Syndicate video – part 1

Danni and I played a little bit of Syndicate. The game often feels as if I am piloting a giant stick of butter.

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On Chainmail Bikini

Chainmail Bikini is a collection of short comics written by women around the topic of videogames. That sentence, on face, doesn’t seem very radical, and when I backed CB on kickstarter, I didn’t take it as some kind of radical political project. I really just thought it was a project worth supporting in its scope and purpose, and I didn’t have many expectations one way or the other about what would get produced.

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I’ve now read through the collection twice, and I think that Chainmail Bikini is performing a profound function in contemporary gamer culture. Editor Hazel Newlevant writes in the opening note that the creation of the collection was centered around the two goals of “collect[ing] comics by an outstanding group of female artists about games and what they mean to us” and “to celebrate the experience of women gamers at a time when our presence in gaming culture is consistently marginalized.” It is this second goal that I think is the most important, but first a slight digression.

I’ve read (and backed) enough themed collections of short comics to know exactly how this shakes out. A solid 25% of the work is good, without equivocating in the slightest, and the rest is middling to terrible. The worst of the batch in these collections are the two-pagers that kind of waffle around the theme with unfocused platitudes about whatever that theme is. It is part and parcel of the genre and the form, and I’m not really sure that it is avoidable for projects of this scale.

Chainmail Bikini has some of those. It comes with the territory, after all, but I have to tip the hat I would never wear to Newlevant’s editorial strength that prevented the comics that drag from dragging too long or taking other comics down with them.

More importantly, and this is the real strength at work, is that even the lesser comics in the collection contribute to a strong vision of that second goal that I mentioned up above.

Chainmail Bikini is chock-full of women speaking about how they relate to gaming. It is a snapshot of the network of contemporary culture that polices how, when, and on what terms women can enjoy an entire medium. It is a collection of strategies for avoiding that policing; it is a set of coping mechanisms that many women have had to develop independently over the past thirty years. I don’t think it is any mistake or coincidence that so many of the comics center around handheld gaming platforms like the GameBoy. The mobility and the ability to escape that so many of the short comic narratives depend on seem to be incredibly crucial for this group of women.

What Chainmail Bikini shows us is an entire population that is forced to game while running away. Cultural studies scholars might call this a book of tactics, of on-the-ground adaptive strategies to play, love, and live while constantly being pursued by a culture that is doing its best to eliminate your enjoyment (which is inside of a larger set of cultures that have all seemingly decided that women and games just do not mix in any way).

I particularly enjoyed Annie Mok‘s “Stand-Ins,” Jade F. Lee‘s “Achievement Unlocked,” and Maggie Siegel-Berele‘s “Battle for Amtgard.”

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Until Dawn Review at Paste

“You make choices and the choices matter” has been the bugbear phrase of videogames for twenty years. Giving players narrative options that actually pan out into their own unique scenarios has been promised by many games, and when it has been achieved (if it was achieved at all, or even attempted) it has mostly been through resource-efficient methods. The Planescape: Torment method, which is still celebrated by fans, was merely centered on changing NPC reactions; the Heavy Rain method mostly centered on making it seem like your choices mattered while largely ignoring them.

Until Dawn seems to be the furthest along in this paradigm. When characters make choices about whether to jump down a ledge or run along a path, those choices echo for a very long time. The Butterfly Effect system allows you to trace those echoes, and having played and replayed some sections, Until Dawn largely delivers on the promise of narrative splitting and choice.

Until Dawn Review: We’re All Stars Now in the Trope Show

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We Played Fuse (conclusion)

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Warren Ellis at Haunted Machines

This is a talk of Warren Ellis playing his history is the future in the past tune, and it’s one that I like a whole hell of a lot. However you feel about his writing in comics and otherwise, I think it’s impossible to say that he doesn’t have an incredibly synthetic mind that draws brilliant narratives from seemingly disparate materials. Here he is talking about ruins and cities and magic and Britain.

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The Most Interesting Cards in Magic Origins

I wrote about the most interesting cards in Magic Origins for Paste.

Like the Archangel of Tithes:

This is an angel who flies around and generally makes your life more difficult. That’s the general tone of angels in Magic, so you have to wonder about the theological biases in the design time, but this card is excellent because it just slows everything down. It makes the game more expensive for the other player, and it actively discourages them from being able to do anything against your roving band of angels or whatever you want it to be.

 

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We Played Fuse For A While (part 1!)

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