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Imagine you’re on a quest for a powerful artefact in Divinity: Original Sin 2. Perhaps you conversed with a ghost who pointed you in the right direction. Now you see demons close by. You cast Chameleon Cloak to try to sneak by, but alas! you are spotted. The fight begins. You draw your weapons, inscribed with runes. You weave protective spells. You summon your cat familiar to enter the fray and confound your enemies. A fireball scroll sets a puddle of oil ablaze, but you misjudged and now you’re on fire as well! But a potion you concocted earlier heals your wounds just in time.
It’s a typical scenario for D:OS2 and similar fantasy RPGs. Magic is everywhere, and you could barely swing your cat familiar by the tail without hitting a fellow Sorcerer (don’t do that though, it’s cruel). But where do these spells, demons and artefacts come from? Games have so inundated us with magic that it’s easy to forget that even the most outlandish, videogamey spectacles have their Source-drenched roots in historical beliefs and practices. Read the rest of this entry »
Body horror, game design and the grimbright future
During my conversation with Mike Pondsmith, two people ask him to sign artwork from the Cyberpunk pen and paper game that he created. He tells me “it never stops being weird”, the fact that people want his autograph, but he gets it. Cyberpunk is cool, it’s rebellion, it’s sticking an augmented finger to the system. And it’s not just an aesthetic.
“At core, unless you have the meaning behind the black leather and the neon, you lose what cyberpunk is. That’s the problem with getting Cyberpunk made as a videogame; people don’t get it. They think it’s about action heroes quipping as they take down corporations.” Over the years, Pondsmith has made deals with companies to bring Cyberpunk to PC but says he’s glad that those deals “crashed” because now the real deal has arrived. CD Projekt Red, the studio behind The Witcher and upcoming Cyberpunk 2077, “get it”. “They’re actual fans and they know stuff about Cyberpunk that I’ve forgotten.”
The future’s looking bright then, even through the obligatory shades. Read the rest of this entry »