Posts Tagged ‘Videogames’

Another one of my Art history columns is up on Kill Screen!

Check out Brutalist architecture and it’s relationship to Science Fiction and First-person-shooters in Our Future Past.

Who doesn’t love a concrete bunker?


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I have a backlog of games I own but have not played or finished. So in my new series of blog posts I am going to look at games that I am finishing.

I played Uncharted with my significant other. I am a long time hardcore gamer (20 years plus) and he is a newer gamer (10 years causal. 6 of those years are because of me). We would pass the controller back and forth and it worked well. It’s an interesting game to watch because it’s like a movie. I highly recommend playing it with another person because it’s enjoyable even though it’s not a two player game.  I primarily played the shooting sections, puzzles, and boss fights, and helped/advised with the platforming elements since I am the resident Tomb Raider expert.

I needed a new controller and ended up picking up Uncharted and Uncharted 2 controller combo pack. My boyfriend and I played through the Uncharted in a weekend.

When Uncharted first came out I avoided it as a Tomb Raider knock off with too much shooting for its own good.  After finishing it, I’m not entirely wrong about that statement. I also avoided Uncharted because a colleague at the paper I was working at lamented at the insanely high difficultly level. At the time I trusted that person’s opinion and his complaints were the nails in the coffin for my interest in Uncharted.

I never should have listened to him. After playing Uncharted I am certain that my colleague must be either gaming inept or ridiculously terrible. The controls are easy and quick to learn. I played the normal version with the bf and we didn’t struggle or get frustrated. Yes, we died, but that’s normal. Uncharted has a really good autosave so you aren’t punished for dying. In fact the only reason we stopped playing was because I was tired and wanted to go to bed.

Yes, Uncharted has it bad moments. The ending is an endless firefight, which grows tedious and boring, but hardly difficult. It feels like the developer kept calling for more shooting the same way a Blue Oster Cult song calls for more cowbell. (e.g “I have a fever for MOAR shooting!!!”). I was never frustrated; I only willingly handed off the controller to my bf because I was bored of killing the swarm of goons began to realize the worst job in a videogame is a goon. Goons are expendable and die easily.

The Tomb Raider like platforming elements are laughable, the hardest part is finding them. I find HD games visually confusing since there is too much too look at, whereas on the PS2, the places you are supposed to jump or grab on stand out. Amusingly, my ability to find them resulted in few discussions with the bf about how I knew where they were, since he had a hard time finding them or figuring out which way to go.

As we played the game together my bf began to joke it was 80s movie the game: action, suspense, and great one-liners. It’s not just engaging but funny. I haven’t played a game that made me laugh since LucasArts and Sierra made point and click adventure games.

If you are looking for a good weekend game to play with a friend or loved one I highly recommend Uncharted.

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This post turned out a bit longer than I expected. Of course, discussion is always welcome. 

I forgot it was Friday the 13th.  When I was reminded of the date, the soundtrack for this game comes to mind. I’ll be mentally listening to theme all day.  As well as giggling at the butt wiggle/chicken dance arm motion of the camp counselors as they navigate the cabins.

I haven’t seen any of the Friday the 13th films, but played the NES game like mad. It was a lucky cheap find at a flea market. It also started a long interest in horror games, why they frighten us, yet are so appealing, and my ongoing battle to finish them. Often fright gets in the way of my goals.

(Although, I have been informed that moments of fright create excessive awareness which can help viewers connect with abstract art.)

I’m also reminded of my twisted childhood thought that it would have been fun to play Jason. To be the person preforming the violent acts.  My twin brother pointed out that no one wants to be the villain and he doubted that I could be one even in a game.

The reversal of being the monster rather than the hero is interesting; because for childhood me it meant that I wouldn’t be afraid. As the monster, I would be in control of what was happening.  Playing as the monster gives the player the opportunity to choose to act, the ability to choose gives you control and therefore power. You don’t have to hurt people and it would be very difficult for anyone to stop you.

Being older and possibly a bit wiser I’ve deduced that you have less control as the monster.

For one, you are always hunted by the hero, who becomes the monster’s villain.  Therefore you will be just as scared as the hero since you are constantly stalked.

2) The monster rarely wins (except in Japanese horror films). Therefore, you have no control over your own death.

3) The monster is rarely in control of its person, instead is controlled by instinct, compulsion, outsider stressors, emotion, obsession, craving, and etc.  They do not have the ability to stop themselves, to think rationally, and therefore have no control over their actions.

4) The ideal villain that is in control often has serious flaws such as arrogance that will force them to lose. The villain’s arrogance controls them.

5) The author and audience rarely want the monster to win**, thus making sure that they have no power/control to succeed as villain. However, the author will give the monster an option for redemption as a way out.

Even the more complex role of anti-hero lacks control. Anti-Heroes like Dexter Morgan are not in control of all of their actions. Dexter chooses to kill bad people, but he cannot control himself to stop killing. His craving for death will always control him.

Playing the villain means having to give up a level of control. Depending on what kind of villain you choose to play you will be at whim of whatever transformed you into a monster.

A truly rational and calculated villain has the potential to succeed, if they can self-reflect and rationalize why they are acting. A villain that can think and understand is a terrifying idea. I can’t think of a work of fiction where there has been a truly insightful villain. However, once we get into that gray area of rational villains we meet great villains such as Moriarty (Sherlock Holmes) and Magneto (Xmen). Even these rational villains are foiled by arrogance or are redeemed.

Heroes are also at the whim of heroism and their need to act. They choose to act out of altruism.

In the past, I’ve always argued that people can choose. If a gun is put to your head you do in fact have three choices.

1) You can choose to comply with your captor. (Results in short and potentially long life extension)

2) You can choose to fight back. (May result in death or life extension)

3) You can choose to die. (Immediate game over.)

However, instinct and trust will always make you lean towards option one, because you want to survive and for the most part, people will obey when you tell them to do something.

In real life and in games we have this illusion of openness and choice. But really we are programmed to survive and allow for primary systems to take control of us to make sure we get through to the next day, even if that means giving up control.

Even given the choice act or not to act, you are still at mercy of your emotions and background. All traits and instincts that make you as person will always have influence over what you decide.

So, is anyone is ever truly in control? Or is choice or control is always an illusion?

We have the ability to choose, but that doesn’t necessarily make us entirely in control of our choices.

**I attempted to watch The Ruins and immediately hated every character and hoped that what was in the ruins would kill all of them. I didn’t finish watching the film.  

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Another one of my columns is up on Kill Screen.

It’s called Playing Tricks. It’s about the way that games can trick us into believing and how that is actually a 16th century way of thinking.

I’m actually presenting a longer version of this column at the Canadian Game Studies Association annual conference at Congress in Kitchener-Waterloo this May.

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Kill Screen’s High Scores is up; it’s a great read so check it out here.

My list is posted on Kill Screen as well, so you can check out my picks for 2011. I tend to lean towards MMOs.

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My latest Kill Screen article is up :  Augmented Remembering.

I talk about Alison Landsberg’s book Prosthetic Memory: The Transformation of American Remembrance in the Age of Mass Culture and whether or not, games are capable of generating prosthetic memory through empathy.

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I’m leaving to go on a quest when a dragon comes out of nowhere. I hear nirnroot and it takes me forever to find it and pick it up. I get my bow and summon my Flame Atronach. The local villagers are helping out too. The dragon is at half life, so I follow it to the outskirts of town and finish it off with my mace, something I’ve never done before.  I’m nervous. I am gonna kill this dragon with my mace and he dies! Victory is mine, I do a little dance. But something is hitting me, and BAM, I’m dead. I got pwned by a mud crab…


Exit building, grab nirnroot. What the crap there’s three dragons this time? I summon my Flame atronach and get into postion. We’ve almost got one of the three down. The fight is going well, I haven’t taken any hits. I’m going to kill three dragons. My epic victory will make up for my failure.  The first dragon is at 10%, I can’t find it, and the second one is at 75%. I just need to re-summon my Flame Atronach. Everything stops. The screen locks. “NOOOOO” I scream. I’ve glitched out. “DAMN IT.”

Reload, loading, loading….

I pick up the nirnroot. ‘Alright dragon’, this time it’s two dragons, but one quickly retreats. I get the second on down to 50% and he starts to fly off. I yell at the television “Oh, NO you don’t!”  I chase the bastard up the side of a mountain; he wasn’t getting away. He’s just over the ledge seemingly waiting for me. I shout at him in rage and beat down his ass with my mace.  I smugly yell “That’s right!”

But there’s still one more I need to kill. ‘How dare they interrupt my Dark Brotherhood quest line.’ I traverse to the shore where I first died. ‘There he is, that bastard that ruined my first fight’. I sneak up behind him and kill him with one shot. I point at the television and say “No one fucks with me asshole mud crab.”  I walk away from this fight much happier. My significant other can’t stop laughing.


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