Tag Archives: video games

Reviews of Interactive Fiction

Reviewed in this post:
Dear Esther
The Stanley Parable
Gone Home

I had the three best days of computer gaming in my life.

I used Steam (an app store, mostly used for Windows games) for the first time when it was required to use Half Life 2. My experience was so bad I’ve not touched it again for a decade.

But in ten years, a lot have changed.

Steam is now an awesome app store for computer games of all sorts, including interactive fiction. Unlike game which focus on fighting, shooting, or twitching, Modern interactive fiction focuses on telling a story thru the interface of a computer game.

Each of these “games” took between 2 to 5 to play. All were haunting.

The Most Haunting: Dear Esther

Dear Esther, a gorgeous video game that takes place outdoors on the Hebrides, revolves around three texts. The first appear to be written by the protagonist to a woman, Esther. The second is a fictitious history of the island, written by Donnelly. (A similar device is used in The Third Policeman, which constantly refers to works by the imaginary de Selby). The third is a passage from the Acts of the Apostles

Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”

“Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.

“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”

The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. 9 For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.g

After finishing Dear Esther I felt much older, and much sadder. The feeling stayed with me for some time.

dear-esther-2

The game has a beautiful soundtrack, that you can listen to for free on Spotifiy.

The Most Thought-Provoking: The Stanley Parable


(note the trailer above starts like a typical review. It’s not. It’s made by the people who created the game itself)

It’s extremely hard to describe The Stanley Parable without giving it away. The game is subversive in that word’s best sense — the best description I have heard is “Stanley is game that knows it is a game being played by those who know they are playing a game that knows it is playing a game.”

the-stanley-parable-start-screen-970x0

Fortunately, Stanley Parable also has an amazing and free demo, which teases the meaning of the game without giving it away. You can play the free Stanley Parable Demo on Steam.

The Most Political: Gone Home

If I had not played The Stanley Parable and Dear Esther the day before and after I played Gone Home, Home would be one of the top games I’ve played in years. As it is Home is a fine game, and the story stays with you.

You begin Gone Home on your parents front porch after a trip abroad. A note from your sister tells you that she has left, and not to follow her. The dor is locked, and no one is home. While walking through the house you gradually discover what has happened — both in the last year and the last decades — with the artifacts left behind by the overlapping stories of your father, mother, and sister.

gone-home

As the pieces fit together, Gone Home takes on an increasingly strident tone, and you’re left with a very clear impression of which politicians and issues the authors support, and which they despise. The focus on issues that matter a great deal to many now — and will be largely irrelevant to those in the future — limits the appeal of Gone Home both to those who are around now (effectively excluding those of different voices) and in the future (who simply won’t care).

Conclusion

Interactive fiction is a beautiful, moving, and even controversial form of art.

The first video game was made in 1947. That means video games are 66 years old. By comparison, the first moving pictures were shot in 1841. 66 years later was 1907.

We are in the 1900s of video games.

The future is going to be incredible.

Computer Games Aren’t Bad For You, and The Internet Is Good For You

The text’s statements on computer games are doubtful. It states that “an increasing number of studies show that playing violent games, like watching violent TV, increases hostility and aggression.” However, more than half of studies looking at the connection between media violence and violent activity failed to find any significant link (Pinker 311). The spread of video games has mirrored the fall in the violent crime rate. Nor it is clear that the greater appeal of software applications to boys than girl is a problem. Newborn boys show a greater affection for mechanical contraptions than newborn girls in their first day (Alford and Hibbing 2004), so how are similar observations later on surprising? Likewise, the the Columbine shooters played “Doom” lessens when one learns the last game they played was bowling (Moore 2002).


Following the text’s advice on the Internet can impede development. The author focuses on negative aspects of electronic communication, such as increased loneliness and exploitation. Then what to make of these quotes: “I’m from a medium-sized city, I’ve still found it hard to find good company…” (Chirol 2006) and “The Internet makes this far easier in today’s world.” (Curzon 2006)? They are statements of domain experts on how Internet communication has allowed them to experience the advantages of geographical nearness (tdaxp 2006) that is required for expertise in a talent domain (Csikszentmihalyi 1996, Gardner 1997).

A focus on negative aspects of new technology is harmful, especially when combined with an incomplete literature review or pessimism. The Internet is good for you, and video games don’t hurt. At least, that’s what scientific research tells us.

Bibliography

tdaxp. (2006). The Creativity Anarchy. Paper for Creativity, Talent, and Expertise.
Alford, J. and Hibbing, J. (2004). The Origin of Politics: An Evolutionary Theory of Political Behavior. Perspective on Politics, Vol. 2 No. 4, 707-723.
Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1996). Creativity: Flow and the psychology of discovery and invention. New York: Harper Perennial.
Curzon, G. (2006). Personal communication.
Chirol, I. (2006). Personal Communication.
Gardner, H. (1997). Extraordinary Minds. New York: Basic Books.
Moore, M. (2002). Bowling for Columbine. MGM Distribution Co.

More Videogames, Less Violence

Adam of The Metropolis Times is a longtime blogfriend of tdaxp. Recently he has taken to vidcasting, and one such vidcast (on video games and crime) has been taken up by the popular videogames-and-politics site Game Politics.

Watch the video


Don’t Tread On Videogames

and join the discussion.

The link between electronic entertainment and a peaceful society has been discussed on tdaxp before

And remember: watch the video.