By replacing immersion with the frame of attention, which is a
word that holds scientific and psychological significance, we can use
this frame of attention to make more meaningful observations.
It’s worth remembering that realism is not fidelity.
Anita Sarkeesian says as much in her videos: remember that it is both
possible (and even necessary) to simultaneously enjoy media while also
being critical of it’s more problematic or pernicious aspects.
in games often implicitly suggests that you aren’t grokking a system
and that therefore you’re misunderstanding the text. But Cart Life
doesn’t require mastery of its systems to understand what it does. In
fact, playing Cart Life well misses the point.
Depression Quest] After a really rough time, my character fought his way
out of deep depression, just a bit. And I reached a decision tree with
five choices, and for the first time, all five choices were blue and
available to me. No AAA video game power fantasy, no immersive sim, has
ever made me feel as close to having as much agency as I felt like I had
in that moment.
[on Kentucky Route Zero] The choices are
not about making change in the game world, but determining the
character’s intentions. You can never exhaust all the content in a
dialogue tree because it cares more about the beautiful transience of
conversation. It’s about what questions you ask, which information you
seek, and which you don’t - not because any of it is quest-specific, but
because it affects how you perceive your character.
choice, realism, these concepts and any value we assign to them are
destroyed by these games. They don’t erase failure, or devalue choice,
they come from a different frame of mind completely.
Video games don’t exist.
We invented them.
And we can destroy them.http://samcrisp.tumblr.com/post/62718211352/how-to-destroy-everything-or-why-video-games-do-not
BioShock Infinite is the worst game of the year.
unjustified shooter without a single new idea. It’s a self-gratifying
spectacle that confuses cunning with depth. It’s a craven, heartless
game of false moral equivalencies that uses the suffering of oppressed
people as window dressing, as theme, while it explores its own cold
For its lack of humanity, for its fake
guilt, for its flat boring gameplay, for its 100 million dollar cost,
for its cleverness, for its cowardice, BioShock Infinite is not just the
worst game of the year. It’s the worst game I’ve played this
The BioShock series’ great talent thus far seems
to be thematizing videogame conventions rather than challenging them.
It has mastered the safe subversion, never mind its conservative heart.
Clever self-awareness trumps actual innovation. And gamers eat it
up. Because we love to feel smart, removed, safely above it all.
... Where the self-examination begins. We start to see something
about our own, internalized, beliefs and acceptances of colonialism, um,
through shooting people in the face."
§METAL GEAR SOLID 3
§NARRATIVE: WALKING DEAD/BEYOND: TWO SOULS
But on a deeper level, throughout the series, we made decisions about
what kind of a man Lee was, and how Clementine would see him. Our
choices may not have affected the story outcome or averted his death,
but they certainly affected his life—they made him the character we got
to know and care about. (Or, depending, dislike but maybe
understand.) One could make the same argument about the Mass Effects and
Dragon Ages of the world, but given that The Walking Dead was a
character study as much as it was an adventure, the fact that our
decisions affected Lee's character is more central to the game's meaning
as a whole. Game critic Sparky Clarkson has effectively encapsulated
why player choice mattered in a post over at his blog awesomely titled
"Your choices don't matter." Rather, the choices do matter, he says, but
"they don't matter in the way that they appear to."
don't change the world, or alter the fundamental flow of the story. He
can do nothing to keep the drugstore safe, preserve the motel
stronghold, or prevent the treacheries in Savannah. If those are the
kinds of choices that "matter", then Lee's decisions don't. But
decisions that mattered in that way wouldn't really fit the themes of
The Walking Dead. It's not a world where a man ultimately has any real
power to save anyone.
But the choices in The Walking Dead aren't
really about changing the world, they're about changing Lee. The
player's choices define who Lee is, whose company he values, what
principles he chooses to uphold. The world reacts to those decisions, in
subtle ways that either reinforce those decisions (for instance, in the
developing friendship with Kenny) or play off them (as in the case of
Duck's fate). The player's choices matter because they establish a
context for his emotional connection, through Lee, to the game world
Most players are used to a "choice" moment, i.e. "PRESS X TO THIS,
PRESS Y TO THAT". Since they never saw that anywhere in the bar, a lot
of players didn't know they had the option to leave. [BEYOND: TWO SOULS]
are also used to the outcomes of choices being obvious. Someone dying,
someone leaving, someone lying, etc. Subtlety and nuance are not things
that games are implementing left and right. When something as low-key as
a buried phobia rearing it's head hours later in the game is a
consequence, it's understandable for it to go over a lot of heads.
Adventure game like Beyond that does away with standard HUD elements
just doesn't look like it's as advanced as it is. Players are most
likely to assume what they are seeing is a pre-determined part of the
game, and not results of actions they have taken or not taken. A more
immersive and natural storytelling system also makes the game seem less
interactive. Quite the double-edged sword.
It's very easy
to miss dozens of important interactions if you don't explore the
environment. Because you don't see everything on an overlay, you have to
search around to see what can be toyed with. Sometimes, you simply
don't expect things to be of any importance.
So the game's
better form of discovery also comes with the chance of unintentionally
leaving things behind. Yet another double-edged sword.
§THE UNFINISHED SWAN
The wife he chooses is a wife he creates in his own image, a
woman who is “a female version of himself,” and who the King loves
dearly. The woman created is a combination of two Greek myths:
Narcissus, falling in love with his own reflection, and Pygmalion and
Galatea, about an artist who falls in love with a statue he has created,
and which subsequently comes to life. The intersection between these
two myths leads to thematic intertwining between the narratives. It is
one of the clearest cases where creation and love, as in the Pygmalion
myth, are tied to self-creation and self-love, as in the Narcissus
story. It is as if the King cannot distinguish between them, and the
interrelation between these concepts becomes a running theme throughout
the game. /.../ The King’s struggle to manifest the perfect self through
his creations reflects the dissonance between his two selves. He
constantly has his designs fail, he is left by his wife and mirror-self,
and eventually he is faced with the possibility that he won’t have a
legacy at all; he muses at the end of the game that all his works that
“were meant to last forever… would crumble into dust. Or be painted over
by someone who would come after [him].” /.../ ... he finally finds
contentment in who he is rather than who he would like to be. It is in
this spirit that he is able to at last give up creative control,
bequeathing his magic paintbrush to his son, Monroe.
than attempting to prevent outside influence, external support is
necessary for Monroe to advance. /.../ This difference in attitude is
crucial, and reflects the different mentalities of the characters. Where
the King holds up an ideal and strives to achieve it, inevitably
falling short, Monroe feels “pretty unfinished himself” and must make
sense of his new reality, both in terms of the white world he finds
himself in and the recent loss of his mother. He must become a
creator in order to create himself, while the King approached it in the
other direction, trying to create himself by becoming a creator.
every repeated character or item seen throughout the game can be found
in a mundane form in or around the Princess’s house. /.../
noticed an interesting detail when examining the chandelier itself.
When you look closely, three distinct figures can be seen across the
wood patterning. The one in the middle is clearly female, and she’s
pointedly turning her attention toward the figure to her left while the
other simply watches. When the chandelier breaks, there’s a specific
break in this image as well — the female figure and her chosen companion
on one side, and the onlooker alone on the other.
We are quick to use ‘death of the author’ arguments because of the cultural history behind it, and so why not at least consider the death of the player?
Can’t we still be taken through experiences without our every whim thought of and satisfied?
Playing in public in itself is a political act, especially in hard times.
I’ve started walking more in videogames because I was irritated by the way I felt compelled to run.
Make three lists numbering one through 20. In one column, write down 20
legendary, meaningful, culturally significant novels capable of standing
the test of time. In the second, do the same for film. I expect that
your third column, in which you’d write 20 games capable of doing the
same, cannot be completed.
/.../Vice City is, after just a few years,
a messy, clunky thing, because what it did has been done better by its
sequels. Forgetting its cool setting and story -- I don’t think I’ll be
remembering Tommy Vercetti on my deathbed, anyway -- GTA 5 has negated
the need to ever play Vice City again. Rockstar Games made its own
history irrelevant by giving us access to something better. It will do
it again in five years. These are the building blocks of a brand, and
not something with any historical value. What other medium seeks out its
In truth, video games have no timeless masterpieces. There will
come a day, sooner than we think, when no one will play Wind Waker. Or
Chrono Trigger. Or Super Metroid. No one but curators and historians.
And eventually, not even them. Tetris will not last, nor will Super
Mario Bros. In a few years, who will be willing to survive fungal
zombies for 15 hours just to reach the emotional climax of The Last of
Us? For a medium so dependent on its players’ engagement, on their
sustained attention, the question is not simply whether old games can
technically be played, but will they? I think we sense this. And we want
to protect our games while we can. We long to declare masterpieces
and preserve them for the future because we are afraid: that one day,
the game that meant so much to us will no longer have a player. Or even a
legend to remember it by.
We'll accept innovations, even a radical one like Ocarina of Time's
shift to 3D, so long as they add depth to the skills we already know.
Sequels that interrupt the iterative continuity of the series, often
end up as a footnote. At best, they accumulate, like Zelda II: The
Adventure of Link, a kind of dark horse mystique.
the recurring mythos that underlies their respective stories, Ocarina of
Time and Wind Waker are not separate games, but the same game extended
in slightly different directions.
§THE STANLEY PARABLE
I am irrevocably grafted to his story, like hanging on to driftwood
out at sea. He floats on without any regard for my splinters. Can I
really be blamed for burning it all down? And though I am released from
my porcelain casting, I am evoked to serve in this nightmare patriarchy.
Which is why I need you; only the living can make choices.
Stanley’s always been dead.
How they wish to destroy one another. How they wish to control one
another. How they both wish to be free. Can you see? Can you see how
much they need one another? Playing a game forges a relationship between
player and designer and the experience of play is a conversation
What struck me about this single page of Sam’s Diary in Gone Home is that it’s an exception to a rule
— not part of a consistent fabric of showing the player what kind of
thing they can and can’t do. It’s the only time Katie refuses to execute
an action; the rest of the time, as Merritt points out, she acts like a
camera, your lens into the world.
Home is played using Katie, a real character. There is much talk of
player agency, but I don’t think there’s ever enough talk of character
agency. My point is this: Katie might pick up the various things she
finds, but she wouldn’t throw them across the floor the way the game
allowed me to.
Gone Home is too dressed up as a horror to justify comments that it proves forthright tales about teen romance, about lesbian relationships, about nostalgia and broken families, can be made at this scale and succeed. I wonder, even now, if it would have succeeded without tricking the player into playing it as a horror game. The most cynical part of me wonders if it was made into a horror because Fullbright figured it wouldn’t sell otherwise.
The beauty of the Dark Souls narrative form is the eloquence with which it drops nuggets and hints, and invites the player to want to explore and resolve these mysteries. But truthfully, it only really belongs to Gone Home’s peripheral characters. Sam and Lonnie’s narrative form is little different than BioShock’s, with a voice in your ear clearly explaining everything you need to know at each story beat, leaving little mystery on their part for the player to unlock. It naturally dissects itself to form two not-quite-related parts: the plainly told teen romance, and everyone else’s Dark Souls. Which, I think, could offer an interesting reading of the broken state of the family, but I’ll leave that for another day.
One woman told me that when she plays as a male character, her teammates listen to her, and take her more seriously.
Participants who wore sexualized avatars internalized the avatar’s appearance and self-
objectified, reporting more body-related thoughts than those wearing nonsexualized avatars. Participants
who saw their own faces, particularly on sexualized avatars, expressed more rape myth acceptance than
those in other conditions. Implications for both online and offline consequences of using sexualized avatars are discussed.
Games media is constantly trying to legitimise the hobby it’s built on: to prove that games can be every bit as valid as movies and art and novels. But for some reason, rather than celebrating titles that claw at the boundaries of what is accepted, the media’s first response when presented with something difficult is to turn its nose up in disgust and claim that it’s damaging the medium.
In the end, we are left afraid not due to simple emotional response but because of the game’s implications. Adrenaline wears off. Ideas attach themselves to our mind and stay with us. That may be a more truthful execution of horror.
As you design, repeat this mantra to yourself: "I will have no keycard doors in my game." No feeding fertilizer or poison to giant plants. Check yourself before adding puzzles about inserting crystals, gems, or figurines into some ornate locking mechanism. Reconsider any puzzle involving a four-digit number sequence, found elsewhere, that opens a lock.
Do not employ sliding block puzzles. Ever. That includes sliding statues! No!
Earlier today, I had a peculiar reaction to the footage of The Evil
Within that oozed through the clogged pipes of the interweb from the
Eurogamer Expo and directly onto my screen. As Craig pointed out, the
spinny-blade room is so daft that it’s immediately rendered
non-threatening. Finding such a machine in a mental institution raises
logistical questions rather than the hairs on the back of my neck.
Horror art nowadays tends to stick to clichés, to familiar genre markers.
A review of a few of the latest horror games makes this clear, almost
painfully so. That said, part of the appeal of the genre, to some
people, is its predictability. Horror orbits around a few central themes
because they are apparently important to our culture.
Ultimately, I noticed a strange ambiguity concerning the themes of creation and destruction in Bastion right from the beginning; the player is told the Calamity has everything destroyed, yet this is the beginning of a story, Furthermore, the setting is falling apart except for where the kid steps, where the path is actually being created before him.
Art is a relational proposition, one of habitus and contingency in relation to the structuring roles of economy and power. I think the better question to ask is “what do games do?”
Maybe drawing the utopia out can be done through the process of making.
Games like Howling Dogs and Kentucky Route Zero are the material embodiment of this positive impulse. These games would not exist without the blood and horror that is the AAA games industry. They have to exist in stark contrast with it – but at the same time they draw out the utopian, feminist, trans, queer, anarchist ghostly utopia in them