The Strength of Heart Required to Face Oneself

Persona and Recovery

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Content warning for illness, anxiety, and surgery.

It’s hard to know what exactly you should do the hour after you’ve been diagnosed with kidney cancer. I was in that awkward time between the shock and terror of receiving the initial diagnosis and reaching out to my friends and family for support; it was still too soon for me to tell anyone about it. Once my dad and I got into the car and started the long journey back to his house through the city, I stared outside at all the people going about their lives, perhaps walking from one class to another or running a little late to lunch, and craved that sort of normalcy. For me, that meant gaming. So I asked my dad to take me to Gamestop. Continue Reading

A Pace of Walking

Silent Hill, Trauma, and Mapping

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It occurs to me that some video games might have a “soul” or a thesis kept out of sight, locked away from interactive or procedural elements. And to access this soul one might have to look at these story elements not as a whole but working in their constituent parts.

Think about the painting, Conscience, Judas by Nikolai Ge, that depicts Judas in a moment swiftly following Christ’s arrest. Continue Reading

Like Clockwork

Working Through Depression in Shovel Knight’s Clockwork Tower

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At the start of each of Shovel Knight’s nine main levels, the game’s eponymous hero springs in from off-screen and lands on his feet, shovel held aloft, as if to challenge the enemies that await. In all but one of those levels, there seems to be a world outside the one he’s about to explore—a ledge that continues back beyond the edge of the screen, or a pathway that has begun to morph into the cliffs and valleys of the upcoming stage. Continue Reading

Dungeons and Queers

Reparative Play in Dungeons and Dragons

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I play Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) at least once a week–more if I can convince my friends to play with me. I have a monthly tabletop gaming group where we try new and weird role-playing games (RPGs) like Fiasco and Dread, where there are a few rules that create a space of play that’s otherwise pretty boundless. But I always come back to D&D. It’s something special, getting to play with friends in worlds that I’ve imagined alone for so long (see also my long-standing obsession with Bioware-style RPGs, heavy on character creation and relationship-building). Continue Reading

Stirring the Pot

Cooking, Compression and the Quotidian in Breath of the Wild

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I don’t much like cooking in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. I understand its aesthetical value—the imperative to scrounge together enough sustenance for basic survival, especially in the early game. However the more I played and more I discovered, the less novel it became, and the lofty rhetoric surrounding the game only made this dissatisfaction harder to swallow. “Get lost!”, “Turn off the HUD!”, “Figure it out yourself!” and contradictorily “It’s the first ‘real’ Zelda adventure, the other games were only legends, man” against “C’mon grandma break out the graph paper, it’s exactly like Zelda 1!” Continue Reading

Weight of the World

How NieR: Automata’s soundtrack embodies the game’s themes and mood

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Content Notification: reference to suicide

NieR: Automata tells the story of the androids and robots who are fighting over the last remains of humanity. Both the androids and the robots display behaviors learned from humans, whether integrated into their own behavior or just mindless mimicking without understanding of why they’re doing it. In the end, it’s revealed that humanity has been extinct for a long time, but it hardly needs revealing, as one of the most striking things about Automata is its use of absence and artifice to speak to the nature of humanity without ever portraying a human at all. Its soundtrack, composed by Keiichi Okabe, reflects this as it strikes appropriate tones of melancholy, emptiness, and repetition. Continue Reading