In the second and third parts of The Charnel House Trilogy, the screen effectively gets black bars at the top and bottom of the screen. The effect conforms the field of view to match that of the train car by highlighting the length of the place and it’s enclosed nature. In doing so, the game creates a portal by which we look at the action through, highlighting how everything is framed as a performance to whomever is looking through that portal. Which is true of any game, really.
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Action is most often the word that one expects to hear when talking about console games released by big publishers.
Square Enix’s effort to release a game focused on investigation rather than on gunplay resulted in what is generally considered a failure, the ghost detective game Murdered: Soul Suspect. This week we consider what went right and went wrong in the resulting product.
Much has been written about silent protagonists in games, and whether or not their silence really aids in our immersion. However, regardless of what you think of them, they almost always share a certain important personality trait. They’re followers. From Gordon Freeman to Link to the amnesiac hero of Bioshock, the silent protagonist is one who takes orders. They’re told what to do and how to do it. This makes perfect sense. If we can’t talk, we certainly can’t give orders, so we may as well be the one taking them instead.
Battlefield 4 breaks this mold, giving us a silent protagonist that others often turn to for advice. It’s awkward, bizarre, and unintentionally funny, but also kind of fascinating when you try to piece together what exactly makes it so awkward and bizarre and unintentionally funny.
Last week here on PopMatters, Scott Juster compared playing Bloodborne to exercising. He’s right. Playing the game can feel like a gradual and painful investment towards self-improvement. But what of the social elements of Bloodborne? How do the in-game and meta social interactions surrounding the game contribute to the experience of play? To me, Bloodborne is a lot like walking on flaming hot coals.
It sounds strange, but hear me out. Firewalking and and playing Bloodborne really are quite similar, and not just because both sound excruciatingly painful. If you want to compare the two, you can pretty easily create your own firewalking experience at home. First create a small bonfire, traditionally made of hardwood. After a few hours, rake the coals into a rectangular bed of about eight or so feet in length if you’re looking to take a short stroll or upwards of twenty feet for a longer jaunt. Now step onto the coals and walk as briskly as possible without losing your dignity.
Mark Danielski’s novel House of Leaves is a horror story that begins with one of the novel’s protagonists, Will Navidson, discovering that his house is slightly larger on the inside than it is on the outside. This off putting detail, a bending of the laws of the physical universe, signals that which provokes fear, that which we can’t know or fully understand. As the novel’s story expands, of course, so too does the interior of the house, leading to a seemingly endless labyrinth that is undetectable from the outside of Navidson’s home, a space that defies the rules governing architecture and thus what we understand about spatial laws and mathematics.
Of course, the clever thing about the novel is that its title, which alludes only in part to Navidson’s house, is also a description of the thing held in its readers’ hands. The physical space of a book is defined by an architecture of its own. A book is two walls wrapped around a series of leaves (“leaves” being the term that bibliographers use to describe the front and backside of a page within a book), a house of leaves of a different sort. A book, then, metaphorically parallels Navidson’s house. Its interior (since it contains a whole world, its characters, its objects, etc.) is indeed “larger on the inside than it is on the outside.”