Friday, May 21, 2010

Violence Is Not the Problem

by Daniel Bullard-Bates

Fair warning: the following post contains descriptions of brutal violence, as well as spoilers for God of War 3 and the movie Irreversible.

We return, time and time again, to the problem of violence in video games and other media. Does watching a gory movie make the viewer more comfortable with gore? Does murdering countless innocents in a fictional airport inspire real-life terrorism? Can a bit of the old ultraviolence permanently scar society?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Addiction or Entertainment?

by Daniel Bullard-Bates

Some video games are designed to deliver a complete, finite experience. Sometimes these games deliver story and character arcs, other times merely a series of levels with little to no narrative coherency. These can vary in length, lasting anywhere from a few minutes to many hours, but at the end of that play time, the game is over.
Other games are designed to be played eternally. Even their so-called endings are frail veneers of finality. There is always something more to do. Games like The Sims, World of Warcraft, and Peggle are frequently referred to as “addictive,” which is not a quality one normally seeks out in a product. Still, these games hold a powerful allure. They demand a great deal from the player. A truly addictive single player or multiplayer game can eclipse all other games.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Humble Beginnings

by C.T. Hutt

I’d like you to imagine a major game developer. Are you picturing Activision or EA? Good choices. They work together for months creating the next blockbuster release. Like good little addicts you and I and hundreds of others line up around the block near a major retailer to be the first to put our hard-earned cash on the barrelhead and walk out of the store with a shiny new game in our clutches. However, after saving all your pennies and standing in line for hours, when you finally reach the cashier and they scan your intended purchase the price comes up as a question mark.

“What does that mean?” you ask the clerk.

“It means you can pay whatever you want,” says she.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Sleep is Death

by Daniel Bullard-Bates

When I first laid eyes on Sleep is Death, I was confounded. How can there be a compelling story with such dull, even hideous graphics? How will hosts guide an entire story in thirty seconds using this complicated interface? What if my stories don’t hold up? It takes some time to get past all that, but once the fog lifts the limitless potential of Sleep is Death is revealed.

It is difficult to talk about Sleep is Death without talking about the stories that result from play, and this is what makes Sleep is Death so fascinating: Each session is unique and personal. After spending some time familiarizing myself with the creator tools and host interface, I invited my friend Danielle to play a game with me. I’d prepared a story, using the setting included, about Lilith’s fall from grace in the Garden of Eden.

The result was sometimes frustrating while we were playing, since the thirty seconds on the timer always seemed to be gone too fast, and this resulted in some unusual moments. We still had fun with our tale of dogs that could only look in one direction, women who seemed to be speaking from their nether regions, cowardly disappearing snakes, and one incredibly rude devil. Even funnier, we discovered, was the flipbook that resulted from our story. All our mistakes became part of the charm of the story.

Friday, May 7, 2010

One Up

As of today, we have been blogging for a full year. It’s been absolutely fantastic to share, argue, discuss, and refine ideas about the social and artistic merits of video games with all of you. We’ve made some good friends, talked to some great developers, and said some intelligent things and some less intelligent things. We have seen the awesome and terrible power of the internet.

Complete strangers have reposted our material and said it was worthwhile! Many thanks to everyone, and in particular to Ben Abraham, Mitch Krpata, and Eric Swain for keeping an eye on the site and deeming us worthy of a link every once in a while. We are humbled every time.

Other complete strangers have questioned us, critiqued us, and challenged our arguments! You know what? That’s valuable, too. Every comment you leave us adds to the ever-expanding dialog about our beloved medium and its place in society and the arts. Your input keeps us honest and adds to our collective understanding of video games, so keep those comments coming.

It’s been a great year, and we’re glad that you’re all here. It’s fine if you didn’t get us anything for our birthday. Your presence presents all the presents we presently desire. Oh, you insist on getting us something? Then tell your friends to swing by and check out the site if you think they might like it. There is a huge community of people out there interested in the same idea: that video games can challenge society and reach incredible artistic heights.

We want those people in our lives. Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Survival of the Daring

by C.T. Hutt

Times are tough; money is scarce. Even devoted gamers are forced to watch every penny they spend on their beloved pastime. So when a little blue hedgehog told me about a deal where I could get 48 classic Sega games for fifteen bucks I forked over the gold rings and bought a copy of Sonic's Ultimate Genesis Collection. I was raised in a Nintendo household, but I thought this might be a good opportunity study the fossil records of some classic games. After some contemplation, I’ve realized why Sega lost the console war of the late eighties. It wasn’t the archaic graphics or outdated control schemes that put me off these titles today; it was their total lack of innovation.

While Nintendo may be infamous for its reluctance to deal with adult themes or offer original plots and storylines, there is no denying that their innovations have shaped a great deal of the medium today. Sega, despite their superior graphics and sleeker spokes-character, was keen to refine and duplicate Nintendo’s ideas, but offered few of their own to the primordial stew of early video games.

Monday, May 3, 2010


by Daniel Bullard-Bates

In the beginning, there was Pong. Glorious Pong, with its gargantuan cabinet and two shining wheels. Progenitor Pong, revered ancestor of all video games. Pong, perfect in its symmetry: two dimensions, two colors, two players. Thus began the primal story.

I am Pong and you are Pong. We fight.