Video Games

Video games are in an exciting place right now. This brand new baby medium, still in its infancy, is also the biggest media industry on the planet, boasting well over $150 billion in revenue each year.

Here, we look at how games tell stories – from multi-million dollar triple-A titles down to solo indie shit.

Check out some of the quick-start topics below, or scroll down for the full video game feed – updates every Wednesday.

Feature: Wolfenstein

Terror Billy vs the Nazis

By Size

Triple-A or indie? Choose your fighter.

(Under construction)

By Genre

Strategy, shooter, or something in between

The Feed

The Signifier: On Sex and Realism

So I’m playing Per Aspera at the moment – it’s a 2020 base-building simulator where you’re an AI terraforming Mars. It’s a pretty long-form game – I’ve been playing about fifteen hours, and I’m just starting to introduce plants and lichen and so on. I could’ve been quicker, of course – there’s a time slider […]

Lake: On Change and Loss

Holidays, huh. A time to rest and relax, and play a bunch of video games. It’s nice to get away from the office, have a bit of time switched off from it all. I’ve started playing Lake, actually – a 2021 game about delivering the mail in a small rural town. It opens with main […]

Satisfactory: On Outputs

Since starting a new save in Satisfactory, I’ve just reached oil extraction again – you can unlock a new type of machine that pulls oil out the ground, and you can connect it to a refiner to create plastic or rubber, that sort of thing – but it’s interesting, because it’s the first time in […]

Horizon Zero Dawn: Our Parents Are Dead

If we had to articulate the difference between post-apocalyptic fiction and dystopian fiction, we might say that post-apocalyptic fiction is about how everything is fucked, in a catastrophic end-of-the-world collapse-of-civilization kinda way, while dystopian fiction is about how everything is just as fucked but carries on regardless. In one sense, the perception that we’re fucked […]

Satisfactory: On Science and Capitalism

In 2017 I wrote about a game called Project Highrise, a building simulator where you develop a patch of land – you can build it up with new floors and apartments and businesses and all the rest of it. In that article we talked a bit about capitalism – obviously it’s a game of accumulation, […]

Plague Tale Innocence: On Fire

The villain song in the 1996 Hunchback of Notre Dame uses the motif of fire as a connective tissue for Frollo’s developing train of thought. Titled ‘Hellfire‘, the song starts with a reference to Esmerelda’s “smoldering eyes,” which “scorch” Frollo’s soul. The chorus connects the flame of desire with the fires of hell: “Like fire, […]

Carto: Maps and Reality

In Borges’ one-paragraph story ‘The Exactitude of Science’, a nation develops increasingly complex and detailed maps, eventually mapping their entire empire on a perfect one-to-one scale. This final map records every detail perfectly, but it’s also – you know, one-to-one scale – so it’s a map of the empire that’s the size of the empire. […]

Into the Spider-verse: Family and Loss

The 2018 animated film Spider-man: Into the Spider-verse is a film about loss, and how we deal with it. Loss is obviously a major component of just about any text – there are always setbacks and failures as part of the broader arc towards a given goal – and it’s even arguably part of the […]

Before We Leave: Memory and the Apocalypse

There’s something innocent about the post-apocalypse. All these games where people pop out of the ground fully formed – they cast their gaze on a devastated world, on the sins and failures of those who came before, and then they simply turn the page and move on. The German Catholic Romano Guardini wrote that our […]

Spot Fires

When I was in university, I tutored at an after-school place. The lady who ran the joint taught both math and English, and her descriptions of those disciplines were very different. Teaching math had clear, demonstrable outcomes. When you taught kids to add, they could add. When you taught kids to multiply, they could multiply. […]

Coteries of New York: On Choice

We’re pretty familiar by now with the idea of a text-based adventure with branching narrative paths. We know what that is, we know how it works – all the shocking newness of this narrative form has faded into a comfortable familiarity. And that familiarity allows us to pick up on nuance that we might not […]

Borderlands 3: On Family

Borderlands 3 is a game that’s attracted a lot of controversy – for a bunch of different reasons. There was controversy when the CEO of Gearbox, the game’s developer, had a fight on Twitter with voice actors from the previous games. There was controversy over the game’s status as an exclusive to the Epic storefront. […]

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