Latest Blog Posts

by Scott Juster

20 Sep 2012

The following post contains spoilers for Papo & Yo.

Video games are often criticized as being childish and obsessed with power fantasies.  It’s an understandable sentiment.  Whether it is an uninspired cartoonish aesthetic or a simplistic plot in which a 90-pound weakling becomes the master of the universe, many games come off as immature.  In games in which kids are the main characters, it’s easy to find a combination of these two tropes: shallow child characters that somehow manage to get caught up in a grand conflict in which they become the hero.  It’s a fun daydream, but not especially representative of the real challenges that youths face.

Papo & Yo got me thinking about the topic of children in games, largely because its child-protagonist has modest abilities and its story is grounded in reality.  Quico is the main character, but he’s not the world’s savior.  He makes use of unique abilities, but he is by no means invulnerable to harm nor totally in control of his situation.  Quico’s journey of personal growth serves as a metaphor for the private battles that people face every day, rather than a literal war for control of the universe.

by Jorge Albor

13 Sep 2012

Warning: The post contains spoilers for Episode 3, “Long Road Ahead”, of The Walking Dead.

Over on the massive The Walking Dead Wiki, a poll asks visitors whether they liked the three character deaths in the recently released third Episode of The Walking Dead video game. The overwhelming majority of respondents selected “No! I wasn’t given the choice of letting them live or die.” While I traditionally side with players who want to see game stories affected by their decisions, this negative response completely misses a crucial theme in the series: death and the construction of meaning are processes, not singular events.

by Scott Juster

6 Sep 2012

Pay attention to the video game scene for long enough, and you start to notice cycles.  Certain genres, art styles, and mechanics gain popularity, fade away, and then re-emerge.  We’ve all seen examples of this: fighting games, cel shading, experience point systems, etc.  More difficult to see are the cycles that happen in our own lives. Everything from personal milestones, to work schedules, and even your day-to-day mindset ebb and flow along with the video game landscape, thereby influencing the kinds of games that grab you.

This subject has been on my mind recently thanks to a renewed interest in a genre I nearly abandoned: the JRPG.

by Jorge Albor

30 Aug 2012

Unmanned begins with an immediate divide: on the left, the game’s title screen, and on the right, a man standing in an empty field, mouth agape. The latest game from Molleindustria, released earlier this year, is just as political and subversive as any of the studio’s previous work. While the game’s central metaphor may seem blunt at first, its sublety surpasses much of Molleindustria’s previous work. Self-proclaimed creators of “homeopathic remedies to the idiocy of mainstream entertainment”, Molleindustria has firmly established itself as a purveyor of critical games. While Phone Story might be their most famed work, Unmanned might be the best from the studio.

Playing Unmanned is an exercise in splitting one’s attention. The game follows Kirk, a military drone pilot over two days as he runs through the tedium of his life. In the first moments of the game, the left title screen fades to a shot of Kirk sleeping. The right, then. is his dreamscape. An arabic man chases him through a field, followed by a woman in a burqa, and a child. If players manage to avoid the family, Kirk spreads his arms and turns into a drone, just before waking. Only in dreams are the player’s points of interest isolated to just one screen.

by Scott Juster

23 Aug 2012

This post contains spoilers relating to the ending of Demon’s Souls.

A few months ago, when I thought Demon’s Souls multiplayer was going offline, I wrote up some of my experiences with the game’s unusual multiplayer elements.  I was burning through the game as quickly as possible (which wasn’t all that fast), but it looked like I wouldn’t be able to finish the game in its original form.  Naturally, only a week after my article was posted, Atlas announced that the multiplayer servers would remain active!  My grueling trek to the end would remain filled with the questionable hints, hilarious death scenes, and downright terrifying hostile PvP invasions.

Several weeks ago, after many deaths and thousands of lost souls, I finally finished the game.  Now that the initial sense of numb disbelief has worn off, I wanted to return with a few more thoughts on Demon’s Souls and its conclusion.

//Mixed media

Indie Horror Month 2016: Executing 'The Deed'

// Moving Pixels

"It's just so easy to kill someone in a video game that it's surprising when a game makes murder difficult.

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