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Friday, Mar 14, 2014
Part of what makes a great game great is how well it fosters its own illusion.

A couple of weeks ago, Jorge Albor wrote about how horror drives The Wolf Among Us:

The Wolf Among Us [changes] the significance of player decisions… Decisions seem less meaningful in Smoke & Mirrors because none of them lead out of the macabre world deepened in The Wolf Among Us. The result is a strange play experience: not particularly interesting mechanically and certainly not fun, but nevertheless unique and entrancing. (The Horror of ‘The Wolf Among Us: Smoke & Mirrors”, PopMatters, 27 Feburary 2014

I had a similar sense of lessened interaction upon finishing the game. Decisions did seem less meaningful, and like Jorge, I didn’t find that to be a bad thing. The Wolf Among Us is a stellar example of the illusion of interactivity done right. It proves that my specific interactions with a game are not as important as the illusion those interactions facilitate. Put another way, it’s not about how many buttons I press but about what I think each button means.

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Friday, Mar 7, 2014
At first, I thought Garret was just an asshole, but now I think he's just an addict. I’d like to help him, but all I can do is enable him.

As with almost all stories about thieves, Thief begins with a job that goes wrong. Your thief pal Erin dies, and the game’s protagonist Garret goes missing for a year. When he wakes up, he has no memories of that intervening time, but he doesn’t seem to care. He gets back to work almost immediately, taking jobs from his fence friend Basso. In this way, Garret is the antagonist of his own story. The mystery of his missing year is the initial driving force of the plot, but Garret is so uninterested in it that even expository cut scenes don’t provide much information or answers. This makes him a frustrating protagonist, but not a cruel one. That comes later.

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Friday, Feb 28, 2014
Since a game is interactive, it requires so much more effort on our part to progress through it that we can’t detach ourselves from the experience to enjoy it ironically.

I thought Killzone: Shadowfall had a really dumb story, easily one of worst of any game that I’ve ever played. Yet I can’t bring myself to take the disc out of my console. It calls to me, it begs to be played again, and I find myself drawn to it because of its badness, not in an academic way, but in an ironic appreciation of it—a so-bad-it’s-good kind of way. This strikes me as weird because bad games are hard to like, even ironically. That so-bad-it’s-good moniker doesn’t usually apply to games.

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Friday, Feb 21, 2014
Shadowfall rewrites established plot points so often that it feels like it’s being made up as it goes along by an eight-year-old with way too many toys.

Killzone: Shadowfall flirts with some interesting ideas during its first two minutes, but then it turns into a story so poorly written that it has to be a purposeful parody of stupid shooter stories or else a meta commentary on how prejudice causes one to forget the past.

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Friday, Feb 14, 2014
Montague’s Mount has no faith in its audience -- and no faith in itself.

Some time ago, Leigh Alexander wrote an article for Edge about how “less is more” when it comes to storytelling and evoking emotional responses in games (“When it comes to storytelling and getting emotional responses from games sometimes less is more”, Edge Online, 14 October 2013).

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