Owlboy is a masterful tale of transcending disability

My girlfriend speaks softly. She’s a ghost on the phone. If you ever met her in person, you’d lean in a little when she introduced herself. You could say it’s her personality. But you’d only be half right. The other half has something to do with a very large truck that collided with her small body when she was seven, leaving her in such a state that the doctors who treated her became locally famous. While the miracle docs lined up for pictures in the newspaper, Erin was still unable to communicate; it was years, she tells me now, before…


Aragami is a shadow of what it could be

In 1995, the Guinness World Records Committee officially decreed that a parakeet named Puck had the largest vocabulary of any bird in the world. Puck knew 1,728 words, and like others of his species, was able to assemble them into phrases and sentences appropriate to the situation he was in. “It’s Christmas,” he was heard to say on the proper day in 1993: “That’s what’s happening; that’s what it’s all about.” Puck might have been exceptionally literate, but he was only one voice in a diverse avian chorus. Amazon and African Grey parrots are known for their conversational skills, as…

BioShock: The Collection

The cycles of violence in BioShock: The Collection

Between 2007 and 2014, Irrational Studios and 2K Games told a story. This single story had five acts: BioShock (2007), BioShock 2 (early 2010), Minerva’s Den (late 2010), BioShock Infinite (2013), and Burial at Sea (2013-2014). Since episodic presentation encourages isolated judgment, it wasn’t always easy to see the unity of these fragments as they were marketed and released. But the legacy of the BioShock series is marked by rigid and often irrational schisms: between expectations and reality, themes and mechanics, rabid fans and equally rabid detractors. Now that 2K has kindly assembled all these narrative segments in BioShock: The…


No Man’s Sky and the Naming of God

In Darren Aronofsky’s 1998 film Pi, a mathematician is doomed by a recitation of the divine name. Young Max Cohen, the Icarus of New York City, is a socially anxious shut-in who devotes his time and his ultra-sophisticated computer technology to finding a predictable pattern in the stock market. Cohen names his computer Euclid; both the name of a Greek geometrist and the starting galaxy in No Man’s Sky. His conviction, expressed as a tidy syllogism in a recurring voiceover fragment, is that since nature is made of patterns, and math is the language of nature, everything in nature has a…


This Is The Police won’t accept blame

Content Warning: discussion of rape, violence against women, police brutality, racism. This is the police. This is the police station. This is the police chief. The police chief is you. This is your desk. This is your scanner. It will be your Beatrice, a voice beckoning you to rise from the grime. It is the only voice in the world that begs to be silenced. But you relish it, this song from the streets. It reminds you that you still have a purpose, two-timing wife be damned; it reassures you that you are still the man they come to around…


Brigador and the joy of total war

In late 1864, the American Civil War had come to a decisive point. The Confederacy’s efforts to bring the war to the North had been effectively routed in the previous year, and the South was forced to take the defensive on its home ground. Ulysses E. Grant, General of the Union Army, sought a way to break the South with minimal loss of life. He found his earth-scorching muse in William Tecumseh Sherman, who proposed a simple strategy that proved to be devastatingly effective. Sherman would have his forces march south through Georgia, and where commanders met with anything less…


Myst and the truth of objects

This article is part of our lead-up to Kill Screen Festival where Robyn and Rand Miller, creators of Myst, are keynote speakers. /// Your job in Myst (1993) is to assemble books. Set aside for a moment the impossible grandeur, hermetic mythos, and resonant cultural legacy of the game and this is what you’re left with—red page, blue page. Eventually there’s a white page. These pages are objects. Any decent open-world game of the last few years will allow you to cart around hundreds of pounds of literature without slowing your upswing, because in these games, the books aren’t objects.…


Dark Souls III and the color purple

You first encounter them in the Undead Settlement. It’s a moment of incongruous reprieve: having rolled and dashed your way through a hail of human-sized arrows and swarms of rake-wielding peasants, you come up a hill and into a dark, somber cathedral that all but invites you to stop and smell its flowers. With their violet hue and soft yellow centers, these delicate beauties scattered around the building seem more unlikely than any of the monstrosities you’ve been busy butchering. Dark Souls III’s kingdom of Lothric has, up to this point, largely displayed the same taste for earth tones favored…


Umberto Eco and his legacy in open-world games

At the very end of his playful Postscript to The Name of the Rose (1980), Umberto Eco made a casually sibylline gesture toward the future of interactive fiction. “It seems,” Eco wrote, “that the Parisian Oulipo group has recently constructed a matrix of all possible murder-story situations and has found that there is still to be written a book in which the murderer is the reader.” And a few lines later, with a wink: “Any true detection should reveal that we are the guilty party.” The text either ends or begins here, depending on your interpretation. OuLiPo (Ouvroir de Littérature…