It’s not been a great year, huh? On both personal and political fronts — and if there were anything separating the two before, it has surely been eroded now — there’s been considerable cause to despair. I’m sure that’s the case for many people reading this, faced with unceasing inequality, the unabated devastation of climate change, continual widespread bigotry of all kinds, war, terrorism, and the resurgence of fascism in the western world. There has been one bright spot amidst all this darkness for me, however: videos of Nazis getting knocked the fuck out.
This might seem like a direct follow-on from the last episode, regarding remasters, but looks can be deceiving. Episode seven is an entirely new instalment which carries on the story from last time but with better graphics, gameplay, mechanics, and a whole lot of new bells and whistles. Well, not really. But the new edition of the Bleeping Sickness podcast is about sequels! Join us, won’t you?
My name is Tom and I am the idiot who sees a Reddit thread titled “what is the creepiest unexplained thing that’s ever happened to you” at 1 AM, home alone, and thinks that yes, that seems like a good thing to click on. These places are mostly repositories for repurposed urban legends, and the occasional half-baked creepypasta, but nonetheless: some of these stories stick with me. One that continues to trouble my memory centres at inopportune moments goes something like this. A man (I think he might have been an ex-marine) was driving on some rural highway late at night. He turns a corner and sees a car, stationary, in the middle of the road, with two people lying on the ground outside of it. It doesn’t look like an accident. It looks staged. He trusts his instincts and guns it past the bizarre scene and then, when he checks it out in his rearview, the two people stand up, and are joined by another dozen or so individuals who emerge from the bushes either side of the road. Fuck every single part of this story, and David Lynch and Mark Frost for reminding me of it.
Back once again it’s the videogame remasters! The sixth episode of the Bleeping Sickness podcast is all about HD remakes, SD remakes, ports, cash grabs, whatever you wanna call the thing where they put an old game on your new console and expect you to be excited about it. And sometimes it is exciting! Full show notes under the jump.
The byline says Tom, but in fact this is the second post by Special Guest Jess, who you might have heard on the recent Overwatch episode of the podcast! Read her previous guest blog, on Gone Home, over here. It’s real good, and so is this.
Storytelling is not something you usually think is high on the priority list with first-person shooter games without a single-player campaign or concrete plotline, but Blizzard’s 2016 title Overwatch is a lesson in showing, not telling. The game’s primary modes do not move along a plot, nor do they reveal the story through unlocked cutscenes. Nearly all the storytelling elements are littered throughout as rewards for levelling up: unlocked items, maps, visuals and voice lines of the characters, as well as a whole stack of tangential media including comics and animated shorts. The type of gameplay does not lend itself to storytelling, nor do games of this genre usually tell stories (without a single player campaign) to the extent that Overwatch does. You get the feeling that it comes with a backpack full of lore, a sense of history and time, without ever progressing time or narrative with your player actions.
Overwatch, ever heard of it? For the fifth episode of the Bleeping Sickness podcast we (including Special Guest Jess!) chat breeze about Blizzard’s little-known class-based multiplayer online shooter starring a monkey, a robot, and Dick Van Dyke’s character from Mary Poppins reincarnated into the body of a time-travelling queer woman. Open up this loot box, chums, and it’s all friggin’ gold.
There are no monsters in this story, only men. Also, monsters. The fourth episode of Bleeping Sickness is about our favourite video game villains and what exactly makes a good bad guy! Is that a contradiction in terms? Meh. Full show notes below the jump!
Cahiers du Jeux Vidéo is a series of posts comparing the narrative mechanisms of video games and movies with (hopefully) a bit more depth rigour than your average commentator breathlessly comparing Halo preorders to box office receipts. It’s named after foundational French film magazine Cahiers du Cinéma , because I’m a pretentious prick.
So: the whole conceit of this series is that we’re comparing video games to movies, and one of the key differences we’ve hit upon between the two so far is that playing a game is an “active” engagement with a piece of media, while watching a film is more “passive”; not a value judgement, but an important distinction. There are plenty of 1:1 comparisons between the roles of game development teams and movie crews, however. Environmental artists are not unlike production designers and location scouts. Those who work on character models are like hair and makeup, the costume department and casting directors rolled into one. Each form uses writers, directors, composers, producers, even actors. But the latter’s work appears mainly in cutscenes where the player cedes control of what’s happening on screen — that’s when games are most like movies. The rest of the time, the player has a part in this ecosystem. I put it to you: when you play a game, you are “performing.” You’re the star of this movie!
It’s the second of our Bleeping Sickness Bonus Episodes wrapping up the back half of the pre-E3 presentations! Did we almost write “12” instead of “2” in the title up there? You betcha, the Electronic Entertainment Expo is a dimensions where subjective linear time has no meaning and eSports is king. Chilling. Good thing we managed to condense it all down to an hour long show, eh. You can listen to part one here!
Coming to video games when I did, in the late nineties/early noughties, there were certain enshrined truths passed down from the mount by journos: Miyamoto was a genius, but Iwata deserves his due; GoldenEye 007 is the multiplayer experience to beat; Suikoden II is a classic, and you need to shell out however much money necessary to play it; Beyond Good and Evil is one of the greatest games ever made, and perhaps as a result of this unlikely achievement, we would never ever get a sequel. These were all things that had been decided long before I arrived, and were simply to be accepted as fact.