I’m not an expert on horror games or anything, so I can only guess the origin of persistent horror is from Slender: The Eight Pages (or maybe, arguably, Ao Oni?). I can’t actually handle persistent antagonists either, especially in first person. I’ve never finished Slender, but I’ve played it a bit, sorta just to face my fears. I gotta force myself to play most horror games. Maybe I just feel a lot, maybe I’m gullible; I just get really invested and really scared. The point is to get scared, but I don’t know. It’s not exactly pleasant.
A persistent antagonist (usually randomly) spawns in and chases the player. It may chase permanently, or it may despawn after a certain point. Commonality here is how it fosters an intense vulnerability. Control and tempo of play isn’t dictated by what the player necessarily wants, it’s a matter of being in constant avoidance. Rhythm is determined by whatever chases; a player must cede control over the space, in a way that other genres or styles rarely, if ever, require someone to do.
Dear is naïve art (hey look it up). It digs into a deep understanding of minimalism without really knowing or caring what minimalism is for. Little sketches of pixelart, that are intricate and communicative, are strewn about unevenly in the work. Sometimes the vast negative space is used to great effect. Usually it isn’t. At first I wasn’t even sure what I experienced at all, having no paratext blindsided me. There was no useful explanation of the game, no thumbnail, no theme; such an affecting work somehow existed without any statement of intent, or any acknowledgement that it could do anything at all. Such a brisk intensity of experience was hard to conceptualize without a stated framework by the developer. It’s ludically similar to Jake Clover’s sidescrollers like duck turnip, in that play is to facilitate a showcase of screens, aesthetic moments. Basically, a 2D walking sim.
It starts in stark white, oddly cutting across a player’s monitor. Dear is rendered in a panoramic window, short and wide, a presentation I haven’t encountered before. In this way it rests into a gap of the computer, slotting in, distributing its existence, instead of being centered and demanding attention like the squares we’re used to. A deer, so a pun yeah, the titular deer, automatically walks across the screen. Space toggles its gait to a sprint, the only concrete interaction a player has, a transference that makes it not quite a simple animation. Pressing enter makes the deer leap into a run, autorunning until the end of a screen. An observing player can choose to inject panic or not into their viewing experience.
vextro is time limited and needs your support
It says everything and nothing. It says as much as the way we park our cars or wash our dishes. Just think of the sexual subtext of parking; rear-to-rear, slip-in-along-side, ‘I can squeeze in there’. Or look at dish washing in respect to ecology; make a machine to do the job, out-of-sight-out-of-mind, I’ve done my part you do yours. All things can be interpreted metaphorical for something else. All such juxtapositions create a meaning. All are equally useful and a complete waste of time. Just look at surrealist art for any number of examples. A melting clock, a lobster on a telephone. So what? The exchange is there, it can be made.
Between people there’s a felt suggestion to share understanding, usually an invitation to teach or be taught in some way. To neither educate or be educated is to suspend a concept. I very much enjoy that. What understanding is perfect? Every confidence is a hierarchy of trust, absolute truth is a consequence of belief and honesty that’s as fragile as the time it takes to process. Time spent learning, communicating, gives an illusion of the indefatigable, but without understanding one’s time spent is just one’s time spent.
I found Awkward Dimensions Redux incredible in the way I find most things that are so brutally honest and forward. A lot of my favorite things are confessional. Maybe because it takes a lot to convince myself that I’m not alone. What I found so valuable in this game is just how much of it lined up to my personal situation and so I have to admit it’s a really particular game. That’s what it is though, isn’t it? A particular game about the particular time and space you were in when you made it. It’s a diary, a crystallized youth. So I was wondering how exactly to write about something clearly personal and I guess I decided the best way was to try to be personal in turn.
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.