Call for Music Writers... Rock, Indie, Urban, Electronic, Americana, Metal, World and More

 
Bookmark and Share
Text:AAA
Wednesday, Nov 20, 2013
Anachrony is a big part of Beyond: Two Souls and the primary reason why the game doesn't quite work.

This post contains spoilers for Beyond: Two Souls.


In the process of writing my Beyond: Two Souls review, I learned a new word: anachrony. It means the discrepancy between the chronological order of events and how a story presents those events to us. Pulp Fiction is the go to example for most people with regards to this concept, although most works of modernist literature and early epics like The Odyssey also qualify. I was really happy when I found out about this word because it is a big part of Beyond: Two Souls and the primary reason why the game doesn’t quite work.


At the end of the game, there’s a throwaway line that explains why you spent the last 10 or so hours experiencing Jodie’s life out of order. The whole game is a flashback in which Jodie is trying to remember how she got where she is, a barrier between worlds. Everything is jumbled. She calls it a chaos of images. It is the game’s attempt at being profound, but all it ends up being is a narrative excuse rather than a structure of artistic merit. David Cage wants his games to be art, but more importantly, he wants you to know that he wants his games to be art.


Bookmark and Share
Text:AAA
Tuesday, Nov 12, 2013
Video games always have trouble with pacing. While they focus on their game loops and crafting the right level of challenge, it might be nice for both the characterization and the pacing of the work to leave that behind briefly. Allow the player to enter a different space with different rules from the rest of the game, just maybe not these kinds of spaces.

Let’s get the obvious out of the way first. The gigolo missions in Killer is Dead are awkward, offensive to me as a man and sexist towards women. The idea that simply staring at a woman’s cleavage when she’s not looking is a way to seduce her is ridiculous. And not the good kind of ridiculous. Add on top of that the minimalist exchange of gifts for services rendered presentation of sexual relations, while at least honest in how video games portray sex, is a tired rendition of commodity style sexual politics.


But leaving the content of the side missions aside, I find them an interesting diversion from the main action. Killer is Dead is an action game, a spectacle fighter style brawler. You fight waves of enemies through the game’s levels before encountering the boss. They may not be difficult, at least until you reach the bosses, but these battles require a lot of concentration and cause more than a little tension for the player. Getting hit causes your blood pressure to rise, and getting killed, whether or not you have a Mika ticket, causes an anguished yell of frustration. Everything in the game is so frantically paced. Then, you are offered a side mission with soothing music and a lot of waiting around.


Bookmark and Share
Text:AAA
Tuesday, Nov 5, 2013
A master director can tell a whole story through properly framed and shot images alone. The camera in video games lends the medium the same ability. Designers just have to know how to use it to their own ends.

Cinematic video game is somewhat of a misnomer in video game parlance. It refers to a style of game like that seen in Uncharted, The Last of Us, or any other similarly constructed game in which the intent is to have a sense of presence be evoked by the game, making the player feel like they are participating in the action of a movie. But these games don’t really take advantage of the techniques or ability of that medium.


The basic unit of film is the shot. Where the camera is in the relation the set, the actors, and the action is paramount, not only as a way to deliver its content, but as the artistic soul of the medium. All experimentation and technique is fundamentally about manipulating either the camera or the image in front of the camera. Video games don’t have that ability. They give the player the power over the camera because the player needs that control so he can see what he’s doing. Given that action in video games is not predetermined on a moment by moment basis like film there needs to be that leeway.


Bookmark and Share
Text:AAA
Tuesday, Oct 29, 2013
Much of Crimson Butterfly's tension and horror emerges from the most unexpected place, the way that we interface with the game and its controls.

The horror genre is in part built upon the notion of upending expectations. It’s similar to comedy in that regard. The end goal and therefore methods for achieving it, of course, being somewhat different. In comedy, the interest of the artist is in subverting expectations and changing directions at the last moment. In horror, the interest lies in twisting and prolonging expectations, all the way to their breaking points.


At a more fundamental level, the mediums in which a particular work is a part of have different methods for conveying meaning. One of the less acknowledged forms in games is the feel of play. Video games in particular are tactile in nature due to a constant connection to the controller or other input device that connects the player to the game. It is important both how it feels for the player to input commands as it is to how it feels to receive a response in moment to moment interactions. However, due to the nature of the interactive cycle, there is a limit to how much you can upend the expectations of input and output.


Bookmark and Share
Text:AAA
Tuesday, Oct 22, 2013
Most horror games work based on the premise of the protagonist being helpless. We aren't the victim in this scenario. I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream instead puts the player in a position of power as the perpetrator of horrific events.

This post contains spoilers for I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream.


I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream has been re-released on Good Old Games and Steam, so go check it out if you haven’t already. The writer of the game and the original short story, Harlan Ellison, didn’t think much of video games, but regardless wanted to make a work in the only medium that he hadn’t yet tried his hand at. In doing so he wanted to explore mature, controversial themes like guilt, rape, and the Holocaust. Few games since have really dealt with these as themes as themes. They may be included in them as a historical detail or plot point, but with most games, the focus is never directly on these concerns.


That alone sets I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream apart from everything else. The game also brings another issue to the forefront of my mind. We toss around the term “horror game” rather liberally as a genre, but we don’t often stop and consider what we mean by the “horror” in “horror game.” As a genre we attribute the title to anything we might find that attempts to be scary, but that isn’t what horror means. Often what we mean in context is “terror”—a strong feeling of fear, a cause of anxiety. Whereas ‘horror’  is an intense dislike, an abhorrence or painful feeling of repugnance. We mean the term as a description of how the work makes us feel, yet we use a word that describes the work itself.


Now on PopMatters
PM Picks
Announcements

© 1999-2014 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters.com™ and PopMatters™ are trademarks
of PopMatters Media, Inc.

PopMatters is wholly independently owned and operated.