Electron Dance

Electron Dance Highlights


The Sun Always Rises

Hello. If you are fortunate enough not to have played Outer Wilds (Mobius Digital, 2019), then here is everything you need to know right now:

  1. You should play Outer Wilds.
  2. When you start Outer Wilds, you will struggle to understand why people say “you should play Outer Wilds”.
  3. When you finish Outer Wilds, you will tell others “you should play Outer Wilds”.
  4. You should not read the rest of this spoiler-rich post.

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Not So Far

There was a lady in the village of Lyndow. Tifa her name was and she offered me a ride on the back of her cart to the city of Nava. But when I tried to take her up on her kind offer, she admonished me. I asked why.

“You’re a newcomer and you’ve never been to Nava! It’s not so far and the walk is lovely. Everyone going to Nava for their first time should approach by foot. I won’t be the one to cheat you out of an enriching experience.”

Eastshade, you know me very well. More than you think.

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Slave to the Rhythm

This is the fourth in a series of five musings on Control. Previously: Behind the Poster, Use of Weapons and Reverse Shock.

There will be spoilers.


Let’s say Control isn’t working for you. It’s fine, it’s keeping you entertained but it doesn’t give you that rush. But inside this puzzle box of hype is another one.

They say: this is the actual good stuff.

They say: this is the real deal.

This is the real get hype.

And now you are here. You don your spacesuit ready for your first step on the surface of Planet Disappointment, because that’s where a free ride through hypespace usually ends up.

You enter the Ashtray Maze - and wait for the other shoe to fall.

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The Lost World

It happened without warning, as it often does. My wife’s hard drive died.

This was 2016. Everything of value had been on a separate data drive which was, of course, backed up. But this was the Windows drive which we never bothered to back up. It rarely seemed worth it and, personally, I like the opportunity to start afresh on a new drive.

But then I remembered Minecraft... and the blood drained from my face.

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Filed under: Longform 11 Comments

Reverse Shock

This is the third in a series of short musings on Control. The first was Behind the Poster and the second was Use of Weapons.

There will be spoilers.

Black Rock Quarry in Control is a visual wonder. Few games get me to marvel at rock - caves were the worst part of INFRA (Loiste Interactive, 2016) - but, my God, I was screenshotting up a whole folder of rock formations. Here’s some rock. Here’s Jesse standing in front of some more rock. Here’s Jesse looking into the distance, by some rock.

Combat in Control was settling down, a little too much. I was comfortable with most fights and had become somewhat complacent. Bored, even. But the quarry threw a screwball into the process.

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Phase Two

At Rezzed in 2016, I dabbled with a game called Vignettes, which I described as “a Vectorpark game not made by Vectorpark.” It was simple but genius: rotate object in 3D space until its silhouette matches the silhouette of another object – into which it then transforms. And repeat to find more objects. It was a little rough around the edges, being an early build, but intriguing.

Not intriguing enough for me to snap it up when it came out on mobile in 2017. Nor desktop last year. My imagination couldn’t fill in a particularly daunting blank: what else could there be except rotating objects into objects ad infinitum?

Unable to answer this question, I waited two years before trying Vignettes (Skeleton Business, 2017). And that’s a shame.

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Save Everybody

“He’s here! Alpha level, near the service shaft!” came Neil’s distorted voice through the walkie-talkie. Neil was one of the sharpest guns in SubSec but it was unlikely he could take down the Orange Ghost alone.

Sonia was on Delta, a full minute away from Neil if she sprinted up three levels of stairwell. She could take the service elevator but it was a sluggish thing designed to shift fragile equipment. Someone had mentioned getting a fast elevator installed to relocate security in a time of crisis. Money doesn’t grow on trees, they had been told. At least not until the city-in-progress had been completed.

Gunfire crackled over the walkie-talkie... and then it went dead. That probably went for Neil too. Oh God. That SubSec elevator had been Neil’s idea.

Sonia spotted the service elevator was now on its way down from where Neil was killed. She had a hunch who was inside.

She took up position behind a pillar opposite the elevator, aiming her handgun at the doors. Sweating, she watched the floor indicator. Beta. Gamma. Delta. Ping. The doors opened with a grunt.

There he was. The strange man in his orange exoskeleton covered in alien writing. The bastard who had slowly been killing his way through the other waystations and offices across the globe, searching for the underwater city-in-progress. He looked uncertainly out of the elevator, raising an assault rifle that had seen better days.

Sonia fired three times. Two hit the chest plate of the Orange Ghost's exoskeleton, but the third found his forehead. He slumped against the wall and slid down. His rifle clattered on the floor.

Sonia ran over to make sure he was dead, just as a small silver display on the Orange Ghost’s left arm flickered. Some text appeared. It looked like QUICK 10 AD? Or maybe LOAD? She leaned down to

Sonia spotted the service elevator was now on its way down from where Neil was killed. She had a hunch who was inside.

She took up position behind a pillar opposite the elevator, aiming her handgun at the doors. Sweating, she watched the floor indicator. Beta. Gamma. Delta. Ping. The doors opened with a grunt.

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Filed under: Longform 13 Comments

Use of Weapons

This is the second in a series of short musings on Control. The first was Behind the Poster.

There will be spoilers.

The first boss battle is with a floating person called Alberto Tommasi. Al pushed me to the brink. I considered quitting Control, despite the hefty sum I had exchanged for it.

Boss battles are often exercises in choreography where you have to improvise your footsteps against a partner who knows every move. Learning to dance through bruises and blood. Al would float around, throw a rock at Jesse and she would always get it in the face. The rocks came quicker than I could make Jesse dodge. After a couple of hits Jesse was ex-Jesse.

And then I watched the loading screen for two minutes.

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A Donation for The Button

What can I say about Interactivity: The Interactive Experience (Aetheric Games, 2019) outside of its unbearably long name and its unrealistically shiny environment powered by Unreal?

Interactivity belongs to that category of “games about games” and is reminiscent of The Stanley Parable (Wreden & Pugh, 2013). At first I thought it was a little bit too Stanley, but it charts its own course. Frustrating in places but the frustration is also sometimes the point. I liked it.

It’s quite short but I’m about to spoil it with extreme prejudice - and by that, I mean spoil it to commercial death - so you should go check it out if you want to draw your own opinions first.

Advance ye not who fear the spoiler.

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Discussion: Expect the Expected

Welcome to the November newsletter (sign up if you want to read it):

Sometimes I think the worst thing that happened to Valve was creating Steam because it took all the artistic videogame fire out of its belly. Say hello to the sleek new Valve 2, videogame rentier.

Dear subscribers, if you feel like chatting about anything at all from the newsletter, please speak your mind in the comments here.