Tag Archives: Games Criticism

Human Machines (Haywire)

Hello lovely people,

I’m a little late reporting this here, but last week I published my second article for my Haywire column, on SOMA. It’s called Human Machines and… it’s not terrible?

Some background info after the break. Continue reading Human Machines (Haywire)


Enjoying the Problematic?

“It’s both possible, and even necessary, to simultaneously enjoy media while also being critical of its more problematic or pernicious aspects”

This is Ria Jenkins’s phrasing (on The Guardian) of an idea that Anita Sarkeesian repeats at the beginning of most of the Tropes vs Women videos. Admittedly, Anita’s choice of words constitutes a slightly weaker claim. From Women as Background Decoration Part 1: “It’s entirely possible to be critical of some aspects of a piece of media while still finding other parts valuable or enjoyable.” But I’d like to go with the stronger assertion of the Guardian article, because it’s an idea that gets thrown around a lot without much examination. Continue reading Enjoying the Problematic?

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

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