BG 34 – Digital: A Love Story; Nostalgia, Irony and Cyberpunk

After a month’s break, Futurismic have my thirty fourth Blasphemous Geometries column.

The subject of this month’s column is Christine Love’s amazing indie (and freely downloadable!) game Digital: A Love Story and how some video games deploy nostalgia in a decidedly ironic register in order to both revisit the past and deconstruct our desire for a non-existent idyll.

BG 33 – Tell Your Own Damn Stories! Games, Overreading and Emergent Narrative

One of the most startling things about the opening to Grand Theft Auto – San Andreas is that the cut scenes are well-written.  Their characters are well drawn, their dialogue is consistently funny and their narrative arcs are drawn boldly and with a real grasp of human psychology.  In the world of video-game cut scenes such artistry is practically unheard of.  In fact, by and large, you are far more likely to remember a cut scene for its terrible dialogue or woeful translation than you are for its aesthetic quality.  Unfortunately, as far as most video-games are concerned, the problem stretches beyond a few laughable cut scenes and into the realms of systemic narrative failure: Like operas and porn films, video-games are universally badly written.

And yet games are more than capable of telling great stories.

My solution?  Hang all video-game writers and Tell Your Own Damn Stories!

My thirty third Blasphemous Geometries column over at Futurismic explains how.

BG 31 – Paying Attention is Not Fun : Crackdown 2

Futurismic have just put up my latest (and somewhat delayed) Blasphemous Geometries column.

The column looks at Crackdown 2 and wonders why its main narrative is so utterly incapable of maintaining our interest.  Is the problem bad writing?  Have our brains been re-wired by the internet as suggested by Susan Greenfield and Nicholas Carr?  And if it has, should we care?

BG 30 – Roleplaying Games and The Cluttered Self

Futurisimc have my thirtieth Blasphemous Geometries column entitled “Roleplaying Games and The Cluttered Self”.

The column is both a defence of Consumerism and an examination of the ways in which we express, formulate and find ourselves through the process of playing games.  It is also the longest piece of writing I have ever published, clocking in at over 6,500 words.  It is also the first piece of writing for which I took photos (the photos in question are of my old room at my mum’s house, which I have been clearing out over the past few months).

Aside from these minor formal experiments, the piece also marks something of a departure from my traditional critical stomping grounds and towards something a good deal more personal in that I try to use my thinking about games to shed some light on some thinking I have recently been doing about myself.  I’m not entirely sure how effective the experiment has been, but it was certainly an interesting experience trying something so different.

BG 29 – Microsoft Kinect: The Call of the Womb

Futurismic have my 29th (!) Blasphemous Geometries column entitled “Microsoft Kinect: The Call of the Womb”

The Kinect is really nothing new, much like the Playstation Move it is a rather blatant attempt to tap into the market for casual gamers uncovered by the Nintendo Wii and its much vaunted non-standard controller.  However, while Sony were busy Me-Too-ing in a way that is weirdly unconvincing (if I wanted that kind of play experience, I would still buy a Wii despite the fact that I’m sure that Playstation Move can and will do everything the Wii can do and more), Microsoft decided to renew their long-standing desire to use their games console as a means of securing complete dominion over a house’s entertainment media.

Again, this is nothing new as it is arguably what the original XBox was designed to do, but there is something incredibly bleak in Microsoft’s vision of a future in which everyone socialises through a games console.  Something so bleak that I had to write about it.

The column taps into some of the recurring themes of my writing but it is particularly linked to themes explored in other columns I have written including the banal and unpleasant nature of our escapist fantasies and our desire to have a group gaming experience without actually gaming with other people.

BG 28 – Dead Space : The Shock Doctrine Goes Interplanetary

Futurismic have my latest Blasphemous Geometries column.

As I promised last month, this column moves away from my recent tendency to use games as launching pads in order to provide a detailed analysis of one particular game – the zombies-in-space third person action game Dead Space.  This piece was quite a lot of fun to write, hopefully you’ll enjoy reading my analysis of what is possibly the most furiously Marxist video game ever produced.

BG 27 – Fantasies of Mere Competence : Football Manager 2010

Futurismic have my latest Blasphemous Geometries column.

It is a development of some of the idea expressed in this column from a few months ago but rather than looking at Fantasy as an avenue for escapism, I decided to look at the more modest and mundane ways in which people aspire and escape.  A trend embodied in TV programmes like Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares and games like Football Manager 2010.

I’ve also decided to take a slightly different approach with next month’s column.  Recently, I have been using games as springboards to look at wider issues.  This is partly a result of my own game-laying experience of late which has seen me bouncing out of new games and returning again and again to games I have already written about like GTA IV, Mass Effect 2 and Dragon Age.  However, I think that it would be good for me to keep my feet on the ground with regards to writing about games so I have decided that next month at least will herald a return to a closer examination of one particular game.

BG 26 – The Changing Face of the American Apocalypse : The Modern Warfare and Bad Company Series

Futurismic have my twenty sixth Blasphemous Geometries column entitled “The Changing Face of the American Apocalypse : Modern Warfare and Bad Company”.

The column looks at the plots of the Call of Duty : Modern Warfare and Battlefield : Bad Company series and finds not only some interesting similarities but also a question that will be familiar to science fiction fans, namely how far can you go before lapsing into the fantastical?  The column considers how SFnal thinking is now absolutely central to the output of Western political think tanks.

BG 25 – Mass Effect 2 and Racial Essentialism

Futurismic have my twenty fifth Blasphemous Geometries column entitled “Mass Effect 2 and Racial Essentialism”.

It’s quite a long piece as it is looking at, in my opinion, quite a broad problem with the way that works of genre engage with race and racism.  Namely that by using relationships between different species to represent relationships between different races, religions, cultures and nationalities, works of genre are legitimising not only the idea that there are real differences between these social groups, but also the idea that it makes sense to infer something about someone based upon the colour of their skin or the kind of religious service they choose to attend.