Pixels in Praxis Archives - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies
29Nov/180

Legendary Gary (2018)

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I love that first glimpse of the titular Gary on the title screen of Legendary Gary. Gary's eyes peek out over the start bar with intelligence, a bit of bemusement, and surprise. "A game about me?", I can hear him asking while I hover over the New Game option. Yes Gary, a game about you, and by extension a game about the forces at work to keep our motivation down while recognizing the role escapist art plays in our day-to-day existence.

Escapism through art is not inherently good nor bad, though recently I've been more annoyed by the concept or tired of seeing pop culture brought out as an attempt to rouse us from our collective depression. You see this every time someone posts a meme about Harry Potter, usually accompanied by text urging the various houses to come together so that we can get through our political moment. What that use of pop culture gets wrong is in its failure to diagnose the problem. Few want to discuss the evils of capitalism after getting a smile from their favorite wizard house acknowledging their existence. Evan Rogers understands the need to be seen through our escapism and to not only be roused but also direct our attention toward the problem that needs fixing.

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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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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11Nov/180

Return of the Obra Dinn (2018)

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Among the many pleasures and surprises in Return of the Obra Dinn lay an embrace of one truism working insurance claims.  When someone puts in a claim they may be using their insurance on the worst day of their life.  Between the rotted corpses, potential mutiny, monster attacks, and sickness rampant on the Obra Dinn it's unlikely you'd find a worse day in the lives of its passengers or crew. But the insurance adjuster must go on and work backwards to figure out what happened so the claims may be paid.

That truism embraced - I'm head over heels enamored with Lucas Pope's Return of the Obra Dinn as it seems custom-built to appeal to each of my loves and past work as an insurance adjuster (Fire claims for four years among other insurance duties). What Pope nails is the process of working claims.  The damage has already been done and it's up to you, playing the adjuster, to piece together the events that brought the Obra Dinn to its end.

20Sep/180

Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age (2018)

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Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age (just Echoes moving forward) is almost as traditional and conservative as turn-based RPGs can be.  Any gamer familiar with the series will slide in comfortably to Echoes' skill system, patient battles, and spiritual story. There's no pretense to buzzword-heavy originality, only skilled hands who have made a consistent product for decades returning to the series for a single-player game for the first time in nine years.

Even with that familiarity, I was shocked at the number of times Echoes moved me to tears.  This is a humbling game that reminds me how unnecessarily bombastic and leaden turn-based RPGs have been the last few years (even Persona 5 could have used a touch of subtlety at times).  Echoes asks us to lay still with the faith of its characters, to sit in quiet contemplation of their decisions as time moves on without them, and explore a beautifully lived-in world.