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...]

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...]