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Wednesday, Aug 27, 2014
The idea of a video game character that suffers a general decline seems counter to the way in which games are designed. Who wants to get less capable as a character as they progress?

This post contains spoilers for Spec Ops: The Line


Defined in the broadest sense, traditionally comedies are narratives that resolve in a positive way. They are expected to result in a happy ending. The tragedy, however, is a lesson taught via witnessing the ultimate demise of an individual, a demise brought about through steadily declining circumstances. Within this broad context, modern video games could be associated more easily with comedy than they could be with tragedy.


Pac-Man (and maybe all early arcade games) is a tragedy of sorts. It is a “story” about a creature obsessed with consuming dots that will inevitably reach a bad end, since the game cannot be won, cannot be resolved. Modern video games are seldom like Pac-Man, concerned as they are with winning the game and resolving a narrative arc that represents that goal of games, “winning.” Indeed, perhaps games in general, when they take on the trappings of plot, character development, and other aspects of storytelling, are always prone towards comedy because the goal of games in general is to win. A happy outcome (for someone at least) is generally expected in games.


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Wednesday, Aug 20, 2014
If the player of a building game like Clockwork Empires is intended to help build a world in the game itself, shouldn't that player be able to take part in the process of building Clockwork Empires itself?

For the low, low price of 30 bucks, you can play test Clockwork Empires for Gaslamp Games. Or, at least, that’s what it feels like to me when an individual plunks down his or her money for most games labeled “Early Access” on Steam.


My perspective may be a bit retrograde in the post-Minecraft gaming landscape. I’m informed by the old school idea that playtesting is a paid position in a game development company, given that it isn’t necessarily a pleasure to play buggy and unfinished products. Playtesting is a part of the creation of a game, necessary to a video game as copyediting is to a novel. And while I have playtested in an unpaid capacity before, as a beta tester, still I never paid anything for the privilege. After all, it seems a bit like a job.


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Wednesday, Aug 13, 2014
The unusual quality of Leisure Suit Larry exists in the unconventional role reversal of the male as pursuer in favor of the female as the one necessary to complete a game's quest.

As a comedy (and not an especially sophisticated one at that), the Leisure Suit Larry series has always traded on stereotypes. The focus of most of the 1980s era point-and-and click adventure games is on Larry Laffer and his quest to get laid. In most instances, the games have a standard formula. Larry attempts to bed several women, all of whom are typically stereotypical gold diggers, before he finally finds his one “true love” (and since this is banal sex farce “true love,” of course, really simply means “good sex” or at the very least “decent sex”).


For Larry Laffer, the narrow definition of sex always contains a simplistic understanding that sex is a commodity. In Leisure Suit Larry 3: Passionate Patti in Pursuit of the Pulsating Pectorals, Larry will, as usual, attempt to bed at least three women before meeting his dream girl, Passionate Patti. These sexual encounters will end in miserable failure, of course, but they will also be defined by the idea that sex for a loser like Larry will need to be purchased. In the case of this game, Larry initiates sexual encounters by giving a girl a credit card, another is given a deed to some land that he owns, and another is aided in figuring out how to market her exercise video by Larry’s economic advice that “sex sells.” Sex is always for sale in this context, but, also, of course, the boundaries of the point-and-click adventure make the idea of trading objects for sexual experience the only reasonable course of action within this genre. After all, the classic point-and-click adventure is always reduced to solving puzzles by figuring out how to use objects on other objects in order to progress in the game. That the objects of Larry’s affection must be cajoled by yet more objects is unsurprising to say the least (and also unsurprising in a narrative genre in which men and women are most often reduced to objects that represent an idea of what men and women are, rather than in attempting to create realistic imaginings of actual people).


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Wednesday, Aug 6, 2014
Travel in and the exploration of the game world in Sepulchre is neither linear, nor multilinear. It is nonlinear.

This discussion contains spoilers for Sepulchre, a 20 minute long free point-and-click adventure. So, feel free to download and play it at Owl Cave Games web site before reading on.


A train might seem like the worst metaphor possible for a video game. We are often reminded (or at least often hope) that what makes video games different from other artistic mediums, like novels, films, or music, is their ability to tell a different kind of story. We talk a great deal about player choice, divergent paths as a result, and the possibilities of a multilinear experience. Quite the opposite of a train (or most novels, films, and music), the video game affords the opportunity for branching paths and different resulting conclusions. Indeed, if a game is “on rails,” this usually isn’t considered a positive—at least from the perspective of narrative progression.


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Wednesday, Jul 30, 2014
Fear is strangely an experience best shared with others -- even in seemingly less than social mediums, like single player video games.

I’m not especially fond of horror as a genre. Maybe it is because horror is not often the best written genre in cinema. Maybe it’s because I really don’t enjoy viewing things that are gory.


That being said, I do find that generally horror is a highly moralistic genre (maybe the most moralistic genre), since it tends to portray good and evil in the starkest terms possible (there are typically no fine lines between ugliness and evil, for instance, in horror). I tend to find this vaguely interesting, as I am drawn to works that are concerned with morality and ethics in the philosophical sense. However, that also being said, I more often find that revenge films and even exploitation cinema are more interesting than the typical horror film in exploring these ideas (give me Quentin Tarantino over Clive Barker any day of the week).


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