Twelve million, five hundred fifty thousand, eight hundred twenty-one blocks away, if you want to get technical about it. The name comes from the distance a player must travel in Minecraft to reach ‘The Farlands.’ This is a place where the mathematical rules that control the rendering of the land break down, resulting in spontaneous, foreign, alien features. On top of that, movement becomes aligned to a grid, meaning that the algorithms that smooth out player movement also collapse. Everything feels laggy, although it isn’t. At roughly thirty-two million blocks from the starting point, the variables storing the player’s position overflow. If the game didn’t freeze and crash long before then, the player would likely cease to exist. Such is the ominous nature of the Farlands.

I adopted this name for two reasons. Firstly, the Farlands represent a point at which a game is no longer a game. Defining characteristics are erased, strange and spontaneous problems arise, and things fall apart. In the case of the Farlands, this is caused by events outside of the player’s perception, i.e. the programming and fine-tuning of aesthetics. I adopt this name because, in this blog, I will not simply be reviewing games. I will be picking them apart, defining what about each game makes it a game, and what parts of it fail to meet its own criteria (When it is no longer a game, so to speak.). I will pull apart the inner workings of, not only the aesthetics of the game, but also the psychological effects it has on the player (These would be the ‘events outside of the player’s perception.’). In my reviews, I seek to find the ‘Farlands’ of every game, as well as the reasons behind them.

This is not a video game review blog. This is an insight into the psychological connection and philosophical implication between gaming and the human mind.

For those who are curious, the second reason I chose this name is because Minecraft is pretty fantastic. And I like obscure references to things.

Saturday, August 27, 2011


[Free game: Download here]

This game is the fastest and easiest way to destroy your happy place. I will try to leave this analysis as spoiler-free as possible, but even if I had spoiled it for anyone, I believe that the shock and horror at the turn of events will still grip any player, which leads me to the psychological tool used in Eversion: Fear.

It isn’t fear in the traditional sense of “things that go bump in the night.” There are no zombies, no demons, no Saw-esque traps. There is no gore, and there are minimal surprising happenings. It is fear in the distortion of reality, the distortion of what we believe things to be. It is fear caused by deception and false security. It is fear because, up until the very end of the game, things do not stop getting worse.

As I played through this game, there were two thoughts running through my head. The first was “My happy place is dead.” The second was “How many levels of Hell must there be?!?” Now, before you continue reading this, play the game. Just start it. You don’t have to beat it, although I would understand if it pulled you in until the end. The very first screen is over-the-top happy. Vibrant colors, cheerful music, Smiling, dancing mushroom enemies. The sun is shining, the flowers are singing, and everything is just wonderful and happy. Little do you know that you just began your journey through the nine circles of Hell.

The art is eight-bit. The sound is of the same vein. It’s immediately brings to mind the classic Mario games, and already, the player is expecting a Mario-esque game, where everything is happy, the good guys are good, the bad guys are bad, and it’s a fairy-tale ending. It all leads you down a path that you’ll think you’ve been down before, and the game takes full advantage of that fact, exploiting every flaw in the assumption, similar to Depict1, but on a much more psychological level.

Also, the game starts very similarly to Limbo. There is a main menu, but upon starting a game, there is no story, there are no plot devices. There is just a happy little blob (you), a map, and gems which you will naturally feel obligated to collect. It drives the player into the game, not with a storyline, but with a gripping control method and desire for the usual everyday platformer. It starts out, taking advantage of the player’s assumptions to pull them in, then keeps them in the game by completely destroying their expectations.

Within the first level, you will encounter a new element in platformer games: An “eversion point.” Here, you can ‘evert’ the world, transforming it into one that is slightly different. My immediate reaction to this was “Oh, it’s a bit like ‘Link to the Past.’” I suppose that was right, but only in the concept of ‘light’ and ‘dark’ worlds. With this… Well, I strongly recommend everyone to play this.

When the player reaches the later levels of the game, where they are constantly submerged in a middle level of Hell, two emotions will begin to surface. One is fear, simply due to the violent distortions of everything. This fear will drive the player to wish for the usual again, part of them searching for an eversion point to take them up a level, to a happier place. The other emotion is one of curiosity. How much worse can this get? What could possibly be warped next? How satanic can this game appear? The curiosity urges us to play through the rest of the game, delving deeper and deeper into the unknown. At the same time, we are fearful of what we may find down there.

From a philosophical perspective (or, I suppose, religious), we want to meet Satan. We want to come face-to-face with the embodiment of fear, either to see that he exists, or to see what the limit is to pain. We are always told that Hell is a terrible (pardon the understatement) place, but part of us always wants to test that. Well, just how bad can it be? But, of course, none of us want to end up there to find out. Humans have a natural desire for chaos and destruction, yet we fear it. To embrace this side of us, however, is marked as “inhuman.” Those that do become serial killers, psychopaths, rapists. The “human” thing to do is to fight against the desire, to fear it, to discard that part of us. And we do. So effectively, that many will argue that the desire was never there. This game brings that desire back. Well, how bad can things really get? What lies in wait down there? With this game, we will find out.

What makes this game so completely gripping, yet at the same time, chilling, is that it revives a primitive desire. It revives the thirst for chaos and mayhem. It reminds us that we want to meet Satan. And, by the end of the game, we do.

I cannot say much more about this game, for fear of spoiling the moment for those who wish to play it. It is, on the most basic level, another Mario. Fight through the levels to save the princess. Except, with Eversion, we must fight through hell and back to do so. The very end of the game shows us that things are deceptive. They aren’t always what they appear to be, and very rarely are.

The first ending, the one awarded to those who do not collect all the gems, reveals human nature in the modern sense. It shows what happens to those who don’t give in to their primitive nature, and it’s an ending that will likely trip you up. The second, better ending, shows us a world where we do give in to the primitive side. We are happy, yes, yet the world is in ruins around us. Yet if we are happy, nothing else should matter, right? Some would argue yes, others no, some, depends on the cost of happiness. It all comes down to our own morals, and we should all come to our own definitions regarding this ending.

Eversion is amazing. I have never been so shocked and fearful of a game that dragged me to the end of it, and I doubt any game will match this. It destroys what we think things really are, it perverts our world, it sends chills down our spines. Eversion introduces us to our primitive side. It introduces us to Satan.

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