Monthly Archives: January 2011

Better Storytelling Through Loss of Self

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 […]

Freedom and Failure in BioShock 4

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 […]

Make a Craft Check

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 […]

Narrative in Multiplayer 2

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 […]

On Breasts and Biceps

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 […]


Introducing "Distance" 4

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 […]

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

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 […]