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

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Text:AAA
Tuesday, Oct 8, 2013
There is no element of Silent Hill that would pass muster nowadays and that hasn’t been infinitely improved upon in the ensuing decade plus since the game's release. And yet, were this game to come out today, instead of twelve years ago, I’d want it to be exactly same as it is.

Silent Hill 2 is one of those games that has entered the gaming canon as not only one of the scariest games ever made, not only one of the best games ever made, but also with the distinction of being one of the most aesthetically resonant games ever made. This last accomplishment is quite an achievement, especially for a game released nearly a decade before a sizable amount of gamers even cared about such things.


Twelve years later, games at all levels of the industry are created with an eye towards art, the discourse surrounding games has advanced quite a bit, and the craftsmanship of virtual game design has likewise advanced. The unspoken question in light of such advances is: “Has Silent Hill 2 held up over time?” Has it held up for newcomers to the title with over a decade of expectations to contend with? Is it only a product of its time and has it therefore aged poorly?


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Text:AAA
Tuesday, Sep 24, 2013
We like to root for the underdog. Endgame: Syria is no exception. It’s firmly against the Assad regime, but instead of presenting a righteous cause as motivation for the player, the game instead decides to look at the practical aspects of Syrian rebels trying to fight a ground war.

Given recent events in the news, I figured now was as good a time as any to try out this little app that I had downloaded on my tablet several months ago. Endgame: Syria is a newsgame (a game that seeks to portray the situation of a news story by having the player work through competing systems) created by Tomas Rawlings. The term “newsgames” was coined by academic Ian Bogost in his book of the same name. It’s an exploration of journalism at play and using the grammar of a video game to convey an understanding of complex contemporary scenarios. Probably the most famous newsgame is September 12th, which depicts a Middle Eastern marketplace filled with civilians and terrorists, and the player making choices by clicking on areas to bomb. Bomb civilians and other civilians will turn into terrorists.


It’s a simple set up with a simple point to get across. Bombs cause collateral damage, and collateral damage will create new terrorists. That is what bombs do. Endgame: Syria is trying to explain an even more complex situation. The rebel uprising in Syria against Assad’s dictatorship has a popular analog, that of the Rebel Alliance against the Evil Empire. We like to root for the underdog. Endgame: Syria is no exception. It’s firmly against the regime, but instead of presenting a righteous cause, the game instead decides instead to look at the practical aspects of the Syrian rebels trying to fight a ground war.


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Text:AAA
Tuesday, Sep 10, 2013
You are but one man (or occasionally woman), and this world could not care less about your petty ambition to conquer it.

One of my favorite games of last year was Crusader Kings II. I hadn’t stuck with the strategy genre and grown alongside it as it developed into the hyper-complex entities that many of these kind of games have become. Those that have stuck with the genre and made it the center of their gaming diet are the same people who crave detail and complexity. The sad consequence of this is how many are put off from even trying them, seeing instead the seemingly insurmountable wall that the learning curve of these games represents. Fellow Moving Pixels contributors shudder whenever I bring Crusader Kings II up and suggest to them that they should give it a go.


For quite a while, I myself liked the idea of strategy games—for instance, I remember the epic LAN battles of Warcraft 2 and Age of Empires that I used to engage in with friends—but when I decided to dip my toe back in the genre a few years back (Sins of a Solar Empire), I found myself rebuffed by the tutorial. I gazed into the gaping maw of the difficulty curve, and it gazed into me. Things aren’t as dramatic in 2013. There are quite a few middle ground strategy titles, games between the simplistic iOS games like Triple Town and the high end stuff like pretty much all of Paradox’s output. Coming from the indie side of the industry to fill a hole present for almost a decade in the genre are games like FTL and Frozen Synapse. But the types of things that I heard about Crusader Kings II last year weren’t the usual topics of discussion that surround a strategy game, and the unusual responses to the game convinced me to take the plunge.


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Text:AAA
Tuesday, Aug 20, 2013
In an ending voiceover, Gemini Rue's Sayuri firmly states that people determine their own destiny. However, the game never makes definitive statements that answer all its questions about how memory may influence who we are.

This post contains spoilers of the plot of Gemini Rue.


Gemini Rue is one of the best sci-fi stories that I’ve experienced in the last ten years. And I don’t just mean in video games. Most science fiction nowadays concerns itself with the trappings initially spawned by earlier generations. Space ships and aliens, computers and conspiracies, ray guns and technobabble. These works are lost in the fabric of space opera or cyberpunk, usually with a healthy dose of Star Trek or Star Wars (or both) thrown in.


The core of science fiction with its fantastical premises and astonishing technology is to still engage with ideas that still concern life, the universe, or everything. At its best, science fiction is supposed to use its speculative nature to engender enlightenment or introspection, if not about the whole of human existence, then at least about one tiny corner of it. Now sci-fi most often seems more interested in calling back to either earlier iterations of itself or just earlier works in general. Superficially, it is meant to evoke nostalgia in its audience, hoping to improve that audience’s response by association or using the reference as a kind of club card to prove its membership in the canon of sci-fi, to say that it knows what it knows, and is, therefore, “in.” Gemini Rue does use such references, but it uses them in small ways to amplify the themes of the game as a whole.


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Text:AAA
Tuesday, Aug 13, 2013
Loom’s power is in its mystery and in its focus. Hints and suggestions are its tools. It answers only what it needs to and only details what will aid it.

Back in the halcyon days of Lucas Arts’s adventure game renaissance, specifically the time between Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and The Secret of Monkey Island, came an oft forgotten adventure game based on musical notes. Loom was a one-off project. Originally it was the first of a planned trilogy, but after the game was released, its creator Brian Moriarty was working on another project and no one else wanted to touch it. The game became a standalone title, and it is the better for it.


Loom is rather short by comparison to other games in its genre at the time. Part of this was because of how you solved puzzles. Instead of collecting items, you collected drafts—spells you could perform on your flute. As the game went on, you would unlock more notes that increased the complexity of the drafts. In this manner, your inventory become more of a toolkit rather than a junk drawer. As a consequence, there were fewer items that you could interact with and learn the logic of the game’s universe through. You had to learn through the dialogue and other snippets of world building. The game also had size limitations, which in the end, also worked in the game’s favor.


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