Mafia III is a postcard tour of the American South

Tell about the South. What’s it like there. What do they do there. Why do they live there. Why do they live at all. —William Faulkner, Absalom, Absalom! (1936) One of the currents running through Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom!, and indeed the Southern literary tradition at large, is the difficulty of telling about the South. In the quote above, Quentin Compson relates a story from his home in Yoknapatwpha County, Mississippi to his Harvard roommate Shreve. As Quentin attempts to untangle a web of hearsay, gossip, legend, and myth, he ruminates on his tired apostleship about “Southernness” as if it can…


Civilization VI is more game than drama

Before Civilization VI’s official release date, those with access to the unreleased version of the game were treated not to the ‘official’ theme on the game’s title screen, but with what would prove to be the theme music for the American civilization. The piece is a combination of two very different, very American pieces of music: the opening is lifted straight from Aaron Copland’s “Fanfare for the Common Man.” The rest is an orchestral arrangement of “Hard Times Come Again No More,” a 19th-century parlour song by Stephen Foster—the man who wrote mainstays like “Camptown Races,” and “Oh, Susanna.” The first…


Ladykiller in a Bind dares to ask “what are you into?”

You lie on your bed, idly, unsure of what is keeping you up. It’s something that wants to stay hidden, just out of sight of your mind’s eye, a shadow ducking out of your periphery—the flash of a sly smirk as it flits around your room. While the thing on your mind dodges investigation, your hands nervously fiddle with your skirt, anxious to make your brain comply with what you want it to do. Your gaze wanders from your legs to your laptop a few inches away. You had just been on it, in a virtual world, only 20 minutes…


Owlboy is a masterful tale of transcending disability

My girlfriend speaks softly. She’s a ghost on the phone. If you ever met her in person, you’d lean in a little when she introduced herself. You could say it’s her personality. But you’d only be half right. The other half has something to do with a very large truck that collided with her small body when she was seven, leaving her in such a state that the doctors who treated her became locally famous. While the miracle docs lined up for pictures in the newspaper, Erin was still unable to communicate; it was years, she tells me now, before…

The Curious Expedition

The Curious Expedition is a disturbing portrait of the colonial mind

I could think of any number of better titles for The Curious Expedition. Here’s a few: Colonialism Simulator 1900; Literal Tomb Raider; Uncharted 5: The White Man’s Burden. Virtually anything seems better than the title the game actually has. You do embark on an expedition every time you play it—an adventure into foreign jungles on the other side of the world, where priceless treasures, golden pyramids, and possibly dinosaurs lie in wait. But “curious” seems like an incredibly inappropriate word for what you end up doing there. You will almost always encounter a tribe of “natives”—language and culture unspecified, because…


Masquerada is about as enjoyable as a dictionary

Delivered in the middle of Big Game season, Masquerada looks at first like a welcome relief from war, VR, and Watch Dogs 2’s emoji mask. The masks in its world are a different kind of grotesque. They separate the haves and the have-nots in a rigidly stratified sorta-Venetian society, granting elemental powers to elites who dress like every day is carnival. The conceit feels fresh, and the city of Ombre is boldly drawn, with heavy black borders around tents and troops to set off freehand suggestions of grass blades and thin ruled lines of stone. The protagonist, Cicero Gavar, dashes…


Thoth isn’t here to make friends

Thoth works on certain illusions. A static screenshot would make you think this twin-stick shooter is more in line with Jeppe Carlsen’s previous game—the rhythm-based, minimalist platformer 140 (2013)—or that your dot in Thoth is kettled in against mean squares that look like descendants to Geometry War’s (2003) shapes. Thoth may only have a few matted colors at a time, but it is very loud; a mouse that roars. it invokes stages of fear Those squares, and many other bad shapes, are 3D in a 2D world. The way they float appears more like a gelatin warble, or a figure…


Aragami is a shadow of what it could be

In 1995, the Guinness World Records Committee officially decreed that a parakeet named Puck had the largest vocabulary of any bird in the world. Puck knew 1,728 words, and like others of his species, was able to assemble them into phrases and sentences appropriate to the situation he was in. “It’s Christmas,” he was heard to say on the proper day in 1993: “That’s what’s happening; that’s what it’s all about.” Puck might have been exceptionally literate, but he was only one voice in a diverse avian chorus. Amazon and African Grey parrots are known for their conversational skills, as…


Thumper is here for a beatdown

I’ve only been to one Lightning Bolt concert in my life, but it left a serious impression on me. The band—comprised of duo Brian Gibson on bass and Brian Chippendale on drums and vocals—set up their gear on the floor in front of the stage with a stacked wall of amps behind them. The music is loud and fast, a flurry of noise-metal bass churn, blistering drum rhythms, and distorted, indecipherable shouts. The crowd was a compact mass of bodies, not so much a mosh pit as a sweaty blob fighting against the shape of its container. There was no…