Shooting a gun in a game is a simple action. You aim a cursor at a target and press a button to pull the virtual trigger. It’s a simple action, but when you look at a standard controller and all the buttons used for shooting, the action quickly gets complicated. Suddenly there’s a button for looking down the sights of the gun, for reloading the gun, for crouching, for switching guns, for activating a secondary function of the gun. Then, there’s all the complexities not linked to a button: knowing when to reload, how fast each gun reloads, how recoil affects your aim, that looking down the sights improves accuracy, that crouching improves accuracy, that moving decreases accuracy, that running prevents you from shooting, etc., etc. Seen this way, the modern shooter is actually a damned complicated beast.
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A few years ago I wrote an essay about nudity and near nudity in the design of various video game characters, both male and female, and what that signified about those characters’ vulnerabilities and strengths. I briefly touched on the very minimal clothing (essentially, a loin cloth) of the protagonist of the God of War series, saying that Kratos’s “near nudity makes him less than vulnerable. His physique communicates power and masculinity. The appearance of a desirable masculine trait, perfect musculature, makes him clearly stronger [than he would seem if he were clothed], not weaker” (“Boys Get Naked Better Than Girls”, PopMatters, 23 June 2011).
The first time that I played Tharsis, a 10 turn disaster management space sim, I lost the game by turn two. It took me over a dozen games to finally win this brief, but difficult roguelike.
In Tharsis, you are tasked with directing the actions of four astronauts attempting to survive a 10 week trip to Mars. On each of the game’s ten turns, bad things happen in various modules of a spacecraft and the ship’s crew basically needs to do its best to attempt to put out these fires, while, of course, more and more fires erupt each and every turn. Like I said, this is a disaster management sim played out in a brutally short time frame.
I’m looking for more video games that explore ambiguity in their realities and representation. This may seem like a counter-intuitive ambition in a medium in which artists frequently strive for photorealism. Yet beyond recreation, I want more games that challenge and thus grow my imagination. Let me explain.
The greatest worth of video games—as a human endeavor—may be their potential to nurture our imaginations. This is a familiar argument but different proponents seem to assert different things. Let’s first examine a popular version of the argument, and then unpack a second version that may be more interesting.
We’re a tad late to the station when it comes to the hype train that is Undertale.
But this week we discuss the game that every indie fan was talking about last year. It’s one part whimsy, mixed with one part social commentary, mixed with even more whimsy, and to top it off a zany sense of humor and a bucket full of self awareness.
// Channel Surfing
"In another stand-alone episode, there's a lot of teen drama and some surprises, but not much potential.READ the article