You Can Play the New Samurai Video Game Ghost of Tsushima in “Kurosawa Mode:” An Homage to the Japanese Master

Video games are starting to look and feel like movies: even those of us who haven't gamed seriously in decades have taken notice. Nor has the convergence between the art forms — if, unlike the late Roger Ebert, you consider video games an art form in the first place — been lost on game developers themselves. While the most ambitious creators in the industry looked for inspiration from cinema even when they were working with relatively primitive digital tools, they can now pay practically direct homage to their aesthetic sources. Take Sucker Punch Productions' Ghost of Tsushima, released this week for the Playstation 4, which features a selectable audiovisual mode "inspired by the movies of legendary filmmaker Akira Kurosawa."

An ambitious production set on the titular Japanese island during a 13th-century Mongol invasion, Ghost of Tsushima casts the player in the role of a young samurai named Jin Sakai. "All the aesthetic and thematic conventions of samurai films are present and correct," writes The Guardian's Keza MacDonald, including "a story centered on honor and self-mastery; dramatic weather that sweeps across Japan’s spellbinding landscapes; standoffs against backdrops of falling leaves and deserted towns; screen wipe and axial cuts; quick, lethal katana combat that ends with enemies staggering and spurting blood before toppling like felled trees." Kurosawa Mode presents the game's hypnotically lavish visuals in a "grainy black-and-white," and its dialogue in English-subtitled Japanese — just how many of us remember pictures like Seven SamuraiThrone of Blood, and Yojimbo.

Of course, some of us had no choice but to first encounter the work of Kurosawa and other 20th-century Japanese auteurs in versions dubbed into English. In an uncanny reversal of that awkwardness, the American-made Ghost of Tsushima's Japanese-language dialogue comes out of mouths clearly synchronized to an English-language script. Western critics have taken the developers to task for that shortcoming, but Japanese critics have proven comparatively unrestrained in expressing their admiration. According to Kotaku's Brian Ashcraft, not only did popular gaming site Dengeki Online "praise the game for its understanding of the period (as well as historical Japanese movies), it also lauded the game for how it brought the landscape and scenery to life."

While MacDonald calls protagonist Jin Sakai "stiff even by stoical samurai standards," Ashcraft points to a review in Japanese pop-culture site Akiba Souken which calls him not "the typical samurai of foreign creation, but rather, a real Japanese 侍 (samurai)," using "both the English 'samurai' and the word’s kanji to highlight this distinction." Any Kurosawa fan will have a sense of the difference, and of the importance of one thing the game doesn't get right. In a review headlined "There Is No Sense Of Discomfort In This Foreign-Made Japanese World," gaming magazine Weekly Famitsu does note the game's lack of "pauses in conversation that are typical of period pieces. That pause and that silence are key; in Japan, what isn’t said is just as important as what is." Sucker Punch's Ghost of Tsushima team must already know they should retain Kurosawa Mode for the inevitable sequel; all they need to work on is the unspoken.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall, on Facebook, or on Instagram.

What Is a “Casual Game?” Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast #46 Talks to Nick Fortugno, Creator of “Diner Dash”

Famed game designer Nick joins your hosts Mark Linsenmayer, Erica Spyres, and Brian Hirt to consider fundamental questions about the activity of gaming (Nick calls games "arbitrary limits on meaningless goals") and what constitutes a casual game: Is it one that's easy (maybe not easy to win, but at least you don't die), one meant to be played in short bursts, or maybe one with a certain kind of art style, or just about any game that runs on a phone? Nick's most famous creation is the casual Diner Dash, which can be very stressful. Vastly different games from very hard but very short action games and very involved but soothing strategy games get lumped under this one label.

Our conversation touches on everything from crosswords to Super Meat Boy, plus the relation between psychology and game design, whether casual games really play less than hardcore gamers, the stigma of an activity that was for marketing reasons at one point branded as being just for adolescent boys, and even heuristics for beating slot machines.

Some sources we looked at include:

Just so you don't have to write them down, our recommendations at the end were:

You can follow Nick @nickfortugno.

Learn more at This episode includes bonus discussion that you can only hear by supporting the podcast at This podcast is part of the Partially Examined Life podcast network.

Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast is the first podcast curated by Open Culture. Browse all Pretty Much Pop posts or start with the first episode.

Are Video Games an Effective Vehicle for Storytelling? Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast #35 Featuring Don Marshall

Do you play video games for the plot? Given that most people don't actually finish most games, it would be unexpected if storytelling were the most important element. On this episode of Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast, your hosts Mark Linsenmayer, Erica Spyres, and Brian Hirt are joined by former video game professional (and current TV development executive) Donald E. Marshall to talk through types of plots (linear, "string-of-pearls," and branching), ways of weaving story into a game, balancing gameplay and narrative, and more.

We touch on Death Stranding, Overwatch, The Last of Us, Skyrim, Fallout, Life Is Strange, Until Dawn, Erica, Bioshock, Telltale Games, Journey, Bandersnatch, Days Gone, Portal, and more. (That casual game Mark jokes about is Simon's Cat Pop Time.)

Some articles and other sources:

You can also read some lists of games that supposedly have the best plots at GamesRadar, Ranker, and The Gamer.

Don is also a podcaster, having previously been a host of GeeksOn and now on The Big Fat Gay Podcast. Here's info about the Wheel of Time TV show. One relevant GeeksOn episode is #102.  Here's info about the Wheel of Time TV show.

This episode includes bonus discussion that you can only hear by supporting the podcast at This podcast is part of the Partially Examined Life podcast network.

Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast is the first podcast curated by Open Culture. Browse all Pretty Much Pop posts or start with the first episode.


36,000 Flash Games Have Been Archived and Saved Before Flash Goes Extinct: Play Them Offline

Adobe has announced that the Flash Player will come to the official end of its life on the last day of this year, December 31, 2020. News of the demise of an obsolete internet multimedia platform presumably bothers few of today's web-surfers, but those of us belonging to a certain generation feel in it the end of an era. First introduced by Macromedia in 1996, Flash made possible the kind of animation and sound we'd seldom seen and heard — assuming we could manage to load it through our sluggish connections at all — on the internet before. By the early 2000s, Flash seemed to power most everything fun on the internet, especially everything fun to the kids then in middle and high school who'd grown up alongside the World Wide Web.

Though now deep into adulthood, we all remember the hours of the early 21st century we happily whiled away on Flash games, racing cars, solving puzzles, shooting zombies, dodging comets, firing cannons, and piloting helicopters on classroom computers. We could, in theory, find many of these games and play them still today, but that may become impossible next year when all major web browsers will discontinue their support for Flash.

"That’s where Flashpoint comes in to save a huge chunk of gaming history," writes Kotaku's Zack Zwiezen. "Flashpoint uses open-source tech to allow folks to download and play a large list of games and animations. The full list contains just over 36,000 games and you can suggest new games to be added if something you love isn’t on here."

On Flashpoint's download page you'll find its full 290-gigabyte collection of Flash games, as well as a smaller version that only downloads games as you play them. "While Flash games might not be as impressive today, they are still an important part of gaming history," writes Zwiezen. "These small web games can be directly linked to the later rise of mobile and indie games and helped many creators get their feet wet with building and creating video games." In other words, the simple Flash amusements of our schooldays gave rise to the graphically and sonically intense games that we play so compulsively today. Now we have kids who play those sorts of games too, but who among us will initiate the next generation into the ways of Crush the Castle, Age of War, and Bubble Trouble?

You can find more information on the flash video game archive on this FAQ page.

via Kotaku

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast #21 Considers Role-Playing Video Games

What constitutes a video RPG? Is there any actual role-playing involved?

Our audio editor Tyler Hislop rejoins hosts Mark Linsenmayer, Erica Spyres, and Brian Hirt to discuss those video games that are supposed to make you feel like you're contributing to the story, that your choices matter, in which you can maybe, you know, choose to wear a funny hat or just craft potions all day instead of advancing the plot. We compare solo vs. social games, compare video to table-top role playing, think about how we relate to the character we're playing, and more.

We touch on Ultima, Final Fantasy, World of Warcraft, Horizon Zero Dawn, Skyrim, Fallout, Outward, Death Stranding, Erica, Hellblade: Sakura’s Sacrifice, The Witcher, and more. Also from TV: Bandersnatch, The Guild, and that D&D Key & Peele sketch.

Some sources we looked at included:

This episode includes bonus discussion that you can only hear by supporting the podcast at This podcast is part of the Partially Examined Life podcast network.

Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast is the first podcast curated by Open Culture. Browse all Pretty Much Pop posts or start with the first episode.

Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast #6: Why Adults Might Play Video Games

Erica Spyres, Brian Hirt, and Mark Linsenmayer are joined by Ian Maio (who worked for marketing for IGN and Turner in e-sports) for our first discussion about gaming. Do adults have any business playing video games? Should you feel guilty about your video game habits?

Ian gives us the lay of the land about e-sports, comparing it to physical sports, and we discuss the changing social functions of gaming, alleged and actual gaming disorders, different types of gamers, inclusivity, and more. Whether you game a lot or not at all, you should still find something interesting here.

We touch on the King of Kong documentaryGrand Theft AutoOverwatchThe Last of UsBorderlandsSuper MarioCuphead, NY Times Electronic Crossword Puzzle, and more. Be sure to watch the Black Mirror episode, “Striking Vipers.”

Sources for this episode:

This episode includes bonus content that you can only hear by supporting the podcast at This podcast is part of the Partially Examined Life podcast network.

Please go check out Modern Day Philosophers at and See You on the Other Side at

Pretty Much Pop is the first podcast curated by Open Culture. Browse all Pretty Much Pop posts or start with the first episode.

David Lynch Is Creating a Virtual Reality Experience for Twin Peaks

David Lynch and Mark Frost’s Black Lodge/Red Room, the extra-dimensional space that is both an integral part of Twin Peaks and iconic in its set design, is a place most of us would not want to visit. Detective Dale Cooper got trapped there for 25 years and it was not pleasant. But that hasn’t stopped fans from wanting to create that space any chance they get, whether as a bar or place to sing karaoke. And when the final episode of the second season showed the lodge was an endless series of rooms connected by hallways, it wasn’t long until the video game versions started appearing.

Well, now you can really get lost in the Black Lodge with the slow unveiling of Twin Peaks VR, which AdWeek says will be available “sometime in 2019” on Steam for HTC Vive and Oculus Rift.

Fans who follow the Welcome to Twin Peaks blog have been hearing about this game/not game since the beginning of the year, but it seems that the footage out there was only proof of concept graphics or some such attempt.

The first video dropped in January of 2018, and it’s er, something:

No doubt made by fans, this gives us a brief visit to the Red Room; a very strange and not particularly flattering portrayal of the Man from Another Place; a trip to the RR Diner featuring what I assume is Major Briggs; and a return to the frightening glass box somewhere in New York City first seen in The Return. The man playing the VR seems appropriately confused. “Is it future or past?” It’s your living room, man!

This second clip gives us a bit more of the Red Room and a dubious looking Audrey Horne. The Convenience Store, however, is well done.

But this is, we stress, nowhere near a finished version. It’s not even clear if any of this will make it into the final version.

A beta version premiered two weeks ago at Lynch’s Festival of Disruption in Los Angeles. AdWeek had the only real description of the five minute demo, which starts near the ring of saplings in Glastonbury Grove:

Immediately after the pool turns to blood, viewers are transported to the Red Room, an extra-dimensional space that’s been a key feature of Twin Peaks in both the original series from the 1990s and the modern revival that aired last year. (It’s also a location frequently visited by the show’s main character, FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper.) Inside the room, viewers aren’t able to walk like they can in some VR experiences, but they’re able to teleport within the room as it rapidly changes in ways similar to what happens in the show itself. (One moment, a statue falls over before running around as a shadow on the other side of a curtain. In another, users can pick up a coffee mug that won’t empty until the second time it’s picked up.) The demo ends as a white horse appears in the room in the distance, surrounded in darkness but unreachable.

The best news is that the company developing the game, Collider Games, is giving creative control to Lynch, so hopefully the game won’t be like those terrible non-Lynch episodes in Season Two. Says AdWeek:

“[T]he more we show, and the more we progress with this development, hopefully the more [Lynch] will want to be involved,” Rassool said. “And the more we can do with maybe even some new narrative—because I’m not going to write new narrative for this. I’m only ever going to let David Lynch [write].”

Here’s to hoping Lynch doesn’t just give us a cheap VR version of what we’ve already seen. Instead, let’s hope he gives us something that blows our minds (and a reason to finally buy a VR headset).

via Welcome to Twin Peaks

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Ted Mills is a freelance writer on the arts who currently hosts the artist interview-based FunkZone Podcast and is the producer of KCRW's Curious Coast. You can also follow him on Twitter at @tedmills, read his other arts writing at and/or watch his films here.

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