How has it come to this? As far as I can see from my apartment, lofted high above the deserted streets — save a car or two — there’s nothing. Nothing but property management companies and liquor stores. A never-ending sprawl of grey, lifeless, dead nothing. Why bother? Another rejection letter from another application to another company. The bills pile high, high, higher and I drown. The rain outside trickles through the cracks in the walls. I check the fridge for a bite, decide against it. But, even after walking away from the kitchen, the hunger in my stomach bares knots that demand something be put in there. I go back, take another look: empty. Ah. Right.
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.
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.
A dying world gasps, echoing into the void. Eventually, a still nothingness, but prior, a harbinger skips across the fractured remains still clinging to this realm. A pocket full of starseeds provides company, food for the fish they’re incubating beneath the orb hanging atop The Garden. The hand extending from the wall, the Numen, beckons further coloured varieties of fish with the promise of a treasure to come. Anahel stands stoic outside, desperate to meet with the Numen but a curse restraining them from passing the threshold.
Writer’s Note: This is an older piece from earlier in the year we found rummaging around in the archives, a piece from a different time with a little different style, enjoy!
Half-Life 2: Episode One is one of the most competent VR experiences I have ever played, surprisingly so for a game that was never built for it.
Something a lot of people struggle with in Virtual Reality is how there’s a sense of presence that people find hard to articulate. Using the Oculus Rift felt very underwhelming until, out of the dark rubble of City 17, Dog’s hands smashed through to pull a piece of rubble blocking my sight.
Moments later, I found myself standing under Dog. A faithful robot companion I had spent many years fighting alongside in the troubled setting of Half-Life 2. But there I was, truly standing underneath Dog, towering over me like a giant! Any person I put inside of that headset to experience that opening scene was as shocked as I found myself in that moment.
And that was just the beginning of seeing Gordon Freeman’s exploration of the ruins in a whole new perspective.
CONTENT CAUTION: This article deals with themes of trauma and other sensitive topics.
There is a current debate taking place in the discourse on the meaningful weight behind design decisions around the portrayal of trauma and melancholia, both about whether or not it’s an appropriate story to tell and how to tell it. Most of us have known someone who’s been in a struggle against their inner demons, and sometimes writers can take the exploration of these stories a little too far.
Many games have arguably tried, and at times succeeded to varying degrees in tackling this heavy topic, so without further adieu, let’s get into the thick of it.
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?
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.
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.
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.