Category Archives: Discussions

Poverty & Powerlessness Part 3 – A Postcard From Afthonia

A Postcard from Afthonia is a fitting work to end this essay on. Not only it’s aware of the arguments put forward by Three Fourths Home and Little Inferno, but, given that starting point, it focuses on what can be done to try to make things better, and what we can reasonably hope for. There is an ambitious vision behind the work, and, unlike our other games, it’s much more explicit about its political ideas. Continue reading Poverty & Powerlessness Part 3 – A Postcard From Afthonia

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Poverty & Powerlessness Part 2 – Little Inferno

“I don’t have to tell you things are bad. Everybody knows things are bad. It’s a depression. Everybody’s out of work, or scared of losing their job and every day is colder than the last. The dollar buys a nickel’s worth. Banks are going bust. Shopkeepers keep guns under the counter. Punks are running wild into the street. There’s nobody anywhere who seems to know what to do and there’s no end to it. We know the air is unfit to breathe, and our food is unfit to eat. We sit watching our TVs while some local newscaster over the smoke stacks tells us that today we had 15 homicides and 63 violent crimes and that thick snow clouds are rolling in from all directions as if that’s the way it’s supposed to be.

We know things are bad. Worse than bad. They’re crazy. It’s like everything everywhere is going crazy, so we don’t go out anymore, we just stare into the fire for hours and days. We sit in the house, and slowly the world we’re living in is getting smaller, and all we say is ‘Please! At least leave us alone in our living rooms! Let me have my toaster, and my TV, and my steel-belted radials and my Little Inferno Entertainment Fireplace and I won’t say anything. Just leave me alone’ Well I’m not gonna leave you alone. I want you to turn around! I want you to get mad!

I don’t want you to protest, I don’t want you to riot, I don’t want you to write to your congressman because I wouldn’t know what to tell you to write. I don’t know what to do about the depression and the inflation and the Russians and the crime in the streets and the smoke stacks. All I know is that first, you’ve got to turn around! You’ve got to get mad! You’ve gotta say: ‘I’m a human being, goddammit. My life has value!’

So, I want you to get up now. I want all of you to get up out of your chairs, I want you to get up right now, and go to the window, open it and stick your head out and yell ‘I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not gonna take this anymore!” Continue reading Poverty & Powerlessness Part 2 – Little Inferno

Poverty & Powerlessness Part 1 – Three Fourths Home

To be completely honest, the first impulse to write this article came simply from the fact that I played these three games – Three Fourths Home, Little Inferno and A Postcard from Afthonia – one after the other in quick succession, and I wanted to spend more time with them. But, by themselves, none of them seemed to inspire me to say anything interesting: they’re all quite short, and they explain themselves well enough, I thought. (Are you implying this article, by contrast, is interesting? No, don’t worry, I’d never dare)

But as I thought about them all together, I realized they actually have quite a few themes in common. This is an humble exploration of one of those themes as represented in these games: poverty and powerlessness. Continue reading Poverty & Powerlessness Part 1 – Three Fourths Home

Transistor – Part 2: Tangible Ideas & Celebrating the Physical

Most of the things I’ve talked about in Part 1 actually happen off-screen, before the game proper begins. It’s all backstory, reconstructed from bios, dialogues and clues gathered as we play. The real protagonists of the game are Red and Breach, not the Camerata. Their love story brings ideas down to earth, makes them come alive, lets us touch them. Through its focus on intimacy, it recognizes the fundamental importance of physicality. Transistor is a celebration of the physical. Continue reading Transistor – Part 2: Tangible Ideas & Celebrating the Physical

Transistor – Part 1: Democracy’s Mediocrity & Elitism’s Dangers

Two main threads run through Transistor: the personal, private, intimate storyline centred on Red, and the socio-political focus of the arc involving the Camerata and the city of Cloudbank, almost a character itself. While separate, these two themes are intertwined and meet, as we’ll see, most notably in the character of Sybil Reisz, and then of course during the action of the game itself. I’d like to start from Cloudbank, and the Camerata. Continue reading Transistor – Part 1: Democracy’s Mediocrity & Elitism’s Dangers

Transistor – Introduction: The Parallels with Bastion and The (Un)Importance of Canon

Header image by Jen Zee.

Let’s get this out of the way immediately: I loved Transistor. No, like, loved. Every aspect of it not only works as it should, but is extraordinary in its own right: the soundtrack, the visual style, the characters, the plot, the storytelling, the dynamic, adjustable difficulty, the combat and several design decisions around it that favour experimentation within its incredibly flexible system. And all the parts fit in so well within the whole, and they all make sense within the fiction. It’s definitely up there as one of my favourite games. That said, I can’t say I had the firmest grasp on what had actually happened after my first playthrough. Continue reading Transistor – Introduction: The Parallels with Bastion and The (Un)Importance of Canon

Catherine – Part 3: Freedom from Nightmares

Catherine has 3 branches of endings (Katherine, Freedom and Catherine), for a total of 8 different outcomes. Although some of them are designed as “good” and “bad”, none of them are completely undesirable or “wrong”, and there is no “objectively best” ending either. After all, Astaroth/Ishtar suggests that there are no correct answers, no right way to navigate the game. And it’s true. But I believe one ending is inherently more faithful to the spirit of the story. And here’s why. Continue reading Catherine – Part 3: Freedom from Nightmares