Author Archive

Doom Isn’t About Chainsaws, Guns And Gore, It’s About Moving Sideways

Doom [official site] came to the Dolby Theatre as E3 began. Bethesda’s showcase event included an in-depth look at a game we already knew about, the announcement of a game that we already knew about and the blood-spattered reveal of a game we’ve been playing (in various forms) for most of our adult lives. Doom is back. Nathan Ditum was on-site for the live demonstration, and squinted through the gore and melee animations to find the rhythm of the past.

It’s a strange and difficult thing, to bring back a classic game. During the in-game demonstration of id’s new Doom at Bethesda’s E3 showcase, crowd reaction suggests that this particular reboot is on the right track. There are cheers when our hero punches a demon’s head clean off with an outrageous melee attack. There is a round of appreciative applause when an arm is wrenched off at the elbow and the palm used as a key (clever!). And there are delighted gasps as a demon is torn in the manner of a strongman phonebook trick, a wet fleshy tear from the jaw down.

Read the rest of this entry »

Why Star Wars Makes For Better Games Than Films

Star Wars started as cinema and ended up as something else – lots of things, from pillow cases to theme park rides. But chief among them, the form that best captures the core of Star Wars now, is games. The last Star Wars I enjoyed watching was released two years after I was born, in 1983, but since then games have given me dozens of dogfights, blaster battles and lightspeed adventures layered with the nostalgia, hope and acceleration that is essentially Star Wars.

Read the rest of this entry »

Swinging A Stick: How Landscape And Childhood Are Key To The Continued Popularity Of Fantasy Fiction

Once at primary school I tried to convince my teacher that we needed a new word – or at least that we needed one that might exist already, but that we’d somehow forgotten. This is going to be a piece partly about words, and “fantasy” was one that I was never totally happy with. It lacked, as I saw it, the generic precision of “science-fiction,” and I wanted a more specific description for that strand of fantasy storytelling and world-building that (I did not really know at the time, but would have pretended to if asked) has flowed from Tolkien’s consolidation of elves and dragons, dwarves and orcs. I wanted to be able to pin, with a single word, that mixture of magic and folklore, that particular set of imaginative boundaries with which I was so often engaged and so thoroughly obsessed. The best I could come up with was “fantamystical”, which, if you’ve been paying attention for the last twenty years, did not catch on.

Luckily it’s been a very kind twenty years for this area of fiction, to the point where we hardly need the word fantamystical at all (although I am willing to give it one last push if you guys are). A combination of, among other things, Harry Potter, His Dark Materials, and screen retellings of The Lord Of The Rings and A Song Of Ice And Fire have made my adolescent anxieties about the ambiguous categorizations of fiction redundant, leaving me with merely dozens of other anxieties, and us with Tolkien-fenced fantasy imprinted on our culture, and our games (this is being written in the gap between the arrival of Pillars Of Eternity and The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, with Dragon Age: Inquisition still questing, exploring and adventuring in the background).

Read the rest of this entry »

“Like me GTA is white, middle-class and nearing middle-age, and it’s about time it faced up to its responsibilities”

Picture of a dog because so far there are no PC shots which feature women on the game's official site.

Excepting further delays, Grand Theft Auto V [official site] is due to finally arrive on PC on April 18th. In anticipation, Nathan Ditum sent us this piece about how the series’ increased fidelity has created problems, and why that same “miraculous detail” is why his love for it endures.

Recently I was reminded by Helen Lewis of the New Statesmen of the current predominance of a certain kind of opinion writing, which can be summarised as “As a blank, I feel x about y.” This formulation can be limiting, to the writer as well as the pursuit of the ideas at hand, but probably also reflects something laudable about at least trying to diversify from a monolithic consensus. As a white middle-class male approaching middle age I am of course precisely the pale demographic flob from which this archetypal pitch is trying to escape, so it is with a sense of irony which apparently no longer exists in GTA itself that I present this: a list of reasons why, as a representative of the default morass of accumulated privileged perspective, I feel culturally and morally compromised by some of the bad bits in GTA V.

Read the rest of this entry »