High-Rise
Feature

High-Rise; a very British psychopathology

The first time I saw the Barbican Estate in London I was entranced. The layered terraces of pitted concrete, the crisscrossing walkways, those monolithic towers that seemed—as with Petra or Al-Hijr—like they might have been carved out of natural stone. It is rare, especially in a city like London, as layered and complex as a geological event, to walk into such a large space that feels so designed, so ordained. Yet, setting foot in those 20 acres of roughened concrete, I somehow felt that I was stepping into an idea, or an ideal, and out of reality entirely. Even now,…

the pit and the pendulum
News

An Edgar Allan Poe classic is now a game

Sign up to receive each week’s Playlist e-mail here! Also check out our full, interactive Playlist section. The Pit and the Pendulum (PC) BY PAPER PIRATES AND SOKOLAB Given that Edgar Allan Poe focused on sensation to communicate the terror of torture in his 1842 short story The Pit and the Pendulum, it would have been wise to further etch that out in the videogame version. In particular, the hissing of a swinging blade as it descends upon the narrator’s flesh could have been realized with actual sound, yet it is lacking in this digital adaptation. Forgoing that, what this game does…

the internet
News

New website celebrates stories inspired by pre-broadband internet

Described as “a literary/graphic project…built by three artists with strong interests in screens”, websafe2k16 seeks to provide a platform for memories of a pre-broadband Internet. Using the Web Safe color palette, and its 216 colors, as a point of reference, the project consists of 216 authors who write 216 words each, inspired by a specific color in the web safe range. Beginning 2/16/16, one piece is published daily. The swatches and text of the site provide a homogeneous backdrop for the varied experiences of the authors. The site is a sparse visual landscape filled with odd and unexpected artefacts Old internet pages are…

losswordslead
News

An upcoming puzzle game tasks you with decoding classic literature

In the world of Ray Bradbury’s 1953 novel Fahrenheit 451, books have been outlawed and are burned en masse by the state, only kept in small collections by the occasional revolutionary. Instead of reading, the majority of people spend their free time in “entertainment parlors,” rooms lined with massive screens that constantly broadcast Dora the Explorer-style call-and-response programs meant to elicit the illusion of interactivity. It’s a pointed premise, conceived during the early years of the television’s rise to prominence in the American household. It also reflects a constant theme in Bradbury’s work: that with advances in technology, culture tends…

witcher3landscape3
Feature

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…

alicereturns1
Feature

Why videogames love Alice in Wonderland

The bed is on the ceiling. The faucet is dripping up. A fish floats above you, bleating sonorous pun-filled pronouncements: “The sweet scent of bile hangs like a condemned man.” In the center of the room is a tiny door; on the table, a potion. “I’m constantly observing my declining behavior as if through a looking glass,” the protagonist mutters to himself. I think you might know what happens next. Why do videogames love Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865)? Again and again they return to it as a reference point, regardless of genre, regardless of style. What I just described…

Timruk Screen shot
News

Timruk explores the layers of historic violence beneath its beauty

Pages contain bodies and blood both literal and metaphorical. Illustrations and text occupy a confined world of disarray, littered with skulls. Among this is the beauty of rain falling and of bright wallpaper colors. A world where your hands are not your own. This is a world of contrasts, the world of Timruk, the world of Somewhere. Studio Oleomingus is simultaneously in the business of beauty and violence. Its latest game is called Timruk, which is a fragment of the larger upcoming videogame project Somewhere, following on from the studio’s previous off-shoot, Rituals. All these games have in common a thematic basis in colonial India but Timruk…

SUPERHOT screenshot2
Article

SUPERHOT and the unique temporality of videogames

When the Wachowskis transported bullet-time over from Hong Kong cinema to The Matrix (1999), mainstream western audiences were wowed. This was the beginning of something new for action cinema, the ability for the camera to pivot around action, playing a moment from a multiplicity of angles that stunned and awed in equal measure. The camera was unhinged from static points, instead echoing the orbital movement of a clock or pendulum. In the years following, slow-mo sequences in games misguidedly attempted to convert what was so fascinating about that spectacle into something the player could experience. Instead, it only introduced the…

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Article

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…