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Browsing posts from: October 2019

Far from Monolith’s first foray into the grungy underbelly of urban exploration with a violent twist, Condemned: Criminal Origins served up a sampler platter of game mechanics notorious for being utterly disastrous and loathed by players across the globe. First person melee, weapon durability, and exceptionally dark environments seems like a recipe for failure- yet wound up becoming one of the most coveted unique horror experiences of the early 00s.

When I played it for the first time, I encountered the game through a vastly different lens from my fellow fans- I was unable to figure out how the taser worked. In any other game, this would be a relatively minor oversight that would hardly alter the experience beyond inconvenience, but nothing could prepare me for how much this would alter the experience, turning it into a claustrophobic ballet of internalized cruelty.

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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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It honks for you.

Hatred, Postal, Grand Theft Auto, Untitled Goose Game. What do these games have in common?

Violence is a go-to staple of video game design to say the least, whether in the form of flying gore and viscera or swift ‘bad-ass’ executions from the shadows, so it’s good to see a rise in the number of non-violent titles in recent years, especially in the indie scene. Untitled Goose Game (UGG from hereon) is not one of these.

If you’re one of the 5 people who hasn’t played it yet, UGG is a flat-shaded romp around town as the non-titular goose in his endless crusade to harass, trip, annoy, and torment people ostensibly minding their own business. UGG is many things, but it is anything but non-violent. It’s not graphically violent, of course, lacking arterial sprays and gibs soaring through the sky like small bloody geese as it does, but it fits into its own little niche of violence through psychological torment, one all too easy to excuse and internalize.

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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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Awakening on the shores of Purgatory, you control Lucifer, hell-bent on tearing down the Archangels that guard the aspects of Heaven. It doesn’t take long for the realization to set in that things aren’t quite right in this place as you come across vile beasts roaming the world, chomping at the bit to tear you apart. Quick wits and perseverance will carry you far on your road to God, a treacherous journey nothing like your previously swift descent.

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