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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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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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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Being in Videogames is The Uncertainty Machine

Schrödinger’s law: the painful uncertainty of a work of fiction necessitating comparisons to our beloved cat in quantum superposition, until finally observing if it was useless or not. Usually when Schrödinger’s cat is brought up, and its application in The Uncertainty Machine is no exception, the potential superposition, the life or death instability that the cat theoretically exists in, is mostly glossed over. The cat is dead in a box, or the cat isn’t, but you can’t know until you observe—now that’s not really physics is it? Of course, everything is a matter of physics, but our reliance on observation is science, it is philosophy, it is existence itself. The crux is always opening the box and finding a cat, but without an unstable superposition it’s just a cat in a box.

Ever muddled, whiffing references, hinting at things without fully understanding their consequence: this is essentially why I found The Uncertainty Machine so appealing. It’s a big bite out of sociology and ideology, like any dystopian fiction, but without drowning in ennui or morality judgements, simply by neglecting to ground the actors or the setting enough to pull off a morality play. In what is one of the most unnecessary intro text scrolls, it’s established that in some western country, people are separated into two castes to guarantee at least some amount of the population lives comfortably. There’s no explained reason for this scarcity. No clarified difference between the castes. It just is; there’s sanctioned, approved citizens, and then there’s people and places deemed ‘off-limits’. I like that any possibly subtle application of this model-as-metaphor is just blown out with a glib statement that things are only slightly different from the present.

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437 Underworld [EP]

Few videogames admit that dungeon crawling is actually terrible and inhuman, preferring to idealize the journey with brightish colors, interesting routes, and often short lengths. I’ve hiked through caves. When I did I wasn’t dweeb enough to compare them to a videogame, how times have changed… Anyway, real caves are long, mute, and repetitious. Being in the dark for that long is harrowing, sight stops being familiar, senses shift from regular to trusting what you can feel with your hands and feet. Thoroughly dreary and disorienting—of course that’s what makes it so entertaining. Coming out of a cave you’re not really sure what you’re supposed to do with your head or eyes anymore. It takes a bit to remember what living is like.

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The Beauty of Thief Gold

I first played Thief Gold because it has a vague reputation of being an ‘important classic. It’s the first game to bring traditional stealth mechanics into 3D, supposedly laying out blueprints for all of its successors. In that regard, the game is done very well, with reactive guards, gradients of light to shade yourself, and different levels of noise that will give yourself away. It’s honestly surprising that so much is implemented so well on the first pass at a stealth game. But what really impressed me in Thief was the experimental levels and aesthetic.

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tw: anxiety, death, agoraphobia

Listening to drone around friends and family has elicited reactions like, “Do you actually enjoy listening to this?” and “How is this even music?” (Which is a brief reminder that “not an [art]” isn’t necessarily a videogames problem (though in games people have a consistent indignation and a noted immaturity, blah blah etc.)) I understand the absence of immediate appeal. Drone is unmelodic and very slow. Noise music in the first place counters the purpose of pleasurable listening and drone adds a lack of momentum. It’s like a progression and smoothing of fan sounds, a molasses distortion of a motor, a pop and crease of a heater. Sounds that aren’t meant to strictly hold someone’s attention or to entertain. Drone presents a space to subsist in, to bring texture to the frame of mind alongside contexts and processes that result in listening to it. Meditative music, in other words, but especially toward existing in the present and being with machines.

This softening of futurism is of course exactly why one would listen to drone. A music which focuses on a consideration of progress, rather than common expressions of lashing out against, or celebrating, the conditions we’ve found ourselves in. Minimalistic and unharsh, it’s music that beckons in a listener, to allow one to float and feel each slight change. Feel the reverberations of our modern world. I think drone music actually avoids pressing in on our conscious boundaries, avoiding the aggression and overwhelming expression in other styles of recorded noise. Because it’s constructed to hold in slight terror, sensations of being suspended, it effectively cradles modernity. Drone is truthfully gentle music despite what it tends to evoke, allowing someone to expand their feelings with it, instead being held hostage or lectured to.

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