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

[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 > Giraud γ > Orbit of Giraud γ 3 > Wreck­age of Sigil, or­bital torus space sta­tion File: Ano­nymous jour­nal entry, text­ual, untitled, dated 2321/12/16 Descrip­tion: This log entry, re­trieved during the sal­vage of Sigil station in 2456, appears to be an assess­ment of a par­ticular type of inter­active expe­rience avail­able to users of the station at the time through use of holo­communi­cation trans­mitters. Rem­nants of the soft­ware which is referred to in the entry have been found in the data logs of Sigil station, and various other stations through­out the galaxy; see > T. Beach Proj­ector. […Read more…]

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

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

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

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…]

Living Through Our Errors

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…]