Democratic Socialism Simulator is a Soothing Balm for My Political Pessimism

Democratic Socialism Simulator is a Soothing Balm for My Political Pessimism

All games are political. But then there are games from Molleindustria, an indie developer whose explicitly political work has fascinated me since I stumbled upon McDonald’s Video Game back in high school. In this game, you manage McDonald’s from the supply chain down to an individual restaurant. No matter how much I tried to behave ethically, I couldn’t win—I didn’t get the message as clearly as I do now, but it left an enormous impression on me. I’ve been following Molleindustria’s work ever since. (more…)

Horizon Forbidden West: Vast World, Shallow Worldbuilding

Horizon Forbidden West: Vast World, Shallow Worldbuilding

Taking place just six months after Aloy defeats the corrupted Hades AI in Horizon Zero Dawn, Horizon Forbidden West is a direct chronological sequel that expands on Zero Dawn‘s groundwork. Forbidden West is bigger in every possible way, from the narrative ambition to map size to collectible items to the number of machines, weapons, and mechanics. More often than not, this works to its detriment. In multiplying the scope of the world, Horizon Forbidden West also magnifies the problems inherent in its narrative. Because it reproduces real-world politics in a way that is at odds with what the story is trying to say, Horizon Forbidden West presents a disjointed story with incohesive worldbuilding. (more…)

Horizon Forbidden West, Authorship, and Identity

Horizon Forbidden West, Authorship, and Identity

In addition to being about saving the world from an incomprehensible environmental threat, Horizon Forbidden West is a game that is deeply concerned with identity. Born a motherless outcast, protagonist Aloy begins Horizon Zero Dawn trying to figure out what her place might be within her matriarchal community, the Nora. Instead, she’s thrust into an adventure during which she alone must prevent a malignant AI from destroying the world. Throughout Horizon Zero Dawn, Aloy’s search for her place in the world becomes a major theme, something that persists throughout Horizon Forbidden West. The focus on Aloy’s identity is discordant with Horizon Forbidden West‘s ideas about authorship, creating an overall disjointed experience. (more…)

Let Me Tell You About My OC(s): Tabletop RPGs as Disempowerment Fantasies

Let Me Tell You About My OC(s): Tabletop RPGs as Disempowerment Fantasies

Late last year, I suddenly felt like I needed a break. Not a little one, either—I felt overwhelmed with responsibility for everything from taking care of my pets and family to texting friends to ask when everybody was available for our next D&D session.

All this happened alongside discussions in therapy about my intense need to be strong and capable and weather the world without asking for help. It’s a story I’d told myself and everybody else since I was a kid—that I was responsible for my own wellbeing and if I felt like I needed assistance, I was wrong and should just become stronger. You can imagine that, after 33 years, this story’s gotten a little old. (more…)

The Visceral Voyeurism of Horror Playthroughs and Silent Hill

The Visceral Voyeurism of Horror Playthroughs and Silent Hill

While having terrible nerve pain in my neck and back in October, I was stuck for a whole week sitting up on bedrest. This was when I picked up watching playthroughs of the Silent Hill series. It was Halloween season after all, so what better time to visit a series I had been meaning to consume since I was a teenager? The only exposure I’d had to the series was the occasional Pyramid Head and Bubble Nurse cosplayers wandering the hallways of various anime conventions, obligatory fanart, and casual mentions of the movies, most of which were received by fans with mixed reactions. I knew I had my hands full when deciding to visit the story and lore of Silent Hill, a series with eight main titles and several spinoffs, but I started with the one that was and still is the most highly praised of them all: Silent Hill 2. (more…)

On Silent Protagonists: The Case of Persona 5’s Joker

On Silent Protagonists: The Case of Persona 5’s Joker

I should begin by saying this is not an ode to silent protagonists. If anything, I’d like to argue that for a strong narrative-driven game, a silent protagonist is actually a detriment. How does one hook a story on a main character who has no or limited personality? In this essay, I will… argue that Joker, the silent protagonist in Persona 5/Royal, had no right to be silent.

Spoilers abound for Persona 5 Royal. (more…)