Thoughts on nearby covers

Thoughts on some covers - Alien Trilogy

This piece is community funded. If you enjoyed this article, please support my writing by visiting my Patreon and becoming a patron. 

One of my most vivid videogame-related childhood memories is this. In July of 1996, my brother, the middle one, had done our mam no favours by asking for a copy of Alien Trilogy for his birthday. Despite the game having launched four months earlier, which in modern terms would have made it a hundred years old by July, nowhere in our area had any copies in stock. By which I mean, none of the three local video rental shops had it in stock, because this was Ireland at a time when the commercial exchange of games was a novel quirk and not a viable business angle.

Packed into the car were we for a rare trip to The Tallaght Square, famous in our minds for reason number one of being the only remotely accessible shopping centre in the greater Dublin area at a time before Blanchardstown and Liffey Valley. Reason number two for its fame was that it was pyramidal, not square, and this for us, pre-internet, constituted a joke whose humour was always worth revisiting.

So it was immediately a bit of a journey just to find this game, and when we did recover a copy in The Square, it felt all the more of a treasure. I’m sure there were other errands on that trip but my memory tells me it was the only thing we came away with. My brothers and I passed the box around for the long drive home, poring over the manual and delighting in anticipation of what the box cover suggested, foreboding the Alien’s imminent pounce. Once at home we put it on and certainly thrilled in the experience, but now I suspect I didn’t enjoy it half as much I did its prelude.

Perhaps it’s because back then we had fewer games and an over-abundance of free time that we would so patiently gorge on a game’s extra material like aesthetes at an art museum. Now, as I have no lack of the former but absolute lack of the latter, I seldom consciously dwell on a game’s cover as intensely as I used to. While I still variably note my appreciation for or dislike of any given box art, I don’t study what I enjoy about it and savour the anticipation or place it in context, beyond exceptional circumstances. I miss that.

So, with my limited vocabulary, I’d like to take a spell to put that sort of mindfulness to a platoon of games stationed at hand beside me, them dust-coated sentries what have kept me company these past years of working and writing. Continue reading

Advertisements

On the much hated and woefully overlooked Codec radio

On the much hated and woefully overlooked Codec Radio

This piece is community funded. If you enjoyed this article, please support my writing by visiting my Patreon and becoming a patron. 

In a recent video on Persona 3, I talked about how the dating sim-slash-dungeon crawler uses its menus to overlay a certain optimism towards the glacial crisis that was—and still is—complicating the future of Japanese society. This aspect of Persona 3’s menus arises from an assumption I make, and I don’t think it’s too controversial an assumption, about menus existing in games as a mode of introspection.

What do I mean by this?

In an alternate universe I provided a couple of examples to give this interpretation more weight, one example of which was the codec menu in the Metal Gear Solid games. Unlike that marvellous alternate universe, however, time in our universe runs at a rate of one second per second, and to keep the video short and within its scope the example of Metal Gear Solid had to be cut. Instead, I’d like to expand the idea in this article, partly as a complimentary piece to the Persona 3 video, and partly to justify a shabby and safe assumption about videogames that as far as I can tell nobody has contested. Continue reading

Snakes and Ladders

This piece is community funded. If you enjoyed this article, please support my writing by visiting my Patreon and becoming a patron. 

[Minor spoilers for Metal Gear Solid 3, Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective and Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishments.]

Before I talk about Sherlock Holmes, I’m going to talk about my favourite moment in Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater. It’s the most lauded game in a series a dozen titles long, each one full of the maddest stuff you wouldn’t believe. Comedy ghosts and philosopher warriors and soviet space magic. And the best bit is when Snake climbs up a ladder while music plays.

If you’ve played the game you know what I mean, but for those who haven’t here’s the story. You’ve just finished up this immense sniper battle with The End, the oldest and weirdest of the foreshadowed boss characters. It was spread across several densely-packed forested areas, each one enormous and scattered throughout with viable sniping spots that both you and the old bastard cycle through in vying for an upper hand. You can win in any number of ways – you can poison him, stealth him, outwit him, track him, goad him, outwait him, or snipe him hours before the battle even begins and bypass the whole affair. It is the perfect ‘systems’ moment where all these mechanical aspects thread together in one beautiful tapestry from which the player traces their own narrative of strategy and improvisation.

Once it’s done, the forest exit opens up and you can progress to the next area. You know you still have two more foreshadowed bosses to go, plus the three major antagonistic characters, plus the mechanical behemoth Shagohod that is ostensibly (but not actually) the story’s McGuffin. The End was exhausting and invigorating but, finally, you’re halfway there.

So you enter this small room and there’s a ladder. Continue reading