The irresistible appeal of roguelike storytelling

A 20-something girl stands in an elevator. There’s an eye patch on her face, a shotgun on her back, and a pistol in her right hand. The door opens, and she hits the ground running into a room full of drones. They hover over her, firing red lasers completely bent on killing her. After all, why wouldn’t they be? Molly Pop is the head of the Zero Sum Gang, and she’s on a mission to topple the Fero corporation by raiding their bunkers one-by-one. She wastes no time, shooting down the flying robots in seconds, then travelling down a hallway…


New videogame thriller takes its cues from The Twilight Zone

“You had a good life. But things changed,” explains the narrator of Asemblance as you begin your descent into a world of reconstructed memories. The machine asks how much of your past life you remember, then: “Are you sure you want to remember?” Last year, Niles Sankey founded Nilo Studios out of a desire to tell new kinds of stories within videogames. An ex-Bungie employee who lent his creative vision to Halo: Reach (2010) and conceptualized the E3 2013 Destiny reveal, Sankey saw untapped potential in the anthology format of storytelling. Asemblance is the first episode in a new, ongoing series of experiences that takes its…

Gone Home

Videogames and the art of spatial storytelling

French philosopher Guy Debord talked about the idea of the dérive, a mode of travel where the journey itself is more important than the destination, where travelers “let themselves be drawn by the attractions of the terrain and the encounters they find there.” But to think of dérive as a kind of random stroll dominated by chance encounters would be to miss Debord’s essential point: spaces, by virtue of being inhabited or shaped by humankind, possess their own “psychogeographical contours, with constant currents, fixed points and vortexes that strongly discourage entry into or exit from certain zones.” Spaces can be…


Life’s problems are given a beautiful mystique in WEAVE

Problems are no longer immaterial in Nadav Tenenbaum’s “abstract journey” WEAVE. They rise up silently from the seas as huge spheres of ebony, blocking out the sun. Or they take up all your living space as unconquerable Sisyphean boulders. Problems cannot be ignored and they will find you. This is what we’re left to interpret, at least. For Tenenbaum refuses to tell us. That would be counter-intuitive. “There is a thematic structure present, but the lines defining that structure are invisible, and the player must connect the dots to grasp the big picture,” writes Tenenbaum about WEAVE.  something resembling a shared dream. …