RE:BIND

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WARNING: This article contains spoilers for DOOM 2016 and DOOM: ETERNAL. But who cares about the story anyway, right?

The videogame market has, for many years, engaged in a form of self-referential cyclicality, from indie games hearkening to the minimalist pixel-art design of the medium’s early forebears, to the current wave of PS1 aesthetic resurgence and the much-beloved resurgence of the “boomer shooter”, all the way to the DOOM series’ reflection on nostalgic memories of the hyper-violent and frantic action of 90s FPS titles. This is, of course, nothing unique to video games as one need look no further than the box office hits of modern Hollywood to see that reboots, remakes, and reimaginings are the order of the day.

Enter Jean Baudrillard and his conceptualization of “hyperreality”, the indistinguishable muddling together of reality and the simulated as originally explored in Simulacra and Simulation of The Matrix fame.

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Star Trek Voyager: Elite Force (2000) – by Raven Software and Activsion
Star Trek The Next Generation: Klingon Honor Guard (1998)
– by Microprose

There was a sentiment in many game communities in the early 00’s that you just couldn’t make a satisfying shooter game set in the universe of Star Trek. The aspirational sociopolitical commentary of the show with its emphasis on intercultural understanding came across to most as bereft of action potential despite its imaginative settings, fierce naval conflict, factional strife, and well-established arsenal of exciting technology.

The struggle to adapt Star Trek‘s more passive nature into a satisfying action romp was perpetually brought out as an argument against even trying to tackle this fool’s errand whenever there was anticipation of another franchise entry that would seemingly disrupt or misinterpret the storytelling strengths established by The Next Generation. Voyager, however, was a rulebreaking contender, well-known for a fire-tempered might-makes-right captain that made the show uniquely ripe for adaption, culminating in finally pulling off the unthinkable: a fun and gritty Star Trek shooter… the only thing is, it wasn’t the first.

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Pattern – By Galen Drew (Soundtrack by Michael Bell)

Deep within the deserts of New Mexico and the salt flats of Utah lie monumental accomplishments of human will, structures defined by their relationship to the land and the human perception of the universe. These installations, such as the works of Nancy Holt (Sun Tunnels), Charles Ross (Star Axis), and Robert Smithson (Spiral Jetty), are colloquially known as Land Art, a genre that sits at the intersection of architecture, sculpture, and earthworks (the history of which is chronicled by James Crump in his documentary Troublemakers).

While all art requires the passage of time and years of perfecting the craft, Land Art is differentiated by the scale of both labor and duration of construction, often taking place over nearly geologic timescales, both in pre-planning to select the perfect geographic locale and the fabrication process itself. Architects, land surveyors, local governments, construction laborers, land owners, local communities, permits, and weather are merely a drop in the bucket in terms of considerations and obstacles that must be tackled before even breaking first ground.

Digital Landscapes, on the other hand, require few of these considerations. Enter Pattern by Galen Drew.

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For many years, the general public has had a misconception about the nature of Shakespeare, regarding his collective works as the pass-time of the upper-class and intellectual elite on par with opera. With funny accents and fancier words that are seemingly incomprehensible to a more modern audience accustomed to the casual pulp noir tone of radio plays and the action-packed police procedural that followed later with the advent television, the performance arts gradually fell out of favor.

The truth is, as many know, that Shakespeare’s plays were actually an extremely mundane form of entertainment in their time, on par with our perception of media in the vein of going to the movies or seeing a musical. His productions often tackled humorous or tragic concepts that everyone could relate to- love, daily life, sex, rivalries, and conflict, presenting them in a way that was engaging for the general populace and at times absurd. After all, community theater is just one step in a long lineage of narrative tradition, itself having supplanted wise elders at the campfire ingratiating their families with some nighttime storytelling.

So… what’s this got to do with Half-Life?

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Right on.
Dominique Pamplemousse by Squinky

It was meant to be a simple case
Pay my rent, get me outta the rat race
But I’m starting to think I’m out of my depth
And it might just mean my horrible, untimely death
Trying to get out of here, but it’s no use
And for the love of God, the name’s not Pimplemoose!

Musicals are a time-honoured tradition in both theater and cinema, but sadly, the artform has seldom made the jump to video games. Dominique Pamplemousse by Squinky, however, happily bucks this trend with a foray into the even rarer musical noir subgenre. You control the titular gumshoe as they sing their way down the rabbit hole of a case full of intrigue, deception, delinquent landlords, autotuning, and brutal student debt.

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No Delivery by oates.

[Content Warning: Discussions of abduction, murder, gore, and body horror]

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No Delivery by oates is a horror game with procedurally generated dungeon diving, a fantastic aesthetic, engaging combat with a focus on symbiotic resource management, and the occasional burst of dark humor that perfectly encapsulates the suffocating experience of working the night shift alone at a fast food establishment. Whether you’re cleaning tables, crawling through the ventilation shafts, or turning on the industrial walk-in microwave without adequately ensuring that it’s empty, every moment of its gameplay and atmosphere will leave you with a beautifully crushing sense of dread.

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Watering A Flower by Lily Belmira

There’s a common trans experience of wishing you could see your future self, the self you want to be. This experience blossoms, over time, into the earnest wish that you could send your younger self a message in a bottle telling them how everything will change, and who they will become.

Watering a Flower by Lily Belmira is a perfect encapsulation of both sides of this experience, at once presenting a small, safe place for her younger self to seek out the wisdom and reassurance of her older self, nurturing them with kindness, understanding, and hope, while also allowing the older side of herself to reflect upon the events of her past and reify all of those precious memories eked away by time or necessity.

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Hail Eris.
(FAITH, by Airdorf)

[Content Warning: Discussions of death, murder, trans/queerphobia, exorcisms, religious and familial abandonment, and teenage pregnancy.]

Disclaimer: Mx Medea was apprenticed under a pastor in the protestant church for several years.

As I walk through the valley of the shadow of death…

There is a monster here, although not the one charging at me from the treeline, nor the one hovering towards me with supposedly murderous intent, instead the monster is more austere, more insidious, more indignant. This demon wears a clerical collar, waves aloft a crucifix, and is absolutely convicted that what he is doing is not only acceptable, but the will of a completely just and loving God. Today, his God says to kill.

FAITH, by Airdorf, is a retro-styled game that leans heavily upon Exorcist horror tropes that compliment the simple style quite well by framing the expected archetypes clearly within the mind of the player by evoking already established characters. It’s a well-made horror game that stays true to its roots and will definitely make you more afraid of a white pixel-monster charging towards you than any game since Ski Free.

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[Image by MOYA Horror]

Disclaimer: Catherine Brinegar is a contributor to the Haunted PS1 Demo Disk, with a game in the collection.

The demo disk. A forgotten byproduct of a simpler era where consoles lacked one distinct feature we now take for granted; namely, internet connections. Magazines were the marketing avenue de jour for promoting upcoming releases, and what better way to instil hype for these games than collecting them into a little disk of demos packed in the magazine? A revolutionary way to boost subscriptions and games sales all in one tidy package

As we moved into the modern era of consoles that could always be online, demo disks became unnecessary since the demo could just be downloaded. Online journalism slowly killed the gaming magazines of the day, further paving the way for utilizing the internet as the means of distributing information. Demos too have slowly fizzled away, as games become far more complex and intricate than a demo could reasonably convey.

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