Context is everything.
It’s what gives our opinions and ideas weight in the universe of conversation. It’s the unconscious explanation to our statements and criticisms. The matter through which language is understood.
Sometimes, context is ambiguous and leaves an idea to be moot. Sometimes it’s ignored and leads to misinterpretation and conflict. In the case of Team Bondi naming their newest game “Whore of the Orient,” context is an icebreaker to a very important conversation about colonialism, western exploitation, and eurocentrism. It could even explain why “Whore of the Orient” may be problematic.
I’ve heard of QWOP before. I used watch 8th graders huddle at library computers, striving for high scores before school teachers caught them. I also watched PAX press struggle with GIRP among their own laughs and the teases of co-workers. But there’s something about CLOP that’s different. Something that allows it to speak louder than Bennett Foddy’s older games. And it only took my incessant failure to realize.
I sat on a sofa, watching casuals with friends and eating my sandwich at a Montreal fighting game venue, when I noticed someone walk towards our console with an early copy of Persona 4: Arena. Blazblue fans were ecstatic. Newcomers were asking questions, and those sitting by were trying to reserve their chance at the stick. As the onlookers increased in number, something struck me as significant, Persona 4: Arena is a beautiful game. It fills the screen with well placed yellows and blues. Its red glares as scan lines bleed onto its shaking versus screen. Its aesthetic carries a style and energy that can’t be replicated in the highest quality youtube videos I could link you. But the best thing about Persona 4: Arena, is that it isn’t an exception. Fighting games represent some of the best artistic design games have to offer, and P4A is just another example.
There won’t be an analysis this week. I’ve been working on some important ideas and concepts, twisting and sculpting them, and trying pack them into rock hard theory. If these ideas work out the way I want them to, I may be able to provide a base through which we can gain a deeper understanding of video game structure and idea analysis. New genres could be formed! If this doesn’t work the way I want it to, then nothing will happen and I would have wasted my time. But that’s life.
So while I endlessly philosophize in my lonely head, why don’t you check out some experimental games?
If there was ever a class on interpreting games and understanding their ideas, The End of Us would be the perfect introductory game. It’s distribution of information is straightforward. It’s structure of ideas is beautifully organized. It’s short and without barriers, and it doesn’t overflow on the abstract. It’s the “Hello World” of video game interpretation.
So as it turns out, writing an analysis/interpretation of a game is really really hard and takes a lot of time and effort. It’s the master puzzle where the pieces are sub-arguments you have to fit together to make it logical and coherent, but entertaining and easy to follow and not to long and… ugh. So yeah, it’s like anything else you write, only no one really knows how to write a proper interpretation piece yet, so I’m just throwing shit at a wall and seeing what sticks.
I recently played Dis4ia, a flash game developed by Anna Anthropy.
It tells the story of a woman who goes through a sex change (specifically hormone replacement therapy), and details the social and personal struggles she goes through and eventually overcomes through C64 like imagery and interaction.
Unlike the abstract, scattered messaging of Against The Wall, Dys4ia’s artistic goals are very clear. There are no scattered hints to a clearer picture; the clearer picture, the depiction of sex reassignment therapy, is straightforward and clearly illustrated. So I don’t think it would be valuable to go over its main ideas. Rather, I realized Dys4ia is the right opportunity for us to discuss what it means for a game to be metaphorical. We’re going to try to understand and define this idea in a deeper context, and see how we can learn to use it to one’s artistic advantage.
So let’s do that.
As the medium of games gets older and becomes more mature and sure of itself, we see a larger influx of games that tackle more interesting and complex themes in clever and insightful ways. But when those types of games are present, we see another group arise. This group doesn’t achieve the traits above–the cleverness, the depth and the intelligence, but they want to, badly. They crave, desperately, the recognition of depth by their audience, while that same desperation slowly destroys them. Of course I’m talking about, The Pretentious Game.
But what is the pretentious game? What makes a game pretentious? And how can we separate pretentiousness from depth? Let’s waste no time getting into things.
This is an analysis for the game “Against The Wall” by Michael P. Consoli. Beware of Spoilers.
There’s something very dismal about Against The Wall.
It’s a sense of hopelessness, a dead emptiness in its environment that in truth, isn’t apparent at first. It’s sky is bright and saturated with clouds and its sun shines perpetually and its trees sway peacefully, yet these ideas don’t become discredited by those elements, instead they’re hidden deceivingly. And when I gave some more thought to the game for the sake of this analysis, I realized there are a lot of things Against the Wall hides under itself. There are so many suggestive elements, that all seem to hint at something greater within the context of its world. And today, we’re going to talk about those elements.
So let’s do that, shall we?
I was creepily stalking Greg Kasavin’s twitter (don’t judge), and found a link to an old blog post dating back to about late last year. In it, he discussed his process for coming up with new stories, and his views are interesting enough that we’re going to discuss it here.