Birthday Pony

Bobby Crewe couldn’t sleep for several reasons. First of all, it was hot. It was late August, and a recent spate of fall-like weather had broken his mother’s dependence on air conditioning, so now, even with the night air returning to the muggy, stagnant qualities of summer in the Midwest, she had merely opened the windows and brought in a fan. “It’s too hot,” he had complained, even before the lights went out, but Mom moved as if she hadn’t heard him. She dimmed the light, hugged him until it was hard for him to breathe, then, as he laid back on his pillows, she pulled all of his blankets up over him. “It’s too hot!” he repeated, kicking the blankets back down. “You know everyone’s had a long day,” she said and brushed his hair across his already sweating brow, then leaned to kiss him on the forehead, whispering “Sweet dreams, little angel. I love you.” Then she got up and tip-toed out, leaving the door open just a crack. He heard her whisper something to his Dad. He couldn’t hear what over the whirr of the fan. But Bobby was sure it was about Jimmy. Continue reading “Birthday Pony”

IRL: Real World Lessons in Weird World Games

I was really committed to bonding with my friend Ren over the weekend. I’d been so focused on building my relationship with my new step-brother Jonas and trying to mend fences with Clarissa, that I felt I was neglecting my best friend. So as we arrived at the bonfire, I thought, I’m going to make this weekend all about Ren. But over the course of the next few hours, he really got on my nerves. Maybe we were growing apart, maybe we were never as close as I had been led to believe. Maybe it was just the sound of his voice. Whatever the reason, in spite of all my best intentions, I started behaving rather cruelly towards him. Again. I couldn’t help it.

Oxenfree, Night School Studio’s stellar 2016 release, continues to surprise me after several playthroughs. It’s a simple, stylish conversation simulator that places you in the role of Alex, a high-school girl coming off a pretty serious rough patch. Throughout the game, you have to navigate a small group of friends and frenemies, helping Alex pick up the pieces of the recent past while also dealing with the dangers of her current situation. Multiple possible outcomes and a brilliant narrative device (that I won’t spoil here) make repeated playthroughs feel like a natural extension of the game. And every time I step into Alex’s shoes, I find I learn a little bit about myself. Continue reading “IRL: Real World Lessons in Weird World Games”

Gaming Glut

What a glorious time to be alive. The electronic game medium has expanded to the point that we don’t have to ask ourselves if we’re in the mood to play a game; we ask ourselves what kind of game we’re in the mood to play. For a gaming chameleon like myself, someone interested in the entire spectrum of gaming styles, this is the most generous of blessings, and the cruelest of curses. I play games because I enjoy them, but I also play games to stay current on what’s new, to check on the progress of a promising developer, to explore blind spots in my back catalogue, to experience a genre I don’t enjoy, per se, but still wish to understand. The list goes on… Rough life, I know. I’m not complaining. I’m just here checking in with you, dropping a brief line to let you know what I’ve been up to since I haven’t been publishing. Continue reading “Gaming Glut”

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