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by Eric Swain

26 Nov 2013

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.

by Eric Swain

20 Nov 2013

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.

by Eric Swain

12 Nov 2013

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.

by Eric Swain

5 Nov 2013

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.

by Eric Swain

29 Oct 2013

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.

//Mixed media

The Hills Are Alive, But Nobody Else Is in 'The Happiness of the Katakuris'

// Short Ends and Leader

"Happiness of the Katakuris is one of Takashi Miike's oddest movies, and that's saying something.

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