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by Eric Swain

8 Sep 2015

In my last post, I explored our views, as humans, about artificial intelligence and our contradictions in holding those views. I made mention of the three main players of the game The Fall, all machines, and the ways in which they emulate humans. We have made machines in our own image to one degree or another, and the game seems to be itself a representation of our fear of the machines owning that emulation of ourselves. Instead of following our orders and having their choices and identity dictated by our control, the machines move beyond their simple base parameters and try to become their own beings.

I’d argue that only ARID, the protagonist of The Fall, succeeds in attaining such consciousness by accepting the most human trait of all, self contradiction. But even in the limited emulations of humanity of the System Administrator and the Caretaker, there is still insight about what they see in us: what an intelligence, alien to our own, sees and thinks of human behavior through what they mimic in us and how they mimic it.

by Eric Swain

11 Aug 2015

The Fall is about an AI on a mission to save her pilot, a pilot who is currently not responding after falling from space. I should note that I used the feminine pronoun to describe the AI because it is voiced in the game by a woman. It, of course, is a machine and has no gender other than that which we ascribe to it through our own conceptual understanding of gender. We see a figure, witness a behavior, or hear a voice and categorize what we perceive according to our understanding and experience, regardless if that categorization is correct.

I only bring this up because it is the easiest example of our own behavior towards others that I can point out. We self reflectively conceptualize others all the time and in multitudinous ways. For the most part, this skill serves us well in converting the billions upon billions of bits of constant data being taken in by our senses into a manageable, actionable understanding of our world around us. On the other hand, this behavior fails us when confronted with something alien to our understanding of the world and our response defies rational explanation—in other words, when we encounter something alien, like the artificial intelligence of a machine.

by Eric Swain

14 Jul 2015

Last week on the Moving Pixels podcast, I said that I would check out the second episode of The Detail. While I wasn’t wild about the first episode, the game had peaked enough of my interest to warrant peeking in a second time to see whether or not it sorted itself out in the second episode. It was trying to hold itself up to a rather high standard, even if it didn’t seem like it quite had the chops behind it to reach that standard. Still, I would love to see The Detail even make some small strides towards that lofty goal.

Well, since recording the podcast, I have given the second episode, “From the Ashes”, its due. In its wake, I find myself feeling much the same as I did at the end of the first episode. I’m not wild about it, but I am willing to give it one more episode to see if it manages to become something better than it presently is and something closer to what it actually wants to be.

by Eric Swain

7 Jul 2015

Image of Go from

I’ve been spending some time away from video games as of late. It’s not a sabbatical or even something that I planned to do. It’s just that for a while now, I’ve had this growing itch that I needed to scratch. I go through phases of what catches my interest. Sometimes it’s a TV show, sometimes it’s classic cinema, or a book, whatever. At the moment, despite a lot of great games that I’ve been wanting to play coming out, video games haven’t been quite doing it for me.

I’ve missed Magic. You know, the world renowned trading card game. For a long time, almost a decade, I was an avid player of it. Then around my second year of college I stopped playing, partially because it was becoming financially prohibitive, but mostly because at college Magic tournaments were rarer. Still those times have a special place in my heart even all these years later.

by Eric Swain

12 May 2015

The common refrain is that video games are played for their challenge. For a long time feeling the sense of accomplishment from beating a game is why many players would say that they played video games and that creating a challenge for the player is a game’s purpose. This is, of course, not true, and challenge should only be included when it is useful for the game’s own goals and what experience that it wishes to craft. Adventure games, for example, don’t test the reflexes or a player’s management skills, as other genres that might typically be seen as challenging do. What is challenge in an adventure game?

Typically, it is arriving at that “aha” moment. Reaching that moment requires the act of applying non-traditional keys to non-traditional doors. It may be attempting to apply an item to the environment or trying to give another character an item and receiving something in return. The challenge is in solving logic puzzles, most of which come in the form of environmental riddles. Traditionally, the problem with this approach to challenge has been in trying to balance these puzzles, both in terms of making them difficult enough to deliver that “aha” moment and also in not creating puzzles that are absurd enough to stall the player or make the player quit the game entirely.

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