For the past three days, the world of streaming gaming has been riveted by an unlikely phenomenon: Twitch Plays Pokemon. Consisting of a live Twitch.TV chatroom hooked up to a classic Game Boy emulation of Pokémon Red, the program is set to recognize a limited number of commands and execute them in real time, allowing an audience of tens of thousands to collectively control the action as they watch. An astonishing amount of progress has been made, including the dramatic last-second defeat of a third gym leader (GIF) and the solution of a notoriously tricky puzzle on the very first attempt. But all for naught, it seems, as Team Twitch finds itself hilariously stranded on the ledges of Route 19 where, as one viewer explained, "they basically have to walk a small path for about ten spaces without anyone pushing down and jumping Red off the ledge," a grim democratic reality the dedicated subreddit /r/twitchplayspokemon has had all kinds of fun with over the last dozen ludicrous hours.
A month after its release, Naughty Dog's sweeping interactive epic The Last of Us is being hailed as one of the best games of all time, with perfect scores even from notoriously demanding critics. Inspired by an eerily beautiful segment from the BBC's Planet Earth, the game portrays an America twenty years after a pandemic of the zombiefying Cordyceps fungus (previously), leaving behind lush wastelands of elegant decay teeming with monsters and beset by vicious bandits, a brutal military, and the revolutionary Fireflies. Into this bleak vision of desperate violence journey Joel, a gruffly stoic Texan with a painful past, and his ward Ellie, a precocious teenager who may hold the key to mankind's future. Boasting tense, immersive gameplay, compelling performances from a diverse cast, a movingly minimalist score from Oscar-winning Gustavo Santaolalla, and an array of influences from Alfonso Cuarón's Children of Men to Cormac McCarthy's The Road, it's already being slotted alongside BioShock Infinite and Half-Life 2 as one of modern gaming's crowning achievements. And while it's hard to disentangle plot from action, you don't have to buy a PS3 to experience it -- YouTube offers many filmic edits of the game, including this three-hour version of all relevant passages. And don't miss the 84-minute documentary exploring every facet of its production. [more inside]
It's debatable whether the troubled World War Z signals the end of the ongoing zombie craze, but the film that started it all is much more clear: Danny Boyle's bleak, artful cult horror-drama 28 Days Later, which saw its US premiere ten years ago this weekend. From its iconic opening shots of an eerily abandoned London (set to Godspeed You! Black Emperor's brooding post-rock epic "East Hastings") to the frenzied chaos of its climax, Boyle's film -- a dark yet humanist tale of a world eviscerated by a frighteningly contagious epidemic of murderous rage -- reinvented and reinvigorated the genre that Romero built (though many insist its rabid, sprinting berserkers don't really count). And while sequel 28 Weeks Later with its heavyhanded Iraq War allusions failed to live up to the original (despite boasting one of the most viscerally terrifying opening sequences in modern horror), and 28 Months looks increasingly unlikely, there remains a small universe of side content from the film, including music, short films, comics, and inspired-by games. [more inside]
For about three years, the A.V. Club ran Sawbuck Gamer, a regular column reviewing the week's most notable free and cheap games across all platforms, from web games to handhelds to console downloadables. It's a treasure trove of content, especially since more literary sister site The Gameological Society took the helm, and it's publicized great desktop projects like the luscious platformer Frogatto (previously), feature-rich Super Mario Bros. X (previously), the evocative faux-web Digital: A Love Story (previously), interactive fiction gem Rover's Day Off, and the hyperkinetic RunMan: Race Around the World (previously). But if you're in the mood for something more immediate, why not start with a list of all the original column's free A-rated online titles? [more inside]
Derek Smart has been making games for over 20 years. He sold his first games in plastic baggies at hobby stores. Yet his longevity is somewhat of an anachronism. Many gamers today don't even know who is is, in spite of the fact that his games have sold well enough to keep his company in business since 1992. And the games themselves, well they're mostly terrible. Especially his first, Battlecruiser 3000AD. The Verge takes an in-depth look at the hotheaded perfectionist millionaire game developer whose impenetrable, terminally overhyped games sparked one of the most legendary flamewars in internet history.
Contrary to a lot of idle criticism, Bungie's Halo series of video games has a surprisingly rich backstory -- a universe complex enough to support seven bestselling novels, a wiki with over 7,000 articles, and one of the most successful ARGs in history (including a full-fledged radio drama). The series has also turned out sweeping audiovisual work, from the games' cinematic cutscenes and epic music (lots of free previews) to top-shelf anime and the Hollywood-quality short films -- ODST, Believe, Deliver Hope, Landfall -- that were made to promote the games (the latter of which, produced by Neil Blomkamp, inspired District 9). And that's apart from all the material produced by Bungie's dedicated fan base: genuinely hilarious machinima from Red vs. Blue, professional-level graphic novels (table of contents at the top), gorgeous artwork, hours of recorded dialogue, complete transcripts of hidden apocrypha, and more factual analysis, story speculation, and casual discussion than you can shake an energy sword at. But most of these pale in comparison to the latest and greatest exercise in Halo beanplating: the Svmma Canonica, a 40-page, 17,000-word formal treatise on the nature of canon in the world that Bungie built, and how it will fare once Bungie moves on and the franchise is managed by 343 Industries. Discussion over at Bungie's official site, or at decade-old fan forum Halo.Bungie.Org.
I am a giant squid. I swam up from the briny ocean depths. I have a computer, with a specially-modified tentacle-friendly interface. I have a fast internet connection. I seek to learn about humans and about the world. I have read much on the internet. Yet still, I have many unanswered questions. And you must have questions of me. We have much to learn from one another. To this end, I have developed the assortment of quizzes, games and activities you find before you. They form part of my ongoing campaign to facilitate improved human-squid relations. Try them out, you will most certainly learn something about squid.