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11:28 PM on 08.21.2012

How CLOP Is Both a Sadist and An Optimist

Iíve heard of QWOP before. I used watch 8th graders huddle at library computers, striving for high scores before school teachers caught them. I also watched PAX press struggle with GIRP among their own laughs and the teases of co-workers. But thereís something about CLOP thatís different. Something that allows it to speak louder than Bennett Foddyís older games. And it only took my incessant failure to realize.

CLOP is the antithesis of a power fantasy. Every aspect of its design is in place to remind you of your insignificance. Unicorns in art and literature are portrayed as creatures of beauty, who symbolize grace and majesty, but Clop is anything but. Instead, your sprite is ugly and of low quality. Your movement is crass and graceless as you stumble and fall incessantly. And you spend the game chasing the false prospect of a virgin, a goal that hardly feels important or significant.

The naming of the horse as ďClopĒ is the equivalent to calling a dog ďmutt,Ē or a human ďmeatbag.Ē Itís derogatory; it strips the horse of any personality or individualism, portraying a talking unicorn as simplistic and insignificant. Your projection should be wondrous and grand, a symbol of purity and elegance; instead youíre clumsy, foolish, and mediocre. Youíre a walking contradiction. By confusing and messing with your identity, the game facilitates your mocking. The projection of a strong, confident hero is now taken away.

Add this to how the game fetishizes our failures. Itís obstacles are embarrassingly simplistic: a rock, a small ditch, a piece of stairs, suddenly followed by a large cliff. Itís teasing the player, and mocking our failures with relentless humour. When playing the game, I decided to exclusively use both front hooves, and after a few moments, the game disables the horses back legs. The tag ďLame Horse ModeĒ flashes above, as it slowly limps across the ground. It was then I realized that CLOP is a sadistic game. Our identities are crushed and our abilities are handicapped. And our struggles and failures are not only mocked, theyíre celebrated. It feeds on them; theyíre the gameís central aspect.

Yet at the same time, CLOP is an optimistic game. With all its failure and struggle, the game never ceases to be enjoyable. Itís portrayal of the unicorn is quite funny, and thereís humour to be found in its mean-spirited satire. Despite its nature, itís still likable and brought me positive sentiments as a player.

Perhaps thatís the point of CLOP. To show that thereís real, sincere enjoyment to be had in incessant failure, and clumsiness, and foolishness. It tells us, as oh-so-majestic unicorns, not to take ourselves too seriously. After all, are none of the things we do ridiculous, to some extent? Have our failures never been amusing, or enjoyable?

These are the kinds of questions CLOP is asking us. Theyíre insightful, important questions, ones that you could miss if you dismiss CLOP as some kind of joke. But itís very ironic how CLOP gets its ideas across. In order to get the message you may be taking yourself too seriously, you have to take the game more seriously than you normally would.

If anything, itís illustrative why CLOP is so deranged. Itís a mess of contradictions that are somehow cohesive. CLOP simultaneously presents us an idea and itís contradicting counterpart. Itís both a plea for humility and an argument of the benefits of serious analysis. Itís a destruction of oneís identity for the purpose of creating its own. And itís both a sadist and an optimist. Polar, much?

If you may be wondering where I was, I spent the last week writing/slaving in writer hell for a piece over on Nightmare Mode. It's similar to a blog post I had on here, actually. Check it out if you want!

But more importantly, I recently read Solar20XX's post on the online loneliness. Man, do I understand that. I was 16 once, too, you know! I just wish I was there when the post was fresh. Good on you, Solar20XX. I'll probably write something about that soon.

Remember: games are deep and full of meaningful, insightful ideas. Appreciate them! Love Them!

Take care,
-Zolani13   read

12:24 PM on 08.14.2012

Experimental Games of the (Two) Weeks: July 29 - Aug 12, 2012

Guess what I'm writing about ~

I'm happy I get to talk about CLOP. I want to show that even a "dumb" or "jokey" game can still have interesting, insightful things to say. It's pretty much finished, and should be up soon after some tweaks and other more professional-type (?) writing things I have to get on. So let's start! But first, I have a few important updates for my blog.

I'm starting school soon, in about a week to be clear, and I don't know what that means for the blog. To be clear, this is probably been one of the best summers of my life. I've written so much during the past few months, and I've loved every minute of it, no matter how difficult they were. I'll definitely be trying my best to keep the blog, and my writing streak, alive while balancing school. No promises, though. But trust me, writing is waaay more enjoyable than Calculus and Physics ever was.

I really appreciate all the comments I've gotten on the destructoid c-blogs. Every piece I've written so far has been on the top-sauce, and I'm grateful for that. The CLOP piece is a short run though, as I just wanted to talk of a specific thing. After that, I'll be doing a hardcore analysis of Lone Survivor as my last horrah before the semester starts. Stay Tuned, that's going to be a good one. Tough as shit, but good!

So with that, let's get to the games. There aren't many this week, but they're definitely special. Let's take a look at In Ruins.

In Ruins is somewhat difficult to explain. Simply, it's a ruins creation engine, where you create the a type of ruin to explore, as you collect binds of light. "The world is generated procedurally each time the game is run, after the initial cycle is completed the player can access the generation parameters to play with." That's better. It's interesting stuff, so definitely check it out.


Zineth is like if the Internet took a an empty Jet Set Radio box filled with cocaine and beat you with it until you were bleeding from your head. It's fucking thrilling and as fuck. It also makes you swear a lot and shrinks your vocabulary until all you can make are violent cocaine analogies. It's fast, and it's very fun. It doesn't last too long, but it lets you check your Twitter. Twitter!! So pick that one up, and get its soundtrack too. It's mind-bending.

And that's it! I'll have good things up soon. Take Care guys. Have fun gaming.

-Zolani13   read

1:25 PM on 08.08.2012

The Neglected Aesthetics of Fighting Games

I sat on a sofa, watching casuals with friends and eating my sandwich at a Montreal fighting game venue, when I noticed someone walk towards our console with an early copy of Persona 4: Arena. Blazblue fans were ecstatic. Newcomers were asking questions, and those sitting by were trying to reserve their chance at the stick. As the onlookers increased in number, something struck me as significant, Persona 4: Arena is a beautiful game. It fills the screen with well placed yellows and blues. Its red glares as scan lines bleed onto its shaking versus screen. Its aesthetic carries a style and energy that can't be replicated in the highest quality youtube videos I could link you. But the best thing about Persona 4: Arena, is that it isn't an exception. Fighting games represent some of the best artistic design games have to offer, and P4A is just another example.

I won't lie--fighting games can be kind of complicated. Players spend years mastering them, enthusiasts compile data trying to understand them, and sites fill pages with concepts and techniques, hoping to ease newcomers into them. How can a player recognize block-stun and hit-stun, or whether their throw was just teched? How do I differentiate an EX Move from a focus attack? A fighting game's visual design helps players understand its numerous mechanics. It makes its concepts and ideas visible and tangible to players, instead of leaving them behind the curtain where they become abstract and difficult to comprehend. Through a fighting game's aesthetic, I can understand the impact and purpose of my interactions.

There were six main fighting games at EVO 2012, including numerous indie games, like DiveKick, Skullgirls, MeltyBlood, among others, along with Arc Systems' BlazBlue and GuiltyGear games, with P4A recently in stores, and Injustice and Playstation All-Stars releasing later this year. Each series tends to create its own sub-community, with its own players, heroes, streams and websites. There are so many fighting games I can focus on, how can a new one possibly find stable ground?

To attract a group of players in such a crowded market, a unique visual design is almost a necessity, which explains why so many fighting games have unified thematic designs. Each one carries a particular personality that make them unique and interesting, and shows solid artistic direction.

The King of Fighters XIII carries a strong black foundation with subtle highlights of primary colours that give them luminance. Character portraits, menus and meters are outlined by decorative metallic linings during fights. And that same metallic finish is applied to its serif type, which gives its menus permanency and focus. KOFXIII's aesthetic feels modern and level-headed.

Skullgirls is a supernatural period piece. Its theme of early 1920's-30's film is reflected through its use of deep blacks and browns and Art Deco typefaces, some resembling Lorraine Louie's "Anna" or Tom Carnase's "Busorama." It's menu revolves around a stock of film, hovering in front of a lighted projector. The design of some of its stages reflects Art Deco interior design, specifically Medicii Tower, with its black and white tile flooring. Peacock is a construction of the cartoons of the late 1920's, from characters like Mickey Mouse and Oswald the Lucky rabbit. Skullgirls' uses 20s-30s Art Deco to create a unique artistic design.

Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 embraces its comic book brethren. It's menu screens are renditions of the comic style with flipping pages and background dot effects. Combo pop-ups are bubbly and colourful, battle effects are flamboyant and its super moves are exaggerated. UMVC3's artistic design carries a childish, carefree kind of energy, not unlike the kind felt by kids who grow up with comic books and comic book movies.

The Street Fighter IV Series was able to move its aesthetic past the sprite era, while retaining the fluidity its predecessors enjoy. It isn't excessive in its cartoon portrayals--characters carry just enough realism thyat players understand their physics--but it embraces its animated roots in other ways. When players focus, their attacks leave a trace of ink in the environment. The versus sign is drawn with ferocious ink calligraphy, that gives its vs-screens energy. It's use of colours is varied, but facilitates tracking the numerous parts on screen. Super meter carries an electric blue. Ultra meter will carry a purple or green, and its timer glows orange. They're varied, but they bring attention to its parts, without looking ugly. The Street Fighter IV Series pays subtle homage to its predecessors while respecting visual cues in its design.

Mortal Kombat's ultra violence, Street Fighter's calligraphy effects, and P4A's Japanese energy are just additions to a genre that's becoming increasingly diverse. Fighting games, in effort to set themselves apart from their peers, are creating unique personalities, and their artistic direction reflects that. But fighting games aren't known for their appearance, they're known for their fighting; it isn't surprising that's what gets the attention. At the same time, aesthetic engages even the most hardcore of players. It helps attract fan bases, and keeps them inspired. It gives a fighting game personality, and helps diversify the genre. Ignoring it is ignoring a piece of the genre's soul.

Note: Guys!! I missed you guys.. ;_; I've been writing freelancey stuff, as well a dealing with personal matters for the past week and a half. I'll be getting updates back to normal soon. In the meantime, tell me what your favourite looking fighting game is in the comments. Take Care!   read

10:13 PM on 07.28.2012

Experimental Games of the Week: July 22 - 28, 2012

Happy Sunday!

There won't be an analysis this week. I've been working on some important ideas and concepts, twisting and sculpting them, and trying pack them into rock hard theory. If these ideas work out the way I want them to, I may be able to provide a base through which we can gain a deeper understanding of video game structure and idea analysis. New genres could be formed! If this doesn't work the way I want it to, then nothing will happen and I would have wasted my time. But that's life.

So while I endlessly philosophize in my lonely head, why don't you skip church and play some weird video game shit instead? I have some good ones:

The Cat That Got The Milk

The Cat That Got The Milk is a very pure game, in the sense that I never felt like it was trying to tell me something. It seems to exist, merely to be enjoyed and appreciated, and I'm all for those types of games. If you do find some kind of meaning though, let me know, as I couldn't really think of anything.


So, um, Asciivania is incredible and you should play it immediately. Addictive. So satisfying. Play it now. Please.


I'll admit: I haven't finished March yet. So far, it's quite an interesting tale, and I'm curious as to what will happen as I play into it further. I won't go too far much into March, but I will say that picture you see uptop is not two dimensional. Interested? Check it out!


Okay, now we're at the loveit/hateit point. If you keep an open mind, you may find Exhaust a really interesting game with some well-executed ideas, or you may find it a total waste of time. It's that time of game, but try it out anyway--it's short.

Good things are coming. In the meantime, have fun gaming!   read

7:15 PM on 07.26.2012

Analysis: The End of Us

If there was ever a class on interpreting games and understanding their ideas, The End of Us would be the perfect introductory game. It's distribution of information is straightforward. It's structure of ideas is beautifully organized. It's short and without barriers, and it doesn't overflow on the abstract. It's the "Hello World" of video game interpretation.

The beauty of The End of Us is its basic structure. It's elements are clearly presented and portrayed, and the changes they go through clear and recognizable. When an element in a universe changes in a way that we find significant, we see those as ideas that the game presents to us, and The End of Us' presentation of its ideas is straightforward, making it easier to track and understand these ideas, and eventually piece them together to form some kind of conclusion.

Because of this, it won't be exactly 'difficult' to figure out the game. Rather, I want to talk about The End of Us because it supports concepts that are very helpful in understanding what a game is telling us, and how it's telling it to us. I'll show you why. Like, right now.

Player Constructions

The first thing I like to do whenever I write these, is to ask myself: Who does the player embody in this game?

Who are we in The End of Us? How are we portrayed?

We can answer this question by simply stating we play as asteroids, but that answer is useless and unhelpful. We want to examine our player projection with deeper lens. What are some traits of asteroids that we know?

- Asteroids are made of rock (or metals)
- Asteroids can form planets and belts (the asteroid belt)
- Asteroids can collide and form larger objects
- Asteroids can collide and destroy larger objects
- Asteroids don't think
- Asteroids don't feel (Eh? Eh?)
- And asteroids are very similar to comets, the difference being comets are made from ice and asteroids from rock

What we want to do, is to try and personify the traits of our player projection, and see how we can gain a deeper understanding of the object we embody. The first one is sort of obvious: asteroids are made of rock; this shows toughness and resiliency. So that's cool. We have that covered.

But the next three points are more interesting. Asteroids are powerful forces of nature. In large numbers, they can form massive planets and huge asteroid belts, and provide minerals for extracting or possible environments for colonization, but they can ruin planets and destroy populations just the same. That's a very polar power opposition. The ability to create incredible things in large numbers, accompanied with the ability to destroy them? The trait carries a resemblance to people, who have also created incredible things, but have destroyed them, showing how they too, are powerful forces of nature. We can say that asteroids, in a way, resemble people, but then we see a contradiction. Asteroids do not think or feel. Asteroids do not emote like we do. They have no morals, they have no empathy, they have no apathy, and no sympathy. Asteroids don't make decisions, either. They have no inner conflicts or ideas, or anything that resembles human complexity. They don't think.

So then asteroids, like people, can create incredible things, or they can destroy incredible things, but they lack the human ability necessary to decide which one to do. They're a sort people without a purpose. A powerful being, like us, only void of any real direction. And that's how can see our player projection in The End of Us. A powerful force of nature, void of real purpose, void of emotion, of life, and the most nominal of thought. Lifeless beasts, if you will.

Understanding Mechanical Freedoms

I try my best to disprove the idea that mechanics and narrative are best separated structurally. Mechanics should serve and strengthen narrative, instead of contradict like we see in many games. We have to interpret mechanics in relation to narrative, to show how mechanics can go beyond their technical uses, and become a true narrative strength. We want to understand a game's mechanical freedoms: what a game lets us do and what it doesn't let us do. Why does a game give us specific freedoms but prohibits others? In Bioshock, the player cannot die. Why can't you die in Bioshock? What does that say about the game's views on death? Max Payne 3 lets the player fire excessive bullets at the last enemy in a room, whose body is shown exploding with bullet holes. Why would a game let you do that? Is it a power fantasy? What does Max Payne 3 think about power fantasies? These are the kind of questions we can arrive to by thinking of mechanical freedoms. In the case of The End of Us, the most significant mechanic is its ability to let you control both asteroids. Most games give you control of one object, which you use to interact with other objects in a universe, but in The End of Us, you are simultaneously the interacting object and the object being interacted with. Why would it do that?

I thought about what I'm actually doing in The End of Us. I move the asteroids around, bump them into each other, twirl them and makes patterns with their tails. I'm playing with the asteroids, and they're consequently playing with each other. Remember what our projection was: a powerful, lifeless being, since asteroids are, by nature, lifeless and without purposeóbut by allowing us to control them, we create real characters who are interacting with each other in a sincere way. Through interaction, we project life onto lifeless beings. This is a big idea in The End of Us. It's takes objects that are supposed to be without life or character, and allows us to project character onto them, by simply interacting with them and using our imagination.

As the game progresses, the asteroids appear to get older (which strengthens their portrayal as characters as opposed to asteroids), and they start to break apart until one of them crashes into what I assume is earth. If you place the purple asteroid behind the orange, the orange asteroid will die and the purple asteroid will survive, and then the game will take away your control, and make you watch it swerve left and right, until its colour dims and it dies, leaving the screen. This is another case of mechanical freedoms. The game, without notice, takes away your control. Remember that it was the interaction with the orange asteroid and with us, that gave that asteroid character and life. Now when that interaction goes away, we see the asteroid die.

This proves the conclusion we can make form the The End of Us, that it believes interaction is what gives things character and life, and it's what gives us character and life. It does this by letting us project life onto its objects through interaction, and then showing them die when it's taken away.

So what does all this mean?

In my introductory sociology course, we discussed the phenomenon of feral children, kids who have never experienced social interaction for an extended period of time. Some are locked in basements for most of their lives, and others simply ignored, but when retrieved, they're never able to speak or properly interact.

It's because interaction is what keeps us alive. It keep us thinking. It's the medium through which we communicate with the universe. Interaction is what keeps athletes tied to their sport. It gets consumers to buy iPads, it keeps a pianist's body swaying when she strikes chords, and it's probably what keeps gamers so in love with video games. It keeps me in love with video games.

The End of Us is an argument that interaction is what keeps us alive. Because without it, we're the dumbest of space rocks, drifting in space, void of purpose.

Follow Chelsea Howe at @manojalpa & Michael Molinari @onemrbean and check out his game Basketbelle. Follow me @Fengxii. If you have ideas DON'T LET THEM GO TO WASTE. Let me know what they are in the comments. Take Care!   read

12:22 AM on 07.24.2012

Experimental Games of The Week: July 15 - 21, 2012

So as it turns out, writing an analysis/interpretation of a game is really really hard and takes a lot of time and effort. Itís the master puzzle where the pieces are sub-arguments you have to fit together to make it logical and coherent, but entertaining and easy to follow and not to long and... it's just hard, like everything else in writing.

So as I slave away at my writing work while the ghost of William Strunk Jr. yells writing commandments on my shoulder (ďomit needless words, dammit!Ē), I figured I could give you guys some recommendations on some great experimental games I've played recently, which Iíll likely write about sooner or later. I have a certain affinity for weird, abstract games. Call me a hipster if you wish, but Iíve just been having trouble engaging with AAA games lately. Iím losing interest in shooting things for the same reasons.

First up, Reveal

The picture is much too large for the page. View it here.

Reveal is a game developed by pixel butterfly. I wonít say anything about Reveal except that itís really really weird and keeps getting weirder; but Iím into that kind of stuff and if you are too then check it out! Requires a UDK install, though.


So Robert Yang seems like a cool dude. I like him. And I also like Souvenir. Iíll let you sniff out the ideas for yourself, but theyíre not that difficult to figure out anyways, and I just love the way the world is built here. I don't want to go into specifics. These types of games work best when you go in unknowing. Be warned though, the controls are somewhat wonky. I was falling off edges a lot due to weird physics, but the game isnít punishing in the least. You canít really lose, per se.

Hope you all have fun! Take Care, and expect good things soon.   read

3:56 PM on 07.22.2012

Dys4ia: A Study of Metaphor

I recently played Dis4ia, a flash game developed by Anna Anthropy.

It tells the story of a woman who goes through a sex change (specifically hormone replacement therapy), and details the social and personal struggles she goes through and eventually overcomes through C64 like imagery and interaction.

Unlike the abstract, scattered messaging of Against The Wall, Dys4ia's artistic goals are very clear. There are no scattered hints to a clearer picture; the clearer picture, the depiction of sex reassignment therapy, is straightforward and clearly illustrated. So I don't think it would be valuable to go over its main ideas. Rather, I realized Dys4ia is the right opportunity for us to discuss what it means for a game to be metaphorical. We're going to try to understand and define this idea in a deeper context, and see how we can learn to use it to one's artistic advantage.

So let's do that.

Literary Theory vs. Game Theory

There are many ideas in literary theory, specifically literary devices, that can't be clearly defined in terms of games. Imagery, for example, is the formation of mental images through a text, but in video games, every frame consists of some kind of scenery, only everything in the frame is illustrated simultaneously. (I won't get into specifics about what does and doesn't constitute as a mental image). Amplification is when a writer adds more detail to a sentence to increase its worth and understandability, to strengthen a point, but games consist of much more than text. What counts as amplification in a video game, other than a piece of dialogue or a textbox that hovers over an object? What can constitute as supplementary detail to a pre-existing element in a game environment?

The point is that for many literary devices to work, they need to be skewed and reformatted to fit in the context of games, but the beauty of the metaphor is that it can be translated easily between various mediums. For metaphors are simply comparisons, and comparison is one of art's strongest weapons, regardless of medium.

So how does Dys4ia use metaphor?

The effective simplicity of metaphor reflects Dys4ia's execution of its ideas. The game depicts its situations and events by translating them into video game settings, and portrays the elements involved as the game objects they represent. It's surprisingly straightforward.

Anna's uncertainty and anxiety regarding her body is represented through a tetris piece that can't properly fit through a wall. The aggravation of her breasts during hormone therapy is translated through a pair of breasts dodging obstacles as it floats upwards. The harmful words of naysayers berating her and denying her goals are represented by projectiles which a shield that you control needs to avoid. And the beauty of it is that it makes so much sense! Anna as a shield, words as dangerous projectiles, a body as a tetris piece, trying to properly fit-in with its environment? Dys4ia's use of metaphor is straightforward and effective, and we as players instatntly understand what it's telling us. That's the power of comparison.

So what's the best way to use metaphor in a game?

I'd like to avoid stating what is or isn't the best way to do anything, rather I'll tell you what I've found metaphors to be good at.

Dys4ia shows us that the use of explicit metaphor can bring across points and ideas that we understand instantly. Translating a situation into a game environment allows us to interact with the ideas shown on screen, which at least in my experience, facilitates the players comprehension of its messages. Mashing the down key to get a shirt on was frustrating, and brought relation with the character's feeling. Trying to fit through a wall as a deformed tetris piece gave me an understanding of how it feels to be uncomfortable in one's own body, to feel weird and improper as one's physical self. Comparison through interaction, or metaphor in games, brings clear and easy comprehension. It also keeps us engaged, without falling into common traps involved with the explicit expression of ideas.

What comparison through interaction doesn't do well, is expressing a large amount of multi-layered ideas in one place. The reason is that, technically, everything in a game is a metaphor. Anything in a game can be compared to something else, therefore, pumping too many important metaphors in one place would be too many ideas all seeking attention; I feel like it would drown the game.

Dys4ia works because there are only a few important metaphors in each scene. The scene with the shield has three important metaphors. The scene with the eyes has two important metaphors. I know which ideas to focus my attention to, and every scene is able to create a clear, effective picture because of its economical use of metaphors. So yeah, try not to don't use too many.

Wow, Metaphors are pretty cool!

I know, right?!

Metaphors in games are cool because we get them instantly. They're cool because they're clearly presented. They're engaging and interactive, and they're fun to play with and understand. They relate to us, because they know how to get us to relate to them.

Dys4ia gets this. It gets how to use comparison and interaction, and because of that its messages and ideas are interesting, valuable, and memorable. It also prompted me to reaseach transgenderism, so that's a plus.

Did this get you thinking? What do you think of metaphor and other devices? What kind of ideas do you have? Let me know in the comments, or tweet them to me @Fengxii (two 'i's). Also, see more of my things at Take Care!   read

6:45 PM on 07.21.2012

Analysis: Against The Wall

This is an analysis for the game "Against The Wall" by Michael P. Consoli. Beware of Spoilers.

There's something very dismal about Against The Wall.

It's a sense of hopelessness, a dead emptiness in its environment that in truth, isn't apparent at first. It's sky is bright and saturated with clouds and its sun shines perpetually and its trees sway peacefully, yet these ideas don't become discredited by those elements, instead they're hidden deceivingly. And when I gave some more thought to the game for the sake of this analysis, I realized there are a lot of things Against the Wall hides under itself. There are so many suggestive elements, that all seem to hint at something greater within the context of its world. And today, we're going to talk about those elements.

So let's do that, shall we?

[b]Against The Wall (Alpha)
Michael P. Consoli
June 2012[/b]

The goal of this analysis is to understand as much as we can about Against The Wall. If we want to do that, then we're going to have to approach this differently than we would for more familiar art forms. We can't use the same methods of interpretation we've been using for other mediums; we have to develop our own system that corresponds to the nature of games, rather than film or literature, or fine art. If we don't, we won't get the information we need to make a proper conclusion.

So how are we going to do that?! Well, the first thing we'll do is start with the player. It's a good starting point, and can give us some useful information we can use to go into other topics. So let's start there, and see where it takes us.

Player Constructions

In order to understand the player constructions, the following question must be asked: who does the player embody in this game? Understanding the object we're projected onto, will help us understand the relationships and interactions that we as players have with other objects in the game world. So in this case, who do we embody in Against The Wall? We don't really know; the game doesn't tell us who we are or where we came from or the reason for our presence, so we have look beyond the basic plot details, and use our observations and intuition. Trust yourself, dammit!

What do we observe from the player at first glance?

The player can walk... Okay
The player can jump... Okay
The player can see... Okay
The player is holding a staff... Alright
And the player knows how to use the staff... Cool

Now the first three points may seem arbitrary--they're not. The player is capable of walking, so he's not paralysed or handicapped; he's fully physically capable. Not only that, he can walk very long distances. How long did you play Against The Wall? Two hours? Three hours? Whatever object we're projecting ourselves onto not only walks for this long, he's leaping over platforms for hours on end at extremely high altitudes, without a single sweat under his brow.*

So the player is athletic. And with the roll of a mouse, the player can see distances much further than our squinting eyes would be able to make out. So I guess he's like, Robocop athletic. Okay. But let's think about this some more. What happens when you fall in the game? Does he scream? Does he yell in pain when he hits the ground tens of feet under him? No. In fact, there are no sounds from the player in any situation in Against The Wall. He is either extremely emotionally resilient, not human because so far, he expresses no recognizable human traits, or he's just used to it. We're going to have to choose one of these to roll with if we one want a clearer picture. Because of his unnatural athletic traits and his reaction to his environment, I'd have to say that he is both inhuman and used to this environment.

And lastly, we know that he constantly carries some sort of staff. We can get into the pretty details of the staff itself later; right now, we just want to interpret the staff in terms of its relation with the player. Which means, our focus is the fact that he has the staff, the fact he knows how to use the staff, and what he's specifically using it for. What is he using it for? To manipulate his environment, i.e moving the blocks. What does that say about him? He not only excels in athletic ability, he also possesses the ability to manipulate his environment at will? This man is quite capable. Powerful even, when you think about it.

And the last point to make, is about what we as players are actually doing. We're climbing a wall. We don't know why he's climbing the wall; again, the stupid game doesn't tell us, so we need to understand the nature of what he's doing. For starters, the sole process of climbing an infinitely spanning wall is a) extremely repetitive and b) completely pointless (again, we're not told why he's climbing the wall, so we have assume there isn't a point until we have more information). A man with so much power, with the ability to control his environment at will, uses it to carry out such a pointless and repetitive task? Quite suspicious, if you ask me, but telling nonetheless.

With that, we go back to our question: who does the player embody in Against The Wall? We seem to embody someone who demonstrates extreme physical ability, who lacks recognizable human traits, both physically and mentally, and is capable of manipulating his environment at his will (I feel like that's important), specifically a wall, and endlessly carries out a repetitive task for no specific reason. With that, there are some important questions you should be thinking to yourself as we move on:

Is there actually a reason he's climbing the wall? (It's possible that he does it for no reason at all)
Does he know that the wall doesn't end?
Does he care that the wall doesn't end? (These will help us understand motivation)
Is his athleticism natural or developed?
And if developed, how did he develop that athleticism, and why?
All that, just from a glance! And we're just getting started. Now that we have a clearer picture of who we embody, we're going to see how he interacts with his environment.

The Environment Constructions

What makes Against The Wall so interesting is that its so empty, yet there's such a large variety of objects placed inexplicably. At first, my plan was to go through each object, and explore them individually, the same way one would go through particular symbols and objects in literature--I soon realized this wouldn't be effective. Objects in Against The Wall give more important information when they're interpreted in relation to each other, because they exist in relation to each other. Not only that, nearly every object exists in relation only to one particular object: The Wall.

Every object in Against The Wall revolves around the wall. Trees grow from the wall, windmills are built on the wall, and civilizations have developed around the wall. The wall is king; its the base in which this entire world is built, allowing the growth (and supposed death) of societies and supporting life in the process. I mean, trees are growing on the wall, for craps sake. But isn't that an odd dissonance? Walls are usually symbols of hindrance and prevention, yet here, it seems to do the exact opposite. Why? Why a wall?

I can answer that question with another question: Is it really a wall? This is getting weird, I know, but stay with me for a second. You see, there are only two lifeforms we see in Against The Wall: you, and the trees. That's it. Now the trees live on the wall. They seem to attach to the wall quite easily, for starters, and they fly about its various areas of this wall with ease. But you don't live on the wall, you live adjacent to the wall. You have to climb the wall, for hours, before you reach anywhere significant. Can you imagine?

But this isn't just you. Whoever built the windmill and the town above it, also must have lived the way you did, since their structures are also adjacent to the wall (you wouldn't be able to stand in the town otherwise). So it can't just be you trying to live in this harsh environment, it must have been them as well, which strengthens the theory that those people and you are the same 'people'. We know that this world is harsh and difficult to live in; could it be that you're the last one left? An entire civilization, unable to survive on the barren wasteland of the wall? Could that also explain his athleticism and emotional resilience? The possibility he's lived here for so long that the parts of his body needed to traverse his environment developed to their current state? I think it does, and I think we're getting somewhere.

Against The Wall must be portraying survival. This is a barren wasteland dominated by an omnipresent wall. Food is virtually non-existent. Travelling to the nearest places takes hours, is physically taxing and extremely dangerous. It's not surprising people died and its not surprising that civilization failed to develop here. This environment can't support the kind of life they needed. It just so happens that you were able to stay alive.

Alright, so what does this all mean?

What I see in Against The Wall is a society struggling to survive in a world that wasn't built for them. It seems sort of bizarre at first, but we can make some important comparisons. For starters, their struggle doesn't seem that different than our struggle as a species to survive in our own harsh environments. We build towns in North America and Asia and Europe because we can survive there, but there's a reason why there's no city in the middle of Antarctica: it doesn't support the kind of life we need. Antarctica is no different from the Wall. And that's how I relate Against The Wall to the real world. It's a reflection of the struggle humans must endure to survive in their environment.

One final-ish thing worth noting is the staff. Now that we've figured out what's going on, it seems to make sense that the staff was built by the same people who use it. I wouldn't be surprised if there were more staffs when the others were around. It must be just another tool they used to survive, along with the elevator and other things.

And as my final words, I just want to say that Against The Wall is a fantastic game. It's just so much fun.

If you have any other ideas, tweet to me @Fengxi with your own conclusions of the game, or just comment. And follow Michael P. Consoli on Twitter and donate to his game, if you can. He deserves the love.


-Zolani   read

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