kentucky route zero

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~Favorite Games Played in 2016~

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Kentucky Route Zero is a really interesting game. It’s… interactive fiction-adjacent, i guess? More of a point-and-click adventure but with highly prescribed interactions. The writing is what I imagine Southern Gothic would be like (I’m not really familiar with that genre), along with The Grapes of Wrath and Depression-era literature, but set in the present day. The aesthetics, visual and audio, are superb. I looked at Google Maps, and apparently all the roads are geographically accurate which is very cool.

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The girls go on a road trip down a long winding road and learn about friendship, love, and Ben Stiller’s Night at the Museum.

Hi, we’re Full Motion Girls! We’re a LGBTQ+-friendly Let’s Play channel featuring two trans girls playing their way through some different games we like. This is our first video, so please let us know if you have any comments or criticism!

Stuff I’ve enjoyed: Oxenfree

If you know my taste in games it’s probably not a surprise I ended up playing Oxenfree by Night School Studios. A ghost story game with a focus on character interaction and a good deal of voluntary exploration was pretty good bait. Also the art style appealed to me.

In essence it felt a bit like a good mixture of other games I’ve enjoyed. The gameplay’s pick-a-response mechanic reminded me of Life is Strange while the tone and art style made me think of Kentucky Route Zero. 

Gotta say though, the fact that you can choose to not pick a response was pretty delightful, and while the end was pretty satisfactory I’ve been enjoying a second play though a lot since details actually change to acknowledge that the player has been there before.

As for the optional exploring… there’s a lot of text and audio bits to pick up on that aren’t necessary to finish the game, and trying to make sense of them is a sport in itself. So plenty to have fun with if you want a little bit of coming of age ghost story in your life.

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For anyone questioning artistic value of computer games. And for the fans of magic realism.

"If it's automated, what do you do here?"
  • Poppy: It wasn't always like this. When I came to work at the Echo River Central Exchange, there were twelve of us: Loretta, Edna, Meg, Cara, Marie, Lois, Liz, Hester, Angie, Wilma, Connie. I was number twelve; Connie and I were hired on the same day, but she showed up early. Marie finished college, and Hester was fired for snapping at a rude caller - but he had it coming, and I hear she did just fine on her own - so they hired Beryl, Jana, and Sachiko, which brought us up to thirteen, and that was as many operators as we ever had here at one time. Edna, Meg, Cara, and Lois left one Friday evening, and were asked not to come back on Monday morning. Beryl saw the writing on the wall and quickly found employment at a private PBX. They had Jana and Liz stop routing calls, and write up some kind of "best practices" document instead. It was their final task as Exchange employees. Some of the girls were reassigned to other divisions. Connie, I think, was checking residential meters. Sachiko and Wilma were moved to energy sales, cold-calling businesses to see if they needed to upgrade their electricity plan. At least they were still on the phone. Then it was just Loretta, Angie, and me. We were swamped. The hours were hell, and hard on the throat. The "voice with a smile" became a croak. I was gargling warm salt water in the break room, sipping on a thermos full of hot honey broth stashed under my chair. Oh, I brought a lot of "extended technique" to the switchboard in those days. So, after a few months, it was just me. A new automation strategy was announced, and this place was re-christened "Consolidated Auxiliary Switch Number 30."
  • Shannon: If it's automated, what do you do here?
  • Poppy: It's not fully automated. There are still gaps in functionality that need a human touch... And, you know, it really is all about touch, here. Sound is a vibration, a touch you feel in your ear, so my voice is my touch. When we're talking, we're touching, even on the phone - that's an electric touch, an intimate little shock that makes your tiny hairs tremble. But that's what I mean, when I say it's all about touch here. When the power company first tried automating this old exchange with fancy new transistor arrays, the switchboard caught fire. It was just too much, too fast. So, they tried using some clunky old mechanical relays, but then the calls were getting mismatched and out-of-sync. It was a nightmare. Their technicians determined that the phone system down here had been designed ad hoc over decades around the specific tempo of its human operators. So, short of replacing the whole thing, not to mention all the wiring, they'd have to work out the exact timing of every little human gesture that goes into routing a phone call. And that, officially, is my role here. I run the switchboard for the whole exchange - once the work of twelve, I'd like to remind you! They have some kind of machine somewhere that tracks how long it takes me to do each little thing. The caller never hears my voice now; they dial, my little indicator lights switch on, and I make the connection.
  • Shannon: Do you miss talking to the callers?
  • Poppy: You know... there's something that bothers me about the process, besides the fact that I'm training my replacement, who isn't even human... Here's what I mean: how long do you think it should take to time my every move and recreate that timing in an automated switchboard? Rough estimate.
  • Shannon: A couple days?
  • Poppy: That's what I said, but this has been going on for over a year! And a very dark thought has started to nag at me... What if there is no cheap machine that's going to replace me? What if it's cheaper just to keep me here, filling in for the rhythm of the operators... What if I'm the cheap machine?
  • Shannon: Why don't you just quit?
  • Poppy: In this economy? No, you're probably right. Working in silence for peanut shells, waiting to be replaced by a robot... It doesn't sound very dignified, does it? The reality is that I've been working here my whole adult life. I came here as a girl, and I'll leave as a middle-aged woman... I don't know if I'm ready to be her yet.