Ursula K. LeGuin’s ‘The Eye of the Heron’ is an engaging novella about oppression and resistance in a new world.
In which I ramble a tiny bit about Quake’s symbolic world and its mommy issues, along with a tenuous comparison to Dark Souls.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.