This month’s Symposium will be on Yakuza 0. It’s a game with an unusually detailed setting (and, even more unusually, a series with a persistently detailed setting!); I’d like to talk about how that setting drags the game’s center of gravity away from the putative plot of the game and towards the way that Kiryu’s and Majima’s daily lives are embedded in that setting.
Voice chat over Discord, 8:30pm EDT / 5:30pm PDT.
Minecraft this Thursday; 8:30pm EDT, 5:30pm PDT, voice chat over Discord.
As I mentioned at the last symposium, I’m hoping to push forward our conversation around talking about games, stories, and performance with an experimental ruleset. So I’m hoping that before Thursday night (and we’ll take ten minutes to do this at the beginning of the symposium as necessary) prospective attendees can “play” this “game”:
Write a three paragraph story that begins with “Once upon a time there lived…” Rules: 1) Begin with “Once upon a time there lived…”; 2) write three paragraphs, of any length, as a beginning, a middle, and an end respectively. (By “as a” I mean that the ruleset labels the paragraphs thus, not that you’re obligated to convey anything like a sense of incipience, mediation, or finality in the paragraphs respectively.)
Then bring any thoughts and questions you happen to have concerning the experiment for discussion! We’ll be on the VGHVI Discord at 8:30pm Eastern/5:30pm Pacific, Thursday 4 October.
Minecraft this Thursday! 8:30 pm EDT, 5:30pm PDT, voice chat over Discord.
This month’s Symposium will be on the game Inside. Pat will be leading the discussion; here’s some thoughts from him to kick us off:
Playdead’s INSIDE is a platformer/horror game that tells a story without a single word of dialogue. Or rather, it tells two different stories. In a sense, the second story undoes the first story, although not in the same artful way that the second half of Chrono Trigger undoes the first. Indeed, the second half of the game seems (at least to me) to make the first half less impactful, upon reflection. My question for the session is this: did the fundamental ludic product make the second story in the game necessary? That is, did the need to have an evolution in gameplay mechanics force the developers to extend the story in a detrimental way?
We’ll meet on Thursday, September 6 at 8:30pm EDT / 5:30pm PDT; we’ll be doing voice chat over Discord rather than over Skype this time.
Minecraft this Thursday! We’ll be trying out Discord instead of Skype for voice chat. 8:30pm EDT / 5:30pm PDT.
One of the earliest pieces of “serious” games criticism that I can remember reading on the internet was a sprawl of text from Tim Rogers about Earthbound, a role-playing game released for the Super Nintendo in 1995. Pinballing wildly from one observation to the next, Tim Rogers stakes out an assertion of Earthbound as Shigesato Itoi’s commentary on video gaming as a medium, emphasizing placement and arrangement as the meaningful storytelling within the video game form rather than the shapes and rhythms of conventional narratives.
Earthbound’s status as a funhouse mirror of video games — and on the Dragon Quest lineage of Japanese role-playing games in particular — is so entrenched in our collective understanding of video games criticism that the game (along with Metal Gear Solid 2) is frequently cited as a touchstone for post-modern gestures in contemporary games like Undertale or countless other self-aware indie games. But that lofty perch can also make it hard to see the finer details about both Earthbound and the hegemonic expectations of game narrative that it turns and twists.
If Earthbound is a game that is a commentary on games, how much does it rely on literacy of gaming tropes and structures to deliver its message? How much do you have to steady your heart and believe in Earthbound, even when its brighter moments are consumed by darkness, to find deeper meaning in its play? How cool is it to fight melting Dali clocks as enemy encounters in Moonside? We will get to discuss it all over a long coffee break on Skype this Thursday at 8:30pm EDT / 5:30pm PDT.