Category Archives: Games

Power and Freedom: Individuals and Societies

The other day I saw the following quote on a bumper sticker:

“A government big enough to give you everything you want, is strong enough to take everything you have.”
Gerald R. Ford

It got me thinking about the relationship between power and freedom, and how that relationship applies not only to governments but also to businesses, authority figures, laws, programming languages, and even games. Continue reading

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Why I’m Frustrated With 2D Boy’s Games

I’ve expressed unpopular opinions about nerd idols before, but this one is a little harder for me to talk about. My dislike of Terry Pratchett’s books is simple: I don’t like the deconstructionist genre. Easy enough; I can just stick my tongue in my cheek and go on a rant. But my reasons for disliking World of Goo and Little Inferno aren’t so straightforward. Continue reading

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On Games and the Making Thereof

I am almost finished making my first real game! “Real” being a relative term, that is: my first game was an abstract, experimental undergraduate project that no one in their right mind would have voluntarily played.[1] The one I’m working on now is a bit more enjoyable, though technically it is actually simpler. It’s called “Press A to Win.” Can you guess what it’s about?

I am making the game in Pygame, so you will need Pygame installed in order to play it. I know it’s a stretch, but I figure there’s at least a chance that some of you might not be familiar with installing, compiling, and running Pygame files, so as soon as the game is finished I figure my next project will be porting the whole thing to Flash.

At the moment, however, both of those projects will have to wait, as I am busy showing off my fiancé to my extended family in Muenster, Texas. I would say “nice place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live here,” except it’s not even a terribly nice place to visit. The views are great and the weather is (currently) lovely, but the town itself is tiny, the water tastes like sulphur, and taking a shower feels like coating yourself in a thin sheen of silicone. I can never tell for sure if I’ve gotten all the soap off.

Regular posts resume next week with a return to the “Agency and the Inevitable” series, after which I will likely write something about education again. I am a big fan of that topic, it seems! See you all then.

Notes:

[1] It was called “Clique” and it was about socializing polygons IT’S A GRAPH THEORY PUN GET IT WASN’T I CLEVER

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Agency and the Inevitable: Shadow of the Colossus

This post is part of a series examining the relationship between videogames and the tragic form–today’s topic is the classic atmospheric epic Shadow of the Colossus.

Unmarked SPOILERS for Shadow of the Colossus follow–as before, if you haven’t played it yet I recommend you do so before reading this post. Continue reading

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Agency and the Inevitable: Bastion

This post is part of a series examining the relationship between videogames and the tragic form–today’s topic is the action-RPG Bastion by Supergiant Games.

MAJOR SPOILERS for Bastion follow–as before, if you haven’t played it yet I recommend you do so before reading this post. Continue reading

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Agency and the Inevitable: Don’t Look Back

This post is the first in a series examining the relationship between videogames and the tragic form–today’s topic is Terry Cavanagh’s excellent action-platformer Don’t Look Back.

MAJOR SPOILERS for Don’t Look Back follow–if you haven’t played it before, I recommend you do so before reading this post. Continue reading

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Agency and the Inevitable: Introduction

This post is the introduction to a series examining the relationship between videogames and the tragic form.

The tragic genre, along with comedy, is one of the oldest in Western literature.  Classically speaking, a tragedy is more than just a sad ending–it’s a particular kind of story meant to inspire particular kinds of emotions in the audience.  A story where the protagonist is miserable from start to finish, with no pretensions to changing their fate, isn’t really a tragedy–it’s just depressing.  Similarly, a story that ends in tragedy due to circumstances beyond the protagonist’s control isn’t really tragic, either–that’s just a disaster.  True tragedy, as argued most famously by Aristotle, requires that the protagonist bring the ending upon themselves through some crucial mistake or flaw.  The tragic ending is a direct result of the protagonist’s own actions, which the audience can only sit helplessly and watch–yet this introduces a big problem for the medium of videogames, in which the audience is the protagonist.  The mistake or flaw derives its power from the excruciating if only it leaves in the mind of the audience.  If only Hamlet had killed Claudius when he had the chance!  If only Oedipus had known his true lineage!  If only Eve hadn’t listened to that stupid snake!  Yet when the audience is the protagonist, what’s to stop them from avoiding the mistake altogether?  How can we reconcile a genre that pre-destines the hero’s downfall with a medium in which the audience influences their every decision?  How can we successfully weave together the agency of games with the inevitability of tragedy?

In the following posts, I’ll be taking a look at some games that attempt to do this, analyzing and discussing the various techniques they employ.  Over the course of this series, I hope to show that videogames are no more or less suited to the tragic form than any other medium–they simply require different strategies than most narratives employ.

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