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Showing posts with the label Narrative

...Spins a Web? Any Size?

Spider-Man, Spider-Man, Does whatever a spider can Spins a web, any size, Catches thieves just like flies Look Out! Here comes the Spider-Man. Spider-Man has been a pop culture stalwart since the early 60s, with no signs of that slowing down. He's had numerous comic series, spin-offs, cartoons, blockbuster movies and, of course, video games. His appeal is unquestionable, as most people can relate to his dilemma of power and moral responsibility. The Atari 2600 Spider-Man from 1982 may not have been a masterpiece, but electronic gaming has come a long way over the years. After a break from video games since the PS2 generation, Marvel's Spider-man seemed a perfect fit for Captain Jumpy Andy's return to consoles. Little did he know when he picked up a PS4 and the game early in the 2020 pandemic just how appropriate the game's plotline would be... Prophetic or not, what does Never Say Dice have to say about this incarnation of the world’s favorite web-slinger, and how

Restless Dreams: Horror, Fantasy, Gaming, and Emotional Logic

The calendar tells us that it's October, and while it may not feel like it outside, this is officially the season for spooks and scares. Given the time of year and the twenty-year anniversary of its release (and also of my owning it) the next game in my backlog playthrough was obvious: 2001's Silent Hill 2 . Much has already been written about this game (there's a reason it's on so many "Best Games of All Time" lists, after all), so this post will be neither explanation nor analysis, but rather a exploration of the way horror blurs the lines between the world that we know exists, and the way we feel it exists... and the way that games, both electronic and tabletop, are uniquely capable of embodying this dichotomy. Given my love of horror and all things surreal, it's kind of surprising that it's taken me this long to actually finish the game. At the outset, it was because I felt obligated to play the original Silent Hill first, even though I was va

Thoughts on the American Withdrawal from Afghanistan, Primarily Informed by MGSV

Afghanistan's a big place. It's become something of a cliche to say that recent events are " just like Metal Gear games ," but this is often the case with science fiction. Good works are always about the time in which they were made, but with a focus on exploring certain aspects. Where it might go. As time goes on and these aspects develop, science fiction can feel eerily prescient. The Metal Gear series has incorporated real-world politics since the 2D days, portraying the governments of western nations, particularly the United States, as duplicitous and capable of monstrous atrocities... all while playing a character working on those governments' behalf. 1998's Metal Gear Solid was fundamentally about the fallout from the Cold War arms race, the dangers of the weapons created for a war that never came (which included Snake himself), and lengths to which the military-industrial complex will go to maintain its fiscal and political dominance in a world without

Fun With Murder: The Narrative Ethics of Assassination Games

It's funny. As someone who views "detective" as an integral part of their personality , I sure have a lot of crime games. Well, crime media in general, especially movies, but games have certain... implications. You're the one committing the crimes , not watching other characters do them or following a protagonist as they piece together criminal events through evidence and investigation. You're right there, doing all the bad stuff yourself. Recently, in the ongoing quest to tackle my massive game backlog, I've been playing the first Tenchu game, released in 1998. I bought it because the creators would later go on to make my beloved Way of the Samurai series, but if one looked at my shelves, they could easily assume I chose it thematically, as Tenchu 's neighbors include numerous Hitman , Assassin's Creed , and Dishonored games - a subgenre we'll call "assassination games." I've seen it remarked that there's an irony that, while

Odd Taxi's Genre Subversions

No matter what (or who) we're engaging with, first impressions carry a lot of weight. But even before we've made them, we already have a set of expectations and preconceptions. These can be based on deliberate signifiers (this taxi is available because it's parked and the light is on), cultural preconceptions (I can talk to the driver, but they won't engage with anything I say in-depth), and underlying, unquestioned fundamentals of reality (the driver will appear human). This takes place in media as well, and largely defines the way we engage with genre works . When our actual experiences don't line up with expectations, we experience a sense of confusion as our brains struggle to catch up and make sense of what it's been presented, confusion that may (or may not) be proportional to the nature of the dissonance. If someone was familiar with anime conventions and the types of stories typically featured in anime, but not, say, the convoluted, darkly comedic crime

Fifth Dimension

There is a fifth dimension, beyond that which is known to man. It is a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity. It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of man's fears and the summit of his knowledge. This is the dimension of imagination. It is an area which we call The Twilight Zone. A Side :  If you’re familiar with the words above, you’ve probably seen at least one episode of the stalwart classic The Twilight Zone . (Or maybe you remember them from our previous Twilight Zone post where we reviewed a few episodes and the series itself? In which case, we hope you went and watched a few episodes afterwards.) The 2019 series revival may have been cancelled this year, but that doesn’t mean we can’t welcome these newer entries into our strange home. While some of the new Zones may have been rehashes of old material, a number of new episodes can join the ranks of that "middle ground between sc

The Space Between Blows: The Audience's Role in Narrative Combat

POW! BIFF! ZOT! Fight scenes have been a part of narrative media for... well, as long as there has been narrative media . The Illiad , for instance, is full of the granular blow-by-blow we expect of fight scenes today, regardless of medium . So this is not a topic for which I can do any kind of justice - I'm sure there are people who have dedicated their entire careers to the study of narrative combat, and there will always be more to talk about, more to discover. Rather, this post will explore some recent thoughts inspired by (what else) a mostly-forgotten twenty-year old video game. Oni is a third-person action game with a focus, despite the arsenal of weapons featured in the official art, on melee combat. Today, it's remembered mostly as the game Bungie made after Marathon and Myth , but before Halo . Culturally, it's a rather bizarre relic: a western attempt at making an "anime game" based on limited reference points that the creators lifted wholesale, partic

I Am Camp Incarnate: Trash History and Return to Castle Wolfenstein

Today is V-E Day, and earlier this week, by sheer coincidence, I declared victory over Return to Castle Wolfenstein - specifically the Playstation 2 version. I'd started it a while ago, but picked it back up both to try and cut down my gargantuan list of  “in-progress” games and to build up to playing the more recent titles in the series with Andy. Playing RtCW in 2021 was certainly... an experience . I haven't chosen the games I've played during the pandemic specifically because of their relation to current events, but an eerie number have featured infectious disease plots ( Metal Gear Solid V , Dishonored , and Marvel's Spider-Man ), so gunning down Nazis at least gave me a chance to engage with a different aspect of our unfortunate times. Return to Castle Wolfenstein is, obviously, an "historical" game, but in more ways than might seem obvious (or intended)., The era it conveys is not the 1940s in which it was set, but the way that period was conveyed in

Whatcha Whatcha Whatcha Want: Crafting Character Motivation

There’s an old axiom that every story, regardless of medium, is ultimately about someone who wants something, but has obstacles standing in their way. While that’s probably overly reductionist, it’s true that both characters and plots are driven by desires and motivations. But how much do these need to be developed? Does every character need a complex motivation, or were Tears for Fears right when they said that everybody simply wants to rule the world? B : This will be a tough one to tackle, because character motivation comes not only from a creator’s intent, but also from their audience’s interpretations. Whether it’s someone reading words thousands of years after they were written or someone sitting on the other side of a gaming table, every audience member’s own desires and experience will determine how they see a character’s motivations, no matter how those motivations are being presented. Believability often comes down to accessibility. We might not want to become Jedi ourselves