Apr 082011
The trouble with Tripitaka

During the “Females on Female Characters” panel at PAX, Susan Arendt argued briefly in support of Tripitaka (Trip), a character from Enslaved: Odyssey to the West. This appreciation seemed bizarre to me, so the moment stuck in my mind. Enslaved was a gorgeous game with phenomenal voice acting, decently expressive gameplay, and very bad writing, of which I thought Trip was a prime example. The game apparently wants us to like and sympathize with Trip, but she struck me as a perfectly reprehensible person in general, and seemed to represent patriarchal stereotypes more than she undermined them. We first meet [Read more…]

Nov 052010
Cinematic Action Games: A Brief Critical Assessment

Many of the games I named in my previous post about the cinematic action genre have been criticized for their lack of value. Because these games are short and linear, and rarely have life-extending multiplayer modes, the validity of charging full price for them has been questioned. Simplistic gameplay and action-movie inspired plots have led some critics to call these games shallow. Yet, several games that belong in this genre — Ico, Shadow of the Colossus, and Sands of Time — are regularly trotted out as examples of the best that the medium can achieve. To categorize cinematic action games [Read more…]

Oct 282010
Values and Characteristics of the Cinematic Action Genre

In his review of Enslaved, my colleague Brad Gallaway makes an argument for placing that game in a new genre, one that he feels has arisen fairly recently. Using the traditional naming conventions for narrow genres, the proper term would be “Uncharted clones”, but I don’t feel that description is quite adequate. While Uncharted is certainly the most identifiable game in the class, I believe the genre itself pre-dates that game. Uncharted represents not a new kind of game unto itself but an exemplary actualization of certain values in game design. Here I intend to put a name to those [Read more…]

Oct 122010

If you played the demo for Enslaved, you have already been through the sequence. On a flying prison ship of some kind, a young woman, Trip, breaks out of her cell. She sets off an explosion that accidentally frees the player’s avatar, a man named Monkey. She flees through the ship, cutting off Monkey at every turn, until he finally encounters her again just as the vehicle is about to crash. He clings to an escape pod as she ejects it, falling unconscious when they crash. While he is knocked out, Trip fits him with a headband that will kill [Read more…]