The Norwood Suite

Making videogames inspired by New York’s musical improv scene

Greg Heffernan (aka Cosmo D) is making videogames unlike anyone else right now. He attributes it to two things: his early efforts to visualize music, and his background among the New York music scene. The first game he made, Saturn V (2014), turned the track of the same name by Heffernan’s band Archie Pelago into a virtual space. It was meant as a creative experiment: Heffernan said that he always thought of the music he created as a window into his head. By turning “Saturn V” into a 3D space he calcified that idea. Players could wander around a “vertical…


Try to fix NYC’s subway system in a new historical simulation game

I didn’t know much about Robert Moses before playing Confetti with the Brick Bats. The creators of the game, New York Game Center students Alexander King and Noca Wu, didn’t know much about him either. That is, not before Tim Hwang’s “Power Broker” contest, which offered cash prizes to those that could turn Robert Caro’s 1,336 page biography of Robert Moses into a game. And so that’s what they did. However, the game started out differently: it was planned to be a strategy game about building. But the team soon realized, through Robert Heller—a friend that stepped in to advise and later…


New simulator lets you try to fix NYC’s crappy subway system

I’m not from New York, but even I know to avoid the 5. The largest rapid transit system in the world, New York City’s Subway links Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx to rush in workers from across the Tri-State area. Over 54 percent of New York’s citizens use the subway exclusively to commute. Millions depend on it for transportation, yet it’s been increasingly plagued by issues of sanitation, mechanical failure, and overcrowding. Brand New Subway tasks you with improving NYC’s decaying subway system, while maintaining the delicate balance of cost and ridership. An intricately detailed experience, the game gives…


Waiting Rooms is a building-sized game about the struggles of bureaucracy

When I left the Rubin Museum of Art’s Waiting Rooms exhibit, I had 14 yellow tickets, 24 pennies, and a form with a picture of a unicorn on it in my pocket. It sounds like the random hodgepodge of garbage a quirky Tina Fey character might carry, yes, but within the world of the exhibit, it was a veritable fortune. Created by architect Nathalie Pozzi and game designer Eric Zimmerman, Waiting Rooms is a building-sized game about bureaucracy. In it, the museum is divided into a series of nonlinear rooms, each with their own arbitrary task to complete as well as…

The Division

Now you can explore The Division’s version of Manhattan in Google Maps

There’s a stillness to The Division’s plague-stricken version of New York. Rats populate the streets in greater numbers than do human beings, and a rustling newspaper is often the only visible object in motion beyond the player character and the omnipresent snowfall. The view outside of Madison Square Gardens is one example of how Ubisoft Massive has repurposed Midtown Manhattan to suit its game’s persistent, near-future crisis state. Fences are lined with razorwire. The digital billboard out front loops between two images: an American flag and the seal of the Catastrophic Emergency Response Agency, the game’s fictionalized version of FEMA. A tarp has been thrown over the…

Max Payne

Fairytale of New York: Max Payne 15 Years On

Remedy has always come at videogames from a slightly different angle. Quantum Break, coming out this week, appears to encapsulate the developer’s idiosyncrasies. Rote gunplay livened up with time manipulation. And then lashings of bizarre inter-textuality. They did it in the first two Max Payne games, and they did it again in 2010’s Alan Wake. But Max Payne is where it all started, the genesis of ideas the Finnish studio is still working through today. /// “Outside, the mercury was falling fast. It was colder than the Devil’s heart, raining ice pitchforks as if the Heavens were ready to fall.”…


The perverse ideology of The Division

In the first few hours of The Division, you will be bombarded with phone recordings, resources and consumables, an overwhelming litany of damage numbers and weapon mods. It puts you in such a constant state of information overload that after a while it’s easier to ignore everything but the essentials. You come to assume that, as long as you are shooting, progress is being made. Stalking the cold streets of an abandoned New York City, running missions to collect supplies for upgrades, assaulting strongholds and rescuing hostages, the rhythm of the game is a familiar one. It’s one that has…


The Division doesn’t want you to think about 9/11

When I entered Ubisoft’s The Division press event on February 2nd in New York, I was greeted by a display of an NYPD patrol car that had crashed into a lightpost, with smoke bellowing from its engine and its lights still flashing. Machines in the rafters vigorously blanketed the room in snow. Caution tape separated visitors from the staff-only areas. A street marker for Madison Avenue with a “Closed” sign attached to it overlooked the game’s demo stations. A Do Not Enter sign sat in the distance. I had entered a New York that felt like it had been thrown into…

Mansion Maniac

Explore dreamlike remixes of New York City’s early 20th century apartments

The idea of the New York City apartment as we know it had yet to be established at the end of the 19th century. The inhabitants of huge multi-occupant living spaces were mostly low-income immigrant families, isolated physically and culturally. The change began with Jacob Riis’s 1890 book How the Other Half Lives, which shocked upper and middle class New Yorkers with descriptions and photographs of the abject poverty of the slums. As the 20th century began, improvements to tenement living, changes to laws mandating building height, and the new subway lines paved the way for the apartment to become…