Half-Life: Opposing Force (1999) – by Valve Software and Gearbox Software

If Gordon Freeman was the emblematic poster child for the Silent Protagonist, then for a time his foil, Adrian Shephard, became the iconic parallel for the faceless ones. Gordon’s robust Gen-X “nerd turned combatant” archetype was intended as an answer to the typical grunting brawn-over-brain space marine motif we have come to endlessly celebrate in every perennial iteration of DOOM, subverting the expectant trope audiences had grown accustomed to over the years.

Gordon had a ponytail, he didn’t speak in one liners or at all, and the player’s perception of who he is was built up entirely from in-world clues and inferring meaning through NPC commentary. A theoretical physicist seemed like an unlikely protagonist for 1998’s hit action game blockbuster, so when it came time for Gearbox to approach Valve to make an expansion pack, they had to come up with a character that not only built upon this framework, but also made a powerfully distinct protagonist. Thus, Adrian Shephard was born and swiftly embedded into the adolescent imagination of thousands of gamers.

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Through The Fragmentation (Demo)Máté Pribelszky

A mysterious note, a stranger in a car park, and an insidious disk with dark secrets. Oh yeah, right, and everyone is some kind of bird.

Fragmentation exists at the fascinating intersection of adventure games and immersive sims. So get those gears turning and ready up for some intuitive sleuthing, you’re going to need to keep your head straight if you want a clean way out of this tangled web of conspiratorial intrigue.

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Star Wars Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy (2003) – By LucasArts, Raven Software
(video credit: Michal Kuban)

It’s late at night and you’ve been chomping on some generic corn chips and store-brand soda, you got off work 5 hours ago and it’s the weekend. A lot of your friends are into games that you find a little too stressful like Operation Flashpoint or Starcraft 1v1s, you think those games are fun but only when you don’t take them seriously. You love star wars though, and when you found a cheap copy of Jedi Academy at the local game store it seemed like a fun buy. Once you made your way through the singleplayer campaign and got a feel for the combat, you dived into some multiplayer.

Sometimes you just wanna unwind, and dueling servers have a calm vibe where you can catch up with your pals while flexing new technique. Who wants to play something that just feels like work right after getting off a shift at the local grocery store? Not you! It’s time to jump in and catch some hang time.

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Content Warning: Discussions of COVID-19 and social isolation.

Whether we like it or not, we now live in a video game world. Locked doors, empty streets, vehicles with owners nowhere to be seen and wide open cityscapes that go nowhere. There’s stores but no commerce, there’s restaurants but no patrons.

Increasingly, our reality has turned into a skybox or the aesthetic backdrop for a multiplayer power struggle where the server is empty yet the player remains. But there’s still signs of life, diegetic worldbuilding that hints at a larger narrative.

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Eden – By The Missing Mountain Team

Somewhere hidden within the depths of every writer’s imagination is a place, far beyond the perception of human eyes and the grasp of their meager arms. It is a place someone cannot touch, cannot hear nor taste, yet a creative man can see it, feel it, somehow impossibly know it.

Once you have been to this place, to show anyone else is to perform an oblique ritual, to tread a dark and winding foggy path that goes far beyond the confines of your comfort, to transform yourself into a doorway through which unknown things can reach our world. You must ask yourself if this queer drive, this strange muse, this siren song, serves you or only itself, a question with an answer granted only to those willing to complete the journey. [Some spoilers follow]

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Video games and the automotive industry have a long history as digital dancing partners, or perhaps friendly hotrod racers forever running in parallel with one another. This friendship is, in fact, older than many of us who grew up with video games themselves, from the most obvious iteration of racing games through the years, to the downright unlikely bizarre crossovers such as the LucasArts / Chrysler (yes, you read that correctly) demo disc in 1996.

But how often do we hear about this history or take the time to preserve it in our communities? And what exactly does video game preservation look like? Is it a simple matter of dusty hardware in a museum, or can it be something more, like a living digital exhibit? Leo Burke set out on a mission earlier this year to embark on his own interpretation in the recently released Auto Museum 64.

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Happy’s Humble Burger Barn – by Scythe Dev Team

Public relations is still a relatively young industry despite its dominance in everyday life. At the hands of this new medium, the world is reduced to a cacophony, and no matter where you look you find a million ads vying for your endlessly divided attention. With companies caught in a forever war with their competitors for the true currency of hungry eyeballs, marketing continues to race ahead in innovation that bears the fruit of research often difficult to distinguish from quack fringe science papers on brainwashing. How can we get people to eat more junk food? How can we get them to drink more soda? How can we convince everyone to consume more luxury goods in excess? How can we commodify more of our daily lives?

The newest entry into the Scythe Dev Team‘s game universe, Happy’s Humble Burger Barn, has found some disturbing answers. Brace yourself, Dear Reader, for you may find that Happy Cows do not necessarily produce better milk.

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