Some brief notes on hunting in
Dragon Age: Inquisition

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Having recent­ly fin­ished Dra­gon Age: Inqui­si­tion — the main story­line and pretty much all of the sin­gle pla­yer side­quests, that is — some as­pects of the game’s ap­proach to hun­ting ani­mals and beasts keep stick­ing in the back of my mind. I’ll try to dis­en­tan­gle them here, brief­ly. […Read more…]

Letting Go

A per­sonal piece about waking dreams, mys­ti­cism, and verti­cality in Scandina­vian theatre and video­games. I dis­cuss Henrik Ibsen’s The Master Builder and When We Dead Awaken, next to a spe­cial level from Nifflas’ Knytt Stories. […Read more…]

Ontological Geek Podcast: Episode 3 — Moral Bodies (+ Bonus)

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After a hiatus, we’re back with Onto­lo­gical Geek pod­casts again. This time, Aaron Gotzon and I had former editor-in-chief Bill Coberly and Amsel von Spreck­elsen as guests, and our main topic was bodies as a locus of mor­ality in games, par­tic­u­larly sec­tions where con­trol in taken away from bodies and they are des­troyed in a spec­tacle, which at the same time is the out­come of a moral judg­ment, such as at the end of a duel, like in Mortal Kombat’s ‘finish hem/her’ sec­tions. Besides that, we talk about Darren Korb’s music in Bas­tion and Tran­sistor, and a variety of other games. […Read more…]

When My Ship Comes In

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I had been wanting to write some­thing about Cameron Kun­zel­man’s little game On August 11, A Ship Sailed Into Port for some time now, but recently I sat down to do it and it turned into a vague tex­tual and audio­visual medi­tation on death, choices, and get­ting by. It’s a bit of a loose, experi­mental column, but maybe you’ll enjoy it. Please do check out Kun­zel­man’s game, as it takes only five minutes, and if you’ve never seen Werner Herzog’s Nos­feratu before, here’s your chance to see some scenes. […Read more…]

On Norbert Wiener’s ‘God & Golem, Inc.’

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While reading Annalee Newitz’ intriguing blog post on io9 about the his­tory of the word cyber, I came across the name Norbert Wiener (not Weiner — get it straight, you Eng­lishers) who had intro­duced the term Cyber­netics as “the study of con­trol and com­mu­nic­a­tion in machines and living beings”. His other works include the book God and Golem, Inc.: A Com­ment on Cer­tain Points Where Cyber­netics Impinges on Reli­gion, and that title imme­di­ately caught my eye. Studies of the inter­ac­tion between sci­ence, tech­no­logy, and reli­gion always interest me a lot, as do Golems and Jewish folk­lore, so Wiener had sold it to me easily. […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…]

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…]

No Control: on The Wasp Factory

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Few novels com­pelled me as much to imme­diate­ly write my thoughts down as The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks. Usu­ally I enjoy novels a lot while reading them (or not), but quick­ly dive into a new one after­wards. In this case, I felt the need to spend some words on it be­fore moving on. I’m pretty sure this means that the book has some sort of cla­rity and com­pact­ness of style that brings across its messa­ges very dir­ectly. I sure wasn’t the only one rea­ding The Wasp Factory this month. Banks passed away after a battle with cancer on June 9th, and a num­ber of my online friends and ac­quain­tances made a grab towards his debut novel, like I did. […Read more…]

Sanctifying Games

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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. […Read more…]

Living Through Our Errors

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It’s been a while since I wrote any­thing ser­ious about lit­er­ature, but recently I was reminded of an essay I wrote in 2008, about the ques­tion of author­ship in the cyber­punk works of Kenji Sir­atori. I never did any­thing with the piece at the time, but felt it was inter­esting enough to brush it up and give it another chance. In short, I ques­tion how we should apply the “death of the author” as pro­claimed by Roland Barthes to lit­er­ature that pro­vokes strong ques­tions about the nature of its own author. […Read more…]