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Andreas Inderwildi

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FeatureHow Yakuza and Life is Strange let us revisit their worlds

From neon streets to small-town bedrooms.

The places we visit in games are usually one-off affairs; we shoot or puzzle ourselves through a level and are done with it, always impatient to get to the next stage and exciting new sights. Many games recognise that virtual spaces are more than just levels whose walls funnel us through a series of obstacles. They allow us to spend time exploring or simply being in those spaces. Many RPGs, for example, let us return to locations we visited dozens of hours earlier, perhaps subtly changed by the intervening time or our actions. In the Animal Crossing series, the miniature world changes subtly in our absence, and NPCs will even admonish us for staying away for too long.

FeatureThe allure of medieval weaponry

The sword cuts many ways.

Glaives, pikes, bardiches, halberds, partisans, spears, picks and lances. Javelins, arbalests, crossbows, longbows, claymores, zweihänder, broadswords and falchions. Flails, clubs, morning stars, maces, war hammers, battle axes and, of course, longswords. If you ever played a fantasy RPG or one of many historically-themed action or strategy games, you'll already be familiar with an impressive array of medieval weaponry. The medieval arsenal has had an enormous impact on games since their early days, and their ubiquity makes them seem like a natural, fundamental part of many virtual worlds.

Humanity's struggle against monstrous creatures has been a perennial favourite of storytellers for thousands of years. We see it in Gilgamesh's battle against Humbaba, Beowulf's doomed struggle against Grendel and the dragon, and Ahab's bitter feud against Moby Dick. Today, the trope is perhaps more popular than it has ever been. Who can count the monsters we have slain in games such as Dark Souls, The Witcher or Monster Hunter?

Humans have gazed up at the sky and wondered about their place in the cosmos since the very beginning. Do the same in a game like, say, Breath of the Wild, and you're presented with vivid images of clouds, stars, the sun and the moon. It's an important part of this and many other games that helps to create an illusion of a continuous space that stretches beyond what we actually experience within the confines of the game. The sky implies that Hyrule, despite being a fantasy world, is a part of a cosmos very much like our own, and we accept this even though we cannot fly up and check.

Mention the city in the middle ages, and you likely either conjure images of streets awash in faeces and offal, or of a cosy collection of quaint houses reminding people of gallant knights and ladies. Even though cities harking back to medieval times have been a staple of fantasy games ever since the inception of the genre, they usually do little to challenge the clichés presented by Renaissance fairs or grimdark pseudo-realism. To make things worse, those sterile spaces function primarily as pit stops for the player, a place to get new quests, to rest, or to trade. It's difficult to imagine everyday life in those places once the hero is out of town. They're little more than cardboard cut-outs (I'm looking at you, Skyrim).