Happy Holidays to you and yours from us here at the Ontological Geek! We’ve been on a bit of a hiatus this December, preparing to ring in the New Year with some exciting new features, in addition to more of the full-length articles you’ve gotten used to seeing from us. 2013 was a great success on many fronts, so we’ve decided to take a moment to reflect on the year’s events as we look forward to future growth in 2014.
One thing’s for sure, we couldn’t have done it without you, and we’re very glad you decided to read and support the Ontological Geek. So whether you peruse and comment, follow us on Twitter, play games with us, submit guest articles for themed months, or just pop in every now and then, we’re sincerely grateful. Thank you!
And now, without further ado, it’s the Ontological Geek’s 2013 Year-in-Review!
- Tom Dawson, who’d recently joined the regular staff, kicked off our year by explaining why Spider-Man’s foray into Arkham-style stealth adventures is less effective than the games featuring the Dark Knight.
- Hannah DuVoix celebrated the birthday of a dear friend, whom many of you know, and reflected on the Blue Bomber’s importance to gaming.
- Ben Milton struggled with the ubiquitous games-as-art question while reading Let’s Plays as performance art and games like Minecraft as artistic media.
- Guest writer Jackson Wagner offered some thoughts on entropy, and what Little Inferno can remind us about games and life.
- Matt Schanuel reflected on life as a male gamer who identifies with and prefers female player-characters.
- We discovered Porpentine’s stellar game howling dogs (which you can play for free!), and editor Bill Coberly gave it a personal review in Twine (a program for creating interactive stories, in which the original game is written).
- Kicking off our now fairly-regular tradition of game days with staff and fans, we began conquering civilizations together on the weekends. We still go back to Civilization V pretty often, though we’ve since found Awesomenauts to be a real treat as well.
- Matt kept us entertained by weaving a continuing narrative of an XCOM playthrough, with soldiers named after a crew of favorite college friends. You can read the whole thing, and an explanation of how it began, starting here.
- Aaron Gotzon tried a surrealist reading of the Mario Bros. games on for size, with some surprising results.
- At the very end of the month, the whole staff came together to catalogue our favorite games, in the process assigning our readers some “homework.”
- Regular columnist Jim Ralph jumped back into the fray this month by using The Walking Dead to remind us why we find zombies so terrifying.
- Tom made Penny Arcade Report’s The Cut with a comparison of the God-figures in From Dust and Black & White.
- The sort of escapism some gamers are known for got a rousing affirmation from Hannah, who explained why we use games like Mass Effect to generate hero-fantasies, and why that’s okay.
- The Mass Effect saga got some further attention from Bill, who traced its Lovecraftian influences through the Leviathan DLC.
- Tom objected to the stereotypical treatment of the British in Assassin’s Creed III, part of a series which purports to honor and celebrate history.
- We began a tradition of themed months by devoting April to articles relating to religion and games/geek culture, and put out a call for guest writers to share their thoughts and experiences.
- Aaron worried about what his entertainment choices could imply about his ethical thinking.
- Matt used Shakespeare to explore the continuing theme of games as performance art, with particular attention to the transformative effect such performances can have on the player.
- To kick off Religion Month, Bill played BioShock Infinite, and went to church for Easter. He discovered some surprising (and joyous!) parallels.
- Guest writer Joshua Wise used Pac-Man to poke at the framework of creation (“game” creation, and capital‑C Creation), meanwhile coming into contact with some of Christianity’s most challenging questions.
- The tendency of adventure games to ask us to ransack sacred spaces like graves and temples started to get under Hannah’s skin.
- Guest Tobe Cooper jumped in to compare the Catholic Church with the Church of Yevon in Final Fantasy X.
- Anne Tracy (née Winters, congratulations!) shared her frustrations with games and faith, and realized that to understand both it’s important to learn how to relax.
- Matt explored themes of creation in various games, meanwhile weaving a personal story of religious practice through world-building.
- We posted another Twine article, this time by guest Raymond Neilson, who used the interactive medium to tell us about Mormonism and games.
- Aaron catalogued the rise (and fall) of explicitly “Christian” games, from the 1980s to what remains of the genre today.
- Guest Ethan Gach reminded us of some of religion’s nastier sides, showing us what became of Earthbound’s Happy Happyists.
- In Michael Elliot’s one-off, we were shown some fascinating comparisons of the Qun religion from Dragon Age, and Buddhism.
- Jim attempted to cast the role of God in the relationship between player, game, and player-character, using Tomb Raider as a reference point.
- Oscar Strik, who became a regular staff member toward the end of the year, submitted his first OntoGeek article by wrestling with how games, especially the role-playing genre, might best depict religion.
- Fresh off an exciting first themed month, we sailed into May, promising another theme in the future.
- Editor Joel Cuthbertson left the cutting room and leapt onto the main Geek page to criticize the trivialization (and, he argued, gamification) of the Boston marathon bombings.
- Guest Joshua Yearsley used two different games, and two different concepts in gaming, to explore the role of videogame violence and how it shapes our playing experiences.
- We took a brief break to regroup before launching the summer round of content.
- Bill reviewed Primordia and told us why he loved the intricacies of the robot characters but couldn’t get into the puzzles.
- We got a sneak preview of the Ontological Geek podcast (new episodes coming in 2014!) when Bill interviewed designer Epidiah Ravachol.
- Seb Atay broke down the symbolism of a certain set piece in Metroid Prime.
- Hannah extolled the virtues of the “Let’s Play” phenomenon, excitedly continuing our line of thinking about games as performance pieces.
- In her special-length Independence Day article, Hannah told us how she viewed the Boomers as a microcosmic allegory for modern America in the Fallout world.
- Jim got funky by breaking down XCOM into the steps of a dance and letting us look at the game in a new light.
- Returning to memories of childhood, Tom took a longing look at his time growing up with the Legend of Zelda series, and took stock of why those games were formative for his younger self.
- Aaron looked at Borderlands 2’s Ellie, and talked about why she helped, instead of hurt, the body image movement.
- Perennial contributor Jarrod Hammond charted a journey: the paths our desires take over time and how our choices in gaming change to reflect those desires.
- We launched a new official project: an improvisational role-playing/interactive fiction game for Twitter. Called It Is Pitch Dark, it has managed to gather a fairly sizable following and is expected to continue with brand-new stories and adventures in the coming year.
- Guest Justin Freeman took a critical eye to BioShock Infinite’s treatment of its leading lady.
- Bill headed to war by examining the battle tactics of XCOM and Pacific Rim, and how the forces of good are expected to improvise.
- In our second official roundup, the staff got together to talk about what an effective boss battle looks like.
- On the 17th of August, we celebrated Ontological Geek’s third birthday! Here’s hoping for many more to come.
- Tom got hilariously frustrated with Face Noir in his review of this adventure game set in his favorite genre.
- We recapped our first game of Pitch Dark, which was called Through-the-Gate-to-Many-Places, and was run by Bill. If you want to read the full text of the game, that’s there too.
- Matt gave us a touching and personal review of Gone Home and what it means to be a Katie coming back to visit that which was once most familiar.
- We posted the full text of Matt’s Pitch Dark story, The Lizards on Phobos, and he talked some about his experience running the game.
- Oscar found Gone Home and Papers, Please both to be about the passage of time and how its abundance or lack thereof influences personal stories.
- Aaron closed his Pitch Dark session, Unto Tarsus, and offered some thoughts on the state of the project (as usual, we included the complete text along with the commentary).
- We endeavored to keep the themed months going by sending forth the call for articles concerning horror in videogames.
- Hannah joyfully considered the (procedurally-generated!) miracle of reality, using Minecraft as an example to help us get there with her.
- Ben led us in learning about some different ways of thinking about RPGs, and gave support for each.
- We had another guest writer, L. Rhodes, guide us through an ethical exercise, bounding back and forth between Tiny Thief and the works of (chiefly) Immanuel Kant.
- Horror Month finally got started, thanks to Amsel von Spreckelson stopping in to ask us the question: who do we really think we’re scaring?
- Horror Month began late, but things really got cooking when Oscar astutely wrapped our heads around the possibilities of interactive horror, and the different forms such horror can take. With a bibliography!
- Long-time fan first-time writer Zachary McAnally challenged us to consider when Slender’s horror gives way to frustration, and why.
- Soha Kareem was awarded a spot on Critical Distance’s This Year in Videogame Blogging with her honest and emotional tribute to Year Walk.
- Hannah, faithfully warding off mysterious attacks on her constitution and bouts of lost time, managed to escape with some of the truth behind the Slender Man.
- Jim took a break from writing about games and really let himself go (for a really good cause).
- …Then came back to tell us about how a little-known Western game bent the normal rules of storytelling in some unexpected ways.
- Hannah kept on exploring transgender themes in the Matrix this year, this time taking on the sequel, Reloaded.
- A bit late for Horror Month, Aaron resurfaced to ask us about whether Binding of Isaac is a horror game?
And that brings us to DECEMBER, when we posted our latest roundup, on game endings!
We hope you enjoyed taking a walk through the past with us, and we look forward to seeing you in the New Year! Be safe, be kind, and be thoughtful as you celebrate the remainder of the holiday season, and best of wishes, whatever you resolve to play.
Or, since we’re gamers all, whoever you decide to be. That’s more like it.
- The Ontological Geek Staff
Bill Coberly, Editor-in-Chief (@BillCoberly)
Joel Cuthbertson, Editor
Tom Dawson, Columnist (@MrTomDawson)
Hannah DuVoix, Columnist (@nuhalph)
Aaron Gotzon, Columnist (@AP_Gotzon)
Jim Ralph, Columnist (@somekindofjim)
Oscar Strik, Columnist (@qwallath)
(…and all past and future staff members, collaborators, and allies of all stripes. Thank you.)