Idle Animations: Denying the Reaper in Red Dead Redemption 2

Idle Animations: Denying the Reaper in Red Dead Redemption 2

Idle Animations is a recurring series in which I play games without playing them, exploring quiet, still moments, how games fill space and time, and what happens when you let a game play itself.

This article contains massive spoilers for Red Dead Redemption 2. (more…)

My Life as a Fallout 4 NPC

My Life as a Fallout 4 NPC

Philadelphia had been sheltering in place for about six weeks when I started my second playthrough of Fallout 4. It seemed like everyone in my life was planting orchards and selling turnips on an island full of charming animal friends, and I got nostalgic for my carefully tended tato gardens, rattletrap cabins, and grumpy villagers. The Fallout 4 aesthetic seemed well-suited to my melancholy mood, thanks to the somber instrumental score and the crushed remains of human civilization littered around the irradiated wasteland. As I started a new save, I reflected that the first characters you meet in the Commonwealth are defined by their losses: the Abernathys lost their daughter; the Minutemen, their home; the Sole Survivor, her entire way of life before the bomb. After six weeks of grief, anxiety, and total physical isolation, I too felt like I had lost something. (more…)

TTRPG Podcasts Connect Me to My Queer Communities

TTRPG Podcasts Connect Me to My Queer Communities

Years ago, when I was still newer to Chicago and working out a place for myself—friends who felt right, places where I actually wanted to socialize and be—I started listening to a little podcast you’ve probably never heard of, called My Favorite Murder. My Favorite Murder is a “true crime comedy podcast” that kicked off in 2016, hosted by Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark, writers and comedians who bonded over analyzing the details of gruesome killings. (more…)

No Matter His Age, the Point of Nier is Compassion, Not Tragedy

No Matter His Age, the Point of Nier is Compassion, Not Tragedy

Much like our present day and age, the original Nier (2010) is a slow-unfolding tragedy. It begins with one the player won’t initially understand: main character Nier fends off a swarm of shadowy monsters while trying to find medicine for a child named Yonah, but when he returns, her condition has worsened. Before the player finds out what happens to Yonah, the story skips ahead and we meet them again 1,312 years later in a changed world. Where the first few minutes of the game took place in a modern convenience store (albeit a very ruined one, with chunks of concrete blocking much of it), Nier and Yonah live in a comparatively low-tech village after the time skip. Gone are the concrete and metal; the quiet village where Nier and Yonah live has no machines or electricity. Despite the new setting, we soon find out Yonah is still suffering from the Black Scrawl, the incurable illness she had in the prologue. To make ends meet, Nier works odd jobs for other villagers. (more…)

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.

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