Monthly Archives: October 2013

The ingredients of Horror

In the spirit of the holidays (with today being Halloween), it feels to appropriate to discuss the use of horror in video games. Specifically I want to answer the question: What makes a video game scary?

There are a lot of elements to fear in video games. The interactive nature of the medium makes fear such an effective form of entertainment. A game can scare players even after they’ve put down the controller. Unlike a movie or a book, a game can make a player experience fear directly and that’s what makes the genre so appealing  in games. After some careful pondering, I’ve determined that there are three crucial elements to making any game scary.

Where is your god now?

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Ico Review

The case for video games being considered art form has only gotten stronger since it was first brought up. Games like Journey and The Walking Dead from last year, Bioshock Infinite and Papers Please from this year are among the more recent proponents of this argument. For a long time, one game in particular was referenced in this argument. Shadow of the Colossus, released by Team Ico in 2005 is considered one of the strongest arguments for games being art. It’s odd then, that Team Ico’s first game, titled Ico (a game that the studio is named after), is often overlooked. Perhaps in response to this, Team Ico remastered the game for its 10th anniversary along with Shadow of the Colossus and packaged them together. Having it played it for the first time, I can safely say that Ico is as strong a case as any for video games being art and is a true masterpiece. Read the rest of this entry

Beyond: Two Souls Review

Even in it’s greatest moments (which there are many), Beyond: Two Souls is closer to a movie than an interactive experience. This game has mostly polarized critics since its release on Oct. 8. It has been a great struggle to determine the quality of this game. Much of the criticisms have been aimed at Beyond’s lack of interactivity. Three years ago this criticism was shared by Heavy Rain, developer Quantic Dream’s previous game, which oddly enough seems much more interactive in comparison.

[Insert obligatory Last of Us reference here]

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Beyond Two Souls First Impressions

If there’s anything I can say about Beyond: Two Souls so far is that it’s been completely unpredictable in terms of quality. Quantic Dream’s supernatural thriller (which hit stores last Tuesday) centers around Jodie Holmes, played by Ellen Page, who is connected to a spiritual entity known only as Aiden. Beyond also stars Willem Dafoe as Nathan Hawkins, who acts as Jodie’s caretaker. The game’s story spans across 14 years and jumps around the timeline. In one chapter, Jodie is a small child in the next she’s a adult on the run from the police. The first few chapters indicated that this game had a fractured narrative and little momentum, however the following chapters have been quite powerful. It’s almost impossible to predict what the rest of the game will be like.

Ellen Page stars as Juno, I mean Jodie Holmes.

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Story versus Gameplay

A good story is one of the biggest marketing point of almost every video game, second only to pretty graphics. Consider how the majority of video game commercials advertise graphics and story while avoiding showing actual gameplay. There’s even a trend among First-Person-Shooters such as Halo and Call of Duty to use live-action trailers. Gameplay is by far the most important aspect of any game, yet it was seldom shown in the massive marketing campaigns of Mass Effect 3 and Grand Theft Auto IV. There’s a number of video games in which the story and the gameplay are at odds with each other. I previously argued that the trend of video games becoming linear and cinematic undermined the interactivity of the medium; this is still true however the disconnect between story and gameplay occurs across several genres, even open-world games. Read the rest of this entry

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