Artgaming: the art/video game nexus, RealTime Arts Magazine, 2016.

A feature article on the intersection between video games and art, written to introduce more art-focused audiences to the status of artgames in 2016. Published in Issue 133 of RealTime Arts Magazine.

"The anti-game sentiment of earlier works like The Graveyard has been reflected in similar manifestos and movements across the past decade of game design, with ideals which in turn can be traced back through the disruptive and playful art of the last century. Just as video games in general drew on ideas about audience participation and repeatable, sharable performances from Fluxus, artgames continue the Dada tradition by interrogating the artistic and cultural value of video games. Like Duchamp’s Fountain (1917) almost 100 years before it, David O'Reilly’s Mountain (2014) presents a game seemingly without purpose. It begins by asking the player to produce a series of drawings in response to key words such as “soul,” “children” or “the past.” They are then introduced to the mountain which gently rotates and occasionally makes comments, ranging from complete nonsense to the deeply profound as day, night, rain and snow pass over it."

Originally published on the 29th of June, 2016, avaliable here.

Form and Void: A Review of Pure Absence, PlayWrite, 2016.

A review of Adam Nash's Pure Absence, an art-music-game featured in RMIT's Design & Play exhibition.

"Although these layered forms and sounds initially compliment each other, they soon become harsh interruptions to your tranquility. The cubes begin to snap into existence right in front of the camera, and zip past as your view becomes faster and faster in Nash’s hands. The gentle tones which ring out upon contact with a cube are displaced by ringing phones and chirping electronic birds, as you swoop amongst a seemingly random arrangement of cubes, too close to see the ordered, rigid whole. The camera swings around to look back over the work: a vast expanse of form and colour marching into the void, like the pillars of a great temple. Your stomach tightens with the swooping of the camera; your legs tense with the anxious atmosphere radiating down from the dome. Despite your best intentions, you find yourself falling upwards into Pure Absence. It reaches down and grips your senses, shaping cubes from code, form from the void, presence from absence."

Originally published on the 3rd of June, 2016, avaliable here.

Thinking Back on the Friday Monsters, PlayWrite, 2015.

A critical reflection on LEVEL-5's Attack of the Friday Monsters: A Tokyo Tale!, a relatively obscure game which depicts childhood as it was experienced, rather than how it is remembered.

"The game forgoes many elements traditionally associated with a Japanese adventure game, such as inventory management, an involved plot, or a complicated combat system, because its not really interested in creating a compelling gameplay experience. It’s interested in recreating a real one. As a player, your actions are essentially limited to walking, talking, and an interactive trading card game. These mechanics limit your interaction with the game to simply exploring the town’s various nooks and crannies, speaking to the adults as they go about their business, and playing silly, inconsequential games with your friends. You are given just as much agency as the character you’re playing as; a character who has to run errands for his parents and be home by sundown."

Originally published on the 10th of November, 2015, available here
 

The Ideas Game, Overland Literary Journal, 2015.

A commentary piece on the redundancies at Australian game studio Halfbrick, and what they say about the value of a game designer.

"This notion of designers as solely 'ideas people' is further propagated by the presumption that 'great ideas can come from anywhere'. It's this prevailing notion that causes designers to be over-applauded as the sole creative voice behind a video game created by hundreds of people, while simultaneously undervalued as if they sit around all day spitting out concepts for hapless artists and programmers to make reality. A game designer is part of a team, just like an artist, programmer, or producer. Equating design with mere ideas-generation makes it easy to see it as a role which can be eliminated, and its tasks spread around the rest of the studio."

Originally published on the 28th of September, 2015, available here

 

The Seven Hour City, Kill Screen, 2015.

An article which discusses Half-Life 2's opening level, and how it uses its level design and fiction to maintain strict control over the player's movement, while convincing them of their agency. I also draw parallels between the oppressive alien regime in the game, the Combine, and the recent protest movements in Ferguson, London, and Melbourne.

"Despite being released over ten years ago, I still haven't found an opening level quite as compelling as Half-Life 2's introduction to City 17. With a meticulous level design and a strong commitment to the fiction of its world, it manages to convince you of your agency while still maintaining strict control over your navigation. From the very moment you step off the train, you are guided by the large, bright screen, the hard diverging lines adorning the carriages on either side of you, and the repeating posts and benches. You're not being forced to take this path. You want to take it."

Originally published on the 23rd of September, 2015, available here

 

Growing Up In Darkshore, Unwinnable Weekly, 2015.

An article on the experience of returning to Blizzard's World of Warcraft, and dealing with the changes in both the layout of a specific zone, and my relationship to it. Published in Issue 32 of Unwinnable Weekly.

“That town is Lor’danel, a settlement in one of World of Warcraft’s low-level zones, Darkshore. Two fast-flowing rivers branch around its perimeter, which sits on a small island connected to the mainland by several of the same bridges. The ocean behind it lies calm and grey, and under the distant shadow of Teldrassil, the town seems quaint, peaceful. Rotating the view around my avatar, I follow the edge of the surrounding forest as it stretches down the coastline into a dim, gray fog. The bridge sits over the point where the two rivers briefly reunite, before spilling over into a vast, swirling whirlpool. From this height, Lor’danel is the only splash of color in an otherwise gloomy coastline. From here, it almost looks like it did before the Cataclysm expansion changed everything. It looks like the Darkshore I grew up in.”   

Originally published on the 13th of February, 2015, available here

 

Various Reviews And Features, Worldwide Gaming, 2013-2015.

A series of segments for Channel 31's Worldwide Gaming, ranging from video game reviews to series retrospectives.

Metal Gear Solid V review, 2016. 
Unaired.
Transcript here, video here.

Volume review, 2015. 
Season 7, Episode 12.
Transcript here, video here.

Her Story review, 2015. 
Season 7, Episode 3.
Transcript here, video here.


The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt review, 2015.
Season 6, Episode 12.
Transcript here, video here.

Never Alone review, 2015.
Season 6, Episode 7.
Transcript here, video here.

The Witcher series retrospective, 2014. 
Season 5, Episode 3.
Transcript here, video here.

Dear Esther review, 2014. 
Season 4, Episode 13.
Transcript here, video here.

L.A. Game Space review, 2013. 
Season 3, Episode 1.
Transcript here, video here.

Kentucky Route Zero review, 2013.
Season 2, Episode 11.
Transcript here, video here.

Hotline Miami review, 2013. 
Season 2, Episode 13.
Transcript here, video here.

Gone Home review, 2013. 
Season 2, Episode 6.
Transcript here, video here.

Thomas Was Alone review, 2013. 
Season 2, Episode 7. 
Transcript here, video here.

 

The Intersection Of Affect And Meaning Within Interactive Virtual Environments, RMIT University, 2014.

My Honours thesis explored the basic forces which interact while exploring a 3D interactive digital virtual environment. It provided an overview of the theoretical concepts involved in such research, as well as documentation and analysis of twelve small virtual environments produced to help understand these forces.

 "In recent years, the interactive digital virtual environments found within video games have come to be understood as means of artistic expression. This exegesis establishes the nature of their design and reception as dynamic and indeterminate, in which the experience of the virtual environment is constantly being shaped and re-shaped by elements that exist in-between the designer, environment, and player. It is accompanied by a series of designed and freeform interactive virtual environments, which investigate how various levels of designer intent can intermingle with the memories, experiences, and values of the player to form a meaningful experience. Play-testing is used to illuminate how the meaning-making process occurs within interactive virtual environments, and an analysis of both player responses and the development process is used to speculate on the interaction between meaning and affect within interactive digital virtual environments."

Full exegesis available for download here

 

A History Of Moral Choice In Games, RMIT University, 2013.

A genealogy essay on the notion of moral choices within video games. 

"As we view the linage of moral choices in games, we can see that early concepts such as binary choices and morality meters are slowing being displaced. While these systems were useful in the past to track the adherence of users to certain moral principles, as humans we know that morality is a dynamic, abstract set of ideals, unique to each individual who possesses them. Perhaps to achieve true moral choices in games, developers should no longer be determining which actions are ‘good’ or ‘evil’, and instead rely on less-constructed tests of morality."

Full essay available here.

 

Debt And Poverty In Kentucky Route Zero, RMIT University, 2013.

An analytical essay on the central themes of Cardboard Computer's Kentucky Route Zero

"Once the player finally gains access to the computer to search for the location of 'Dogwood Drive’, they have the option of entering 'Conway’ as a user. If they do so, the computer will state: 'User “Conway” is not real’. I found this to be a similar concept to Magritte’s painting, ’The Treachery of Images,’ viewable above. Translated, the text reads 'This is not a pipe’. The game is reminding you that it is a game, that you’re not interactive with real people. Like the ghosts that Conway interacts with throughout the game, the characters, like all video game characters, are fake- just polygons and pixels."

Full essay available here.

 

Grand Theft Auto IV: Episodes From Liberty City Reader Review, Kotaku Australia, 2010.

A brief, early review of Rockstar Games' Grand Theft Auto IV: Episodes From Liberty City, for Kotaku Australia's 'reader review' column.

"An expansion offering more than a lot of full-priced single player games these days, Episodes represents quite astounding value for money. This collection of two excellent games is recommended to fans of the original GTAIV, fans of open-world games, fans of action-adventure, fans of shooters, fans of driving games and just people who are looking for three great stories set in the modern day, and all of which reflect our concerns, quirks, downfalls and triumphs."

Originally published on the 3rd of May, 2010, available here.