Bayonetta Is Batshit And Hey, That’s Pretty Cool

Before the 2009 title landed in the monthly Games with Gold catalogue, I had only known the name Bayonetta to be thrown around as the object of feminist debate in Kotaku forums. ‘This is a sexist, ogling depiction of well-endowed women’ says Motherof5ArmyWife, to which AnimeGlands retorts ‘breasts are the only reason I wake up and I want this gigantic woman to step on my dick and kill me’ et cetera et cetera.

I have to admit, I never thought I’d be picking up Bayonetta at all. Being myself a babbling racist, I’ve never really clicked with the top triple-A Japanese games of the modern generation. Mate, don’t get me wrong… when I first got my Nintendo Wii I was wholly enamoured of it, and I was determined to do nothing but rise through the ranks of the Wii Sports universes and achieve celebrity status at least in each one. Baseball, bowling, tennis, boxing… I made it pro. Then I started the Wii steroids… started cheating on my Mii girlfriend with a better, curvier Mii. I lost control.

Since then, I haven’t had much luck with Japanese titles. I desperately, desperately wanted to become one of those people who can speak the Dark Souls parlance, but… (cowering away) it was just too hard. Okay? Okay?! I said it. I will forever wear the shirt of shame: (creds: http://bit.ly/2uY83pp)

My taste in games has veered away from the combat arcade-style that’s essential to the Japanese game development culture. I still have a soft spot in my heart for the cinematic tomes of the Metal Gear series, but at least in my mind, that franchise ended many many years ago when Hideo Kojima himself lost the ardour for it. So, it was certainly a stroke of luck that Bayonetta ended up in my games library for free, otherwise I would have invariably turned my nose up at it before spending a minimum £300 on FIFA points and Jelly Babies.

But, I’m very glad that I did end up having a go because my, my… WHAT a… THING this is! This… this… THING!!!

Between the mile-a-minute visuals, the Amazonian protagonist with legs for days, the obvious token characters and the INSANE Japanese music blasting throughout all the action in the first 10 minutes of the game, I think I may have found the first game, nay, the first piece of media I’ve ever consumed, where I do not have time to stop and register about what I’m doing or seeing. It’s the ludic equivalent of an ocular migraine, its combat a time-lapse of a cocaine-fuelled orgy. Bayonetta is the epileptic version of the last 30 minutes of any Marvel film, it’s action packed, visually incomprehensible madness that I think has helped me discover my inner goddess.

also me

Perhaps due to the lack of protagonists like Bayonetta, or perhaps because of her inimitable swagger, never before had I experienced that gynephoria of being a pistol-wielding mammary powerhouse of pain, crushing anything in my path. I am become Beth, destroyer of worlds!

My time with Bayonetta this morning has been a blast. Platinum Games, you have earned this badge of honour.

Seal Of Approval

*****

On a side note, I got in! I got my acceptance from the University of York to study Interactive Media (which has elective options of game development in Unity). I’m really excited to start next month, and especially to do the module on Firewatch! Just a little update from me ok cya x

The Happiness Tag

Dear reader, if you’ve found yourself doing a double take or have simply fallen on the ground after being met with that title I’d assure you not to be worried. I too never thought I’d ever use the horrible term ‘happiness’ as a titular item in any of my posts, much less feel any emotion at all throughout the duration of my life, but here we are in 2017. Donald Trump is president (bad), Neymar Jr is playing in Paris (bad?) and I, the first blogger to be entirely without emotion on any scale thus making me the only 100% objective writer on the planet, am writing a post about “hap-ee-ness” (emotional void).

How did I get into this situation? Fellow blogger Rei must have read my material and wrongly inferred that I was a blogger that makes her ‘happy’, as it says in her tag. I certainly don’t understand this emotion, but I can assure you that the correct emotional response to anything I write, say or create is ‘unhappiness’ and ‘frustration’. At least, that’s what I’m constantly told by lovers and subway-goers.

On a real note tho, thanks so much to Rei for the tag, it really means a lot when someone says they enjoy my stuff online and rest assured you’d be a nomination if you hadn’t already tagged me! Be sure to check out her blog with the links above! She does a monthly ‘Games to Revisit’ series which has introduced me to some great titles.

The rules for this tag

  • List five things that makes you happy
  • Share five songs that makes you happy
  • Tag at least five bloggers that makes you happy

5 Things that make me happy

1. Funny People

I don’t think I can say that I have a friend who is not a funny person. I really take very few things seriously in life and I’d much rather laugh than brood over something if laughter is ever an option. I’m beginning to notice that this sounds a bit like a Tinder bio you wouldn’t swipe right on but, it’s true. If ever a friendship wouldn’t work out in my life it’s probably because that person couldn’t make me laugh if they tried, or if I couldn’t make them laugh.

2. Handwritten Things

Odd one I know… but I really like the personal touch of something being handwritten. There is so much personality in the way someone writes, whether they use a certain nib or if they use Disney Ds, it’s just interesting to learn about people through the way they write. Although writing notes and letters is much more of a chore than other methods of communication, it’s still something that makes me really happy to send or to receive.

3. Finishing an Online Post

Making something like a YouTube video or a blog post or some artwork is a sometimes long but always gratifying process, and the final apotheosis of being finished- actually finished- is always such a relief, because it’s the point where I’ve said to myself: this is good enough to be at home online. Naturally, I might look back 2 or 3 years later and think: this definitely isn’t good enough to be at home online, and of course both the moment I’m driven to do something and the process of actually doing that task is also great, but there’s something special in the actual publication.

4. Reading a Good Book

I’d like to say that I’m a voracious m̶a̶s̶t̶u̶r̶b̶a̶t̶o̶r̶ reader but I can’t help but picture that guy at the party who says “Yeah, I’m thinking about going veggie” but means ‘I’m open to a jacket potato’ at the same time. I do read a lot, especially this year, but my problem is that I have a backlog that is always being appended to and I can never catch up! If I’m stuck on a book I’m not crazy about, I can’t just give up, I have to finish it out of habit but I’ll take aeons to do so before I get onto a book I will just eat right up. But, when that time comes, I don’t want to do anything else and I’m a veritable turkey. Gobble gobble gobble.

5. Finding That Game

The people who have convinced me to join the games industry, and to work, really really work on my coding and my criticism and wholly focus my attention on this vocation I mostly do not know. I know them only through their work and their creations, and when I find a game or a written piece that really really reminds me why I’m here on this website, with these posters on my bedroom walls, it’s invariably an experience I’ll always remember.

5 Songs That Make Me Happy

These 5 are songs that will never wear off on me!

And the Ultimate…

5 Bloggers That Make Me Happy

I Played The Game!

Falcon509

LightningEllen

Extra Life

The Cinema Crunch 

 

Yet More Music

Hello chums,

The other day I found a Cort 12 string at my local guitar shop for an absolute steal of a price. I’ve always wanted a 12 string so it was great to get my hands on this!

Been messing around with a scale and came up with this thang. Might use it in a Twine game this Summer when I get round to making one!

I’ll be back with a non-fluff post soon!

Tacoma Review: The Actor is Absent

Hello all, to commemorate the passing of (almost exactly) a year since my last videogame review I’ve returned with another packet of spicy word-powder that should help to further cement my status as the best paid and most widely recognised games blogger ever.

You might notice from the getgo that I’m really rather shaking things up this time, shaking it up like a sex martini, in that I’ve dropped the usual ‘Mega’ from the title. Yes, dear readers, the age of the ‘Mega Review’ is behind us, ushering in a new format of ‘(x) Review: (Relevant Subtitle)’. The reason for this? I’m always revisiting and reviewing my old pieces in hopes of improving anything I’m currently writing, and while I appreciate that the 16-year-old me saw the word ‘Mega’ (from Greek megas– ‘great’) as an appropriate descriptor for my review-bits, it can only come off to me now as self-aggrandising. There isn’t much ‘Mega’ about what I was writing back then.

End of the day, mate, I’m just writing a bloody review… to separate it linguistically by shoving it in a category above a normal review is to suggest that every review that isn’t mine is a less-than-‘mega’ review. Perhaps if my reviews were more Mega than Smeg-a then I’d be happy to call them ‘Mega’, but I am in fact a diagnosed smeg head so it’s out of the question.

Tacoma (8)

Anyway… to begin the review, after my few hours playing through Tacoma, the second I.P by indie darling The Fullbright Company, I was mostly confused.

I was confused about why I did not like the game as much as I thought I should given that its methods of storytelling were virtually identical to its seminal predecessor’s. For a day I was just mentally rummaging through my time spent in Lunar Transfer Station Tacoma, trying to battle with the cognitive dissonance I convinced myself I had for feeling markedly underwhelmed by this game but really rather liking Gone Home, and it’s only been very recently that I’ve come to understand why it’s okay that I’m not really in love with Tacoma.

On Succeeding A Throne

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It is perhaps unsafe to say that Gone Home permanently changed the way modern developers consider environmental storytelling, but to my judgement it is at least safe to say that the advent of Gone Home permanently changed the way critics choose to assess methods of environmental storytelling in the wider sphere of discourse. For the past few years and into the foreseeable future we live in the post-Gone Home side of history, where comparisons will invariably be made to that now-criterion of ludic-diegetic success.

At least in my eyes, the sometimes rather forced comparisons to that game have only ever sought to ask the question, of Firewatch or Life is Strange, of What Remains of Edith Finch or Everybody’s Gone To The Rapture: is it as good as Gone Home? The problem with placing this comparison within the discussion or review of the game that follows Fullbright’s title is that, at least to my mind, we often look over the discussion on the other side of the wall: why is Gone Home as good as Gone Home?

And, if you’re a returning reader, you might know that I think the actual discussion that took place during the appropriate time after Gone Home‘s release was kind of poor. To a lot of people, the critical response to Gone Home was more than a farce, and indicative of collusion between journalists and developers. I certainly wouldn’t go that far, but if we have established Gone Home as the immediate critical standard for any attempt at environmental storytelling in modern game narratives, don’t we owe it to the wider discussion to examine why that is the case?

This is just one of the thoughts I was having as I was repeatedly headbutting my bedroom wall trying to get to grips with myself and my unexpectedly apathetic response to Tacoma. But, on reflection, I think it’s the most crucial question of all in understanding why Tacoma is just okay, it is the most crucial task of all to deconstruct the game’s better if we are to understand the latter’s faults.

On Diegetic Stalking

Arrrr

The entire premise of Gone Home is essentially gamified stalking, the objective is to snoop around a house and discover as much as you can about the actual people who live there while they aren’t home. The player character’s involvement in the actual plot is simply an abstract and is of secondary importance to the reality of the player’s invasive enjoyment. The idea that so many game players and critics would end up aligning themselves with this kind of personal invasiveness is not so surprising when you consider that… broadly speaking… most stories, or at least most methods of storytelling, harbour some element of personal invasiveness.

In the foreword to the book I’m currently reading: On The Road by Jack Kerouac, it is mentioned that Kerouac was first drawn to fellow Beat Generation writer and lifelong companion Neal Cassady after he wrote Kerouac a detailed letter of a very personal account. Kerouac spent two hours in a cafeteria nursing over this letter, which detailed an incident of Cassady being interrupted in the act of sex with a girlfriend, Cherry Mary, after the mother of the girl Cherry was babysitting arrived in the house unexpectedly. In response to the letter, which detailed how Cassady had to somehow manoeuvre through a very unaccommodating bathroom window several feet off the ground, Jack ‘thought it ranked among the best things ever written in America’. The disclosure of personal episodes and personal information is the most integral step of any kind of storytelling if you want to retain the attention of an audience. Leasing off, through pages or cameras or videogames, the experiences that belong to you onto the people for whom they don’t is a kind of narrative contract that has proved effective since Chaucer’s England. The essence of this idea, however, begins to change when we change the format of the disclosure from non-fiction to fiction.

In the case of Kerouac and Cassady, the contract of trust that was being formed was between the person for whom the experience truly belonged and the known recipient. In the instance of fiction, the nature of that contract changes invariably. The contract is between the character and the reader, the unknown recipient, and there is no such dynamic of trust between the sharers of any one experience. In essence, all fiction in which the characters are unaware of being read naturally renders the reader a kind of diegetic stalker, and before the kind of narrative possibilities videogames offered storytelling in media, the keyhole through which an audience would reach these experiences would be in the form of words or through the borders of a television screen.

It is all well and good to say that, while an audience experiences a piece of fiction, they are fully aware of the artifice and that the personal experience being shared is always accompanied by an innate awareness that the personal experience does not belong to the characters but to the author, but this is an idea that fails when tested against simple notions of suspension of disbelief, and the idea of simulated memory in storytelling.

To borrow an example from Ian Danskin in his video essay on The Beginner’s Guide, Samuel R. Delany in his book About Writing says that:

“It looks like the writer is telling you a story. What the writer is actually doing, however, is using words to evoke a series of micromemories from your own experience that inmix, join, and connect in your mind in an order the writer controls, so that, in effect, you have a sustained memory of something that has never happened to you”

If we take this idea about literature we can see elements of its truth in other media. In any given popular action movie, most cinematography is rendered spatially so that the audience member retains throughout the experience the illusion of having partaken in the actual content of the movie. The audience member views the events from a cinematic angle that is close enough to the characters to simulate active participation in the filmed situation. We do not remember the experience as a passive spectator, but as an active participant. Otherwise, how could we possibly be affected emotionally by these movies in any capacity? If we were constantly self-aware of our position as an audience member, the harmlessness of the material never suppressed, how could we possibly be scared, moved, have our heartbeat raised by something that is just a movie? These media may be known only through words or pixels, but they manifest themselves in the minds of audiences as memories that are effectively indistinguishable from the truth.

As readers and as audiences we are all diegetic stalkers, useless to and unacknowledged by the plots of the media we consume but active participants in the experiential memories formed therein nonetheless. When Gone Home was released in 2013 it tapped into the kind of joy that any lover of fiction harbours as a natural diegetic stalker. Prior to the advent of videogames, you could not be given a book and have successfully sustained the memory of exploring a whole house and have known the personal experiences from its owners, you could not have been given a DVD of a person exploring a house and afterwards have the sustained memory of you yourself having personally learned about the journey of emotional maturity for the household’s youngest member through your own exploration.

On top of audiences’ joy in being natural diegetic stalkers, something which Gone Home fully utilised like no other game before it, I believe Gone Home found success in its apropos setting.

On The Domestic Museum 

What Remains of Edith Finch (5)

The title What Remains of Edith Finch, released this year, found similar success in either the tried and tested or, more likely, natural setting for a narrative in Gone Home‘s style, the abandoned house.

There is no place conceivable that is more rich in personality or personal history than the abandoned house. The simple amount of trust a homeowner places in a house is significant and often overlooked, an idea explored in Kitty HorrorShow’s Anatomy. We all trust our houses to maintain our privacy and to keep us safe at night, we trust our houses enough to spend a significant amount of our lives sleeping within them. The relationships we form with our houses, improving them and entrusting them with our most cherished items and loved ones, are often permanent.

To many, a house is not just a living space, and in games like Gone Home and What Remains of Edith Finch, the house you as a player occupy serves not only as a testament of personality to the inhabitants, but as a Museum of artefacts and memories for everyone who has been a member of the household.

Certainly, Gone Home posits very obvious moral prescriptions by the end of its tale but, perhaps by accident, at the end of Gone Home and at the end of What Remains of Edith Finch I ended up asking myself a question for the first time: were I to leave a house to my children, what would I want them to inherit?

Spending an evening wandering through an abandoned house will put these questions into your head. As well as the experiential memory of doing something (at least, to me) as novel and daring as exploring an abandoned house, the takeaway from Gone Home and What remains of Edith Finch are the wider questions of inheritance. Only the best games can drive you to consider these kind of questions, and it is only in such a setting that these questions can be asked.

kevin SPACEy

It is a shame, then, that the followup to a game that really knew where to tell its story doesn’t have the same kind of ideas behind its chosen environment.

Nothing about Lunar Transfer Station Tacoma screams, speaks or even whispers personality. It might be built from scratch but everything about the environment is entirely familiar. Screenshots from the game exhibiting the space station to me could easily be from a number of games released over the past few years and it certainly wouldn’t strike me as a place of creative toil.

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The most interesting screenshots shown before release and publication delay have proven that the least generic architectural environments just… are not in the game anymore. When your primary gameplay mechanic is to simply observe and explore, a mostly dreary space station with plenty of reused assets accompanying that experience does not make for a gratifying journey.

On The Absence Of Actors

Tacoma (5)

Perhaps the most irksome thing about Tacoma is its, I believe, creatively misguided decision to strike a third way between including actual character actors in the game and providing character exposition only through audio and artefacts.

The effectiveness of the latter method was already proven in the success of Fullbright’s previous title and the first way would have been a welcome addition by a team of developers that have created already a very good narratively driven game, but to instead choose to have… half characters is incredibly jarring.

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These strange teletubby people in lieu of real character actors perpetually feels reductive, rather than enriching to the overall storytelling. The simple fact is that these coloured blobs of exposition will never be able to be sympathetic characters… I’m looking at a f***ing teletubby. It just looks stupid.

The narrative situations that these blobs find themselves in exhibit moments of real intimacy that would have been served well by actual people: they kiss when they think they are about to die, they attempt to dictate the last letter they will ever write to their loved ones but break down… but this is not what you see, this is what’s implied instead by an coloured oval where a face should be.

The emotion in Gone Home was mostly translated through the evocative voice acting of Sarah Grayson, and the more emotionally resonant writing. Tacoma has a notably larger cast of characters, 6, and it appears that the emotional intensity for the character of Sam in Gone Home was divided by a such a number here. None of the teleblobs say or even do anything truly subverting of your expectations. I agree with wordsaboutgames.net when they say that they wish the A.R data recording mechanic was better spent on a better story.

On Bathos

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The expected coda of a story simply ceasing to exist can often be frustrating, as was explained in some reactions to Campo Santo’s superior I.P Firewatch. As I’ve mentioned, this is excusable in the case of Firewatch because instead of simple bathos as a result of the ending, the reality of the coda served to speak volumes for the characters themselves. There was a certain profundity in that Campo Santo managed to craft a story where the characters change a great amount emotionally against a diegetically and physically immutable environment, all the while remaining an engaging experience.

The emotional payoff was in the personal arc of the characters. While the world of the game remains mostly as it was when you entered it, as a player you leave the experience with the knowledge that, in the extrapolated narrative, characters Henry and Delilah will return to the world and profoundly change the way they live. The same even remains true for the characters of Gone Home.

On the other hand, the ending of Tacoma is simply bathetic. Nothing changes within the characters, nobody makes mistakes and learns from them, no profound realisation is reached, and I’m not even sure if any intended question from the developers is posed. In the spirit of Seinfeld, it really is “no hugging, no learning”. Well there is some hugging… between coloured jellyblobs.

Goethe’s 3 Questions

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What is the creator trying to do?

Create an engaging interactive narrative about a small space station crew whose lives are threatened.

Was the creator successful?

In crafting an interesting storytelling gimmick through the A.R system (explainable only through experiential play, really) Fullbright have done something commendable, but they remain unsuccessful seeing as the teletubbies’ narrative is much more shallow than the tale of Fullbright’s previous title.

Was it worth creating?

While I wish the narrative gimmick was better spent, you cannot mourn a story that has never existed. No.

Why Am I Playing ‘House Party’ In The Club Right Now?

The OGs reading this who have been with me since this site’s unfortunate inception will know that this glorious online powerhouse was founded on a massive hatepost about a game I didn’t even own (pause, sunglasses flare). My vicarious randy anger on behalf of Assassin’s Creed: Unity owners (obviously too advanced in critical assessment and efficacious as a literary tingle-fest to draw in a mainstream audience) started my website off on the right foot, and since that day (16th of November 2014, currently petitioning to canonise as a holiday) I’ve sent forth waves, nay, legions of my word-hate into the online sphere, I have sprayed a veritable haze of incendiary uzi-fire all over mainstream and independent game developers, all of whom I assume are so intimidated by my magniloquence and blogger-clout that they refuse to return my calls.

But, token lady and gentlemen, I am here today to hold up to the light (which is not the morning sunlight, which has no magnificent beams, but which is the nauseous, humming electrical light from the bathroom of a 3-star Yelp reviewed chicken shop owned by a sweaty miscreant) a game that is undeniably dung, which as an object of reason is an affront to God, that harbours as much creative success as Harambe’s death, but which nonetheless I have completely committed myself to these past few days. Paid female viewer and gentlemen, may I present to you Eek! Games’s debut title House Party:

Screenshot (12)

Where to begin? How to summarise In Search of Lost Time? The Bhagavad Gita? In Eek! Games’s own words, their first IP

“is a throwback to adventure style games like Leisure Suit Larry” – @EekGamesLLC

You know, those seedy yet questionably popular 80s and 90s games with the loveable protagonist you would totally sit next to on an otherwise unoccupied subway carriage.

me

leisure suit larry
If chlamydia was a face

But the days of pixelated pseudo-women are over and done with, and Eek! sEek to carry on Larry’s legacy of ludic virginal excitement with a game that admittedly entranced me through and through. Having first seen footage of the game on YouTube, its glitched-up glory immediately had me, when I saw characters Frank and Patrick engaged in a fist fight through coffee tables and banisters I immediately knew I was destined to play this game, the ridiculous physics of those rounds of fisticuffs next to the lunar gravity of the female characters’ breast physics had me absolutely ensnared. I very rarely experience a piece of media that is so bad it must be good, that inebriates me in the same way as Wiseau’s The Room, where my suspension of disbelief can only ever be shafted and the line between unintentional shambles and tongue-in-cheek lunacy blurs. This type of thing, this type of wondrous experience, is so rare to me and I couldn’t resist sinking into the game entirely.

The game is so poor as an erotic simulator that my delight can only bloom, the situations you are landed in as a member of the house party are so unforgivably contrived towards assisting the girls in removing articles of their clothing. I am increasingly amazed at the girls’ willingness to strip down in front of you, whom 20 minutes prior was a complete stranger.

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My clothes are wet. Why don’t you, faceless male stranger, assist me in removing them? This is the obvious solution. You assisted me in this needless task? Commence intercourse.

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Do you see that, loyal reader? She loves me!

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Licence my roving hands, and let them go,
Before, behind, between, above, below.
O my America! my new-found-land,
My kingdom, safeliest when with one man mann’d,

I know that it’s a bit of an easy move to throw a decidedly downward punch at what is essentially a gamified porn storyline, but I must assert that this game is a particular case of unintentional hilarity. It is not only the gleeful reprehensibility in its portrayal of young women through its earnest attempt to be an erotic simulator that tickles me, but in its attempt to provide the player with the opportunity to wreak sexual havoc at a house party it actually becomes quite endearing.

To the teen with a blog about videogames, at least in the earlier years since blog-inception, house parties were a very awkward place for me and my friends of a similar situation. They were place in which mild sexual experience and underage alcohol consumption is levied as a basis of success, a criterion that usually battled both my complete personal inexperience and my recognition of the fact that these situations were almost always factories of regret for the people I’d talked to. Going to your first set of house parties in your teens is a social thunderstorm and anyone who denies they ever felt such apprehension is just lying. These parties for me were at an awkward age where I had to accept that unhealthy decisions that elude my experience or understanding will simply be made if not by me then by someone I wish wouldn’t make them, and the fact that I could not leave and must participate in this arena of moral shitshow starring teenagers, alcohol, and music I don’t like… it could be nauseating, and I’m sure you can all relate or have a story about your first house party.

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So for me, in a moment of simulated depravity where I simply whipped it out and had a bit of a wank, I think that I experienced the most intense catharsis of any story I have ever experienced, and it was profound. The idea of completely disregarding the social codes and entirely shafting internal/external pressures to impress people at a house party is almost inconceivable, and I could not have possibly visualised what that would be like were it not for House Party. The fact that there is a hotkey to expose yourself on command is nothing less than glorious and I feel that more AAA developers need to catch up with this stuff.

It is this chaotic element of House Party that, for me, secures its greatness. You can topple over speakers, remove all your clothes, tamper with the hostess’s personal belongings, irk every single member in attendance, start a fight et cetera, all with a kind of blissful effortlessness.

It is this ease of social anarchy that Bakunin would be proud of that earns this game, this awful creation, this sexist bullshit, my coveted Seal! of approval.

Seal Of Approval

What am I doing with my life…

No, Your Game Is Not ‘Lynchian’

Hello you heinous bunch of caterwauling reprobates, I have returned from my hiatus as an A Level exams candidate and then Briton-in-America for a short while, and after an intensive diet of bagels, hot dogs, pretzels, reuben sandwiches and french fries I have landed back in England with unprecedented levels of carbohydration, providing me with more than enough metabolic energy to get on my Imperial Leather soap box and return to the good old days of online hate-posting posed as critical discourse!!! Aren’t you a lucky lot? I’m BACK baby!

Now, what ludic shit has turned up on the bottom of my shoe today? Well, with the announcement of a Life is Strange prequel AND sequel in the pipeline (thank you Dontnod for keeping me in a job) coinciding with the rerun of my beloved Twin Peaks, I thought I’d take this opportunity to chat about something that particularly irks me in the field of gaming discourse, that, on a personal level, really gets on my gamer-tits (which incidentally have rather filled out after my trip to the USA!). Behold:

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Behold: the critical insistence to shove cultural iconography as comparison into analysis where none such comparisons belong. Admittedly… this is a very small thing to be so irked by, but I personally believe that there is real damage done by this type of lazy criticism that seeks to deepen understanding of a game by fabricating similarities to something already much more understood by the critical sphere. More than this, it is the compression of this false comparison into the neat critical misnomer ‘Lynchian’ that makes me so uncomfortable, that gives me the critical willies.

Look, to draw an appropriate comparison to help explain myself, a similar phenomenon can be found in critical discourse when someone unreservedly refers to a piece of work as ‘Kafkaesque’ without sincerely understanding their own comparison. ‘Kafkaesque’ is the only appropriate comparison to ‘Lynchian’ I could conjure, the use of the term ‘Kafkaesque’ soared in the critical sphere around the late 20th Century after the publication of Franz Kafka’s works (source: Google)

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‘Shakespearean’ or ‘Orwellian’ might also be apt comparisons but I believe that the similarities in Lynch and Kafka’s works makes this comparison best. In the Guardian blog, Alison Flood posits the idea that the term Kafkaesque has been so eroded by use that its original meaning has lost all essential effect. I have to agree, and I worry that a similar paradigm might soon appear in the gaming sphere for the term ‘Lynchian’ upon the advent of our two new Life is Strange IPs. It is both the terrible mobility of the concepts of ‘Kafkaesque’ and ‘Lynchian’ allowed by their compressions into one word, and the keenness of critics to invoke a wider scope of understanding in their writing that has brought about this deficit between implementation of the terms and the understanding and appropriate use of them. It has become so easy and so tempting to affect an understanding of Lynch’s or Kafka’s work by simply showing knowledge of the terms themselves, so much so that the terms are becoming detached from their original place in Kafka’s and Lynch’s work.

The fact that the mobility of these terms has brought about a small culture of pretentious, asinine writing in the games sphere is not what annoys me most, it is the fact that writers using these terms wrongly is a betrayal of these artists you would think the writers are ostensibly trying to praise through the terms’ usage.

Take these gaudy ascriptions of ‘Lynchian’ aspects to Dontnod’s Life is Strange, these ascriptions seem to be based off of the fact that Life is Strange bears some resemblance to the series Twin Peaks (which, as Ian Danskin points out, is the developers’ insistence whereas more resemblances can be found between it and Donnie Darko). We must assume that these resemblances are to be found in the fact that the stories revolve around a high school, that there are seemingly supernatural elements at play, and that a murder mystery is at the centre of the plot’s allure.

But, to see these similarities and to call them ‘Lynchian’ betrays David Lynch as a creator in so many ways through this asinine use of language. Even if we are comparing such a game to only Twin Peaks out of Lynch’s whole catalogue, to call it ‘Lychian’ is so to reduce the identity of the original Twin Peaks series to something that has none of its tongue-in-cheek charm, none of its mesmerising dancing midgets that speak in reverse, and none of its crazy supernatural subplots. To the unknowing reader, Twin Peaks as a concept might be reduced so much by this false comparison to something that is, well, worse as a creation. Beyond this, to compare Life is Strange to Twin Peaks is to speak of only one of Lynch’s works. Prithee, if Life is Strange is so f*cking ‘Lynchian’, if Virginia (and you know how I feel about Virginia… VIRGINIA!!!) is so dog-gammed ‘Lynchian’, then what resemblance does it bear to Eraserhead, Blue Velvet, Mulholland Drive?

This is what I mean by betraying the creators: using the terms ‘Lynchian’ and ‘Kafkaesque’ falsely is to rob the creators’ works of an identity. Of course, Life is Strange bears no resemblance to these works, to try and force a comparison would be foolish, but because the catalogue of Lynch’s work and the complexities that lie therein can be reduced to one word: ‘Lynchian’, it has become so easy and so tempting to insert the word into criticism of these games as a signpost of understanding.

If you are a critic or fellow blogger reading this, I implore you, if you are to review the upcoming Life is Strange games, please, please, I beg you, DON’T use the word ‘Lynchian’ to draw an inevitably false comparison or I will personally blacklist you and you will be refused entry to my numerous orgies.

Why Are You Not Posting? Are You Dead? Have I Been Left In The Will? Who Will Carry On Your Great Legacy?

Hello chums,

I thought I should just do a little post seeing as I’ve been very withdrawn from the community lately and I don’t want it to seem as if I’m shying away or that I’ve stopped liking all your content on a personal level. Which is true, but there is another reason as to my absence.

The truth (can you handle it?) is that in about a weeks time I’ll begin taking my A2 level exams, which are the ones that will decide my place at York to study Interactive Media. I really do want to post on here despite that priority but I find that I haven’t enough time to play games let alone discuss them.

I should be back around the end of the month, and maybe sooner if I find myself needing to take a break from revision, but unfortunately I’ll be popping my head in less for a while.

I still love you all heartily and fervently.

Fly, fly my pretties,

Vahrkalla xooxoox

Gaming as Addiction

This post has been sleeping away in my drafts for quite a few months, and I only started to really think about writing it a couple weeks ago. The beginnings of this motivation start with me viewing a TEDx talk by a man named Cam Adair. Cam Adair is a reformed gaming addict and founder of GameQuitters, a YouTube channel aimed at helping people overcome their addictions to online gaming and eventually quit cold turkey. The TEDx talk I viewed is pasted below:

I don’t know what it was. I just started watching these videos and, out of some inexplicable reflex, was brimming with lava-rage. I was simply furious at my laptop screen, immediately defensive and audibly miffed. I dismissed the videos for some time as some kind of Bible-belting, self-flagellating, sadist nonsense. I even skimmed over the thought of that irritable man ‘Cam Adair’ in my mind during the following days. With his arse-pube haircut and wholly eviscerable face. How could this man advocate the voluntary abstinence of video games, let alone draw up his little sheeple following to boot? He’d have them believe simply grasping a controller gets your teenage daughter pregnant, pregnant with an ethnic baby. Pray to God, little ones, pray that your yungins can avoid the devil, Satan, in the form of a compact laser disc. What a veritable bum.

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Of all the contradictions of the self that we slowly come to confront, one of the hardest to face up to is an entirely emotional response. This was surely one of them. I only recently started thinking about why this impostor ‘Cam Adair’ (well, Mr Adair… A-dair YOU to fisticuffs in my abode) came to make me so angry.

I suppose one of the reasons is because I shall always defend video games as an art form. Even as I type, the nature of media consumption is perennially changing, and the methods used today by creators to achieve lasting and emotional responses are becoming more digitally refined. I guess I’m just used to rebuking someone- anyone- who condescends to reduce this idea of videogames that I have come to know: one of a sound and profoundly advanced medium that has proven the ability to elicit kinds of responses in me equalled by the most extolled literature.

I’m just so sick of the out-of-touch pensioners, the swathes of Jack Thompsons that still exist somewhere sleeping upside down in caves, who preen their dogma day by day convinced that their Grandson would have made it into Brown or Cambridge had they not played so much Grand Auto Thief on their Nintendo. I’m so sick of these people that I’m merely used to reflexively wincing at anyone saying anything that could be construed as harsh about our shared medium.

It took a while for me to understand and deconstruct my emotional response to Sarkeesian’s work, but in the end I finally understood how childish I was. And I understand now that my emotional response to Cam Adair is similarly just as immature.

Cam Adair’s work is actually very noble and sensible. I’ve never experienced true gaming addiction so my understanding is inevitably condensed and myopic, but from what I understand, some gamers begin to play online games not out of desire but out of desperation. They start playing even though they don’t want to, late into the night and early morning.

This relegation of my dear medium to the sordid level of online gambling, pornography or friggin’ Diazepam (Snake?) is what initially miffed me. Of all these items, gaming is obviously sticking out amongst the others. There is no artistry in gambling, no passionate creative vision in pornography (unless we’re talking about the Shunga or something) there is no shared love between creator and consumer in the purchase of painkillers. How can something so artistically superior be set amongst these ranks?

But that’s the nature of addiction. It is not determined by the substance, anything that rewards the brain can be addictive to certain personalities. My knowledge of marijuana addiction as a reality for some doesn’t negate me advocating its regulation and legality (wake up, sheeple). But there’s no art in something such as marijuana. There’s nothing… lasting.

But thinking about it now, is there anything really lasting or creatively transcending about the kinds of online games people get addicted to? Do people really get addicted to Gone Home or The Wolf Among Us, the kind of games I’m used to defending? Have I just avoided the addictive MMOs all my life?

But I guess I’m demonstrating the thing that I ultimately want to caution against in this post: denying the reality of addiction in the face of genuinely vulnerable people who cannot escape it. There is nothing to be achieved by denying the fact that games, or at least certain types of games, are a crucible of addiction to certain individuals. The longer this discussion is denied, the further we engender those addictions as we assure the individuals that nothing is wrong. Humility and sympathy are key if we are to help those people who do need it, and I think that we may all know one or two.

Some Pixel Art

Hello chums!

A while back for my interview at York University I had to conjure up and present an idea for my very own videogame. I thought of a game called Damsel in which the player is confronted with the problems of the ‘damsel’ trope, and experiences the game as a scrutinised participant.

I withdrew the project from being assessed as a formal EPQ (Extended Project Qualification) so there’s no danger in sharing my conceptual designs online now.

Hope this adds a lil spice to your day,

Lots of love,

Vahrkalla xoxo

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HOUSE PROGRESS 2 (1)

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New Piskel

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