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There’s not a one of us that can escape our complicated family histories. They’re all different, unique, and filled with both tragedy and joy. In Giant Sparrow’s 2017 game, What Remains of Edith Finch, the exploration into a family’s tragic and mortal past is treated like an art form of itself, the stories of each member of the Finch family unfolding in curated dramas that make up the tapestry of the whole.

Akin to other walking simulators such as Gone Home, Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture or Giant Sparrow’s previous game, The Unfinished Swan, What Remains of Edith Finch is extremely narrative forward, the gameplay serving to motivate the player from one set piece to the next. The individual stories of the family members are scattered throughout the Finch house, which is itself a marvelous museum-like labyrinth, a tiered mansion evocative of the Pink Palace from Neil Gaiman’s Coraline. We play as Edith who has come home after years of being away, as she puts together the pieces of her past in order to fill a journal that might dictate the history of her eccentric and tragic family. …


Hayao Miyazaki, creator of your favorite films, turns 80.

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Can you recall the very first Miyazaki film you ever saw?

When I was thirteen years old — long before I knew much about anime, long before I knew what Studio Ghibli was, long before I had addressed or understood my own tastes or my perspective of the world — I watched a little film titled Princess Mononoke.

By today’s standards, Princess Mononoke may be a tamer film than it was for me at thirteen. When I first watched it, the movie opened my eyes in more ways than one. First and foremost, it’s an utterly beautiful film; Studio Ghibli had just begun experimenting with CGI-enhanced animation, and both the hand drawn cells and the computer effects made for a pre-industrial Japan straight out of your most visceral dream world. …


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In the final weeks of March, 1997, 39 followers of the Heaven’s Gate cult committed suicide in California.

The followers believed they were leaving their human vessels behind in order for their souls to journey aboard a spaceship that would trail a comet into heaven. Male members of the group underwent voluntary castration, the more sincere members believing that a genderless life awaited them after suicide and removing unneeded body parts brought them closer to heaven.

In the low-poly horror walking simulator Sagebrush, the player is treated to a similar look into the chemistry and devotion of a mass suicide cult. Set in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Sagebrush takes place on the fictional Black Sage Ranch, the site of the 1993 Perfect Heaven mass suicide. Gameplay is exploration based but entirely lonely, playing a silent protagonist that wanders through the remains of the ranch as the details of the final days of Perfect Heaven are recounted. …


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Once upon a time — long before its spin offs, sequels, remasters, re-releases, collections, mobile games or movies — there was only one game, and it was called Kingdom Hearts.

Kingdom Hearts began as a literal elevator pitch: the life of the Disney/Square crossover began when Shinji Hashimoto had a sporadic, chance meeting with a Disney executive that shared their building in Japan. Kingdom Hearts was the ultimate “What If” scenario of the early aughts — what if the biggest characters from the East and the biggest characters from the West shared the same world in a video game?

For those of us who played Kingdom Hearts when it was brand new (I was 14 years old in 2002), this concept of Final Fantasy and Disney characters sharing a game didn’t seem far fetched at all. I spent my childhood watching Disney animated films and I was more than a little acquainted with the characters. My teen years were spent with Cloud, Squall and Tidus. As I watched the commercials and advertisements roll out for this new title, I had only one thought on my mind: I desperately needed a PlayStation 2. …


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During Christmas, sometimes you just want to kill things.

We all have our Christmas traditions: giving gifts, watching holiday films, listening to Christmas music, arguing about Die Hard. One of our sorely missing holiday traditions is the inclusion of Christmas video games, mostly because these are a rare commodity. Maybe you boot up your Kingdom Hearts II save file to play through the Christmas Halloween Town, or play enough of Bayonetta 2 to experience the holiday moments.

One of my yearly traditions is to play through the cult classic Square Enix title, Parasite Eve. …


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[TW: Suicide, Self-Harm, Abuse]

Here’s a confession: I’ve spent most of my life deeply hating myself.

I don’t know when this began. I can’t pinpoint the exact time, or exact moment. As with every human being who has ever lived, I’ve endured my fair share of traumatic events and painful experiences. I’ve endured bullying, emotional abuse, physical abuse, longing, abandonment, heartache, pain. Some of my earliest memories are painful ones, and even my most treasured moments are laced with unwanted feelings. I’ve had terrible things done to me; I’ve done terrible things to others.

I’m a person, and like those within A Silent Voice, I just want to be seen and understood. …


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In late 2012, Nintendo released the ill-fated Wii U. Successor to the massively successful Wii, the Wii U continued Nintendo’s approach to fun and innovation by introducing a very unconventional controller alongside its superior online capabilities and fully backwards compatible features. While the Wii U (to this day) has one of the best virtual consoles available for any Nintendo system, its weak game lineup and extremely limited third party support eventually killed the system by 2017, giving it an extremely short lifespan for a home console.

My siblings and I picked up our Wii U for one reason: the Wind Waker remaster. We saved up and waited for the special edition console to drop, and I thoroughly enjoyed playing through one of my favorite Zelda titles with the Wii U’s unique controller. Despite the brief fun we had with a smattering of the console’s games, it wasn’t until the eagerly awaited release of Xenoblade Chronicles X that I felt like the Wii U had finally found its redeeming quality. …


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The World Ends With You wanted me to wake up. I was miserable the year The World Ends With You released on the Nintendo DS. It was the summer of my graduation from high school (2007, and yes, I’m working on this essay from the comfort of my nursing home) and I was having an impossible time finding any meaning in life. Friends had made plans — vacations, getting ready for college, summer internships. …


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I have spent much of my life looking for a very specific something in the video games I play.

This “it factor” is buried somewhere in the narration, and starts right after the call for suspension of disbelief. I play a lot of video games (too many, certainly) and allowing myself to fall into fictional worlds is easy for me because I want to lose myself in the world that’s presented. It doesn’t matter if it’s as bonkers as DOOM: Eternal or as patient as Night in the Woods, I will live in your world if it’s obvious that it has been lovingly and patiently created. …

About

Brandon R. Chinn

Author of the Kognition Cycle. Works featured in Moonchild Magazine, Twist in Time, Selene Quarterly, and other anthologies.

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