June 11th

There’s a little event called E3 going on this week, and with it comes plenty of new games and rapid-fire discourse. Yet we stand firm in our mission to curate the internet’s most intriguing critical writing and challenging media. This week you’ll find musings on design and narrative exploring emotional labor, trauma, blindness and, for good measure, even amphetamines. Enjoy!

Rime and Reason

There’s plenty to be said of Rime, a small indie game with a lot of heart:

“Rime is like a painting, not just in its visual splendour, but in its narrative. Sparse, beautiful, and suggestive, its brush strokes inform a rich tradition of fairy-tale and tragedy, of the real and the illusory, and the homes we build in-between. The way our eyes move over a painting, from focal point to focal point in a circular swirl, is the same way in which Rime’s story unfurls. Its flatness is not linear, its imparted understanding rounded, gradual. A flat circle.”

Experience and Interaction

How we experience games can be physical, intellectual, emotional and as a dialogue with the developers.

“I quit games journalism back in 2008. Up until that point, I’d been writing exclusively for print publications. Back then, gaming forums featured some hostility toward the specialist games media: I could reliably click on a thread discussing a new issue of a magazine I’d contributed to and find comments that called my very existence into question, with varying degrees of acidity, because I’d given the ‘wrong’ review score to a game that the person was yet to play themselves.”

“More than anything, I think I love this opening-moments feeling because it always reminds me that games are, in a weird way, a dialogue – even singleplayer games in which everything is scripted down to the last cutscene. They’re dialogues because you are in some manner learning to understand the way that the designers like to think: the way they stage set-pieces, the places they tend to hide collectables, the rhythms and tricks they use to move you from one sequence to the next.”

A Narrative Apart

Whether you agree with Bogost, there’s plenty to be said on narrative and story in games.

“At first the experience is linear: you start at the beginning and click-flip-click through still images, turning each like a successive page; in that vein, there is a direct relationship between the amount of time spent unlocking an age, and the space that is available for exploration.”

On Design

What’s good storytelling without design? These writers explain how design influences everything from problem solving to aesthetic to autonomy.

“Closely related to the illusion of transparency is the Illusion of Ease. This is when the developer of a puzzle thinks their puzzle is straightforward and fair, while meanwhile the players find it impossibly difficult. The developer is hobbled by having all of the information about their puzzle. What they think is obvious is only obvious because they already have the answer. Clues they think should be helpful are too vague, or put in places where the player does not notice them. They cannot comprehend the player’s perspective.”

  • The Art & Visual Language of Ikenfell | Gamasutra
    Chevy Johnston talks his approach to the aesthetic of Ikenfell, a turn-based RPG slated for release on Steam in 2018. Johnston talks the impact The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening and Pokemon had on his design process.

“The last element underlying the player’s sense of autonomy in Breath of the Wild is the game’s willingness to let go their hand and allow them to discover its possibilities on their own. Its tutorial is relatively desultory, introducing the player to the fundamental mechanics of the game, but not much else. This allows the player to explore the subtleties of the game’s systems on their own, giving them an authentic sense of achievement when they discover something unexpected which wouldn’t be possible if every interaction was explicitly introduced.”

A Gentler Approach

Violence is often a go-to mechanic in games, but it doesn’t have to be.

“Rejecting Perception‘s ‘tap your cane and you’ll see an accurate picture of the world around you for a moment’ logic, Beyond Eyes posits perception as a kind of hypothesis-testing … Sometimes, Rae makes mistakes. She might hear what she assumes to be linens flapping in the breeze, and the game’s GUI will happily indulge in that assumption, illustrating a laundry line for the game’s players. When we move Rae closer to the fabric in question, however, filling out the landscape with the game’s gorgeous watercolor imagery, she—and we—might discover that it actually emanates from a scarecrow.”

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