‘SUPERHOT’ is an Inspired, Downright Infuriating Action-Puzzle Shooter


Holy crap, that was a trip. When can I play it again?!

SUPERHOT is a short, browser-based First-Person shooter set within a white walled, unconnected set of nondescript corridors and warehouse. The main draw of the game is in its use of time and movement, namely that time will slow to a crawl and in some cases outright stop as you stand still, speeding up and resuming its natural state only when you begin moving yourself. The game had already premiered earlier this year, becoming a showcase winner at the WGK 2013 Game Developers conference, and with the effusive praise of tech writers and veteran gaming icons alike I can totally see why.

“Brilliant. FPS where time moves only when YOU move. Slick, clean, even the tutorials don’t f&#k around.”
Cliff Bleszinski, Co-creator Jazz Jackrabbit, Unreal, Gears of War.

“Like you’re playing through Quentin Tarantino’s version of the Mad Men opening credits.”
Philippa Warr, Wired


“Imagine a FPS where time only moves when you do? Oh, it’s been done. #superhotgame”

“…like Braid With Guns”
Mark Serrels, Kotaku

By way of this short online proof of concept, the developers behind SUPERHOT have created the abstract minimalist video-game equivalent to a John Woo action film. SUPERHOT combines the frenetic chaos of a cinematic shootout with the meticulous precision and coordination of a puzzle game.

The developers are currently petitioning for the game to be selected for the Steam Greenlight program. If they get enough support, a full-fledged version of this game could be commercially released, and wouldn’t that just make one mistake (i.e. the absence of such a game) all right and well in the world?

Seriously, go play this game, it’s wicked fun!


And go vote for it on Steam Greenlight!




Gone Home: ‘Every Love Story is a Ghost Story’


You come home to a house that is not your own. But this is your home. The date is  June 7th 1995, and for over a year you’ve been on an abroad trip touring through Europe as a young woman on the cusp of adulthood. Your parents and younger sister Sam have moved into the estate of a late relative in your absence. You take a taxi from the airport and arrive at the front porch just ahead of a massive storm that rocks the county. Travel bags piled in a heap, You find an ominous note tacked to the front door signed by your sister. The words “Don’t look for me“, “I had to do it“, “Meet again someday” nail themselves at the forefront of your mind. You find the spare key and open the front door, stepping into a house that is not your own.

‘Gone Home’ is a first-person, interactive mystery game produced by indie game developer “The Fullbright Company”. The game drops you into the shoes of Katie Greenbriar, who must search through her new family home in order to answer the most salient question. “What happened to your mom, dad, and sister?”

The Greenbriar Family Portrait

The adventure is marked along the way by spoken excerpts from Sam’s private journal, documenting her first year at her new school, her personal journey of maturity and her blossoming revelation of self-identity. To go into anymore detail would be a supreme disservice to how the game tells its story (i.e. a spoiler). These excerpts guide the narrative and the course of exploration throughout the game, as I moved from one corner of the house finding keys and passages that wrap around back to where I needed to go.

Sam’s Bedroom

I think that one of the biggest strengths of ‘Gone Home’ is that the compulsion to investigate and delve into the story says a lot about how the “character” of a living-space says about the character of those who inhabit it. A crumpled piece of paper, a hand-scrawl note on the underside of an envelope, a bottle perched on top of a bookshelf; We know these characters, their quirks, concerns, and conscience, by the little innocuous details they leave behind, sprinkled about the house.

The “level” design of this game is a pure labor of love, a typical 90’s suburban household captured with such a keen verisimilitude that the game almost feels like a time machine skipping back to a quiet pocket of private history. Pizza boxes, discarded pieces of clothing, cassette tapes and couch cushions, the artifacts of a rich inner family life are yours to explore and piece together. Environmental storytelling is king here, ex-developers of Bioshock 2 count among some of the members of the Fullbright Company’s development team and it abundantly shows.

A “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” reference?

My initial play-through took me around 2.5 hours to complete, not including the time I spent gawking at the scenery and puzzling together theories in my head along the way. I’m fairly certain that I haven’t really discovered “everything” that the game has to offer, as one minor but persistent mystery still eludes me.

By the end of the game, I loved Sam as though she were my own sister. I was happy for her accomplishments, wounded by her challenges, proud of her growing maturity, and concerned for her deliberate attempts at misguided teenage rebellion. By the end of the game I had the answer to almost all my questions, and I will sincerely miss my time with the Greenbriar family.


Gone Home is available for Windows, Mac, and Linux, through the Steam store and direct sale.

Journey: Overcoming the hurdles of CMC and elevating the standard of multiplayer interaction

Not to be pigeon-holed into the description of just being a science-fiction film enthusiast, I’m also (predictably?) a video game enthusiast. As of this writing I am without a reliable next-gen console to call my own, and so I have not yet had the opportunity to play Journey, the newest multi-player creation of California based studio thatgamecompany. Despite this, I want to take some time out to talk about what appeals to me most out of all I have read, seen, and heard about this game.

Yes, there’s the beautiful art design stretched across a mysteriously sparse world begging for exploration, there’s the sweeping score and elegant sound design crafted to pull the player into the experience of the world while perfectly complementing the visual aesthetic of the game. But the big thing that leapt out at me and firmly placed it toward the top of my “must play games” list is it’s remarkable approach to cooperative multi-player gameplay.

As anyone who frequently plays video games with a heavy emphasis on online interaction between players can tell you, multi-player interactions can be a double-edged sword. A game designer can be accountable for only so many factors in the creation of a game before it gets into the hands of players. Internal glitches and other happy accidents aside, the bulk of what is experienced in a game is up to the individual player who interacts with it. This could be said of any video game, but multi-player games especially.

So how do you prevent players from creating a disruption to the game and the other players involved without inhibiting the enjoyment of their own experience? thatgamecompany takes the approach of simplicity. Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity. By stripping the player of any extraneous abilities outside of traversing the vast terrain and working cooperatively with a single human counterpart to overcome obstacles to that end.

In addition to this traditional indicators of player identity, such as their personal “gamertags” and achievement/trophy scores, are withheld from one another until the game’s completion. But the final cooperative feature that seals the deal for me is the limitation of player communication between one another to a one button system of “chirping”, where a luminescent glyph appears temporarily over the head of the player to call  attention from the other player. Why would I be so hyped up about “chirping”? Because as much I enjoy playing video games and sharing experiences through them and talking about them, I abhor multiplayer games typically. I could chalk it up to my inherent lack of coordination in outthinking and getting the drop on my opponents in tactical-shooters, though I very much enjoy playing Counter-Strike and the multiplayer component for Mass Effect 3.Instead I think owe my perspective to the nature and quality of interactions I have with random players on the internet. Now I’m fine with a couple of curses and colorful mock-insults thrown here and there, I’d be lying to saying I haven’t indulge in smack-talk myself from time to time. But the sheer persistence and creativity, or perhaps lack thereof, of players who make a goal out of griefing, putting down, and alienating a few select others or even an entire match of people is what really sets me off.

You can’t expect communication in gaming to evolve if its participants refuse to grow up beyond colorful assertions about the race or sexual preference of the person on the other side of the mic. The problem of Computer Mediated Communication (CMC) is that there is an inherent disconnect between what is being said and what is intended. We use different ways to circumvent this problem (emoticons, video chat, etc.) to varying degrees of success. This disconnect extends to the quality of the conversation between the participants involved as well, creating the opportunity for polarization and hyperbole. In short, people generally get dumber when they are given the license to say whatever they please to an audience that otherwise can’t ignore them without limiting their own engagement and enjoyment of a game. Needless to say, no one wants to have to deal with this. So how do we alleviate this problem?

The inability to communicate beyond chirping in the gamespace of Journey forces players to not focus on what separates them as individuals behind a console and instead on what matters in moment, the shared discovery of a desolate mysteriously aloof world with a single visually communicated goal. What’s that light at the top of the mountain? Follow the trail of ruins, crest the mountain and find out. Who you meet along the way is inconsequential to the attainment of that goal, but the true reward of the game is in the journey  to accomplish that goal. It’s not necessarily what you do, but who you do it with. thatgamecompany understands this quintessential truth about cooperative gameplay and it comes to flourish as perhaps the most potent selling point of the game. To quote Carl Jung, “We meet ourselves, time and again, in a thousands disguises on the crossroads of life”. In this moment of gaming culture Journey is just one of those many crossroads, though you’d be surprised with how transparent those  “disguises” truly are.