Depth and Premonition: Reflection on Character in Swery65’s Magnum Opus

WELCOME TO GREENVALE sign.

After the rain.

Deadly Premonition,” a game inspired by “Twin Peaks,” remains one of the gaming world’s most underplayed entries. Released in the U.S. in 2010 as a budget title with mediocre box art, its often hideous graphics, and its mixed reviews running the gamut from “pretty close to perfect” to “awful in nearly every way,” the mystery-as-life-sim title has almost been washed from gaming’s history.

I, however, happen to know several of its most adamant fans—and not because I’ve searched for them. A strong undercurrent of devotion surrounds “Deadly Premonition” and an appreciation stands for its surreal, socially awkward, tragic protagonist FBI Special Agent Francis York Morgan. None of these traits are liable to be called his “primary state” at the start of the game. These are visions of the York we will come to know, a foreshadowing of his arc. Rather, York at the start of the game is idiosyncratic, confident and probably too smart for his own good.

In the first scene, York loses his cell phone and laptop. His repeated jabs at Greenvale, the game’s setting, as being set back in the “Middle Ages” wash over the player, distancing York from someone who can turn off their console and begin text messaging friends right away. But York is cut off from the outside world in Greenvale. These links to the outside world are lost for good after their inclusion at the beginning of the game—when York reports to the FBI, he must do so by landline, and when he writes summaries of the case thus far, he must write them on a typewriter.

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In Which I Leave My Timeline To Denounce Gamergate.

A war on the people who have the audacity to make budget-priced or free, independent games that represent characters other than grizzled white dudes has been ongoing since August. Their games push back against the idea that games must be power fantasies, whether the power in place is the ownership of a vehicle worth millions or being an individual assassin striking terror in the hearts of the orcs of Middle Earth. Most, if not all, of these games are pretty easy to acquire, run on your college laptop, and cost $20 or less.

This hate campaign goes by the name #GamerGate. The movement was primarily founded in two events; the harassment and revealing of personal information of game developer Zoe Quinn (“Depression Quest”) regarding her supposed impropriety in “attaining press through personal relationships”—which has been debunked, though persists in a “Five Guys, Burgers and Fries” meme you can see perpetuated even in our own State Street location—and an article by games editorialist Leigh Alexander proclaiming the death of the “gamer” identity. The latter led to the creation of the #GamerGate hashtag by Adam Baldwin of the cast of “Firefly.”

Some claim that the movement is about the “contempt for the audience” this rejection of the “gamer” identity shows, but it seems to ignore sites like Giant Bomb that decried “gamer” as a marketing term invented in the early 2000s. Instead, it comes after those who entreat game developers and writers to offer experiences to new audiences. Many now claim it’s a movement about “corruption in the games industry,” but it seems to ignore sites that are taking marketing deals from Electronic Arts or Microsoft; rather they are coming after those who dare to publish “social justice oriented” articles that “push an agenda.” The agenda: it would be cool if LGBTQ and nonwhite characters appeared in more games.

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An Extended Tomodachi Life

A conversation between residents of Tomodachi Life.

I’ve been playing Nintendo’s new life sim, “Tomodachi Life,” since a couple weeks after its release in June. To summarize, the game gives the player use of the Mii creation system—the same one used to make the avatars who populate Wii Sports—to create residents in an apartment complex on a resort island. The game encourages you to create your friends, your family, or your favorite celebrities. A handful have signed on to provide their likenesses; official Wayne Brady, Zendaya and Christina Aguilera Miis are easy to find online, and a commercial displays Shaq and Shaun White Miis tasting some of the food in the game.

Interaction is simple; the residents have needs, and by tapping the screen to navigate menus, you can visit their apartments to feed them (a major part of the game is giving them different food experiences to determine their favorites and help them level up, granting them new activities), give them advice on making friends or romantic partners, dress them in outfits ranging from pretty attractive dresses and tops to samurai armor and hamster suits and among a few other things, redecorate their apartments.

Most of the actual play of “Tomodachi Life” is in allowing the residents to perform on their own. The relationship system in “Tomodachi Life” is well developed; each Mii has a personality type (loosely linked to the Myers-Briggs types, although softened somewhat) and can have a noted sweetheart and best friend. The player mostly can’t control whom the residents develop feelings for or with whom they hang out, though occasionally the player can steer them. These established relationships can vary. Couples can get married and have kids, or break up (including married couples), best friends can get in fights and some residents keep friends they never really got along with at all.

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The World of Desert Golfing

Desert Golfing: Hole 4

Some might say that beginning my residency as The Daily Cardinal’s video games columnist with an editorial on a mobile game is inauspicious. But amidst the several titles entangling me, none pull as much focus as the stark “Desert Golfing.” Described by iOS developer Adam Atomic (“Canabalt,” “Hundreds”) as “the ‘Dark Souls’ of ‘Angry Birds’”—perhaps the most absurd form of description, akin to the constant ringing question begging, “When will video games have their “Citizen Kane” moment?,” whatever that means—it is a spare experience that closely evokes the beloved RPG’s unforgiving indifference.

The game’s presentation is flat and hot; a light brown sky is delineated against a rough and imposing dark orange landmass. Like a construction paper collage, the angular hills defy the often-natural rolling dunes. Other times, the land towers above the small white ball at impossible angles, revealing the constructed nature of each hole. When the first prop appears beyond simple land and hole flags, it does so without fanfare, yet it simultaneously serves as a secret to be uncovered and a fascinating invigoration, an omen that, yes, there is more to discover in this vast wasteland.

The game presents itself in the iTunes store with a short haiku: “To see a world in a bunker of sand/And a heaven in a wild cactus,/Hold infinity in the pocket of your shorts,/And eternity in Desert Golfing.” It appears to be near endless. At hole 2172, I have yet to feel a need for the game to end. The furthest hole I can find a peer to have reached is hole 2884.

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