Speaking of Mario:
Thanks to Art House Politics for making me lol.
I won't say too much about it, other than I played it about a year ago (after Danielle Riendeau recommended it on an episode of Idle Thumbs), and it's stayed with me for a long time since then. I really recommend it, though take note of content warnings on the website.
I always thought of Gitaroo Man as a somewhat obscure game, so it makes me happy to read other people who also hold it dear. Reading Eurogamer’s retrospective brought to mind an early episode of Michael Abbot’s podcast where he revisits Gitaroo Man, and has some kind words to say.
It’s nice that those who remember this game regard it with such affection.
I never had a PS2, and never owned Gitaroo Man. But I have extremely fond memories of playing late into the night with a particular group of friends, handing off between songs, working our way up to attempting S-ranks on hard on all songs (something I witnessed, but never managed). Very evocative of a particular time in my youth. The soundtrack hasn’t left my playlist since.
Near London? Like thinking and talking about video games? You should check out VideoBrains. It's a monthly meet of games journalists, developers, academics and other enthusiasts which takes place in an esports bar near-ish Kings Cross.
Each event features panels and talks by smart people, who so far have had only interesting and thoughtful things to say. If it sounds like your thing, you should really check it out.
Also, previous talks are posted on their Youtube channel, so you can get a flavour of what it's like. But if you do watch them, consider throwing the organiser a dollar or so; he puts a hell of a lot of effort into making it as good as it is.
It's been a pretty horrifying couple of weeks on Twitter, hasn't it? At least it has on my timeline. Two unrelated, awful events in particular came right on top of each other, each whipping up a social media storm. First the violent incursion of militarised police into peaceful democratic protests in Ferguson, Missouri. Second the eruption of sickening misogyny and violent threats directed at female game makers and games journalists, in particular Anita Sarkeesian and Zoe Quinn.
In both cases, my Twitter stream did what it always does. First came the reports from those directly affected, amplified and retweeted by other journalists. Fear, indignation, outrage, disbelief, heartbreak. Then came the wave of initial commentary. What does this mean, why now, how did things get like this. Then came the meta-commentary. Actually things have always been like this, privilege blinkers those not directly affected, look how existing power structures even suppress discussion, which sources can we really trust.
Endless echoes in endless voices of an event, now refracted in endless dizzying facets and meta-facets and ironic subtweets.
It was in the midst of thinking this, and my own feelings of helpless-but-mustn’t-look-away, that I encountered Glitch Pigeon, a little prototype crafted by Hannah Nicklin and George Buckenham at the Oxford Playhouse.
Robert Yang (who I've mentioned here before) made such a good let's play of the first room and corridor of Half-Life.
A "let's play" is traditionally a narrated video of one or more people playing through a video game. Usually they are just to document the video game so that it can be experienced or understood without playing it, but some of the best ones are made by people who know the game inside out and are able to add some amount of context or commentary to the play-through, drawing the viewer's attention to specific details and not getting side-tracked by any difficulty in progression. There are many great let's plays on the Let's Play Archive.
Robert Yang's video is not really about the game as it is played, but about the design of the game from the perspective of a level designer. It was made for a let's play event.
I don't think he has plans to do more but I would listen to that guy talk about level design any time. A couple of the comments under his post of the video are worth reading too.
In the past few years there have been released a handful of indie games which share a kind of common form and aesthetic, one that strikes a chord with me. This design space is represented in my mind by Kairo, and the upcoming Fract and NaissanceE, though it contains many more.
The quality these games have in common is use a first-person perspective and an experience based around architecture and soundscapes, working in concert to elicit some aesthetic or emotional response.