From the archives: What five games say about violence

I originally wrote this in 2013, contrasting the approach taken by five big-name games towards violence. Arguably, recent years have seen greater awareness of what’s possible for a non-violent game, such as “walking simulators”, a renaissance in adventure games, the growing popularity of creation-focused games such as Kerbal Space Program, and outright subversive titles such as This War of Mine.  I look forward to seeing what options are available in another two years.

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“They may be called the Palace Guard, the City Guard, or the Patrol. Whatever the name, their purpose in any work of heroic fantasy is identical: it is, round about Chapter Three (or ten minutes into the film) to rush into the room, attack the hero one at a time, and be slaughtered. No one ever asks them if they want to.”

– Terry Pratchett

I’ve been thinking lately about violence in entertainment; my response to such; and what creators themselves have to say about it. In the last twelve or so months, I’ve played five games that symbolise different attitudes to violence: three “traditional” shooters in which there is no non-lethal option (BioShock Infinite, Tomb Raider, and Spec Ops: The Line), and two stealth/action games (Deus Ex: Human Revolution, Dishonored) that permit a gentler approach.  Below, I table their key differences.

violence-games-table-v2Read more here.

Games of the Year: 2013

This entry is part 4 of 6 in the series Game of the Year Awards

1st Place Award RibbonAs promised, here is my list! As with last year, I’ve highlighted noteworthy achievements, as opposed to trying to single out favourites (so you will see some that I thought were more interesting than fun). I’ll kick off with what I thought were the year’s overarching themes:

 

Theme of the year I: march of the small games. Every year has its notable short and/or cheap indie games, such as FTL in 2012, and in 2013 these included Skulls of the Shogun, Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, Papers: Please, and Gone Home. However, the year also saw a large publisher, Ubisoft, throw its hat into the ring with Call of Juarez: Gunslinger and Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon. Ubisoft is set to continue this trend with Child of Light, and it’ll be interesting to see the extent to which other publishers follow – especially after Tomb Raider missed Square Enix’s expectations, sparking the latest bout of soul-searching about the future of AAA games.

 

Theme of the year II: iteration. In 2012, my favourite games (XCOM, Wargame: European Escalation, Analogue: A Hate Story), as well as other notable titles (FTL, Journey) were all quite novel. Even XCOM, while thematically faithful to the 1994 original, was mechanically unique. 2013, though, was more like 2011 in its preponderance of evolutionary rather than revolutionary games, from the big end of town (Assassin’s Creed IV) to the little guys (Dominions 4), plus expansion packs (Civilization V: Brave New World, XCOM: Enemy Within). That said, we’ll see exceptions below.

Continue reading “Games of the Year: 2013”

What five games say about violence

“They may be called the Palace Guard, the City Guard, or the Patrol. Whatever the name, their purpose in any work of heroic fantasy is identical: it is, round about Chapter Three (or ten minutes into the film) to rush into the room, attack the hero one at a time, and be slaughtered. No one ever asks them if they want to.”

– Terry Pratchett

 

I’ve been thinking lately about violence in entertainment; my response to such; and what creators themselves have to say about it. In the last twelve or so months, I’ve played five games that symbolise different attitudes to violence: three “traditional” shooters in which there is no non-lethal option (BioShock Infinite, Tomb Raider, and Spec Ops: The Line), and two stealth/action games (Deus Ex: Human Revolution, Dishonored) that permit a gentler approach.  Below, I table their key differences.

 

violence-games-table-v2

 

(Note: each game’s violence is largely directed against human enemies, such as mercenaries, cultists, soldiers, or police/city watchmen, as in the quote at the top of the page. Also, there are a few bosses, in both senses of the word; but most enemies are low-ranking grunts.)

 

My comments, and mild spoilers, below. Continue reading “What five games say about violence”

Wiping away debts: the BioShock Infinite spoiler post

This entry is part 2 of 2 in the series BioShock

Since so much of my response to BioShock Infinite is wrapped up in the details of the game’s story, I thought it deserved a short follow-up of its own. As such, there will be extensive spoilers ahead – don’t read this post if you haven’t finished the game!

 

Ready?

Continue reading “Wiping away debts: the BioShock Infinite spoiler post”

BioShock Infinite: The Verdict

This entry is part 1 of 2 in the series BioShock

BI Beauty of the City Marred

 

 

“Bring us the girl, and wipe away the debt.”

 

The year is 1912. With those words ringing in his ears, Booker DeWitt, washed-up private detective and protagonist of Irrational Games’ BioShock Infinite, makes his way into the flying city of Columbia. On his shoulders lie several burdens: the fate of Elizabeth, the young woman he’s been tasked to bring back to New York. His own destiny, as it becomes intertwined with hers. And lastly, the weight of the BioShock franchise, one of the most acclaimed in gaming.

 

Not playing much of the previous BioShock games (1) did nothing to water down my expectations for BI, a game whose promised features read like my wishlist. A game that gives players an array of special powers, and rewards them for ingenuity? An original setting, layering vibrant, imaginative mad science atop an underused historical era? A companion character, Elizabeth, for us to like and grow attached to? Sign me up! Read on to find out (spoiler-free) how the game fared against my hopes.

Continue reading “BioShock Infinite: The Verdict”