The Cultural Gutter

beyond good and bad, there is awesome

"We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars." -- Oscar Wilde

Teaching the Value of Human Life

Handcuffs or hand grenades?

When you’re put behind the crosshairs of a gun, do you assume you have to shoot to kill? Better still, do you have to shoot to win? For the majority of First Person Shooters, that is certainly the case. What if you were given the choice to avoid unnecessary bloodshed, but still be able to […]

The Time Machines

Appreciating history through games.

I hated studying history in high school. It was as if the curriculum had been designed to leave out everything that impressionable minds could possibly associate with, while making no provisions to seem like it was anything but handed down from an institution. However, in recent years it’s a totally different story. I won’t read […]

A Just War

Scripting the battlefields of World War 2

Every time a new World War 2 First Person Shooter is announced, the collective groans from gamers and game media can be heard for miles, as if nothing more could be possibly done with this setting. The genre receives a bad reputation mainly because of the sheer amount of mediocre copycat titles that seem to […]

Welcome to Azeroth

I am a night elf hunter.

In World of Warcraft (Blizzard, 2004), I am a night elf hunter. I have a wolf named Meadow (named after my dog in real life). We journey the neighboring continents of Azeroth together, in search of new gear, more quests to complete, and raw meat to keep her happy so I don’t end up losing […]

Civil Engineer

Sad citizens? Buy them some entertainers!

Jeff Chapman started playing Civilization (MicroProse, 1991) when it came out and never stopped. He’s played the strategy turn-based videogame series for the past decade I’ve known him. Far from letting it consume him, he’s balanced his job as editor of History Magazine with a plethora of other projects, and so I thought he would […]

Jim Munroe interviews Sean Stewart and Elan Lee

Jim Munroe interviews Sean Stewart and Elan Lee from 42 Entertainment Game Designers’ Conference in San Francisco, March 10, 2005 Transcribed by Phuong Nguyen Sean:…and so when we were told that we had won this thing, I asked Elan is this a big deal or whatever? And he said yeah, it is a big deal. […]

The Sociable Horde

Jane McGonigal prepares honeyed clues for I Love Bees.

Readers of this column may remember a previous interview with Sean Stewart, who was one of the puppetmasters behind the Alternative Reality Game (ARG) The Beast (“Collective Detective,” Sept. 30, 2004). An example of pull marketing, this innovative, puzzle-based narrative based in the world of Spielberg’s A.I. succeeded in gaining an intense following, independent of […]

Jim Munroe interviews Marc Laidlaw

Game Designers’ Conference in San Francisco, March 10, 2005 Transcribed by Phuong Nguyen Munroe: I’m so glad that you’ve been getting so much deserved kudos for what you’ve been doing, and I’ve told you on many occasions that I think it’s fantastic, but… I’ve been having a crisis of faith as to whether narrative is […]

Rethinking Brain Eating

If you had to deal with Stalkers, you

If he feels vindicated, he doesn’t show it. As Marc Laidlaw waits for his co-workers to finish a talk, we sit down at a table in San Francisco’s cavernous Moscone Center and talk about Half-Life 2 (Valve, 2004). Its 1998 predecessor is legendary for pushing the form both narratively (bringing atmosphere and intelligence to the […]

Pirates of the Pacific

The largest Chinese mall in North America... and a den of pirates. Arr!

This past winter, Bruce and I took the trip out to Pacific Mall to get his PlayStation 2 modded. He was excited that he’d soon be able to play the pirated games he’d downloaded off the net, and I was excited about the amazing dim sum we’d be eating after. It was a pain getting […]

Nightmare Rental

It was like someone was watching me.

For a few weeks, Carma spent most of her free time trying to leave a room. There were massive chains barring the inside of the door, and the apartment’s windows wouldn’t open even if she wanted to risk climbing out. The monotony of the sallow walls was broken by the occasional eerie photograph of someone […]

Rolling Pleasure

Katamari Damacy

In a brief flashback to the hip Queen Street West I remember from the ’80s, I chanced upon a cult-hit videogame there. I was killing time and wandered into Microplay and asked the counter guy if any interesting games had come down the pike lately. “Yeah,” he said, “There’s this Japanese game…” He passed me […]

Indie-meets-industry shindig

Buckets of beer at the GDC.

It might have been the buckets of beer or just the balmy San Francisco night that had me feeling so upbeat after the Game Developers Choice Awards and the Independent Games Festival but even in sober retrospect it was pretty remarkable. On a basic level, it was simply seeing the best videogames of the year […]

Hanging With Heroes

Cold Bob showed me around Paragon City.

When I was 11 or 12, at the variety store near my Grandma’s house, I made a life-changing purchase. It was probably Christmas and I was probably killing time until I had to go back to a room full of adults. When I did return to the festive nest, I went home with the New […]

Pushing Kim Jong-Il’s Buttons

At least your female character isn

I’ve done my share of North Korea mocking. My favourite story? When I was living in the South Korean countryside in 1996, there had been a recent drama aired on South Korea’s KBS network that characterized North Korea in some way they didn’t like. The North Korean radio issued a response: they would kill all […]

Coding Collagers

Pac-Mondrian

The internet is packed with funny. A clever idea, executed well, can move quickly through the blogosphere. So when I first saw Pac-Mondrian, a videogame that juxtaposes the famous mouth against a famous painting, I wasn’t bowled over. I did like the incongruous old-time jazz soundtrack, however, and the text on the website hooked me: […]

When Spheres of Interest Collide

Discussing Starcraft and Spirited Away over a spot of tea.

Why people read what they read and watch what they watch has recently been of interest to me. As a cultural consumer and producer both, I know that advertisements and reviews are hardly the overwhelming factors, just the most reassuringly quantifiable. Recommendations from friends have the advantage of being motivated by passion rather than profits, […]

The Scientist-Hero Returns

They even get the suburbs right.

I was a little nervous as I waited for Half-Life 2 (Vivendi, 2004) to start. The original Half-Life (Sierra, 1998) is one of the reasons this column exists — the game brought atmosphere and intelligence to the first-person shooter without skimping on the visceral kickassocity, and brought me back to videogames after a decade of […]

A Novel Approach to Games

A book about videogames and the cord octopi they spawn.

Lucky Wander Boy (Plume, 2003) is a novel that starts with the protagonist rediscovering the videogames of his youth through the MAME arcade emulator. But the game that he most wants to play, an obscure Japanese game for which the book is named, lies beyond his reach — it can’t be emulated, since its innovations […]

Questing For Answers

The pass came with mardi gras beads, too.

While in New Orleans on a book tour, I noticed a fellow with a t-shirt that read: EverQuest Fan Faire, New Orleans 2004. Aw, I thought as the guy stepped onto the escalator, I wonder when that was? Kind of like seeing a show poster for a gig already passed, I presumed it’d already happened. […]

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  • Of Note Elsewhere

    An interactive sculpture of Hanuman made from 26,000 light bells made by Charuvi Design Labs. to promote their film Sri Hanuman Chalisa. Here is a video of the interactive experience. (Thanks, Beth!)

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    At The Daily Beast, Arthur Chu writes about GamerGate, Disco Demolition and Lilith Fair. “The biggest 1970s music bonfire was not done by a church, and the records they destroyed weren’t metal records. And they didn’t use kerosene and a match, they used explosives. And rather than singing hymns and being quietly self-righteous, the event erupted into an orgy of violent rage. I’m talking, of course, about the ill-fated promotion the Chicago White Sox ran on July 12, 1979, known as ‘Disco Demolition Night.’

    Yes, in an era where Christians literally believed rock bands were Satanic cults who used backward masking to hypnotize people, the worst violence against music was wrought by guys who just didn’t like disco.”

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    Actor Elizabeth Peña has died. Peña appeared in both film and television including, La Bamba (1987), Batteries Not Included (1987), Blue Steel (1989), L.A. Law, Lone Star (1996),  The Incredibles (2004), Justice League, Prime Suspect and Modern Family. NPR remembers Peña. The Guardian has collected clips of Peña’s work. Latino Review, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times and  The Hollywood Reporter have obituaries.

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    The Book Design Blog has a gallery of Valeria Brancaforte’s hand-printed books.

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    Jake Adelstein has shared an unpublished chapter of his book Tokyo Vice online.  “This chapter never made the final cut of Tokyo Vice because it’s not about crime or the underworld. It is about the battle to tell the truth when it is inconvenient for the powers that be to have it known.  It could probably use some more editing but for those who feel like the Japanese government isn’t telling you the whole truth about the actual environmental damage coming from the Fukushima meltdown–which is still going on–because if they stop pumping in water, nuclear fission will start again, this should help make you even a little more paranoid.  Enjoy.”

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    “Lights Out, Please combines retellings of traditional ghost stories and urban legends, alongside new, personal stories from a variety of international authors in order to tell others about the kinds of fears we live with. We tell our stories as a ghost story or urban legend to get people to believe us.” Find out more here and then play it!

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