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Browsing category: Speculative

Much of queer representation is often so sporadic and of dubious quality in popular media like games that those who wish to be represented find themselves hungry for almost any opportunity to feel seen or affirmed. This lack of imagery with which to identify perpetuates an inability to resolve the core issues that come with reconciling one’s identity with newfound struggles, due in no small part to how media in general and games in particular present a toolkit that many in the majority take for granted.

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CROSSNIQ+ from developer Max Krieger (@MaxKriegerVG).

At the turn of century, humanity began to panic as the future loomed.

Oncoming and unavoidable, the year 2000 was poised to be a time of great change, but much to our chagrin, it was a twist of fate that we had built our lives around such fragile technological marvels that would ultimately prove to be our own downfall. In our relentless pursuit of efficiency, systems built to house information containing dates would only register two numbers: the last two digits of the calendar year. As 2000 rolled in, a sudden fear began to arise that computers for governments or banks would be unable to distinguish between 2000 and 1900, causing irrevocable damage to our infrastructure and usher in an apocalyptic calamity.

These prophetic notions were predominantly held by the fringe of scientific research and society, exacerbated through outlets rapidly cycling through fear-mongering and misinformation. As society questioned the ability of corporations to address the issue in time, the Y2K fervor was the perfect encapsulation of a decade built upon pop culture that pushed hard into a fantastical vision for the future, with contemporary industrial design becoming the turn-of-the-century realization of what sci-fi had promised us in decades prior. Truly, the Y2K Bug is something of our society’s first watershed “cyberpunk” moment, with the misguided and shortsighted actions of the government and faceless corporate entities serving to endanger humanity, alongside an ever-growing online meta-verse, and the push towards a forward thinking “futuristic” visual zeitgeist.

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We’re at a point of complete global saturation. Pull up #gamedev on Twitter and look: endless, infinite talent, as far as the eye can see. How many of these people have you never heard of? How many of them still have relatively large fan followings? A body of work full of fresh ideas and plentiful things worth talking about? It’s far too common for many a creator to be overlooked in the sea of digital detritus. Other than providing platforms for their work, places of discussion and promotion, these multifaceted crowds can become a mass of the unknown.

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I sit on the side of I-5, the main highway running between Seattle and Portland. It’s nearly 19:00, the sun is quickly setting, and the wind has taken a sinister chill. My car sits, hazards flashing, on the shoulder in front of me. I’m flipping between tabs on my phone: my bank account, nearby mechanics, and quotes for towing companies to get me and the car back to my friend’s place. The bank account is thinner than I’d like, the mechanics are all closed, and the tow is going to drain me of the rest of my funds regardless of who does it. With a stiff gust breaking on my back, my hair flung into my face, I realize that this whole ordeal has a striking resemblance to my time spent with Jalopy.

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Part Worlds Chat, part Broken Reality, is an intriguing exploration of the strange wacky side of virtual worlds, but one that has been done better- kind of.

Primarily known for their comedy collaboration with Rick & Morty creator Justin Roiland, developer CrowsCrowsCrows recent entry into experimental digital media is a little more up Rebind’s alley than their usual fare.

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Remedy‘s Alan Wake is a bit of a tragedy- and I don’t just mean the story, it’s an exercise in reminding us just how much external circumstances can impact the reception of an otherwise obvious cult classic. After a lengthy development cycle and poor timing that placed it in the middle of an awkward period in Microsoft’s publishing strategies, Alan Wake performed adequately in sales but failed to garner the kind of critical reception it deserved. Once the Xbox exclusivity period elapsed, it was finally brought to the PC, shortly followed by its expansion, Alan Wake’s American Nightmare.

It’s popular these days to riff off the famous American writer, Stephen King, or pull on influences like David Lynch’s Twin Peaks, but Remedy was doing it long before it was on trend. Max Payne 1 & 2 came with a parallel narrative that played out via an in-world pulp noir show “Address Unknown” which served as an allegory for Max’s own internal struggles. Remedy is fairly open about the fact that they have a proclivity for inserting homages into the works that inspired them, and Alan Wake was no exception to this formula.

Spoilers ahead, because if you haven’t played Alan Wake yet… you really should.

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I’ve been playing a lot of RUST lately, and it’s left me reflecting on both the works of Joseph Conrad and the various interpretations they’ve inspired. We talk a lot in games about how the subject of violence deserves far more scrutiny in whatever form it takes- Jingoism, Gore, Abuse, but we have a strong tendency in critical analysis to overlook the systematic violence that is perpetuated through the context of the material itself.

If Metal Gear Solid and Spec Ops: The Line are anti-war critiques, then I would wager that the likes of Far Cry 2 or Cryostasis are more in line with the original thesis of Conrad’s subtext, one also found within the core of Coppala’s interpretation: the prevailing focus on the liminal and transformative nature of warfare. One cannot go through war, either as an individual or a society, without drastically altering one’s super-ego (the self-critical consciousness) and their general perspective on life and the world at large.

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Be warned, we’re getting into spoiler territory here from the outset. Turn back now if you’ve yet to finish the game.

For you can tie me up if you wish,

but there is nothing more useless than an organ.

When you will have him a body without organs,

then you will have delivered him from all his automatic reactions

and restored him to his true freedom

To Have Done with the Judgment of God, Antonin Artaud

LUCAH: Born of a Dream, from gamedev collective melessthanthree, thrusts you head-first into a world beyond any sense of logic or understanding. Everything around you coalesces into an undulating mass of incomprehensible action; the only thing that makes sense anymore is fighting. Some of the first words that greet you in this world: ”You can’t help but feel you’ve been here before. You can’t help but feel they only want to hurt you. But you know you must move forward. You must fight.” And fight you do, pushing back against the ever encroaching Darkness that blankets the land.

This Darkness exists as an extension of the world, to a degree, leading you to press ever-forward, unable to turn back. In it, we move toward a cyclical process in which this place eventually dies, destroyed one way or another, only to return once again to its original state of being. It’s an endless feedback loop; one that seemingly betrays no signs of stopping. You find yourself trapped in this place, fighting through loop after loop, attempting to enact change to no fruition. LUCAH’s world is one destined to fall, only to rise from the ashes again and again, a dark, undying phoenix. Decay holds no permanence here.

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Behold, the true face of horror (SOMA)

Horror, a genre known for having as many pitfalls as there are fall-prone protagonists, and one that is notoriously hard to integrate into video games. While there are countless examples of Horror done poorly across all media, games present a slew of challenges very specific to the medium which are far too often not taken into account during development, leading to lackluster Horror title upon lackluster Horror title. This is apparent enough that some commentators have even come to eschew the title of Horror game, opting instead for Horror themed game.

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