Latest Blog Posts

by Nick Dinicola

18 Nov 2016


Last week, I wrote that Amnesia: The Dark Descent undercut its psychological horror by tying that horror to game mechanics. If we assume this to be true, then the obvious solution would be to make a game without those mechanics. Don’t tie the horror to any kind of system that can be exploited by the player, thus ensuring the horror stays above any possible gamification. In that case, Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs should be the perfect sequel, as it does exactly that. Developed by The Chinese Room (the makers of Dear Esther and Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture), A Machine for Pigs removes most of the survival mechanics that made The Dark Descent famous in favor of a game more focused on narrative and theme. I appreciate the new direction, and I think it’s a step in the right direction for evoking and maintaining horror. However, it’s also a risky direction since it puts all the weight of success on the story. The entire game will be judged on the success of that one facet, and unfortunately in this case, the story can’t support the weight of its own themes.

What begins as a fascinating mixture of Lovecraftian horror and economic anxiety eventually grows too big for its own good. The story oversteps its bounds in search of its themes, and then, just to fully shoot itself in the foot, puts the blame for all of its horror at the feet of one man. What was once a Lovecraftian nightmare is reduced to a madman’s plot for revenge.

by Nick Dinicola

11 Nov 2016


Amnesia: The Dark Descent is still a good horror game. Playing it for the first time six years after its initial release, it does feel a little dated, and it certainly doesn’t live up to it’s reputation as a horror masterpiece. However, it still largely succeeds in what it sets out to do. Even by today’s standards it’s an ambitious game, evoking psychological horror through a Lovecraftian story and mechanics of insanity, while also evoking physical horror through the threat of otherworldly monsters and limited survival resources. It wants to make you fear for your life and fear for your soul. It succeeds on both fronts, but ironically those success actually undermine the game as a whole.

by Nick Dinicola

28 Oct 2016


The Cat Lady was an excellent horror game that explored depression and suicide in a way that was nuanced, thoughtful, and scary. It used its supernatural violence to evoke suicidal thoughts in players (“It’s no big deal if I’m just going to be resurrected anyways”), while at the same time arguing against suicide as a means of coping or revenge. The climax had us playing as a woman who had already successfully killed herself, trying to talk a friend out of doing the same thing. The game argued for the importance of life, even as it wallowed in the darker sides of living, showing off a world full of pain, sadness, suffering, loss, grotesque people, and inexplicable violence. Life is full of evil, and we can’t handle it by ourselves. However, The Cat Lady seems to say that we can help each other through it.

I bring up the The Cat Lady for multiple reasons. For one, it’s kind of a spin off of Downfall. The latter game was the first one from developer Harvester Games, but the former was their first one on Steam. This year, Downfall was remade and released on Steam as well. It stars Joe and Ivy Davis, who live in the same apartment complex as Susan Ashworth of The Cat Lady.

by Nick Dinicola

21 Oct 2016


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.

by Nick Dinicola

14 Oct 2016


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.”

//Mixed media
//Blogs

'Knee Deep' Has a Great Setting That Ruins the Game

// Moving Pixels

"Knee Deep's elaborate stage isn't meant to convey a sense of spatial reality, it's really just a mechanism for cool scene transitions. And boy are they cool.

READ the article