I’ve killed a lot of people in video games. Mostly on purpose, sometimes accidentally. It’s usually for some greater good or for survival. It’s kill or be killed out there in these virtual worlds. Occasionally there is no greater good or even any good involved. Vengeance, anger, curiosity, boredom—these are all fine reasons to kill someone in a video game. It’s not a big deal. I’m not here to pontificate on the morality of it all, I’m more interested in the ease of it all. It’s just so easy to kill someone in a video game that it’s surprising when a game makes murder difficult.
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When people describe a story as Lovecraftian, they’re often referring to one specific theme that permeated his work: the theme of forbidden knowledge. A Lovecraftian story usually involves a character learning some secret truth that is too horrible to fully comprehend and is driven to some awful fate by the knowledge. Learning the truth is horrible, but being ignorant of the truth is equally horrible. There’s no escaping the horrors of the world.
It’s a powerful theme, but also a pretty wide-ranging theme. Most Lovecraftian stories take this idea at face value, wringing horror out of things that are supposedly unimaginable—fear of the unknown taken to the extreme. But there are more ideas to mine from this theme than the concept of confronting “unimaginable horrors.”
When I saw Don’t Breathe in theaters (which is a really good movie by the way, highly recommended), there was something wrong with the speaker on the right side of the screen. It rattled when there was a low tone, as if a screw had come loose, and the deep bass sounds shook the speaker against its supports. It wasn’t anything that really hurt the movie-going experience, but it did serve to highlight certain changes in the score.
Most of the music consisted of low drones, drawn out for such an extended period of time that I eventually ceased to notice them. They became part of the background noise, an artificial baseline for what sounds normal—a fake silence. This made the scenes of actual silence stand out, since they “sounded” impossibly quiet.
The Final Station is a game that sees horror in all forms of silence. From the literal silence of sound to the abstract silence of answers, all of its horror and suspense is built around what’s missing.
It’s not quite October, but it’s close enough. So begins another Indie Horror Month!
There’s something wonderfully meta about a game premised on exploring the deep, dark depths of the sea, that can only be found by exploring the deep, dark depths of Steam’s discount dollar game bin. Pricing itself at a measly $1.00, Reveal the Deep willingly burdens itself with low expectations, and then effortlessly swats them away. Save for the weirdly sparse main menu, this is a game that is smartly designed and polished well beyond its price point.
There are two endings to No Man’s Sky, and both are the very definition of anti-climactic. Fans that were already disappointed with the game latched onto the endings as justification for their feelings, undeniable proof that No Man’s Sky was a creative failure. But they’re wrong.
The endings certainly lack spectacle, especially the kind of destructive spectacle that defines a lot of games, but that’s the point. When you think about what kind of game No Man’s Sky is—the ideas it expresses, the things it considers important, and the things that it wants you to consider important—then these anticlimaxes become inevitable and revelatory. Together, they make a quiet yet grandiose statement about life’s relationship to the universe, expressed through the mechanics of gameplay.