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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…

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Playing Paris like a game

I have never been to Paris. In my provincial life I’ve never even left the United States. Despite or, perhaps, due to my localism, I was beguiled by the vision of the city given by Luc Sante in his 2015 book The Other Paris. Sante provides an underground history of the city, of its crime and prostitution, its low-wage work and lowbrow entertainments, its intoxications and insurrections. As fluent as he is with tales of murderous gangsters and wayward streetwalkers, what really comes across in The Other Paris is Sante’s deep mourning for the lost topography of the city. The…

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How “girl games” will save the post-apocalypse

A disaster completely destroys your city or country, what do you do? Thankfully, numerous videogames have prepared everyone for such a scenario. You immediately go on a killing spree as you look for The Thing that will improve your life, of course. Following 2013’s The Last of Us, you might bring a critical survivor to an important location, shooting mutated humans in your way, scrapping for supplies. Or you could seek vehicular vengeance a la Mad Max (2015). Alternatively, perhaps you need to look for your father, barreling across a hazardous wasteland, helping to purify water when you’re not firing…

Fallout 4
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Turning Fallout 4’s world into 1950s-style animations

If you’ve played last year’s Fallout 4, you’ve doubtless seen the series of animated shorts that play upon starting the game up. Black-and-white and with scratchy audio, these videos turned the post-apocalyptic Boston wasteland of Fallout 4 into a comedic, 1950s-style cartoon. (If you haven’t seen these shorts, then you can easily catch up on them all over on developer and publisher Bethesda’s YouTube channel.) Each of these shorts detailed one of the letters in the game’s  “S.P.E.C.I.A.L.” system. This has been a staple of the Fallout series since its first outing in 1997. It’s an acronym that stands for Strength, Perception, Endurance, Charisma,…

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Why Fallout 4’s 1950s satire falls flat

War may never change, but Kill Screen does. Back our Kickstarter to help support our print relaunch! Fallout 4 takes us back. Back to the beginning. Back before the bombs fell, and before the world of the Fallout series took on its mutated, feral, apocalyptic form. But what did that world look like? The Fallout series has, since its inception, hinted at a world before nuclear annihilation that resembled, in its culture and its design, the 1950s, rather than the 2070s, which is the decade in which Fallout’s “Great War,” a two-hour series of nuclear blasts that decimated the planet,…

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Fallout 4: Return to Junktown

For more in-depth game writing, back our Kickstarter! Here comes the trashman! He’s strutting down the highway in his scrap metal suit, tin cans rattling up and down its legs, soda bottles and glue dispensers falling out the cracks between its plates, cereal boxes bobbling on the tips of his metal fingers. He’s blasting “The Wanderer” with no headphones on and waking the mole rats up. He’s bounding downtown like he owns the world. He intends to put all of it into his pockets. He works fastest indoors: his vision jumps from floor to desk to shelf, hunting for the…