Return of the Obra Dinn Commentary and Critique

The slow march of my video series on detective games continues with this, its fifth entry. For awhile I was afraid there was no reason to do this one, as I wouldn’t be able to top my students’ posts and videos on this game after I taught it last spring. In the end, I went with sheer length as my own particular angle.

Script below the jump.

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“We Had a List of Rules”: An Analysis of HER STORY

A fourth entry in my video series on detective games. It’s not real surprise that this game would end up in this series: I’ve taught it twice now (including in one class this term), I’ve written about teaching it, I named it one of the games of the decade, and right before the term launched I published a full transcript of it. What I didn’t expect was for it to be quite this long—definitely among the longer analyses of a single game I’ve done, in any format.

Script below the jump.

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HER STORY Complete Transcript

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Ian here, cooped up during the shelter-in-place order and busy prepping for this quarter’s classes.

So I did that thing again, where I’m preparing to teach and/or critically analyze a game, make a guide for myself, and I figure I might as well put it online for public consumption. This time, it’s a complete transcript of all of the video assets in HER STORY, Sam Barlow’s 2015 full-motion video adventure that plays devious games with its script, before it ever adopted video format.

If you’ve ever wanted to fill in a pesky block in the HER STORY‘s in-game Database Checker while chasing the “Detective Chief Inspector” achievement, this guide is for you. As for me, it will be a course tool when I teach the game again this quarter, and it forms the research backbone of my next video essay.

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Too Rigged to Fail

A belated third entry in my video series on detective games. The pace of these has been slow, but I’m going to have to step it up, as these are intimately related to course prep for a course I’m teaching in the Spring term of 2020.

Script below the jump.

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Macpocalypse

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Ian here—

For years now, I’ve wanted to update the section of my site devoted to games that can be easily integrated into syllabi. I was laying low until the firehose of my students’ work turned off, but I figured since I’m teaching another games-related course in Spring 2020 it would be a good time to return to the subject.

Unfortunately, the past few months have brought with them a significant new hurdle.

By now it’s old news that Chrome will be dropping Flash compatibility in December 2020. I’ve seen the pop-up, and I’ve gradually made peace with the fact that games like LonelinessProblem Attic, and The Artist Is Present won’t be accessible to students in the future. It’s a major loss for free, platform-agnostic games that could be easily assigned. But with the release of macOS Catalina in October, with its 64-bit requirements for all applications, I’m now forced to grapple with the fact that Mac, as a platform, is all of a sudden much less friendly to indie games than it had been for much of the past decade.

I’ve seen a few guides online to what is and isn’t broken by the strict 64-bit requirements of Catalina, but most of them are light on indie games (especially non-Steam indie games). So I went ahead and personally checked all of the games listed in my “practical pedagogical notes” section, and all of the games from my “games of the decade” list (including the honorable mentions). I’ve also added things that I’ve written about, included in a video, or done a capsule review of. Below the fold you’ll find a list of 32-bit games that no longer function on macOS Catalina. I’ll update the list as I test more, or if developers get around to updating them.

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Inspect-’em-Ups: Genre Core and Periphery

One last post for September: I did indeed succeed in getting the second part of my new series on detective games out of the door by the end of the month. And it’s a long one, too! Long enough that I don’t feel bad about the dry spell that’s inevitably going to set in in October.

I’ve written about most of the games in this video on the blog before, mostly for things like capsule reviews and walkthroughs. This is the only time I’ve done any sort of analysis of them, though. (Excepting maybe Gone Home.) In addition to being long, it’s also mostly brand-new material, which is not something I can say about most of my videos.

Script below the jump.

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The Detective’s Gaze

I’ve inaugurated a new video series, on detective games. The inaugural video is an extended version of this old conference presentation, buffed up with new examples and more extensive sources. The second video will be arriving shortly—I knew I’d be super busy as soon as all three of my current jobs kicked in, so I planned ahead and worked on two videos simultaneously during the summer months, both of which I’m hoping to get out the door in September.

Script below the jump.

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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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