both practical and moral, that became the hallmark of Telltale’s previous amazingly emotive and well crafted game.

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Wednesday, Dec 4, 2013
What I admire about Nocturne's design is how its function reinforces the theme of the character himself, going so far as to evoke visceral emotional responses and actions in players themselves that make sense given the horror that Nocturne is supposed to represent.

Recently, when playing League of Legends, I have been playing Nocturne a lot.

As a Multiplayer Online Battle Arena, League of Legends concerns pitting players against one another in 5 vs. 5 matches on a three lane field of battle. Each lane contains turrets that need to be defended or assaulted by players, and at the beginning of the game, this is usually done by assigning two characters to the bottom lane, one to the middle lane, and one to the top lane. The final player is usually assigned the role of jungler (which is typically the role that the aforementioned Nocturne plays). While players in the three lanes battle to advance on one another’s towers, the jungler roams a neutral territory in between lanes, killing neutral monsters in order to level up and gain gold to buy items to empower himself. Additionally, the jungler’s job is to harass the lanes that are in contention by attempting to gank (that is, attempt to kill) opponents in a lane to give his teammates an advantage there.

Nocturne is a melee assassin, who has a wicked ability to initiate fights in the various lanes through an ability that allows him to streak nearly instantaneously to a single target from quite far away on the map and then to terrify them with another of his abilities (slowing their escape) before savagely attacking them with his claws.

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Wednesday, Nov 13, 2013
The fantasy world of The Wolf Among Us allows for a wolf to actually respond to the demeaning quality of the word that humans so often use to define the females of his whole species. And unlike a lot of human beings, he seems pretty unhappy about it.

I noted a couple of weeks ago the propensity of one of the protagonists of Grand Theft Auto V to completely go nuts when provoked by the words, “mother fucker” ”The Grand Theft Auto Rampage: The Violence of Cultural and Subcultural Politics”, PopMatters, 30 October 2013). I insinuated that Trevor’s rampage missions are set off by this phrase because as an outsider to certain subcultural groups in and around Los Santos, “mother fucker” completely alienates him, marking him as a perpetrator of the universal cultural taboo, incest. The mother fucker is accepted by no one, by no culture, and thus, is kind of the ultimate insult for a guy that is being rejected as a foreigner to a culture at large, let alone a subculture that might represent less alternative values or at least an optional space for someone less easily assimilated into that mainstream culture to maybe belong.

Coincidentally, the other game that I have been playing of late, Telltale’s new episodic adventure game The Wolf Among Us, features a character that in a manner somewhat similar to GTA V‘s Trevor has a tendency to get violent in response to name calling, that game’s protagonist Bigby Wolf.

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