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by Eric Swain

5 Mar 2014

Morning Coffee (Charles Elwonger and Jocelyn Reyes, 2014)

I sometimes wonder if it is form that dictates content or the content that dictates form. We have conventions and genres that sign post certain content and indicate whether the content of a game will meet our expectations. Computers, lasers, and space means sci-fi and all the connotations that go along with that genre. Alternatively, fantasy immediately dictates a mental image of a feudal medieval Europe with swords and sorcery. Do these tropes comes arise from the content of a fictional work or does certain content mean that we automatically shift into telling a story a certain way? It’s an eternal back and forth in all things, not just art. It could also be true of venues.

The broad variety offered by IndieCade East would be unimaginable at a trade show like E3 and is pretty much absent from a fan convention like PAX as well. Does the museum environment persuade developers to display games that would feel out of place and alienated in another setting? Or does a commitment to the games that you wouldn’t find elsewhere lead to the adoption of the museum setting in order to comfortably contextualize this particular set of avant-garde gaming options?

by Eric Swain

26 Feb 2014

A Crimson Searchlight (Black Shore Games)

Last week while describing my experience of IndieCade East, I promised that I would go over a number of the games that caught my eye and my interest at the show. Well, here it is. There were multiple places that games were on display at the event. There was the Sony sponsored section where a number of displays showed off upcoming indie offerings, those coming soon to PlayStation platforms. This is where I got to try out Towerfall: Ascension, probably the only time that I’ll get to play it against four opponents. There were also several stations to show off student project from an NYU game design course.

The entirety of my list of games, though, comes from a section called Show and Tell. This was a space that on Saturday and Sunday where developers rotated out games that they had on display every four hours. I got to check out a lot of games that I both never would have heard of otherwise or that I just normally wouldn’t have had a chance to see at all. Some were destined for consoles, some for the PC, some for mobile devices and tablets, some for the table, and others really couldn’t be played outside of a dedicated event such as IndieCade.

by Eric Swain

19 Feb 2014

Image from the official web site of IndieCade East

“Play! Where’s the magic? We have technicians… we need magicians.”
—Karl Rohnke

Over this last weekend I spent a good deal of my time at IndieCade East, a smaller scale convention focused on the art of games, on the avant garde, and on challenging the idea of what games can be instead of celebrating the stagnation of what they are. Last year I wrote an extensive three part primer on PAX East. I enjoyed my time there well enough, though I always end up feeling stifled, constrained, and in the end exhausted by it. Conversely I felt I didn’t get to spend enough time at IndieCade East. More than just the games that are represented on the “show floor,” it is almost the exact opposite of the huge public spectacle that PAX East is in every major respect.

by Eric Swain

12 Feb 2014

When we think of choices in games, the image we usually imagine is a clearly marked out situation with two or more responses represented by buttons or by on-screen options in the UI. The player then makes a choice by pressing the corresponding button or clicking on the preferred option. These choices then dictate how the plot of the game’s story will unfold. Think of the Mass Effect series in this regard or how it is wonderfully parodied in the walk and talk opening of Saints Row IV. These are generally moments different from the game’s standard style of play and need to be represented by their own system, one that is essentially separate from the rest of the game. It is as if the the characters have been brought into a sort of fugue state outside the normal game space, and in most cases, outside of the passage of time.

The Stanley Parable belongs to that collection of games based on genre minimalism that I’ve been calling the first person walker. While the game does have one click interactions that can open doors (in some cases) or push buttons (to little or no effect), most of the game is spent walking around corridors. Unlike other examples of the genre it doesn’t seek to minimalize a genre, only a certain aspect of it, by turning what was once an outside consideration into a physical aspect of the play space. What were once represented by a button appearing on the user interface now is literally represented as branching paths.

by Eric Swain

5 Feb 2014

Genres in video games are generally defined by either the predominant action that the game is built around or on some other factor that defines the experience of play. Take shooters as an example. We call them that because the player spends most of their time shooting things. Originally these games all looked similar, usually top down or side views of a gunship or other shooting platform moving on a 2D plane, but as technology improved and allowed for more options, so did the specificity of the nomenclature surrounding the genre. Shooters can now be subdivided into first person, third person, side-scrolling, light gun, twin stick, and so forth. Now why in the first two do we specify perspective over some other aspect? Side scrolling is related to level design and the term “twin stick shooter” refers to a control variation.

//Mixed media

St. Vincent, Beck, and More Heat Up Boston Calling on Memorial Day Weekend

// Notes from the Road

"With vibrant performances by artists including St. Vincent and TV on the Radio, the first half of the bi-annual Boston Calling Festival brought additional excitement to Memorial Day weekend.

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