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

 
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Text:AAA
Tuesday, Oct 9, 2012
Dear Esther isn't your traditional horror story because it isn't within the work itself that the scares reside. It’s what you bring out of this ghost story into the real world that scares the most.

Horror works by unnerving its audience. By taking them out of their comfort zone and presenting them something just a bit off. It creates a tension between the normal and the out of place. For every appearance of a monster, psycho, or ghost, there is the threat of death and harm. The threat creates fear, and the fear creates the tension.


So what happens in a game when that creates an unnerving atmosphere, but no threat?


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Text:AAA
Tuesday, Oct 2, 2012
Zombies themselves don’t seem to be much of a creature of horror anymore. Is it even possible for something to remain scary through constant exposure to it?

Left 4 Dead is ostensibly a horror game. Upon its release, it was called the first true zombie apocalypse game because it actually created the feel of a zombie apocalypse. You are one of the last four people alive and have to make it to safety. Everything is so thoroughly destroyed that you can do nothing but move on. Even the safe houses aren’t places that you can survive. It has all the elements that make a good horror game: moody lighting, a thick atmosphere, unrelenting tension, a sense of danger, and a dwindling sense of hope that is finally replaced by despair. So, why doesn’t it stay scary?


Over time, Left 4 Dead ceases to be frightening. In the beginning, even in co-op, the game was terrifying to play. People didn’t so much speak commands as scream them out in terrified surprise. People could play the same levels over and over again and get different experiences thanks to the Valve’s AI director tailoring the journey depending on how you were doing in an effort to keep the tension high. But again, the terror didn’t last.


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Text:AAA
Tuesday, Sep 25, 2012
Binary Domain is a third person cover shooter that has the gall to not insult my intelligence.

Binary Domain is a third person cover shooter that has the gall to not insult my intelligence, but to respect it instead. In fact, it has the audacity to challenge my mind along with my thumbs in a the way that good science fiction does. It asks what is like human nature as represented by an individual, a society, and a species without condescending to the player by offering blatant and clear-cut choices but, instead, by weaving its questions into the very nature of the conflict that you are engaged in.


It is the year 2080. You play as Sergeant Dan Marshall, a member of the international Rust Crew hailing from the United States that has been sent into the flooded streets of Tokyo to bring in Yoji Amada, the founder and head of the Amada Corporation, for violating the “New Geneva Convention” on robotics. He created robots that can pass for human called Hollow Children, which are so convincing that they don’t even know that they are robots themselves. The opening sections of the game reveal all this information in well paced, well crafted scenes in between action sequences that concern getting past security and the floodwalls. It sounds like a standard opening to another generic third person action shooter, featuring enemies that are security robots instead of zombies or soldiers. And you’d be right, but thankfully Binary Domain moves forward with its premise.


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Text:AAA
Tuesday, Sep 18, 2012
Despite the seemingly superficial nature of the plot, Driver: San Francisco does go places much deeper than an episode of Starsky & Hutch might go. Driver: San Francisco may have those elements, but it is not about them. Instead, it is an exploration of a police detective's psyche.

Driver: San Francisco is so out of the normal wheelhouse of what we consider driving games to be, I hesitate to classify it as such. It goes beyond mere genre classification and entered the realm of a true masterpiece. Do not be fooled, though, for Driver’s surface is deceiving.


Driver: San Francisco begins with a by-the-numbers cops and robbers set up. There’s a prison transfer of a dangerous convict named Charles Jericho. He escapes, takes control of the prison van, and runs the game’s protagonist, Detective John Tanner, straight into the path of an oncoming truck. You, as Tanner, are down for the count, and this is when the game really begins. The premise is that you are in a coma and the events that take place for nearly the entire game are the product of Tanner’s imagination, as his subconscious tries to make sense of the news reports he hears from a television in his hospital room. Jericho goes on a crime spree stealing tanker trucks, precious metals, and kidnapping a chemist. In an effort to satisfy his own desire for justice, Tanner inserts himself into these events as his mind tried to come to grips with his own trauma.


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Text:AAA
Wednesday, Sep 12, 2012
In Drake's Fortune, El Dorado is the object of desire and a real monster. It is a disguise and a disease.

Thematic meaning is usually derived from a work’s conflict, though it may not always be the most obvious conflict. In the first Uncharted game, the surface level conflict is between Drake and the pirates headed by Gabriel Roman, but the thematic conflict is between ideas not people.


The subtitle of that game is Drake’s Fortune. The first question to ask is “which Drake is being referred to?,” and the answer is, it doesn’t matter. The second question is “what is the fortune?” That is not so easy a question to answer. The game is ostensibly a treasure hunt, mirroring the conquistadors’ own drive for El Dorado. The whole game concerns two groups on the hunt for a giant golden statue, first in the Central American jungle and then on an uncharted South Pacific island. But neither group gets the prize, which is due to Drake’s efforts.


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