Love Always

I’ve committed to trying to do a ‘Monday digest’ here at this site, not just rounding up my own work from the past week, but pointing to other articles and new games I like. Of course, it’s now Wednesday, so, uh. How do you think that plan is going so far?

I was in Cologne last week for GDC Europe and a little bit of Gamescom, so I’m a bit behind, but before I get to that, I want to comment on something that’s been upsetting the hell out of me lately.

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Announcing Clipping Through: A new book and a new content plan!

I’m excited to announce I’ve written a new ebook, available now! It’s called Clipping Through: One Mad Week In Video Games. It centers on my travels earlier this year from London through New York to GDC 2014 and it documents my time there. It’s available in PDF, Kindle, iBooks and hell, DOCX format, because why not.

This isn’t just a book to me: Please read on!

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The page and the words

I have a couple of cool things to announce — one is that I’ll have a biweekly column at VICE UK from now on called Understanding Games. The first episode is up, and in it I come to terms with the language of mainstream video games via Snowpiercer (“BioShock on a Train”) a movie I liked a lot. There are only vague spoilers for the film, if you haven’t seen it.

Also, from now on, Lo-Fi Let’s Plays will be syndicated every Wednesday at Rock Paper Shotgun, with additional commentary and even interviews where I can get them. Super excited!

In the Guardian, I wrote about the endless investment and crude labor of multiplayer online games, after being struck weirdly by the kind of “participation” the Destiny beta offered (and inspired by a Jenn Frank article, linked therein).

At Gamasutra, I explore the incredible portfolio of Devine Lu Linvega, after some wonderful sleepless nights with the odd, intimate alien diplomacy simulator Ledoliel. I also did an interview about Variable State’s upcoming Twin Peaks-ish story game Virginia, including a chat about what it means to be “Twin Peaks-ish”. In other story game news, I catch up with unstoppable Simogo about winsome The Sailor’s DreamDef watch the lovely trailer at the head of the article.

I spent the weekend climbing Mam Tor in the Peak District via a sheep trail, and when I wasn’t doing that, I was playing a lot of Meg Jayanth/Inkle’s gorgeous 80Days (very fond of Inkle, as their creation platform Inklewriter supports the only text game of mine that has ever been shown in a festival).

The game is just lovely — as you might know I’ve written extensively about my hoped-for future of text games on touch devices and e-readers, and if you need more convincing to try 80Days for yourself, you can read Mike Rose’s interview or the inimitable Emily Short’s comprehensive look.

I also played Matthew Burns’ Arboretum, which I think is fairly interesting as a story about first love, how vague, complicated — and yet permanent — our teen feelings can be. Structurally I think it’s a really good use of the form; I think my own failure to attach to either of the characters might be a consequence of their nature and not of the writing, as Burns is one of my favorite writers in games.

Finally, I’ve done an interview about the exciting, up-and-coming Girls Make Games series of summer camps focused on teaching girls ages 9-16 how to make games (and that they can, confidently). It’s an awesome initiative and you should check it out and give your support if you can.

Your readership is dear to me, and your sharing articles of mine that you enjoy via social media is wildly and madly appreciated.

New New News

I’ve been making some adjustments regarding my relationship to social media lately. I talk about it a little bit in my critique of Mountain, the new work from multimedia artist David OReilly. There is nothing to “do” in Mountain, and as such it provides me immense relief.

I’ve finished a draft of a new ebook, a sort of diary of my thoughts and conversations on the game industry, pinned to a week of traveling to and from this year’s Game Developers Conference. I’m editing it now and as I’m self-publishing this time I’m not sure yet when it’ll launch, but the exciting thing for me is I’ve hired Liz Ryerson to contribute art for the cover. My long-term plan involves self-publishing long-form work that also allows me to pay people whom I admire and want to promote, and I’ll be able to tell you more about that soon.

It’s been a couple weeks since I’ve been able to do a new Lo-Fi Let’s Play — the last one was on Chuck Sommerville and Joseph Dudar’s Gruds in Space, where we watch the Apple IIe draw lonesome, Saturnine landscapes and learn to manipulate teleport controls. There’ll be a new one as soon as I have spare time, but in the meanwhile I was lucky to get a second-hand copy of Bob Redrup’s classic Adventure Gamer’s Manual, and have been digging into the fascinating design of traditional adventure games (the complicated text puzzles which preceded the “put souffle on atomizer” school of LucasArts and Sierra stuff that people normally think of as “adventure games”). I’ll be doing more coverage of these designs because I think they’re amazing, along with interviews from folks that worked in that era.

I have been revisiting Final Fantasy X, and wrote a piece on the JRPG heyday and what all us stormy kids got out of these pretty-looking games about running around the world map and opening treasure chests. 

Not long ago I went to Brighton to visit The Chinese Room, who’s currently developing Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture. I learned a lot about the studio — brilliant folks who have a great attitude to culture — as well as the game itself. It’s melancholy, “very very English” “cozy catastrophe fiction.”

In this interview I talked with Michael “Brainy Gamer” Abbott (making a much-welcomed return to the writing space!) Robin Hunicke and Ricky Haggett about creating joy in games — Michael did some interesting research of the imagery shown at E3 and found a predominance of violent imagery as a sort of shortcut to intensity and “maturity”, but can joy be another quality of adulthood?

Current obsession: Blendo Games’ Quadrilateral Cowboy. It’s so excellent — read this interview. And it’s not the only game about coding and hacking within the game world I’m excited about. This is kind of a “thing” right now — although driven heavily by story, Erik Svedang & Niklas Akerblad’s Else Heartbreak uses a similar “feature”. Read that one, too. I can’t stop looking at Else Heartbreak’s imagery — I want it, in a sort of “it’s 1999 and I have a Dreamcast and I saw some pictures in a magazine” kind of way, and that almost never happens to me anymore.

Pitched in on the news at Shut Up & Sit Down earlier this week. It’s summer in London and I just want to go to the pool, but the Yelp reviews for the one near me are very depressing.

But WHAT CAN BE DONE: Dos and Don’ts To Combat Online Sexism

You may notice that a lot of things happen to do with sexism on the internet. Sometimes someone has done a sexist thing and people are talking about it. Sometimes someone has written an article about the time they experienced sexism and other people are having feelings about it.  Sometimes a particular woman or women is being harassed on Twitter and you are witnessing it.

As you know, sexism is bad, and when bad things happen, you might have feelings about it too. But how can you help? What should be done? Here is a guide:

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Critical mass

There’s a new Lo-Fi Let’s Play for you from the weekend: I play Critical Mass, a game where I travel the world to try to stop a nuclear meltdown. In practice this involves me kicking Telex machines, drinking soup out of alleyways, and being scarred for life by a plummeting elevator. 

I was particularly excited to get to Let’s Play Critical Mass for you — It’s one of the games that has stuck with me forever, and one of the coolest moments in my life writing about games was  a couple of years ago, when I got to have a correspondence with the guy who made it (and some of my other well-worn childhood favorites). I wrote an “open letter”, never in the world expecting a reply, but I got one! 

Last week, I also joined the nice gentlemen of Shut Up & Sit Down for a session of a pen and paper Star Wars RPG. Playing a Star Wars pen and paper roleplaying game is the kind of thing I don’t really do unless someone dares me, but we had a lot of fun — and we recorded our prologue story session, with voice performances and everything, in case you want to join us.

I also went on NPR’s Morning Edition, along with Aisha Tyler, for a segment about the lack of diversity at E3 and some of the Assassin’s Creed snafu stuff that went on last week. I was really happy with how it came out — in particular, it’s nice to be joined by another outspoken woman in a situation like this. I’m used to feeling alone, fearful of ire, fearful of how “combative” I sound (or will be assumed to sound).

NPR also did a follow up with Aisha, to include more of her views — I don’t necessarily agree with her about Lara Croft as an example of progress for our industry, but I think what she says about including more women on the development side and taking steps to encourage more women toward tech literacy is important.

Related to Lara Croft, I talked about some of the ‘damaged women’ trailers I saw at this year’s E3 to talk about a trend in how we build our women heroes that often bugs me. It often seems that when we want to show how a woman becomes a hero, we have to hurt her first. And when we want to show how a man becomes a hero, we have to hurt… also a woman, first. Odd.

There was some great discussion across social media about my piece last week, and I’m really grateful for that. I also received not even one hateful comment,. The most exciting thing to happen to me during E3 was this evidence that the discourse is evolving.

Also the part where Nintendo’s press conference featured TINY KNIT YOSHIS tucked into the suit lapels of Japanese game directors. TINY KNIT YOSHIS. I hope everyone just does video pressers like this from now on.

Labyrinth

Bov-PymCAAA_8eiI finally have a new Lo-Fi Let’s Play for you this week: It’s on the 1986 Labyrinth game, about the excellent fantasy film of the same name. David Bowie is in this Let’s Play, you have no excuse not to watch! I can’t believe I forgot to mention it also has input from the great Douglas Adams (thanks for the reminder, LabyrinthWiki!)

I also wax meditative on what the themes of the movie meant to me, if you’re interested in some analysis of girlhood and fantasy worlds.

I also have some new articles this week I’d love for you to see: In “Suffering from Realness,” I look at games about Kanye West, with a focus on two fascinating (and fundamentally opposite) ones. In the Guardian, I profile Rachel Weil, a fascinating artist and critic whose work in the vintage game collection scene led her to create an alternate history of nostalgic video games — one where the pink and girly are valuable and important.

I also interviewed Jonathan Blow about The Witness. I am afraid to ask him questions like “what does it mean,” but I go ahead and do it anyway.

 

The Coveted Mirror

Hi everyone! I’m back in London again; there was no Lo-Fi Let’s Play last week because I was traveling. I’ve slowly caught up on jet lag so severe that I cried about a picture on a Netrunner card, and I’m on my way back to full working capacity!

I’ve done a feature on the emerging Twitch Plays phenomenon, with thoughts from the company as well as people working with Twitch as a platform, on how to design for games that are not just playable by the streamer, but also by the people participating in chat. Neat trend.

And here is a new video — this time it’s Eagle Berns and Holly Thomason’s The Coveted Mirror, published by Penguin Software in 1983. It’s a sweet one that actually uses the specificity of parsers as a little joke on the player, in timed events where every task counts. Check it out and see what I mean!

If you’re new to the series, you can always see previous links and commentary on this website, and all the videos are on my YouTube channel.