in the intermission… flight of the conchords

i haven’t had a chance to write much the last couple of weeks, but i’m almost done with far cry 2 to and have some thoughts i’ll toss out soon. in the interim, i haven’t watched much of season 2 of flight of the conchords, but this video made me spit my coffee back out the other morning. so enjoy…

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best. commercial. ever. period. and it was banned

in all the hype that surrounds the big game, the advertisements get almost as much press as the players and the play itself. the commercials have been, and now will always be, part of the pure ethos of the superbowl itself, inextricably linked from the spectacle of the event–a momentary cult of personality. over at gamedaily.com, the boys and girls have compiled a great collection of the greatest video game commericals of all time.  one vid in particular is an absolutely classic commercial from xbox, part of their “jump in” campaign from a little while ago. it was only shown in the uk because of being banned in the states for “perpetuating violence.” seriously people. we won’t show a huge train station where people are essentially playing cops and robbers, but we will show violent shoot-em ups and frag fests with real guns all the time. this ad is a great reminder that, in essence, vidoe games are still cowboys and indians, cops and robbers, king of the hill, racing through the jungle gym and slide. things we all loved to do on the playground as kids. game daily has a great (and better) write up on it at the above link. check it out. (especially the sniper at about 50 seconds. hil-ar-i-ous.)

the prince of irony: the prince of persia and the illusion of choice

There has been much ink spilt in the last several months over the new Prince of Persia (hereafter POP) from Ubisoft studios. Whether in defense of the game or in detracting from it, it has certainly raised the ire of the video game intelligentsia. On the one hand, the masterful artwork of the game, the gorgeous cell-shaded graphics, the simple intransigence of the archetypal story, or the simplistic control scheme have been lauded as on of the

the Prince

the Prince

principal and most innovative games of the past year. On the other hand, the game mechanics (again), the story (again), the nature of the tale’s interactivity, the hidden linearity of its levels, the death mechanic, and, not least of all, the ending, have left may reviewers feeling slighted and/or jaded towards what Ubisoft was attempting with the game, which, other than simply reboot the series, has also been left in a sort of amorphous grey area of speculation.

As I have pointed out in the blog on numerous occasions, my intentions in writing about video games is not from a reviewer’s standpoint. I will happily tell you, faithful reader, whether or not I liked a game, but I will not mount a review worthy justification for a game’s score. To put it simply—I was entranced by the Prince and by Elika—both in their plight and in the manner in which they attempted to return the wasteland to its former glory. Each time I furiously mashed the “x” button on my PS3 controller (I think it was x:)), I waited to see how the verdant spread of life would transform a dark and sinister environment into a place of light and beauty. I then reveled in the exploration of that new environment in my attempts to find all the light seeds—for the record I found 948—close but not all of them! I was never bothered by my need to return to an area once a new power was unlocked; I always enjoyed the re-exploration of the area with new powers and the ability to see new vistas. I did not find the lowest point but it was not through lack of effort! I found the battle mechanic enjoyable and when I did finally string together the 14 hit combo I was overjoyed. In short, the game captured my imagination and my mind.

However, I found that there was a deep seated sense of irony in the game that I imagine was unintended by the developers. Someone once remarked in an article in Slate magazine that a distinct lack of an understanding of irony is the predominant characteristic of the American middle class. While I believe that statement might be a bit outdated (it can apply more directly to the 80s rather than the 00s), I have found that an understanding of the irony of the POP can go a great way to understanding both the shortcomings and the leaps forward in the narrative of the POP. From the long, standing conversations between the Prince and Elika, to much maligned but little discussed ending, irony seems to me to be the essential characteristic that carries the thread of a, dare I say, phenomenological creation of meaning throughout the game. The only way to understand this game is in the manner in which you interact with it. Meaning is created from the encounter between the reader and the text, or in this particular genre, between the player and the game—there is no essential difference between the two.

To begin with, let us take into account the word “illusion.” POP presents the player with the illusion of choice. Player choice in a game is obviously a relatively hot topic in game theory at the moment, with games such as Grand Theft Auto IV, Far Cry 2, Fable II, and Fallout 3 exploring the possibility of choice in an open game world. Of the games listed above, and many more that can be added to that list from 2008, probably GTA IV is the most similar to POP in providing the illusion of choice. While the side quests and missions you accept in GTA IV can be selected or discarded at will, there is still a driving central narrative that forces you along the game play path. In Fable II and Fallout 3, there truly are no limits as to how you choose to embark upon entering the world of the game. You can follow the main quest or not. Both of these games provide ample and varied side quests that allow the player to, in a sense, construct their own decolage of narrative. You can, in some ways, create your own story. Far Cry 2, while allowing an unlimited interaction with the open world, does not provide enough variety in its missions to truly offer a narrative outside of the text of the Jackal.

POP, on the other hand, presents the illusion of that choice. The choices offered to you in POP—which of the arenas to enter first, which of the powers to acquire, how long it takes you to complete the game, how often you return to certain areas—are, in essence, an illusion of choice. None of these options remotely affects the outcome of the game or even the narrative to any significant degree. I am not specifically arguing that POP was marketed as a game full of open world options and choices, although in working at Gamestop I will say that this is one of the opinions I heard most often from the consumer about the game—that it was in fact a game of choice. But when you stand in the desert with those

I like your shirt, he said

I like your shirt, he said

options arrayed around you, it is impossible not to be at least partially seduced by the idea that narrative options abound. In reality, you have little choice. You can choose to move forward in the game, or to turn around and talk to Elika. One could argue that you could endlessly explore the different hubs of POP, but that is akin to saying I could drive my warthog around the bases in the opening levels (on Halo) of Halo: Combat Evolved. I could do it, but it would be inane.

Rather, the only real option one has in POP is how much one wishes to converse with Elika. This is ironic, given the fact that game presents such an illusion of choice. The irony of this choice is not fully realized until the end of the game. (Beware, spoilers abound from this point onward!) While there has not been a significant amount of comment on the end of the game from the journalistic press–the reviewers and so forth–the small community of intelligentsia around the gaming field has found something to latch onto with the ending. Allow me to detour for a moment into an industry wide observation.

It is ineffably to the credit of the story designers and the scribes at Ubisoft Montreal that the narrative ending to the game has aroused commentary from such a community. Like myself, there is a small faction of gamers who have, aside from their “real” jobs, taken to discussing video games from a much more academic position than from a specifically review/preview stance. The principal participants in this field, to me, reside in places like Michael Abbott’s blog, The Brainy Gamer and others (First Wall Rebate, etc.). Abbott himself pointed out recently that the gaming sphere has an astounding number of intelligent blogs being written about video games and their cultural, geographic, economic, creative, and artistic significance. The fact that POP was the topic of a rather wide ranging round table discussion in reference to its ending is a testament to its innovation. So kudos definitely go out to the designers and scribes for this achievement.

The individuals discussing these issues are not gamers who have decided to give their hands a whirl at academic discourse. They are writers, academics, and thinkers who are also gamers—hopefully that’s a bit like myself. There is a burgeoning field of study in the humanities realm of games that asks questions of game narrative from the theoretical positions of narratology and ludology (the study of game as a story and the study of game as “game”, respectively). In this sense, my post is concerned to some degree with narratology, but more in line with how the mechanics relate the story—with a ludoloigcal approach to the game. I am here indebted to Clint Hocking’s reflections on ludonarrative dissonance in Bioshock.

In this sense, to return to the point at hand, that the perceptibility of the game and the mechanic of the game both lend themselves to the irony of the story. In its illusions of choice, the player is left to explore or not explore the only real choosable option—diving deeper into his relationship with Elika. If you choose to explore this relationship fully (with hardly an achievement or trophy on hand) then you–despite the fact that such a choice pulls the player outside of the game world by forcing you to stop, turn, ask, listen, ask again, and listen until there is no longer an option to hear responses from Elika–will at least hear some of the more personal dialogue that occurs between the two. To be sure, the dialogue is interesting and despite numerous repeat performances it increases the depth and humor of the game itself. This essential act, however, removes the player from the immersion of the game world. I use the word immersion loosely, here, knowing that it is a debatable term. The mechanic both at once engages and disengages the player and thus the irony of choice and narrative.

To move this pattern to the end of the game. The Prince, after much exploration and combat, many wise-cracks and quips, finally, with the help of Elika, or more accurately in helping Elika, defeats Ahrmin—the dark god of chaos that has been slipping from his prison since the beginning of the game. Well and good. But in true pulp fashion, Elika must sacrifice her life in order to contain him. This is not a twist that was un-deducible from previous events in the game. Any player worth his salt could probably see it coming. What was sprung upon the player, however, was the choice of the Prince. Elika dies and the Prince, in a slow funereal walk, carries her body out to the front of the temple and lays her on the dais, surrounded by the beauty and magnificence of a realm freed from Ahrmin’s control. The credits have rolled and the Prince … stands there. No black screen comes up. And clearly, through whispers bourn upon the wind, the Prince is given a choice; the same choice the King had when Elika died before. Ahrmin will raise her up if the Prince will free him. You can choose to leave, or you can choose to act.

Jackie

Jackie

Here again is a form of irony. Game play itself dictates that a player act. One of the most memorable scenes in gaming in 2007 was in The Darkness when you were given the choice to just—sit and watch a movie with Jenny, your girlfriend. For most gamers (the few who actually took the time to play that fascinating game) sitting was the hardest choice they could have made. But sit you did and you were rewarded with a small achievement and a large emotional involvement in her eventual death. In a similar fashion, the player who is the most involved in the Prince and Elika’s relationship is the inveterate button pusher, the player who has mashed L2 every time he stopped to hear what Elika and the Prince discussed. The option now, to leave Elika dead and walk off to find your donkey, is almost insensible. In pressing every button throughout the game you are now told to press no buttons except “off.” To press on will resurrect Elika, but will also defeat everything you fought for throughout the game, to raise and defeat Elika in the same breath.

I had thought, in some ways, about writing this post and comparing this to the old “choose your own adventures” books we all read when we were kids (I particularly loved the Indiana Jones ones when I was a boy), but eventually decided that it wasn’t the corollary I was looking for. I think the best corollary in literature is in the concluding novel to Stephen King’s Dark Tower series. In the seventh and final novel of the series, The Dark Tower, the Gunslinger final arrives at his intended destination. He stops before the door and walks in. And the novel ends. After seven books of trying to get there, of

Childe Roland to the Dark Tower came

Childe Roland to the Dark Tower came

discussion and speculation, when the Roland arrives the reader is excluded. King has overtly and interestingly, if sometimes distractingly, experimented heavily in meta-narrative and dissonic story telling. At the end of the series the reader is given a choice—to continue with Roland and find out what is inside the Dark Tower or to leave the novel alone, to put it down and walk away, recognizing, as King has, that the journey was the thing. Once read, the reader can never go back. It is an impossible choice, a sort of pyrrhic conclusion—to read is to discover but to be inevitably dissatisfied. To place the book on the ground and walk away is to admit a sort of defeat, and yet hold honor in your hands like water—forever slipping away. Whether it was satisfying or not I will leave up to you to decide, if you ever choose to read his work (which I highly recommend, by the way!).

In relationship to the POP, the illusion of choice has created the only choice possible which turns the game completely on its head. In a manner similar to Metal Gear Solid 4, after fighting with guns and gadgets, stealth and cunning, you are finally reduced to a hand to hand fight on the top of a rig with a completely different control scheme and the ultimate objective of killing, not just stopping, Liquid Ocelot. It throws the whole experience into a necessary tailspin. In POP you must continue to do that which you have done throughout the game, or you must choose the opposite, to do that which veers significantly from the expectation created throughout the narrative. Thus the illusion brings the irony and the irony adds depth to an otherwise simplistic experience.

As to whether or not this is “good” or “bad” I cannot say. I think that type of decision is immanently relative and must be left up to the individual player. To return to a type of game play phenomenology, the meaning depends up on your encounter. I however, found it fascinating and one of the most unique and refreshing endings I have ever encountered. Hopefully this is a trend—and one I will happily engage more of.

a requiem for a podcast; the fall of 1up

mea culpa, mea culpa! its been way too long but things have been pretty crazy over the christmas break. i have been absent from these pages for far too long. i want to jump right into the post by giving a brief personal update for those of you who haven’t heard how things are going for me just at the present. first, i had to move back down to birmingham, which turned out to be a blessing in disguise, because i lost my classes i was teaching at university of alaska anchorage for the spring semester. enrollment has dropped because of the economy and adjunct faculty are the first to go in those situations. so i dropped the hammer and popped back to bham where i was more likely to pick up a teaching gig because of the abundance of universities and colleges. well, that didn’t happen either, but i am filling a couple of classes for a local high school and working nights at gamestop (the one on 280 next to best buy — stop in and say “hi!”). and that’s cool because it gives me plenty of time to chill, play games, write, and recover from surgery…

yup, you read that right, cowboys, ol’ uncle ike has to go under the knife again for the second time in one year. i have a “massively distended abdominal hernia” that is one of the biggest my doctor has ever seen (i bet he says that to all his cute guy patients, ha ha) that will require relatively immediate attention. which, as i am uninsured, will cost a pretty penny. ergo, i am going to have to postpone my phd for a year in oreder to avoid going into a degree in the uk with massive amounts of debt hanging over my head. so in a couple of weeks i head back into the hospital to deal with a problem that was the result of my previous surgery.

one way or another, i’m glad we caught it and i can get it fixed relatively easily, even if it does require wire mesh in my abdomen for the rest of my life. but in the meantime, there are much more important things, both in news and in what i’ve been playing.

first a really sad piece of news that most of my readers will not know about (if you’ve stumbled onto my blog and you are not my friend on facebook or twitter than you probably already know this info). if you’ve ridden in the car with me anytime during the last year or if we’ve hung out for any extended period of time, then you’ve probably heard me talk about the 1up radio network. the 1up radio network was run by ziff davis media in conjunction with egm (electronic gaming monthly), which was, shy of one month, the longest running rag in the video game/pc gaming community. unfortunately, in our relatively poor economy (compared only to our own economy) and in the era of free media on the internet, a non-industry supported franchise was fighting an uphill battle.

on monday of last week, ugo entertainment (and i have to honestly tell you, i still have no idea what “ugo” stands for. i know it stands for something because its written in capital letters — except for in my blog — and i’m sure there’s a universal in there somewhere. if anyone knows please share it with me) a subsidiary of hearst media and entertainment, bought out egm and 1up, promptly shuttered egm the print mag and fired 30 employees of 1up. they lost there jobs, found out about it, and had a day to clean out there offices. there are plenty of blogs and recounting from insiders and mavens that discuss the issue so i won’t go into details here, but i do want to make two observations.

first, i am constantly amazed and the organic interconnectedness of the global marketplace in our preset times. although one could argue that the downfall of print media, and even the fall of the paid enthusiast press at a website like 1up (where content was essentially free) hinges on this very same principal, it is truly amazing that i, not even an industry insider, knew that this had happened via my friends at 1up on facebook and twitter, before the news hit the stands (or the internet billboards if you will). the immediate and compassionate outpouring of support was truly something amazing to watch, and as jay fresh, one of the laid of 1upers said in response to the outpouring in those first few days for the 1up crew: “i just want to give the internet a big hug.” that might be the tag line for the past decade.

and, as tragic as it is, in an industry sense, it is a blessing in many ways as well. no more than a day after the team at 1up was laid off, seven of the more prominent and outspoken podcasters had a two hour podcast up and running at eat-sleep-game.com, newly christened “rebel.fm”. within two days of that posting, rebel.fm’s inaugural podcast had become the number one podcast on itunes, as of sat night, it was still in the top ten. their bandwidth was brutalized. ryan scott starting a new show, and others have already found their feet. sometime in the next couple of days is the next rebel.fm podcast and rumour has it that shane “the mangod” bettenhausen will be announcing his intentions (for those of you who don’t know, that’s a scope in this industry) on the podcast. out of the ashes, as it were.

for me, 1up sparked a bit of an academic spark in my own trunk that maybe my love of games and my professional life could be mixed a bit, somehow. and there was one simple reason for why this was the case: the people behind 1up, everyone of them (except for tina, ha ha) were bright, dedicated and passionate individuals. and mostly geeks, too. but that was totally cool. and i don’t just mean bright in a sort of amorphous manner. i mean some of these guys had chops. they could really write well and idiomatically. they had their own individual styles and perceptions, but were professional about it. too many game mags and sites (professionally run) think its about just slapping something down on the paper and posting it up there. but when you listened to the 1upers, especially the writing staff, they would always talk about how it was more important for you to be a writer first and a gamer second. that is not the norm in this industry. they had personality, style, and a bit of panache. sure there were lots of times when they sounded of a big fu to the world, both in the gaming arena and outside, but that was mostly because they believed in their product.

the 1up podcasts, particularly garnett, shane, luke, john, shawn, david, jeff, skip, and the others who participated in the 1up yours show, are indelibly imprinted in my gaming consciousness. my ipod will miss them. my car rides will miss them. and although player one, giant bomb, idle thumbs, first wall rebate, the brainy gamer, and yes, even rebel.fm are great and i look forward to exploring the world of gaming with them, i will miss the classics. this is, in many ways, the end of an era in games journalism. while the industry will grow and change in many other ways, probably many off them better, there won’t ever be another crew like those folks. garnett, tina, ryan and the others who were left behind at 1up hae a hard job ahead of them, rebuilding with much smaller resources, and i have faith in them and look forward to what they accomplish. rebel.fm, talking orange, ryan scott and the others will do some awesome things, i know. but the king is dead. long live the other guy.

i didn’t quite mean to go on so long about 1up, but they meant a lot to me. tomorrow i’ll hop back on here and write up some thoughts on narrative interactivity in prince of persia and talk a bit about all the other stuff i’ve been playing over the holidays, but until then, keep your books out beside your games (which at this time is a history of the special forces). i’m out.

masters….confirmed; final fantasy iii….confirmed

for those of you who actually check this thing out, i have clearly been absent for the last three or so weeks. and with good reason. i had to defend my master’s thesis two days ago and, having been out of the loop of graduate studies for a little while, i was a little bit nervous all around. thankfully, though, i am done. i passed my oral defense and have one more grammatical pass to make on the thesis, but over all its done! my thesis was on c.s. lewis and his critical paradigm, specifically focusing on a close reading of his book, an experiment in criticism, and identifying the principle hermeneutic that he practices. i identify the modality as a hermeneutical phenomenology, with more in common with decentralized post-structural mechanic as opposed to more modernist, enlightenment practice. ultimately, i drew comparisons between lewis and paul ricoeur, a phenomenologist who was also a christian and passed away in 2002. the whole thing was a lot of fun and was over a 100 pages long. i will be expanding it out into a doctoral dissertation beginning next fall. so i know there were a lot of folks out there praying for me and i really appreciate it and the thoughts and wishes of all of you. so thanks very much and i can now imitate garnett lee and say, “masters…confirmed.”

job system

job system

as to what i’ve been playing recently, at least since mirror’s edge a few weeks ago, i have recently ventured into the handheld world with an acquisition of a nintendo ds lite. one of the lads at work was trading one in so i gave him a 10% mark-up and bought it from him. we both came out ahead in that deal! i picked up final fantasy iii to give it a whirl as i remembered seeing all the different ads for the job system a few years ago when it was finally ported up to the ds from the (i believe) famicom days of 1990. i have to tell you that i really like this game. it isn’t perfect and there is a lot of grinding, and i mean a lot. i don’t really like the save system that much (although the quicksave is nice), but not being able to save in a dungeon is a real pain in the ass. overall, the game looks a lot better than it ever did in 1990 (duh) and there are definetly games that look better, but the story is  a real blast and they do a very good job of pacing out the discovery of the world. i’m going to pick of final fantasy iv soon and give that a whirl and then final fantasy vii: crisis core for the psp soon as well. final fantasy iii, to be clear, is not an intellectual game. the job system is interesting but relatively inconsequential, the story is very straight-forward, the exploration interesting but your hand is held for the entire time, and the boss battles are dominated by physical attacks. for all of that it has a charm that superseeds many, many games on the market today that certainly makes it worth playing. the ported chrono trigger is my next purchase so i’m hoping to make that comparison also.

chrono trigger portraits

chrono trigger portraits

i’ve also got trace memory and hotel dusk in the queue for the trip back to bham on friday. both of those are interactive mystery novels and have recieved fairly good reviews overall. neither are action oriented, but they have a good puzzle base with a lot of decent dialogue. i’ll weigh in soon on my impressions. until then, keep the books beside the games.

still alive: finding the lines on the mirror’s edge and portal

i’ve thought a couple of times about how i wanted to begin this post and all i can honestly think to say is “wow.” i just finished playing mirror’s edge for the second time and i am smitten. in love. this game is amazing. i absolutely am infatuated with this game. now, i know the game is flawed. i know there are parts to the game that are frustrating to no end, but as an overall experience, i can’t say that i have enjoyed playing a video game this much since i played portal for the first time. portal, as a game, redefined how a person should think about the possibilities of a first person game. i think mirror’s edge does the same thing. both accomplish this task in different ways, but essentially, they are attempting re-conceptualize what is possible within the confines of an immersive first person experience.

on the one hand, portal forced the player to think outside of the boundaries of what a person can do with a gun in their hands. it forced you to think about things from a perspective of physics as opposed to firepower or even the geometry of a shooter. most shooters are geometric. if you can see your enemy then he can shoot you. its all angles and sight lines. portal forced the player to say, “what happens when i move like this.” it was a question of momentum.

mirror’s edge, in a similar way, asks the player to let go of the gun and think with their feet, hands, and head. the game becomes intuitive within moments of picking up the controller. once you clear the first tutorial session and the prologue, the moves begin to come more and more naturally, until, by the end of the game, you wonder why it took you so long to clear that first wall run to begin with.

faith in mirror's edge concept art

faith in mirror

if we consider video games as a text, and by that i mean as complete artifacts and entities–from their story to their mechanic to their graphics–everything, then mirror’s edge and portal both exist within the liminality of video games, particularly within the first person genre. the word “liminal” means the spaces between to entities. it is the liminal space that is constantly pushing against the margins of the artifacts of the world and society. it is in the liminal that change occurs. it is always either pushing against the margins and borders or being pushed against. it is shrinking or it is growing. but in its growth it forces the margins of the artifact to change.

portal and mirror’s edge are two such games. even their names mean as much. a portal is a pathway between the two artifacts, that which exists between the two. the mirror’s edge, as defined within the game itself, is the space on the margins of society, the space in which the disenfranchised, the rebellious, the outcast lives in search of freedom. on the rooftops of society or in the alleyways, in the air shafts and the back corridors. this is where the outcast thrives. on the mirror’s edge.

now, i’m certainly not going so far to claim that their narratives, in and of themselves, are life-changing or that the games are the greatest in the history of gaming. i am speaking to the games as text themselves. there is, essentially, no story at all in portal. you play as the ultimate test subject. an inveterate pavlovian dog. the story to mirror’s edge is interesting, at the best, and tangential at the worst. it is as a culmination of its parts and in the reinvention of their gameplay mechanics that these two games push the boundaries of gaming.

with respects to their gameplay, neither one is perfect, either (although portal seems to me to be a more complete experience than mirror’s edge). on the other hand mirror’s edge is more immersive. the clean lines of the city, punctuated by the occasional metaphoric and physical rat, become swiftly engrained in your consciousness–as it should given the fact that it draws on every dystopian vision of a totalitarian future ever put down on paper. there is visceral collective consciousness that mirror’s edge draws upon and then accentuates with its revisionist mechanic.

portal accomplishes the same basic thing on a more cerebral level. filled with dry wit and black humour, portal sublimates the intellect. mirror’s edge does the same thing with a physical liminality, using to great effect its pure kineticism. momentum and speed are everything. guns are evil. anecdotally, my nephew, cj, was continually frustrated with the first level because he kept running back to the four policemen and trying to confront them. he kept dying. finally i told him he was supposed to run away. “really?” was his response.

both games are short, but i think they have to be. as much as i am a fan of ubisoft games, particularly assassin’s creed and farcry 2, i think they fell into the “cut and paste” fallacy. that is to say, if your game has great mechanics and a solid graphics engine, you can cut and past similar missions to make it longer. i didn’t have a problem with that in assassin’s creed, mainly because i loved exploring the cities so much; but in farcry 2 it ultimately became almost unbearable. portal and mirror’s edge both understand their limitations. they play to their strengths. if there had been any levels in either one (specifically mirror’s edge) that took the player out of the basic mechanic then it would have ruined the experience. a similar thing happened in brother’s in arms: hell’s highway. i loved commanding the squads, but when they put you in a house alone the mechanic showed its flaws.

the cake is a lie

the cake is a lie

in short, both these games are comments on society, yes. portal has much to say about the power and purposes of technology, its uses and manifestations. mirror’s edge, similar to much of joss whedon’s work in serenity and firefly, comments on the individuals at the borders of society. but neither are concentrated statements, unlike a xenosaga. rather, both push the boundaries what immersive and interactive narrative can be. by combining the kinetic, the intellectual, the physical, and the emotional, both games push the gamer out of the comfort zone of familiarity and into the the liminal of themselves.

that’s it for now. and remember to keep a book beside your game.

farcry 2; mirror’s edge; world of warcraft midnight launch

i’ve been playing farcry 2 this past week, but i won’t be finishing it just now as i rented it from gamestop (one of the perks of being an employee! get to take home used games for four days for free!). i also have my copy of mirror’s edge reserved so i’ll be picking that up and giving it a run through this weekend. i’m really looking forward to playing mirror’s edge, if for no reason than that it apparently only takes around 8 to 10 mirrors edgehours to finish (or less) and i need a short, relatively linear game. all the gameplay choices of fallout 3 and farcry 2 are making my head spin. and wonder when i’m going to actually get to finish a game again! the dystopia of mirror’s edge is interesting to me, especially since i used to edit an academic journal called utopian studies! there was often articles on dystopian fiction and i’m curious to see if i can find any connections.

farcry 2 is an absolutely amazing game. and its pretty cool that this past month has seen three relatively farcry 2large open world games come out that each have their own distinct style, story, and genre (farcry 2–african desert; fable 2–fantasy; fallout 3–future apocolypse) and yet maintain a certain degree of linearity. i wonder how much possibility there has for this becoming a more common phenomena and not being tied specifically to the grand theft auto world. all three are getting pretty good reviews and are not experiencing a high degree of trade-in (taking a game back to gamestop for another one). with farcry 2 i only have a couple of complaints, mostly tied to the ethical nature of the game and then to the checkpoint system (or lack thereof!). we’ll get into that later.

for now though, i have to focus on the one moment in gaming that will put all other moments of gaming to shame from the past year: yup, world of warcraft: wrath of the lich king launch is tonight and we are going to be slammed. there is a cosplay contest, quizzes, door prizes and we’ll have people circling the ice rink at the dimond center up to three levels. that’s how big this is. and i get to work the crowd. i love my life. i’ll let you know how it goes!wrath of the lich king