The Cube Escape games are series of free puzzle games on iOS and Android. I downloaded them all at the same time (because, free), but after getting through the first one, I wanted to delete the rest immediately. Instead, I played a few more of the games, just to see if the puzzle design might improve. After all, maybe that first game was awkward and bad because it was actually someone’s first game. Turns out, they don’t get better, and I kind of hate them all. Yet I kept playing. Eventually I broke down… and played the rest with a walkthrough open beside me. I wasn’t going to try and solve these shitty puzzles on my own. I was just going to get through the games as fast as possible. Because even though I kind of hated them, I was also hooked on them.
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I’m used to inhabiting the skin of others. I’ve been elves, dwarves, massive bro-dudes, and young girls. I’ve captained spaceships, maintained small cottages, and poked around a college dorm room. Games have always given me opportunities to live the stories of others, to be someone I’m not. For many of us, this is one of the biggest reasons we play games. Lately, though, I’ve been trying to reconcile the uncomfortable politics of being someone else.
When I was 11 or 12 years old, my older brother pulled my sister and I out of school to attend a political protest. It was a pivotal moment in developing my political self. The protest was against California Proposition 187, which would severely limit access to public services to undocumented immigrants. This included restrictions on access to healthcare and public education to children. I can’t say I was an expert on immigration at such a young age, but some of my family members were undocumented. I knew it felt wrong.
Following up on our discussions of Amnesia: The Dark Descent and Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs, we are now discussing the slow burn sci fi horror of Soma.
Soma considers philosophical questions concerning the relationship between the body and the mind, a topic we dive into head first this week.
Dungeons & Dragons might be its low tech form, but video games have not strayed far from the formula of getting some friends together, killing some monsters, and collecting loot. From Gauntlet to Diablo to Torchlight, the hack and slash game is an experience both social and individualistic, steeped ironically in both greed and co-operation.
Last week, I wrote that Amnesia: The Dark Descent undercut its psychological horror by tying that horror to game mechanics. If we assume this to be true, then the obvious solution would be to make a game without those mechanics. Don’t tie the horror to any kind of system that can be exploited by the player, thus ensuring the horror stays above any possible gamification. In that case, Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs should be the perfect sequel, as it does exactly that. Developed by The Chinese Room (the makers of Dear Esther and Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture), A Machine for Pigs removes most of the survival mechanics that made The Dark Descent famous in favor of a game more focused on narrative and theme. I appreciate the new direction, and I think it’s a step in the right direction for evoking and maintaining horror. However, it’s also a risky direction since it puts all the weight of success on the story. The entire game will be judged on the success of that one facet, and unfortunately in this case, the story can’t support the weight of its own themes.
What begins as a fascinating mixture of Lovecraftian horror and economic anxiety eventually grows too big for its own good. The story oversteps its bounds in search of its themes, and then, just to fully shoot itself in the foot, puts the blame for all of its horror at the feet of one man. What was once a Lovecraftian nightmare is reduced to a madman’s plot for revenge.
// Moving Pixels
"The Cube Escape games are awful puzzle games, but they're an addicting descent into madness.READ the article