game
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The Wargamer and I

“All play has its rules.” —Johan Huizinga, Homo Ludens: A Study of the Play Element in Culture (1950) The first time I encounter the Wargamer, he is militantly editing a Word document and downing an Americano. Hundreds of red marks, crisscrosses, and deleted commas fill his MacBook screen. I make a small quip about how his desktop looks like a battlefield, and the Wargamer hastily explains that the color isn’t his fault, but rather, a courtesy of Microsoft Office. He tells me that he edits game rulebooks professionally, that he’s worked on games about pirates, migraines, and cats. I begin…

The Banner Saga 2 header
Review

The Banner Saga 2 still goes at it hard

The world is breaking. This is what you’re told at the outset of The Banner Saga 2. It’s delivered in a sigh, an exhale, and carries with it the weight of responsibility you bear—not all of those entrusted to your care will make it through the ordeal. There’s an inevitable doom to the proceedings but your choices will give those that follow you a chance, at least. Those choices are there in the dialogue, in the small esoteric details of conversation, in the events that unfold, and in the combat that ensues. Decision-making is woven into the tapestry of play…

05
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Music of the Urban Commute: Designing Mini Metro’s Soundtrack

A year ago, when Rich Vreeland (aka Disasterpeace) said that the work on his score for Mini Metro (2015) would be around 90 percent coding, not many knew what he meant. At the time, the only insight he shared was that the results of his work would create procedural audio for the subway system management simulator. When Mini Metro was released with what Vreeland calls an “almost meditative” score, it had a different feel to it than I had expected. The pressure and anxiety that comes with the city-building genre, as experienced in games like SimCity (1989), were minimized by…

Grow Up
Review

The brilliant clumsiness of Grow Up

There’s a blinking emoticon of a robot waving its arms around. It has the kind of joy that should be reserved for kids at a birthday party, not a loading screen. Once the bar is filled the robot appears again—now in full 3D, a red shell like a Lego brick—but this time it’s animated like a drunk who’s too inebriated to stand. When I push forward on the analog stick it’s as if my small motion has turned the entire planet under its feet. The robot’s arms flail as if reaching for a pole or an edge to cling to.…

bound1
Review

Bound makes a case for ballet in videogames

I was eight years old when I watched my first ballet performance, the Nutcracker, at an old, musty local theater. When the show ended, my mom asked if I wanted to be a ballerina, and to her surprise, I cringed. There was no way I could be a ballerina, I insisted. My body, short and stubby, could never be so lithe, yet strong. To be a ballerina, I thought, would be to somehow transcend the human body’s limits. To my childhood self, ballerinas were these inhuman, majestic creatures who, in their bending and gliding, could tell wordless stories. Ballerinas were…

Kindred Spirits on the Roof
Feature

The future of romance games is queer

Human culture exists because of sexual intercourse. From the reign of Cleopatra, to the formation of the Church of England, to the Stonewall riots, human experiences of love and sex make up the fabric of our history. Even if we try to narrow our gaze to media, the bright red handprint of sex is everywhere in the history of almost all mediums. There are cave paintings depicting sexual intercourse, and ancient sculpture frequently represented people with massive pendulous breasts and club-like penises. Some of the first handmade and distributed mini-comics (known as Tijuana Bibles) were porn-parodying popular media. The romance…

Deus Ex: Mankind Divided
Review

Deus Ex: Mankind Divided can’t wait to be interrupted

There’s an apartment in Golem City littered with dead bodies. Normally, I’d be the one to put them there, but not this time. One of them was probably named Ana, at least according to the emails in a computer nearby. The messages are from her doctor informing her that she’s pregnant. This would normally be good news. But Golem City’s daycare was recently shut down, the doctor informs her, and infant mortality is through the roof. Without actually coming out and saying it, the doctor seems to suggest that Ana should get an abortion. Given what I’ve seen so far…

Junebug
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Kentucky Route Zero’s android musicians are releasing a whole album

To read more from Kentucky Route Zero’s Cardboard Computer, be sure to pick a copy of Kill Screen’s relaunched magazine, Issue 9. /// Junebug, of Kentucky Route Zero’s duo of robotic musicians, is releasing an album. Self-titled and comprised of 11 tracks, the release is an elaboration upon one of the game’s highlights: a late-night performance in a nearly-empty dive bar called the Lower Depths.   Ben Babbitt, one-third of developer Cardboard Computer and the musician responsible for Kentucky Route Zero’s soundtrack, also provides Junebug’s singing voice and instrumentals. After working to craft her sound for Act III’s Lower Depths performance, Babbitt,…

The Texas Chain Saw Masscare
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Screenage life: What looking at screens all day is doing to your eyes

This article is part of Vision Week, our exploration of eyeballs and videogames celebrating our collaboration with Warby Parker. Grab a pair of limited edition Kill Screen glasses here: warbyparker.com/kill-screen /// The eyes are among the most sophisticated organs in your body, comprising an automatic focusing and light sensitivity system far better than the best cameras and film designed to date. Four separate surfaces bend light as it enters the eye, and ciliary muscles flex in order to make these lenses change shape, flattening and thickening to account for distance and light. In other words, there’s a lot of work…