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…]

Memory Insufficient: Language and Games

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Recently, I had the honour of being guest editor on Memory Insuf­fi­cient, the games his­tory ezine. I edited the spe­cial issue on Lan­guage and Games. You can read the edit­orial from the issue below, but really you should just go and down­load the whole issue here [pdf], because it’s free. […Read more…]

Some brief notes on hunting in
Dragon Age: Inquisition

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Having recent­ly fin­ished Dra­gon Age: Inqui­si­tion — the main story­line and pretty much all of the sin­gle pla­yer side­quests, that is — some as­pects of the game’s ap­proach to hun­ting ani­mals and beasts keep stick­ing in the back of my mind. I’ll try to dis­en­tan­gle them here, brief­ly. […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…]

A Chaotic Gift (for Chris Bateman)

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Dear Chris, You have recently returned from paternity leave, and have wit­nessed the birth of your second son, on which again my con­grat­u­la­tions! As you wrote on your own blog, you’d like nothing more from your readers as a gift than an open letter, so who am I to refuse? After I fin­ished reading the final draft ver­sion of your upcoming book, Chaos Ethics, some­where last year, I wrote to you in an email that I thought it would be an inter­esting idea to start a letter series on the topic of Chaos, in the broadest sense. It is not some­thing you touch upon extens­ively in your book—understandably so, since it is about ethics first and foremost—but knowing you slightly, I sus­pect you will have some addi­tional things to say on the concept. […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…]

The Xenophobic Face of the Netherlands

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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…]

On Norbert Wiener’s ‘God & Golem, Inc.’

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While reading Annalee Newitz’ intriguing blog post on io9 about the his­tory of the word cyber, I came across the name Norbert Wiener (not Weiner — get it straight, you Eng­lishers) who had intro­duced the term Cyber­netics as “the study of con­trol and com­mu­nic­a­tion in machines and living beings”. His other works include the book God and Golem, Inc.: A Com­ment on Cer­tain Points Where Cyber­netics Impinges on Reli­gion, and that title imme­di­ately caught my eye. Studies of the inter­ac­tion between sci­ence, tech­no­logy, and reli­gion always interest me a lot, as do Golems and Jewish folk­lore, so Wiener had sold it to me easily. […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…]

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

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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…]