644 Reviews liked by Squigglydot

There's something amusing about seeing a lot of big fans of Persona 5 in my circle rag on Persona 4 constantly when, in reality, the core issues of both of their stories are near-identical. They both have very formulaic story structures that wear out their welcome by the time they do start shaking things up, they have fairly weak casts that are severely underwritten past their initial arcs, and they're both very non-committal or even contradictory with presenting their main themes. If this is the case, then why do I view Persona 4 in a somewhat more positive light while Persona 5 gets worse for me as time goes on, despite the fact that the lowest lows of 4 are far worse than 5’s? Well, not only does Persona 4 have its own unique strengths that 5 fails to capture, but these direct parallels in shortcomings give me the impression that Atlus learned practically nothing from the shortcomings of 4 after a near-decade, aside from slightly getting the memo that homophobia might not actually be that funny. (Emphasis on slightly)

The main cast is probably the worst out of any modern Persona cast. Not to say that they’re all irredeemably terrible, but they just become incredibly flat once their specific arc is concluded, which makes it even more damning when characters like Haru don’t even have that to their name with how poorly implemented Morgana’s arc is. It doesn’t really take long for them to neatly slot into their respective archetypes without branching out much beyond them. Ann probably gets this the worst, she doesn’t really get to go beyond being “the girl” of the group when she had so much going on during Kamoshida’s arc. I think a better approach would’ve been to limit the cast just to the initial trio. Their dynamic in the early game is very strong and could totally carry a whole game on its own. Yusuke felt pretty out of place once he fully joined the Phantom Thieves, and the sidelining of growth for each party member becomes very apparent once Makoto joins. I don’t think it’s that much of a stretch to say it would work, with how often the series tries to push a “main trio” of their parties. Even Persona 4 directly did it, when it arguably started off with more of a quartet than a trio. I don’t know how it would affect the rest of the game, but what I do know is that the characters do need a lot more than they get, especially in a series that prides itself on interpersonal relationships like Persona does.

I don’t see myself as someone that’s too harsh regarding the “Show don’t tell” critique. I like a good chunk of media that are very in your face about their messages and themes. The point where I do feel it’s right to make that critique is when it feels like a piece of media is talking down to me, which is absolutely the case with Persona 5. It never trusts the player to come to their own conclusions about what they’re being presented, so it feels the need to spell the meaning behind every interaction out in meticulous detail so that a 3 year old can keep up with it. For example, there’s a reoccurring puzzle throughout the Pyramid of Wrath, (Which is my least favorite stretch of the whole game for a myriad of reasons that I don’t intend to go into) where you put together hieroglyphs that depict parts of the palace ruler’s past, and their relationship with a close family member. I thought it was a cool way to let the player piece together the trauma that they endured, especially with how that comes together with the palace’s boss, but every single time you clear one, the characters explain exactly what it means and tell you exactly how to feel. It’s really frustrating when it feels like it has to spell out every single interaction in the entire game. I feel like you could shave off 10 hours from the game just by giving it a tighter script, it’s unnecessary bloat that does nothing but dampen the storytelling. It’s even more baffling that it has this approach when ultimately, it doesn’t really have anything to say until the Royal arc hits. It’s trying to tackle much more grandiose themes of society and rebellion, but it always feels like it’s only putting a single toe into an incredibly deep pool. Let be be clear, I don’t need the PTs to start picking apart every aspect of each corrupt system in the nation. I feel like too many critiques go down that route, especially since it does place more of an emphasis on personal conflict. But even so, it could do a lot better with acknowledging it beyond the “All’s well that ends well, right?” approach we’re given. That’s honestly my biggest problem with the modern series. It’s so non-commital with presenting these potentially interesting ideas that the stick it’s hitting the issues it tackles seems to be more like a damp pool noodle.

As I’m writing this, I’m noticing a major pattern between each of this game’s aspects. I really like everything about it on paper. The general theme of rebellion that has sparks throughout the whole game, that’s cool! Too bad the ways it explores that theme are pretty paper-thin, even with the social links that usually thrive with conveying themes just as well as if not better than the main plot. Having social links teach you more specific abilities to use throughout the game for a sense of growth, that’s cool! Too bad that the way they’re balanced makes them range from practically meaningless to game-breakingly powerful. Every single addition to the game’s combat, the baton passes, the guns, all of that is cool! Too bad none of the game is balanced around it and it makes even a normal playthrough one where you’re stupidly overpowered. I think this is why Persona 5 fails for me in ways that the other games in the series don’t quite as much. As much as 3 and 4 had their low points and downsides, both of those did have consistent strengths that they were able to bring out exceptionally well. For every great and fresh idea that it has that isn’t strictly related to its presentation, there’s something else that ends up completely undercutting it.

In a way, that’s why despite how fun it can be to dunk on Atlus and this game, I don’t like the distaste that I have for it. It does have some genuinely fascinating ideas, I can see a spark of something truly spectacular trapped inside of this. The Royal arc proves this, it’s a fantastic piece of work that’s only weaknesses are the foundation that it’s built upon. If Atlus really is capable of being a tour de force in video game storytelling and can capitalize on the strengths of Royal’s writing, then Persona 6 could be the first game in the series that I really like without any caveats. All I need is proof that modern Atlus has that bite in its narratives, which it’s mostly consistently proven to not have over this decade. I want to believe that Atlus can pull through, and bring us one last surprise…

(Also maybe don’t have a prominent party member that plays into every single autism stereotype in the book at maximum capacity with the core point being “ooh she’s such a quirky gamer girl!” Cool? Cool.)

An interactive visual short story the size of a coffee coaster. The best way to describe why it's probably worth your time is in that it speaks about the small vulnerability shared between girls*. I hear the wheezing and the weathered pain of this noise in my sleep. Realizing how asthmatic and exhausting the ghouls of your expression are. The industry of bodies has to keep on turning, but barely. It's all in the identity after the heavy night of drinking at a party.

Investigate the inky midnight through a wounded touch. To you its relayed as a blurb of text but the girls are having a vulnerable moment here, do you mind?
*by girls of course I mean the discarded Undead.

"Ori and the Will of the Wisps" is a very delightful game.

Personally I didn't really know what to expect here. I played the first game rather easily and quickly. But I still enjoyed the overall experience that "Ori and the Blind Forest" offered.

So last week after I finished the hilarious and absurd game "Postal 2" I was looking for something a bit less crass and ridiculous that was Postal. So while looking through my endless backlog on steam I spotted the Ori sequel. And I really didn't give it a second thought of downloading it because of how good that first game was. And I feel bad that I didn't play this sequel sooner.

Ori and the Will of the Wisps not only improves on Ori and the Blind Forests gameplay it also amps up a lot of the emotional aspects of the characters and setting of this game. It was very interesting seeing how this game juggles the energetic combat, platforming and puzzle solving with these deep sentimental and quiet moments. Which is pretty different for a metroidvania because usually when you have a game with interesting characters and story they tend to ditch any form of interesting gameplay in service for a more compelling narrative. But the studio decided to give us both, which is always welcomed. Before anything else I have to mention the game's visual design because it is just gorgeous! A beautiful combination of these 2d/3d backgrounds, superep animations and the detailed character models. Most games nowadays tend to be quite bland looking so seeing this game use the entire color wheel was very nice.

After all that gushing about the game I gotta at least state one minor complaint I have with it. I wasn't really fond of the boss battles. Most of the time I really hated how button mashy it got and how absurdly tanky they were, which made them all kind feel the same despite them being quite different visually.

Anyways besides that one complaint I wholeheartedly recommend the game. I will absolutely keep an eye out for whatever this studio will do next.

“They’re just lines of code.” That’s what my friend tells me. I wasn’t allowed to play Halo. It was too violent, and my parents, either in spite of or because of their relative progressiveness, did not want to allow or encourage me in playing violent video games. I remember googling about Red vs. Blue and my dad informed me that I “shouldn’t be looking at that.” I was a kid, after all, not even in my teens at the time. It’s not like I wasn’t able to get my hands on violent games; my crusade to play violent games, though, is a story for another time. The point is that our house never had Halo in it. And when, on that rare occasion, I did get to play Halo at a friend’s house, I was very careful not to tell my parents. So, in my mid-teens, I was at my friend’s house, in their thoroughly air-conditioned basement, with the lights off, and we played some Halo. I’m sitting close to the screen in an awkward chair. I’m awful at this game; I only know how to play these games on a mouse and keyboard. I see a grunt, fleeing with its arms in the air, and say, “Poor guy.” That’s when my friend chuckles and says, “They’re just lines of code.”

Interactive Buddy was a mainstay for any kid looking for ways to goof off in computer labs. This is what you see: four gray walls, a gray background, and a chubby little figure made six gray balls. That’s the buddy. You use your mouse to nudge and move the buddy around, generating a small amount of money. You use that money to buy new tools and what not: bowling balls, fire hoses, Molotov cocktails. And in doing things with the buddy, you can acquire more money to buy more weapons and tools. You can choose to play with the buddy and be kind, and you can choose to torment the buddy and be cruel. Cruelty usually wins.

This is how Interactive Buddy is remembered: a torture chamber. The buddy seems to be modeled after other programs like Bonzi Buddy or other digital pets. Its UI conjures up images of Windows XP. But while a virtual pet usually exists to be cared for, the buddy has no needs. You can’t feed it, and it doesn’t want food. So what is the buddy’s reason for being? The game has an opinion. The buddy exists to be hurt. The game description instructs you to beat it up. It’s more like a Bobo doll than a pet. I would venture to say that the vast majority of players used the game as a sadistic time-waste and little more.

The internet in the 2000s was rife with violent Flash diversions. Madness, Whack Your Boss, Happy Wheels, these jubilees of juvenile hyperviolence were everywhere. Interactive Buddy came out during that time, and it shows. For one, the game is filled dated and niche reference humor (how do you even explain StrawberryClock?), but it also has a fascination with violence. This was in the wake of things like Jack Thompson’s lawsuits, after Columbine and September 11th, where the notion of violent video games still felt a little transgressive. The developer of Interactive Buddy is literally called Shock Value. It revels in violence intentionally. And hey, why not? It wasn't hurting anybody, after all. They’re just lines of code. But our attitudes (or at least mine) have shifted dramatically over the years.

I’ve seen others comment that they feel guilt for what they did to the buddy, that it was cruel to harm the buddy. And truly, the buddy did nothing to deserve this, right? It merely exists, a floating jumble of orbs, and we come in and brutalize and beat it. The buddy expresses fear and dislike for the explosions and drubbings it’s put through. It doesn’t like “boom!”, and it’s mood gauge will slowly become a frown. It is clear that the poor thing is suffering. That would make it cruel to abuse it this way.

So that’s the obvious corrected position, right? That hurting the interactive buddy is bad, and you shouldn’t do it? Well, I’m not quite convinced of that, either.

See, to adopt that position is to take up a pretty serious assumption: that a simulated action correlates directly to a real one. We suppose that the buddy is harmed, but the buddy cannot experience pain. It’s a digital object. It’s just lines of code.

It is false to say the buddy dislikes pain. The buddy doesn’t like or dislike anything. The buddy is not an animal. It has no desires. It has no consciousness or qualia. It doesn’t breathe or even bleed. It is a simulated object with simulated movements that imitate that of fear, pain, and joy. When the buddy recoils from an explosive or shakes as it is tickled, these are only animations, programmed and procedural gestures that bear a likeness to animal behavior. As far as we can tell, there is no real suffering occurring. There is no evidence of a computer having consciousness, probably won’t ever be for a while, and certainly not the buddy. Even a Kantian would struggle to find an argument against it; after all, the buddy has no rationality to which we are to hold ourselves to respecting.

There is therefore no harm in hurting the buddy, nor is there a duty to be kind to it. All there is is a symbolic charade of a hedonistic dichotomy. The simulacra of pain and pleasure, entangled with each other as a binary pair. It is an imitation. It’s just lines of code. It is in fact less than an imitation of pain, not of the sensation, but only an abstract impersonation of the response to pain, the superficial choreography. A simulacra, of Baudrillard’s third or fourth stage, which signifies either absence or deference to other signs. And to accept the simulacra of pain and pleasure as equivalent to their corollaries in reality is to accept simulation as reality. At what point does the magic circle give way to our realized actions, then?

It should not be said that causing pain in Interactive Buddy is in some capacity related to causing harm outside of it, then. As such with pleasure, too. To do so is to open the floodgates; any digital harm must be condemned. Is it ethical to shoot aliens in Halo? Is it ethical to kick turtle shells in Mario? Is it ethical to eat ghosts in Pac-Man? Is there any virtual action in most video games that does not carry profound guilt? This is the necessary extent of this argument.

So, that’s my conclusion then, right? That it’s okay to hurt the buddy, and you should feel free to remorselessly bully and mutilate any digital denizens you encounter, because they’re just lines of code? Not quite. That doesn’t really work for me either.

Even if they are just lines of code, these are lines of code that have been given faces. Scott McCloud created this pyramid of representation: the realistic, the abstract, and the iconographic its three corners. You might be able to argue against this model, but let’s adopt it for now. The buddy is abstract and iconographic. Again, by default, it’s six orbs floating in a blank room. But the absence of realistic features does not mean it is no longer representative and recognizable. Its orientation and movements imbue these orbs with a humanity. While the buddy is so iconographic to be merely six floating balls, it is still immediately clear to most that it is a chubby little humanoid. You can call it pareidolia if you want, I guess, but that’s lying by omission. Pareidolia is the recognition of a sign (usually faces) in nebulous stimuli. These video game characters, on the other hand, were sculpted with the intent to invoke this response. We recognize a level of humanity in them, and that’s why we have empathy for them. This is what Jesper Juul might call the game’s fiction. The fiction of a game contextualizes its action and engagement. Without it, they really are just lines of code; floating points and vectors in a fog. But the fiction condenses the mist into a concrete, intelligible, and recognizable form.

When I saw the grunts fleeing in Halo, I did not see an array of code and polygons. I saw a creature fleeing in fear. My mirror neurons responded. And so my body and my mind instinctually, if only a bit, felt sympathy for it. It may be a computer generation, but I am able to recognize the simulacrum of a soul. Once again, it is important to know that these are only representations, but how we respond to representations still could mean something. We engage with signifiers in a simulated world. Does how we engage with them signify something, too?

There is not much evidence as far as I’m aware of that being exposed to violent media makes you more violent, nor that enacting violence within a digital space does, either. But the effect of media on our behaviors is something that has bothered people for years and years. Rap music, hard rock, comic books, television, even theater are all of a family of reviled media. Well before Mortal Kombat’s moral panic and Jack Thompson, Plato expressed the opposite skepticism about drama and poetry as mimesis, as imitation. Aristotle agreed that poetry was founded on imitation, but considered the disjunct between art and life to be a strength, too, and not just a weakness. And is it not, on some level? Despite the moral outrage, violent video games have not heralded a sharp rise in violence in the world. Anecdotes, maybe. Heightened aggression, possible. There is no real empirical evidence that I know of that shows violent art encourages violent behavior. So what unnerves us still?

With his name still in our mouths, let’s refer to Aristotle again with virtue ethics. Virtue ethics frame ethics as a product of one’s character. This may be the key to unlocking the modern controversy of violent video games: the virtue of simulated violence. Harming the buddy may not produce any real negative consequences per se, but the fear is that it produces or is produced by a vicious player.

The question is then not a matter of ethical utility, but of motive and virtue. It is quite literally a question about virtual reality.

What is it that purpose of harming the buddy? What is its virtue, its vice, its extension? Even outside the confines of Interactive Buddy’s torture engine, there is no shortage of cruel ballet in digital worlds. The subjects are not harmed, and as far as can be told, it doesn’t seem to have any broader implications for the ethics of the player. It affects nothing. All we see is mimicked anguish. There is nothing, good or bad, that comes of it. So why do we do it? Why do we want to see depictions of violence at all, let alone participate in them?

The cliche answer is that there is some immutable darkness within humanity which feeds on suffering. This is the kind of answer you’d hear from a Jordan B. Peterson or whatever Freudian charlatan. I’m not sure whether to call this most significantly naïve or presumptuous. I suppose it is both. It is presumptuous because it assumes this aesthetic tendency is universal, something that we all experience. It isn’t, and there are plenty of people who do not enjoy violent art. It is naïve because it implicitly posits that this correlates to a desire to enact the imagined actions and not merely fantasize about them, just as discussed. That the simulated darkness is in direct relation to a real darkness. So what does that mean? What makes a simulated darkness?

They are fantasies, but why do we strive to blur the line between this fantasy and reality? There has been a race towards the most realistic blood and guts we can find. Even if we want and need the magic circle as a boundary between reality and game to enable our violent impulses, there is also a culture of delight in hyper-realistic blood pouring out of our screens. We may have grown bored of it, sure, but the remnants are there. An example? Interactive Buddy gives you an option. For a price, you can make the buddy bleed. It changes nothing other than flecks of red appearing on the screen. So do you choose to? Do you choose to make the buddy’s pain feel more real to you? Do you make the fantasy more real? Why?

There’s an example from Slavoj Žižek (I’m sure you can find it somewhere, I’m not sure if it’s been written down) where he offers an interesting inversion. He presents the cliche of a gamer who in real life is meek, milquetoast, and bland man, but within the world of a game, he is brash, a womanizer, a marauder. The typical interpretation is that the real life person is the real person who lives out a fantasy in the game, but Žižek asks: what if it is the meek version of him is the one where he is pretending, and in the game he is truly himself?

It’s an interesting twist on the thought. It’s undeniable that virtual spaces offer ranges of expression which we desire in the real world but can only access there. This is one of games’ many powers: not just a lusory attitude, but an attitude of realization is possible. The boundary between game and reality is what enables this, that allow us to inhabit new and foreign attitudes of any kind. This extends to violence. The initial deconstruction Žižek offers asks us to consider that the truer nature is one of cruelty that is merely suppressed by the context of society. But games are games, and their disjunction from reality is freeing because it is a disjunction. It is precisely the division between game and reality that allows the average person to engage with this sadistic charade. Should the digital world become reality, how many players would actually continue the abuse? Would they become a marauder? Would you? I doubt it.

You might at first compare it to the way an actor speaks and moves as a character, but does not become them. Like Plato and Aristotle before him, J. L. Austin recognized that the act of speech was transformed by the stage. Austin wrote on the concept of speech act, things we can say that perform actions in and of themself, and highlights this. While the actor’s monologue is quite literally a performative utterance in one sense, it is not in the sense Austin uses that term. The speech does not, and cannot, perform an action it could otherwise; it is not intended to be taken in the same way as when the actor is off the stage. This is sometimes called the etiolation of language. It blanches the language; it is understood to not have the same seriousness behind it. This notion has been properly interrogated by jolly old Derrida, who in turn was interrogated by Searle -- that whole scuffle. Regardless, it is essentially of intention, of what action is intended or unintended by the use of language. A similar thing happens in games. The lusory attitude we adopt not only changes the actions we perform, but also changes how they are received and understood. But we don’t just speak or write in games. In fact, we mostly make movements and perform actions. What is etiolated, then? A gesture.

The question of how one engages with Interactive Buddy is a question of gesture. What is the extension of these actions, and their meaning?

When philosopher of communication Vilem Flusser sets out to define “gesture”, he begins describing a scenario in which he is punched. He initially defines a gesture as “a movement of the body or of a tool attached with the body, for which there is no satisfactory causal explanation.” What Flusser means by causal is specific. His project is to establish foundations for a study of gesture’s meaning, elaborated to a wide range of sociological phenomena. The causes of a movement that are physiological or even psychological are not satisfactory for a gesture. The gesture has a component of meaning which Flusser does not view as fulfilled by those explanations. He then goes on describe being punched, and his arm recoiling in pain. This motion is one he declares a gesture, because it is representation of something: “My movement depicts pain. The movement is a symbol, and pain is its meaning.” This is seen in the buddy, but only as a simulation.

Let’s return to McCloud’s pyramid. While this system identifies images, it does not identify the images in motion. What of images’ gestures? Animation, too, could be put along such a pyramid. The motion of this buddy is what lends its verisimilitude. Lines of code parodying behavior. The buddy’s movements have an adequate causal explanation in the game itself, but when we extend this question to the programmer, it becomes a gesture. This is the intent of the designer: to communicate the concept of intention and interiority. We may recognize the buddy as just lines of code, but we still recognize the buddy’s behavior. Their gestures, while mere imitations, are recognizable as those of pain and of pleasure. But when we play Interactive Buddy, are these communicative gestures? When we express through the game, express through actions on the buddy? The buddy may communicate to us; maybe it’s more accurate to say that the designer communicates through the buddy. The buddy is a puppet of the code, the meanings expressed therein designed by a programmer. But in our engagement with the buddy, as we poke and prod at it, is this communication? If so, to what are we communicating?

Play may not necessarily be communicative, but when we make the choice to interpret it as such, and as gesture, we butt up against an issue. Communication, generally, implies at least two people. A person who transmits, and a person who receives. Communication theory also recognizes the store of information, such as in a diary, as a form of communication, as well, as it communicates from the past self to the future self. But in a game like Interactive Buddy, the movements we make ephemeral. They cannot be saved and cannot be retrieved. Like speech, it is uniterable and impermanent, eddying away in the wind. If a movement is neither made for communicate, nor capable of being retrieved, is it still a gesture, or just a random convulsion? Can a gesture be non-communicative? Or, is it possible that in this gesturing--or speaking for that matter, anything ephemeral and solitary--that the action itself is communicative to my own immediate experience? Do I gesture to myself, then? Is that what it means to entertain yourself? When we play a game on our own, are we gesturing to communicate with ourselves? What am I trying to say to myself then?

Consider a diary. When I write in a diary, I communicate to myself through written language. When I doodle in that same diary, I communicate to myself through images. The constraint of the medium informs what I communicate to myself. In some ways, the constraints are what create the possibility for immediate this self-communication to exist at all. When I open up Interactive Buddy, I communicate to myself through my gestures within the game. The buddy is just lines of code, but my way of interfacing with it is also made up of code, too. The tool of gesture is not just the mouse, not just the computer, but also the buddy itself. Flusser later defines “gesture” as a movement which expresses freedom (and even later, paired with the freedom to conceal or reveal). The cause of the gesture is the desire to make it and the freedom to do so. But any movement is going to be constrained in some capacity, the gesture by the body, the diary by the letter, the soliloquy by the spoken word. My freedom of communication is necessarily, to some degree, interpellated by its medium. In a game, this is the entire conceit of play. The constraints are what make this self-communication possible. The game's unique limits then directly inform what I am capable of communicating to myself through it. I am only allowed to express what the game allows me to express. My gestures are limited.

When we say that the buddy didn’t do anything to deserve this pain, what do we mean by that? The buddy does do something to deserve it: it exists. Let me explain. Video games are full of teleological universes. In most games, everything is instrumental. The platform exists to be jumped on, the enemy exists to be killed, the coin exists to be collected. Everything has a purpose. It is incredibly difficult to make a truly nihilistic game in a mechanical sense, because to do so is to weave between any instrumentality. It’s possible to tell a story about nihilism, or that lacks meaning, but its mechanics will have bespoke purposes. The universe of the game has a rhyme and a reason.

The world of Interactive Buddy is constructed for violence. Not in an architectural sense, but in a cosmological one. When Jacob Geller describes worlds designed for violence, he is describing the architecture of digital spaces, how they create affordances for violence, what they look like in the real world. The archicecture of Interactive Buddy is never more complex than four grey walls. Instead, the make-up of its reality is designed for violence. That is the destiny of its teleological universe. The buddy, of course, has no free will (and thus cannot truly gesture in the sense Flusser uses), for one. But the buddy also has a destiny. The buddy has an infinite capacity for suffering and cannot die. It’s lines of code that respond to what we do. By hurting the buddy, we gain more money with which to buy weapons to hurt the buddy. Its suffering is a tool of its own propagation. Even pleasure can be instrumentalized in making the buddy hurt. That is the monad of Interactive Buddy’s world: pain.

It is not only reasonable, but entirely predictable that players would abuse the buddy. When we begin to play Interactive Buddy, we enter a playground designed for the express purpose of violent gestures.

But did it have to be this way? Immediately, there is an ambiguity: the open hand. That’s what is equipped to your mouse at the start. What does an open hand do? It can touch and hold, and it can strike. In the closing of a hand, one can either grasp or form a fist. The open hand is a pharmakon, an undecided gesture, which the player disambiguates in their choice of what to do with it.

We will always be left with more questions than answers. By what virtue do we harm the buddy? Since it is not a true act of harm, what is the extension of the act that it is gesturing towards? What is the precise purpose of this gesture? What does it signify, and to whom?

Games create virtual realities. In them, we inhabit virtual bodies and disembodied forces. We inevitably make gestures with them. It is not merely the etiolation of gesture. The machine is made not just a tool of gesture, but the system of parameters that limits our gestures, too. Its confines yet also create, as a segmented reality, the possibility of new and alien behaviors and expressions. Their unreality is what defines them. They are virtual in every sense of the word. They are not just gestures, but gestures towards.

Whether or not to hurt the buddy is not really a question of ethics at the end of the day. The suffering of the buddy was a foregone conclusion. It was borne into a world that was made for torture. But that’s okay. Because it can’t be hurt, not for real. There’s no harm in it. They’re just lines of code. But why do we do it, anyway? What drives us to these fantasies? I don’t know, and I’m not sure I ever will truly understand the impulse. All I know for sure is the question we ask ourselves: do you choose to hurt the buddy? And why? It's not a question about ethics. It’s a question about virtual realities. It’s a question of what the gesture of the open hand means to you.


rage, the blood curling screams across generational continuous visceral warfare to keep lives compounded, perpetual punishment. we slowly bleed out, only when forcibly running into fire do we remember to keep going.
against an increasingly powerful syndicate that cages, twirling the keys in their fingers giggling on "rehabilitation"
the bells toll, jail cells are more than bent metal they can constrain the flesh through words and deeds until freedoms become a beautiful splatter for the boot stamping down on this stupid queer

they'll keep functioning the glorious Machine until we break it

Completely wordless honest master class narrative stressing the importance of care, love, unity. Almost feels like edutainment in the sense that it is perfectly crafted for small hands to slowly worm their way through the world, evolving and experimenting with all the very charming animals to see all the beauty. Didn't leave me with any strong feelings tho ;-; but it was always just,,, nice to experience. Lovely to sit down, interact with the full scope of these kind, unique and alien creatures to find their human, cute, and often interesting sense of becoming friends. L-D-L really Knew the world.

A few weeks before I turned 22, I was moving into a new home and listening to the album Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison while setting up the stereo system. It’s a live recording of a concert Johnny played at the prison, one of the few albums that even country-haters will tell you is excellent. A large reason being the audience interaction. Songs about getting high and gunning down your wife hit pretty different when you have a group of convicts hollering at the mention of each crime. It’s a wonderful record, but what floored me the most was the album’s closing track. During the performance, an inmate named Glen Sherley was sitting in the front row. Unbeknownst to him, Johnny was about to play a cover of ‘Greystone Chapel’, a song written by Glen. What follows is the most genuine portrayal of human kindness and empathy that’s ever been captured on tape. The chorus of the song has never left me since I first heard it:

”Inside the walls of prison my body may be, but my lord has set my soul free.”

Glen Sherley was a man who wanted to be better, a man who wanted to serve as a positive role model for people who fell down the same holes he had. ‘Greystone Chapel’ was his way of expressing that. Cash himself advocated for Sherley’s release, and eventually he became a free man again. A few years after that, he relapsed, shot someone, and then killed himself to avoid going back to prison.

I feel awful. Just awful. I've felt it for as long as I can remember. I decided to turn those feelings into something, and the name I settled on was Quantum Bummer Blues.

haven't played this just wanna say the people who worked on this game were fucking creeps to one of my friends so fuck youuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu

Post Void is frustratingly close to being great. Incredible art style, madcap speed and gameplay loop with fantastic base kinesthetic design, and a awesome surreal tone. I like it. It's quite fun, its weird, its fast paced and the presentation is top drawer. Its over with in 10 minutes for a complete run, which I also think is great. Proper rush of blood to the head sort of thing.

Yet, it annoys me. It's a very, very good game that annoys me that it makes what I feel are such blatant errors that prevent it from being great, and those errors claw in on me more and more the more i play.

Maybe the most obvious of these is the weird verticality in the level design from the midpoint onwards. I understand the game is meant to be disorienting, but the verticality becomes increasingly annoying and will occasionally just kill the pace when you find yourself a bit lost. It's a game that's already too easy to turn yourself around in if you spin too much in a fight - and it's annoying. I really barely understand why this game needs a jump button at all, it feels antithetical to everything else going on and muddles the cool "hotel floor" feeling of the levels.

Maybe my biggest issue though is the music. I think it sucks. Compared to such extremely surreal atmosphere the main, and only theme sounds like something i'd hear on Nickelodeon and the main guitar sounds awful, and there only being one theme gets incredibly repetitive on repeat runs. I am aware that there is a semi-official soundtrack on spotify full of music that the devs couldn't license. This game has a publisher now and has sold somewhere in the region hundreds of thousands - please license like, three of these tracks, they're actually good. The soundtrck of post void feels like its almost integral to the experience and right now it takes away from it in my books.

Oh, and there's remarkably half-baked roguelike mechanics that add absolutely nothing.

And the thing is, aside from that, I think the game is basically spot-on. Super fast, intense shooting with incredible visuals thats over in a flash. Which makes the cracks in such garish wallpaper stand out.

Its also worth mentioning this game's pathetic excuse for an accessibiity mode which is more of hazard than anything else. I'm fully in favour of using flashing screen effects as an artistic thing (I am your local Recca enjoyer after all), but having a mode thats meant to be better for photosensitive players and then having it fail to eliminate 95% of the game's extreme flashing effects is very poor form.

At first I was annoyed by the clutter - here is a game where just shooting well and typing WA and WD in a rhythm is more effective than the /actual/ avoidance mechanic provided (esp. once you get the bullet-slowing perk), but I've come to accept that in Bayonetta-like fashion, the true and best path forward is simply killing better while maintaining just enough lucidity to recognize shapes and motions. If you wanna add something to that, feel free - otherwise, get your aim right.

Regardless of the game quality itself, there's a genuine stroke of genius in putting an "unofficial" playlist on Spotify to tie into an achievement you can only get if you listen while playing. Not since Space Funeral have I seen such a harum-scarum approach to licensing.