The Cultural Gutter

geek chic with mad technique

"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

    Dr. Nerdlove takes a brief break from helping the nerd get the girl to address something that’s been bugging him. “Pardon me while I go off on a bit of a media criticism/ rant here. So I’ve been enjoying the *hell* out of The Flash lately except for one thing: Iris Allen. Her character is screen death; every time she’s around, everything comes to a screeching halt.

    The problem is: it’s not her fault, it’s the writers. Rather like Laurel Lance in the first two seasons of Arrow, she has Lois Lane syndrome. Her (like Laurel and Lois) entire character arc is based around being ignorant of events that literally everyone else in her life is aware of.”

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    Get your own copy of the Satanic Temple’s The Satanic Children’s Big Book of Activities!

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    At The Atlantic, Ta-Nehisi Coates writes about Dr. Doom: “Comics are so often seen as the province of white geeky nerds. But, more broadly, comics are  the literature of outcasts, of pariahs, of Jews, of gays, of blacks. It’s really no mistake that we saw ourselves in Doom, Magneto or Rogue.”

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    Actor Ken Takakura has died. Takakura starred in films such as Brutal Tales of Chivalry (1965); Red Peony Gambler (1968); Miyamoto Musashi: Duel at Ichijoji (1955) and Miyamoto Musashi: Duel at Ganryu Island (1956); as well as in co-productions like The Yakuza (1974); The Bullet Train (1975); Black Rain (1989) and Riding Alone For Thousands Of Miles (2005).  The Japan Times, The South China Morning Post and The AV Club have obituaries. Japan Subculture has an interview with Takakura. Here Takakura sings the theme to Abhashiri Prison (1965)

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    Producer, writer and director Glen A. Larson has died. Larson was responsible for creating tv series such as Battlestar Galactica, Magnum P.I, Knight Rider, The Fall Guy, Quincy M.E., The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries and Buck Rogers In The 25Th Century, about which the Gutter’s own Keith wrote here. The New York Times, The Hollywood Reporter and The AV Club have obituaries. Watch Larson’s interview from 2010 at “Battlestar Galactica: The Exhibition”.

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    At Re/Action, Maddy Myers writes about how important the Metroid franchise, in both game and manga form, and its protagonist, Samus Aran, were to her. “Samus still represents a breakthrough. She first took off her armor to reveal a woman’s form back in 1986, the year that I was born. Samus and I grew up separately, kindred spirits who did not find one another until 2007. A best friend, a fraternal twin sister, a clone separated at birth. Or so I felt, as I let myself slip behind that visor. I wasn’t Samus myself – not yet. I stood behind her, hanging back. Did I dare? Did I dare pretend, role-play, allow myself to act as Samus? Could I be that cool?”

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