The Cultural Gutter

taking the dumb out of fandom

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

Hard Driven

You won

The Sims 2 (Electronic Arts, 2004) was making my hard drive complain. Not the usual grinding noise, but a louder, tap-knock, ominous kind of noise. I have had hard drives go corrupt on me before, so I powered down and switched a few cords. When I powered up again, I got a series of 01 […]

Player Hater

Swanky locales make you drool while you dribble.

“Vince Carter’s a dick,” Marty says when I choose him. “He’s from the Toronto team,” I say lamely. I’m not really a hometown booster or anything, I’d just been happy I’d been able to recognize any of the players I had to choose from. “Yeah, but he wants to leave,” Marty grumbles. This is why […]

Antagonistic Amusement

A biomod or two is OK, but the Omar go too far.

Now that the Matrix franchise has collapsed under its own hype and mystical mumbo-jumbo, it’s refreshing to see a well-executed cyberpunk tale in what is perhaps its ideal medium: the videogame. Because it’s not just about the style — the leather overcoats and the sunglasses — that shit was embarrassing in the ’80s when it […]

Sickly Doom

The writer on a better day of recreational decision-making.

When I was young, the ideal situation was being too sick for school but not too sick for videogames. So that after a good long sleep I could get up, get myself some toast, and play for a couple hours before my mom got home — and I was wiser to be back in bed […]

I Am Woman, Hear Me Purr

Daniel

When I got Sudeki for review, I sighed. An anime babe smiled out from the cover, her armoured boobs thrust forward and her arms upstretched as she cast a spell — presumably on the teenage-boy market. The following two strikes were the five-star recommendation from Maxim and the name of the game company (Climax). But […]

Cracking a Moral Code

Flatscreen monitor on a castle wall--does it get any cooler?

For those of you who paid for your copy of Tony Hawk 4 (Aspyr, 2003) on the PC, here’s what you missed. Running INSTALLER.EXE in the pirated version brings up a window that shows a flat-monitor screen hanging painting-style on what looks to be a castle wall. A bouncy-yet-mournful synth tune plays in the background. […]

Consoling Jim

Sweet sounds from an instrument cheap and obsolete.

To create what The Onion called his “wispy, quirky, homemade folk-pop,” Toronto musician Jim Guthrie uses sounds from everything from mimeograph machines to the elbows of evestroughs. But it’s his use of the Playstation 1 game console that has attracted the most attention. There’s not a lot of it on his most recent album, but […]

Geeky Secrets

A hissing dot-matrix bomb in the hands of our children.

Everyone loves getting in on a good secret. The same feeling of invulnerability and anonymity that makes email flaming such a big part of the internet encourages the trading in verboten information. It’s been going on for a long time, as least as long as the BBS scene in the ’80s. I recently came across […]

Mario’s Pain

Jumping on monster heads all day takes its toll.

A man is having his first physiotherapy appointment. A woman comes in wearing a white doctor’s coat. Their conversation begins on a clinical level, the doctor asking the man about how he sustained his injuries. The man explains that he works in the videogame industry, and in fact has come from work. She assumes that […]

How to Spoil a Game

In Sanitarium, you have a godlike view of the nuthouse.

You wake up in a centuries-old asylum. Your face is in bandages and your memory is in tatters, only coming back to you in black and white cinematic flashes. As you walk around and talk to people, you solve puzzles and unearth the mystery of your identity, travelling to different places that may only exist […]

Well-rendered Television

The show’s opening sequence starts with a woman in a black bodysuit facing off against a hulking monster. When she finishes him off with a jump-kick, the music swells and the words “Game Over” come up. “Did you ever wonder what happens after the game ends?” a voice reminiscent of Laurence Fishburne intones. “Welcome to […]

The Name Game

Ubisoft

While I wait in the lobby of one of the largest game studios in the world, I watch someone go through to the inner sanctum. The shiny barrier, with transparent doors that whir apart at the wave of a card-pass, looks familiar — I think I’ve seen the devices being used as turnstiles in a […]

Read Only Memories

I’m fairly suspicious of nostalgia, and I hate how advertisers leverage our emotions to sell us the same products twice. So while I’m happy that people are rediscovering videogames from their youth, and that the games and their blocky aesthetic are mushrooming up all over the culture, I wonder about the retro-gaming phenomenon. Are these […]

The Power of N

This freeware indie game is pure N-joyment.

N (MetaNet Software, 2004) is a perfect pop song of a videogame, an addictive platformer in which you use three keys to direct your ninja towards the gold and away from the robots. Its two-dimensional and mostly two-colour simplicity lure you into its cunning level designs and give you an appreciation for the subtle characterization […]

No Love For the Glove

The line between gimmick and innovation is sometimes hard to draw. Game purists look down on specialized peripherals, and while I like my shotguns and dance-pads in single-purpose arcade games, I rarely think they’re justified in a multi-purpose home system. Maybe I know too many people who bought the Power Glove. This Mattel peripheral was […]

Going Public with our Joysticks

Mister Bonnie solders together an Arcadian

One of the biggest contributors to videogaming’s nerd factor is that it’s most often a solitary act. The bepimpled teenager channelling his angst through a controller in the darkness of his parent’s basement is a cliché with more than a few grains of truth. But it hasn’t always been so. Before the home entertainment system’s […]

Blaspheming in the Church of Zelda

The promo art for Zelda should have tipped me off.

When I posted my bad review of Zelda: The Legend of Windwaker(Nintendo, 2003) to this site it immediately inspired a flood of outraged comments. Twenty-eight in total, and if you count the side discussions on other sites, over 8,000 words about a column that was about 800 words long. One comment insisted I “never write […]

Simple Pleasures

Looking back to a simpler, ostrich-flying time.

Jeff sent me an email a few days ago. Subject: Fishy. “Maybe you should consider writing a column about this awful, far-too-addictive game — if you do, my advice is to write about it without actually playing it, because if you start playing it you will never get around to writing the column.” Like this:Like […]

The Way We’re Being Played

The Silent Hill 3 protagonist recoils at the thought of buying another video card.

Here’s how I learned to stop worrying and learned to love the console. For years I’d thought it was a sucker’s game to buy a dedicated machine when you could play on your multi-use PC. I looked on the proliferation of PlayStations in the ghetto as electronic malt liquor: sure, it was only $300, but […]

The Romance of Indie Games

A screenshot from Bontãgo, a finalist in the Independent Games Festival.

I came across Ernest Adams as the writer of a column for the excellent gamasutra.com, a website dedicated to “the art and science of making games.” Adams’ column, The Designer’s Notebook, discusses some of the arcane and complex issues facing game designers in language understandable to people outside the inner circle, managing to be rigorous […]

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  • Of Note Elsewhere

    Actor, director, writer and artist Leonard Nimoy has died. Nimoy was most famous for playing Spock in Star Trek, but he also appeared in Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978), In Search Of…, Ancient Mysteries, Columbo, Fringe, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Faerie Tale Theatre, Mission: Impossible, Dragnet and Bonanza.  Nimoy directed Three Men And A Baby (1987), two Star Trek films and an episode of Night Gallery (“Death on a Barge”) among others. The New York Times and The Guardian have obituaries. Here are some tweets from William Shatner’s online memorial for Nimoy. George Takei remembers Nimoy. Zachary Quinto remembers Nimoy. EW also has other remembrances, including one from President Obama. Code Switch’s Steve Haruch discusses Spock’s importance as a biracial character. Nimoy talks about his work at the Archive of American Television. You can see some of Nimoy’s photography here. And a reminder that Nimoy had an Etsy shop.

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    At Graveyard Shift Sisters, Ashlee Blackwell considers Jonathan Demme’s Beloved as a horror film as part of their Black History & Women In Horror Month series. “Beloved takes us on one journey of the Black American experience of slavery through the body of a Black female protagonist.”

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    Watch Nigerian writer and director Nosa Igbinedion’s Oya: The Coming Of The Orishas here.

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    At Bitch Media, Sara Century wonders why Michonne isn’t in charge and considers which medium is better for the ladies of The Walking Dead: comics or tv. “As I was thinking about the numerous questionable writing choices made with these could-be-so-great female characters, I got to wondering, which medium is better for the ladies of The Walking Dead: the TV show or the comic? In other words, which one is less sexist?

    I wrote up a short list of the main female characters that appear both on the show and in the comic to decipher the differences in how these women are written. These descriptions contain spoilers through season five of the TV show, because it’s impossible to write about The Walking Dead without talking about how people die all the time.”

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    Vixen Varsity shares Olufemi Lee-Johnson’s tribute to Milestone Media and Dwayne McDuffie. “For the first time in my life, I was around comic writers of color telling stories that mirror or surpassed the storylines of America’s favorite heroes. Icon dealt with being the ultimate immigrant and not understanding current black culture. Rocket (Raquel Irvin) was his guide, but also aspired to be more than just a woman in the projects. Static (Virgil Hawkins) was just a normal teenager dealing with fitting into school and then was put into this extraordinary circumstance of being a hero. Hardware (Curtis Metcalf) wanted respect from his mentor, but later learned about the bigger picture when it came to being a hero and the characters from Blood Syndicate…they were just trying to make it day by day and maintain their respect as a gang.”

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    At Soundcheck, John Schaefer talks with Jim Jarmusch about “making music for someone else’s films, and a penchant for walking the tightrope between narrative and abstract art in his own movies. And if you thought his C.V. was looking a little thin, Jarmusch is also working on an upcoming opera about the Serbian-American inventor Nikola Tesla, with Robert Wilson and composer Phil Kline.” (Thanks, Kate!)

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