Transformations

On men­tal health, the dis­cov­ery of being trans, and reclaim­ing my writerly self. […Read more…]

Back to where we began in Quake

In which I ram­ble a tiny bit about Quake’s sym­bolic world and its mom­my issues, along with a tenu­ous com­pari­son to Dark Souls. […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)

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…]

Ontological Geek Podcast Ep. 2 — Asylums

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: Arkham Asylum, Dark Souls, Out­last, Broth­ers: a Tale of Two Sons, and To the Moon. […Read more…]

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…]

The Possibilities of Horror in Games

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

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…]

The (Im)possibilities of Communication

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. […Read more…]