The Book of Apshai—a personal exegesis (May 31, 2023)
A tour through the chapters of a most unusual and personally formative computer game manual from 1985.
My Hadean Lands links and endnotes (March 27, 2022)
Links to my completed Hadean Lands play-stream, as well as to some key supplementary material, and some reflection on my experiences with it all.
OBS is pretty great (December 26, 2021)
I've been having a lot of fun streaming weird text games via OBS.
If a game lets you pause, it should let you rewind (August 15, 2021)
My experience finishing a 27-year-old video game for the first time convinces me that all single-player games should let you undo mistakes freely.
Emulate crap TVs for sweet old games (July 23, 2021)
When it comes to the right way to play older video games, I've seen the light. And it's made of scan lines.
Three tips for Paradise Killer investigators (July 11, 2021)
Three spoiler-free tips for playing "Paradise Killer", an outlandish detective game I enjoyed quite a bit.
Bah-d’dah-dah, don’t you miss it (April 11, 2021)
One odd interaction with two seconds from the soundtrack of the rather good video game "Dicey Dungeons".
I loved Disco Elysium (January 22, 2021)
The most intense and rewarding adventure game I've played in years.
I understand Everything better now (December 15, 2020)
Exploring books by Alan Watts lets me better appreciate the message of "Everything", David O'Reilly's oblique video-game masterpiece from 2017.
Historical games should not flinch from history (November 21, 2020)
Games asking players to step into historically icky roles have a responsibility to be up-front about it.
Filling in the blanks (October 20, 2020)
Writing, puzzle-solving, and the benefits of daily diversion.
Further procgen thoughts (August 8, 2020)
More thoughts on how "Subcutanean" uses procedural generation to feel interactive, even though it isn't. (Or is it?) Also thoughts on "No Man's Sky", for some reason.
I played Sayonara Wild Hearts (August 4, 2020)
Kind of like "Dragon's Lair", except good.
I really like Streets of Rage 4 (May 23, 2020)
A satisfying sequel that knows to keep things simple.
I played Root, an asymmetrical wargame (March 9, 2020)
I finally got to play this amazing wargame of clashing woodland factions with extremely divergent agendas. I love it.
I played a lot of Subnautica (December 22, 2019)
Subnautica is the best video game I played in 2019. I attempt to explain why.
In support of leaving the table (October 22, 2019)
On the virtue of setting down a video game when you, the player, declare it complete, even when the game itself disagrees.
Sticky embodiment in VR games (August 8, 2019)
Zarf wrote an insightful critique on the use of VR in immersive adventure games. I extend that with some observations about games that use VR more effectively.
On unconsciously ripping off Lars von Trier (June 23, 2019)
Imagine my surprise when I saw a scene from a game I wrote in 2010 appear in a movie I'd never watched before from 2009.
I played Curse of the Garden Isle (May 31, 2019)
Thoughts on Ryan Veeder's aloha-fueled and highly accessible text adventure from 2018.
Narrascope! and other stuff I’m doing this year (May 10, 2019)
I'll be reading my work in Providence, then ushering in a new game conference in Boston, then who knows what.
I played Heaven’s Vault (May 3, 2019)
This strange, dreamy, enormous adventure through a fantastic landscape of language and history struggles to contain all its own wonders.
Spoilerific thoughts on Obra Dinn (February 9, 2019)
A followup collection of thoughts about _Return of the Obra Dinn_, containing spoilers aplenty.
I played Return of the Obra Dinn (February 9, 2019)
Quite enjoyed this short detective game requiring surprisingly intense observation and deduction, yet providing a nicely balanced difficulty level.
I’ve been playing Diablo III (October 28, 2018)
Years after its initial release, this colorful game of co-op monster-bashing mayhem feels weighted with a despairingly ignorant political message.
I played Layers of Fear (September 3, 2018)
I quite enjoyed this haunted-house exploration for its masterful use of a single perception-altering trick specific to first-person video games.
I visited Free Play Bar Arcade in Providence (August 12, 2018)
With high curatorial taste and an excellent use of an unusual space, Free Play has quickly become my favorite modern arcade with a classic-games focus.
I played Virtue’s Last Reward (August 4, 2018)
This lengthy sequel to _Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors_ feels like it took the wrong lessons about what made its predecessor amazingly unique and compelling.
How open source plays interactive fiction (July 24, 2018)
A study of how open-source software has fostered the growth and development of interactive fiction. (Originally published at Opensource.com.)
I played Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors (July 8, 2018)
I loved this wackadoo fantasy-horror room-escapey visual novel with superb localization, voice acting, and a refreshingly original puzzle-hinting style.
I am playing This is the Police (April 29, 2018)
Reflections from the halfway mark of a strange and flawed narrative video game probably destined for my best-of-the-year list.
I played The Last Guardian (February 18, 2018)
More than merely simulating an animal, this game emulates the bond with an animal companion, with all its joys, sorrows, and challenges.
I played _Nier: Automata_
(February 8, 2018)
My uncertain appreciation for this broken-beautiful video game mirrors its own thematic obscurity under abstract layers of flowing black lace.
I played Universal Paperclips (October 11, 2017)
This eight-hour clicker-game tells a solid science-fiction parable, and stands among the best short games I've played in years.
Constrained and meaningful role-play in Prey (October 6, 2017)
Improving upon prior landmark work, “Prey” gives its players surprising opportunity for role-play using only shoot-and-loot mechanics.
I played Rock of Ages 2 (September 16, 2017)
My review of the video game 'Rock of Ages 2' by ACE Team. Originally written for Tleaves.com.
I played John’s Fire Witch (September 1, 2017)
My thoughts on a short and charming text adventure game from 1995, and one of the catalysts for the first IFComp.
I played _The Walking Dead: Michonne_
(August 9, 2017)
At the beginning of this three-episode mini-season of Telltale’s Walking Dead game-serial, Michonne — a main character from the comics and TV show, as I understand it — collapses to her knees after battling a small horde of the titular brain-eaters. Completely exhausted both physically and spiritually, and racked with grief over the recent loss of her children, she considers her pistol. As she does so, the game offers us its first choice: have her put it away, or let her end it all?
My early PSVR impressions and observations (August 1, 2017)
I snap-purchased a PSVR in early June, hours after the idea struck me that VR would transform — indeed, must have already transformed — the driving-simulator games I have always enjoyed. Two months later, I still haven’t tried any PSVR driving games. I have, though, spent enough time with the device to learn firsthand about the unexpected nature of presence it carries in two places: one on your skull, and one in your brain.
My household has lately been enjoying The Witcher 3 a great deal — it has picked up the long-disused banner last carried by Fallout: New Vegas as a compelling and well-written “triple-A” game that we enjoy playing together, treating like a TV series. (And a bingeable one, for good or ill.) That said, I find myself needing a break from it, even though after six weeks of almost daily play we’ve arrived at the main storyline’s final act. While my partner plays solo for a while, gladly hoovering up all the earlier sidequests we’d left behind, I ponder why my attention ebbed over the game’s vast middle — especially compared to its extremely interesting prologue.
I played What Remains of Edith Finch (May 20, 2017)
Maybe seeing Synecdoche, New York so recently made me more receptive to feeling disappointed by media presenting mortality-metaphors involving impossible houses — and then, having presented them, don’t know quite what direction to take them. Well, it happened again.
More about last Night (March 7, 2017)
The morning after, I feel I wrote too harshly about poor Mae, the protagonist of Night in the Woods. While I stand by my calling her naive, I also implied that she showed cowardice, what with the whole story kicking off by her bailing out of college, trying to recapture her sweet teenage doldrums from her parents’ attic bedroom. I want to walk that back.
I played Night in the Woods (March 6, 2017)
I adored almost everything about this game. I wish that, upon completion, it offered a magic button that would replay the game from the beginning by itself, taking all the major choice-paths that I didn’t, so I could see everything I missed. I’d been looking forward to playing Night in the Woods since hearing its lead designers speak at Word Play in Toronto two years ago, and for some reason their description of a particular scene of the main character and her friend eating donuts at a late-night coffee shop in their decaying rust-belt town really stuck with me. While I felt richly rewarded by every choice I made in my playthrough, I did manage to miss the donuts entirely.
Automatically posting Twitch broadcasts to Slack (February 22, 2017)
I wanted to set up one of my social Slacks such that a notification would automatically appear in the main chat-channel when I, or another of our circle of friends, started broadcasting gameplay on Twitch. I got it working, more or less! You’ll need a certain level of nerdcraft to follow the path I found, including access to a Linux server and knowledge of crontasks.
Dark Souls as a closet of angry monkeys (September 12, 2015)
A couple of weeks ago, a friend retweeted someone’s public call for real-life stories involving the video game Dark Souls, collected for a potential book on this topic. It happens that I had one, so I emailed this person as directed.
A new text game by me, and other recent game work (March 19, 2015)
As detailed over on The Gameshelf, I wrote a short interactive story called The McFarlane Job for House of Cool, a creative studio in Toronto, to help them show off their new platform for games that resemble SMS conversations. Do give it a look!
I played Ingress and then wrote about it (March 13, 2015)
I published a 2,500-word essay over on The Gameshelf (the long-running blog-space I share with Andrew Plotkin) about my week playing Ingress, Google’s augmented-reality (and slightly alternate-reality) game.