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

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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

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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

Creating and Queering Space with Player Housing

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With the shutdown of massively multiplayer online roleplaying game WildStar (Carbine Studios, 2014), many players are reflecting on the lost potential of the game. The game offered an interesting combat system, unique and playful character design, and most strikingly a deep player housing system. Now past its foreclosure, I want to reflect on the importance of player housing, and other building systems in games, that allow for players to create space and community within game worlds. Few games offer players the opportunity to impact their world in meaningful, creative, and unique ways, often instead having players move through expansive open-worlds or along a set narrative path. Continue Reading

Dark as a Dungeon

Fallout 76 and the Coal Mining Industry

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I was ten hours into playing Fallout 76 when it finally happened—a moment I had warily anticipated since I first learned the latest installment in the franchise would be set in West Virginia. My character, the self-styled Shotgun Nurse of the Wasteland, was descending into a coal mine. It was the final step in my character’s training before officially joining the Fire Breathers, a group of post-apocalyptic firefighters headquartered in the crumbling remains of the Charleston Fire Department. All that was left was to activate an emergency beacon located in the sulphurous depths of Belching Betty, the site of a subterranean mine fire that had raged for untold years. Continue Reading