Conversations Without Words

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I bought Meadow, the newest game from Shelter devs Might & Delight, the other day on a complete whim. The game is a strange kind of MMO which casts the player as a variety of cute animals in a large online meadow. What intrigued is that, other than wandering around as a badger cub collecting flowers, there isn’t much of an objective to the game. Which honestly is fine by me. There’s something soothing in exploration for explorations sake. And the art style is beautiful enough that it’s a delight to see what this world has to offer.

For me, the most interesting feature of this game is the interaction between players. Communicating with others is nothing new to online games, it’s an expectation nowadays. Voice chat or text boxes allow us to express ourselves to other denizens of online spaces exactly how we want. Many MOBAs even offer stock phrases that can be communicated to team mates for those without keyboards and microphones. Today, communicating is easy and effective.

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Letters from The Long Dark

“For many years, I have been moved by the blue at the far edge of what can be seen, that color of horizons, of remote mountain ranges, of anything far away. The color of that distance is the color of an emotion, the color of solitude and of desire, the color of there seen from here, the color of where you are not. And the color of where you can never go. For the blue is not away at the horizon, but in the atmospheric distance between you and the mountain.”
~ Rebecca Solnit

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Sunday Swatch

It’s Sunday! Ignore that sinking feeling signalling the coming work week by checking out these great posts on games.

Mafia III has put race and race relations openly at the centre of its game. For some this is a bold choice that’s welcome in a world of Aug Right’s Matter and Elven discrimination. Others find the depiction of racism to be unrealistic. Read all about it here, although if you’re feeling down due to the state of the world, be warned there’s an amount of ‘all lives matter’ and racism deniers. Maybe avoid if you want to keep your Sunday light and carefree. However, it is interesting to read the more positive reactions of those who enjoy using Clay as a means of revenge and retribution.

On a similar note have a look at this article from Comic Alliance. It focuses on the divide between creators and their ‘problematic’ content, and the fans who are desperate for positive and nuanced representation. While it does focus on how this plays out in the comic book industry, it is equally applicable to video games. It’s defiantly worth a read.

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Throwback Thursday: Tomb Raider

In this series of posts I want to explore games from my past. In doing so I aim to not only highlight pieces of game history (good or bad), but also examine my personal relationship to gaming.

Since Tomb Raider, and by extension Lara Croft, is celebrating its 20th anniversary I thought it would be fitting to look at this famous series. I have a lot of fond memories of the games, and a lot of scary ones too.

lara

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Depression, Farming and Stardew Valley

Please note, this piece discusses on depression, alcohol abuse and suicide as depicted within Stardew Valley. Also contains spoilers for the new update romance arc of Shane. 

Stardew Valley is an incredibly popular indie farming simulator which recently released its first major update 1.1. The patch notes include additions like new farm layouts, new quests and allowing players to marry two characters that were previously un-romanceable. The one I was most excited about was local grump, Shane.

For those who have not invested hours into this charming game, Shane appeared originally as just a guy who worked in the local supermarket all day, and drank beer in the local saloon all night. He lived with his aunt and didn’t seem to have any friends. If you tried to talk to him he’d tell you to go away and not to talk to him. And I, along with many other players, loved him regardless.

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Sunday Swatch

Rock Paper Shotgun talks to Virginia writer and designer about the use of jump cuts in the game. It’s a detailed look and what they did and why. I’d recommend it for those who have played Virginia and are wondering what was technically done to make it memorable.

More on Virginia – Polygon rounds up some of the theories about the ending of the game here. I find some of these interesting, and it’s always enjoyable to read other people’s differing theories on the same text. I however don’t really mind not knowing what the end means. In my post on Virginia I talked about David Lynch, who is probably one of my favourite storytellers/people. In coming to love Lynch’s work, I first had to learn to let go of the search for a definitive meaning. In order to understand his work on its own terms I had to stop trying to understand it and just experience it. This was an approach I applied to Virginia too. I am sure the creators had a meaning when they created the game, but I recommend not searching too hard for it. Just let the game wash through your mind and be absorbed into your subconscious, where it can fester for months until it gives you weird and beautiful dreams.

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Dead Easy: Designing Difficulty

This is the third post in a series of blog entries about the inclusion of an ‘easy mode’ in all games. The previous piece Difficulty and Design Intent focused on the argument that an easier mode in some games would ruin the experience intended by the game’s developers. The second post Is Art for Everyone? asked if difficult games should be their own genre, and if perhaps these games aren’t for all players. I discussed how this applied to other mediums with difficult texts like film, literature and art.

N.B. I want to make clear that this post is for now putting aside the issue that an easier mode in games would be beneficial to differently abled or disabled players. I want to look at the discussion regarding this in a post on its own – mostly because I would like to research this topic in more detail so as to be more educated on the matter. Therefore, the arguments presented here relate mostly to players who can’t play games due to their skill level, although I am sure there will be some cross-over.

This post was inspired by this article that went up on Game Informer yesterday, which looks at seven games that created higher difficulties by doing more than just reducing health for the player and increasing enemies. So today I want to look at what a difficult mode of a game can/should look like, rather than focusing on the easy mode. Perhaps if more games had sophisticated difficulties then more players would not mind a game that allowed choice. I think the reason many popular difficult games are revered is the obvious love and care that has gone into designing the game’s difficulty. For many games a difficult mode can result in just basic changes that make completing the game feel like a slog, rather than an enjoyable challenge.

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