The Existential World of Gumball

I am a person with very varied tastes, but there’s always a few elements in any story that can hook me in for a good while. One of those things is existentialism applied to the state of being fictional, and that one thing is what has kept me from casting off Grant Morrison’s declining output for a good while now. I’m not just solely interested in a work that breaks and plays with the forth wall, I’m interested in a work that makes this awareness thematically central. What I mean by this is that I love works that expose and explore the absurdity that is existence, and especially when its done to fictional characters within the context of being fictional. The wealth of stories and ideas that could be explored are limitless, but few can seem to nail it down. Enter Cartoon Network’s The Amazing World of Gumball, both one of the most technically inventive pieces of animation ever put to television, and also one of the best written series they’ve ever had. While the show lacks the emotional complexity of Adventure Time or Steven Universe, it more than makes up for it in how it plays with its medium – and what happens when the character themselves start becoming aware.

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Full Course: Alpha Protocol

Full Course is a new series I’m trying out where I go really in depth on a given game, show, or whatever. If you have any thoughts on how this article came out, feel free to leave a comment! I’d love feedback on this one.


Western RPGs are rarely my thing. If they’re fantasy, it’s incredibly tired fantasy cliches (dragons, elves, orcs, ect), and when they’re something else, something about the mechanics rarely click with me (though I do hope that will change as I try getting into Deus Ex, which I’ve only toyed with in the past). But I ended up playing eighty hours of Alpha Protocol for two weeks straight, four plays finished. So clearly, it’s doing something right. Alpha Protocol taps into a lot of common western RPG tropes and design styles, especially from Deus Ex, but there’s more going on there, and the context to its systems changes everything.

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We Know The Devil and the Queer Struggle

Today’s article was commissioned by a regular reader. If you’d like to have me write about something of your choosing, consider commissioning me! Details here, willing to discuss subjects not covered on that page. Use the e-mail listed there.
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2015’s We Know The Devil is a very gay game. It’s got magical girls, it’s got lesbians, it’s got anime art styles, it’s got a vague sense of nostalgia, heck, it even has angst! So much angst! Queer stories have a habit of going deep in angst, and for good reason. In case you’ve been watching nothing but Fox News and Info Wars for years, queer people don’t have it so good in, well, any country. But while the whole having equal rights as human beings thing is a significant issue, We Know The Devil is way more interested in more mundane situations and how they have a habit of causing emotional problems for queer people dealing with hardships, and how those issues tend to intertwine and become something horrific.

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Hope Lake, Black Rainbow, and the Need of Substance in Design

Ever hear of the hidden object genre? It’s a strange little point and click subgenre that really came into being through smart phones, a more simple version of the graphic adventure with less moon logic madness and more puzzle minigames and finding the object. The idea is that they’re an easily played casual genre you can enjoy with your brain on low, relaxing games requiring little effort to play, but catch your interest just enough that you can block out the world around you for a bit. It’s also one of the most creative genres out there, I find, especially in terms of presentation and content. You only need to look at Backstreets of the Mind for a good example of this. Mechanically, though, they all tend to fall into the same territory.

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This is where Hope Lake and Black Rainbow come into play. The second one doesn’t have the usual hidden object elements included, but it falls roughly in the same category through its simplistic puzzles and focus on presentation above most else. But Hope Lake? Oh, that is some pure hidden object right there. It’s also the game that inspired this article, because I thought it was a perfect summation of the worst aspects of the hidden object genre …until I played Black Rainbow. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

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Games I Played in 2016 Worth Mentioning

2017 is finally here, and we can only pray it’s not as terrible as 2016 was. I’m personally expecting the real shit in 2018 or 2019 myself. But life goes on, we got rent to pay and stuff to enjoy between the moments of realization of the very real possibility of the end of the world crashing down on us. Before I move on, though, I’d like to take a step back and look at a few games I played in 2016 that I feel need some more attention that missed my favorites list. Some of these were released recently, and others were older titles I just got around to. A few have HG101 articles coming, but not yet published, and others I simply never got around to talking about. They’re all well worth a look for different reasons, most for being good games, and others for …well, you’ll see. With that in mind, here are the games I played in 2016 that deserve some more attention, with no real order.

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2016 Gaming Year in Review

It’s that time of year again! With my gaming year wrapping down, with nearly *80* games played, it’s time to check out some of the most notable titles I tried. This is all based around my gaming year, not games released this year, so maybe you’ll learn of a few classics you never knew about. And yes, if you saw my last list, you know what my fave game of the year is, but there was some surprising last minute contenders. Sinking Island could easily sneak into the bottom five, but two games (!) blindsided me and could have taken top five spots if I got to them earlier. Memoria and This Is The Police are both shockingly good games well worth your money, and I will be writing on them down the line. But that’s for later, so let’s stick to the topic at hand.

I have multiple categories, some self explanatory (best looking, best sound design, ect), and others more personal (fave guilty pleasure, biggest surprise, ect). Along with my writing on each category winner, I’ll have a list of honorable mentions below, so please don’t forget to look up those games in your spare time! A lot of fantastic titles didn’t make the cut this year, and only because I played *so fucking many* of them.

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Steam Sifter: The Shopkeeper

This one’s …not a pun. I’m not making the pun. I have dignity.

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It’s time for another Steam Sifter, the series where I comb through the low and mixed rated titles on Steam and divide the cream from the crap. For the past few titles, we’ve mostly seen mechanical focused games. This time, we’ll be looking at a narrative game simply called The Shopkeeper, which is described on its page as “a point-and-click narrative game set in a space between the Twilight Zone, classic Lucasarts adventures, and Antiques Roadshow.” That may be the least accurate description of anything I have ever read.

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