Unpacking: Our Lives in Boxes

Unpacking: Our Lives in Boxes

When I was young, I was always terrified of losing my worldly possessions to a fire. It wasn’t like I was in the areas that annually burst into flames (and much less so back then), but I’d become fixated on preparing for a blaze. I’d think about how I would wrap up all my stuffies and throw them out the window—completely assuming we’d grab the cat—and get out of dodge. The items I had accumulated in my life were as precious as the life itself. I feel a bit ashamed to admit this, but if you’ve moved around as much as I have, you may understand: it’s your life in those boxes. (more…)

Dark Souls and Trans Closets: Self Discovery Through Failure

Dark Souls and Trans Closets: Self Discovery Through Failure

Or: I struggled my way through Dark Souls and all I got was this lousy gender.

Spend more than five minutes browsing Dark Souls content on any social media platform and you’re bound to see some mention of transfeminine people being absolutely feral about (and uncannily good at) any Dark Souls game. It isn’t uncommon to see Twitter users joking about getting “girldick” by asking a transfem to explain the “deep lore” of Dark Souls or any of the games in its offshoot “Soulsborne” genre. Dark Souls is notoriously difficult, cryptic, and hostile to the player both in its mechanics and atmosphere. It’s no surprise that such a series would attract a devoted cult following. But why are transfeminine people in particular associated with this cult following? Is taking exogenous estrogen really the secret to “gitting gud” and getting past that boss you’ve been stuck on for weeks? (more…)

How Gaming Magazines Shaped My Love of Gaming

How Gaming Magazines Shaped My Love of Gaming

My mother and I used to have this little ritual when we went shopping. One of the few ways that she and I connected was through the purchase of a toy anytime she went shopping. I was the product of two overworked parents—one of whom I barely saw as he tended to work shifts and another one that I didn’t get to see until late afternoon. Being an only child at the time, and with my family having some room to stretch in terms of income, I was presented with these toys despite my family not having a lot of wealth to spare. And although circumstances would later mean that we didn’t have that freedom—which made me absolutely obsessed with keeping what little belongings I had saved and well-kept (something that would later be of particular importance in my preservation work)—I still look at that time fondly. (more…)

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…)