A familiar debate about empathy in videogames

April 17, 2009 / 1 comment

Peter Suderman, a film and culture writer I quite like, had a short post yesterday at The American Scene of the familiar “videogames can’t really evoke emotion” type.  I doubt I can contribute much to this old argument, except to say that it seems dreadfully premature to be making pronouncements on the capabilities of the medium…

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The Flower of Prolonged Failure

March 17, 2009 / 0 comments

Well, after 27 minutes, I was finally able to kill myself in High-Resolution Tetris.  I thought this might be easier than actually clearing a line, but I was surprised at how excruciating the endgame got.  What you see here is that it’s pretty easy to stack the pieces until you get about 4/5 of the…

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Signifier (2009)

March 9, 2009 / 0 comments

Interaction in games can be roughly divided into two major parts: the actions that can be performed and the control scheme used to trigger those actions.  Intuitively, we often consider the ideal control scheme to be one so natural that it becomes invisible, so that your intentions lead to in-game actions without any thought spared…

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My First Visit to D.C. Since Playing Fallout 3 (2009)

March 8, 2009 / 0 comments

Pretty trippy!  The poor weather of last weekend severely diminished the usual crowds, and the unusual emptiness of the National Mall added to the weird effect of my many inappropriately overlaid spatial memories.  I found myself somewhat more alert than usual heading through Metro stations.  This is excellent; I demand more first-person perspective games set…

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Mirror Stage (2009)

February 27, 2009 / 0 comments

Stephen Lavelle’s Mirror Stage is a trim and elegant little piece about exploring kaleidoscope patterns.  While there’s not much more to it than that on paper, the aesthetic effect outstrips the simplicity of the premise by a surprising amount.  The game builds up a lot of appealing disorientation through the design of kaleidoscope levels full…

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4 Minutes and 33 Seconds of Uniqueness (2009)

February 19, 2009 / 0 comments

Petri Purho has come up with a brilliant border case of a game in 4 Minutes and 33 Seconds of Uniqueness, the most memorable entry from the recent Global Game Jam.  Inspired by John Cage’s 4’33”, a musical composition without sound, Purho made a game of the same length with no interaction.  You win by…

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Coil (2008)

February 4, 2009 / 0 comments

In my review of The Graveyard, I implied that I’m generally unsatisfied by the most basic style of game storytelling: perform an action, get a cutscene, repeat. What I neglected to address is that there are some significant variations in this particular structure, some of which produce unusual narrative effects. One variation is to make…

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The Graveyard (2008)

February 3, 2009 / 0 comments

Auriea Harvey and Michael Samyn’s The Graveyard is a spare little game with only one functional object besides your avatar: a bench that plays music when you sit on it. It will start playing music anytime you sit on it and will stop when you stand up. The game takes place in a graveyard, and…

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Gravity Bone (2008)

January 15, 2009 / 0 comments

Recently I found myself wondering what a surrealist game would be. It’s a bit of a funny question, because all videogames are pretty surreal. There’s weird logic, weird environments, weird constraints on your behavior – everything in games is kind of like reality, but a bit off. You jump, and it’s kind of like jumping,…

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Seven Minutes (2008)

January 14, 2009 / 0 comments

Previously, in reviewing Execution, I mentioned that gamemakers seem to be concerned recently with the issue of choice in linear game design. That is, while gaming seems to be all about agency and free choice on the part of the player, this freedom is constrained by the fact that gamers will always make a choice…

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