Cara Ellison


The top 30 young people in digital media: Nos 10-1

The Guardian’s 10 trainee digital journalists invited Alex Hern and Matt Andrews from the Guardian, and BuzzFeed’s editorial director Jack Shepherd to help choose the most exciting people under 30 in digital media. Here’s their top 10

(1) Farea Al-Muslimi (2) Jamal Edwards (3) Dina Toki-O (not pictured) (4) Sorted Food (5) Hannah Wolfe (6) Jim Waterson (7) Mosa'ab Elshamy (8) Hannah Hart (9) Jerome Jarre (10) Cara Ellison 

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Learn about corruption in game journalism, and form your own opinion on which journalists and outlets deserve your trust.


Sacrilege is a game about communication and desire by Cara Ellison.

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Why Try It: A text-based exploration of the constraints placed on women by heteronormativity; excellent writing and use of music.

Time:  Five minutes.

How to Play:  Use the mouse to click on links to advance the narrative. Also, turn on your speakers/headphones before playing as the game uses music at a certain point.

Author’s Notes: “I wanted to make it about the heart stopping drudgery of being heterosexual in a world where heterosexuals are conditioned not to talk to each other, or listen to each other, or really have any idea what they are doing. You’ll know if you got to the end of the game because there is an ‘optional secret book’ you can read if you like.”

More Info: Sacrilege was made using Twine, a free tool for creating hypertexts, interactive stories, and text-based games. It was created for for the Pulse-Pounding, Heart-Stopping Dating Sim Jam, an event where participants created dating simulation games over the course of a weekend. Traditionally, dating sims place the player in the role of a young person with the goal of attracting one or more romantic interests. Many of the games produced for the event subvert or alter this formula in some way.

You can read more about the making of Sacrilege at Unwinnable.

Cara Ellison can be found at her website and on Twitter.

I’ve spoken a lot with the game designer and writer Harvey Smith recently about whether having a privileged background or upbringing helps a person produce better art, or whether having a difficult life helps produce better art (Harvey has a wealth of stories about his background that would make you think the latter). I concluded that when you don’t have things like social ostracisation, war, poverty or sickness in your way, it’s much easier to make things faster, which is probably why middle-class white dudes produce such a vast array of our art. There’s a better hit rate, y’know? And it’s not necessarily that broken people make better art, though perhaps sometimes the ability to communicate pain helps. I don’t believe you have to be beaten down by society to make something profound. You just have to be able to produce it, and that’s the hard part. The hard part is telling yourself you are that person. The person who makes.
S.EXE: OutRun 2006 | Rock, Paper, Shotgun

The screeching of the children from the school from across the freesia-fragranced, sun bleached street has subsided, and Tim is cutting audio clips and swearing at the wi-fi. And the game’s menu, the game that Tim once called ‘Love: The Videogame’, well, the game’s menu is doing a perfect impression of contentment. This game is no longer available due to licencing troubles, but man, if anything was ever a game, this, THIS was a game. And I’m on a quest for the ‘ejaculatory gag’. You know, the one that Kieron mentioned in 2008, and I have never found: “I’m still terribly amused by the hyper-cheesy ejaculatory gag half-way through.”

OutRun 2006’s real triumph is how easily it articulates a young man’s fear of emasculation in front of a woman. OutRun 2006’s premise is that you are racing pristine Ferraris, impressing the girl in the passenger seat, making her gush with love every time you overtake a ‘Rival’, or get close butnot too close to another car, drifting on sharp curves, or simply winning a race or minigame. Little hearts appear whenever you shift gear and execute something she likes, as if love were a series of corners you drift together, and that’s all. As if it is easy to see where you have failed in life, and where you can improve. Not only does it portray two objects of desire – a Ferrari – a REAL Ferrari – and a hot blonde woman who loves said Ferrari, but it represents the precarious ego of a young man who has just become aware that he might have to become something in order to be worthy of dating someone else.

Cara Ellison on love, Outrun, and ejaculation.

a few thoughts about this week

I. The outcry for ethics in game journalism this week began as a witch-hunt against women in the game industry. This cannot be denied. Ask Zoe Quinn and Patricia Hernandez and Cara Ellison how many of the people crowding their twitter mentions are concerned about “ethics”, and how many are simply abusive, toxic, misogynist, and hurtful.

Regardless; here we are, now. This genie isn’t going back in the bottle.

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“It’s just fingers and objects in this game,” Lacy says. “If it isn’t objects it’s her jamming her weirdly long pinky in her asshole. What do you call a lesbian with long fingernails? Single.”

“There’s hardly any fisting in this game,” Lacy says. “Fisting should be a national… an all encompassing thing.”

[There is some discussion of fisting techniques I find difficult to put into words.]

“Have you ever used a carrot in coitus?” I ask the assembled women. “This game seems to think that’s a thing.” I point to the woman with a carrot in her ass.

“I missed that level.”
Cara Ellison on: The Poetics of Space

In Kentucky Route Zero Act II Shannon asks Conway, “Are we inside or outside?”

Shannon’s line is a reference to Gaston Bachelard’s “The Poetics of Space” written in 1958. Earlier in the game the character Lula Chamberlain opens a rejection letter from the “Gaston Trust for Imaginary Architecture” which is a direct reference to the French philosopher’s work. Bachelard’s “Poetics of Space” is probably the most important book that most game designers have never read; it explicitly connects architecture to how people will experience it, rather than the trend in 1958, which was to treat architecture like spectacle. Bluntly speaking, Bachelard said back in 1958 that games are not just graphics. They are architecture that create an experience. He would have made an excellent level designer.

In the chapter “The dialectics of inside and outside”, Bachelard writes, “Outside and inside form a dialectic of division, the obvious geometry of which blinds us as soon as we bring it into metaphorical domains. It has the sharpness of the dialectics yes and no, which decides everything. Unless one is careful, it is made into a basis of images that govern all positive and negative.”

Bachelard goes on to argue that we should abandon the idea of the diametrically opposed ‘inside and outside’, that we should continually think instead of how they both serve the poet, the human experience, and are unified in this way.


Kentucky Route Zero concertedly removes the player of the binary. The focus is on how the structure of the narrative, and the composition of the art on screen, evokes a feeling of being both inside and outside at the same time. At one point in Act III you are invited to play Xanadu, a text adventure that is a metanarrative of Kentucky Route Zero. There’s a crude television screen showing lines and shapes, and a printer next to it prints out the text line by line. You become confused about being inside or outside the narrative. Will choices in this metagame affect the game’s storyline? Are the character’s choices outside of the metagame working in the same way as the textual choices in the metagame?

On space and Kentucky Route Zero.