[TW: This review contains some discussion of trauma, gore, drug use and abuse.]
[Contains heavy spoilers.]
I don’t think I’ve finished Loren Schmidt’s Strawberry Cubes. I’m not sure if that’s something I can even do.
I could not plainly describe a narrative for you. I can say that Strawberry Cubes is beautiful and melancholy and eerie. I can say it’s a game of dissonances that invokes the horror tradition of subverting childlike innocence. I play a little girl—or rather, a bright white gestalt of a little girl. A mostly featureless, paperlike sprite. I can say that this game is 2D, an ostensible platformer, and sprinkled here and there with opaque puzzles. Normally, I find puzzle platformers to be kind of trite and on-the-nose—at worst, the puzzles feel incoherent, alienating and tacked-on—but in Strawberry Cubes, they’re deeply entangled in the viscera of the game. Disentangling them isn’t surgical. I don’t know my own tools. I have very little idea what anything does and when I look for help, the description on the game’s itch.io page is just as cryptic as the game. Strange symbols mock me while explaining very little: Continue reading
By Veve Jaffa
This latest guest post comes to us from Veve Jaffa, a “bioluminescent creator of filmic and digital worlds, queering canon one beloved cis-heteronormative narrative at a time.” You can support their work via Patreon, follow them on Twitter @joiedeveve and check out their games on itch.io. In this piece, Jaffa introduces us to the surprisingly affecting thematic overtones of classic platformer Rocky Rodent.
Gifs by Cassie Mewn. Support her on Patreon, too!
Nearly 20 years ago today I grasped a grey SNES cartridge outfitted with a drooling, determined rodent in my hands and excitedly slid it into place, the satisfying click punctuating my enthusiasm and launching the title screen. A purple, shrieking rat bolted in hyper-speed across my T.V. The colourful intensity and cartoonish absurdity were enough to hook the five-year-old sitting before them, but what I couldn’t have predicted or prepared for, was the next two decades spent trying to finish what I started and finally feed a hungry rodent named Rocky. Continue reading
Videogame culture, by and large, still predominantly values representational spatial aesthetics. That is to say that the way spaces and the things in them look, and how we navigate them, are valued for how verisimilar or adjacent to photorealism they are. The culture even still seems to view text-based representation as somewhat radical (despite its deeply-rooted history in interactive media). But there’s another kind of virtual-spatial representation sitting on the outskirts of games that’s rife with its own expressive potential. This style relies on clicking on static images, or parts of static images, which then lead to new images. This kind of spatial navigation is very similar to the hyperlink structure of Twine, but relies instead on 2D visual frames to construct its aesthetic and sense of environment. This style can evoke a photo montage, or the quick, sharp effect of jump and axial cuts in film. In some cases, it might even evoke a Powerpoint presentation, which may not necessarily be pejorative depending on what the designer is trying to communicate. Continue reading
[TW: This piece discusses death, trauma, claustrophobia, panic and anxiety.]
There’s this episode of The Twilight Zone called “The Hitch-hiker” from 1960 in which a woman named Nan Adams is driving from New York to California. At the beginning of the episode, a kindly mechanic is jacking her tire, making small talk, and instructing her on where to find the gas station. She had just been in a minor accident and needed a tire change. Nothing too severe, but as she gets back in her car she notices a drably dressed hitchhiker suddenly by the other side of the road, thumb limply up, staring at her sorrowfully. Confused and creeped out, she ignores him and goes on her way. But she keeps seeing him, at the station, outside tunnels, on the dangerous straightaway—and no one else seems to. Continue reading
By Omar Elaasar
Sufficiently Human’s latest guest post comes to us from Chicago-based writer, artist, video producer, and Editor-in-Chief of , Omar Elaasar. You can find him him on Twitter, Medium and YouTube as . In this piece, Elaasar discusses the aesthetic and expressive potential of drawing from theater, particularly the set and stage, in videogames.
There is a trend both in creative and in critical circles of using cinematic language to describe what we see. Of course, videogames are a very different medium from film and oftentimes these differences result in a shallow or surface level imitation of the language of film. This extends to our understanding of film techniques as they apply to games as well. Continue reading
It’s about time I addressed this as an essay.
When I mean to refer to a game’s internal consistency, logic—or lack thereof—I say “(in)coherence.” When I mean to refer to the unification of a game’s moving parts—or lack thereof—I say “(in)coherence.” Continue reading
I’ve been wondering about genre labels like “first-person action-adventure procedural puzzle game with platforming elements” for some time now. I’ve been wondering if they describe anything in particular anymore.
I’ve been wondering for some time now what a platform does for a videogame that’s different from what, say, parataxis, does for verse. I don’t mean this in the sense of a direct analogue; one refers to a kind of virtual architecture with an implied ludic, “mechanical” component and the other is a kind of grammatical structure referring to short, staggered lines of text. They have, at best, a metaphoric relationship to each other. But in a functional sense, they’re describing similar kinds of properties: specific formal traits which are, more often than not, deliberately applied to the work in order to evoke specific feelings, sensibilities or ideas. They are, in other words, devices. Continue reading
[This piece contains heavy spoilers!]
It would feel like a categorical mistake to focus on SURREALISTa as a “puzzle platformer.” Strictly speaking, it contains both the ludic devices of puzzle-solving and platforming, and so one inclined to focus on its value as a game may be tempted to lavish attention on these qualities. But—and I suspect this is also the case with Gigoia Studio’s other release, GOLDAK—the ludic context is really just a means to an end here. Continue reading
At the beginning of Visualizing Feeling: Affect and the Feminine Avant-garde, art historian Susan Best discusses her methodology for tackling the “neglected” area of subjective experience in art criticism, writing,
“Assuming the custodianship of feeling in this fashion might seem inevitable or even retrograde given the traditional alignment of femininity with feeling and emotion as opposed to the masculine domain of thinking and reason. The stereotype that women are more emotional than men, as well as the common idea that emotion is a disruption to thinking, must surely rest upon a familiar binary logic. Why, then, perpetuate or reinforce such views?” Continue reading
By Brian Crimmins
Sufficiently Human’s latest guest post comes to us from Brian Crimmins, a game critic focusing primarily on older Japanese games. You can check out more of his work at Unwinnable, Hardcore Gaming 101, and most frequently at Indie Haven. You can also read more of his reviews over at his blog, Game Exhibition.
[TW: This piece contains some discussion of death.]
While the Japanese game scene has always been a place for developers to experiment, the mid-2000s in particular saw an explosion of creativity. Games had been established for long enough that they could work off each other and the surrounding cultural landscape, which is exactly what they did. We can see this in Metal Gear Solid 2’s deconstruction of videogames, Wind Waker’s farewell to the Zelda formula, and Persona 3’s rebuttal against the despondent Evangelion. Perhaps no game captures that spirit better than Kingdom Hearts II. Continue reading