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by Aaron Poppleton

1 Mar 2011

Let’s get one thing out of the way right now: I have a soft spot for horror games.  As a rule, I do not have a soft spot for horror films (although I’ve got a soft spot for movies with zombies in).  I am fairly certain that the reason for this differing feelings about the genre lies directly in the lack of control that one has when watching a horror movie—I am totally okay with stomping around a mansion infested with zombies, because at least I’m smart enough to know that if something starts eating me alive and I don’t have any bullets left, it was my fault for being foolish with my ammunition.  My problem with horror films is that I tend to spend a lot of time shouting at the characters for acting as if they are characters in a horror movie.  Horror games don’t have that same baggage (except in cutscenes, at which point all bets on my shouting at the television are off), because if anyone is making a bad decision, it is probably me.

I got to thinking about horror games after reading a bunch of reviews about Dead Space 2 that complained that the Dead Space series just hasn’t been that frightening because you generally have the ammunition required to survive a situation.  This, apparently, goes against the survival part of survival horror, which in turn means that to call Dead Space a horror game at all is a misnomer—except that there are other types of horror games out there.  Or maybe there aren’t, and the problem is merely a definition of “survival horror” that is just too strict.  I decided that the best thing to do would be to take three games, all of which I consider to be “horror games”, and see on what each relies to drive its horror element.  Deciding on the three games was a bit of a trick, and I know that I will catch hell for not including a Silent Hill game in this analysis, but to be honest, I’ve yet to play any of them (I swear it’s on my list of things to play).  So instead, the three games that I’ve selected are: Resident Evil, Eternal Darkness, and the game which got me thinking about this in the first place, Dead Space.

by Aaron Poppleton

15 Feb 2011

Ah, the ‘80s.  That magical time when men did lots of cocaine and women wore those suits with really big shoulder pads.  This was the time of the stock trader, and it is this time that the simple browser based game American Dream seeks to take the player back to.  It has a simple enough goal: become a millionaire by playing the stock market.

by Aaron Poppleton

8 Feb 2011

With the recent release of Dead Space 2, it is not surprising to find that my thoughts drift back to the first installment of the series and what about it made the experience worthwhile. From a narrative standpoint, it would be easy to write off Dead Space as “Resident Evil 4 in spaaaaace”, complete with parasitic organisms that seem to have been unleashed by crazy cultists. This might turn a lot of people off (forgetting that Dead Space controls better than any RE game I’ve come across, and I’m including the on-rails-shooters in this) because, well, hasn’t this all been done, before?

Well, yes it has. But has it been done this particular way? Probably not. Additionally, while the mechanics of Dead Space are familiar to anyone who has played a third person shooter in the last decade (I flatly refuse to acknowledge that the much ballyhooed dismemberment mechanic is all that different from learning to shoot zombies in the head), the setting and story (while equally familiar) serve as a platform for presenting a debate that runs throughout the game about posthumanism.

by L.B. Jeffries

14 Jul 2009



The usual BPM for this week got posted a bit earlier than usual, but you can check back here if you missed it.

As a substitute though, I thought I’d aggregate a few links to the growing discussion about video games that specifically target female gamers. An excellent post at Wired highlights some of the top contenders for most awkward thing to teach a young girl.

The games listed in the article vary in subject matter from using clothes and behavior to be accepted by the “Pretty Committee” to revolving around trying to get a boyfriend. Other titles only allow the female character to advance by purchasing clothes and jewelry. A similar post at Brainy Gamer summarizes the issue nicely:

Most video games for girls send a steady flow of narrow images and self-limiting notions about how to succeed in today’s culture. They reinforce all the worn-out essentialist tropes: be beautiful, be fashionable, be popular. If parents want to worry about the messages kids receive from video games, they should pay more attention to these.

Other than the inherent nature of the media a person playing these games are exposed to, it is hard to say what kind of effect these games may have. Craig A. Anderson, who is one of the psychologists arguing in favor of a connection between violence and video games, points out in a FAQ, “all games teach something, and that ‘something’ depends on what they require the player to practice.” Anderson is outlining how both positive and negative behavior is taught through games in that quote, but the potential for negative behavior outside of just the violence that he addresses is very real. A child who constantly acts out, achieving success through purchasing clothes and behaving how their friends want them to might be, absorbs some strange lessons.

These question are further complicated by the fact that these types of games aren’t even considered particularly popular in their target demographic. A post at Feminist Gamers points out that a survey at the Institute of Adolescent Health found that girls ranked Grand Theft Auto as their favorite game. It was followed closely by The Sims, which allows female characters to be or do just about anything. Considering that even the most violent games are just empowerment fantasies, it isn’t surprising that these can be enjoyed by anyone regardless of gender.

One of the ideas that Ian Bogost outlines in Unit Operations is that our relationship with games work as a sort of response to the game’s world. That is, we look at how the game is depicting reality and contrast that with our own perspective. The things that we can do in the game that conflict with how we believe the world works generates an emotional reaction. In a game like Grand Theft Auto, my reaction to stealing a car is one of excitement because I personally could never do that. There are moral reasons for this but also social concerns that intervene like law, friends, and concern for hurting another person by taking their car. It’s fun to do it in the game because of the conflict that the activity has with my perception that what I’m doing is not possible normally.

The issue with a child playing one of these games revolves around the question of which misconception about reality is easier to correct. An adult would reasonably be able to correct a twelve year old child’s misconceptions about violence seen in a video game. But a young girl believing that the best way to make friends is through buying clothes and being pretty might be more impactful.

Put another way, you might be better off with your kid playing Grand Theft Auto after all.

by Mike Schiller

8 Jun 2009

As anyone reading this blog probably knows, E3 has been going on all week in L.A. (which seems even farther away from Buffalo than usual these last few days), and as such, a barrage of game announcements and trailers for new product have been finding their way to the internets mere minutes after they are revealed to the Expo’s attendants.  Of those trailers, there is one that I simply can’t shake after having seen it, and it’s this one:

//Mixed media

Because Blood Is Drama: Considering Carnage in Video Games and Other Media

// Moving Pixels

"It's easy to dismiss blood and violence as salacious without considering why it is there, what its context is, and what it might communicate.

READ the article