Dreams of Lost Pixels, Hand Eye, and More Video Game Ramblings

I know I’ve said this before, but I am not a video game expert. Like I’ve said, I’ve played some video games in recent times but I have been very eclectic about what I will play, or even watch being played. It doesn’t mean I hate them and I do keep track of some that really catch my eye. I’m very partial to role-playing games and the only reason I hadn’t played as many as I would have liked is because I have had issues with time and money: in that I don’t always have a lot of either.

But I am interested in video games: specifically their game-play, their story lines or premises, and their choice of aesthetics. I like the idea of an interactive story that can translate itself or spread itself across multimedia.

I don’t say this often, but at one time I wanted to be a graphic designer in order to make video games and animation. Unfortunately, I didn’t really have the programming skills and the teachers that I had couldn’t teach me in a way that I could engage or absorb. It’s funny because, once, I really used to love technology. Some of you might laugh at this: those of you who know me personally. I used to think that video game technology, for instance, along with the Internet and computers would only get better with time and it could only go up from there.

I’m not sure what happened. I think I was into PC games a lot and I never had a good enough computer. I also didn’t want to get sucked into online games and I saw the quality of some console games change and not for the better. Also, in my How to Turn a Medium into a Genre I mention how I felt a misguided amount of shame for playing “old and obsolete childish games.” I’m also glad I really got over that nonsense. I do think the real reason I don’t like to play many video games is because I know I will get invested into them if they are really good and I get worried about losing time and also getting too … attached to something: to the point of being sad when it is over, or upset when my skills fail me past a certain point. Sometimes, as weird as this sounds, I get concerned about caring too much about a game.

Now, let me say this: I was really happy to be at the Comics Vs. Games element of TCAF this year. I really loved just playing some of the games with some person I just met there. It felt different and new. To make this story, if you want to call it that, even more interesting as a person who has not played a lot of contemporary video games and likes to watch a lot and remember old games, I have been interested in writing plots for and–really–just writing video games.

I know: now I am just a paradox. Now before anyone starts to tell me how foolish these thoughts are, I am aware of that. I have read and heard enough from some people in the industry–or who are getting into it–to have a little bit of an idea as to how hard it is to get into the industry and to do the amount of work and research to create a game. It isn’t something to do on a whim.

So, like I said, I came across Comics Vs. Games and saw this situation where artists were being paired off with video game creators to make games together. And … I don’t really know what to say: something in me just felt really happy to see that. Another part of me also felt immensely jealous because–once–it was a dream of mine. I am a writer. I have not really published anything for monetary gain as of yet and I am not exactly at a stage where my writing is popular. I know I am not there yet.

So I went back on to the above website and saw that Miguel Sternberg–the indie game designer and pixel artist who organized Comics Vs. Games–has been working on a new project. You should definitely check out his page Spooky Squid Games because there are a lot of very innovative and intriguing goodies on there that you probably all know about because you’ve kept with the times: including the game Guerilla Gardening: Seeds of Revolution where the object of the game is to play as protagonist Molly Greenthumb who gardens to subvert a totalitarian regime. Essentially, you grow plants to not only improve your city, to make it “green” again, but to also allow provide morale to other citizens to peacefully overthrow the State. It sounds like a cheerfully subversive game that creates a social commentary about our own culture and also refers to a few similar instances of this phenomena that have actually happened in our world. In fact, it has resonance with Roger Doiron’s TED Lecture My Subversive (Garden) Plot.

But the game that has really gotten my attention–just today–is one called They Bleed Pixels. God, I can’t begin to tell you just how beautiful I find that title. Imagine a pixelated Goth girl character who can change her hands into claws as she goes and kills creatures with pixelated stylized violence and blood. You literally see tiny squares of red gush in fountains as she creates combo attacks–with numbers appearing above them–in midair sometimes. I really like the deceptively simplistic aesthetic and the music suits the background.

It makes me genuinely happy to see something like this. There is also another interesting gameplay element in that “save points” have to be made by you and you have to expend your own points gained in battle to make them. In other words, it costs you to make save points and makes the game more challenging and forces you to be more versatile. It makes you interact with that world much more: giving you the power to manipulate your reality but also having to play by the ad-hoc rule you make for yourself. The controls are apparently very easy and precise to make without having to resort to ridiculously complicated button-mashing to fight, though I am just repeating what I have more or less read. Also, I read that they are making a silent comic to tell this character’s story about her interaction with a Necronomicon-like book and beyond.

I would definitely play this game: if only to relieve some blood-lust, which is always a plus for a game in my opinion. It might not be an RPG, but it looks fun and I like fun.

You know, sometimes I feel like I’m a fake for writing about video games and other things of which I do not have expertise. But do you know why I am writing about this? It’s because it interests me. It is partially the world-building and interactive parts, but it also appeals to a part of me I don’t always get to express. I’ll let you in on a secret too: I actually wrote a very rough script for a RPG video game: one that would definitely need a Restricted Sign if I ever posted it serially here or anywhere else: if only because of its sometimes tasteful, though definitely (if somewhat questionably) mature content. It was a 16-bit game with some ideas for interactive game-play. I actually think of it as a parody of an RPG video game script with a lot of meta-narrative fourth-wall breaking.

I’ll also say this: if I ever get to the point where I am considered a professional or well-known “artist of words” and someone ever offers to do a video game collaboration with me, I will probably not turn them down. In the meantime, I have been looking at the Hand Eye Society which is a non-profit organization that deals with organizing video game projects and supporting Toronto’s video game community. I’m not sure if they are still having socials, but they have mentioned volunteer opportunities on there and I am contemplating finding out more about this.

I may well be an amateur writer and general enthusiast, but when I look at these links I realize that these people do things with the medium of a video game that I never thought possible or really thought about and I think that is just bad-ass. I also really love creative things and it would definitely be something new. In any case, it is something to think about. I hope that this has been an interesting, if somewhat long post.

The End?

4 thoughts on “Dreams of Lost Pixels, Hand Eye, and More Video Game Ramblings

  1. Hey Matt, Check out the IGDA ( http://www.igda.org/toronto/ ) too if you get the chance. Their facebook page is usually more active than their website though. They do monthly socials and a lot of Hand Eye Society members are usually present. Hand Eye Society also usually has a room at Fan Expo where they showcase games and network, could be worth checking out.

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