What is the act of play? When presented with a game, is play the participation of the so-called “player” within structures created for them, acting within the choreographed dance laid out before them? Is play the moments in between, where improvisation takes hold, and the unexpected occurs? Is play the times in which you stop clinging to control, to perceived notions of input and action, to simply be within whatever world it is you’ve chosen to delve?
Browsing posts from: Catherine Brinegar
Among the retro-throwbacks of the current indie renaissance, first-person shooters harkening to the golden era of id and Build engine titles are up there as one of the most commonly occurring iterations on a genre. They tend to be an easy format to recreate: hand the player an armory of guns then turn them loose on a labyrinth of gnarled hallways and rooms stuffed to the brim with enemies lying in wait. Varied enemy types are mix-and-matched in myriad hordes thrown at the protagonist, the interplay between their varying tactics forcing you to stay on your toes as you adapt to rapidly changing circumstances.
You have fun twists on the genre with games like STRAFE and Tower of Guns throwing rogue-lite procgen into the mix, or simply hardcore returns to form with something akin to DUSK. There’s bullet-hell injected MOTHERGUNSHIP, as well as arcade styled Devil Daggers. Of course, along with the overwhelming amount of solid titles fleshing out the FPS space, one can explore more experimental takes on ripping and tearing with things such as DRL, which reimagines DOOM as a pure rogue-like experience. Further down that path, there’s modding tool ZKVN which turns the engine into a host for visual novels.
Long ago, in the era of Netscape and Internet Explorer, I would spend hours surfing the net trying to find any sort of MMO that, A) could run on my brick of a computer, and B) was free. World of Warcraft and Everquest were the biggest thing around, the novelty of online communities uniting so many around common goals. I would pore over articles on Asheron’s Call, Star Wars: Galaxies, Final Fantasy XI, Ragnarok Online… For every game out there, it had another ten beside it, veritable hydras housing universes inside of them.
In a far-flung future, cyber-laden Vapor Trails from developer sevencrane (@sevencrane) presents a sidescrolling action game oozing with style. Weaving a plot of intrigue and mystery, the player fills the shoes of Val, part of a robotic line known as Valkyries, thrown out to waste away in The Deeps for being too adaptable. Your abilities take you far, though, as you find yourself working your way back to the surface for revenge.
Among legendary shows that have become fixtures of pop culture, Hideaki Anno’s Neon Genesis Evangelion is a beast in a league of its own. Airing nearly 25 years ago in 1995, it maintains status as a foundational mainstay for anime fans and something of a go-to for those who wish to explore the “mature” side of the medium. Exploring themes ranging from what free will truly is, to transhumanism and the mental ramifications of religion, Eva plunges deep into its characters’ psychologies and the plight of the human condition.
Of course, this is all well-documented and understood at this point. End of Evangelion has long since come and gone, leaving us stranded in an LCL-drenched liminal space, waiting on Anno to finish the Rebuild series, a reimagining of the show as he (supposedly) originally wanted it to be, unconstrained by technical limitations or budget restrictions. Regardless of opinions on the three entries thus far, it’s hard to deny the fact that they have fueled the hype train of Eva‘s insanely devoted fanbase like nothing else. Not unlike the original show, Rebuild has spurred all sorts of spin-off material, including but not limited to: pachinko machines, an expansive section at a Japanese theme park (complete with giant Eva-01 statue and Lance of Longinus), crossovers with Godzilla and Transformers, and, of course, video games.
So many video games.
Approaching exit velocity, my tiny body spirals wildly as I desperately hope I can catch the orbit of the platform across the void. Mice have it rough out here in space, unable to travel the stars properly any longer, they resort to flinging themselves from destination to destination, floating the gaps alone. mouse sector has the player tackling the minutiae of this, showing the player a sliver of the galaxy that they can delve into, jam-packed with secrets.
The 90s were an interesting time: tearaway pants, presidents rocking saxophones, the Atari Jaguar… It was a grab bag of culture, packed to the gills with foundational artistic forays that still ripple into today. Simply look at how Rob Schneider or Adam Sandler have permeated mainstream society and become cornerstones of our modern cultural tapestry. Alongside the many technological milestones of the time, gaming and otherwise, there was an entire new world of marketing, full of opportunity.
Staring down the gargantuan beast, you only have one sliver of health left. You’ve gone through several phases now, but you aren’t sure how much longer it’s going to keep clinging to life. You bait the first attack, then the second; you roll in and go for the kill. Two swipes, and it starts winding up its next attack. Barely dodging out of the way, you land the final blow, and the monster falls. A victory chime sweeps over the scene, and you pump your fists into the air. It only took 16 tries, but you’ve finally overcome it.
This is the sense of accomplishment offered to you by FAR BLADE, a title currently in early access from solo dev @BcubedLabs. Presented as a boss rush, the game is controlled from an isometric perspective, allowing the player to sweep the camera 360º around the character, roll, block, and swing their blade. A small hub area gives grounding to the world, taunting you with several tantalizing routes to take, each one leading to a new monster for you to surmount. There seems to be a bit more to the exploration of the world than most boss rushes, allowing the player time to wander a somewhat expansive space between monsters.
Home to myriad experimental interactive pieces, the PS3 served as fertile ground for developers looking to stretch their legs in a different direction than AAA had typically allowed. Microsoft and Sony went back and forth, cultivating marketplaces stuffed with interesting and unique titles, courting small teams and individuals to produce content exclusively for either platform. In the case of Sony, some of these endeavors veered into territory fairly unknown for mainstream audiences.
Enter Linger in Shadows. Developed by Polish group Plastic, the title was adamantly touted as “not a game” by senior producer Rusty Buchert. Despite interactivity and trophy support, Linger in Shadows was positioned as a piece of interactive digital art. While only $3, games journalism at large rebuffed it, baffled as to why such a short-form experience would cost money in the first place, much less be pushed by Sony themselves.
Nearing an extinction event unlike any we’ve ever experienced, humanity veers closer to collapse on a daily basis. Rising sea levels, record-breaking heat, and vanishing biodiversity are the hallmarks of modernity. Regardless of having reached a point of no return, life on Earth has been drastically and irreversibly blighted by the forward march of industrialization. Given the opportunity, mankind destroys without remorse, and for the most part, without concern for the future. Protection of ecosystems and sustaining life longterm become priorities for societies, should they wish to avoid crumbling.