Symposium, June 1, 2023 – Hi-Fi Rush

Hi-Fi-Rush (2023) stealth-dropped during the Developer_Direct stream from Xbox on Jan 25, 2023. Within a week, IGN, PC Gamer, and PC Mag had praised its art direction and soundtrack. However, many, like PC Gamer, have noted how its rhythm mechanics can be frustrating over longer periods.

For this symposium, let’s consider the past in conversation with the present. Hi-Fi Rush (2023) is drawing from a longer history of “stylish-action” games like the combat heavy Devil May Cry series and platformers like the Racket and Clank series. Yet, by incorporating a rhythm-based mechanic, it is also invoking a past across series like Gutiar Hero and Rock Band through which players are asked to perform against a pace set by the game for the best results. It is also in direct conversation with the more recent Metal: Hellsinger (2022) and its own rhythm-based combat set in the first-person perspective.

Let’s chat about our own thoughts on Hi-Fi Rush (2023) this coming Thursday, June 1, 2023 starting at 8:30 EDT / 7:30 CDT / 5:30 PDT over Discord.

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Symposium, May 4th – Against the Storm

The magic word for so many descriptions and writeups of Against the Storm is “roguelite” – even the game’s developer can’t resist using the term when asked to describe their work in this city-builder.

If we push ourselves to escape the gravitational pull of that label, however, I think we can find that the procedural flourishes of Against the Storm function more as narrative texture behind a classic XCOM approach of multimodal strategy where tactical combat against alien invaders has been replaced by small-scale colonization of a hostile, almost apocalyptic world. With each “pack” of orders provided by a fearsome Queen that oversees this struggle against the elements, the player selects and then constructs a more goal-oriented structure for a city-building genre that often struggles with aimlessness.

Does this structural conceit compromise the usual expressivity of the city-building mechanics at play? Is it possible to have too many systems and layers in a game of this scale? Should the Queen’s mission of “securing a future” against the titular Storm give us pause?

We embark upon further contemplation of these ideas on Thursday at 8:30 EDT / 7:30 CDT / 5:30 PDT, with voice chat over Discord. All manner of royal subjects from beavers to lizards are welcome to attend.

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Symposium: I Was a Teenage Exocolonist, April 6, 2023

This month we’re talking about I Was a Teenage Exocolonist, with David leading the discussion. I’m interested in discussing the game because it includes components that relate to a wide range of types of games we’ve discussed over recent years: it’s got a strong narrative component, it pairs that narrative with a deckbuilder component, and while I Was a Teenage Exocolonist isn’t a roguelike, its time loop mechanic puts the game in conversation with that genre as well. So I’m curious to see whether other people think that mixture of genres succeeds, and what other characteristics of the game strike us.

Discussion over Discord at 8:30pm EDT / 7:30pm CDT / 5:30pm PDT.

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Symposium: Vampire Survivors, March 2, 2023

This month, we’re discussing Vampire Survivors, with Ariel leading the discussion. Some questions that Ariel proposes to discuss:

  • Did you engage in the social scene around the game, including watching Let’s Plays, using the wiki, or talking to other players about it?
  • What was your overall experience with the weapon evolutions? How did they add to the game? How difficult or easy were they to discover?
  • Did you attempt any of the challenges given by the achievements?
  • How was the game’s pacing? Did you try hyper or hurry mode?

We’re meeting at 8:30pm EST / 7:30pm CST / 5:30pm PST, voice chat over Discord.

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Symposium 2 February 2023: The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game (redux)

For this month’s symposium, I’d like to revisit LOTRTCG through the lens of our experiences playing it over the last few months. In particular, how does the experience of playing a cooperative adventure card game influence our understanding of any or all of the following:

  • the storyworld of the game
  • the thematics in the game that tie our performances to that storyworld
  • the meta-ludic activities associated with the game (deckbuilding, in particular, but also participation in communities of practice dedicated to the game or to other games or aspects of the storyworld)
  • the special kind of virtuosity demanded and fostered by the game, and its relation to other kinds of virtuosity we’ve discussed

Discussion on Discord at 8:30 Eastern/5:30 Pacific!

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Symposium: Norco, December 1, 2022

It’s hard not to put the point-and-click adventure game Norco (2022) in conversation with Kentucky Route Zero (2013). Both present their own takes on the surreal South, a location as much grounded in the poverty of the moment as it is in the slowly bankrupting of the future by glacial, often unwelcome technological forces eroding away at time and memory. Yet, perhaps, while KRZ (2013) presents a journey of grief into a mourning of light as a community rises above when they come together, the flesh of Norco (2022) is weaker still. The technology has reached too far, and escape is a matter of the best among the worst.

This month, we discuss Norco (2022). Some topics to ponder as we make our way through the swamp are:

  • It is unusual for a new point-and-click game to come out. Yet, much of the success of Norco (2022) is in delivering its slow, ponderous journey into the unknown and increasingly surreal. How much does the mechanics of clicking through a story implicate the player into the consequences of the character? With no ability to turn back, is the slow progress forward the only way, and does such a metaphor work as both mechanic and storytelling tool for this purpose?
  • Both Norco (2022) and Kentucky Route Zero (2013) consider the South as a surreal, at times beautiful, but ultimately damned place where the people struggle and hope is rare. How much does the setting play a role in Norco (2022)? Could this be told with the same affect somewhere else? Could another place have taken on the same thematic meaning as a place flooded, and which will be flooded again?
  • How much does the aesthetics of the game play into its metaphors of the wrapping of everyday life by digital technology? Information can seemingly be perfectly preserved, yet living memory is cloudy and many faces are swirls of colors or tangles of flesh. What does this say about the role of memory, both recorded and living?

We’re meeting at 8:30 pm ET / 7:30 pm CST / 5:30 pm PT for voice chat on Discord.

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Gaming Session: LotR Card Game, November 17, 2022

We’re playing the Lord of the Rings card game on Thursday. Gameplay on Dragncards, voice chat over Discord; 8:30 EST / 7:30 CST / 5:30 PST.

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Symposium: Dicey Dungeons, November 3, 2022

This month we’re going to discuss Dicey Dungeons. Its store page describes it as a “deckbuilding roguelike”; do we think that a characterization of it as a dice-based deckbuilding roguelike accurately covers what’s interesting about the game, or is there something else going on there? Or do we just want to talk about random Terry Cavanagh games?

We’re meeting at 8:30pm EDT / 7:30pm CDT / 5:30pm PDT (I had to check, but yes, we really are still in daylight savings time even though we’re entering November, the clocks won’t change until November 6); voice chat on Discord.

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Gaming Session: Lord of the Rings Card Game, November 27, 2022

We’re returning to the LotR card game this week. Depending on who’s there, we’ll either keep on going with the game with Roger and me that’s turned into a complete disaster, or the game with Roger, Steve, and me that is probably a disaster but maybe that’s slightly less clear? Or maybe we’ll start one of those over, or maybe we’ll work Dan into the mix.

Thursday at 8:30pm EDT, 7:30pm CDT, 5:30pm PDT; DragnCards / Discord.

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Symposium, October 6th – Citizen Sleeper

Somehow, Citizen Sleeper has managed to land right in the intersection of so many of our Symposium discussions, from Disco Elysium’s interrogation of the narrative capabilities of tabletop mechanics to Nier Automata’s exploration of how the body and self are damaged or even severed by cruelties of the future.

We will cast our dice on Thursday at 8:30 EDT / 7:30 CDT / 5:30 PDT, with voice chat over Discord. Survivors welcome.

Supplemental Reading:
Citizen Sleeper Is a Game About Finding Home in a World That Hates You [Renata Price, Waypoint]
You Wouldn’t Download a Body [Kaile Hultner, No Escape]
The Melancholy Realism of Citizen Sleeper [Cameron Kunzelman, Paste]
Conversation in the Ruins of Interplanetary Capitalism [Ruth Cassidy w/Gareth Damian Martin, Unwinnable]

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