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



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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



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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 noth­ing in com­mon […]

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