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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hhhhhiiiiiIIIIIIIISSSSSSSssss Continue reading

A Special Radio Transmission: Steam and the Value of Videogames

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It’s been awhile, but I’m pleased to present to you episode 6 of the Sufficiently Human Podcast!

In this episode, we have with us special guest Austin Walker, a PhD candidate in Media Studies at the University of Western Ontario and formidable freelance games critic. Using the Steam Holiday Auction as a springboard, Walker joins us to talk about the devaluation of the labour cost of games and other digital creative work in the Web 2.0 era, how platform holders obscure exploitation with freebies and “pro-consumer” rhetoric, and what it means to participate in the exchange of capital when people no longer have any money. We also ask what can be done, exploring a few potential approaches to online distribution, community-building, and wealth creation that may be turned into viable alternatives to the processes of contemporary capitalism.  Continue reading

Theorypunk: Get It While Supplies Last

Modified screenshot from Gallergy by Swofl

“In a world in which the subject has become a stranger to its [sic] labor, we use experience to incite awareness of the alienation in which one lives.”  -Lygia Clark, Nostalgia of the Body: “We Refuse…”, 1965

First, I know that nothing here will last.

Lygia Clark, an artist whose work might have fallen into the categories of “performance” or “installation” or “communicational”—yet manages to defy any singular genre specification—would have made a fantastic game designer had that option been available to her. Her work was highly experiential and participatory, the “pieces” not the objects of play themselves but the interaction that emerged between the “spectator-author” and the work. A dialogue took place between participant and artist, where the roles would switch, where the artist would give up a little of herself so that the participant might assert themself in the interaction taking place. Clark places much importance on the “act”, on the “instant”, on verbs rather than nouns. On people rather than objects. Continue reading

AltGame Profiles: Aeryne Wright (Lissaring)

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In this new series, I look at the catalogue of a developer’s work to try to determine their distinctive voice. There will be heavy spoilers so I suggest playing the (short) games linked in the text before reading through this piece. 

[TW: Some light discussion of death.] 

Playing an Aeryne Wright (a.k.a Lissaring) game is often like wandering through an enchanted forest, discovering the dew and grass and birds, the secret societies that live there, and the substance of your own thoughts. You reflect and the environment is a mirror to hold that reflection. The birds chirp and the wind chimes and the serenity of a wooded landscape gives way to some magic, something fable-like and surreal. A door, an eye, a hooded demon taking a train ride, a glistening talisman. The real twists into the unreal, like a dream space that’s at once familiar and distant, ethereal, supernatural. Continue reading