Red Dead Redemption 2’s In-Game Journal is an Underrated Mechanic

Red Dead Redemption 2’s In-Game Journal is an Underrated Mechanic

I was a reluctant latecomer to Red Dead Redemption 2. Before my husband insisted that I play it, I was certain I wouldn’t like it—I’d been disappointed by recent critical darlings in the AAA sphere, I’m always hesitant about Rockstar games (I conveniently forget how much I enjoyed the first Red Dead game as well as L.A. Noire and Bully, though their labor practices are still terrible), and who has time for a 60+ hour game, anyway? (more…)

The Thing I Miss Most from Conventions Is Shitty Wrestling Games

The Thing I Miss Most from Conventions Is Shitty Wrestling Games

There are lots of things I like about conventions, but none of them are as important as shitty wrestling games. Specifically, shitty wrestling games at PAX. Even more specifically, League of Heels, a… thing that is very difficult to describe. Your favorite figures of the gaming industry (critics, commentators, journalists, developers, and so on) dress in wild costumes and step into wrestling heel personas. After some 45 minutes of introductions, lore, and trash-talk (this is not an exaggeration), the remaining minutes of panel time consist of an extremely rushed elimination tournament where those heel personas duke it out in a terrible wrestling video game. Sometimes hot dogs are thrown. Sometimes a fog machine and/or confetti cannon sets off a smoke alarm. It’s pure and utter chaos. (more…)

Wooing Leah: Cleaning and Domesticity in Stardew Valley and Real Life

Wooing Leah: Cleaning and Domesticity in Stardew Valley and Real Life

About a week after we returned from our honeymoon, my cute new husband took it upon himself to install a dozen hooks above the oven. Upon these hooks, we would hang our pans and coffee mugs, and also our hopes and dreams. We had spent the last year apathetic about our messy nest, unable to do much of anything, much less something so ambitious as hanging cup hooks. We’d watched spills on our two-degree-tilted counter drip slowly from sink to floor over the course of hours. We’d accumulated mournful cabinets overflowing with plastic takeout containers that we could not bear to recycle. But now, there could be cup hooks! (more…)

Death Is Only the Beginning: Mortality in the Roguelike

Death Is Only the Beginning: Mortality in the Roguelike

There are few sensations more familiar to seasoned gamers than death. Since death is a common consequence for failure in play, we consider death and its attendant rebirth a necessary part of the play process. Some of us even revel in our constant flirtation with death: at its peak in 2014, an average of forty-two Dark Souls II player characters died every second. It is through death that we learn how to play games successfully, but many games treat death as a simple rewind: when you fail, your character dies and reappears at a predetermined point in the narrative prior to the death, with no indication that the death ever occurred. Thus, while games are in many ways primed to open a discussion of mortality, most prefer to pretend mortality is a non-issue.
Roguelikes, as a genre, deal very explicitly with death as a central mechanic. There are no save points in most roguelikes, so death puts you back at the very beginning of the game, with your progress and some or all of your upgrades erased. But as with gaming writ large, many roguelikes treat death as a simple mechanic to indicate failure, and neglect its narrative opportunity. But two recent roguelikes have taken the conceit of cyclical, death-based play and baked it into their stories. And from these, a bigger conversation about our attitudes about mortality was born. (more…)