LIMBO Puts Death in a New Light

The immersive noir atmosphere of LIMBO Image courtesy Playdead

My friend recently showed me an interesting side scrolling puzzle game by Playdead called LIMBO. The game was released in July 2010 and has won numerous awards including Gameinformer’s Best Downloadable and Gamespot’s Best Puzzle Game. The game follows a non-descript boy, who you only ever see in silhouette, as he enters LIMBO in search of his sister.

The puzzles in the game are challenging and increase quite nicely in complexity as the game progresses. The trick to solving most of the puzzles is a combination of logic and trial and error, but because each of the puzzles is made up of various pointy objects or menacing creatures ready to do in the character, some have called the style of game play more “trial and death” than trial and error. For this reason I would strongly caution younger gamers away from the game.

However, as morbid as it sounds, I do have to congratulate Playdead on how they kill the character in the game. Generally I am rather squeamish when it comes to blood and guts in movies or games and I have always found that the best deaths happen off-stage or out of frame, because I feel it evokes stronger emotional reactions from audiences and because our imaginations will always fill that visual void better than any visual imagery.

The creators at Playdead, I found, managed to evoke an emotional response to each and every of the character’s deaths (and there are a lot of them) and this is why I feel I should congratulate them. The noire atmosphere and the general tranquillity of the game in LIMBO makes death more of a sobering reality, albeit a grizzly one, encouraging the player to try and avoid pitfalls at all costs rather than making death an over the top blood and guts caricature.

Beyond the morbid trial and death element to the game, the graphics, backgrounds, the intricate puzzles, the seamless game play and the little surprises that await you (and often made me jump) make this game a wonderfully immersive and compelling game. I give it 5 out of 5.


CRTC Turns Down the Volume

I was overjoyed to read in my morning paper that the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) has order broadcasters to put a cap on how loud commercials can be.

We are all to familiar with the routine of jumping for the remote to turn down the volume that split second before the commercials start; but woe betide the poor soul who hasn’t been following the storyline so scrupulously as to pick up on the act breaks. The price these people pay for simply enjoying their programming is a scramble against the sudden rush of amplified sound waves to find the remote and end the assault on their ears often resulting in the spilling of snacks or beverages.

The new regulations from the CRTC will require that advertising and programs be transmitted at the same volume. Unfortunately these regulations will not take effect until September 1st of next year, so don’t get too excited and take the family’s dash for the remote drills and exercise off of your weekly schedule just yet.

Draft regulations for broadcasters regarding regulating the volume between programming and commercials will be published by the end of the year for comment.

The Canadian Press reported that Konrad von Finckenstein, chairman of the CRTC, said that complaints have been escalating for years concerning the “ear-splitting” ads. I do find it unfortunate that complaints have had to escalate before the CRTC would take action on the issue. Also, I have to question why broadcaster wouldn’t have addressed the problem themselves without the CRTC getting involved. They watch TV just like the rest of us, or at least I hope they do, and they must run for the remote just like us. If it bothered them, what made them think that it wasn’t bothering other people? Perhaps, like with the CRTC, there just weren’t enough complaints.

However, I won’t hold the past against the broadcasters or the CRTC as change is on the horizon.  I do, however, encourage all broadcasters to take the initiative and voluntarily regulate the sound levels of their programs and advertising before the end of this September. They can adjust to the finer details of the regulations from the CRTC when they are made official next year, because, quite honestly, we have had enough and we shouldn’t have to put up with another year of ear splitting commercials.

The Benefits of Volunteering

Greetings and welcome to my blog, or, as I like to think of it, my own personal, little whetstone to help keep my writing tools sharp. I confess I’ll probably be a little all over the place with my topics, but I’ll try to keep focused on writing and media/multimedia related topics.

Today I wanted to talk a little bit about the benefits of volunteering, as I just became of member of CKUW 95.5 FM, a local campus/community radio station here in Winnipeg. Beyond getting me out of the house and away from my computer screen, becoming a volunteer has a number of other advantages.

There is, of course, that warm, fuzzy feeling of giving back to the community that can help lift your spirits. There is also the fact that you’ll meet a lot of new people who likely share similar interests, which for single people could be a lovely change of pace from the bar scene. For writers, it’s an excellent opportunity to network and to study people. What better way to catch up on the latest teenager lingo for your screenplay than talking to a living, breathing teenager as you work together.

Another spinoff benefit of volunteering is learning new skill sets. With the multitude of volunteer possibilities out there, you are bound to fall on one that can teach you something new. In my case, I have a personal interest in radio dramas and now I am learning the ins and outs of radio, how to record and edit audio, and how to pitch ideas to a program director. As a whole it’s real life education that is hard to buy, let alone get for just donating your time.

If you get the chance, go out and volunteer. From a couple hours at your local community club to helping out at a local festival, there are hundred different ways to lend a hand. It will help raise your spirits, you’ll meet new people, you’ll learn a new thing or two and the people and organisations you’re helping out will really appreciate it.

On a closing note, I’d like to plug Katimavik, Canada’s national youth volunteer program. I volunteered through Katimavik after my first year of university and it was a wonderful experience full of adventures and fond memories.