Thursday, 4 May 2017

Night in the Woods: Small town blues

The following post contains spoilers for Night in the Woods.

I'm glad I made Re-Entry before I played Infinite Fall's Night in the Woods because if I hadn't, I'd have been pretty disheartened. Like Re-Entry, Night in the Woods is the story of a twenty-something dropout who returns to their rusty hometown, but unlike Re-Entry, Night in the Woods is a deft, atmospheric exploration of mental illness.

Oh, and it looks gorgeous.


In my last post I talked about Re-Entry's biggest shortcoming: the way mental health is gamified. There is a clear distinction in my game between thoughts/actions/words that have objectively positive outcomes, and those that have a detrimental effect on the protagonist's state of mind or self-image. It makes for good gameplay, but it also depicts mental health as a reward for saying or doing the right things. The reality, as Night in the Woods expresses, is far more complex, beautiful and sad.

Thursday, 20 April 2017

I have made a game!

I've made a game with Twine. It's called Re-Entry, and you can play it for free in your browser by downloading it from the Interactive Fiction Database.


The rest of the post is about what I was trying to achieve with the game, which means spoilers, so go and play it now! It takes about half an hour, you can't lose, and the ending changes depending how you behave. If you like it, please do rate it and leave a review on its IFDB page, then head back here for some behind-the-scenes goodness.

Sunday, 1 January 2017

Uncharted 4: A Thief's End - Using reality to deliver the ultimate fantasy

The following article contains spoilers for all 4 Uncharted games.

Many story-driven games use fantastical or other-worldly settings to make the player reflect upon real life, but the Uncharted series has always done the opposite. Nathan Drake, clad in jeans and a plain T-shirt, is possibly the most mundane protagonist ever to front a blockbuster game, and the contrast between the normality of his characterisation and the outlandishness of his adventures is what makes the escapism of the latter so potent.


Unremarkable protagonists are common in films and literature because they make it easy for an audience or reader to imagine that the events in the story are happening to them. However, they're unusual in games because the events are already, unequivocally happening to the player, who therefore wants those events to be as fun and empowering as possible. If it's a given that you are the protagonist anyway, wouldn't you rather play as a space marine/cyborg/wizard/demon hunter than just a "guy in a t-shirt"?

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

A walk into the abyss: Everybody's Gone to the Rapture

Spoiler warning for Everybody's Gone to the Rapture!

I'm pretty nosy. When I go to people's houses, my attention is divided between the conversation and the mantlepiece as I scrutinise the family photos and wonder where the ornaments came from. Are those porcelain spaniels treasured reminders of an endearingly eccentric relative, or did my friends actually buy them?


Fortunately for everyone I know, my love of poking about has long been satisfied by gaming because developers are constantly refining the art of delivering narrative through environment. It's one of the most efficient means of interactive storytelling because it can be so easily integrated into gameplay. The player has to scour every room in a point-and-click anyway, so why not reward them with story as well as the key to the next level? Even in fighters, platformers and shooters, there's no reason why the environments should just be backdrops to the action when thoughtful design means they can convey character and backstory too.*

Sunday, 13 December 2015

The Creation of a World

At 8, I came close to failing an English exam because one of the questions was too exciting. I diligently began by reading through the entire paper, but was immediately derailed by the final assignment:

“Write about the creation of a world.”

Aslan, creator of worlds, from C. S. Lewis’ The Magician’s Nephew. (Pauline Baynes)

Ideas exploded, ripping through my mind and spawning possibilities even as I tried to wrench my attention back to the other questions.