Book Review: Hollow Kingdom

Hollow Kingdom is unique take on the zombie apocalypse from the perspective of the animals left behind. The cast of characters was fun and relatable, but they sometimes feels formulaic. I enjoyed the story, but it was predictable at moments and pacing of character development felt rushed in some places and glacially slow in others. Overall an enjoyable read and a worthy addition to any zombie aficionado.

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Ouya’s First Exclusive Title

Too much freakin news all at once! 

Well, looks like Ouya continues to gain steam as developer Robotoki has just pledged an Ouya exclusive game — The Human Element, a post-zombie-apoloypic game set for release in 2015 according to the update. 

The exclusive part comes in the form of an episode prequel that will be exclusive to the Ouya platform.  The president of the company, Robert Bowling, was one the creative minds behind the Call of Duty franchise before the launch of his own company, Robotoki. 

There’s not a whole lot else to say at this point, other than it seems like the $5million in funding should be going to good use. 

Head over to Ouya to see Update, and Robotoki’s The Human Element website.

Dead Island Trailer Perspective

I feel like a Dead Island Trailer perspective is the kind of thing that I, a game-theorist in training, should endeavor to write about.  It’s been all over the place that controversy this trailer caused because it depicts violence against children.  The trailer, set to some somber music, starts at the “end” of scene and moves backwards, showing the girl being bitten and infected and her father essentially abandoning her when he realizes she’s been infected.  In the end, the whole family is slaughtered by the zombies.

It’s a very emotional moving piece–arguably one of the most well done trailers I’ve ever seen, I would say even surpassing Blizzard’s CGI abilities.  So this stirred up some rage from people saying that the company was trying to profit from depictions of violence against children, and called the piece manipulative and salesy.  For once, (and this is a rare thing) Jim Sterling and I are in agreement in that this is a needed piece of media.

I wouldn’t say that I loved the trailer–that implies a degree of … affection for it that I don’t really have.  What I do–I admire it, it amazes me, and most of all, it’s revealing.  A large portion of cultural theory (of which game studies is a part) deals with looking at what we take for granted, those things that we choose to ignore on a daily basis.  Violence against children is one of those things that we hide our heads in the sand about, effectively plug our fingers in our collective ears and yell “LALLALALLA” until it goes away.

Again, I agree with Mr. Sterling here when he says that often in media, children are rarely the subjects of violence–they almost always emerge unscathed as if somehow their perceived innocence of the world protects them from the horrors the rest of the world is facing.  But the reality is – that isn’t the case.  Violence far worse than what appears in this trailer happens to children every day.  Literally.  Every.  Day.  In a conversation with a friend recently, he mentioned in a class about genocide, that children are not exempt from genocide, are not sold into slavery.  To the best of my knowledge, Hitler didn’t make exceptions for children. The European colonists didn’t make exceptions for the Native American children during the push west.

Yet, we find even amongst gamers, there are those that are crying this is too far, that this mere marketing stunt is manipulative and immoral.  Even those who have been staunch proponents of free expression in games. But I think this is a farce.  There’s the assumption that this makes light of their deaths, and yet the same is never said of movies that show similar content–and really a movie is only a longer trailer designed to get money without the middle-man of the game.  Both a movie and trailer function to make money.  A trailer and a movie are functionally the same, and yet we treat them differently here because one is less underhanded and is thus vilified for it.

We claim it inappropriate to show this kind of imagery.  We say it manipulative, underhanded, immoral, insensitive.  The argument has already been made by others that it’s accurate.  It’s not that it’s manipulative or any of those things that we find it reprehensible–it’s because it’s true.  For all of our ostrich head in the sand tactics, it’s still true.  It’s still accurate.  More than that, I think that more than a few people would have abandoned the girl the same way, knowing she was already lost.  I think that knowledge, that urge of self-preservation when you know the child is lost to you scares people.  There’s a sense of helplessness that comes across in the video, and a sense of finality, and doom for lack of a better word.  They were always going to lose–the family was always going to die.  In this way to me, the trailer is beautiful because it elicits those responses; because it deliberately makes us unapologetically uncomfortable.

For me – the fact that this trailer is uncomfortable to watch, that it forces us to think about lose-lose situations, that it shows us even the innocent are not free from violence makes it all the more important to *have* this kind of media available.  These are the kind of things that if gaming ever wants to be viewed as more than just something for kids–as Mr. Sterling states (I can’t help but imagine with a bit of a sneer), “take games seriously.”

This isn’t about the game–tangentially it could be – we don’t know the game.  The game could be profound and different from all the other zombie games and live up the precedent set by the trailer.  Or it might not.  But that’s not the point.  This is an argument about what is OK to display in media, the issues that are OK for us to explore in media.  This is an issue about games (as opposed to the game).  If we start claiming this early in the fight that, yes there are certain things that shouldn’t be in games, that sets the precedent in a way I don’t think we want.

See the Trailer here.

The Walking Dead – AMC Trailer

The Walking Dead - Rick

The Walking Dead - Rick

I get what some might consider to be an unhealthy amount enjoyment of Zombies. I think the first zombie movie to really scare me would have to be the 2004 edition of “Dawn of the Dead” directed by Rob Zombie.  I wrote a final paper in a class about the movie and must have watched it 20-30 times, so it’s lost a little bit of the “HOLY SH*T THEY CAN RUN!!!!!” magic it first had.  But I’ll not forget the first time I watched it at a friend’s house at midnight, and then had to trek back alone on the 2-mile walk at 2am in the dark.  That was probably the most frightening walk of my life.

Since then, I’ve only become more and more interested in zombies and so-called zombie culture.  A few months ago, one of my friends who shares my enthusiasm for the undead lent me the first volume of Robert Kirkman’s “The Walking Dead“, a graphic novel.  I was a little skeptical, seeing as I’ve never been one for comic books.  But it definitely hooked me.

Now that AMC is producing a series based on the graphic novels, I’m pretty geeked out.  It looks great thus far and has some fairly prestigious names attached to it, so as long as AMC doesn’t find a way to eff it up (It premieres on Halloween, which is probably the best idea ever), I think it’ll be one to remember for a quite while.