Introducing Gaming’s Bechdel Test

Over the course of July, I finally decided to put forth my idea for adapting the Bechdel Test to games. I’ve tossed it around privately for awhile, and I’m hoping community feedback will help shape it into something useful. Now that it’s out in the world, it might be worth talking a little more about it here. First, the videos: one lays out the theory, while the other attempts to apply it to games.

One thing I knew going into this project was that I wanted The Path to pass. It would fail the traditional Bechdel Test based on the lack of dialogue, but if there were ever a game about women’s stories, The Path was it. So the question became how to account for representation in a medium where dialogue isn’t inherent. Likewise, was it necessarily a bad thing when there was only one woman on screen? In the case of something like Metroid, the woman was the only character on screen. It doesn’t make sense to dismiss games based on criteria nonessential to the medium. (more…)

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#IAmClementine – Thoughts on Playing and Being a Girl in the Zombie Apocalypse

There’s something about The Walking Dead‘s Clementine that I’ve struggled to articulate. I sputtered around it in our last Water Cooler discussion, and it’s come barreling to the forefront of my thoughts now that TellTale released the first preview of the next episode. It’s hovered around my subconscious for weeks; I even dreamed about it. I don’t actually remember any of the dream, but I woke up feeling distraught and specifically worried about how Clementine was going to get out of the last mess I left her in.  That says a lot about my investment in the character, and it gave reason to tease out just what my relationship with this character is.

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You, Me, and Everyone We Know in a Meat Locker

I’ve had The Walking Dead on the brain lately. I just finished reading the 17th TPB volume, and the mid-season premiere of AMC’s television adaptation is upon us. It seems as good a time as any to look back at TellTale Games’s (superior) videogame adaptation.

All things considered, 2012 was a pretty good year for The Walking Dead. Sure, the comic suffered its usual awkward plotting, but the television show finally found its voice. What it lacked in character drama, it made up in gory zombie action. However, it was TellTale Games’s adaptation that emerged triumphant over other iterations of the franchise, all-but-literally showered in Game of the Year accolades. Although it got off to a shaky start, the game not only gained confidence in its own characters and storytelling by the end of its five episode run, but in one particular sequence, it caused me to re-examine where I stood in its narrative space. (more…)

Laundry in the Zombie Apocalypse

Until recently, my only exposure to The Walking Dead was its adaptations into other mediums (television and game, reviewed below) and whatever early issues were available for free through ComiXology’s Comics app for the iPhone. Now, I have finally clawed my way to the top of the library waiting list for the first two trade paperback (TPB) volumes, Days Gone By and Miles Behind Us. Upon reading them, two things are immediately apparent:

  1. The absence of Norman Reedus and his biceps.
  2. The existence of the same regressive gender binaries regularly trotted out on the show.

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Review: The Walking Dead

This was originally published on P as in Pterodactyl, May 7th, 2012.

I’ve only read the first few issues of Robert Kirkman’s original comic books, but I have a strange fascination with the television incarnation of The Walking Dead. It’s a bit like watching a train wreck; I just can’t wrap my head around how a show can be as beautifully shot as it is and, you know, about zombies, but still be as mirthless and relentlessly terrible as it continues to be. And it is a terrible show to be sure—what with its nonexistent characters and conflicts in what is purported to be an ensemble drama. Even so, I schedule time every Sunday to catch a new episode. Partially it’s that strange fascination with how the show continues to drown in its own mythology (or lack thereof) that brings me back, but I also return to The Walking Dead week after week with a little hope that maybe this week will finally click. Maybe—just maybe—the next episode will finally get it and dig the series out of its hole. It is with this mindset that I enter TellTale Games’ The Walking Dead, an episodic adventure game based on the same source material. The first episode is currently available for PS3, Xbox 360 and PC with the promise of four subsequent episodes over as many months. (I’ll be playing the series on my MacBook). The game, like the show, looks beautiful with a compelling, comic book-esque aesthetic that is anchored by fantastic facial animations. Also like the show, the game features a lot of talking–not all of it necessary. The real test of quality, then, becomes whether or not the rest of its components—especially the writing and core mechanics—can measure up to its slick art direction.

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