2017 Archives - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies
20Nov/180

Getting Over It with Bennett Foddy (2017)

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One constant over these last few stressful months has been the zen-inducing gameplay of Getting Over It with Bennett Foddy (just Getting Over It moving forward as I have separate thoughts for Bennett Foddy). For those of you who may have missed the multitude of rage reactions published on the internet in reaction to Getting Over It, the premise is simple. You play as Cauldron Man (apparently also named Diogenes but I'm sticking with Cauldron Man) who, equipped with his trusty Yosemite hammer, must scale the obstacles placed in his path using the mouse to control the climbing gear. When I write "must" it's more as a reaction to having an obstacle to climb than any narrative reasoning. I want to get over the obstacles because they are there and I want the satisfaction of successfully scaling the obstacles.

Foddy, in his voiceover narration, explains that he made this game to hurt a specific type of person while paying homage to Sexy Hiking. During the 22 hours or so it took me to finally "get over it", I convinced myself I was not the type of person Foddy wrote and spoke of. Rather than feeling frustration at my climbing failures I achieved a peace with myself. There was no result of swinging my climbing gear or landing thud of the cauldron that I could blame, or reward, anyone but myself. If I fell, it was because I misjudged the force needed or got too haphazard in my swing of the gear.  If I succeeded, it was because I finally gathered the necessary skill to harness the momentum of the cauldron with correctly timed swings.

16Nov/181

Podcast Special: Night in the Woods (2017) with Tevis Thompson

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If this is your first time reading Pixels in Praxis or are averse to spoilers, check out our FAQ before proceeding.

When I first reviewed Night in the Woods, I was left in a sort of awe at its ability to see us in our pain and end on resilient optimism. Night in the Woods has become one of my undeniable favorites with its distinct art style, poetic character writing, emotionally resonant mini-games, and continued relevance to our collective moment. I haven't been able to get it out of my head in the months since I finished it.

In my restless way I needed to discuss it more. So I reached out to critic and author Tevis Thompson (Second Quest, The Existential Art, 100-Word Game Reviews) for a conversation on Night in the Woods. Over the course of our conversation we talk about how traumatic identification bonds characters to our memory, the exhilaration of platforming, why protagonist Mae is seen as problematic, the difficulties in giving existential threats literal form, and playing Night in the Woods in the age of Trump.

Please join us in this conversation and I'd like to read what Night in the Woods means to you. To listen to the podcast you may click play below, the image above, or download a copy.

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10Jul/180

Detention (2017)

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If this is your first time reading Pixels in Praxis or are averse to spoilers, check out our FAQ before proceeding.

Detention defines itself through absence and horrific spectacle.  The former weighs on the latter after Wei Chung Ting disappears searching for a phone to call for help.  The latter makes its presence felt as soon as Wei goes missing with Fang Ray Shin waking up in a nightmare version of her auditorium with Wei's corpse hanging upside-down above her.  There is no way this story can end well, at least in the way we're accustomed to with survival and acceptance.  The only way Detention can end is through repetition or resignation, repeating the horrific spectacle or wearily letting go of the time lost.

Playing Detention is a sometimes exhausting experience but - save for one break I needed to get some outside air - it's one I willingly took on myself from start-to-finish.  The only other game I felt compelled to do this with in recent memory is Night in the Woods.  The parallels aren't immediately apparent, yet they're pressing.  Both have to do with the ways struggling communities under the weight of some oppressive regime expect their young (women, in particular) to sacrifice themselves for temporary relief.  There are even matching scenes where the depressed protagonists stare at themselves in the mirror and are saddened or disgusted by the person peering back.

3Jun/180

LOCALHOST (2017)

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If this is your first time reading Pixels in Praxis or are averse to spoilers, check out our FAQ before proceeding.

LOCALHOST can be purchased on itch.io.

"My mind feels too clear. My memories are automatically sorted, processed. And all of human experience isn't enough."

These words come from the red drive, arguably the most tragic of the artificial intelligences I'm tasked to delete in the middle of LOCALHOST's night.  I've felt that inability to stop the rush of memories before where every decision and feeling I've made or experienced blindsides me at once.  But that rush, that overwhelming sensation, is part of the human experience.  That the red drive, supposedly a man who uploaded his consciousness as he lay dying of cancer, never experienced the existential anguish of feeling the entirety of your existence laid bare brings up two important questions.

The first - am I being tricked?  Red has a personality and communicates terror but using broad strokes.  It's as if red's AI learned the words of existential angst but didn't quite get the hang of the helpless intensity of being painfully present.  The second - why don't I care?  Or, more to the point, why don't I empathize?

I'm aware as I make my conversation choices that these are fictionalized drives of AI, programmed by fictional programmers but made by a real team that had to include some programmers.  Even as I write that I realize I'm uncomfortably aware of exactly where I am and what I'm doing.  This collection of electronic signals communicates artificiality through carefully constructed encounters that are animated with uncomfortably familiar mannerisms.  My brain fires similar electrical signals to make these hands work, and I'm struggling to contain the associated feelings.

3May/180

Coco (2017)

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Miguel loves his family, and his family loves him, but Miguel isn't allowed to play or listen to music.  He hides himself to play guitar along with recordings of his hero, the deceased star Ernesto de la Cruz.  When he tries to obtain a guitar for a talent competition, Miguel is whisked away into the land of the dead where he may have to give up music to keep his life.  Lee Unkrich directs Coco, with the screenplay written by Adrian Molina and Matthew Aldrich, and stars Anthony Gonzalez, Gael García Bernal, and Benjamin Bratt.

Leave it to a "kids" animated film to create a vision of the afterlife more existentially terrifying than the prospect of oblivion.  In Coco, the afterlife is populated by the animated skeletal remains of those whose families and communities still remember them on the Day of the Dead.  That means inequality continues for the masses after we die, and the only thing keeping our sliver of ego intact is the living effort to remember the dead.  I'm sure this particular idea of ego continuance is reassuring to some folks, but I dunno how I'd feel about fading away as some rich jerk reigns supreme because a few thousand desperate folks went to the jerk's seminar.

Setting aside obvious questions - like why the dead can't celebrate each other since they're clearly fine creating huge arenas to house their now spirit-bound egos - Coco is pretty good.  It's not to the quality peak of WALL-E or Inside Out, but sits well above the increasingly tasteless "the Holocaust - but for toys!" approach of Toy Story 3.  The only thing to avoid, unless you really want to or have an undergraduate seminar paper to write, is the previously mentioned idea of the still class-structured afterlife (which, I promise, is the last time I'll point out as terrifying).  Otherwise, listen with your eyes and follow along with your ears, and you'll likely have a pleasant time.