Sanctifying Games

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Death, Digital Media & Videogames, Magic, Mythology, Religion

This April was a reli­gion-themed month over at video­game blog The Onto­lo­gical Geek. I wrote the final arti­cle in the series, and mused a little on how con­cepts of reli­gion, God, and par­ticu­larly The Holy, can be in­cor­po­rated into video­games. For per­haps ob­vious rea­sons, it’s easy for games to tackle and re­pre­sent the more mun­dane sides of reli­gion and faith, but they seem to struggle some­what when it comes to mat­ters more tran­scen­dent. In “Sanc­ti­fying Games”, I try to ex­plore why that might be.

Ludus Linguarum (This Is (Not) a Game)

Posted 10 CommentsPosted in Digital Media & Videogames, Languages & Linguistics, Social Interaction & Networks

It is a dis­cus­sion that crops up from time to time: what is a game? This would be a fairly aca­demic defin­i­tion ques­tion, were it not that it finds a much lar­ger battle­ground mostly out­side aca­demia, where con­sumers and crit­ics of video games are the par­ti­cipants.

The dir­ect cata­lyst for the most recent iter­a­tion of this dis­cus­sion was the release two days ago of Pro­teus, a game developed by Ed Key and David Kanaga. This work, as I briefly explained in my piece on Noc­tis, is all about free explor­a­tion of an island and its flora and fauna, about build­ing a soundtrack by mov­ing around. It is lim­ited in its inter­activ­ity com­pared to many other video games, and this has sparked the dis­cus­sion on whether or not Key and Kanaga are right to refer to Pro­teus as a game.

Kentucky Route Zero: Act One

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Digital Media & Videogames, Dreams, Magic, Mystery

There’s some­thing to be said for the idea that art can find ex­pres­sion in any medium. For Jake Elli­ott and Tamas Kemen­czy of Card­board Com­puter, their medium is the strange blend of audio, video, text, and inter­action of digital games. As their earlier game Ruins showed, the stu­dio has a pen­chant for the poetic and the dream­like, and you’ll find those ele­ments in spades in their latest (and current­ly on­going) work Ken­tucky Route Zero. It’s an adven­ture game in five parts — the first re­leased in Decem­ber 2012, with later instal­ments to fol­low this year.

The (Im)possibilities of Communication

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Digital Media & Videogames, Languages & Linguistics, Psychology, Social Interaction & Networks

Communi­cation is the weird­est thing. It just kinda works, unless it doesn’t. In prac­tice, it works not because the connec­tion be­tween thought, in­tention, and lan­guage is per­fect. It isn’t. It works be­cause we usu­ally share large parts of our world­view and know­ledge with the people we’re spea­king with, and because our minds are really good at fil­ling in con­cep­tual gaps wherever we see them. In cases where there are minor hitches in communi­cation, we’re also very good at pre­tending there aren’t any. We ig­nore them, or we aren’t even aware that some­one else might not under­stand exactly what we’re say­ing in the same way that we do.

The Iterations of Punxsutawney Phil

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Death, Digital Media & Videogames, Film, Gender & Sexuality, Memory, Posts by Topic:, Psychology, Social Interaction & Networks, War, Violence & Terrorism

Remem­ber Ground­hog Day? It’s that 1993 film about Bill Murray’s char­acter, Phil, who keeps reliv­ing the same day, Feb­ru­ary 2nd, in the Penn­sylvania town of Punx­sutawney, where on that day, the ground­hog Punx­sutawney Phil will pre­dict when win­ter’s going to end. […] It’s an awful lot like the way we tend to play video games these days. Faced with chal­lenges in a game, we have the quick­save and quick­load but­tons close at hand, ready to revert to an earlier point in the game to try again. If you get to replay a sec­tion of a story over and over again, any chal­lenge inher­ent in the ori­ginal situ­ation quickly morphs into a mat­ter of trial and error. Like Phil in Ground­hog Day, we get to try out every inter­action, every conver­sation option the world allows us. More im­por­tantly, in a typ­ical collap­sing together of char­acter and player, Phil – like us – retains (meta)­knowledge of every­thing he did earlier.

What It’s Like to Play Planescape: Torment

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Death, Digital Media & Videogames, Mythology, Psychology, Travel & Exploration

Video­games can some­times be a very arcane medium, and it can often be dif­fi­cult to com­pre­hend what they’re all about for people who never or sel­dom play them. Of course enter­tain­ment is often the main ‘use’ of a video game, but many of them have elab­or­ate themes and stor­ies, and the way in which video games deliver those nar­rat­ives and themes is often unique to the medium. Today my own piece on Plan­es­cape: Tor­ment was pub­lished, and I try to explain how the game uses explor­a­tion and con­ver­sa­tion to allow you to recon­struct the prot­ag­on­ist’s tor­tured past.

Walking The Path

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Death, Digital Media & Videogames, Folklore, Gender & Sexuality, Memory, Psychology, War, Violence & Terrorism

Through the years I’ve had so many reas­ons to ignore her, always telling me where I could and couldn’t go… – I was follow­ing a pretty bird, and I got lost. I wanted to go for a walk by the lake. I wanted to pick some flowers that only grow in the forest. I was secretly meet­ing a boy. I wanted to check out the creepy grave­yard. I needed to get away for a while. Be­sides, the real reason she doesn’t want me to stray is be­cause she doesn’t want me to grow up and make my own de­cisions and not listen to her all the time. That’s why I went off the path and into the for­est. It’s made me who I am.

Noctis: The Loneliness of Night

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Astronomy, Digital Media & Videogames, Travel & Exploration, Visual Art

If there is one thing astro­nomy has taught us, it is the rea­li­sation that a planet like Earth, with its abun­dance of life, is incre­dibly rare in the vast­ness of the uni­verse. We do know that there are bil­lions of gala­xies each contai­ning bil­lions of stars, so it is pro­bable that life is to be found some­where else in space; yet we are lonely all the same. We could - in a man­ner of speak­ing - travel for an eter­nity in any direc­tion without encoun­tering any sign of life. That over­whelm­ing sense of lone­li­ness on a cos­mic scale is what strikes me the most while play­ing Noc­tis.

FATALE & the History of Salomé

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Death, Digital Media & Videogames, Gender & Sexuality, Poetry & Prose, Religion, Visual Art

This is the third time I’m wri­ting about a digi­tal work by Fle­mish duo Tale of Tales, and that alone says some­thing about the capa­city of their releases to in­spire dis­cussion. I star­ted with the peace­ful MMO The End­less Forest, and also did a short bit on The Grave­yard. Conti­nuing the chrono­logical trend would leave The Path as my next sub­ject - argu­ably their best and most game-like work - but writ­ing about that fasci­nating psycho­logical hor­ror piece still seems rather daun­ting. Instead, I’m stick­ing to the slightly more manage­able FATALE and explo­ring a bit of what it has to say about the fig­ure of Salomé and how she’s been treated through­out his­tory.