RE:BIND

Browsing category: Overviews

It’s hard to say if we, at RE:BIND, really believe in a ‘Game Of The Year’ or even a ‘Game Of The Decade’

What we do believe in are important artistic works, the individual contributions to the greater cohesive whole, cultural context for the way we live and the things important to us.

So join us for the games we think helped to define 2009 – 2019, we largely believe these works to be of great importance, and that you should play them. By no means is this comprehensive, or intended to assert the primacy of these games over all other works.

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Hive Time – by Cheese

Edutainment…. EDUTAINMENT! a frankengame meant to EDUCATE, striking cringe into the hearts of all young gamers everywhere, shudder. The only thing we’ve ever traditionally learned from school is the many ways which lessons are painfully dull, to the point that games like Frog Fractions have famously riffed on their ineffectiveness.

But what if we could envision a world that was different? A world where you could have fun….. AND… learn something, without making a mockery of both the subject and you as a person?

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(Sky: Children of the Light, thatgamecompany 2019)

Games as a Service has been a much discussed experiment established by the AAA industry, one that has been wildly successful. As the arms race of technical advancements forever bloating development budgets races onward and the tightening of development cycle lengths to meet growing profit demands continues, games release at a dizzying flurry that is at once suffocating yet celebratory. Each year, a new pantheon of titles are added to the record, miles of scripts that inspire and renew, or simply experiences that last wordlessly; a breeze of mechanics and flow fusing into a torrent of fleeting endless memories.

“But,” the corporate mind may ask, “how do we make this profitable for us, a massive corporation wielding the labor of hundreds within our hand? How can we ensure consumers will flock to our products and save their purchasing power for more of what we have?”

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It’s become something of an in-joke within the greater games community that Nintendo is not an entity to be trifled with. Between DMCA notices against ROM sites and fangames utilizing their IPs, attempting to tango with the corporate monstrosity has a predictable end. It makes sense from a business perspective: Nintendo doesn’t want anyone marring the oh-so-marketable franchises they’ve produced over the years, and they certainly don’t want anyone accessing their creations without paying for them, regardless of the ability people have to legally play them.

Enter the bootleg. Where demand was not met by the official channels of distribution, pirate groups took it upon themselves to fill the niche. Creating their own cartridges with ripped games implanted, these groups would sell their wares on a black market at a far more affordable price and with a greater selection than typically available in these areas. Naturally, the companies these pirates were profiting off of were none too pleased with their actions.

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Bleakstead – By Valerie Dusk

It has becoming increasingly clear that there’s a sort of sub-genre brewing within microindie horror; The Norwood Suite, Bleakstead, Definition Of A Ghuest, and The Space Between all represent an undercurrent manifesting as a new subgenre. These pieces rely on their environments to relay tension instead of leaning on terrifying enemies or a tense narrative. This dream-like quality cultivated through queasy nightmarish vibes can render these games jarringly off-putting for many, both seemingly too acerbic for the gentle palette of most audiences, and at the same time too subtle for the adrenaline thirsty thrill-seekers.

Bleakstead’s outstanding presence finally gives some clarity to what makes this blossoming movement so special.

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The 3rd Night – By Asteristic Game Studio

While there is no shortage of games inspired by playstation era horror titles like Silent Hill or Resident evil, there is a shortage of games that know how to do it well. It goes far beyond simple graphical pastiches, or emulating the quirky flaws of the technical limitations of the time, one has to dive deeply within to the production values instilled in a generation of game developers long past in our rear view mirrors. We can easily recognize as an audience that films done in 16mm require a vastly different technical implementation than contemporary digital cameras used today.

The 3rd Night takes a different approach than most of its contemporaries, instead diving more deeply into the nuanced production values that put those classic titles on the map in the first place.

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The kind of game that hurts to play for all the right reasons. (Homesickened 2015 – by Snapman)

Is home a physical space or a state of mind? Then again, maybe it’s the feeling of booting up a long-forgotten machine, comforting clicking churrs audible as an ancient magnetic platter spins to life. This is, in my experience, the real homeland for many of our generation, a world locked within the shifting grains of decaying binary, digits, and bits left to erode like so many distant ancestral abodes.

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So many of my memories within Kingdom (developed by Thomas van den Berg) linger on the small silence of a fiefdom functioning smoothly, of escorting lost pilgrims into the shelter of my barricades and enlisting them into breathless confrontation. Luring the wilderness into the waiting embrace of my archers, and seeking out conscious points of deforestation to construct looming spires and the natural arisal of meadows brimming with rabbits for the slaughter. Of simply resting amongst the soft murmurs of wind-chimes and piano melodies. The moments of stillness that arise in between points of intrigue, as my steed stirs breathlessly and each journey is taken in careful consideration of the setting sun. The small practiced meditations of systems so deeply-internalized they feel almost second nature.

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Nyoka from The Outer Worlds (Obsidian, 2019) voiced by Mara Junot

CONTENT WARNING: Substance abuse, loss of friends, emotional subjects

While written with care to avoid spoilers when possible: the following piece examines parts of The Outer Worlds that may reveal minor plot elements and some key story points of companion characters. Proceed with caution if you’d prefer to experience the game completely on your own.

The Outer Worlds is an oddity in that while it comes from a long pedigree of Open World RPGs, it stands deeply in contrast to trends set by them in the past by inverting certain tropes that Obsidian had a hand in establishing. Prior to release, they revealed that none of the companions within The Outer Worlds would have any romantic storylines, a bold design decision in a genre notorious for developing ever-increasing ways to placate and enable audiences who wish to indulge themselves in romantic roleplaying. While we have gotten better at generating thought-provoking simulations in the medium, we struggle with justifying how the narratives that drive them revolve solely around the most player-centric design lens. After all, you’re the hero… right?

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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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