It’s October and it’s Friday, which can only mean it’s time for Indie Horror Month to begin! This year we’re starting out with another mobile game or at least a game that I played on a mobile device. It’s also available on PC, but surprisingly the mobile version is the better experience.
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If you want to play Metal Gear Solid V stealthily, you’re going to spend a lot of time in the dirt. Of course, sometimes you’ll mix it up and get up close and personal with mud, grass, or concrete, but the point is that avoiding detection requires you to emulate Snake’s animal namesake. It makes for a slow, methodical experience that forces you to pay attention to the game’s intricate mechanics and the subtleties of its open world.
I am once again teaching one of my favorite courses this semester, an upper division course that I run every couple of years called Violence in Literature and Film. Among novels like Crime & Punishment and Cormac McCarthy’s brilliant and horrific Blood Meridian and films like Old Boy and A Clockwork Orange, my students and I are also reading Shakespeare’s bloodiest and most vile play Titus Andronicus.
Since I am not a Shakespeare specialist, I was brushing up the other evening on my knowledge of the Elizabethan and Jacobean revenge tragedy by reading a number of essays including a kind of quick and dirty encyclopedic entry on the topic over at Shakespeare Online. The essay notes some of the more common and more horrific types of subject matter presented in plays written in this mode, including “cannibalism, incest, rape, and violent death” (of which Titus Andronicus includes three out of those four elements and additionally offers dismemberment, which, like most of its other elements, is intended to occur on stage, right before the audience’s eyes).
I’ve written about video games for more than 10 years. During that time, I’ve talked about sex in video games, religion in video games, representations of masculinity in video games, representations of femininity in video games, politics in video games, clothing styles in video games, economic issues in video games, morality in video games, violence in video games, self identity in video games, death in video games, reproduction in video games, but I have never written a single article about dogs in video games.
To be honest when trying to remember games in which I had encountered dogs in the past, I had a pretty difficult time. I remembered that Grand Theft Auto V featured a Rottweiler named Chop that you could hang out with if you wanted to. I didn’t get into Chop much, despite him representing a breed that I’m rather fond of. He seemed like too much of a hassle to play around with much. His mechanics and value weren’t intuitive to me, so I quickly abandoned the idea of developing a relationship between he and Franklin. I had more important matters to attend to in that game. I also remembered that another Rockstar game, Bully, had a mission in which a dog figured quite heavily, and I remembered that Fallout 3 had a dog in it, but that’s a game that I only played a small chunk of, so I don’t know that much about Rex. Beyond that, I found myself struggling to think of any other dogs in games.
With its third episode, “Chaos Theory”, Life is Strange gets stranger. Sure, this is a coming of age story that just happens to include a teenager that can time travel and has visions of an impending apocalypse, but the story so far has remained fairly focused on the difficulties of growing up and attending high school.
While that focus continues to be significant to this choice-driven, episodic point-and-click adventure, Max’s power in this episode begins to develop in new ways, opening up the game’s interest in choices and consequences on an even larger scale.