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Friday, Oct 4, 2013
The Crooked Man is a dark and sad tale that avoids easy sentimentality. Its horror stems from relatable, real life fears.

It’s Indie Horror Month once again here at Moving Pixels! Last year I dedicated October to highlighting “clever, unique, and most importantly scary independent horror game[s] that might otherwise slip under your radar.” That crop of games included The 4th Wall, Paranormal, Home, and Lone Survivor (it’s worth mentioning that Paranormal recently became available on Steam Early Access, so now it’s much easier to get a hold of). This year I’m back with even more esoteric horror games, starting with a translation of a Japanese RPG Maker-made game.


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Friday, Sep 27, 2013
On a formal level, there are always a plethora of logical issues with gameplay and story because you start deconstructing the abstract shortcuts that all storytelling requires. You start deconstructing your own suspension of disbelief.

Games are often criticized when their gameplay doesn’t reinforce the themes of or characters in their story. This interplay between systems and stories is what fascinates me most about games, but even I have to admit that it’s a rather odd criticism when you think about it. I’m not really criticizing the story: not the narrative, the themes, or the presentation of such, nor the pacing, the dialogue, or character development. I’m also not really criticizing the gameplay: not the controls, the difficulty, the balancing, nor the entertainment value. Instead, I’m criticizing how all those things interact with each other. It’s not really a criticism of art or craft but of form, a meta quality that seeks to judge how well a video game is at being a video game (and which—unfortunately—can lead to distracting discussions about the definition of “video game”).


Here, at this formal level, when we start dissecting the meta elements of a game we risk descending into an endless spiral of cynical deconstruction. At this level, there are always a plethora of logical issues with gameplay and story because at this level you start deconstructing the abstract shortcuts that all storytelling requires. You start deconstructing your own suspension of disbelief, and no medium can survive that.


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Friday, Sep 20, 2013
Joel and Ellie bond in battle, when they have a common enemy, but they naturally conflict with each other so much that it's unlikely their relationship can survive the peace.

Joel and Ellie of the The Last of Us each experience some unusual character arcs despite the fact that neither of them change that much over the course of the game. Who they are at the end of the game is very similar to who they are at the beginning. They do a lot, a lot happens to them, and their attitudes toward each other change dramatically, but even the most significant events produce only minor changes in their defining characteristics and worldviews. This is not a bad thing. People don’t change easily, and the final conversation of the game is a great piece of writing because it shows two characters struggling with that fact.


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Friday, Sep 13, 2013
On their journey, Joel and Ellie meet three sets of friendly people, and they all also represent the past, present, and future of Joel and Ellie.

The Last of Us is structured around the seasons: summer, fall, winter, and spring. Each season gets its own chapter, and each season has its own mini story arc. But if we pull back some, the game is clearly split into two distinct narrative arcs, one comprised of summer and fall, the other comprised of winter and spring. For this post, I’m mainly interested in the summer and fall arc, in which The Last of Us plays out like a travelogue. On their journey, Joel and Ellie meet three sets of friendly people: the loner Bill, the brothers Henry and Sam, and the leader of a peaceful community Tommy. These three sets of characters pull double-duty when it comes to theme and character development. They all give different responses to the thematic question, “How do you keep living when the world is dead?,” and they all also represent the past, present, and future of Joel and Ellie.


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Friday, Sep 6, 2013
Throughout the game we kill countless other people without realizing it because we’re incapable of truly knowing another’s thoughts. In the The Swapper our ignorant assumptions lead to mass murder.

This post contains spoilers for The Swapper.


The Swapper is a puzzle game about clones that uses its mechanics to fuel a story that explores the psychological and societal ramifications of cloning. It compares and contrasts these ramifications with two very different societies: human society and a society of psychically linked alien rocks.


Continuing with the thoughts from my previous post, Theseus is a mining station in deep space, cut off from earth, and that separation is painful. As individuals, we still rely on large groups for survival. Our individuality does not make us self-sufficient.


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