June 2012

Soundplay: The intersection between music and gaming

Pitchfork's latest multimedia project offers two beautiful mini-games.

I'm pretty into multimedia these days. With the fluidity and hyperinteractivity that the internet affords us, it seems almost silly to make art that's just one thing at once. We can overlap texts and media and images of all different kinds and we can make them mutable based on the whims of our observers. Yet aside from sharing their work in this wider forum, artists have barely responded to the possibilities that the internet brings.

That's why I'm always excited to see something like Soundplay, especially if it's bolstered by a media powerhouse like Pitchfork. The music blog of music blogs has partnered bands with game designers to create a multimedia experience that invites the listener to become a participant--a player, if you will. These miniaturized art games both illustrate and employ the songs they're based around, opening them up to a new, multifaceted realm of experience.

Quantum Conundrum

The latest in new genre-bending (and mind-bending) games from the designer of Portal.

Video gaming is in a rut. Blockbuster-style first-person shooters rule the console market, distributed by big-budget companies that, a la the music industry of the end of the 20th century, are attempting to swallow up smaller studios with a whiff of success. However, one of the differences between the music industry, or even the film industry before that, is that smaller studios have a fantastic accessibility to the video game market, and the consumers seem to have a more resilient palate for games that break that mold. Case in point: Quantum Conundrum.

Minecraft plus ‘Hunger Games’ equals mass slaughter

I have to preface this post with a disclaimer: I have not seen the Hunger Games, nor do I plan to in the near future.  I have always just assumed that it was basically an American version of the (truly awesome) Japanese film Battle Royale.  On that note, while I do not know what Hunger Games specifics may be, I do understand the intent behind it.  And now that that has been said, onwards.

I am a Minecraft fanatic.  Seriously, I play way too much for my own good.  My computer hates me for it and is starting to break from constant overheat.  I get little done in my real life due to this wonderfully addictive game.  Recently, I found out that servers were adapting a Hunger Games-styled PvP survival play.  Last-man-standing plus Minecraft?  I’m already sold.

Bethesda takes Elder Scrolls Online

New Elder Scrolls Online MMO will challenge Bethesda and ZeniMax, as well as big MMO's like World of Warcraft.

Powerhouse Studio Bethesda’s Elder Scrolls Series is on a three-hit winning streak. Beginning with Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, the PC world and eventually it’s console cousin, lit up the gaming world and began the steady process of indoctrinating the RPG crowd to a new style of open-world immersive gameplay. It continued it’s streak with a multiple award-winning Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, beinging console gamers over to RPG’s in a big way and was continued with the release of Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim last November. Skyrim has won it’s share of awards as well, and has established Bethesda as the premier RPG gaming studio across both consoles and PC. However, Bethesda is not done yet, having recently announced their intent of breaking into the highly competitive arena of Massive Multiplayer Online games, and in particular, World of Warcraft’s corner in that market.

Limbo

This beautiful platformer perfects its genre.

As someone who was raised on computer games built from nothing but text, it's a little unnerving when a game has absolutely none. Actually, there is one word in Limbo--and it'll kill you if you're not careful. Other than that, the game is nothing but visuals: bleak, black silhouettes against a pale, hazy glow. It's beautiful, and what's more, it's the most addictive platformer I've had the pleasure of playing in a while. 

Developer Arnt Jensen started designing Limbo as a respite from his exceedingly corporate design job with a video game company. You can almost see this in the project's visuals; indeed, Limbo stands as perhaps the most consumerism-proof title produced yet to date. There's no clever way to market it, no easily recognizable characters, just a heavy aesthetic and a somber mood. 

It's notoriously dark, but there's plenty of joy to be had when playing Limbo. Most of it comes with the discovery of the world in which it's set, so if you're the type whose gaming experience is ruined by even the slightest spoiler, don't read any further.