Dakkon from Planescape: Torment. A bald man with a moustache in a plaid tunic and spiky fantasy armor, with a remarkably large sword.

Difficulty Factors as Character Traits

July 15, 2012 / 0 comments

If difficulty is one of the things a game can use to make characters interesting, it’s worth asking just what difficulty communicates. For one thing, difficulty isn’t just one-dimensional. There are different kinds of difficulty, and not all of them are difficult for every player. I may love both Wrex and Nami, but I’m fairly…

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Kasumi from Shira Oka, looking ornery: a pale girl with glasses and unruly blue hair, in a schoolgirl uniform.

Sweeping Exits and Offstage Lines

July 1, 2012 / 1 comment

I spent a long time trying to figure out Harvest Moon: A Wonderful Life. It had an unusually deep simulation with a lot of random variables, so I dug through a lot of FAQs to figure out what the hell was going on. This being the work of Harvest Moon fans, the FAQs tended to editorialize about…

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Difficult Personalities

Difficult Personalities

June 27, 2012 / 0 comments

Every medium has its own ways of expressing character. Novels have internal monologues and an unmatched power to convey a character’s inner life. Theatre  has body language, voice, and physical presence; film has the close-up and the subtle emotional expression that comes with it. Games get fragments of these capabilities, technology willing, but they also have…

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Morrigan from Dragon Age: Origins, a dark-haired, light-skinned woman seen in profile wearing a staff and mage's robes.

Tell Me Some Stories about Morrigan

June 25, 2012 / 4 comments

Sometimes when I’m working on a piece and want to get out of my own head, I’ll open up a question on Twitter on some subject. This usually yields great stuff, but it’s stuck in 140 characters and it can be hard to find the answers later. So I’m gonna start doing it here instead….

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Screenshot from Shira Oka: Second Chances, with the main character in bed and the caption: "You rub your eyes groggily and glance at the calendar next to your bed."

New Stuff Imminent

June 23, 2012 / 0 comments

Just a heads up that there’ll be some new content here come July. I’m going to try out a slightly new format, where I set a theme each month and write a few short or mid-length posts on aspects of it. It’s an attempt to tighten up my writing and mitigate my tendency to make…

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A screenshot from Limbo, showing the protagonist pushing some boxes.

What’s the Point of Limbo?

February 14, 2012 / 5 comments

Since its release on XBox Live Arcade in 2010, Limbo has racked up awards and generated a substantial amount of critical writing. I didn’t have XBox Live when it came out, so I’ve been waiting on a PC port. When it finally came out on Steam late last year, I jumped on it. This turned out…

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A screen capture of my adventures in Anchorhead.

I Am Bad at Interactive Fiction.

February 2, 2012 / 16 comments

Here’s the thing about interactive fiction. I approve of it in theory. A genre with no graphics and huge freedom of interaction seems like the perfect platform for narrative experiments. I love Stephen Lavelle’s work with IF engines, like Blendings and Atopoesis, and I’ve heard great things about Blue Lacuna. But, to my shame, I’ve…

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A screenshot from Fallout 3. Tenpenny Tower in the distance, with the sun setting in the background.

Four Types of Videogame Tragedy

January 9, 2012 / 13 comments

In my last post on tragedy, The Wrong Ending, I presented what I saw as an essential problem of tragedy in videogames: an ending where things go badly is often seen by players as wrong, and therefore in need of fixing. This makes it hard for a tragic ending to seem like a valid choice…

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A screenshot from Skyrim. The dead body of a mage slumps in a chair, his hand still resting on the table next to him.

Readings: Conflict Management

December 18, 2011 / 2 comments

You know, in future, I should just be honest and go on hiatus during the work crush between mid-October and mid-December. Anyhow, I’ve got a bit of a links backlog to get through, so let’s get to it! This set of readings sees the player at war with the text, other characters, and the player…

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Fenris and Isabella from Dragon Age 2, in fighting poses.

Readings: Outside the Lines

November 29, 2011 / 3 comments

Holy crap, I’m back! And I’ve even had time to read things! Here are some of those things. First off, Kirk Battle brings his uniquely legal perspective to explain the difference between playing Magic on a tabletop versus a computer in a Kill Screen post called In Brief: Who Rules the Rules? He makes a convincing argument…

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