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The art of the set designer: How TV’s best shows come to life

You may never have heard of Diane Lederman, but that’s only because her work is, by design, invisible. As a production designer, she is responsible for making the worlds we see on TV and film look believable. She recreated mid-80s Americana for AMC’s Cold War thriller The Americans (2013), and on HBO’s The Leftovers (2014) she envisioned an apocalypse at once heartbreaking, mundane, and chillingly surreal. (Ugh, the plaster casts at the end of season one.) This last vision struck an oddly resonant chord with one of last year’s best games, The Chinese Room’s Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture (2015), which similarly aimed…

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Absolver is the low-poly, God Hand-inspired brawler of your dreams

It’s tempting to describe Absolver with an endless stream of references to other games—big ones, the type for which you see cardboard cutouts at GameStop. It’s an online multiplayer game riffing on the model of Destiny (2014) or Dark Souls (2011)—not, they clarify, an MMO—with players both friendly and unfriendly roaming a semi-open world. The elegantly low-poly world has the feel of a somber The Witness, and its tight, frame-specific combat recalls the brawlers of Platinum Games.  But that laundry list sells it short. Tucked back in an Airstream trailer, far enough from the Los Angeles Convention Center to allow me to…

The Last Guardian
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I yearn to pet The Last Guardian’s giant chicken-dog forever

It’d be foolhardy to make any big claims about The Last Guardian, Fumito Ueda’s massively long-in-development third game, after 45 minutes of playing it at E3. So I will start with what I know, which is that the big feathery chicken-cat, who is the ostensible star and raison d’etre of the videogame, is a very nice thing. She—I do not know her gender, but she reminds of my cat, who is female—has a nice face, and eyes that glow like malfunctioning PlayStation Move controllers. After throwing barrels at her face for a while, I freed her, and then threw more…

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Feature

Final Fantasy XII and the glory of the grind

This article is part of PS2 Week, a full week celebrating the 2000 PlayStation 2 console. To see other articles, go here.  /// The first time I played Final Fantasy XII (2006), I didn’t get it. I liked it, I think—there was something unusually elegant about the game’s stern, philosophical conversations about honor, and the long loping lines of its battle system—but I got halfway through, hit a boss battle of five little goblins that wrecked my shit with a panoply of status effects, and called it a day. I believe winter break was ending, anyway. I mused over my failure…

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Feature

A people’s history of PlayStation Home

Released at the end of last year, Postcards from Home has the feel of a curio: a weighty tome assembled exclusively from images captured within Sony’s discontinued virtual world, Home (2008-2015). Its author, the Spanish photographer Roc Herms, has explored games before, whether making absurdist use of the Game Boy camera or documenting an enormous LAN party from the perspective of the hardware. But it only takes a few pages for the scope of Postcards from Home to reveal itself as something much more empathetic, even human, full of penetrating longform interviews that explores the digital architecture of Home as…

Only One
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Kanye West’s videogame is gonna be very Kanye West

Yesterday, Kanye West debuted his new album, The Life of Pablo, at Madison Square Garden. The “listening event” is a long-standing power-move in the most entrenched corners of the record industry—a complementary-wine-and-shrimp sort of affair, where people stand around and maybe take notes on a record while the artist either stares at them intently or, like, falls asleep in a corner, surrounded by well-wishers. Ye’s event represents a reinvention of the form for the Spotify era, turning an insiders-only thing into a streaming-platform cosign, a fashion show, a free, democratized listening event, and an actual documentary of how boring and weird…

Unravel
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Burn in hell, Yarny

A videogame called Unravel will be released tomorrow. It may be a good game, and it is certainly a good-looking one, with a soft focus and hazy depth of field; tree leaves rustle convincingly and thick snowflakes pile up as the camera pans ever right-ward. It appears to make use of this tactile world for a series of physics-based puzzles, like moving rocks to get up on ledges and creating makeshift vines with which to soar across little ponds. These may be very clever puzzles, building toward a resolution that is very satisfying, but I will never know, because I will never…

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The only opinion of The Witness I care about is Soulja Boy’s

I love Soulja Boy almost as much as Soulja Boy loves videogames. He was supposed to disappear after 2007’s “Crank That”—a misogynist dance anthem that was embraced, largely, sarcastically—but instead he hit the gas, beefing like crazy, flirting with major-label pop, and then dissolving in a haze of weird, fractured mixtapes. Early on, he co-opted the image of Sonic the Hedgehog, and in some ways that remains the defining image of the emcee, spinning wheels and flying off to god-knows-where. He could release something like the lacerating, subversive “Turn My Swag On,” on which he defied all reason by electing…

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Feature

Blackstar won’t tell you how to die

I spent a lot of time this week listening to “Subterraneans,” the last song on 1977’s Low, by David Bowie. I didn’t know what else to do. Like a lot of other people, I had a feeling—this response to death we all have, with varying degrees of terror and/or sadness attached to it—combined with the uselessness of just being on the internet, looking for something to do. And so we (I) look for more David Bowie, or we (I) listen to more David Bowie, because all of it’s still right there, right where we (I) left it. We sort of…