Chalk, Post-Shmup

A videogame in motion is an object that can be felt but not touched. Videogames exist, curiously, but their physicality is tempered by mostly universal conduits, you know, controllers and other apparatus. Their materiality is just outside standard perception. Play is abstracted; visuals which communicate effect are symbolically distanced from their aesthetic inspiration. This is a concept of phenomenology: a game’s aesthetic is felt through play and is different from nonplay observation. I’d argue this spacious relationship, this psychic distance, is a fundamental power of videogames. It feels radical to state as much as tech tries to close this duality, where acting and action are indiscernible from the other. Though it isn’t necessarily negative to strive for accurate models, I would argue it limits avenues of artistic expression. Doing and seeing can be two different-but-entwined expressions.

Game art exists in action, it’s a response to stimulus. It’s a material that exists because of play, while in play. Though in some cases there’s an inverse: there are play aesthetics that exist as material. This is a convoluted definition to pin down found aesthetics like the crayon graphics of Kirby’s Dreamland 3, the watercolor of Beeswing, and the chalk graphics of, uh, Chalk. These are approximations of materialsor sometimes, scanned, literal captures of these materialsthey lack their nondigital physicality. Videogames interpret these found and created materials with tactile sensations. Aesthetics which have a basis in how things look in actual life, instead of being a representation or stylization of a living sphere, contain a weak but ever present dissociation. They could be rendered 1:1 outside of software, yet they feel and exist in ways in software they never could outside it.

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Why action?

I’ve been reading archives of Tim Rogers’ work out of a compulsive need for comfort than a desire to feel illuminated, or get my writing chops strengthened, or whatever other goals I decide to define my compulsion by. Meaning this reading is maybe more honest than other habits, being for escape and pleasure, instead of a distant escapism of self-improvement. Rogers is more often a storyteller than a formal critic; I’m more or less reading an entertaining journal, but hey, I’m there for the videogames. Our shared annoyances and preferences are just a hook. He does legitimize his experiences with videogames by a spectrum of how they make him feel and how they fit into his life, though a lot of it is just how annoying being in this really is. This selling of a personality tied to subculture interest is what now dominates videogame discourse, as genre of content on youtube and such. Tim Rogers’ whispered influence makes his work seem more classy than the average youtube reviewer-reactor-explainer-whatever, but it’s essentially the same stuff. Just, well, youtube culture is filled with gamer nerds I won’t find myself agreeing with, while Rogers is an elitist jerk with relatively grounded perspective and yeah, I feel commonality since I’m a white dude hipster too. (I’ll deny being a hipster—what the hell even is a hipster anymore—but I’ll admit A is A in my relation to others).

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the state of the union

cw: i openly talk about my anxiety and depression

im writing this because as i stared at the word processor for this week’s essay, being a very obscure and esoteric writing merging interpretation of game criticism with a reflection and musing on game design, i felt an involuntary sickness. simon & garfunkel, of all things, has a song “i am a rock” which my thinking often privately returns to because it is a manifestation of my insecurities.

i have my books

and my poetry to protect me

i am shielded in my armor

hiding in my room

safe within my womb

i touch no one and no one touches me

i am a rock

i am an island

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The Works of Alice Indie

i think there’s something special about art that focuses on normalcy. it comes from a lack of pretense; art of the mundane displays raw feelings simply. whether fiction or not, it comes from a place of vulnerability. with the detail the mundane provides, and without the distance something like fantasy or staged drama can give, there is no felt bluffing. other art has fluff and grandiosity that gets in the way of human connection. max goodin

Strangers describes a person and asks for a first impression, a description of their home life, and a guess at their occupation. Black text on a white background; a defaultcore twine game. There’s no dressings for a life constant. Answers are freeform, typed in an input box under each question. After answering the first three questions, additional details are displayed, and a chance is given to reevaluate. Each question and answer pair is displayed on a results screen with the final question: what made you think this?

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Vextro Reading List Vol. 2

Vextro is made possible with contributions to is patreon. Okay that’s not really true as of this post but it needs be. I digress, we all made it another month! Well, a month and then some. A lot is on the line here but also not much at all. That’s a weird feeling of displacement, stress in service of a void. In pride, at least, everything this site has set out to accomplish is being accomplished. I don’t really know what’s going to happen, but hell, support underground games. The meme to stand by: support underground games. Listed in order of how long each takes to finish.

continue to volume 3

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vextro loves games: episode 2



vextro hates halloween so much we’re doing halloween in november to strip the holiday of all semiotic meaning. that’s a joke please don’t block us we actually love halloween. in this episode we talk horror basically like posers. max offers an objective and groundbreaking definition of horror that will change your life.

SUPPORT UNDERGROUND GAMING this eps games: call of cthulhu: dark corners of the earth (2005), ao oni (2008), neverending nightmares (2014), kholat (2015)

cw: neverending nightmares includes discussion of self harm, suicide, depression. ~1:15:00