Living Vicarious: The Swapper (actually half-life tho)

So I’ve got a little folder of games to write about tucked away on my computer, and one of those games is The Swapper, by Facepalm Games (2013). I made it a priority, because I wanted to write a paper on it for a conference, but I’ve since realised that I won’t have the time. No worries though – I’m happy talking about it here instead. Apparently, all of the backgrounds were originally modelled in clay. They digitised them afterwards, but there you go – fact of the day.

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Augustine, Pain, and Hellfire (bash them bibles)

As we claw ever-nearer to the end of City of God, Augustine draws more and more on the end times. Most recently, he’s trying to explain how the fires of Hell could burn those naughty souls for all eternity. To be honest, in this case, I find the path he takes to get to the conclusion more interesting than the conclusion he’s trying to get to – I’m still not sure what I think about Hell & eternal torment. There’s a few different theories, so I don’t feel particularly beholden to the idea of literal fires of Hell – and to some degree it doesn’t really matter, as far as I’m concerned. It’s like bickering over what Heaven’s going to be like – it’s relatively difficult to be heretical, and it doesn’t really seem to matter that much what position you take, because everybody has to add the clause “but I could be wrong” to the end of their theory. (more…)

Enslaved: Odyssey to the West (and friends!)

So last week we talked about Enslaved: Odyssey to the West, which is basically the video game tie-in for Planet of the Apes. Well, it’s not, but Andy Serkis plays a monkey in both of them, and I thought it was funny last week, so I figured I’d try it again. Remember: recycling is good for the environment. Anyway – so we talked about how Enslaved dallies with the whole ‘You don’t have choice’ thing, exemplified by Portal, and has its own little emotional hook in the relationship between the player-character, Monkey, and Trip, the woman who enslaves Monkey in order to get home. That’s where I want to pick up today.

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Augustine and Corporate Peace (as in social, not)

Still hacking away through Augustine – coming to the end of it though. He’s started talking about the destiny of the two cities, and you just know he’s about to hit the Book of Revelations. Anyway, he had an interesting line about peace that really highlighted the way his thought works in terms of the city, rather than on an individual level. I’d read in the Preface somewhere that his work focused on the city, and what it meant to be a citizen – understandable, given the name of the book – but I’d never really particularly felt that focus. There was very little about government or authority or any of the things I’d associate with a discussion of citizenship. Maybe I’m not looking hard enough. Anyway, to cut a long story short, I just found something city-ish, and I thought it was worth sharing.

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Enslaved: Odyssey to the West (andy circus being a monkey, again)

Did you know Andy Serkis has done video games? It makes sense, he spends enough time doing voice acting and motion capture already – video games must have been a very small jump. He’s voiced Gollum in a few movie-to-game spinoffs, of course, but he’s also done work for a company called Ninja Theory (the guys that did DmC). In 2007, Serkis did voice acting for their game Heavenly Sword, and in 2010 he did voice acting and motion capture for Enslaved: Odyssey to the WestEnslaved came out on PS3 and 360, and in 2013 had a premium version or something come out for the PS3 and PC – the latter being where I stumbled across it. It’s worth mentioning for a couple of reasons – the biggest one being that it’s a bona fide adaptation of a Chinese story, which doesn’t happen very often in the West. The game is based on Journey to the West, a Ming dynasty (16th century) novel attributed to Wu Cheng’en. It’s also worth mentioning because it raises some interesting questions around the theme of control. It doesn’t do anything with its potential, but it’s got a great set-up – so that’s what I’d like to talk about. (more…)

Art, Sex, and Augustine

I’ve always found Augustine’s take on art particularly interesting. Most of the time when he’s talking about art he’s talking about the depravity of Roman theatre, which, in all fairness, was pretty depraved. There was a great deal of sex and lewdness, and actors were generally looked down on, even by lascivious Roman society. The other half of the time he’s debating over whether or not music distracts from worshipping God – in Confessions, he tentatively permits it, although he reserved the right to change his mind at any moment. That’s a story for another day. (more…)

Moral Choice & the Witcher (part too)

Hey there! This is the second in a series on The Witcher. If you haven’t read the first one, you can read it here. Oh, and there’s probably some spoilers or something. So last time we talked about the morality system in The Witcher. It’s more complex than a straightforward binary system like KOTOR or Fable in two ways: it’s not binary, which is great, and your actions have widespread repercussions which aren’t immediately obvious. They might come back to haunt you a couple chapters in the future. The best thing about working with compromised morality, as you so often find in The Witcher (you know, lesser of two evils type thing), is that you as a player have to find a way to justify one over the other. In this case, it’s often a question of whether you support resistance to tyrannical states or the authority of the government as a protector of the people. Because both of these philosophies have a relatively equal status (that is, they’re both equally morally compromised), the player has to dive in a lot deeper in order to find justification for their actions. If only that had occured to the folk who made Arkham Origins. (more…)