Thursday, June 25, 2015

"Immersion Phallicy" at Reverse Shot

Brendan Keogh did a lovely write-up of my recent work for Reverse Shot, an online magazine at the Museum of the Moving Image.
Yang, on the other hand, crafts characters that are so perfectly imperfect as to fall square into the uncanny valley, that space where the more realistic an animated character or robot looks, the more those slight imperfections stand out. Yang’s men are disturbing in their uncanniness. Visually, his games explore the visual depths of uncanny male bodies that other video games deliberately avoid. There’s the slight gut and unshaved snail-trail on the naked character in front of his bathroom mirror in Cobra Club. There’s the way the character of Stick Shift bites his bottom lip and lets his eyes roll back as he moves up his car’s shaft and through his car’s gears. It makes the games unsettling, uncomfortable, and disturbing on a very visceral and intimate level. It makes the games sexual without necessarily being sexy.
Read the full essay here. Thanks for the thoughtful words, Bren-Bren!

Monday, June 22, 2015

Stick Shift on Greenlight

I've put Stick Shift on Greenlight. Because why not? I thought it would be a good fit for Steam because it's probably the most game-y of my recent sex games, with the exception of Cobra Club -- though Cobra Club has been unilaterally banned from Twitch.TV so I doubt Steam will allow for dicks, unfortunately.

Please YES it if you want to help me wreck Steam. Thanks.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Videogames for Humans, edited by Merritt Kopas

The first reaction most people had was, "it's bigger than I expected." 575 pages to be exact. But that obfuscates the actual format of Videogames for Humans: 27 different close readings / commentaries on short stories.

What those most people actually meant was that they had no idea that 575 pages of thought on Twine was possible, that they're surprised Twine is this big or that it is worth preserving on a tree carcass.

Preserving! In order to preserve something, it has to be more or less "over", and Merritt Kopas has a lot of feelings and anxiety about how Twine will be remembered. In the introduction, she confesses, "late 2012 and early 2013 was an extraordinarily exciting period for me [...] the 'queer games scene' covered by videogame outlets might not have been as cohesive as some accounts supposed, but for a little under a year, it definitely felt real,"

... then later she argues, "but I don't want Videogames for Humans to be seen as the capstone of the 'Twine revolution,' a kind of historical record of some interesting work done in the early 2010s."

So then, this book is partly an attempt to correct or amend a prior history... but not with more history. It wants to break a cycle.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Queerness and Games Conference 2015, call for proposals, due by July 1

The good folks at QGCon at UC Berkeley need YOUR session proposals for their third year running. I participated in the first year it ran, 2013, and I enjoyed the mix of scholarly rigor and casual atmosphere, there a pleasant mix of academics and not-academics that's very refreshing.

You can be a super academic-y academic and present a paper, or you can talk about a game you made, or discuss a specific games community you're part of, or even relate your personal experience with games and/or run a workshop. They're pretty accommodating and welcoming and supportive, even if you've never given a talk before. It's also pretty unique, there's really no other conference on the circuit that even tries to approach these topics.

I highly recommend submitting a proposal by July 1st, especially if you live around the Bay Area or along the west coast, it's just a short trip over.

Here's an excerpt of the call:

Friday, June 12, 2015

Pain Festival

As a palette cleanser from the last four sex games, I've been remaking my favorite of Alan Hazelden's Puzzlescript suite, "Mirror Isles", with my own art and narrative. It's been refreshing to have the design of something already figured out, and for the past two weeks I've just been pumping out art and code.

The game has come together surprisingly quick. I'm not sure if it's commercial or anything yet, I guess me and Alan will have to talk about that at some point, but for now I'm enjoying this as a craft exercise void of any marketing concerns.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Local level design, and a history / future of level design

Right-side modified from “Unscaping the Goat” (Ed Byrne, Level Design in a Day @ GDC 2011)
This is adapted from my GDC 2015 talk "Level Design Histories and Futures" and resembles a similar but much shorter talk I gave at Different Games 2015. By "level" it means "level in a 3D character-based game", which is what the industry means by the word.

The "level designer" is a AAA game industry invention, an artificial separation between "form" (game design) and "content" (level design). The idea is that your game is so big, and has so much stuff, that you need a dedicated person to think about the "content" like that, and pump it all out. This made level designers upset, since they were a chokepoint in the game production process and everyone blamed them if the game was shit. To try to bypass this scapegoating, level design has changed over the past decade or two, from something vague / loosely defined, to something fairly specific / hyperspecialized.

What is the shape of this level design, what did it used to be, and what else could it be in the future?

But first, let's talk about chairs.