Latest Blog Posts

by Eric Swain

22 Oct 2013

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.

by Eric Swain

15 Oct 2013

Everyone has their limit in terms of what what they can tolerate in the horror genre. There is only so long that a person can play in a world defined by horror before the atmosphere begins to wear on them. Sometimes, the “creepiness factor” is just turned up passed someone’s personal threshold. For others, it is the type of horror that tests their tolerance. For one who can’t stand the site of blood, shlocky slaughter fests are more than they can, though others may find them fairly tame or even uninteresting. For that matter, for some members of an audience the simple inclusion of spiders may be enough for a movie or game to go unfinished.

It’s odd how much power in the moment that the fictional can have over our physical being. We know what is being represented isn’t real. We know that for a fact. We are holding the controller or mouse & keyboard in our hands. We are looking at a screen with borders. The graphics, no matter how realistic, we can see isn’t like the real world. Yet, there comes a point when a person just has to stop. Their limit has been surpassed. Maybe they stop for good or merely to regain their composure. Interestingly, this is the recognition of this need is a dynamic that Amnesia: The Dark Descent adopts in its design.

by Eric Swain

8 Oct 2013

Silent Hill 2 is one of those games that has entered the gaming canon as not only one of the scariest games ever made, not only one of the best games ever made, but also with the distinction of being one of the most aesthetically resonant games ever made. This last accomplishment is quite an achievement, especially for a game released nearly a decade before a sizable amount of gamers even cared about such things.

Twelve years later, games at all levels of the industry are created with an eye towards art, the discourse surrounding games has advanced quite a bit, and the craftsmanship of virtual game design has likewise advanced. The unspoken question in light of such advances is: “Has Silent Hill 2 held up over time?” Has it held up for newcomers to the title with over a decade of expectations to contend with? Is it only a product of its time and has it therefore aged poorly?

by Eric Swain

24 Sep 2013

Given recent events in the news, I figured now was as good a time as any to try out this little app that I had downloaded on my tablet several months ago. Endgame: Syria is a newsgame (a game that seeks to portray the situation of a news story by having the player work through competing systems) created by Tomas Rawlings. The term “newsgames” was coined by academic Ian Bogost in his book of the same name. It’s an exploration of journalism at play and using the grammar of a video game to convey an understanding of complex contemporary scenarios. Probably the most famous newsgame is September 12th, which depicts a Middle Eastern marketplace filled with civilians and terrorists, and the player making choices by clicking on areas to bomb. Bomb civilians and other civilians will turn into terrorists.

It’s a simple set up with a simple point to get across. Bombs cause collateral damage, and collateral damage will create new terrorists. That is what bombs do. Endgame: Syria is trying to explain an even more complex situation. The rebel uprising in Syria against Assad’s dictatorship has a popular analog, that of the Rebel Alliance against the Evil Empire. We like to root for the underdog. Endgame: Syria is no exception. It’s firmly against the regime, but instead of presenting a righteous cause, the game instead decides instead to look at the practical aspects of the Syrian rebels trying to fight a ground war.

by Eric Swain

10 Sep 2013

One of my favorite games of last year was Crusader Kings II. I hadn’t stuck with the strategy genre and grown alongside it as it developed into the hyper-complex entities that many of these kind of games have become. Those that have stuck with the genre and made it the center of their gaming diet are the same people who crave detail and complexity. The sad consequence of this is how many are put off from even trying them, seeing instead the seemingly insurmountable wall that the learning curve of these games represents. Fellow Moving Pixels contributors shudder whenever I bring Crusader Kings II up and suggest to them that they should give it a go.

For quite a while, I myself liked the idea of strategy games—for instance, I remember the epic LAN battles of Warcraft 2 and Age of Empires that I used to engage in with friends—but when I decided to dip my toe back in the genre a few years back (Sins of a Solar Empire), I found myself rebuffed by the tutorial. I gazed into the gaping maw of the difficulty curve, and it gazed into me. Things aren’t as dramatic in 2013. There are quite a few middle ground strategy titles, games between the simplistic iOS games like Triple Town and the high end stuff like pretty much all of Paradox’s output. Coming from the indie side of the industry to fill a hole present for almost a decade in the genre are games like FTL and Frozen Synapse. But the types of things that I heard about Crusader Kings II last year weren’t the usual topics of discussion that surround a strategy game, and the unusual responses to the game convinced me to take the plunge.

//Mixed media

Terror, Dolls, Madhouses: Three for the Price of Price

// Short Ends and Leader

"Three Vincent Price projects from American International.

READ the article