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Browsing posts from: Emily Rose

Writer’s Note: This is an older piece from earlier in the year we found rummaging around in the archives, a piece from a different time with a little different style, enjoy!

Half-Life 2: Episode One is one of the most competent VR experiences I have ever played, surprisingly so for a game that was never built for it.

Something a lot of people struggle with in Virtual Reality is how there’s a sense of presence that people find hard to articulate. Using the Oculus Rift felt very underwhelming until, out of the dark rubble of City 17, Dog’s hands smashed through to pull a piece of rubble blocking my sight.

Moments later, I found myself standing under Dog. A faithful robot companion I had spent many years fighting alongside in the troubled setting of Half-Life 2. But there I was, truly standing underneath Dog, towering over me like a giant! Any person I put inside of that headset to experience that opening scene was as shocked as I found myself in that moment.

And that was just the beginning of seeing Gordon Freeman’s exploration of the ruins in a whole new perspective.

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LISA: The Painful – Dignaling

CONTENT CAUTION: This article deals with themes of trauma and other sensitive topics.

There is a current debate taking place in the discourse on the meaningful weight behind design decisions around the portrayal of trauma and melancholia, both about whether or not it’s an appropriate story to tell and how to tell it. Most of us have known someone who’s been in a struggle against their inner demons, and sometimes writers can take the exploration of these stories a little too far.

Many games have arguably tried, and at times succeeded to varying degrees in tackling this heavy topic, so without further adieu, let’s get into the thick of it.

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Nyoka from The Outer Worlds (Obsidian, 2019) voiced by Mara Junot

CONTENT WARNING: Substance abuse, loss of friends, emotional subjects

While written with care to avoid spoilers when possible: the following piece examines parts of The Outer Worlds that may reveal minor plot elements and some key story points of companion characters. Proceed with caution if you’d prefer to experience the game completely on your own.

The Outer Worlds is an oddity in that while it comes from a long pedigree of Open World RPGs, it stands deeply in contrast to trends set by them in the past by inverting certain tropes that Obsidian had a hand in establishing. Prior to release, they revealed that none of the companions within The Outer Worlds would have any romantic storylines, a bold design decision in a genre notorious for developing ever-increasing ways to placate and enable audiences who wish to indulge themselves in romantic roleplaying. While we have gotten better at generating thought-provoking simulations in the medium, we struggle with justifying how the narratives that drive them revolve solely around the most player-centric design lens. After all, you’re the hero… right?

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Death Stranding (2019) – Kojima Productions

This article is a slight deviation from the norm for us here at Rebind, the few times we’ve written about ‘AAA’ games we’ve generally done so through a retrospective lens, there’s a reason for this: a lot of mainstream cutting edge releases get enough attention as is. With that said, I’ve observed a trend in contemporary discourse to converge on a handful of common narrative focal points- we have more to say about these titles through a critical lens, but still get stuck on the same key points in our collective analysis.

The Discourse, you see, is like a rocky riverbed where we have a tendency to lose our best small thoughts along the way, foregoing them in pursuit of retrieving our most valuable ontological cargo: our core thesis.

So wade into the thick of it with me, dear reader, as we examine the unusual things recent releases have to say.

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Dark Dreams: RHN – by Arkhouse

In many ways, Dark Dreams: RHN is a flamboyantly terrifying fever dream, an inception-like slough through the underbelly of the psyche smattered with viscera and pulsating tiles.

As a fan of the macabre, the obvious echoes of Giger and Zdzisław Beksiński’s work are not lost on me, a forgotten realm of pseudo-organic papercraft serving as the home to ghostly imprints and hideous dusty visages. Arkhouse demonstrates a sublime grasp of the otherworldly decay that serves as a key element in the genre’s timeless visuals, complimented by the piece’s insightful audio direction. A cryptic codex of visions past, Dark Dreams is a layered piece of work with a vast ambiguity and a haunting presence, a theme that seems to extend deep within the halls of the artist’s overall body of work.

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Far from Monolith’s first foray into the grungy underbelly of urban exploration with a violent twist, Condemned: Criminal Origins served up a sampler platter of game mechanics notorious for being utterly disastrous and loathed by players across the globe. First person melee, weapon durability, and exceptionally dark environments seems like a recipe for failure- yet wound up becoming one of the most coveted unique horror experiences of the early 00s.

When I played it for the first time, I encountered the game through a vastly different lens from my fellow fans- I was unable to figure out how the taser worked. In any other game, this would be a relatively minor oversight that would hardly alter the experience beyond inconvenience, but nothing could prepare me for how much this would alter the experience, turning it into a claustrophobic ballet of internalized cruelty.

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The Metropolitan Sepulchre, 1829 (Guildhall Library)

After spending enough tuition to start a business, and securing an alternative path into some Gaming Development Cacophony tickets, you finally step into the sacred halls of your digital forebears. Gaming saints and villains alike have tread the gaudy carpet of the San Francisco, make sure you wear wool socks and rub them against the fibers- you too can attain mystical powers of business development and one-hit-wonders.

But hey, what gives? You went to the largest most influential gaming event of the world and all you have to show is some deflated expectations embodied by yet one more used-up hall pass. Where’s the success? The inspiration? The connections? The network? The publishing contracts?

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Microbrews, Gastropubs, Craft Coffee, Wine, Deconstructed Food, what’s any of this got to do with Video Games?

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

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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.

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