3-Year Anniversary of the Blog

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When I’ve done these little “anniversary of the blog” posts in the past, I’ve focused on quantifying everything I’ve posted over the past year. This year, however, I’m going to use the space for a couple of announcements relating to my day job that I have been putting off until things finally solidified.

My time at Ci3 has come to an end, and at the moment I am juggling multiple part-time positions, putting my gamut of skills to the test. As a grant writer, I am joining the team at Storycatchers Theatre, where I will be advancing their mission of using the theatrical arts to help youth dealing with trauma related to time spent in the juvenile justice system. I officially started at Storycatchers yesterday, and I am honored to join their team, and their mission.

In addition to my position at Storycatchers, I am also teaching again, at both DePaul and the University of Chicago. This is a welcome development for me, and for the blog it will probably mean the return of things like lesson plans and student work to the mix of things that gets posted. Expect to see more video work over the coming year (I have a series on detective games I’ve been working on that’s nearly ready to debut), as well as more course-related content.

Published: “Special Effectivities”

Over the past couple of years I have embedded literally dozens of general-audience video essays I have made and posted on my YouTube page. I am very pleased to announce the online publication of my first peer-reviewed academic video essay at the [in]Transition Journal of Videographic Film and Moving Image Studies.

The appearance of this video at [in]Transition has been a long time coming. (I actually first obliquely referred to it way back in October 2018, when I began by “Let’s Study Horror Games” series.) This is actually the first time that [in]Transition has published a piece on videogames, and so it took them awhile to seek out appropriate peer reviewers. I couldn’t have asked for better ones: the reviewer comments, available online (as is [in]Transition‘s style), are thorough, thoughtful, and engaged. Despite the delay, I am seriously impressed by the journal’s dedication to expanding their horizons, and making good on that “and Moving Image Studies” bit of their title. I’m honored to have had a role in their expanding purview, and I hope it is a harbinger of things to come.

This video is densely packed with game examples, and it wouldn’t have been possible without the years’ worth of work I’ve done on these themes, with the help and input of too many people to count. If you are interested in written versions of the material leading to the creation of this video, which has evolved a lot throughout the years, I would recommend this conference paper (by the same title) I presented at the 2013 Philosophy of Computer Games conference, and this conference paper I presented at the 2015 Society for Phenomenology and Media conference.

Walkthrough: Kona

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The analysis I’ve been working on has again resulted in me writing a full-on game walkthrough, this time to Parabole’s 2017 game Kona. Again, I have decided that I might as well just post the results here, as a gesture of goodwill to the world.

There are some useful walkthroughs to Kona out there already, each with its own limitations. The most thorough walkthoughs explaining how to get 100% completion are videos, a format that I really dislike when it comes to games of this style. On the other hand, the written walkthroughs all exclude certain useful details, or sometimes have out-of-date details because they were written while the game was still in early access.

This walkthrough was written with the following goals in mind: thoroughly exploring and retrieving all documents from the game’s principle locations, and fully filling out the game’s journal. If you want to do those things, this is the guide for you. It’s not going to cover some other things, like where you can find all of the talismans and treasure hunt locations. If you want that sort of thing, you should check out another walkthrough (like this one here, which has a great map).  

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Walkthrough: The Painscreek Killings

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I’m in the midst of analyzing the detective game The Painscreek Killings (EQ Studios, 2017) right now, and as part of my process I ended up creating a quite detailed walkthrough. Since the work was already done, I figured I’d paste it over here, throw on some spoiler tags, and share it with the world. Might as well be generous.

There are a couple of other walkthroughs for Painscreek Killings out there, including this one here and this one here. I thought there was room on the internet for another walkthrough, though—one that was compact and consistently formatted. What follows are streamlined but nonetheless thorough details on how to proceed through the game.

Here’s a breakdown of how I’ve labeled things below:

gate is anything that obstructs your progress—usually a locked door, locked drawer, or literal locked gate.

Keys are absolutely necessary to get past a given gate in the game. These can be key items (literal physical keys, usually) that get added to your inventory, or key info (codes and puzzle hints) that often does not.

Clues point you in the direction of keys and solutions. They are not, however, mandatory. It is always possible (if unlikely) to stumble your way to the things indicated by clues just by exploring the world.

Embedded keys and clues are bits of information attached to an object that are important, but might not be immediately apparent: the date of a correspondence, a number stamped on a keepsake, a code mentioned in the pages of a diary, and the like.

Because of the nature of the game’s design (which is what I’m attempting to describe in my analysis), there is always going to be some amount of backtracking involved in it. The order I’ve listed the game’s locations in below minimizes backtracking as best as possible, without eliminating it.

Happy detecting!

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Interesting Games of 2019: The Year So Far

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The scope of new releases I have been playing has narrowed, as of late. I’ve been focusing in on a few choice genres and subject matters, as I round up my final list of case studies for my book project (as well as any upcoming video essay series connected with it). Practically, this means I’m spending a lot more mediocre games I hope I’ll have something interesting to say about, and a lot fewer games I’ve genuinely heard good things about, had fun with, and would in turn recommend. (It’s downright incomprehensible to me now that the first time I did one of these round-ups, in July 2017, I had actually played both Breath of the Wild and Persona 5 already, and was ready to write some words about them.)

So this post will be a bit more slight than some past mid-year wrap-ups have been. Below the fold, I offer thoughts on six little highlights released since January.

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Let’s Study Horror Games: Belated Memorial Day Weekend Catch-up

So, this is embarrassing. I actually did conclude the initial 10-episode run of Let’s Study Horror Games by the end of April. But I forgot to cross-post the video here once I uploaded it to YouTube. And then I made an 11th episode, and realized I still hadn’t announced the 10th one. And then weeks went by, and I fretted about, wondering how I should announce both videos on the blog. All of this is much more worry than it’s worth, so I finally just decided to announce them both in this post.

Episode 10 is an extension of some themes I delved into in this old blog post. (I had originally wanted to include Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem in that post, but it takes a lot of persistence to get the “save game deletion” sanity effect in that game, and there’s no way to reliably capture it unless you’ve committed yourself to capturing the entire game.) It marks the end of my formal plan for this series: any subsequent videos I release in it will take a more odds-n-ends approach, with no more multi-episode argumentative arcs.

Episode 11 inaugurates the more odds-n-ends phase. It focuses on sound, including musical scores, and includes within it a video version of this short lesson plan segment.

No transcript this time around, as it would be too unwieldy.

Let’s Study Horror Games, ep 9

Moving right along! This episode adapts some material from this post, but also includes plenty of new material, as well. Script below the jump.

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