We watched Ubisoft’s 30-minute The Division short so you wouldn’t have to

When Assassin’s Creed II was released in 2009, it was accompanied by a 35-minute live-action YouTube miniseries titled Assassin’s Creed: Lineage. Low-budget, hokey, free-to-watch, and largely peripheral to the story of Assassin’s Creed II, the miniseries’ promotional nature was clear, but the sheer length and novelty of the project gave it a sort of “official fan film” charm that made it seem at the least harmless. It wasn’t revolutionary television by any means, but the glorified cosplay nature of the project made it difficult to stay mad at it. Seven years later, after a whole generation of live-action trailers, a…


Apocalypse Now (& Again)

In English, the word “apocalypse”—ety. Greek, n. apo (un-) + kaluptein (-veil)—has three non-exclusive uses. The first and most common is simply the end of the world, whether by divine punishment or whatever transpires in movies directed by Roland Emmerich. The second is any form of calamity, representational or real, man-made or no, that resembles the end of the world, like the 2010 Haitian Earthquake, Chernobyl, or the movies directed by Roland Emmerich themselves. The third is what the Greeks intended apocalypse to mean: the revelation of knowledge through profound disruption, which is why the final book of the New…


The consumerist zenith of Star Wars: Card Trader

When asked about the origins of Star Wars at a Sundance panel earlier this year, George Lucas didn’t describe a mystical story some muse had moved him to tell. Nor did he frame his films as an epic family soap opera he was inspired to get on celluloid. Neither did he delve into the many filmic influences behind the movie, from westerns and WW2 dogfighting films, to samurai flicks. Instead, his answer was about the ownership structure of the movie and how he financed it in a deal with 20th Century Fox to keep the licensing rights. He then shifted…


Remembering the beautifully boring MMO Star Wars Galaxies

There aren’t many games where the player can be a club dancer, strapped-for-cash and performing for tips in a sleazy bar. There are fewer where that bar is filled with fish people and space bears. When Star Wars Galaxies first released in 2003, it did so under the tagline “Live in the Star Wars Universe.” A simple slogan that could initially be read in a number of ways, but one that turned out to be diametrically opposed to the rest of the Star Wars game library over the title’s lifetime. As opposed to the epic quests of games like Shadows…


Replaying Yoda Stories, the most 1997 Star Wars game imaginable

Yoda Stories wasn’t much more than a lightweight diversion for preteens with a propensity to hog time on the family desktop. With an overhead view, players guided a cartoonishly large-headed Luke Skywalker, ordered by Yoda to visit various planets to save his friends, collect piles of robot junk, and swing a lightsaber around. The game was an installment in LucasArts’ stalled “Desktop Adventure” series—low-key, cutesy titles that require about as much investment as your average game of Minesweeper or Solitaire. It spit out randomly created maps of various Star Wars-esque locales. (Desert planet? Frozen planet? Forest planet? Check, check, check).…


A few things I learned from the late-90s game about nerds, Star Warped

A word of warning. This is an article about Star Warped, a comedic CD-Rom and a comet made of raw 1997 that swung by this planet without many noticing. Parts of this summation are painfully, extraordinarily, and sickeningly 1997, so if you’re concerned about hearing a dial-up tone in your head similar to the whir of tinnitus—be warned. I first saw it on Splat!, a magazine-style program for the then-new animation specialty channel Teletoon. The segment was about cartoons in videogames, a cross section that couldn’t have possibly been more eclipsing for a kid who gave himself nightmares retrying Brain…


TIE Fighter found the humanity in fascism

In 1993, LucasArts released Star Wars: X-Wing, a space flight simulator that let the player fly as part of the Rebel Alliance in missions focused on ambushing Imperial forces and gathering intelligence. The game received near universal critical acclaim for its authenticity as both a window into the Star Wars universe and as a flight simulator that reproduced in excruciating detail the difficulty of piloting for the Rebel Alliance. In X-Wing, nearly every button on the keyboard serves a purpose, from shield and energy management to changing cockpit viewpoints, making the dogfights a careful balance of ship maintenance and white-knuckled…


Groundhoth Day

Stage One They call Hoth “the ice planet,” because that’s exactly what it is. I found that out immediately upon arriving at the Rebels’ Echo Base mere days ago. The word “Hoth” even sounds frigid, like the exhale of visible breath in winter. We’re out in the middle of nowhere on Hoth, a tiny speck on an uninhabited world of permanent freeze. The remote location of Echo Base helps us to escape prying Imperial eyes, but as an extra precaution, the fort itself is dug out of snow and mountain rock, hidden from plain sight by all but the most…


Dedicated LEGO fans build an impressive animated Sisyphus sculpture

When I first saw JK Brickworks’ “Sisyphus Kinetic Sculpture,” I was floored by how smoothly it moved. My primary experience with LEGO, like many, was as a stationary medium, and yet here I saw a piece of art made entirely out of LEGO bricks moving with the fluidity of a Disney animation. As I was to discover on JK Brickworks’ site, this immediate comparison is no accident, as the project was inspired by a 3D modeling program from Disney Research that allows both artists and non-experts alike to plan out mechanical characters in a virtual space before constructing them in…