For All the Broken Vessels

Compassion in the Final Moments of Hollow Knight

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At times it can seem as if the world of videogames, just like the raucous meatspace around us, is first and foremost designed with the loudest and fiercest of stories in mind. All too often, and with relative ease, they appear to drown out the quieter moments for which this unique art form can allow; and taken at face value, the somewhat elusive genre of Metroidvanias seems by definition to fit right into this very mold. After all, its guiding principle is growth—be it in the form of deeper understanding, improved skills, or (of course) greater power. Continue Reading

Spiritual Heritage

The Shared Spiritual Themes of Persona 5 and The Wind Up Bird Chronicle

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Content Notification: References to sexual violence

After Persona 4 received widespread critical acclaim and built a large, passionate fanbase, Persona 5 (P5) became one of the most anticipated games during the many years it was in development. While the game was exceptional by conventional standards for game releases, the general consensus tended to be slightly underwhelming as a follow-up to one of the most critically acclaimed and beloved games of all time. Continue Reading

de Blob and the Fun in the Fight

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I’ve played through the first level of de Blob more than any other game, on any console, at any time during my gaming life. More than Mario, more than Zelda, more than Master Chief, this little impish orb with eyes has been my constant since I was first introduced to the game by my girlfriend (now wife) in 2012. I was instantly enamored with the 2008 cult hit’s simple, accessible mechanics (optimal for a casual gamer like me), bright colors, catchy music and ostensibly social justice-y plot. Continue Reading

Playing Dead

Queerness, Photography and Video Games

Ting Cover

As early as I can remember, there is a Buddhist shrine carved out of redwood (metasequoia) placed right in front of the entrance door of my family home. As you leave and come home every day, it is the first and last thing you see. On it are three levels; the top level is Guanyin, the bodhisattva that protects peace and tranquility. In the middle are photographic portraits of my ancestors, and on the bottom level is Dizhu Gong, the protector of travel and the land. Continue Reading

Life After an El Presidente

Tropico through a Post-Colonial, Post-Martial Law Lens

Castor Cover

Content Notification: references to torture, sexual violence

“Satire does not work in the Philippines because this country is the theater for the absurd.” – Carljoe Javier, author

I thought about that one cold November night, looking down at a crowd of students wearing black, standing right next to the major road outside our school. The nightly Manila traffic beeped their horns as they passed by, seeing the signs that said “busina para sa hustisya” or “honk for justice”. In the distance, I could see police cars stuck in traffic on approach to the rallying site Continue Reading

VA-11 HALL-A

Queer Spaces and Drug-dream Fantasy

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I first played VA-11 HALL-A (pronounced Valhalla, like the Norse hall of gods) the day it released while I was living in an indoor patio used to house dog kennels. I only had a mattress to my name and ate instant noodles just to survive. Such is the life that VA-11 HALL-A’s protagonist, Jill, lives in her pursuit to pay rent by the end of the month during a financial crisis plaguing Glitch City. This title is as much about escapist-fantasy as it is about survival all while trying to maintain a positive outlook on life. It’s a bittersweet title that wastes no time strapping its player into a queer world of cyberpunk nostalgia, winding conversations about life, and flirtatious drink-mixing. VA-11 HALL-A is preoccupied with the question of what does capitalism ultimately give us, and what do we receive in exchange for not just our physical labor, but our emotional labor, too. Continue Reading

Memory Trading

A Singularity of Self

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Melted wax oozing from my left arm, I make another feeble swing at Suago-mo. I miss, my waxflab appendage severed from my body by their counter-attack. “Well, that solves the infection,” I think to myself, trying not to panic as oozing wax is replaced with gushing blood. Now, several hours into this character, exploring a historical site that had been brought to my attention within the first moments of gameplay seemed something I was very much capable of by this point. Continue Reading