Restart Story

<<silently>>\n<<if (not $maxpayne)>>\n<<set $games = $games + 1>>\n<<set $maxpayne = true>>\n<<endif>>\n<<endsilently>>//Max Payne 3// is a linear shooter.\n\nCutscene -> shooting -> cutscene. Repeat as necessary. Reload at checkpoint upon death. Advance through the (many, many) cutscenes after <<if $mormon>>[[killing|Killing]]<<else>>killing<<endif>> all enemies without dying.\n\nIt's an old formula. The shooting itself is meaty, [[challenging|Challenge]], and responsive. It marries the bullet time of the series' heritage with the cover system almost required of modern shooters.\n\nIt is not, however, anything <<if $maxdeaths eq 0>><<glowlink "new" "Max Died" "newLink">>.<<endif>><<if $maxdeaths gte 1>>new.\n\n//Max Payne 3// is colorful.\n\nFavelas and nightclubs and neon hotel signs. Jungle rivers and yacht sundecks and an airport hangar at sunset. Obscenities in English and Portuguese as background.\n\nAnd blood. You spill a lot of <<endif>> <<if $maxdeaths eq 1>><<glowlink "blood" "Max Died" "newLink">>.<<endif>><<if $maxdeaths gte 2>>blood.\n\n//Max Payne 3// is about an end. \n\nI wrote about the game more [[here|http://awtr.ca/long:maxwell-s-demon]] -- but whatever else, it contains and conveys a sense of finality. We don't need any more games like this, it says. Max has done enough. //We// have done enough. \n\n"You killed so many of us," one enemy says.\n\nThe sun goes down as we play the last level, and it almost seems like a<<endif>> <<if $maxdeaths eq 2>><<glowlink "plea" "Max Died" "newLink">>.<<endif>><<if $maxdeaths gte 3>>plea.\n\n//Max Payne 3// was a [[failure|Failure]].<<endif>>
//"And it came to pass that Adam, being tempted of the devil--for, behold, the devil was before Adam, for he rebelled against me, saying, Give me thine honor, which is my power; and also a third part of the ghosts of heaven turned he away from me because of their agency;"//<<set $agency = true>>\n--Doctrine and Covenants 29:36<<set $last = "agency">>\n\n<<if $betrayal>>[[There was a war in heaven.|Judas]]<<else>>There was a war in heaven.<<endif>>\n\nThis is what we were taught, as Mormons. That God's plan wasn't simply decreed. That He gathered all His children together before the world was made. That Jesus and Lucifer each presented their plans for salvation. That a third of the spirit children of God sided with Lucifer, and the rest with Jesus. That Lucifer and his followers rejected the plan that was agreed upon, and sought to undo it.\n\nWe were taught that Lucifer's plan was to give salvation to all who <<if $dearesther>><<mouseoverlink "Dear Esther" "passed through" "passed through (Dear Esther)">><<else>>[[passed through|Dear Esther]]<<endif>> mortality, and that Jesus' was to require salvation <<if $stanley>><<mouseoverlink "The Stanley Parable" "to be chosen" "to be chosen (The Stanley Parable)">><<else>>[[to be chosen|The Stanley Parable]]<<endif>>, and to provide an <<if $gethsemane>>[[Atonement|Gethsemane]]<<else>>Atonement<<endif>> to make up the difference.\n\n<<if $space>>We were taught that the Earth was created as a [[space|Space]] for God's children to learn -- a videogame for them to play.<<endif>><<if ($space) and ($choice)>><html><br><br></html>Jesus was against letting players win without learning how to play well. Lucifer was against allowing players to lose at all.<html><br><br></html><<endif>><<if $choice>>We were taught we made a [[choice|Choice]], even before coming here.<<endif>>
A player of games. //The// player of games. The player of //the// game. The player //and// the game. The player //not// the game. The //game// not the //player//.<<set $player = true>>\n\nYou can choose your article and preposition at will; there is some entity called "player" and some entity called "game", and the videogame medium exists at the intersection of the two. Yes, this is true of every medium and every audience, but <<if $videogames>>[[videogames|Videogames]]<<else>>videogames<<endif>>, more than any other I can name, are defined by how formalized and systematic that intersection is.\n\nThe player of a videogame is bound by the system of the videogame to such a degree that it becomes qualitative, not quantitative.\n\nWe exist in the game's world, not our own. We inherently play by its rules. Unlike sports, there are no subjective and interpretive (and corruptible) referees. Unlike board or tabletop games, there are no house rules or fudging or convienent forgetfulness. Unlike gambling, there are no bookies posting odds to suit. More than objectives or skill tests or fail states, //this// is what separates a videogame from every other medium: the game is a system, and the player is as shackled by it as we are beholden to the laws of physics in every detail.\n\nThe question of [[agency|Agency]] is thus a question of how broad and how deep that binding goes, and how many degrees of freedom lie within, not a question of its presence.\n
The new //XCOM// is much like the world of Sunday School: sharp, focused, abstracted, balanced, clear. Its tactical model is class-based, gamist, and strict. Its strategic model was more scripted, more flattened, and in the eyes of many, too shallow. <<if $mormon>>It is a game for iron-rod Mormons like I never could be.<<endif>>\n\n//XCOM// is a game about [[grace|Veterans]].\n\nI loved it anyways.\n\nIt is a thoroughly modern game. It takes lessons from the last decade of boardgame design to heart, and makes it accessible in a way the original never was. It tightens the choice-consequence loop into a noose. The class system (and I //hate// classes), progression mechanic, and squad size restriction all make each soldier mean so much more. The formalization of permadeath in Ironman mode is torturously, insidiously genius.\n\nNot only are Chrysalids properly terrifying, but they even managed to make //Sectopods// imposing.
<<silently>>\n<<if (not $xcom)>>\n<<set $games = $games + 1>>\n<<set $xcom = true>>\n<<endif>>\n<<endsilently>>The original //X-Com// is the <<if $one>><<mouseoverlink "1" "God-King" "God-King (1)">><<else>>[[God-King|1]]<<endif>> of my personal gaming history. It's not a game for everyone -- or even most -- but it was most certainly the game for me.\n\nThe new //XCOM//, though not about to usurp that crown, is still my favorite game of the year. And last year. And possibly next year as well.\n\n[[It has much to live up to.|Rookies]]\n
//"//The Line//...agrees with //Bioshock// that the player, for as long as they choose to play the game, doesn't really make any choices that the game has not already made for them. However, unlike //Bioshock//, it insists the player is still responsible for these actions //because// of the one choice the player did make: to play the game in the first place."//\n--Brendan Keogh, //[[Killing is Harmless|http://gumroad.com/l/fsdz]]//, pp 7\n\nWhat value one can derive from //The Line// depends on whether one [[accepts|Act 2, Accept]] or [[rejects|Act 2, Reject]] that central proposition.
Yeah, it's going to be one of those things.\n\nI'm no longer active, but still on the rolls. The Missionaries drop by every year or so, to see if I've changed my mind.\n\nI haven't. <<set $mormon = true>>\n\n[[But why start at thirteen?]]
Predicated on it, in fact. The manner it depicted the protagonist and their companions changing over the course of the game, the way it incorporated hallucinations and misinformation, the coherency of vision as everything unravels.\n\nIt makes more sense, I think, to remove the player from the equation. To consider this the story of one man's descent and madness. To examine how he deludes himself. To witness as he chooses between salvation and [[damnation|Act 3]] without even realizing.
<<silently>>\n<<if (not $stanley)>>\n<<set $games = $games + 1>>\n<<set $stanley = true>>\n<<endif>>\n<<if $firstgame eq "none">>\n<<set $firstgame = "The Stanley Parable">>\n<<endif>>\n<<endsilently>>//The Stanley Parable// is exactly that: a parable. It's a didactic essay in videogame format. It's a game about the nature of (a certain type of) [[agency|Agency]] in games. It's short enough to explore all of its myriad branches, it's clever enough to anticipate the player's reactions, it's brave enough to challenge its own subject material, and it's caustic enough to be funny while doing so.\n\nIt's also a game about obedience. The Narrator tells you what you are "supposed" to do at every junction, and your <<if ($tsp_kindly) and ($tsp_meaning)>>[[choices|Choice]]<<else>>choices<<endif>> are fundamentally to [[obey|Would You Kindly]] or [[disobey|Parable meaning]].\n\nBut even if one resists the will of the Narrator - of the story presented on a platter - the player is still <<if ($tsp_kindly) and ($tsp_meaning) and ($twelve)>><<mouseoverlink "12" "subject" "subject (12)">><<endif>><<if ($tsp_kindly) and ($tsp_meaning) and (not $twelve)>>[[subject|12]]<<endif>><<if (not $tsp_kindly) and (not $tsp_meaning)>>subject<<endif>> to the limits of what the creator has provided.
//"That every man may act in doctrine and principle pertaining to futurity, according to the moral agency which I have given unto him, that every man may be accountable for his own sins in the day of judgment."//\n--Doctrine and Covenants 101:78<<set $judgement = true>><<set $last = "judgement">>\n\nEvery system has its biases. Every bias invites judgement.\n\nThis is necessary, in a way. With the <<if $analogue>>[[freedom|Freedom]]<<else>>freedom<<endif>> to choose but no distinction between outcomes, it becomes difficult to construct a hierarchy of preference. To //decide//.\n\nVideogames have many ways to judge. Scores. Objectives. Achievements. Unlocks. Karma meters. Reputation systems. Even in those games which present no overarching measurement, there is still some form of [[cause and effect|Cause and Effect]], some set of disparate outcomes which allows players to judge <<if $analogue>><<mouseoverlink "Analogue: A Hate Story" "for themselves" "for themselves (Analogue: A Hate Story)">><<else>>[[for themselves|Analogue: A Hate Story]]<<endif>> what they value.\n\nSometimes a game attempts to judge the player for the very <<if $specops>><<mouseoverlink "Spec Ops: The Line" "act of playing" "act of playing (Spec Ops: The Line)">><<else>>act of playing<<endif>>.\n\nOther times, though (such as this one), the only judgement is whether the player is ready to <<if $ftlwin>>[[proceed|FTL]]<<else>><<glowlink "proceed" "FTL" "newLink">><<endif>>.
//"And if thou shouldst be cast into the pit, or into the hands of murderers, and the sentence of death passed upon thee; if thou be cast into the deep; if the billowing surge conspire against thee; if fierce winds become thine enemy; if the heavens gather blackness, and all the elements combine to hedge up the way; and above all, if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good."//\n--Doctrine and Covenants 122:7<<set $failure = true>><<set $last = "failure">>\n\n//"The simplest theory of failure states that failing serves as a contrast to winning, that failure thereby makes winning all the more enjoyable. There is, however, much more to failure....[F]ailure serves the deeper function of making players readjust their perception of a game. In effect, failure adds content by making the player see new nuances in a game....[P]layers have quite elaborate theories of failure as a source of enjoyment in games."//\n--Jesper Juul, [["Fear of Failing? The Many Meanings of Difficulty in Video Games"|http://www.jesperjuul.net/text/fearoffailing/]]\n\nWith <<if $maxpayne>>[[challenge|Challenge]]<<else>>challenge<<endif>>, of course, comes the possibility of failure.\n\nFail-states in videogames occupy an enormous spectrum, from the benign blocking of progress to [[permadeath|Permadeath]] and savegame erasure. That spectrum can be simplified, though, into variations in the currencies of time and uniqueness.\n\nThe first is far, far more commonly used than the second. We <<if $maxpayne>><<mouseoverlink "Max Payne 3" "reload" "reload (Max Payne 3)">><<else>>[[reload|Max Payne 3]]<<endif>>. We respawn. We replay. We do things again until we <<if $darksouls>><<mouseoverlink "Dark Souls" "get them right" "get them right (Dark Souls)">><<else>>get them right<<endif>>.\n\nSometimes, a game has the courage (or the hubris) to take things away from us for our failures.\n\nOther times, though (such as this very game), failure is merely that the way <<if $ftlwin>>[[forward|FTL]]<<else>><<glowlink "forward" "FTL" "newLink">><<endif>> is not yet available.
It was too slippery, too introspective, too florid. It reminds me of too many short films and video pieces I've seen, all repeated symbols and overambitious monologues. I found myself chafing at its restrictions, longing for a faster speed and a damn "use" button. I disliked the one-way gating between acts and how narrow the player's path was. <<if $mormon>>The narrator seems to completely misinterpret Damascus, and in the most boring, obvious way.<<else>>I wished the narrator would shut up about Damascus already.<<endif>><<set $de_op = true>>\n\n[[It was useful, though.|Dear Esther 3]]
It pushed my definition of "videogame" outwards a little. It falls quite neatly into the category of ergodic literature, yet overlays the psychogeography of its story atop the physical space of the island in a manner only videogames can accomplish.<<set $de_import = true>>\n\nIts reductionism of the medium provides an interesting baseline, too. If one is concerned with the contested boundary of videogames and literature, then //Dear Esther//, with its restricted verb set and lack of traditionally-defined challenge, provides a useful point to at least help define that boundary.\n\nAlso, the semi-randomization of key points in the narrative is something only cybertexts can provide. This is something implicit in games which focus on emergent narratives, but is far too often overlooked in more crafted videogame stories, and I wish to see more of it.\n\n[[I'm glad it was made.|Dear Esther]]
A THOUSAND DEATHS
Some Mormons believe -- though this is listed nowhere in the scriptures that I could ever find -- that the Atonement does not, //cannot// apply to certain sins. Murder, most commonly, but also sometimes apostasy. <<if $mormon>>This belief is where the doctrine of blood atonement has its roots.<<endif>>\n\nSome things cannot be undone. We can only try to make up for them.\n\nGo [[back|13]], if you are not ready to [[proceed|Mass Effect 3]].
Because.\n\n<<if $mormon>>It was my favorite, back in Primary, when we had to pick one to memorize. It was the longest, but it was also the most...hopeful.<<else>>All will be revealed. (Or at least that's the excuse the prophets always gave.) (It's the excuse for every author who ever started anywhere but the beginning. A contract, of sorts.)<<endif>>\n\nBesides: "If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things." If one cares to play (or especially make) a game about games, this should be a guiding principle at the least.\n\nThese are the [[videogames|Videogames]] that mattered to me this year. There are twelve games here. There were twelve apostles. There are twelve Cylons. The writer of the original //Battlestar Galactica// is a Mormon.\n\nI used to be a Mormon, too.\n
<<if $mormon>>It works as a (loose) approximation of the War in Heaven, I think. Lucifer's plan was to usher us through mortal existence as the Narrator does, [[telling|The Stanley Parable]] us at every step what we must do. Jesus' plan was to require us to understand, to have faith that a path was provided, and to choose that salvation for ourselves.<<else>>It's quite [[Gnostic]], I think. The Narrator is the Demiurge, leading the player down the path of [[slavery|The Stanley Parable]], convincing the player to take the world at face value. The developer is the Monad, fashioning the world that the Narrator/Demiurge usurps, and providing the means to escape the prison of this unreal world, if it can be found. And to find it, one must choose to defy the Narrator/Demiurge at every step.<<endif>><<set $tsp_meaning = true>>\n\nThe path of <<if $mormon>>salvation<<else>>escape<<endif>> requires choosing the blue door three times. <<if $mormon>> Peter denied Christ three times. Father, Son, Holy Ghost.<<endif>>\n\nThe last time, the door is //behind// you. To see it you have to turn away.\n\nMake of that <<if $mormon>>what thou wilt<<else>>what you will<<endif>>.
And [[I would disagree|http://awtr.ca/long:maginot]] with you.\n\nI pressed on after the forced atrocity if only to suspend judgement until I had seen the full text. I didn't particularly //enjoy// my time with the game, really -- and the game's accusatory tone assumes I did -- but it was worth experiencing.\n\nBesides, all the most interesting bits were //after// the critical point. <<display "Act 2">>
//"For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so, my first-born in the wilderness, righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad. Wherefore, all things must needs be a compound in one; wherefore, if it should be one body it must needs remain as dead, having no life neither death, nor corruption nor incorruption, happiness nor misery, neither sense nor insensibility."//\n--2 Nephi 2:11<<set $challenge = true>><<set $last = "challenge">>\n\n//"In [[ergodic literature|http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ergodic_literature]], nontrivial effort is required to allow the reader to traverse the text. If ergodic literature is to make sense as a concept, there must also be nonergodic literature, where the effort to traverse the text is trivial, with no extranoematic responsibilities placed on the reader except (for example) eye movement and the periodic or arbitrary turning of pages."//\n--Espen J. Aarseth, //Cybertext--Perspectives on Ergodic Literature//, pp 1-2\n\n<<if $mormon>>We were taught<<else>>The Mormons teach<<endif>> that we are here to be tested. To be tried. To face adversity and temptation. This is the whole of the point of the creation of the world. <<if $mormon>>"For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things" (2 Ne 2:11).<<endif>>\n\nSo too with videogames. <<if $thirty>><<mouseoverlink "Thirty Flights of Loving" "Not all" "Not all (Thirty Flights of Loving)">><<else>>[[Not all|Thirty Flights of Loving]]<<endif>> games, mind you, but <<if $maxpayne>><<mouseoverlink "Max Payne 3" "most" "most (Max Payne 3)">><<else>>[[most|Max Payne 3]]<<endif>>.\n\nSuch a game provides a <<if $thirty>>[[space|Space]]<<else>>space<<endif>> which is contested, which provides a challenge, which is nontrivial to traverse. With most games, we can only advance if we learn how to overcome. The prospect of <<if $maxpayne>>[[failure|Failure]]<<else>>failure<<endif>> is what creates the satisfaction of success. Of //progress//.\n\nWe //earn// the space we move through.
//Mass Effect 3// was a game about [[losing|You Died]].<<set $lost = true>><<set $last = "lost">>
<<set $ds6 = true>>//Dark Souls// has a specific concept of sin.\n\nNot just a morality meter like so many other games, though. Its cosmology has a god (Velka) of sin, a covenant (Blade of the Darkmoon) to extract punishment, an item (Indictment) for players to report their own murders, and an NPC (Oswald of Carim) who offers absolution. For a price, of course.\n\nEverything in //Dark Souls// has a price.<<if $gnostic>><html><br><br></html>I think It's noteworthy that dispelling the illusion of Gwynevere and turning Anor Londo dark counts as (unabsolvable) sin, as well. This fits neatly into the game's Gnostic streak, where the remaining gods attempt to keep hold of their power through deception of mortals.<<endif>>\n\n[[North-west|Undead Burg]]\n[[West|Firelink Shrine]]\n<<if $ds1>>[[Fly.|Anor Londo]]<<endif>>
<<silently>>\n\n<<if (not $walking)>>\n<<set $games = $games + 1>>\n<<set $walking = true>>\n<<endif>>\n\n<<set $coinflip = Math.floor(Math.random() + 1)>>\n\n<<if $last eq "space">>\n<<set $name1 = "Carley">>\n<<set $name2 = "Doug">>\n<<endif>>\n<<if $last eq "choice">>\n<<set $name1 = "Doug">>\n<<set $name2 = "Carley">>\n<<endif>>\n<<if ($last eq "fourten") and ($coinflip eq 1)>>\n<<set $name1 = "Carley">>\n<<set $name2 = "Doug">>\n<<endif>>\n<<if ($last eq "fourten") and ($coinflip eq 2)>>\n<<set $name1 = "Doug">>\n<<set $name2 = "Carley">>\n<<endif>>\n\n<<endsilently>>//The Walking Dead//, according to some, is their game of the year.\n\nIt is not mine.\n\nIt's an uneven game. An often-uneasy hybrid of genres. Its episodic nature allowed improvement as it went along, but also required narrowing its possibility [[space|Space]] early and often, and some of those narrative pinches were better-written than others. Its characters reflected your [[choices|Choice]] primarily in their reactions, but not always smoothly, not always enough to mask the algorithms churning away in the background. Its approach to player [[agency|Agency]] was focused more on attitudes and perspectives and <<if $fourten>><<mouseoverlink "4-10" "morals" "morals (4-10)">><<else>>[[morals|4-10]]<<endif>> than plot divergence -- which suits the game it is, but not the game some wished it to be.\n\nSave <<print $name1>> instead of <<print $name2>>, and <<print $name1>> still dies at the same time <<print $name2>> would have. <<if $name1 eq "Carley">>(Carley's death made little sense compared to Doug's, but she had better conversation options in the meantime.)<<endif>><<if $name1 eq "Doug">>(Doug's death was better justified, but he interacted less with the group in the meantime.)<<endif>>\n\nIt had the courage to end as it must -- it is a //zombie// game, after all -- but much was lost to get it there.\n\nIt //did//, however, have Clementine. She was the best-written child in a videogame in years. She was an excellent mechanism to reflect the player's decisions, to focus the player on the choices they were making.\n\n//The Walking Dead// is a game about what you leave behind.\n\n//"Clementine will remember that."//\n\nThis game [[remembers|Remember]], too.
macros['glowlink']={\n handler: function(a, b, c) {\n var l=Wikifier.createInternalLink(a,c[1]);\n l.className = c[2];\n insertText(l, c[0]);\n }\n};
<<silently>>\n\n<<if (not $gnosticsthis)>>\n<<set $asidesthis = $asidesthis + 1>>\n<<set $gnosticsthis = true>>\n<<endif>>\n\n<<if (not $gnostics)>>\n<<remember $asides = $asides + 1>>\n<<remember $gnostics = true>>\n<<endif>>\n\n<<endsilently>>I have a fondness for the Gnostics, even after they descended into Plato-wankery in the second century or so. They had all the coolest names for things. The Monad and the Demiurge. The Codex Tchacos. The Hypostasis of the Archons. The Second Apocalypse of James (written before the First).\n\nAs a (former) Mormon, I'm a little jealous.\n\n[[Back.|Parable meaning]]
<<silently>>\n<<if (not $masseffect)>>\n<<set $games = $games + 1>>\n<<set $masseffect = true>>\n<<endif>>\n<<endsilently>>//Mass Effect 3// is not the [[best|Paragon]] game I played last year. Nor was it my favorite. But it was the most <<if $paragon>>[[important|Renegade]]<<else>>//important//<<endif>> one. At least to me.\n\n<<if ($paragon) and ($renegade)>>It was a game [[about|ME1]] a [[lot|ME2]] of [[things|ME3]].<<endif>>\n\n<<if ($me1) and ($me2) and ($me3)>>[[But for me...]]<<endif>>
<<silently>>\n<<if (not $darksouls)>>\n<<set $games = $games + 1>>\n<<set $darksouls = true>>\n<<endif>>\n<<endsilently>>//Dark Souls// is a game full of [[death|Death]] -- but I don't believe that's what it is //about//.\n\nIt is a game about the psychogeography of contested [[space|Space]]. A rumination on the worth of [[challenge|Challenge]] and the contingency of [[failure|Failure]].\n\nYOU DIED, it says, again and again. And each time, it is your fault. Each time, it expects you to learn from your mistake. To <<if $three>><<mouseoverlink "3" "do better" "do better (3)">><<else>>[[do better|3]]<<endif>>.\n\nIt is a game about the necessity of [[repentance|Repentance]].\n\n[[There is more to say.|Undead Burg]]
<<silently>>\n<<if ($agency) and ($choice) and ($freedom) and ($judgement) and ($space) and ($challenge) and ($failure) and ($ftl)>>\n<<set $ring = true>>\n<<endif>>\n<<endsilently>>10. "We believe in the literal gathering of Israel and in the restoration of the Ten Tribes; that Zion (the New Jerusalem) will be built upon the American continent; that Christ will reign personally upon the earth; and, that the <<if $walking>><<mouseoverlink "The Walking Dead" "earth will be renewed" "earth will be renewed (The Walking Dead)">><<else>>earth will be renewed<<endif>> and receive its paradisiacal glory."<<set $fourten = true>><<set $last = "fourten">>\n\n9. "We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God."\n\n8. "We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly; we also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God."\n\n7. "We believe in the gift of tongues, prophecy, revelation, visions, healing, interpretation of tongues, and so forth."\n\n6. "We believe in the same organization that existed in the Primitive Church, namely, apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, evangelists, and so forth."\n\n5. "We believe that a man must be called of God, by prophecy, and by the laying on of hands by those who are in authority, to preach the Gospel and administer in the ordinances thereof."\n\n4. "We believe that the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel are: first, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; second, Repentance; third, <<if $ftl>><<mouseoverlink "FTL" "Baptism by immersion" "Baptism by immersion (FTL)">><<else>>Baptism by immersion<<endif>> for the remission of sins; fourth, Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost."\n\n<<if $thirteen>>[[13.|13]]<<endif>>\n<<if $twelve>>[[12.|12]]<<endif>>\n<<if $eleven>>[[11.|11]]<<endif>>\n<<if $three>>[[3.|3]]<<endif>>\n<<if $two>>[[2.|2]]<<endif>>\n<<if $one>>[[1.|1]]<<endif>>
<<set $dsball = true>>Amongst everything else I love about //Dark Souls//, I have to say it's //beautiful//.\n\nIt's the least derivative fantasy setting I've seen or read in ages. It understands the meaning of the word "fantastical", and doesn't shy away from bewildering variety in both the landscape itself and the inhabitants thereof.\n\nSometimes I clear out an area just to soak in the sights.\n\n[[Curl up into a ball.|Firelink Shrine]]
<<set $log3 = true>>It hails from one of the oldest schools of science fiction, using some part of reality as its basis, but distancing itself enough from its source to permit a more thorough consideration.\n\nIt's really a game about history, you see. About the silencing of women. About the [[Joseon dynasty|http://www.amazon.com/Ideology-Culture-Han-Younghee-Lee/dp/1931897077]] of Korea in particular, but by extension any society (and there have been //many//) who systematically oppress and slowly destroy women simply for //being// women.\n\nIt is //angry//.\n\nIt isn't really "fun". It isn't about power fantasies, or player skill, or the satisfaction of success. If it were, it would lose something important.\n\nInstead, it asks the player to //listen//. To //understand//.\n\n[[Back.|Analogue: A Hate Story]]\n
<<set $log2 = true>>I could've done without the romance aspect. It seemed...hollow. The player exists only as a set of binary questions and a handful of terminal commands. Not really much to go on, much less fall in love with. But that's more of a quibble, an aesthetic complaint.\n\nNo, my (only) real problem with the game is that it forces you to choose which of the two AIs to save from the derelict, without even knowing that you've triggered a point of no return. And after the (admittedly interesting and tense) countdown sequence, the justification for having to choose one or the other is flimsy.\n\nThe only way to save both -- to prompt a reconciliation -- is to break sequence and use information outside the scope of any one playthrough. Perhaps it's a comment on the harem endings of other VNs, but as an outsider, it merely seemed arbitrary.\n\n[[Back.|Analogue: A Hate Story]]\n
<<silently>>\n<<if (not $analogue)>>\n<<set $games = $games + 1>>\n<<set $analogue = true>>\n<<endif>>\n<<endsilently>>//Analogue: A Hate Story// is a game about [[freedom|Freedom]] -- or rather, the //lack// of it.\n\nThis extends to the characters and the player both. The AIs you (kind of, sort of) talk to are trapped on a dying, derelict ship. The long-dead humans you read and read of are trapped in a dying, petrified society. The player is trapped by the interface, restricted to binary answers and reading history as their input.\n\nAnd there is a //lot// to read. In an age of videogames seemingly reluctant to require the player to read anything more than objective summaries, //Analogue// is rare in its willingness not only to make the act of reading the central mechanic, but to require the player's //comprehension// to progress.\n\n[[Log 1]]\n[[Log 2]]\n<<if ($log1) and ($log2)>>[[Log 3]]<<endif>>\n\n<<if $log3>>And at the end, it asks you to render [[judgement|Judgement]].<<endif>>
We are experienced.\n\nWe have lasers now, and armor of alien metals. We die less to lucky shots and inconvenient grenades. We give at least as good as we get.\n\nWe have nicknames. Useful abilities. Potential. We survive, mostly, fumbling towards progress.\n\nThe Mutons and the Cyberdiscs come, and we struggle.\n\n//XCOM// is a game about [[faith|Iron rod]].
//"Now, repentance could not come unto men except there were a punishment, which also was eternal as the life of the soul should be, affixed opposite to the plan of happiness, which was as eternal also as the life of the soul."//\n--Alma 42:16<<set $repentance = true>><<set $last = "repentance">>\n\nThe question of [[agency|Agency]] <<if $mormon>>begets<<else>>begs<<endif>> another: if some choices are preferred, what can we do when we are <<if $judgement>>[[judged|Judgement]]<<else>>judged<<endif>> <<if ($mormon)>>to<<else>>by the system to<<endif>> have <<if $failure>>[[failed|Failure]]<<else>>failed<<endif>>? To have sinned?\n\nWe were taught<<if (not $mormon)>>, as Mormons,<<endif>> that we must //repent//.\n\nIt is easier to repent in videogames. We can always [[do it again, and do it differently|http://killscreendaily.com/articles/essays/do-it-differently/]]. We have savegames, checkpoints, respawn points. At the very least, we can start from the beginning. Even those games which continually track progress generally allow some means by which we may correct -- or at least make up for -- our mistakes.\n\nIn <<if $mormon>>this life<<else>>life<<endif>>, we do not have that luxury. The game we play by living is permadeath, instafail, autosave, procedurally generated, infinitely branching, and deletes itself upon [[dying|Death]].\n\n<<if ($space) and ($challenge) and ($failure) and ($darksouls)>>We were taught that repentance is <<mouseoverlink "Dark Souls" "required" "required (Dark Souls)">> for salvation.<<endif>><<if ($space) and ($challenge) and ($failure) and (not $darksouls)>>We were taught that repentance is [[required|Dark Souls]] for salvation.<<endif>><<if ($space) and ($challenge) and ($failure) and ($choice) and ($freedom) and ($judgement)>><html><br><br></html><<endif>><<if ($choice) and ($freedom) and ($judgement) and ($specops)>>We were taught that our sins are <<mouseoverlink "Spec Ops: The Line" "too great" "too great (Spec Ops: The Line)">> to repent on our own.<<endif>><<if ($choice) and ($freedom) and ($judgement) and (not $specops)>>We were taught that our sins are [[too great|Spec Ops: The Line]] to repent on our own.<<endif>>\n\n<<if ($dscomplete) and ($socomplete)>>We were taught<<endif>><<if ($dscomplete) and ($socomplete) and (not $mormon)>>, as Mormons,<<endif>> <<if ($dscomplete) and ($socomplete)>>that there is a way to reconcile this contradiction: an [[Atonement|Gethsemane]] was provided to pay the price of our sins, which we could never pay in full by ourselves.<<endif>>
<<set $ds1 = true>>The community that //Dark Souls// has spawned is remarkable. Brothers and sisters in suffering, seekers of truth in a dangerous, opaque, untrustworthy world.\n\nThey place their signs to be summoned, to help their fellows with towering bosses. They build wikis, to ferret out what secrets and mysteries and strategies they can. They spread the word of this (hallowed) game, to those who would listen.\n\nIt almost feels like church.\n\n[[North|Depths]]\n
//"He hath given unto you that ye might know good from evil, and he hath given unto you that ye might choose life or death; and ye can do good and be restored unto that which is good, or have that which is good restored unto you; or ye can do evil, and have that which is evil restored unto you."//\n--Helaman 14:31<<set $choice = true>><<set $last = "choice">>\n<<set $arm = "choice">>\n//"A game is a series of interesting choices."//\n--Sid Meier (quoted in //On Game Design//, by Andrew Rollings and Ernest Adams.)\n\n<<if $stanley>>[[Agency]]<<else>>Agency<<endif>> is more than just choice.\n\nChoices can be trivial. Grey tie or blue tie. Green dress or yellow dress. <<if $mormon>>Turkey or ham<<else>>Red wine or white wine<<endif>>.\n\nSometimes they have a <<if $stanley>><<mouseoverlink "The Stanley Parable" "direct result" "direct result (The Stanley Parable)">><<else>>[[direct result|The Stanley Parable]]<<endif>>. A lot of time they don't. A lot of the time, even if they do, <<if $mormon>>only God knows<<else>>we'll never know<<endif>> for sure. Sometimes the correct (or necessary, or preferred) choice is so apparent, there's hardly a choice at all.\n\nAgency requires not just the <<if $dishonored>>[[freedom|Freedom]]<<else>>freedom<<endif>> to choose, but for those choices to //matter//, somehow. To <<if $dishonored>><<mouseoverlink "Dishonored" "count for something" "count for something (Dishonored)">><<else>>[[count for something|Dishonored]]<<endif>>. To //change// something. Even if the only thing changed <<if $space and $walking>><<mouseoverlink "The Walking Dead" "is ourselves" "is ourselves (The Walking Dead)">><<endif>><<if $space and (not $walking)>>[[is ourselves|The Walking Dead]]<<endif>><<if (not $space) and (not $walking)>>is ourselves<<endif>>.\n
3. "We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind <<if $darksouls>><<mouseoverlink "Dark Souls" "may be saved" "may be saved (Dark Souls)">><<else>>[[may be saved|Dark Souls]]<<endif>>, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel."<<set $three = true>><<set $last = "three">>\n\n<<if $thirteen>>[[13.|13]]<<endif>>\n<<if $twelve>>[[12.|12]]<<endif>>\n<<if $eleven>>[[11.|11]]<<endif>>\n<<if $fourten>>[[4-10.|4-10]]<<endif>>\n<<if $two>>[[2.|2]]<<endif>>\n<<if $one>>[[1.|1]]<<endif>>
It's one word. <<set $videogames = true>>\n\nThe medium has grown, and encompasses too much to be strict with the taxonomy of both "video" and "game". The term is too common, too entrenched now to be changed, but like "novel" and "movie" before it, we can let it stand as history, as etymology, and reject the tyranny of the taxonomic impulse.\n\nSo let's [[play a game|A Player of Games]].\n
And [[I would agree|http://awtr.ca/long:maginot]] with you.\n\nI think it was an interesting failure, and I find such things offer more, in some ways, than unqualified successes. More to chew on, more to examine, more to understand. I'm glad it was made, that someone might learn from its mistakes.\n\nAnd in fairness, there were interesting bits, especially after the critical point. <<display "Act 2">>\n
The original //X-Com// was much like the world outside: messy, imperfect, literalist, unbalanced, opaque. Its tactical model was generalist, simulationist, and flexible. Its strategic model was systematic, multilayered, and deep. <<if $mormon>>It was a game for Liahona Mormons like I was.<<endif>>\n\n//X-Com// is a game about [[truth|Squaddies]].\n\nI loved the <<if $mormon>>hell<<else>>fuck<<endif>> out of it.\n\nWhatever esteem I hold it in, though, I will be the first to admit it hasn't aged well. Its economy is broken, now that I know its secrets. Its interface is an unholy mess of clicking and counting. Its AI is legendary in its awfulness.\n\nChrysalids are still terrifying, though.
//"And now remember, remember, my brethren, that whosoever perisheth, perisheth unto himself; and whosoever doeth iniquity, doeth it unto himself; for behold, ye are free; ye are permitted to act for yourselves; for behold, God hath given unto you a knowledge and he hath made you free."//\n-- Helaman 14:30<<set $freedom = true>><<set $last = "freedom">>\n\nIf you say "free agency" to a theologically-inclined Mormon, they'll likely wince. "Agency isn't free," they'll probably say. "It was only made possible through the Atonement. We are free to choose, but we are not free to choose the consequences." <<if $mormon>>(I got that answer as far back as Primary.)<<endif>>\n\nThere are two kinds of freedom in life, and in videogames.\n\nThere is the freedom allowed by and within the <<if $mormon>>system -- "free according to the flesh" (2 Ne 2:16).<<else>>system.<<endif>> This is the freedom of movement, of action, of options. It is the prerequisite of <<if $dishonored>>[[choice|Choice]]<<else>>choice<<endif>>.\n\nThen there is the freedom from consequence -- to ignore, to bypass, to prefer, to experiment<<if $analogue>>, to escape [[judgement|Judgement]]<<endif>>. It is the freedom to choose according to //desire//, instead of //outcome//. It is often a matter of degree, as well: of how localized the consequences are, of how much understanding the chosen path provides, of how equal <<if $dishonored>><<mouseoverlink "Dishonored" "different approaches" "different approaches (Dishonored)">><<else>>[[different approaches|Dishonored]]<<endif>> might be.\n\nSometimes, in order to distinguish the two, both must be <<if $analogue>><<mouseoverlink "Analogue: A Hate Story" "constricted" "constricted (Analogue: A Hate Story)">><<else>>[[constricted|Analogue: A Hate Story]]<<endif>>.
There is always a strange liminal space between us and our avatars. Our experience extends past theirs. We pass through their existence, carrying something of value away as we leave.<<set $socomplete = true>>\n\nThis life is temporal<<if (not $mormon)>>, the Mormons say<<endif>>. We pass through, and carry its lessons with us.\n\nWe play videogames, ostensibly, to find something worthy in the time we spend in them. We remain, not entirely separate, but at some distance which must be acknowledged. Compared to their worlds, we are eternal beings, inhabiting them for a short time so that we may grow.\n\nAt the end of //The Line//, the player is given a choice: to condemn our avatar, offering him up as sacrifice for our sins; to grant him some measure of peace, absolving him of our actions; or to throw him into the carnage yet again, and remain [[unrepentant|Repentance]]. The game means to judge us, and leaves us no option for our salvation.\n\nThe only way to win the game, it says, is to stop playing.\n
Much is made of //Dark Souls//' handling of death, but really, it's not much more than a checkpoint system. It's not even particularly unique, in fact, at least in terms of mechanics. Bonfires are tangible entities in the game world, but //Marathon//'s pattern buffers or //Borderlands//' New-U stations function in the same manner (the latter even providing similar skill-point and fast travel options).\n\nNo, I think it's largely a combination of how rare bonfires are (coupled with their roles as sanctuaries and de facto multiplayer hubs), the static enemy placements (and related short aggro ranges), and the risk/reward mechanism of bloodstains (with the dropping and potential loss of souls and humanity), that give death in //Dark Souls// its particular flavor.\n\n[[North|Undead Burg]]\n[[East|Undead Parish]]\n<<if $ds6>>[[West|Depths]]<<endif>>\n<<if $ds9>>[[South|Kiln of the First Flame]]<<endif>>\n<<if $ds1>>[[Curl up into a ball.|Northern Undead Asylum]]<<endif>>
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<<silently>>\n\n<<if (not $ftl)>>\n<<set $games = $games + 1>>\n<<set $ftl = true>>\n<<endif>>\n\n<<if ($agency) and ($choice) and ($freedom) and ($judgement) and ($space) and ($challenge) and ($failure) and ($ftl)>>\n<<set $ring = true>>\n<<endif>>\n\n<<endsilently>>//FTL// is a game of luck, and foresight, and many, many <<if $death>>[[deaths|Death]]<<else>>deaths<<endif>>.\n\nIt's a randomized, proceduralized, //hard// game, in the roguelike tradition. <<if ($death)>>[[Failure]]<<else>>Failure<<endif>> is common. Expected, even. It will likely take several attempts to <<if ($death)>>[[judge|Judgement]]<<else>>judge<<endif>> what might work, what should take priority. <<if $death>>The difficulty spike at the end is steep -- too steep, I think.<html> </html><<endif>><<if $ring and $fourten>><<mouseoverlink "4-10" "Preparation" "Preparation (4-10)">><<endif>><<if $ring and (not $fourten)>>[[Preparation|4-10]]<<endif>> <<if $ring>>for the final battle is all-important.<<endif>>\n\nEach choice you make is an educated guess. An informed gamble. A <<if ($walking) or ($ring)>>[[prayer|Oregon Trail]]<<else>>prayer<<endif>>.\n\n//FTL// is a game about <<if $ftlwin>>[[hope|Hope]]<<else>><<glowlink "hope" "Hope" "newLink">><<endif>>.\n
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Raymond Neilson
<<silently>>\n\n<<if (not $permadeaththis)>>\n<<set $asidesthis = $asidesthis + 1>>\n<<set $permadeaththis = true>>\n<<endif>>\n\n<<if (not $permadeath)>>\n<<remember $asides = $asides + 1>>\n<<remember $permadeath = true>>\n<<endif>>\n<<endsilently>>Permadeath is one of my favorite mechanisms of <<if $last eq "failure">>[[failure|Failure]]<<else>>failure<<endif>>, but usually only when its implementation is more sophisticated than just a whole-game <<if $ftl>>restart (//FTL// is a notable exception)<<else>>restart<<endif>>. Bonefiles in roguelikes. Jason Rohrer's //Minecraft// Chain World. If one is feeling particularly masochistic, there's an old game called //Sub-Mission//, where failure erased part of the disk the game loaded from, and you had to acquire a special code from the publisher to reinstall it.\n\nIt's not enough to name a batch of pixels, though. The game has to <<if $last eq "paragon">>[[give you reasons|Paragon]]<<else>>give you reasons<<endif>> to invest in that //particular// batch of pixels, to create history and (frankly irrational) attachment. <<if $last eq "paragon">>(Dr. Mordin Solus, RIP.)<<endif>>\n\nMy favorite version is //XCOM//'s Ironman mode, where the game saves continuously, and when your carefully-protected, amusingly-nicknamed veterans die, they stay dead. It functions as a form of XP, really, but it's XP with names and faces and stories that you put at risk every mission. Each one that dies is mourned.\n\nCol. Erica "Cargo" Garcia, KIA.\n
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//"And we see that death comes upon mankind, yea, the death which has been spoken of by Amulek, which is the temporal death; nevertheless there was a space granted unto man in which he might repent; therefore this life became a probationary state; a time to prepare to meet God; a time to prepare for that endless state which has been spoken of by us, which is after the resurrection of the dead."//\n--Alma 12:24<<set $death = true>><<set $last = "death">>\n\n//"The only way to 'reclaim' death is to imbue it with meaning. We don't need legions of mindless troops, companions that are temporarily 'knocked out' and dungeons in which we know we'll never become another decorative skeleton. We need characters worth mourning, adventures and causes worth dying for: those are experiences we can truly cherish. Games need to treat death not as a fail state or a temporary roadblock, but as genuine loss, because that's what gives the player a reason to live."//\n--Alan Williamson, [["Afterlife: Beyond Mere Death In Games"|http://nightmaremode.net/2012/05/afterlife-on-death-in-games-19068/]]\n\nIt is impossible to kill a player.\n\nOh, it's easy enough to kill the player's //avatar//, of course. Send them lurching back to a checkpoint, scrambling for the quickload key, even insist they play the game again from the beginning. Leave them with only the memory of the progress they made. Perhaps destroy what they have created, or nurtured, or simply become attached to. But these are only //representations// of death, and crude ones at that.\n\nDeath in videogames is //temporal//.\n\n<<if $mormon>>We were taught<<else>>The Mormons teach<<endif>> that as the spirit children of God, our death in this life is also merely temporal. We are here for a time -- we play for a time -- and then we are finished with this stage of our eternal existence. The difference, of course, is that we only play this game once.\n\nAll shall pass through [[death|You Died]]<<if $repentance>>, therefore [[repent|Repentance]]<<endif>>.
We are rookies.\n\nWe field mere bullets, wear mere Earthly armor. We die easily, and often. The merest brush of plasma is enough to scar us even if we live.\n\nWe have little except our names, and our fear. Most of us do not survive.\n\nThe Floaters and the Chrysalids come, and we are not prepared.\n\n//XCOM// is a game about [[sacrifice|Liahona]].
<<silently>>\n\n<<if (not $oregonthis)>>\n<<set $asidesthis = $asidesthis + 1>>\n<<set $oregonthis = true>>\n<<endif>>\n\n<<if (not $oregon)>>\n<<remember $asides = $asides + 1>>\n<<remember $oregon = true>>\n<<endif>>\n<<endsilently>>I played a lot of //Oregon Trail// as a kid.\n\nIt was a roguelike before //Rogue//. It was a game of preparation and resource management and shitty luck and burying your loved ones along the way.\n\nIt was also a virtualized little piece of <<if $mormon>>our<<else>>my<<endif>> history. Swap some names and places around, and it could stand for the [[Mormon Trail|http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mormon_trail]] instead. I'd play with the spectre of [[Missouri Executive Order 44|http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Missouri_Executive_Order_44]] hanging over everything; with the example of the [[Willie and Martin handcart companies|http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mormon_handcart_pioneers#1856:_Willie_and_Martin_handcart_companies]]' disasters continually fresh in my mind; with the sense of persecution <<if $mormon>>we are<<else>>Mormons are<<endif>> taught with each successive generation.\n\nIt transformed into a game of desperate flight, of forced emigration, of throwing oneself into the wild on the hope that somewhere, //anywhere// would be better than here. My little digital family never //wanted// to leave -- they //had// to.\n\n[[Back.|FTL]]
[[A THOUSAND DEATHS|You Died]]\n\nRaymond Neilson
I've spilled far too much virtual ink already on the game's ending. Suffice to say I'm [[among those|http://awtr.ca/long:this-is-not-a-pipe]] who found it to retroactively destroy everything I loved about the series.\n<<set $me1 = true>>\nIn its aftermath, as I looked for answers to //why// I felt so strongly about it, I saw the very structure of the game unravel in my eyes.\n\nLike the church half a lifetime ago, I found there was too much that I was accepting of, too many flaws I was overlooking, too many rewards I was holding in abeyance, too many answers I found insufficient. It wasn't even just the ending in itself that so angered me. It was the work as a whole. I judged it, and I found it wanting.\n\nIt felt like a loss of [[faith|Mass Effect 3]].
<<silently>>\n<<if (not $dishonored)>>\n<<set $games = $games + 1>>\n<<set $dishonored = true>>\n<<endif>>\n<<endsilently>>//Dishonored// counts itself amongst the immersive sims, predicated on complex systems and spaces, and giving the player the [[freedom|Freedom]] to approach the game as they see fit.\n\nIt can be a very short game, if you plow ahead from objective to objective. It can be a fairly long game, if you poke around and [[read everything|Dishonored opinion]] and carefully sneak around. It can be a quiet game of knockouts and ghosting or a cacophony of bloody hyperviolence. It is a game about letting the player [[choose|Choice]] what they wish to take from it.\n
I do not begrudge those who liked the ending, nor those who hated it but still admire the remainder.\n<<set $me3 = true>>\nI do not begrudge those <<if $mormon>>of you<<else>>Mormons<<endif>> who still retain <<if $mormon>>your<<else>>their<<endif>> faith.\n\nAnd I do not -- cannot -- repudiate my own history. I still wear my N7 hoodie. I still have my <<if $mormon>>quad with my name on it<<else>>scriptures with my name on them<<endif>>.\n\nI used to be a player of //Mass Effect//.\n\nI used to be a member of the Mormon [[church|Mass Effect 3]].
In its wake, I found new friends. I started writing [[things about videogames|http://awtr.ca/long:hole-in-the-head]]. Hell, I //wrote//, which is more than I could say before. I began to give shape and form to ideas about games which I'd cultured over the years, but never expressed in detail. I sought out new games, other games, better games, more varied games.\n<<set $me2 = true>>\nI don't need //Mass Effect 3// to be salvaged anymore, in the same way I no longer need the church to be true.\n\nIt was only a game, after all. There were, and are, others. This is not to discount videogames' cultural worth, nor to trivialize the medium, but simply to distinguish the definite from the indefinite. To recognize the breadth available which I too frequently ignored. To acknowledge that I can [[move on|Mass Effect 3]].
<<silently>>\n<<set $whichdeath = Math.floor(Math.random() * 3)>>\n<<set $maxdeaths = $maxdeaths + 1>>\n<<endsilently>>Dead.\n\n<<if $whichdeath eq 0>>Bullet to the head.<<endif>><<if $whichdeath eq 1>>Bullet to the chest.<<endif>><<if $whichdeath eq 2>>Bullet to the gut.<<endif>>\n\n[[Try again.|Max Payne 3]]\n
<<silently>>\n<<if (not $specops)>>\n<<set $games = $games + 1>>\n<<set $specops = true>>\n<<endif>>\n<<endsilently>>//Spec Ops: The Line// purports to make us question our desire to inflict virtual [[death|Death]] -- but I don't believe that's what it is //about//.\n\nIt is a game about the consequence of unexamined [[choices|Choice]]. An interrogation of player [[freedom|Freedom]] and a [[judgement|Judgement]] on its excesses.\n\n//This is all your fault//, it says. By pressing forward, you bring these atrocities <<if $two>><<mouseoverlink "2" "to pass" "to pass (2)">><<else>>[[to pass|2]]<<endif>>.\n\nIt is a game about the impossibility of [[repentance|Repentance]].\n\n[[There is more to say.|Act 1]]
//Dark Souls// is infamously reticent. It will tell you only the bare minimum. It will not tell you where to go (except in the vaguest terms). More importantly, it will not tell you where //not// to go yet. You must -- and you will -- learn that yourself.<<if $dsball>><html><br><br></html>I deeply respect its willingness to make its connections obscure, to refrain from informing you exactly what it is you've unlocked with this item or that. It makes you search, and it makes you wonder.<<endif>>\n\n[[South-east|Undead Parish]]\n[[South|Firelink Shrine]]\n<<if $ds6>>[[South-west|Depths]]<<endif>>
The Mormons teach that the Atonement was not found in the Crucifixtion, but in Gethsemane the night before.<<set $gethsemane = true>>\n\nIt is not [[death|Death]] that paid for our sins, you see. It was //suffering//.\n\n<<if ($dscomplete) and ($socomplete)>>[[Bleed.|XCOM]]<<endif>>
[[There was a war in heaven.|Judas]]<<set $betrayal = true>>\n
//Dark Souls//' online component is subtle, and strange. Half-glimpsed shadows of the recently dead. Glowing scrawl with selfless hints or scheming tricks. Invading phantoms that harry and harass and kill.\n\nThe multiplayer modes of most games are almost separate games in themselves, divorced from the story's fiction (from the age of //DOOM//'s deathmatch onward), or simply the singleplayer campaign with more players (some, like //Halo//, completely ignore the multiplicity of protagonists; some, like //Borderlands//, at least nod towards it).\n\n//Dark Souls// instead embraces the shared suffering of its players, not just in spirit, but in //mechanics//. It provides means for them to help and to hurt each other along the parallel paths they all walk.\n\n[[North-east|Undead Burg]]\n[[East|Firelink Shrine]]\n[[South|Blighttown]]\n
2. "We believe that men will be punished for <<if $specops>><<mouseoverlink "Spec Ops: The Line" "their own sins" "their own sins (Spec Ops: The Line)">><<else>>[[their own sins|Spec Ops: The Line]]<<endif>>, and not for Adam's transgression."<<set $two = true>><<set $last = "two">>\n\n<<if $thirteen>>[[13.|13]]<<endif>>\n<<if $twelve>>[[12.|12]]<<endif>>\n<<if $eleven>>[[11.|11]]<<endif>>\n<<if $fourten>>[[4-10.|4-10]]<<endif>>\n<<if $three>>[[3.|3]]<<endif>>\n<<if $one>>[[1.|1]]<<endif>>
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<<silently>>\n\n<<if ($agency) and ($choice) and ($freedom) and ($judgement) and ($space) and ($challenge) and ($failure) and ($ftl)>>\n<<set $ring = true>>\n<<endif>>\n\n<<endsilently>><<if $last eq "space">>You came here from [[space|Space]].<<endif>><<if $last eq "choice">>You came here by [[choice|Choice]].<<endif>><<if $last eq "fourten">>You came in the [[back door|4-10]].<<endif>> You have played <<print $games>> of the 12 games here. The first was <<print $firstgame>>. You have found <<if $asidesthis eq 0>>none<<else>><<print $asidesthis>><<endif>> of 5 asides in this playthrough (<<if $asides eq 0>>none<<else>><<print $asides>><<endif>> of the 6 total across all playthroughs). <<if $deaths eq 0>>You haven't [[died|You Died]] yet.<<endif>><<if $deaths eq 1>>You've [[died|You Died]] once so far.<<endif>><<if $deaths gt 1>>You've [[died|You Died]] <<print $deaths>> times so far.<<endif>> <<if ($one) and ($two) and ($three) and ($fourten) and ($eleven) and ($twelve) and ($thirteen)>>You've unlocked all the shortcuts.<<else>>You haven't unlocked all the shortcuts yet.<<endif>>\n\n<<if $playthroughs eq 1>>This is your first time playing this game.<<endif>><<if $playthroughs gte 2>>You have played this game <<print $playthroughs>> times.<<endif>> <<if $completions eq 0>>You haven't finished it yet.<<endif>><<if $completions eq 1>>You've finished it once.<<endif>><<if $completions gte 2>>You've finished it <<print $completions>> times.<<endif>>\n\n<<if $mormon>>This game thinks you are (or have been) a member of the Church.<<else>>This game thinks you are not (nor have you been) a Mormon.<<endif>>\n<<set $last = "remember">>\n<<if $repentance>>A way was provided that ye may [[repent|Repentance]].<<endif>><<if (not $repentance) and ($death) and ($ring)>>A way was provided that ye may repent, if ye <<glowlink "are willing" "FTL" "newLink">>.<<endif>><<if (not $repentance) and (not $death) and ($ring)>>The way is open, but you must <<glowlink "pass through" "FTL" "newLink">>.<<endif>><<if (not $repentance) and (not $death) and (not $ring)>>There is a way, but it is not here. Seek elsewhere.<<endif>>\n\n[[Back.|The Walking Dead]]
The dirty secret of //Dark Souls// is that...well, it's not actually quite as //difficult// as they say.<<set $dscomplete = true>>\n\n//I Wanna Be The Guy// is difficult. //Super Hexagon// is difficult. But while //Dark Souls// is certainly //challenging// in so many ways, it gives players [[many ways|http://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/178262/deep_dungeon_exploring_the_design_.php]] to grapple with its difficulty.\n\nThe combat is methodical to the point of being [[nearly turn-based|http://www.forbes.com/sites/erikkain/2013/02/04/the-unique-combat-of-dark-souls/]]. The world is multiply-connected, and almost everything is designed to have several viable approaches. Many things can be bypassed, or even simply run away from. Others can be summoned to help. The twin currencies of souls and humanity are replenishable, farmable, grindable, so a loss of these is never truly //permanent// if one is willing to pay the price of time. You can never truly die.\n\nIt's not a game that wishes to condemn its player, but instead to give them every chance to [[repent|Repentance]], if they are willing. If they understand. If they have faith.\n\nThe only way to lose, it says, is to stop playing.\n\n[[North|Firelink Shrine]]\n
<<silently>>\n\n<<if (not $causethis)>>\n<<set $asidesthis = $asidesthis + 1>>\n<<set $causethis = true>>\n<<endif>>\n\n<<if (not $cause)>>\n<<remember $asides = $asides + 1>>\n<<remember $cause = true>>\n<<endif>>\n<<endsilently>>There is a difficulty in criticism encountered when the critic doesn't necessarily have access to the full text. It's a problem even greater than the usual question of understanding the context of a work (its history, conventions, idioms, precedents, antecedents, et cetera). We're used to being able to evaluate the text as a whole, which is not necessarily true in the general case of ergodic texts, but videogames especially, with their dynamic systems and often-large possibility spaces.\n\nI don't think we can say unequivocally that simply because the data exists within the possibility space of the game at large that we are bound to consider it. Videogames are not only ergodic texts, requiring nontrivial effort in their traversal, but //systems//, wherein portions of the text may be rendered inaccessible or even invalid. My throughline is not yours, my subjective experience can differ wildly, and while both are valid they may conflict on multiple levels.\n\nI liken this critical tension to wave-particle duality. The game exists as a set of potential states (like a wavefunction). A given playthrough represents the actualization of a single state (like a particle). We cannot ignore any given single playthrough, since we cannot assume a player will ever complete more than one, and thus when discussing the player's experience whatever subset of the whole is exposed has to be treated as if it were all that existed. That said, the rest of the game does exist, if only as potential, so any <<if $last eq "judgement">>[[judgements|Judgement]]<<else>>judgements<<endif>> of what the game itself intends must compare how it responds to varying input. Both perspectives are required for a full understanding of the system, but the type of answer depends on the question asked.\n\nSome games, though (such as the one you're playing now), reward //completion// above all else. The game never punishes the player for the decision to unlock more content. Pursuing sidequests never places others out of reach. And completionism is rewarded with more experience, more levels, more weapons, more options, higher reputation, better upgrades, and often more insight into the world and its characters. Sometimes, in fact, completionism is rewarded to the detriment of narrative urgency - the game may plead for the player to continue the main plotline right away, but never punishes further exploration. <<if $last eq "paragon">>Until the [[endgame|Paragon]], that is.<<endif>>
When I was eleven, I wanted to be a game designer because of //X-Com//.\n\nNow I'm twenty-nine, and again I want to be a game designer because of //XCOM//.\n\nI left the Church half a lifetime ago, but these two are the most deeply //Mormon// games I could possibly name.\n\n//X-Com// and //XCOM// are games about <<if $betrayal>>[[agency|Agency]]<<else>>[[agency|Betrayal]]<<endif>>.
11. "We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own <<if $dearesther>><<mouseoverlink "Dear Esther" "conscience" "conscience (Dear Esther)">><<else>>[[conscience|Dear Esther]]<<endif>>, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may."<<set $eleven = true>><<set $last = "eleven">>\n\n<<if $thirteen>>[[13.|13]]<<endif>>\n<<if $twelve>>[[12.|12]]<<endif>>\n<<if $fourten>>[[4-10.|4-10]]<<endif>>\n<<if $three>>[[3.|3]]<<endif>>\n<<if $two>>[[2.|2]]<<endif>>\n<<if $one>>[[1.|1]]<<endif>>
<<silently>>\n\n<<if ($agency) and ($choice) and ($freedom) and ($judgement) and ($space) and ($challenge) and ($failure) and ($ftl)>>\n<<set $ring = true>>\n<<endif>>\n\n<<endsilently>>13. "We <<if $betrayal>>[[believe|Believe]]<<else>>believe<<endif>> in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men; indeed, we may say that we follow the admonition of Paul-We believe all things, we <<if $ftlwin>>[[hope|Hope]]<<endif>><<if ($death) and (not $ftlwin)>><<glowlink "hope" "Hope" "newLink>><<endif>><<if (not $death)>>hope<<endif>> all things, we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things. If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things."<<set $thirteen = true>><<set $last = "thirteen">>\n\n<<if $player>>[[A Player of Games]]<<else>>[[What are you talking about?|What?]]\n[[Oh, I remember that one.|Oh.]]<<endif>>\n<<if $agency>>[[Agency]]<<endif>>\n<<if $twelve>>[[12.|12]]<<endif>>\n<<if $eleven>>[[11.|11]]<<endif>>\n<<if $fourten>>[[4-10.|4-10]]<<endif>>\n<<if $three>>[[3.|3]]<<endif>>\n<<if $two>>[[2.|2]]<<endif>>\n<<if $one>>[[1.|1]]<<endif>>
12. "We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in <<if $stanley>><<mouseoverlink "The Stanley Parable" "obeying" "obeying (The Stanley Parable)">><<else>>[[obeying|The Stanley Parable]]<<endif>>, honoring, and sustaining the law."<<set $twelve = true>><<set $last = "twelve">>\n\n<<if $thirteen>>[[13.|13]]<<endif>>\n<<if $eleven>>[[11.|11]]<<endif>>\n<<if $fourten>>[[4-10.|4-10]]<<endif>>\n<<if $three>>[[3.|3]]<<endif>>\n<<if $two>>[[2.|2]]<<endif>>\n<<if $one>>[[1.|1]]<<endif>>
//"And there stood one among them that was like unto God, and he said unto those who were with him: We will go down, for there is space there, and we will take of these materials, and we will make an earth whereon these may dwell;"//\n--Abraham 3:24<<set $space = true>><<set $last = "space">>\n<<set $arm = "space">>\n//"Perhaps, we should consider another starting point, viewing games as a spatial art with its roots in architecture, landscape painting, sculpture, gardening, or amusement park design."//\n--Henry Jenkins, [["The Art of Contested Spaces"|http://web.mit.edu/cms/People/henry3/contestedspaces.html]]\n\nIf I were to attempt a formalist definition of videogames, I'd start with space.\n\nThere is physical space, commonly (but not always) created by the game, in which the player moves and acts. It can be highly abstracted form of space: a graph of nodes and links (such as this very game), or a text prompt and a set of verbs.\n\nOften (but <<if $dearesther>><<mouseoverlink "Dear Esther" "not always" "not always (Dear Esther)">><<else>>[[not always|Dear Esther]]<<endif>>) that space is a <<if $thirty>>[[challenge|Challenge]]<<else>>challenge<<endif>> to traverse, and such is the game's very purpose. Sometimes, the game is about <<if $thirty>><<mouseoverlink "Thirty Flights of Loving" "the space itself" "the space itself (Thirty Flights of Loving)">><<else>>[[the space itself|Thirty Flights of Loving]]<<endif>>.\n\nBut the more important space is the one of possibility, of <<if $choice and $walking>><<mouseoverlink "The Walking Dead" "potential states" "potential states (The Walking Dead)">><<endif>><<if $choice and (not $walking)>>[[potential states|The Walking Dead]]<<endif>><<if (not $choice) and (not $walking)>>potential states<<endif>>, that allows for <<if $dearesther>>[[agency|Agency]]<<else>>agency<<endif>> within it. This is the reason we on this Earth<<if $mormon>>, after all<<else>>, the Mormons teach<<endif>>: that we may have room for our choices and their consequences to play out.
I've always felt a little sorry for Judas.\n\n<<if $mormon>>Adam's<<else>>The way the Mormons teach it, Adam's<<endif>> transgression was //necessary// for the larger Plan. A forced failure, in the parlance of videogames. Unlike most other Christians, <<if $mormon>>we<<else>>they<<endif>> don't hold that sin against him.\n\nJudas, on the other hand, generally doesn't receive the same treatment. Thirty pieces of silver was no fortune -- it's like selling out your best friend for a couple hundred bucks. He was an Apostle, one of the twelve (although the only one not a Galilean). And for the Atonement to proceed, Christ had to be delivered <<if $mormon>>unto<<else>>to<<endif>> his death.\n\nNecessary to the Plan. Forced failure.\n\nPerhaps, though, it was the woman with the oil at the Last Supper (Matthew 26:7, Mark 14:3) that was Judas' breaking point. To watch his leader, who demanded selflessness always, seemingly fall to vanity and pride.\n\nPerhaps he simply no longer [[believed|13]].
<<silently>>\n\n<<set $hope = true>>\n\n<<if ($agency) and ($choice) and ($freedom) and ($judgement) and ($space) and ($challenge) and ($failure) and ($ftl)>>\n<<set $ring = true>>\n<<endif>>\n\n<<if ($ring) and ($walking) and ($death)>>\n<<set $ftlpass = true>>\n<<endif>>\n\n<<if ($ftlpass) and ($thirteen) and ($twelve) and ($eleven) and ($fourten) and and ($asidesthis eq 5)>>\n<<set $ftlwin = true>>\n<<endif>>\n\n<<if $ftlwin>>\n<<set $whichdeath = 4>>\n<<else>>\n<<set $whichdeath = Math.floor(Math.random() * 3)>>\n<<endif>>\n\n<<set $whichenemy = Math.floor(Math.random() * 6)>>\n\n<<endsilently>><<if $last eq "failure">>You went left instead of right.<<endif>><<if $last eq "judgement">>You went right instead of left.<<endif>><<if $last eq "fourten">>You went up instead of down.<<endif>><<if $last eq "remember">>You went down instead of up.<<endif>><<if $last eq "thirteen">>You went straight through the middle.<<endif>>\n\n<<if ($last eq "failure") and ($firstgame eq "The Stanley Parable")>>You upgraded your shields to full.<<endif>><<if ($last eq "failure") and ($firstgame eq "Dear Esther")>>You upgraded your engines to full.<<endif>><<if ($last eq "judgement") and ($firstgame eq "The Stanley Parable")>>You bought that extra weapon at the store.<<endif>><<if ($last eq "judgement") and ($firstgame eq "Dear Esther")>>You bought that drone system at the store.<<endif>><<if ($last eq "fourten") and ($firstgame eq "The Stanley Parable")>>You traded for that drone system.<<endif>><<if ($last eq "fourten") and ($firstgame eq "Dear Esther")>>You traded for that new weapon.<<endif>><<if ($last eq "remember") and ($firstgame eq "The Stanley Parable")>>You hired that new crewmember.<<endif>><<if ($last eq "remember") and ($firstgame eq "Dear Esther")>>You rescued that new crewmember.<<endif>><<if $last eq "thirteen">>You bought that slave's freedom.<<endif>>\n\nYou fought off that tough <<if $whichenemy eq 0>>Rock fighter<<endif>><<if $whichenemy eq 1>>Mantis scout<<endif>><<if $whichenemy eq 2>>Engi bomber<<endif>><<if $whichenemy eq 3>>Pirate ship<<endif>><<if $whichenemy eq 4>>Slaver bastard<<endif>><<if $whichenemy eq 5>>Rebel auto-scout<<endif>>, <<if $death>>and emerged with hardly a scratch<<else>>but limped away with heavy damage<<endif>>.\n\n<<if ($asidesthis eq 0)>>You missed all the sidequests, somehow<<endif>><<if ($asidesthis eq 1)>>You completed that sidequest you found<<endif>><<if ($asidesthis gt 1) and ($asidesthis lt 5)>>You found and completed several sidequests<<endif>><<if ($asidesthis eq 5)>>You completed all the sidequests you could find<<endif>><<if ($asidesthis eq 1) and (not $death)>>, but it only paid a pittance<<endif>><<if ($asidesthis gt 1) and (not $death)>>, but they didn't pay much<<endif>><<if ($asidesthis eq 1) and ($death)>>, and gained an extra crewmember<<endif>><<if ($asidesthis gt 1) and ($death)>>, and stocked up on everything you need<<endif>>.\n\n<<if $ring>>You made it to the final boss<<else>>You didn't make it to the last sector.<<endif>><<if ($ring) and (not $walking)>>, but you weren't quite prepared enough.<<endif>><<if ($ring) and ($walking) and (not $death)>>, and you were better prepared.<<endif>><<if ($ring) and ($walking) and ($death)>>, and this time you're prepared.<<endif>> <<if ($ftlpass) and (not $ftlwin)>>But it wasn't quite enough.<<endif>><<if $ftlwin>>This time, it was enough.<<endif>>\n\n<<if ($whichdeath eq 0)>>The hull is torn. Your crew scrambles and scrabbles to weld it shut in time. They [[die|You Died]] gasping.<<endif>><<if ($whichdeath eq 1)>>The enemy teleports aboard, all skittering claws and greed. Your crew [[dies|You Died]] one by one.<<endif>><<if ($whichdeath eq 2)>>The ship is battered, limping, fires in a dozen compartments. Another missile hits. The ship breaks apart. Your crew [[dies|You Died]] with a brief scream.<<endif>><<if $whichdeath eq 4>>Your crew fights for their lives -- and this time they win. The rebel flagship shatters.<<endif>>\n\n<<if (not $walking) and (not $ring)>>Maybe the next time will be different.<<endif>><<if ($ring) and (not $walking)>>Maybe the next time will be different. Maybe you'll find what you missed.<<endif>><<if (not $ring) and ($walking)>>Maybe next time will be different. Maybe you'll find what you need.<<endif>><<if ($walking) and ($ring) and (not $death)>>Maybe the next time will be different. Maybe [[this death|Death]] was not in vain.<<endif>><<if ($ftlpass) and (not $ftlwin)>>Perhaps you missed something along the way, something you needed. Next time you might [[do better|Repentance]].<<endif>><<if $ftlwin>>This time, you are [[victorious over death|Repentance]].<<endif>>
The Mormons. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. It was my birthright. I've left since, but certain parts of it stick with me like industrial-grade krazy glue.\n\nThere are thirteen articles of faith. That was the thirteenth. <<set $mormon = false>>\n\n[[But why start at thirteen?]]
We are veterans.\n\nWe have plasma guns and powered armor. We stride (and fly) across the battlefield like titans. We are hard to kill. We are good at killing.\n\nWe have value. History. Memory. Tools. Options. We thrive, turning every weapon of the enemy against them.\n\nThe Ethereals come, and we learn to kill them, too.\n\n//XCOM// is a game about [[salvation|Apostate]].
"A man chooses; a slave obeys."<<set $tsp_kindly = true>>\n\n//Bioshock// tries to grapple with the question of player obedience, but before the "would you kindly" scene the player is given no reason to question the voice in their ear, and after it another voice and another set of objectives merely replace the first.\n\nThe Narrator of //The Stanley Parable//, by speaking in the past tense of what the player //did// instead of //should do//, creates an immediate tension between the player's goals and the story the Narrator wishes to tell. "What if I don't //want// to go left, huh? What if I want to go right? What will you do //then//?"\n\nAnd the game has an [[answer|The Stanley Parable]] to this question.\n\n<<if $specops>>//The Stanley Parable// also correctly predicts the post-//Bioshock// question of //Spec Ops: The Line//: if terrible things happen by continuing to play, why not just turn the game //off//?\n\nThe second narrator, in one branch, explicitly //pleads// with the player to do exactly that.\n\nThe game has an answer to this question, too.<<endif>>
<<silently>>\n\n<<if (not $killingthis)>>\n<<set $asidesthis = $asidesthis + 1>>\n<<set $killingthis = true>>\n<<endif>>\n\n<<if (not $killing)>>\n<<remember $asides = $asides + 1>>\n<<remember $killing = true>>\n<<endif>>\n\n<<endsilently>>Mormons are not strangers to killing.\n\nThe Book of Mormon wastes little time before Nephi cuts off Laban's head at God's behest. Helaman raises an army of child soldiers. The Nephites and the Lamanites war with each other and themselves almost constantly.\n\nIn the latter days we had skirmishes in Illinois and Missouri, the Mormon Battalion and the Nauvoo Legion, Mountain Meadows and the Black Hawk War, whispers of the Danites and blood atonements in the Salt Lake Valley.\n\nShooters especially ordain our killing, ensure our enemies are sufficiently wicked and unwilling to yield. Laban in the alley, again and again.\n\n[[Max Payne|Max Payne 3]] reminds me a little of Porter Rockwell.
1. "We believe in <<if $xcom>><<mouseoverlink "XCOM" "God" "God (XCOM)">><<else>>[[God|XCOM]]<<endif>>, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost."<<set $one = true>><<set $last = "one">>\n\n<<if $thirteen>>[[13.|13]]<<endif>>\n<<if $twelve>>[[12.|12]]<<endif>>\n<<if $eleven>>[[11.|11]]<<endif>>\n<<if $fourten>>[[4-10.|4-10]]<<endif>>\n<<if $three>>[[3.|3]]<<endif>>\n<<if $two>>[[2.|2]]<<endif>>\n
It ended...ignominiously.<<set $renegade = true>>\n\nIts possibilities forcibly converged. Its players facelessly aggregated. Its conversation interrupted by an answer to a question that wasn't asked.\n\nIt forgot what it was about.\n\nA game about choices reduced their multitude to a crass sum. A game about players left them mute and impotent. A game about conversations asked which flavor of atrocity was most appealing. And its creators -- the gods who shaped this world we passed through -- decided that we must be shepherded towards salvation after all.\n\nLucifer had been right all along.\n\n"Disappointment" is not quite the right [[word|Mass Effect 3]].
<<set $log1 = true>>I didn't mind the art style, actually. Visual novels are usually rather completely unrelated to my tastes in games, and my tastes in anime and manga skew towards quite different aesthetics. Normally, I hate and despise kawaii and moe.\n\nThere are those who refuse to play it -- hell, to even consider it a videogame -- on those grounds.\n\nBut they're missing out. They don't realize that the game has //teeth//.\n\n[[Back.|Analogue: A Hate Story]]\n
<<silently>>\n<<if (not $thirty)>>\n<<set $games = $games + 1>>\n<<set $thirty = true>>\n<<endif>>\n<<endsilently>>//Thirty Flights of Loving// is a short story, made as a short game.<<set $thirty = true>>\n\nThe story itself may or may not resonate with you (it didn't with me), but it's visually expressive and mechanically fascinating. It's built on oblique references and environmental cues. It is about taking the [[space|Space]] that videogames create and [[cutting|Thirty Flights of Loving 2]]
<<silently>>\n\n<<if (not $dishonoredopthis)>>\n<<set $asidesthis = $asidesthis + 1>>\n<<set $dishonoredopthis = true>>\n<<endif>>\n\n<<if (not $dishonoredop)>>\n<<remember $asides = $asides + 1>>\n<<remember $dishonoredop = true>>\n<<endif>>\n\n<<endsilently>>I found it remarkably empty.\n\nIt seemed like a game made according to a checklist of what immersive sims were supposed to contain. Multiple routes? Check. Non-lethal options at all times? Check. Background material to read scattered about? Check. Localized and systematized stealth model? Check. Arsenal of special abilities to combine cleverly? Check and check.\n\nWith all the tools and powers at your disposal, it is never a particularly //difficult// game. It's a playground, a fantasy of power and control. Its world -- of industrialized eldritch slaughter, curious trickster gods and the bones of old cities underneath the new -- seemed more interesting than the plot of competing imperialist bastards.\n\nI still do have to give them a fair amount of credit for Blink. It's a wonderful addition to the first-person movement arsenal, changing the player's perception of space in a more immediately obvious way than Portal, while still avoiding direct comparisons.\n\nIts morality is asymmetrical in an interesting way, perhaps: the "good" path requires you to forgo most of the abilities available, to kill infrequently, to fight temptation constantly.\n\nBut there is little nuance in this distinction. You //can// still kill, just not //often//, and who you kill (and when and why) is immaterial. The consequences are limited to more enemies in places (given how powerful the player is, this mostly becomes "more targets"), and a different ending. The game judges you explicitly, but neither precisely nor interestingly. If it either refrained from judging or judged more harshly, I'd respect it more.\n\nIt remains a playground either way, [[free|Freedom]] from much in the way of lasting consequence. And I am so very, very uninterested in playgrounds of late.
<<set $ds9 = true>>I love how //Dark Souls// approaches space and skill, but more so because the two are intertwined.\n\nAll the repetitions of an area, before one has mastered the enemies therein, allow the space itself to soak into memory. Go here, trigger this enemy first, lure out that, block, parry, thrust.\n\nIt's a design technique almost as old as videogames, but gains more potency in //Dark Souls//' 3D Metroidvania model. The space is multiply-connected, almost continuous, and much of its gating is based on //skill// rather than items (and //none// of it leveling). Areas can be tackled in whatever order the foolhardy or experienced care to attempt. Shortcuts can be opened, later areas taken on early or bypassed almost entirely.\n\nNavigating the space requires skill and attention both. And because so many areas are visited so many times, the structure of the world becomes as instinctual as the combat within it.\n\nIt starts to feel like home.\n\n[[Fly.|Undead Parish]]
<<set $thirtytwo = true>>it up into pieces.\n\nThe [[challenge|Challenge]] lies not in playing (there are no tests of skill besides basic movement) or completing (the whole game is short enough to finish in ten minutes), but in //understanding// its cryptic, fractured, out-of-order narrative. It trusts the player to listen, and to stitch its pieces together themselves.\n\nIt may not have been to my taste, but I do hope its ideas get spread around far and wide.
<<silently>>\n\n<<if (not $thirteen) and (not $player)>>\n<<set $games = 0>>\n<<set $deaths = 0>>\n<<set $maxdeaths = 0>>\n<<set $asidesthis = 0>>\n<<set $mormon = false>>\n<<set $ftlwin = false>>\n<<set $ring = false>>\n<<set $allshort = false>>\n<<set $lost = false>>\n<<set $won = false>>\n<<set $firstgame = "none">>\n<<endif>>\n\n<<if ($thirteen) or ($player)>>\n<<set $deaths = $deaths + 1>>\n<<endif>>\n\n<<if (not $hasplayed)>>\n<<remember $hasplayed = true>>\n<<remember $asides = 0>>\n<<remember $playthroughs = 0>>\n<<remember $completions = 0>>\n<<endif>>\n\n<<if ($hasplayed) and (not $thirteen) and (not $player)>>\n<<remember $playthroughs = $playthroughs + 1>>\n<<endif>>\n\n<<if ($lost) and ($last eq "lost")>>\n<<remember $completions = $completions + 1>>\n<<endif>>\n\n<<if ($agency) and ($choice) and ($freedom) and ($judgement) and ($space) and ($challenge) and ($failure) and ($ftl)>>\n<<set $ring = true>>\n<<endif>>\n\n<<if ($one) and ($two) and ($three) and ($fourten) and ($eleven) and ($twelve) and ($thirteen)>>\n<<set $allshort = true>>\n<<endif>>\n\n<<if ($ring) and ($allshort) and ($gethsemane) and ($lost) and ($asidesthis eq 5)>>\n<<set $won = true>>\n<<endif>>\n\n<<endsilently>><<if ($lost) and ($won) and ($mormon)>><<timedreplace 6>>YOU DIED.<<replacewith>><<timedreplace 6>> <<replacewith>><<timedreplace 10>>Well done, thou good and faithful servant.<<replacewith>> <<endtimedreplace>><<endtimedreplace>><<endtimedreplace>><<endif>><<if ($lost) and (not $won) and ($mormon)>>YOU DIED.<<endif>><<if ($lost) and (not $mormon)>>YOU DIED.<<endif>><<if (not $lost)>>YOU DIED.<<endif>>\n\n<<if (not $lost) and (not $thirteen)>>[[Continue?|13]]<<endif>><<if (not $lost) and ($thirteen)>><<glowlink "Continue" "13" "newLink">><<endif>>\n<<if ($gethsemane) and (not $lost)>>[[What did you die for?|Gethsemane]]<<endif>>
<<silently>>\n<<if (not $dearesther)>>\n<<set $games = $games + 1>>\n<<set $dearesther = true>>\n<<endif>>\n<<if $firstgame eq "none">>\n<<set $firstgame = "Dear Esther">>\n<<endif>>\n<<endsilently>>//Dear Esther// is a game about <<if ($de_op) and ($de_import)>>[[space|Space]]<<else>>space<<endif>>. The space of the island it takes place on, and the space of the memories of the unnamed narrator. The island is fixed, untouchable. The memories are fluid, changing order and even content with every playthrough.\n\nIt strips the videogame down to nothing but space, and the player's passage through it. The player's [[agency|Agency]] is limited to walking and looking; you cannot touch and you cannot wander very far.\n\nThere are things you can miss, though, if you do not look carefully. It resembles more traditional forms of literature in this fashion, but amplified and made more explicit, more tangible. Look closer or look away. Circle around a thing or glance and move on.\n\n[[I didn't particularly like it.|Dear Esther 2]]\n\n<<if ($de_op) and ($de_import)>>I don't regret playing it, but<<endif>> <<if ($de_op) and ($de_import) and ($eleven)>><<mouseoverlink "11" "I see" "I see (11)">><<endif>><<if ($de_op) and ($de_import) and (not $eleven)>>[[I see|11]]<<endif>> <<if ($de_op) and ($de_import)>>no reason to do so again.<<endif>>
It is a game about possibilities. About players. About conversations.\n<<set $paragon = true>><<set $last = "paragon">>\nThe text of the game is a shifting kaleidoscope, twisting and fragmenting in response to the avalanche of differences. It reacts to so much -- occasionally in large ways, but mostly in small. Acknowledgements. Variants. Offshoots. Corners and crevices. To do more would strain the most titanic of budgets. But still, it is impossible to describe without a metric ton of if/thens. It is the [[wavefunction|Cause and Effect]] made tangible.\n\nIt does little more than others of its genre in the creation of its players' avatars; in its binary and systematic measurement of morality; in the long-standard process of saving the world; in catering to its players' desires for fantasy, power or otherwise. But it gives them a //voice// to go with their constructed faces. And over three games it gives them //history//. It bridges that space between player and avatar in a way so few games do. "My Shepard..." players say, more often than not, instead of "I...".\n\nThe game continually asks the player to choose, to prefer, to express. To pick sides. To declare loyalties and intentions. To decide who will live and [[who will die|Permadeath]]. "What kind of a world do you live in?", it asks. "What kind of a world do you //want// to?" We answer, and the text responds in turn. It is a discussion of what //can// be, and what //[[should|Mass Effect 3]]//.
<<silently>>\n\n<<if (not $marathonthis)>>\n<<set $asidesthis = $asidesthis + 1>>\n<<set $marathonthis = true>>\n<<endif>>\n\n<<if (not $marathon)>>\n<<remember $asides = $asides + 1>>\n<<remember $marathon = true>>\n<<endif>>\n<<endsilently>>I miss //Marathon//. Or rather, I miss the Bungie that created it. They were //literary//, unafraid to create fractured, fragmented narratives full of uncertain histories and the epistolary detritus of its digital demigods.\n\n"Rampancy" is a great term. It's useful to the lexicon of machine intelligence, and more specific than just "insane". They made it up just for the game. When was the last time you remember a //videogame// neologizing? Games are so terribly full of conceptual nouns given capital letters and assumed to be Important.\n\nThe Cortana Letters that presaged //Halo//'s release were so much better than the Cortana in the final game. //She// was so much better. Disdainful, arrogant, scheming, ambitious, but still self-controlled. Still //mortal//. SHODAN, but not quite insane. (Yet.)\n\nWe caught a glimpse of the old Bungie in //Halo 3//, with the (well-)hidden terminals of Mendicant Bias. And in those brief glimpses, I saw more scale and grandeur than any cutscene in the whole of the series.\n\nFor all the bluster and glory and high-priced voices of the modern age of gaming, I miss the //words//.\n