Symposium: Undertale, January 4, 2018

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For our January symposium, we will be discussing Undertale (2015). Available on Steam, GoG, and PSN, Undertale (2015) turns many conventions and assumptions about the RPG genre upside-down and inside-out. Offering the ability to end conflicts through “Mercy” options and negotiations, it builds on an often-forgotten history of non-combat solutions found in early Shin Megami Tensei and other games where defeating your opponent in a random encounter was not the sole or even optimal answer to continue.

For this symposium, let’s continue to build on the previous months and our thoughts on the “unexplored spaces” in games. Like with our previous talk on Tacoma (2017) and Her Story (2015), and use of different perspectives on conversation, let’s pair Undertale (2015) with other RPG and JPRG titles. How does the ability to negotiate change combat dynamics? Does the often silly presentation of the game distract from its more serious message of confronting and trying to overcome our assumptions of the world? Does Undertale (2015) point to an even greater possibilities where conflict need not always mean combat in random encounters?

As always, we’ll meet at 8:30pm EDT / 5:30pm PDT on Skype.

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Gaming Session: Minecraft, December 21, 2017

Minecraft this Thursday!  8:30pm EST / 5:30pm PST.

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Symposium: Nier: Automata, December 7, 2017

For our December Symposium, I’d like to talk about Nier: Automata.  I’m particularly interesting in linking it to our recent discussion of Her Story and, especially, Tacoma: discussing the games’ different approaches to viewing the same scene from multiple characters’ perspectives.  But if we end up talking about nihilism and/or morality as well, that’s great too.

We’re meeting at a super-exciting half-an-hour-early time of 8:00pm EST / 5:00pm PST.

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Gaming Session: Minecraft, November 30, 2017

Minecraft! Thursday, 8:30pm EST / 5:30pm PST.

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Symposium: Her Story, November 3, 2017

The November Symposium will be on Her Story, hosted by Pat Holleman. In Pat’s words:

Thursday’s game will be Her Story.  I want to say as little about it as possible, because it is such an unorthodox game.  As of this writing, I haven’t “beaten” it, nor do I know how that would be accomplished.  I don’t really have a framework for talking about the game either, because I’m pretty sure each one of our experiences of the game will be so different.  So, if we can, I’d like for each of us to simply describe their path through the game, and what our impressions of that game were at pivotal points–even though those points will all be different!

We’ll meet this Thursday at 8:30pm EDT / 5:30pm PDT.

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Gaming Session: Minecraft, October 26, 2017

Minecraft this week!  Thursday, October 26 at 8:30pm EDT / 5:30pm PDT.

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Symposium 5 October 2017: Tacoma

Tacoma - Clive Siddiqi replay

We had some good preliminary conversation about what exactly we (or anyone) might mean by the term “walking simulator,” in relation to What Remains of Edith Finch. Though the original, pejorative intent behind the phrase seems to me unhelpful, the idea that the conventions of some outmoded idea of “good” game-design might actually be subverted into a quieter narrative experience worth savoring appeals greatly to me. Tacoma seems a likely candidate for discussion on this score.

Topics I plan to bring up include the relationship between the conventional adventure-game mechanics and the innovative narrative-discovery mechanics of Tacoma, how both/either of those deliver or fail to enable an affecting performance on the part of the player, and (the doozy) whether it makes sense to continue calling such works as Tacoma “games.” To be clear, I don’t expect that arguing semantics in the case of the last topic will be rewarding or even diverting, but the cultural categories underlying words like “game” are undergoing such rapid transformation, as I see it, that placing Tacoma within various cultures (gaming, online, mainstream even) could well help us describe important developments in our changing world. Perhaps it’s something of a bonus that Fullbright seem to have been thinking of similar kinds of transformation as they developed the themes of Tacoma.

Here’s the Polygon review so that we have something at which to fire off salvos.

This Thursday, at 8:30pm EDT / 5:30pm PDT, we’ll discuss.

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