Wolf in White Van Reflection

RAGE QUIT by Corrupted-Mooch
Rage Quit” by Corrupted-Mooch


Writing this essay was a painful process. The source of this pain was my fundamental disagreement with the prompt. The message I got from Wolf in White Van was essentially that there is no answer to the prompt. I struggled with trying to fake my way to an answer that I didn’t believe for about an hour. Then I compromised to trying to point out that interpretations depended on starting assumptions. Then, after several hours of very slow writing, I ragequit the prompt and started  writing what I actually thought. I came back later and stitched the essay back together and I got a result that I considered acceptable. After a few more cycles of editing, the essay evolved into its current form which I am very happy with.

In this essay I tried to bring in symbolism from the book and branch into not-quite-prose. This was a risky maneuver for an analysis essay, but I think it payed off.

Podcast reflection

As many people who play Dark Souls do, I came into this project with very strong opinions on the lore, mechanics, difficulty, and art of Dark Souls.

I initially wanted to focus on the lore: how players are tricked into think they’re the hero, and will almost certainly complete entire playthroughs without ever realizing that they have been fooled into martyrdom for the gain of small group. I wanted to highlight the narrative structure of Dark Souls, which I would argue is truly unique.

These subjects, however, are not the material for a 5-10 minute podcast. I firmly believe that Dark Souls is a great work of literature, and as such, to try and analyze its story in its entirety in such a short time could not do the game justice (not to mention that it wouldn’t have anything to do with Bogost).

David initially wanted to do the podcast focusing primarily on the mechanics of Dark Souls, which I thought missed the most interesting parts of the game.

But what we each wanted to do had a common feature that led to the proposed term. My strong feelings are Dark Souls lore are not at all unique, and David’s strong feelings on the mechanics aren’t either. It became apparent to both of us that “strong feelings” pretty much characterize the Dark Souls community. From there we converged on the topic that almost every aspect of Dark Souls was built to create opinions and alignments that would foster the development of a community within and outside the game.

After that, there was almost no work to be done. We quickly created a list of evidence and talking points, each only about 3 words long. From there we started talking and recording, working our way through the points as the conversation progressed. I wouldn’t call our conversation planned, but we knew what we wanted to prove and we each had our own ideas how we wanted to prove it, so the conversation wasn’t much more than a normal conversation. Ten minutes later we had everything we need for our podcast.

We cut a few bits that we thought were less relevant or where someone misspoke, but we kept the vast majority of the recording.

At the onset, I wasn’t sure how to go about writing a podcast; now I realize that it really isn’t fundamentally different then writing on paper: Prove your point with words in a manner befitting the audience. It’s just free form writing on the spot.

Given more time (honestly, we started later than we should have) we probably would have brought in more points (we didn’t hit all of them on the list) and we would have brought in evidence from a closer reading of Dark Souls, rather than the overview that we did.

Pretty much Boatmurdered

screenshot by Sankis, 47th player of Boatmurdered
screenshot by Sankis, 47th player of Boatmurdered


I hesitate to say that any of us authored the story that resulted from our Fiasco playthrough. I don’t think any of us would have written a story anything like had it been one of our stories. The progression of our story reminded me of the progression of Boatmurdered; an epic chronology of a Dwarf Fortress passed between players with each player playing one in-game year and then passing it on. Our story, like Boatmurdered, seemed like an agglomeration of several stories, with each story starting at the end of the last and promptly rejecting it. While our work is closer to a series of loosely related ideas smashed together than a “collaboration”, It nonetheless led to an entertaining, if disorganized, composition of failure.

I’m fairly certain that this style of writing was not what we were going for and it certainly isn’t a stellar example of collaborative writing (under most definitions of collaboration). Although I think we may have missed the intended educational mark on this assignment, I would argue that we discovered an entirely different lesson:
A collective work does not have to stem from a collective vision to be valuable. Literature with overtly conflicting ideas embedded can resolve smoothly without ever resolving the conflict itself.  WIP


On a side note, you should be careful of Dwarf fortress culture.

How to start in Dwarf Fortress
How to start in Dwarf Fortress


Like the game itself, it is off-puttingly deep.

Wolf in White Van response: edges

look at all these edges
look at all these edges


Separation of realities, for lack of a better term, is a very strongly reoccurring theme in parts 1-7 (and ostensibly the rest) of Wolf in White Van by John Darnielle. Early in the book the narrator describes memories coalescing rather than being separate experiences as well as the confusing branching structure of possibilities. The narrator clearly has a history of becoming extremely immersed in his own fantasy world and tuning out reality, but even the fantasy worlds blend together. The narrator even ensures that the universe that he created has a very structured system (with discrete inputs, which seems odd to me for this genre of gaming) to guarantee certain results from the available choices. The narrator’s statement, “Sometimes I have trouble finding the edges” (Darnielle 9) is very clearly central to the plot. The failure to identify the edge between the fantasy world and real life is what led to the death of two teens. So far, everything in the book has revolved around edges. The author strongly emphasizes several times that continuous experiences are broken into discrete pieces in the narrator’s mind or vice vera. I would argue that this book is largely about the difficulty of finding these existential edges.

Works cited:

Darnielle, John. Wolf in White Van. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2014. Print.

Aptly named

When presented with the game Depression Quest, I assumed they picked the name simply because they couldn’t come up with an interesting or engaging name, but after playing the game I realize how appropriate this title is.

The title of “quest” is usually reserved for some Herculean task, dealing with some form of horrifying and insurmountable obstacle. In Depression Quest, this obstacle is simply being happy. It takes a long time, there are lots of ways to fail, and, even when everything is done as well as possible, you still don’t really succeed (so yeah – quest). The best you can be in this game is OK: you strive to be a functional person.

Given the role of a sufferer of depression, all you need to do is live life and not be miserable. The game very quickly makes it clear that you can’t just stop being depressed, blocking out many advisable choices that would likely be made by an emotionally healthy person. The choices necessary to become less depressed are always the most emotionally exposed and uncomfortable decisions, but play through in which you don’t acknowledge your depression will end with you being depressed, hopeless, alone, and even further from happiness than you started.

Depression isn’t something that you can just get over. That’s all the game really wants you to know.


Dear Esther

so yeah... I think I see an LED in there but I have no idea what this is
so yeah… I think I see an LED in there but I have no idea what this is

When I first completed Dear Esther (that is, finished my first playthrough) I was very confused. I then read several interpretations and analyses of the game.

I’m still confused.


Dear Esther is a very straightforward game with a very opaque narrative. The player is given almost no choice in where to go and how to progress, as there is essentially only one way forward at any given time. Whenever there is a fork in the path, one can simply follow the timeless adage:

“go the way that dead-ends; there’s probably loot”

to find addition details on the story.


I know I’m supposed to address how the game establishes character, but the game, quite literally, doesn’t. It is unclear who the player character is, though they seem to be a depressed and guilt-ridden Englishman who is likely responsible for Esther’s death. The narrator never really identifies them self, but when describing other people, it is likely that most of them are the same person, i.e. himself. I won’t go further into my interpretation of the story,  because I am almost certainly wrong.

The setting is also fairly unclear. It is stated that the narrator is on an island near Scotland (Hebridian), much of the island is surreal and it is possible that the island is (by the narrators own implications) not real. It is clear, however that the time is reasonably modern, as shown by existence of the M5 motorway.

The game limits your understanding of the narrative by randomly selecting the snippets of text for the player to hear, meaning that you can only hear some of the narrative on a given playthrough. The game also features several difficult to interpret symbols/diagrams that serve to further confuse the player.

This game is extremely different from Gone Home (another exploration based story game). While Gone Home allows the player to formulate their own opinion/interpretation of their surroundings, Dear Esther forces you to be a bombastic English guy, who I can’t identify with in the slightest. Because the game forces the story upon (and out of) the player rather than those around the player, I couldn’t connect with the narrator at all and felt like my involvement in the story was worthless.

Gone home


the feels
gif by Super_Pie


At the beginning of Gone Home, based on the dark house, flickering lights, and the obligatory thunderstorm outside, I expected a horror game full of jump scares and the like. I found quite the opposite.

Gone home begins its story by dropping you at the entrance of a mansion, left to figure out who and where you are. A little exploration quickly introduces the setting (including who you are) through strategic placement of notes, labels, birthday cards, diary entries, voice mails, etc. near the entrance. Your motivation is made extremely obvious from the very start, with a mysterious note revealing your sister is gone.

Your sister is in a pretty classic discovering love/”I’m in love and everyone disapproves” story that, despite the tropes, still draws in the player (just like your grandfather’s note found in the basement says about your father’s book. One wonders if the creators of the game are getting over personal issues as well).

This game contains a very deep set of stories that do not easily give themselves up. It is left to the player to put in the effort to check every small detail to piece together the backstories of the side characters because it is quite possible to complete the game without learning much about any character other than Sam: The books in the background reveal that your parents are in a somewhat struggling but intact relationship, the difficult to read notes (Damn you cursive) reveal the troubled past of your father and the life of regret lived by the house’s previous owner, and letter to your mom reveal a possible emotional interest of hers.

It seemed this game was focused on the inevitability of loss and how much the past could hurt you, but in the end almost every character manages to recover what they are losing. I think the predominant message of this game is that people cling to what they hold dear and no one really moves on.



Undoubtedly my best work yet.

This is an entirely original creation made in the unparalleled MS Paint. It is my conviction that a game does not need to have good graphics, complex in design, or even be finished to be great. Such is the glory of my avatar.

This is version 0.0.2 of my avatar. Expect it to be buggy, have unimplemented features, and CTD frequently.

version 0.0.1 below

I firmly believe this. I will fight you
I firmly believe this.
I will fight you


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