Latest Blog Posts

by Boen Wang

3 May 2016


My palms were soaked when I faced Hyper Light Drifter‘s final boss for the fourth or fifth time. I kept sending my player character—an unnamed, gender-ambiguous cloaked figure known only as the Drifter—to his/her death. The boss was similarly unnamed; it looked both synthetic and organic, emerging from a sickly pink core and emitting a robotic scream. I threw bombs. I blasted it with my shotgun. I reflected bullets with the slice of my sword. But no matter how many health packs I carried or how skillfully I dodged its attacks, I would die and retry and die again.

I’m certainly not the first person to observe that Hyper Light Drifter is a difficult game. On the game’s release date, John Walker of Rock Paper Shotgun wrote that the game’s first boss was so difficult that he had basically given up: “I know, I know very well, that others will breeze through it and be snarky and entirely without empathy for others who aren’t them, But there goes my time with Hyper Light Drifter, a completely gorgeous game I was utterly loving. It apparently doesn’t want me to play it any more” (“Impressions: Hyper Light Drifter”, Rock Paper Shotgun, 31 March 2016). Walker amended his review a week later when he realized that the player could tackle the bosses in any order, but his original point still stands. Where do we draw the line between challenging and punishing, and should games accommodate players who find an experience to be too difficult?

by G. Christopher Williams

2 May 2016


Firewatch was developed by game development veterans associated with Telltale’s The Walking Dead and with the popular indie Mark of the Ninja. Set in Shoshone National Park in 1989, it tells the story of a newly recruited fire lookout named Henry, a man looking to escape from his recent past.

This week we discuss Henry and his experiences in this lonely role alongside the growing intimacy he develops with another lookout, a woman named Delilah. We consider the beautiful world that Campo Santo has built for Henry to explore and the way that the game explores human relationships through Henry’s experiences within that world.

by Nick Dinicola

29 Apr 2016


SUPERHOTLine Miami is exactly what it sounds like. Like Hotline Miami it is a bloody and brutal shooter played from a top-down view, and like SUPERHOT, one in which time only moves when you move.

The mash-up work brilliantly. It’s amazing how effective these two systems work together, which further proves the versatility of both shooting as a central mechanic and slow-motion as a central mechanic. Shooting has already proven itself, given the number and types of shooters out there, but slow motion, even though it has proven itself a memorable part of games like Max Payne, has never really caught on for some reason.

by Jorge Albor

28 Apr 2016


Persona 3 (Atlus, 2006)

I recently had the incredibly privilege of visiting Japan, a place I’ve been wanting to visit since Big Bird went to Japan in his 1989 Sesame Street special. Besides bringing back an amazing roll of Yokai Watch toilet paper, I also returned with a renewed appreciation for the “Japanese-ness” of some games. Walking around parts of Tokyo felt strangely familiar, in large part due to numerous anime and video games that make their way to the West.

In Tokyo, I had a special appreciation for the little cultural quirks that I might have seen before in something like, say, the Persona series. There is a sort of pleasurable recognition in seeing high school students in big club groups, for example. I even enjoyed the way that power lines in some residential areas seemed familiar. Visiting Japan was a confirmation that the experiences that I’ve had in games have—at least to some extent—created a real sense of place within a culturally defined space.

by Kym Buchanan

27 Apr 2016


The Last of Us: Left Behind (Sony Computer Entertainment, 2016)

I’m looking for more video games that tell small stories. Many games tell big stories, in which players defeat ultimate evils and save worlds. I enjoy such games, but I also crave games with challenges and stakes more like my real life. There can be distinctly different forms of angst, thrills, and beauty in the adventures of the everyday.

I want more diversity in the menu because I enjoy variety in my gaming diet. Furthermore, there’s significant worth in stories that explore humble stakes. Stories can be containers for storing and sharing values in interesting and memorable ways. Story-rich games can be especially powerful vehicles for exploring and promoting values because they’re interactive and foster experimentation. However, the stories and thus the value-choices in most current games are far removed from my own experiences.

//Mixed media
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