A week where The Ethics of Selling Children had an unexpected resurgence of tweet love thanks to Joe Martin. A week where superbrothers™ became a supporter of Electron Dance. A week when I discovered no one was interested in reading about an ARG that nobody was interested in playing in the first place. But one vital question remains.
On the other hand, you can talk about anything you want. It's open comment time.
When they tell you that you are gorgeous and amazing, you wonder if it's not you at all but the butterfly effect. Maybe they have fallen in love with the synergy of a Zeitgeist moment and you are merely the object of misplaced affections. So you do something that looks backwards, something that tries to clone that superstar attention. We are all human.
The Aspiration remains one of the best pieces of writing you will find on Electron Dance. It is a detailed journal of my struggles in a game of Neptune's Pride, covering not just strategy but alien role-play and flirtation with a game-induced nervous breakdown. But once the series was done in 2011, the traffic did not stick around and for the rest of that year I could not shake off the feeling that I had slipped silently from internet wannabe to internet has-been.
I had some ideas for essays that extended The Aspiration and decided in 2011 Q4 to run a spin-off series. During the original series, The Aspiration had revealed they were heading for Earth so for the spin-off The Aspiration would finally reach Earth then hack Electron Dance. Also running it over Christmas might be a win in terms of traffic because most sites stop updates during the holidays. Thus The Xmaspiration was born. It sounded awesome, almost as awesome as alien vampires.
I attempted to hype it up before the series launched except... I created something monstrous. Something I lost control of. What I envisioned as a harmless bit of fun mutated into a full-blown ARG, an alternate reality game.
This is the story of that accidental ARG and how it destroyed Christmas.
In this episode of Counterweight, Eric Brasure and Joel "HM" Goodwin discuss the act of replaying a game. What games encourage replays? What do multiple endings mean? Are some games better off without a replay?
Spoiler Warning: The ending for Jasper Byrne's Lone Survivor is discussed
02:30 "How many times do people now play Proteus?"
04:20 "I don't know that I would really play Dishonored with the intention of getting better at Dishonored."
05:00 "The anomaly that stands out to me at the moment is Leave Home which says you've got five minutes to play, do your best."
08:00 "And now of course in the day of YouTube, we can just watch all the endings on YouTube."
09:20 "I feel like that's a distancing effect, when I replay a game and I'm going for a specific ending."
11:50 "That's almost a commentary on replaying games as a narrative mechanic..."
14:50 "I don't think that there's much desire on my part to replay The Walking Dead."
17:50 "I'm wondering if replays are often destroying games."
19:40 "All you have is a hazy memory of certain things that you may or may not have done in the game a decade ago - and that makes it almost a new experience."
21:20 "I want to have some sort of institutional memory with videogames - and I think that's a problem, that we don't have that."
24:40 "Are we going to come out and say this stuff is a bit rubbish?"
30:20 "It does let the player fail and it lets the player fail in fundamental ways... the player could have to restart the game."
37:30 "I'm getting much more interested in games as systems."
39:50 "I find roguelikes to be really interesting... because they are explicitly designed for you to fail and to fail hard - lots of times."
44:10 "It's not about the ending it's about your journey of becoming better at the game."
Download the podcast MP3 or play it right here in your browser:
- Leave Home (Electron Dance)
- qrth-phyl (Electron Dance)
- On replaying Dishonored (Electron Dance)
- Zaga-33 (Electron Dance)
- On "Those Honeymoon Hours" (Electron Dance)
- On Lone Survivor (Electron Dance)
- Lars von Trier's Dancer in the Dark (Wikipedia)
- Bioshock 2 as a better Bioshock (Tap-Repeatedly)
- Other games referenced: Proteus, Space Invaders, The Walking Dead, Mass Effect, Bioshock Infinite, Half-Life, Half-Life 2, Deus Ex, Cart Life, FTL, Teleglitch, Dark Souls
- Photo edited from original by Calton available at commons.wikipedia.org under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license
In the last three years I have "discovered" two games.
The first was Nicolau Chaud's Marvel Brothel, which I unearthed on his Portuguese site after being pointed to his (at the time) better-known sociopath game Beautiful Escape: Dungeoneer (best game ending of 2010) via Jordan Rivas. Somehow the game had been posted onto rpgmaker.net and never achieved escape velocity. I forwarded it to Kieron Gillen who was still at RPS at the time and it was soon all over the internet. Within days, Marvel issued a cease-and-desist order against rpgmaker.net and tried to kill the game; it still flourishes out there in the wild.
The second game I discovered was, of course, Richard Hofmeier's Cart Life. Cart Life had been posted onto the AGS forums in 2011 and achieved only limited success; the deluxe versions had sold out but little had been written about it. When I played the game, I didn't have an immediate epiphany like "this has IGF winner written all over it". I sat on it a couple of months while I wrote about Neptune's Pride and then put my thoughts together at the start of 2012. I had begun to realise that the game was special. I try to avoid hyperbole so you can imagine how immensely silly I felt when I titled the Cart Life article "Game of the Year".
Think of those ugly, malformed crystals you could grow with a kid's chemistry set at home but much bigger. How big? Think miles. And no one knew they were coming because one day they were simply there. As if they'd always been there, you know, like some dusty forgotten ornaments of the atmosphere.
I am nostalgic about those days, the last good days, because I like to think the fear of the unknown, of the uncertain future, was still tinged with optimism.
In this episode of Dialogue Tree, Eric Brasure interviews John Sharp, associate professor of Games & Learning at Parsons. Sharp discusses his IndieCade East keynote that drew parallels between the punk DIY philosophy and indie developers. He also goes on to discuss the problems of design in the thrall of tutorials, the realities of surviving as an indie developer and a need for more anger.
02:40 “One of the things I was most struck by, I guess, was the DIY attitude that those guys had.”
03:50 “They were having to invent everything from scratch.”
07:30 “They called it a computer toy.”
10:40 “I think that robs players of their agency, to some degree.”
12:00 “They kind of found themselves painting themselves into a corner.”
15:10 “What's going on in the... 'indie academic' or 'academic indie' scene... is really quite vital.”
18:40 “...it's embarrassing to me. The number of games that involve male power fantasies about shooting.”
22:20 “Punk also sort of churned through people... it was a monster that needed youth to fuel itself.”
27:10 “The thing that's perhaps a bit of a lie from those people is that not everybody is going to be Team Meat. Not everybody is going to be Phil Fish.”
35:20 “There's a real danger there of never actually getting to make the games you want to make and, instead, making games for toothpaste companies.”
36:50 “There's a few too many people who grew up playing platformers and are kind of reliving that through making indie platform games themselves today.”
42:20 “I think there's a space for anger, let's say, inside Johann Sebastian Joust... though I don't think that's necessarily the kind of play experience Doug Wilson wants to happen inside that game.”
Download the podcast MP3 or play it right here in your browser:
- Featured music: Pitchman - "Route 13" (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)
- John Sharp interview discussing IndieCade East talk
- Space War!
- Tracy Fullerton (Night Journey, Walden)
- PETLab (Red Cross games for disaster preparedness, Data Toys)
- Robert Yang (Radiator blog)
- Rise of the Videogame Zinesters
- Indie Game: The Movie
- Liz Ryerson on Indie Game: The Movie (Midnight Resistance)
- Large Animal Games
- Gaijin Games
- Mattie Brice
- Local No. 12
You can subscribe directly to Dialogue Tree via iTunes or RSS. Eric also maintains a web site called Charles Wallace on Camazotz and a Star Trek podcast, recorded with Richard Goodness, called Trekabout. Richard promises never to use the word "gynoids" in a podcast again.
Someone had contaminated Slackjaw’s still.
Rather than killing many of his gang outright, those who had quaffed elixir from the poisoned still were now Weepers, quarantined in a makeshift gaol. The Bottle Street Gang was crippled, which was why Slackjaw turned to me for help. Something had happened in Dr. Galvani’s place and he didn’t have anyone available to follow it up.
Slackjaw was not aware that I was the one who had poisoned his still. Neither was he aware that his bodyguards were unconscious, sheltering under cobwebs in the darkest corners of the distillery.
I delivered revelation with my knife and wrote the truth across his chest. He gasped and staggered back, but I left him no time to respond. A second revelation proved too much for him and he collapsed to the floor.
As I took my leave, none of the gang members in the main hall noticed anything was wrong. Outside was a different story. The Weepers had escaped from their prison and, with surprising enthusiasm, had taken up the task of attacking and infecting their jailers.
The Bottle Street Gang profited from misery every day and terrorised the ordinary people of Dunwall. And so I killed them.
It's Electron Dance's first open comments thread!
What are you thinking about? What are you playing? Does the death of Google Reader affect you? Will the incoming Pope impact the world of videogames? Have you read quite enough about Dishonored already? Would you like me to play Mass Effect at last? What, really?
Insert coin to think. It's your move.
Red light floods the auditorium. An electric guitar wails as a dark, hypnotic mantra plays out on a double bass. We see the characters speak but we can’t hear what they say; we are permitted to observe but not understand. It’s dirty. The scene blisters with sin and the music reaches out and absorbs the audience. We are all sinners now. We are complicit.
I watched Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me twice in the same week but most critics hated the film. It was booed at Cannes. Twenty years on, I still remember my time in the Pink Room.
In this episode of Dialogue Tree, Eric Brasure interviews Charles Battersby about his work putting together and moderating the PAX panels on transgender issues in gaming. He discusses a broad range of topics such as the fine line between stereotyping and authenticity, transgender characters as plot twists and crossplay. Battersby will be chairing a similar panel at PAX East later this month.
(Originally broadcast August 13, 2012.)
01:10 “I'd noticed over the last few decades that there are a lot of transgender videogame characters.”
05:00 “It was important to have a lot of different voices rather than just one small cross-section.”
06:20 “One of the ones that had the greatest impact for me is a game caller Nier.”
08:00 “I'm sure a lot of designers are trying to walk the balance of including transgender characters but not including offensive or negative stereotypes.”
09:30 “Far too often there is the humorous note where they try to have a transgender prostitute as a little gag.”
10:25 “It's absolutely getting better.”
11:00 “I know I talk about Kainé a lot but she really is a terrific example of a character that just happens to be transgender.”
13:40 “People often think that transgender people are weird and icky.”
15:10 “I almost always play a female character.”
17:40 “Even though my Commander Sheperd is a woman, she is actually a transvestite.”
19:30 “It's just one step away from what's already available on the market.”
24:00 “Who are all these people here to see? And it turned out they were there to see us.”
Download the podcast MP3 or play it right here in your browser:
PAX Panel Videos
Press XY: Transgender Issues in Gaming / PAX East 2012
Press XY To Continue Transgender Gaming / PAX Prime 2012
- Featured music: Inara George - "Can't Say No"
- Poison from Final Fight (Wikipedia)
- Nier (Wikipedia)
- Alfred Ashford, Resident Evil: Code Veronica
- PAX Panel Videos are embedded above
You can subscribe directly to Dialogue Tree via iTunes or RSS. Eric also maintains a web site called Charles Wallace on Camazotz and a Star Trek podcast, recorded with Richard Goodness, called Trekabout. Richard also sings for a band called Riot Fox but that has nothing to do with Star Trek.