RE:BIND

Browsing posts from: Emily Rose

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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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.

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Purple Noise Echo – A tactics game by Ukioq

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.

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OTHER: Her Loving Embrace by Chimera Labs

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.

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