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…]