Los trabajos de Hugo Moreno Huízar

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Trans* Book Review

           

Jack Halberstam’s Trans* is an impressive analysis of recent transgender culture, its evolution and its relationship with social movements and perception of gender issues. In his book, the author makes a thorough exploration of transgender social issues, going from the very terms the LGBTQ+ community makes use of, the intricacies of bodily transition, the transformation of social spaces to acknowledge gender variability, to the representation of gender issues in different cultural media. Through accounts and critical assessment of recent issues, Halberstam manages to write a direct, albeit short, acknowledgment of transgenderism within a growing community inscribed in a capitalist model.

            The title of the book immediately references the author’s main idea with the simple use of an asterisk to denote the everchanging and evolving nature of the concept of transgender. His assessment of the history of classification and naming allows the reader to consider the connection between problematic practices like colonization and the recent need to name and recognize every kind of gender variance. This is logical as “[w]ith recognition comes acceptance, with acceptance comes power, with power comes regulation.” (Halberstam 18), thus it’s possible to see regulation as the moment these concepts acquire a language, they’ll ultimately render a single meaning. From here, the proposition of accepting trans* as a moving concept is alluring and allows for a more varied perception of what transgenderism is.

            This also invites considerations regarding the different use certain terms receive in other cultures and countries. Halberstam is careful to constantly consider the vision of other non-white people concerning identification through names; however, it is still imperative to emphasize the living interaction between a constantly changing language and the people using it: it’s important to recognize the problematic aspects of naming, while also understanding that even these considerations, basic as they may be, are not accessible to most of the population in the US (and most of the world, for that matter). Halberstam seems to understand this, but it will become evident that he may have needed to stop and consider issues of cognitive accessibility related to these musings.

            Related to this, his recognition of non-colonized past cultures that regarded gender in multiple, non-binary ways helps to map the crescent and still lingering methods through which even these variations were explained under binary scrutiny. Most importantly, however, he emphasizes the distinct ways modern technology have affected and even molded physical, human bodies to both accommodate to or liberate them from a traditional gender model. His arguments move on to gratefully include the experience of non-white bodies dealing with the colossal differences between transgender people of color and white transgender people.

[…]

The rest is available through request.

My favorite games that I played in 2020

Warning! My comments about some of the games I loved this year may include references to violence, self-harm, cancer and surgeries. I have included some brief videos of these games and some of them might include violent content!

No big spoilers for the games, though!

The following is a list of and my comments about the games I truly enjoyed playing in 2020.

Firstly, the honorable mentions!

Kind Words (lo fi chill beats to write to), by Popcannibal – 2019

This small game was a perfect fit for this year in that it allowed for a special kind of communication between strangers sending heartwarming letters to each other. The music is lovely and relaxing, the visual of the character sitting in their room writing is an all too familiar and chill mood and, most importantly, the letters you write and receive feel uncompromised, while also important enough to inspire a sense mutual understanding.

The Nameless Game [Nanashi no Game], by Epics – 2008

I’m developing a horror game with Pami that strikes a contrast between portable gaming and the horror experience of walking around the dark. To study other cases, I was pleasantly surprised with this game’s premise and execution that, albeit different to our game, still manages to inspire us and give us useful ideas for it! It would be easier for me to recommend this game if it was ever localized, but I still want to acknowledge its excellent use of ambience and contrast.

Dweller’s Empty Path, by Temmie Chang – 2020

Essentially, Escaped Chasm 2; I’m deeply fascinated by Temmie’s characters and world. I truly can not wait to see what happens next in the story! I admire Temmie for her work on developing this fictional world beyond different mediums and still nailing the feel of an interactive space.

Mixolumia, by davemakes – 2020

Following davemake’s thread as they slowly built this game was inspiring enough, but to see their finalized product being such an amazing game makes me want to create games with this amount of care and attention. It’s no news I love block-dropping puzzle games, but I think this game in particular sets you in a certain mood and mode in order to master it!


And now, my favorite games that I played in 2020!

Animal Crossing: New Horizons, by Nintendo EPD – 2020

Ever since my childhood friend introduced me to Animal Crossing with Wild World many years ago, each entry of the franchise since then has marked a special spot in my heart. As I said in my favorite readings post, this year has been horrible. There’s no denying it. However, I will forever hold my initial memories of this game close to my heart. It came out the very week the quarantine started and there was no better game for that moment. I played it with Pami, my sister and my niece; all of us figuring out the quirks of this entry, captivated by just how beautiful, funny and relaxing the game is.

I honestly dislike how the durability and crafting recipes work (as I’m receiving very few new ones amongst the hundreds and hundreds of repeated ones), but I still appreciate how it seamlessly found its way to the Animal Crossing formula. Months after starting my island, I’m now more in ease with the mechanic and with the tool durability.

The writing in this game took me by surprise, as I immediately noticed how dependent the dialogue was with the villagers’ personalities this time around. It may initially seem like there’s less dialogue or writing in the game, but as I delved deeper into each event and situation the game has to offer, I was laughing and relating with each character. My guess is that the devs decided to leave each player have their own interactions with each villager, knowing that some would repeat, to allow each character to feel unique entirely through those interactions. Your Raymond may have the same personality as my Marshal, but since I’m talking with him within my own circumstances, the interaction feels unique.

New Horizons was my quarantine game (much like Breath of the Wild was my chemotherapy game). I treasure how special it felt as my island evolved and as my villagers started to come in and feel part of my little community. Its particular feel beckons each day to go back and tend to my daily tasks!

Takeshi & Hiroshi, by Oink Games – 2019

Videogames are my passion because I have connected with the world and humanity through them. I have come to understand other people better through the unique ways stories are told and characters are portrayed in games. Takeshi & Hiroshi felt like a love letter to both game development and our connections with family and friends.

            I was very happy to see just how Takeshi dealt with his feelings and confidence regarding game development and his relationship with his friends. As a collaborative medium, game development has us sharing ideas and evolving them through a continuous dialogue with our fellow artists. Takeshi’s journey from working entirely alone to having a team to work with was heartwarming, and it fit perfectly with the theme and the gameplay of the game: figuring out the right amount of challenge to give to Hiroshi, as a puzzle mechanic, has a similar effect to solving a problem with your code or designing a certain part of a game.

            Lastly, I just love when stories are organized and structured in such a neatly manner. I think this game does an outstanding job with its pacing, and knows exactly when and how mix things up!

Hades, by Supergiant Games – 2020

I’m gonna be honest: I’ve never finished Bastion, nor have I even started Transistor. But I will now, because holy crap was this game gooooood. Finding something to praise beyond its evident and outstanding writing, narrative/gameplay relationship, its music, its voice acting, combat, is not as hard as it may seem! I particularly enjoyed how the game incentivizes the player to keep going with multiple elements of its design. I liked how finding characters in the underworld felt like a reward by itself. I liked just how full of content it is, while also maintaining an elegant design in some regards! I’m gonna be honest, I would rather be playing right now!

            I do want to write about how impressed I am that a game manages to be so rewarding and difficult, while also incentivizing the exploration of dialogue trees and different aspects of its narrative. It feels like a step in the right direction in terms of how we can think of alternative ways to have the player discover the narrative worlds we build, as the gameplay itself is key to understanding it.

            I’ve beaten the final boss 3 times and all I know is that I need to beat it 7 more times to see where it goes from there. I usually take a long rest before coming back to a game to beat it thoroughly, but I’ll keep fighting my way through all of its challenges to fully enjoy the design and the story to its end!

Sagebrush, by Redact Games – 2018

There were moments of absolute horror while playing this game in which I was just standing in an open, lonely field. There were also moments of deep sadness as a I listened to the different recordings left behind in an old building. This game is a thorough experience of multiple voices and their own reasonings for their meeting in that shared space.

            It’s evident through its writing that the developer researched and, most importantly, paid respect to the harsh experiences related to the story of the game. I admire the documentation process this must have required, as the game handles each piece of writing and recording in an outstanding manner, building everything up towards a horror narrative, while also keeping it respectful and critical of what took place in real life.

            There was a moment at the end of the game where, fully knowing the direction the game was going to take by then, it still produced a raw feeling of hope I rarely find in other games. It was a feeling of hope founded in reality, in a tangible aspect present in each component of its presentation.

The one night, hot springs trilogy, by npckc – 2018-2019

This year was special to me too in that I had some extra time to think about my gender. Through all the hardships, coming to know who I am, beyond a label, was fulfilling. However, it was also challenging as I realized that identity is constructed by various elements from our experiences as human beings. To me, it meant that I needed to face my weaknesses and strengths, various mistakes I have done (and even still continue to do).

            one night’s strengths are that it knows its characters and it knows how to tell a story with a sincere and transparent tone. At moments it may feel like an informative pamphlet, but it quickly uses its message to build characters that share their experiences in a way that it enriches the story. I decided to include the whole trilogy of games here since they’re short, but also because each narrative builds upon the previous one to create a beautiful set of games with loveable characters.

            These games helped me figure out so much of myself and I can’t truly thank them enough.

a new life, by Angela He – 2020

The portrayal of tragic queer characters has been quite problematic. When I heard about this game, I loosely heard about it having a tragic ending (this is not a spoiler, I promise) and I was inmediatily discouraged. However, once I sat down and gave it a chance, I ended up finding a gem in art style and writing. Without going into detail, having the context of the game mechanics and narrative allowed me to understand the ending.

            Leaving that aside, the game is lovely, and it is impressive how it takes the pandemic as part of the setting when it still is so recent and managing to do so in such a mature manner. The interaction between both characters and the constant decision making directly reference the stressful nature of the pandemic. With this, it achieves a sense of care and mutual protection between the both of them,

            The game instantly connected with me as a cancer survivor who received the unconditional support of their significant other through such a rough patch of their life. An aspect I personally think it nails is the sensation that even the smallest things matter, especially in those circumstances.

Lieve Oma, by Florian Veltman – 2017

My relationship with my grandfather (from my mom’s side of the family) was complex. I remember he was funny and welcoming when I was a child. The visits to his home every once in a while were special. I remember my mom smiling a lot. As years passed, things grew difficult. Tension and discomfort started to drift us all apart. He passed away this year, a few months after one last dinner we all had together in his favorite restaurant.

            Lieve Oma’s strength is its simplicity in allowing the player to run around collecting mushrooms, while also managing the conversation between the kid and the grandma. It’s impactful and even raw, as it’s evident that both characters are dealing in different ways with the past, and yet they’re sharing a walk through the woods. It made me think of the value memory has for us as a tool to share and connect with others. That was the game for me.

            I truly enjoyed its brevity in that it achieves so much with a planned, stable direction from beginning to end. I do believe that its length is related also to the themes of the game and to the feel it conveys through its gameplay: a walk with someone else, a brief moment of relaxation and truth.

Ico, by Team Ico – 2001

I finally had the time and even courage to go back to the Playstation 2 classics to see what I missed from the developers of Shadow of the Colossus and I was marveled at their previous work. A couple of people had recommended to me before, but their recommendations where not pushy at all ever. Now that I’ve played it, I understand it comes from a place of respect for a game that marked a change in the gaming space.

            It’s no wonder it inspired Hidetaka Miyazaki to create engaging gaming experiences such as Dark Souls or Bloodborne. It was doing outstanding things with its design a long time before other designers came and improved upon it. Designing such a fortress to escape from, with the physics and puzzle design this game offered must have been daunting, but its presentation is elegant. It may show its age through some quirky collisions now and then, but at this point it only adds to its charm.

            Finally, I admire what it manages to do in terms of story with so little dialogue. Now that I’ve played both Ico and Shadow, I have a firmer but still lacking grasp of what this larger world is. Knowing so little about it also makes it special, as there’s a notion that there’s so much more one can only glimpse through the cracks.

Wide Ocean Big Jacket, by turnfollow – 2020

Wow do I have a soft spot for quirky and funny characters. The art style in screenshots and brief video trailers did not prepare me for the title screen nor the ending of the game. As soon as I turned it on and heard the music accompanying the lovely animations of the characters looking out the car, and as soon as I was finishing up the game I was captivated. This game’s moments are just so lovely and funny they form a pleasant experience from beginning to end.

            The game seems to fully know its cast and base each situation and gameplay around their respective interests in each moment of the game. Looking for a spot for Mord to pee in the wilderness or jumping around the beach at night: every different interaction had me falling in love with the four characters and made me curious about their lives before and after the events in the game. There’s so much in their dialogue at any given moment and it suggests there’s a lot to each of them beyond what we can see within their conversations.

            One of my favorite gaming moments of the last years is now (without spoiling too much) that last turn-round the character you chose makes as they prepare to leave the camping area. Seeing these dorks waiting for the character had me crying as I knew it was the end of my time with them.

Outer Wilds, by Mobius Digital – 2019

If any game in this list is close to perfection (whatever that term may mean) is this one. I decided to wait to play Outer Wilds until I was ready to give it the time I heard it needed and, wow, did I take the right decision. This game is a universe, or at least a full solar system to explore and investigate. I get the feeling that the developers took their own knowledge and curiosity about the universe and pour it into the mechanics and the feel of the game.

            The themes of fragility, persistence and curiosity drive this experience and the way it was designed. Every planet you travel to feels like its own puzzle and offers clues to connect dots across different pieces of data. It empowers the player to build their own knowledge of the game and how to use it. I uncovered some secrets by myself, but after playing it and watching someone play it, I saw just how different our experiences were and how I missed some things. Thus, it’s a game I loved at the moment I played it and, curiously, one that I’m already loving even before going back to uncover anything else I missed.

            Look, yeah: I LOVE astronomy and my soft spots are ever present in my criteria to choose the games I decide to place here. Many times, I’ve played excellent games that I simply don’t end up loving enough or connecting enough with to include them in my lists. Outer Wilds, however, is an easy recommendation from me if anyone is looking for an outstanding and different narrative. My suggestion is to take it all slow: visit each planet at your own discretion, and once you’re there, take it all in. After all, you’ll discover that you have more time than expected!

SOMA, by Frictional Games, 2015

When this game came out in my birthday 5 years ago, I was too busy with my final semesters at college and, well, my computer was (and still is) a piece of crap that couldn’t really run it. But damn it did I try: I got through almost halfway through the game until I had to give up. Years later, I was finally able to play it on my PS4 and the wait was worth it. I allowed myself to experience this game as if it was the first time and I enjoyed it so much.

            I adored just how the devs managed to branch out the horror beyond the impressively designed visuals, ambience and mechanics to also deal with the horrors of self-consciousness and existentialism. It strikes a feel of dread even in moments of absolute tranquility as you slowly process just how deeply discomforting its story can be.

            I wanted the characters to succeed and for Simon to escape the terrible creatures that chased him, but I personally was entranced by all the stories revolving around them and all the implications of what they were doing. The ending haunts me and will forever stay with me. Its dichotomic nature, that last moment it’s incomparable to anything I’ve ever played.

Sayonara Wild Hearts, by Simogo – 2019

Leaving that depression and dread behind, my personal favorite game that I played this year was motherfucking Sayonara Wild Hearts because WOOOOWWW is this good and thrilling and beautiful and just an amazing game all around!!!

            Okay, so, I remember watching the trailer for this game on a Nintendo Direct and I was immediately attracted to its visuals and music. Let me just say, that brief snippet was just a quick taste of just how exhilarating the game is. Its fastness and popping nature sets it apart and makes for a playthrough that works like a favorite album: you treasure a first play, but every subsequent one has its own magic.

            I was blown away by just how it seamlessly transitions from moment to moment with the rhythm of the excellent soundtrack. It overflows with personality as you see your character fly with the perfect beat through psychedelic levels. It had me dancing and moving around as I played to the point I wondered just what was even happening.

            I had a beautiful moment with Pami playing her own first playthrough. Again, without spoiling too much, the final moments of the game had here synching with the flow of the final level and when she saw the protagonist finally falling down I saw her baffled and happy. Part of its unique design resides right there: the gameplay and the music work together to synch with you and create a harmony that I truly loved and appreciated all the way back in January and now that I’m writing this with the soundtrack playing in my headphones.

            I wrote a whole goddamn essay for one of my classes about this game. It needs some editing, but I’ll share it one day. I want to share my love for this game. It touched my heart and took me a place I didn’t know.

Remember, wild hearts never die!!!

Since I stablished a cutting-off date, I have already played what I’m sure will end up in the list for this following year, and I’m excited to share my thoughts about that game and others too! I think this year may have been bad, but the good things stemmed from my significant other, my family and my experiences reading and playing everything I talked about. Let’s see what next year has to offer!

Mis textos favoritos que leí en el 2020

A continuación, escribo aquí unas breves reseñas de mis textos favoritos que leí en el 2020:

Trans*, de Jack Halberstam – Teoría

De la teoría feminista interdisciplinaria que leí este año, este texto en particular resaltó por discutir la naturaleza viva e incompleta del género. Abordado a partir de la idea de que el género de una persona está formado por múltiples factores que están también en constante construcción, lo trans* es una excelente aproximación para entender la multiplicidad del género. De igual forma, me fascina que es justo esa filosofía la que dirige la misma escritura del libro; cada capítulo y cada tema se siente como una conversación sin terminar. Esto puede generar una sensación de estar ante una mera respuesta breve a las diversas problemáticas que Halberstam trae a la mesa, pero es ya un logro reconocer que lo trans* es algo progresivo, sin una forma fija.

Escribí todo un análisis del libro. Pueden leer una parte aquí (en inglés).


life senjou no bokura, de Tokokura Miya – Novela gráfica

Las recomendaciones de Pami son siempre producto de sus numerosas lecturas y conocimiento de las distintas expresiones del BL. Por ello, esta me atrapó inmediatamente; creo que refleja bien lo que ella busca en este subgénero. En life encontré una sensibilidad a la historia de estos dos personajes que se traduce en un trato humano, completo de su relación. La conversación es más compleja y mi aportación es de seguro una mera vanidad, pero en verdad creo que representar estas historias es importante en lo que solía ser un ambiente repleto de historias con una percepción problemática de la homosexualidad.


Atravesar el agua, de Tracy K. Smith – Poesía

Antes de que todo se fuera a la chingada, me tocó escuchar una lectura de Tracy K. Smith y sigo recordándola como uno de mis momentos favoritos de este año. Sus poemas hablan tanto del presente de la autora, como también de un pasado y una trayectoria que definen su aproximación estilística. En sus poemas se conjugan varios aspectos de su identidad, algo que quiero lograr en mi propia poesía; sin mencionar que sus textos hacen uso de momentos de la historia estadounidense, enriqueciéndose con una perspectiva única sobre eventos tan vacíamente glorificados por el patriotismo excesivo.

La edición bilingüe que leí, con las traducciones efectivas de Andrea Cote, es una excelente primera aproximación a su literatura, creo yo.


Fangs, de Sarah Andersen – Novela gráfica

Mis hábitos de lectura son todo menos hábitos. Leo de manera errática si no es tarea; creo que, porque hago un esfuerzo por leer con una mirada crítica, termino cansadx y con ganas de algo más fragmentario. Leer las tiras de Andersen es siempre un lindo descanso, y seguir Fangs me permitía volver a una narrativa sólida, humilde y bien armada. Eso y, claro, a Andersen se le conoce ya por su #relatableness; aunque creo que aquí va más allá de eso para contar una historia breve, tierna y única.


La sangre de la aurora, de Claudia Salazar Jiménez – Novela

El compromiso entre el relato de algo tangible, sensible (particularmente de sucesos tan recientes) y la experimentación de la forma es tal vez de las conversaciones más intrigantes que he tenido en la maestría. Siento que la autora en Sangre logra una polifonía que no justifica, pero sí explora y dialoga con discursos tan contrastantes como lo ha sido el conflicto en Perú. Aunque tiene sus tropezones, esta novela tiene ya una aportación desde que trata a sus personajes desde diferentes dimensiones narrativas: es una excelente propuesta de lo que significa escribir a partir de personajes.


Y Matarazo no llamó, de Elena Garro – Novela

Atrasé mucho mi lectura de las novelas de Garro, y tal vez esto me terminó ayudando a apreciar un texto tan triste como lo fue Matarazo. Veo aquí un interés de la autora por resaltar el calibre político de las desapariciones y asesinatos en México, pero también un tratamiento de un personaje mexicano de los cincuentas y que pervive hasta nuestros días. Me hace sentir como si el miedo fuese el protagonista. Quiero resaltar también que fue una novela donde se presentaron los nombres de varios personajes, pero que me fue fácil seguirla por el tratamiento del anonimato y la misma temática de la obra.


Cae la noche tropical, de Manuel Puig – Novela

Este año marca una ocasión especial: ya terminé de leer todas las novelas de Puig. Creo que desde el 2017 Puig ha estado en estas listas, pero esta novela en particular es la que más me hizo llorar de todas (¡qué sorpresa!) Firmemente creo que a Puig nadie se le iguala en su sensibilidad para con sus personajes: su dimensionalidad empieza por sus personalidades únicas y las situaciones en las que se encuentran, pero evoluciona a lo largo de la obra para tratar también la complejidad de sus identidades. En este caso, dos personas mayores hablando de sus malestares, del chisme y de las situaciones que les aquejan me partió el corazón. Pinche Puig.


Mandíbula, de Mónica Ojeda – Novela

Hablé mucho de construcción de personajes en estas breves reseñas, y ciertamente podría enfocarme en eso para abordar esta novela, pero hay algo perturbador y fascinante en Mandíbula que, creo yo, se alimenta de sus personajes, sí, pero también del dominio de Ojeda de los temas que trata. En momentos, sus diálogos parecen exageraciones, pero la lectura va evolucionando hasta llegar a una sensación de horror profundo ante una supuesta teatralidad. Le admiro eso a este texto: el uso de la artificiosidad, del relato y la construcción de personajes para crear poeticidad a partir del horror. Es de las cosas más horríficas que he leído recientemente, un terror que se funda en su permanente posibilidad.


Hago eco de lo que muchxs otrxs autorxs han dicho: las lecturas (y, en mi caso, los videojuegos) fueron de las actividades que me mantuvieron distraídx durante esta pandemia. Eso lo tengo profundamente agradecido.

Para finalizar esta entrada, dejo aquí los nombres de tres poetxs cuyos textos leí de manera suelta, pero igual recomiendo ampliamente:

  • Raquel Salas Rivera
  • giovanni singleton
  • T.C. Tolbert

Mis compañerxs de la maestría habrán notado que mucho aquí que recomendé es lo que hemos leído en las clases. Lo que no saben es que… ¡Sus textos también fueron de mis lecturas favoritas este año! …Bueno, tal vez ya lo sabían.

My favorite games that I played in 2019

Warning! My comments about some of the games I loved this year may include references to violence, self-harm, cancer and surgeries. I have included some brief videos of these games and some of them might include violent content!

No big spoilers for the games, though!

2019 was the year I went back to studying literature. Literature and videogames are both my greatest passions, art forms I want to dedicate my life to. Evidently, going back to school (particularly, to get a master’s degree) has impacted how much time I have to play videogames, but I couldn’t be more satisfied with how I’m improving my own narrative skills. I see this as an opportunity to make both my literature and our videogames better.

Reading literary theory and new kinds of literature from the United States has positively affected how I read and play. Hopefully, we’ll be able to implement many of the aspects about telling a story these games have taught me in our own projects!

The same as last year, I’ll begin with honorable mentions: games that I thought are worth playing!

Honorable mentions:

Skullgirls by Lab Zero Games (originally, Reverge Labs)

The game Pamela keeps kicking my ass in. I saw my friends play this years ago, but I finally managed to get a copy and, holy shit is this good!

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Diatris by Rob van Saaze

If you scroll a bit down, you’ll see Tetris. If you know me, you shouldn’t be all surprised. But Diatris is a bit more than just a Tetris-like. I found such playfulness implemented in this game. I liked it a lot!

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Tetris 99 by Arika

Well, YEAH!?? This is my first time playing any kind of competitive Tetris and I loved every second of it. This game had me hooked for a while.

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Pokémon Sword by Game Freak

Playing this with Pamela has been a blast. It’s the first time since Black and White 2 I truly found a Pokémon engaging and fun!

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The Glass Staircase by Puppet Combo

While I was playing this game, I was thinking it would make it to my actual list. However, I had some problems with the save system (which was fixed later!) and the controllers. This game, though, deserves a lot of attention as a worthy exploration of the style and overall presentation of classic horror games.

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And with that, here are my favorite games I played in 2019!


Control by Remedy Games

The last game I played last year. In 2019 I also got to finally finish Alan Wake and even if both games are mechanically different, the writing and the style are both superb and engaging. Control’s dialogue is a bit more polished, and the characters are far more diverse. Even if I agree with the multiple comparisons other critics have made with SCP, I still think Remedy Games succeeded in developing something that takes the best aspects of lore-centric writing and incorporating those to a cohesive narrative that kept me hooked all the game through.

The loop of shooting and throwing objects to enemies was never tiring, I can really appreciate the effort to create such a loop to keep combat interesting, along with the new skills I obsessed over to acquire and improve.

Ultimately, I loved Control because it related to my interest in creating believable and creative worlds through both writing a script for an ongoing narrative and the multiple texts that add to the story and the lore. Not to mention I love, love the futility of applying bureaucracy and organization to chaotic and paranormal matters. Control is a treat to play and decipher.

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Desert Child by Oscar Brittain

I was surprised by how this short game packed such a lengthy amount of gameplay and even lore. I consider this game an example of how to build a narrative from various, scattered pieces of its world. Even if getting currency in the game seemed to be the main objective, I found fun in poking between the stores and seeing so many different persons walking around. There were moments I saw myself living in this (awful) world and, even through the hardships, I thought it would at least be interesting to live in such a sincere world.

The gameplay is fast paced and fragmented, the kind you can freely leave and pick again, but I just couldn’t resist to keep playing it! During my short playthrough, I glimpsed an intricate system to improve the racing segments and I’m looking forward to getting back to it and get good at it.

I think Desert Child was appealing to me because of its sincere, humble approach to a racing game with a plot full of references to current affairs, while also keeping it cheery and fun.

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11:45 A Vivid Life by Deconstructeam

Deconstructeam strikes again! I found this game deeply disturbing. I have a deep fear of cutting and dissecting, but the narrative had me hooked and made me endure, along with the character, the depiction of self-harm. The use of absence in how this game creates its story is fascinating: both what happens in the game and what is not told at all are key to understanding what is really taking place in this plot.

Choosing the different paths, guessing and even deciding for a narrative that made sense to the player was ingenious. Every option and path were secretive, with disturbing ramifications. I was blown away by the possibility of building a story from memories I was building in the moment.

I have personally had issues with both my body and mind seeming either someone else’s or just not mine at all. Finding a videogame that explores this idea was moving.

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The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening by Grezzo (original by Nintendo)

I played the original Link’s Awakening years ago and I remember being enthralled by the plot and how the characters all seemed so diverse for an original Game Boy game. However, the constant reminders of how I was not able to lift something with the correct tools, or how fastidious and inconsistent certain mechanics were, prevented me from fully enjoying the story of this game. The new version not only introduced a polished presentation, it improved upon the portability and pick-up-and-play nature of the game to create a better, more consistent experience. I do not wish to spoil this game to anyone, as old as it is: it’s a special, unique Zelda experience that goes beyond what the Zelda series is about.

Link’s Awakening’s characters are hilarious, but the context of their lifestyle and the slowing realization of what is actually going on is what makes this game so special to me. I can easily recommend playing this version and enjoying one of the most unique experiences in this franchise.

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Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice by FromSoftware

Man is this game hard. Miyasaki’s interest in relating the difficulty of the game with the plot is evident here, even after Demon’s Souls, Dark Souls and Bloodborne. I find it inspiring his team keeps finding ideas to find this association. Sekiro’s difficulty comes from the futility of the cycle of dying and resuscitation. When I first heard dying wouldn’t mean an actual game over, I was instantly interested in seeing how FromSoftware would handle this mechanic in its plot. As superficial as it is, Sekiro still manages to make use of themes to tell its simplest, but still effective story.

At first, I had my doubts with the amount of mechanics the game throws at you so early on, but I quickly realized Sekiro is about overcoming challenge through the knowledge and effective use of the skills you can acquire in the game. Being resourceful is heavily appreciated and the way the gameplay implements this is inspiring.

I have talked about how difficulty is relative, and it doesn’t hinder or improve a game by itself. FromSoft’s expertise in relating difficulty to mechanics and story is admirable. However, the aspect I personally related to in this game the most was the use of perseverance as a theme that influenced every part of this game.

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Heaven Will Be Mine by Pillow Fight Games

I have always loved the underlying themes and social and psychological implications of the mecha genre. I have watched and played anime and games respectively that question the elements from which mecha is built, but I had never played something like Heaven Will Be Mine: it goes beyond its genre.

At their core, these stories are always about the people piloting the robots, but Heaven takes both the superficial plot elements of the mecha genre and its inherent, mind-bending themes newer stories have as a well-structured, but ultimately backdrop to the relationships between the pilots. I was amazed at how they made it work so well. The writing is excellent and reminded me of how I look for myself and my interests in everything I read.

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Life Is Strange 2 by Dontnod Entertainment

I was not ready for what Dontnod prepared for this season of Life Is Strange. Every episode had me both amazed and frustrated at how their writing improved from the first season, and how inconsistent the flow of the narrative was at the beginning. But looking back at the whole of it, I can now fully appreciate what a cheater this game’s plot really is. The characters and the scenarios each episode introduced all came together to build something unique and heartbreaking. I have expressed my concerns about episodic narratives before, but this game contradicted everything I thought I knew about the media.

I’m a Mexican studying their master’s degree in the United States. Recently, things are unstable, both in the country and in my social circles. The characters in this game were important to me, like friends enduring many of the hardships I have faced. It was a good trip, Dontnod: thank you.

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Silent Hill 3 by Team Silent

I like horror???? A lot, I love it. Silent Hill 2 was my 2nd favorite game I played in 2018. Now that I have played 3, I can’t help but to wander what was it like to develop these games. 3’s start is slow, and I was struggling to see any of the characterization that made me love 2, but once I got to the half of the game, I was blown away by Heather’s character. Heather, in my opinion, is narratively defined by her circumstances and the thematic achievement is to have her find her own path, beyond what the other characters and even her story wanted her to do and become.

Essentially, 3 is more polished than 2, doing away with difficult searching sections to favor a more combat-orientated style. Even then, 3 managed to be more melancholic than scary, and that’s where its mechanics shine: by rendering the player defenseless against the horrible forces Heather needs to face, Heather’s movement and overall gameplay becomes orientated to her achieving victory through horror and sadness.

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A Short Hike by AdamGryu

This game was a surprise, a pleasant gift after 2 years of fighting cancer and helping my mom go through the first of two operations needed for her to ease the pain in her legs. This game is a sigh of relief and sheer joy and amusement. Through simplicity, it manages to create a humble, but powerful experience. In a way, it reminded me of Whitman’s verses: “All truths wait in all things”. This game understands that beauty is everywhere, and it is something we all share in different ways. It’s been a while since I felt such playfulness and childlike joy from playing a game, only to end with must be one of the best endings I have ever experienced in a videogame ever.

This game is special. I deeply love this game, and I’m thankful I got to play it.

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I have my list for the games I want to play these coming weeks, starting 2020. I’m looking forward to discovering new experiences!

 

Hyper Light Drifter: desafiando la referencia

El tributo, la referencia, el guiño, la cita directa: elementos que deshacen la originalidad de la obra, que hacen cuestionar si en verdad habrá futuro en la creatividad. Nos estancamos en el logro ajeno y parece poco interesarnos brindar algo nuevo al escenario. Llenar la obra de uno con frases conocidas, amigables llena un vacío y satisface una ardiente angustia en la mente creadora. Pareciera que basta con dar el guiño a una obra superior para sentirnos seguros y aceptados en una comunidad artística. Novelas, cuentos, poemarios, películas, videojuegos: atiborrados de lo ajeno. Y, sin embargo, existe Hyper Light Drifer.

Me planteo mi recurrente congoja ante la mera referencia en las obras porque me parece algo detestable, vacío: llenar algo tuyo de voces ajenas hasta que no queda nada de ti, por miedo a que lo tuyo simplemente no es suficiente. Empero, sé que hay una enorme contradicción que debería calmar siempre mis dudas: toda obra ya está escrita. Efectivamente, las hay obras que no saben ofrecer su propia voz y nunca encuentran un estilo único, por lo que acuden a referencia tras referencia para atraer atención de público ajeno, pero también hay obras que deconstruyen, destruyen, recrean y mezclan elementos ya existentes. Es, esencialmente, lo que todo creador hace. Nos maravillamos con nuestros maestros, los emulamos y, en esa herrumbre de copias, empezamos a mejorar, incluso, a veces, a corregir los errores que nuestros predecesores cometieron (claro, eso sí: me gustaría ver más humildad en ciertos creadores). El producto final se vuelve algo expresa algo nuevo, utilizando signos del pasado y el presente.

Muchas veces, al empezar un videojuego o cualquier tipo de obra creativa, tendemos a la comparación. Me parece una reacción natural, después de todo parte de ser humano es buscar lo habitual, el confort. Cada nueva experiencia debe remitirnos a algo viejo y a lo familiar para no perdernos en un caos de ideas ajenas. Sin embargo, hay quienes se extralimitan para comparar estilos visuales, jugabilidad, música o cualquier elemento de un videojuego para abogar por una idea vieja e incorrecta, extremista: ya no se hacen obras originales. Pareciera que nunca, alguna vez, dibujaron algo de niños, pues es en esa época cuando emulamos todo. Y, luego, hay quienes niegan cualquier comparación e intentan aproximarse a una obra de manera aislada, sin recurrir a un análisis extra o hiper textual. El problema con esto es que ninguna obra existe en un vacío aislado: es necesario encontrar esos puentes referenciales para cifrar el lugar que ocupa cierto videojuego en el discurso general. Por ello, y una vez aclaradas estas cosas, siento que Hyper Light Drifter es un logro de la originalidad y el tributo, directo o indirecto.

En un principio, el estilo visual de este juego fue lo que más me atrapó. Es difícil empezar el juego y no verse maravillado por la calidad de la animación en pixel. Los colores, la fluidez de la cinemática inicial establecen un tono enigmático que parece ser el lema del juego: los elementos visuales, musicales y de jugabalidad serán todos esotéricos. Sin un tutorial elaborado, el juego te coloca de inmediato en un lugar extraño, sin explicación alguna. El teatro visual ya presentado parece tener poca relación con lo que se te es presentado cuando puedes ya controlar al personaje. La música, luego, tira más a lo ambiental: como para generar intriga y no una emoción directa. Más adelante, numerosas áreas secretas, puentes invisibles y varios tesoros ocultos dejan en claro que el juego no desperdicia tiempo explicando, sino que te ofrece las herramientas para entenderlo y continuar jugándolo. La barrera de entrada, como ya he visto e incluso experimentado yo, puede ser bastante alta, pero muy gratificante de superar.

Una vez entrados en materia, el juego inicia su narrativa. Sin palabras, con meras imágenes y elementos ambientales. Cada lugar que visita tu silencioso personaje cuenta su porción de la historia. y, como es de esperarse, depende de tu propia disposición encubrir o no lo que el juego intenta comunicarte. Este elemento, por sí solo, no basta para apreciarse en cuanto a su calidad como técnica narrativa, pero en conjunto con el discurso visual y de jugabilidad de la obra logran una harmoniosa interacción que permite una variada experiencia a todo nuevo jugador e, incluso, se da para numerosas partidas. Los movimientos de la espada, los disparos y la arremetida son los tres ejes del combate en este juego cuyas combinaciones (o su aislamiento, dependiendo de cómo juegues) brindan diferentes estilos de juego, sin mencionar que hay mejoras opcionales para cada uno. Aunque distintas, cada habilidad coincide en su precisión: cada jugadora o jugador deberá someterse a ejecutar maniobras bien pensadas: el juego caótico es penalizado en muchas ocasiones. Finalmente, la música y los efectos de sonido agregan un último e inolvidable toque. Cada nueva área se une a la gran sinfonía que es el soundtrack de este juego: con cada nueva y diversa área, el juego se vuelve más complejo en su gameplay, pero también en su diseño acústico. A la manera de crescendo, añade instrumentos y sonidos conforme progresas a través de un nivel y, cuando te encuentras en una situación peligrosa, cambia a un ritmo rápido y un tono que inspira una ansiedad terrible.

Dispuestas las cualidades únicas de este juego, debemos entender que estas se originan de otras obras de las cuales bien ha aprendido Hyper y, en ciertos aspectos, superado. Ubico The Legend of Zelda y The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past como dos juegos que inspriaron inmesamente la estructura y jugabildiad del juego: de naturaleza abierta, desde el inicio el juego te ofrece la opción de visitar cualquier área del juego en el orden que desees (excepto el área del sur). Las habilidades de la espada remiten inmediatamente a los de A Link to the Past e incluso parece emular la sensación de peligro que nace cuando te enfrentas a demasiados contrincantes a la vez: los calabozos más peligrosos de Link to the Past son aquellos que te colocan en una habitación difícil de navegar con numerosos enemigos y, justamente, los cuartos más difícil de  Hyper utilizan la misma técnica. Aquí podemos ver reflejado el minucioso diálogo de esta y, por supuesto numerosas obras. A Link to the Past no fue el primer juego que pone al jugador en contra de numerosos enemigos a la vez en un contexto desfavorable, ni tampoco lo fue el primer The Legend of Zelda. No obstante, fueron juegos que, en su tiempo, lo hicieron de manera nueva (las mecánicas, los artículos y el estilo de combate). Hyper ahora agrega su propia parte y afina este tipo de situaciones: el dash y el tipo de enemigos presentes en la habitación cambian de manera drástica cómo se aproxima uno a cada situación. De esta forma, la obra completa un ciclo al que cada artista incursiona: emula, estudia, recrea, perfecciona y, finalmente, crea. Es nuestro deber deshacernos de ese prefijo y quedarnos con nuestro propio verbo, sí, pero lo es también reconocernos dentro de nuestro contexto artístico y plantearnos cómo nos expresaremos.

La música es de Disasterpiece, compositor que también trabajó en FEZ, otro juego con un estilo “pixel”. Los gigantes y numerosas ubicaciones del juego son reminiscentes de Neon Genesis Evangelion. El duro y preciso combate recuerda a Dark Souls. El combate parece eco de Zelda y Diablo. A todo esto, efectivamente, sí, sí hay claras referencias y es necesario identificarlas. Pero con cada nuevo desafío, jefe y área Hyper poco a poco abandona el territorio referencial para despegarse de él y lograr cosas nuevas. Hyper es un triunfo de la historia personal.

Tumba moderna

En una mañana del 2016, Cortázar salió de su tumba, se compró una computadora y fue a una casa que no lo esperaba. Sentado muy feliz se dispuso a escribir un cuento sobre la muerte (“Ella era una jovencita flacucha que quiso jugar con él al columpio”). Pero antes de terminar las primeras líneas su muro del face se actualizó y en letras muy vistosas una lejana sobrina le invitaba a vivir la vida fuera de la obscuridad de su cuarto y a “hestirar” las alas a un nuevo mañana. Cortázar, muy animado, se rasuró la barba llena de animalitos (ninguno era un cronopio, carajo) y se limpió la cara cubierta de polvo y muerte. Pero cuando estaba listo para irse, su muro se actualizó otra vez y en letras solemnes y con una caricatura amigable y bien dibujada, una publicación de su primo lejano le urgía a vivir la vida calmada, a dormir tranquilo entre televisores de plasma encendidos por toda la noche. Entonces, Cortázar se descalzó, compró una consola y se quitó el saco para jugar y andar a gusto.

Al día siguiente se despertó en el panteón, agitado. Estaba solo, una luz entre gris y azul le dejaba entrever tumbas y más tumbas a su alrededor. De pronto, el bolsillo derecho de su pantalón le vibró. A su celular le había llegado un mensaje de Borges: “¿Qué pasó ayer, Julio?”

La frazada del niño

Mis ojos (cifras sagradas que Dios nunca logró tocar) olvidaron el umbral de un tiempo inocente que ahora juega con mi tristeza. Entre niebla, sombra y susurros, capto mi propia figura y la sigo en el sueño del presente. ¿Qué mirada lúcida me devuelve al beso inmaculado, desvestido del miedo ajeno que hurta lágrimas, aspiraciones y luminarias personales?

En un suave placebo de telas infantiles está mi huida del mundo. Pero también el olvido y la usurpación de todos los primeros sueños que, en una eterna parálisis, me ha regalado cada humanidad en su debido y justo tiempo.

Lectura de “The Day the Saucers Came” de Neil Gaiman

Lectura de “En cada cosa” de Hugo Moreno Huízar

Lectura del poema “Llorar a lágrima viva…” de Oliverio Girondo