A Special Radio Transmission: Asking the Right Questions

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In this, our seventh episode, Zolani and I have a late-night chat about a diverse handful of recently-released small games, ranging from the surreal and poetic to the more familiar but still pretty surreal and kind of terrifying. We discuss the intersection of games with poetry, and Zolani provides us with a rousing dramatic reading of the verse from fizzhog’s foliakatra in particular. We also discuss the importance of the unification of things like context, subtext and symbolism with visual and ludic elements like spatial perspective, movement, dimension and “mechanics”. In the second half of the episode, Zolani and I do a little Q&A with questions we were asked via Twitter. We got a nice bunch of questions that we were able to use as a springboard for a short-ish retrospective on our careers, what it is we’d like to still do and see, and how we see our own roles in the critical sphere we belong to. Also, my cat, Princess Peach, contributes some thoughts by walking into my microphone and then onto my keyboard. Continue reading

Beyond the Sea: Subtext and Environmental Storytelling in Ecco the Dolphin

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[TW: This piece discusses death, violence and fear of the sea.] 

I was convinced, the first time I fired up my Ecco the Dolphin ROM on my SEGA emulator, that the whole of the game consisted of the first screen in Home Bay. Perhaps it was my own bias toward free-form experimental games, but for a good ten minutes I splashed, swam, and breached the surface of Home Bay’s pacific blue water, gradations of navy and purple leading the eye to a robin’s-egg horizon lined with white clouds and distant, mountainous islands, and I figured that was the game. I didn’t realize what foreshadowing those remote formations and the darkening depths of the water implied, nor did I realize what it meant when I jumped into the air and all of a sudden and with a whirring screech, all the beautiful life of the Bay got vacuumed into the sky. Continue reading

Altgame Profiles: Strangethink

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Strangethink is a Manchester-based independent developer, and this is the only piece of biographical trivia he’s made publicly available as far as I could find. We follow each other on Twitter although we’ve barely spoken. His timeline gives off an air of single-minded creative dedication and professionalism, replete with screenshots of his in-production work and updates on the development process. In other words, it reads like a dev blog. His website, by contrast, provides almost no information. All we get is his logo—a white Rorschach-esque pattern that looks something like a brain on a hot pink background—a screenshot of his game currently in development, and a field for sending Strangethink your email address in case your would like updates for its pending release. Continue reading

Notes on Dream.Sim: The Darkness Cycle

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I’ve had this dream before, but something’s wrong. I wake up, but the alarm doesn’t chime like I expect it to. The music is lilting and subtly melancholy. Things are dark, grainy, gray, colourless. The silence is the thick residue of violence. Something happened here. I awaken into this world as if having walked in on something after the fact. The silence and the darkness speak volumes about things falling apart.

I look over to the corner of my small apartment where I expect to see my computer monitor by the window and art hung on the wall, all neatly arranged. Instead, things are broken and in disarray. Comforts of home, luxury and sentimentality are all heaped in a pathetic pile like trash. The monitor is suspended in the pile which appears stuck to the wall, the screen static and flickering. I walk past a painting stuck off-center to the wall. It’s so pallid it looks like it’s been murdered. Did I do this? Why would I do this? Why would I dream this? Continue reading

Notes on Dream.Sim: The Lightness Cycle

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I wake up and the alarm chimes like a bird. Gentle music and the ambient noises of the city drone. Striking neon tones making up the fills and contours of this dream world pop vividly against the otherwise-black background that covers the entire landscape. I could be dreaming about TRON, or some other brightly-lit cyberpunk vision of the future from thirty years ago.

To my left, a computer monitor and art hangs on the walls, all neatly composed. Near the painting there are jars, paintbrushes, other artist’s tools, and I take the art on the wall to be my character’s. They way the pieces are hung, they must be a point of pride. I get a sense of scale by the bed’s proximity to the computer desk; even more by the bathroom’s proximity to the exit. Everything feels organized but compressed. I get a sense of competing, contradictory textures when I collide with, on the one hand, the solid, electric-blue mass that’s meant to represent water in the inexplicably full tub. On the other, an almost-transparent—were it not for the red outline—spiral staircase looping around my balcony gives things a feeling of lightness. Continue reading

Notes on Softelevision: A Tone Poem & Eight Solitudes

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I let Softelevision load in my browser in another tab. I’m listening to some soothing, ambient Jon Hopkins tune and I know that when the bar underneath the Unity logo has filled in the sound of ocean waves will crash through my speakers, a soft white-blue static fading in and out in a gentle rhythm against a twinkling of computer-generated harmonies.

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