Fighting games are one-in-a-million. Let me save both our time and, instead of listing a bunch of them, just say there’s a lot. There’s a million flavours, ranging from your stock-standard 2D one-on-one fare, those featuring depth with which to circle your opponent, brawlers, party-friendly group fighters, and so on. But, how many of them allow you to pilot massive crustaceans in a brutal fight to the death?
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A cracking sound penetrates the calm atmosphere and gentle darkness, a ray of hazy blue light breaks through the shell’s newformed gaps. Your fledgling eyes adjust to an ancient world, and a wise elder gazes on in sympathy with a small word of advice.
With no bearings, only an inner yearning to explore the horizon, you embark on your blurry-eyed journey. It will be tiresome, a test of your patience, but worry not young and weary traveler: life is both harder and easier than it seems.
Often in life we become trapped by the things important to us, our love, our careers, our ambitions. Painted into a corner, our desires and commitments turn into the very cages we fear, only gilded with gold.
Like a Good Canary, we must sing to please our benefactors, employers, loved ones, audiences, and friends. Will we remain frozen in place by our machinations, or is there a way out of here and towards a life past the confines?
The relaxing radio music cuts to a report of a Russian Attack Submarine off course in the pacific. You’re sitting in your living room as the muddy audio of the TV drones on, and now anxiety starkly washes over you.
Is it just another false alarm? Will anything come out of it this time?
(Content Warning: Doomsday scenarios and the associated nihilistic topics.)
Harken back, to the era of floppy disks and shareware, when a gallon of gas only cost you a $1! Hear me, and yearn again for the days of billboard sprites, the fidelity of 16-bit graphics! Be whisked to the golden year of 1996, and imagine (if you can) a game built on id Tech 1; the original Doom engine, hacked and slashed to serve the needs of a FPS/RPG hybrid. In this fantasy, picture it being… I don’t know, perhaps, high fantasy meets low tech? And behold! You are picturing Strife!
To the northwest of France is a peculiar island, inextricably with a history linked to Europe yet somehow insistently apart from it. It’s a land known for it’s modest social sensibilities while being driven by imperial ambition ever since the Romans receded from its sandy shores. This desire to be recognized, to be known and respected, to be tame without being tamed is deeply entrenched within the culture of Britain.
And while the invaders may have left, it seems the Empire never did. The wounds inflicted by Julius Caesar’s violent invasion continued to fester underneath the land, infecting the course of British history from that point on. Long before colonizing the world, England needed to unify and consolidate its own back yard in order to power it’s conquest of the globe.
Moshe Linke‘s latest entry into interactive media is the sort of thing that level design zine Heterotopias was made for. A euphoric cavalcade of harsh lines and the gentled nuanced pores of concrete drench the senses in pure joy. In many ways, it’s a digital museum, in others, an icon to aspire to.
We’ve covered a lot of “lost virtual world” styled vignettes, each with a unique take or theme and a particular accompanying thesis. Oleander Garden‘s PAGAN is exceptional and offers up an astounding amount of replay value. Not content to be written off as yet another trope ridden “walking sim”, PAGAN folds its byzantine gameplay mechanics into the narrative in a seamless fashion, and it’s this union that helps to elevate it amongst its peer in the sub-genre.
Set in the dying grip of a fictional MMORPG, PLAZA96, one particularly notorious for its user-antagonistic UI and hostile design principles, you wander the digital wastelands without much of an initial imperative beyond the urge to discover; a fun foreshadowing of what awaits past the game’s starting area. The intentionally clunky control scheme isn’t just a pleasant touch of authenticity hearkening to its roots, but rather a critical incentive for the player to fully engross themselves into the mindset of navigating the obtuse branching paths necessary for a complete story run.
Your AR overlay provides the next lines, “I have a recommendation for you.” The AI counseling partner, Eliza, tells you to suggest that the client try performing some breathing exercises and to ask their doctor about some conspicuously name brand medication. “Have a wonderful day,” the script prompts, “Goodbye.” Another successful session, granting you a boon of experience points and a few medals to add to your AR profile. Your rating isn’t great, but you snagged a $5 tip, so at least there’s that.
In this near-future snapshot of Seattle from Zachtronics’ new game, Eliza, you play as Evelyn, a worker in the ever expanding rhizomatic gig economy. Recently contracted to serve as a human proxy for the AI-power therapy system of the future (the titular Eliza), Evelyn ventures adrift into a world she helped build but that she feels deeply and troublingly disconnected from. Previously one of the leading engineers on the project, Evelyn left the company creating Eliza, Skadha, behind her, only to return to see what her project has become in her absence. What follows is a harrowing tale about the value of human connection, the troubling state of what the mental health system has become, and how we can try to better the world for one another. Writer Matthew Seiji Burns paints a picture of a world not quite dystopic, but more reflective of our own current societal state and the path that those at the top of the tech industry are leading us towards at a worrying pace.
IV drips pulse, carrying anesthetic down the tube, through the needle, and into the bloodstream of your wife. She lies beneath lamplight, her breathing slightly irregular, but it should be okay, her vitals are stabilizing. You have to put her under, again, to get through the study. In the two beds besides hers are your other subjects and colleagues. One an archeologist, the other the neurobiologist whose research brought you here. On the monitor, the process fills progress bars as sense-data flutters along the wires, cris-crossing between workstation and subject.