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

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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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Tuesday, Aug 6, 2013
There is always this lingering hope of the survivors being able to rebuild or at least build something new in post-apocalyptic fiction. The Last of Us, though, seems to take a different view of the apocalypse.

This post contains spoilers for The Last of Us, The Road, Children of Men, and The Walking Dead.

Recently we’ve become very enamored with the apocalypse. Several big budget summer movies have been about one post-apocalyptic world or another. Zombies are shuffling across every single form of media. From natural disasters to global plagues to nuclear war and back again, from one end of the world scenario to the other, we as an audience eat it up. We find something fascinating about the end of the world as we know it and in what will come afterwards.

In all of these post-apocalyptic stories—zombie stories in particular—the human race always manages to survive. It may be a meager form of survival. It may be nasty, brutish, and short. Even with the population culled a bit, there are always a few humans still living. Likewise in post-apocalyptic fiction, the major themes always seem to concern survival on one level or another. There is always this lingering hope of the survivors being able to rebuild or at least build something new—a belief that despite this world ending tragedy, the human race will live on. The Last of Us, though, seems to take a different view of the apocalypse.

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Tuesday, Jul 23, 2013
The playwright, Jean Cocteau, said, “Emotion resulting from a work of art is only of value when it is not obtained by sentimental blackmail.” The Last of Us is an example of such a crime.

This post contains spoilers for The Last of Us.

The developers at Naughty Dog are master craftsmen when it comes to their art. The studio knows how to construct a game and pace it within the interactive environment to great effect like few other studios can. The Last of Us is their latest effort, and like the Uncharted series before it, it shows an incredible attention to detail and character. But The Last of Us offers little beyond exemplifying its own exceptional craft and structure. I was playing through the game and was thoroughly engrossed by Joel and Ellie’s narrative. Yet the whole time I had a little niggling feeling at the back of my mind that I could not explain.

Then I finished the game and after a satisfyingly dramatic ending (and really it couldn’t have ended any other way), I reflected on the game and could only ask one question. What was the point of all that?

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Tuesday, Jul 9, 2013
As one of Twine's most infamous developers, Porpentine loves writing about the gross, the sexual, the internal, and the metaphorical. And nearly every single one of her games leaves the player with some measure of dread and longing.

Last year, Anna Anthropy declared in her book Rise of the Videogame Zinesters that the game making revolution had begun. Thanks to new free tools becoming available and simple enough to use, game making had been opened up to anyone. One of the most hailed tools at the forefront of this movement is Twine. Last time that I wrote about Twine, I spoke to the variety of experiences and different opportunities the program offeres, but I left out one important element.

Every genre has its rock stars,and every artistic movement has those who drive that movement forward. Twine has Porpentine. Who is Porpentine? According to her site, she is a “queer tranarchafeminist, guromother, little shit girl, trash harpy.” It doesn’t so much answer the question as give a vague sense of self and an understanding that with her work we are standing at the fringes of culture and art.

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Wednesday, Jun 12, 2013
Between the images of the destruction of the game industry and its salvation lie actual Twine games, which are both much more mundane than folks imagine and far more fascinating than the hyperbole implies.

Twine is a relatively new game development tool that makes it easy to create a simple game. I hesitate to describe it any further because many different people have managed to make it do many different things. However, when someone says Twine game, the image conjured in their mind is that of a choose-your-own-adventure-style interactive fiction experience.

Everything about Twine is contentious or rather it’s causing people to at least check their assumptions on what they knew about games or their genres. There are some in the interactive fiction community wondering if games in this style qualify as such next to games developed with parser based interfaces. You have those of the formalist persuasion saying that they are not games at all and the less thoughtful members of the gamer population saying they are utter wastes of time.

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