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…]

Ludus Linguarum (This Is (Not) a Game)

It is a dis­cus­sion that crops up from time to time: what is a game? This would be a fairly aca­demic defin­i­tion ques­tion, were it not that it finds a much larger battle­ground mostly out­side aca­demia, where con­sumers and critics of video games are the par­ti­cipants. The direct cata­lyst for the most recent iter­a­tion of this dis­cus­sion was the release two days ago of Pro­teus, a game developed by Ed Key and David Kanaga. This work, as I briefly explained in my piece on Noctis, is all about free explor­a­tion of an island and its flora and fauna, about building a soundtrack by moving around. It is lim­ited in its inter­activity com­pared to many other video games, and this has sparked the dis­cus­sion on whether or not Key and Kanaga are right to refer to Pro­teus as a game. […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…]