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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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Introducing the new and improved streaming service!
(The Running Man, 1987)

Well, we all knew it was coming, and it looks like it’s finally here: subscription based gaming services – the “Spotifys of gaming” if you will (and tech companies definitely will). There has been much debate about the concept, however we find ourselves now amidst the full-steam execution, so what now?

Much of the idea is still nebulous and shrouded in corporate mystery. How will devs be paid? How is the amount they’re to be paid calculated? What the hell does “engagement” mean? All good questions, and crucially important, but we need to also address the dev-side of the equation and ask what this shift means for the future of the medium and our approach to video game development for these stream-based platforms.

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Pictured: A craftsman of countless perverse fantasies and Russ Meyer. (Russ Meyer and Roger Ebert, 1970)

Hello fandom, my old friend, I’ve come to write on you again. If you’ve been living under a rock, or simply have literally anything better to do with your time, it may come as news to you that Martin Scorsese has stridden into the media spotlight once again to drive a stake through the caped heart of the Rodent Empire. I am, of course, talking about his mildly contentious opinions regarding the validity of Marvel movies as “cinema”, whatever the hell that word means these days.

I’m not here to debate the finer points of what does and doesn’t constitute art beyond my personal belief that art goes into Marvel films, and that they have artistic merit in their craft and their themes. What has caught my attention, however, is the visceral response to relatively mild criticism of fandom staples that such critique engenders.

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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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How long does a demo usually stick with you? Sure, one showcasing a game you’re excited about could have you replaying it several times to just take it all in. There are even those rare gems floating around that serve as introductions to the game they’re representing, including content that may not be part of the final release. For instance, Final Fantasy XV’s “Platinum Demo” (now removed from storefronts) featured a standalone experience that showcased the gameplay for the full title, but involved a scenario that was completely tangential to the events of the main game. Resident Evil 7 similarly had a separate demo titled “Kitchen” (part of a demo collection disc for PSVR) that centered on content not featured in the final release.

Unlike those two, however, the notorious “demo” known as P.T. never had a game release on the market alongside the teaser. In fact, for many, P.T. is in and of itself a full-fledged game that stands completely on its own. Which, frankly, isn’t surprising. While meant as a “playable teaser” for the once-in-development Silent Hills, its content is divorced from the main trappings of the franchise; discarding the spooky town and foggy roads in favor of claustrophobic hallways and a non-Euclidean spacial loop all serving an extremely minimal horror experience.

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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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