Dénouement 2013: Part 2

  By Shamus   Jan 6, 2014   134 comments

And now for my top five games of 2013. Remember that the order here is pretty loose, and in a different mood I might present them in some other order.

Note also that I’m not doing a “worst games of 2013″ list. There’s not that much for me to hate, really. Batman: Arkham Origins was flawed, but not horrible. I avoided Aliens: Colonial Marines, SimCity, Ride to Hell: Retribution, and The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct, which were the real stinkers this year.

5. Stanley Parable

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Another game that people accused of not being a game. It’s an extended joke, an essay, a stand-up routine and yes – a parable. Sort of. But it’s a joke that could only be told in the context of a game. It doesn’t have one-liners you can repeat to get a laugh. The only way to get the joke is to participate in the joke, and in participating you find there’s nothing for you to do, because that’s the joke. Or whatever. It’s all very meta.

It was smart and amusing and very, very charming.

4. Gone Home

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Most games want to be movies. Gone Home feels more like a book. And not because of the reading you do (although you do spend time reading) but because of the tone and subject matter. This is a story about a troubled kid, and in the process of finding out what happened to her we get to know her friends and family.

Laying aside the annoying “this is not a game” argument (please let’s not do that again) this was was a wonderful experience. It’s a smart title that does a lot with very little in the way of mechanics.

I also have to praise the game for the restrained and even-handed way it approached its subject matter. The big deal with Gone Home is that it deftly handles this subject where so many other games have either stumbled or aimed low. Sam is a a troubled teenager and a lesbian, growing up in a world that was still trying to figure out what that meant. She’s not really the victim of hate or maliciousness. She’s the victim of a community that doesn’t understand and doesn’t know how to deal with her. Her parents still love her, they just think this “gay thing” as some teenage aberration that she’s going to grow out of.

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I grew up in that world. If Sam was a real person, then today she’d only be about five years younger than I am. I remember when everyone thought the way her parents and teachers do. Today it’s pretty much accepted that we can’t change our orientation and that perhaps one in ten people* don’t fit into the standard hetero assumptions. When I was Sam’s age, homosexuals were thought to be super-rare, and their orientation was viewed as a kind of kink. Opinions that people would call “homophobic” today were just conventional wisdom back then. And note that most people didn’t really have ill will towards alternative lifestyles. They just didn’t understand. If you’re under twenty-five now, it’s probably hard for you to grasp just how much things have changed. It’s been amazing to see an entire culture make such a drastic shift in such a short time.

* Or whatever, let’s not argue percentages.

I’ve seen the change happen in my lifetime, and I love how faithfully the writer of Gone Home has captured that world. Sam’s parents are the antagonists, but they’re not villains. They’re just people who literally don’t understand what their daughter is going through and don’t know what they’re supposed to do about it. This story could have been heavy-handed, sanctimonious, or patronizing. It could have raged at that old world and the people that lived in it. But it was instead gentle and introspective.

The rest of the worldbuilding is achieved with the same loving attention to detail. The appliances. The books. The school supplies. The clothing. The lingo. The music. The furniture. The decor. It’s not a caricature or an exaggeration of the times. Instead it’s perfectly, genuinely mid-90’s, right down to having leftover bits of the late 80’s hanging around.

It was a powerful game that yanked my thoughts back into my teenage years and kept them there long after I’d finished the playing.

3. Kerbal Space Program

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Isn’t this game still in development? Why is it on my list?

Honestly, I don’t know what to do with these “public alpha” games. It was strange when Minecraft wasn’t really considered “finished” until a couple of years after it became a cultural phenomenon and a large portion of the audience had moved on. That’s like a movie not being eligible for an Academy Award until it appears on Netflix streaming. It’s not eligible until it’s irrelevant? That can’t be right.

So rather than try to hammer out some arbitrary rule regarding the ever-more fuzzy concept of “release dates”, I’ll just say that public alpha games are eligible on the year I play them. It’s my list, so that’s probably the only criteria that makes sense anyway.

Kerbal is notable for being the most educational game I’ve ever played. The mechanics are physics, and as you learn to play the game you’ll learn how the space program works. It’s one thing if Randal tells you that space is easy to reach and hard to STAY in, but nothing teaches like experience.

2. Tomb Raider

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After all the “streamlining” and re-imagining of the 2000’s that turned games I loved into games that irritated me, here is a reboot that turned something I didn’t care about into something I liked. I suppose it sucks for fans of the classic Tomb Raider games, but I was glad to get this one.

The new Tomb Raider wasn’t perfect. It had problems with tone. It downplayed its strongest aspects (the tomb puzzles) and focused too much on the shooting. The Sam character was awful. But the platforming was great, the puzzles were just right, and the shooting avoided the bullet-sponge feel of typical popup shooters in favor of something more fast and visceral.

It’s a good start to the “new” franchise.

1. Papers, Please

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Warning! Politics! Not much, but a little.

If you read my Autoblography then you know that among the things I hate in this world, two of the big ones are people being treated like cattle and paperwork. So I’m sure you can imagine how much antipathy I have for stuff like current airport security measures and DUI checkpoints. As far as I can tell, I was born with a predisposition to hate this sort of thing, since I can never remember a time when I didn’t find it offensive or creepy. This is why I refuse to have anything to do with airline travel. I love flying, but I refuse to subject myself to that dehumanizing and grotesque circus they’re running in airports these days.

You think I’ve had an axe to grind over DRM? That’s peanuts. Sure, it’s a system that is unjust, unreasonable, doesn’t solve the original problem of piracy, and creates many new problems in the process, but at the end of the day it’s just videogames. Imagine how pissed off I get when the stakes aren’t disposable entertainment, but human life and liberty. It’s one of the reasons I don’t allow politics here. I get too upset about this. I still can’t believe people stand in that line and let those agents do those things to them. The fact that in a few years we’ll have a whole fresh generation of people that think of this as “normal” fills me with dread. I refuse to “get used to” this.

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Anyway.

The point is, you’d think that I’d love a game like Papers, Please. It’s a game that shows how awful people can be to each other as long as the awfulness is all written down nice and neat in the rulebooks. A game that shows that the system harms both the people holding the papers and the people checking the papers. A game that shows how corruptive it can be to wield sweeping police power, even if the powers were designed with good intentions and given to basically decent people. In a system like this, you’re either the butcher, or the cow. And you don’t want to be the cow.

I dunno. Maybe I was seeing more than was there. Understand that if I hold this game up to more praise than seems reasonable, it’s because the thing really pushes my buttons. Don’t ask me to be objective about Papers, Please. That’s like asking me to be objective about appraising a boot that’s stomping on my face.

The rule in movies is “Show, don’t tell”. The rule in games is “Do, don’t show”. Papers, Please has almost nothing to say directly about its subject matter, but instead lets you participate in the utterly mundane horror of bureaucratic oppression. The mechanics perfectly show concepts that are hard to convincingly explain, such as how even a short list of seemingly reasonable regulations can make for chaos and confusion. You can see on one side some policy-maker concluding that issuing work permits would “simplify and streamline” the processing of visitors, and you can experience first-hand just how hilariously wrong this idea is. It’s a game with mechanics that work perfectly with the message, with art that wraps you in the desperation and smothering indifference of the Eastern bloc.

When we complain about ludonarrative dissonance, we’re usually complaining about games that have some kind of conflict between their mechanics and their tone, theme, story, or message: The main character is supposedly a fumbling aged alcoholic loser, but in gameplay he’s an unstoppable killing machine both before and after giving up the booze. You’re supposedly haunted by the deaths of twelve soldiers, but in gameplay you’ll kill a hundred guys and a couple dozen innocents in the process of doing some side-job for a modest paycheck at the behest of some idiot you barely know. But in Papers, Please the mechanics are the message, and the result is a wonderful of example of communicating through play.

In my case, the game is literally too good. It achieves its goals so perfectly that I can’t bear to play the damn thing. A lot of people make a big deal about the cruel hell of Dark Souls, but for my money there is no worse hell in videogames than Papers, Please. Sure, Desert Bus might be boring, but after an hour of Papers, Please I found myself longing for something as soothing as mere boredom. Silent Hill is scary, but it’s nothing compared to the realization that the events of this videogame aren’t that far from actual things actual people do in the actual real world.

I find myself in a strange position of wanting to make this my GAME OF THE YEAR while also never wanting to play it ever again. It’s a perfect game. It accomplishes exactly what it sets out to do. And for that I admire it. From a distance.

Glory to Arstotzka!

Wrapping up…

So that’s my list for this year. Go ahead and complain about the ones I left out. I know how you are, internet.

A Hundred!2014There are 134 comments here. I really hope you like reading.


  1. elilupe says:

    This is a great list, pretty similar to what mine would be this year. However, I would personally replace Tomb Raider(or perhaps Kerbal) with Kentucky Route Zero. Now THAT is an intelligent game, one of the finest written games in the history of gaming, in my humble opinion.
    The thing that makes it so fantastic, and the reason I think a lot of people passed up on it, is because it’s so nonchalant about its own intelligence. It’s an amazing thing that should be played.

    • ET says:

      I like that game, but personally, I wouldn’t put it on a list until it’s finished.
      …which pretty much is against what Shamus was arguing above, with stuff like Minecraft and Kerbal Space Program.
      Hmm, maybe I’m being too harsh on it.

      Either way, yeah, KRZ is a fantastic game.
      I just wish they would release the episodes more frequently. :)

  2. RTBones says:

    TECHNICALLY…its easy to stay in space. Where the difficulty comes in is staying in low-earth orbit because you are continually fighting gravity. Yes, that is a nit, but its one worth noting.

    The name of the game in space is energy management. Obviously, it is very expensive – both in terms of weight and monetary cost – to carry copious amounts of liquid and solid fuel into space. That’s why many of our deep space probes use planetary fly-bys. A planetary fly-by (or slingshot) an be used to accelerate, decelerate, or redirect a spacecraft with minimal use of fuel. This is why Cassini-Huyygens – the probe that went to study Saturn and its moons – flew by Venus TWICE en route.

    • Alex says:

      “TECHNICALLY…its easy to stay in space. Where the difficulty comes in is staying in low-earth orbit because you are continually fighting gravity. Yes, that is a nit, but its one worth noting.”

      It’s easy to stay in space, but only if you’re already staying in space. It’s hard to start staying in space, and Kerbal Space Program does a great job of teaching the player that in a fun way.

      • Volfram says:

        There we go.

        Even near-Earth orbit is easy to *stay* in, but only if you’re already staying in it. It’s the transition from “not staying in Space” to “staying in Space” that requires you to accelerate to about 6km/s.

        Once you’re there, so long as you’re outside of the atmosphere…well, now it’s hard to stop staying in space.

    • Retsam says:

      I’ve always wondered how you plan that sort of thing. (Either in real life or in KSP, I suppose) It seems like a really difficult problem domain, even for computers to solve.

      • Paul Spooner says:

        Welcome, timid traveler, to the terrifying world of Porkchop Plots, Interplanetary Transport Networks, and Orbital Mechanic Differential Calculus. Of course, you could just wing it instead. As KSP demonstrates, this works surprisingly well!

        Just as difficult as doing the math to calculate gravity assist chains is waiting for the alignment of the planets. When you want to run more than two or three in a row, you may need to wait a few hundred years.

      • Halceon says:

        And yet, people did it with the equivalent of a bunch of mid-90s mobile phones. I remember this roughly once a month and it blows my mind every time.

      • Alex says:

        In Kerbal Space Program you can create a maneuver node and then adjust it to show the predicted path if you perform a certain burn. A burn during a slingshot has a larger effect than one performed while drifting through space, so that’s generally enough to nudge your orbit onto the next intercept course, without wasting too much fuel.

      • Volfram says:

        The mathematics are indeed INCREDIBLY complex if you’re solving N-body gravitational physics. KSP uses Patched Conics calculations, which aren’t as precise and only work with 1 large gravitational field and 1 negligible-mass object that it’s affecting, but are much, much faster to calculate, and provide a “good enough” approximation. Especially if the only thing you’re simulating is the simulator itself.

        Thing is, though, you remember how humans learn to walk after about a year, and can learn to overhand-throw a baseball in even less time, while robots are only just starting to be able to do both reliably? Humans are REALLY good at estimating stuff that “looks right,” especially if we have a computer to do the heavy number-crunch calculations and give us some estimated feedback.

        It turns out that transitioning from “not staying in space” to “staying in space” pretty much involves “accellerate parallel to the horizon until your ballistic trajectory no longer intercepts atmosphere or ground,” and the opposite involves “accellerate directly opposite your current directional vector until your ballistic trajectory intersects atmosphere or ground.”

  3. Christoffer Dragsted says:

    Regarding Tomb raider:
    I recently stumbled over this, kind of old, podcast.
    In it,the developers reveal that the original plan with Sam was to have Lara sacrifice Sam to stop the queen from coming back. That is why she is carrying Sam back to the boat “princess style”. She is brining back Sam’s body. They ended up changing it because players felt they “didn’t win”. This also explains why there is no pay of to Roth’s talk about loss and sacrifice.

    Still does not make Sam a better character.

    • That sends a REALLY uncomfortable vibe through me. Basically that tells me that Sam is unlikable because they wanted her to be in order to make it easier for the player to kill her. Before, it could be argued that her uselessness was largely unintentional and merely the result of both laziness and our familiarity with a play out trope, but now it appears this behavior was consciously included in order to send the message to the player that this character serves no purpose other than to die. What we got was bad quality bad, but that..that’s crossing a moral line IMHO.

      It also finally puts that mounted gun scene Sam has into terrifying context…

      • Thomas says:

        I’m glad they didn’t go down that route in the end. Lara’s character story was cool, but it wouldn’t have worked well with her having to kill her best friend. That’s too grim

      • syal says:

        I’m assuming there would have been some kind of “It’s all I can do” redemption speech from Sam so it would be less uncomfortable and more cliche.

        Either way I think it would take a much darker story to allow an ending where the hero sacrifices someone else for the greater good. The main character dying still usually feels like a loss, and making the choice to take a bullet isn’t nearly as disturbing as making the choice that someone else will take a bullet.

  4. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Its funny how something so infuriating as bureaucracy can be used for entertainment so successfully.Its also sad how such parody is sometimes so close to the truth.

    • ET says:

      Oh, wow, that sounds horrible.
      I’m sure that the government has good reasons to fight people claiming to be a dead person.
      (Tax fraud, or something similar, I imagine.)
      I’m too dumbfounded to say much more on this topic. :O

  5. Blov says:

    Must admit that Papers Please was wonderful – very powerful piece of work. I’m fond of the new Tomb Raider, though I kind of felt the ludonarrative dissonance in that just made it impossible for me to enjoy either the story or the tomb puzzling stuff properly. My GOTYs are probably the wonderful addictive surprisingly deep and balanced little indie strategy/puzzle/roguelike game Desktop Dungeons and AAA-bloatmonster Bioshock Infinite because it was just so damn beautiful that I spent the whole game unable to criticise any of the probably considerable issues with it (also it’s just a better *Bioshock* game than the other two because it’s stopped pretending that layering System Shock mechanics and open world roaming onto a brutally linear resource-abundant game will feel at all like System Shock). I really wanted to like Company of Heroes 2 but the paid-DLC elements have just put me off it completely by now.

    Old things I played – Planescape Torment remains the best writing in a game ever by miles and miles and miles. System Shock 2 was another of those old games that is brilliant up until the final level which just stopped me playing (cf Half-life 1). The Settlers IV is compelling and fun and has nice shiny tutorials and a bit too hard. Heroes of Might and Magic 3 is still a worse game than 4 but still so much more addictive and fun. I am trying to understand this. Wolfenstein 3D was a surprising amount of fun given how old it is. I want to like Freedom Force’s silver-age superhero realtimewithpause bits but I just don’t think the gameplay holds up and the maps are large and time-consuming and the conservative strategy gameplay jars with the superhero mood.

    • Kylroy says:

      “Heroes of Might and Magic 3 is still a worse game than 4 but still so much more addictive and fun. I am trying to understand this.”

      In all the Heroes games, the tension is in getting your troops from the towns they are purchased in to the places you need to defend or attack. In Heroes 3, a character with Town Portal and Advanced Earth Magic (and a reasonable amount of Wisdom and Knowledge) can assemble all your troops within a day or two, then storm off to bring them to bear wherever needed. This is why my brother and I call the third game “Heroes of Might and Advanced Earth Magic”. I think it’s more addictive and fun than 4 because you don’t need to reinvent the wheel on every map – the answer is always “rush to Town Portal and Advanced Earth magic”.

      • Veylon says:

        I’ve been replaying Homm3 as recently as earlier today and, yeah, Town Portal is grossly overpowered. Expert Earth and Expert Air gives pretty much all the good spells, both on the battlefield and off. Even a Warrior-type with thirty or forty spell points can roll like an archmage with those two and Wisdom.

        It gets crazier when you play the campaigns and can farm Mage Guilds for all the level five spells before bringing your OP hero to the next scenario.

  6. Random Internet Man says:

    “Today it’s pretty much accepted that we can’t change our orientation”

    Which is insane. Every neuropsychologist worth their salt can tell you humans have lost their sexual instinct, and our sexual orientation is determined by a combination of biological aspects and environmental factors, some of which extend well into adult life. Most people stick to one specific path in adulthood because of cultural taboos and self-imposed reluctance to try new experiences, rather than hardwired behavior.

    Yet in the PR fight for LGBT people to be accepted, that outdated notion was claimed to be truth until most people bought it. It’s not hard to see why. You can’t convince the bigots being gay is morally right, so you sidestep those moral issues by saying people don’t have any choice in the matter. But besides perpetuating a lie, think about the message this idea is sending: you have to accept me, because it’s not my fault if I’m gay. This is stupid. The message we should be sending is it’s OK to be attracted, it’s OK to choose to be attracted to any consenting adult regardless of their gender.

    • Abnaxis says:

      I would wholeheartedly agree with you but would caution you that what you are talking about is much bigger than the LGBT community. Virtually all of the “-isms” today stem from selection along cultural lines–usually expressed in sentiments like “I have no problem with gay people as long as they don’t flaunt it” or “I’m OK with black people as long as they dress neatly,” for example.

      For what you’re talking about, we as a society would have to figure out a way to break down that “I only accept superficially different people who are culturally similar to me” mindset. It would be great to break it, and I personally try my best where I can, but I’ve found that there’s a strong, almost instinctual resistance whenever I point out this type of prejudice.

      • syal says:

        I would argue that acceptance of people who are not culturally similar to you is itself a cultural trait, and to not accept cultural intolerance from other people is to not accept people who are not culturally similar to you.

        (I think the “superficially different” part of your statement only comes up because people assume superficial features indicate culture.)

        • Abnaxis says:

          First, that sentence hurt my head. I had to read it three time to grok it O.o

          Second, there’s a difference between agreement and acceptance. Most of my friends and family are religious and I am not–that doesn’t mean we are no longer friends or that we treat each other poorly, even though we would both probably prefer to convert the other to our own way of thinking. Part of the trickiness of this issue is that there is no real black and white line between “acceptance” and “prejudice.”

          Third, I say “superficially different” because that is the way prejudice is usually framed. For example, phrases like “treated poorly solely because of the color of their skin” when describing racism. I think that is where part of the mindset of “if I accept anyone who fits my narrow cultural framework regardless of skin color so long as they aren’t different in any other perceivable way” comes from. See also: “you’re one of the good minorities, not like all those other bad ones.”

          • Paul Spooner says:

            While I agree that accepting superficial differences only if they are based on deeper similarities is a rather weak form of tolerance, It’s certainly better than nothing. I don’t think there are many people who are capable of truly loving their polar opposite. The modern outrage against terrorists, or any other “public enemy” demonstrates that we, as a culture, aren’t really interested in truly deep tolerance.

            I guess what I’m saying is that for real tolerance, we’ve got to tolerate intolerance. This makes it a rather weak moral stance, since it can’t be enforced on others. And what’s the point of a system of morality that doesn’t let us judge ourselves or others?

            • Kian says:

              Depending on what you mean by tolerance, I would disagree.

              Tolerance isn’t good in and of itself. Tolerance is good because welcoming people with different experiences and worldviews enriches everyone’s lives. But that is only true when the people you are welcoming are also welcoming of others.

              Tolerating intolerance doesn’t lead to this desirable outcome. On the contrary, it forces you to stay on the sidelines as intolerant groups band to squash others who are different, until they can get to you.

              Obviously, you wouldn’t go and use violent means to fight intolerance, which is why I said that it depends on how you frame tolerance. If you mean that you have to rebuke them but not try to ostracize them or use violence against them, then ok. If you mean you have to show them the same courtesy you would show someone with whom you might respectfully disagree with, then no.

          • syal says:

            I think usually if someone is saying something like “you’re one of the good ones” to a superficially different person that acts like them, they’re just as likely to say bad things about a superficially similar kid that acts differently than them. It’s a sign of blanket intolerance more than racial intolerance.

            First, that sentence hurt my head. I had to read it three times to grok it O.o

            …I miss playing Mafia.

    • Deoxy says:

      The message we should be sending is it’s OK to be attracted, it’s OK to choose to be attracted to any consenting adult regardless of their gender.

      Something which is, essentially, utterly impossible to convince a certain (large) segment of the population of (that is, several major world religions).

      Lying was required, and still is. I expect the lying to continue for my entire life, both for reasons of convenience for those lying, and because it’s a political issue, and there are ALWAYS people lying about political issues (even when the truth would serve better, in many cases).

      There are a lot of things I’d like to say here, but I’ll refrain out of respect for our host (not that I think we agree or disagree on the subject, merely that he likes avoiding the big nasty political/religious topics on his blog).

      • Paul Spooner says:

        As an adherent to of one of those religions, I agree that it is ultimately a hopeless task. However, if the point is not to convince individuals of the personal value of an LGBT lifestyle, but instead to convince the body politic of the legal value of not punishing such a lifestyle, then things look very different. In that sense the success of the LGBT cause is, in the US anyway, absolute. People will always try to make other people feel uncomfortable for being different, and the US constitution guarantees this freedom. The fact that it is culturally looked down on to do so in the matter of LGBT is, I think, Shamus’ point.

        While I agree that lying is both widespread and deeply embraced, I disagree that lying is ever necessary. We could tell each other the truth, both about our own beliefs and what we think of others. That we choose not to certainly says something about us, but I don’t think it justifies it.

        I’ve been quite pleased with how civil the conversation has turned out, actually. Initially I was avoiding commenting on this thread, but it seems to be resting at a comfortably low level of rhetorical heat.

    • Volfram says:

      It’s nice to see someone explain this with a bit of intelligence for a change. People talking about the subject with a bit of intelligence is what allowed me to start forming my own theories about human sexuality, which I think adequately explain, coming from my perspective as a Christian, how God can love everybody, but denounce homosexuality.

      It’s a shame I’ve only heard about 3 people talk about it intelligently. Fortunately, that’s all I needed.

      You have little or no control over WHAT YOU FIND ATTRACTIVE. You have complete control over WHAT YOU DO ABOUT IT. The Bible never said anything with respect to what one is interested in. It only forbids certain responses, and frankly, that only has bearing if you’re Christian or Jewish.(I can not speak with regards to other religions’ views or scriptures on the subject.)

      Also, what you find attractive is subject to change throughout your life. Sometimes, this is gradual. Sometimes, it’s sudden, violent, and completely unexpected.

      We’re humans. Growing and changing throughout our lives is what we’re SUPPOSED to do.

      • Viktor says:

        I have control over what I do. You have control over what you do. Nowhere do you get control over what I do. My life is my business, and the government is specifically forbidden from interfering in it on behalf of any given religion.

        Unless you’d like to obey the rules of my holy book, which bans all heterosexual marriages and requires all sexual activities to involve at least 3 people. If that sounds ridiculous, congratulations and welcome to the life of all non-Christians in the US.

        • Volfram says:

          “I have control over what I do. You have control over what you do. Nowhere do you get control over what I do. My life is my business, and the government is specifically forbidden from interfering in it on behalf of any given religion.”

          You are absolutely right, and I agree with you 100%. That’s what “Separation of Church and State” means. The church should not get directly involved with political matters, and the state should never try to interfere with church matters.

          Not that they don’t anyway, of course.

        • Deoxy says:

          The law against murder is a moral or ethical judgement, just as any other. You can either say that we set moral and/or ethical boundaries in law, or we don’t. If we do, which ones we set are subject to the whatever system we have used to make those laws, and nothing is off limits. Whether those ideas originally came from a religious book or not are irrelevant, other than to those who hold them. (Well, unless you are some kind of bigot, I suppose.)

          In the US, we have enshrined certain rights “endowed by our Creator” into our highest law (the Constitution), but even those are subject to change via constitutional amendment.

          Unless you are saying there are certain immutable things, in which case, the argument boils down to which ones are immutable… which reduces to the same argument we just had.

          In short, welcome to the life of every person who has a minority viewpoint on any subject. The “LGBT community” has no special claim on that status, and in fact, in the current day US, has much LESS claim that most ethical minorities (those who wish to use certain drugs, for instance). Heck, we’re in the middle of redefining the basic family unit in place for AT LEAST centuries (more like millenia, in the vast majority of human experience) to fit their whim.

          Question: which is a heavier hand of government? The one that lets you screw anyone you want and doesn’t bloody care but streamlines the survivorship, power-of-attorney, and other such rules for the most common domestic setup (what used to be simply referred to as “marriage”), or the one that comes and takes your money and puts you out of business for not doing something that was supposedly voluntary for money for someone who believes differently that you? See the photographer in Colorado.

          So yeah, cry me a river, build a bridge, and get over it.

      • syal says:

        I’ll say that as a Christian I’ve also been asking that question a lot, and I’ve come to the conclusion that homosexuality is considered an abominable sin* mainly because it’s ending the family line and therefore not honoring your father and your mother. The Bible mentions multiplying one’s descendants as a blessing several times so (acting on) homosexuality is directly denying a Godly blessing on your ancestors and yourself.

        *Also an abominable sin: weighted scales, and other forms of lying.

        • Volfram says:

          The way I understood it, Homosexuality is considered an abominable sin because it’s a sexual sin. If it was about reproduction, then adultery and fornication wouldn’t be punished.

          In fact, I forget the specifics(and I’m having trouble figuring out what phrases to punch into BibleGateway to find what I’m looking for. If someone else would like to check, I’d be highly appreciative), but I recall at least a couple of places where I think Jesus and later either Peter or Paul basically say “Oh, you don’t plan on having sex ever? Good for you, that shows some real dedication. If you don’t think you can pull it off, though, maybe find yourself a good woman.”

          On his death bed, Issac Newton expressed a certain degree of pride in the fact that he would die a virgin.

          • syal says:

            Basically the no children thing is just a unique stone on top of the pile; not the whole problem, just why it’s singled out. Abominable sins as far as I can tell are all about self-indulgence, usually at the cost of others.

            Jesus, Paul and Peter all preached the values of celibacy, but I think that was in furtherance of the message: if you’re married with children you have to have a lot more dedication to spend your life preaching to violent people in violent places (you’re either taking your family with you to face danger, or you’re casting them aside).

            • Paul Spooner says:

              So (seeing that we’re already deep in religion territory here) allow me to add that, in addition to the above reasons, Christianity denigrates homosexuality on the grounds of being a harmful metaphor. The Christ is the husband of the Church, and nearly every aspect of heterosexual marriage and human sexuality is given a metaphorical and spiritual significance in Christian doctrine. In such a context, the practice of homosexuality (not the temptation, as Volfram rightly pointed out) is harmful on a spiritual level, as well as the physical, emotional, and intellectual ones mentioned above.

              Of course, many practices which our nominally “christian” culture accepts (and to a certain degree the institutionalized church as well), such as denying sexual satisfaction to a spouse, divorce, and sexual egalitarianism are equally condemned on these grounds. I suspect that the hypocrisy involved in condemning LGBT while simultaneously approving of other sexual sins is the more pressing danger to the Church.

        • Veylon says:

          Hold on there. Is this seriously coming from a church where the entire priestly corp is forbidden to continue their family line on pain of being expelled? The same church that is outraged at the very idea that Christ might have married? I always find this dichotomy baffling.

          • Shamus says:

            Actually, that’s (mostly) just Catholics that expect priests to remain single. Other denominations disagree with this and encourage (or even expect) their leaders to be part of a stable household.

            It’s complicated.

            • Deoxy says:

              It’s not THAT complicated. In the bible, there are two competing ideas that would apply to leaders:

              -the general idea that those who can should remain celibate, so as to put their full effort into God’s work (but “better to marry than burn with passion”, from memory, so probably paraphrased a bit)

              -one of the things that makes a good elder (leader in the church) is that their children are all faithful Christians

              Those two things aren’t necessarily in conflict, but they are different enough that human nature wants to pick one over the other.

              Hence the catholic church, which emphasizes the former and ignores the latter, and some denominations do the opposite (REQUIRE that leaders have families). From what I can tell, most protestant churches (“protestant” meaning “not catholic”) make no specific formal statement on it but in practice choose leaders with families a large majority of the time.

          • syal says:

            No, it’s not coming from a church like that.

    • When an orientation can be seen as a subset of all potential orientations and self-defining as any one does not prevent the changing of it to a different one as either a ‘currently I prefer to be considered X, for sensible social reasons of conveying my current state of mind’ or ‘I was incorrectly classifying myself previously and the subset is bigger or different with what I now consider my understanding of myself’ then the difference drops away. Think of it as a classification of ‘I have once been or am (or will be) into this set of orientations’ but with extra nuance in identifying as a more restricted subset when meeting others to express where you currently wish to present yourself / how you currently feel.

      That’s a bit of a semantic difference but I think it’s how you unify the main LGBT* viewpoint with a ‘born X’ attack on bigots. Yes, you’re right that it is generally a basic step taken to deflect the bigots and horrors of ideas like ‘cured straight’. But when an orientation is seen as a complete expression of all future and past orientations then it is also something you are ‘born with’ (obviously this has quotes because it requires a fate assumption). LGBT* is about the fluidity of all of this and the right of the person to decide how they identify at any moment in time, even if the wider PR has leant on this idea of ‘born X’ to shut down indoctrination camps which are futilely trying to rewire the existing orientation of a person as if they need to be ‘fixed’ (and that we have the tools to do such rewiring with any degree of success, even if it was desirable or ethical to try).

    • Peter H. Coffin says:

      And there is a yawning difference between “no sexual instinct” (which really implies a *species wide* rigor, not an individual one, but we’ll take it how you said it) and “cheerfully able to change what one finds attractive to suit another’s opinion of what’s acceptable.”

      And that’s before we enter into the whole ball of wax about whether another’s opinion should matter at all.

    • krellen says:

      Funny thing, during the 2008 Presidential primary campaign, my state’s Governor got in a bit of a kerfluffle with the LGBT community because he said that homosexuality was “absolutely a choice” – but if you actually listened to him, and if you actually knew his position on the issue, he meant it as “it’s a completely valid and acceptable thing that one should be free to choose without fear or repercussion”, but because of the framing of the issue these days, saying it was “a choice” has been coded to be opposing the validity of homosexuality.

      • Paul Spooner says:

        Well, identifying something as a “choice” DOES imply a certain degree of responsibility and accountability. If something is a choice, then I need to accept the consequences of that choice, both good and bad. Conversely, if something is not a choice, then I am absolved of all responsibility regarding the outcomes. If LGBT is a choice, it implies that those who practice it are going to have to accept part of the responsibility for some people disliking them, giving them a hard time, etc. On the other hand, if it’s not a choice, then one can not ascribe any moral value to practicing or not practicing such a lifestyle. There are drawbacks (and advantages) either way you state it.

    • Aitch says:

      “The message we should be sending is it’s OK to be attracted, it’s OK to choose to be attracted to any consenting adult regardless of their gender.”

      Which would be fine if it was true for everyone, but… I don’t know about anyone else, but I never found myself with much of a choice as to who I was attracted to. Either I found them attractive, or I didn’t. The only place choice entered into the equation was how I chose to act on that feeling of attraction.

      The thought of forcing myself to be attracted to anyone, for whatever reason, seems somewhat emotionally detached and perhaps a bit sociopathic. I don’t know, maybe I’m reading it wrong, or maybe a lot of people really do choose partners solely for things like gaining social advantage or increasing wealth or thinking the other person would be a good specimen to reproduce with – and I’ve been going about it completely wrong all this time.

      I don’t know. The whole idea confuses me. Like how is having our sexuality determined by “a combination of biological aspects and environmental factors” (which don’t seem to have much to do with personal choice) any different than saying “it’s pretty much accepted that we can’t change our orientation”?

      I wish it was as simple as saying “I choose not to be attracted to this person” but it just doesn’t work like that.

      Or am I misunderstanding what’s trying to be said here?

      • Trix2000 says:

        I think it’s meant to be less ‘choice’ and more what you decide your own feelings mean. Like, a person may have distinct biological feelings they cannot change, but the way these are interpreted to figure out what they are or aren’t ‘attracted’ to really depends on the person.

        So really, it would be that people are allowed to interpret their attractions in whatever way they feel is right, not necessarily what is expected. So there’d be a sort-of choice there, but ultimately still has roots in those biological feelings.

        Hopefully I made sense. To be honest, I really don’t know how much I can speak for this sort of thing since as far as I can determine I’m asexual (I have no idea how to confirm that sort of thing though), so it’s tricky for me to relate.

    • Sean Riley says:

      Sexual plasticity is a really fascinating area, but it’s also important to note that the definitions here are blurry as well. You can have people who are attracted to both sexes nonetheless identify as straight or gay because of their personal identity. There are bisexual people who once have slept with both men and women but now (because of commitment, or other factors) only sleep with one sex. There are people who identify as straight but do sleep with people of their own sex on occasion. And as one (male) friend of mine put it, “I’ve slept with too many lesbians to see sexuality as rigid.”

      That said, what we do know suggests that sexuality is at least mostly fixed. Sexual identity does tend to take root in adolescence and not change much after that. It seems to be more rigid in men than women.

      And above all, I wholeheartedly agree with this point: “The message we should be sending is it’s OK to be attracted, it’s OK to choose to be attracted to any consenting adult regardless of their gender.”

      Exactly.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      Just because something is formed from a combination of biological and environmental factors and can be changed at any time,doesnt mean it is trivial to change at any time.For example,phobias can be overcomed with therapy,but that doesnt mean the sentence “Claustrophobes are incapable of being in closed spaces for prolonged lengths of time” is invalid.

      So yes,you can program practically any sexuality (or any other personality trait) into anyone with a right combination of mental exercises,conditioning and drugs.That still doesnt make ones sexuality less rigid than those pr campaigns make them to be.

      And no,the message that one is not to be blamed by how they are being built up during their childhood is far from stupid.Sure,it can be changed,but in cases where its not harming anyone,why should it be?And when the damn good reasons for the change arent present,a trait can be considered to be hardwired.

    • Decius says:

      I disagree with your assertion of fact that people can choose what they are sexually aroused by, but I agree with your conclusion that it shouldn’t matter outside the bedroom.

    • Sebastien Roblin says:

      I whole heartedly agree with the original poster’s point of view, and we can only hope that the discourse will evolve even further from the original 1960s “disease they just can’t help” framing of things to a more diverse and open-ended discussion of sexuality.

      However, I’d also like to point out the irony that this thread has branched in two exclusive directions, one about how homosexuality is a volunatary “abominable” non-procreating sin, and the other about how our discourse of tolerance is insufficiently progressive!

      • Paul Spooner says:

        Yes, that is an interesting divergence of discourse. However, I would call the branches “non-intersecting” instead of “exclusive”. I, for one, hold both to be true. Although I value tolerance (especially in the deep and fundamental expression often termed “love”) I also hold that some lifestyles are more dangerous than others, and should be avoided where possible.

        • syal says:

          Fun fact: my post was an attempt to intersect the two. (That’s the kind of thing that happens when I post tired.)

          I’m also kind of amazed that post didn’t trigger moderation. I’ve made posts about CONTRA that triggered moderation!

  7. Guildenstern says:

    I find myself in an odd position RE Gone Home. I agree with virtually everything said about it (refer to Chris’ Errant Signal on the game for a good summation of how this game provides possibly the best, most focused instance of environmental storytelling yet). It was, in a lot of ways, very impressive. Yet somehow I still didn’t like it.

    In spite of all the interesting *ways* to interact with the story, the story itself was phenomenally boring. Remove the GLBT message and what do you have left? Basically the most cliched teenage romance story ever. All the typical “misunderstood teenager” tropes combined with my pre-existing loathing for Riot Grrrl punk music and the character we’re supposed to sympathize with just kind of annoyed me. She ended up feeling sorta whiny, especially in the face of the Dad’s story, who is pretty clearly going through some pretty serious stuff of his own.

    And then there were a few tone problems wherein the game felt the need to lie about what kind of game it was: while the idea of setting things up as a horror story and then subverting that would be fine, Gone Home struggled with its tone throughout. Long after it was apparent that the game was not supernatural, but suburban, it was still throwing creepy music stabs at the player whenever they found certain clues. It felt like the designers weren’t totally confident in just telling the story they wanted to and had to throw in those little horror game twinges to keep certain players going. It felt unnecessary and really messed with the flow of the game.

    So I dunno, there’s a lot of good stuff in there, and as proof of concept that games can present Regular Stuff effectively, I think it works. But taken for what it is right now I was sort of underwhelmed. This is definitely subjective opinion from me for the most part, but I’m kind of a contrarion and feel the need to throw out some dissenting opinion on this thing that isn’t the BS “not a game” argument.

    • Warrax says:

      There’s this mechanic that most video games have; I don’t know what to call it. It’s searching for powerups or secret passages in a Mario or Zelda game, sifting through every crate and barrel in a sandbox game, or ignoring some NPC’s exposition dump because you’re worried about missing some ammo or health packs in linear action/adventure game. I guess you could call it “exploring” or “searching” or “looting”, or just derping around.

      That, to me, is what “Gone Home” was. It took that mechanic, whatever you want to call it, and built an entire game around it. It worked for me in a big way; I love that mechanic, and I think the fact that it was first-person rather than point-and-click is a big part of what made it more immersive and satisfying for me.

      As for the story; I %100 agree with Shamus that it’s really good snapshot of what cultural attitudes towards gay people were in the 90’s, as well as the fact that people under a certain age have no idea how different things were back then. It that respect, it is very good.

      But somehow, I also agree with you about it. I wouldn’t call it “boring” per se, but the story (and the voice acting) were sort of on a “lifetime movie of the week” level (most video games don’t even make it to that level). The story was the payout for the gameplay, so it had to at least be okay or the game mechanic wasn’t going to work for you.

      So for me, the story was good (maybe even quite good), but it was the presentation that made it brilliant.

      As far as tone and atmosphere are concerned; “it was a dark and stormy night”, and that worked for me even though it wasn’t at all a horror type thing. Again, I guess you have to be emotionally invested in the story for it to work for you. And even though it was told entirely through the environment rather than journal entries, I thought the dad’s story was nicely resolved.

      I liked the game a lot. I’ll definitely be looking for whatever these developers do next.

      • Guildenstern says:

        “And even though it was told entirely through the environment rather than journal entries, I thought the dad’s story was nicely resolved.”

        See, this is *exactly* why I thought the dad’s story was more interesting: having it told entirely through objects in the game world struck me as being a more pure expression of the game’s environmental storytelling mechanics and setting. Sam’s audio diaries might have helped fill in background, but that background was so much more overtly delivered than other bits of information that you found while playing, and it didn’t help that half the time they started playing when you never even picked up a page. Suddenly the game had a narrator and that didn’t feel quite right to me.

        Additionally, (and this is mostly personal opinion because I can relate to the dad better than I can a teenage lesbian) I thought the dad’s story was just… better. I get that the folks at Fullbright wanted to make a game about a misunderstood lesbian in the 90s but I pointed out why I thought the story was a little cliched above. And I can’t help but compare that to the rather non-angsty problems of the dad: He’s a struggling author who’s publisher has dropped his book deal. The only acknowledgement he can get for his work is from a second-rate re-publisher who only cares about it for the weird novelty value. He’s now resigned to writing dry review copy for home electronics. His father is clearly intensely critical and dismissive of his efforts and basically tells him his work is crap. His wife seems to teter on the cusp of unfaithfulness and his marriage is struggling. And along with all of that, he has a daughter in serious rebellion and he doesn’t know how to deal with it.

        As far as I was concerned, the dad was the main character of Gone Home. I felt for the guy and his troubles whereas the more I learned about Sam, this incredibly angsty teenager with a questionable taste in music and who shows a distinct lack of respect for adults (notice that she lies and blows off a dinner her mother had planned and taken a lot of cooking classes for) the less I liked her.

        Again, I’ll stress that I didn’t necessarily dislike the game, I just didn’t care much for the story they wanted me to care for.

        • Warrax says:

          I didn’t not like the narrator. I think the game would have been… I don’t know, maybe too short? Or too… flat. There wouldn’t have been enough going on if not for the narrator.

          It works because it’s a younger sister telling a story to her older sister, which makes sense for their relationship. Obviously the dad’s story couldn’t have been told in the same way, it wouldn’t have made sense for that relationship dynamic.

          I guess I’m saying that both stories were told in the best way they could be, and I didn’t think either one stepped on the other.

          Also, you aren’t the first person I’ve seen that seems to think that the dad was treated unfairly by the story because he’s more of a “victim” that anyone else. I strongly disagree with that idea.

          Obviously he was a victim of what happened when he was a kid, but his marital and professional problems were are result of him being closed off and not dealing with things in a healthy way. And those both get as much of a saccharine-sweet happy ending as Sam’s story does.

          I’m with you completley in that I can far more readily identify with the dad more than I can with a teenage lesbian, but that didn’t turn me off to the main story at all.

    • Retsam says:

      Your second paragraph pretty well sums up my interaction with the story as well. This is what I posted on the forums right after finishing the game:

      “…replace Lonnie with a similar male character (or just obscure the gender), and it reads as … probably not even as good of a love story as Twilight. Girl with minor rebellious tendencies meets someone even more rebellious, who is more confident in their rebellion. They start hanging out. Girl becomes more rebellious. Parents start to worry. Girl and rebel star dating, but hide it from friends and family. Parents get more worried. Girl tells parents she’s in love with the rebel; parents claim it’s a phase; teenaged girl astounded that parents wouldn’t trust her emotions; [contractually required star-crossed lovers bit]; teenage girl runs away from family to go spend rest of life with rebel that she met a year ago. Yay! A happy ending! ”

      tl;dr, just that last line again: the happy ending is that a teenage girl runs away from home to spend the rest of her life with someone she just met a year ago.

      • Retsam says:

        And if I can indulge in just a little more self-quoting for that initial-reaction forum post:

        “Also, a major symptom of a cliché love story: all relationship problems are external. “Our love is perfect; if only everyone else understood it” or “if only our tragic life circumstances weren’t tearing us apart”. If nothing else, this is a pet peeve of mine. It’s the Mary Sue of romances in my book. (To that end, I actually found the parents relationship much more interesting, and the juxtaposition didn’t help)”

        That being said, I should clarify that I did really enjoy the game; I just enjoyed the storytelling more so than the story. (And I also have a bit of a contrarian streak to me as well…)

      • Warrax says:

        There are a lot of stories that could be told in the exact same way if you swapped the gender of one of the main characters.

        When the story is actually about being gay in a specific time and place though, you really can’t.

        So yea, if it was what you described, it would have been really awful. But it wasn’t what you described, the point is entirely reliant on what it actually was.

        That being said, I do think the ending would have been better if they had actually split up. It would have been less happy in the short term, but it would have been more realistic. High School romances of any type rarely last past the end of school, and one person giving up on their long term goals to make it work is a really bad way to get started.

        • Retsam says:

          To clarify slightly, my point wasn’t “it would have been a bad relationship if you reversed the gender of Lonnie”, my point was “it was a bad relationship, you just might not have noticed because it was also a LGBT story”.

          My description of the story was entirely gender neutral on the point of “the rebel”, so it accurately describes the story told by Gone Home, as is. You say “if it was what you described…”; it was exactly as I described. I don’t think adding back in the extra detail that “the rebel” is also female magically makes those problems go away.

          I might have been more accepting of the relationships mediocrity, like “Hey, it’s a story about being gay that happens to have a mediocre relationship”, if not for the fact that the relationship takes up the entirety of Sam’s story; there is no exploration of “being gay” except this one particular relationship, which makes it really difficult to look past.

          • Warrax says:

            I thought it did explore the whole “being gay” thing. I definitely recognized a lot of what was going on in terms of the parent’s reaction from watching my sister go through it.

            Also, growing up in that time period, I can remember actually thinking that way myself (my opinions have changed a whole lot in the last~20 years).

          • ehlijen says:

            (Haven’t played it, just adding my thoughts to the commments here)

            I think it sounds like the mediocrity of the story was part of the point?

            Maybe this wasn’t meant to be a fantastic love story, or an exceptional one, or even an unusual one. I think the point may have been to reinforce that a homosexual relationship is still just a relationship in the end. Two people in love and the resulting mess of emotions.
            Simply the fact it’s between two girls shouldn’t make it evil or cool or remarkable in ways that other relationships aren’t seen as.

            Not sure I’m making sense.

        • Lisa says:

          One thing that keeps bugging me about reactions to Lonnie giving up her army career is that they’re so different to mine.
          I saw her as realising (with the help of Sam) that with the Military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy she could never be who she truly was. She’d always be living a lie.
          Most others seem to see it as “giving up a career for love”.
          I’m not saying I’m right by the way, but just that every time I read someone saying this, I just want to jump up and down and scream that they missed the point.
          Of course, maybe I’m the one that missed the point. But I’m right, so nya!

          • Warrax says:

            I think you’re right about what the point was, I just don’t think it was illustrated all that well. Writer’s intention vs. actual result, and all that :)

        • Guildenstern says:

          I think (and this may be unpopular, so please take it easy, not trying to offend anyone) that this may be the double-edged sword of equality rising up here. Perhaps we need to take a step back and ask ourselves if it is possible for a bad love story to be a bad love story, regardless of gender (or alien species or artificial intelligence or spectral anomaly, whatever). “It’s about homosexuality” strikes me as being akin to “it’s about cycles”: Yes, it’s a large aspect of the work but is the story truly about that so much as it is simply about Sam and Lonnie?

          And of course your answer will be different depending on how you come at the thing, but that’s just my .02 for the whole thing.

          • Warrax says:

            I do think the writers fumbled a little on the ending, and that is was sort of a “bad love story”, but it was still a decent story overall (see my comment to Lisa up above). I really don’t see how “it’s about homosexuality” doesn’t work for this.

            The typical teenage behavior that makes Sam sort of an unlikable character is just that- typical. You’re basically a self-centered, borderline-sociopath from the time you hit puberty until about your early to mid 20’s. That’s all of us, regardless of gender or orientation. So I didn’t really hold it against her.

            • Guildenstern says:

              Hah, well, maybe my thing is just that I don’t really like kids, then (which is moderately true). Typical or not, a “self-centered, borderline sociopath” generally does not an enjoyable protagonist make, y’know? It might be more believable than somebody like, say, Ellie from The Last of Us, but I liked Ellie, and there’s a lot to be said for that.

              On kind of a side not, this all strikes me as a really great example of stuff in the same vein as the “plot holes” back and forth Shamus and FILM CRIT HULK had a while back: we’re all looking at the same elements but getting very different takeaways based on how well the overall work meshed for us. That’s always just fascinated the heck out of me.

            • guy says:

              You know, I actually got the impression that Sam was mentally ill in some manner. Perhaps I was reading too much into things, but she seemed to be hanging onto what she did when she was younger more than would be considered normal, and the titles of some of the books in the house reminded me of the sort of books written to help parents who have children with autism.

              In any case, I didn’t really find anything about Sam especially unlikable. I mean, her relationship with her parents was strained, but I got the sense that originated from her parents being too busy struggling with their assorted problems to really do much parenting.

              • venatus says:

                given a few of the details we know about the parents (I don’t want to elaborate cause that might bring about a shitstorm) and the time it took place, it’s fairly plausible that the parents thought being gay was a mental illness, it was a really popular excuse in the past and it’s still the belief among some small groups in the US.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      “Basically the most cliched teenage romance story ever. ”

      I keep hearing this,and I really dont get it.Just because something is cliche,doesnt mean its bad or weak or uninspired.Sure,the overall story is nothing new,but its the presentation that matters way more.For example,what is the most well known and praised love story* in the world?Romeo and juliet.A story that was cliche even back when it was written.Yet it is presented in such a way and layered so much,that it really is a work of genius.

      Now granted,the main story of gone home isnt that deep or that well presented,but its still a solid piece of story telling.

      *Technically,its only a love story on the surface,since it is actually about lust,and teenage rebellion,and stubbornness,etc,etc.

    • Zukhramm says:

      “Remove the element that makes it non-cliché and it turns into cliché.” Yeah. Isn’t that true of everything?

  8. Lalaland says:

    Papers, Please is really one of those special games like those special films whom you can’t say you had a [i]good[/i] time but you can’t stop recommending. For me it’s like Irreversible, I love that movie but few make me as uncomfortable or as unsure of whether the extreme violence is illuminating or exploitative.

    I have yet to get around to Gone Home but I can heartily recommend Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons if you have a gamepad to play it with. I’ve never had a game reveal it’s ‘message’ in the way this one did and it was strangely profound despite having it sort of semi-spoiled for me beforehand.

    • Guildenstern says:

      If I recall correctly, Shamus was a bit… upset with Brothers due to the way the story ultimately played out. Which I can kind of see. But having played it recently myself, I’ll endorse the heck out of it. This is a game that could not have its story effectively told in anything but the medium of a video game. That controller held narrative power for me, and that was pretty incredible.

      • Lalaland says:

        Ahh I must have skipped this bit in Diecast #31 from 1:00 to about 6:30. I have to disagree with his concerns as I felt it was consistent with the rest of the game. Beware spoliers within! I saw the game as being more within the Grimm mould of fairy tales as laid out from the start with the mother’s death so there was no tonal ‘shift’ for me at the end.

        • Guildenstern says:

          I’d mostly agree with that. I definitely see Shamus’ point since the game performed very, very well as a chipper, upbeat kind of story. The art and ambience was great and was one of those things that made you feel good just playing it. But like you say, the beginning prefaces the tone of the ending fairly well and the game itself sets up a pretty good story of growth and loss, such as with the griffin so I don’t think the ending was completely unwarranted. And in any event, the way that ending expresses its full weight through the controls is wonderful.

          • The ‘woman as temptation of evil/destroyer of family’ trope really ruined it for me. As that is the inciting event for the entire of the emotional payload of the game’s peak and diminuendo to the close, I was ripped away from the story just as the game wanted me to lean in to it. Great looking game, lovely use of mechanics and story uniting for the end chapter, really wish they’d used a different plot device there so I might have been invested in it. I didn’t think it was perfect for tonal consistency but that wasn’t something I had a major issue with.

    • Volfram says:

      I played the demo for Papers Please. It was an educational experience, and I think it’s a game everyone should play(ESPECIALLY our lawmakers today, though I question whether the ones who need it most have the brains to understand what it says… we’d probably get something like how they decided to use 1984 as a template instead of a warning.). I also have no desire to play the full game, for much the same reasons Shamus does not enjoy it.

      I actually got the pat-down on a flight out to Washington D.C. earlier this year. I might have protested, except the agent performing the pat-down looked far more uncomfortable than I felt.

      Those stupid scanners should go, though. They’re harmful, they haven’t been FDA tested, and they can’t find anything. Also, the agents have demonstrated that while they’re perfectly happy looking at US naked, they aren’t willing to submit to the same denigration, and THAT should always be a red flag. All laws should apply to everybody equally, be they homeless, citizen, noble, or royalty.

      • Lalaland says:

        Yup I really hate it when they spout nonsense about how its ‘much less power than an x-ray’. Yes it is but then again X-rays are non-ionising radiation and have decades of detailed research behind them. The ionising radiation used in Z-Ray/Back Scatter scanners has very little research behind them. So comparing power levels between the two is like saying 1300W of the solar EM is fine for you so just stand in front of my 400W microwave EM transmitter.

        Also you are 100% correct about their ineffectiveness, unless as a terrorist you’re dumb enough to pack your suicide belt with nice square blocks of explosive they’re very hard to make out. The density of plastic explosive is very close to that of body fat so as long as I make sure to smear that explosive out in a nice moulded belly hugging shape I’m gravy.

        Gah I hate those scanners so very, very much.

        • Peter H. Coffin says:

          Trains don’t deal with TSA foolishness, nor do tiny charters. A friend more or less got his pilot’s license because he saw that the line of work was likely to involve a lot of traveling; now he’s commuting 1500 miles a week in a Mooney M20, and he’s on his way usually 30 minutes after parking at the airport, no inspection, no pat-downs, and never a wait for luggage.

        • Warstrike says:

          X-rays are ionizing radiation. The risk varies approximately linearly with the dose. The deal with medical X-rays is that the benefit of being able to tell if your arm is broken outweighs the (tiny) additional risk of developing cancer later. Backscatter scanners are doing the same thing, so the risk profile is the same – dependent on the dose. I seem to recall reading a paper with the relative doses that said it was less exposure than a medical x-ray, but I can’t remember the details. Of course, the benefit side of the equation is also much better for (appropriate) medical imaging. You could argue there is 0 benefit. Others would say there is a benefit to the theoretical protection from bombs offered. In general humans do an awful job of evaluating risk/benefit, especially when both are small, as in this case.

          I’m a medical physicist, so figuring out radiation risk is part of my job. ( most is making sure that doses are below what others have determined is acceptable risk for cancer patients, the people treating them, and the general public)

          • Viktor says:

            Fun fact, the government accidentally leaked an internal TSA memo that said there is little to no risk of a terrorist hijacking a plane at this point. The reasons cited were the cockpit doors, passengers being more aware/aggressive, and terrorist groups having better things to do. The TSA’s ‘efforts’ were nowhere in that list.

          • Volfram says:

            I remember when we were told that you should limit your annual exposure to X-Rays, and I still get a lead-lined smock every time the dentist wants to X-ray my teeth.

            No such precautions are taken for the backscatter machines, and I personally don’t feel that a negligible(if that!) reduction in the chances that someone will hijack the plane I’m on is worth my personal increased risk of cancer.

    • kdansky says:

      I hope Papers, Please! puts a stop to the common misconceptions that all games must be fun. Like movies or books, other emotions are welcome. I feel the same about it as Shamus: It’s brilliant, I loved playing it, and I despised playing it.

  9. IronCore says:

    Interesting list.

    I was surprised to see Tomb Raider on the list.

    I was happy to see KSP on the list, but I was disappointed that 2/3 of the writing about it wasn’t about it at all. I’d love to read more of your thoughts on KSP now that they’ve updated the science mechanics.

  10. Taellosse says:

    I can’t really speak for anyone else, but as a fan of Tomb Raider going back to the original game (though I think the series lost its way in the middle there for a bit, before the previous, softer reboot), I quite enjoyed the game. I agree Sam was kind of terrible, the amount of killing (and how quickly it ramps up after the first one) is a bit excessive, and there wasn’t enough puzzle-solving, but still, it was one of my favorite games of the year. Enough so that I really wish they’d have had plans to release single-player DLC, instead of only multi-player. Putting some more tombs in there, maybe a side quest or two, would have been really nice.

    So not all of us long-time fans were disappointed in the reboot. Assuming the game gets a sequel, and they refine, rather than ruin, what they built with this one, I’m looking forward to it. Though I am also prepared for Square-Enix to screw it all up somehow.

    • Thomas says:

      I’m so worried they’re going to mess up the stuff they built up in this game. There’s lots of bad directions they could go in (including ‘well she’s become a treasure hunter now, that’s enough character development for her’) :(

  11. SteveDJ says:

    I have never heard of Papers, Please and really wish than in all that stuff you wrote about it, that you’d included a little bit about the actual gameplay.

    • MikhailBorg says:

      Pretty simple, really. You’re working at an entry checkpoint at a Eastern-Bloc-ish country in the mid-80s. Check people’s papers, and let them in, turn them away, or have them detained.

      Make sure you don’t accidentally let someone in with bad papers, or turn someone away with good papers. Of course, some people have pretty good reasons why you should overlook minor document errors. On the other hand, you get paid for the number of correct processes you perform, so if you don’t do enough in a day, your family goes hungry and begins to freeze in the cold.

      Also, new regulations intended to protect the citizens require increasing loads of paperwork as the game goes on, and the day is passing quickly…

      The game asks three questions. Are you smart and quick enough to keep your job? Were you able to keep your family fed and warm? Did you ever have to betray your principles to do so?

    • Abnaxis says:

      Jarenth did a neat-o mosquito overview/review of it here

      • Jarenth says:

        I probably shouldn’t be as giddy with people actually linking my relevant work around as I find I am.

        I always try to keep these things at least a little surprise-free, but the nature of the way I do first looks means you should get a fairly good overview of what the gameplay at the start of Papers, Please is like.

    • Nick says:

      The gameplay is that half your screen is an area to examine documents and the rulebook of what constitutes entry valid documents (which changes every day, more or less) You then need to examine the documents and stamp it accepted or denied, or detain them if they have falsified documents.

      You get money from people processed minus penalty clauses for incorrect stamps.

    • A. Hieronymus Bosch says:

      http://dukope.com/

      There’s a beta version, which will give you the early mechanics.

  12. Zagzag says:

    I’m not normally on grammar nitpick duty, but I’ll put on that hat for this post. “criteria” should be “criterion” (the correct singular of that word)

  13. Phantos says:

    I’m surprised to see Tomb Raider on this list, only because the SW season made a very convincing case for the verdict that it’s one of the WORST games of the year.

    I know SW is usually about holding a magnifying glass up to a game, and I can also disagree with the stuff being talked about, I get that. But I’m actually glad I didn’t buy it or play it after watching you guys play through it. Mainly for that ludo-narrative dissonance stuff mentioned earlier.

    Also, I really like what you had to say about Gone Home and Papers, Please. I wish I’d known the latter was on Steam before the holiday sales ended. Forget “year”, this is shaping up to be the Age of Indies.

    • Thomas says:

      Tomb Raider 2013 is pretty widely liked. I saw it pop up on quite a few best of year lists and it’s definitely on my personal best of list.

      Maybe it’s the sort of game where watching it passively really brings the experience down? The fighting feels a lot more impactful when you’re doing it (as does exploring an area) so maybe the game seems more stretched out and dissonant if you’re not being distracted by physically playing?

      Or maybe you wouldn’t like Tomb Raider if you did play it and it’s just people having differing opinions :P

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      The thing about tomb raider is that it is just damn fun to play.You dont mind all the crap that much when you are playing it because its so smooth and fluid.

    • Jarenth says:

      Almost as we’re living in some form of indie wonderland.

  14. Ilseroth says:

    Papers Please was not a game I had expected you to include but I am quite happy is here. It is an odd thing, While outside of my work life I am a relaxed (sometimes too relaxed) person, I am diligent worker and so when I stepped into Papers Please I followed all the rules, cursed my any and every error, even when the game gave me a barrage of paperwork and no time to peruse it.

    I did not allow personal ethics or empathy to effect anything. Yet despite this, I still got a bad ending. Failing to compromise my work ethic ended with a friend of an official to not pass and that ended the game. Marked a traitor for my actions, my loyalty to country and work ethics were my end.

  15. ShantySeaShantyDo says:

    Maybe it’s because I’m too young to remember what anything was like in pre-9/11 America (airports without security checkpoints sound like nothing more than a beautiful, impossible dream), but frankly I cannot imagine what is so oppressive about having to stand in a line and get scanned or patted down by a person in a uniform so they can make sure that I’m not carrying any weapons. To me it’s just an obnoxious inconvenience, not some kind of affront to my liberties or my “humanity”.

    • Paul Spooner says:

      A number of us have a great deal to say about this… but this is not the place to say it.
      Simply, I disagree, and am not alone.

    • Aitch says:

      “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

      And a lot of people think that wanting to take a flight somewhere doesn’t constitute probable cause. I tend to agree. The methods they used to use worked just fine, and weren’t nearly as intrusive.

      The truth is, if a terrorist wanted to blow up a plane they’d just stash a block c4 in their colon. Or a boxcutter. Or whatever.

      So in a couple years when you need to have a rectal cavity search just to see family for the holidays, will it still be an “obnoxious inconvenience”?

      • SteveDJ says:

        The problem is they have now gone beyond searching for weapons or explosives. Now, they are also searching for drugs. Yup, DRUGS. Drugs will NOT bring down a plane, nor hurt any passengers. (I’m not talking about someone “high on drugs” at the moment, but merely someone that has handled drugs and/or is transporting them).

        That element of the search has indeed gone beyond constitutional limits.

        What next? Are they going to start checking your background for unpaid traffic tickets?

    • There is no trust, and society doesn’t function without trust.

      The security theatre (as it mainly is, this is not the best way of actually catching anyone planning to do harm and there is no way of doing that with certainty without preventing anyone from doing anything – so it is both ineffective, mainly for show and there is no totally effective alternative they could move to) does not actually protect anyone from the competent attacker. All it does is reduce trust and show that “people are animals and need to be constantly monitored” is the viewpoint of some in power. That is a restriction on the freedoms of the population, a requirement to constantly prove that you are not capable of causing harm. Considering the US has a unique (in Western democracies) issue with projectile weapons and the use of them by a well armed general population and we all have significant issues with people accidentally killing each other and themselves with high speed vehicles, you’d think that protecting against such small risks with major invasions into the privacy of every travelling citizen would be well down the list of ‘things to implement to save lives’.

      “If you’ve done nothing wrong then you’ve got nothing to hide” says the massive, secret (increasingly likely to be a) criminal conspiracy of government workers responsible for national security. So don’t expect to ever have an iota of privacy or latitude. Rejection of this idea is a crimethink.

      • Abnaxis says:

        Slight nit to pick. Note that this has less to do with the TSA specifically, but more just the line of logic used here and in many other politically charged arguments, including but not limited to gun control, NSA spying, TSA checks, and seat-belt laws.

        Specifically, saying “you will never prevent every [Event XYZ] with certainty under [Policy XYZ]” is not an argument. A fact of the real world is, nothing happens with 100% certainty. No, not even in Newtonian physics. There will always, always be some degree of uncertainty, for all time, ever, and if people let that stop them from taking any action nothing would ever get done.

        Now, we can step back and take a look at how certain we are to prevent [Event XYZ] and how much that security costs us, and whether or not the cost justifies the reduction in risk, and that would be completely valid. “[T]here is no way of doing that with certainty without preventing anyone from doing anything,” has no bearing on any discussion,ever.

        In this instance, for example, you might rightly say that any ne’er-do-well can just shove a bomb up his arse to bypass the scanners. That’s true, and so you have failed to prevent attacks by bombers who are fanatical enough to give themselves a C4 enema–but that’s not every fanatic. You don’t know how many terrorists are out there who say “screw it let’s just sit this one out or bomb a bus or something” because they want to avoid that kind of discomfort.

        Now, we can argue about whether it’s worth gross invasion of privacy to eliminate that subset of attackers are are willing to kill themselves and tens to hundreds of innocents, but not willing to take it in the rear, but it’s just wrong to throw our hands up and say “well, attackers gonna attack so security is pointless.” There’s probably some sort of fancy Latin term for that kind of argument, but whatever it is, it’s wrong.

        [/rant]

        • Actually the logical hole was that I assumed a competent attacker. That’s the big issue and why we see general security as normal to pick up the people who are both crazy and idiots (luckily they are also very rare).

          My words can easily be interpreted as talking about probabilities and moving from low to very high ones. Yes, the charged language also allows for the interpretation of absolutes but as you’ve pointed out, real life doesn’t work like that. The quoted line you’ve taken is saying there is no way of sliding up the probability of catching a competently planned event without totally exploding the restriction on all freedoms of any kind so there is no ‘sane’ option, especially as all this expensive theatre is noted to not work at all in making people more safe, hence the terminology for it.

          Attackers are probably going to attack because some foreigner blew up their entire family as they made their way to a religious ceremony but this was not what I was talking about and we’re now way into the banned territory of discussion of this website so I’ll keep it short and stop there.

        • The core issue with security is that the attacker is looking to exploit the holes. Plugging a specific hole is not a useful technique if there are so many holes (of roughly equal value to attack). Plugging all holes will destroy the freedom of everyone operating in the system.

    • SharpeRifle says:

      Technically unless your pre-1970’s nobody remembers when you didn’t have to get checked in some way at the airport (that’s when the metal detectors and the baggage xrays started)…its just gotten more and more invasive without any real return on it.

      • Peter H. Coffin says:

        You can get a lot of the sense of it from watching old movies… And even post 1970s was 30 years of a security checkpoint that most people barely had to slow down for. Change, your giant-buckled belt and your pocket knife in the little bowl, the guy looks at it while you walk through a metal detector that doesn’t care about the amount of your watch and jewelry, and the guy hands the bowl back to you. Briefcases and purses get an xray, but they’re pretty much only looking for firearms and grenades and things, so it’s waiting for you by the time you get your change back in your pocket. Almost nobody has anything to carry on the plane unless they’re arriving 10 minutes before the plane leaves and there’s no time to check the bags, because EVERYBODY checks their luggage. You don’t have to carry it then, because most luggage doesn’t have wheels yet, and checking it is free, so why not? You’ll see it again in an a couple of hours, and a magazine or newspaper will be enough to keep you entertained on the flight. No boarding pass check until you’re actually on the jetway either which means the whole family can run up and hug grandma right when she steps off the plane.

      • Andy says:

        My dad tells of his mountain-climbing excursion to Europe, where they made him take his ICE AXE carry-on, because they didn’t want it scratching up other people’s luggage. He also had a fine selection of pitons and such sewn to the inside of his overcoat, because to put it all in the checked baggage would have made it prohibitively heavy.

    • krellen says:

      You embody precisely Shamus’s fears, that this sort of thing will seem normal and reasonable.

      Without going into potentially contentious details, suffice to say that arriving a half hour before your flight used to be sufficient, and is still sufficient in most countries, including the one that actually deals with the most per capita terrorist threats, Israel.

    • syal says:

      My uncle is a paraplegic; he can walk, but his legs have no muscles so if he leans forward he’ll fall over. Long before 9/11, he was going through airport security and set off the metal detector (keys or a belt buckle or something). Security told him to take his shoes off, and he told them he needed to sit down to do it. They told him he couldn’t sit down, and the ensuing argument with security about whether or not they were going to bring him a chair so he could take off his shoes made him miss his flight entirely.

      It doesn’t have to be an affront to your humanity to be an affront. Bureaucracy is mindless and aggressively uncooperative to anything that varies from the norm, and it’s the person going through it that suffers when it screws up.

    • Benjamin Hilton says:

      I think that it is also important to remember other people may have different levels of comfort concerning personal space.

      Some people may not have a problem with being patted down, but I have personal friends who just aren’t like that ….the Idea of some stranger touching them in any way, even non-sexual mortifies them. Can you imagine that person then being told they were chosen for a random check where they have to undress?

      And then there’s *shudder* the x-ray machines. Even if you were comfortable with it yourself, try to imagine standing in line with a bunch of guys behind a monitor as your wife goes through that thing.

      It’s just…I can’t even verbalize how wrong that is.

  16. Sean Riley says:

    Shamus?

    YEEEEEES. :D

    [b]Papers, Please[/b] was absolutely the GotY. Nothing was more powerful, more clever, or more sharply critical. (And while this may make me a horrible person… I have a blast playing it. I adore Perfection Mode. Yes, I know, I know. By doing it I’m indulging the very mindset the game is doing its damndest to savage. But there’s something about the detail focus it embodies that resonates with me mechanically.)

  17. Paul Spooner says:

    Again, I’ve only played one of the above games, KSP. I seem to recall that you avoided messing with mods, for fear of getting sucked into the time vortex. If you’re interested, a friend of mine has put together a few utility mods that make things more convenient without altering game-play.

    It certainly has proven fascinating. My daughters frequently ask me to play “space program” though they are usually only interested in watching the “babies” doing EVA. This results in great disappointment when I launch robot probes. They both play Minecraft now though, so there’s always that to fall back on.

  18. Volatar says:

    > I still can’t believe people stand in that line and let those agents do those things to them. The fact that in a few years we’ll have a whole fresh generation of people that think of this as “normal” fills me with dread. I refuse to “get used to” this.

    I am one of those that fall under that generation.

    However, unlike most of my generation, while this is “normal”, I know it is wrong, and fight against it.

    I remember being six or seven (1997-1998), and being in the main terminal at the Salt Lake City airport. They have this glorious, huge detailed marble map of the world in the main intersection. I loved running around on that map with my brother. It was a spot for much imagination. You know how kids are. :)

    I was ten when 9/11 happened and airports changed.

    I had the opportunity last year to visit that same spot in the Salt Lake airport. That amazing map of the world is no longer a place where kids can play. You can barely even see it underneath the TSA checkpoint they planted right on top of it.

    Seeing that was an emotional moment for me. For some reason, it really hit home how much of an intrusion the TSA was. I will never forget that moment of realization.

    Yes, this is “normal”. Yes this is that status quo.

    My personality is to always fight the status quo.

    This is no exception.

  19. Heaven Smile says:

    In my case, the game is literally too good. It achieves its goals so perfectly that I can’t bear to play the damn thing.

    I find myself in a strange position of wanting to make this my GAME OF THE YEAR while also never wanting to play it ever again.

    Damn you “Papers, Please” for what i must do.

    Shamus, i need to know how this is possible. I was developing an idea from a long time to know what could possibly convince a player to stop playing after the first try, and all my efforts lead to cheating (forcing the player rather than let him/her choose to not play by their own will) to reach this conclusion.

    And then i wanted to twist it to convince him/her to play it once again…but this time it has to be EXACTLY the same as the previous one. It was inspired by The Wheel of Fate of Legacy of Kain and this:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eternal_return

  20. Steve C says:

    I’m a fan of the academic concept that “The medium is the message.” I really like your updated-for-video-games-phrasing of, “The mechanics are the message.” That one word makes that entire concept easier to understand in this new generation. Good on ya Shamus.

  21. Vagrant says:

    super hexagon has literally eaten my 2013. I have to date sunk 198 hours into the game.

  22. Phantos says:

    I’ve heard people bring up a good point about Gone Home, in that the spontaneous decision at the end may not be responsible, or even last very long. Teenage love sometimes carries an expiration date, after all, and younger people don’t always make the best decisions.

    But the funny thing is, I wasn’t really thinking about that as much when I was playing it. I wasn’t doing any armchair, backseat meta-game thinking. I wasn’t thinking about how I would react, but rather, I played it as though I were Sam’s sister discovering all of this.

    Very few games can do that. Not many can make me forget who I am for a little while. That’s why the game works, despite its’ clichés. I wasn’t thinking “Sam’s relationship won’t work out, this is a flawed concept blah blah”. I was thinking: “Whatever my concerns are, I’ll support my sister.”

    Not “the character in this piece of fictional entertainment software”. MY sister. For a few hours, a disembodied voice became family.

    If I never get around to playing Papers, Please, I’m glad to call this my Game of the Year.

  23. psivamp says:

    I stopped playing Tomb Raider because the deaths were too visceral. I failed a QTE against a wolf in its den maybe three times and just couldn’t watch Lara get her throat torn out again. QTEs just don’t click for me on PC, there’s no color coding to ease recognition of what key you’re supposed to hit.
    I’m not entirely certain what about the deaths made them too much. They’re both dramatic but not overstated to the point where you can just write them off. You can do horrible things to your character in many games, for example the Skate series and just wince half-heartedly and chuckle about how “sick” that was, but here it feels too much like something that might actually happen. You’re not a ragdoll pinwheeling into the skybox or spraying jam everywhere in a hail of bullets — you’re a person being savaged by a hungry animal, crying out in fear and pain.

    I suppose that in the grand scheme of things, it’s a small complaint and the rest of the product seems solid. But I couldn’t get past that.

    • KremlinLaptop says:

      Oh jeez, I know exactly the death you mean! I actually set the game down for a month because of it. I played in one binge right up to that point when I got the game and then got just so frustrated by it.

      Somehow the icons for the QTE’s on the PC seemed so damn vague to me as well. Beyond frustrating. It’s been point out before but I think the deaths were made so visceral to up the intensity of it and the grittyness of Lara really being in deathly danger … but the QTE’s turned it from a narrative decision into a snuff-film played on an infinite loop.

  24. Turbosloth says:

    Shamus, given your penchant for games with simple mechanics, bright colours and electronic music, I was wondering if you’d played ‘super hexagon’? If so what did you think? If not I can strongly recommend it – it’s very much not really ‘my kind of game’ and I’m quite enjoying it anyway, so you would presumably love it given its right up your alley.

  25. Rob says:

    I’m coming to this party a bit late but as I have not had an opportunity to discuss this with any friends (because no-one I know played Gone Home)I wanted to get some thoughts out and say a big thank you to Shamus and the Spoiler Warning Team.

    I went into Gone Home expecting a completely different game and as a result I think I had the most deeply moving experience I have ever had with a computer game. This is in no small part due to the Spoiler Warning Crew’s recommendation of the game on the Diecast.

    Due to the Spoiler Warning Teams choice to not spoil Gone Home in the first Diecast(and the subtle hints they dropped) I went into Gone home expecting an experience much like Amnesia. I thought the game was going to be pure psychological horror and as a result all the environmental effects (the creaking floorboards, the thunder, the flickering lights) had me honestly believing something was going to get me at any second. I spent (almost) the whole game completely on edge and once I was finished I got up and found that basically every muscle in my body was sore from tension.

    I am not ashamed to admit that I was terrified for most of the game. I suppose this is a great endorsement of the power of environmental storytelling and the atmosphere of the game.

    As a result of this feeling of dread I initially jumped on Sam’s story as method to dispel some of the fear, I was on Teamspeak with some friends and began cracking jokes about my potentially lesbian sister. This was basically the only way I prevented myself from flipping out in some sort of Lovecraftian shock when I discovered the Ouija board.

    However, as the story progressed I fond myself cowering in a bathroom absolutely sure I was being followed and completely afraid to leave. It was at this point that Sam said something (I can’t remember what) that made the penny finally drop. “This story is not about me, this is about her”. At that moment the realization came that all the fear and anxiety I was feeling was exactly what she was feeling as a teenager dealing with her “unconventional” sexuality in the ’90s. This moment of revelation was exceptional and I don’t think I could have possibly felt it if I hadn’t gone into the game with the expectations I did. (I also felt like a complete arsehole for trivializing her). I’d like to think it was the developer’s intention to give this experience (see being punched in the stomach by a body builder) but I may just be a weird case. As I have said, it was certainly the most moving moment I have had with a video game, and probably high on the list of media experiences in general.

    I would not have had this experience if it wasn’t for the Spoiler Warning team’s endorsement of the game on the Diescast and their decision not to discuss the plot in depth but to continue to give the impression it was a horror. Without you guys I don’t think I would have had anything like as much fun(?) with it and I am absolutely sure this game will be on my list of top games forever as a result.

    Cheers guys.

  26. rea says:

    What a matetial of un-ambiguity and preserveness of valuable know-how on the topic of unexpected emotions.

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