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’postsandvideos on this game after I taught it last spring. In the end, I went with sheer length as my own particular angle.
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.
Return of the Obra Dinn was the most fun I’ve had doing a “required reading” throughout my entire career as a student, and I’m not ashamed to say I’ve returned to complete it since playing the portion I was able to complete before class. The game was released by independent game developer Lucas Pope in 2018, and went on to win Best Indie Game at the 2018 Titanium Awards. The game also received a well-deserved accolade for Best Art Direction at the 2018 game awards. In Return of the Obra Dinn, players are tasked with uncovering the mystery of a ship which came into port with all 60 people who set sail on it either dead or missing. Using a “Memento Mortem” which allows to view still scenes which preceded each crew member’s murder, your task is to explore the dense crime scenes past and discover exactly what became of every single person on the vessel.
Group project video essay, created by leader Haoru Wang
I used walkthroughs and Let’s Play footage in this video essay, because I haven’t upgrade my Laptop, and it won’t allow me to use iMovie to edit the video. I had to use iPad for editing, and here’s my reference list:
Group project video essay and summary blog post, created/written by co-leader Kellie Lu
Warning: contains spoilers.
Return of the Obra Dinn is a distillation of the mystery genre that manages to make a player a true detective while adding its own intimate flair. Unlike many detective games that give the player god-like powers or modes to highlight clues and select the correct choice from a pre-written plot, the player must investigate environments without hand-holding. And it does this well. Many players comment on the way that the game makes them feel empowered, and this is the key to which Obra Dinn revolutionizes the mystery game genre.
How does the game do this? Roger Caillois states that the pleasure of reading a mystery novel is “not that of listening to a story, but rather that of watching a “magic” trick which the magician immediately explains. The author has set everything up in advance. The story opens on a rigged set; we do not even see the main event, but only its disturbing consequences” (4).
Co-group leader and resident anxiety machine Albert Aboaf
“The contradiction? Elementary.” I say, before submitting every possible piece of evidence from the court record in a pathetic attempt to convince Ace Attorney I’ve been paying attention.
The difference between the puzzle of a traditional detective story, and the puzzle of a game floating loosely in that genre, is fundamentally set around the question of the audience’s relationship to the method of solution; the clue. In the traditional form of the puzzling story, the primary work expected of the audience is in interpretation. This is of course, because the story medium doesn’t allow the reader to discover things on their own. You can never truly see the scene of the crime as Holmes does.
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.
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.
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 thegamesinthisvideo 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.