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by G. Christopher Williams

9 Jun 2010


Like you, I had heard about the “Dastardly” Achievement, and I thought that it was all kinds of clever. I mean, even the name of the achievement is great.

Of course, how I heard it (several times mind you) was that you unlocked an achievement for tying up a woman in Red Dead Redemption and placing her on railroad tracks.

Horrible? Sure. Over the top? It is Rockstar we’re talking about here.

by G. Christopher Williams

2 Jun 2010


My thinking on slow starters began with Deadly Premonition.  A student had recommended the game to me because he thought that I would be interested in its metafictive qualities—more specifically the oddly schizophrenic qualities of its protagonist (”But Who Am I?: Schizophrenia as a Metaphor for the Player-Character Relationship”, PopMatters, 12 May 2010). 

What I didn’t realize is how awful the experience that I was about to have would initially be.  The opening hour of Deadly Premonition is absolutely awful, introducing the player to the worst zombie killing simulation ever.  Indeed, the game in general has lousy graphics, terrible combat, and some really poor design choices in terms of game mechanics.  However, it is now probably my favorite gaming experience so far this year.

by G. Christopher Williams

26 May 2010


In the future, the ‘60s never happened. Or at least, that’s what we are led to believe in the alternate history of Bethesda’s Fallout 3. While set in a post-apocalyptic America in the 23rd century following the events of a devastating war in the 21st century, curiously most of the post-war artifacts of Fallout 3 look and sound an awful lot like the artifacts of a post-World War II America, as if American culture somehow became frozen in time around 1959 and maintained a seemingly cheery and idyllic image of the ‘40s and ‘50s up until that great disaster.

Of course, this notion of creating a static image of post-World War II America is not exclusive to the Fallout universe. The underwater city of Rapture in 2K’s Bioshock literally finds its progress halted on New Year’s Eve 1959, and the similar images of a ruined society juxtaposed against the relics of a culture of the ‘40s and ‘50s also make up the bulk of 2K’s game.

by G. Christopher Williams

19 May 2010


Like most gamers, I have been thinking an awful lot about the switch. I think that usually such thoughts are characterized by questions like, “How do I get to the switch?” or more irritatingly, “Where’s the damn switch?” However, what I have been pondering is a more fundamental (and maybe less obvious) question, “Why do I always want to flip the switch?”

A lot of gamers complain about the overuse of the switch in games. It is a kind of cheap way of turning an action game into an adventure game. Finding the switch, figuring out what it does, and using it effectively is a way of adding a puzzle-like element to games that otherwise seem to merely be celebrations of violence and combat. Tomb Raider, in particular, seems to have made the switch a central element of gameplay, at least as important to that game as the combat, if not more.

by G. Christopher Williams

12 May 2010


Amnesia is an oft used (and overused) trope of video game narrative.  Certainly, one can understand the allure of introducing a character unfamiliar with the world and himself as the basis for an avatar for the player just loading up a video game.  This state is more or less the state of the player, and, thus, introducing the player to the world and the character that he will be inhabiting over the course of the game makes practical sense.  It is about as similarly useful as the old chestnut in fantasy literature of introducing main characters from another world into a fantasy landscape (a la Narnia) or the country bumpkin into the larger fantasy world (The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings), which likewise allows the reader to be introduced alongside such inexperienced characters to the workings of an unfamiliar world.

While Access Games’s Deadly Premonition falls back on this idea of the player being familiarized with a world through an “outsider” to that world (in this case, a reversal of the usual “country bumpkin” model, as Francis York Morgan is an experienced, urban dwelling FBI agent who finds himself on assignment in the weird world of small town America), it suggests a much more interesting way of defining the relationship between the player and this character in another way.  Rather than creating a parallel between the amnesiac and the newbie player, the schizophrenic becomes the metaphor in Deadly Premonition for the relationship between the player and the character.  That metaphor is a fairly compelling one.

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