Symposium: Ico and Shadow of the Colossus, July 2, 2015


This month, we’ll talk about Ico and Shadow of the Colossus.  How do we feel about them, a decade and two console generations later? What have later games learned from them? What do we wish later games would learn from them?

We’ll meet on Skype this Thursday, July 2nd at 9:30pm EDT / 6:30pm PDT.

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Gaming Session: Minecraft, June 25, 2015

golem-wandering-aroundIt’s Minecraft this week: Thursday at 9:30pm EDT / 6:30pm PDT.


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Symposium: Hotline Miami, June 4

2567864-hotlinemiami102This month’s Symposium, hosted by Patrick Holleman, is on the game Hotline Miami. Quoting Pat:

One of the first things that designers discovered about videogames was that failure makes the game more engaging. With checkpoints and quicksaves, game failures have been atomized to the point where failure simply becomes a step in the player’s iterative process of solving the problems a game presents. With that in mind, we’re going to look at a game that takes it to the ultimate extreme: Hotline Miami. This is a game where the player will fail (and suffer a gory death) hundreds if not thousands of times on the way to completion. While plenty of games have examined the disregard for human life and suffering that action games often employ, few of them use failure way Hotline Miami does. In this game, those thousands of deaths (of both players and enemies) actually give us, as players, a supra-lingual sense of what kind of person the protagonist really is.

I recommend that everyone try to complete the game as far as the hospital level, which I think is the emotional climax of the game.

We’ll meet this Thursday at 9:30pm EDT / 6:30pm PDT; voice chat over Skype.



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Gaming Session: Minecraft, May 28, 2015

three-houses-nowMinecraft this week! This Thursday (May 28th), at 9:30pm EDT / 6:30pm PDT.


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Symposium, 7 May: Text Adventures


You are in a maze of twisty passages, all alike.


You are in a maze of twisty passages, all alike.

When the immersion happens that very old-fashioned way—you know, the way you used to dive into Moby Dick and get lost for hours on the ocean—but within a ruleset that bears more obvious resemblance to Mass Effect than it does to Foundation (or The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy) what does it tell us about immersion in games in general? If we’re right to be discussing immersion as an identification with a ruleset, what kind of people do we become when we’re reading our graphics and trying to find the correct way to phrase “slide kitchen card through slot” before we run out of time to feed ourselves on the alien world depicted in the marvelous Planetfall?

Moreover (and this is where things get really interesting for me), can we describe the learning that takes place differently from the way we describe the learning either from books or from games, whether tabletop or video?—assuming that we’re right about learning always being learning to play, and the way that connects back up on the other side with our understanding of immersion as identification. Or, to make that all much more succinct: What can we say about text adventures and interactive fiction that places them helpfully in the context of other ruleset-based art?

There’s an absolutely wonderful app for iOS chock-full of “Lost Treasures” of Infocom. Many other ways to play the games exist—especially Zork, with its roots in Adventure, and even Colossal Cave before it. It doesn’t take long to understand, if you’ve never played an Infocom game, the form’s charms, challenges, and limitations.

As befits this very special (what? form? genre? gestalt?) topic, we’ll meet at a special time, 8:30 Eastern/5:30 Pacific, with our chat on Skype as usual. Comment if you’d like to be included!

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Gaming Session: Minecraft, April 30, 2015


Minecraft this week! Usual server/time, 9:30pm EDT / 6:30pm PDT April 30th.

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Symposium, April 2nd: King of Dragon Pass

When King of Dragon Pass was originally released for the PC in 1999, its event-driven storytelling engine was accomplishing a goal that its players had not yet realized they wanted to achieve: a fluid, procedural narrative that emphasized the dynamics of tribal conflict in ways that had not yet been seen (or, arguably, been matched ever since).

A mobile re-release of King of Dragon Pass has helped to reintroduce it into the public consciousness and both Rock Paper Shotgun and Flash of Steel have offered interesting observations on the game’s slippery presentation of morality, but perhaps we can branch out from that and discuss any of the following:

  • How do the re-enactments of myths in the heroquests influence the systemic message of this game? Does King of Dragon Pass have anything to say about tradition? (Or perhaps even the great chain of practomime?)
  • Does the game’s spartan presentation enhance or detract from the story that it’s trying to present to the player?
  • Do the strategic/managerial aspects of the game provide sufficient tension to a player’s progression through their generated storyline?

We’ll meet to discuss these questions and more on Thursday, April 2nd at 9:30pm EDT / 6:30pm PDT; voice chat over Skype.

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