Over the weekend, we spent some time in between logistics at House RE:BIND to sit down with some old classics. It might come as a shock to you, dear reader, but I have never actually sat down to play REZ or killer7, and observing both on their native platforms had me reflecting on where both offer a lot of insight: Interfaces.
Sometime in the early 2010s, two drunken baristas film a social media video with a phone camera. They place an instant macaroni and cheese container you’d find at any convenience store atop of a glass pour-over brewing system, and in the ultimate piss take of the ‘artisnal’ commodities market and foodie culture, they began to brew their starchy swill. As they narrate each step in painful detail, they increasingly start to giggle and crack up as they realize how closely they’re mimicing the absurd pomp of coffee’s specialty tropes.
The video may be long gone now, but the humor still resonates with relevance to anyone who has spent long enough in any field
In part I of our exploration, we looked across the media landscape and discussed the growing focus on LGBTQ+ narratives in indie arthouse games, particularly the way in which artists have taken to expressing and re-interpreting their own personal history and traumas. While these stories carry vast importance, we are still in the early days of growth for establishing recognition for these narratives in the mainstream. Throughout a large swath of media, too frequently are the arcs of these characters subsumed by their trauma. While pain is definitely an element of the human condition, it does not define who we are; LGBTQ+ folks live rich and fufilling lives, and we have many things to share about ourselves outside of the pain we find visited upon us.
In Secret Little Haven, the personal history of the protagonist unfolds before the player’s eyes through an interactive simulation of the early 00s internet where they find themselves juggling conversations across multiple message boards, an AOL Instant Messenger analogue, and engage in personal reflection via exploration of the web. Through these tools, the player guides the lead character down her road to discovery of, and coming to terms with, her gender dysphoria.
Hatred, Postal, Grand Theft Auto, Untitled Goose Game. What do these games have in common?
Violence is a go-to staple of video game design to say the least, whether in the form of flying gore and viscera or swift ‘bad-ass’ executions from the shadows, so it’s good to see a rise in the number of non-violent titles in recent years, especially in the indie scene. Untitled Goose Game (UGG from hereon) is not one of these.
If you’re one of the 5 people who hasn’t played it yet, UGG is a flat-shaded romp around town as the non-titular goose in his endless crusade to harass, trip, annoy, and torment people ostensibly minding their own business. UGG is many things, but it is anything but non-violent. It’s not graphically violent, of course, lacking arterial sprays and gibs soaring through the sky like small bloody geese as it does, but it fits into its own little niche of violence through psychological torment, one all too easy to excuse and internalize.
Much of queer representation is often so sporadic and of dubious quality in popular media like games that those who wish to be represented find themselves hungry for almost any opportunity to feel seen or affirmed. This lack of imagery with which to identify perpetuates an inability to resolve the core issues that come with reconciling one’s identity with newfound struggles, due in no small part to how media in general and games in particular present a toolkit that many in the majority take for granted.
Awakening on the shores of Purgatory, you control Lucifer, hell-bent on tearing down the Archangels that guard the aspects of Heaven. It doesn’t take long for the realization to set in that things aren’t quite right in this place as you come across vile beasts roaming the world, chomping at the bit to tear you apart. Quick wits and perseverance will carry you far on your road to God, a treacherous journey nothing like your previously swift descent.
You bug? Me bug.
Bug. We Bug. Bug. Where Bug Go? What Bug Do..
Open a game, take note of the engine, immediately settle into document an uncannily familiar experience. It’s a routine that, if one isn’t careful, becomes too easy to find yourself in as when critiquing the medium, but every now and then something comes along that challenges your expectations and refuses to be derivative, largely defying classification.
This time that title is Purple Noise Echo.
These last few years, there’s been a special crackle in the air as we roll into the latter half of the year. In Japan, since 2005 (as far as I can tell), there’s been an annual art show wherein participants create artwork for the case of imaginary Famicom games, called My Famicase Exhibition. In 2015, a gamejam would begin shortly after the showcase that would present game developers with these covers to develop what the game attached to the artwork would be. One of my absolute favorite gamejams, the A Game By Its Cover Jam, facilitates a strange reverse-engineering of game development that produces beautiful, unexpected work.
Like most jams, there’s a lot to sift through in the submissions. Below, I’ve listed a handful of games from the jam that stood out to me, and are worth giving an in-depth look.
I like RPGs, I really do, but they weren’t exactly a genre I personally grew up with. While their aesthetics and narratives greatly appealed to me, the controls and mechanics felt largely impenetrable when access to consoles was no longer an issue. Chrono Trigger was arguably my first run in with SQUARESOFT style action RPGs, and came across as a vivid revelation, refreshing due in no small part to its hybridized turn based system and elegant overworld navigation.
OTHER: Her Loving Embrace is the kind of game that reminds me why I got into RPGs in the first place.