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A New Year

January 8, 2013

By Joel Jordon

My views on videogames have been shifting rapidly recently. In the past year I’ve been leaning away from the idea that narrative should come first in games and more toward the idea that, through engagement with the seemingly formal characteristics of games—their mechanics and rules—through play, a story or feeling can emerge. But I also understand that it’s problematic to define the essential characteristics of a medium like that because it can be exclusionary of art that takes other forms. See some of the ongoing debate on this in the comments below these articles: Designing for Grace, Two Cultures and Games, and What Is a Game? It Depends Who’s Playing.

My Top 10 Games of 2012

December 28, 2012

By Joel Jordon

I’ve never made a list like this before because I would normally struggle to name ten games released in any given year that I really enjoyed. This year, however, was a banner year for indie games. So-called triple-A games will always be around as blockbuster movies are always around, but the space for other kinds of games, which is much-needed, is expanding rapidly. As many small games proliferate, the path is opened for the exploration of so many more unique ideas in games. It seemed to happen so suddenly. Before this year, I hadn’t played more than a handful of great indie games. On this list of ten games, eight are independent. Lines are being drawn right now on the debate over whether and how narrative should figure into games, and these are some of the first games engaging with this question from new angles. It may not be fully realized right now, but this is sure to be a moment in the history of videogames that will be looked back on as changing and defining so much of what came after.

Read more…

Competitive Spirit: The Abstraction of Play in Dyad

July 24, 2012

By Joel Jordon

The artist Wassily Kandinsky‘s energetic abstract compositions are a clear antecedent to Dyad‘s visuals. After the first time I experienced Dyad‘s aesthetic at PAX East, I handed the controller back to the game’s creator, Shawn McGrath, who asked me what I thought of it. The game had had such a strong visceral effect on me that I was having trouble saying anything, so I just laughed. This must be a testament to the effect well-composed abstraction can have on a person.

But Kandinsky seems to have provided more than just visual inspiration for the game—the essence of the philosophy he applied to painting is applied here to videogames. In the same way that Kandinsky’s abstract paintings condensed visual expression down to nonrepresentational forms and colors, Dyad condenses play down to its fundamentals. Read more…