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

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Watch an Epic, 4‑Hour Video Essay on the Mak­ing & Mythol­o­gy of David Lynch’s Twin Peaks

Twin Peaks Tarot Cards Now Avail­able as 78-Card Deck

Play the Twin Peaks Video Game: Retro Fun for David Lynch Fans

David Lynch’s Twin Peaks Title Sequence, Recre­at­ed in an Adorable Paper Ani­ma­tion

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.

The Golden Age of Ancient Greece Gets Faithfully Recreated in the New Video Game Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey

If you haven’t played video games in a long time, you might feel a cer­tain trep­i­da­tion at the idea of pick­ing them up again. So rapid­ly have they evolved in the 21st cen­tu­ry that they now resem­ble less the elec­tron­ic enter­tain­ments we once knew than full-fledged alter­nate real­i­ties. The sud­den rise of the word immer­sive to describe the very kind of expe­ri­ences they con­sti­tute says it all. If you enter one of the elab­o­rate worlds built by mod­ern video game devel­op­ers, how do you extract your­self again — espe­cial­ly if the world is one as fas­ci­nat­ing as ancient Greece, recre­at­ed elab­o­rate­ly and to great acclaim in this year’s Assas­s­in’s Creed: Odyssey?

Even non-gamers will have heard of the Assas­s­in’s Creed series, which began in 2007 and has had a major release (in addi­tion to as many minor ones, as well as ven­tures into oth­er media) each and every year since. It has pre­vi­ous­ly tak­en as its set­tings such chap­ters of human his­to­ry as Vic­to­ri­an Eng­land, the Ital­ian Renais­sance, and Ptole­ma­ic Egypt, but its lat­est install­ment goes far­ther back in time than any oth­er. Play­ers will find them­selves dropped “into 431 BCE in Ancient Greece, at the start of the Pelo­pon­nesian War pre­dom­i­nant­ly fought between Athens and Spar­ta,” writes Hyper­al­ler­gic’s Zachary Small. “For a video game that includes bloody mer­ce­nar­ies, extrater­res­tri­al beings, and time trav­el, Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey is shock­ing­ly faith­ful to our con­tem­po­rary his­tor­i­cal under­stand­ing of what Ancient Greece looked like dur­ing its gold­en age.”

The very idea might star­tle those of us who remem­ber the set­tings of video games as per­func­to­ry at best, mere back­grounds to run past while we blast­ed ene­mies, jumped from plat­form to plat­form, and col­lect­ed pow­er-ups. Assas­s­in’s Creed takes its his­tor­i­cal world-build­ing so seri­ous­ly that the pre­vi­ous game in the series, Assas­s­in’s Creed: Ori­gins, even came with an “edu­ca­tion­al mode” that allowed play­ers to freely explore ancient Egypt — a far cry indeed from the dull, pur­pose-built edu­ca­tion­al games of yore. But Assas­s­in’s Creed: Odyssey takes it to anoth­er lev­el, incor­po­rat­ing seem­ing­ly every­thing known about ancient Greece at the time of its devel­op­ment. “The Ubisoft devel­op­ment team behind the game even hired a his­tor­i­cal advi­sor to help them recre­ate a metic­u­lous ver­sion of the Ancient World,” writes Small, “one that includes hun­dreds of poly­chro­mat­ic stat­ues, tem­ples, and tombs.”

Yes, that means the game’s vision of ancient Greece includes plen­ty of sculp­ture made, as we’ve pre­vi­ous­ly fea­tured here on Open Cul­ture, with not just with raw mar­ble but bright­ly col­ored paint as well. The sheer amount of his­to­ry and lore incor­po­rat­ed into the Assas­s­in’s Creed: Odyssey expe­ri­ence has even inspired a dis­cus­sion among experts on Twit­ter using the hash­tag #ACa­d­e­mi­cOdyssey.

Though nobody claims that the game recre­ates ancient Greece per­fect­ly in every detail — even apart from the gaps in human knowl­edge of the peri­od, the devel­op­ers seem to have had to cut a cor­ner here and there to meet the series’ famous­ly demand­ing release sched­ule — it suc­ceeds in ways that no one Hel­leni­cal­ly inclined, pro­fes­sion­al­ly or oth­er­wise, had dared hope before. “I have played about 5 min­utes of the game and I’m ready to cry from joy,” tweet­ed clas­si­cist Chris­tine Plas­tow, a sen­ti­ment one can hard­ly imag­ine any aca­d­e­m­ic express­ing about, say, Gold­en Axe.

via Ars Tech­ni­ca/Hyper­al­ler­gic

Relat­ed Con­tent:

How Ancient Greek Stat­ues Real­ly Looked: Research Reveals their Bold, Bright Col­ors and Pat­terns

Watch Art on Ancient Greek Vas­es Come to Life with 21st Cen­tu­ry Ani­ma­tion

The Met Dig­i­tal­ly Restores the Col­ors of an Ancient Egypt­ian Tem­ple, Using Pro­jec­tion Map­ping Tech­nol­o­gy

Ancient Greek Pun­ish­ments: The Retro Video Game

Con­cepts of the Hero in Greek Civ­i­liza­tion (A Free Har­vard Course)

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.

1,100 Classic Arcade Machines Added to the Internet Arcade: Play Them Free Online

Once we could hard­ly imag­ine such things as video games. Then, all of a sud­den, they appeared, though for years we had to go out to bars — and lat­er, pur­pose-built “arcades” filled with video game machines — in order to play them, and we paid mon­ey to do so. When they came into our homes in the form of con­soles we could hook up to our tele­vi­sion sets, we at first felt only dis­ap­point­ment: these ver­sions of Space InvadersDon­key Kong, and Defend­er nei­ther looked nor felt much like the orig­i­nals into which we’d pumped so many coins. But only now that the tech­nol­o­gy in our homes has long since sur­passed most of the tech­nol­o­gy out­side them can we play faith­ful repro­duc­tions of all our old favorite games with­out going out to the arcade.

Not that many arcades still stand, although the Inter­net Archive has made up for that absence by build­ing the Inter­net Arcade, which we pre­vi­ous­ly fea­tured here on Open Cul­ture a few years ago. Hav­ing made it pos­si­ble for us to play an enor­mous vari­ety of clas­sic arcade games free in our web browsers, the Inter­net Archive looks on its way to cre­at­ing not just the largest arcade in exis­tence but an infi­nite arcade, the kind that Borges would have imag­ined had he grown up in the video-game age.  Just last week, devel­op­ments in the soft­ware that pow­ers it allowed Inter­net Archive to add more than a thou­sand new machines to the Inter­net Arcade, from games for which we had to wait in line back in the day to obscu­ri­ties on which few of us have ever even laid eyes, let alone hands, before.

“The major­i­ty of these new­ly-avail­able games date to the 1990s and ear­ly 2000s, as arcade machines both became sig­nif­i­cant­ly more com­pli­cat­ed and graph­i­cal­ly rich,” writes the Inter­net Archive’s Jason Scott, “while also suf­fer­ing from the ever-present and home-based video game con­soles that would come to dom­i­nate gam­ing to the present day. Even fer­vent gamers might have missed some of these arcade machines when they were in the phys­i­cal world, due to low­er dis­tri­b­u­tion num­bers and short­er times on the floor.” You can explore the new wing of the Inter­net Arcade here, some of whose most pop­u­lar games include Puz­zle Bob­ble (bet­ter known in the West as Bust-a-Move), X‑MenMet­al Slug 5Teenage Mutant Nin­ja Tur­tles: Tur­tles in Time, and Street Fight­er Alpha 2. Maybe their sound and graph­ics no longer wow us as once they did, but the years have done noth­ing to dimin­ish their fun fac­tor — and for many of us, not hav­ing to spend our quar­ters will always be a feel­ing to savor.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The Inter­net Arcade Lets You Play 900 Vin­tage Video Games in Your Web Brows­er (Free)

Free: Play 2,400 Vin­tage Com­put­er Games in Your Web Brows­er

Play a Col­lec­tion of Clas­sic Hand­held Video Games at the Inter­net Archive: Pac-Man, Don­key Kong, Tron and MC Ham­mer

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities 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.

Play a Collection of Classic Handheld Video Games at the Internet Archive: Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, Tron and MC Hammer

Equipped with smart­phones that grow more pow­er­ful by the year, gamers on the go now have a seem­ing­ly unlim­it­ed vari­ety of play­ing options. A decade ago they relied on hand­held game con­soles with their thou­sands of avail­able game car­tridges and lat­er discs, whose reign began with Nin­ten­do’s intro­duc­tion of the orig­i­nal Game Boy (a device whose unwrap­ping on Christ­mas 1990 remains one of my most vivid child­hood mem­o­ries). But even before the Game Boy and its suc­ces­sors, there were stand­alone hand­held pro­to-video-games, “LCD, VFD and LED-based machines that sold, often cheap­ly, at toy stores and booths over the decades.”

Those words come from Jason Scott at the Inter­net Archive, where you can now play a range of those hand­held games again, emu­lat­ed right here in your brows­er. “They range from notably sim­plis­tic efforts to tru­ly com­pli­cat­ed, many-but­toned affairs that are tru­ly dif­fi­cult to learn, much less mas­ter,” Scott writes.

“They are, of course, enter­tain­ing in them­selves – these are attempts to put togeth­er inex­pen­sive ver­sions of video games of the time, or bring­ing new prop­er­ties whole­cloth into exis­tence.” They also “rep­re­sent the dif­fi­cul­ty ahead for many aspects of dig­i­tal enter­tain­ment, and as such are worth expe­ri­enc­ing and under­stand­ing for that rea­son alone.”

What kind of games came in this form? The Inter­net Archive’s cur­rent offer­ings include vague approx­i­ma­tions of 70s and 80s arcade hits like Pac-ManDon­key Kong, and Q*Bert;  even vaguer approx­i­ma­tions of such major motion pic­tures of the day as TronRobo­cop 2 (as well as Robo­cop 3), and Apol­lo 13; and sports titles like World Cham­pi­onship Base­ballNFL Foot­ball, and Blades of Steel. You’ll even find pop­u­lar odd­i­ties like Bandai’s Tam­agotchi, the orig­i­nal vir­tu­al pet, along with less pop­u­lar odd­i­ties like MC Ham­mer, a dual-direc­tion­al-padded sim­u­la­tion of a dance bat­tle with the auteur of “U Can’t Touch This.”

So as you play, spare a thought for the devel­op­ers of these hand­held games, not just because of the dire intel­lec­tu­al prop­er­ty they often had to work with, but the severe tech­no­log­i­cal restric­tions they invari­ably had to work under. “This sort of Her­culean effort to squeeze a major arcade machine into a hand­ful of cir­cuits and a beep­ing, boop­ing shell of what it once was is an ongo­ing sit­u­a­tion,” writes Scott. “Where once it was try­ing to make arcade machines work both on home con­soles like the 2600 and Cole­co­v­i­sion, so it was also the case of these plas­tic toy games. Work of this sort con­tin­ues, as mobile games take charge and devel­op­ers often work to bring huge immer­sive expe­ri­ences to where a phone hits all the same notes.” And the day will cer­tain­ly come when even the most impres­sive games we play now, hand­held or oth­er­wise, will seem just as hilar­i­ous­ly sim­plis­tic.

Enter the hand­held video col­lec­tion here. And find more clas­sic video games in the Relat­eds below.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Play “Space War!,” One of the Ear­li­est Video Games, on Your Com­put­er (1962)

Pong, 1969: A Mile­stone in Video Game His­to­ry

The Inter­net Arcade Lets You Play 900 Vin­tage Video Games in Your Web Brows­er (Free)

Run Vin­tage Video Games (From Pac-Man to E.T.) and Soft­ware in Your Web Brows­er, Thanks to

Free: Play 2,400 Vin­tage Com­put­er Games in Your Web Brows­er

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities 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.

New Iranian Video Game, Engare, Explores the Elegant Geometry of Islamic Art

The inter­sec­tion of math­e­mat­ics and art holds out great poten­tial for not just end­less dis­cov­er­ies but deeply mem­o­rable cre­ations. The 20th-cen­tu­ry vision­ary M.C. Esch­er under­stood that, but so did the Islam­ic artists of cen­turies before that inspired him. They’ve also inspired the Iran­ian game devel­op­er Mah­di Bahra­mi, whose newest effort Engare stands at the cross of math­e­mat­ics, art, and tech­nol­o­gy, a puz­zle video game that chal­lenges its play­ers to com­plete the kind of bril­liant­ly col­or­ful, math­e­mat­i­cal­ly rig­or­ous, and at once both strik­ing­ly sim­ple and strik­ing­ly com­plex pat­terns seen in tra­di­tion­al Islam­ic art and design.

“The leap from the bare bones pro­to­type to it becom­ing a game about cre­at­ing art was a small one, giv­en that Islam­ic art is steeped in math­e­mat­i­cal knowl­edge,” writes Kill Screen’s Chris Priest­man.

“The visu­al flair of Islam­ic art also helps to fur­ther ensure that Engare doesn’t ever feel ‘dry.’ Yes, it’s a game about math, but there are no dull equa­tions to solve. Yet, the same ideas that those equa­tions belong to are approached in Engare, just from a dif­fer­ent angle and one that Bahra­mi reck­ons can also evoke emo­tions. You can see this in mes­mer­iz­ing action in the game­play trail­er just above.

“There are geo­met­ri­cal shapes that make us feel hap­py, pat­terns that make some­one nervous/hypnotized, the tiling of a ceil­ing can make some­one feel lone­ly,” Priest­man quotes Bahra­mi as writ­ing. He’s done this sort of emo­tion­al think­ing about visu­al math­e­mat­ics before: his pre­vi­ous game Farsh “had you rolling out Per­sian car­pets in such a way as to cre­ate paths across the lev­els,” and his next one Tan­dis is “inspired by Celtic shapes, and is a wild and unpre­dictable exper­i­ment in topo­graph­i­cal trans­for­ma­tion.” If you’d like to give Engare a try, you can get it from its web­site or on Steam. When the 21st cen­tu­ry’s M.C. Esch­er dis­cov­ers Islam­ic art, will he do it through the medi­um of video games?

via Kill Screen

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The Com­plex Geom­e­try of Islam­ic Art & Design: A Short Intro­duc­tion

Back to Bed: A New Video Game Inspired by the Sur­re­al Art­work of Esch­er, Dali & Magritte

Cal­i­forni­um: New Video Game Lets You Expe­ri­ence the Sur­re­al World of Philip K. Dick

Ancient Greek Pun­ish­ments: The Retro Video Game

Math­e­mat­ics Made Vis­i­ble: The Extra­or­di­nary Math­e­mat­i­cal Art of M.C. Esch­er

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities 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.

Are Stanley Kubrick Films Like Immersive Video Games? The Case of Eyes Wide Shut

Video games have long attempt­ed, to an ever more impres­sive degree of real­ism, to con­jure up their own vir­tu­al real­i­ties. But then, so have film­mak­ers, for a much longer peri­od of time and — at least so far — with more effec­tive results. The most respect­ed direc­tors ful­ly real­ize “vir­tu­al real­i­ty” with each film they make, and Stan­ley Kubrick stands as one of the best-known exam­ples. Dur­ing his almost fifty-year career, he immersed his audi­ence in such dis­tinc­tive cin­e­mat­ic worlds as those of Loli­ta, 2001: A Space Odyssey, A Clock­work Orange, and Full Met­al Jack­et, leav­ing us in 1999 with the final, much puz­zled-over fea­ture Eyes Wide Shut.

The atmos­pher­i­cal­ly uneasy sto­ry of a doc­tor who spends a night in New York City wan­der­ing into ever stranger and more erot­i­cal­ly charged sit­u­a­tions, Eyes Wide Shut both adapt­ed mate­r­i­al not well known in Amer­i­ca, the Aus­tri­an writer Arthur Schnit­zler’s 1926 novel­la “Dream Sto­ry,” and starred two of the biggest celebri­ties of the day, the then-mar­ried cou­ple Tom Cruise and Nicole Kid­man play­ing the mar­ried cou­ple Bill and and Alice Har­ford. Kubrick made use of these qual­i­ties and many oth­ers to deal with such tra­di­tion­al sub­jects as love, sex, infi­deli­ty, and secret cults while, in the words of Evan Puschak, bet­ter known as the video essay­ist Nerd­writer, “mak­ing our engage­ment with these things one-of-a-kind.”

“Review­ers com­plained that the Har­fords were ciphers, uncom­pli­cat­ed and dull,” writes Tim Krei­der in “Intro­duc­ing Soci­ol­o­gy,” his much-cit­ed break­down of Eyes Wide Shut. “These reac­tions recall the befud­dle­ment of crit­ics who com­plained that the com­put­er in 2001 was more human than the astro­nauts, but could only attribute it (just four years after the unfor­get­table per­for­mances of Dr. Strangelove) to human error.” He argues that “to under­stand a film by this most thought­ful and painstak­ing of film­mak­ers, we should assume that this char­ac­ter­i­za­tion is delib­er­ate — that their shal­low­ness and repres­sion is the point.”

Puschak’s video essay Eyes Wide Shut: The Game” names those qual­i­ties, espe­cial­ly as they man­i­fest in Cruise’s pro­tag­o­nist, as among the tech­niques Kubrick uses to make the movie a kind of vir­tu­al real­i­ty expe­ri­ence for the view­er. “You’re expe­ri­enc­ing the night from the per­spec­tive of Bill, but not from a posi­tion of empa­thy — or even sym­pa­thy for that mat­ter. Instead, the view­er engages in what philoso­pher Alessan­dro Gio­van­nel­li calls ‘expe­ri­en­tial iden­ti­fi­ca­tion,’ in which the result of occu­py­ing Bil­l’s per­spec­tive while not empathiz­ing with him is that the per­spec­tive becomes your own.”

What Krei­der sees as ulti­mate­ly part of Eyes Wide Shut’s indict­ment of “the cap­i­tal of the glob­al Amer­i­can empire at the end of the Amer­i­can Cen­tu­ry,” Puschak inter­prets as Kubrick­’s “sys­tem­at­ic effort to swap you in for the pro­tag­o­nist” in ser­vice of “an ode to the expe­ri­ence, to the raw impres­sion, of see­ing some­thing mar­velous.” But both view­ers would sure­ly agree that Kubrick, to a greater extent than per­haps any oth­er film­mak­er, made some­thing more than movies. One might say he craft­ed expe­ri­ences for his audi­ence, and in the truest sense of the word: like expe­ri­ences in real life, and unlike the expe­ri­ences of so many video games, they allow for an infini­tude of valid inter­pre­ta­tions.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Dis­cov­er the Life & Work of Stan­ley Kubrick in a Sweep­ing Three-Hour Video Essay

How Stan­ley Kubrick Made His Mas­ter­pieces: An Intro­duc­tion to His Obses­sive Approach to Film­mak­ing

Steven Spiel­berg on the Genius of Stan­ley Kubrick

The Worlds of Hitch­cock & Kubrick Col­lide in a Sur­re­al Mashup, The Red Drum Get­away

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities and cul­ture. He’s at work on the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les, the video series The City in Cin­e­ma, the crowd­fund­ed jour­nal­ism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Ange­les Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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