Sunday, 29 January 2012

Why stealth games still matter, elsewhere

You might have spotted a new gaming site creeping through the shadows in your cabbage patch; that site is Sneaky Bastards, and it’s devoted entirely to stealth in games. As lovers of the genre we Brindles are keen to support them. Today they’ve published my article arguing for the continuing value of dedicated stealth games, bless their night-black hearts.
There came a time last year when the beeping ECG beside the bed of the stealth genre seemed to flatline. Solid Snake and Sam Fisher had burst forth from the shadows, guns blazing, whilst stealth was only one part of Ezio Auditore’s parkour power fantasy. Relatives gathered round, holding their breaths; physicians uttered grim prognoses. Now, with fans uncertain about the new Hitman, and bemused by the inventive but nonsensical ‘Thi4f’, it is worth looking at just why we need dedicated stealth games – not games with stealth options, or games with stealth elements, but games built from the bottom for sneaking and snooping.
You can find the article here. Make sure you stay and peruse the rest of the site, COUGH COUGH. Particularly of note will be Justin Keverne’s series on Thief 2’s level design, if his long-running blog entries at Groping the Elephant are anything to go by.

Incidentally, did you know that the top google search keywords for this blog are ‘groping’, ‘brother groping’, ‘groping brothers’ and ‘groping and touching’? I don’t know who you are, groping enthusiast, but your secret is safe with us.

Saturday, 14 January 2012

Teaching the Camera to Lie: Amnesia and the First-Person Other

Holmes breathes heavily, his face pressed against the wall. He has been running, running for hours, and now he has resorted to screwing up his eyes and trying not to look at the thing that is chasing him. But the temptation is too great. He slowly peers, behind him – and cries out, for though he never made a sound, Watson is there. Watching.

This chilling effect, while hopefully unintentional, tells us much about what First Person games can do. Watson’s creepy teleportation is possible precisely because so much of the environment is obscured behind the edge of the screen.

In ‘First Person Problems’ we argued that although early developers were attracted to first person because of the limitations it enforced, the rise of the shooter has over-prioritised the accuracy and power it allows. I advocated stepping back and re-examining the possibilities its evolution has left behind. Amnesia: The Dark Descent is a game whose developers did just that – illuminating in the constellation of first person’s pros and cons a rarely recognised capacity for subjectivity, and achieving a literary trope not often found in videogames: the unreliable narrator.