The Coup

In praise of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare’s most unusual level

On the Level is a series that closely analyzes individual videogame sections, examining how small moments in games can resonate throughout—and beyond—the games themselves. /// Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare‘s (2007) writers understand brevity. Each loading screen provides a satellite image of the upcoming mission, accompanied by a terse overview. “Good news first,” explains SAS operative Gaz, before the opening level. “We’ve got a civil war in Russia … 15,000 nukes at stake.” It’s graceful. Like a soldier, on standby for mission go, while the player waits for action, she sits through an intelligence briefing. It’s economical, too. If…

The Banner Saga 2 header

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…

rainy day

Rainy Day is a powerful and sobering look at anxiety

Rainy Day, a recent interactive narrative by Thais Weiller, is a quick and impactful glimpse of the paralyzing power of anxiety. It was born out of creative frustration when she moved from a design role to production, where she often stayed quiet about her own creative ideas so as not to disrupt the flow of her team. “I remember feeling as if I was silenced,” she said, “as if something was missing and I couldn’t say exactly what. Feeling that bad wasn’t particularly new to me a year back […] but feeling silenced was new.” She decided to try to…

The First Tree

The First Tree looks foxy (and tragic) in its first trailer

The last time that we talked to David Wehle about his upcoming game The First Tree, it wasn’t much more than a few screenshots of a fox and his earnest desire to tell a story about the nature of life and death. It aims to weave two stories together—a fox searching for her lost kits and a human couple undergoing a tragedy—to bring beauty and meaning to the exploration genre. The recently-released teaser trailer shows just how poignant these tales can be. It follows the familiar fox through a forest as a young man and woman talk about dreams. She…


Overwatch and the pleasure of transmedia narratives

Before Winston, a glasses-clad gorilla scientist, was leaping across maps to crush his enemies in the chaotic multiplayer battles of Overwatch, he was merely a young ape with big aspirations and an affinity for peanut butter. But you wouldn’t know that from merely playing the game. You’ll find no calculated, story-driven campaign in Blizzard’s competitive team-based multiplayer shooter. Overwatch’s character-driven narrative is instead trickled elsewhere: in genuinely endearing animated shorts, character-focused one-off webcomics, and short website-bound character biographies. The latter-most isn’t uncommon within videogames, the second less so, and the first is the most uncommon of them all, the three…

Fitz Packerton

Fitz Packerton turns packing your bags into a theatrical videogame

The first note of suspicion arises in two boxes sat next to each other on a desk. The label on these boxes is blurred beyond detail by the low-resolution—it’s possible to make out that it depicts a cylindrical instrument, white and red in color. I told myself it must be batteries for the nearby handheld radios. But I think I knew it was shotgun shells. /// “You hold your gun up when in waist-high water. You push away tall grass. Button just for Adrian Brody voicing how much ammo you have left.” These are a few of the features of…

Postcard From Capri

Postcard From Capri, your upcoming videogame vacation

More videogames should be set in the places their creators want to go on vacation. I’m not sure if the person behind Postcard From Capri wants to travel to the Italian island of the game’s namesake but, hell, after having seen the work-in-progress screenshots, I know now that I certainly want to go there. It’s described as an interactive short story played from the first-person perspective. So far so ordinary. OK, but you play as either a detective or a journalist (to be decided, I guess) who receives a mysterious letter that contains a postcard, a ticket, and enough money to travel to…

A Place for the Unwilling

A videogame in which the city is the protagonist

The city in A Place for the Unwilling is alive. It may even be possible for it to die. The streets and buildings make up its physical form as bones and muscles and arteries do ours. The population is its life force; rushing like a bloodstream through the alleys and avenues, occasionally stopping for conversation next to a monument or under a streetlamp. The city hears them whispering each other’s names, it feels them moving around inside of it, and more recently it has felt something darker and twisted lurking within it. The idea in this upcoming narrative adventure is to explore…


A videogame dares to ask “What is the meaning of life?”

You might head into Dissonance assuming it to have something to say about so-called “ludonarrative dissonance.” Because that’s all people can think about when the word dissonance comes up in the videogame space, apparently. And, actually, upon playing through the first couple of minutes, you might find that suspicion of yours steadily coming true. You’ll be reading along with this virtual novelette and, all of a sudden, a maze game will appear at the end of the first chapter. It’ll seem completely dissociated with what you’ve just read as well as the entire format of reading a book; it’s like it’s been…