Saturday, November 29, 2014

29/11

§KICKSTARTER
Late To The Party : A Cold War Espionage RPG in the Baltics
https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/pyrodactyl/late-to-the-party-a-cold-war-espionage-rpg-in-the/posts

§

Unrest: An Honest Postmortem of a Kickstarter Success
http://www.shamusyoung.com/twentysidedtale/?p=23830




§MISC
Here’s what happened when Wreden and Pugh dug into the ideas behind The Stanley Parable’s disorienting and utterly impossible building.
http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2014/11/21/the-stanley-parable-architecture/

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The Game Design of IKEA | Game/Show | PBS Digital Studios
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LKCDJ89ODyM

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queer as in fuck me – a design manifesto
/.../
((Provocation: Queerness resides not within the game but in the way we relate to the game and to each other. Answer: Design games that draw awareness to participation in relationships.))

http://www.mattiebrice.com/queer-as-in-fuck-me-a-design-manifesto/

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Extra Credits - Interactive Video - How Cloud Chamber Makes a Game out of Movies
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dU70hOX5_X8

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What is a game? And why it matters! | Game/Show | PBS Digital Studios
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H0ReU2tvLFo

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I really liked Bioshock: Infinite, but upon replaying it with an audience, I have noticed one thing. When you aren’t hypnotized by the constant combats and strong visuals, and when you break apart from those to share your observations with somebody else, you perceive the interplay of dialogue and gameplay very differently. By which I mean you realize how award-winning game-changing Nobel-peace-prize-getting they really are
http://www.chocolatehammer.org/?p=4762

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PS4: A One Year Anniversary
http://www.gametrailers.com/videos/quhrmg/the-final-bosman-ps4--a-one-year-anniversary

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Extra Credits - The True Genius of Dark Souls II - How to Approach Game Difficulty
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MM2dDF4B9a4


Sunday, November 23, 2014

The promise of home in the past

I've known nostalgia all my life. Even when I was young enough to “barely have anything to be nostalgic over“, as the grown-up would have you very well know. But all children understand that there are worlds upon worlds in their imagination, and that matters which are deemed small by the adult world may indeed be of great value to the child, and go deeper than anyone fully sane thought possible.

And thus, when I finally conquered the Green Hind-legged Boar (Ganon) in The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (ALttP) at the age of seven, a sensation of bittersweet longing for not having done so washed over me. In a sense, the game was impossible to finish, since every time I loaded it up Ganon was still alive, and my Hero was ready for another round. But in my heart I knew that things would never be the same, or that indeed they would always remain the same in the game, only that I had changed.

At some point I discovered that there were more things in the game besides my relationship with it that seemed incomplete. Sure, there was always the matter of not having collected all the heart pieces, but there was also something at once more sinister and comforting going on. It seemed as if
the map – and thus in extension the world itself – in A Link to the Past was… unfinished. The corners of the map were covered in clouds, which meant mystery. Every time I booted up the Super Nintendo cartridge and found myself having nothing left to explore, a feeling of melancholy would take hold of me, leaving me treading old ground, yet being unable to leave the world behind. I would just sit there in front of my TV, staring beyond the screen while traversing Hyrule with my well-worn and trusty Pegasus Boots, completely in control of what was going, yet in a sense – not there at all. 

At times I was more aware of what I was doing, or at least had a sense of purpose while doing it. I tried tracing the outlines of the clouds while high atop Death Mountain, the only place outside of the map where the clouds could actually be seen. Up there I felt closest to breaking some sort of barrier, but in the end I didn't manage to get on top of or beyond any of the clouds. When the meticulous method of trying to bomb my way through every inch of Death Mountain failed, I'd resort to shifting between the full world map and a smaller piece of it where my avatar was localized. Having done so, I'd haphazardly press buttons, hoping that by sheer force and willpower I'd finally come across the magic combination that would unlock secrets and dispel fogs, opening up the world to reveal something unseen and new.

When storms were approaching in the world outside of video games, so would the need to return to my Hyrule, my clouds, and what was within and beyond them.



§

Homes are what we make of them. I doubt that the designers behind ALttP had in mind that I as a player would be returning to certain places in Hyrule time and time again, effectively treating it as a sort of camp, stronghold, resting place – home. I found several such places of rest after I started playing ALttP as a walking simulator/interactive screen and/or life-saver. The former resting place of the Master Sword in the Lost Woods, a lush grove, was one such place. Embedded in that location was perhaps the strongest symbol of dissonance between completion and fundamental incompleteness which inhabited the limbo that the myth of my Hero of Time – and my save file – had become.
In the credits of the video game, after I defeated Ganon, I was told that the Master Sword “sleeps again, forever”. Surely I had defeated Ganon, and though the sword which “makes evil retreat“ had retreated, unfortunately it didn't so into its proper resting place, but back into the hands of my hero. The pedestal at the corner of the world was empty and Link was armed, as if evil had in fact not been vanquished. But at the same time that grove in the deepest of Lost Woods seemed much less “lost” to me than the rest of Hyrule, where legions of evil still roamed the Overworld. And so it became a place of rest.1



There was another place that I would come to know as home, also this one bittersweet, perhaps
wabi-sabi2 even. Colloquially it is referred to as the Haunted Grove3. Sounds ghastly, no? It was haunted and haunting indeed, but seldom chilling. This too was a place seemingly untouched by the trappings of the world outside, with bushes blocking it off from prying enemies, further instilling a feeling of safety in the dwellers who'd find themselves there. In a sense then, what I had created was a koja (Swedish word which is used both for tree houses, but also the provisional, impermanent make-believe edifices which children build inside and outside their rooms out of pillows and furniture – to the dismay of their parents). To go there, the fastest way was by “flute-bird-transporting“ to Link's home cabin or to Kakariko Village, and then from there going by foot. Which reminds me – the place wasn't completely devoid of other inhabitants. And actually, the Grove wasn't really unaffected by the dark forces at work in the outside world either. As in the resting place of the Master Sword, here too there were animals which as suddenly as they appeared, vanished. But there was something else, if I could only remember...



Ah, yes. The flute boy.

The Flute Boy is seen playing
for the wild animals of the grove. Approach them, and both the animals and the apparition of the Flute Boy disappears4. Return to the Haunted Grove in the Dark World (after the fall of the Golden Land) and the Flute Boy is transformed into a strange creature (trickster fox), not unlike Link hirself was turned (into an innocent bunny) when first arriving in the Dark World. Link goes on a journey to find the flute which the Flute Boy lost, and when zie brings the flute back to hir in the Dark World, the Flute Boy says zie can't play it anymore, but that zie would very well like to hear its melody one more time. Turns out, this would be hir last wish, as Link's playing of the flute petrifies the boy into a tree. The Flute Boy's apparitions cease to exist, leaving only the tree stump and the memory behind.



§

I don't roam the world of Hyrule anymore5, barely even the
newer versions of it6. After all, Koholint Island and perhaps even Hyrule is at risk of transforming into a nightmare if the dreamer stays too long7. I stopped playing A Link to the Past many years ago, and even though my world today is more Corinthian than Kokirian8, Hyrule still lives through me, still has its pull. Mostly in the form of theories concerning the nature of the world of Zelda and its franchise (especially Hylian Dan's wonderful takes on the recurring themes of Zelda games9), but certainly in and of itself due to my fond memories of ALttP and other Zelda titles. Due to my need to retread and stir up and dig around old ground, and due to the fact that there always will be storms ahead of us, and the shifting tides of what our past means to us.

The Haunted Grove will probably always have a piece of my heart, as will other places I've known as home, as (songs of) healing, as topographical points of mindfulness, as reveries, as empyrean realms, ageless playing pens, to have and to hold, to cherish and behold. I believe that there will always be a returning sense of incompleteness in my life, simply because that's what life is with its directional arrow of time. Peace
will be hard to find, while regret – not as much. Today, I understand The Haunted Grove as a liminal Otherworld, a threshold where childhood bliss and youthful distress share possibility-spaces for both growth and stagnation. It is the center of the hurricane, if you will, a mirror into a lighter world, but a mirror which is neither only a Mask of Truth, nor but a dark, lo-mask of nostalgic untruth, but both. I hold it up toward both the past and the future, the need for a home and the need for travel10.

The grown-up accepts that the clouds of the Hyrule world are mere instrumental tools for the marking of the “game world proper” - a system for demarcating the terminal point of non-experiential, objective reality - but the child with the beginners mind dreams of what lies beyond, and while doing so makes the world within and in the clouds both home and travel companion. From time to time, my present situation harkens me back to Hyrule, implores me to find old homes and stay there a while and listen. And I do, albeit not in any formal sense which involves controllers and cartridges. I barely even know why that is. But what I do know in my heart of hearts is that I will be forever returning to the 32-bit Hyrule of my childhood, and even if I do so by adult means, I'll always meet my younger self there, my link to the past. As Hylian Dan would have put it – we let go of the tree to explore the world beyond it, but the tree is never lost.







Written for Critical Distance’s Blogs of the Round Table for November, Home Sweet Home. Click here to read other submissions for this month.

References:
1 Another observation to make is that on the fan-made maps of Hyrule where the Lost Woods are edited into the overworld, the Grove where the Master Sword rests is nowhere to be seen, because it just doesn't fit. In order to go there, one just has to take a leap of faith and get lost, go beyond the symbolic realm of representation and take on the stuff of legends. As Fado from Ocarina of time says:"Anybody who comes into the forest will be lost." By losing ourselves we find ourselves, right?
2
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wabi-sabi
4The Flute Boy's father tells Link that Flute Boy went off in search of the Golden Power and never returned. When Link visits the Kakariko Village Inn, zie is told by the Innkeeper how the Flute Boy had a pet bird who flew with hir everywhere and how they went to Death Mountain but never returned.
5The hero leaves the unchanging world, even though zie is warned that those who leave will one day die.
7 What would that be like, dreaming nightmares into existence? Perhaps something like this:
"In my restless dreams,
I see that town...
Kakariko Village"
81 Corinthians 13:11: When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.
10Why leave at all? Koholint—sorry, Hyrule, is nothing less than a paradise, an infinitely beautiful and comforting home. The only way to leave the Kokiri Forest—my mistake, Koholint, is to awaken the Wind Fish. And as Link eventually learns, waking the Wind Fish means that Koholint will vanish, for the island is but a dream. But one needs remember that dreams are important, too.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Halloween 12/11

§HALLOWEEN
Spooky Halloween Spectertacular
http://www.gametrailers.com/videos/2rlzn2/the-final-bosman-spooky-halloween-spectertacular

§

Extra Credits - Horror That Lingers - How the Uncanny Instills Fear
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vSKtTBjSBg0

§

Extra Credits - Shiver with Antici-pation - How Horror Games Create a Tension Cycle
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OyiAR2BXtKU

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The Evolution of Horror in Videogames | Game/Show | PBS Digital Studios
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qrZYUN8EoNk

§

Errant Signal - Alien Isolation (Spoilers)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uh-FjR4lWOY

§

Horror, in general, and escapism, in particular, is often more popular in times of economic downturn, when you want to be somewhere else.”
/.../
There’s a disillusionment from the classic era of cyberpunk that makes a revival now seem fairly natural, I think.” Natural or not, the revival is in full force, and it’s becoming a strong and subversive undercurrent in the indie games space.
http://www.popmatters.com/post/187163-cynicism-recession-and-the-resurgence-of-cyberpunk/



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So, what horror games do I look forward to? There are a couple. I guess I'm most excited about Silent Hills, after all.  Especially after finally playing P.T I'm really excited, which is a first in a while when it comes to the Silent Hill franchise, and when I give it some thought, when it comes to blockbuster horror titles. And although I hope P.T isn't representative of what Silent Hills will be in terms of gameplay, and indeed is both too scary and too puzzley for me to bear as a full-length game, I do enjoy the direction it seems to be taking. It's refreshing, and hopefully will have an engaging story, considering it's Kojima and Del Toro designing the damn thing.

Besides Silent Hills, there is also Epanalepsis, a spiritual follow-up to Catachresis (one of my favorite games/horror games from last year),  which just might be coming out before the longest night of this year. Catachresis was horror just as I love it - not too scary, with a heavy story focus, and a world of nostalgia, or wonder, or sadness, or something else sublime. Not just horror with monsters and flight-or-flight, but a space inhabited with people (or the remnants of such) and thus infused with complex social, secondary and tertiary emotions which in combination with just the right amount of anxiety, uncanniness and fear might spark something profound.

Then there's also Soma from Frictional Games (Penumbra, Amnesia) to look forward. I didn't enjoy Penumbra nor Amnesia very much, but they're bound to make something which I will enjoy eventually, considering how good their theory and blog is. If nothing else, the discussions surrounding their creations are fertile ground for the video game community and the betterment of future horror games, so there's always that.

Finally, Draugen by Ragnar Tørnquist. If there's anyone doing good story in video games, it's Ragnar with hir Longest Journey series. Inspired by Whedon's writing, and treading by now familiar Dear Esther-esque ground, this just might turn out to be quite awesome.


§§§§§


What about this Halloween then, and the horror games (worth playing, which for example excludes games such as "Among the Sleep") of this year? Well, a lot of short games, that's what. Besides "You Won't Tell Anyone, Right?" by Oxeren, a chilling 15 minutes game dealing with heavy stuff such as abuse, trauma, anger and forgiveness, I would like to single out one artist - Kitty Horrorshow. Hir Chyrza and The Cradle of Eve are among the most disturbing and awesoome Lovecraftian games I've played. Lovecraft (as a genre) has always been something which exalts and inspires me, yet fails to deliver (with some notable exceptions being Eternal Darkness, Nestlings, and a few other games). But these pieces here - wow. Chyrza and Dust City are first person walking simulators, while The Cradle of Eve, Pretty Girl and daymare #1: "ritual" are interactive fictions made in Twine. Continuing with interactive fictions, there is a game which isn't quite horror, but it is Kitty Horrorshow (or well, 1/18th seeing how the game is a collab by 18 different contributors). The game in question is You Were Made For Loneliness, a wonderful entity of unrealized potential - as a game, as a work of interactive fiction, as unfulfilled love, as a missed chance at story synthesis, and much more. Many different strands and voices appear in the game, and although they do relate thematically and complement each-other nicely, there is still something missing there which would make the work a coherent one, say, the voice which remembers actually twining the different voices together somehow, being more than just a vehicle for exploring different voices. But what it lacks in unity, it makes up for in covering the ground which makes up the many faces of love - desperate, across time and space, sinister, earnest, bleak, hoping, caring, yearning. It made me remember what Avellone said about how love is depicted in video games and that they would be going for something else than romance in Pillars of Eternity, something I look forward to exploring:

So if I were to implement a romance subplot in Eternity - I wouldn’t. I’d examine interpersonal relationships from another angle and I wouldn’t confine it to love and romance. Maybe I’d explore it after a “loving” relationship crashed and burned, and one or both was killed in the aftermath enough for them to see if it had really been worth it spending the last few years of their physical existence chained to each other in a dance of human misery and/or a plateau of soul-killing compromise. Or maybe I’d explore a veteran’s love affair with his craft of murder and allowing souls to be freed to travel beyond their bleeding shell, or a Cipher’s obsession with plucking the emotions of deep-rooted souls to try and see what makes people attracted to each other beyond their baser instincts and discovers love... specifically, his love of manipulating others. You could build an entire dungeon and quest where he devotes himself to replicating facsimiles of love, reducer a Higher Love to a baser thing and using NPCs he encounters as puppets for his experimentations, turning something supposedly beautiful into something filthy, mechanical, but surrounded by blank-eyed soul-twisted drones echoing all the hollow Disney-like platitudes and fairy tale existence where everyone lives happily ever after. The really long piece of writing furthest down in this blog post is an excerpt from one of the memories the player-avatar has in "You Were Made...", a piece I think Avellone would approve of.


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Now, finally, for some lists. Best implementations of horror in works of interactive fiction - a short list indeed!

my father’s long, long legs (michael lutz). Slow, meticulous madness and the ways in which it affects those close to it. "Basically a short story about a family in which the father, one day, goes down into the dirt-floor basement with a brand-new shovel and begins to dig…and dig…and dig. And he won’t stop digging."

Shrapnel (Adam Cadre). My favorite work from Cadre, together with the most classic of classics that is Photopia. Shrapnel is the post-traumatic stress disorder of Jacob's Ladder combined with the jumbled identity-mismatch and shifting time-realities of Philip K. Dick.



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Most interesting horror-like games from 2013 and 2014 not already covered:

Knock Knock. There is a wall which separates the spectral from the carnal. Horror is often about the protrusion of one unto the other, when sacred barriers which keep at bay turn derranged and thus derail the order of things, be it the fleshy id-monsters usurping the phantasmatic super-ego in the form of zombies, or the terrors of modernity haunting the body-politics with its savage instrumentality (well, that too might actually be in the form of zombies, this time as wage-slaves, but I had Amnesia: A Machine For Pigs in mind specifically). Knock Knock seeks to further tear down barriers, and one of the ways in which it does this is by asking you as a player to interact with the world outside of the video game, by means which have origins before and outside the designers creative capabilities. A haunting experience, in more ways than one.

Amnesia: A Machine For Pigs. The downward spiral of conflating humans with tools, humanity with filth. Here piggy, piggy!!!

Year Walk. Swedish folklore in a forest of mythical encounters. Quite unique and beautiful, albeit mostly an atmospherical experience.






§§§§§





Example of a player-avatar memory from You Were Made For Loneliness :
Each night I spend in front of this enchanted window innocculates me to the mundane. Each night I become more and more tolerant, inured, and I must dig deeper and find stranger sights, or come away unsatisfied, all my nerves intact. I must go deeper into the woods, link by related link.

The mouth of the woods is bright and vivid, wreathed in the familiar and comfortable. Dubstep remixes, clips from popular television, people hurting themselves comedically. Click one and the cabaret begins, glitter and distraction, vapid entertainment in fast, short doses. Continue clicking, following a winding trail of related videos. One might lose hours in this way and find nothing at all, but there are times, after wandering long and far enough into pale-faced circadian interruption, deep into night and well beyond sleep's reach, a link appears to something unusual, something wrong.

Click this link and proceed to watch two minutes of garbled footage with stop-motion dolls dancing naked in a rusty sink. A MIDI song drones and taps, exhumed from some ancient homepage of internet pre-history. Compression artifacts swim across the screen like a membrane, like ectoplasm, distorting everything, masking anything that moves too quickly. Now all of the related videos are strange, unnerving, uncanny, and there are no more cats to be found in the side-bar, no more dubstep remixes to anchor one to the familiar. Just more strangeness, more smiling digital shadow-plays waiting to take your hand and lead you deeper.

'im in the weird part of (the woods) again'

Most shut their browsers, attempt sleep, tell their friends about some of the fucked up videos they watched last night, joke, laugh, ha ha. But when they return to the woods again they stay close to its mouth, close to light and innocuous distraction, wary now of links that would pull them off the path and into slithering uncertainty.

I do not want to stay at the mouth of the woods.

My list of favorites is a menagerie of jittering 3D characters, melting puppets, mask-wearing figures writhing and moaning in dark, dirty rooms. These are my anchors, the lines that lead me directly back to the stranger inner-depths. Many are contrived, manufactured things, deliberate and calculated to seem disturbing, frightening, psychological. These are trite, but at least they bring one closer to the true exhibits: videos not designed to be unsettling but unsettling despite, videos made with candor and sincerity and put forth by people who don't see the strangeness of their own creations, find beauty where others find quiet revulsion. These are the purest, the most deeply upsetting, the most profoundly addictive. In them, one can see the creator's desperation to communicate, to entertain, to be funny or cute or artistic, and the unnerving results of their failures are their own breed of fascinating.

The authenticity, the honesty, is what makes these so deeply frightening. Like the difference between a slasher movie and a snuff film found in an empty house. It is a difference appreciated by few, feared by most, analyzed by seemingly none.

None but myself. And, as I am soon to find, one other.

A favorite video of mine: a pot-bellied CGI farmer stands shirtless in a field of whipping corn-stalks beneath a gunmetal blue sky. His house, a cardboard prop in the background behind him, is empty and unlit. He waggles his finger, singing a droning song with a synthesized voice. His animation loops around on itself, forward to back then back to fore. His eyes are black holes in his immaculate flesh-colored face. The content of the video is too absurd to be deliberately frightening; its creator's intention is unknowable, but I would guess humor, or artistic experimentation. And yet watching that sky, the dark reeds of the farmer's field lashing as in a tornadic wind, upsets me deeply. I have watched this video at least sixty times. The comments are always the same.

dafuq

nightmare fuel

lyrics?

im in the weird part of (the woods) again

Only tonight, just now, as the song concludes abruptly and the farmer's face freezes in a rictus of artifical unlife, I see a comment that separates itself.

nerva_blood_radio (6 hours ago) says:
i have heard this song whispered. i would let that sky take me and pull me apart.

I stare at the comment in surprise, admiration, curiosity. A warmth in my core, something like elation, begins to grow. Elation, or relief to know that there is someone else who can see beauty in the bizarre, who can find wonder in those things that frighten and confuse and disturb so many others. Someone else who can stare at such displays of unflagging surrealism and wish to be lost within them.

I send them a message, something I have never done.
"Beautiful comment. I wish more people had your perspective. How do you feel about robots?"

Three sentences composed in half as many hours. I am fearful; I have never known how to communicate with people. I betray my strangeness even in simple conversation, and they are immediately repelled. But I must reach this one, I think, because they understand the way I understand. I force myself to be concise for fear of sounding desperate. Finally I send the message, along with a link to another of my favorites, a home-made animatronic mannequin singing its praises for its creator, waxing euphoric, twitching artificially to the sound of a cacophonous synth-music arpeggio that echoes its way up from the deepest point of the Uncanny Valley.

Days pass, and in that time I spend more time thinking and hoping and dreading a response than I care to admit. Then it comes.

nerva_blood_radio:
aaahaa... shes a good signer... so happy—— thank you!!!! i like this one tooOO ... maybe youll like it too... click?.......... bye....

I click the attached link.

The title is a garble of meaningless shapes. The comments are in Chinese characters. In the frame is darkness, enough that I'm required to full-screen the video and shut off my second monitor. Compression artifacts swim and churn, poorly-recorded silence warbles in my ears. My eyes adjust, and I think that what I'm seeing is a cramped apartment. A white square, maybe a refrigerator, dominates the left side of the screen, sentinel of a kitchen that is little more than a linoleum-tiled alcove. The video seems to be recorded from a camera that has been left running on a table. There is no sound except the guttering background silence for seven minutes. Then there is a moan, long and wailing and distant as though from another room. It sounds pained, show a derelict might wail in the throes of some chronic malady. Then, in the last seconds, a shape, a fragmented blob of muted light, shifts to the side at the far end of the 'kitchen.' The video ends.

It was a face, I realize.

A face that had been staring at me from the moment the video began. A face so perfectly blended with the swimming low-res shadows that I had failed completely to notice it, until that slight, final movement betrayed it as a living being rather than a cluster of wan light. For seven minutes they sat in utter darkness, staring at a camera left recording on a table. For the first time in memory I look around myself, into the darkness of my apartment, fearing that something may be there with me.

I have never found anything so chillingly sublime. I return nerva_blood_radio's message to thank them, and link them to another of my favorites.

For weeks, this becomes our relationship. Each night I check for their response, view it, shudder physically, respond. There are times when we link one another to something we have already seen, and there is a delight in that as well, an affirmation of kinship. A few times I become brave and ask questions, 'how've you been' and 'what're you up to'. They never answer these, and I stop asking. Soon we exchange personal e-mail addresses so that we can link one another to videos from more obscure sources. Videos in formats that I've never heard of, requiring special codecs and foreign language packs, videos with viewcounts in the single-digits. With each night that passes, their strangeness, their horror, their beauty increases.

I begin to imagine nerva_blood_radio as a sort of digital goddess, a monstrous cybernetic deity, a slithering wire-queen nestled deep down in some web-strewn data-swamp, divine matron of all that seeks a way beneath one's skin. I begin to worship her. I begin to love her. She, this deity, becomes my muse, my reason to wake, the force that drives me and the sole supplier of my greatest addiction. She had exposed me to a world beneath the skin of all that I had known but to which I felt immediately that I belonged, a world of dancing skeletal mascots and videos washed out by grain and comperssion to the point that they conveyed no real imagery at all, only visual chaos and noise and emotion. Emotion that's impossible to explain to anyone who has never woken up sweating and panting and crying from a nightmare they can't remember. A world of people in cramped apartments like mine all over the world, gathered together to present each other with caught fragments of nightmares and glitchy half-broken tone peoms told not with words but with filthy, empty rooms and twitching shapes.

One night she sends me a video with no description. She attaches it directly to an email message, something she's never done before. No context, no source link, none of her usual stuttered, seductive cadence prefacing what I am about to see. Just a single video file, the name of which is a meaningless scramble of characters. I download it, run it with a homebrew video player which translates the name into blocky white characters at the bottom of the frame as the video begins to play:
crushed_locust_doesnt_die

Pavement, a road somewhere, lined with dust and brush. Wan blue-purple light and slivers of orange horizon (dusk) as the camera moves, its wielder breathing hard, walking slowly toward something. A shape, dark and small, immobilized on the road. The camera-holder approaches the shape and leans down, taking a long, deliberate shot of the thing on the ground. It's a fat locust with a long body and a wounded leg, laying on its side in the dust, the far back tip of its thorax burst open as though it had been clipped by the windshield of a passing car. It struggles weakly along the ground. The cameraman giggles, an oily, wheezing sound, lowering the camera until the lens is nearly touching the black, unblinking eye. The camera adjusts its focus. The black eye gleams. More wheezing, more harsh-breath giggling as the camera pulls back and jostles. A foot appears, rubber-booted and wide. A loud grunt and the foot descends on the body of the locust, slamming down on the pavement with a flat 'clap' sound. The foot withdraws and the cameraman is giggling and lowering the camera to survey the wreckage of the locust's body. It is visibly destroyed, the chitin of its green exoskeleton splintered and broken, seeping insect slime. The body is still for several moments, then continues attempting to drag its way across the pavement, its ruined legs continuing to work and twitch despite the assault. The cameraman's breathing halts. The locust glowers up at the camera from the weeping pit of its shattered eye. The cameraman loses composure, swings his arm to the side, camera in hand, and there's grunting and more of that same flat clapping sound, one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight. The cameraman is breathing hard. Camera turns forward again, finds the locust, lowers to the ground. The pulpy mess scraped across the pavement gives no indication that it once was a living creature. Tiny pin-points of orange dusk-light glimmer in the smear, and the body is a shattered memory made of a thousand broken slivers of carapace. A single twisted leg is the only discernible shape, connected to the splattered remains by a thick yellow strand. More wheezing, panicked laughter. Labored breathing.

The leg continues to move, but it is not just the fading rictus of death. It continues to move, continues to push, continues to struggle against the road. The cameraman makes a high, loud, protean noise. The image blurs as the camera swings away somewhere. The video ends.

I stare at the dark terminus of the video and my hands are shaking.

My mind hastens to consider the implications. My first question, strangely, is why did she like this? Death and snuff are not her forté. Her lack of preface confuses me as well. What did she want me to think? What did she think?

Then I begin to consider the greater implications of an insect pulverized into nothing but a dark smear of viscous biology, and yet which continues to struggle, continues to move. There is no way the video was faked, I know. It was filmed spontaeneously, unknowingly, perfectly.

I reply: "Incredible. Where did you find this?"

She responds almost instantly. I wonder if she was waiting for me to view it, staring at her inbox and awaiting my reply as I've so often done with her. I feel vain at this thought, arrogant. Does a goddess hang on the words of a worshipper?

Her reply:
he, he, he!!... i cant tell you that... its a secret... a very very special top secret, they do not want me to have it! do not know i have it!... i took it... and i showed it to you... nobody else... just you... :)... he, he, he!!...

I am floored. I feel exalted, a once-lowly element elevated by selection for something beautiful and tremendous. My breath quickens. I must send her something that rivals the splendor of what she has given me, something that will astound and enchant her as she has me. But I can think of nothing. My god-kissed elation begins to turn to panic. I do not have her sources, her seemingly inexhaustible wellsprings, none of the darknets which must be part of her dominion.

I open a dozen browser tabs and immediately point them all to the most obscure, disparate, abnormal and uncanny places I know. I spend hours pulling threads and biting my nails. No sleep. I keep searching, so eager to return the kindness she has done me, to please her and prove my worth to her after she has shown me such staggeringly particular attention.

I fail.

I lay back in my chair and press my palms to my eyes. I have spent hours, but have produced nothing. I have failed the only one who ever understood me and shared my insight and challenged my perception. My body craves sleep, but my mind rages.

From outside my window, two bright beams flash, a vehicle turning. I hear a tire squeal, a trash can upend itself, a vehicle speed away. Curious and dejected, I move to the window and look out into the streetlit night.
A dark shape moves on the pavement. With no deliberation, I grab my cell phone and go outside.

I walk downstairs, down to the street and out across my apartment's parking lot. I go to where I saw the shape, and though it is little more than a twitching, pulpy mass, I instantly recognize it. It is a raccoon, destroyed by the careless tires of an automobile. But it is more than that. I switch to my phone's camera, begin recording video. This is a gift.

The small mound of viscera is barely discernible as a living animal as it bleeds and writhes in my viewfinder, leaving a trail of congealing blood in its wake. A tiny jawbone juts upward at an insane angle, fragments of bone litter its pelt. It should be dead, and yet it struggles, pulls itself along the street towards the grass of the far side, separating itself into twitching islands of dark gore. And as it does so, I film it. I film it for whole minutes.

I return to my apartment. I transfer the video to my PC, and without editing, without changing its file name, I attach it to an email and send it to her. Then I stare at my inbox, awaiting a response. For minutes there is nothing, and my lungs feel as though they're shrinking. Then a window opens up for an instant messenger I wasn't aware I'd left running.

nerva_blood_radio (02:44:39): !!!!!!!
nerva_blood_radio (02:44:56): aaahaa, haa, haa, its so goooood!
nerva_blood_radio (02:45:09): where did you find it???
(I have not used this program since I've known her. I don't know how she got my handle. I don't care.)
mothstatic (02:46:12): I filmed it myself
mothstatic (02:46:16): on my phone
mothstatic (02:47:00): I heard a truck spin out so i went to check it and it had hit the raccoon but it kept moving like the locust in the video you sent me
mothstatic (02:47:11): I came straight home and sent it to you
mothstatic (02:47:31): you're the only one I sent it to

Further minutes of non-response, and I'm wringing my hands and pulling skin from my lip. I want her to tell her why I did it, why I sent it only to her, that I love her and worship her and that without her I would still be at the mouth of the woods. I nearly begin to type, but she preempts me:
nerva_blood_radio (02:54:01): you are so good to me.....
nerva_blood_radio (02:54:16): i love you!!.....
My heart is beating through the backs of my ribs and I struggle to breathe. I struggle this way for a minute, then begin to type, but a final message from her blinks onto my screen and then she disconnects.
nerva_blood_radio (02:55:21): send me more...
nerva_blood_radio has logged off.

Panic and elation are fighting for control of my spine. I shut off everything, take off my clothes, lay down on my futon. I don't manage to sleep until the sun has been up for hours, and when I do I sleep through until dark.

The next day, she has sent me no messages. I return to the woods and spend hours there, digging harder than I ever have, scouring every corner she ever showed me for something new and shocking and perfect to surpass the video I had taken. I can find nothing. Everything is either manufactured or hokey or senseless or ham-fisted. Even those things that used to thrill me fail to compare to the simple, terrible perfection of a ruined raccoon continuing to struggle across a road with a body that should not be alive.

The next day, the same results. I turn up nothing. No messages from her. I see the first headline news clip announcing some unknown phenomenon that is affecting the biology of increasingly large creatures in various countries. I'm beginning to feel somehow like I'm running out of time. In my inept anxiety I bite the skin around my fingernails until it bleeds.

The next day more news has crowded out the dubstep remixes and reality television recaps and autotuned parodies. From a distance, looking indirectly at the thumbnails of all that is presented to me, I divine an overwhelming bleakness. The sense of losing time heightens. I set about my work.

Hours into the night, I have had no success. Then a sudden, piercing sound comes from somewhere beneath me, down a floor, somewhere in my apartment. I begin to hear more panic-sounds, footfalls, shouts and cries. I take my phone from my desk and run outside, down to the source.
Neighbors I have only met in passing have crowded outside an open apartment door. The apartment inside is dark, and a man within is yelling, blathering wet, meaningless syllables. People are muttering words like 'gun' and 'dangerous,' shouting things like 'don't' and 'doesn't have to' and 'talk this out.' I shoulder my way forward until I can see into the room.

A naked obese man is laying back against a bare far wall. His face is puffy and streaked with tears and mucous. Each time someone addresses him, he howls something meaningless. There is a pistol in his hand. When he is not howling, he turns his head to look out his open window, looking remorseful, almost pensive. Then, all at once, he begins to raise the gun to his head. Already my fingers are around my phone, trying to pull up the video recorder. My neighbors are shouting now, jostling me. I hit record, try to find a shot, but I am being moved and churned and I can see nothing through my phone. The obese man says something I cannot hear, but which sounds like 'never' and 'to heaven,' and he puts the gun to his temple, and he pulls the trigger.

The gun barks, more quietly than I'm expecting. My neighbors are screaming. A dark fan of blood has sprayed a greasy feather-shape across the wall behind the man. He slumps down and lays still for a moment. Then his body is convulsing. His legs kick up and drum down hard against the floor, his arms whip and lash at his sides, his ruined skull lolls back and forth on his neck. His body rolls forward, puts its arms up, begins wriggling like a bloated worm trying to move forward. My neighbors continue to scream and jostle me, many of them fleeing the hallway. I stare down at my phone, at a message telling me that there is no storage capacity left. I stop recording and review the footage I have taken, and it is useless. Indiscernible. My heart writhes in my chest when I think of the perfect moment that has just been squandered, which can never be repeated, which would have been the most excellent offering.

The few neighbors remaining in the hall cover their mouths and turn away. Most have left, either in fear or maybe to call the police. The obese man's body continues to squirm and bleed and twitch and drum its heavy feet up and down. I stare at my phone, then at the body, which seems to be trying to pull itself closer to me. Then I see the gun, and my most perfect idea comes to me.

I check the hallway to see if anyone is looking. Everyone has their backs turned. The suppurating body has wormed its way into a corner and is struggling helplessly. As quickly and quietly as I can, I step forward into the room, step over the body, reach down and take the gun, slipping it in the front of my pants and hiding it beneath my shirt. Then I leave, climb the stairs, return to my room, lock my door.

I dig an old webcam out of a large tupperware container filled with cords and obsolete peripherals. It takes minutes to hook up, install drivers. Then I pull open the instant messenger and look for her name. Blessedly, she's online.

mothstatic (01:52:19) says: I have something for you, can we video
nerva_blood_radio (01:52:21) says: yes.

Sirens are howling. At the mouth of the woods, all of the brightness, all of the distraction, is gone, replaced by stern faces reporting on what is happening to the world, what is happening to the bodies. I can hear my neighbors downstairs continuing to scream and lament. I can hear the feet of the body beating the floor.

The instant messenger window expands. I see my own face, bathed in white light, framed by the darkness of my room. On her end, I see only moving shadows, the vague impression of green light streaking in strange patterns, a silhouette shaped like a crucifixion.

nerva_blood_radio (01:54:12) says: you have been so very good to me.
mothstatic (01:54:37) says: You showed me so much. I would never have found any of the beauty you showed me.
nerva_blood_radio (01:55:00) says: this will be your contribution to that beauty. i will ensure you are remembered.
I adjust the angle of my webcam, roll my chair back so that both myself and the floor around me are in frame, because I expect that is where my body will fall. I take the gun out of my pants.
mothstatic (01:56:09) says: are you recording?
nerva_blood_radio (01:56:12) says: yes.
mothstatic (01:56:28) says: I love you.
nerva_blood_radio (01:56:40) says: prove it to me. :)

The barrel is sliding between my teeth. My finger wraps around the trigger. From somewhere deep within the woods, I feel a cold wind rise.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

1/11


The second kickstarter project I backed (the first was A House in California, made by Jake Elliott of Kentucky Route fame) was Hadean Lands. Now, four years later, it's finally here. And I'm not going to play it. It's simple, really - the game is mainly a puzzle game, with very little story and very much heavy puzzle solving. I'm just not into that game of game. Ok, I loved Plotkins Dual Transform even though it basically had no story, but it was short, and experimental, and had a wonderful atmosphere. This game seems to be very long and very heavy. So yeah, sometimes you just have to pass up on games.

This week I've been playing Dragon Age 2 and some horror games, but more on those next week when I do a write-up!




§ARTICLES
I see people walking toward me, but they’re not really people, just strange aliens that don’t quite cohere into any particular shape when I get close. That’s what marks Bernband: nothing makes any more sense as you get closer to it. It’s stranger than that: the further away things are, the clearer they seem. There’s a night that covers the world and gives everything an enveloping calm.
http://thiscageisworms.com/2014/10/21/on-bernband/

§

articles about games, in the end, still garner much less traffic and general interest than other cultural phenomena. serious discussion that happens in the videogame sphere is largely disregarded as niche and unimportant in broader cultural conversations - much to the frustration, by the way, of those of us who do see games' ubiquity and value. and so, in the absence of larger serious cultural attention, the boy genius rules as king.
http://ellaguro.blogspot.se/2014/10/embracing-new-flesh.html

§

The trouble is I am find myself getting a little tired of this kind of subversion. The game looks like a shooter and the player can do nothing except shoot. Now you might point out that the player has another option - do nothing. It is in doing nothing that enlightenment can be found.
/.../
If the player cannot inhabit the role on offer, the game collapses into a system and meaning and metaphor are lost. But this is as much an issue of game education as it is acting.
/.../
A developer who chooses to subvert conventions, thinking that the results will be in the higher metaphorical level, may find players accusing them of being exploitative. The reason is the developer has broken the compact. The player has adopted the role they were supposed to, but the developer has used familiar labels to do quite different things. Now when I press a button in the lift for the basement, the building explodes. The system has been deliberately corrupted.
http://www.electrondance.com/your-game-isnt-as-clever-as-you-thought/

§

What I’ve realized during my time engaging with the online community surrounding games media and development is that minoritized voices often only get visibility and resources when they are talking about their pain.
/.../
I am more than my pain. I am more than my pain. I am more than my pain.
http://www.mattiebrice.com/more-than-my-pain/

§

Persona 3’s protagonist is a supernatural other, a messianic figure capable only of departing from their own realities and connecting to the feelings of others. The PC is a series of masks, but these masks are more than a costume for others to look at, the PC is a reflection of those that speak to them, the masks look outward and see the world in different ways. The PC’s masks are the source of their divine empathy.
http://big-tall-words.com/2014/10/30/masks-upon-masks/

§

Could there be a viable concept of ‘player rights’, and if not, are there any grounds for legally restricting games?
/.../
It is not that players have rights so much as it is that players have responsibilities – and not least of all, to themselves.
http://onlyagame.typepad.com/only_a_game/2014/10/can-players-have-rights.html





§INDIECADE
http://blog.brendanvance.com/2014/10/24/notes-on-indiecade/
http://www.mattiebrice.com/dispatches-from-indiecade/

Sunday, October 26, 2014

26/10

§KICKSTARTER
The Black Glove
https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/theblackglove/the-black-glove
http://dayfornightgames.com/black-glove-gameplay
http://dayfornightgames.com/maze-space-minotaur






§PLAYED
Zest

Be a good samaritan and go to the church in this game. That part has quite a wonderful sermon, where as Emily Short writes, "The loaves and fishes weren’t multiplied because God miraculously violated the law of the conservation of mass, but that the people in the crowd were shamed or persuaded into donating their own food which they had formerly been selfishly reserving for themselves". As the priest in Zest says - "That instead of an audience, they had become a community". Let's top it off with a nice prayer:

    Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace;
    Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
    Where there is injury, pardon;
    Where there is discord, harmony;
    Where there is error, truth;
    Where there is doubt, faith;
    Where there is despair, hope;
    Where there is darkness, light;
    And where there is sadness, joy.

    O Divine Master, Grant that I may not so much seek
    To be consoled as to console;
    To be understood as to understand;
    To be loved as to love.
    For it is in giving that we receive;
    It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
    And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

§

Bernband (Tom van den Boogaart)
It fascinates me how lo-fi experiences such as this and Slave of God can immerse and mystify me so strongly. At the surface level, there doesn't seem very much to these experiences, yet just walking around there - no aim in sight, exploring stuff - can feel more compelling and exciting than exploring a town in a high-end RPG, say Wasteland 2. Well, for some time at least - I guess making larger areas with more substance is where it gets really tricky to sustain my attention. Immersion in these walking simulators (paradoxically?) probably has something to do with the lack of objectives, lack of "agency", lack of pressure put on me as a player to perform, lack of uncanny valleys, lack of too high expectations on what the game might be simulating and how finegrained the system is for that simulation. It thus probably has something to do with simulation fever. By painting in broad strokes, it leaves more to the imagination. This reminds me of Chris Bateman's Imaginary Games, and some ideas there: "The movie dictates almost everything about the accompanying game of make believe, and thus the movie is more intrusive in the viewer's game than for example a book, the authorial vision stronger. The props (things mandating specific imaginings in games of make-believe) do not leave much room for the imagination of the player, which explains why the experience of a movie can be quite unconvincing and non-immersive when the props are of poor quality." Yes indeed, and the psychological locks upon you may be as such that you deem the movie to be of bad quality ("at the surface it seems like nothing much, really"), to be cliched or stupid, and you could still be moved emotionally by it, or in this case, immersed.

§

NaissanceE is all about architecture and atmosphere. Shadows cast on white and grey. Well, not only - it is also about breathing, and running, and jumping. But without any context. Sort of. What do I know, I only played it for an hour and watched the last chapter on youtube. The soundscape is very unsettling and wonderful too. It's like an alien Blade Runner running around in the abstract love child of Tarkovsky and Kubrik.

I'm hoping when these darn walking simulators flood the VR-market people will become too seasick to jump around, and instead just opt for, well, walking. Or autojumping. Or something.

§

A City Sleeps
I've been a fan of Harmonix ever since FreQuency and Amplitude, and although their kickstarter video pitch was awesome, the game pitched seems to be the same game which was released almost ten years ago, only with new songs. This interests me as little as yet another Rockband, and the music video game genre in general lays dormant for me right now. But Harmonix seem to be trying some different stuff too, both in Chroma and A City Sleeps. Shmups are another genre which I've been a big fan of, but which I'm really not into these days, so the music game-shmup-breed that is A City Sleeps comes at me from a very specific angle. I didn't expect much, and after the initial hour I was very pleasantly surprised, only to be disappointed when venturing further. I've come to the conclusion that the shooting and scoring in the game isn't very deep. The potential was there to let the music guide your dodging, to let your secondary weapons be placed in different areas of the screen and let your dodging follow a natural rhythm since you'd want to be at specific places when the beat hits or whatnot, but I just couldn't find any good flow at all while playing. When the game was at its easiest it also felt the most relaxing and rewarding, graphics and music in unison with the cool backstory. But soon enough things started to get more difficult, and I quit because nothing made sense to me. It just didn't feel graceful. I thought I'd just play breeze through the game to get the really good writing and story out of the way, but realized that quite fast the game became too hard for me, like 3/5 difficulties in! Seems I'll be waiting for a playthrough to get the rest of the story. A real shame. Seems to me the universe they built up (and mostly allude to) for the game is a very interesting one, but I just can't progress much further due to sucking too much, which says a lot considering I've played these types of games a significant amount of time...

§

Devil's Dare
Sidescrolling beat em ups are awesome. And yet, where are the really good ones? Where are the Turtles in Time, Super Double Dragon and Final Fight of our era? Or Streets of Rage, or Three Dirty Dwarves, etc? I remember Alien Hominid made a splash, yet I didn't find it very appealing. Well, Devil's Dare plays a bit like Streets of Rage and feels very old-school, in the sense that movement is quite limited. Disappointing, but since there is the possiblity of co-op play for up to four players, I will definitely return to this when I have the friends available for it.

§

Laza Knitez!!
I played this back when it was a prototype in a homemade arcade cabinet, and it was as awesome then as it is now. Aw hell yeah. The roster of action-packed party games keeps growing. Towerfall, Nidhogg, Samurai Gunn, Laza Knitez, Starwhal...

§

Dragon Age 2
I started playing it! Suddenly I'm anticipating the third installment, because I realized I have a friend who will play it and it seems quite cozy to sit beside hir and watch hir play, even though I'm skeptic to the game and probably won't be seeing it through to the end. Maybe that will be the case with Dragon Age 2 - it all depends on the characters and the story...





§MISC
Pulling all these tools together, we have a flexible system for authoring Ice-Bound stories that lets them adapt to the particular context the system decides to use them in, without becoming overwhelming for us as authors.
http://ice-bound.com/news/shifting-story-text-combinatorial-narrative-part-three/

§

Like so much horror, Silent Hill 2 is about the failure of things – of nerve, of compassion, of organs, of machinery, and of mind and body as a whole. Everything is in a process of decay, a town that has aged decades overnight and still carries traces of lives continuing just around the next corner or through the next door. It’s unclear if James himself is the ghost, walking through lives in process but failing to see them through the shadows of his own state.
/.../
I still can’t play certain sections without company – I am the world’s most cowardly horror fan – but the lasting sense is of sadness rather than spooks. Tragedy requires flaws and the game’s narrative of decay is built upon human failings of every kind. It’s a more sorrowful experience than a stack of melancholy ‘art games’.
http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2014/10/12/silent-hill-2-review-pc/

§

Game Theory: Five Nights at Freddy's SCARIEST Monster is You!
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=th_LYe97ZVc
§

Are Videogames About Their Mechanics?
| Idea Channel | PBS Digital Studios
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RsybY6dcXAQ

§

What's Wrong With Duck Dynasty?
http://www.gametrailers.com/videos/imb33e/the-final-bosman-what-s-wrong-with-duck-dynasty-

§

Extra Credits - Plan, Practice, Improvise - Understanding the Three Types of Play in Games https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s9xkfPLJWf0

§

Maximum Hertz: The Value of Gaming Beyond 60fps
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8DMWmKitqM0

§

Thoughts on Game Mechanics vs. Story | Game/Show | PBS Digital Studios
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j-nkZANzikQ

§

Shooting Down the FPS: Team Fortress 2 vs. Far Cry 3 | Game/Show | PBS Digital Studios
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oJGIg1JksQA

Sunday, October 19, 2014

19/10

§§§§§THIS WEEK§§§§§

Cave! Cave! Deus Videt – Episode 0Who would have thought, a game where you explore the paintings and the secrets therein of artist Bosch? Both music and graphics are unique and exciting. The narrative reminds me much of the works of Joestin Gaarder, an old childhood favorite of mine. It's The Matrix and Alice in Wonderland and Sophies World set in a world of intriguing history, art, religion and the potential growth that comes with the alienation of youth.

Dog of Dracula: Barbecue Densetsu/Dog of Dracula 2: Cyber Monogatari
Wonderful neo/cyberpunk noir pastiche which is both hillarously funny and dead-serious as the same time. Despite its very short length, it managed to draw me in and care about the world and its inhabitants which left me wanting more, much more, and also to consider what video games I've played gave me the most laughs (list below.

East van EP/Oracle (ceMelusine)
I love the people behind Silverstring (ceMelusine is part of Silverstring), because of Glitchhikers, and because of Azraels Stop. This game wasn't as interesting, although more evocative than increpares newest "let your mind fall to rest", which too is a form of tarot-reading. Imagery is quite sublime, but it's not something I'm prone to return to, nor give much thought in retrospect, as opposed to the aforementioned games.

Girls Like Robots: NerdfestHey, a girls needs to have fun, right?

Niddhogg (Messhof)
Played it with a friend. Crazy, wicked fun I haven't had since Samurai Gunn! Hopefully will be seeing much more of this. I hate to say this, but I enjoyed it more than Johann Sebastian Joust (and I hate to say it beause I'm all for physicality in video games, alternative controllers and folk games).

Octodad: Dadliest CatchThe second really funny game this week I played! Humor is a rarity when it comes to video games, especially humor which isn't all scripted and script, but comes from the interaction with the world. Seems like a worthy successor to the original game. The coop is killer.

Rehearsals and ReturnsNow when it's finally free to download, I gave it a spin. It is interesting in the way that it feels compelling without having very much there to begin with, but it probably could be realized better somehow. Even just by letting people choose whom to interact with. Since the game is so much about player input, it could have gone further yet and probably be more cathartic for it.

Spelunky
Yeah. So it came out on the PS4 and me and my friend thought we'd give it a try. I can sort of image us sitting there, playing it a month from now, cursing ourselves and the game. But honestly I just don't think it's for me - too frustrating. But I do love cooperative video games and although they seem to be all the rage right now, I still feel there is a shortage on good ones.

Stopped playing:  Wasteland 2. Yes, the second part of the game is better. And yet, I started to grow tired well before the second part, and now that I'm like 80% in, I'm giving up for now. I'd give it a 7/10, probably 8 if I'm in a good mood, which I'm not anymore since I feel it doesn't do the things it sets you up to believe it will do. Well, some of that surely is my own fault, but still - I'm tired of wanting to roleplay and act as if the things I feel and do carry weight, only to realize that they indeed do not, and I was a fool for thinking so. The only recourse then is to play a game parallel to the video game in front of you, where the motivations of your characters make sense. But try to mesh this world of fantasy in your head with the one on the screen in front of you and the world of your imagination gives way to the two-dimensional illusions of programming. I get the choice to pick a character which has kids and I can enter the age of this character, say 50+. Do the kids make any appearance of any kind in the game? No. And people still call me "youngster". Sure, I use this person to talk with people, because in my mind this character is the leader of my ranger pack. But it doesn't make any difference. Yeah, I can add more charisma to this character so that they gain levels faster and thus become "more experienced" ("older") than my other party members, but meh. A couple of levels of difference after 50 hours?

I just wish I'd come across an RPG where after playing it I wouldn't feel that I tried to give way too much credit to its ambitions, expected way too much in terms of reactivity to the way I play and feel and act and roleplay. There are other problems with Wasteland, such as the fact that "choices" don't seem to matter, and I don't only mean that in the way that there doesn't seem to be any gravitas to ones interaction with the world (although that too is true, since the characters aren't well-developed enough for me to care all that much, basically the same problem I have with Bethesdas games and the former Fallouts, although Fallout 1 & 2 made up for that with a really mysterious, interesting and alive world and its open-ended system of exploring it), but that many of the choices that you'd think matter (do I choose repair mechanic or computer science) seem to come down to... whatever. It just doesn't matter. It doesn't matter for my character which has perception as a skill, because it doesn't matter who has perception as a skill, and because my character isn't changed by being perceptive in any way, and me being perceptive barely matters for other characters as well - mainly it gives me the opportunity to spot more digging grounds where I can dig for buried scraps which means more money. In the end it doesn't matter also because there is probably another way of solving the problem in front of you, and it doesn't matter which one you choose. Chances are you have both options available in the party anyway, unless you want to roleplay and not game the system by having each party members specializing in certain fields, but then you'd just go back to playing that parallel game in your mind, which at least I need some small input from the outside world (game system) in order to stay interested in. If you don't have the skills in the party, eh, just blow the wall up instead of kicking it down. It will just cost you some money. In the end skills become cash. Everything becomes cash. And loot. Loot everywhere. And the numbers don't add up, either, seeing how I've maxed skills and still see the "impossible" icon on chests and locks and whathaveyou, which according to the explanation of how the skills are implemented in the game just doesn't make sense. Sure, it's interesting that you can play "on the fly" and just roll with the punches as superbunnyhop would have it, and fail at half the things you try to do. But eventually I just stop caring due to everything being random - contents of chests and such - and just feel that opening stuff is a waste of my time.

I am disappointed. Planescape seems to be a game about something else entirely, so I do hope Inexile deliver on those promises (every combat encounter will count, etc) even if they believe that what they did with Wasteland 2 was good for Wasteland 2.




Funny/Humoristic Games

That's funny...Day of the Tentacle
Conker's Bad Fur Day
Deadline, or, Being Douglas Adams (Gunther Schmidl)
Grim Fandango
Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (Douglas Adams/Steve Meretzky)
Sam & Max Hit the Road
Slavoj Žižek Makes A Twine Game (Cameron Kunzelman)
The Apprentice II: Knights Move (Herculean Effort Productions)

LOL

Dink Smallwood
Katamari Damacy
Little Girl In Underland (Lively Ivy/Erin Robinson)
Psychonauts
Sam & Max Season 1&2
The Journey Down: Over The Edge/The Journey Down: Chapter Two (Theodor Waern)
Thirty Flights of Loving/Gravity Bone (Brendon Chung/Blendo Games)
Warioware Inc: Minigame Mania

XD
Dog of Dracula: Barbecue Densetsu/Dog of Dracula 2: Cyber Monogatari
Jazzpunk
Portal 1 & 2
Soviet Unterzögersdorf (Monochrom)
The Secret of Monkey Island (and the rest of them)
The Stanley Parable HD Remix/The Stanley Parable Demo (Galactic Café/Davey Wreden)









§PATHOLOGIC!!!
https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1535515364/pathologic/posts (yes, all of them)








§INTERACTIVE FICTION
Ice-Bound: A Novel of Reconfiguration
https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1850151847/ice-bound-a-novel-of-reconfiguration

§

Our design for Ice-Bound rejects both branching-path models of interactive story as well as overly simulationist approaches
, targeting a middle-road aesthetic of sculptural construction that marries a focus on quality output with the player's exploration of both an emergent expressive space and an AR-enabled art book.
http://www.fdg2014.org/papers/fdg2014_paper_23.pdf

§

This paper introduces a new set of design-time visualizations for combinatorial interactive narrative authoring. By using these visualizations during thd creation of Ice-Bound (an interactive narrative iPad game) we were able to author content within a large combinatorial possibility space, and achieve both desired player freedom and content responsiveness
http://fdg2014.org/papers/fdg2014_paper_10.pdf

§

First up is combinatorial narrative, as we think this is the heart of what sets Ice-Bound apart from other story-games. It’s fairly complex, but we’re going to try and distill it down into something easily digestible.
http://ice-bound.com/news/combinatorial_narrative/

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Riffing on the dramatic concept of Chekhov’s gun, which states that everything introduced into a story should serve a narrative purpose, we’ve taken to calling our model “Chekhov’s dollhouse.” Do you put the spotlight on the gun over the mantelpiece, and bring it (and the violence it implies) into your story? Or do you put the focus somewhere else? Unlike branching path models, where making a choice is usually irreversible and high-consequence (even if the consequence is only wondering what you missed), with our model you can freely rearrange the story as much or little as you like before committing to a single configuration, as easily as rearranging the furniture in a dollhouse.
http://ice-bound.com/news/combinatorial-narrative-part-two/

§

Conventional game design often denies players the act of interpretation./.../
I just want to raise the question as to why there isn’t a lot of interpretation going on in games. My hunch is because of the canonized idea of games mostly being composed of rules that need to be fairly communicated to the player, vagueness is discouraged.
http://www.mattiebrice.com/further-thoughts-on-the-tarot-and-interpretation/

§

"You are Kickstarting Ice-Bound; an interactive piece of sculptural fiction and, uhm, what is sculptural fiction?"
"It's a term I've started using to describe a break away from the "branching path" model of interactive narrative. I also sometimes call this the "rat in a maze" model, because a) you can't usually see the big picture, b) often have no way of knowing what, if anything, you're missing when you make a choice, and c) it's usually difficult to go back and try again: you either have to restart from scratch, or laboriously retrace your steps. "Some of my recent projects, including Ice-Bound and 18 Cadence, are experiments towards a different approach: one where you can see the whole story at once, and make small, reversible decisions about its form, rather than big, high-consequence choices. The analogy is to the act of sculpting: iteratively making changes, large and small, until you arrive at something you're satisfied with. This is interesting to me because it pushes the player away from being an "actor" within a story, to something more like a "director" or "editor." I've always wanted my players to feel like they're collaborating with me in telling a story, and sculptural fiction is a move closer towards that ideal.
http://indiegames.com/2014/10/aaron_a_reed_on_ice-bound_and_.html

§

Elegy for a Dead World: A Game About Writing Fiction
https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/dejobaan/elegy-for-a-dead-world-a-game-about-writing-fictio








§OTHER VIDEOS
The True Legend of Hyrule
http://www.gametrailers.com/videos/qsso4i/the-final-bosman-the-true-legend-of-hyrule

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Majora's African Roots pt. 1 (Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask) - Culture Shock
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Un1iv1Ws5XU

§

Extra Credits - Digging Deeper - Do Games Have Less Value than Other Media?
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7lPUlN0dnKk

§

All Games Are Created Equal
http://www.gametrailers.com/videos/r270r0/the-final-bosman-all-games-are-created-equal

§

Should League of Legends Be a High School Sport? | Game/Show | PBS Digital Studios
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ypx5rbkAzpk

§

Why Does Mario's Jump Feel So Awesome? | Game/Show | PBS Digital Studios
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z2oV2DQ2dEA

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James Recommends - Analysis! - Wasteland 2 - A New Old School Fallout Game?
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XpSA7MAQxlE

§

Extra Credits - Big Bad II - What Makes a Good Villain?
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NyDx5nG7koA

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Interplay Part 1: Meteoric Rise
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=srdR55V7D-s







§OTHER ARTICLES
Alien: Isolation is an interesting game. It is the latest entry in a lineage of games that I refer to as horror simulators. It does an excellent job at creating tension and uses a lot of the knowledge built up over the years to great success. But, because it has such a laser focus on a certain type of play a bunch problems arise and other parts of the package suffer. It is a great game in many ways, truly excellent really, but there are some fundamental problems. These lead to, for me at least, a devastating flaw: At its core it fails to be a faithful emulation of the original Alien (1979) movie. Before we can properly discuss the game, we need to talk some video game history and design theory. Over the past, there has been two different schools of horror games. One that has a horror wrapping on top of standardized gameplay (horror wrapping) and one that tries to recreate the happenings of a scary movie/novel (horror simulation). The former is quite well known and started with games like Lurking Horror (1987). Mechanically, the game played like other contemporary adventure games, but took place in a scary setting with events meant to frighten the player. The latter one is a bit harder to nail down precisely, but I would say it started out with a 3D Monster Maze (1982), a game that is neatly captured in its name: the player is trapped in maze and needs to escape a monster (in this case a heavily pixelated T-Rex).
/.../
Just as the horror genre stagnated in the mid 2000s, because horror was merely a wrapping, the same might happen if we fail to move beyond "chased by monster" scenarios. While there is nothing wrong with these sort of games, I think it would be foolish to be satisfied with just that. There is so much more to explore in horror, and the success of recent horror simulators gives me hope that video games can handle it.
http://frictionalgames.blogspot.se/2014/10/thoughts-on-alien-isolation-and-horror.html

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Just as there are real contradictions to the exercise of sovereign exception, the use of such power within the rules of a video game, even one whose trademark is branching-path storytelling, remains a technical impossibility. Mass Effect seems to solve this problem by making the agency of Shepard rather illusory. As players, we are meant to feel that we share Shepard’s sovereign power, but the intrinsic contradictions of that power, mirrored by our subordination as consumers to the game design, give the Spectres a deeper, if more problematic, meaning.
http://www.firstpersonscholar.com/blasto-sacer/

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“The project that ended up on the shelves would never have been signed off by anyone up front,” Barlow says of the total overhaul of the classic Silent Hill formula. “It wasn’t like right back at the start we just pitched what became the game and everyone came on board. It very much just kind of meandered.”
/.../
“The driving thing was exploring different ways of using interactivity,” Barlow says. “There’s so much data that games take on board about their player – we know where you are, what you’re looking at, how long you spend looking at things, what you’re doing – but 99 per cent of games don’t use any of that.”
http://www.edge-online.com/features/the-making-of-silent-hill-shattered-memories/

§

Water Temple Analysis: Part 1
the design of the Water Temple is incredibly flawed on both large and small scales. But perhaps this also achieves an effect that matches up with what the Water Temple is trying to achieve in the context of the game’s narrative?
http://hapticfeedbackgames.blogspot.se/2014/10/water-temple-analysis-part-1.html