The Climaxes of Undertale

A climax is when every bit of foreshadowing, each side interaction, and the main attractions steer into one focal point. A fantastic conclusion will sear into my mind, long after I’ve parted ways. However, in many genres it will come down to a half-hearted, misplaced boss battle, maybe a big enemy with extra health points. It comes off as a vague obligation, to do this thing that everything else does, this thing that’s supposed to be done before a game is allowed to end. An effective dramatic climax is fueled by irreconcilable philosophies, individuals caught in their unshakable personal beliefs to do what they think is right. The audio and visuals will reflect the importance of the moment. I think a sure way to hone this, to go beyond effective, is to subvert established mechanics to forge a climax.

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Automatism and La forêt

Often when procedural generation is mentioned, someone will express, without room for debate, that things generated by an algorithm can never match up to the human touch. It’s always a huffy kind of statement, like it’s a waste of time to even consider any virtues. Really, it should be obvious, these styles of creation are not competing whatsoever. Still, people recoil at art that cannot transfer directly into some agreed upon essence of humanity, art that doesn’t reflect some soul or personality. That which cannot be rooted in the skill and cunning of its creator. It can seem like rejecting a personal touch is undermining the statements and abilities of a human author. Underpinning this an implicit fear that the recognition and social capital of the artist is under attack. As if making things needs to service the potential of perfect human genius, where each part is positioned with the utmost care; art as a contest of how much a master agonizes over small details.

Automatic art, random art, aleatoricism, mean to leave some part of the process of creation up to chance, though each in different ways. Automatism has a history in spiritualism—unconscious writing was believed to be the work of possession or some kind of psychic link with the afterlife. I can’t claim those or any irrational conclusion as false, because automatic art is an expression of the irrational. Classic surrealists were enamored with automatic techniques. They allow for creation uninhibited by rules or expectations, communication without any specific code-switching. Subconscious art can emulate dreams, incorporate the unexplained, pay tribute to the real omnipresent factor of the arbitrary.

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Vextro Reading List Vol. 1

This is nothing more than an aggregation of whatever Vextro covered in the time span between podcast episodes. Which isn’t actually on a tight schedule either. So these anthologies will just come out when they come out. I’m just thinking of these as a quick reference, an alternative to engaging with every single thing we put out, putting more of a focus on the games. Our interest is in varied expression and hopefully in the process foster a better sense of “videogame literacy” or whatever that means. Listed in order of how long one takes to finish.

continue to volume 2

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vextro loves games: episode 1

in this first episode of vextro loves games we introduce ourselves by whining a great deal. learn what vextro is “about” or whatever. please support underground games.
also part of every cast is talking about 3 random games because that’s quality entertainment that the users desire.
the games: seiklus (2003), deadly premonition (2010), the talos principle (2014).

Gods Will Be Watching, the Ontology of a Videogame

Gods Will Be Watching is certainly a videogame. Its challenges are systematic, filled with rote systems to be measured and understood. The game values these challenges highly, despite not necessarily forcing you to feel the same. The characters inexplicably, but endearingly, explain the rules of the systems. Its pixel art isn’t “traditional,” but has an inarguable lineage in the medium of videogames. It has a “morally gray” story to let the player exude agency in interpretation, using ridiculously high stakes involving billions of lives. The soundtrack is best described as an epic score. I say these things without scorn, to make clear how rooted it is in common videogame structures.

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