Writers Block and Family Block

Posted by Cha

[Includes spoilers for The Novelist]

The Novelist is about a family. It’s also about a ghost, which is our role in the story. The ghost is a device for exploring people’s thoughts, memories and desires, and deciding who gets what they want. The ghost whispers in the father’s ear and tells him what to do.

Why does the ghost exist? Since the father’s choices are the only ones given any importance why don’t we just play as him? Possibly to add challenge, or fit a restrictive definition of “game”. There’s already plenty of emotional challenge in compromising between family members, but the ghost adds a dash of more traditional stealth-based gamey-ness. On the higher difficulty setting it’s possible for family members to spot the ghost, and spooking them reduces your options slightly. So, a tiny element of risk without going as far as a hard fail state.


The One True Path

Posted by Cha

I'm not the sort of person who plays individual games more than once, and not just because I don’t have time for my backlog as it is. I find sticking with a single playthrough is usually the most satisfying option, even if it means missing out on content.

(Insert obvious exception for rogue-likes, or other games where repeated play is inherently important).

There are several reasons to only play once, other than the obvious desire to try something new. There can be good reasons to seek out a more complete experience of a game too, don’t get me wrong, but I'm not sure everyone respects what this risks leaving behind.


Mocking Morality

Posted by Cha

I have a complicated relationship with Dishonored.

I was so excited at first, as I snuck up on the first few prison guards and quietly choked them out, thinking how much it felt like Thief.

I love the grimy corrupt world, and the art style to go with it, like an old oil painting. Everything looks slightly washed out but sharp at the same time. Carving deep lines into faces, and making decadent clothes and furnishings look garish next to the rubbish and sickness on the streets.

I love the Art Nouveau posters and scrawled graffiti.

I love the Heart, an ugly mix of flesh and clockwork. She whispers dark secrets about people and places. A voice of fear, pain and compassion versus the opaque motivations and emotions of silent protagonist Corvo.


When Not to Sidequest

Posted by Cha

'Roleplaying Game' is one of those awkward genre labels meaning different things to different people. I don't have a good personal definition, but one element I consider to be at the core of RPGs is questing.

It's a little contrived, but somehow I love being bossed around and completing tasks for people. Preferably something more involved than being asked to kill ten wolves, but World of Warcraft is the only game I've played where grinding quests were quite so ridiculously blatant and over-used. Usually quests are a bit more interesting, and reveal pieces of the world and its inhabitants I wouldn't see otherwise.

I'll usually happily do whatever characters ask, even when it gets silly. I'm supposed to be on a critical mission, but apparently still have time to rescue someone's cat, or run an errand. I don't usually question it much. There's a time to question game conventions and motivations, and a time to just be satisfied that I'm enjoying myself.


Loving Feeling

Posted by Cha

A while ago I tweeted about the browser game Loved. I said it felt like being challenged by a thirteen-year-old, and isn't nearly as clever as it thinks it is.

Having only just played Loved I was in the mood to be snarky and defensive. It seemed like the game's creator was getting off on making me dance to his tune. I felt dirty and tried to rebel, which only made things worse.

It's worth noting that this isn't quite a criticism. It's a game that set out to prompt a reaction, and clearly it worked on me. Maybe a little too well.

Alexander Ocias interviews quite well, though having a face to put to the name creeps me out a little given how I reacted to his game. Nice to see a small-time Aussie developer getting so much coverage though.