Walking the Planes 3: Pluralities

bytopia

The third art­icle in my series Wal­king the Planes has just been pub­lished over at The Onto­logical Geek. It’s about the Plane­scape set­ting and how its em­pha­sis on diver­sity and plu­ra­lity has affec­ted me, both in dis­cover­ing the set­ting as a teen, and now­adays. I’m not really sure yet what the next epi­sode is going to be about, as I have mul­tiple half-finished ideas boun­cing around in my head. You’ll have to wait and see! […Read more…]

Walking the Planes 2: A History of the Planes in Dungeons & Dragons

A Map of the Inner Planes (1977)

This one took a bit longer to write, but finally the second art­icle in my planar series is out, in which I give an over­view of the planes in the his­tory of Dun­geons & Dragons. Next time, I’ll be diving into Plan­es­cape prop­erly for the first time. […Read more…]

Let’s Play Whale’s Voyage

Screenshot 2014-10-04 20.31.28

I’ve started a Let’s Play of the 1993 sci-fi role­playing game Whale’s Voyage over on my You­Tube channel. I’ll col­lect the epis­odes on this page. Check back soon for new instal­ments, and/or sub­scribe to my You­Tube channel to be noti­fied when the new epis­odes come online. Also, feel free to leave any com­ments here or on twitter. Hope you enjoy! […Read more…]

Walking the Planes 1: Introduction

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As prom­ised, my series about Plan­es­cape and the Planes in Dun­geons & Dragons kicked off this month. The first in­stalment is only an intro­ductory piece, in which I set out my ideas for the future of the series. Hope­fully it will whet your interest; check back here or on The Onto­logical Geek soon for the second piece! […Read more…]

A Guest Beyond the Final Frontier

space-engine

For The Onto­lo­gical Geek, I wrote a short piece on dif­ferent ways games can rep­resent space explor­a­tion. I take a look at Star Con­trol 2, Mir­ror­Moon EP, Noctis, and Space Engine, and try to explain why the last two make me feel most at ease. […Read more…]

The Xenophobic Face of the Netherlands

metro_nazis

On my way to work, early this morning, I read a news­paper art­icle that made me very angry. I sup­pose it’s a cul­min­a­tion of pent-up frus­tra­tion with what I feel is an increas­ingly openly xeno­phobic and racist cli­mate dom­in­ating Dutch public dis­course. This art­icle was the last straw that made me decide to devote a […Read more…]

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

papersplease

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

foot4

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…]

What It’s Like to Play Planescape: Torment

Video­games can some­times be a very arcane medium, and it can often be dif­fi­cult to com­pre­hend what they’re all about for people who never or seldom play them. Of course enter­tain­ment is often the main ‘use’ of a video game, but many of them have elab­orate themes and stories, and the way in which video games deliver those nar­rat­ives and themes is often unique to the medium. Today my own piece on Plan­es­cape: Tor­ment was pub­lished, and I try to explain how the game uses explor­a­tion and con­ver­sa­tion to allow you to recon­struct the protagonist’s tor­tured past. […Read more…]

Noctis: The Loneliness of Night

Beautiful constrast of sky and soil.

If there is one thing astro­nomy has taught us, it is the rea­li­sation that a planet like Earth, with its abun­dance of life, is incre­dibly rare in the vast­ness of the uni­verse. We do know that there are bil­lions of gala­xies each contai­ning bil­lions of stars, so it is pro­bable that life is to be found some­where else in space; yet we are lonely all the same. We could - in a manner of speaking - travel for an eter­nity in any direc­tion without encoun­tering any sign of life. That over­whelm­ing sense of lone­li­ness on a cosmic scale is what strikes me the most while playing Noctis. […Read more…]