Posts By: Matthew Schanuel

Matthew Schanuel

About Matthew Schanuel

Matthew Schanuel lives in Boston, Mass. He's a beer aficionado, a game player (and designer!), an academic-in-exile, a DM, and, most recently, an employee of a financial non-profit. He draws the comic Embers at night over at

Jaffe and Robertson both argue that games realize their purpose in exploring only those areas that no other medium can. Both argue that games should focus on interactivity, to the exclusion of other parts of an experience. Why?

What Games Are For

I attended PAX East last Saturday and Sunday. It was a blast, of course, and during the two days I was there I got to play an assortment of role-playing and board games. Recorded here is a log of my activities at the convention, and my thoughts on the games I played.


One does not get to choose who, or what, one loves. I don't mean that there isn't choice involved, but there's something about love that is hidden from the waking mind; it's chemical, unconscious, surprisingly capable of overwhelming the better senses. It treats flaws as unimportant details, not so much glossing over them as accepting them.

Goodbye, Shepard

But now, O LORD, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our pot­ter; we are all the work of your hand. ~Isaiah 64:8 One of the most evoca­tive analo­gies for human change in the Hebrew scrip­tures is found in Isaiah, the oft-sung pas­sage por­tray­ing the deity as crafts­man and His peo­ple as clay. It must have been, and still is, an inti­mate image for Abraham’s descen­dants — that a divin­i­ty might tug upon our very selves, shap­ing us into beau­ti­ful, last­ing forms is flat­ter­ing, and it inspires feel­ings of safe­ty and hope that hear­ken back to the story […]


Bill has already intro­duced the con­cept, so I won’t tread over that ground again. Instead, here are my 2011 expe­ri­ences, wrapped up in a pret­ty Christmas bow for you! Oh, and with­in this present are numer­ous spoil­ers. I spare no secrets. Of the games that were released in 2011, I played, in rough­ly this order: Dead Space 2 Dragon Age 2 Portal 2 Killzone 3 Bastion L.A. Noire From Dust Catherine Bulletstorm Crysis 2 Gears of War 3 Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception Deus Ex: Human Revolution F.E.A.R. 3 Infamous 2 Skyrim Arkham City The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword Good lord. Games I still intend […]

Matt’s 2011 In Review

Over at Grantland​.com, Tom Bissell recent­ly put up an inter­est­ing review of L.A. Noire that is worth check­ing out; you can do so here. He also brings up some inter­est­ing ideas that I want to talk about regard­ing the expe­ri­ence of games, specif­i­cal­ly the notion of “buy­ing in” to a game’s struc­ture, nar­ra­tive, and cen­tral con­ceits. I encour­age you to read the arti­cle, but it’s pret­ty lengthy, so I’m going to touch on the most impor­tant points that he brings up on the topic. His intro­duc­tion to the topic is here: The story of L.A. Noire con­cerns a psy­cho­path­ic cop named Cole Phelps, a man […]

Buying In

Happy birth­day, Ontological Geek! In honor of our first year (feels weird to say “our” in this con­text, since I start­ed writ­ing in January), I’m going to turn to that tra­di­tion­al cel­e­bra­to­ry activ­i­ty: war. War film has been huge­ly pop­u­lar since the begin­nings of the medi­um, and that style has def­i­nite­ly influ­enced the first-person shoot­er genre in video games. A great deal (half or more, I’d reck­on) of first-person shoot­er games fea­ture a war of some sort; only the rare shoot­er, such as the non-side-scrolling Metroid games, fea­ture a story that has a sole pro­tag­o­nist up against an unor­ga­nized, non-military foe who isn’t involved in […]

Trenched Warfare

The Philosopher-Geek has already writ­ten a very good post on the mean­ing­ful game, and that might be impor­tant to read before you step into this one, because I’m going to inves­ti­gate two spe­cif­ic traits that he lists in that post. The spe­cif­ic traits I am inter­est­ed in dis­cussing are: 1. The Meaningful Game does not allow the play­er’s choic­es or pos­si­ble actions to derail the game or con­tra­dict its char­ac­ters, and 2. The Meaningful Game does not con­tain side-quests. These two points are most com­mon­ly bun­gled in games that reflect the “sand­box,” “free-roaming,” or “open-world” style of design, and so I’d like […]

The Sandbox

Usually my posts are entire­ly abstract, meant to enter­tain, inform, irri­tate or enlight­en, but thus far I have avoid­ed prac­ti­cal affairs. For the most part, video games are either enjoyed or they are not; an expe­ri­ence is gleaned, or it is not; but role­play­ing games are some­thing else entire­ly, for the play­er, cer­tain­ly, but espe­cial­ly for the man or woman behind the metaphor­i­cal, and often lit­er­al, cur­tains. Today I am step­ping into the role of the advice-giver, for I have dis­cov­ered that per­haps I have some prac­ti­cal, ser­vice­able wis­dom to pass on in this arena. I became aware of this in a con­ver­sa­tion with a friend last […]

Wars of Worldcraft

In my orig­i­nal Additional Pylons, I intro­duced the idea of dis­tance. I haven’t stopped refin­ing my under­stand­ing of the con­cept since then, and so today I’m going to share some of my thoughts regard­ing its ram­i­fi­ca­tions and inves­ti­gate some incred­i­ble artis­tic pos­si­bil­i­ties that gam­ing’s nat­u­ral­ly low level of dis­tance opens up. To that end, I am going to begin by iden­ti­fy­ing an impor­tant func­tion of art that is often simul­ta­ne­ous­ly a sig­ni­fi­er of qual­i­ty art: the cri­tique of struc­tures and styles of thought, and the offer­ing of a fun­da­men­tal­ly dif­fer­ent per­spec­tive. I am going to stand on the back of Jarrod’s post on art way back […]

Going the Distance

You’re a bril­liant, rogu­ish indi­vid­ual with plen­ty of expe­ri­ence evad­ing and dis­arm­ing traps, but this one is com­pli­cat­ed. The tim­ing of the blades is tricky, and you know that a false step means at the least a hefty injury, which, since you’re deep in enemy ter­ri­to­ry and a great dis­tance away from any prop­er med­ical care, is essen­tial­ly a long-form, suf­fer­ing ver­sion of a more griev­ous stum­ble onto one of those glis­ten­ing spikes. Still, your beloved sig­nif­i­cant other is on the other side of this trap (and many, many oth­ers), so there’s only one option: for­ward. You trail right behind the bristling wave of spikes, leap­ing […]

You Are Dead