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Showing posts from September, 2020

Exploring the spaces (we think) we know

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Revisiting Kentucky Route Zero How many times have you played a video game set in a place that you know? Not a place that you’ve heard of or read about. Not a place that you’ve visited. But a place that you know; the way you know your way around your bedroom in the dark without stubbing your toe. The way you can almost drive the winding roads to the holler where you grew up with your eyes closed. The way you know what lies just over the next hill in the woods where you played as a child. When was the last time you played a game that was set in a place you know like you know the smell of your mamaw’s kitchen? 
Chances are pretty good you haven’t, especially if you’re from Appalachian eastern Kentucky. There aren’t a lot of video games set in Appalachia or Kentucky. Fallout ‘76 makes some nods to the Appalachian tri-state. They feature an alternate reality version of Camden Park, and the Mothman of Point Pleasant, WV – or something a lot like it – makes an appearance. But otherwise it’s a…

Where the Water Tastes Like Wine

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Why don't narrative games get the respect they deserve? I'm a fan of games that tell a story. In fact, back when a certain famous film critic was claiming that games would never be, and could never be, art, I argued that some of the more compelling stories being told today were being told in video game form. I still stand behind that.
Good games can get players invested in a story the same way that films and novels can. The original Red Dead Redemption, for instance, addressed its title theme of redemption, as well as forgiveness, mercy,selflessness and sacrifice in a way that would not have been as compelling from a film. The player makes those decisions that lead to a penultimate climax, one that – if they play like I did – they replayed over and over trying to change before accepting. How they played the game, and whether they stuck to the straight and narrow or bent the law to get there, might have influenced their feelings about whether main character John Marston deserved …