When stepping into one of the many taverns and inns after journeying across the windswept plains and peaks of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, all I want for my protagonist is to retire to a comfortable corner of the room and tuck into a satisfying dinner. One of the most fulfilling pleasures of the wintertime follows from here: to return from a frigid, exhausting day and welcome the cozy warmth and dimly lit familiarity of homespun lodging. In Skyrim, these taverns present an approximation of this nostalgia. Rustic wooden interiors softly lit with candlelight and populated with a scattering of fatigued travellers express a comfy space suitable for respite. Tables laden with Skyrim’s savory cuisine – pheasant roast, sliced goat cheese, Honningbrew mead, beef stew, spiced wine, grilled leaks, salmon steak, apple pie – surround an open hearth that breathes light and vitality to the setting. The stage is set and snug; my player-character hunkers down amidst the fire.
Read the full text at Thumbsticks.
What happens when videogames frustrate narrative lucidity and the expected norms of play? Every Day the Same Dream, a 2009 short game authored by Paolo Pedercini and his Italian collective Molleindustria, resists the formulaic patterns of videogame composition to produce new meaning. Gaming essayist Braxton Soderman points to Molleindustria’s penchant for disruptive play, recounting the developers’ ability to “…confront a variety of political, economic, and social issues, embracing a form of design ‘that aims at starting a serious discussion about social and political implications of videogames’” (Soderman). This critical analysis of Every Day the Same Dream locates not only the social and political objectives of the game but also its buried critique of videogame form itself. In offering cyclical patterns of gameplay and monotonous imagery, Pedercini emboldens the ability to break videogame procedure, evoking McKenzie Wark’s notion of allegorical play and destabilizing the procedural rhetoric that Ian Bogost longs to agitate. Moreover, Every Day the Same Dream affirms the expressive capacity of videogame language, antagonizing the generic conventions recycled by familiar algorithms and prosaic authorship.
Read the full text with a discussant’s reply by James Paul Gee at First Person Scholar.
Speechless is a first person suitor game, or a meet ‘em up, though it challenges the generic framework of both. Specifically, Speechless aims to resist the conventions of dating sims or romance visual novels that objectify women as merely sexual “goals” in the service of heterosexual male fantasy.
The player assumes the role of an employee who works for a company that relays break-up messages for clients unwilling to face their own loved ones directly. Think of it as a romance text-based game without the love.
Read my first place-winning entry at First Person Scholar.
Within’s barren environment silently shifts and reforms, revealing fresh apertures or subtle dips in topography with which to lose oneself in again. The introduction of the game locates the player in a small chamber without exit, awaiting change and a chance to escape. No objective marker directs the player. Rather, as in a dream, one simply scours the area for answers in nonsensical spaces that do not physically make sense. Circling back to familiar rooms is to be expected, and substantial progression feels non-existent.
Read the full text at Thumbsticks.
André Breton, living amidst the eccentric artistic scene of Paris in 1929, wrote in his Second Manifesto of Surrealism, “The simplest surrealist act consists of running down into the street, pistols in hand, and firing blindly, as fast as you can pull the trigger, into the crowd.”
I kept this passage in the back of my mind while stomaching IO Interactive’s 2010 game Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days, a repellent game that nonetheless boasts expressive moments of artistic provocation.
Read the full text in Unwinnable Weekly Issue 8.
Preserving and redistributing videogames demands navigation through knotty copyright laws and even more difficult problems restoring, marketing, and operating games from outdated technologies. The question in the title of this article, then, can be reworked as such: Why isn’t there a widespread effort to maintain videogames worthy of preservation and artistic consideration given these mounting problems that this medium inevitably faces with each passing generation? Why are we as gamers quick to forgo our rich artistic history and rely on convoluted and bootleg emulators or face steep prices for videogame titles on the brink of extinction?
Read the full text at PopMatters.
Like Hideo Kojima’s prior work, Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes opens with a claim to videogame auteurism, confidently assuming the artistic import of the introductory text “A Hideo Kojima Game.” Videogames frequently invoke the auteur temperament of cinema, placing credence in the authorial vision of a singular author and further bridging the influence of one medium on another. Occasionally, opponents levy criticism against the increasing cinematic influence on videogames and against cutscenes in particular, charging that this passive storytelling device robs the inherently interactive quality of the medium. Such a claim, of course, severely limits what videogames can do and blatantly ignores the reality that all artistic mediums borrow from and are in constant conversation with one another. Moreover, the criticism disregards the artistic wealth of videogame authorship, because cutscenes shift the storytelling agency away from the player and back to the developer’s unrivaled vision of the narrative. The cutscene’s vacillating control over narrative agency remains a fundamental tension unique in videogames, building upon – and not simply borrowing from – the work of cinema.
Read the full text at Gameranx.