How Nintendo Steals Your Money

Being home alone at night is the worst. I mean, not for me. I’m all about that Elon Musk “the absence of photons is nothing to be afraid of” anti-supernatural mindset.

But, you know, for other people who are definitely not me, it can be scary. Demons, burglars, whatever. Sometimes it seems like there are monsters hiding in every shadowy corner; ancient forgotten evils lying in wait for centuries, yearning to enact their revenge upon he who stumbles upon them.

…this is kinda how I feel about all the copies of Ocarina of Time I have in my house.

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How Gods Will Be Watching Turns You Into An Asshole

This essay was originally written for a class on Game Feel, which heavily referenced Steve Swink’s book of the same name.

One of the greatest things about games as a medium is their power to allow the audience to relate to the situations going on in the game by having the situation happen directly to the audience through gameplay. In a book, you can read about how characters feel and empathize with them; in a movie, you can see it. In a well-made game, though, that feeling of empathy comes from within you. In the heat of the moment, it’s almost like you’re actually there.

Most games will attempt to make their player feel a certain way to engross them in their world and cause them to feel certain emotions towards the characters in it. In Assassin’s Creed, you can climb anything—just like a real assassin! And when one of the members of your brotherhood dies, it’s devastating, because that death has real gameplay implications. Games can instill emotions in you through well-thought out rules.

Gods Will Be Watching subverts this by using its ability to instill feelings in its player not as a way of engagement, but as a way of disengagement—and it’s one of the best video game stories I’ve ever experienced.

Gods Will Be Watching, described by its publisher Devolver Digital as “a point’n’click series of dramatic puzzles about survival and moral dilemmas,” is an adventure game in which the player takes on the role of Sergeant Burden, a high-ranking member of Everdusk, a benevolent organization that operates “without any political or religious background to justify their actions; just common sense.” Burden’s mission is to calm the conflict between the galaxy’s all-controlling Constellar Federation and the violent rebel force Xenolifer. Continue reading

Why the Original Metal Gear is Still Really Solid

This essay was originally written for the Game Developers Conference 2015 Narrative Review Competition, where it won the Platinum Award and got me a free pass to GDC.

When one thinks about elegant design in a game, they often think of games with well-constructed patterns and systems that are experimented with as the game goes on. Whether it’s The Legend of Zelda, with its simplistic-yet-mysterious dungeon progression, or Braid with its strict set of rules from which the game’s puzzles emerge, we consider consistent, pattern-based design to be what all games should strive for.

The original Metal Gear, released for the MSX2 in 1987, throws these rules out the window—along with plenty of its own rules—and is all the more successful because of it.

The game opens with the player character, Solid Snake, arriving in Outer Heaven, a rogue militarized nation-state which he must infiltrate in order to save the captured FOXHOUND operative Gray Fox and find out what is being built in Outer Heaven. “Take action not to be discovered by the enemy,” the player is told. And thus, armed with only a pack of cigarettes (which makes Solid Snake’s health decrease upon using) and a codec by which they can call their commanding officer Big Boss, the player begins their mission.

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