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NYPLarcade Spec Ops: The Line

Developed by Yager and published by 2K Games, Spec Ops: The Line (2012) has been one of the most-discussed video games of the past year.

Edge Magazine calls it "one of the most subversive shooters yet made" and notes: “It may not be subtle, but it engages with problems that the bellicose ilk of Modern Warfare and Medal of Honor have yet to acknowledge."

Despite mixed critical response and moderate sales for the third-person tactical shooter, the game inspired a 50,000 word ebook entitled Killing is Harmless as well as an accompanying online bibliography at the site Critical Distance, which highlights over 50 articles, videos, and other responses to the game.

Image by Dead End Thrills
Image by Dead End Thrills

Its narrative references Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now (and to a lesser degree Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness) but transposes its setting from the jungles of Vietnam to a ruined, dystopian version of modern Dubai.

The plot ostensibly follows the exploits of a three-man Delta Force team made up of Captain Martin Walker (voiced by Uncharted’s Nolan North), Lieutenant Alphonse Adams, and Staff Sergeant John Lugo as they seek to uncover what has become of the rogue 33rd U.S. Army Battalion led by the elusive Lieutenant Colonel Joseph Konrad.

The game mechanics are typical of a third-person tactical shooter, but as players delve deeper into the heart of Dubai, the sands begin to shift and the objectives of the mission becomes less and less clear. Addressing the idea of player agency (explored in other titles such as Bioshock and Portal) as well as examining traditional tropes of war-themed video games, Spec Ops: The Line rushes the player towards a brutal, unhinged, and final confrontation with the self.

Image by Dead End Thrills
Image by Dead End Thrills

Please join us for a five week NYPLarcade game series at Mid-Manhattan Library featuring a critical, chapter-by-chapter playthrough of Spec Ops: The Line. All events are FREE and will be held in the first floor corner room. Doors open at 6:00 p.m.

March 25, 2013 The Evacuation, The Dune, Underneath (1 - 3)
April 1, 2013 The Refugees, The Edge, The Pit (4 - 6)
April 8, 2013 The Battle, The Gate, The Road (7 - 9)
April 15, 2013 Riggs, Alone, The Rooftops (10 - 12)
April 22, 2013 Adams, The Bridge, Welcome (13 - 15)

At each of the sessions listed above, participants will have the opportunity to play and/or watch three chapters of the game, followed by a guided discussion beginning at 8:00 p.m.

Image by Dead End Thrills
Image by Dead End Thrills

Please feel free to contact Thomas Knowlton at if you have any questions. You can also friend NYPLarcade on Playfire and Steam.


Patron-generated content represents the views and interpretations of the patron, not necessarily those of The New York Public Library. For more information see NYPL's Website Terms and Conditions.



Thanks for the link! I don't think I had come across this one. While I'm not sure a Youtube walkthrough is the best way to evaluate a game, the article does raise criticisms about the accuracy of the game's setting, which I've seen echoed in other reviews of Spec Ops: The Line. I hope you can join us in person for the upcoming discussions!

Something to think about: Webcast for NYPLarcade

Thomas, congratulations on NYPLarcade. I just learned about it from, and as a former New Yorker, wish I would be able to attend. This got me thinking: have you considered doing a webcast or stream of your events? Maybe on I, for one, would be very interested in watching. Perhaps you can have it recorded until you have another solution to put the video online? (I'm on the West Coast now, so I wouldn't likely be able to watch live anyway.) In any case, best of luck! It's been great to learn about what you're doing.

re: Something to think about: Webcast for NYPLarcade

Thank you for your comment and kind words! I'm definitely looking into the possibility of streaming or recording future events, but I don't have anything concrete for you at the moment. That said, I'll be sure to post any updates here.

Joining in with the plea to

Joining in with the plea to stream this event. I would love to see the reaction and the following discussion of the game! Sorely disappointed that I don't live anywhere close to New York.

re: Joining in with the plea to

It's great to hear people outside of NYC are interested in participating. I'm currently looking into the possibility of streaming and will update you as soon as I have any more info.

Definitely will be there

Hi, just read about this over at Polygon. I'll definitely going to make it out to the NYPL for the events on the 8th onward. I thought this title was pretty brilliant and would love to engage in some conversation about it. This seems like a great opportunity. If streaming doesn't seem viable, why not record it and toss it up on YouTube after the fact? I'm actually a videographer, and any video is better than none at all. I could even do some free taping for the events on the 8th, 15th, and 22nd if you'd like. Feel free to contact me. I may even be able to squeeze in the 1st if you guys really want it.

Re: Definitely will be there

I think we missed each other last week. Perhaps I'll see you at the event this evening. Otherwise, feel free to email me at thomasknowlton (at) nypl (dot) org. Thanks!

Hi, I was very interested to

Hi, I was very interested to read about this, and am disappointed how late I am to the party! Were these events videoed, and if so is/will this video publicly available? I would be very interested to see them.

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