Every Computer Animated Film Ever

A universal plot summary, summer 2009 edition

It’s time to test my theory of computer animated film plots against the latest examples of that form, DreamWorks’ Monsters vs. Aliens and Pixar’s Up. In case you are too lazy to click through, here’s the theory again in its entirety: After the worst of a long series of well-meaning but destructive deeds, an anthropomorphized creature protagonist is shunned by… read more

Every Computer Animated Film Ever

A universal plot summary

After the worst of a long series of well-meaning but destructive deeds, an anthropomorphized creature protagonist is shunned by his community. He enters into a series of adventures in the pursuit of a seemingly impossible task to prove his worth. During this pursuit the protagonist meets a rival and, to the former’s surprise, they have more in common than not.… read more

Operating Systems Prohibit Film Still Fair Use

Built-in DVD players forbid screen captures with software constraint

Recently, I had the need to capture a still from a DVD a Persuasive Games client had sent over as guidelines for some game assets. I didn’t want to rip the whole DVD, so I went to use the built-in screen capture facility in Apple OS X: the old standby Command-Shift-3. I was surprised to see the following result. The… read more

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How to Talk About Videogames

A fond look at the preposterous—and yet essential—pursuit of games criticism

This book will be published November 15, 2015. Preorder from Amazon Videogames! Aren’t they the medium of the twenty-first century? The new cinema? The apotheosis of art and entertainment, the realization of Wagnerian Gesamtkunstwerk? The final victory of interaction over passivity? No, probably not. Games are part art and part appliance, part tableau and part toaster. In How to Talk… read more

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Video Games Are Better Without Characters

The real legacy of SimCity is its attempt—and failure—to make complex systems the protagonists instead of people.

In the mid-1980s, the easiest way to check out the latest computer games was to go to a bookstore in the mall. Past the John Grisham and the bargain history books in the B. Dalton Bookseller, you’d find Software Etc., a small island of boxes amidst bound volumes, and a few computers on which to play the latest releases. It… read more

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The End of the Big Mac

The burger's demise won’t be marked by a declaration in a quarterly report, but by a collective appreciation for the comfort it offered America.

If you like to lunch on two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun, you’d better act fast: McDonald’s has announced plans to phase out the Big Mac. Okay, not really. But social media ate up the news of its axing, published by the satirical site Daily Buzz Live at the end of last… read more

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Game Studies, Year Fifteen

Notes on Thoughts on Formalism

I know it’s been a long time since I blogged—really blogged, you know, in the style of that form—for three reasons. First, because I’m talking about blogging in the first sentence, and second because I’m sending you here to read the prerequisites for this post. You’ll want to read the linked piece and as many of the subsequent pieces linked… read more

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The Cathedral of Computation

We’re not living in an algorithmic culture so much as a computational theocracy.

Algorithms are everywhere, supposedly. We are living in an “algorithmic culture,” to use the author and communication scholar Ted Striphas’s name for it. Google’s search algorithms determine how we access information. Facebook’s News Feed algorithms determine how we socialize. Netflix’s and Amazon’s collaborative filtering algorithms choose products and media for us. You hear it everywhere. “Google announced a change to… read more

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Winning Isn’t Everything

I used to think that games would be the dominant medium of the 21st century. The reality? They’re too big, too complex, and too smart for that to be true.

It’s hard to turn around in video game circles without hearing someone proclaim that “games are the dominant medium of the 21st century.” Deus Ex and Epic Mickeydesigner Warren Spector has a lecture built around the idea. The author Tom Chatfield devoted the subtitle of his book Fun, Inc to the concept. Journey composer Austin Wintory’s uttered the quip in an interview. Film critics writing about recent documentaries about games have even let… read more

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You Are Mountain

A strange video game from the Her animator bests Spike Jonze's film at depicting what a relationship with an alien really would be like.

Near the start of his relationship with a computer operating system in Spike Jonze’s Academy Award-winning film Her, Samantha the OS (Scarlett Johansson) helps Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix) play a videogame. Called “Alien Child” by the filmmakers, the game seems familiar enough to be plausible to viewers, yet foreign enough to induce estrangement. The same could be said of the film’s high-waisted… read more