Blackbar Review

Blackbar Review

Oct 15, 2013

As it happens, I’m a big fan of unusual game experiences. It could stem from the fact that I suck at common video-games, and compensate it by playing stuff that no-one else bothers to even care about. Anyway, this is exactly why I picked up Blackbar. Everything about this game says “indie” and “art game”, and even “political statement”. Blackbar sure lacks some gameplay depth, though, so much that I’d hesitate to actually call it a “video game” in the fullest sense. It’s more of an interactive story, and truth be told, it wouldn’t lose a slightest bit of “gameplay” if it was simply printed out as a short story. In any case, game or not, it’s an interesting way of storytelling, and whatever issues I might have with its oversimplified gameplay, don’t transfer onto the fun I had with it.

Blackbar 1Story of Blackbar is full of surprises, and it would be poisonous for the game, if I told anything about it. It’s set in an anti-utopian world, where every bit of correspondence is constantly kept in check, and censored by “The Department”. It unfolds in a series of letters between two childhood friends, one of whom has left home to work in the big city. Naturally, as the setting and the game’s name suggests, the letters are carefully censored of all negative and revealing words, and the player’s work is to write them back, to restore the original message. The gameplay itself is as simple as pressing on a blackbar, and writing a word, using standard messaging keyboard. If the word is right, the blackbar will disappear. There’s no telling of what the word can be, outside of context, and a number of letters in it. I had just a few problems with it, but I did get stuck for quite a while on some really stubborn words. And that’s the whole game. Just read the letter, write the correct words down, and move on. There’s nothing else in the entire game, save for the letters themselves, so I can understand if some people leave disappointed.

That said, the story did hold my interest throughout the game, and the writing is pretty good. Atmosphere is quite realistic, and different from most anti-utopias, where everyone is 5 seconds away from hanging themselves. People have their own problems, and view their totalitarian government simply as a nuisance – until it comes for them, as the saying goes. In the end, I thought Blackbar to be interesting. The developer simply had to make a story engaging for it to work, and I think that he did it well.

Blackbar Is Released On Google Play

Blackbar Is Released On Google Play

Oct 14, 2013

Blackbar 2

Blackbar, the “texty-artsy game”, as called by its creator, is now available on Google Play. The game is difficult to explain, but it’s suffice to say that it’s a very uncommon one. Blackbar features minimalist graphics, reminiscing a classic text adventure, and sly jabs at censorship. It can be purchased here: Blackbar on Google Play.

The Hills Are Greener: Does App Store Censorship Affect All App Stores?

The Hills Are Greener: Does App Store Censorship Affect All App Stores?

Jun 24, 2013

Polygon has published an article about “serious games” (games that are used to discuss or convey serious points) and how Apple has resisted allowing games that criticize them or reference certain touchy subjects from being on the App Store.

It’s entirely wrong, and it’s why I’m glad open operating systems like Android exist for allowing them to exist. But still, what Apple does has reverberations on what the entire market can do because of their position.

After all, if a developer wants to have some hope of financial success with a game, they’re going to avoid making a ‘serious’ game because, well, Apple can shut down a significant portion of possible revenue with a wave of their hand. Yes, Android distribution exists as an option, but only releasing on one platform, or having to heavily modify a game to release on the App Store as well as on Android, it discourages developers from tackling them entirely.

And that’s the scary thing – why should the entire market be forced to play by Apple’s rules? PC marketplaces like Steam can choose not to feature certain content, but they don’t shut down distribution entirely for those games. Apple shuts down the existence of them on their operating system entirely.

What Apple needs to do is to allow for non-App-Store distribution of apps. I think that yes, they should be allowed to take certain precautions to prevent mass piracy of paid apps (it is still a problem on Android), but the market is mature enough to where it should be allowed. It’s one thing to run and control a store. It’s another to censor content entirely.

It’s why I don’t take Google removals, though they are fewer and farther between, so poorly. Google has a right to run their store the way they want because even if they decide to shut something down, it’s still possible for those apps to be distributed in some form. Google doesn’t kill the existence of software it disapproves of entirely. Part of that might be the Linux factor, but it’s still the operating reality, and that’s what is important.

At worst, it’s the right thing to do for Apple, to allow content they disapprove of to still exist in some form. Why can’t games mature to the point where they can discuss current events? Or to talk about sex? Or to criticize institutions like religion or international technology conglomerates like Apple and Google? If Apple refuses to allow apps to tackle the subjects, they make it harder for the app market as a whole to mature to make it a possibility.