Christopher Vance

Has a ceaseless passion for video games and the free time necessary to write about them.

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    Latest Articles

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    Incorporating Elements of Live Theater into Film

    It’s clear that film and theater share many traits, but they are still distinct artforms with distinct traits and capabilities. As such, films which incorporate theatric techniques, especially when adapted from plays, raise some worthwhile questions. Wit (2001), for example, addresses the camera directly with narration, and plays with costume changes for effect in scenes which the play would be unable to do so. Does this add some to strengthen theater, or does it move towards making theater definitively inferior? Is there a distinct line that film cannot cross that theater allows and vice versa, such as audience involvement, or not?

    • First of all the direct address should be handled carefully, because sometimes this will just be used to break the fourth wall. Mockumentaries like the Office obviously use this, as well as Jean Luc Godard's Tout va Bien. But with regards to theatricality in film I believe Laurence Olivier did a film version of Richard III that was filmed as though it was in a theatre. I also think Bollywood could be discussed as those films feel very much like live performances and take inspiration from Indian theatre types such as "natya shastra" and Sanskrit drama. – Jamie White 9 years ago
    • I don't think that there truly is a "line" between film and theater, just different terminology in each medium for a similar concept. With breaking the fourth wall, that isn't an idea unique to films like Wit since plays have done the same for hundreds of years. Shakespeare utilized breaking the fourth wall in at least two of his plays Othello and Richard III with a character speaking directly to the audience. Therefore it could be said that camera is to film as audience is to play for an actor's focal point in their performance. – dsoumilas 9 years ago

    Mechas: Disassociation from Science Fiction

    The mecha subgenre has always seemed oddly specific and I’ve wondered at the its development for some time. What about the inclusion of ‘mechs separates this genre from other science fiction? A brief discussion of the history of mecha anime/manga would likely be worthwhile, but also some looks at outliers in the genre, such as Gurren Lagen with its strange mecha design and early disinterest in mechas, or creations that stick mechas in largely non-science-fiction terms. Basically, though, the question is "why does adding giant robots make this genre something special and unique?"


      Jiro Dreams of Sushi and Success in the West

      The documentary focuses on a story as far removed from average western life as can be imagined by focusing on a family from the other side of the world with different values and relationships who run a restaurant uncommon in the west. Yet, while still being enjoyable and successful, the film neither dwells on this subject nor ignores it. What is the relationship between this (and similar films) and the success with western audiences?


        Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet and the Relationship of Man and Machine

        By the end of the series, we’ve seen three distinct possible futures for humans: the cybernetic, militaristic, robot-like people of space, the free-form but technologically stunted survivors on the planet, and the post-human Hideauze, who have (depending on your interpretation) abandoned technology altogether, or been consumed by it. Plus, we see these groups interact is several different ways between characters and groups. But what does all of this actually say about the effect of technology on humanity, or are these effects caused by something else?


          Thematic Unity in EtherOne

          EtherOne is a recently released indie game which addresses themes of dementia and mental degradation through a sci-fi lens. It utilizes unusual sound cues, a emotive art style, and an intentionally counter-intuitive inventory system to create open worlds with overlapping puzzles. What effect does all of this have on the player? How do all of the artistic and gameplay choices contribute to the thematic whole? And, of course, what does this all mean in terms of the narrative and theme?

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            Latest Comments

            There are certainly some terrible offenders, but we’re also reaching a technologically impressive state where games like Minecraft can exist, and more interested level-editor style inclusions such as the one in Little Big Planet give the player a crafting-like experience with nearly unlimited potential. In short, it all really depends on the developer.

            Crafting Systems: Why Players Have Fallen for the Forge

            Thank you for the read!

            Crafting Systems: Why Players Have Fallen for the Forge

            Fascinating. “Performance art” was always a largely meaningless term to me, since the west seems to care so little for it, and have so little appreciation. While I’m a cringing and disgusted by these performances, I also can understand and appreciate how they developed from the swing of Chinese development in recent decades, and perhaps even a little of the good they do for observers and critics alike. They certainly start conversations! Great article, thank you!

            Body of Sedition: Yang Zhichao and Art that Hurts

            I’d argue that doing them well is the difficulty. I agree with the author that, while CoD isn’t great, it is delivering what it promises each year. That makes them “done well” in my opinion and, despite being bored with the MW and Black Ops series, I picked up AW and had a blast. But even large developers are struggling to do well at this pace, as Ubisoft showcases. Let’s not forget, Ubisoft wasn’t a bad development studio. For most of the late 90s and early 2000s, I remember seeing the Ubisoft logo and being thrilled. So I have to say that there is nothing wrong with them, if the annual releases are done well. But doing them well at this pace really requires a compounded amount of effort at resources, making “well” a rare thing.

            Plus, as the author said, most of these games are basically mediocre. Sure, AW was fun. Will I brag about it to my friends like Bioshock Infinite or Dark Souls II? Not a chance. It’s not inspiring. It’s not even particularly challenging or outstandingly enjoyable. It’s just a couple-hour time waster, and then I’m off to find something else.

            So that’s really the difference, and the danger of annual releases. It’s just the same-old quantity vs. quality, really.

            Sequels in Quick Succession: The Ups and Downs of Annualized Franchises

            While I understand your argument that these games are a new development, I’m of a slightly different interpretation. The “visual novel” style games (popularized in Japan, but with a few shining gems in the western world, like 999) really tends to meet much of the criteria placed here. I’d say these sorts of games likely originated around the N64 or Gamecube/PS1 era, specifically because the processing capabilities of the machines then reached a point where extended animations or soundtracks could be inserted. Of course, you’re right to differentiate these sorts of games from anything in that era, because an N64 could never support the complexity and design of something like The Standley Parable, but I imagine that a dedicated researcher would be able to trace some sort of line back. Unfortunately, I’m not that researcher.

            Nonetheless, good read!

            Gone Home and The Stanley Parable: Story Exploration and Agency

            Good analysis. My conjecture would be that past forms of horror are simply no longer adequate. We live in a world which has explored and catalogued the vast majority of touchable existence, creating a barrier between our understandings and the acceptance of things such as vampires or werewolves. But this barrier cannot protect us from unknowable things, or from unstoppable concepts. Madness, the unknown, and our own loss of free will are all embodied in the Cthulu Mythos, and ring true to modern ears.

            Great job!

            The Resurgence of Lovecraftian Themes in Video Games

            Any conversation I enter in regarding “artistic” video games eventually must come back to the Souls series, on par with such gems as MegaMan X. I think the real talent here comes from addressing more than just the bottom line, but instead taking a specific, intentional idea and making it central. “Struggle” would be my imprecise, top-of-my-head word choice. It pervades the music, the art, the gameplay, and more; even more importantly, this word exists in such a way that could not be replicated in any other artform. You are not witnessing the struggle, you are not examining the struggle, you’re not even feeling the struggle. You /experience/ the struggle. From Software took this idea and ran with it. While they’re not the first to catch on to this idea of the experiences available in video games but nowhere else, they’re bringing that discussion to the forefront, and that is absolutely key to the advancement of the industry to art.

            Dark Souls: What Makes Gamers Endure the Pain?

            Lost Kingdoms had it’s own sort of magic that can’t be discredited. Although you’re right; they certainly weren’t leaders of any packs, but I think “mediocre” might be a little strong.

            Dark Souls: What Makes Gamers Endure the Pain?