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Tuesday, Jan 14, 2014
Telltale Games has very much set themselves up as a television network as much as a developer. So, why not take a few additional hints from TV?

Often after recording the Moving Pixels podcast, we stick around to chat about whatever crosses our minds until we realize we have somewhere else to be. After recording a recent podcast episode, I mentioned to fellow contributor Nick Dinicola that I bought the first season of Telltale’s The Walking Dead for a friend and that we were playing it though together. He makes all of the decisions, and I hold the controller inputting everything. Seeing it all play out again and knowing how the plot is going to play out made me realize that it is a more tightly constructed and thematically rich work than I previously thought.


Somewhere online is this great semi-tongue-in-cheek infographic of the life cycle of a television series. It shows each season in terms of its general vibe and its number of quality episodes. Basically, the show starts off weak as it finds its footing, peaks around season three or four, and then begins a slow decline as the show runs out of ideas and descends into navel-gazing and self-parody. Telltale has very much set themselves up as a television network as much as a developer. Their episodic adventure series are marketed as seasons and now they are gearing up to release multiple properties alongside the American broadcast schedule: spring and fall.


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Tuesday, Jan 7, 2014
Shadowrun Returns makes allowances for the video game medium, but it knows that it is a tabletop game at heart.

Over the holiday break, after getting a number of year end obligation out of the way and spending way too much money on Steam sale gifts, I started to get into my gaming backlog. One of the games that I finally got around to playing was Shadowrun Returns. I didn’t know much about the Shadowrun universe or the game itself. Last year when it was originally Kickstarted, I thought about donating but eventually decided to keep my investment to—at the time—two games. Ironic that it came out long before either of the others have seen the light of day.


I knew the basic set up and lore of the universe. In the cyberpunk future, some sort of magical calamity intrudes on the real world and mutates humans into elves, orcs, dwarfs etc. and introduces magic into the world alongside cybertech. That’s pretty much it. I knew nothing about the actual system of the tabletop role-playing system and only briefly tried out the Super Nintendo game on an emulator. All I knew about the game itself was its lukewarm reception at launch. And since I was mining for Steam Trading Cards for the Steam Sale, why not play it a little? Several hours later, I realized I should probably go to bed.


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Tuesday, Dec 17, 2013
Kentucky Route Zero creates non-Euclidean spaces that cannot exist, not as an expression of the possibilities of video game space when unshackled by the constraints of the real world, but as an outright rejection of the common standard of video game spaces.

The Platonic Ideal is a concept that suggests that all things that exist are imperfect representations of some true perfect, ethereal concept. In The Republic, Plato expounds upon his particular take on metaphysics in a way categorically designed to make one go cross-eyed. The main thrust of it is that what we see and interact with in the real world are mere shades of what is really there. Any chair that you see is not really a chair, but a reflection of the Platonic Ideal of “chairness.” The ideal presupposes the material. As a thought experiment and in meeting Plato’s larger goal of getting people to doubt what they know and truly learn, it’s great. However, as a metaphysical idea unto itself, it breaks down.


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Thursday, Dec 12, 2013
Indie games like Rain have all the hallmarks of the video game as an artistic experience, and Brad Galloway of GameCritics has been kind enough to sum up what I have realized I have been thinking about games of this sort with a single word "critic-bait."

A few weeks ago, I struggled writing a review for Rain, the PSN indie title from SCE Japan Studio. If you don’t remember it, well, that seems to be the general consensus. For all the joy at seeing it at E3 in contrast to the usual violence and sex tossed our way by mainstream publishers, its actual arrival was very muted and quickly forgotten. I don’t know how well it did commercially, but I can’t think that it was an overwhelming success like other games have been in its position. Smaller downloadable titles require a constant feed of conversation and interest after release to get some standing and be a success.


It’s the absence of that conversation that I find interesting. It seems like the type of game that would grab the critics’ attention at the very least if not the general public. I figured my own lukewarm appraisal of the game might be an outlier. After a glance around, I find that, no, I’m pretty much in line with everyone else. The scores may be different, but the general opinion about it is the same. Thankfully another reviewer, Brad Galloway of GameCritics was kind enough to sum up what I had realized I had been thinking with a single word “critic-bait.”


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Tuesday, Nov 26, 2013
Somewhere at the crossroads of memory and storytelling lies truth, and truth can reshape reality.

This post contains spoilers for Memoria.


Fascinating titles are a rarity in the arts. They are difficult to come up with that aren’t merely descriptive or a ploy of marketing the book like so many are, but have actual thematic meaning connected to the work. With video games, it’s even rarer, where the rule of cool reigns and little effort or thought is expended on what is viewed as the utilitarian expedience of recognition. I don’t have to explain the phenomena of the ever present colon placed between the franchise name and whatever subtitle the marketing department has decided to attach, nor the prevalence of the “re” words—redemption, revelations, retribution, reckoning, and, of course, reboot.


It’s an understandable joy when I come across a title that causes me to look it up. Memoria could have been just a made up fantasy word, but given that the game centers around storytelling and memory, it’s easy to see how memoria could be used as a title. In fact, memoria is the Latin word for memory, but like most Latin words, it requires more than a simple one word translation.


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