Ontological Geek Podcast Ep. 2 — Asylums

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Vincent van Gogh – Corridor in the Asylum (1899) On the second Ontological Geek podcast episode, Aaron and I are joined by Amsel von Spreckelsen and Rowan Noel Stokvis to discuss the portrayal of mental health asylums in videogames, as well as some other related topics. Among the games discussed are Amnesia: the Dark Descent, the Thief games, Batman: [...Read more...]

Ontological Geek Podcast Ep. 1

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With my fellow writer at The Ontological Geek, Aaron Gotzon, I’ve been working on setting up a regular podcast dedicated to games, with a particular focus on music and drama in games. Our first episode went up last month, and we’re aiming to make the podcast a regular feature. The first episode focuses on the music of composer Chris Christodoulou, specifically his soundtrack for the game Risk of Rain. We also discuss the musical trope generally known as the ‘one woman wail’ and deliberate a bit about where it came from and how it works. [...Read more...]

A Guest Beyond the Final Frontier

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For The Ontological Geek, I wrote a short piece on different ways games can represent space exploration. I take a look at Star Control 2, MirrorMoon EP, Noctis, and Space Engine, and try to explain why the last two make me feel most at ease. [...Read more...]

Sound, Space, and Play: an interview with Jessica Curry

Early art for ‘Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture’
© The Chinese Room

I recently interviewed composer Jessica Curry of videogame studio The Chinese Room about her music, its relation to (virtual) spaces, and her current work on the upcoming game Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture. Check out the interview over at Evening of Light. [...Read more...]

Future Nostalgia (A Fictional Review of ‘Bientôt l’été’)

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[From a friend who wishes to remain anonymous, I received the original version of the message below, which was picked up using radio observation of signals from outer space. For the reader’s convenience, I have rendered it in contemporary English, rather than the early modern English in which it was written.] Archive: Desbaresdes belt [...Read more...]

The Possibilities of Horror in Games

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My latest blog post on games is my third for The Ontological Geek, and my first as a regular contributor to that fine collective. In it, I explore some of the ways in which games can tap into the tools and trappings of the horror genre. I use the theory of art horror as posited by Noël Carroll and discuss how games can evoke fear and disgust in players, not just by using monsters, but also light, darkness, and spaces. The article is part of a series of articles on horror in games, and connects to many other recent and older writings on the genre, so there’s a lot to read. [...Read more...]

Time for a Story (On ‘Papers, Please’ and ‘Gone Home’)

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Two recent indie release (Papers, Please and Gone Home) inspired me enough to pen a little article last week. Today the piece found a home on The Ontological Geek. In the article, I explore how Papers, Please simulates the way in which bureaucracies can force us to treat people like cattle, like numbers, like items on a list. Through insidious systems the player — inhabiting the mind of a border official — is forced to spend as little time on immigrants as possible, while still following all the rules imposed by your government. I contrast this to the experience of Gone Home, where we can take all the time we want to dig into the personal lives of an American family, and experience their touching stories. [...Read more...]

Islands & Worlds

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Not one, but two new articles by my hand were published today in the fourth issue of Five out of Ten, a lovely mag that pays its writers according to a very honest model: the writers split the revenue evenly. The first article is a semi-close reading of three games published recently: Dear Esther, Miasmata, and Proteus. If you’re familiar with the games, you’ll realise they have a common theme, and that is that they are all set on an island. As I try to argue, there are more similarities between the games than at first appears, but interesting differences too. In the article, I try to get at what kind of places the islands in these games are, and what that means for the overall meaning and experience of the games. On the way, I cover themes like isolation (and its etymology), memory, and death. The other article contributes to the issue’s central theme: storytelling in games: how do they do it, and are they any good at it? My perspective deals with the concept of virtual worlds and spatial presence, and how that relates to story in a game, and to our experience of games in general. Long story short: I try to rehabilitate the concept world as occupying a central position in the study of games, with reference to some smarter people who’ve written great things about this subject. [...Read more...]

Hot Wet Air Trading Cards

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Steam has trading cards now, as all my gaming readers will probably know. The whole thing is a profoundly vacuous capitalist enterprise of the kind that cynics gobble up for breakfast. You can get the cardies for free just by playing your games, but that’s because they don’t have any substance apart from a database entry somewhere. Sure, games are just a bunch of bytes too, but at least some creative people have spent their browsweat designing the things, whereas the cards are just cropped bits of art from those actually usually pretty substantial games. You can’t even play with the damn things! [...Read more...]

The Future of Videogame Logging

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In an interesting self-reflectional turn, blog discussions about the nature and future of blogging have recently been reopened in certain corners of the internet. I contributed a little bit to the discussion with my earlier musing on the nature of online conversation, and Chris Bateman has summarised some of the thoughts gathered in our ‘bloot’ (blog-moot) in his wrap-up post. In short: I’m convinced that meaningful online conversation is possible, about any subject, but that it requires investment of time and attention, as well as convenient technology.What I want to focus on this time is videogame blogging in particular. This month’s theme on Blogs of the Round Table (hosted by Critical Distance) is “Blogception: What is the future of videogame blogging?”. Before I want to say something about the possible futures, we should turn to the current state of videogame of blogging. [...Read more...]