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

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. […]

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 […]

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  • Of Note Elsewhere

    There’s a fine piece at Nitrate Diva about the 1935 film, Kongo. “In this monument to morbidity, nearly all the taboos festering at the edges of pre-Code cinema come out and play: blasphemy, drug addiction, prostitution, torture, slavery, bestiality, and (spoiler alert!) incest. The movie positively wallows in depravity. Degradation is its subject, its project, its study.”

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    At Bitch, Liza Dadoly writes about Never Alone. “Never Alone’s plot is based around Alaskan indigenous folklore, specifically the story ‘Kunuuksaayuka,’ a tale told by storyteller Robert Nasruk Cleveland of the Inupiaq people. ‘Kunuuksaayuka’ tells of a young boy who goes out into a blizzard to discover its source and, by doing so, save his people and their way of life from the terrible storm. According to Never Alone’s website, nearly forty Alaskan Native participants, including storytellers and elders, were involved with the development of the game. These Inupiat representatives and Never Alone’s development team worked together to turn ‘Kunuuksaayuka’ into the game, notably changing the protagonist from a young boy into a young girl, Nuna, and giving her an adorable fox to accompany her on her quest.”

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    Quartz has a gallery of Jessica Fulford-Dobson’s photographs of the skater girls of Kabul, Afghanistan.

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    PBS’ Newshour has a gallery of Norbert Ostrowski’s amazing automotive design sketches from 1946 to 1973. “The designs were never meant to leave the studios. Automakers routinely destroyed early sketches for fear they would fall into the wrong hands. But some of them made their way out of Ford, GM and Chrysler, as well as now defunct Studebaker, Packard and AMC. According to one designer, they were smuggled out in boxes with false bottoms. One employee famously hid his sketches inside the liner of his trench coat.”

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    Swell songs on disreputable topics: “Gom Jabbar “ by Chica Non Grata and “Bad Clone” by Victoria Squid.

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    MTV News spoke to directors Lexi Alexander, Brenda Chapman and Yulin Kuang about “what they thought of MacLaren’s departure [from Wonder Woman] and how they think it speaks to the bigger problem in the industry – namely, the lack of opportunities women have in film.” If you’d like to know more about MacLaren’s career, including directing episodes of Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul, Game Of Thrones and The Walking Dead, Vulture has “Michelle MacLaren Is The Best Director On TV” by Matt Zoller Seitz.

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