Monthly Archives: January 2011


In case you haven’t already read the intro­duc­tion to this week’s column, in which I dis­cuss how role-playing games can be con­sid­ered art, it’s here. You may find it use­ful. Also use­ful is the first column, in which I describe the term “dis­tance.” I’ll be throw­ing it around quite a bit, so I’d sug­gest read­ing it in full. In short, though, dis­tance refers to the level at which a play­er empathizes with his or her avatar char­ac­ter. Lessened dis­tance is accom­plished by cer­tain mechan­ics that allow the play­er more con­trol over their char­ac­ter, specif­i­cal­ly in dra­mat­ic moments. My pre­vi­ous dis­cus­sion of dis­tance was focused […]

Better Storytelling Through Loss of Self


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Welcome to Rapture Today, I want to ana­lyze two inter­re­lat­ed themes found in 2007’s first-person-shooter BioShock.  BioShock is hands-down one of the best games (and cer­tain­ly one of the best FPSs) of the last four or five years, and if you have not already expe­ri­enced it, I would sug­gest rem­e­dy­ing this with some mea­sure of haste.  The game has its flaws (and its detrac­tors) but few would argue that its char­ac­ters, con­cepts, and atmos­phere are any­thing short of superb. It’s the sort of game that has already had a fair amount writ­ten about it, espe­cial­ly its mid-game plot twist, which is impor­tant not […]

Freedom and Failure in BioShock



This week, the column focus­es on role-playing games, or, more specif­i­cal­ly, role –play­ing games that aren’t video games. If you’re not famil­iar with the dis­tinc­tion, then allow me to break it down for you. Role-playing games are, in the truest sense, games like Dungeons & Dragons. They are story games in which (typ­i­cal­ly) one per­son nar­rates and the other play­ers con­trol the main char­ac­ters of the story. A por­tion of this arti­cle is from an old piece that exam­i­nes what D&D does, and why it is impor­tant. Hopefully you will find it use­ful. Make note of this base-line, because it will […]

Make a Craft Check


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First of all, I’d like to thank Bill for mak­ing that fine dis­tinc­tion between art and enter­tain­ment yes­ter­day, and tak­ing care of a lot of grunt-work for this week’s column. I couldn’t have planned it bet­ter. And so, fair read­er, it may help you to read that post if you haven’t already done so. Multiplayer is Soulless This week’s topic is the mul­ti­play­er phe­nom­e­non, and how it relates to nar­ra­tive. Games almost always involve the con­struc­tion of a nar­ra­tive, even if said nar­ra­tive is mere­ly a paragraph-long excuse for killing num­ber­less crowds of Enemy Type A. However, sim­ple excus­es have become blasé in most video […]

Narrative in Multiplayer



First of all, an arti­cle on IGN on a tra­di­tion­al prob­lem in video games crit­i­cism, here. As a quick TL/DR sum­ma­ry: basi­cal­ly it’s anoth­er look at the oft-discussed fact that women are often treat­ed as sex­u­al objects in games.  Kolan men­tions a few exam­ples he thinks of as par­tic­u­lar­ly egre­gious, includ­ing Ivy from Soul Calibur IV (def­i­nite­ly) and Miranda Lawson from Mass Effect 2 (who, while cer­tain­ly sexy and maybe even over­sex­u­al­ized, is not, I think, as good an exam­ple as he might like).  He then con­cludes with a quick look at some female char­ac­ters he thinks are much less over­sex­u­al­ized and con­cludes with a ques­tion […]

On Breasts and Biceps


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As Bill has mentioned, I'm now writing for the Ontological Geek! I'm excited to be here, and unwilling to mince time, so let's leap right into the meat of my first contribution: a discussion of avatar and player. Oh, and as usual, spoilers are nigh. Two Very Different Games Since I've been on break, I've had the chance to play through a number of games I've been hoping to get around to, including Enslaved: Journey to the West, but also Call of Duty: Black Ops. If you know anything about these titles, you also know that they have little to […]

Introducing “Distance”



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Introduction A few weeks ago, I wrote the first part of this two-part series, so if you haven’t already read that, this column will prob­a­bly make more sense if you go ahead and do that. I’ll wait here. Oh good, you’re back. Anyway, as I men­tioned then, this week’s post is about the other half of the equa­tion: skill and edu­ca­tion. The Unskilled Player Not too long ago, my father picked up a copy of BioShock for the PC, a game which, though it is cer­tain­ly full of flaws, is prob­a­bly one of the best argu­ments for games-as-art in the last five years. I rec­om­mend­ed it […]

The n00b and the 1337, Pt. 2: Skill and Education