The Epilogue – September/October Extravaganza

It’s been far too long, and finally, we’re happy to say, the videos from VideoBrains September and October are out! Without any more of a wait, let’s get right down to it.

VideoBrains September: Spy Party

September was a special month for VideoBrains, it marked the event’s first birthday! A year later, and 15 VideoBrains (VideoBrainses? Jake doesn’t really know himself) on, the event is very much alive and kicking, with a full house too! To celebrate, the kind people at Rocket Jump Events sponsored the bar, even. They’ll be doing more in 2016, so keep an eye out if you’re looking for more games industry-focused events.

There was even a cake for Jake (and the event), too!

This month had the theme of Spy Party, all about murder, stealth, betrayals, and questionable morality. All those things that make up a good Bond movie. Or a bad one. Maybe we should have had a murder mystery going on…

Tom Hatfield started us off, with his talk ‘Deception, Betrayal and Horror in Co-op’, a look at how horror doesn’t have to be about loneliness within darkness. Making example of his time in the mostly unknown System Shock 2 multiplayer as well as in the co-op of Dead Space 3. Despite how you can joke around with friends and feel safe, a few touches can make group horror really work.

Resident speaker Hannah Nicklin took to the stage following Tom, in her fourth talk on the psychogeography of games. This month, she spoke about her time walking across a very wet London with George Buckenham, talking about everything from Brutalism in London housing to the optimal way to get over a very large puddle without getting wet. Set to a background of rain, thunder, and music made by Hannah in Panoramical, which George had a part in making, the talk combined thoughts on process and ideas on community and solidarity. As always, you can read an adapted form of her talk over on Rock, Paper, Shotgun. If you’d like to take a look at what George has made, you can take a look over on his site!

Did you know there was a Thief 4 in the works? Not the 2014 game, either, Joe Martin doesn’t like to talk about that one very much. He’s been digging deep into archives for his talk ‘They Stole Thief 4 From Me’, and doing some detective work in search of elusive information on a fourth Thief game, titled Thief 4 – Dagger of Ways. Moving into a modern world, and to be developed the same team as the predecessors, Ion Storm, he eventually managed to get ahold of a design document, detailing what the team aimed to do. As history will tell you, the game never got made, and if Joe hadn’t managed to find this document, it could have been lost to the ages. If this is what Joe found, what other unknown concepts have been lost in locked or hidden annals of history?

Joe has kindly offered to send anyone interested a copy of the design document, so if you’d like to go through it yourself, send him a tweet at @JoeThreepwood!

Morality in games is a tricky issue, and presents some interesting dilemmas for the player. It becomes even more complex, when you get something really awesome for being a rude person. By rude, I mean murdering characters in your game. Helen Gould, with ‘Hands to yourself, sneak thief: bad morality in RPGs’, discussed her time in Skyrim, facing the challenging questions of “Is this armour worth murdering a lot of people?” and “Oh gosh, I murdered people for a mace with a skull that stares into my soul, why did I do this?” in the world of Tamriel. Also, there was a bit of a debate on the pronunciation of scone, in person and on Twitter.

To finish the evening along the theme of Spy Party, Edward Burton took on a personal gripe with stealth games: the implementation of a score. In games like Mark of the Ninja and Hitman: Absolution, a score can be detrimental to the core ideas of many stealth games. Being able to make your own plans and go through each mission your way is key, and having one set path that will give the most points can be detract from this.

VideoBrains October: Dungeon Keeper

Boss battles can be fantastic climaxes, or dreadfully tedious affairs that sour your experience of a game. Zoë Williamson looked at some of the best and worst, for a multitude of reasons, as well as gave some explanations for why certain boss battles just suck.

The fear of the unknown, of the vast expansive void our world fills, and of the possibily of greater beings than ourselves are what underline much of H.P. Lovecraft’s horror, and lots of games get that wrong. Tom Battey took at look at how Hidetaka Miyazaki – famous for being the director on Demon’s Souls, Dark Souls, and Bloodborne – does get it right.

It’s sometimes fun to play the villain, to get a bit evil, to cause a bit of chaos, and, as the recent popularity of Deadpool has shown, antiheroes are pretty cool too. But Sean Cleaver took a look at antiheroes, and perhaps they’re not all we think they are in definition.

In her fifth talk on the Psychogeography of Games, Hannah Nicklin spoke of her time with Ed Key (the one-man-band of Twisted Tree Games) in Cumbria, and how it has influenced how he works as a developer. If you want to read up on Ed Key’s work, you can do so on the Twisted Tree Games website. For the text version of this talk, click here for it over on Rock, Paper, Shotgun.

With a bit of classical literature , Daniel Nye Griffiths took a look at how games represent death. Or rather, how they take some very different perspectives on death – such as the eponymous ‘protagonist’ from Dante’s Inferno just killing everyone.

Rounding out VideoBrains October was Alice Bell, on why she just hates children in games. To her, there’s a negative correlation between how good a game is and how many children there are. There are a few exceptions, but for the most part, they’ll just drag you down.

Phew! We’re really happy to get these talks out to you, and hopefully you’ve enjoyed them all! Our next event is in just 1 week, and tickets are running out, so get yours before it’s too late! VideoBrains February: Mount Your Friends features Cara Ellison, Ashley Brown, Alice Bell, James Wallis, Benjamin Maltz-Jones and Rob Morgan, so come on down for talks like “Sex in Games is Fucked” and “Sex in a Box”! What could be better?

If you want to support us even more and just make us love you, you can you support us through our Patreon page too!


The Epilogue – Show and Tell

Hello you lot! This is the start of a new series of posts here that give recaps from each VideoBrains event for those of you who couldn’t make it (or anyone who wants to relive it). August’s theme was ‘Show and Tell’ – a couple of our speakers had some certainly niche items to bring with them.

And so, we opened with Mink Ette, and her talk “GET THE CRYSTAL GET THE CRYSTAL: Why Room Escape Games are the most fun reason to be locked in a room for an hour”. Yes, that’s a Crystal Maze reference. To those of you who have never heard of The Crystal Maze before, that guy that wrote The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Richard O’Brien, had a game show in the 90’s where he played a harmonica while a team tried to complete puzzles. It was great. Mink has built a Room Escape game, off in Portland, Oregon, and spoke about the challenges of making something so unique, citing her inspirations in games such as Myst or Detarou’s rather abstract titles. If you’re ever off to Portland, or you know someone there who would be interested, give her game a go!

Following on, Will Freeman spoke on his niche passion – arcade machines! Showing off his fancy arcade board, as well as a picture of his “favourite cardboard box”, he described how the designs of arcade games are fundamentally different to that of console releases, and how that caused the growth of a true challenge: the 1cc run. A mark of achievement in arcade titles, the elusive 1cc run is where you complete an arcade game with just one coin, no continues. Unfortunately you can’t do any 1cc runs on dance machines, though, that’s the real crime.

Then, we had our absolutely phenomenal resident speaker Hannah Nicklin on her third of six talks around the psychogeography of games. Kerry Turner was the subject this week, driving force behind The Rabbit Club and co-developer of Heartwood. On stroll through Brighton and Hove, they discussed her fascination with fake environments, her background developing, and it’s all brought together with Hannah’s typically poetic style. If you’re in a reading mood, you can find her talk hosted in that lovely textual form over on Rock, Paper, Shotgun.

This month saw a number of people talk about their niche passions, and Pat Ashe brought evidence of his – a sample of his collection of games made for and developed by musicians. Collecting cookies and money to cause women’s panties to literally drop with R-Kelly isn’t exactly something you’d normally see on the back of a game box. There are games from Peter Gabriel, Prince, even Frank Sidebottom himself, Chris Sievey. There was even a Shakin’ Stevens game, The Shaky Game, which came with a lovely introduction from the man himself!

Have you ever heard of First Banister by Juan Muñoz? It’s a sculpture that is simply a piece of flat banister against a wall, except it has a knife hidden on the other side. If someone was to run their hand along it, they’d get more than a little surprise. That was the basis for Thomas McMullan’s talk ‘Putting pins in the buttons’. He spoke about how games can use a feeling of discomfort to great effect, citing the end of Red Dead Redemption as a great example. Sometimes, games make you more than a little uncomfortable, subverting tropes and rules to make you squirm.

Under the cover of darkness, VideoBrains August came to a post-watershed close with Alice Bell’s talk on XXX Fangirling, the world of shipping, and fanfiction, and some drawings you probably wouldn’t be showing your family. Exploring the the premium fantasy dating simulator series Dragon Age, she closed the event hilariously! With fantastic representation in the LGBT+ community, these communities are for everyone, whether you’re looking for smut or romance, there’s something for everyone. That said, the one risqué drawing shown did elicit the reaction “Oh he doesn’t look like he’s enjoying that” from someone. I’ll let your mind wander to what that could have been.

September’s event will mark one year of VideoBrains! With the theme of Spy Party, and including Michael Cook, Helen Gould, Edward Burton Joe Martin, Holly Gramazio, Tom Hatfield, and our resident speaker Hannah Nicklin, it’s sure to be a belter. You can buy your tickets here – and, if you want to give a little more, you can support the VideoBrains Patreon here.

See you next month!