Gaming Session: Minecraft, September 27, 2018

Minecraft this Thursday! 8:30 pm EDT, 5:30pm PDT, voice chat over Discord.

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Symposium: Inside, September 6, 2016

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.

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Gaming Session: Minecraft, August 30, 2018

Minecraft this Thursday!  We’ll be trying out Discord instead of Skype for voice chat.  8:30pm EDT / 5:30pm PDT.

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Symposium, August 2nd: Earthbound and Faith in Video Games

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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.

Supplemental Material:

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Gaming Session: Minecraft, July 26, 2018

Minecraft this week; Thursday at 8:30pm EDT / 5:30pm PDT.

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Gaming Session: Minecraft, June 28, 2018

Minecraft this Thursday!  5:30pm PDT / 8:30pm EDT.  And, as a reminder, no symposium next week.

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Symposium: Night in the Woods, June 7, 2018

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Night in the Woods (2017) asks us to consider the mundane life of a college drop-out. The banal day-to-day of a small town. Until, that is, it doesn’t. It is the story of returning to a small midwestern town and the weird fate in store for Mae, a cat person. Who lives in a town where the animals are also people.

This Thursday, June 7, 2018, (at 8:30pm EDT / 5:30pm PDT) we will meet again on Skype to talk about our experiences with the game, what we took away from it, and how good (or not) we were at playing the sweet bass mini-game.

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