Using Platformers to Cope with Trauma: An Easy Ten-Step Process

Using Platformers to Cope with Trauma: An Easy Ten-Step Process

Content note: This piece contains descriptions of depression.

It’s 2017, and you’ve just separated from your spouse and partner of eight years; you decide to download the remastered Crash Bandicoot in your newly much-emptier apartment. Or you’re in a hospital lobby, waiting for a surgeon to come tell you what you think you already know: that your father has lung cancer. Shovel Knight keeps you occupied in this clinical, quiet space. Or it’s the present day, and you were just told that you are not supposed to leave your apartment for the foreseeable future, and you are never going to see your students in person again, and all you have to keep you company is a copy of Celeste. In all of these clearly universal and not at all deeply personal situations, there is a commonality: grueling platformers providing grounding and a sense of purpose and achievement. Anyone can use this notoriously difficult, frustrating, and demanding genre to solve your problems, provided you follow this simple ten-step process.

(more…)

Final Fantasy VII Remake Misunderstands the Power of Drag

Final Fantasy VII Remake Misunderstands the Power of Drag

As the eventual release of Final Fantasy VII Remake loomed over the gaming calendar, there was a great deal of curiosity about how the game would handle Wall Market. For the unfamiliar, early in the original FFVII, the protagonist, Cloud, cross-dresses to enter the inner sanctum of the lecherous crime lord, Don Corneo. In the original game, the sequence is an extended gay panic gag. Cloud is hit on and nearly sexually assaulted, and the game plays it coldly and crassly for laughs. To understate it, this required an update. (more…)

Review: Crime Opera: The Butterfly Effect Doesn’t Get Away with Anything

Review: Crime Opera: The Butterfly Effect Doesn’t Get Away with Anything

I don’t like visual novels. They’re usually not fun or entertaining for me. They don’t have enough choices for my liking, and I often find that they’re poorly written, or riddled with grammatical and spelling errors, often due to the fact that their platform allows them to sidestep the traditional editorial process of a longform narrative. Consequently, I am not generally the person to review them here. I do, however, love a good bit of gossip, so when I heard that the game Crime Opera: The Butterfly Effect had been rejected by Valve for their Steam platform, well… I had to at least look, right? (more…)

Vicariously Vicarious Living; Or, Learning the Joy of Watching Other People Play Video Games

Vicariously Vicarious Living; Or, Learning the Joy of Watching Other People Play Video Games

My pet theory up until last year was that only younger siblings who were forced to watch their older siblings play video games enjoyed watching Let’s Plays. My evidence: my brother, who used to hold an unplugged PlayStation 1 controller and pretend he was Sparx the Dragonfly when I played Spyro, and my husband, unfortunate child four out of five. Both of them spend their free time—when they could be playing games—watching other people play games; my brother a religious HermitCraft fan and my husband… well, I’m not sure what he watches, exactly, besides British people playing Hearts of Iron 4. (more…)

Where Do We Go Next: Kentucky Route Zero’s Anxious Approach to Hope

Where Do We Go Next: Kentucky Route Zero’s Anxious Approach to Hope

Sometime during the several hours that I played Kentucky Route Zero, I began to resent 5 Dogwood Drive. For the first four acts of the game, Dogwood Drive is mere legend—impossible to drive to, real enough that non-player characters offer directions to it, and important because it’s where the player characters need to make a delivery. But while getting to 5 Dogwood Drive is the goal of the game, it isn’t the point of it. Kentucky Route Zero is a game about the odyssey of merely existing under the inherent, subtle violence of capitalist systems. Financial instability keeps the characters forever caught in the liminal space that stretches between one stage of life and the next. The uncertainty makes each choice feel weighty yet meaningless at the same time. Ultimately their fates are shaped—some more bluntly than others—by capitalism’s hand, which lends the narrative a unique anxiety. (more…)

At Home with the Ghosts: Kentucky Route Zero’s Reworking of Capitalist Space

At Home with the Ghosts: Kentucky Route Zero’s Reworking of Capitalist Space

Equus Oils is a gas station like any other. There’s a superintendent, a general store, a few tanks, that strange sloped roof and a giant metallic horse. A sculpture of craftsmanship, of individuality, not given a name. When we move Conway into the basement of the station, the writhing mess of wires and pipes unveils a secret world. It is still haunted by its prior inhabitants, still echoing with their voices. The horse’s head has a body, a soul, but it is still shaped by the business it embodies. (more…)