Back to where we began in Quake

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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)

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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…]

Ontological Geek Podcast Ep. 2 — Asylums

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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)

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[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

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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…]

The (Im)possibilities of Communication

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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…]

The Iterations of Punxsutawney Phil

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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. […Read more…]