Friday, 25 July 2014

Game Dev Story is a bit mean to its staff, int it?

Wolfenstein 3D, Custer’s Revenge, Ethnic Cleansing , Super Columbine Massacre RPG!,
that game where you shoot JFK: all are examples of aspects of the real world being looked at through the lens of video games. They’re all - to differing extents and in their own ways - difficult to laude as works of high (even low, in most cases) art or defend as rounded, fair or (maybe) even worthwhile endeavours. They are all button-pressers: games that wear their controversy-courting intentions proudly on their sleeves (sometimes just above an insignia-emblazoned armband). While the first two examples are merely sillily offensive, it’s that all five are grounded in very explicit real world contexts - as part or complete recreations of specific events and happenings - that imbues them their power to wilfully shock and/or disgust. Game Dev Story isn’t like any of these because it hasn’t a divisive bone in its body. It does, however, centre itself on a very real world industry, and by doing so is actually quite mean in the process, if, of course, you’re inclined to look at it that way (which I am, just so you know).

Friday, 18 July 2014

Stumbling around in the dark: Metro 2033 with the English turned off

Metro 2033 is a tale of survival, hope and skulking. It’s an atmospheric and affecting, sometimes scary, sometimes tense, rewarding and exciting look at life after a (you guessed it) nuclear holocaust. Most of all, though, without the English dubbed dialogue it’s a surreal duck into a world of half-whispers, confusion and mistaken identity.

The ability to remember aspects of popular culture is a skill that’s lost to me. ‘Remember how great that line was in that film we watched a decade ago? It was right striking wasn’t it? To the point where after hearing it only once we can now quote it verbatim and will do so forever.’ “Well no, not really my old hypothetical chum. I certainly won’t be ‘cos I forgot it almost the instant it was spoken in favour of paying attention to the intervening years of my life. Sorry to have put us both in this very awkward position.” Quotes, scenes and overarching narratives can all be heard ‘round water coolers the world over. Some boffins can even remember and render entire video game maps from memory; a feat which I find admirably super-human. I though, am rubbish at remembering stuff.

Friday, 20 June 2014

Big game hunter: Our inability to hold games to equal standards (when they nick stuff from each other)

Last week Our Zach Alexander pulled the still-warm corpse of the last round of !!CLONING scandal!! discussions from our collective freezer and got me thinking about it all over again. Channelling Mattie Brice as if by séance from earlier in the year, he discussed the ugly head-rearing of the double standards we often encounter when the contentious topic of cloning is raised. Both Alexander and Brice are quick to identify that decrying something as a clone is a heavily subjective act, and that how one approaches the debate and frames their standpoint within it is highly reflective of their ideals both politically and humanistically. I’d like to take their sentiments and step back just a little, if I may, and try to unpack the contradictions surrounding why it’s often, but by no means always, seen as damnable to wear inspiration on one’s sleeve. 

Friday, 13 June 2014

Brothers: how Riddick saves the writing


How mechanics can enrich a story, foster relationships and underwrite an entire experience


My mum is, thankfully, still alive as of this writing. If she were to die I’d be terribly upset. She brought me up, fed me, clothed me, drove me places, steered me in the right direction, supported me, let me drink in the house as a teenager because I’d “do it anyway, so may as well do it safely”: she sorted me out basically. My dad did all these things too (‘cept the driving), but he doesn’t work as well within this situation, but he’s still a very upstanding chap. If my mum were to die it would be pretty horrible for me. ‏You, however, wouldn’t really care. I don’t hold that against you, you simply don’t have any of the necessary context (see above) for it to concern you. Likewise, that’s why the one-two dead mother and a dying dad opening of Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons didn’t wash in my house of unflinching cynicism. By the end of the game, however, I was invested in the characters and their plight, to the point where I genuinely cared about where everyone ended up. That’s not to say that the writing resonated with me any more than it had when it went whizzing past my mark at the beginning, it just means that there were other bits of the game that filled the emotional-investiture deficit.