For anybody who has ever read the post-modern horror novel House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski, few other contemporary novels compare. However, the next evolution of the post-modern novel might just be the interactive novel slash indie game Ice-Bound, a unique experience that combines player-driven narrative choices through an iPad app with the experience of reading and exploring an augmented reality-enabled physical book. Here's my conversation with the two men who made this magic possible.
I'm certain there's a great story to be told about the troubled six-year development of Deadly Premonition, and I'm even more certain that this interactive guide isn't the place to find it. It does, however, offer a degree of insight into the mindset of the man behind its madness, Hidetaka "Swery" Suehiro, and in places is every bit as esoteric as the game itself.
In the wake of Microsoft's unpopular and ultimately reversed turn towards invasive DRM and daily activation requirements, there has been a renewed discussion of the economic challenges of AAA development and the supposed danger that used games posed to the industry. The standard excuse that it's too great a challenge to create games that achieve players' graphical expectations while still selling enough games to be economically viable in the context of a console exclusive has been trotted out, and as usual it is false, or at least lacking in perspective.
Video games struggle with transposition. There have been some great games made out of films, but the statement seldom holds the other way round. There are some novelizations based around the more successful sagas, but these rarely reach out to an audience beyond the original fans. Other than that, few books are written which communicate with the gaming world.
The discussion around BioShock Infinite's combat doesn't just involve the question of whether its quantity of violence is essential to the story (yes), or whether telling a story where its quantity of violence is essential is interesting or worthwhile (no). Some of the discussion has centered around the question of whether the combat mechanics are any good. Eric Schwarz has written a fantastic post that describes most of the combat mechanics, and I want to expand on it a little. Even though I think violence helps to express the kind of character Booker is, I don't think the combat systems of BioShock Infinite do much to help characterize him, and in some ways actively oppose that characterization.
BioShock Infinite is a violent game, and it has to be. That's a contrast to BioShock, an equally violent game where combat conveyed nothing about its main character and had little to do with the game's themes other than spurring the player to engage in its various economies. Any stimulus—using plasmids to solve environmental puzzles, for instance—would have sufficed. That's not so in Columbia. Violence is essential to who Booker DeWitt is, and what Columbia is. Their story cannot be told without it.
Extra Credits discusses the design concept of "Counter Play." The idea here is that in a multiplayer game, there should be interesting abilities or weapons that a player can use on another player that is also interesting for that player on whom the weapon or ability is being used. It's a seemingly simple idea that upon discussion appears to be something the industry hasn't wrapped its head around yet.
Points go to the Extra Credits crew (and basically anyone who talks about preserving old, landmark games), but a lot of this just seems "pie in the sky." As mentioned in the video, a lot of the technology that ran and interfaced with these early titles do not even exist any longer. The only solution would be an industry-wide investment, resurrecting arcades, building kiosks, museums, you name it, just so some kid can play Battletech or Space War as was originally intended. When you really think about it, it seems that these treasures are doomed to obscurity.
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